#### Think (white lightbulb) ####
Follow missions: They're a boring PITA but they pay well.
Get in the fastest ship you own, as you don't know until you've accepted the mission what type of ship you'll be following. Obviously Kestrel excels at this, as it's the fastest & has a rear turret for protection (more later), & fly to within the range of the target (as indicated by the usual mission designator arrows); see paras below
Try to stay between 12 & 17Km of the target. 14.5Km is ideal: it gives you a bit of leeway depending upon circumstances. If you get to within around 10Km you'll get a warning to back off; if you've made it to under around 7Km you'll get a mission fail (I've had this while sitting in the station I accepted the mission from, so don't worry; you're not alone!) Once contact is made at around 16Km, you can’t get further away than around 23Km [check this: may be 25Km] as then the target is deemed to have outrun you & the mission is a failure (usually the target jumps away, but even if it doesn’t you won’t be able to retain the mission no matter how fast you go or near you get).
Try to enter the sector from the least likely direction the target will go (it'll often head towards the nearest pirate base, which can be useful, but don't count on it as a guide to finding pirate base locations). This can be difficult, but persevere. The point is: once moving, the target will go straight to their destination.. so all you have to do is stay out of the way & shadow it within 17Km or so. Once the target's passed you, you can use 'match target speed' to follow them & the rest becomes a long & boring stern chase.. in most cases
Often the 2nd gate you pass through will pop out a hostile M5 or M4 (or higher, depending upon rank). If you’re in a light ship you’ll need to destroy it (wait until the target’s OOS so you can use your speed to full advantage, but don’t wait too long or the target will fly out of range & you’ll fail the mission); but if you’re in a heavier ship and/or one with rear turrets you can pretty much let the AI take care of it by itself – either the turret(s) will destroy the gnat or it’ll fly into you, smashing itself into bits or at least do enough damage that it can no longer keep up.
Passenger missions: There are two types in this ‘Think’ mission & you need to read the mission briefing CAREFULLY before accepting them, as one type demands a TP-class ship to perform the pickup; the other will accept any ship with Cargo Life Support System (CLS).
If the briefing or audio asks for a ‘Passenger Transport’ or ‘Luxury Transport’ [check for more descriptions] you need to be on the TP to pick up the VIP; once you’ve picked them up you can transfer them to any other CLS-equipped ship for the flight & drop (the drop can be made by any ship; thanks to Kirlack for correcting me on this). [I currently believe TP missions need a personal dropoff while bus missions can be dropped remotely; anyone care to comment?]
 Some of these missions can be made easier by judicial use of minimal in-space saving. You can accept the mission in space, but until you dock it won't give you a timer. So far I've seen these always are for 'lightbulb' missions & always for missions requiring a TP; never for the more basic $ missions. If you SAVE FIRST & accept the mission in space & then dock (sometimes it can be managed even if you've already docked in an inappropriate ship), there's no timer start, so you can wait until one of your TPs lands at the appropriate station, swap ships to accept the mission, then transfer the passenger & yourself back to the appropriate ship (hopefully one that's faster than the one you read the mission briefing in), thus gaining more time This is an especially useful trick when trying to gain Terran rep due to their ludicrously-sized stations. Of course you can be OOS while the TP docks, but you've still got to be docked to the correct station to accept the mission & transfer the passenger if necessary [/edit]
Scan for illegal goods smugglers: Freight scan s/w required. HINT: Police licence for target sector strongly advised: you’ll lose a tiny bit of rep (with the sector owner’s race) for every use of the scanner without a licence. Reward: a low %age of the value of any illegal goods detected.
This can be one of the most infuriating missions you’re given. Time after time you’ll run around scanning ships & coming back with nothing when the time limit expires. So, what makes this mission worthwhile? Simple answer: scan any ship leaving an illegal goods factory (eg SQUASH mines, weed, booze) within the designated area (note you’re not usually limited to one sector for this operation; the briefing will usually say ‘scan [..] within Teladi border space’ or similar). Once you’ve found a smuggler its ship designation will change from <race> to Pirate, the ship will turn red & you’re free to destroy or capture it. Shoot it a few times at least to make it drop its cargo; sometimes it’ll drop legit cargo as well as the illegal stuff, which you can pick up & sell anywhere there’s a buyer.
