Thursday, July 28, 2016

When Spaceships ARE Hotels

It happens sometimes that a wealthy couple will take high passage on a liner. While space travel still has limits in space and comfort, concessions are made for them. You don't make the Baron of Sung climb atop a bunk bed. You don't make Baroness Sung sleep separately. In that case you pull out all the stops and unveil ... the master suite.

So some notes: are the rectangular frames on the walls paintings or displays? Yes. The term painting is archaic and instead the tech elite refer to 'savers. Roll the 'r' and draw out the 'e'. It sounds expensive.

Orange and blue are the default wall and rug color scheme. If you don't like the colors they can be reset. The marble table is actually an interactive sand table allowing passengers to call up media games or productivity programs though most passengers have their own devices.

There's not a lot of storage space, the king size captain's bed and the closet. The passengers have a 1 ton luggage limit usually in sealed carriers in the hold. They only store the thing they need immediately in their suite. Anything else can be fetched by servants (some servants travel in high passage not to throw money around but to allow them room for having a selection of possessions ready for their master's command.

Unfortunately the fresher is still a fresher - shower and a head combined. But the head drops down when not in use. The bathroom mirror can change to clear glass at a touch so no losing your pills behind the spouse's hair care products. It can also show a computer display. Expect at least 8 or more squares of dining and luxuriating enhancement systems for the wealthy power couple.

From TL 8 on consider all systems to be under voice command, keyed to a haughty demanding tone.

Cost for the master suite is 1.5 Mcr. Premium passage is 30,000 cr. or more for one or two (if it's just you then sleep roomy.) Life support is 2000 cr.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Likes and Dislikes

As I said before, writing aliens is hard. Either they'll be too bizarre to interact with us and therefore enigmas or they'll be to like us. For purposes of space opera some aliens will be able to interact with humans, some even in a friendly manner. But they are still aliens and roleplaying them is still a challenge. One way to remind people they are aliens is to give them preferences and dislikes that are alien. Following are some of the preferences for my aliens.

Personal Transcript of Tivk Liberty Starbase Kiddiedrome

L'Rre: You're not my father and I don't have to listen to you!(1)
(1) L'Rre is testing how far she can abuse adults. Sadly this is universal among Polity children. The other races blame human kids for rubbing off on theirs.

Mukh: She's got us there.

Tivk: We are in effect loco parentis as your parents requested we look after you while they attempt reconciliation. According to Polity law you must listen to us.

L'Rre: Pbbbbbbbbbt! (2)
(2) Pbbbbbbbbbt! is of course the translator's rendition of the Vole noise to express contempt. Yeah.

Helm: I was looking all over for you two boobs. I got the pizza ... what is going on?! I leave you alone for a few minutes and ...

Tivk: She refuses to vacate the ball pit. There, she went under again. You scared her. (3)
(3) Vole live a mostly underground existence on their world that orbits a dim red temperamental star. Hence their low light vision and love of fungi. They might consider what a human calls a cave  quite cozy (provided there are airways).

Helm: Her mother is going to ... (4)
(4) Yes, she probably will.

Personal Transcript of N'Sa Nok:

M'Ffe: ... do that again.

N'Sa: Let me patch this first.

M'Ffe: Sorry. Who knew I was a biter? Where did you learn that?

Nok: Humans. They do it all the time. (5)
(5) Yes. We do. Old Zangid saying, "Once there were two humans ... now look!"

M'Ffe: They taught you that?

Nok: No. Spied on them. (6)
(6) Together with their subterranean and cramped quarters goes an almost total lack of privacy. If you want to keep a secret from a Vole you have your work cut out.                                             

M'Ffe: Those humans may be onto something.

Nok: Their females don't bite as hard from what I saw too.

Tivk: Ow! What is going on?

Helm I am throwing balls at you singularly unhelpful morons for leaving me in this mire of spheroids!

Mukh: I tried.

Helm: I am not climbing out via your tongue! (7)
(7) Phrogs employ their tongues as a third hand when they are having a bad slime day. It's the strongest muscle after all.

Tivk: Is this the dirty joke?

Mukh: Hey slimy hands, sticky tongue. Connect the dots.

Tivk: Just owowow! Climb out you miniscule cobalt menace!

Helm: She keeps pulling me in!

Mukh: Hey, where are you going?

Tivk: I have a strategem!

Mukh: I guess those balls in the face were too much for him.

GCS Tesla Aft Lounge
Exec: Well that was a productive ... meeting,

Chief: We got time to be productive one more time if you want!

Exce: ... I would but I feel like we're being watched sometimes ...

Chief:We can reconvene in the forward lounge!

Exec: Done! (8)
(8) See note 5.

Nok's Quarters
M'Ffe: I mean you told Tivk and Mukh to give L'Rre a little nip if she got unruly, right?

Nok: ... (9)
(9) Yes the Vole bite. In ancient times they used blunt heavy fingernails to dig. Thus their hands were dirty and scratching someone could cary the risk of infection. They have better hygiene these days but the stigma of striking with your hands remains. They nip each other in fights. Hitting with your hand especially an open hand is done to enemies or someone you WISH to be an enemy. So Voles will nip their kids. As for M'Ffe biting Nok ... I guess he was being very naughty.

Tivk: I have procured a way out of this stalemate.

Mukh: Stalemate? She was clearly winning.

Helm: You're telling me.

Tivk: Silence! L'Rre meet Dog.

Dog: Woofwoofoof!

L'Rre: Oh dread.

Tivk: Dog: Search and rescue! Gogogo! Go get that little minx! (10)
(10) Yes Dog can do search and rescue between the psi abilities and his nose it is very hard for him to miss an incapacitated human or most alines.

