You don’t start that many businesses and get them off-world, and amass hundreds of ships, in so few decades… without pulling off some things for some people who pay. That is a big part of what my father has been doing in our part of the cluster. He couldn’t always get the shiniest stuff, but he met some people who appreciated his services.
After ~30 years of businesses doing well for my father, and after the years it took to raise me during the latter part of that, he felt it was time to send me into Space --if I wanted to go. I sure did! I had no idea what I was getting myself into, though.
First, I learned not to turn on autopilot when I got bored. I like not to think about how many starter ships I ‘lost’ (had blown to pieces by surprise hostiles) during this initial phase of my post-grad’ life out there --or the look on my face (or the profanity that ensued) the first time I realized I was about to get Spaced, a.k.a. podded. Suffice it to say that their total is a number greater than zero.
That was after, by the way, I spent half a week just figuring out how to plot and start moving along a course at all. Don’t judge me; Space stuff was complicated when I began --even after all the prep’ I did for the schooling pipeline to get out here. I didn’t even know how contracts worked until a few months in (and a couple new contacts got edgy about me foolishly asking if we could just trade stuff more simply without them).
Trying to expand within my father’s parameters was my other great challenge; only a small initial budget had been allocated to me as part of this venture of ours, and he had made clear his refusal to tap into the family savings or liquidate any assets, should ever my Space funds get tight. If I ran out of cash up there, I was on my own to figure out how to get more. Ouch --but it sure did keep me focused and studying --and networking-- that much harder.
Losing ships to ganks and pirates (beyond the wave of ships I initially lost to random incidents when I was just trying to get the feel of it all), and having to beg at times, further improved my focus, work ethic, and character. Begging sucks. Doubling down on the books and training no longer wore me out; I knew the alternative was a worse hell.
Spending years nonstop studying came next. I stopped going out so much; I no longer had any desire to risk another ship at another gate just for the sake of seeing what was on the other side. My desire had shifted to becoming so knowledgeable about everything around me out there that it would become next to impossible to take my next ride down; I would become as studious, methodical, efficient, and financially stable as my father had. I could never afford the baddest ships, but I certainly could maneuver my way around them, far outside the range of their guns.
Exploring farther than we had any reason to eventually followed all that studying, and, even though it was serious business for me and us, felt like a long-awaited and hard-earned reward for completing the leveling of all my relevant skills up into the higher tiers. I was further rewarded and relieved when I found that my studies had paid off; I was no longer losing ships, I knew how to plot courses in many more ways than before, and I was getting light-years farther out in all directions than I had ever thought possible after my first losses. (Now just three or four more years of nonstop studying to go! Woohoo!)
Grinding solo wasn’t working, though, so then I tried running agent missions but the pay was also low. I wondered how I could not only make ends meet (“survive”) but also build up savings and options of my own (“thrive”). Mining by myself was a giant chore, and agents always seemed to offer meager payouts for literally taking multiple lives and risking my own, so I asked around and researched, and found out I would be able to get into things such as research, manufacturing, trades, transport/hauling/shipping, and even establishing facilities/infrastructure back planet-side on a variety of worlds (P.I.; Planetary Industry).
While that was going on, I got a few more of our people into Space with me, but we couldn’t afford to fully school 4 of the 5, so all that amounted to was basically supporting hyper-expensive tourism. Again I was shown that I would have to succeed out here like my father had back on my home-world; that was the only way we were going to be able to afford bringing those who followed me up to speed. They did have a great head-start, though; they knew all the mistakes I had made, plus the ways I had tested and confirmed were work-arounds and preemptive solutions to them (like not trying to explore the whole galaxy before I even knew that gate-camping was a thing --or how to get back to my station, for that matter).
Then I finally caved and tried joining a corp’; I had put this off for so long, determined to do as much as I could all by myself, just like my father had for a number of his earlier years. Being in a big group of new and far more experience people was a little nerve-wracking at first, as I thought I might be taxed or micromanaged into oblivion, but everything was surprisingly pleasant and easy --and got easier every day. I used filaments for the first time, and made it deep into Panda Space and lived to tell the tale, but some of the people in this first corp’ I tried were literally insane (long story), plus refused any form of recognition; no matter what I pulled off for or with them, not a single medal or other form of gratitude came (and thank you, Luna’, for taking the time to help me rectify that last year). On top of that, they then changed leadership and collapsed; I had to exit them and find another corp’ one way or the other.