Scan for goods value: As above, but this is given by Pirates or Yaki & usually occurs in Pirate/Yaki sectors. This is a lot easier than the ‘illegal goods’ mission & the rewards are a lot higher as the total value of the ship’s cargo (including ship’s equipment, guns, shields etc) is taken into account, so prioritise high-end military ships, weapons dealers & high tech traders. You will gain race rep from <mission giver> with a successful conclusion, & you won’t turn any of the target ships hostile simply by scanning them, so it’s a nice safe little earner for you!
Scan asteroids: Probably one of the easiest missions you’re going to get. A Triplex or at least a Duplex scanner is recommended for the scanning ship. All you have to do is get yourself a Mineral Scanner (s/w) for about 30KCr, then fly around scanning the asteroid(s) indicated by the mission markers. Fly to within 10Km of the targeted ‘roid, right-click on it & hit ‘scan’, then move on to the next one. Once you’re done, jump/fly back to your employer & comm. him the results; if you’ve done this within the time limit you’ll get up to 200,000Cr per asteroid, plus a bonus! Easy money! Even if you miss the deadline you’ll still be paid for the ‘roids you've scanned within time.
You don’t even have to do this yourself; Explorer s/w (from Teladi EQDs, among other places) will allow you to tell any other of your ships fitted with the Mineral Scanner to fly to any sector & scan any or all asteroids there. The only problem is once they’re OOS you can’t tell which specific ‘roids your employer wants scanned, so you’ll have to scan them all. Be aware that fast ships are subject to the autopillock’s suicidal tendencies while <playership> is IS, so if you’re going to send fast scouts out to do remote scanning, get <playership> OOS ASAP.
Once scanned a ‘roid stays scanned, & won’t appear on anyone else’s list. If an entire sector has been scanned no one will send you to scan ‘roids in that sector ever again.. so you can’t pre-empt the orders by scanning everything & then waiting for a mission to pop up If you’re lucky, though, you can combine 2 or even 3 ‘roid scanning missions over the same sector(s).
Return Ship/Capture Ship missions: These can be a great moneyspinner or a PITA, depending upon which mission you go for. They are usually time-tight, at least until you get a jumpdrive. Top rank of ship to be returned (that I know of) is M7(M), so don’t expect M2s or M1s on the list. I’ve not heard of TLs being returned either firsthand or through the forums, but I may be wrong..
Capture Ship: Pretty much the same as below, but you have to relieve the pilot of his ship first. I avoid these, as capping a fighter/freighter is chancy however much you weight the odds; however boarding enthusiasts may like to try their hand once they rank up to accept M6/M7(M). Remember to deal with escorts first, despite the time it takes: a good heavy AoE missile or two should sort them out from range, then you can close on the target. Don’t go too OTT with the missile(s) – remember the objective is to capture not destroy the target!
Return Ship: This is fairly easy. Preparation: bring at least one ship with a jumpdrive & enough spare fuel to enable <target> to jump to the destination sector. A Transporter Device would be helpful too, as would satellite coverage of the target sector (so you can jump to the nearest gate to <target>). The ship will always be unshielded & unoccupied (ie no race prefix before the ship class, such as Boron Manta or Split Cobra: it’ll always be plain ‘Manta’ or ‘Cobra’). HINT: if you’ve enabled autojump in your Command Console & the target is within the autojump range & satellite coverage (ie you can see it remotely while OOS), you can right-click on it in the OOS display & select ‘Follow..’ & you will autojump to the nearest gate & start flying towards the ship automagically. Don’t hit SETA during the countdown time however: it’ll make no difference to realtime (ie 10s) & will increase elapsed gametime by the amount you have SETA set to.
