Random Hits OXP

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Approaching ‘The Bell & Braben’ Pub

Bounty-hunting contracts!


The Ooniverse can be a lawless place with all manner of beings on the run for hideous crimes from simple piracy to committing the most unspeakable acts with edible poets. GalCop’s resources are frequently stretched thinly and thus the Galactic Authorities often rely upon private individuals to bring criminals to justice.

In the space lanes of Anarchy Systems throughout the eight Galaxies, professional hunters gather aboard seedy space bars. Over a pint of fabled Riedquatian brown ale and a side-order of fried Laveian tree grubs, Commanders may view the local Bounty Hunters’ Bulletin Boards. Do you have what it takes to capture an unpleasant blue-feathered avian wanted for committing unnatural acts with a long-eared frog? Will your combat skills be good enough to destroy the dastardly fiend who set fire to the Onriraian Pontiff’s priceless artificial leg?

Difficulty Rating

Docking at The Furry Feline Bar & Grill.

"Easy to Hard".The OXP does not add any new ships to the game generally; all ships only appear when a mission relating to a character is running. Even a Harmless Jameson can safely install the OXP, as the space bars do not present a threat to clean Commanders. Indeed, if you are passing a space bar and come under attack by pirates, hunters aboard the Bar are likely to put down their drinks and launch to eliminate the brigands. Remember though that these guys are mercenaries not cops. If you are being harassed by three ‘Offender’ pirates, the hunters may well decide to collect the larger bounty on a passing non-hostile ‘Fugitive’ slave trader before coming to your aid! Approaching a space bar if you yourself have a price on your head, could prove extremely hazardous!

Missions vary in difficulty, depending on the Credits being offered for a successful kill or capture. None of the ships in the OXP are uber; if a character is flying a Cobra Mk III then his ship is just the standard Cowell & MgRath model available in all good shipyards. The equipment fitted to a character’s ship will vary. A scheming horned solicitor wanted for tax evasion may only have equipped his craft with the most basic equipment. On the other hand a homicidal blood-sucking goat, suspected of industrial espionage against Voltaire Stinger Pulse Drives Limited, will be likely to have blinged her vessel out as a fully equipped iron ass.

Whilst any Commander is welcome to view the Bulletin Boards and offer his, her or its services for a mission, the advertisers are looking for a skilled liquidator and will refuse the offer if the applicant has too few kills. You need more kills to be accepted for the difficult missions than the easier missions. Completing missions may have consequences however, as various criminal organisations take an interest in the actions of hunters. Young Jamesons have nothing to fear as you must first acquire a reasonable Elite rating before you will be able to accept any of the missions. Consequences are in proportion to your actions. If you liquidate the occasional snobbish elongated poet for moral turpitude, you will barely cause a ripple of notice in the underworld. However, if you are regularly taking down Mafia kingpins, then you naturally have to expect a reaction. The level of danger the OXP can put you in is proportional to your skill, strength of ship and Elite rating though, so you should find that you can’t bite off more than you can chew. It is advisable to have a reasonably well-equipped ship before taking on any of these missions. An E.C.M. System, Fuel Injectors and a Beam Laser or better should be regarded as the minimum kit necessary for a would-be bounty hunter. If you intend to take any of your victims alive rather than killing them outright, Fuel Scoops will be necessary in order to scoop up the rotter’s escape craft.

Main Features

Every Bulletin Board entry, mission description, incoming message, communications hail and mission briefing screen is procedurally generated using a similar method to that used to create all the crazy planet descriptions in Oolite. The messages are created using a database of over 40,000 words, generating over one trillion different missions and bulletin board entries. The missions are therefore effectively never-ending, rather like the Bulletin Board in Frontier. Every time you visit a space bar a new set of bulletin board messages are generated. Due to the way Oolite’s ‘dice’ work though, new missions are usually generated when you enter a system from hyperspace. For example if you jump from Lave to Riedquat and dock at the Worlds End Bar, a new set of Bulletin Board entries will be displayed. If you launch, flip over and re-dock, the missions will generally be the same as the ones you have just seen. Since version 1.4 are missions randomly generated with a time stamp. New missions are only generated when re-docking after more than an hour since mission generation. (One hour game time as seen on the ship's clock).

