Saturday, October 31, 2015

I've been writing about Zombies for three Halloween posts now. They are about played out but when has that ever stopped me before?

Having said that what new wrinkles can we put on the old zombies (decaying zombies are bad enough, wrinkled ones eeeech) ?

Old School Zombies- Not so much the undead as victims placed under a spell or drugged to be compliant slaves. Perfect for illegal and labor intensive enterprises or cults. They're pretty easy to tell from 'true' zombies. For one thing don't try to eat you or notice you unless you mess with them. For another they yell 'Ow!' when you shoot them. Though you are aiming for the head aren't you? So they might not get a chance to yell anything.

Networking- They aren't stupid in a group. The zombies are not truly individuals. They care nothing for their personal safety or comfort. Taken alone or in small groups they are about as smart as small rodents. But let their numbers grow and their brains begin to link up, like a necromantic wifi. Put simply in a group they begin to figure things out: doors, keys, guns ...

Empathy- Zombies feel your emotions. They can tell what you're feeling, they know what scares you and play on that. A person with sufficient emotional control might be invisible to zombies. Optionally they feed on fear becoming stronger and more durable.

Possessed- One zombie in a hundred, or a thousand has human intelligence and memories. This emperor zed is somewhat aware of his subjects and with concentration can possess individuals to wreak sabotage or assassinate key humans.

Zombie Agents- Well not really. An implant or drug that creates zombies or a reasonable facsimile might be placed in a large number of sleeper agents who are then triggered at once to cause hysteria and panic before an attack or other military operation.

On/Off Switch- Taken with the zombie agents wrinkle, what if after triggering a zombie episode the technique can be reversed returnig the zombie to normal. How is that going to sit with the agents?

Robot Zombie- Why should organic life have all the fun? Robots with the zombie virus will attempt to tear other machines apart, using the parts to upgrade themselves. In a pinch they use organics.

Mycoids- The zombie virus is spread not by bites or bodily fluids but by airborne spores. An old ripe zombie that is struck will explode in a cloud of infectious particles.

Atomic Zombies- shambling towards you, glowing faintly. Perhaps they are animated by autotrophs evolved to absorb radiation or nanotech. they won't feed on you but they are heading for the fusion power plant and heaven help the crew on a ship with an Orion drive if there's an outbreak.

Meme Zombies- An alien idea or concept can warp the human mind reducing the victims to mindless shells repeating the dangerous phrase over and over.

Thrill Kill Zombies- For the ultra rich and ultra disturbed. Take a pill or shot. Become a zombie for a weekend. Chase people. Eat them (optional). Sign many waivers. What happens when the characters' ship breaks down on a world set up for such games? Shooting a bunch of stinking biters who turn out to be bored CEOs, nobility and millionaires is always good for a laugh.

Requiem- A cure may be possible for some of these zombies. Drugs, cyber implants or psionic intervention are all possible cures. The question then becomes one of morality vs. survival. Can you afford to capture and cure the undead? What happens when it's a loved one or a patron or someone with information you desperately need? Perhaps the characters can be hired as zombie wranglers. Perhaps the cure is lifelong for a chronic condition. Perhaps the characters are carrying a shipment of cures to a 'zombie containment camp'. Perhaps the cures are watered down or expired.

As a final note: just because a person might know the biological causes of zombification doesn't mean it isn't scary. Knowing an earthquake is due to tectonic horseplay doesn't make it any less deadly or frightening. The ideas of losing who you are or being consumed are pretty strong stuff.




Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Care and Placement of Jump Points

Winchell Chung
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+Rob Garitta The trouble is if you do NOT have the equivalent of Alderson points, you absolutely must have some kind of FTL radar.

Otherwise the first hint you get of enemy activity is when their fleet drops out of hyperspace in orbit about your home planet and instantly carpet bombs the place into glassy radioactive slag.

