Unforeseen Incentives

TEYARK (IRIS DRIFT) – Protests continued today outside the Teyark Sector Criminal Court (League of Meridian), where the murder trial of Sang dir na Versu eht Reahn, a free trader from Oderahn (Torgu Wilds), part of the Rim Free Zone, is entering its sixth day. na Versu, master of the Cryptographic Barquentine, is alleged to have ordered the spacing of a group of stowaways discovered aboard during passage through the Teyark System’s asteroid belt; forensic examination of the bodies, later recovered by belt miners at a nearby minesite, demonstrated that they could only have been jettisoned from the Barquentine.

Today was dominated by testimony given by a variety of trade organizations with regard to common practices and laws prevalent in the Expansion Regions. Most controversial was the testimony of Ethly min Rathill, representing the Starfall Arc Free Merchant Confraternity, who after delivering a strong condemnation of the acts of na Versu et. al. as repugnant to civilization and a violation of all the codes of merchancy, went on to anger the court and the angry crowd alike by delivering a blazing indictment of League law, which requires starships found to be carrying stowaways to return them to their port of origin at the owner’s expense. This, testified min Rathill, provided an obvious economic incentive for the desperate, ethically challenged, or both, to jettison stowaways before making orbit and delete all reference to them from the running log, and thus while na Versu must be held responsible for his actions, the League government must also be condemned for providing him with the motive.

The court ordered this latter portion of min Rathill’s remarks stricken from the record. min Rathill, meanwhile, was escorted from the court and to the Teyark Starport by the League Gendarmerie, there boarding the CMS Delightful Abeyance for immediate return to Seranth (Imperial Core).

 

Vordon: Planet of Adventure!

Ultimate Argument Risk Control welcomes you to Vordon (Lis Corridor), also known as Merchome, and hopes your stay will be an enjoyable and profitable one!

Whether you are, are looking to hire, or are looking to be hired by a mercenary company, our many talented brokers can find the contract that is right for you. Our partnerships with weapons brokers and vehicle manufacturers from Artifice Armaments, ICC, through Hectatonlon, JSC, guarantee your ability to resupply and upgrade your materiel, and facilities for training and exercises are available to you at reasonable —

Blah, blah, blah, and I ripped out the next three pages of sales pitch.

For your safety, Ultimate Argument Risk Control recommends that you remain within the bounds of the city of Plenary, capital of Vordon, where Imperial law is in effect and security is guaranteed by the personal pledge of the Executive Director for Private Planetary Affairs.

Affectionately known as “Mister Signature” to us, and even his salarymen have been heard to use the name.

Beyond the dome of Plenary, by special permission, only the Contract and the Market Peace are in effect.

Enforcement of these outside Plenary, except for UARC’s own facilities, is contracted out to copmerc companies currently in garrison and in need of cash flow. As such, it tends to be a little rough and ready – and is always subordinate to UARC corporate security.

Of course, if you wanted safety, why in the name of Orchaya’s carbon-scored tits did you come to Merchome!?

The Planet Itself

Vordon is a postsylithic world in the final stages of planetary senescence.

In other words: “it’s a bunk planet, so we got it cheap”.

From space, the planet resembles a yellow-swirled marble, an impression only redoubled upon reaching the surface: vast deserts of yellow-orange sand stretch between the remains of mountain ranges worn down to bare hillocks, and the dusty basins of long-vanished oceans. The sky, too, is yellow with dust born aloft by sluggish wind, which serves the valuable function of helping to block out some of the radiation allowed to reach the surface by the weak magnetic field generated by Vordon’s long-cooled core.

So just being outside is one way to tell who’s been properly maintaining the seals on their field equipment.

A thin oxygen atmosphere is maintained by remnant life deep beneath the former ocean basins, supplemented in most buildings by positive pressurization; those unused to the conditions routinely suffer from altitude sickness for their first weeks on-planet. While the winds of Vordon are typically mild, periods of flare activity on the system primary have been known to stir up violent cyclonic storms capable of sandblasting exposed equipment and flesh alike.

As is the case for many postsylithic worlds, Vordon was previously inhabited by a civilization now long since extinct. Extensive studies carried out before UARC obtained title to the planet have found only fragmentary remains too eroded to be of archaeological interest. UARC assures all visitors that there is no treasure to be found anywhere on Vordon’s surface, and advises that rescue and paramedical services are not available in Vordon’s wilderness except by private contract.

