Friday, September 30, 2016


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 ...

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.

Monday, September 26, 2016

The Niche Market

Near Zaonia  (0104 C885655-5     Ag Ri         123) lies the planet INERZE  (0202 B997A84-C 2    Hi In Cp    124). Inerze is everything that Zaonia isn't. Overcrowded, high tech and governed by an extensive bureacracy that rarely accomplishes much. The tainted atmosphere is due to the people. Directly. Inerze has regular outbreaks of new viruses due to the crowded living conditions. Mostly they cause sniffles and headaches to the people who have evolved a truly scary immune system. This also makes them a threat to anyone from offworld. The ills they think nothing of can incapacitate or kill those without the proper antibodies.

You would think a high population world like Inerze (usually spelled in capital letters) would be a ready market for a small agricultural world. But that is not the case. A transport fee of 1 cr. per kilogram ( 1000 cr. per ton) will make many staples more expensive than locally grown products (we're talking algae, yeast and fungi here, an acquired taste but cheap). Also shipping to Inerze was by intermediaries after the first Inerzan Flu Epidemic on Zaonia. The risk caused increases to shipping costs. Also many of the captains wanted to buy the merchandise outright and then sell it at inflated prices. All this reduced the market even before the Inerzen bureaucrats began adding transport licensing fees and taxes.

So shipping plain old taters was not going to see much profit.

From my previous posts you may have guessed the Zaonians were neither quitters nor stupid.They already arranged loans to get their own subsidized merchant ships. Then they had to find a market that for this fleet. The Zaonians began raising hemp.

They weren't trying to get anyone high. They raised the hemp, then turned it into paper to make books. They began exporting paper and books to Inerze. The bureaucrats and a tiny wealthy fraction loved notebooks. It was a super secure place to put notes in (especially if you had a locking cover with a self destruct and a DNA reader). They saw how the Zaonians had profited with their knowledge of handwriting and it became a fad among them.

The Zaonians also sold barrels of hemp slurry that could be converted to paper in Inerze. It also contained enough seeds and plant parts to make a paste you could get high on or bake into a brownie. The laborers working with it and doing clean up learned that. It came as a surprise to the bureaucrats but anything that kept the laborers mellow was a good thing. Pretty soon many locals began buying the slurry and turning out lovely brownies and other foodstuffs with it that the elite found delightful, legalized and taxed.

The Zaonians briefly experimented with wood pulp based paper but raising trees took more water, land and time than hemp and the process was more polluting. Zaonian also never heard of Randolph Hearst. When they heard what the Inerzans were doing with their hemp slurry they did a facepalm over actually meeting people more resourceful than they were (the labor class at least). They then had a good laugh and increased the price of the slurry. The Inerzans paid without batting an eyelash.

The elite had their secure notebooks. Subsidized merchants had a commodity they could hall. Everybody could have brownies fairly cheap. Everyone was as close to happy as spacers, politicians and grunt laborers could be.

Then some character on Inerze set up a filter and got some viable seeds from the slurry and after a little experimenting began growing his own hemp. the increase in it ed to sluggish unproductive workers and more industrial accidents. Inerze's government decided they needed to get a handle on this and slapped an embargo on Zaonian imports. All imports. The Zaonians were left with a small merchant fleet with nothing to ship and loans to pay back and cargo containers full of hemp paper and slurry that Inerze had contracted for but was not buying. An economic crisis was looming and the Zaonians prepared for a war.

Next: Trade War!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Beach Day ... Saved!

Tivk huddled under a poncho. It was amazing how compact he could make himself. The tall lanky frame collapsing under its own weight to all appearances.

"C'mon Tivk! It's a perfect day for a swim!" the Chief said waving for him to join them.

"The water is contaminated," Tivk replied.

"Your dustball planet has seas way more brackish than this!"

Tivk glared from under his hood and over his sunglasses. It was a complex maneuver he'd mastered.

"His homeworld's seas have potassium chloride in them. Sodium chloride irritates his skin," Doc answered not looking up from his book.

"Hey Mr. Tivk, come out from under that tent and get some sun. I thought you were always cold. It's great weather for a tan," Jenn said from lookout. She was on guard for any local animals dumb enough to poison themselves with a mouthful of offworlder.

"It is still too cold, and the sun is too energetic. And it would not tan me, it would burn the skin off me."

Note: I first posted this on the SF Flash Fic Community. But Tivk got his start here on this blog s why not repost?

"Slight exaggeration," Doc muttered. "Why don't you at least take your shoes off and enjoy the sand? I thought you liked sand. Don't you call your planet 'Sand'?"

"The sand has sodium chloride in it and it is too coarse. Thank you for thinking of me ... if belatedly.

Tivk's kind did not mope. left in an unpleasant situation they did their best to ignore it until it passed, even though humans pestered then with questions. He didn't notice the wind picking up and clouds rolling in under a darkening sky. He was thinking of an orange desert far away with dunes you could wander around for ever.

The first raindrop plopped on his left ear which hung out of the hood to kepp himself cool and it jolted him awake. More drops fell, he stopped counting after 72. The rest of the beachgoers were evacuating.