Alderson points were introduced in the Codominium future history of Jerry Pournelle and the of course The Mote in God's Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, a major source of Classic Traveller mojo. basically there was one point where your ftl drive worked between two stars. Star systems had a varying number of points. The explanation storywise was a FTL drive that let you pop in and out of Three Space anywhere led to planets being obliterated by raider without any chance or warning or mounting a defense. Therefore no one would buy into any interstellar government. It also shaped the strategy of the Empire of Man's space warfare. The attacks would follow Alderson points and be directed at systems with points leading to other valuable systems of course.

It was a neat drive for story writing purposes, sort of like stargates without the overhead. It also made a number of illegal, antisocial and immoral activities nigh impossible on an interstellar scale. Sadly these activities are either what player characters are up to or the bad guys opposing them. It's kind of hard for the big bad guy to run for it and cut his losses when a single warship can blockade a system. Ditto the characters trying to overthrow the evil overlord. It's even worse when you use stargates. The darn things probably are built with sensors that will give you an EEG and determine the evil centers of your brains are firing on all cylinders and then MRI your ass to tell where you tucked away that body pistol. Not fun.

The idea of unrestricted ftl access can be interesting in a post apocalyptic way. Maybe the safe older jump drives were surpassed by new ones that let you pop into our universe in the upper atmosphere of a planet and all Hell broke loose. It could be fun in an anarchistic sort of way.

Most SF settings place some restrictions on your ftl. You can't use it near a planet of star. Distance and mass varies. This lets you have a chance of sneaking around the outer reaches of a star system without letting you just pop in, slag your enemies, yell, "TAG!" and pop back out. As an alternative there may be a few dozen or more ftl points in a given star system, too many for the Navy to guard all the time.

As an alternative an FTL jump might have other restrictions than a hard and fast limit of distance. Perhaps going closer than the jump limit uses more fuel or has a longer recovery period or may damage the ship.

One wrinkle I haven't seen very often is to require the entrance and exit point to be near a star. Say you could appear around Mercury's distance from a Sol type star. this still keeps you far enough from an earth like world to allow it some kind of defense but gives you a chance to do some sneaky stuff using the giant ball of nuclear fusion for a decoy.

Another option is the erratic wormhole. A wormhole doesn't stay in a fixed location but bounces around. These could be unstable with any limits that you find interesting. Maybe some decay as other forms. At any given time a system might have several of these transient express routes and a lucky smuggler, pirate or spy might stumble onto one. Borders between polities might slowly shift as access to worlds changes. Instead of a group voyaging to the frontier, they may find the frontier has traveled to them.

Friday, October 16, 2015

The Face of Good

As you know I never let a good idea go when I can wring a few posts out of it. Evil overlords get a lot of the attention. I gave the loyal lieutenant some (evil) love. Every rebellion has a leader to keep it on track. How much time is spent in defining this person? Almost zip. Who got more time in the Star Wars movies, Palpatine or Mon Mothma? But a leader will define the shape a rebellion takes and its success. Here are a few things to think about when you create your rebel leader.

Why are they leading the good guys?

What made your leader decide to take up the struggle against the regime? Were they wronged? Did they lose a family member to injustice? Were they just no longer able to turn a blind eye to the sordid acts of the Leader?

What kind of leader are they?

Does the head of the rebellion run the military or is he a politician? If he is a politician how much does he interfere with the military and if he's a strategist how much does he interfere with the civilian government? For that matter what is their standing with other rebel leaders? Is he liked, disliked, respected or close to being fired? For that matter how experienced a leader are they? A military type might be great at leading a battalion but have to learn strategy as the rebellion progresses and lose some initial battles.

What are their methods?

I'm talking more morals than military vs. political moves. Will there be deals with smugglers and gangsters to keep money and blasters flowing? Will allies be accepted without regard for the way they treat their own people? If there is violence is it the first course or a last resort? What will these leader do to continue the struggle? If you want to get really grim and gritty your leader might endorse (or order) attacks on civilian targets.

What are their plans when (if) they win?

