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Saturday, September 24, 2016

Beach Day ... Saved!

Tivk huddled under a poncho. It was amazing how compact he could make himself. The tall lanky frame collapsing under its own weight to all appearances.

"C'mon Tivk! It's a perfect day for a swim!" the Chief said waving for him to join them.

"The water is contaminated," Tivk replied.

"Your dustball planet has seas way more brackish than this!"

Tivk glared from under his hood and over his sunglasses. It was a complex maneuver he'd mastered.

"His homeworld's seas have potassium chloride in them. Sodium chloride irritates his skin," Doc answered not looking up from his book.

"Hey Mr. Tivk, come out from under that tent and get some sun. I thought you were always cold. It's great weather for a tan," Jenn said from lookout. She was on guard for any local animals dumb enough to poison themselves with a mouthful of offworlder.

"It is still too cold, and the sun is too energetic. And it would not tan me, it would burn the skin off me."

Note: I first posted this on the SF Flash Fic Community. But Tivk got his start here on this blog s why not repost?

"Slight exaggeration," Doc muttered. "Why don't you at least take your shoes off and enjoy the sand? I thought you liked sand. Don't you call your planet 'Sand'?"

"The sand has sodium chloride in it and it is too coarse. Thank you for thinking of me ... if belatedly.

Tivk's kind did not mope. left in an unpleasant situation they did their best to ignore it until it passed, even though humans pestered then with questions. He didn't notice the wind picking up and clouds rolling in under a darkening sky. He was thinking of an orange desert far away with dunes you could wander around for ever.

The first raindrop plopped on his left ear which hung out of the hood to kepp himself cool and it jolted him awake. More drops fell, he stopped counting after 72. The rest of the beachgoers were evacuating.

"Where's my sunglasses?

"On your head!"

"Where's the cooler!"

"Get the towels!"

Tivk snorted and stood up impossibly tall and skinny next to the humans and doffed his robes as they hurried to the shuttle and the floaters. Fat raindrops were falling now but he stood still arms spread out and letting the water hit his face and run down his ears. It was a little cold but he endured it.

"TIvk! Let's go, run for the shuttle!"

Tivk, born to red sands and bone dry cliffs snorted again. He spared a short look at the humans and said, "... and miss the rain? Are you MAD?"

Friday, September 23, 2016

The Might of Write

Besides all the so called legal banking business handled across borders and even worlds there are all manner of deals that no one in their right minds would ever call legal. Selling guns, bombs, and sex are all legal on some worlds, but none of these are legal on EVERY world if you get my drift.

But bad people need to keep records of their deals and sometimes even a transcript to indicate exactly what one or the other had said. At any decent tech level a transcript can cause you severe trouble. To make one a talk to text system is needed and the audio files of course can be examined for speech patterns, voice characteristics, probably even DNA by TL 15. Don't tell me that stuff gets wiped. It doesn't have to and then some punk has a shady deal to hold over your head. Note someone smart enough to make and secrete a copy of an audio file probably is smart enough to make several such copies and give them to various people for release upon their death.

Enter the Zaonians yet again! Their handwritten records already put the brakes on forgery and fraud in their cluster. It seemed only fair that they do something for the crooks now (for a fee of course).  Now they stepped it up into a system of recording meetings and discourses of various types in great speed and and accuracy/ I refer to stenography!

If handwriting analysis was regarded (by those poor ignorant hi-tech folk) as mad science steno was a glimpse of Great Cthulhu. You mean people can write as fast as they can talk?! Impossible! Untrusting souls would have to find a stenographer they both trusted or more likely hire their own and thus make their own transcripts. All this had to be carried out on Zaonia of course for complete secrecy. On Zaonia any bugs built with local technology would be about the size of a beer cooler and the tech knights were keen on keeping offworld tech offworld.

In fact they even used psionics to sniff out hi-tech smugglers. Psionics isn't a form of technology! But I digress.

The people interested in having their meetings transcribed would be brought to a secluded conference chamber. The recorders could in fact be ordered from several agencies with complete anonymity and ignorance of both parties to insure their honesty and impartiality. The stenographers would take dictation during the meeting using shorthand then typed out the transcripts. No voice files to incriminate. Accurate recordings of vital matters and agreements were made. Best of all no hard forensic evidence to identify the parties of the agreement in a court of law (though they knew who they were of course).

