Monday, December 5, 2016

Throwing Out the Rules

"That planet. That Goddam planet! Bunch of fracking lunatics. Barbarians ..." the banker sputtered.

"Yes sir. The reports so far show they've salvaged a derelict ship out in the desert. Some belters had tagged it for salvage but decided it wasn't worth the effort. The jump drive was trash. The maneuver drive likewise, and the fusion plant couldn't possibly sustain a reaction. That's all standardized technology we make available to customers buying ships. But they claim to be developing their own technology that can be reproduced locally. Now we have several reports of belters selling fissionable materials to them."

"Neutrons screw with lifter tech, maneuver drives, jump drives ... oh it will kill a crew too," the starport administrator said. "No one screws with fission anymore"

"Apparently they are. With fusion generators, fissionables become so much toxic garbage ... but they don't have fusion reactors."

"Why the hell couldn't they just buy our reactors!?" the shipyard tycoon asked.

"Balance of trade, high mortgage rates, dependence on off world technology and technicians ... " the analyst began.

"You want to see the morning or not?" the banker growled.

"So ... that's were we are with Zaonia," the analyst summed up.

"This is bad. Very bad," the banker muttered.

"I still think you're over reacting. A nut case shut down the starport for a few days. Required new fuel and tanks flushed ... stuck your branch for  a few million in spares for a bunch of D rated bots ..." the tycoon chuckled a bit at that.

"Over reacting? Those ship captains have big mouths. We're getting investors bailing on projects ... we may be looking at a subsector or sector wide bank run in a couple of months. W're getting runs on some of our banks already. Tell them the rest, Numbers!" the banker jabbed a vape stick at the analyst.

The analyst continued, "I have made a number of inquiries. Gentle beings it is important to remember two things. First, you are publicly owned corporations for for all that you own a majority of your stocks you do not own all of it. Second, humans in a group are a panicky thing. We are seeing people selling your stocks, even seeing them sell short. there is unrest among your larger investors. You may be looking at a stock market crash in the near future."

"It's one frigging planet!"

"That's all it takes. All it has taken in history. Runs have started based on rumors," the analyst said closing up the displays.

"Okay ... I guess we show them what happens when you don't play by the rules," the tycoon said. She spared the analyst a dirty look for the bad news.

"I'm out," the starport administrator said. He got up suddenly. "You do whatever it is you want. Make sure you leave my ports open and undamaged or ... I will show you what happens when you don't play by the rules. I'm always going to have ships that need fuel and services. I can whether a crash. I can't deal with a scandal and having a few holes shot in my golden parachute. For what it's worth ... I wish you luck."

The banker broke into a cold sweat as the administrator left. He looked over at the tycoon and said, "Call Major Leogan."

"Call him your own damned self!"

"You're out too?"

"No. I'm just not your damn secretary!"

"Oh fair enough. Listen. I have another meeting to attend to. So I'll just have time to make that call if you ..."

"I'm going." She went.

The banker swore softly to himself. Zaonia was going to see what happened when they didn't play by the rules. He promised that. A light blinked on his desk and he hit it and slid it left to the affirmative. He stood up as the door opened outwardly composed as his guest entered. He came around the desk to greet him in the process noting the analyst, Numbers, still idling. He gave the robot a swift kick to get it moving and jerked a thumb at the door. Number complied. No one saw it pause a moment to regard the guest. It was a robot. You didn't notice what robots did.

The banker bowed formally to his guest and the tall Inerzan returned it, his green eyes dull and haunted.

"Captain Xibalboa, I have a job for you."

***

It seems a sad fact of human nature, once greedy people get inordinate wealth and power they can only increase their wealth and power by diminishing the wealth and freedom or others. Once you're in the upper millicent of a society all that is left is to prevent others from joining you. 

This may not be unique to humans. It could be the reason behind the Great Filter. 

In this case lifter technology and maneuver drives are built and controlled by cartels. They sell them to worlds of all stages of development. they are the most economical means to get into space ... until you realize these cartels charge a steep price. A starship loan winds up costing you 220% of a ship's real cost. Add to that the fact that starports are often selling refined fuel and performing maintenance and replacements and you might start looking at other ways to get to orbit cheaply.

Go check out Atomic Rockets/Project Rho and Blue Max Studios. They list ways a lot better than I can. I'll wait.

What happens to a world that won't use the 'preferred' technology? Plenty. Replacing a fusion reactor with a fission reactor for example will raise safety issues at starports (who are connected to the shipyards and the banks). Such ships might not be allowed to land, again for REASONS. Insurance companies won't insure cargos being boosted to orbit on potentially explosive chemical rockets (or fusion rockets). 

But then some companies will always jump in to insure the uninsured, to offer mortgages to rockets and other technologies the bank and its allies won't mortgage. What then?

The Polity is a very remote government. Member worlds are on their own a lot of the time. When a megacorporation or bank exhausts more subtle means and its stock has a hiccup it will do it's damnedest to buy the offending technology out. 

But when that doesn't work either due to stubborn locals, they hire mercenaries. They might do this quicker than some governments. After all most leaders can't be replaced if a strategy proves ineffective and will still serve their term. CEOs still have a board of directors and shareholders who will want to know why they aren't making money this week (or even not as MUCH money). 

Mercenaries can solve problems quickly if you use them right. That is a very important caveat. You see historically 'barbarians' are prone to surprising 'civilized' people. The Mongols created a new way to fight based on horse archers and hit and run tactics that overwhelmed better equipped troops. The huns did likewise. The Vikings crafted better swords than the civilized men of their era. During the revolution in the Philippines 'simple' blacksmiths produced hand made copies of Ingram M-10 machine pistols. It's amazing what you can learn from 'advanced cultures', what you can do with their cast offs.

Mercenaries hate fighting so-called barbarians. To a barbarian a civilized man is more concerned with procedure than results. A barbarian is someone foe whom results means survival.