Sunday, May 15, 2016

Cold, Dark Dreams Between the Stars

Frequent travelers avoid them. The Navy uses them as a matter of necessity. Lifeboats are built around them. The poor or desperate use them as a last resort.

The low passage.

Low passage is referred to as cold sleep or suspended animation (more on this later but I don’t think it can be a complete suspension of biological processes.) You experience no passage of time and do not age in low passage. It is suggested you keep a record of time spent in low passage as it can cause discrepancies in a character’s ages. In practice I’ve never seen a character using a low berth regularly get old enough for it to matter.

Let’s look at the numbers for various forms or passage:

Middle and High Passage both require a stateroom (4 displacement tons). At standard rates those four tons will give you a return of cr. 2500/ ton for high passage or cr. 4000/ton for middle passage (assuming you get to cram two middle passengers into one stateroom.) Life support costs Cr. 2000 per two weeks leaving a net income of Cr. 2000/ton for high and cr. 3500/ton for middle passage. High passengers also require a steward costing cr. 1500 per two week trip which further eats into the profit depending on how many passengers will share said steward. In addition high passengers are given 1000 kilos of luggage and thus have a hidden cost in that they cost the ship cr. 1000 that could come from hauling a ton of cargo. So high passage actually generates as low as cr. 1600 to 1900 a ton. 

A low berth displaces 1/2 ton so for one displacement ton you can carry two suicidally frugal passengers for cr. 1000 each. The income is cr. 2000/ton which oddly makes low berth’s earn cr. 1800 per week. No steward, no unwieldy luggage. No hijack attempts. No snooty passengers asking you to turn the gravity down or floss the teeth of their exotic pets.

Okay some of the passengers could die on you on revival. You did provide for a medic-2, right?


Okay. They did sign a waiver. Let us proceed.

On a trip without a medic-2 in attendance 28% of low passengers die (according to RAW). With a low endurance this jumps to 42% at which point the low passage lottery becomes rather lucrative for the crew. With a medic-2 and average Endurance the death rate is 17%. One in six is a bit better than most boat people flotillas but those folks don’t pay a grand to make the trip (and can probably carry more than 10 kilos of gear). 

Obviously the average Traveller Universe has a very large and seamy underside if there is a constant flow of people willing to chance death to leave their planet. Imagine paying cr. 1000 for a 17% of death just to escape something and you soon realize every low passenger must have a hell of a story. 

Low berths are often used in an emergency. An injured person in need of medical attention is placed in a low berth to ‘keep’ better till a hospital is reached. The crew of a ship that misjumped and is faced with a decades long trip to another star may likewise settle into the low berths rather than face starvation. I always wondered what happened to the actual low passengers in a case like that. Just how much does that waiver allow you to do with them?

Low berths were originally used to transport livestock and zoological specimens. The process was not originally intended to be used on humans. The lethal nature of low passage might have something to do with the complexity of the human brain. Perhaps some functions are damaged when the person is revived incorrectly. Optionally death might be reserved for snake eyes with 3-4 indicating a loss of Intelligence or Education. that’s up to the referee. I will note that lowering intelligence will make people to keep using low passage even after it has failed them once. 

I’ve already mentioned evil mega-corporations (C) withholding better versions of low passage out of simple economics. They cost nearly as much or more than high or middle passage.

What f the secret of safe revival isn’t tied to technology levels but more of a recipe you could discover by trial an error: so many cc of this drop administered at this phase etc? then things get very ugly. Recipes, according to modern law at least can’t be patented. If you learned the recipe for the best selling soda Company Cola you could turn out the same soda under a different name. It’s sort of like OGL. Except the Company would probably kill to keep that recipe a secret. 

A medic who had such knowledge would be rich administering his services to low passengers and frozen watch. If you think the Navy is going to let that secret slip and fall into enemy hands you’re dreaming. Let the civilians join the Frozen Watch if they want to cold sleep safely. Shipping lines will likewise each have their version of revival and advertise it as being the safest, though none of them publish statistics on their revival publicly.

It also is not advertised but many jails have a few low berths on the premises to detain dangerous individuals (in other words psionic humans). Characters trying to break a friend out of jail might wind up having to do a rapid revival. No, the jails do not normally have revival kits on hand. Transporting officers bring that stuff with them. this cuts down on jailbreaks (at least the successful kind).

A final point to ponder concerning cold sleep: while your metabolism can be slowed down to nearly nothing, why do that? slowing it down by a factor of 20 or so will make a one week trip pass in about eight hours for the passenger, the equivalent of a good night’s sleep. You could do this with  medical slow drug. the cost is cr. 200 for the drug and cr. 900 for the antidote. Now cr. 1100 with no chance of dying or cr. 1000 with a 1 in 6 chance to die indicates either there are a lot of suicidal cheapskates in the Traveller ‘verse.

Fast drug might not be as widely available in the galaxy as freezing technology. Its antidote may not be available everywhere too forcing its users to spend 60 days of downtime. It also is mentioned users are extremely vulnerable and thus might require a fancier low berth than those who use cold sleep. You might be looking at cr. 3000 to cr. 5000 for a hot sleep and have the captain pay cr. 2100 per trip for life-support and drugs.

Maybe most ship captains don’t want to put up with this and opt for cold sleep only. Maybe the passengers just don’t know better. Maybe human life just doesn’t mean as much anymore. The Scouts do still get recruits.