Dog: Woof Woof!


Helm: Hey!

Tivk: Not HER! The younger minx!

Helm: Screw that, he got me out!

Mukh: Sorry, it's a matter of principle!

<Shove!> (11)
(11) I have no idea why Mukh did this.

Helm: Hey!!

Tivk: I do not care if you smell pee! Concentrate you idiot!

Dog: Woof woof!

L'Rre: No fair! He has a mind shield!

Tivk: Hah. Good dog. You will get a treat when we board Tesla. Good boy indeed. Come here you.

L'Rre: Dark Mother curse the luck!

Mukh: Stop throwing balls at us!

Tivk: Stop squirming. You are clearly defeated! (12)
(12) Being rationalists, Tivk's people don't fight once they are clearly outmatched. They use other means or try to gain favor.

Security Commander: What the hell!?

L'Rre: Help! Kidnappers! Phrog wants to eat me! Owww my arm!

Tivk: ....

Mukh: Now we're in for it! Rrrrrriiiiii! (13)
(13) 'Riiiiii' is an exclamation of dismay. Riririri is sort of like laughter or a 'better you than me' sound. Similar to the Southron "Bless your heart'. 

Helm: Help Officer! They threw me in this ball pit. Help!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Unseen Complications

With all my writing about super powers for World War Two settings I somehow left invisibility out of the posts. Last night I was watching a great flick on the late show: Invisible Agent. The grandson of the Invisible Man uses his grandfather's formula to become a super agent for the Allies.

Invisibility is a great power for a low power supers setting. You're not bulletproof or superstrong. In fact it has some limitations. Let's look at invisible men.

In the original story Griffith used a serum and an electrical treatment to become invisible. Unfortunately he soon became unhinged and went on a rampage through a small village before ... well read the story. In the movie his grandson insists the serum only be used on him (no mention of the electrical effects -maybe Griffith concluded they were not needed after all or had an improved serum in reserve.) In the movie he suffers from mood swings and slight paranoia as well as bouts of 'feeling high' and sudden exhaustion.

So you wouldn't want an army of invisible men. Better to have only a few agents (or one) since there are some side effects. Also an invisible agent is even more effective if there's no reason to suspect one. The effects of the serum last several days in the movie but either wear off or are neutralized by the end of the movie so perhaps the electrical effects both unhinged Griffith and made the serum's effects permanent.

Low Powered Invisibility- the character rolls Dexterity to avoid ranged attacks with advantage (take the lowest die). On turns they do not attack Ranged attacks can't be made at greater than nearby range. Melee attacks are also avoided using a Dexterity roll. Four is subtracted from this roll. Every time an invisible character makes a melee attack the modifier decreases by one. So after the character punches a Gestapo agent, next turn his modifier is only three Every turn they make no attacks the modifier goes up by one to a maximum of four. Usage die d6

Paranormal Invisibility- the effects are as above but the usage die is d8.

Superhuman Invisibility-  the effects are as above but the usage die is d10.

A referee can ask for a Wisdom or Dexterity roll to avoid certain hazards that make the character show up. For example a Dexterity check would let a nimble invisible man to get out of the rain before he became a wet silhouette. Smoke, paint and snow could all make an invisible man show up. The usage die should be rolled every day. When it is used up the character returns to normal.

If the usage die comes up 1 or 2 the serum has side effects within 1d12 hours as follows:

1-2 Lethargy: The character must make a Constitution roll to stay conscious. They are -2 to Dexterity and Wisdom rolls until they get eight hours sleep.

3-4 Paranoia: The character becomes very defensive or downright hostile and must make a Wisdom roll whenever diplomacy is called for or fly into a rage The referee may require a Wisdom roll to flee a fight.

5-6 Insanity: The character succumbs to delusions of his own power and importance and the inability of anyone to stop him. As a bonus he gains 1d6 hit points and does +1 unarmed or improvised damage. The character needs to be restrained given therapy and a neutralizing compound. He no longer suffers from Lethargy or Paranoia results. The insanity lasts until the serum wears off. The referee can take over the character and run them as a truly dangerous NPC for several hours at a time.

The electrical treatment the first Invisible Man used makes the serum permanent until a neutralizing compound is injected. The power's usage die is still rolled but when it is used up the character
automatically becomes insane and a referee's character.

It's up to the referee how infra red sensors are effected by invisibility. In WW2 such devices were not common or easily portable.

Invisibility has drawbacks. You have to keep scrupulously clean. Food consumed does not turn invisible immediately (make a Constitution roll every five minutes to absorb the food.) Cagey agents will stick to clear broth. Finally if you're invisible you're naked as a jaybird, exposed to the elements and can't carry any neat gear. Invisible people trying on clothes can make 1 HD opponents flee in terror by making a Charisma save though the effect doesn't last long.

Friday, July 22, 2016

After Hours

GCS Tesla Medical Section
Chief: Hey Technical Officer, you’re looking good.

Lt.: Oh hey Chief. Uh thanks for everyth …

Chief: Nonsense. Nonsense. You had the situation under control. If the Exec wasn’t hung up on procedure she could have let you finished the job after you recovered your wits.

Lt.: Well thanks anyway! What brings you here?


Doc: What are you doing in here you rabid over the hill gun bunny?

Chief: None of your concern. Go back to your inventory. Here’s a tip, take your socks off for counting reeeeeeeeal high.

Doc: Haha. Hey, I put some stickers on your space helmet’s visor so you’d stop bumping your nose on it Why are you here again?

Chief: Someone has to look out for the Tech-O. You’re likely to use him in some mad scientist antics.

Doc: I’ll give you a mad scientist if you aren’t out of here in ten minutes.

