Delta-V: Foundational Barter

Previously: The year is 3301. Six months after Zachary Hudson was swept into office, Jason Frimantle, a young and unregistered Commander, broke with his father to start his own trading business.

One of these days, I’m going to need to get myself a docking computer.

It wasn’t that Jason had trouble easing the Wayfarer through the ‘mail slot’ of a particular station. His more immediate concern when landing was scraping his ship against the guide rails, or bumping up against other ships. It was a reaction based on how the Federation treated incoming or outgoing Commanders — threats of lethal force were commonplace from traffic control. Jason found the attitude of those along this trading route much more agreeable, for the most part. He guided his ship to the landing pad within Lave Station, feeling the reassuring bump of his landing gear against the solid metal.

The pad lowered into the hangar, and Jason felt the faint pull of the access corridor interior’s 0.2 gravity. One didn’t have to worry about a particularly strong step along a corridor putting one into freefall, but handrails were still highly recommended. He moved from his ship into the corridor with a few long yet careful strides, and took hold of the handrail in the corridor. A few minutes later, he was in the Workers trade station, bringing up his manifest to onload some crates of Lavian Brandy.

The woman at the front desk looked up as Jason walked in. “Commander Frimantle?”

Jason blinked. “Um. Yes?”

“Commissioner Parker would like to see you.”

Most of the dealings Jason had had with the Workers of Lave Liberals had been through a contact that worked directly with the system market. Parker was the overseer of the faction’s trade, a subordinate to their leadership; from what Jason had gathered, they were a middle manager who tracked inventory and ship traffic. He wasn’t sure why such a person would want to see him, since he was still starting out in terms of being a freelance trader. Regardless, it wouldn’t hurt to make new friends, or at least establish new contacts. He thanked the receptionist and found Parker’s office.

Parker stood in front of a floor-to-ceiling holo display of Lave’s market, a tablet in one hand and a stylus in the other. She was an older woman, still in her middle years but definitely showing the signs of working hard on her career. She wore a business-style blazer and knee-length pencil skirt that flattered her figure yet projected an air of professional austerity, backed up by the unadorned blouse that came to her neck. Her reddish-brown hair was drawn back in a conservative bun, but the chopsticks holding it in place were lavishly decorated with flowers and branches that seemed to fly in the face of her steely demeanor.

Jason adjusted his jacket, which he’d opened after exiting the Wayfarer, suddenly aware of the fact that both it and his pressure suit were due for a cleaning. His hair was probably mussed, as well, from the last few trade runs being uninterrupted by stopping for anything other than food and sleep. Parker looked up from the tablet in her hand at the motion, looking at Jason over the rims of spectacles that complimented the light brown color of her eyes.

“Commander,” she said, her voice reminding Jason of a schoolmistress. “Thank you for coming to see me.”

“Nice to meet you, Commissioner,” Jason replied. “What can I do for you?”

She turned away from the display to lay her tablet on the desk. Jason noted she was wearing high heels, which couldn’t have been easy at lower gravity. They weren’t stiletto-style, but still…

“I have need of a trader who can take care of a matter of some urgency. Your efficiency in the Zaonce trade route leads me to believe you can accomplish such a task.” She turned back to him, regarding him for a long moment. “Do you believe I am correct?”

Jason nodded. “Lots of Commanders starting out like this run, ma’am. It’s got decent profit margins and there’s enough of a gap between deliveries that no markets get too flooded, nor do they dry up. The items are always in demand, be it Lavian brandy or blue milk.”

“I see you have a head for the greater business picture as well as your own credits. I do believe we can work together.” She picked up a different tablet, took a step towards Jason, and handed it to him. “How is your planetary landing experience?”

Jason regarded the tablet. It was information and telemetry for a settlement called Abel Prospect, located in the Arque system. “I’ve been a spacer all of my life. Making planetfall hasn’t really been a priority, but I’ve done it a couple of times. Usually with my father guiding me.”

Thinking of his father filled Jason with a mix of emotions that weren’t entirely pleasant. He tried to keep that out of his voice, but Parker was studying his expression closely. After a moment, she nodded.

“Very good. The settlement has indicated a need for medical supplies. There has been a minor epidemic of a rare skin disease. None of the in-system stations have what they need to deal with this, and they want to combat it lest it become a system-wide outbreak.”

Jason studied the layout of the settlement and the planetary landscape around it. “I don’t see any landing pads.”

“That is the other concern. They lack the facilities to accommodate starships in the usual manner. They also have no means to take in a SRV. So the supplies must be hand-delivered.”

Jason’s brows furrowed. “How’s the gravity there?”

“0.09 on the surface. They need two tons of specialized medical supplies, and are paying 200% above market price. You will be entitled to 50% of the profits.”

