Sunrise went over the loadout one more time as she strode down toward the hangar in the bustling hub of Rens. The reputation of the Arbitrator was formidable, and she had some familiarity with the ship, but she had never fully realized its capabilities. The golden ship looming before her was fit the way it was meant to be fit, with a full complement of electronic warfare. The ships it would be targeting were a cannier and deadlier sort than she had ever faced. They were flown by other capsuleers.
She had availed herself of all the formal training she could find, but it was all directed against ships captained in the traditional manner, which were softer and weaker and slower to react. She would be a student again. She smiled. This was why she had fought so hard to attain immortality. Mere death could not stop her from mastering whatever she put her mind toward mastering.
Satisfied that the ship was ready, Sunrise gave the signal to prepare for departure. As the crew scurried into place, she walked toward her pod chamber, suffered the once-terrifying encapsulation, and felt the familiar rhythm of the ship’s computer and machinery linking up to the pod. She took a deep breath and undocked.
There were four in fleet, all in cruisers. Two were veterans of capsuleer combat; she and Ronoak were the apprentices. One of the veterans was cautious; the other, impulsive. She admired both, in their own ways, though her own tendency was toward prudence. After assessing the situation, they jumped into low security space. Very shortly afterward, Sunrise found herself under the guns of four ships, unable to escape. Very shortly after that, she found herself warping around in her pod, waiting for the gates and stations to let her through.
Another trip to Rens; another Arbitrator; another similar and rapid outcome, though given her opponents and their ships, there was no shame in either loss. But she had not flown well. That was simply true.
This judgment preoccupied her as she reclined in her quarters. She tugged at it, looking for threads to pull out. Both times, what had accelerated her ship’s demise was an inability to control range. The battlefield changed so much more quickly against other capsuleers, and the consequences of forgetting something or not paying mind even for a second were severe. Both times, she had been so preoccupied that she had failed to promptly launch and engage her drones, leaving the great bulk of her ship’s offensive capability idle for a critical amount of time. That was unlike her. She realized that she was trying to cover a blush in an otherwise empty room, which deepened her blush. She took an indelicate gulp of Quafe. The one time she had managed to get in range to apply her neutralizers, it was because the blaster ship she was targeting, an Astarte, had rammed her to get into blaster optimal range, then scrambled her warp drive and webbed her to keep her from getting back out. That was hardly the advantage she had sought.
Alas, there was only one way to improve, and it was to continue to venture into dangerous space. She would learn through fire.
Then, something came together in her mind. Something that made her stand up, mold herself into her structured dress, and fix her hair into its new, more formal bun. Someone would have to supply those Arbitrators. Someone would have to supply the fittings and the rigs. Who better than herself? The luxury of immortality did not prevent her from mastering two arts at once! Newly energized, she pulled on her boots and opened her comms. Here was something truly exciting.