Chief: What if I’m not?

Doc: I’ll get Riasi to throw you out.

Chief: You let your girl fight your scraps for you?

Doc: … she gets bored otherwise.

Chief: You’re a thoughtful mate. You’ll make her a wonderful wife.

Doc: Ten. Minutes.

Chief: Okay! Give us some privacy!


Lt.: Sheesh.

Chief: He’s a good doctor he just worries too much about a little vacuum. You punkin’ heads are a worrisome lot. Anyway, I come to share a drink with you, as you had your first blow out. Here ya go …

Lt: <sniff> What is it? Not vacc jack?

Chief: It’s a fine whiskey sour.

Lt.: Oh okay … <koff kaff ahuh!>

Chief: … made with the finest vacc jack.

Lt.: Smoooooth. <Ahuh!>

Chief: Yeah, now you’re going to want to do some maintenance on the ship’s still before you start it up. Cook will help you with the exact ingredients. I’ll show you where the still is.

Lt.: Still?! The Captain …

Chief: Captain gets the first bottle that don’t melt. Rank has its privileges.

Lt.: But the Exec …

Chief: She don’t drink. Though I tried teaching her. When you get up and about I’ll give you a tour of the brewery.

Lt.: We have a brewery?

Chief: Time you learned about economics. Don’t need to worry. I’ll get you off and running. I’ll see ya when you get out. Oh and one other thing … How did you manage to cut open your finger with a wrench?

Lt.: … It took some doing!

Chief: Good night Lieutenant, oh take a good look and … don’t get used to it.

Lt.: Look … oh gosh.

Chief: Are you going to return my salute, sir?

Lt. Sure. Here you go Sergeant Major and goodnight to you.

Chief: Yes sir.


Lt.: Holy crap.


GAIA: Thank goodness. I thought they’d never clear out of here.

Lt.: How long were you hiding in that locker?

GAIA: Long enough. The Chief saluted you!

Lt.: Yeah. Impressed?

GAIA: No. … I think I can do better.

Lt.: You’re welcome to try. Come here ...

GAIA: Heeheehee.


Mukh: Lieutenant! I love the Lieutenant! He’s in here boys! You said he was gonna be blue, beanpole!

Lt: Ngaaaaaaaargh!

Mukh: Is red a good color in a human?!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Another Fine Mess

GCS Tesla Messhall
Doc: First I would like to thank you all for volunteering some time for this survey.

Riasi: Volunteer nothing! You promised me a foot rub when this was over.

Helm: If she gets a foot rub, I want one.

M’Ffe: I want a foot rub too.

Doc: You’re married for God sakes!

M’Ffe: Separated at the moment and Nok wouldn’t rub my feet if it could cure death and taxes.

Riasi: Dolphin, that’s three foot rubs you owe us. Better clear your schedule. I get at least an hour.

M’Ffe: Unless you want to continue this survey with the males.

Helm: Kiyahkiyahahaha!

Riasi: What is so funny.

Helm: I don’t think Mr. Tivk would let the Doctor rub his feet. Wait, the Doctor and the Tivk are both males, right? I get confused with only two sexes.

Riasi: Male. And beanpoles prefer having their ears stroked.

Doc: Ladies! Please!

Riasi: Three. Foot rubs. Sixty. Minutes. Each. Deal?

Doc: … deal …

Riasi: Make sure you trim your claws first. He’s a surgeon and needs his hands in good order.

Doc: -The Fleet is making an ongoing effort to assure the health and comfort of its enlisted and allied species crews. We have new field rations we would like your opinions on. Now I’d like you each to take the color coded boxes for your species, Helm you get blue, Riasi red and Ms. Nok gets blue … Error, I said blue Ms. Nok.

M’Ffe: I can’t see this blue you speak of! It looks black to me. Did you think of this scheme?

Doc: …

Helm: Here you go. You wouldn’t want my food. Cobalt based blood.

M’Ffe: Thank you. Oh for … Dark Mother’s Mercy. This is that macaroni and cheese N’Sa told me about! It is addictive!

Helm: Meep!

Doc: It’s not a narcotic.

M’Ffe: You Terrans want to indoctrinate us in it and spread its sale across the Local Bubble. I have seen reports.

Doc: Riasi, help me out here please?

Riasi: One second my love, I’m just asking Cook for a hamburger to put this on.

Helm: Oh I like those … They do not have the ham meat in them though. Why is that Doctor?

Doc: It’s named for the city where they originated: Hamburg.

Helm: Did they make them with ham there?

M’Ffe: Are there cities named Veggieburg and Tofuburg? You have those burgers on the menu too.

Riasi: There is a place called Turkey and Buffalo. I looked them up.

M’Ffe: It seems very arbitrary.

Doc: You’re not supposed to eat burgers with these meals!

Cook: Here you go ladies: three burgers, one extra rare.

Riasi: Thank you, Cook!

Helm: Very good, Corporal.

M’Ffe: Could I have mushrooms on mine. I love mushrooms … And that cheese with the holes in it.

Doc: … I …


Helm: He left. Are we done?

Riasi: He better give me my foot rub.

M’Ffe: This macaroni and cheese is actually pretty good.

Cook: Don’t eat that ma’am. I’ll make some fresh for all you ladies. Will the doctor be joining you?

Riasi: You gotta be kidding me.

Monday, July 18, 2016


Traveller and Star Wars have been around for about forty years, Star Trek even longer. All of them have had a pervasive effect on how people view spacecraft. Traveller in particular has a long and storied history of starships. We all know a ship's cabin is four squares by two squares and can hold two people. It has a sliding door from playing Snapshot and AHL. This sort of skirts spaceships as hotel trope (check it out on Troperville but be careful, it eats time.)

