Sunday, April 26, 2015

W Is for Water Run

Nok: Finally a planet with a normal level of light. I can take my shades off here not to mention walk around without fear of combusting.

Mukh: Now if you had a healthy coat of slime ... you poor mammals.

Tivk: We'll survive.

Mukh: I dunno. Take the humans: they were one asteroid strike away from living in the dinosaurs' walls and stealing scraps to survive.

Tivk: I doubt that any Tyranosaur could get the best of the Chief.

Nok: I'd be selling tickets to that fight. What's going on over there?

Trader: Step up! Be orderly, you rabble! Yes let me have a scan of that stone ... 20 carats. Very nice. That will buy you -10 liters of water! Good thing you caught me today. Tomorrow the price goes up!

Nok: This is the way it goes on tide locked worlds around an M star.  Too low a water percentage to start with and it all freezes out on the night side. My homeworld was lucky. But this ... those firestones are worth thousands!

Mukh: The dirty chiseler! Rrrrrrr.

Nok: Hey. Merchant! What do you think you are doing to these locals?

Trader: I’m selling them water, fresh from the dark side. I sold them some water ice I collected from asteroids on my flight here and that cost even more. It was imported!

Tivk: You are selling them their planet’s own water. This amoral hyper-capitalism is tantamount to extortion.

Mukh: Yeah that’s ... the hell did you say?

Trader: I prefer to term it in 'situ resource utilization'. I can charge for my labor, wear and tear on the ship and my time. I am a licensed trader and charging what the market will bear. Anyhoo this planet is in open space. The Fleet doesn’t run things out here. So hand out your brochures, conclude your cultural exchange and be on your way.

Nok: You’ve taken advantage of the low technology level here. Those locals could supply themselves easily if they had environmental suits or sealed vehicles. Why not sell them those? 

Mukh: And sell them service contracts!

Tivk: We’re trying not to exploit the locals, Mukh.

Trader: Wah wah wah. Not my fault their ancestors got stranded here and went stupid tech.

Nok: ... 

Many people have said that interstellar society will have little basis for trade because any solar system has enough resources to last a space faring race for their foreseeable. Barring luxury items or unique substances and crafts there is little to be gained with trade.

That is not always the case. As transportation methods become negligible or even just cheaper it will pay to harvest resources from some star systems where they are easier to get to. A case in point is asteroid mining in our near future. Though the earth is chock full of metallic wealth little things like depth and magma make 99% unreachable. For some precious metals it actually pays to sent a rocket with a crew of rovers.

For that matter the Earth is lousy with water. Water can be used for fuel, propellant, life support and shielding along with wet tee short contests. However that water is at the bottom of a big gravity well and we are looking at Lunar ice as a possible water source in the near future.

Imagine if the Moon were inhabited; bat people, Lunar apes, cat girls - your choice. We’d have to deal with them one way or another for that resource in spite of our apparent wealth because our transportation systems are too primitive and make it too expensive to bring Terran water into orbit.

So the bad news for space opera settings is that those evil aliens might want something your lovely world holds, if it can be mined more efficiently there. For that matter if living beings are cheaper than robotics you might wind up mining it for them with a rifle aimed at your head.

The good news is with technobabble magic warp hyper fight jumps we have a basis for trade. A system without asteroids but a prime garden world might send food cubes to those belters in exchange for titanium and iron. The garden planet might even accept belters from overcrowded stations who wanted to turn farmer. You have a basis for trade in raw materials and immigration.

Technological mismatches provide yet another facet for trade. It could be as simple as bringing cell phones to underprivileged natives (the phones are free - the contracts are where we soak ya!) It could be a matter of providing services. Those belters will be glad to mine your satellite for you for a share of the mineral wealth and free lodgingin your orbital port and they can do it a lot better than your local boys.

Again the price of robotics will either encourage or eliminate slavery. When a robot becomes cheaper than a living sentient’s upkeep your slaves are no longer necessary (and become vermin).

Trader: You ... DOGS! Swine! 

Nok: Who us?

Mukh: I’m more frog like. It is a common mistake. The Chief always calls me a sonuva ...

Trader: You gave those natives hand stunners and an electronic de-crypter to open up my ship. They seized my water AND my ship till I pay an import tax and a dozen fines for health infractions and ... they want me to unionize my market workers. You utter bastards!

Mukh: I might have explained how galactic economics worked. 

Tivk: We brought no such equipment with us besides our own gear which is registered with our ship. It is present and ready for inventory. If I were you I’d make way to your embassy with all due speed. There is a large mob of locals cresting that hill now waving said out of place weaponry and they look far from charitable.

Trader: Nyaaaaaaaaaagh!!

Mukh: Humans run funny. That serves him right. So what’d you charge the prince for those stunners and the de-crypter?

Nok: I think it came to about ten thousand credits in firestones. I’m opening an account for his government with it. 

Tivk: I had my misgivings Mr. Nok when you asked me to fabricate those stunners and the de-crypter. Fortunately the resins required were the same as those used for trade good kits. But we are pushing the envelop on allowable imports?

Mukh: Naaah.

Nok: Well here come our new friends. They look pretty impressive, do they not? They seem very proud of those stunners. Look at them wave them around!

Mukh: Yeah like the Chief that time I ... Did you guys show them the fabricator? Do they know WE have the means to manufacture stunners?

Tivk: I might have ... done a demonstration for the prince.

Mukh: Prep the shuttle!

Nok: What for?

Mukh: Prep the damn shuttle!!!

Tivk: Prepping now! Come assist, Nok! You hold them off Mukh!

Mukh: Why am I the strong  arm?! I have two PhDs!

Tivk: Your skin is 10 centimeters thick not counting mucus secretions. You can take ten hits from those stunners before being knocked silly! Try to stand in front of the lateral stabilizer. A stun discharge there could lay us up for a bit.


Mukh: You better hope they knock me silly! Dakkadakkadakkadakka!

Tivk: You do know yelling ‘ Dakkadakkadakkadakka’ does not improve your aim?

Mikh: Prep the mother loving shuttle! Ow. Ow! Did you have to give them Type 2 stunners!? ... Why isn’t my stunner working on them? ... They’re superhuman!!

Nok: You’re trying to stun them with the targeting laser Dr. Two-PhDs!