“It’s not your ship you need to worry about when you’re out there Cynn’. You’re the most careful Commander I know… to the point of obsessive, if I’m being really honest with you.”

Vin’ and I were sat at the bar in Hutton discussing my plans to go exploring. This was a few months back

“And worrying about developing appendicitis whilst you’re out in the black? Well, yes. It might happen. But you’d be bloody unlucky” He took a swig of his gin and rolled it around his mouth for a while, seemingly losing his train of thought whilst he gazed across the bar. Then he looked me directly in he eye

“It’s your head that gets you in the end” For effect he tapped two fingers on my forehead. “That’s what gets to most explorers. Their heads go.”

And now, after just three months in the black, I see his point already. He’s been around long enough to know these things has our Vin’.

That’s not why I’m coming back in, mind. No, exploration was never supposed to be a long term thing. I’m heading back to learn to fight. I’ve achieved Merchant ranking in trade and Ranger in exploration so it makes sense that I learn to fight. I’m returning with a stack of data to sell, so I’ll be able to kit out a combat Cobra III pretty well and still afford a few rebuys. Happy days.

So what have I learned about myself and other Commanders over the past three months.

Firstly, I’ve learned that I am capable of total idiocy. My ship’s fine … like Vin’ said, I’m very careful. I’ve not even used my auto field maintenance unit. However, two weeks out while I was sorting my cargo bay, I stacked my precious supply of tobacco against the Frameshift drive casing. The bottom three cases are dry as a bone, even through the packaging, due to the heat generated. Brilliant. Well done me.

With that minor disaster aside, I’ve learned a lot about myself.

I spoke to several experienced Commanders before leaving and most of them told me to head out to the neutron star fields where I’d amass a small fortune in exploration data. “Go to Sag A”, they told me “You’ll get rich quick”.

And so I set a course towards Sagittarius A. Except I quickly realised that isn’t what I wanted to get out of exploration. Because it wasn’t so much exploration as a well trodden path. A pilgrimage of wealth accumulation that I wasn’t really interested in making.

I turned back and headed around the bubble in the opposite direction to Sag A. Not really heading anywhere in particular. Just scudding along, scanning and scooping fuel as I went. But most important to me … I discovered. Anything of value, from high metal content world and up, was subjected to my detailed surface scanner. Gas giants, water worlds, earth-like worlds … if it didn’t have a ‘first discovered by’ name to it, I scanned it. It won’t get me rich as quickly as the neutron stars but so what? My name will appear in the exploration maps forever. I have seen, close up, what no other human eyes have seen. And that means more to me than the riches of the neutron stars or being able to say I’ve been to Sagittarius A. I’m not saying you shouldn’t want wealth or to travel to the centre. It’s just not me, that’s all.

But it has been interesting looking at the behaviour of other explorers. Some clearly jump into a system, give it a quick blast on their Advanced Discovery Scanner (ADS) whilst scooping, then jump again. They’re not interested in having their names immortalised. They don’t have time for all that.

Then you have your more typical explorer. They jump, scoop and honk their ADS then check their system map for anything they want to take a closer look at with their surface scanner.

And then, at the opposite end of the spectrum (and possibly, slightly on another kind of spectrum) are the explorers who just scan absolutely everything. These guys are scanning floating rocks and ice just to get their names by them as a ‘First Discovered by’. And why not?

There’s no wrong way of exploring. Well, running out of fuel or frying your ship would be quite wrong. But if you stay fuelled and safe, you’re your own boss out in the black. If you want to race through the universe as quickly as possible, crack on. If you want to scan everything possible and plod around seeing the sights, great. Do it your way.

I’ve enjoyed exploring my way. You enjoy exploring your way. It’s not like anyone can see what you’re up to once you’re out in the black anyway is it? You’ll settle into a rhythm. Your own daily routine and some seem to come back in claiming they got bored. If you’re the sort of Commander who likes to see spectacular light shows and hear loud, aggressive shouting over your local intercom, I can understand you would be bored.

But for those who like peace, maybe a bit of Hutton Orbital Radio and regular sights that are so wonderfully beautiful they make you catch your breath, you’ll enjoy exploration.

Stay safe out there Commander o7


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