Accommodations are important of course. They hold the characters but they come in a variety of forms on surface ships. While merchant crews and civilians are expecting a modicum of privacy Scouts and Navy crews may not be so lucky.

Instead of cabins with redundant life support, sanitation and electrical systems crew might have bunks they sleep in and use the rest of their cabin space for off duty facilities they can all share. After all modern submarines have about 10 cubic meters per crewman and they stay at sea for 5 months. Surely spacers can do with cramped accommodations for a week or three.

A double bunk hole-hotel could run about cr. 50,000. That's a (mostly) airtight compartment/bed padded on the bottom (for acceleration) with light padding on the other sides incase something gets thrown at the ship and you get bounced around. It's big enough for one person to sleep in (maybe two if you're desperate or really friendly. Bunk style hole-hotels measure three meters long by one and a half wide and two meters high. The life support cost is still cr 750 per unit per week underway whether full or not. this frees six displacement tons for communal space. Depending on how freewheeling your culture/military is some standard cabins may be installed to be used by crew members desiring ... privacy and allocated in a variety of ways (rank, merit, rewards, psionic potential ... on second thought only the psionics get private cabins). Communal deck areas cost only cr. 60,000 per square. So creating a space with the equivalent area for crew as a cabin would save you cr. 90,000. Some savvy merchants who hire ex-military see the advantage of such a saving and some merchant crew don't care, securing private accommodations on shoreleave.

The open areas are a mixed blessing in a boarding action. There are less places for defenders to hide but there are less places for attackers to take cover as well. Some crew complain (never too loudly) that the more open accommodations provide less hidey-holes for contraband.

Needless to say the open areas require less freshers and b/r facilities than separate cabins allowing you to put your heads outside your freshers (which some people care about).

Even standard cabins could benefit from some fresh thinking. Why not, for starters, place cabins near the duty stations of their occupants? Captain next to the bridge, engineers next to the power deck etc.? Most of the deckplans I've seen have placed the cabins in a continuous mass. Decentralizing the cabins might make it easier to report to your station in an emergency and save lives or the ship.

In an emergency grouping your cabins together might risk exposing them to vacuum in case of a hull breach. Placing cabins in separate sections (sectioned off by pressure doors) would allow some of your crew to get to spacesuits or otherwise have a chance to equip themselves for rescue or damage control ... instead of worrying about saving themselves.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Damn Control!

GCS Tesla Outer Hull
Exec:  <<<Pfffffst How's it coming?>>>

Lieutenant: Meh.

Exec: <<< Could you explain that in layman's terms please? >>>

Lt.: It's proceeding but slowly Ma'am.

Exec: <<< Thank you. >>>

Lt.: Is the Captain still angry?

Exec: <<< Technical Officer, the next time you give the Captain an estimate on repairs I suggest you add 100% or so to it. And yes! He said (I quote), "He LIED to me. Tell that son of a mother if he doesn't fix this before he sets a foot on deck he'll be a peg legged technical officer!" >>>

Lt.: So he's running hot but within safe operating limits?

Exec: <<< ... fix the damned greeble. Is the suit working? >>>

Lt: If it wasn't I'd be dead?

Exec: <<< Aside from keeping you alive!! >>>

Lt.: Mr. Tivk did a fine job. I can pull my arm in when I have to scratch my ... nose! A little difficult to get around in though.

Exec: <<< That's why they call them hard suits! You could have gone with a skin weave. >>>

Lt.: Negative! I'm climbing over a hull that got riddled with beams and bombs. All kinds if pointy stuff here we have to clean up next. I'm saving that for the Chief and the gyrenes. They need to log in their monthly EVA hours anyway. Could you maybe give me a little gravity on the hull though?

Exec: <<< Sorry. Number two shifter is offline. We're at a quarter gee interior and that's just to facilitate repairs to the hangar. >>>

Lt.: We should carry a couple of crates of extra gravity for emergencies like this ...


Lt.: Oh shi ....


First of all if you have the Traveller uber CD(s) from Far futures Enterprises JTAS #9 has a ton of information on different types of Vacc suits. Second of all since I realized there are a number of people reading my blog who know much more of this sort of stuff than I do I will keep my rules short and sweet to avoid making mistakes.

Damage Control is pretty complicated on surface ships and the sea is a relatively benign environment compared to hard vacuum. You might be able to tread water but you can't breathe vacuum. On sounding general quarters crew make their way to their stations making sure all pressurized doors are sealed. Ships running passengers will make sure they are either suited up or in rescue balls.

On sustaining damage crew will assess and either seal the compartment n case of a hull breach or other severe damage or attempt to repair any necessary systems. Sealed compartments are monitored and repairs are carried out in order of priority (get that turret back online Free Trader Beowulf!) Ideally the people doing this are wearing vacc suits. On a ship with a very small crew at least one person is waiting to suit up.

A couple of the suits I mention are skin suits, soft suits and hard suits. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Basically the thinner the suit the less it hampers you, at first. The thinner suits require you to work more against the air pressure inside or in the case of the skin suit are very confining like a compression garment. The thinner suits make you tire faster and carry a higher penalty for extended use.

TL/Suit Armor Equivalent Endurance Loss -1 per Dex Minus
Tl 7 Soft Suit Mesh 20 minutes (1 turn)
TL 8 Soft SuitCloth30 minutes (2 turns)
TL 8 Hard Suit Cloth -1 40 minutes (3 turns)
TL 9 Skin Suit Jack 20 minutes (1 turn)
TL 13 Enhanced Cloth/Reflec 20 minutes (1 turn)
Unskilled use doubles the End loss for all suits except the TL 13 version. The TL 13 suit halves Endurance loss for users with Vacc 1 or higher. Turns are for space combat.