The Zaonians still were security minded. When their banking guild set up an official agency to license and monitor stenographers they added additional procedures, such as the stenographers using a newly constructed system of phonemes for their note taking. Previously they used a more or less accessible phonemic writing system that could be discovered on library systems because it was commonly used in the past. The extra benefit of phonetic writing was the stenographers no longer had to know the language of the parties meeting. They could record it in their notes in their con-lang scrawl and type it up using a phonetic alphabet system common in the cluster. The original notes would only be of use to another agency scribe who knew the con-lang.

The Voynich Agency was in business!

The Hero's Worry List

Steps in the Evolution of a Hero (and what can go wrong)

The Call to Adventure
1) The Call is collect
2) The Call is in another language ... why didn't you learn your native tongue?!
3) The Hero is out and lets the machine get it. Machine runs out to adventure!
4) The wrong person gets the Call
5) Call is from Cthulhu
6) Wrong person gets the call. Hilarity of a lethal nature ensues

Meeting a Mentor
1) The Mentor is wanted. Hero turns them in.
2) The Mentor is scary looking/has a creepy voice/pointy spikes on his armor or speaks a different language
3) Mentor is a deadbeat with a number of bills and creditors hounding him (mentoring doesn't pay well
4) Mentor is late
5) Hero is early
6) The place of their fated meeting is a parking lot/market/drug den/shopping mall

Crossing a Threshold
1) Hero trips and face plants
2) It's the wrong Threshold (Mentor: I never told you go THERE!)
3) Hero is lost once he's past the Threshold.
4) It's a trap. Get the Mentor off his ass.
5) The Threshold to Adventure/Rapture/Enlightenment is in a parking lot/market/drug den/shopping mall
6) Hero returns, gets lost and reappears in  parking lot/market/drug den/shopping mall

Trials and Failures
1) Death (just kidding. It said 'failures'. Death would curtail that.)
2) Medical bills
3) Law suit for collateral damage
4) Law suit for assault and battery
5) Criminal charges
6) Enraged criminals charging!
7) Evil Overlord/Forces of Good sit up and notice (whichever is worse)
8) Sword of Power is stuck in a rock/tree/the Evil Overlord's armor
9) Mentor is stuck in a rock/tree/the Evil Overlord's armor
10) Something crosses that damned Threshold.

Growth and New Skills
1) Wrong skill set
2) Important skill missing
3) Hero wants to use new skills to pick up a hottie
4) Hero needs taking down a peg. Mentor obliges to show the Hero isn't as good as it appears
5) Hero is as good as it appears. Several weeks lost while Mentor heals up and must be hand fed soup.
6) Evil Overlord/Forces of Good sit up and notice (whichever is worse) after some muscle flexing and showing off to pick up a hottie

Death and Rebirth
1) No Rebirth 
2) Gender swap!
3) Hero requires several replacement parts. Must be ordered out.
4) Hero has amnesia
5) Mentor drowns his sorrows and is a sad shell by the time Hero claws out of their dirt nap
6) Trifeca Fuster Cluck: Hero reborn in a totally different, gender-swapped, amnesiac form!

Revelation
1) Hero is Evil Overlord's bastard
2) Hero is Evil Overlord's gex                                                nder swapped bastard
3) Evil Overlord is the Hero's future self
4) Evil Overlord is the Mentor
5) Mentor is Hero's parent
6) Hero is Mentor's parent!!
7) Forces of Good aren't what they seem
8) Evil Overlord isn't so evil. More of an evil Overlord.

Finally Changes
1) Hero accepts his destiny and role, becomes a total asshole
2) Hero accepts his destiny and role, becomes a preachy asshole
3) Hero accepts wrong destiny
4) Hero accepts wrong role
5) Hero is into roleplaying
6) No one accepts Hero

Gets a Gift
1) Wrong Gift
2) Wrong Hero
3) Wrong size
4) Wrong color
5) No instruction manual
6) Gift is on order.

