Trope-a-Day: Truce Zone

Truce Zone: About as rare as the Neutral Zone, its counterpart trope, in the large, but mention should be given to both the Free Eilish Confederacy on the one hand, which occupies the majority of the Eilish Expanse constellation and whose policies of firm neutrality and not-terribly-restrictive legal system make it both a place where almost everybody is welcome and one of the favorite places for galactic intelligence agencies to play their away games (like, as it were, Casablanca IN SPACE), and on the other, to the red market which occupies most of the approximately-habitable planet Nepscia (Galith Waste), which welcomes anyone with money and guns.

(Well, technically it welcomes people with money and no guns even more, but they rarely find the welcome enjoyable.  Shortly after which they rarely find anything, anything, any more.)

Trope-a-Day: Outlaw Town

Outlaw Town: The most famous, of course, is Nepscia City, Nepscia, the Eldraeverse’s own favorite Wretched HiveLitash also played host to a few, before it was incinerated.  Currently, the hat is generally worn by a number of drifts scattered across the Expansion Regions – and particularly in the Shadow Systems – which come and go as they either destroy themselves through internecine fighting or become too loud and obvious and someone stomps on them with an actual military force.

Refuge Cities

In today’s random postage, something I just wrote on the worldbuilding mailing list, in response to the following:

Do your worlds have a Peace town [city of refuge], where people can go in order to avoid the law?

Not as such, or at least not officially. (Certainly people, like, say, the Imperial State Security Fourth Directorate – whose explicit mission is tracking down anyone who flees the law and introducing them to the stealth gyroc bullet of justice – wouldn’t bother complying with any such requirement even if there was one.)

If you need to flee from the law in the Worlds, your best chance of doing so is change your name, change your body, and head at once via a suitably circuitous route – changing them another couple of times on the way – to some appropriate wretched hive of scum and villainy like, say, Nepscia, where the locals all have enough dark secrets and dodgy business going on that they tend to look askance at anyone wandering around carrying alethiometers or mindprinting equipment even if they don’t actually look like The Law. Of course, while this can be fairly effective in hiding from even rather competent law enforcers (such as the aforementioned Fourth Directorate), the drawback to fleeing to Nepscia is that you subsequently have to live on Nepscia for the rest of your personal ever, which in many ways is its own punishment.

Depending on if you might have pleased or annoyed the right people, you might be able to find refuge somewhere else, too. If you got into trouble helping their fellows escape, for example, the liberated AIs of the Silicate Tree will offer you sanctuary, because they don’t give a bit for meat intelligences in general, but they do understand gratitude. Or if you can find some way of making yourself more useful to them than any trouble you might bring with you is troublesome, of course, although then you should understand clearly that your sanctuary will last precisely as long as your utility.

The Empire, of course, provides a comfortable retirement for all manner of smugglers, free-thinkers, authors, scientists, philosophers, and transsophontists who got into trouble with assorted restrictionist laws, and even some of the right kind of revolutionary (“the People’s Extropian Front”, “Technicians Against Unnecessary Work”, “Citizens United for Liberty and Immortality! Down with DEATH AND TAXES!”, that sort of thing), because of (a) their steadfast refusal to ever extradite anyone for something that isn’t against Imperial law, and (b) because the modal Imperial citizen-shareholder thinks annoying the sort of people responsible for the laws they got in trouble with is downright hilarious.

The Rim Free Zone also serves in this role quite a bit – after all, they’re actual anarchists, and so there’s no-one there you could ask to extradite someone even if you wanted to. Of course, since there’s also no-one who’s paid to prevent anyone else from turning up and dragging you off in chains, etc., you’d better be able to afford PPL coverage suitable to defend you against whoever wants you if you exercise this option, or at least to make yourself too expensive to come get. This should be unavailable to actual criminals, inasmuch as the Free Zone does hold to a sort of rough-and-ready version of natural rights that PPLs won’t defend you against other people if you violate ’em, but if you have enough money, you can probably find a slash-trading PPL that’s willing to do it anyway.

And, equally of course, you’d better be careful that you don’t commit your special crimes against people in the Free Zone once you get there. To steal a perfectly apposite quotation from Buck Godot – just because there is no law in the Rim Free Zone, that doesn’t mean there are no rules.

Trope-a-Day: Coolest Club Ever

Coolest Club Ever: The best known (and with, therefore, the largest Wannabe Line in the Empire) is the Aleph, on Baranithil Station; the most popular would be the Polythalience, on the Conclave Drift; the most exclusive would be the Floating Meme – wherever it turns up next; and the most infamous would have to be the Transition, on Nepscia (see: Wretched Hive).

Trope-a-Day: City of Spies

City of Spies: Many spies, of course, hang around Nepscia (Galith Waste) and its red market, both because many secrets find their way there, and because a city with no rules (see: Wretched Hive) makes an excellent place to play intelligence agencies’ rougher away games.  Likewise, the Conclave Drift contains a lot of spies, simply because it’s where everyone is, and where a lot of top-level diplomacy and politicking goes on, with the obvious concomitant to it.