I have included in the database all the words from Classic Elite (so watch out for killer arts graduates, lesser spotted yaks and so on), but I have also added to the call list a lot of other references to the Elite series of games. Procedurally generated organizations and companies also feature in the OXP and the names of the characters include the names of most of the regular posters on the Oolite Bulletin Boards. If you are a poster on the real life Oolite Bulletin Boards, you may find a contract on your own life being advertised here!

The ruffians will use tactics not used by typical pirates. They may have (and use) Q-Mines and aft mounted weapons. Don’t expect them to always fight to the death, they may just run away on injectors or make a hyperspace jump, requiring you to pursue them through the wormhole. You are being paid to terminate the scoundrel not merely his ship, so if your victim manages to abandon ship in an escape pod, you must kill or capture the pod to complete the mission.

Don’t expect to catch a ruffian napping with a Q-Mine, most are smart enough to hit the injectors as soon as one is launched. Although you can complete a mission by using an Energy Bomb, you will be fined for causing collateral damage and you will not earn any titles or improve your reputation as a bounty hunter by resorting to such cowardly tactics!

  • Over one trillion different missions and Bulletin Board advertisements.
  • Any given mission will have at least eight different endings.
  • A Statute Book of over 20,000 different crimes and misdemeanours.
  • Over 10,000 different companies, organizations and powers.
  • A cast of over one million different characters from over 7,000 different species.
  • Characters fly over 50 types of space craft.
  • Over 5,000 new hails and messages.

  • Employers keep in contact with the player by Galactic E-Mail.
  • The Criminal Underworld keeps an eye on successful bounty hunters.
  • Successful hunters may also be offered special assignments.

  • New AIs, using tricks not included in the unexpanded game.
  • New and customized escape craft.
  • Titles and Ranks to be won.

  • Hidden features and Easter eggs.
  • BGS enhances this OXP


A Cobra Mk III should be fine for 'easy' and 'medium' level victims. Easy victims fly ships like adders, mambas and sidewinders, so you should have no difficulty taking out one of them in a Cobra III. Medium victims fly ships like the Cobra III itself, pythons and boas and so on. A Cobra should be enough even for difficult victims, but you will need to have a full iron ass for the really tricky ones.

For an easy victim you'd probably want an ECM and a Beam Laser, but that should be enough. A Military and perhaps a shield booster and energy unit should ensure your trusty Cobra prevails against a medium victim. A fully equipped Cobra is recommended though for 'hard' victims. Injectors are always really a necessity regardless of the level of victim, so you can give chase if they bug out!

Equipment fitted boosts the resale value of your ship, so if you beef up a bit to take some medium victims it is not a wasted investment when you trade up. You can of course trade your way to the victim's system, so the hit money should be a bonus over and above what you'd have made anyway. Littlebear (2009)

Installation and Play

Sneaking up on a bony batoid with a price on his head.

You are now ready to play, so slip an Ingram hand laser into your shoulder holster and set your course for the nearest Anarchy System. Upon entering the system set your Advanced Space Compass to ‘B’ in order to locate the local space bar. If you do not have an Advanced Space Compass, not to worry, the bars are constructed inside large hollowed out asteroids amongst fair sized clusters. Set your course for the planet and keep your eyes open.

Before you get too near the bar, remember to check your legal status. Once you come within 25 kilometres, the Bar’s Sentinel Satellites will perform an automatic scan of your legal records. You don’t want to be within striking range of the bar if you are anything less than squeaky clean!

Target the Bar with your Identification Computer and either turn the docking over to the auto-pilot or dock manually. Upon docking, check that your hand weapon is fully charged (these places can be a little rough). Bring up your Dockside Services with F4 and select the Random Hits Bulletin Board to log on and head for the bar area. Try not to give yourself away as a newcomer by ogling the furry feline pole dancers and take care not to spill the pint of the large amour-clad treeoid standing next to you. Order yourself a shot of Geteveian evil brew and log in to the Bulletin Board. You are free to browse through all advertisements before deciding for which (if any) you wish to offer your services. If none take your fancy, log off and remember to pay your bar bill, as a Deathwreaker in the face often offends.