Hiring yourself out to treasure hunters may seem like easy work, but they tend to run out of money before they pay you, then whine when you leave them behind. Not recommended.

Vordon has three small moons, all asteroid captures. One, Vorwatch, is reserved by UARC for servicing corporate starships; the others, Vorguard and Vorsentry, are leased in sections to mercenary companies in need of starship berthing of their own.

Notable Regions: Plenary

The capital of Vordon is the city of Plenary, located at the edge of a mountain range running down one of Vordon’s continental mesas. Ultimate Argument Risk Control domed over an impact crater to create the city, adding an open starport to its north fully capable of handling heavy-lift vehicles and dropships.

Beneath its dome, Plenary is the shining jewel in UARC’s crown, a lush garden in Vordon’s desert wilderness. To representatives of our corporate and sovereign clients, we recommend the elegant waterfront hotels along the Sanguine Canal, which are fully equipped to handle guests of any known race. Our corporate concierge offers a booking service which guarantees that representatives will not be housed in uncomfortable proximity to their declared enemies, and our security services offer full protection against assassination during your stay, along with complimentary reinstantiation in the rare event that this protection fails. For less pecunious visitors, a variety of comfortable exodochia can be found on the first and second sublevels.

“Less pecunious”. Hah.

They’re very proud of their company town. To those of us less enamored with the starcorporate way of thinking, this shining jewel is better known as “suit central”, “client plush”, and “how am I still awake?”

The center of the city is the Spire of Glorious and Profitable Battle, known as “the Battlespire” for short. This 460-floor edifice, penetrating the dome at its highest point, presides over the lesser offices and commercial buildings at its knees with power and undeniable style.

There’s a reason a nameless but literate comrade nicknamed it the Baculum many years back, and even now, it’s generally known outside the corporation as “the Baccy”. Mostly affectionately – they may have one, but they usually aren’t one.

While UARC’s corporate headquarters remains in Titan Station (Lumenna-Súnáris System), the upper floors of the Battlespire serve as the headquarters for our mercenary brokerage division, with the Executive Director in permanent residence and other members of the Directorate visiting frequently. Lower floors, open to the public, house offices for our escrow, bonding, arbitration, sales, referral, information brokerage, and other services.

The remainder of the city, other than its residential districts, is home to offices for many of UARC’s partners and other corporations doing business on Vordon, including many of its most profitable and reputable mercenary companies. Its commercial areas offer for sale virtually any weapons system, military vehicle, or other materiel legal for use somewhere in the Worlds, many of them customized on-planet in the factory sublevels.

Since it’s also visited by many of us honest mercenaries who may be hard to distinguish at first sight from the less honest kind, it also holds the galactic record for autocannons per square meter.

You also can’t get the ammunition for anything larger than a personal weapon in those commercial areas. You can have it delivered to you in Plenary Camp, or to a transport in orbit, but not in the city itself.

Notable Regions: Plenary Camp

Surrounding the dome of Plenary itself for miles is Plenary Camp, a broad ring of barracks, laagers, airstrips, training grounds, and other military appurtenances; the home when in garrison of Vordon’s residential mercenaries, and including the offices of those companies which have chosen not to secure space within Plenary itself.

Or have other reasons not to pay for space at 250 exval per soph-square-month. Can’t imagine what those would be.

In Plenary Camp, while most management is left up to the individual base owners, the Contract and Market Peace are enforced by mercenaries contracted by UARC’s Planetary Security subdivision.

Aside from shared infrastructure, there is little else to be found in Plenary Camp. Over the years, most entertainment has moved to the nearby city of Ossiltun’s Victory (see below).

Because there’s only so much of a good time you can have under the eyes of your competitors’ armbands.

The entertainment they’re not telling you about is what used to be the Branta’s Bashers parade ground before they got shot up on Turech, now known to one and all as Sorehead Square, or by other names more profane. This is the chunk of land where the current copmercs like to herd all the green-cored mushheads who have issues with us honest fighting-sophs and our business existing at all, and have come all the way to Vordon to tell us about it. Bad publicity likely to ensue if you let them mix with the bored, offended, or easily amused grunts, after all.

It’s also why UARC changes out the copmercs every few months. They do love to fight among themselves over the right way to be pacifist, and it doesn’t take long for the armbands to stop refereeing the fights and start placing bets on them.

