So there I was, flitting between stations on the usual low-profit, low-risk trade runs when I saw a hauler lift off from a landing pad away up the curve to my right. I watched as it rose above the pad control tower and into the middle of the station’s traffic lane before slowly moving towards the exit. As I had been musing about what other ships looked like close up as they flew about and entered supercruise and hyperspace I decided to follow & shadow him.
This may have been a mistake.
Now I’m not saying that what eventually happened to this poor sod was my fault because I got the distinct impression from the way he/she smashed into the lip of the docking port and cart-wheeled arse-over-tit out of the station, through the entry ‘toast rack’ and into the docking lanes that basic piloting skills were still being practised. Although quite how they came to afford a hauler if they were that green is beyond me. Maybe it was a trainee pilot at the helm, in which case the owner was about to realise they had chosen a very costly training method indeed…
Once out of the station and away from the docking lanes leading into its (now dented) maw the pilot regained control and shot off at top speed in what I have come to recognise as the typical dash away from the mass-locking effect of the station to get to a point where the hyper drive could be engaged. He was faster than my wee Sidewinder and seemed to be getting away from me until I caught him up a few clicks away after he suddenly came to a full stop. I had a suspicion he’d noticed me following him and was panicking slightly but I figured if I kept my moves non-aggressive and stuck to plain ‘odd & nosey’ then he’d get the message I wasn’t trouble and everything would be ok. After all, all I really wanted was a ring-side seat for the moment he hyper-jumped out to see what it looked like from the outside.
I manoeuvred my ship close to his and spun it around so the top of my cockpit canopy was facing him and I could look out of the bubble free of distracting metal struts and holo-displays and it was at this point his shields went suddenly offline, their protective energy rippling back over the ship like rapidly melting ice. I had a second or two to wonder what the meaning of such a strange command decision was before the ship exploded right in front of me. Just plain exploded. Went *poof* right there as I was watching, wreckage of the hull and cockpit whooshing past me and cargo canisters tumbling away into the big black.
What the bloody hell? I mean, really. What. The. Bloody. Hell.
Did smashing into the station damage some subsystem leading to a catastrophic drive failure? Did he try to enter supercruise but tarry too long and allow his ship to fatally overheat? What he smuggling something nasty that proved prone to going *poof* without warning? I have absolutely no idea but the shocking display helped remind me just how dangerous space travel can be and I can promise you I made damn sure I repaired my hull and systems the very next time I docked in a station!
I mean… bloody hell, he just exploded.
UPDATE: After posting this on the Elite Dangerous Google+ fan community, one of the members pointed me to this Reddit thread. It looks like by being nosey I mass-locked the hauler as it tried to spin up its hyperdrive and his ship overheated and exploded as a result. I honestly feel really bad about this :(