Life Support Countdown: Two Minutes Left to Live. (Elite: Dangerous)
Less than four minutes to live. I’m drifting in space, my ship has no power. The life support countdown is rolling in front of my eyes, informing me of my impending doom, and I have no idea what went wrong. This is the kind of thing you learn at the Academy. Unfortunately, I never went to the Academy. Been a docker all my life, see? Learnt how to fly from a sim, but that’s hardly like the real thing, is it? The little I knew about flying I heard from drunken Commanders at one of the stations many pubs, telling stories of their exploits. Smugglers and bounty hunters, respectable traders, adventurous miners and explorers. The stuff of legend.
Not a week has gone by since I got the old Sidewinder. I went from hauling fuel and cargo in the station dock, to having CMDR in front of my name, all by sheer accident. And by the same circumstances here I am, floating in space in my brand new Cobra Mk. III, about to die. Killed by my own ignorance.
It took all my saving to end up behind the seat of an old, beaten up Sidewinder. It was the most beautiful ship I had ever seen. I never even thought it a possibility until CMDR Duffey, a regular patron at the tavern, came up to me with an absurd offer. Once in a lifetime opportunity, he said. Ship and a title to go with it, if you can handle it, he told me. Don’t ask questions, it’s all legit, but if anybody asks, I don’t know you, he reiterated. I had two hours to decide, and pay the ‘modest’ fee. Really a fraction of what a Sidewinder normally costs. And an official CMDR ID? It all happened so fast.
Before I knew it, I was flying cargo from one nearby station to another, my old life behind me. My flying was clumsy but effective, and I had mastered the most difficult part: docking. I could not help but laugh. A docker docking. It could not be real. I started getting more ambitious. Began jumping a bit farther. Carried cargo I technically shouldn’t. Started making some real money. I felt more alive than I ever had. I left my system. Nothing could hold me back. I travelled from station to station, taking any job from the bulletin boards that caught my eye. For the first time in my life, I was alive.
And now, I was going to die alone in space. No one’s fault but mine.
Without plan, strategy, or direction, I found myself at the San Muss system. I docked to refuel at Fraas Ring. I saw the shuttles moving all around the station, the little trams transporting materials from ship to station and back. That used to be me. How pathetic, I thought.
I sat back and relaxed as my ship went through maintenance. I browsed the stations services to make some time. That’s when I noticed the brand new Cobra Mk. III in the shipyard. I had 500k Cr burning a hole in my pocket. It was more money than I had ever imagined. And a measly amount compared to what I could make if I had a ship like the Cobra. Not only could I afford it, I had money to spare. I could upgrade its modules. I remembered the stories the pilots used to tell. I could even go bounty hunting. It was perfect.
I had no idea what I was doing.
All I knew about ships was reduced to snippets overheard in bars and taverns, superficial specs read in magazines and video adverts with woman in revealing outfits. I was clueless of the technical aspects. But I was convinced otherwise. I got a cannon, a frag cannon, and a beam laser, all E, just to add a bit of firepower to my boat. I sprang for a power plant, power distributors, and a B rating FSD to take me across the ‘Verse. I thought I was being smart, that I knew what I was doing. I patted myself for being so mature and responsible as to not go all out on weapons, and investing in useful modules that would add functionality to my ship.
I launched from the station in my fancy new Cobra. I would not have recognized myself a week ago. I was a Commander now, flying a spaceship. I was a force to be reckoned with. I turned towards my console and brought out my Galaxy Map, ready to go out and make a fortune. My stomach dropped. I could travel no further than 2LY. I could not even fly to the nearest station or outpost. It made no sense. I had done the prudent and responsible module upgrades, and yet here I was, locked to Fraas Ring station and the few rocks that surrounded it.
There was a Nav Beacon nearby. I had heard CMDRs talking about how one could always count on Nav Beacons to fish for bounties. If I could not fly far, I was at least going to fly aggressively. The distance issue could wait, right then I wanted to make something explode, and by A’Tuin, I had the ship and the weapons to do that.
Not many ships were flying around the Nav Beacon when I came out of warp. That was understandable, Fraas Ring is a shithole well out of the way of any important or interesting route. It also meant that whichever ships I did find were bound to be suspicious. I was sure that as soon as I ran my Kill Warrant Scanner through one, I would find some guilty smuggler or pirate. And I was in a foul mood.
I spotted a lone Hauler cruising the area, and I sped towards him. A smuggler, to be sure. I was ready for this. I had read how to do this, I was prepared. As soon as I was in range I matched speed, cycled my weapons so that my KWS was activated, and deployed the hard points to initiate the scan.
That’s when my ship died.
Power failure. My ship went dark. Life support started counting down. I had five minutes to live. This is how a docker who thought he was a CMDR dies, I realised. This is why pilots train for years at the Academy. Flying a ship is more than pitch and yaw, learning to open the cargo bay and dock at stations. I shouldn’t be here, I thought, frantically pressing everything I could on the unresponsive ship. I should be back at the docking station, where I belong, getting drunk after finishing my shift. Flying is not for dockers. Flying is for CMDR’s.
I am a CMDR now, like it or not. Dockers don’t fly Cobras, not even ill-fitted ones. I became a CMDR by accident. I did something wrong by accident. It’s about time I take control and do something right. No more accidents.
Three minutes to live.
This is what pilots learn at the academy. The small insignificant details that can be the difference between life and death. I thought I outfitted a good FSD, and I didn’t. I believed I bought a good Power Plant, and my ship was floating dead in space. Think! I screamed at myself. I turned to the right and tabbed between menus. Modules. I could deactivate modules. I hit all the weapons and cargo.
Two minutes to live.
My ship sputtered back to life.
I almost killed myself by accident. No. My ignorance almost killed me. Enough accidents, I was a CMDR now. I hightailed it back to Fraas Ring Station. I had a lot of work to do. I had a lot of CMDRs to talk to, a lot to learn from them before making the same kind of mistakes again.
I would start with the sober ones this time.