If you offer your services for an assignment you will receive a reply from the poster of the advertisement. Assuming your offer was accepted, the mission details will be stored on your Status Screen (F5 twice) and your destination will be marked on the local Galactic Chart (F6). Once a mission is accepted, the unique transponder code of your victim will be downloaded to your onboard computer, allowing you to identify your mark as shown in the screen-shot.

The missions offered by the OXP are compatible with all other missions in Oolite, so you can, if you wish, play missions from Random Hits at the same time as other missions. For example, if you are trekking across the Galaxy to deliver a package for the U.P.S. Courier Company, feel free to stop by a space bar and see whether you can eliminate a bandit or two on the way. If you accept a mission and leave the Galaxy in which it was offered, the mission will be abandoned. There is no penalty for doing so and you will be able to take a new assignment in the new Galaxy. Good Luck with your career as a bounty hunter and remember, let's be careful out there….

Installing the older .oxp

To play the OXP, unzip the download file. This will create a folder called "RandomHitsV1.X.Y" Open this folder and you will see a folder named "RandomHits1.X.Y.oxp" and two text files called ReadMe and Spoilers. Move the .oxp folder to Oolite's AddOns folder. The first time you load up Oolite after installing the OXP you must hold down the SHIFT key until you see the rotating Cobra Mk III on the start screen. The Spoilers text document set out exactly what the OXP does and describes the triggers for all the missions and events the OXP generates. As all missions are randomly generated, you can read this document and still not really know what will happen when you play. But if you want to be completely surprised then only look at the ReadMe file.


Version 1.11.5 (~60 MB) by Little Bear/Eric Walch/Spara.

  • Get this one from the Expansions Manager.
  • You can also download a graphical uplift for the Seedy Space bars here.

Version 1.4.18 (13.0 MB) by Little Bear/Eric Walch. Requires Oolite v1.75 or newer.

If you are updating from a lower version of Random Hits, you need to delete the old version from AddOns and install the new version. You won't lose your progress and any mission you have running will remain unchanged, but don't forget to delete the old version otherwise you'll have two different versions of Random Hits installed and neither will work properly!

Update Notes

The last version came out in 2018 (the original came out in 2007).

  • Fixed an integer bug when spawning angry relatives by capping the maximum number of angry relatives to 64. Bug reported by montana05.

Version 1.11.4

  • Fixed an escape_pod bug on Vampire. Bug spotted and fixed by Rustem.

Version 1.11.2-1.11.3

  • Fixed a missionVariable bug in big boss expansions.
  • Added and updated missionscreen IDs.

Version 1.11.1

  • Fixed the behavior when player scoops the escape pod and then jettisons it.

Version 1.11

  • Staer9's shipset has been cut out from the oxp to reduce size. If it's present as a standalone oxp it will be used in RH missions.
  • Resources pack integrated back to the oxp.
  • Fixed escort circulation bug in GalTech escort fighter

Version 1.10.4

  • Fixed the removal of scooped victim from cargo hold on murder or freeing.

Version 1.10.3

  • Fixed non-working [clock_days_number] to clock.days.

Version 1.10.2

  • Fixed the rank system to work the way it most likely was meant to work.

Version 1.10.1

  • Corrected a typo from descriptions.plist
  • Hopefully fixed revenge description expansion bug
  • Use short ship name instead of long name in mission instructions when string too wide

Version 1.10

  • View long range map in mission offer screens
  • Fixed escorts to escort_roles and added some variation to the number of escorts
  • pirate-victim-roles.plist changed to role-categories.plist

Version 1.9.10

  • Mission screens remember entity personality
  • Fuel up when launching to fight bosses, thargoids or thieves
  • In Oolite 1.81 market capacity is limited to 15 units.

