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.