The Return (Metamorphosis)
1) No one recognizes Hero
2) Hero doesn't recognize anyone
3) Mentor doesn't recognize hero
4) Hero doesn't recognize Mentor
5) Hero doesn't recognize self
6) Nothing fits Hero anymore

The End
1) Repeat as necessary: Heroes never die
2) Repeat as necessary: Heroes have offspring
3) Repeat as necessary: Heroes have imitators
4) Repeat as necessary: Evil Overlord ensures a steady supply of Heroes to keep sharp

Monday, September 19, 2016

EM Drive Blues

We have thgis information on the radio frequency drive or EM drive or whatever you want to call it.

300 micro newtons are generated per kW of power.

-or-

3.5 kW generates 1 newton of thrust

A Scout ship has a thrust of 2000 tons or 2,000,000 kgs or 20,000,000 newtons

This would require 70 million kilowatts or 70 gigawatts. If the EM drive worked (I'm not saying it DOES in the real world, Rocket Cat call off the hit.)

Fusion reactions generate

3.5 x 10^14j from one kilogram H2 and H3

One kilo of fuel allows the Scout to thrust for (3.5 x 10^14)/(7 x 10^10) seconds

One kilogram of fuel provides thrust for 5000 seconds or five turns. The two tons in the power plant will thus provide 2000 * 5000 = 10 million seconds of thrust or 10,000 turns or 11.57 days of thrust. There's stuff I didn't get into of course. Like fusion isn't 100% efficient. Let's say the EM drive has increased in efficiency to offset the losses due to the fusion plant's inefficiencies. Even Steven.

This gives the ship a delta v of 10 million * 20m/s^2 = 200 million  meters or 20,000 kps. Figure you use half to speed up and half to slow down 10,000 kps cruising speed. That's 1,000,000 km in a little over a minute and a half. That's an A.U. in 4.1 hours.

You don't want to use all your fuel to speed up because aerobraking just isn't an option at 10,000 kps. Not that it doesn't work, it works too well. Boom. Say you accelerate to 5,000 kps. That will take about 42 hours. This might cause problems for a freighter on a schedule.

But it's worse than that. The Scout has to accelerate at 20 meters per second. That mean no you will not get to your top velocity on this flight. Instead you must use the time honored tradition, accelerate halfway, flip and decelerate. At a constant 2 gees acceleration this will take about 4.6 days. That can out a crimp in a ship's schedule. It's even worse for freighters. They can manage 1 gee and can make the trip in 6.5 days. That's most of your downtime between jumps. This explains why merchants do not often use the gas giant option unless there is one fairly close by and the ship has a fuel refinery. Oh yes, refining fuel takes time also. So trucking in fuel for the mainworld or providing it for ungodly markup becomes understandable. A trader (35 Mcr. ) mortgage runs 5000 cr. a day or so. A ship with one refinery onboard can process 20 tons of fuel a day. The difference between refined and raw fuel is 400 credits per ton so you're saving 8000 credits but the day of downtime 'costs' you 5000 credits. Our savings are only 3000 cr. That's before figuring life support, salaries and complaining passengers who have business elsewhere. If you are using a gas giant reaching it's jump limit can take some time as well 3-4 times as much as an Earth-sized planet.

I'm saying most inner system and nearer gas giant runs can be made no problems with the acceleration. It's economic considerations that keep us based at those terrestrial main worlds. This is why they attract settlers as much as their often breathable atmospheres.

Also pirates hang around gas giants sometimes.

No reserve the gas giant jaunts for quick refueling stops on longer journeys when you don't need to land.You're harder to predict then.

Of course like any reactionless drive it becomes a weapons of mass destruction. You have a chance to stop a Scout ship say at 10,000 kps. But that was just using 2 tons of fuel. If it goes into jump fuel you could easily make a 1 parsec jump and wind up accelerating to 120,000 kps and that my friends is starting to crowd photons. You might want to limit your 'cruising mode' to one gee of acceleration unless you're in a real hurry. Higher accelerations are less effective for the fuel cost. Double the acceleration (and delta fee and fuel only gets you there in 70% of the time. You need quadruple the acceleration to halve the trip time.

