Trope-a-Day: Merchant City

Merchant City: Mer Covales, the capital of Seranth (which is not, however, the throneworld), itself located at the junction of the Lethíäza Trade Spine and the Mercantile Corridor, the two biggest and oldest trade routes in the Associated Worlds.

Imagine, if you will, New York City, Hong Kong, and Singapore glommed together into one giant mass of wealth and commerce. Then scale up what you’re imagining until the buildings look like Coruscant’s giant arcology-towers, remake it out of the costliest materials you can imagine, divide it into three concentric layers stacked one above the other, make the whole thing fly, and dangle it off the end of an orbital elevator.

That’s Mer Covales, a giant, hovering testament to wonders, riches, mystery, risk, vice, luxury, splendor, and the ability of wealth to be as potent a force in reshaping the universe as any of the other four, if not more so. If you can’t buy it there, not only does it not exist, but there’s literally no-one you can pay to make it exist.

Floating Market (3/3)

“Jennis Inurian, captain-owner of the free trader Transfinite Revenue, inhaled deeply as the airlock door rolled back, catching the rich, spicy scent of myriad species and goods crammed into too few hab modules with too little organized air reprocessing. It smelt promising enough.”

Among the floating markets of the Starfall Arc, it’s said that the best traders have “a good nose”. That’s only partially a metaphor; in a crowded habitat, one hearty sniff can give you a good feel for who’s selling there, and what they have for sale. Sweet spices, exotic fruits – and hidden treasures at every stall, delightfully reflected in this soap.

Yes, folks, it’s crossover day here at the Eldraeverse, with my wife and I’s other business, Foam on the Range, making a soap inspired by this piece of fiction! Good for your skin, good for your nose, and good for your Humble Author – how can you turn it down?

The soap: Sweet spices, exotic fruits, a riot of colors – and inside each bar, a different small spheroid of miscellaneous other soap. You never know what you’re going to get.

Click here for more delicious details and to purchase it on Etsy!

(Patreon patrons, you get a special 20% discount on this soap, and indeed any other soap you choose to buy from us! Check the page there for details.)

Floating Market (2/3)

Jennis Inurian, captain-owner of the free trader Transfinite Revenue, went through her traditional pre-disembarkation ritual – checking the telltale lights on her emergency pack and the collar of the skinsuit she wore under her spacer’s leathers, adjusting her trader’s signet to best show the Confraternity seal, and testing the charge on her pocket pistol. (While the Market Peace was an ancient custom, it wasn’t a guarantee.) This done, she glanced over her shoulder at her would-be assistants.

“All right, ‘prentices. You all know the market rules by now. These are my rules. Don’t trade anything on the Revenue’s account, buy or sell, without checking with me first. Don’t even suggest that it might be possible until you check back with me. You can buy and sell on your own account, but for Covalan’s sake, don’t sell anything unless you know exactly what it is and it’s nailed down in the contract. Whatever you buy, I get to review before it comes on board, and if you bought something internal, that means I get to review you before you come back on board. If you want to be careful about it, page me and I’ll take a look at it for you.”

The outer airlock door rolled back, and she inhaled deeply, catching the rich, spicy scent of myriad species and goods crammed into too few hab modules with too little organized air reprocessing. It smelt promising enough. A glance up and around the circumference of this first module showed a decent spread of goods, anyway: synthetic rations, starship parts, new skills for old…

Gold girders, gold ballast, gold trusses, gold frames. That’s cute. Should sell nicely to the barely-out-of-the-well crowd.

…wreckyard pickings, salvaged prototypes, used bodies…

A fourth stable isotope of hydrogen? Yeah, kid, and your wormhole has three ends.

…nanoferns, pleasant memories, protected-planet artifacts…

And the linobir are selling softwar exploits and security consultancy out of the same temp. Subtle as ever, but, hell, doing good business at both ends.

…zombie goo, dark ice, vengeance fish…

“Genuine Primordial Pathogens: Experience infectious disease for the first time, the way your ancestors did!”

…bond salvage, influence lottery, little hats…

Greenjack servitors, of course. Crude learning systems crammed into cheap mass-market bioshells. Delightful. Just the thing if you like a side order of photosynthetic ooze with your helping of incompetent minions.

…war salvage, knock-off geasa, lots of mixed jetsam…

Cháldar-vendors offering a special deal on vengeance. Suitable for serving at any temperature you like, with a choice of mixers. Perhaps not. Or bottled enlightenment? Now that’s just crass.

