The Money, The Principle, or The Trouble

“Context is important.”

“Take, for example, this syringe. From an objective perspective, it contains a small quantity of greyish fluid, a suspension of nanoviruses and proto-cytomachines in impure saline. Not the most commonplace of objects, but hardly a rarity, either.”

“A pharmacist, however, would recognize it as an alpha-baseline corpus-editor, which while delightfully sophisticated in its own way, is a simple proteus treatment; one which you could well purchase on the open market for a few selenis, were it not that our desire that neither the newly born nor the newly immigrated should walk around crippled in mind and body ensures that every medical facility from the homeworld to the Exclaves has gallons of the stuff on hand.”

“And off in the more backward parts of the Expansion Regions, those in a position to know would recognize it as an object of great value indeed; an object of delight and terror and desire and horror, to be bought with the wealth of nations, fought over, warred over, controlled, proscribed, smuggled, praised, condemned, and worshipped. Out there it makes heroes, villains, supermen, devils, and gods.”

“To reiterate, then, an object’s context is important. Especially when you find yourself with a few displacement-tons of them on an unfamiliar world, and a pressing need for hold-space.”

Club Fightin’

“Those visitors unfamiliar with local custom in such matters should avoid those bars and other drinking houses displaying above the entrance a knotted wooden club, or a spaceman’s marlinspike.  Such establishments thereby indicate that they are “brawler’s bars”, and as such, establishments which tolerate a nice friendly brawl between their patrons as long as no weapons are drawn and no-one’s actually trying to kill anyone else, without the usual legal and often lethal consequences that would attend trying to start a fight anywhere else.  Fighting is not organized or obligatory – and indeed, may happen relatively infrequently – but entering an establishment so signed is considered informed consent, for legal purposes, to being propositioned for such an affray, and/or caught up in one that starts while you are present, and all consequences resulting therefrom.”

“(Members of any gentler sex, race, clade or caste which there might happen to be for your species are also advised that Imperials take a rather ecumenical view on such matters, and as such, while it may be possible to observe, there can be no guarantee that observation will not lead inexorably to participation.)”

“If this is the sort of thing you’re looking for in your evening’s entertainment, however, most brawler’s bars have good on-site medical support for routine traumas, and more sophisticated medical services on-call in the event of an accident.  However, as with everything else in the Empire, these must be paid for, so make sure that your medical, tort and/or travel insurance policies are up to date and offer appropriate coverage before visiting.  You should also familiarize yourself with the relevant sections of the Common Social Protocol – again, like everything else hereabouts, a nice friendly brawl has rules.”

– A Visitor’s Guide to the Empire: Startown and its Denizens

But I Don’t Need One For This!

“Be advised that, following the recent series of incidents involving Imperial tourists, the Hierarchy of Transportation has added the following vehicles to the list of those requiring licensure for use on public roadways: flitters, hovercraft, psychokinetic amplifiers, skyhooks, grav-boards, floater disks, spiderpalanquins, rollagons, subterrenes, miniblimps, unispheres, brachiators, all forms of self-mobile furniture (specifically including beds, couches, and chaises longue), walking mecha, tilt-turbine hats, bouncecraft, autokites, powered boots, vector-control harnesses, self-laying slidewalks, nanocreeks, spacer pikes, gengineered snakes, fusion-assisted pogo sticks, jet-powered rocket pants, and cyberfeet.”

“In addition, vehicles with no axles shall be deemed vehicles with two axles for the purposes of road tolls.”

– law enforcement bulletin, seen somewhere in the Expansion Regions

Dubious Provenance

Causal weapons are a myth, an arms-dealer’s con trick. Their official mention in the Ley Accords was no more than a paranoid’s precaution, deliberate disinformation, or a warning to those who might become too attached to oracles and knight’s-move stratagems. The universe was block, that was known; no retroactive editing-out permitted. Their reality, therefore – that was on the same level as the Precursor fittlers, three-ended wormhole recipes, bootleg godseeds, pocket universes, negative-mass antimatter, treasure maps to the Amphigory fleet and volumetric claims to Sector Zero, the Absolute Center and Place of Creation, that any downport slash-trader stocked in abundance for the most gullible and rich marks.

So why, he wondered, did this benzene-sweating azayf look so terrified of the… half-melted-semi-helix-blob-thing on the table between them?