Maybe there are other factors limiting the EM drive's use. Maybe you need to pass through an atmosphere to discharge your boson capacitors or the doubletalk generator needs to be taken out and reground. Or the drive works by pushing against massive bodies like planets and stars. In that case your top speed might be limited by the size of either the body you depart from or the body that is your destination. For example going from Earth to Mars you'd figure your top speed based on Mars. Yes if you left Earth you could reach a greater speed using it as 'propellant' but you still would only have Mars' mass to slow down at your destination. You do want to slow down, right? We had this talk before.

A good approximation might be 1000 kilometers per second per UWP size code. A ship boosting from Earth to Mars would use Mars' size code of 4 and have a top speed of 4000 Kps. A ship moving from two size 8 Earth like worlds would have a top delta-vee. A size A world will let our Scout reach its maximum velocity. An asteroid could limit a ship to 1d6x100 kps. 

NavigatIon becomes something more of a craft with using planets and moons to push off. Ships might use a number of flybys to build acceleration if they launch from a small body and want to make good time in an anti-grav version of the Oberth maneuver.

It's all fun and games until someone builds a flying fuel tank farm and uses a neutron star to boost. I wouldn't but there are nutcases out there and some of them can plot courses.

Friday, September 16, 2016

The Bottom Line

Remember Zaonia (0104 C885655-5     Ag Ri         123), the little planet that could? Zaonia had instituted a system of handwriting analysis to prevent fraud in its starport. The planet had created a secure system of banking that its more populous and advanced neighbors envied and made use of. It even had a small fleet of free traders operating in its cluster.

The Zaonians were secure. The dictator of Facesos, the ministers of Inerze, the recluse roboticists of Zerar were all customers of their banking system. Anyone invading and disrupting the security of their valuables would face their wrath.

ThePrince Admiral of Facesos, the plague ministers of Inerze, the recluse roboticists of Zerar didn't give a deuce about the fate of Zaonia, just the security of their valuables. A change of power that did not endanger those valuables was no concern to them.

So when a young technocrat, one who had spent much of his life offworld, decided to make a push for power he first assured those offworlders he would respect their property (and in fact give them better rental rates on vault space).  Needless to say he told them this at about the time his offworld mercenaries commenced to land at the starport and major cities.

The usurper was on a budget so battledress troopers were a small minority who seized the starport and secured the communications. The rest were troops with cloth armor and laser rifles who expected to wage a quick and relatively bloodless campaign of shock and awe.

The poor bastards. In his years offworld the power monger had learned a little about high technology weapons. He had forgotten all about low technology warfare and that was his downfall.

Now maybe the Zaonians could not build one radio jammer that could follow enemy chatter across many frequencies, but they could build a lot of jammers and keep them hid away (remember all those tunnels they dug for the banks? As for their forces, they used telephone lines and signal flares and carrier pigeons in some cases.

Maybe they didn't have the camouflage armor and orbital sensors the invaders had but they had an elaborate tunnel system which they used to mount a series of counter attacks on the starport. When the battledress commandoes descended into the tunnels to root the locals out they faced a storm of heavy machineguns, flame throwers and demolition charges. The last straw was the armored cars the Zaonians had in the tunnels to transport valuables. It turned out bullet proof didn't mean you could laugh at an armored car parked on your chest. They mutinied about the time they figured that they would run out of commandoes long before they ran out of tunnels.

On the surface the invaders now faced an artillery bombardment that turned out to be sand canisters modified to fire from field guns. Their laser weapons were now degraded so badly they had a third the range of the rifles the locals carried. The invaders did not have heavy weapons. The usurper didn't want to wipe out the planet he'd rule and well, he did have those pretty lasers and battledress commandoes!

The usurper discovered the sand canisters were fired from a couple of destroyers off the coast. He demanded the landing craft commanders go airborne and shoot the destroyer up. The commanders, having seen the way the invasion was going stuck to the letter of their contracts and said 'No!' That turned out to be very fortunate for them as they would have met the submarine with the offworld missile turrets (that was still very hush hush.)

Okay he tried to tell everyone the other Tech Knights had used offworld munitions. The sand canisters were a starship's weaponry for gosh sake! The Knight Senior explained it away as a naturally occurring crystal, not manufactured, merely polished. What the heck. They played fair (so to speak) with all other tech. The submarine with the missiles was still a secret.