Version 1.9.9

  • Arachnid materials bug fix

Version 1.9.8

  • Market works better in Oolite 1.81

Version 1.9.7

  • Market works in Oolite 1.81
  • SuperCobra update by CaptSolo
  • Drake update by CaptSolo
  • KW shader fix
  • Shipdata cleaned of Oolite 1.81 standards warnings

Version 1.9.6

  • Bug fix

Version 1.9.4

  • Internal structure has been changed to allow the oxp to like_ships rather than having them included. Simon B's favourites are the first ships that have been cut out from the oxp and are like_shipped in if the appropriate oxp is installed.
  • Ambiance shipset has been separated to it's own oxp. Shipset adds some fairly powerful ships to the game.
  • Bug fixes

Version 1.8.2

  • Save at the bars.
  • Bug fixes.

Version 1.7.1

  • Fixed a bug in mark naming when random shipnames oxp is not present.
  • Removed attack drone missile from RH ships in core roles.
  • Added proper materials for ships that were lacking them. Now should work with shaderless game correctly.
  • Fixed a naming bug in a revenge mini mission
  • Updated Staer9 shipset ships to the latest revision by Keeper
  • A few minor fixes and tweaks

Version 1.7

  • Added support for Random Shipnames oxp. Mark ships are now named with it, if oxp is present. Naming scheme of other ships has been tuned further to better match the oxp.
  • Added small possibility to meet RH ships and Bosses in core game roles. These ships, except bosses are somewhat toned down (no aft weapons of energy bombs) variants of their RH counterparts.
  • Added Griffin Mk 1 by Griff.
  • Updated Wolf Mk 2 and Gnat.
  • Mark level 2 ships have been toned down a bit (by reducing the number of escorts) to compensate changes in the core game.
  • Applied language fixes by Keeper to the descriptions.plist
  • Various minor bugfixes.

Version 1.6

  • Applied plist fix by Commander McLane.
  • Applied AI fix by Eric Walch.
  • Updated ships from Staer9's shipset. Updates by Keeper.
  • Ophidian updated to Griff's model
  • Added four new ships: Gnat and Bug by Griff, Arachnid Mark 1 by Shipbuilder and Monitor Mark II by Staer9/Keeper.

Version 1.5.4

  • Fixed a station validator bug.

Version 1.5.3 16th August 2013

  • Upped Oolite version requirement to 1.77.
  • Several minor bugfixes.
  • Changed all ships' display_name style to look like Random Shipnames oxp's style.
  • All ships have been either updated to a newer higher detail model or substituted with a newer high detail ship with about the same specs. A few new ships have been added to the mix to bring more variety. Models, materials, shaders and textures are from Adck, Captain Beatnik, CaptSolo, Dr. Nil, Griff, KillerWolf, Paradox, Shipbuilder, Simon B, Smivs and Staer9.
  • Added support for Skilled NPCs oxp. Support is added with a shipdata-overrides file so it can be disabled by removing the file.
  • Added support for Station Validator oxp.
  • Added a tunnel texture for Space Bar to be used with BGS oxp. Texture by Spara.
  • Rock texture of Space Bar and surroundings has been updated to a higher detail texture, normal map is added and custom shader is defined. Texture, normal map and shader are from Griff's All-in-1 Shipset.

Version 1.4.18

  • Fixed a bug introduced in 1.4.17 that ruined the welcome message the player receives on the first seedy bar visit in a new galaxy. Harmless with Oolite 1.77 but annoying with older Oolite versions.

Version 1.4.17

  • Renamed all models and textures to unique names.
  • Fixed two more string expansions that go wrong with Oolite 1.77

Version 1.4.16

  • Fixed some more wrong string definitions that were always there but will log errors after Oolite 1.76

Version 1.4.15

  • Fixed a string bug that will only give problems after Oolite 1.76.x.

Version 1.4.14

  • Fixed a bug in the hopper exhaust plume.
  • Fixed a bug introduced in Version 1.4.13 when two revenge ships are present.