Jason looked over the figures, and hoped he wasn’t suddenly showing signs of his excitement. With that amount of money, he could buy several enhancements for the Wayfarer — a frame-shift drive with longer range, an improved fuel scoop, a more comfortable pilot’s seat…

Maybe even a new ship, he thought.

“I do believe you’ve got yourself a pilot, Ms. Parker.”

“Excellent. The sooner you can depart, the better.”

A short jump or two later, the Wayfarer‘s planetary approach suite was guiding Jason into a low orbit over the rocky body where Abel Prospect had been established. The gravity of the body was negligible, but he definitely felt the tug of it when his ship dropped out of supercruise. The Wayfarer creaked slightly as he adjusted his approach, unused to flying in any sort of atmosphere or planetary gravity. Granted, Abel Prospect’s host body had only the thinnest of gas layers drawn to it during its formation, and a human being would still suffocate in about 15 seconds if they found themselves outside without a pressure suit.

As he made his descent, he checked his radar to ensure a good position for the transfer of the goods. Then he looked again. There was another contact on the surface. He rolled to starboard to get a visual look. A Hauler, smaller (and, in Jason’s opinion, less elegant) cousin to his own Adder, was parked near Abel Prospect’s sole lock. A bad feeling crept into him, tightening his jaw as he sussed out a similar place to put down the Wayfarer.

Once he was settled on the surface, Jason activated his p-suit’s helmet and seals, and did a check of his equipment — integrated oxygen supply, suit displays, utility & gun belt, and so on. He moved aft, unlocked the crates from their restraints, and opened his hatch before pushing them out towards the lock. As he moved closer, he saw that it was still cycling. Quickly, he tapped a few commands into the control panel. He reset the system, then opened the outer door.

Two men were inside, wearing pressure suits, staring in shock at the outer door. Jason gave them a wide grin.

“Gentlemen! Delivering medical supplies?”

One of them slowly nodded. “Um… yeah.”

Jason nodded, looking over the crates. “Four tons, it looks like. What’s your margin?”

“150% market price,” said the other.

“Undercutting the competition to sell more quantity? Nice.” Before he continued, Jason took in the logo on the crates. He blinked, trying to hold down a sudden surge of shock and anger.

It was the logo of his father’s company.

Without warning, he drew his pistol. Like the flight jacket he’d left in the Wayfarer, it had belonged to his grandfather. It was an old-fashioned ballistic weapon, a revolver, designed to fire without issue in near or full vacuum. He shoved its muzzle against the clear faceplate of the closest trader. The other man didn’t move. Neither of them seemed armed; if they were, their sidearms were somewhere inside their pressure suits. What was the point of that?

“Okay. Before I cycle this lock, you’re going to leave it. And your crates. You’re going to take off, go back to Eravate, and tell my father that he, and you, and any of his other cronies, are staying on your side of the galaxy. Nod if you understand.”

The man nodded. Jason reached behind him with his free hand and opened the outer door one more time.

“Good. Now get out.”

They obeyed. Jason slammed the butt of his pistol into the controls to close the door and cycle the lock. He turned to the crates — now six in total — and tried to ignore the little voice telling him that, technically, he’d just committed an act of piracy.

But what was his father going to do? Put a bounty on his own son?

Elite Dangerous is a registered trademark of Frontier Developments.

Thinking Trek

There’s an article on Grunge that posits that living on the Enterprise-D, setting for ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’, would absolutely suck. I read through the article a few times, gave it some thought in my off-hours, and I want to refute some of its points. I mean, I list all of the points, but to be honest, some of them aren’t completely wrong.

Just most of them.

The transporter killing you: “death” is too strong of a term. Yes, the matter of the body is broken down and then reconstructed elsewhere, but the neural energy of the person is stored and then transmitted into the reconstructed body. This is the ‘consciousness’, ‘soul’, etc — scientifically speaking, it’s the firing of neurons in the brain and the engrams stored within it, held in suspension by the computer. It’s possible that a glitch in the transporter’s functionality can create a copy of this energy pattern – see the introduction of Thomas Riker in “Second Chances,” and why he’s less morally inclined than William (DS9 episode “Defiant”). There’s more to this, but suffice it to say that “the transporter kills you” is way too simplistic an interpretation. Don’t get me wrong; I love CGP Gray and all he does. Including his video on the transporter being a “suicide box”. I feel this is the best refutation I can offer.

Bathrooms: The Galaxy-class definitely has more than one bathroom; we see Matt Frewer using a ‘refresher’ in the episode “A Matter of Time”, and there’s a ‘head’ specifically on a bridge layout I saw just off of the Ready Room and, iirc, the conference room. The design team for Star Trek are very smart folks; to claim that this meeting of the minds would put a ship populated by hundreds if not thousands has only one bathroom is ludicrous. Funny, but ludicrous.