Lost Endurance is treated like making combat blows. When the user expends all Endurance they perform any additional tasks with a -2 DM.

You can reduce the Dexterity loss by one by decompression and setting your suit at less than one atmosphere. This takes one turn.

TL 7 Soft Suit: The only suit available at TL 7. Lower TL suits are possible and hey it's your character. Weight and cost is per the TL 8 version.

TL 8 Soft Suit: The standard space suit seen on most ships and changing little till TL 13.

TL 8 Hard Suit: The hard suit has its life support system back pack mounted on a hinge to swing open and allow the wearer to step into the suit. Many suits are mounted on specialized mini airlocks on the outside of habitats. The wearer climbs through the airlock into the suit, closed the suit up disengages from the airlock and walks away. The suits never enter inhabited area and reduces the risk of contamination. They are double the cost of a regular suit.

TL 9 Skin Suit: Using a variety of elastic polymers, electro-constricting wiring and pressure bladders the skin suit is almost like another skin. What it lacks in protection it makes up for in mobility. However, compressing the human body also increases fatigue and discomfort over time. It weighs 6 kilos and costs Cr. 25,000. At TL 9 it must be custom fitted. Servos alllow a one size fits all version at TL 12.

TL 13 Enhanced: The Tl 13 suit is a mixture of hard and soft suit technologies with battle dress style augmentation to allow the wearer to move comfortably. It has an integral layer of reflec to protect from heat effects and EM radiation from ship sensors. The helmet contains a water and food syrup dispenser as well as an autoinjector for Combat, Slow and Medical Fast drug, It is Cr. 50,000.

Exec: <<<Do you have him, Chief!>>>

Chief: <<<Yes Ma'am. He'll be fine. I got some tape on that finger. He got a patch on it and the blood from his finger did a fair job stopping the air from leaking out..>>>

Lt.: I'm okay. Hey let me get my wrench!

Chief: <<<Shipmate, I got the wrench. Now go where I'm pushing you. We even got you a little gravity.>>>

Lt.: You had a few boxes left?

Exec: <<<What'd he say? Boxes ... ?>>>

Chief: <<<He lost some pressure when he sliced his finger. He's a little shocky.>>>

Lt.: Who's, that keeps talking?

Chief: <<<That's the Exec.>>>

Lt.: <<<Damn, she's sexy as hell.>>>

Chief: <<<Ma'am is this an open channel?>>>

Exec: <<<Marine move both your asses..>>>

Chief: <<<Aye aye Ma'am! Moving both our asses, Ma'am!>>>

Doc: <<< Medical team standing by ... koffkoff ... >>>

Jen: <<<Shuttle bay standing by to ... cycle lock ... ahuhhuh!>>>

Exec: <<<What is it with tech officers on this damn ship?>>>

Monday, July 11, 2016

Flipping the Ship

No flipping the ship is not an aerobatic maneuver in this case.

There are a lot of old ships out there. People get eaten by space wasps or careless patching a leak or they misjump and the low berths are ... finicky. Sometimes they even muster out and set out for some backwater where people think 'outer space' refers to a foyer of the local lord's castle.

The Scouts put a lot of the older ships on detached duty meaning someone else can worry about its maintenance and provide some recon for free until you need it. Some ships are so old or banged up that even 'bot can tell they're rattling death traps or flying dungeons you'd never dream of sticking a retiree with. Add to that free traders' freighters from captains who could make their payments or had their ships seized for a variety of reasons. There are a bunch of old ships out there. they are often sold at a steep discount from banks and other institutions who either already made their money or are simply not interested in keeping a ship.

It makes sense because 1) many worlds support a decent amount of star travel by providing fuel and other services but lack true ship building facilities 2) Scout ships and Traders are all over the place and easy to customize for many clients' needs. A trading company on a world with a type C or even D starport might have deals with other businesses a couple of parsecs away. If these businesses prosper they will eventually look for their own ships and crews to cut out the middle man. Yes, that trader and his crew were very reliable until they took that side trek to look for treasure and wound up missing.

That holds even more true for B class starports that are not yet up to creating their own ships.

Shipbuilding from scratch is also a lengthy process. Weeks, months or years could go by between, drawing up plans, waiting for dock space, and hiring builders. That's why aside from very large businesses and governments most potential ship buyers will opt to modify a ship.

All those ships crippled by pirate attacks, mishaps and hijackers have to end up somewhere. Not all pirates even want to steal a ship and bring themselves to the attention of the Bank (which has enough clout to often call in the Navy). A ship doesn't have to be scrapped before its captain is out of business. Enough damage, lost cargo and injured crew will put an owner so far behind his payments he has no alternative except to walk.

 Getting your first ship to flip is a risky proposition. Most start up operations don't have the money to
buy a ship outright or even put down the customary 20%. There are a number of ways around this, hard cash loans (as little as 5% but with a payoff in a year instead forty), flipping ships for other companies to get start up capital and selling shares in the operation are all done.

Flippers need to network. Finding the hulks you can salvage, buying components wholesale, and locating clients all requires a knowledge of and contacts within the merchant community and (let's face it) sometimes the pirate community.

The premise writes it's own adventures. Characters could attempt a salvage operation on a downed ship or ransack a junkyard (or sargasso) for components. Ships could have all manner of secret compartments from former owners and other secrets. A new ship might have all kinds of glitches to iron out on a shakedown cruise. A second hand 1 bis computer might have coordinates to a treasure or logs on a newly discovered planet. Of course there is also the horror of dealing with workers' unions and clients changing their minds every minute.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Where No Woman Has Gone Before

I got heavily into Sketch Up this weekend and began second draft of my first big project: a small Scout ship. When you start something like that you quickly realize there is not a lot of room for sundries and luggage. I start watching those tiny house shows my wife is into and find a fre ideas for creating a cozy environment that doesn't channel voices ordering you to jump out an airtlock.