Version 1.4.13

  • Fixed a bug with gender in hit offers.
  • Raised minimum Oolite to 1.75.

Version 1.4 is a complete rewrite of the oxp into Java Script. At first sight there has little changed, but the oxp has a complete new engine.

  • Much smoother play in Anarchy systems with a spacebar.
  • Added distance and direction info with the marks on the leader board.
  • Added two new random missions around the bar.
  • Fixed the shader for the mining hopper. (The old one didn't work with 1.74)
  • Fixed the bars wrong docking detection.
  • Many small changes that became possible by using the new JS engine.

Version 1.3.6 (beta) contains a bug-fix for Mac Users.

  • The previous version of Random Hits contained a character in its descriptions.plist file, which is valid on Vista, but not on the Mac. This update fixes this (thanks to Eric Walch for finding the needle in the haystack!).
    If you found that all the Bulletin Boards and other OXP messages came out as gobbledy-gook when you tried to play 1.3.5 then you should update to this version.
  • No other new features are added by 1.3.6, so if 1.3.5 worked fine for you, then there is no need to update.

Version 1.3.5 (beta) adds the following extra features over 1.3 (Beta):-

  • All debug messages are removed. When you pay your bar bill you will however see some mission variables on this screen to make it easier to playtest.
  • Thargoids are now no longer always attacking the bars. (There is now a random chance of a battle, but not every time).
  • Relatives now no longer take revenge every time (It’s now a random chance).
  • Handing captives over to GalCop is now made more worthwhile. Sometimes you’ll earn more than the contract price, sometimes less.
  • The ‘Bounty Hunter’s InfoNet’ is added. If you hold both an Elite rating of at least competent and a bounty hunter’s guild rating of at least a deputy, then you will be signed up for this service the first time you dock at any bar. Once signed up there is a chance of an in-system special mission being offered to you whenever you dock at a bar. In the final version there will be about 6 different types of special missions, but for this version only one is implemented. If you have joined the Bounty Hunters InfoNet there is an 11% chance of being asked to join a battle of Hunters v Super Criminals. It is up to you of course whether you want to.
  • The Mining Hopers no longer have police scan class. (Shooting them is still a crime though.)
  • Mining Machines can now be destroyed and raided. (This is also a crime of course!).
  • The Mining Pods are now handled differently. You will not be charged any money for scooping one, but stealing GalMine property is a crime. Stealing them can sometimes be worthwhile though.
  • Most of the AIs are now greatly improved.
  • The Random Generator is also improved.
  • The Reaper and the Liberator are added to the Level 3 Ships.
  • A Criminal Hatred score is added. This score represents how you are regarded by the criminal community. In the final version this will have consequences for you. In this version, although the code to keep track of your ‘criminal hatred factor’ is done, nothing actually yet happens in consequence of it.
  • Several of the updated ship models by SimonB are added.
  • The Code to give the distance to the Victim’s System on the Bulletin Board is done for Galaxies 1 – 4. This is done by showing in brackets the Sector of the Galaxy where the victim is; North West, South East etc. As long as you chose a hit in the same Sector as yourself you shouldn't have to make more than 3 or 4 jumps to find your victim. So far this feature is only implemented for Galaxies 1 to 4. If you are in Galaxies 5 to 8, all the other features of Random Hits will still work, but you will see a mission variable appearing in the SUBJECT section of the BB as I haven't done the code for Galaxies 5 to 8 yet.


The OXP was coded by LittleBear, featuring ships by Commanders Griff, Murgh, Wolfwood, SimonB, Killer Instinct, Giles, Ramon, Selezen, 8bitapocalypse, CyberTiger and Dr Nil. The space bar was created by Griff with additional graphics and Shaders for the neon signs by Arexack Heretic. The database of words used in the random generator was written by LittleBear with contributions from Commander Maegil, Disembodied, Dr Nil, Arexack Heretic, Ahruman and Commander McLane. Thanks in particular to Eric Walch, Another Commander, Svengali and Kaks for a lot of help with debugging, improvements to the AIs and help with Javascripting.