Smuggling just to test CONCORD scanning schedule gaps, I practiced hauling things for some of the people I’d met, as well as for myself and my family back home. I don’t know for sure if I just got lucky, or if someone out there was looking out for me for some reason, but I never once got pulled over or fined --and I was moving some VERY questionable stuff. (I basically tried buying at least one of everything I could afford every time I got to a good hub, if that gives you any idea.) It is no small miracle that none of it fell into the wrong hands, and all of it ended up in safe storage, to be used only for appropriate research purposes, never unloaded for petty cash.
Trying taboo places to see if gossip starts and where it flows, I discovered there are people out there in many systems of our cluster who are basically living technological marvels --and that nothing I was into sampling or experimenting with comes anywhere close to the practically endless range of tastes and quirks of the rest of the population. Whatever you want, it’s out there --but be careful, because whatever you don’t like and can’t stand… is out there, too, so you really have to be clear and firm about what your expectations and limits are --and learn well in advance about any places where the locals’ quirks might include not caring about what yours are.
Switching corp’s, my second one turned out to be night-and-day better than my first (thank you to now dozens of people, all of you I’m sure aware of who you are), but then I had to return planet-side for months. Bummer. It was, I think, half a year before I made it back to at last get to know the people I had been interviewed to start working with. “Life is what happens when you make plans.”
Trying to get into that P.I. I had heard about, I never managed --at least not yet; there was still too much on my plate, and everyone was naysaying. They were polite and descriptive about it, at least; they explained why it was often more of an added chore than anything. I talked with my father about this the next time we met, and we decided we would commit to it the way our family business had on other worlds before; we’d assign some of our experienced employees to it, I kept free to continue exploring, networking, and leveling up to the max. (I still frequent the P.I. feeds, though; all those detailed world maps --with live weather superimposed, no less!-- I can spin any which way and dream about doing business down on always make me smile. It’s only a shame that so much of the data about the worlds out there keeps proving inaccurate, but hey; that’s what I’m out there exploring for!)
Starting to get materials for big ships, I then found out we can’t fly them or even build them where we are; there are rules enforced by CONCORD, apparently, restricting the larger ship-classes to being very faraway from all the systems the ‘big four’ control (understandable). How many billions did we invest in this indefinitely-delayed subset-venture of ours before I realized that, though? I’m not even going to go over the transactions history; I don’t want to know.
Switching to getting more small ships to continue exploring other empires in disguise, I amassed a fleet of my own (hundreds!) but ran out of funds --again (derp). It wasn’t as stressful and confusing as the first time (back when I had no idea how to replenish them, and when I was working alone), but it certainly smacked me with another wave of frustration. This time, I wouldn’t have to do some serious figuring and waiting, though; the new corp’ I was now in --and actually enjoying participating with-- immediately invited me to their lucrative outings. (Have you ever seen billions of ISK earned in a matter of hours? That’ll turn your mood right back around.)
I switched to mining with better mining ships, found three great crews all targeting high-value sites across the cluster, placed my first jump-clones, and started recovering. I was filthy rich now, I had ships to spare for generations, and I had been as far out across our galaxy as anyone could ever get. I’d even made it into worm-hole Space. Life was good.
Thankfully I didn’t get scammed through all those ups and downs. The only losses I suffered were from my own innocent and ignorant initial mistakes during the steep learning-curve. Instead, I met scammers who taught me how they scam in various ways. I always wondered why that happened, by the way; I wasn’t seeking the information, yet they told me it in detail anyway. Maybe they just wanted to talk… and I was approachable. Some people have cautioned me against that sort of thing, or even rudely implied something about me was attracting the wrong crowd, but it has paid to be nice even to those with criminal backgrounds; I’ve learned a lot of the things most others aren’t even aware are going on or possible. (Now would anyone like to double their ISK?)
Our strategy was always to make honest mistakes and see who is kind out there, finding the good-natured and bad alike… by being vulnerable --vulnerable but not bait. It has worked out so far. That’s a risky way of gathering intel, I agree, but it really shows you who your real friends are --and who are worthy of doing some business with, so we keep at it (now with a more flexible set of ships; some are expendable).
After all that, no matter how well we are getting along or how much we make from fleet-grinding the pops, I still breathe a great sigh of relief every time I get to fly back home and hug my father in person. He is so understanding and supportive, and we have such a good life with our stable Holding and planet-side businesses. Seeing him always fully restores my spirit for more rounds out across New Eden --and I think now that I have proven myself out there and become financially successful like he has back here, I am now always fully restoring his own spirit, too, not just removing his basic parental worries by surviving. (I haven’t told him about my growing curiosity, wondering if it is possible to aim one of those moon-ore beams on a station or colonized planet instead.)
I’m still a noob by any measure, but a more aware and tolerable one now. I will remain a student of many for untold more years to come. The only question is how many more laughably awful impulsive choices will I inadvertently make as I proceed.