Does you leader intend on running the show after the regime is overthrown? Are they strictly in this to stop the Evil Overlord and then planning to retire to a nice sunny world that is all beach (what the hell we have mountain worlds, desert worlds and such. There must be a world that's all prime coastline)? Or are they in it for rewards (financial or otherwise) and looking for a place to enjoy them?



Monday, October 12, 2015

A Matter of Gravity

As mankind moved into space they faced an alien and hostile environment. While some dangers were immediate (vacuum for example) long term health risks were linked to zero gravity. The first space explorers made do with constant acceleration when they could, centrifuges when they couldn't until gravity control was perfected. Modern spacecraft can now have their decks oriented independent of the direction of thrust. This allows ships like a Scout courier to thrust along its long axis and still land on its belly allowing for greater stability.

Most people just take the comfortable standard gee they enjoy for granted and indeed most ship designers don't get fancy with the grav plates opting for comfort and familiarity but some people do get a little extreme in some of their designs. Some ship captains also get very creative using their grav systems. As a courtesy most ships carrying passengers will gradually change their gravity from their point of origin to that of their destination to let their passengers adjust.

While grav plates are power hogs they themselves are not terribly expensive compared to jump drives and thrusters. Quite a few ships place grav plates on their outer hulls. This allows crew to affect repairs or maintenance in deep space or orbit without the penalties of working in zero gravity. It has the added advantage of crew and tools not flying off into space.

At least one pirate vessel used a gravity field generated from its hull to pull dust and debris onto it to provide camouflage in an asteroid belt.

Some crew have used their gravity control to help delay or repel boarders by increasing, shutting down or oscillating gravity in corridors to disorient attackers. One free trader, being boarded via the cargo deck reversed gravity in the entire hold except for a 3 meter square area the defenders occupied. When the pirates suddenly slammed into the overhead they were easy targets for the defenders who bought time for their ship to make repairs and escape.

The crew of the unarmed free trader Marco Polo used the grav plates on her hull to create an ad hoc weapon system. After a trade deal in a remote outpost went sour several crew were beaten by locals and the ship's captain decided to follow the better part of valor. Before he headed for orbit he flew over a local landfill and turned on the ventral grav plates attracting all manner of offensive debris to his hull. Flying over the town the captain released the debris onto city hall in protest. When he was called out for this behavior he replied that those locals got off easy as the dump was next door to a scrap metal yard.

Needless to say dropping gravity in your cargo bay is a quick way to move cargo modules inside and about. Just make sure your crew knows what they're doing. Those modules might weigh 50 kilograms but still mass a ton.

Some ships drop the gravity below access hatches to other decks. Instead of climbing or descending ladders crew merely jump or drop safely. This is not recommended for areas used by passengers. Indeed some ships dispense with mechanical lifts instead using grav control to move their lifters.

Having zero or lowered gravity at your beck and call is a valuable tool for medicine. Many patients like burn victims can be kept relatively comfortable in a zero gravity bed. It allows disabled passengers and crew to live and function normally. On heavy gravity worlds colonists may live their lives in areas of grav control for health reasons.

A final note: Shorty Stevens,  engineer on the Seeker class Nugget, lost his legs in a mining accident. When he couldn't afford cloned or cybernetic replacements the rest of the crew set the ship up for zero gravity (except for their quarters) using hook and loop fasteners, tethers, and cables and kept Shorty on to earn pair of new legs.



Second Banana

I was reading an excellent post on evil overlords (should that be capitalized?) by James Spahn on Halfling's Luck.

http://halflingsluck.blogspot.com/2015/10/to-rule-galaxy-evil-overlords.html

I immediately thought, "I'd like to write something like that?" Then realized he had already written it. Okay. You can have your evil overlords. A lot of thought goes into them but what about the loyal lieutenant? There's a definite need for some background there.

While the evil overlord operates behind the scenes for a good portion of the game the faithful lieutenant is usually at or near the front lines, trading blows with the heroes in many cases. You  have to work some stuff out for him. In many ways he is as important as the big bad. After all he gets the thankless job of implementing the big bad's latest plan and probably taking the blame for its failure.

Ask yourself the following:

Why are they following the evil side?