The Zaonians then turned to their depositors and explained that the rates were going to stay the same.
No harm, no foul. The customers merely had stayed out of an internal dispute. That was fine. Zaonia was an honorable society. One less than honorable might put photocopies of a number of sensitive documents they were entrusted with onboard their small fleet of freighters to distribute to several interested parties should anything happen to their government. The offworlders thought copying documents required a computer. In fact carbon paper astounded some of them when they came visiting.

As for the starport and capital that took a little repair work. It was awhile before they took the shot up and mangled battledress suits off the perimeter wall. they wanted to make sure people got the message.

Better Low Tech than Dim Wit.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Check List for Accepting and Transporting Passengers

Check List for Accepting and Transporting Passengers

1) Interview passenger for security concerns. Ask if they are a pirate, hijacker or criminal.

a) Run computer check of planetary database for records on passenger because a pirate, hijacker or criminal would lie.

b) Check it again. they also hack computers.

c) After running the security check accept deposit for those passing the check (optionally accept from those not passing.)

d) Turn in people not passing the check you found warrants for.

e) Send medical information and dietary needs to the steward.

2) Banking

a) See if the deposit check bounced (maybe you only take cashier's checks or M.O. or gold coins)

3) Pre-Boarding

a) Ready the staterooms for passengers remove extra fittings and bedding from cabins of high passage riders.

b) Accept the passengers' luggage and run sensors over it searching for any obvious contraband or weapons.

c) Turn in passengers with contraband (optionally SPLIT contraband with passengers. Anything flagged as illegal in a starport has to be good stuff!)

d) Swap bay number sign with the next ship over to avoid last minute complications like pursuing parents, jealous spouses and private eyes. Note: make sure the crew of the other ship haven't done this already!

e) See that balance cleared (if you got the entire passage in one fell swoop hurray!).

f) Get some good munchies, caffeine and vino in for the high passengers.

g) Move ship to new landing bay when crew of the other ship shows up for their landing bay signage brandishing firearms and pointy sticks.

4) Boarding

a) Swap bay number sign with the number you started with to avoid losing passengers. The cops WILL make you give their money back.

b) Have crew escort all passengers to their cabins through cleverly disguised weapons scanner. Remind crew that decorum must be observed (body pistols, not autorifles).

c) Explain that for safety reasons passengers must remain in their cabins until the ship is in orbit. Lock middle passengers n their cabins if necessary.

d) Point out complimentary cookies on pillows (optionally lace complimentary cookies with sedative.)

5) Real Space Transit

a) Complimentary libations, movies and wifi for high passengers to shut them up.

b) Complimentary fruit snack for middle passengers (optionally just tell them to shut up.)

c) Check the low passenger vitals.

d) Give new list of medical and dietary needs to the steward (one of the riders will have one at the very least)

e) Remove the foliage that are likely to cause an allergic reaction or anaphylactic shock to the cargo bay.

f) Round up stowaways given away by their sneezing.

6) Jump Space Transit

a) Steward keeps the high passengers fed and healthy.

b) Deal with passenger complaints/tell middle passengers shut up: cabin too noisy, cabin smells bad, food smells bad, crew smells bad, jump sickness, motion sickness, inertial compensator allergy, demands that pets be brought out of carrier/low berth because they miss them, demands pets be put into low passage (boot one of them bums!) because pet is being a pain or suffers from jump sickness, motion sickness, inertial compensator allergy. Explain to passengers what THAT sound is.

c) Hold an impromptu seance to contact spirits despite noise being caused by refrigeration unit.

d) The rest of the crew do their own crappy job of cooking.

e)  Repeat item 'b' above.

f) Middle passengers eat food they brought along from home and enjoy.

g) Put stowaways to work washing dishes, mopping floors and serving the passengers if the stowaways appear housebroken.

h) Mad dash around the cargo hold for the pet cat the stowaway released to play with.

i) Treat crewperson with dander allergy.

j) Repeat item 'b' above.

