Sticker Price

“I do not believe it is possible for us to reduce our transit fee costs, except possibly by further optimized routing.

“Notably, Ring Dynamics offers a single fee structure to all users – military, commercial, and private – of the stargate network, based on mass and distance traveled, and offers no concessions to any type, ownership, or polity of traffic; Imperial vessels pay the same rates as all other stargate users.

“The sole concession they do offer is the dodecentennial discount to new stargate users, which is not without controversy of its own. The most recent complaints, which various star nations chose to air on the floor of the Conclave of Galactic Polities, were responded to with a 485-page document, which upon semantic analysis yielded the following key points:

“(a) It is a contractual matter, and specifically, a policy deliberately intended to build customer diversity and encourage stargate usage; and

“(b) It is a contractual matter, so suck it.”

– excerpted from an internal cost-control memo,
Outer Rim Freight & Haulage, JSC

5 thoughts on “Sticker Price

  1. ISTR that it can be the case that a new stargate can be lighthugger coasted into a new previously uncontacted system, with a “how to use” manual attached. Is there a “very first use is free” discount? Or would all such systems already have other lighthugger contact? Or does a “welcome new customer, let us set up your payment plan” first contact team exit out of that stargate immediately after the new gate is placed?

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    • It’s fairly often the case, yes, what with the von Neumann autonomous linelayers that build much of the network without need for sophont intervention.

      Many of these systems don’t have previous contact: one of the things covered in that “how to use” engraving on the outside of the gate is a unique first-use code that lets you make transit without supplying the necessary payment information and/or someone paying for a free-transit lease on the gate, or some other arrangement.

      Using that code, though, sets off alarms back at Ring Dynamics’s plexus-management station, which – per their semi-formal arrangement with the Imperial Exploratory Service – bumps it to the top of the list of Places To Send First Contact Teams To. A corporate rep usually follows shortly after the establishment of formal contact – typically along with colleagues from Bright Shadow (extranet) and Gilea & Co. (on behalf of ImpBanCredWeave) – to get the new folks all hooked up to the galactic infrastructure.

      (Usually, said rep comes bearing some decent-sized complementary coupon books of generic freebie transit-codes, the costs of which are written off against “customer development”.)

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  2. Ring Dynamics appear to have monopoly on stargates, at least within the Empire and apparently in the wider galaxy, too (modulo the republic, at least until recently). I say “appear” as it is awkward to search through your archives to find the right sort of things!

    How is this monopoly maintained, especially in a vast civilisation of superintelligent capitalists and mad scientists?

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    • Let’s say… a severe case of competence.

      First, I’ll clarify that they have a challengeable monopoly; there are certain places in the worlds that have elected to use the published science, patents, protocols, etc. to build their own loosely compatible stargate systems. But they’re few and far between, and for the most part, ideologically driven.

      That is because it’s hard to find a good economic reason to try and challenge it.

      Ring Dynamics charges low marginal rates (they do, after all, have a hell of a lot of volume) and/or leases, behaves as a common carrier (taking no interest whatsoever in the traffic that flows through their gates), and has a spotless reputation for scrupulous adherence to contract and the ideal of the free flow of traffic, come hell, high water, or open warfare going back centuries.

      How do you replicate that? Sure, you can build your own gates from the public information, but that’s not the same as being able to replicate all the (proprietary) care and attention to detail and efficiency that went into the design of the Ring Dynamics Mark III, and that’s before the (gigantic) capital investment that would be needed even to locally match the logistics network that takes care of fuelling and routing and momentum-balancing across the gate plexus. And you can’t go out and buy reputation; that’s got to be earned.

      And, since Ring Dynamics are in the habit of continuously expanding their stargate plexus – and adding direct links to smooth out high-traffic multi-link paths – with von Neumann autonomous linelayers, you’re almost certainly trying to pull a lot of this off by using parallel links to ones that already exist, so you aren’t likely to have uniquity of routing on your side.

      All of which is to say: unless you have a really convincing set of reasons as to why your service will be immediately, unquestionably better than theirs to such a degree as to pull customers over to you right from day one, ain’t no plutarch that would touch that business plan with a ten light-year pole.

      No-one’s had one, yet. Or at least no-one who hasn’t concluded that his best course is to sell the concept to Ring Dynamics and walk away with a vice-presidency and enough stock options to buy a small luxurious moon.

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