Unless you’re old enough to remember the hilarity of Smokey and the Bandit, the idea of being an interstellar trucker doesn’t sound very interesting. Let’s face it: Snowman might’ve been a funny guy, but it was Bandit that got the chicks.
Think about it: all you’re doing, when it boils down to it, is moving a cargo bay full of materials from Point A to Point B. That’s it. Cut through everything, and that is basically what you’re doing. You’re a intergalactic conveyer belt.
Of course, if you look at it that way, you’re ignoring the biggest reason to be a trucker: MONEY. And we’re not just talking about a small profit here, either. My very first trip hauling – and only using a 48-slot fast transport ship – netted me about FIVE TIMES the amount of credits I would’ve made on a combat or scouting mission. I’ve often wondered what appeal trucking could have to Phil. Well, now I know. It should’ve been obvious, what with him being a Republican and all…;)
Trucking isn’t just a simple matter of picking materials, a destination and scooting off. You really have to give some thought to not only what you’re going to carry, but where you’re going to carry it through. For example, carrying 5 million Kg of cargo through flux-heavy space makes things REALLY interesting…for the five minutes before you’re shot out of the sky, that is.
Just like my mass makes my chair creak ominously, mass on your cargo hauler makes a HUGE difference in how it handles. Oh, sure that cargo tow might make for a great fighting vehicle when it’s empty and armed for bear – but throw a few hundred units of Palladium in that sucker and you’re flying a bathtub. A very big, very slow bathtub that maneuvers about as gracefully as me in roller skates. And of course the flux are all sneaky bastiches – they let you jump into a sector, sit for a second to plot your course to the next Jumpgate, begin accelerating veeeeeeerrrrrrrrryyyyyyy slowly… and THEN they show up, guns blazing.
Oh, sure, you’re accelerating slowly – but you’re already too far to turn around and head towards the safety of the gate you just left – by the time you’d decelerate, get turned around, and accelerate back the way you came, a flux would be coming through your wreckage for the crunchy bits.
And then there’s docking. Docking with a heavy load is like beating yourself in the face with a ball-peen hammer. And then stuffing a rabid badger down your pants. And THEN driving on the New Jersey Turnpike. Well, okay, maybe it’s not THAT bad. Obviously, there are a lot of pilots that have very little trouble with this. I have a special name for them: “Rat Bastiches!”
Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if Flashfires, the MODx that you use to provide you with a few seconds of super fuel-injection speed boost, were re-useable like they used to be. However, now they burn out with each use. That means if you’re stuck using them to get up to escape velocity from the flux, you’re going to have to be traveling between stations that are equipped with enough Flashfires in their markets to allow you to reload each time.
Soooo…this sounds like a lot of pain, doesn’t it? Why would anyone go through all that hassle? The MONEY, man! Didn’t I mention that? You can make an insane amount of cash on very simple runs. And what do you do with that money? You make more money, you fool! The better to buy a delicious space station with. I have my sights set on this lovely little gold number, with purple lining and a big docking bay…
Flying a cargo haul also has some great opportunities for getting to know people. If you’re flying through dangerous areas, you can hire a few wingmen to fly overwatch for you. Well, no, let me rephrase that: if you’re flying through dangerous areas, you better hire a few wingmen. I know it’s hard to believe, but let me just spell it out for you: if you can’t outrun flux, you’re probably not going to have much luck outrunning the pirate squad in their arti’d fighters, mmkay? Paying for an escort is a LOT cheaper than losing your haul. And yes, maybe you can carry a few missiles. But not enough to down them. And not only will they not down the pirates, the missiles won’t even have the decency to make them mad. A few missiles will just make the pirates drool a bit and gigle.
Now a wingman might not be able to save you from the pirates. But at least they can give the pirates someone else to shoot at while you burn for the gate. Plus, it’s nice to have someone in-sector with you when you crash to blame it on.
“You bumped me!”
“What? What are you talking about? I was on the other side of the sector from you when you crashed!”
“You THOUGHT about bumping me! I’m very sensitive, psychically…”
“You’re a loon…”