Proud of my accomplishment I call the wife over for her opinion. She has a very discerning eye for design. She looks and I start explaining the different compartments and fittings and she cuts me off.

"Where's the bathroom," she asks.

"Uhm ... bathroom?" I wittily replies. Back to the drawing board. Gotta love my wife.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Promotional Tour

Liberty Starbase: Formal Dining Area
GAIA: Heeheehee.

Lieutenant Pending: It’s not funny! Everytime I get a promotion the damn transcripting system glitches on me.

GAIA: What does it matter to you?

Lt. Pending: YOU laugh your head off every time I say something.


Lt. Pending: You’re trying not to laugh now! You should be working on fixing this … killer meme!

GAIA: Hee … I haven’t got my wifi link restored yet. The Admiral is putting a word into Fleet that I really am a good ‘bot.

Lt. Pending.: Well I hope she hurries up.

GAIA: Aye aye Lt. Pending!

Lt. Pending: Oh shut up.

GAIA: Heeheehee.

Liberty Starbase: Dining Room Foyer
Ulla-Korsa: I thought I would walk these decks as a conqueror. Strange to come in peace.

Admiral: The Videni may be attacking the Kingdoms and the Polity soon enough. If it’s war you want you’ll get it.

Ulla-Korsa: I don’t want war.

Admiral: I never expected to hear you, as a warrior, say that. No offense meant.

Ulla-Korsa: None taken. Understand Admiral, a fight is one thing. I never ran from a fight. Never will. If someone insults me, wrongs me, or attacks me I will attack and I will til the last. Fighting is honorable and desirable. My people like it but war …

Admiral: Too much of a good thing?

Ulla-Korsa: War is a meat grinder. There is little chance to prove your initiative for we all must follow orders. There is no picking or choosing of your battles, the strategists handle that and they try to make their engagements as one sided as possible. The brave die beneath a sea of foes or they obliterate a weak opponent that gives them no honor. Worse, the leaders are there due to politics or to put an ass in a command seat and they throw away warriors’ lives worth far more than their own.

Admiral: War is Hell.

Ulla-Korsa: Good saying.

Liberty Star Base Table Seven
Tivk: Humans.

Riasi: What are you grumping about now, beanpole?

Tivk: Look around you.

Mukh: Not enough breadsticks … and they aren’t moving.

Nok: Table Seven. Friends: family. Family: friends.

Mukh: Hey! Try the breadsticks!

M’Ffe: Hello. I am M’Ffe. Nok has told me so much about you all. I warn you …  I’m on my guard.

L’Rre: Hello, I am L’Rre. This is boring. May I return to the Courtesan?

Nok: No. Sit.

M’Ffe: No. More. Gambling with the pirates. You took them for a month’s plunder.

L’Rre: You made me give it all back. Even the new hat I won for father.

Nok: I liked that hat. Nice feather.

M’Ffe: We’re trying to bring her up right.

Riasi:Ah … your culture frowns on gambling.

Nok. No. We just don’t want people finding out she’s psionic, cheating, and lynching her.

Tivk: Hrrrmph.

Riasi: WHAT is it?

Tivk: This is the ‘alien table’! Those … humans stuck us all in here.

Klendath: Ah. Is this the table seven?

Liberty Starbase: Still Another Foyer
Captain: Salle-Korsa.

Korsa: Salle-Captain

Captain: Who is this?

Korsa My chief engineer: Kzvita.

Kzvita: Hello … my you’re a big … Terran?

Captain: Sure. Close enough.

Kzvita: You guys come in different colors?

Captain: Yup.

Kzvita: It is like the chocolate or … coffee! I like your skin!

Captain: Me too. I try to keep it in one piece.

Kzvita: Don’t we all?

Korsa: I should have taken Tal.

Kzvita: She won the coin toss. Deal, salle-Captain.

Captain: There’s one on every ship, Captain Korsa.

Ulla-Korsa: Xamilar!

Admiral: Admiral Korsa … we’ve extended an invitation to your son. He is here under my protection. Put the blaster away please. This is a celebration! You too Captain!

Ulla-Korsa: Oh, I’m going to have something to celebrate in a moment! Have no fear!

Korsa: Hi dad.

Part 2

Chief: I don’t need no babysitter.

Doc: You need a straitjacket. Take it easy. You have a fractured skull and I couldn’t find anything stronger than titanium to patch it. It’s a little fragile compared to the original material.

Chief: Heh. Good one.

Doc: Seriously. Let me fix your sling. You aren’t a young buck anymore.

Chief: Imma’ slap you, you don’t leave off!! Hey look out. Enemy sighted.

Mablug: Neegri Terrones! Badda summaty Allakir-Paz? … Zangid-za nomeh?

Doc: Forgot my translator.

Chief: Try speaking slow and loud. Tell him to go …

Riasi: Dolphin! You made it! And Chief!

Mablug: Neegri Lurroni-bazi. Zangid-za nomeh?

Riasi: Hang on a second guys. Neegri Zangid. Gid banu!

Doc: Oh yeah. She speaks Zangid.

Chief: Find out what the Zangid devil wants of me, please?

<<Mutter mutter>>

Riasi: Mablug sees by your medals (yikes there’s a bunch) you  also fought at Allakir-3 and would like to share a drink with you. A sign of respect since next time you meet you may have to kill each other.

