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First Blood

My eyes shifted through space, separated, multiple, roaming. My eyes were my camera drones. The feeling of looking in several directions at once was something I was not quite yet used to as I was only a few months old since my rebirth.

I did not feel the pod fluid I was suspended in, nor did I feel my body. I felt space through the engines of my Rifter, saw it via the camera drones surrounding it and perceived what I could not see through the on board scanners of the ship. It felt powerful. It felt free. I was the ship, and the Rifter responded to my every whim as it danced across the stars.

And now, for the first time, I was on the hunt.

Up until now I stayed in the secure parts of space, securing resources, making money and working on contacts. But the call of the lawless frontier was impossible to ignore. It pulled at me as my mining lasers consumed a precious asteroid and disturbed my dreams as I rested in my station quarters. Finally, I had to make the jump. I settled into my pod and waited patiently as it was installed aboard my Rifter-class frigate. It was my first solo combat flight in this ship class, but I trusted my instincts.

A minute later, the station launch catapult spat me into space. I warped my ship to the nearby gate and activated it. I brushed the low-security space Concord warning aside as it appeared in my mind. A bubble appeared around my ship. Then the unmistakable feeling of being both everywhere and nowhere consumed me as the gate activated.

The disorientation of a gate jump was still there, but it was not the stomach-turning event I first experienced a few months ago. My mind quickly went back to my scanners, while another part of my mind reached for the camera drones and looked around. Concord's pilot registry showed three people in the system except for myself. Two were branded criminals, one was not. I willed my ship into a warp towards the first planet at the system, exiting it 100km from the common orbit our ships are programmed to enter. My subconscious was already hard at work. Realizing that our minds could effectively run several processes at once (especially with the help of the ship's computers) was an important part of being a capsuleer. As I was looking around via my camera drones, still somewhat in awe with the beauty of space, the back of my mind was operating the directional scanner. Suddenly, that part of my mind demanded focus. An Incursus-class frigate was on scan. I conjured up the system map in my mind, with the size of the system and the scan resolution I used, it was obvious that the ship was in the belts of this very same planet. The Rifter's guns twitched as my excitement levels rose and Adrenaline pumped through my veins. A mute command, and the Rifter picked up speed, aligned to warp, and broke through the light speed barrier.

I came out of warp to an empty belt. My prey was not here. I was disappointed, and scanned around again. The Incursus was still on scan. My lack of experience showed, however: I warped without zeroing in on my prey first and tried to find him by pure luck rather than clever method.

However, sometimes, all you need is luck.

The equivalent of a proximity alarm went off in my brain. That was my ship indicating to me that I had company. An Incursus class-frigate was exiting warp in the very belt I was. How fortuitous. The engines on my Rifter came alive as I threw the ship into a hard turn. Then instinct took over.

I barely remember reaching across the stars to grab at the Incursus with my Warp Scrambler, and I do not recall even thinking about my weapons as I guided the Rifter into a tight orbit around my prey. Nonetheless, the three 150mm auto cannons spat death at the Gallente frigate before the pilot could even react to what was happening. I remember feeling the sting of weapon impacts as the target's blasters came alive and suddenly feeling heavy and sluggish as his Stasis Webifier activated, but the hits were sporadic, I did not care for speed, and my shield status never dropped below 70%.

Then, as rapidly as it started, it was over. The Incursus was an expanding cloud of dust and debris. My own guns were silent. A notification flashed in my brain about my Concord security status being lowered. I did not care. I tried to reach for the capsule of my foe, but he was too quick. In under a minute, he was no longer registered in the system.

I started calming down. A quick scan showed me that the wreck of the Incursus had enough intact parts to be nearly worth my entire Rifter. Some of these parts were Cruiser weapons. His loot from previous engagements, perhaps.

The Rifter came to life again after I picked through the wreckage as I engaged my warp drive. I warped to another planet, making a note of a location in the middle of nowhere. As I landed at the planet, I quickly warped again, back to that spot I just made a mental bookmark of.

I checked my security status. I was branded a criminal. I could not exit the system for about 12 more minutes.

As I waited, I realized one thing:

I felt alive.