“That?” Cathál glanced at the slate-blue pipe in question, then down at her slate. “Water coolant source for distillation unit 02-367, tap off main section 11-9120, return through 02-3683, automatic flow valve controlled by sector utility server #2, manual cutoff accessible via service panel 02-38.”

“Distillation unit? This isn’t a machinery section.”

“Not that kind of distillation unit. It’s a… personal still.” Seeing her apprentice’s still-confused expression, she continued. “A starshine still.”

“You have those on the plans?”

She looked at him appraisingly. “You’re new-up, aren’t you?”

“First spaceside rotation, yeah. What’s that –”

“Look around you. The hab’s maybe two-thirds, or a little more, plumbing by mass. All kinds. Potable, non-potable, gray, black, steam, rad-hot, loaded, non-aqueous – hell, we’ve got reactor lines in section one circulating liquid sodium. People around here get all kinds of upset when they find a pipe that’s not on the plans, especially if they don’t know what it’s for or what’s in it. So we have an Agreement. We agree to put all the, um, unofficial plumbing on the master plans and hook it into the control systems, and the adminisphere agrees not to bug us about it unless it causes a genuine issue.”

“And it’s still unofficial?”

“Surely. But it’s officially unofficial.”


8 thoughts on “Distinctions

  1. “… automatic flow valve controlled by sector utility server #2…”

    I know it’s tangential at best to the above post, but your off-hand comments here and there about how the myriad systems, mechanisms, and infrastructure elements in their ships and stations are controlled by what appear to be plug-and-play, adaptive, mesh-networked modules makes my inner software developer and chemical engineer both sit up and take notice.

    I don’t have the coding chops for it yet, but I want to one day design a system that can do just that. The industrial controls systems I’ve encountered are… clunky. Brittle. Inelegant.

    • It is entirely possible that my own background in software may have influenced my depiction of what their mature software environment looks like…




      (Something only being intensified now I’m busy building bunches of Arduino-based home automation foo.)

  2. I see this lasting only until some other special interest group finds out about this arrangement and demand their own special consideration. And this ignores legitimate brewers, taxmen, and teetotalers.

    Also the real world factors that have resulted in the Craft Beer movement are unlikely to apply in your empire.

      • Or, as it’s more likely to be in the Empire, private rather than unlicensed. The Empire’s not really the type to require permits for such things. (Indeed, they don’t require permits for much, if anything, and precious little is banned.)

        • Two things:
          1) The text itself makes clear that the still is officially ‘off the books’, meaning there’s some sort of process your supposed to go through before building one.

          2) Not only will it produce waste (Bad smells and water, which would technically be classified as industrial) this thing is dangerous, it could explode, you want something like in the room next to you?

          • That’s generally a matter for insurance, contracts and tort law, rather than criminal law in the Empire. The principle is similar, of course – you are responsible for the consequences of your actions – but it’s implemented differently, and they take a very dim view of prior restraint.

            In this case “officially off the books” means something more along the lines of “the station owners aren’t responsible for it, only its owner is”, rather than “the existence of this thing is a punishable offense, but the powers that be are choosing to refrain from punishing anyone for it, because they benefit from it too”.

            More a difference in perspective. Of course, if the owner frakked up, the still exploded and did something bad to things that did not belong to the still’s owner, and he were so dumb as to try to skip out on that, Imperial law has some rather harsh things to say about that, if I understand the situation correctly.

            Though, this is just my read on things based on previous pieces about how the Empire tends to handle licensing, liability, official permission, prior restraint and meddlement. I may have more than a few things wrong.

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