After 9 months of flying my Cobra I have finally convinced myself to spend some hard earned credits on a second ship. This was not a decision taken lightly and I have had a number of agonised discussions with myself and with one of my fellow commanders online. You see – Humourist is a good ship. She has excellent range, speed and she’s truly multirole which brings lots of variety to my Elite gameplay. Additionally, there is no way I am going to sell my Cobra – 1984 and all that!*. In which circumstances, there’s little point in me buying an Asp as that is the logical next step up the multirole ship ladder. Instead it was time to consider a specialist vessel.

Another thing to consider was where I should base myself. There is no point in buying a second vessel then flying off and leaving the first one in a system you’ll never come back to. It would be nice if the developers would introduce a ship transfer mechanic where, for a fee, the equivalent of the Air Transport Auxiliary would fly your other ship over to your current system. It is something that has been suggested but I can’t see it happening for a long time to come. I still have my Sidewinder over at Rakkaidi – which is a system I haven’t found a reason to revisit – and an Eagle in LHS 3447 which I never did fly (it was a freebie)! So a good base was going to be a necessity if I was going to fly two different ships and change between them at will.

I have been flying in the systems areound HR 783 for a while now. I like the mix of resources in a realtively small area of space. I have also found that there is a good level of lawlessness which results in a steady flow of bounties to add to my trading and mission profits. Another nice thing about HR 783 is that it sits on the boundary between Empire and Federation space which gives the ability to maintain friendly relations with two of the three major forces in the galaxy. So, apart from the lacklustre name, I think this is a good place to base myself for some time as I try to bring my Imperial Navy rank up to the equivalent of the Lieutenant rank I hold in the Federal Navy. As an aside – ranks pave the way to specific ships like the Federal Gunship or the Imperial Clipper.

Deciding what ship to buy was also a difficult choice – made easier by the generally well-rounded capabilities of the Cobra. The main weakness of the Cobra is its ability as a strike fighter. It defends itself well and can be made strong enough to fight most attackers to the death. But it’s not really a hunter. The ace up the Cobra’s sleeve is the ability to outrun everything else when in a tight spot – only the Federal Assault ship and the Fer-de-Lance come close! In a recent dogfight with an Assault Ship I was able to take its shields down really quick and do some damage before the heavy fire took down my shields and I had to use Humourist’s speed to put distance between us while my shields recharged. It was a game of Cobra vs Mongoose with the Cobra making the darting runs to kill the Mongoose for a change!

Whilst most ships can be made into a combat vessel of sorts, the true fighters of Elite are the Eagle, Viper, Vulture and Fer-de-Lance. The last of these is Ferrari money so out of the question. My Cobra eats Eagles for breakfast with a pair of class 1 beam lasers. The Viper is lacking in manoeuvreability and armour – though it packs a decent punch and you underestimate it at your peril (especially if there’s more than one flying in a wing). That really only leaves the Core Dynamics Vulture. I’ll start with what’s bad… It’s slow – once you’re in a fight you need to stay in close because running is not an option. The armour could be stronger but it’s best in class alongside the Fer-de-Lance. It only has two weapons hard-points. Balancing what you want against what the reactor can give requires careful thought – power management is essential. And, if you are thinking of going further than the shop on the corner…Forget it – the range is poor! Ok – so what’s good?

The Vulture is one of the most manoeuvreable ships available. It has very strong shields that can take a lot of punishment before they drop. It has Class 3 hard-points – These are the key to why it is a great fighter. A pair of D3 pulse Lasers can strip the shields off most small to medium sized vessels in half-a-dozen shots! Another 10 shots accurately placed will kill a standard Cobra (I’ve met three Vultures in my Cobra and fortunately they weren’t well flown and didn’t have these D3 lasers fitted or I’d have been running and praying very hard!). Upgrades to the Vulture are necessary to get the best out of it – improved power and distribution are essential alongside the upgrade from E1 lasers to those D3’s. But it’s an amazing bit of kit straight out of the box and it’s fun to fly. Something I’ve never mentioned about the Cobra is the sounds… That’s because the Cobra goes about its business quietly. Not so the Vulture – rapid changes in speed result in noises that suggest loose decking plates and there is an interesting whistle on more gentle changes in thrust that remind me of a Boeing 707 throttling back! It all adds up to make an enjoyable experience 🙂

So, without more ado, let me introduce you to Redgauntlet…

ps – although my Vulture bears the name Redgauntlet after the novel by Sir Walter Scott, she won’t always be painted red!

