Bounty Hunting in Elite: Dangerous

Dear diary,

Today I killed an Anaconda.

Not the snake, obviously. That wouldn’t be very impressive, considering I was flying a Core Dynamics Eagle Mk. II equipped with high-intensity laser weapons and a tricked-out power array. Also, I was in space. I don’t think the snake would have been able to breathe.

No, I killed an Anaconda starship. A big bugger, armed to the teeth and massively overpowered compared to my little fighter craft. That’s a picture of one up there, although it’s not the same one I killed. And before you get all “moral obligations” on me and “starships are people too”, you need to know that this was one of the bad guys. The captain was called Psycho, which should tell you enough anyway, and he had a bounty on his head worth just under a hundred thousand credits. The man was infamous, and highly wanted, and he had to be stopped right there and then. Lives depended on it.

Let me back up a bit and explain. I’ve set up shop as a bounty hunter in the Kremainn system. Kremainn 2 is a gas giant planet with a mineral-rich ring system: easy pickings for miners operating out of Wohler Terminal starbase, but those miners are a tempting target for local pirate gangs as well. Those rings are crawling with criminal scum looking to mug or murder anyone they can. The Federal Security Service do what they can, but there’s too many for them to handle alone.

That’s where I come in. I’ll jump in, cruise along just above the ecliptic plane, and scan any ships that come into the area. If the scan comes back clean, they can go about their business. On the other hand, if there’s a price on their heads, I deploy weapons and take them out.

The pirates of Kremainn 2 are mostly small-time chancers, barely worth anyone’s time but still good for a little profit if you catch enough of them. Maybe two-thirds of them are flying cheap and cheerful Sidewinder fighters, and they tend to have a bounty on their heads of between one and three thousand credits. Occasionally I’ll catch someone in a Cobra who’s worth maybe fifteen Ks, and on a good day I’ll find maybe two or three. Cobras are fun to fly against because they’re big and clumsy and hit like a truck; they’re great at taking out freighters and stuffing the loot in their cargo holds, but my Eagle can outmanoeuvre them any day. Get behind them, stay in their turning circle, tear them apart slowly but surely. Easy money, provided you don’t stray into their firing solution.

So when this Anaconda named Psycho dropped into the system, I felt equal parts excitement and dread. See, an Anaconda is big. It doesn’t dogfight – it doesn’t need to. An Anaconda sprays lasers in every direction and will carve an Eagle up like a turkey dinner if it can break through your shields. They’re scary ships.

I’d like to say it was a sense of duty to the miners that pushed me to engage him, but that’d be a lie. It was all about the profit. A hundred thousand credits is a hell of a lot of money. And a Fed patrol was coming into range, as well. A half-dozen of us fighting this guy… we could probably do it, right? Probably?

It wasn’t easy. Psycho knew how to handle his ship, weaving and rolling to bring his weapons to bear on all of us. My shields fell apart and I had to back out of the fight for a while until they recharged. When I swept back into weapons range, he targeted me again and I thought it was all over. Shields collapsed, kinetic weapons hammered away at my hull, my computer consoles flickered and sparked. But then Psycho made his mistake. He’d been ducking and rolling so much, he’d ended up inside the planetary ring. So many chunks of ice and rock and metal: easy enough for our zippy little fighters to dive around and hide behind, but very tough for his gunship to avoid. He throttled back: suddenly, he was a sitting duck. I came in above him for a strafing run – his turrets nearly broke my ship apart – but as I turned away into to take shelter behind an asteroid, his contact disappeared from my sensors.

Bounty awarded: ninety-six and a half thousand credits for destruction of the criminal Psycho.

I also got a voucher for another six hundred credits, valid in Imperial space. I can’t be certain, but it’s entirely possible that those other six hundred credits may have been for an unpaid parking ticket of his.