"Where's my sunglasses?

"On your head!"

"Where's the cooler!"

"Get the towels!"

Tivk snorted and stood up impossibly tall and skinny next to the humans and doffed his robes as they hurried to the shuttle and the floaters. Fat raindrops were falling now but he stood still arms spread out and letting the water hit his face and run down his ears. It was a little cold but he endured it.

"TIvk! Let's go, run for the shuttle!"

Tivk, born to red sands and bone dry cliffs snorted again. He spared a short look at the humans and said, "... and miss the rain? Are you MAD?"

Friday, September 23, 2016

The Might of Write

Besides all the so called legal banking business handled across borders and even worlds there are all manner of deals that no one in their right minds would ever call legal. Selling guns, bombs, and sex are all legal on some worlds, but none of these are legal on EVERY world if you get my drift.

But bad people need to keep records of their deals and sometimes even a transcript to indicate exactly what one or the other had said. At any decent tech level a transcript can cause you severe trouble. To make one a talk to text system is needed and the audio files of course can be examined for speech patterns, voice characteristics, probably even DNA by TL 15. Don't tell me that stuff gets wiped. It doesn't have to and then some punk has a shady deal to hold over your head. Note someone smart enough to make and secrete a copy of an audio file probably is smart enough to make several such copies and give them to various people for release upon their death.

Enter the Zaonians yet again! Their handwritten records already put the brakes on forgery and fraud in their cluster. It seemed only fair that they do something for the crooks now (for a fee of course).  Now they stepped it up into a system of recording meetings and discourses of various types in great speed and and accuracy/ I refer to stenography!

If handwriting analysis was regarded (by those poor ignorant hi-tech folk) as mad science steno was a glimpse of Great Cthulhu. You mean people can write as fast as they can talk?! Impossible! Untrusting souls would have to find a stenographer they both trusted or more likely hire their own and thus make their own transcripts. All this had to be carried out on Zaonia of course for complete secrecy. On Zaonia any bugs built with local technology would be about the size of a beer cooler and the tech knights were keen on keeping offworld tech offworld.

In fact they even used psionics to sniff out hi-tech smugglers. Psionics isn't a form of technology! But I digress.

The people interested in having their meetings transcribed would be brought to a secluded conference chamber. The recorders could in fact be ordered from several agencies with complete anonymity and ignorance of both parties to insure their honesty and impartiality. The stenographers would take dictation during the meeting using shorthand then typed out the transcripts. No voice files to incriminate. Accurate recordings of vital matters and agreements were made. Best of all no hard forensic evidence to identify the parties of the agreement in a court of law (though they knew who they were of course).

The Zaonians still were security minded. When their banking guild set up an official agency to license and monitor stenographers they added additional procedures, such as the stenographers using a newly constructed system of phonemes for their note taking. Previously they used a more or less accessible phonemic writing system that could be discovered on library systems because it was commonly used in the past. The extra benefit of phonetic writing was the stenographers no longer had to know the language of the parties meeting. They could record it in their notes in their con-lang scrawl and type it up using a phonetic alphabet system common in the cluster. The original notes would only be of use to another agency scribe who knew the con-lang.

The Voynich Agency was in business!

The Hero's Worry List

Steps in the Evolution of a Hero (and what can go wrong)

The Call to Adventure
1) The Call is collect
2) The Call is in another language ... why didn't you learn your native tongue?!
3) The Hero is out and lets the machine get it. Machine runs out to adventure!
4) The wrong person gets the Call
5) Call is from Cthulhu
6) Wrong person gets the call. Hilarity of a lethal nature ensues

Meeting a Mentor
1) The Mentor is wanted. Hero turns them in.
2) The Mentor is scary looking/has a creepy voice/pointy spikes on his armor or speaks a different language
3) Mentor is a deadbeat with a number of bills and creditors hounding him (mentoring doesn't pay well
4) Mentor is late
5) Hero is early
6) The place of their fated meeting is a parking lot/market/drug den/shopping mall

Crossing a Threshold
1) Hero trips and face plants
2) It's the wrong Threshold (Mentor: I never told you go THERE!)
3) Hero is lost once he's past the Threshold.
4) It's a trap. Get the Mentor off his ass.
5) The Threshold to Adventure/Rapture/Enlightenment is in a parking lot/market/drug den/shopping mall
6) Hero returns, gets lost and reappears in  parking lot/market/drug den/shopping mall

Trials and Failures
1) Death (just kidding. It said 'failures'. Death would curtail that.)
2) Medical bills
3) Law suit for collateral damage
4) Law suit for assault and battery
5) Criminal charges
6) Enraged criminals charging!
7) Evil Overlord/Forces of Good sit up and notice (whichever is worse)
8) Sword of Power is stuck in a rock/tree/the Evil Overlord's armor
9) Mentor is stuck in a rock/tree/the Evil Overlord's armor
10) Something crosses that damned Threshold.

