Monday, October 17, 2016

Coffee and Nobility

"Sit yourself down and have some breakfast, we got time to spare," Mayor Louie said gesturing grandly. The grand gesture went unnoticed by the crowd at the counter. They were more interested in their coffee and eggs. His driver, Jorge Pierre Guttman sat down and doffed his Taxi cap with some misgivings. Red dreadlocks spilled out to cover his shoulders.

"C'mon ... my treat. What's the problem? I got you by the hour today ... this is a democracy ain't it?" the Mayor snapped, grabbing the ketchup near him.

"Actually we're listed as a feudal technocracy run by an oligarchy," Jorge said slowly.

"Yeah yeah them guys run the big stuff. I deal with the day to day stuff and my part is a democracy!" the Mayor answered, putting too much ketchup on his eggs. He regarded his half drowned eggs sourly before he added the home fries to the mixture and began eating.

"I don't know how the Tech Knights would feel about your assessment your honor," Jorge said as the waiter filled his coffee mug.

"Ah screw 'em. They want to keep a lock on too much technology. They should get some outside opinions. Get around a little. Rub some shoulders. Press the flesh," the Muttered between forkfuls of eggs.

"Why don't you stop complaining so much? Some of us just want to eat our breakfast," crabbed a woman hidden behind a newspaper.

"Don't you tell me to shut up!"

"I'll tell you plenty! Shuddup before you get a poke in the nose," she rejoined turning to the sports page.

"Oh yeah? Who's going to do it?"

"Me! I'll come right over there and bop you."

"Oh yeah? And how are you going to get back to your seat?"

"Pfft."

"Meh," Louie responded, using little of his oratory skill.

"Good coffee," Jorge ventured cautiously.

"Louie, pass me the sugar please," Ranna said suddenly changing her tone.

"Sure thing. Ready for your speech?" the Mayor asked.

"I am now. Thanks!" Dame Ranna got up. As she did a tall skinny man in uniform appeared behind her to drape her coat over her shoulders. "Thank you, Beppo." The man nodded curtly and followed her out into the street. Another uniformed man joined them and Dame Ranna strolled in the clear autumn sunlight towards the main plaza.

"What ... " Jorge began.

"It's her cure for stage fright. We have a little tiff before she goes on. She's an all right Dame."

"Someone could get the wrong idea," Jorge said sipping the strong coffee.

"Already happened. She forgot to tell Beppo the first time and he nearly shoved that scattergun down my throat when I called her a ham fisted tyrant."

Transcript of Tech Knight Senior Dame Ranna Morrigan at Zao Plaza, Life Day Speech

"They call us backward because we drive cars and fly propellor planes. Our electronics are primitive because they use tubes and transistors. Our phones have wires and dials. Our media is sound only or black and white. One of those offworld fools laughed himself sick watching me ride a horse once into the starport."

"We have our merchant fleet made of ships built offworld. That is the answer to many planets, buy it from offworld. That is what the great corporations and banks want, to make consumers and workers of us all, their workers! That is not our way. We build it and we own it. It is time to send a message to these spacers, that we are every bit as good as they are! We are building a rocket!"

"Think about it ... mankind was no more advanced than we are now once ... centuries ago. they made that leap into space with far less knowledge than we have now. We know how it was done. We have Belters ready to sell us materials in bulk, not just steel and titanium but fissionables. We have basic lifter technology. We can get to orbit and beyond in a ship build solely on this planet! We are going to do this. It will be hard. It will be expensive. We won't see a profit from this ship. Our grandchildren will. We will spread to the stars again in our our ships built by our own hands and we will be no one's slaves!!"

***

There is something afoot in any Traveller setting that uses the the standard starport system. Either interstellar travel is way less common than actual play and most settings suggest or something is happening with starship construction. There's a definite shortage of starports capable of producing starships. That shortage is even greater if you look at whether a world with shipyards also has a population and technology level that supports building a number of ships with many being marked for export. In fact I think on average 2-3 worlds per subsector will control the bulk of ship production despite other worlds having higher technology or population.

I think the reason boils down to control. certain people (like the Company) want to restrict and control space travel and private enterprise or exploration of space. They deliberately restrict the number and quality of of shipyards in a subsector. They have a very simple way to do this. They sell starships.

Building a starship or even a shuttle is a complex enterprise. It's way easier buying one (if you don't mind paying 220% of its value in the long run). Build the ships, sell the ships and free up that industry to other things, like luxury items to keep people from wondering where the hell the post scarcity economy went. Worlds that are not habitable could put that industry to work terraforming or building bigger and better habitats. Balkanized worlds might have enemies close by that require defense plants.

In a few years universities won't even offer courses to become a naval architect. those who want to become naval architects will have to travel off planet for education and discover most employment opportunities are at existing shipyards.

It's a delicate system. The ship builders do not want people realizing they too could work their way into space. Let alone that they have technology (like lifters) that will make such a leap easier than it was for the homeworld to take those first steps. It is a fragile lie and one planet or even a few exceptional people might shatter it and usher in holy Hell (from the powers that be perspective).