Previous entries in the Tales from the Black series
The False Trail
Even though I had found an adoptive home of sorts it didn’t take too long for my feet to get restless. I had come to L-S station in a time of dire need and provided a small bit of service, one among many who answered their desperate call, but that need has passed. So despite turning no small amount of profit and making the acquaintance of a likely lass or two, I found myself taking missions once again to take me away from this second home. I still wasn’t confident enough in my own acumen to just fill up my little Adder with goods and relied on mission traders to give me clues of what to send and where. Much to my chagrin, I have found this to be a hit and miss prospect. In some cases, such as my earlier food drive, I could rest safe in the knowledge that the missions gave true intelligence on what commodities a system was in need of. However, I also found just as much evidence to suggest that the mission brokers are clinically insane. For example, I found one insistent merchant who wanted me to transport some needed ore from here to there, so I took his ore and thought, “Well, if they need it enough to pay me to move it, then it must have some profit once it gets there.” So I loaded up the rest of my space with the same ore and went to the destination system, only to find that the ore was mined locally and was valued less there than it was where I took the mission in the first place.
It came to me some time later that perhaps there is more at work here than I had the vision to grasp. Following one such fiasco, one that left me barely breaking even after the mission credits to cover the loss of my excess and unwanted cargo, I sent an inquiry to the local magistrate that the mission was sponsored by. Naturally, I was given the run around by the local authorities as to why in the world they would be sending out requests for mineral extractors when they are already in such abundance. This lead me to ask the same question of the systems opposition party. They were more than happy to let me know that the systems market was being artificially inflated and deflated across any number of goods and services in an attempt to destabilize the who system. When I asked around the commander’s lounge I then heard a third story. According to this bunch, it was all a conspiracy to have the system fall into anarchy so that one of the larger intergalactic powers could then step in and correct the problems. The super power varied depending on each commander up to and including destabilization by a nonhuman agency.
Regardless of the reasons or the causes, I determined that the risk of using the mission hosts as a guide to profit was not going to be viable in the long term.
Allow me a moment to speak now of my spacecraft. The Adder is, to not be too fine about it, a frustrating beast of a craft. Firstly, it has a side-by-side cockpit configuration. At first blush, it feels like a small thing to have to offset one’s angle of approach slightly and account for the ever so slight offset of the axis of rotation. But a tiny pebble is a small thing as well and yet when it is lodged into your boot its size becomes proportional to the duration of its exposure. I found that couple of feet to be very frustrating. I found myself on a number of occasions fighting with my visual perception of the direction of travel vs the HUD’s center pip, and then scraping or rubbing my shields up against this and that in response.
This however is a small factor when stacked next to the limitations of the hull itself. Having stripped the weapons off of all my hulls to date, I can only take the word of those more wise in their use that the lay out and size selection is a frustration. For me the trouble was in the jump drive. When the hull was fit for cargo at 20 tons, the jump drive, even when upgraded to C class was so small that many destinations became closed off as the hull, when laden, could no longer make the requisite jumps, or worse had to make wide detours to find small enough hops. I am sure that my navigation computer found perverse joy in telling me that I would need to take a dozen jumps to reach what would have been in a two jump range if only I wasn’t carrying so much cargo.
Also the hull has two choices for thrust control. The base equipment is sluggish at best, with a long ramp up that seems to give the hull the feeling of moving in mud, or there is the upgraded thrusters that seem to make the craft jumpy like an over carinated lab rat. After having upgraded my thrusters I found that my occasional side scraping turned into real navigational hazards when added to the tendency of the Adder to unceremonously belly flop down onto any landing pad I found myself assigned to.
To say I disliked my ship and cared little for its well being is an understatement. And it may well have been this dislike and disregard that ultimately contributed to the first of many ships exploding around me.