Portal-class Mobile Highport

“Expecting guests with nowhere for them to park? Embarrassing when you’re a host. Expensive when you’re a business. Excruciating when you’re a planet.

“Fortunately, as long as you’ve got a scrap of bare rock to set a shuttle down upon, we have the answer. Hire one of our Portal-class mobile highports today, offering luxurious docking, interface, transshipment, space-traffic control and chandlery services, and see your problem solved… instantly1!

“1. Transit time constraints notwithstanding. Extra fees may apply for emerging markets or regions currently engaged in conflict or piracy.”

– from an Ellore Modular Industries, ICC, interactive advertisement

The Portal-class mobile highport is exactly what its name implies: a complete orbital starport, custom-designed to operate efficiently in conjunction with only very limited downport facilities (or even nothing but airports available), designed to be movable between planets and systems as demand requires.

The Portal is built on a conventional frame: a cylindrical hull with rounded ends, sporting a pair of counter-rotating gravity wheels near its midsection. As can be expected from an Ellore product, it is largely modular: its permanent features are limited to the gravity wheels (containing parks, hydroponics, and living quarters), an axial utility core containing engineering and command elements, a large toroidal fuel tank assembly wrapped around the core, and small craft docking facilities at each end of the cylinder, one dedicated to interface vehicles and the other to orbital traffic. Working squadrons of Nelyn-class cutters, Lowari-class shuttles and Maw-class fuel skimmers accompany the highport.

The remainder of its volume is devoted to the modular segments, six of which connect in each section, terminating at the transpod shafts running along the outside of the fuel tank assembly. Various different combinations of modules, along with appropriate operating crew, can be installed as part of the lease to meet individual customer requirements: cageworks, cargo storage space, chandleries, internal berthing volume, large-vessel docking arms, passenger services – including concessions, hotels, lounges, and other amenities – and even defensive systems.

The Portal itself has no integral drive systems; it relies on an accompanying Hane-class superlifter (whose docking clamps surround the interface vehicle bay) for propulsion.

Ellore maintains a small fleet of Portals for lease, chiefly by worlds expecting a short-term increase in traffic (whether one-off, or regular, but insufficient to justify maintaining a largely idle permanent port) due to social events, harvest times or other seasonal traffic bursts, new discoveries susceptible to exploitation, disaster relief (for which the Imperial Emergency Management Authority and a number of eleemosynary organizations keep Portals on retainer), nth-wave colonization, and so forth. A few are also kept under contract to the Imperial Exploratory Service, which may be offered on long-term lease to particularly promising newly contacted worlds likely to generate substantial interstellar traffic over relatively short periods of time.

Eponym

chrune (n.): A type of galactic politician named after Sen Melk Chrune (6012-6319), the League of Meridian Senate’s unsurpassed master of peculation and bribery. Often accused but never indicted despite the sheer flagrancy of his behavior, Chrune died in office1 at the age of 307.

– A Star Traveler’s Dictionary


1. And in his office. Malicious gossip – which is naturally widely believed despite the lack of substantiation – holds that he suffocated when his life-support equipment was damaged during a campaign orgy.

Valid For Life, Not For Living

WANTED: Bids for mercenary contract: stealth raid on fortified drift, extraction of corpsicle or verifiable proof-of-death, transport provided from Mersenta (Cherith Beacons). Will pay five points over top exval, plus expenses. Details on request. Contact <nym>.

“Hey, how about this –”

“No.”

“But — why not? A sneak-and-snatch on an ice-house should be easy money.”

“Raid a drift for a corpsicle, close to Mersenta? That’s Tis!ngey Station, and that ain’t easy money. The whole place is locked up tighter than a deshniki matron’s cloaca, out to a light-minute, and not just with private security but regular fleet. Even at five over, it’s sucker bait – the desperate and the stupid only.”

“That hardened? Who are they keeping there, the Lost Kings?’

“Authors.”

“Authors?”

“Yeah. Tis!ngey belongs to a cartel of datacorps from polities recusant on the Accord on Intellectual Property. Their home-office version supports life-plus term copyrights, so when one of their authors gets old and sick enough, they freeze him down and ship him off to Tis!ngey. Sometimes they make him scribble out a bushel of part-works first, just enough to make a claim on the whole valid, for them to farm out later, but either way, as long as he stays frozen and their chrunes are on the ball, he ain’t dead in what you might call the technical sense. Anyone proves otherwise, that’s billions, maybe trillions of exval floatin’ free. More’n enough to pay for a guard fleet that’s high above our paygrade, you copy?”

An Unlikely Recruit

“Prospect 33/1, getaway driver… getaway driver?”

“Mm-hm.”

“I understand why we’re reviewing these… work histories, but why are we interested in a getaway driver?”

The senior ironmonger steepled his fingers and leaned back in his chair; the other rolled his eyes.

“Consider, my dear Sulcis, just what is involved in practicing the gentle art of getaway driving in this modern age. First, one must be a good enough hardware engineer to bypass the many and various safety systems on your flitter designed to prevent it from maneuvering in any of the ways which one might wish to maneuver during your getaway. Likewise, you must also be a good enough software engineer to write your own drive-manager for said flitter, which not only avoids the software safeties, but emulates them – and the rest of the optimal safe style – well enough to fool everyone into thinking that all’s well when you aren’t being pursued.

“And you must achieve all of this while bypassing the road-grid – which otherwise would simply order your flitter to lock its doors and deliver you to the constabulary – by either stealthing or spoofing. In the former case, you need to have written a drive-manager that can somehow deal with the unfortunate consequences of the road-grid perceiving you as an invisible hole – or rather, a motile obstruction to be cleared away by emergency response – and in the latter case, to pretend to be multiple vehicles without tripping a trouble-flag, and should you fail at that, handling the attempts to take remote control of your vehicle via the road-grid interface, or to switch to stealthing and disable the grid interface in mid-flight without tripping any of those safety systems. Either of these options is very likely to involve an uncomfortable amount of updating code on the fly without crashing. Literally, and literally.

“Possibly while dodging flak, foam, and EMPs.”

Sulcis frowned. “So they have to be good, but you could say the same about –”

“For values of good equal to gods-kissed technical geniuses whom we want working for us only slightly more than MinTrans and the odocorps want them interrogated, patched, and probably shot, yes.”

 

It’s a Satrap!

satrapy (n.): A foreign polity, for whatever reason, temporarily operating with the advice and under the supervision of an Imperial satrap (typically, an officer of the Ministry of State and Outlands of prefectural or higher rank) but not under military occupation; a relationship one step closer than a client-state.

The purpose and degree of management of a satrapy covers many points on a large scale. The most common type of satrapy is a polity in the process of admission (but not yet admitted) as a constituent nation of the Empire, receiving guidance in the process of discovery, challenge, and adaptation. Other satrapies have existed, temporarily, for purposes as widely different as disaster relief, trade protection, and galactic security, with the role of the satrap varying between “friendly and optional advice” and “the consequences can make low orbit within the hour”.

– Dictionary of Terms, MoSaO Internal Printing