Friday, September 30, 2016

Bamboozled

It was a happy time on Zaonia (0104 C885655-5 Ag Ri 123). In fact the newspapers were calling this The Happy Times. why not?
*They had created a system to prevent fraud locally.

*They had established a banking system for heavy offworld investors who wished to secure certain funds and valuables away from prying eyes and sensors.

*They began their own ship loans and financed a small fleet of subsidized merchants.

*They had repelled an offworld invasion (though the leader was homegrown and many polities claimed that didn't really count.)

They had established small but thriving markets for their paper products.

They made the subsector capital knuckle under and make good on their contracts and staved off a recession.

They had established a safe haven for psionics and had a few hundred they vetted who were deemed loyal.

Pretty good for an underpopulated and low tech backwater. The Tech Knights who ran the show sat back and had a cold one and some cigars.

About a million klicks from Zaonia is her sister world: Nuzon. During the Big Flame Out, when the Sunless Days began, interstellar trade disappeared, and the Zaonians were dying from numerous cascade failures as supplies and parts from offworld failed to arrive. The Tech Knights were formed to salvage whatever technology they could and stave off famine caused by offworld fertilizers not arriving and grav combines breaking down. The Tech Knights (more properly the Order of the Flaming Sword) succeeded in preserving a late industrial age of technology. they banned higher technology from use until they judged that the society and economy could build it locally and support it. No more cascade failures here. 

There were some who said the Order of the Flaming Sword were despots (not true), who thought they were all wise (somewhat true), and wanted to get rich being the ones to introduce higher technology (bingo!). They stole/liberated the last shuttle on Zaonia and fled to Nuzon to keep their freedom. Very dramatic story. More likely it was a number of trips to drop off undesirables and prevent starvation on the mainworld and an overworked shuttle gave out on Nuzon. 

Hundreds of years later the Nuzons were still there and had learned to survive on their little patch of hell. People do that. They were somewhat helped by a botanical research station that was creating adapted plants for colonists. 

The Zaonians could see the settlements slowly growing through various telescopes and occasionally muttered threats at the sky. As commerce resumed slowly they had access to Nuzon through passing ships. Those ships brought back some trinkets to Zaon: local plant products and crafts and an occasional Nuzoni who wanted to relocate, though the Zaonians said that would merely lower the average IQ of both planets. 

One of the subsidized merchant captains was on an extended layover while his ship was having maintenance work done. After hitting the clubs, a smoke easy or too and other adult entertainment he trudged back to the starport diner for breakfast or dinner. He found a Nuzoni trying to palm off a bunch of flat sticks as a computer. 

This captain had a merchant sixth sense. Rather than saying, "Fuck off! It takes electricity to do math! Any cadet knows that!" he grabs the sticks. The captain sees the little numbers that bunch together on one side and all the math sines and coefficient symbols and such and wave it under his navigator's nose. The starhound took the bunch of flat sticks and the Nuzoni aside and began fiddling with the gadget under the local's instructions. Then he checked some numbers on his wrist computer.

"It's a computer captain. A computer that doesn't use metal or batteries for GHU sake."

"Hey ... we can take the gig to Nuzon and buy a bunch of these if you think there's be a market," the captain said.

"... I gave the little squib 50 credits for this. It's great. It works nearly as fast as a wrist computer and it works anywhere. The magnetic fields and zerfs in engineering always screw with our electronics after a while. This thing is immune and pretty good for fast calculations by the gear heads!"

"Shoot let's go. Must be some kind of genetically engineered wood it's so smart."

So they got in their gig and tok a day off to hit Nuzon. They succeeded in buying a bunch of the 'slipsticks'. The locals explained the things were guarranteed not to warp or expand in adverse conditions and  were made of the finest native 'bamboo'.

"Whuzzat?" the merchant captain asked.

"Bamboo? Come, let me show you," the local merchant said smiling.

That was the start of the biggest threat to Zaonia yet.

To be continued ...