Wednesday, September 28, 2016

War In the Niche

The planet Zaonia  (0104 C885655-5     Ag Ri         123) had managed to create a niche market on INERZE  (0202 B997A84-C 2    Hi In Cp    124). They succeeded in creating one for their paper products (notebooks!) and even a hemp slurry (make your own paper kits!) The hemp slurry was to make paper products cheaply on Inerze, however the laborers working with it discovered that it was food grade and it provided a cheap high. That and the slurry had hemp seeds in it.

The hemp seeds were used to produce hemp plants locally. These were used to produce cigarettes (ironically rolled using stolen paper imported from Zaonia) and what at first became a new fad became a problem. The skimming of paper and slurry was of course theft and a loss of materials that were paid for and shipped. The stoned workers caused a fair share of accidents and loss of productivity.

Imports of the slurry were stopped despite the Zaonians refining their process to filter the seeds from the slurry. The slurry still could be put to illicit use and there was still a problem with locals raising their own plants and using paper to make joints. So both markets were hurt and what was worse the Zaonians were left with a lot of hemp slurry and paper that Inerze had contracted to buy. The shipments were slated for a number of subsidized merchants as well as many lots for speculation. Furthermore passages to Zaonia were now discouraged because it was thought many Inerzans were merely buying hemp for smoking.

This was an economic crisis in the making. An appeal to the Polity to make Inerze (the subsector capitol!) honor its contract could take years and the economic damage would be done. Finding or creating another niche market was going to take too long and potential customers would doubtless take advantage of the Zaonians' plight. Threatening the accounts of the ministers of Inerze could result in a truly massive invasion. Thousands of soldiers in battledress and combat armor would arrive. Inerze could field as many soldiers and ship them as there were Zaonians. So the Tech Knights were stuck with coercing a planet with 10,000 citizens to every one of theirs and a similarly massive armed force, fleet and economy.

None of that was any good against a rumor. The rumor started that Zaonia was accepting psionic individuals for citizenship. Equal citizenship. Who started it? Who is to say? A rumor can't have it's mind read or be arrested and dosed with truth serum.

Inerze had 10 billion people. Out of them perhaps one in a million was a member of a psi institute. That's ten thousand psis. Maybe 1% of them decided to check this out and go to Zaonia. They found the technology on Zaonia low and boring. Media meant sound or print. Flivvers instead of air/rafts. Medical care was rudimentary.

But the media had its own charm. Reading was cool. So was writing. Driving a vehicle yourself was cool. As for medical, more advanced care was a week away and the local medicine was good enough to keep you alive that long.

Most importantly it was quiet! The press of billions of minds on yours was gone! That was worth wearable media and high speed grav craft and cloned replacement parts even. Imagine living on a high gee world and suddenly moving to a small moon. You felt the release. they contacted the institutes back home and more psis came, a few hundred. The offer of citizenship was valid. Anyone could immigrate.

There were a few provisos. To be fair everyone underwent these tests (since last week!)

A lengthy interview involving polygraphs, truth serums in extreme cases, and many, many questions were required before the psi ... immigrant was deemed worthy to take the oath of loyalty to Zaonia. Interviews were often held one after the other as well as polygraph tests to run the batteries down of psis with Awareness who might otherwise spoof the tests and just make sure people were serious. Questionable psis were assigned at least two guards before deportation. Psis deemed trustworthy became guards and helped with the screening process.

A new neighborhood was set up for the psionics inside the starport boundaries. Within the boundary there was no local law to apply. Basically short of murder, rape, or mass destruction anything was cool. The psionics were quite able to defend themselves. A pass was required to exit but then everyone else had to use them too. The rest of Zaonia remained a little wary but polite but it was open and there were no lynch mobs. Tech Knights insisted on this. Of course beyond the boundary using psionics in an unlawful manner could get you arrested or even deported. But the psionics minded their manners as far as anyone else could tell. The quiet was very persuasive.

The people with secret bank accounts went a little insane. Their squirreled away funds, their hidden art collections, all that stuff had to be in an inventory somewhere and known to someone and now these mind snoopers were there to ferret them out. The situation was intolerable for Inerze and ther highly developed worlds that had to be listened to.

The Zaonians explained since their niche markets had dried up they needed a new influx of citizens with offworld funds to avoid economic collapse. Well the depositors insisted, buy some psi shields! Sorry no capital since the economic crunch Inerze created. Besides there was this whole thing about importing offworld technology, remember? The Tech Knights specifically prohibited that sort of thing with a sort of reverse Prime Directive.

The other worlds looked long and hard at Inerze and after some shouting behind closed channels Inerze paid for all the hemp goods it had contracted for. It then paid for a system of psi shields for the banks that could secretly be put into place. The Tech Knights and bankers all got free fedoras with hidden psi shields.

Zaonia quickly began seeking new markets for their paper goods. Faceso was nearby and learned from Inerze's mistakes. Hemp was imported in new products. The seeds were filtered out. A vegetable extract was added as well to make it unpalatable (and unsmokeable).

The Inerze market for hemp was replaced with timber. The Inerzans used wood grown on Zaonia to make paper under Zaonian supervision in traditional low tech style mills and studios. All cultivatable land on Inerze was used for living space or food production of course. Forests were long gone, possibly eaten. The new stationary sold well. The Inerzans who had grown to enjoy smoking their hemp still raised it quietly in their closets and basements and store rooms. It was no worse than most and better than a good many synthesized drugs that were already there, illegal and available, just cheaper. The Inerzan ministers looked at their neighbor world occasionally and gritted their teeth. The worst part was they couldn't even get a good hemp cigar or seed cake to mellow out anymore.