Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4
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The next couple of weeks were a whirlwind of changes. After that first mission I took my ship to a private hanger I rented with my new found wealth and hired a team of mechanics technicians that would report to me as opposed to some corporation. I then had to fork over a good chunk of the ISK to repair the damage and upgrade some of the systems on the old Ibis to what my military training deemed close to acceptable.
I moved out the public hotel and rented the cheapest apartment I could find on the private capsuleer-only decks. They were rented by the day, week, month, or year and I settled on a week as that was all I felt I could afford at the moment. part of me felt it was a frivolous expense as I didn't have any idea if the next assignment from agent Golyn would be as successful and lucrative, but it gave me access to the facilities and established limited to capsuleers only on the station.
I put a few thousand away in a new Pend Insurance banking account and used the remaining chunk to buy what pod pilots called a 'skillbook'. In reality it was a NRIIS, Neural Remapping Interface Instruction Set, which seemed like a reasonable name to me ("I'd like an n-ris please.") but the original company that developed them called the skill books and the name stuck even if the company didn't. The NRIIS connects to the pod computer and uses the pod's interface to gently remap sections of your brain, effectively training it in a new skillset with information as if you learned it by yourself. It was faster and more efficient than actual real life training, but slower than having a hardwiring plugged into your head. The downside of hardwirings, as I can attest from my ejection from the Navy, is that you lose the skill when the hardwiring implant is lost. Skills from skillbooks lasted as long as you did.
The skillbook I purchased was about hybrid weaponry, harking back to my specialty in the Navy. I wanted to learn how to use proper railguns again as the civilian models were so simplistic as to be near useless.
A couple days later the Last Chance was back in working condition with its upgrades installed and I returned to the agent's office for another assignment. Over the next two weeks I completed a variety of missions, some involving simple jobs like couriering some files to an associate a few jumps over, sneaking a case of Amarrian spiced wine through customs (civilian ships are searched by station staff, capsuleers are not), defeating some more rouge drones at mining colonies, driving off 'pirates' (really just desperate vagabonds waving the Guristas flag in ships that were unsafe to fly), scouting deep space areas, delivering parts to outposts, ... the list goes on. The money I made was insane and soon I was buying skillbooks on topics as diverse as shield operation and engineering upgrades to micro warp drive maintenance and repair and Caldari starship designs.
The last one was most important. I finally came to a mission that was more than the good old Last Chance could handle. There was a mining habitat that was stuck in the crossfire of a gang of Guristas and some roaming Serpentis ships and Lisa wanted me to run in and get a load of the miners out before they ended up as collateral damage. Unfortunately, neither the local nor invading pirates saw fit to let me pass peacefully and on my third try to sneak past a Guristas frigate on patrol picked me up on scan and attacked me while I was trying to navigate unseen through a depleted asteroid field. The Ibis tried to put up a good defence but I was stuck near an asteroid and my warp engine could handle the gravity wave fluctuations to make the jump to warp. I ejected and used the small emergency warp drive in the pod to get to safety.
I sulked back at station a bit, then went shopping for a real combat ship. The first one I looked at was a Heron, which compared to the Ibis class, looked like a beast and was reasonably priced. But my main mechanic suggested I get a Kestrel as it was a well known quantity in terms of performance. I wasn't a fan of missiles though, so I swallowed the price of a brand new Merlin frigate with four railgun mountings and two missile launcher bays. I had nearly 750,000 ISK in the bank and I was loathe to spend too much on a ship, especially one that with systems installed was going to cost a shade over 500,000.
It was worth it. With the 125mm Kaalakiota railguns, Lai Dai light missile launchers, standard issue afterburners, X-3500 Shield Boosters, and a Caldari Provisions shield reinforcement matrix, I tore into the Guristas ships like a scythe through wheat. When my shields looked to be close to breaking I would turn and speed away with missiles and rails firing behind me; once recovered enough I would turn back and rain antimatter death upon them. It was easy to rescue the miners after the pirates were all dead or fleeing.
That night I was feeling pretty proud of myself as I walked into my bar of choice on the capsuleer pavilion, a little joint called The Dead-End Gate.