They’ve Been Doing This Far Too Long

Galch (Vanguard Reaches) a.k.a. K-11/54 (Vonis 36) [DISPUTED]
Demilitarized Border Zone

“Unknown ship, we have you on our screens.  Identify.  Over.”

“Republic vessel at 220 asc 14, nineteen-point-three light-minutes, confirm identity.  Over.”

Imperial vessel, this is our space.  We say again, identify.  Over.”

“Republic vessel of approximate destroyer class, the hell it is, but as a courtesy, this is CMS Gold and Iron, armed merchant of the Centralia Line.  Over.”

Gold and Iron, this is VNS Solidarity.  We read you as a cruiser-class vessel.  You are in violation of treaty.  We order you to heave to and prepare to be boarded.  Over.”

Solidarity, Gold and Iron.  Whether we are or not is irrelevant, since we are a civilian vessel owned by a merchant concern which may legitimately go armed in unsafe border regions.  And in any case, if you check that treaty, we’re fully half a displacement-ton smaller than its definition of the cruiser class.  You, meanwhile, are quite definitely armed with energy weapons larger than the treaty permits.  You heave to and prepare to be boarded.  Over.”

Gold and Iron, Solidarity.  We most certainly are not.  This is an vessel of peaceful exploration.  We are merely equipped for remote geological surveying, including breaking up asteroids and drilling planetoids. All of which is permitted by the treaty.  Your request is denied.  Over.”

The channel is silent for a few seconds.

Solidarity actual, Gold and Iron.  Do you think that’s enough posturing for form’s sake, Holoth?  Over.”

Gold and Iron actual, Solidarity.  Yeah, Galen, I think that should do.  Do you have leave on Ódeln again next month?  Over.”

Solidarity actual, Gold and Iron.  As ever.  Bring some decent booze next time.  Gold and Iron, clear.”

Welcome to the Seam

“The Seam” refers to the region of the Associated Worlds in direct contact with the Voniensa Republic, consisting of the Crimson Expanse, the Vanguard Reaches, and Csell Buffer constellations on our side of the border, and Vonis 31, Vonis 36, and Vonis 41 on the Republic side.  The Borderline arterial runs down our side from Istria (Crimson Expanse) to Quor (Csell Buffer) via Karal (Vanguard Reaches), and those three systems have Imperial naval depots in them.  They’re safe.

The Borderline route and the links back into the rest of the Worlds are heavily patrolled.  They’re mostly safe, as are some of the systems other navies base out of – depending on where you’re from, of course – and the freesoil world Ódeln (Vanguard Reaches), the principal entrepôt between the Republic and the Worlds.

The rest of the Seam?  Well, it’s a nice place for pirates and perversions, raiders and Renegades, and smugglers, snakeheads, and spies.  Also unbonded mercs, slavers, black labs, blacknet nodes, survivalists, the crazier kind of cult colony, and everyone else with a good reason not to be found – and the people trying to find them.  And it’s a not so nice place for the law, insurance companies, and anyone who’s not a walking arsenal.

No, not like the worst bits of the Expansion Regions.  Worse than that.  With the Conclave and the Republic staring each other down across the border, waiting for each other to blink, and twitching every time a decent-sized military ship moves towards the Supposedly Demilitarized Border Zone, no-one’s investing any time in bringing civilization or even keeping the peace hereabouts.

Good places to visit in the Seam?  If you fit any of the above description, you already know where you’re going.  If you don’t, for the love of Flame and Star, go somewhere else.  Even if you’re fixing to die, Nepscia’s cheaper.

– Around the Worlds on ¤1,000 per Sol