Out of character: This is my second commander so don't assume this represents the experience of someone new to the game.
I can't stop wondering if I made the right choice, going independent. I've served a five year term in the alliance fleet as a Taipan pilot alongside some of the bravest people I've ever met. I've fought the Feds, I've fought Imperials, I've even fought against the 'goids. But as soon as my five years were up I took my Pilot's Federation tests and got a ship of my own. I was so full of doubt but I never hesitated, I must have looked so sure.
I didn't stop long in Eranin, a stock Sidewinder may be no match for a Taipan but there are plenty of third rate pirates out there who are no match for a pro in any ship. I'm pretty good in an SRV too. I competed in buggy races as a teenager and I was one of the best young racers in Tionisla. They weren't quite Scarabs, but I'm getting the hang of the boosters. It'll take a bit more practice to use the turret on the move, but I can aim it well enough if I stay still. Telepresence takes some of the thrill out of driving but I've made some good money doing recon missions. A Scarab launched from a Sidewinder is every bit as good as one launched from any other ship.
So by the end of my first day as an independent pilot I had fitted an A rated FSD to my Sidey and two days later I was back in the Old Worlds running missions for the Alliance Rapid-Reaction Corps. These guys took over my home system last Autumn, taking over from Social Tionisla Labour. I was in Zaonce at the time, another ARRC system, taking some R&R while they repaired and restocked the fleet. They've always seemed like a decent bunch, leaving civil matters to local governments and providing strong defence for moderate taxes. And my family back on Ing Ring reckon the elections were fair. The labour party had taken a lot of flak over pirate activity and just didn't seem equipped to provide security. They're still involved in local government on Ing Ring anyway, though I hear Lave Fortune Organisation have slashed wages in Coulter City. I've been running missions for ARRC, abandoning the Alliance was never the plan.
The engineer Felicity Farseer got in touch to offer her services and she's boosted my jump range and fitted enhanced thrusters. After I took my Sidewinder to the Pleiades, without the upgrades, and raided a thargoid base for her. A bit more work than filling out a navy requisition form.
I beat an Anaconda with my Sidey the other day, though it took a while. I swear even the lasers they put on Taipans are better than these beams. Still, I took his FSD out to make sure my prize couldn't get away then proceeded - foolishly - to knock out his drives. Now if I'd had a fleet around me that would have made him a sitting duck. But on my own all it did was improve his aim. His ship went into a spin, which let his turrets get the occasional lock on me. I nearly lost my ship, having taken no damage at all before that. I got him in the end though, for a measly 60,000 Cr bounty.
My second ship is a Vulture, which seemed like the quickest way to access large weapons and get back into proper battles. I did take my Sidey into a few with an ARRC wing, but it's slow busting through military armour with small beams. I used to just knock the shields out and let the captain deal with the hull. So now I'm trying to gather enough material to get both ships fully engineered. I'll need some more credits too, the Vulture still has some B grade modules that need upgrading. Then I want to get myself a Cobra or something as a more dedicated SRV carrier, and I've always dreamed of a stripped down racing Viper.
So I still fight for the Alliance, but I'm enjoying the freedom too, I guess. I just took a trip into Imperial space, all the way to Cemiess in my Sidey. It was partly sight-seeing, partly a search for shipwrecks I could salvage parts from. I did pretty well, finding good hauls of military grade alloys and proto heat radiators. Those will give me access to upgrades I couldn't yet requisition in the navy. I'll need to broaden my contacts though. Elvira Martuuk and Tod McQuinn have invited me to meet with them. There's nothing I need from them right now that I can't get from Farseer, but ARRC say Tod is the man to introduce me to Selene Jean and get my armour reinforced. I guess I'll get him to tinker with some multicannons, put them on my Cobra when I get one. Jean will want me to go mining, which sucks. I'll need a ship for that too, but do I take a Cobra or Keelback and go for the motherlodes? Or do I save up for a 'conda and get my chores done quickly?
Oh, I've made the right decision. It would have taken decades to earn the credits to buy these ships if I'd stayed with the navy.