Obviously you’re not (as a low-ranking pilot) going to start off with retrieving Corvettes, so your best bet for a starting <playership> is something with a jumpdrive that can carry a fighter (often the first target for a low-ranking retrieve mission). This usually means a TM, although those of you who completed the relevant start may like to use the Hyperion (why are you reading this again?). Equip <playership> & any other fighter(s) you have docked with JD, Docking Computer, enough fuel to get to & from target sector, & (preferably) a Transporter Device. Nav1 software is optional, depending upon time constraints, but it’s so cheap it’s worth putting on every ship you’re not immediately scrapping IMO. REMEMBER TO LEAVE A BAY CLEAR for your ‘target’.
NOTE: if you’re in a large and/or unwieldy ship remember to decelerate to a complete stop some distance from the target; 500m is fairly safe depending upon ship type. Once you’ve ejected to EVA your former <playership> may swing in an odd direction, colliding with <target> in the process & destroying it – mission fail! Equally you may misjudge the stopping distance required when heading toward a stationary target at speed; I’ve often done it myself! Give yourself some room (& time) to manoeuvre: you can edge up to the hulk with not that much time lost, surely?
NOTE: players who haven’t yet worked up the money for a 56KCr Transporter Device should forget this mission type until they do, just in case a non-fighter turns up on the list (they do that often). You can get by with almost nothing else, but the time lost in flying the target (once claimed & repaired) to a station, then moving/upgrading software/tunings & fuel as necessary, then flying (not jumping, note – the JD can’t be transferred without the TD unless docked & neither can the fuel, except awkwardly & time-consumingly by ejecting/pickup) to its destination will often put you over the time limit for completion even if the target’s hull is 100% & its speed tunings are at max.
Once you get to <target> sector use the mission guidance to find it (it’ll often be out of range of satellite coverage – behind a gate, above/below the ecliptic etc) & get to it ASAP (jump to another gate if necessary). The quicker you get there the more repairs you can do; the more hull repair you can do the faster the ship flies (cutting down on return time) & the more money you get for the returned hull! Once claimed, transfer the JD & appropriate fuel (switch on autojump & select the appropriate station – remember to turn on ‘Send message when order complete’ in CC!) to <target> once claimed, & auto-send it to its destination (you don’t need to be in <target> to transfer ownership: a message will pop up). Alternatively, if it’s an M3, 4, 5 & you have a spare docking bay beam a docking computer over, then yourself; autodock & transfer the DC back to your ‘mothership’ & jump/fly back however you want (within time limits, natch). You can do this without a DC of course, but it takes more precious seconds from your deadline.
If you’ve none of the toys mentioned above & are lucky enough to find yourself with a newly capped ship & time to spare then a) repair it as much as possible (90% hull will give you max speed; more than that will increase your $ bonus), send it on its way & get OOZ ASAP to reduce its travel time. A short detour to a local Trading or Equipment Dock would be beneficial as you can upgrade ship’s speed + software, further cutting down on travel time.
Be wary of installing material equipment though: software & ‘tunings’ (including speed improvements, JD, transporter devices, etc) will sell back to the ‘owner’ (your employer) at list price, so you won’t lose any money from installing these things. Anything that takes up cargo space will be redeemed at lowest price [needs checking – see your X-pedia entries for lowest price of shields, guns, missiles etc] (This can be used to advantage WRT a few items, but I’m not going to list them here). So the more materiel you load down your prize with, the less it’ll gain you in profit.. unless you’re trying to offload a warehouse full of <stuff> that you can’t get rid of any other way.
Later on in your career, once you've increased your race rep somewhat [thanks Catra] you’ll eventually be tasked with retrieving high-level ships such as M6, M7 or M7M. Normally these would require a boarding party (& do, in ‘Capture Ship’ missions above), but as it’s empty with no pilot you can simply fly up to the ship, cap it just like a bailed fighter, & be on your way. Of course, you can use this to your advantage if you've the time & want to train marines. Now, what to do with your prize?
You could return it (being a nice person). This would earn you maybe 2.5MCr, for a 5MCr hull (M6) to a 35MCr hull (for a decent M7(M) ). Hmm.. which way to go?
