Friday, November 20, 2015

Mega-corpses and Bureau-rats

The whole premise of auctioning trading rights to various worlds got me thinking. In the Solar Queen novels (Sargasso of Space) some if not many of the worlds being auctioned had intelligent life (A and B class I think). The crew bids and wins the rights to a class D, no known intelligent life (operative being of course 'known'.)

That seems rather cavalier to allow a bunch of merchants to contact a presumably non space traveling culture. What if they start selling them flintlocks and lasers and nukes? That got me thinking that perhaps the Universe of the Solar Queen is dominated by megacorporations that pretty much set the rules or at the very least the government is one of the least intrusive ever conceived (They're selling nukes? Give a yell when they start peddling tri-cobalt devices!) This in spite of providing tax payers such services as rescue station and the ever nosy Patrol.

Then again in Plague Ship the Solar Queen is made out to be a plague carrier and liable to be blasted on sight by any Patrol ships encountered with very little due process beyond a rumor some rat starts. So maybe the megacorps have the Patrol eating out of their hands?

A setting running on hyper-capitalism makes for interesting adventures. I'll say that. in Classic Traveller megacorps make great patrons, savvy and influential enough to know about that macguffin and pay your merry band to retrieve it and ruthless enough to make you opt for witness protection in Hell to get away from them (it won't work) if you screw up or screw them. But usually the government is a complication. They don't view one corporation killing another's workers, scientist and guard or blowing up their research station in the good natured fun loving way the robber barons do. If Lucre Tech blows up Dyno Buxx's anagathics producing moon on Tuesday odds are their CEOs will be working things out and having a laugh at the club over cigars on Friday night (before going home to their husbands.)

But now cast government into the role of passive and easily distracted stooge (never happen in real life!) Your guys can run riot over the opposition with little fear of exposure. They can hit those juicy X starport worlds for fun and profit. They can turn pirate if they desire provided they pick their targets carefully. No target making over five megacredits a year for sure.

If you think about it this makes sense given the premise of Mercenary: Traveller assumes a remote centralized government (referred to in this volume as the Imperium), possessed of great industrial and technological might, but unable, due to the sheer distances and travel times involved, to exert total control at all levels everywhere within its star-spanning realm. 

Bear in mind 'Imperium' was pretty much shorthand for 'whatever the hell central government (if any) you want,' not the laboriously detailed setting that it would grow to be. Now a bunch of thinly spread revolver toting nobles is one way to go. Another way (if you ignore or rework those pesky A+ social standings) is a mercantile league where darned near anything goes. Especially if there is no external pressure to promote brotherhood and fellowship (until we wipe the other guys out!)

It fits other elements of the Traveller LBBs, like having heavily armed civilian ships. Everyone is out for themselves. The Patrol or Navy is to serve the big corp affiliated merchant liners and trade ships. Everyone else is on their own.

As for nobility who needs them? In the 3I setting they are merely a social class cultivated to follow orders and be loyal to their superiors. In a corporate ruled setting with many unaffiliated worlds there are merely one time mailroom tenders and other mailroom tenders looking for a chance to backstab them. Any multiworld governments will be much smaller to facilitate a quicker response to emergencies. Of course that also means ticking off one polity will not require you to travel for 18 months to reach their border. A few jumps and you're in a new polity ready to screw them over.

I'm starting to like this set up.