Nonetheless, the true City of Spies remains Eilan (Eilish Expanse), the capital world of the Free Eilish Confederacy, a doggedly neutral power friendly to the world, conveniently central for most of the Great Powers while not being – unlike the Conclave Drift – too convenient for any one of them in particular, and as such, the absolute favorite location for people’s intelligence away games.  Absolutely crawling with agents for absolutely everyone.  They don’t quite have carpooling for the tails, but it’s certainly not unheard of for two tails on the same agent to end up having to shamefacedly exchange name, address, and insurance information after a flitter collision…

Trope-a-Day: Wretched Hive

Wretched Hive: The planet Nepscia (Galith Waste) is the canonical example.  Its primary inhabited portion is one large red market – which is to say, it’s one giant bastardized offspring of Jackson’s Whole and Tortuga.  It’s a… fun place to visit in the right frame of mind – but go armed, more armed, and even more armed, carry and use liberally your poison and drug detectors, and take plenty of bribe money.

In a less-physical place sense, go take a look at some of the virtualities, data havens, archives and memeweaves in the filthier parts of the extranet or outright blacknets sometime, too, huh?  Just be sure to have a good virus checker.  For your brain.

(For my fellow Effectors of Mass: Not, however, like Omega.  Most of Nepscia’s population outside the cream of the ruthless kleptarch set would love to move somewhere as orderly and well-run as Omega, or failing that, spend all their days praying for someone like Aria T’Loak to move in and, if not clean the place up, at least keep the dirt from splashing around so much.)

Unprofessional Hijacking

IS Words of the Profit, docked at Nepscia Low Port, Nepscia (Galith Waste).

“You really don’t want to do this, old chap,” I said.  “You have no idea of the trouble you’re about to be in, and you have to know that you can’t actually hurt either of us with that thing.  Why don’t you put it down and start running like a good idiot?”

The scruffy azayf I was addressing blinked yellow eyes inside its methane-mask, and gestured again with its pistol; a pistol, moreover, which clearly hadn’t been designed for an azayf’s three-fingered radial hand.  “I’m not — I have the gun!  Do it!  Get this ship off the ground!”

“Ah, well.  I tried.”  I nodded to my first officer, over by the systems-monitor console.  “Líse, if you would?”  A moment, a moment more, I saw its attention flicker and its gun waver, and that was when the polydog took it out.

(Well, of course I’d called him in.  Even a Nepscia dock-rat should have known better than to leave the captain in his chair – and his mind in the computers – when you try to take a ship.  Just another sign that we were dealing with complete amateurism, here.)

The polydog hit the azayf from three sides at once, one of him knocking its legs out from under it; another leaping for his gun-hand, and I heard the crunch as reinforced jaws sheared through the gun’s thin metal casing and tore through the intricate coils of its mass-driver.  It struggled briefly as it fell to the floor, only to go limp as the polydog’s third body got a firm grip on the pipe to its breathing mask.

I stood, walked over to him, and wrinkled my nose at the scent of apples and a greenish spreading puddle.  “On my bridge carpet?”  Not that I couldn’t understand it, since it was hard to imagine who wouldn’t have some trouble managing their sphincters with three sets of jaws that size only an inch or two from their eyeballs, even if one of them wasn’t hooked around their air supply.

“Let me give you some advice, dock-rat,” I said, scratching behind the ears attached to one set of those jaws.  “You aren’t nearly good enough for this game.  You don’t know enough about ships, you don’t know enough about violence, and you certainly don’t know enough to even think about boarding an eldrae ship.  And this is Nepscia.  I could have my furry associate here rip you into a dozen pieces and toss them out the star-side lock and no-one’d ask why.  But that’s more trouble than either of us care to go to” – a tritone growl from the polydog suggested that he, at least, disputed that – “so we’re just going to throw you back on the dock.  If I catch you near the Words again, though, I will kill you.  Understand?”

It struggled again, making wordless sounds of terror, before the polydog leant on it harder.  “You want to get off-world that badly, huh?  Crossed the wrong estrevikh?  Your passage won’t be on this ship –”

“Skipper?” Líse interrupted. “Look at its neck.  A week’s pay says those are control-collar burns, and he’s a runaway.  If we throw it back on the docks, they’ll kill it before the day’s out.”

“Meat-for-brains here just tried to hijack a starship that it has no idea how to pilot by pointing a gun at the head of the immortal guy still plugged in to the control net.  This is only a very tiny step on the smart side of, say, hyperlocal nuclear brinksmanship with the antideuterium cryocels, and if it’s all the same to you, I’d like it on the outside of our airlock before the sheer density of stupid kills us all.”

She just looked at me.  Damn my soggy sense of teir, anyway.

“Okay, what’s your plan?  With decision-making skills like this, I’m not having it running loose on the ship.”

“We’ve got a few empty livestock containers left in the aft hold,” she pointed out.  “Give it a freelib and a case of mycomeals, and time-seal it in one of those.  We’ll be at Daghada in a few weeks, and it’s a freesoil world, so we can offload the container there no-questions.  It’s out of our hair, and no harm to it.”

“Okay.  Looks like it’s your lucky day, dock-rat,” I added to it.  “You’re fortunate it pleases me to tweak the nose of whoever claimed to own you, or I would leave you on the dock to rot.”  I gestured the polydog to step off, and took a step back myself.  “Go quietly, now.  It doesn’t please me all that much.”