…exotic pets, energy weapons, cheese…

Is that really a collection of amusingly-shaped asteroids? If I turn my head and squint, it looks like… Moving on.

…unknowable brooches, cleaning roaches, authentic forgeries…

127 bits of tangle, destination unknown? Someone’s getting their brain eaten today. However many “guaranteed efficacious prayers” they buy next door.

…bottled solar plasma, mood-of-the-day drugs, reputation laundry…

“Forbidden Memes”? The kind that thought-police and godgrovellers take a dislike to, or the kind that eat you alive and spit you back out as heggie-swarmchow?

Ah, he’s letting the customers sample the wares. The first kind, then.

…but nothing too out of the ordinary.

“This is a good place for your first taste of the floating trade, gentlesophs. It may seem mundane compared to the stories, but be thorough. Hidden gems are what this business is about. If you need me, page me; I’ll be up-spine, looking through the exotica. Those of you who do well here will be joining me there on future shifts. Now get to it, and deal well!”

Floating Market (1/3)

Sometimes, a Floating Market forms.

No-one knows when or where – they are emergent phenomena. Free traders accumulate oddities in their holds, the detritus of a thousand speculative trades on a thousand worlds – some trash, some too unique or exotic to sell, some which could be either. Slash-traders, smugglers, walkers of the dodgy path, have goods to unload that few legitimate markets will take. Relativists bring goods from the Outback, unheard of in charted space.

When enough fall together, a Market forms. Luggers and trade-ships, prefab modules, inflatable temps, all docked together without a plan. The long-standing Flern market drifted in the deep, tethered loosely to an infalling comet. News of the first few draws in the many in hope of a successful trade, and more come to supply the traders with necessities in turn. Opportunists arrive, hoping for their big score; agents of a hundred organizations come, seeking an advantage; the lost turn up, as they always do. The Market makes its own rules, respecting only the Sacred Deal and the Market Peace, a proplyd of free commerce out in the deep black.

Goods are offered – some comprehensible, most not. Business is done, with or without mutual understanding. Sometimes you walk away with an ancient dreaming Power, its substrate sold as a paperweight; sometimes with containers of rotted vegetation. Sometimes the rotted vegetation sells for millions of exval as an exotic spice; sometimes it calls a public health cautery squad down on your head.

Fortunes are made, and fortunes are lost, before the Market eventually disperses. The same could be said of lives.

So what are you waiting for?

Trope-a-Day: Mega Corp

Mega Corp: Oh, quite a few.  (Well, bearing in mind the cultural, demographic, and technological differences that mean that while an Earthly multinational might hit millions of employees, its Imperial counterpart probably has a couple of dozen executives, a large computronium core, and millions of jobs being done by subcontractors, sub-sub-contractors, etc., or “on-bounty”.)

The canonical list in the Empire and nearby, the “Big 26” starcorporations, are usually given as:

All Good Things, ICC – retailing

Artifice Armaments, ICC – firearms, heavy weapons, military vehicles, and defense technologies

Atalant Materials, ICC – mining, refining, and nanoslurry production

Biogenesis Technologies, ICC – neogenic organisms, biotech products and bioshells

Biolith Chemical Products, ICC – bactries and organochemicals

Bright Shadow, ICC – computers (including expert systems and thinkers), telecommunications equipment, and infotech

Cognitech, ICC – cognitive science, psychedesign, nootropics, and sophotechnology

Consolidated Mutual Mitigation and Surety, ICC – insurance underwriting and ancillary legal services

Crystal Flame, ICC – immortality (noetic backup archiving and insurance)

Databeat, ICC – major cycle brokerage and information furnace rental org

Ecogenetics, ICC – ecopoesis, living systems, environmental services, and bio-architecture

Enjoyment Unbounded, ICC – entertainment and luxury goods

Experia, ICC – entertainment and media (watchvid, InVid, slinky, and virtuality)

Extropa Energy, ICC – energy production and distribution, antimatter production, and fuels

Gilea and Company, ICC – banking, investments, and futures markets

Llyn Standard Manufacturing, ICC – cornucopias and industrial-scale production

Prosperity Nexus, ICC – investment, fund management, and commercial banking

Ring Dynamics, ICC – stargates (construction, maintenance and leasing)

Riverside Eubiosis Foundation, ICC – pharmaceuticals and health and medical services

Service Gate, ICC – contract matching and labor allocation

Stellar Express, ICC – delivery services, interstellar logistics, supply chains, and shipping

Systemic Integrated Technologies, ICC – robotics, automation, and infrastructure technology

Telememe, ICC – news, statistics, demographics, data mining and information research

Traders in Ideation, ICC – information brokerage, rights management services and data warehousing

Ultimate Argument Risk Control, ICC – security services, military contracting, and mercenary brokerage

Vermilion Harvest, ICC – agriculture, silviculture, carniculture, and bioproducts

…but there are several others that compete close to these leagues – exactly which are named depends on who precisely you’re talking to.