Random Hits is written using features added by the test versions of Oolite. It will only work properly on Version 1.74 and higher of Oolite. If you install the OXP on a lower version of Oolite, the OXP won’t do anything at all. You do not however need a powerful system to play. If your system cannot support Shaders, then these additional features are automatically turned off. If your system does support Shaders you will see an animated neon sign adorning the space bars you encounter. If not, then the sign is left blank. This pack adds Missions, Ships, Stations and Features.

If you are updating from an older version of Random Hits, you need to delete the old version from AddOns and install the new version. You won't lose your progress and any mission you have running will remain unchanged, but don't forget to delete the Old Version otherwise you'll have two different versions of Random Hits installed and neither will work properly!


I’m fairly hopeful that I’ve squashed all the bugs but if you do find a bug could you post it on the Random Hits OXP thread. The readme file gives some instructions on bug reporting. If at all possible could you follow these.

Part of the fun of the OXP is that, due to the randomization, I have no more idea than you do what missions you will be offered when you dock at a bar. As there are literally trillions of possible missions running in all eight Galaxies, I need to know who you were after and where you were when you encountered the bug in order to track it down!

Random Hits Shipset OXP

This oxp merely adds the ships from the Random Hits OXP to your Ooniverse for ambiance and challenge without the Random Hits OXP itself.


First Day on the Job - aka - Baptism of Fire

It had been a tough slog, to reach this point. Even before I'd ever climbed into the pilot seat of a Cobra Mk III, I'd dreamed of becoming a bounty hunter, tracking down miscreants across the 8, and dishing out justice with my lasers.

White-knuckled and sweating, I'd managed to survive the docking practice runs, so I set out into the Ooniverse, to trade my way to all the high-tech kit I'd need for my chosen profession. Month after month of mind-numbingly boring milk-runs passed, hauling computers one way, furs and booze the other, to pay for the basic gear needed to make life in the trading lanes a little less hazardous. Hardhead missiles, an extra energy bank, an escape capsule, docking computers, injectors, and so on.

I stayed clear of the main space-lanes, avoiding combat as much as possible. Damage and missiles cost money I could ill afford to lose, so I only fought when I couldn't run. Even with this attitude, my combat rating slowly climbed, life in space being what it is.

Later came some of the nice-to-have equipment, an advanced space compass, heat shielding and a fuel scoop, and a few other bits and pieces, but my main goal was saving up enough cash that I could afford to take on some of the hauling contracts I'd heard about. I steadily built up a reputation for prompt delivery, and finally began to be offered the really lucrative contracts, transporting precious metals and gems, only to learn, to my chagrin, that I still couldn't afford the larger, high-paying gigs. So I took on multiple smaller jobs, to build up enough of a kitty that I could afford to plunk 50,000 - 100,000 credits down on the big contracts that might return anywhere from 30-60% profit or more.

Along the way, I'd gradually added various items to "Attitude Adjuster", the rather presumptuous name I'd given my trusty Cobra Mk III. A front Military laser, a beam laser aft, mil-grade ironhide armour, shield boosters, a targeting memory expansion, etc.

Then the day came when I'd offloaded almost 5 tonnes of platinum, at a hefty profit, at Xexeti, a typical TL 3 Anarchy of the type which seems to be the favourite destination of cargoes like mine, and I happened to notice that just a few lightyears away was a spick and span TL12 Commie system called Onlema.

Taking stock of my situation, I realised I now had over half a million credits to my name, and a combat rating of Above Average(127). Perhaps it was time to begin my real job..

I jumped across to Onlema and started spending money as if it were water.. all the good stuff I'd been drooling over in the Ship Chandlers catalogues for so long was going to be mine!

Before long my bank account was almost 300,000 credits lighter, but now I had a military shield enhancement, an anti-missile system and darts, a bounty scanner, a military injector upgrade, a chaff dispenser, a police IFF scanner, a self-repair system, fore and aft shield capacitors, a shield equaliser, a sniperlock system, and some other good stuff. I was ready to take on the Ooniverse!

