Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Extreme Auditing

The minimal power managed barely a quarter standard gravity. Beagley ignored the ladder and just dropped the three meters, he covered them as they descended feeling a little silly, a former bureaucrat and money handler playing cops and robbers. He was still glad of the shotgun in his gloved hands. That was why he only jumped a little when the others lit behind him.


The crew deck had a much more up to date entertainment center and newer carpet than their own ship, Sandoval noticed. The media screen had a golden trefoil on a red background showing.


“Thanks for sharing,” Skipper said walking over to the screen’s console. There should be a remote but like all other remotes it was uncannily good at hiding when you really wanted it. Skipper found a hotkey and hit it.


“Don’t hit nothing marked destruct,” Beagley said still looking about. “There’s clutter, dishes, knick knacks around. They didn’t stow for liftoff or ftl insertion … they left in a hurry.”


“Unless they’re still here,” Skipper answered. She was immediately sorry. None of them wanted to move to the bridge yet.


“How’s your stomach babe?” Sandoval asked trying to change the topic.


“Fine … total terror puts a little nausea in its place fast,” Beagley muttered. Skipper couldn't get the hot key to work. Finally remembering her suit glove had a special patch to work a touch screen belatedly, she uncovered one finger tip and pressed.


A ship’s officer looked out at them from his bridge station. He had the star and sextant badge of a navigator. The crispness of his uniform, the depth of focus, all told Skipper this was an AI. Of course the name badge on its chest with a banking logo did too.


“Greetings! If you salvaged this ship my employers will gladly reimburse you five percent of its current value after deductions for breakage, depreciation, taxes and outstanding fines and transfer fees!”

“Your masters are all heart. What happened to the crew?”

Beagley asked.

The AI hesitated.


***

If you think your merchants and traders have a hard time making their ship payments, ask a banker about finding a ship once the captain decides to skip. Banks are in the position of floating loans to people who can flee at hundreds of times the speed of light. Of curse the bounty hunters and repo men get all the media treatments but they are really a last resort and do not in fact deter skipping captains very much. Most of the skipping is deterred by precautions. 

Vetting- a thorough background check on loan applicants is the first step. Fingerprinting, retina scans, DNA profiling and other scans are taken to establish identity and add to a central law enforcement database (Loan Applicant: You ain't sticking that thing in my mouth. Bank Examiner: It don't go in your MOUTH!) In addition to having an identity banks lean towards granting loans to people with other business, family ties or better yet property (that can be seized) on the branch's world. 

Business Plans- you should have one of your own, but some banks will help you tweak it or help with networking. Believe it or not they want you to succeed and keep paying them. 

Snitches- if this is your first ship, despite vetting you will most likely have a crewman making a little extra on the side. He basically reports any dirty dealing to the banks heading off any attempts to skip (in exchange for a fat bonus).

Security keys- the more benign form of this is a hidden security program (often part of the anti-hijacking program). Every time you make a loan payment the bank transmits a code to your ship and everyone is happy. Miss a payment and the computer will have all manner of responses: denying entry to the ship, transmitting a distress call (the captain and crew's pin numbers etc). Some more tight fisted banks may load a full artificial intelligence on your ship designed to incapacitate crew and take the ship back to a branch office -more or less. Course data may need updating and you are dealing with accountants and not navigators. 

Other less savory institutions may let their AI employ less humane means to coerce a crew into obedience. These range from blasting horrific music from hidden and armored speakers to opening airlocks, shutting airlocks and repeating as necessary.