Given the nature of the setting, of course, the traditional unremittingly negative portrayal of business in fiction is utterly averted, and the Big 26 receive the respect they deserve as the mighty prosperity-generating engines that they are.  But then, in their home markets, the free market actually is a free market, so they never had the opportunity to discover corrupt business strategies of monopoly, rent-seeking, and regulating the competition out of business, even if they didn’t tend to be run by people who are every bit as ideological as everyone else in the vicinity.

(Well, not that this opinion is shared by everyone.  Gilea & Co. and UARC, in particular, tend to attract some opprobrium elsewhere in the Associated Worlds, particularly in places that don’t appreciate the absolute sacredness of contract in Imperial ethics, Gilea & Co.’s policy of not recognizing any special difference between “states” and its regular commercial customers, and – especially – its willingness to pursue “asset realization” after a sovereign default with however many of UARC’s finest mercs it takes to impress upon the customer that when they do the job, they always get paid.  But that’s not the mainstream opinion at home.)

As a side note, while it is by no means a conventional corporation, the Imperial Charter makes use of much of the traditional structure of a joint-stock corporation in the Imperial government, such as it is – its citizens, for example, are citizen-shareholders in the technical lingo, and the traditional style of the Imperial Couple includes “Chief Executive Officers of the Imperium Incorporate” – so you could make a convincing argument that the Empire is, in quite a few senses, the biggest Mega Corp of them all.

Trope-a-Day: Corrupt Corporate Executive

Corrupt Corporate Executive: Extensively (albeit not completely) averted in the Empire, inasmuch as in its genuinely free market, without (a) an extensive regulatory state to buy and then use for yourself or against the competition, (b) legislators and other politicians who feel comfortable immunizing you from consequences, or (c) a legal requirement to act in a blatantly sociopathic manner, acting this way is bad for business, and therefore profoundly stupid.  (And, when it does occur, prone to bring the Market Liberty Oversight Directorate down on your head like Rods From Gods.)

Played as straight as reality permits in general, which is to say, pervasive in the corporatist Magen Corporate and the fascist Iltine Union, but substantially less common than the cliché that the generally left-leaning modern Earth media makes it seem.

The Seal of Quality

BE IT KNOWN THAT ONE

Iníön Adae-ith-Alleia, of Gles Iselyain

PROPRIETOR OF

The Five Fires Bakery, of Gles Iselyain

HAS BEEN ADJUDGED IN VIOLATION OF THE EDICTS AND CHARTER OF

the Edifacient Sodality of Bakers and Pastrywrights

WHILE OPERATING UNDER ITS SEAL AND BY ITS NAME PLEDGED TO EXCELLENCE
THE VIOLATIONS BEING OF THE FOLLOWING NATURE

The Use of Materials of Low and Insufficient Quality
The Use of Equipment in Unfitting Condition
and
Careless Praxis Likely to Create Flaws and Introduce Contaminants

THESE BEING ANATHEMA TO THE QUALITY DEMANDED BY THE SODALITY
AND OF SUCH NATURE AS TO DEFRAUD AND ENDANGER CUSTOMERS

THE EDIFACIENT SODALITY OF BAKERS AND PASTRYWRIGHTS THEREFORE
CALLS UPON ALL PLEDGED TO THE ACCORD OF ADAMANT
AND ADVISES ALL OTHERS
TO DECLINE TO CONTRACT WITH THIS PARTY OR HIS ASSOCIATES
IN ANY MATTER TOUCHING UPON THE SODALITY’S CHARTERED CARE.

THIS JUDGEMENT MADE THIS DAY

721 Calenmot 12

UNDER THE AUTHORITY AND SEAL OF

Lorcis Adae-ith-Adae
Teäle Selequelios-ith-Idolos
Eyes of the Sodality

VALIDATED AND AFFIRMED BY

Avanthe Peressin-ith-Peressin
Auditor-Validator
Auditors of Operational Excellence

Isath Leiraval-ith-Lindríä
Metainspector
Board of Merchane Propriety