Kitted out with one of the higher power lazypulse specials, he noticed that despite the hefty price tag, it didn’t do much more damage than the older one fitted to the Sidewinder. paired with a lower power weapon on the 2nd mount, it was marginally faster, but overheated far faster than the extra was worth.

After so much time in the Sidewinder, flying combat sorties and engaging enemies “like a boss” (he’d heard that phrase in one of the station bars frequented by the younger pilots), the Cobra, despite the additional speed, felt cumbersome and less lithe….

The first few attempts had ended up with a hammer job on the hull panels and a whole tub of polish….. Expensive lesson to learn.

By the end of a day’s flying, he was back in the groove (that wasn’t a new phrase, that one got him funny looks from people as it made him sound old….). Keeping a bead on a target whilst in a spiral around it, flipping power to the engines as they tried to escape.

He’d had fun for an hour or so with the flight assist switch. He’d edited the flight controls to put the toggle under his left thumb. Helpfully, the ship’s voice computer (he was beginning to hate it now) kept him up to date with whether it was on or off, but there wasn’t much need – as soon as it was off, the Cobra bucked and swivelled like a painted ping pong ball under a waterfall.

Try after try when a ship banked above him, he clicked it off, throttled back and engaged vertical thrusters, banking hard to get the Eagle in line of sight. As soon as it came within eyeshot, Vin would flick the FA back on again – usually leaving skidmarks in space as the ship executed a flip and then dumped power to the boost.

Every time, it was accompanied by giggles (Vin was SURE it wasn’t him, but one of the station maintenance robots that had stowed away), pulse blasts and explosions. The occasional profanity added suitable punctuation when it went wrong.

If only the latest batch of beam lasers shipped out by Frontier’s development HQ weren’t faulty. They were wonderful as a torch and useful as a laser sight, but that was about it…. No good at all in combat.

The other surprise throughout the testing was the absence of other test commanders. Vin had seen one or two in the conflict area and done his best to look impressive – taking a boosted run through the centre of the vessel to engage a stray Eagle and performing pirouettes in space after a successful joint kill.

Where WERE all these eager beta test crews?

On docking – he found his answer – at least half of them were beering it up in the bar. The other half were causing a riot over at Frontier’s local support office. The poor service rep was taking it like a man and hadn’t (yet) lost his cool. Sense of humour helps – he was wearing a lapel pin embossed with 4 simple letters.



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