Real Space Transit
a) Complimentary libations, movies and wifi for high passengers to shut them up.

b) Complimentary fruit snacks and old magazines for middle passengers (optionally just tell them to shut the hell up.)

c) Check the low passenger vitals. Yell at crew going through low passenger luggage and saying, 'they feel lucky.'

d) Deal with passenger complaints/tell middle passengers shut up: cabin too noisy, cabin smells bad, food smells bad, crew smells bad, jump sickness, motion sickness, inertial compensator allergy, demands that pets be brought out of carrier/low berth because they miss them, demands pets be put into low passage (boot one of them bums!) because pet is being a pain or suffers from jump sickness, motion sickness, inertial compensator allergy. Explain to passengers what THAT sound is.

e) Hustle passengers into cabins for the landing.

Landing

a) Unload luggage.

b) Unload middle passengers (who carry their own luggage.)

c) Crew lines up on ramp for high passenger send off (and tips). Mad dash for the luggage that got shipped to another terminal.

d) Tips go to the captain for divvying (otherwise the steward gets rich and then gets beaten severely.)

e) Steward points out various points of interest on new planet for passengers (i.e. places practicing the kickback tradition.)

f) Wake low passengers and have low passenger lottery before giving the crew leave. Make the crew give back their stuff!

g) Divide tips equally.

h) Yes equally.

New Voyage

a) Advertise staterooms available.

b) Hire the stowaway who knows how to cook.

c) Beat up the other stowaways.

d) Hit the bar.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Bank Job

After putting a stop to fraud the Tech Knights of Zaonia (0104 C885655-5     Ag Ri         123) saw more opportunity for economic growth. In an interstellar polity that had all manner of cyber crime their security was an order better than most simply because it did not rely on computers. The First Bank of Zaonia worked on a system of handwriting. People who were recognized customers had their signatures filed and simply signed for things. That was the first level of security. The second level of security involved established handshakes, photos, mannerisms and yes passwords ... that were spoken to confirm identity.

No hacker could break the system. Any impersonations would require a master forger, who was also expertly disguised, and managed to learn memorized passwords and recognition cues from the customer. That was a tall order for most.

The subsector nobility noticed and began making deposits in the banks in the form of precious materials. Lock boxes were used to hold various secrets: letters for blackmail, contracts for unholy business alliances, family heirlooms, and artifacts.

Zaonia now had a foolproof defense against offworld invasion. Any would be conquerors would have to deal with their depositors, who were not, the sort to let their valuables fall to others.

Raids were the problem. The security forces had rifles and submachine guns. Manpower was there. they could get a lot of men with rifles or submachine guns and mass them at bank vaults. That wasn't good enough. raiders with battle dress would probably have surprise and high energy weapons.

Worse, high energy cutters could let them into the best vault the locals produced in a few minutes. Offworld experts agreed. The biggest most massive bank the Zaonians could produce would fall to a determined force of offworld pirates.

The locals could hire mercenaries with high tech weapons to guard their bank but that involved offworld technology which the local technocrats did not produce. This would undermine their expertise and authority and what would keep the mercenaries from looting the bank themselves or looking the other way when bribed?

So the locals built not one bank but many many banks. Small ones. They were still guarded pretty well. they all had smaller but hardened steel vaults.  Most of them were empty.

Armored cars shuttled between the banks on a daily basis. Most of them were empty but the few held valuables that were constantly shuttled between vaults on time tables known to only a few. Each of the schedule writers only scheduled a specific route, one of many. If anyone did hit the right bank or armored car that schedule writer would have hard questions asked. The schedule writers included watermarks specific to each armored vehicle crew. Any photocopies could be tracked to the person who lost or sold them.

Raiders could hit a bank. They would be shot at by a number of guards. The hail of bullets would be too risky unless the raiders had battledress and still be risky even then. After fighting these defenders the raiders would open the vault, which could be empty. Ditto for the armored cars.

Eventually the locals dug an underground roadway system (remember the cheap labor?) They dug stations under each bank to allow the cargo transfers to occur out of sight. By now the banking business was really taking off. It became a major planetary industry between, security, excavation, construction, maintenance, tank manufacture, and administration. A few people attempted raids but they got squashed quickly. Most of them hit the wrong bank or the wrong car or had a tunnel collapse on them. Oh yes: the tunnels were boobytrapped. They could make a suit of armor that could laugh at bullets, but no one made armor that stood up to a couple of tons of rock.

Fortunately low tech does not equal stupid. After all, there are barbarians in space.