The UARC Sophont Relations department strictly forbids all mercenaries on the planet from hiring themselves out to any side in these internecine disputes, no matter how ironic it might be. Spoilsports.

Notable Regions: The Ranges

UARC has designated dozens of large areas of varied terrain on the continent north of Plenary as weapons-testing ranges and sites available for live-fire exercises. If you or your company wishes to make use of these facilities, please contact the scheduling office in the Battlespire for more information and to make a booking.

UARC strongly recommends that, despite the large uninhabited regions of Vordon, you do not plan weapons testing or live-fire exercises in locations other than the designated ranges. Liability for any harm done off a designated range rests with you, and Planetary Security, their contractees, and others, are free to respond to perceived threats with overwhelming force.

Some cash-strapped mercs and Rooktown denizens consider these a good place to scavenge. Since they’re almost continuously in use and rescue services are only available in between exercises, this is only a good idea if you’ve always wanted a career as a pop-up target. Spying on the competition pays better, but isn’t much more survivable.

Notable Regions: Ossiltun’s Victory

A thousand miles east of Plenary Camp, connected via maglev tube, is the city of Ossiltun’s Victory. Unlike Plenary, it was never intended as a city; rather, it traces its origin to the Five-Minute War of 6371. Following the loss by government forces to the rebellion in the nearby Mmpha Gerontocracy (now the Mmpha Mandate), the remnant forces of the Gerontocracy under Half-Admiral Ossiltun attempted a vengeance attack against what they perceived as the home planet of the mercenary forces which enabled the rebel victory.

And brilliant ideas like this, kids, are why you should always fight for money.

Having failed to properly assess the hazards of attacking what was, even then, one of the Worlds’ greatest concentrations of military force, Ossiltun’s fleet was destroyed extremely rapidly by the assembled spacegoing forces gathered on Vorguard and accompanying fire from the surface.

The Admiral’s flagship, the dreadnought GNS Scourge of Isskill, was fortunate enough to escape immediate destruction, but interruption of a maneuvering burn left it in a decaying orbit which terminated six hours later in a debris trail crossing several hundred miles of ground, ending at the largest intact fragment of the hulk. This collection of debris was unceremoniously looted by the defending coalition.

Shortly thereafter, an enterprising group of camp followers acquired rights to the hulk fragment, and making use of its salvage and remaining power machinery, the modern city of Ossiltun’s Victory was born.

Consisting of various suburbs around the reshaped hulk, largely constructed from prefabs and repurposed shipping containers, Ossiltun’s Victory includes Vordon’s secondary starport, the headquarters of several mercenary companies which prefer to maintain a greater degree of visible independence from UARC (primary among these is Kestal’s Raiders, whose HQ shares the hulk itself with the town’s civil administration and largest tavern, the Bloated Floater), and a wide variety of recreational services.

What they mean is “best booze, whores, and gambling on the planet”. Best drinks are at Dallie Lim’s – the drinks aren’t watered, the games are half-honest, and he only screws you where you can see. Tell him I sent you.

Stay away from Kabalga’s, though. My cloaca still itches, treatment be damned.

[A second hand, below, disagrees profanely and content-freely with the latter assessment.]

Notable Regions: Rooktown

Located thirty miles north of Ossiltun’s Victory, “Rooktown” is a temporary squatter encampment. UARC apologizes for its presence, and recommends that it be avoided by all visitors to Vordon. Steps are being undertaken to deal with the problem.

Translating that from the corpocratese: Rooktown is where the wannamercs rejected by all the recruiters on the planet end up, and yes, that does mean it’s full of psych cases who’re the wrong kind of crazy for this job. The “steps being undertaken” are that every time the noise gets too loud, Mister Signature issues a contract to deport anyone who doesn’t resist and shoot anyone who does, but there are enough wannamercs in the galaxy that Rooktown always comes back.

It’s a bad place to recruit cheap muscle, but if you need to pick up some quick ablative meat, it’ll do you. Odds are good you’ll never have to pay it, and you might even make a profit off a collector of the last 200 years of “Guns and Bullets” magazine.

Notable Regions: Htumleh Wastes

South of the inhabited regions of Vordon are the Htumleh Wastes, a large depression that was formerly a large lake or minor ocean. This region should be avoided by all visitors to the planet.