Growth and New Skills
1) Wrong skill set
2) Important skill missing
3) Hero wants to use new skills to pick up a hottie
4) Hero needs taking down a peg. Mentor obliges to show the Hero isn't as good as it appears
5) Hero is as good as it appears. Several weeks lost while Mentor heals up and must be hand fed soup.
6) Evil Overlord/Forces of Good sit up and notice (whichever is worse) after some muscle flexing and showing off to pick up a hottie

Death and Rebirth
1) No Rebirth 
2) Gender swap!
3) Hero requires several replacement parts. Must be ordered out.
4) Hero has amnesia
5) Mentor drowns his sorrows and is a sad shell by the time Hero claws out of their dirt nap
6) Trifeca Fuster Cluck: Hero reborn in a totally different, gender-swapped, amnesiac form!

1) Hero is Evil Overlord's bastard
2) Hero is Evil Overlord's gex                                                nder swapped bastard
3) Evil Overlord is the Hero's future self
4) Evil Overlord is the Mentor
5) Mentor is Hero's parent
6) Hero is Mentor's parent!!
7) Forces of Good aren't what they seem
8) Evil Overlord isn't so evil. More of an evil Overlord.

Finally Changes
1) Hero accepts his destiny and role, becomes a total asshole
2) Hero accepts his destiny and role, becomes a preachy asshole
3) Hero accepts wrong destiny
4) Hero accepts wrong role
5) Hero is into roleplaying
6) No one accepts Hero

Gets a Gift
1) Wrong Gift
2) Wrong Hero
3) Wrong size
4) Wrong color
5) No instruction manual
6) Gift is on order.

The Return (Metamorphosis)
1) No one recognizes Hero
2) Hero doesn't recognize anyone
3) Mentor doesn't recognize hero
4) Hero doesn't recognize Mentor
5) Hero doesn't recognize self
6) Nothing fits Hero anymore

The End
1) Repeat as necessary: Heroes never die
2) Repeat as necessary: Heroes have offspring
3) Repeat as necessary: Heroes have imitators
4) Repeat as necessary: Evil Overlord ensures a steady supply of Heroes to keep sharp

Monday, September 19, 2016

EM Drive Blues

We have thgis information on the radio frequency drive or EM drive or whatever you want to call it.

300 micro newtons are generated per kW of power.


3.5 kW generates 1 newton of thrust

A Scout ship has a thrust of 2000 tons or 2,000,000 kgs or 20,000,000 newtons

This would require 70 million kilowatts or 70 gigawatts. If the EM drive worked (I'm not saying it DOES in the real world, Rocket Cat call off the hit.)

Fusion reactions generate

3.5 x 10^14j from one kilogram H2 and H3

One kilo of fuel allows the Scout to thrust for (3.5 x 10^14)/(7 x 10^10) seconds

One kilogram of fuel provides thrust for 5000 seconds or five turns. The two tons in the power plant will thus provide 2000 * 5000 = 10 million seconds of thrust or 10,000 turns or 11.57 days of thrust. There's stuff I didn't get into of course. Like fusion isn't 100% efficient. Let's say the EM drive has increased in efficiency to offset the losses due to the fusion plant's inefficiencies. Even Steven.

This gives the ship a delta v of 10 million * 20m/s^2 = 200 million  meters or 20,000 kps. Figure you use half to speed up and half to slow down 10,000 kps cruising speed. That's 1,000,000 km in a little over a minute and a half. That's an A.U. in 4.1 hours.

You don't want to use all your fuel to speed up because aerobraking just isn't an option at 10,000 kps. Not that it doesn't work, it works too well. Boom. Say you accelerate to 5,000 kps. That will take about 42 hours. This might cause problems for a freighter on a schedule.

But it's worse than that. The Scout has to accelerate at 20 meters per second. That mean no you will not get to your top velocity on this flight. Instead you must use the time honored tradition, accelerate halfway, flip and decelerate. At a constant 2 gees acceleration this will take about 4.6 days. That can out a crimp in a ship's schedule. It's even worse for freighters. They can manage 1 gee and can make the trip in 6.5 days. That's most of your downtime between jumps. This explains why merchants do not often use the gas giant option unless there is one fairly close by and the ship has a fuel refinery. Oh yes, refining fuel takes time also. So trucking in fuel for the mainworld or providing it for ungodly markup becomes understandable. A trader (35 Mcr. ) mortgage runs 5000 cr. a day or so. A ship with one refinery onboard can process 20 tons of fuel a day. The difference between refined and raw fuel is 400 credits per ton so you're saving 8000 credits but the day of downtime 'costs' you 5000 credits. Our savings are only 3000 cr. That's before figuring life support, salaries and complaining passengers who have business elsewhere. If you are using a gas giant reaching it's jump limit can take some time as well 3-4 times as much as an Earth-sized planet.

I'm saying most inner system and nearer gas giant runs can be made no problems with the acceleration. It's economic considerations that keep us based at those terrestrial main worlds. This is why they attract settlers as much as their often breathable atmospheres.

Also pirates hang around gas giants sometimes.

No reserve the gas giant jaunts for quick refueling stops on longer journeys when you don't need to land.You're harder to predict then.