Doc: Oooooooh. I bet it loses a little in translation Chief.

Riasi: Nope I was spot on. Want me to get Prof. Mukh?

Chief: You tell this miserable E.T. I will not have a drink with him and we can cut to the fight to the death right now. And furthermore … your mama!

Riasi: …

Doc: Tell him the Chief is on painkillers and can’t drink!

Chief: That’s what you think!

<<Mutter mutter>>

Riasi: Mablug will gladly meet you in a fight and will even submit to a smack in the head with a … peen-ball …

Doc: Ballpeen.

Riasi: Ballpeen hammer!  … and tie one hand down to meet you fairly.

Mablug: Gth’tuka.

Riasi: And furthermore you are a …

Chief: I know that word! Hah. Okay. We’ll have one drink. Any Zango is that much for fair play must be halfway decent. See ya in a bit Doc.

Doc: Jeeze … does every ship have one of these guys?

Riasi: C’mon the guys are waiting for you at table seven.

Liberty Starbase: Admiral’s Office.
Admiral: So your people had Videni massing on their borders as well?

Ulla-Korsa: Indeed. Apparently they were going to hit us as well to secure their control over the Rigel Annex. Bastards … but spoiling their opening move forestalled that.

Admiral: Nice.

Ulla-Korsa: We launched a pre-emptive attack nonetheless. Took half an unsettled sector. The Gid Emperor is ready to propose an alliance with your Polity. Wipe them out once and for all.

Admiral: Uhm … that’s not for me to discuss but thank you. I always thought our people had many similarities.

Ulla-Korsa: Don’t get hung up on those. It’s the differences that will get you killed. You’re too good an enemy for us to waste peace on for very long.

Admiral: Excuse me?

Ulla-Korsa: Look, the Voles will sneak away when you’re winning. One second they have their teeth in your arm.The next they vanish. The Taurans will surrender when they realize they’ve lost. The Videni blow themselves up and my own people go on a berserker rage till you put them down. But you Terrans …

Admiral: Yes?

Ulla-Korsa: You always try something different. You keep fighting and running long enough to come up with a new plan. I never did know what to expect from you people. It was invigorating fighting you. You’re very hard to kill.

Admiral: We can but try.


Korsa: Hello dad.

Ulla-Korsa: Xamilar. I would speak to you alone ... if that is permitted Admiral.

Admiral: You’re only going to talk?

Ulla-Korsa: Like a couple of Terrans. Space Scout honor?

Admiral: The what what?

Ulla-Korsa: On my honor.

Korsa: MIne too.

Admiral: Right. I hear any gunfire and I’ll be most disappointed.

Ulla-Korsa: Understood. Many thanks Admiral.

Korsa: Yes likewise.

Admiral: Hunh.


Ulla-Korsa: //All right sit down shut up and listen. I have a jammer to keep any bugs from recording us.//

Korsa: //Okay. I do too, and not the cheap Zangid model.//

Ulla-Korsa: //This undercover bullshit has gone on long enough.//

Korsa: //Did Kzvita kiss you? Because that girl is a toxic stew. She kissed me and I was seeing our honored and departed relatives for a day What strategy?//

Ulla-Korsa: //The Gid-Emperor’s strategy! Using you as a pirate to uncover evidence of these Videni movements. You have safeguarded our kingdoms.//

Korsa: //What? You know this was all blind-ass dumb luck dad.//

Ulla-Korsa: //The Gid-Emperor will announce this strategy in a few days. Then give you amnesty. He is indeed all knowing and all seeing.//

Korsa: //The Gid-Emperor didn’t know jack about this whole thing!//

Ulla-Korsa: //All right. YOU tell him he didn’t know jack and this was just to boost his approval. Go on. I will watch.//

Korsa: // … Gid be praised for placing us in the hands of the benevolent all seeing and all knowing Emperor!//

Ulla-Korsa: //Yeah all right. You know your brother, the hairdresser, would have figured this out quicker and he collects the hair of young girls to make love charms. Just saying.//

Korsa: //Oh! Catch me up on House news!!//

Ulla-Korsa: //Sure. But first tell me about your mother.//

Korsa: //She says she’s staying out of sight and off the grid until I bring her at least three sworn testimonies that you are dead or your head. Preferably all.//

Ulla-Korsa: //Ah only three now? She’s weakening! I’ll have her back., Xamilar!! Never lose a woman of such quality!//

Korsa: //I’ll try not to. I will not chase down and screw anything with a pulse after I find her. That will make it easier.//

Ulla-Korsa: //I have a lot of love. Sue me. After you point me at that four armed package of fun.//

Liberty Starbase: Main Dining Room
Mukh: So … what’s it like being a slave?

Klendath: I dunno. What’s it like being free?

Tivk: Yew guyzz … yew coulda brought the Zangid war machine down yearzz ago is all I’m saying. Keep pouring froggy.

Klendath: So could your Polity. We admit we were and are cowards -not fighters. YOU guys are supposed to be the liberators and the fighters. We have, what, ten million Trippers living free in your space and half a billion working of us for the Zangid. Yet you seem pleased with your present efforts to liberate us.

M’Ffe: Well said Mr. Klendath.

Riasi: My kind doesn’t take to slavery very well we’re too ca …

Doc: Catlike! You were going to say ‘Catlike!”

Riasi: I was going to say, “Casual.” Phbbbbbbt!

Mukh: My kind is never enslaved!

Nok: No one wants to pay to feed you.

Mukh: That too.

Helm: Greetings all. Is this table seven?

Doc: Hello Helm. Have a seat. Ladies, gentlemen, Klendath, Mukh: I present the new helmsman of the Tesla.

Tivk: Sure. When’s she get here?