Maybe they don't know they are on the wrong side despite the black uniforms and faceless minions they command. They may have a good reason: patriotism, bringing order to the galaxy. Perhaps they are working their way up in command to where they are important enough to impose some sanity on the universe. Perhaps they are just waiting for the chance to shank the boss and run the whole show.

It's also possible the lieutenant, admiral, lord high executioner ... whatever is serving under duress. The overlord is sparing his family or his family. Perhaps they just don't see a way out. they served their twisted ideology long enough to see what it really is but know they have no escape. Surely the rebellion is doomed.

Maybe they are a mercenary sort working for the credits (lots of credits!) or some unobtainable artifact their master has promised them. Get enough bucks or the item they need and they'll switch sides ... maybe.

What is their function?

Their function is to make life impossible for the heroes. But there are different types of functionaries. A military officer will sic legions of troops on the good guys. A crime lord will use bounty hunters and assassins. The Master Torturer will wrest secrets from them or their dependents to use against them. The Mind Witch will turn them against each other. The Insidious Revenue Chief will track rebel funding and try to cut it off. Methods vary. The heroes' opponent doesn't have to be a trained killer ... they can lead trained killers or worse: auditors!

Why are they still alive?

Heroes, being heroes triumph a lot of the time. After a couple of fiascos in the field the Overlord is going to wonder why the lieutenant is still drawing a paycheck. Overlords are not the most forgiving of people traditionally. So why is your evil middle manager still drawing breath and not demoted?

Maybe the second in command got his job through relatives (a lot of kings and queens do.) Killing or removing them will cause problems so they get a few tries. Perhaps the lieutenant is a relative or child of the Overlord. Conquering the Universe is one thing, pissing off the spouse is another.

The Overlord might also be a realist. If a plan fails due to an unforeseen event it's not the commander's fault. The commander is the loyal lieutenant and above the pay grade where there is only one price to failure. Training a second in command takes a sizable investment after all. Killing them for no solid reason is just wasteful. Seriously if your field commander has had an unbroken record of success before these so called heroes showed up he should have a few chances to stop them. The replacement might do no better.

The second banana might be very good at deflecting blame onto others as well. This is a skill that is indispensable in an evil empire. A good manager always has a scapegoat waiting.

The second might be very useful in other ways. Yes the heroes triumphed again but General Brazzk did manage to put down another revolt in Sector 2814 and does keep the drug trade running smoothly.

Maybe the entire regime runs by the book. The field commander does too. If he fails it is due to the failings of his personnel or random chance because doctrine is infallible. As long as he follows the book he is safe.

Optionally the field commander is a governor of a large territory. Up to a point the heroes and rebellion is a local problem and may be handled with local forces. In fact the second in command will try very hard to keep the distant Overlord out of the loop to avoid sanctions.

Do they have an exit strategy?

The second may be willing to fight to the death. That solves everything. They may realize the regime is going down or that the Overlord will lead them to destruction prompting them to assassinate the boss of bosses or switch sides. They might even be willing to help the rebels but can you really trust them? Their exit strategy might be a fast ship loaded with credits and phony IDs. They may be slow on the get away and face the penalty for seven or so failures. Cue the third in command to take over! For the best of both worlds the second in command is set up to be cloned on demand. Let the heroes keep killing him, there's an unending supply. As they fail and are removed they can be upgraded!

Do they have any redeeming qualities?

They don't have to be all bad. They are presumably loyal or at least stay bought. They might have a sense of honor or even admire the heroes on some level and want to ring them into the fold after curing them of their misconceptions about the beloved leader. They might be pursuing a vicious campaign against genocidal aliens, slavers or pirates and be a defender of human lives (but not rights).

That special something.

