Trope-a-Day: Human Mail

Human Mail: This is what “steerage-class” transportation is.  In the old days they’d freeze you down (Human Popsiclestyle), and in the new days they put you into nanostasis, but either way, at the sophont shipping center they pack you into a body pod, stack them three by three by two into a powered (“reefer”) shipping container, and send the result off as freight to the sophont receiving center on your planet of destination, where they revive you. (Unless something goes wrong and you end up at the lost sophont office, but that hardly ever happens.)

In addition to being the favored transportation method of the poor and near-poor (because it’s obviously much cheaper to ship a corpsicle than something that needs life support), it’s also widely used for bulk personnel movements, like prisoner transfers, colonization ships, and troop transports.

The Lost Sophont Office (1)

Bonded Storage, Landfall Downport, Viëlle

The battered cryotube stood in the middle of the warehouse office, and steamed slowly.

“So, what do we know?”

“It came in on the IV Mekahaktakt Mktik out of the Kaylin Cache route; they offloaded a large batch here.  The rest all processed successfully, so the line office didn’t hold the ship – and in any case, the immediate-destination tag was correct.”

“Trouble is, that’s all we’ve got.  See here,” he tapped his slate, “the transponder memory’s almost completely scrambled, even the write-only log.  Or deliberately randomized, of course.  I sent an inspection swarm in to look through the effects, and there’s no identity papers among them, just some pictures.  I forwarded them to the Mekahaktakt and to ports along its route, but… no positive responses.”

“Any luck on tracing the actual ‘tube?”

“I sent a query out for the physical serial, but there’re no recent records of it.  And it’s a Fourvanes 220 – it’s an obsolete piece of junk, but they made millions of them.  They’re in use and in junkyards all over the hinterworlds.  It could have had fifty owners since the last one of record, if that’s even the original serial.”

His companion nodded. “Well, unless you’ve got any other ideas we can execute on in what’s left of our 72-hour hold, I think we’re going to have to –”

“Wake him up and ask him?”

“Wake him up and ask him.  You get on to the steerage terminal and get a cryorevive and quarantine team down here; I’ll call Borders and Volumes.”