Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Travelling Light

No one who lost a million credits ever had to bum a ride. It's the poor bastard who is a few thousand light that has to take dire measures.

One dire measure is Low Passage. When the emigre doesn't have the money or nerve for a low berth there are two other methods. The first and most common is a working passage.

Working passage can let you travel the galaxy provided you keep finding ships' captains that are short on crew. To some people it's slavery. Basically you travel free and pay for your life support and bunk by working. Some captains are willing to work a working passenger to death (literally). Who's going to complain? The captain can always claim the person was a stowaway or engaged in a hijacking attempt or other violence. That's if the captain even bothered to declare the person's passage.

What can you expect from working passage? It depends on your skill set. No captain is going to let a deadbeat near the bridge or engineering controls. Steward is a possibility though the passengers better not find out. Fortunately all ships require plenty of hydrologic maintenance (read that as scrubbing the decks), topological resurfacing (painting), and sanitary facility disinfecting (you don't want to know). Passengers with merchant experience might be given a job on the cargo deck but essentially you're doing the scut work the crew would take a walk on the hull to avoid.

Many ships wind up with new crew this way. Captains are often on the look out for good recruits (or replacements). In fact there is a brotherhood of spacers (who are never very numerous). Spacers with a good reputation might be accorded a working passage and some skilled duties if they fall down on their luck and are looking for a way home. A pleas to the local aid societies might also result in a working passage.

Working passage has its darker side. Besides long hours or dirty jobs Mike Rowe would shy away from the workers can be used and abused by criminals. They could be coerced to carry contraband (often via surgical implants), illicit information or even act as saboteurs to prep the ship for a hijacking or pirate attack (this is one reason they don't let stiffs near the bridge or drives.)

Working passage has one good point: it beats being a stowaway.

Stowaways can realistically expect to be spaced if found. There are good if hard reasons for this. A stowaway has already committed a criminal act, depriving the ship of revenue and costing life support. More importantly they are an unknown factor and quite possibly dangerous. Few captains will take a chance on a stranger and jeopardize their crew, ship and passengers.

The Traveller Book puts the chance of discovering a stowaway at 4+. That's being generous. Consider, any spacecraft whether rocket or reactionless drive has to fiddle with very big numbers with many decimal points to get to where it is. A stowaway is unaccounted for weight that will throw a ship off ever so slightly and your navigator is paid to notice such things. On larger ships this can be fudged somewhat due to various differences in luggage unaccounted for exactly because it takes to damned long. The navigator will merely adjust the figures for acceleration.

Life support is another sticking point. Assuming the stowaway likes breathing they're going to be using up oxygen and putting out carbon dioxide. Again this might not be noticed on a ship with dozens or hundreds of people.

Finally some ships operated by less than trusting captains have a program called anti-hijack installed. While the game effects are to deny a hijacker access to the bridge controls some referees may rule that the program keeps crew and passengers under surveillance in many different ways. It also kills the chances of stowing away.

Then again space piracy by the books is unprofitable too. I'm pretty sure I can come up with some work arounds for stowing away. But that's next week.