In part, this is because of the importance of the remnant ecology of such basins to Vordon’s continued viability. (Mote-lichen within the depths of these basins are the primary remaining oxygen producers.) However, of greater importance are the Vordon deathmites, tiny insects which consume the mote-lichen. The deathmites are adapted to survive by scavenging any fluids and recyclable organics they can locate, and they are exceedingly effective at doing so. An organic sophont attempting to traverse the Htumleh Wastes represents unimaginable bounty to them. Need we say more?

In other words, don’t bother buying insect repellent for your ground-car. The burrowing ones will eat that, too, if there are any sucrochemical or petrochemical-based plastics in it. And then explode from over-satiation. You don’t want them to explode.

Many visitors to the planet are tempted into the Wastes by what appear to be the ruins of a city on an island near the northern edge of the basin; starport slash-traders have been known to sell treasure maps leading there. Don’t be fooled: what you are looking at are multi-million-year-old crumbling foundations which have already been picked over by several expeditions, none of which found anything of value or interest.

And don’t hire yourself out to anyone chasing this sucker-bait, either.

Notable Regions: The Wrecks

Between Plenary and the Ranges are “The Wrecks”, the Vordon planetary wreckyard. Mercenary companies basing out of Vordon or contracted to UARC are permitted to dump destroyed equipment and surplus materiel here for a nominal fee and signing over all salvage rights. UARC in turn has an arrangement with several hazardous waste management consortia to properly dispose of all such military waste.

Visitors are advised to remain clear of the area, which may contain undetonated ordnance and other hazards.

You can sometimes pick up functional equipment and interesting secrets among the piles of discarded surplus and unsorted miltrash. Don’t be surprised to run across a few bodies, either; not everyone pays death benefits or lived long enough to cut their comrades out of the wreck – or else wanted to live too much to sort them out from the live rounds slopping around in it.

Stay out of the far end where they pile the starship wrecks and heavy vehicles, though. If the echoing sound of gunfire and canned orders over loudspeaker didn’t make it plain, some companies like to use it for live-fire training, and you’re not on their side.

Notable Regions: Grudgering

Vordon’s remaining settlement is the adjudication and war-tourism center of Grudgering. Based around a number of arenas carved out of craters, Grudgering originated as an informal location to settle intercompany disputes by combat adjudication, ranging from individual duels to full battlefield-conditions combat.

Today, Grudgering has expanded from this beginning into, on the one hand, a center dedicated to combat adjudication – not necessarily between companies themselves, but now permitting disputants to hire mercenary companies to fight out a binding decision on their behalf – and on the other hand, a generator of much of Vordon’s tourism income, as visitors come to observe the excitement of live-fire combat under controlled conditions. Indeed, some companies have come to specialize in delivering battles to please these visitors’ expectations.

Yeah, and are now worse than useless in anything resembling a real firefight.

Order (and profitability) in Grudgering is maintained by the Watchful Face company, under Eirsun “the Eyeball” Simeticelneratarathansi. Much of that profitability comes from the Face’s detailed recordings of all battles taking place in Grudgering, which they sell to companies for use in their own advertising, to the intelligence and research departments of their opponents, and to extranet media groups, without distinction. As “the Eyeball” herself puts it, “Even if you’re stupid enough to fight without gettin’ paid, someone ought to be getting paid. Preferably several times.”

A good way of getting paid for fighting, incidentally, is joining one of the guard squads that keep the Eyeball safe off-world from all the mercs who didn’t want to go prime-time or found the competition a bit too knowledgeable about their tactics. Not only does it pay well in money, but it pays well in staying under the radar where what you did in Grudgering is concerned.

– partially-eaten fragment of an annotated copy of Vordon: Planet of Adventure,
found in the Htumleh Wastes

 

Cross-Cultural Marketing

“There is no engineering reason, given appropriate design safeguards against cross-contamination, why one should not simply bolt a base-model food-fabber onto the back of a portable latrine. Since most excretions make good chowfab feedstock for the excreting species, biochemistry being what it is, this is merely an efficient application of closed-circle life-support principles.

“We even have a certain sympathy for the designers’ belief that the intended users of the Refugium Chowfab 1100, those being dwellers in refugee camps and disaster-struck regions, should consider their circumstances more than sufficient motivation to shed any remaining squeamishness about the diameter of the local circle of life.

“Nothing, however, excuses Paltraeth Materiel’s choice of the slogan – emblazoned upon each 1100 with accompanying market-cute animated logo – ‘When The Shit Hits The Fan, Eat It’.”