* In the original 1984 version of Elite everyone started in a Cobra so it remains an important part of what the game is about for those of us who played back then.

Among the changes to missions in the latest release of Elite: Dangerous, was the introduction of long range missions beyond the adjacent systems. Depending on the cargo and risk some of these pay very well. Another change was the introduction of Salvage Missions. Before these missions were introduced, any cargo containers collected at wreck sites were classified as Illicit cargo and would result in a fine if you were scanned by a law enforcement vessel. Additionally, you needed to get to a station with a Black Market in order to sell them. So how do these new salvage missions work?

Missions are collected from the Bulletin Board at the starport. A Salvage mission will usually ask you to retrieve a number of containers of a specified cargo from a nearby system – in return for which you will be paid a number of credits. An example that I recently did from the Medzoijin system was offering Cr23200 for collecting 1 container of encrypted data from the neighbouring system. That’s a reasonable payment given that the goods are worth around Cr450 per container. So, with the mission in hand and another courier mission to the same system taken to cover fuel costs, I set off for Ceti 79. Courier missions are usually urgent with times in minutes rather than hours so I dropped off the paperwork as soon after getting to the system as I could. Then the search for wrecks began.

Before this latest upgrade to Elite: Dangerous there were three types of signal sources: –
• Weak Signal Source (WSS – usually loose containers of cargo and wreckage but sometimes ships running on silent)
• Unidentified Signal Source (USS – small numbers of ships ranging from Convoys to Pirates and System Authority Vessels having a punch-up)
• Strong Signal Source (SSS – also known as a YWD – You Will Die – a hot spot of very well armed and murderous Pirates)
Now we have the SW – Salvageable Wreckage as an additional signal source. So when you have a salvage mission, these are the signal sources you are interested in. As an aside, if you don’t have a salvage mission then picking up any containers you might find here is no different to picking up containers from a WSS site – Illegal!

I drop down to the first SW site I find and there are 2 containers of encrypted data – I scoop them both. Here’s an important point about Salvage Missions – they usually carry the wording Open Salvage. You may only need 1 container of the commodity to complete the mission but you are licensed to salvage as much as you find. The result is that a Salvage Mission is usually worth more than the offered payment because you can sell legal salvage through the normal commodities market at any station that has one!

So, in the system where you effectively have a salvage license the trick is to travel along the trade routes looking for the SW sites. One thing to remember though… Ships don’t usually explode without reason. While you’re looking for the wrecks, the Pirates who killed those traders are looking for their next victim! During my hunt for wrecks in Ceti 79 I was interdicted by Pirates twice which netted me a further Cr54000 in bounties.

Sometimes at wreck sites you will find a different cargo. Leave it – you are not licensed to salvage that one and it will be treated as Illicit! At a couple of wreck sites I found Occupied Escape Pods. You might think that you should pick these up, after all, if a vessel at sea finds a lifeboat adrift it is considered the duty of the ship’s captain to rescue the unfortunates in that lifeboat. Apparently the old courtesies of the ocean do not extend into space – you pick up an escape pod in a public spirited act of compassion towards a fellow commander whose vessel has been shot from under him and you immediately find that you have illicit cargo aboard! 😦 I think that’s something that needs addressing within the design of the game.

Anyway, back to my mission example. I salvaged 17 containers of encrypted data – each of the 16 additional containers bringing in Cr462. All told, with the bounties, original payment and the sale of the additional goods, the value of the mission came out to around Cr84000. Not a bad earner for a low risk job 🙂

Salvage in Ceti 79 - The lights of Humourist (My Cobra) illuminate the remains of a large vessel - probably a Lakon T9 or a Faulcon deLacy Anaconda.   The cargo scoop used for collecting floating containers can be see extended below my ship.
Salvage in Ceti 79 – The lights of Humourist (My Cobra) illuminate the remains of a large vessel – probably a Lakon T9 or a Faulcon deLacy Anaconda. The cargo scoop used for collecting floating containers can be see extended below my ship.

