First Encounters…..

Getting back into the cockpit after a few weeks enforced absence from the testing felt good. They’d done a good job with the Shady Lady – his ancient ship, the one that he’d chopped in to pay to work on the new systems was a far cry from the year 3300 version of the Cobra Mkiii but the bare bones were still there.

First things first – head out to find the free Eagle that he’d been promised and flog it to the first used ship salesman he could get his hands on. “Delivery miles only” would bag him a few credits, though Vin suspected that he wouldn’t be alone in flogging it off as soon as it arrived.

Not having a clue where he was in the galaxy might have felt a little odd. No familiar faces. No crazy docking lady to hurl abuse at. No familiar deck hands grumbling about the state of the ship. There was the difference. Before, he didn’t care. It wasn’t his ship, just a hastily stencilled name on a test mule. Now, it was HIS. Properly HIS and he could get back out there.

Same with the cash. Virtual “credits” and ranking just didn’t cut it. Having his own meagre 1000cr back in the bank to go with the ship was more than plenty.

Braben and friends had been generous to those that had helped roll the updates out the the wider galaxy. A lifetime discount on insurance (something that Vin hoped he wouldn’t have to cash in on) and a spare ship. Not bad for starters.

Chugging the ship out of the station at docking speeds, Vin rolled the system mode up to “flight” and boosted past the toast rack. 40k for the Eagle, 5 for the loaves and fishes. Someone had a sense of humour – or a religious axe to grind. He reminded himself to make sure no one had stuck a “bumper” sticker on the back of the Lady.

Minor differences throughout the consoles – far more details to the right of his vision – information on rank, not just combat rank but explorer and trader – the three paths to “Elite”. To his left, more minor changes – a magic button to open the galaxy map and it was nice to see that Frontier had finally upgraded the mapping systems to remove the minutes long wait for the projected screens to open. Far too many times he had glanced at the map, only for the ship to plough headlong into the nearest star/station/asteroid.

The news feeds were more alive than he had seen for months with information. New ships, food crises, ECM system recall. One big change was that they’d finally managed to get remote system comms up and working and he was able to call other commanders across the galaxy. That and see what cost what nearby. Well – not the prices – more of a “take this stuff here” and “this is where to find things that import to here”.

The good old fashioned pencil and pad in his top pocket would carry on getting some use. Useful nostalgia. Bit like the Cobra.

As Vin swept out past the planet in supercruise, he spotted some of the updated USS signals. Ignore them for now.

Then – he realised that despite being at the derriere end of nowhere, there was a nav beacon. Dropship must have dropped it there in preparation. Vin was still mystified as to why ships went there. With the latest flight systems, you could bypass them with ease and whilst he enjoyed them being there, they really only served masochistic types who enjoyed a good fight.

Just before hopping up to jump tot he next system – the Interdiction warning went off. Forgetting in an instant that the Lady wasn’t the iron backsided machine it was when he was testing, Vin throttled back and dropped into normal space, “submitting” to whoever wanted.

At first glance, a lone Viper really wasn’t a problem. Switching to combat mode on the flight stick, the gun ports opened and Vin realised that he’d done the space flight equivalent of go out without putting his trousers on. A pair of basic pulse cannons.

No secondary weapons. No uprated thrusters. The turning circle of an ocean bound oil tanker.

Vin buckled up and settled down for a proper fight.

10 minutes later, the Shady Lady had taken her first beating. She’d won, but the hull had its first scratches and was 20% less hull-ish than it had been a few minutes before.

Hot damn, that felt good. Vin opened the first flask of fsd warmed coffee, put his feet up on the console and jumped out to the next system.


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