I jumped back to Xexiti and dialed up the local Seedy Space Bar on my ASC. It was named, with a distinct lack of imagination, "A Seedy Space Bar". Somehow this seemed to me a fitting place to begin my new career, so I locked in a course, and in short order was docked at the Bar. Despite my 'Outsider" status, the system seemed willing enough to offer me a contract, and before long the details arrived in my email.

Principal "Thunder Missile" McGreavy was awaiting her destruction in the Esgerean System, only four or five hops away, on the other side of the infamous "Devil's Triangle", a trio of Anarchy systems. I don't even recall the meal I had at the bar before leaving, so intent was I on my very first mission.

Researching my target en-route, I learned that Esgerean was an average industrial dictatorship, TL 10, with about 4 billion human colonials living dirtside. "Shouldn't be too bad", I thought.. "might meet a bit of opposition, but nothing too stiff"..

I sun-skimmed all the way, and arrived at Esgerean ready for a rumble.. or so I thought.

I pointed myself at the Station Nav Beacon, and kicked in the Torus Drive.. I knew it wouldn't be long before I was mass-locked, and I was right.. an Astrofactory, and a couple of ships. The Police IFF showed them to be clean, but I ID'd them, to be sure my mark was not one of 'em, and to have them programmed into my targeting comp, just in case. A few asteroids were drifting about, but that was all.. I realigned with the Nav Beacon, and was about to inject clear, when a couple of ships appeared near the port edge of the scanner. Offenders, according to the police IFF.

Whipping the Attitude Adjuster around to ID them, I noticed another Offender pop up behind me. As I ID'd the first ship, a Gecko, the red alert alarm sounded. The ship behind me had locked on. Muttering grimly, I ID'd the second ship, a Sidewinder, before turning my attention to the newcomer. Before I'd even completed the turn, I heard my shields screech as they absorbed incoming laser fire. The Target Autolock identified the incoming fire as coming from a Python.

Pythons can be a royal pain in the ass, so I resolved to take him out before dealing with the two smaller ships. As I lined up on the incoming Python, the Sidewinder and Gecko opened up on me from behind. Ignoring them, since they were barely scratching my shields, I carefully poured laser fire into the Python until the overheat alarm went off. As he passed overhead, he fired a pair of missiles, but I'd been ready for that, and slapped the ECM three times in quick succession.

I chopped the throttle and pushed down hard, spinning the ship around before feeding in the juice again as I came up behind him. He was a slippery customer, jinking and dodging frantically, as I struggled to get him into my sights. His friends continued pouring fire into me all the while, and I could hear the crackling buzz as the capacitors dumped their charge into the depleted shields. I kept a wary eye on the read-outs of the Numeric HUD I'd had installed long ago, but the mil-spec shields were coping well.

When I glanced at the scanner, it was rather more crowded than before.. there seemed to be several more asteroids, and a couple of extra ships had appeared. Naturally, they too were designated in red. "So, it's a party you guys want, huh?" I growled as the incoming fire stepped up a notch. Now my shields were starting to feel the effect, so I locked a hardhead onto the Python, and sent it off to keep him occupied for a bit while I attended to his mates.

I injected straight at the newcomers, and noticed as I passed that one was a Fer-de-lance. He lobbed a missile at me in passing, which smashed into my forward shield before I could react. The capacitors and equaliser were working overtime, but they were doing a fine job. Nothing was getting through, and the shields were regenerating faster than I'd expected.

Turning, I got a lock on the Ferdy's friend, a Moray, and started chewing away at his shields. As I did so, it occurred to me that the scanner had even more red blobs on it than it did before. Concluding that this worrying development would have to wait, I concentrated my fire on the Moray, and was pleased to see him explode. I was less pleased about the two missiles he launched before dying, but a couple of taps of the ECM killed one, and the other was soaked up by my forward shield. I was beginning to feel quite fond of those military shields!

A quick count of the red markers revealed nine or ten ships, all of whom seemed to object to my presence. There were even a couple of yellow 'clean' markers now, but they appeared to be doing their best to quietly back out of the room they'd blundered into.