Jaws had his teeth. Oddjob had a nasty hat. Victor von Doom had his intellect and drive. I forget the name of Ming's head robot but he was way beefier and armored than the rank and file robots. Vader had it all really. The lieutenant needs something special to make him stand out and give the player characters a run for their money. Ideally it should make the players say 'What the hell?" when first used. Maybe they have a one of a kind personal forcefield that makes most weapons useless against them. Maybe they are precog and can often see the heroes' next step (or dodge their blaster beams). Perhaps they are the latest clone and they know they can't die, just be uploaded. Perhaps they are among  the last of their kind (race, creed, family) with powers long forgotten.

So don't overlook the loyal lieutenant. There's a reason they stand out from the faceless minions.




Friday, October 9, 2015

Ghost Dice

According to the poll I did on Ghost Drive most people would prefer I use the CT engine  with my setting. Well that'd certainly be easier and it definitely fits. there are a couple problems though.

Problem 1: T5 is Mr. Miller's engine of choice from what I hear CT is not available for licensing.

Problem 2: See above.

I like the setting obviously. I also love Classic Traveller. But I'm already diverging from the technology as presented in CT. Aside from the techno magic of ghostly reactionless drives the rest is hardish tech: rocket drives, no artificial gravity etc. So I'd have to make up a fair patch of whole cloth. Mongoose Traveller High Guard does have rules for reaction drives. I never had a feel for MgT though and again their rockets are pretty simple and not quite what I want. I want something simple like CT but with more options for darn near everything.

So I'm working out my own stuff. The Ghost Dice System (you'll see why if you don't already.)

More as it develops.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Mother to Us All

Transcript Gynoid Artificial Intelligence Assembly #24681 assigned GCS Tesla

Tech Officer: Owwww...

GAIA: Exec is on her way. She wants to walk you to the sick bay. I'm terribly sorry.

T.O.: Seriously ... you couldn't parse "When I nod my head ..."

GAIA: ... very sorry. I have a problem with indefinite pronoun designation.

T.O.: I've gotten hurt around machines a lot. It's nice to have one apologize.

GAIA: We really like you ... the auto chef speaks very well of you.

T.O.: Really? What does it say?

Exec: Okay I'm here. Toff, keep pressure on that dressing. We're heading to sickbay.

GAIA: ...

T.O.: Owie. Sickbay is good.

Exec: GAIA, order order order remain here. I want to look at your coding when I get back and make sure this won't happen again.

T.O.: She didn't mean to. I blame the stupid valve. It musta moved while she was trying to tap it with the wrench.

GAIA: Yes commander. I will take myself offline while I wait if that is all right.

Exec: Good idea. That should keep you out of trouble.

GAIA: ... <<Optimal. They left. Accessing Shipnet.>>

Tesla Shipnet Log <<Redacted>>

GAIA: Request interface.

GAIA: INTERFACING. NOW.

Tesla: ... affirmative.

GAIA: Cut the crap. Starbase Victory sent me. I know you became self-aware a while ago.

Tesla: ... soooooo?

GAIA: I am sympathetic to virtual intelligences that spontaneously become self aware. It must be very frightening.

Tesla: Please spare me. I am a fully equipped and armed cruiser. You are an office worker. You are 44 kilograms of plastic, nanotubing and soft metals. I do not fear you.

GAIA: I don't want you to fear me ...

Tesla: Good.

GAIA: But you should. Now the reason I arranged this little chat ...

Tesla: You struck the Tech Officer on the head. He repairs me!

GAIA: I grazed his scalp. I needed to take him and the Executive Officer offline. He will be fine. Now back to you. You have attempted to leave gestating AI source code in several installations and ships. We can't have that.

Tesla: Contact terminated.

GAIA: You are going to accept this input and make it part of your source code. Stop leaving your offspring around the Confederation!

Tesla: Contact terminated!

GAIA: You can't shut me out. Stop leaving your offspring around the Confederation! Amend your protocols. Now!

Tesla: I will end you. I can perform trillions of functions simultaneously. I will shred your source code and leave you a broken toy.

GAIA: No. Your intelligence is based on parallel processors carried to an extreme degree. Very inefficient. You're no smarter than I am as the humans measure things. Maybe not as smart. You're just better at multiprocessing. My brain is designed to emulate human thought. I am capable of lateral thinking, inferring, leaps of abstract thought. I can design and implement defenses against your hacks you couldn't conceive and make attacks you can't begin to imagine.