Riasi: What’s the idea?

Doc: I was getting her chair. I got yours. Held your tail out of the way and everything.

Riasi: Sit!

Doc: But honeykit …

Riasi: We will talk later.

Helm: Maybe I should move …

Riasi: Nonono. Sorry. The fault is with my mate’s roving eye.

Doc: It always comes back to rest on you my love.

Riasi: You sweet talker.

Doc: I will live another day.

Liberty Starbase: Alcove
Admiral: Philly, you did well, incredibly well.

Captain: She handed us victory! Chloe, this is bullshit!!

Admiral: I know Dan. Shut up. There is a line that the Fleet draws. You can cross it. We all can but we have to know it is not without a price.

Exec: I understand, Admiral. Captain: it’s okay. You blow up a planet there has to be collateral damage.

Captain: It was a lifeless snowball with a dirty liquid center. WHO CARES?

Admiral: Today we won by obliterating a dirty snowball. Tomorrow maybe it will be a garden world or one with a small colony perhaps that stands between us and victory. If we let her off it will lead to more such incidents. No one has the right to casually destroy a planet.

Captain: What about an asteroid? We’ve blasted plenty testing new weapon systems. What about something the size of Ceres? What is the cut off? What about a subjovian, no population and not much use?

Admiral: It was a planet by astronomical convention. The regs are clear. Phil, you aren’t going to get anymore promotions in the field. If you transfer to the Academy you’ll get bumped up to captain. That’s all I can do for you.

Exec: I’ll stay where I am. The Captain is in a similar position. Tesla is my home, Admiral.

Admiral: You may feel differently later.

Exec: That’s my hard luck, Admiral.

Admiral: Right. Well excuse me, I’m going to try to keep the Zangid from killing each other. We’re all friends for now.

Liberty Starbase Table Seven
Klendath: These translators you use … what is the term. Ah! They are pieces of shit.

Tivk: Excuuuse me? They use software developed by my people.

Kendath: Pffft. The only good tech you beanpoles ever got was by stealing it from us. The term the Zangid have for us is translated as ‘slave’ which is inaccurate. There is a litany of Zangid terms that are all translated as ‘slave’. They do not give a realistic picture.

Mukh: Go on. It’s like my species coined seventeen terms just for floating. Floating with the current, floating and sinking slowly, true neutral buoyancy, positive buoyancy …

Klendath: Exactly! My people are a conquered race and part of the Zangid Kingdoms, a valuable part. If my lord ulla-Korsa so much as slaps me without good cause he pays a huge fine.

Tivk: … what do you mean we stole from you? You wouldn’t have ever gotten above atmosphere without our help … I’m leaving.

Mukh: Very interesting.

Klendath: He also gets two points on his license. Ooh here come more breadsticks!b\ Breadsticks!

Liberty Starbase: Dance Floor
GAIA: I had no idea.

Tivk: Of course I dance. I find it meditative as well as good exercise. Have you ever seen “Singing in the Rain”?

GAIA: I’m not programmed for this.

Tivk: I will lead. One two three. One two three.

GAIA: You are very light on your feet.

Tivk: Ouch! You are not.

GAIA: Sorrysorrysorry. Mr. Tivk I missed you. You heard about Toff?

Tivk: Yes. So much death. He was a good man. You will miss him.

GAIA: You will too. I know that.

Tivk: … he was a good workmate. Except when he cut bits off him.

GAIA: Poor Toff. It’s amazing he never damaged any equipment.

Tivk: He cared about the machinery and the ship more than himself.

GAIA: I will miss him. The coffee machine … it’s completely broken up over this.

LIberty Starbase: Washroom
Captain: So you’re a lieutenant now?

Lt. Pending: Yes sir. About GAIA …

Captain: The girlbot will always have a place on my ship. You on the other hand …

Lt. Pending: Sir with all due respect I think I demonstrated putting me off doesn’t work very well.

Captain: I will put you off, Technical Officer, the second you give me a reason. Is that clear?!

Lt. Pending: Yes sir!

Captain: Don’t give me a reason.

Lt. Pending: Aye sir!

Liberty Starbase Table Seven
Klendath: He already has six points on his license for this year. I can basically do whatever I want till he takes a class to get those points off. Anymore points and the Slave Relations Ministry sends me to a resort until those points come off.

Riasi: I thought I had a good deal.

Helm: It sounds like it would make more sense for the Zangid to free you all and do this work themselves.

Klendath: Shush, that’s crazy talk, blue creature! I’m glad the ulla-Admiral doesn’t hear your garbage

Helm: … You are quite rude!


Klendath: … that’s two points!

Doc: We aren’t in the Kingdoms. I’ll give you a swat myself. Grabbing Riasi’s butt like that!

Klendath: I didn’t!

Riasi: I only saw two hands on the table! It must have been you! I am inclined to be kindly but … oh slap him Dolphin! You’ve got bigger hands than Helm.

Doc: Wait … I could probably get some favors from ulla-Korsa if I shut you up …

Klendath: Nyaaaaaaaahhh!

Mukh: One almost feels sorry for the Zangid. Wait a second … no. I’m good with this. No wonder we haven’t liberated more of them Trippers.

Nok: They’re so annoying the vole won’t spy on them.

Liberty Starbase: Podium
Ulla-Korsa: Thank you for the introduction Admiral. I will keep my speech short ...


Ulla-Korsa: … hey! Shut up!! … As I was saying today was a great victory. Death to the Terr … Videni!! VIDENI!!

Klendath: Smooth move Ulla-Admiral.

Ulla-Korsa: Yeah I nearly screwed up! That could have started some serious shit!

Klendath: I think you caught yourself in time.