Of course like any reactionless drive it becomes a weapons of mass destruction. You have a chance to stop a Scout ship say at 10,000 kps. But that was just using 2 tons of fuel. If it goes into jump fuel you could easily make a 1 parsec jump and wind up accelerating to 120,000 kps and that my friends is starting to crowd photons. You might want to limit your 'cruising mode' to one gee of acceleration unless you're in a real hurry. Higher accelerations are less effective for the fuel cost. Double the acceleration (and delta fee and fuel only gets you there in 70% of the time. You need quadruple the acceleration to halve the trip time.

Maybe there are other factors limiting the EM drive's use. Maybe you need to pass through an atmosphere to discharge your boson capacitors or the doubletalk generator needs to be taken out and reground. Or the drive works by pushing against massive bodies like planets and stars. In that case your top speed might be limited by the size of either the body you depart from or the body that is your destination. For example going from Earth to Mars you'd figure your top speed based on Mars. Yes if you left Earth you could reach a greater speed using it as 'propellant' but you still would only have Mars' mass to slow down at your destination. You do want to slow down, right? We had this talk before.

A good approximation might be 1000 kilometers per second per UWP size code. A ship boosting from Earth to Mars would use Mars' size code of 4 and have a top speed of 4000 Kps. A ship moving from two size 8 Earth like worlds would have a top delta-vee. A size A world will let our Scout reach its maximum velocity. An asteroid could limit a ship to 1d6x100 kps. 

NavigatIon becomes something more of a craft with using planets and moons to push off. Ships might use a number of flybys to build acceleration if they launch from a small body and want to make good time in an anti-grav version of the Oberth maneuver.

It's all fun and games until someone builds a flying fuel tank farm and uses a neutron star to boost. I wouldn't but there are nutcases out there and some of them can plot courses.

Friday, September 16, 2016

The Bottom Line

Remember Zaonia (0104 C885655-5     Ag Ri         123), the little planet that could? Zaonia had instituted a system of handwriting analysis to prevent fraud in its starport. The planet had created a secure system of banking that its more populous and advanced neighbors envied and made use of. It even had a small fleet of free traders operating in its cluster.

The Zaonians were secure. The dictator of Facesos, the ministers of Inerze, the recluse roboticists of Zerar were all customers of their banking system. Anyone invading and disrupting the security of their valuables would face their wrath.

ThePrince Admiral of Facesos, the plague ministers of Inerze, the recluse roboticists of Zerar didn't give a deuce about the fate of Zaonia, just the security of their valuables. A change of power that did not endanger those valuables was no concern to them.

So when a young technocrat, one who had spent much of his life offworld, decided to make a push for power he first assured those offworlders he would respect their property (and in fact give them better rental rates on vault space).  Needless to say he told them this at about the time his offworld mercenaries commenced to land at the starport and major cities.

The usurper was on a budget so battledress troopers were a small minority who seized the starport and secured the communications. The rest were troops with cloth armor and laser rifles who expected to wage a quick and relatively bloodless campaign of shock and awe.

The poor bastards. In his years offworld the power monger had learned a little about high technology weapons. He had forgotten all about low technology warfare and that was his downfall.

Now maybe the Zaonians could not build one radio jammer that could follow enemy chatter across many frequencies, but they could build a lot of jammers and keep them hid away (remember all those tunnels they dug for the banks? As for their forces, they used telephone lines and signal flares and carrier pigeons in some cases.

Maybe they didn't have the camouflage armor and orbital sensors the invaders had but they had an elaborate tunnel system which they used to mount a series of counter attacks on the starport. When the battledress commandoes descended into the tunnels to root the locals out they faced a storm of heavy machineguns, flame throwers and demolition charges. The last straw was the armored cars the Zaonians had in the tunnels to transport valuables. It turned out bullet proof didn't mean you could laugh at an armored car parked on your chest. They mutinied about the time they figured that they would run out of commandoes long before they ran out of tunnels.

On the surface the invaders now faced an artillery bombardment that turned out to be sand canisters modified to fire from field guns. Their laser weapons were now degraded so badly they had a third the range of the rifles the locals carried. The invaders did not have heavy weapons. The usurper didn't want to wipe out the planet he'd rule and well, he did have those pretty lasers and battledress commandoes!

The usurper discovered the sand canisters were fired from a couple of destroyers off the coast. He demanded the landing craft commanders go airborne and shoot the destroyer up. The commanders, having seen the way the invasion was going stuck to the letter of their contracts and said 'No!' That turned out to be very fortunate for them as they would have met the submarine with the offworld missile turrets (that was still very hush hush.)

Okay he tried to tell everyone the other Tech Knights had used offworld munitions. The sand canisters were a starship's weaponry for gosh sake! The Knight Senior explained it away as a naturally occurring crystal, not manufactured, merely polished. What the heck. They played fair (so to speak) with all other tech. The submarine with the missiles was still a secret.