Bird of PreyWhen the Enterprise Crew returned to Earth in the 1986 Paramount movie ‘Star Trek IV – The Voyage Home’ they did so in a Klingon Bird of Prey, travelling back from the 23rd century to the 20th in order to find Whales to take back to the future and prevent the destruction of the planet. They must have succeeded because it’s still there in the 34th century 🙂

My adopted home system is Jamapa – 142.5 light years from Sol and my visit to the Human home world as reported in an earlier post was a chance pilgrimage. My journey home to Jamapa from Sol gave the opportunity to visit another system close by with a link to Star Trek. 7.78lyrs away is the Wolf 359 system. A disastrous battle was fought here between the Federation and the Borg in 2367 with a single Borg ship destroying 39 Federation vessels. The Star Trek fans amongst you will know the battle well but any non-Trekkies can look the battle up on Wikipedia. Visiting the system I was hoping to find some recognition of the battle but I guess Frontier decided that as a fictional event it wouldn’t be part of Elite: Dangerous. Maybe I didn’t look hard enough – perhaps there was something there to be found – after all, I understand from the Elite Forum that the Voyager spacecraft are out there in the Elite Galaxy! But, of course, there’s nothing fictional about them… I hope 😉

I next headed for the Aldebaran system. The brightest star in the constellation Taurus, Aldebaran is an Orange Giant and with its Arabic name, is a star that has been recorded since the earliest times of mankind studying the heavens. I have viewed it myself through a small telescope and it appears as a double star though this is the result of a close neighbour that shares the angle of view. In 1888, S.W.Burnham discovered a faint companion that is considered to be its partner in a true binary star system and this is how it represented in Elite – a giant and a smaller companion. A more intriguing recent development is the possibility that Aldebaran may have a planet. The possibility was raised in 1993 as a result of observed oscillations of the star but were put down to stellar behaviour when compared with similar stars Arcturus and Pollux. A new paper published in 2015 suggests that there may also be a component to the oscillations caused by the presence of a planet – we await the outcome but in the interim there is no planet in the Elite simulation.

After this I turned in the direction of Jamapa. Although all the star systems along the route had been discovered there were many that needed detailed mapping and I made lots of exploration credits as I travelled home. Some of the populated systems offered trade and smuggling opportunities to make money as well. I recall doing a major Narcotics smuggle around Wolf 1301. The offer was 205000Cr for shifting 12 canisters of powdered green leaves – Risky because it would attract pirates and, if scanned by the Security Services, attract a large fine. I estimated a 30KCr fine and decided to risk the pirates. I successfully avoided them but the Pigs, Plod, Rozzers, Fuzz, Feds or whatever criminal slang you prefer to use for the Police scanned me and issued a 29600Cr fine (good estimation by yours truly!). So, a very nice little earner of 175000Cr was completed 🙂

Closer to home I found myself shifting all manner of contraband between the CK Arietis system and the Marcon system for a while as money making opportunities presented themselves.   Whilst generally law supporting, I’m not whiter than white – I’ll shift anything other than slaves if the price / risk is right!  This ruffled the feathers of the local crime barons and I received a couple of warnings that I was sloppy and they expected me to divert my cargo to them and attend a school to teach me how to be better at smuggling… I didn’t take up their offer and left before they became too persuasive!

Finally, I reached one of the systems in the region I call home – HIP 16343. I announced my return by taking down three local lowlifes and paying for my fuel with their bounties. I was greeted at Patsayev Port as ‘Respected Ally’ – a real ‘Welcome Home’.

Then I made my way to Jamapa with a bit of an anti-climax cargo wise – essential medical supplies and security documents. Only, it wasn’t an anti-climax… I was interdicted by a very competent Asp and we had one hell of a battle. He took my ships bulkheads down to 60% and shattered the cockpit canopy. I was glad that I upgraded the life support and had 15 minutes in hand. I stayed in the fight using the auto-targetting beam lasers as I couldn’t target the multi-cannons with the HUD not working because of the broken canopy. The Feds joined in on my side until he warped out, probably with damage as bad as mine! That left me with around 10 mins flying time before I would die from lack of oxygen.

With the screen wrecked the HUD doesn’t work at all well. Fortunately, I wasn’t too far from Lessing Depot and I was able to find the space station and make the final approach to land safely. None of the usual guidance but my Piper Cherokee skills came in handy! A great adrenalin rush at the end of my voyage home! And no bounty for the one that got away… I’ll have him on another occasion 😉

Arriving at Lessing Dock with a shattered cockpit canopy!
Arriving at Lessing Dock with a shattered cockpit canopy!

Screenshot from Elite: Dangerous. Image of Klingon Bird of Prey from Paramount Films ‘Star Trek IV – The Voyage Home’ used under fair use rules (public domain).