Elite Dangerously: Chapter III

ELITE DANGEROUSLY

DrKoobie’s Multimedia Quest for the Stars

Chapter III: Close Quarter Combat

“No, really, I’m no Jameson.”

My Pilots Federation rank was Novice — not something to boast about, but better than that of countless Harmless pilots who perished on the frontier in droves. But she didn’t need to know that. Hold that thought.

“Wait,” I said, “You never told me your name.”

She smirked.

“You never asked.”

“Was too busy taking it all in. What’s this place, anyway? A Kumo Crew secret hideout of some kind?”

“Precisely. We have these on most stations with an active black market. Perks of the life, you could say.”

“And the cyber monk getup? Conspiration?”

“You’re pretty sharp for a space cowboy.”

“Right. What now, then?”

I tried not to stare too much at the palm-print tattoo on her face, focusing on her eyes instead. They were a crystalline blue, distant and alien in the artificial light of the strange apartment.

“Now we’ll send a couple of automechs to your ship, unload that silver, and stuff your cargo hold with narcotics. I’d say … fifteen, sixteen tons? How much space do you have?”

“Sixteen sounds about right.”

“Great. Fly back to your man Vasilyev, unload, and you might even have a couple hundred credits left to spare after you pay him his twenty grand.”

“Doesn’t sound very lucrative.”

“What’d you expect? A million credit assignment with a cherry on top? You’re a Novice. Whatever it is Archon sees in you, he’s not crazy enough to …”

“How’d you know that?”

“Oh, we know everything about you. Everything that matters, at any rate.”

“Like what?”

“I’ll leave it up to your imagination. What’s life without a little mystery?”

“If you’re so well-informed, lady, then you must know I can hold my own in the cockpit, Novice or not. I appreciate the help with Vasilyev and all, but …”

“But what?”

“Come on, there must be some way to make this run in a way that’ll leave me with more than two hundred credits to my name. That won’t even cover the fuel costs!”

She rubbed her chin.

“Well … there might be a way. A different job. You can handle yourself in the cockpit, you say? Prove it, and maybe I’ll have something more lucrative for you. Something more … dangerous.”

Somehow the room began to feel too small for the two of us. I wasn’t a fan of dancing to other people’s tunes, but I already got in the saddle, which meant that I had to be ready for the ride.

“And how am I supposed to do that?”

She walked past me towards her antique bookcase and pulled on a book. The book slid out half-way, something clicked, a motor rumbled somewhere out of sight, and the bookcase slid aside, revealing another small room behind it. Inside, two simulator pods stood side by side. Throttles, flights sticks, VR helmets, the whole nine yards.

“Wow,” I said. “Sims? Haven’t seen one since the Academy! Where’d you get em?”

“Not just any sims. This right here is top of the line Imperial tech. They train their best pilots on these things. As for where we got them … what’s life without a little mystery, right?”

“So you keep saying.”

“Come on, get your ass in the pod. Let’s see if you’re as hot as you say you are.”

She got into one herself and locked the VR helmet on her head.

“Well, what are you waiting for? A special invitation?”

I climbed into the pod next to her and put on the helmet. The letters “CQC Championship” appeared in the VR display. The shit was about to get real … or unreal, depending on how you looked at it.

The logo disappeared and I was in a hangar bay with a selection of fighter ships before me: a bulky, tank-like Sidewinder, a nimble Imperial Fighter, and an agile, triangle Condor. Neither of these ships would stand a chance against my River Volga, but I wasn’t in the River Volga, was I? I pointed my simulated hand at the Imperial Fighter, and, a moment later, I was sitting in its cockpit, one hand on the throttle, the other on the flight stick, waiting for the match to start.

A list of names appeared on the ship’s holofac display – the other pilots. Nobody I knew, of course. Xemik, Saada-the-Don, Merfolk, doomboom88 … I read on … bowler-hat85, TastyTempura — what kind of names are these? Sure, the Pilot’s Academy lets you to pick any designation you want on graduation day, but who in their right mind would call themselves CMDR bowler-hat85? Or CMDR TastyTempura, for that matter? What did that even mean? I had no time to ponder. In blue letters, it said, GAME STARTS IN 5 … 4 … 3 … 2 … 1 … DESTROY ENEMY SHIPS!

The virtual Imperial Fighter was now under my command.

I put full power to engines and pushed the throttle forward, taking in the view through my Imperial Fighter’s canopy window: we were at Asteria Point, a CQC “map” I remembered from the Academy days. It was a classic – a mid-sized station with a tunnel system big enough to fit several fighter ships, illuminated with the dim red light of a dying sun. I hit the boost switch, accelerating towards the tunnel system. A red dot appeared on the radar. Then – another one.

I had to be quick, or I had to be dead.

I went past the tunnel, entering the structure from the side instead, and there it was: a red holofac enclosed in a metal circle, wide enough for a fighter ship to fly through. A weapon powerup: pick this baby up, and my dual heatbeams would make short work of anything that gets in my way. I directed my starfighter towards the circle when the holofac shattered like glass before disappearing into the aether. A ship – an Imperial Fighter like mine – was faster to the prize, my scanner displaying the pilot’s name on my control panel: CMDR Merfolk. So be it. I pulled up. If he were to turn around and fire, I was as good as done for. I flew out of the structure and headed towards the second red dot on my radar, and fired up my boosters. The ship came into view, close enough for the scanner to pick up its signal. It was a Condor. A good ship, but not too tough. The pilot’s name showed as CMDR Xemik. Very well, Commander. Prepare to die! I turned off flight assist, sending my ship in an arc above him, put full power to weapons, and fired. The heatbeams connected with the target, two bright beams of light, eating away at Xemik’s shields. My holofac showed them go from 70% to 50% to 30% to 0%.

“Target’s shields down,” the onboard computer said. I pulled the trigger harder and scowled, circling around him as he tried to evade. Within seconds, it was done: the Condor’s reactor exploded, my canopy glass darkening to compensate for the blinding flash. 150 points appeared next to my name on the holofac; I was in the lead. Before I could celebrate my success, something hit my Imperial Fighter across the stern. Heatbeams! My shields went from 100% to 0% in seconds – it was Merfolk with the weapons boost, it must have been. I hit the afterburner, but it was too late.

The world disappeared into fire and light.

When I opened my eyes, I was back in the fighter’s cockpit, the holofac showing myself and Merfolk tied at 150 points each. Blue letters in front of me read, 5 … 4 … 3 … 2 … 1 … DESTROY ENEMY SHIPS!


Elite Dangerously was created using assets and imagery from Elite Dangerous, with the permission of Frontier Developments plc, for non-commercial purposes. It is not endorsed by nor reflects the views or opinions of Frontier Developments and no employee of Frontier Developments was involved in the making of it.

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