The Zaonians then turned to their depositors and explained that the rates were going to stay the same.
No harm, no foul. The customers merely had stayed out of an internal dispute. That was fine. Zaonia was an honorable society. One less than honorable might put photocopies of a number of sensitive documents they were entrusted with onboard their small fleet of freighters to distribute to several interested parties should anything happen to their government. The offworlders thought copying documents required a computer. In fact carbon paper astounded some of them when they came visiting.

As for the starport and capital that took a little repair work. It was awhile before they took the shot up and mangled battledress suits off the perimeter wall. they wanted to make sure people got the message.

Better Low Tech than Dim Wit.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Check List for Accepting and Transporting Passengers

Check List for Accepting and Transporting Passengers

1) Interview passenger for security concerns. Ask if they are a pirate, hijacker or criminal.

a) Run computer check of planetary database for records on passenger because a pirate, hijacker or criminal would lie.

b) Check it again. they also hack computers.

c) After running the security check accept deposit for those passing the check (optionally accept from those not passing.)

d) Turn in people not passing the check you found warrants for.

e) Send medical information and dietary needs to the steward.

2) Banking

a) See if the deposit check bounced (maybe you only take cashier's checks or M.O. or gold coins)

3) Pre-Boarding

a) Ready the staterooms for passengers remove extra fittings and bedding from cabins of high passage riders.

b) Accept the passengers' luggage and run sensors over it searching for any obvious contraband or weapons.

c) Turn in passengers with contraband (optionally SPLIT contraband with passengers. Anything flagged as illegal in a starport has to be good stuff!)

d) Swap bay number sign with the next ship over to avoid last minute complications like pursuing parents, jealous spouses and private eyes. Note: make sure the crew of the other ship haven't done this already!

e) See that balance cleared (if you got the entire passage in one fell swoop hurray!).

f) Get some good munchies, caffeine and vino in for the high passengers.

g) Move ship to new landing bay when crew of the other ship shows up for their landing bay signage brandishing firearms and pointy sticks.

4) Boarding

a) Swap bay number sign with the number you started with to avoid losing passengers. The cops WILL make you give their money back.

b) Have crew escort all passengers to their cabins through cleverly disguised weapons scanner. Remind crew that decorum must be observed (body pistols, not autorifles).

c) Explain that for safety reasons passengers must remain in their cabins until the ship is in orbit. Lock middle passengers n their cabins if necessary.

d) Point out complimentary cookies on pillows (optionally lace complimentary cookies with sedative.)

5) Real Space Transit

a) Complimentary libations, movies and wifi for high passengers to shut them up.

b) Complimentary fruit snack for middle passengers (optionally just tell them to shut up.)

c) Check the low passenger vitals.

d) Give new list of medical and dietary needs to the steward (one of the riders will have one at the very least)

e) Remove the foliage that are likely to cause an allergic reaction or anaphylactic shock to the cargo bay.

f) Round up stowaways given away by their sneezing.

6) Jump Space Transit

a) Steward keeps the high passengers fed and healthy.

b) Deal with passenger complaints/tell middle passengers shut up: cabin too noisy, cabin smells bad, food smells bad, crew smells bad, jump sickness, motion sickness, inertial compensator allergy, demands that pets be brought out of carrier/low berth because they miss them, demands pets be put into low passage (boot one of them bums!) because pet is being a pain or suffers from jump sickness, motion sickness, inertial compensator allergy. Explain to passengers what THAT sound is.

c) Hold an impromptu seance to contact spirits despite noise being caused by refrigeration unit.

d) The rest of the crew do their own crappy job of cooking.

e)  Repeat item 'b' above.

f) Middle passengers eat food they brought along from home and enjoy.

g) Put stowaways to work washing dishes, mopping floors and serving the passengers if the stowaways appear housebroken.

h) Mad dash around the cargo hold for the pet cat the stowaway released to play with.

i) Treat crewperson with dander allergy.

j) Repeat item 'b' above.

Real Space Transit
a) Complimentary libations, movies and wifi for high passengers to shut them up.

b) Complimentary fruit snacks and old magazines for middle passengers (optionally just tell them to shut the hell up.)

c) Check the low passenger vitals. Yell at crew going through low passenger luggage and saying, 'they feel lucky.'

d) Deal with passenger complaints/tell middle passengers shut up: cabin too noisy, cabin smells bad, food smells bad, crew smells bad, jump sickness, motion sickness, inertial compensator allergy, demands that pets be brought out of carrier/low berth because they miss them, demands pets be put into low passage (boot one of them bums!) because pet is being a pain or suffers from jump sickness, motion sickness, inertial compensator allergy. Explain to passengers what THAT sound is.

e) Hustle passengers into cabins for the landing.


a) Unload luggage.

b) Unload middle passengers (who carry their own luggage.)

c) Crew lines up on ramp for high passenger send off (and tips). Mad dash for the luggage that got shipped to another terminal.

d) Tips go to the captain for divvying (otherwise the steward gets rich and then gets beaten severely.)

e) Steward points out various points of interest on new planet for passengers (i.e. places practicing the kickback tradition.)

f) Wake low passengers and have low passenger lottery before giving the crew leave. Make the crew give back their stuff!

g) Divide tips equally.

h) Yes equally.