– Eye on Specifications, Summer 7292 issue

 

Initiation

functional lightspeed (n.): A curious quirk of relativistics; thanks to time dilation and distance foreshortening, when a lighthugger on a sufficiently lengthy voyage achieves 0.707 lights, the wall-clock time experienced by the crew exactly matches the length of the voyage in the empire-time frame, thus creating the mathematical illusion that the starship is travelling at the speed of light.

While meaningless in practical terms, this has not stopped lighthugger crewers from using it as an excuse to throw a party and hold a “light-barrier crossing ceremony” to initiate those who have never done so before into the Right Honorable and Inebriated Order of the Improbably Celeritous. Such ceremonies include initiation into the “mysteries of the deep black” by the gods of space and stars and their court (played by the oldest Improbables aboard), much drunken horseplay, and the traditional final rite of standing on the foreshield of the lighthugger until one’s nerve cracks, followed by the equally traditional treatment for radiation exposure.

– A Star Traveler’s Dictionary

Hexapodia

From: Vorin Telnicev, Archives, Admiralty Intelligence
To: Rilis Tsurilen, Overwatch, Admiralty Intelligence
Subject: The Sixfold Abomination

I regret to say that Archives has no confirmed information on the precise thinking behind the Galian’s abomination of “all that walks on six legs”. It was declared shortly after the Falish Traverse constellation was opened for access, and before a solid Directorate presence had been established; and unfortunately, the Theomachy’s own records are neither complete nor reliable.

Our best surmise is that the abomination in question was a matter of political convenience, developing popular support before the Theomachy’s holy war against the nearby Gardens of Rechesh, the link!n-Rechesh being a hexapedal, matriarchal species. However, due to the resounding lack of success on the Theomachy’s part in prosecuting the war – despite the link!n-Rechesh‘s reliance on purely organic starship technology and the threefold advantage in size and rather greater advantage in industrial production of the Theomachy – any records confirming this would assuredly have been purged.

Regarding your secondary question concerning potential threat capabilities, the latest projections (attached) filed with Archives indicate that while the Navy of the Pure’s light classes are adequate for their usual slaving and raiding, their ships of the plane and their general combat performance against military-grade forces continue to be, as in the above case, barely sufficient to intimidate a troop of Star Scouts on a camping trip. No serious threat potential.

VT

 

Squishy

Seen in a post office on Maiath (Tasein Ways):

CUSTOMER ADVISORY

The postal service is not accepting shipments of biologicals, especially live biologicals, for shipment via packet torpedo at this time, or at any other time. Customers are requested not to attempt to bypass this restriction.

Despite the events depicted in the recent Galactic Studios InVid, Fatal Sunburn, it is not possible for biologicals to survive shipment by packet torpedos, which lack all inertial damping and use accelerations well beyond the tolerances and indeed structural integrity of all known sophonts. To be blunt: your package, or yourself, will arrive as meat chutney, and the postal service will bill your estate for the cost of mopping out the parcel stowage.

If you need to be there on time, consider mindcasting. Mindcast and bodily reconstruction data can be sent by packet torpedo quite safely.

Thank you.

Torsk Induts, Postcatalyst General

(This piece inspired by this ST:TNG episode in which someone was shipped to the Enterprise inside a photon torpedo casing accelerated to Warp 9. Needless to say, if you tried the equivalent to this in the ‘verse, it wouldn’t be a case of “sit up and take off your breath mask”, but rather a case of “Please pour organic slurry enclosed into healing vat, and run attached reconstruction program. Stir, and allow two hours to finish baking,” in a similarly gruesome fashion to the Gideon Drives of the Pax in Endymion.

…which is why it’s much easier just to send the mindcast data.)

Prank War

GAN-LAK-NAK (HANTH CLUSTER) – The capital of the Aklaknak Cluster was in chaos today after multiple issues have wreaked havoc on its governance automation, local correspondents report.

Currently these issues include the deletion of all data relating to sophonts whose names begin with the letter ‘K’ from Revenue Generation Service databases, the replacement of all digraphics in license documents with pictures of as-yet-unidentified small furry quadrupeds, highly localized snowfall despite midsummer temperatures, the designation of all sugar-containing products as Class V restricted toxins, and public-access vehicles driving in circles while unoccupied, singing popular drinking songs.

The Archetype of Security has appealed for calm, blaming the errors on ‘unexpectedly severe systems glitches, currently under investigation’. Outside offers of technical assistance have, thus far, been rejected.