For those of a non-larcenous disposition, look away now!
First you need preparation. A JD + fuel is obligatory, unless you’re planning on selling the hulk for scrap in a shipyard next to the sector the hulk’s in (it won’t survive a longer journey: see below). If you want to keep the prize, pick up some heavy shields of the type the prize is likely to use (usually 200MJ (M6) & 1GJ (M7)).
Accept the mission. Take a careful note of how much time it gives you. Jump/fly to target & cap it. Now comes the tricky part:
Transfer the JD & enough fuel to jump & fly the prize (automated: you do not want to fly this ship yet!) to a suitable shipyard (if scrapping for cash) or EQD (if keeping to add to your fleet). If you’re keeping the prize transfer the appropriate shields as well. I usually use Ianamus Zura for the latter as its EQD is pretty close to a gate & it sells most of the stuff I’ll need to bring the ship up to fighting standard. Stay OOS until it docks (no collision avoidance = quicker travel & docking for automated ships).
Now you can jump in & dock at the shipyard/EQD, transfer the shields back if you wish (+ any software you may like to retain), & you’ve not lost anything
Look at the time remaining in mission. You can use that time to repair-laser the hull before docking & selling (AKA scrapping) the ship (gaining more $$$), or you can sell the ship immediately. Either way, you ‘gain’ a minimal rep loss (ship was destroyed before being returned) & loadsa cash! Alternatively, if you want to keep the prize you can do a few things:
When the mission times out, a bunch of cops will point-jump to roughly the position of their target about 5-10 minutes after timeout. Their mission is to destroy your prize (the ship you’ve appropriated) & they will try to do this as single-mindedly as those ‘Pirates are attacking my station!’ ships above. The cops will be of the same race as your ex-employer (& no, it doesn’t matter if they were Pirate or Yaki or other baddies) & will consequently give you a bad race rep if you (or any other asset of yours) destroy them; however, they won’t try to attack a docked ship! They’ll mill around, flying into asteroids or stations or WHY, but they won’t attack <prize> if it’s docked, neither will they attack <playership> (unless it’s the same ship) unless you start attacking them. So if you’ve nothing better to do, leave them in the jumble of debris that is IZ & wait for them to thin themselves out
Meanwhile, you can stock your new prize with software (Nav1 is a must; Cargo Life Support for M7M (you don’t get it automatically unless it’s been boarded) plus anything else you feel it may need), tunings (max speed & turning as a priority; cargo can wait if necessary) & max shields. Leave it sitting once equipped.
So. Getting rid of those pesky kids.. oops, cops! Unfortunately the Commonwealth seems to apply the rule of ‘Hot Pursuit’, so you can’t rely on (say) Boron military forces killing off Split cops for you. The first method is to jump the prize out to a destination past a Xenon sector or two (from Ianamus I’d pick Family Njy EQD or the military outpost in Ghinn’s Escape as they’re nearest; the MO will give you a Triplex scanner, more Ecells if needed + marines for M7M use, plus it’s across 2 Xenon sectors). The cops have burnt out their jumpdrives point-jumping in to get your prize, so will have to follow flat-footed through any hostile sector they need to pass to get there; that should winnow them down a bit!
Sometimes a few lucky &/or speedy cops make the destination relatively unscathed. Never mind, just jump back again! Once this particular group of flatfeet have been disposed of, no others will appear to follow up on their ‘missing ship’ report, so you won’t have to worry about some cop M5 or M4 appearing in the middle of a delicate operation & trying to blow you apart some time in the future (long after you’d forgotten about the whole incident & have been jumping around the galaxy willy-nilly).
However, the best solution is to make friends with the Yaki. Once you have docking rights to their shipyard, provided your prize can make it there in time (it’s quite a distance from the gate, hence all the shields, upgrading & repairs), the Yaki will become your own protection force: they hate cops at least as much as they hate Paranid, & they’ll soon deal with your problem with no rep loss to you