Trope-a-Day: Giving Radio to the Romans

Giving Radio to the Romans: Tends to happen quite a bit, given the lack of any Prime Directive-equivalent and the large number of free traders around who are more than happy to sell anything to anyone who can pay – and that’s not even counting the “fell off the back of a starship, guv, ten bob to you for cash” crowd – and the desires of most people on most worlds for shiny toys.

Some of the real life consequences mentioned are prevented by the Empire’s also having a bunch of private organizations of various kinds, including professional civilization-uplift consultants, who go around helping people not to be total screwups under these sorts of circumstances… but not all of them. But, y’know, free will and all, and it’s not as if they made you invest in technologies granting you the capacity to be total dicks and then use it in that exact manner, belike. That’s on you.

Safety

prophylock (n.): Used primarily by free traders, a prophylock is a collapsible docking module used when rendezvousing with untrusted vessels for cargo transfer. Similar to a standard docking module, a prophylock is a cylinder with an IUSI-P or IUSI-F androgynous adapter on each end, one to attach to the host starship and one to dock with the foreign starship.

The prophylock, however, has near its outboard end an armored barrier which prohibits the passage of sophonts, equipped with a secure passage (complete with mechanical interlocks preventing both sides from being opened simultaneously, and sampling systems for testing the contents before opening the inner door) through which the transfers may take place. In the event that both vessels are using prophylocks, the secure passage systems are designed to allow transfers from one to the other without direct integration, but also without requiring anyone to occupy the ‘tween-lock volume.

Rather than the direct data systems connection of a standard IUSI adapter, the prophylock connects the foreign data bus to a limited-functionality terminal, permitting communication and negotiation to take place without information risk.

Finally, the outboard end of the prophylock is equipped, for the case in which a lack of trust should turn out to be justified, with an explosive collar to sever the outboard androgynous adapter, thus reliably breaking the connection between vessels, along with solid-fuel jettison rockets to push the host vessel back immediately upon collar detonation, shortening the time to safe burn clearance as much as possible.

Fly safe. Dock safer.

– A Star Traveller’s Dictionary


(Yes, I was thinking of Out of Gas when I wrote this one…)

Geas

2016_G(Alternate words: googolplex, goods, grill.)

The two free traders at the back table in Katry’s Bubble considered each other over untouched drinks. A 70/30 shot slowly warmed to room temperature; a glass of finelle kept its chill, as its fumes ran across the tabletop in a thin haze.

The taller of the two, an eldrae, loosened the fastening of her spacer’s leathers, flicked shaggy, mint-green hair back out of her eyes, and finally spoke.

“Why’d you come to me with this?”

“Because you can do it. You’re the only one on station with a blockade runner. Or with the skill to run the Palnu border. And -” the blue sefir flushed purple “- I hoped I might have earned some credit back by now.”

“Your little gift earned you enough that I didn’t shoot you. Not much more than that.”

“And the offer of a Republic Navy transponder isn’t enough for you?”

“Too much. I know how much that’s worth on the open market. Either it’s not genuine – and my little friend here tells me that you believe it is – or this is another one of your schemes I can smell from five jumps away, slash-trader. No deal. I know you too well.”

“At least consider -”

“I know that one, as well.”

The sefir pushed itself upright, schooled its face to blankness.

“You wouldn’t have come here if there wasn’t a deal you might accept. What is it that you want?”

The eldrae pulled a round flask out of an inner pocket, stared at it a moment, and set it on the table between them. The sefir stared at it, blue readiness-light glimmering above the seal of the Obligators, as if it were a vial of poison. “No,” it said. “You can’t ask for that. Please.”

“I can and I do. I know you, Sev Firn, with your grifts and plots and trail of broken contracts. You can have my help for old times’ sake and that transponder, but your stock with me’s low enough to plow the dirt. So you can drink the geas of our contract, for my surety, or else I walk away.”

 

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: Low Culture, High Tech

Low Culture, High Tech: Happens an awful lot, due to the absence of any Alien Non-Interference Clause, and the common interpretation of general free trade statutes by free traders as “can (and will) sell anything to anybody who wants it”.  If they don’t read the manual (or, in many cases, the encyclopedia) – well, at least what happens subsequently is unambiguously their own damn fault, and they haven’t a leg to stand on if they come back to you in the future to bitch about it, unlike the problems that arise if you try to play regulator to their technological development.

(More sensible low-tech societies go out and hire some professional uplift consultants to avoid this biting them on the ass too hard.)