The situation devolved into a furball of whirling, twisting ships as I struggled to maintain a bead on anything long enough to kill it. The Python drifted across my sights again, still running from the hardhead I'd launched, so I gave him a blast which left him venting plasma before my laser overheated. I zoomed the scanner in to try and reduce the clutter, and tried to concentrate on one target at a time.

My shields started taking a pounding, and no matter how violently I manoeuvred, I couldn't shake the incoming fire. I injectored away from the group, which broke their lock, and while waiting for the shields to regenerate, ID'd some more of my attackers. There were two Ferdy's, and two Morays, a couple of Sidewinders, and that damned Gecko was still there as well.

I love those shields! Man, they regen so fast! In what seemed like no time at all I was back in the fray. The Python came under my guns, and died within seconds. The Target Autolock immediately latched onto a Ferdy that was firing at me, so he was the next to feel my wrath. He twisted and writhed like the snake he was named after, but I kept on him relentlessly, chipping away at his shields a little at a time. After I splashed him, I changed tactics, hammering on any ship that crossed my path, not really using my targeting systems at all. I lobbed another hardhead at one of the Ferdy's, when he began to annoy me too much.

At one point my shields were down to around 15%, both fore and aft. I suspect this was the shield equalisers at work. During the entire battle the buzzing of the capacitors and equalisers was almost constant. I injected away again, and soon was back to strength.

The whirling cluster of ships continued, spinning, twisting, with me in the middle, taking fire from all sides and trying desperately to hold my own, whilst simultaneously doing my best to even the odds. Some of the pirates must have broken away and run, but at the time all I noticed was that suddenly there were less enemy than there had been, giving me time to concentrate on one ship at a time. Four ships remaining, then three. Two, one, and finally I was alone..

Feeling like I'd just spent half an hour in a tumble-dryer, I set course for the station, resuming my hunt for the mark I'd been sent to kill. Wondering what on earth would be next, to be sure, but with greatly strengthened faith in the abilities of my ship.

The run to the station was uneventful, and there was no sign of my target. Sighing, I turned, lined up on the witchpoint beacon, and set off along the lane, ID'ing every ship I saw, but in vain.

Reaching the Astrofactory, I noticed a number of Offenders loafing about. None of them were my mark, of course, but they did turn out to be the regrouped survivors of my earlier encounter. They were also willing to do battle, it seemed.

They fought well, but they died. Reaching the beacon, I turned for my third pass along the spacelane. This time, there was no opposition waiting at the factory. I reached the main station again, uneventfully. Wondering how long I was going to have to keep this up, I about-faced again, and set off for the witchpoint beacon. I encountered a couple of traders being attacked by a pair of Cobra MkI's.. Soon there were two more dead pirates.

A little before I reach the factory again, a lone Offender appeared on my scanner. Resignedly, I ID the ship. It's my mark! They're off about 15km, and sitting dead centre in my SniperLocked sights, apparently heading straight at me, since my target lock holds.

I squeeze the trigger on my stick, and three seconds later there's a small explosion.

My comms show Ms McGreavy first insulted me, then offered to bargain for her life. I didn't even notice the messages until after it was over. It has to be the most anti-climactic kill I've ever made.

Only as I'm setting up the nav-puter for the jump out of system, does it dawn on me.. there was a Rock Hermit located in the asteroids near that Astrofactory.. I'd blundered right into a Pirate Cove!

My rating was now Competent(139). With one exception, the last dozen were the toughest kills of my life. Jumping to Riraes, in the Devil's Triangle, I report to the Seedy Space Bar there, "The Fat Feline". I was now officially a "Recruit"! I collect my 440 credits, and order an Inzaqumaian Mallard Souffle, washed down with a tankard of wicked strength goat blood. It goes down well, and I idly watch the local Vacuum Cricket Charity Match, as I ponder my next mark.. one Rabbi Brynison. He and his MkI Cobby won't know what hit them.. Diziet Sma (2012)