New Voyage

a) Advertise staterooms available.

b) Hire the stowaway who knows how to cook.

c) Beat up the other stowaways.

d) Hit the bar.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Bank Job

After putting a stop to fraud the Tech Knights of Zaonia (0104 C885655-5     Ag Ri         123) saw more opportunity for economic growth. In an interstellar polity that had all manner of cyber crime their security was an order better than most simply because it did not rely on computers. The First Bank of Zaonia worked on a system of handwriting. People who were recognized customers had their signatures filed and simply signed for things. That was the first level of security. The second level of security involved established handshakes, photos, mannerisms and yes passwords ... that were spoken to confirm identity.

No hacker could break the system. Any impersonations would require a master forger, who was also expertly disguised, and managed to learn memorized passwords and recognition cues from the customer. That was a tall order for most.

The subsector nobility noticed and began making deposits in the banks in the form of precious materials. Lock boxes were used to hold various secrets: letters for blackmail, contracts for unholy business alliances, family heirlooms, and artifacts.

Zaonia now had a foolproof defense against offworld invasion. Any would be conquerors would have to deal with their depositors, who were not, the sort to let their valuables fall to others.

Raids were the problem. The security forces had rifles and submachine guns. Manpower was there. they could get a lot of men with rifles or submachine guns and mass them at bank vaults. That wasn't good enough. raiders with battle dress would probably have surprise and high energy weapons.

Worse, high energy cutters could let them into the best vault the locals produced in a few minutes. Offworld experts agreed. The biggest most massive bank the Zaonians could produce would fall to a determined force of offworld pirates.

The locals could hire mercenaries with high tech weapons to guard their bank but that involved offworld technology which the local technocrats did not produce. This would undermine their expertise and authority and what would keep the mercenaries from looting the bank themselves or looking the other way when bribed?

So the locals built not one bank but many many banks. Small ones. They were still guarded pretty well. they all had smaller but hardened steel vaults.  Most of them were empty.

Armored cars shuttled between the banks on a daily basis. Most of them were empty but the few held valuables that were constantly shuttled between vaults on time tables known to only a few. Each of the schedule writers only scheduled a specific route, one of many. If anyone did hit the right bank or armored car that schedule writer would have hard questions asked. The schedule writers included watermarks specific to each armored vehicle crew. Any photocopies could be tracked to the person who lost or sold them.

Raiders could hit a bank. They would be shot at by a number of guards. The hail of bullets would be too risky unless the raiders had battledress and still be risky even then. After fighting these defenders the raiders would open the vault, which could be empty. Ditto for the armored cars.

Eventually the locals dug an underground roadway system (remember the cheap labor?) They dug stations under each bank to allow the cargo transfers to occur out of sight. By now the banking business was really taking off. It became a major planetary industry between, security, excavation, construction, maintenance, tank manufacture, and administration. A few people attempted raids but they got squashed quickly. Most of them hit the wrong bank or the wrong car or had a tunnel collapse on them. Oh yes: the tunnels were boobytrapped. They could make a suit of armor that could laugh at bullets, but no one made armor that stood up to a couple of tons of rock.

Fortunately low tech does not equal stupid. After all, there are barbarians in space.

Friday, September 9, 2016

We Don't Do Enslavement

Doc: Oh my gosh this is good. Cook you outdid yourself yet again.

Riasi: These are ... burger veggies?

Doc: Yes. And relax, you can eat them. They're infused with heme.

Riasi: I'm relaxed.

Doc: Whenever you get scared of something new you mix up your grammar. Besides this being an obligate carnivore is Lurran cultural identity, not biology. Otherwise how could you eat the buns your 'cheezburgrz' come on?

Riasi: I don't up mix the grammar when I scared gots! And I don't says ‘cheezburgrz’ like that. I says cheezburgrrrrs.

Doc: Sorry. Try it, honey kit. I tested it six different ways. Cook has reformulated it just for you. This could be a big deal for your people.

Riasi: Nnnnnnngh. It's good. It's very good. Thank you Cook.

Cook: I was worried for a minute.

Doc: I wasn’t. You have as much schooling as I do.

Cook: Well Doc, if you screw up you lose a patient. I could poison a whole crew.

Riasi: More? Puhleeze?

Doc: You’re done already?

Cook: I put so much heme in that burger it was practically mooing. My next feat will be providing something for Professor Mukh to eat that he will prefer to our dwindling supply of chinchillas.

Doc: Luck with that. He’s downright picky when the food isn’t moving.

Cook: I’ll work something out … maybe with popcorn.


I was born to the dead time of ossified stars and lived on scraps of Hawking rads for eons untold.  My thoughts crawled while the last of the galaxies sputtered and died until the wormhole open to this stelliferous time.

I was in a time of stars, of energy, of minds and I hungered to eat it all. First though, the cluster of minds in a metal shell traveling nearby beckoned to me.

Nok: So. Did you decide?

M’Ffe: Don’t rush me.

Nok: But …

M’Ffe: Oh, the sex is great.  Always was.

Nok: Thanks.

