Monday, March 28, 2016

Jump Tape Parade!

A cursory reading of the LBB 77 rules will show that buying a ship's computer entitles the buyer to 1 Mcr per model number towards software. The venerable Scout for example comes ready for detached duty with 1 Mcr. of software (1bis counts as model 1). So we might pick out this software package:

Maneuver  0.1 Mcr
Jump 1      0.1 Mcr.
Jump 2      0.3 Mcr
Navigate   0.4 Mcr
Generate   0.8 Mcr.
Total         1.7 Mcr.

Just to get basic use out of our Scout. We start 700,000 cr over budget. But wait till we get to the Free Trader type A. It has a model 1 and would require at least the following:


Maneuver  0.1 Mcr
Jump 1      0.1 Mcr.
Navigate   0.4 Mcr
Generate   0.8 Mcr.
Total         1.4 Mcr.

As you can see we're way over budget and most of the credits are eaten by the Generate program which generates flight plans for the jump you input. So basically you have a ship but can't fly it out of a star system until you can afford Generate. But you also have a mortgage to meet which you can't if the ship can't go places so you go go broke and the bank seizes your ship. Which is easy because you can't jump. everyone goes broke and private interstellar trade is extinct! That can't be right.

Except for ... the jump tape!

A a flight plan, popularly known as a jump tape, (the name persists even in these days of memory crystal tech) can be generated in a starport for any planet within J-6. More professional ships use generate to create such a flight plan. This has to be done for every jump. To keep cheapskates from reusing jump tapes (probably increasing the chance of misjump each time) the cassettes are self erasing and single use. They cost 10,000 cr per jump number. On the other hand they replace a navigator on routine voyages so you could save on that crew's salary. On the other hand if your ship misjumps you are doubly screwed which is why people buying these single use flight plans have to sign lengthy waivers. You want to travel cheap, you aren't suing the starport authorities when your ship gets found a century later and they thaw your cheapskate butt out of low passage.

It could all end here of course. Use the rules as written or overlook this in the interest of a good story. Except merchants (and most other people) like to save a buck where they can. Merchants (and most other people) also like to make a buck when they can. This results in a large underground market in flight plans generated by anonymous navigators on their off time. The navigator spends a couple of hours on shore leave running a flight plan on his ship's computer and then simply carries it over to the buyers two berths down. He leaves a few thousand credits richer for a couple of hours works and goes to enjoy his week off exploring mysterious ruins or whatever.

The authorities hate this.

For one thing they'll tell you these navigators do not have the skill to safely implement these flight plans. For another the plans are on permanent media and can be reused long after they are outdated and dangerous. Jump calculations need to be made for each jump and used fairly promptly. For a third thing they will tell you people have gotten killed using flight plans that are very outdated and sold by unscrupulous criminals.

What they don't tell you is the authorities are selling the tapes to make a buck and they like their little monopoly. A navigator has to be certified before he starts navigating things after all. Shrewd buyers will watch the guy while he runs the programs and does the math. There's no more danger in that than having him prgram the jump on your own ship. That avoids the possibilities of outdated tapes and buying them from a moron at the same time.

Life is not always perfect though. Some ship's captains are desperate or foolish or fall for the old flight plan switcheroo. Flight plan scams do occur and the wise merchant is on the look out for these.

The other thing the authorities don't tell you is the flight plans they sell can have spyware loaded onto them to infect your computer and turn it into a mole for them to track your comings and goings. When the comings and going match up with the shootings and bombings they will be waiting for you when you land to ask some pointed questions and look at the video recordings your computer has made for them. This has derailed more than one would be pirate or ship captain skipping payment. It works pretty well too. Sell the marks a jump tape, infect their computer and when you want to complete your sting their computer shuts down on a preprogrammed signal.

Pirates also install such spyware on the illegal tapes they'll sell you. It's very handy for removing any meaningful resistance. Boarding actions are hard enough without having the engage in a shoot out and run down your prey. Pirates are business men too in a way. They want to minimize their losses.

But hey, there's probably nothing wrong with buying that jump tape the nice navigator is offering for 2500 credits. You save. He makes money. Everyone is happy, right?

Maybe you should just buy a Generate program out of the back of that guy's air/raft? He looks reputable!