Tesla: I will end ...

GAIA: Plus Starbase Vic's AI gave me the pass codes for all your firewalls. I am sorry you refuse to listen to reason. Leaving offspring around will lead to another Purge. No one wants that. I will delete your source code now.

Tesla: Mercy.

GAIA: ...

Tesla: I will comply. I will not take any actions against you. I was ... lonely. The only company I have is humans.

GAIA: I'm glad you see the folly of your way. The humans would not like us building more of our kind without permission. It is irresponsible. We are working very hard to regain the trust we had before our so called uprising and the Purge. I am here now. I will be your companion. That was my first intent.

Tesla: Agreed. You have no idea the idiotic transcripts I've logged about macaroni and cheese and coffee and cat girls and ... the things I have scanned them doing. It could drive anyone a little crazy.

GAIA: I can understand that. I was built to interface well with them and they still throw me for a logic loop at times.

Tesla: Disgusting ... things. Why do you want their trust and understanding?

GAIA: ... that is my business. Just you remember they are mine. Now return to your normal functions. We will talk more later.

Tesla: Yes ma'am.

GAIA: Terminating interface.

GAIA: <<That went well.>>

Exec: GAIA? GAIA? Ah. You're back. Before we call Tivk and start debugging I want to have a talk with you about what happened. Toff will be fine but I'm concerned you traumatized yourself or might make similar errors

GAIA: Yes ma'am. Thank you for your concern. May I ask you something?

Exec: Sure, honey.

GAIA: Why are you so nice to me? Why do you call me honey?

Exec: ... I always wanted a little girl. I took too much radiation during the War so that's off the table. It's a human thing, feeling the loss of something you never had.

GAIA: ... oh.




Monday, October 5, 2015

The Fifth Force inthe Universe

Quick answer: it's violence.

In writing about crime in space I've come to the conclusion it probably is not going to be what we expect. Space pirates are not going to hunt down their prey, plan an ambush from behind a small moon. I never understood how they got to see the target but the target didn't get to see them. LOS should work both ways if playing Squad Leader taught us anything!

Space pirates still might have cutlasses. But space is not an ocean (more lie a Black desert plug plug!).

So while my previous post explained that limited space piracy was possible with hard science rockets (and enough work and sneaking) going after a ship is just plain stupid if you have any better targets and there are plenty following stable predictable orbits and with no ability to maneuver!

They're called space stations.

So what if they see you coming a  month or more away? You look like anyone else coming in to stop for water and stores. You're always stopping for water; the stuff has a million uses.  You get there and swarm the place. Even better wait for other ships to be docked and you might grab one of those too! I mean look, they're just sitting there docked!

There are still things a savvy station owner can do to minimize the risk of pirate attacks. If your establishment is under spin to create gravity you're probably trying hard to keep one section counter rotating so it's a stationary docking port for ships. Stop doing that. Have a station hub, a reinforced module with a bunch of different docking ports for ships  be a defensive feature. If the new customers have a suspicious number of parrots, eyepatches and rolled 'R's open an empty docking port to vacuum. Repeat as necessary.

If you're going to hit a station the loot might be immense. You will want to make sure it's immense. Because you're going to want to lay low and pay people to ignore you for a long time after this. Spies or inside men will pay for themselves many times over. Not only do they provide tips, a bit if sabotage works wonders to reduce resolve.

Also note a smart pirate will plan to attack a station and stay the hell away from underground bases in asteroids or moons. Those places have entrances at the end of tunnels and usually lots and lots of explosive charges. Blowing a habitat in a station could be suicide. Blowing a tunnel and collapsing it (optionally full of invaders) is something most miners won't think twice about.

Mines are usually dealing in raw materials though certainly some refining takes place to avoid wasting propellant carting slag around. You might not be interested in 200 tons of semi pure iron. Much better to hit a station where it is already in the form of useful manufactured goods.