M’Ffe: But it doesn’t make us compatible necessarily. I can understand if you don’t want to anymore … though it might seem like blackmail to make me rescind our divorce.

Nok: Never blackmail. Think … bribe.

L’Rre: Voivoi! Nama? Xeche?

M’Ffe: We’re copulating dear. Stay outside please.

Nok: Yes. Out.

L’Rre: /Dad, mom … there is an evil .../

M’Ffe: /Out. Of. Our. Heads. Now./

Nok: /I hate when she group calls … We told you not to do this without warning. The last time it was monsters under your bed … what vole is scared of the dark?! Go to sleep or go for a walk. Mmmmm sexsexsexsexsexsex ....

L’Rre: /We will talk about this later parents. Once your loins settle down. By the way mother, you are pregnant./

M’Ffe: /WHAAAAT!?/

Nok: /Hunh./

L’Rre: /Later, old ones!/


Nok: I’m going to kill her.

M’Ffe: Race you. But finish here first.


I want to gloat to all the losers who will not be born to plague me for a trillion years. I’m not sure how to do that.  But I found a mind … a bright, inquisitive, and relatively powerful mind. Its brain must be capable of containing my bright spark. I will feast on its memories and learn of these meat sacks to plan my next move.

Chief: Here now. What are you doing up and about at this hour?

L’Rre: I am avoiding a beating for as long as possible.

Chief: Ah the ship ain’t that big, hon. Best you get it done with. I hope you at least had fun earning it.

L’Rre: Are you calling my parents?

Chief: Nah, why deny you the pleasure of running and them the pleasure of catching you.

L’Rre: You are a strange … huuuuuuuumaaaaaaaan.

Chief: I’m a Marine. What happened to your voice?

L’Rre: Huumaan, you will obey me. What the Hells? Get … ou …

Chief: Is this a vole game?

L’Rre: Get … out … call my parents!! Huumaan … obeeeeeey meeee!

Chief: … Chief to Nok. I got your daughter here in the shuttle bay and she’s acting weird. Like she’s speaking in tongues!

Nok: <Hold her. You heard?>

M’Ffe: <Yes. Chief, hold her. We’ll be right there! She acts like she’s speaking in tongues to avoid punishment. It doesn’t work anymore.>

Nok: <No psis on my side of the family.>

M’Ffe: <We’ll be right there … (come here and let me explain something to you mister …)>
The mind is strong enough but rather ... cramped. This one … resists. But to no avail. This will be like taking Hawking photons from the semi-formed. Wait ...

L’Rre: Whaaat are you doing? I have the strength of a hundred … shivering … newborn … mice? Why are you all so tall! Releeeease me! You big dummies! Hit me as hard as you want! Harder! Is that the best you can do?

Nok: … reverse psychology?

M’Ffe: Obviously. Continue.

Chief: You know on Terra they don’t spank kids.

M’Ffe: You have a problem with this?

Chief: Nope. I’m from Mars. My dad took a belt to me and my sibs all the time.

M’Ffe: We are lacking a belt ... sadly.

Chief: Oh here, be my guest. Take mine. What took you so long getting here?

M’Ffe: I was peeing on a stick if you must know. She …

Chief: Tricked you?

Nok: Yup. Had enough yet?

L’Rre: Yes Voivoi. This was entirely satisfactory. Thank you.

Nok: No more lying, pranking or mind talk without asking.

L’Rre: No sir. Voivoi?

Nok: Yes?

L’Rre: Never mind. I’m going to bed.


Ow. Owowowowowowowow! Owie! Fuck! Ow!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The Writing on the Hull

The planet  Zaonia (0104 C885655-5     Ag Ri         123) in the Vergant Subsector had a problem. It was a rich agricultural world and numerous traders stopped there to buy food for other less bountiful worlds. The problem was many of these traders had forged identities to hide the fact they were skipping on their bank payments. Worse some traders came representing companies well known and licensed by the Zaon nobility for offworld exporting. They refuelled using the companies' credit lines (and resupplied their ships) passed bad checks or paid with counterfeit credits and left never to be seen again.

The banks that had mortgaged the ships that were skipping were not pleased.

The companies that paid to be allowed to export goods from Zaonia were not pleased.

The local merchants and starport authorities who were stiffed regularly were not pleased.

the nobles who ruled based on their control and use of technology were made to look like idiots. High technology was just too good at copying documents their local technology could not discern.

There was a light t the end of the tunnel though. One of the local knights had traveled offworld in his youth and had a membership in the Outreach Association. He used it to travel to a nearby spaceport and spoke with the various members there. The Outreach Association did not like when a world's commerce and star travel dried up. They sent him to the bank. The knight returned several months later with a number of binders. The binders and the paper sheets inside had to be specially ordered and cost nearly as much as his passage.

Everyone mortgaging a ship has to submit proof of identity you see. This consists of retina imaging, fingerprints, DNA and finally they sign off on the loan the old fashioned way. Banks are very traditional.

Zaonia didn't have the technology for retinal or DNA scans. Importing offworld gear would erode the nobility's authority. Fingerprints could be faked with high tech prosthetics well enough to fool the locals. So the Zaons began checking signatures.

