“Nick Off”

The maintenance robot beeped pathetically as Vin powered it back up. His soldering iron and a set of tiny screwdrivers were scattered across the cabin floor.

“Let’s see you try and eat my stuff now…” Vin snarled at it. To lighten the mood, he had pinched a marker from the pilot’s briefing room and given it a smiley face and some scary looking eyebrows.

The robot scuttled back into the hatch in the skirting board, beeping all the while.

After this morning’s flight training in the simulator, he was on forced shore leave again and bored. Utterly utterly bored.

The flight manuals had given him a morning’s distractions, as did browsing the test pilot logs from the other commanders. Everyone was itching for the next update from Frontier and checking their inboxes for the next message from commander Braben. His beaming face and genuine gratitude had prefixed every major systems update but he and his team had been absent from pilot briefings for too long now.

After last night’s extended piloting session, he’d read up on pilot grouping. This was a big change from his space flight from days of old. They had never perfected ship to ship communications and the tight-burst messages that were received were either a bounty tally, or the regular “Right on, Commander” with the green tell tale light.

As a result, his interaction with other ships out in space had been limited to a. “shoot the whatsit out of it” or b. “Ignore it in case it decided to shoot the whatsit out of me”.

The advent of more advanced space comms meant that he could start running convoys with other pilots, co-ordinate their flying and load out specs and even hurl verbal abuse across the void.

Slaving drives within these convoy groups would hopefully prevent everyone ending up in different parts of the system at different times. He pitied the first one out of the jump portal into the nearest Anarchy, but at least with grouping they could determine who could take the plunge first.

He’d sent off to a contact he had met in the Thargoid for a replacement sticker for the cockpit. The “Ignore” button for ships that he didn’t want to interact with would be replaced with a “Nick Off” label in angry red.

The only problem with the grouping and comms systems was one he had learned form his years out at the far reaches of the galaxy – it was a big place and you could easily lose everyone very rapidly. Of course, the standard home system trading runs would be chock full of other pilots operating the new Frontier engineered ships, but that wasn’t where the fun was to be found (Or those frogs, for that matter).

He just wished that Braben would hurry up – he was beginning to hate the inside of the sidewinder and itched for some variety in the choice of cockpits…..


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