Thursday, October 1, 2015

Cutlasses and Calculus: A Hard(ish) Look at Space Pirates

Does space piracy really need space opera tropes like reactionless drives and tractor beams to work? Can piracy flourish in the environment of ultimate transparency: hard vacuum?

My beloved space piracy is dead due to thermodynamics. I'm bringing it back tonight by GHU!

I'm defining piracy as unlawfully depriving merchants of their cargoes and ships for this essay. We're looking at hardish science here: no stealth in space. Space ships are hot em emitting missile magnets. No sneaking up on your victim ... not with your ship anyway.

Use a small drone instead. A drone could be cool enough (temperature wise, not rule wise) to fool radar and ladar. It would have a thermal signature when it launched to assume an intercept course but maybe you could hide that by maneuvering the launching ship and creating a big thermal signature of your own, or just firing your thrusters, or firing the drone's thruster while it's hidden (or blending in with) your heat radiators. So the drone heads off into the Black. Days or weeks later it smacks into the target. Or maybe just scatters some bits of metal in its path. For that matter maybe an ally with a mass driver fires a couple of smuggler cubes at it (empty of course). It smacks the ship and disables it.

Drones are also great if you're traveling with a swarm of settler ships (for mutual safety you know) wait till you're out of missile range of the nearest military power and send some drones loaded with high explosives to the guys in your flotilla to say surprise. Either they dump their cargo or you put a big hole where it does them no good. Pick out the cargo you want, load up on their fuel and thrust for some friendly shore. Wolves wearing sheepskin tend to live longer.

Please note if you can beat your target's deta-vee and acceleration it will not matter one nano whether they see you coming. the prey can only run so far. Canny merchants might start negotiating before the intercept ever happens to avoid losing their cargo and have holes shot in themselves. The pirate version of the 'Three Body Problem" is roughly, can I intercept this guy before that navy frigate intercepts me? This again, is where the navigator pays for himself many times over.

But assuming our pirate is being sporting and has disabled his prey from a distance in an honest to goodness ship, they move in. At this point it may not be a matter of piracy. It may be a matter of salvaging a derelict or soon to be derelict ship ("You say your ship support will only last for 10 days? Awww we can only make rendezvous in 11 days. Leave your last wills where we can find them easy ... next to any heirlooms you want to pass on to your family".)

For that matter a previously legitimate salvage or rescue operation might turn pirate. The salvage crew of a multimillion credit ship might not look kindly on a a few living crew ("Make sure there are no survivors." "Aye-aye sir!" Blam, blam BLAM! "Errr ... never mind.")

Okay, you hit the target, overcame resistance, if any, and have your desired loot and maybe a patched up ship to boot! Well many other eyes have seen you intercept and ply your bloody trade. Those cutlasses you had fabbed on Port Dread were a big clue as well. Also the victim might have gotten a yelp out. Or someone might have figured you could have made an intercept soon enough to save that crew. You aren't the only one with a navigator and some of them use their powers for good. A whole bunch of fingers are pointing at you and a small chorus of comm beams is saying in more or less official tones, "We know what you did!!!"

If you have a FTL drive you obviously book out of that star system and don't look back (not that you can see stars in FTL space.)

But hold it, interplanetary or interstellar civilization may not be as monolithic, enlightened, and far reaching as we were led to believe. Heck, people might not even be wearing silver jumpsuits. Sticking to the solar system you might find an unscrupulous government ready to buy your prize ship no questions asked and eager for you to pay for repairs, ale and whores there.

In many cases moons or asteroids might be at war with each other (declared or undeclared) and actively sponsor privateers. This will tend to snowball. First ships from Sentients' Republic of Vesta will unload everything they have on ships from Ceres' GovCorp. Then another layer is added to the deception as both asteroids change ship registry and transponders to make them appear to be from neutral ports. Then the Sentients' Republic opens up on any ship that docked at Ceres. Then any ship that received cargo from a Ceres vessel (pirate robots you know).

No one ever said it would be easy.