Handwriting is very hard to fake. People who use thumbprints and eye scans for ID don't know that. In fact the banks only took the signatures as a tradition. But the Zaons write quite a lot by hand: letters, legal forms, sometimes whole books! They also had a few graphologists who were very good for forensic work. They gave them new jobs at the starport and waited. As soon as someone came along with a ship that was listed as mortgaged (or even not) his handwriting was checked against bank records and by the pros.

They might hack and fake ship IDs and transponders and licenses but faking a signature on demand was too hard. They'd mess up their sign in sheet or sign a bad check badly and get busted on the way back to their ship. The better writing analysts could tell from changes in signatures whether the signers were nervous or ill or under the influence which certainly interested the local creditors. Scams dropped to tolerable levels.

The banks got several ships that skipped payments repossessed. They were happy.

The companies saw the license poachers jailed. They were happy.

The local merchants had a reasonable chance of being paid. They were happy.

The nobles seized several ships that were owned outright by their captains and began outfitting them as a small trade fleet for exporting handcrafted local wares. They were happy.

What did the nobility export? Illuminated manuscripts.

Forgery can mean different things to people at different technological levels.Analysts can analyze a signature for authenticity and their expert opinion is admissible as evidence in many courts today. Some cultures may view signatures as a quaint custom, writing being hardly used anymore. This can bite them on the rear in numerous ways as indicated.

Writing things down is one of the most secure forms of data entry. Bad guys might hack your computer or use fancy gadgets to read your monitor from a distance. But a notebook is immune to all that (and also EM pulses and viruses). Some navigators might even keep a written log or rutter with information on charting the best course on a given route with precomputed steps they found to work

Of course this could also lead to the ultimate secure fund transfer system: the letter of credits.

Monday, September 5, 2016

What's In the Locker?

As I've been doing ship deckplans I noticed something about a great many starships of fiction. Where the hell do they keep the toilets? All right I got past that and I don't want to write a post about it anyway. For some reason they don't even call them bathrooms or lavatories they're 'freshers.

Another point often glossed over is where the heck do crewmen store their belongings? I loved the officers' staterooms in Star Trek's various eras (I can't call them cabins, the damn things were biggers than some places I lived) but there weren't any obvious closets. Did they just fabricate everything they needed? Did they have only what they needed in the few drawers I did see and store bigger items in the cargo deck?

It was also peculiar in Next Gen era Trek that the only recreations facilities we ever see are the lounge and the holodeck. Yes. The holodeck could be a basketball court or bowling alley, but it takes up a lot of power and computing time that might be better used. A few empty gym sized rooms and a replicator could set up whatever sports arena you wanted within reason.

But where do they keep the emergency gear? I went back to plans I had done and began sticking emergency lockers all over the place. Maybe they aren't all placed perfectly because hey people aren't perfect and you might have other things you need to get to more often than emergency gear but they are there.

I'll note some seating arrangements may have a storage compartment for  gear as well. Canny crew will have made alterations to keep gear they might need nearby but this gear is often the type that involves stabbing and shooting people and realy there are a lot of other kinds of more likely emergencies.

I will just say whatever the technology of your setting, no matter how cheap hauling mass across the stars becomes hauling less mass will be cheaper still. Storage space is precious but necessary

1) First and foremost I think a locker would have a fire extinguisher. A fire aboard a vessel is very bad whether at sea or in orbit. Some vessels will have fire suppression systems but you can never have too much firefighting gear.

2) Breathing masks are another must have,  something like the compressor/filter masks many settings use.  A compressor feature will let you breathe and stay conscious longer in a compartment that has been breached. That may save your life. The filter part helps if there is smoke or other contaminants.

3) Hull patches and tape. These are crucial for stopping up that pesky hole letting the vacuum in. Hull patches and breathing masks are damage control gear. Spacesuits are for salvaging wrecks or doing maintenance. The theory is any weapon making a hole in a compartment big enough to suck you out into space would surely kill you outright. So far no one has stepped forward to dispute this.

4) Flashlights. All this good stuff is useless (except the breathing masks) if you can't see to use it.

5) Magnetic/micro-hook/grav soles or other foot wear that lets you stand in one place and work on things. This is particularly useful when ships have artificial gravity of some kind (whether centrifugal, constant boost, pet black hole or handwavium induced) and crew are not used to zero gravity work.

6) Tools. Tools are nice, one for prying, one for banging,  a couple for screwing/twisting. Throw in a couple of rolls of tape.

7) Survival/Repair Manual(s) Have a bunch of these on a tablet with a very long duration battery.

8) Medical Kit something that holes your ship could leave you alive, barely. Fires and other accidents can also leave you injured but alive. Antiradiation drugs and painkillers are a must. A pressure drop could cause the bends and you might want to take the edge off that long enough to fix whatever caused it.

I'm sure I left something out. I'd like to hear from those with more experience on what to include in one of these lockers. If you bought Ships of the Galaxy: Hawking Courier you'll see I included DC lockers and they're pretty big. They could probably be smaller if I knew what goes inside better.