Cabin Fever: Again, let’s consider that Star Trek has its own internal logic and structures. In this case, there isn’t just one counselor aboard the Enterprise. Commander Troi is the head of the counseling staff, she’s its senior officer. Sure, she could be a ‘senior officer’ because she is the one person on the counseling staff, but what sense does that make? Sources on this may not be ‘canon’, but it makes sense to have more than one therapist aboard the ship, just like it makes sense to have more than one bathroom. Let’s also consider that all of our real-world space-faring experience has been in very, very cramped quarters. A ship the size of the Enterprise affords plenty of opportunities for privacy and a break from contact with the usual coworkers or family members. There’s artificial gravity, fresh food, amusements & physical activities… many things current astronauts, unfortunately, do not have.

Spandex: No. There is no way they’re wearing spandex in the 24th century. It looks futuristic to our eyes, or at least it did in the late 80s/early 90s, but… just no.

Families: Yeah, it’d be really awful if your family was in the section the Borg cut out of the saucer in “Q Who” or died at some point during the events of “Cause and Effect” and, despite the time-loop shenanigans, stayed dead. I’ll grant this would suck.

Holodeck sex: This one’s probably true too. Thankfully, I suspect that there’s technology that can clean the place after things are over with. Some sort of technobabble pulse that scrubs the place down in a split-second.

No Time Off: See the Cabin Fever entry.

Holodeck Glitches: Cars glitch and crash, too. As for the consciousness of holographic characters, some are probably no better programmed than NPCs in Skyrim, and others are complex enough to evolve a form of consciousness yet do not simply cease to exist when the program is shut off. So no, they don’t ‘die’ when the program is ended.

Being Insignificant if you’re not on the bridge: We’re pretty insignificant on the whole as it is. This isn’t any different. … Let’s move on before that goes anywhere darker or deeper.

Replicator Breakdown: There are hydroponics labs for a reason, people. Medical science has probably progressed to a point where food allergies are cured via hypospray. So kale, soybeans, and other superfoods will be available. And speaking of eating in space, remember what Shepard Book said in Firefly? “A man can live on packaged food from here ’til Judgment Day if he’s got enough rosemary”. And you can grow rosemary in the hydroponics labs, too.

Wesley’s your superior: Wil Wheaton’s cool and Wesley got a lot less insufferable and a lot more human the further the show got away from its smug first couple of seasons. Let’s face it — everybody was an arrogant snot for a while, there. Once Wesley was humbled and managed to man up in Starfleet Academy (“The First Duty” is a great episode), he makes for a great officer. I’d be fine working with him.

Evil Bosses: This is, again, art imitating life. Many of our workplaces suffer from horrible bosses. We manage to make do, alien parasites notwithstanding.

Our Friend The Computer: So the idea of a computer listening for commands at all times is, on its face, pretty creepy. But the computer is not recording anything unless its told to do so. Now, it’s possible that someone with nefarious designs can hack the thing to record and then use those recordings, but given the fail-safe procedures built into just about everything Starfleet touches (I don’t know if I ever heard the term “tertiary backups” before O’Brian on DS9), Engineering or Security is likely to get pinged if such a breach of protocol is even attempted. And speaking of Security…

The Worf Effect: Let’s look at the facts, here. Next Generation ran for 178 episodes, and only 150 or so of those saw Worf as chief of Security. 150 days is just over half of a year. The show ran for seven years, and even if the Enterprise wasn’t active for that entire length of time (someone would have to collate the stardates), chances are Worf was in that position for longer than 150 days. So I imagine that for the rest of the time, he did his job well enough to hold the position. When we see Worf in action on Next Generation, it’s usually against pretty damn huge threats. Klingons are strong and fierce, but Kahless himself would not be able to overcome every Borg in his way.

The Timeline No Loner Exists: Temporal mechanics is a very odd thing. Be it the “fixed points in time” as explained by the Doctor, or “multiverse theory” that’s been used in places other than Star Trek, a lot of thought on temporal mechanics argues that original timelines, as well as branches, continue on in their own continuity. This, unfortunately, implies that there exists a timeline in which the Earth was destroyed because Kirk and crew did not get back to the 23rd century with George and Gracie.

Being Boring: while Gene Roddenberry brought a great deal to the genre of science fiction, and nobody can deny his accomplishments, the idea of a future without conflict was not one of his better ideas. Which is why subsequent writers ditched that idea entirely.


I know that normally I post a bunch of political stuff on Wednesdays, but I think we all need a break.

500 Words on Blamethrowers

“A lie can get halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” – Winston Churchill

I don’t know for sure if I’ve coined this term myself, or if it’s existed for a while, but I’ve been using “blamethrower” quite a bit lately. As in: “so-and-so made a mistake or became aware of a mistake someone else made, and they broke out the blamethrower.” It’s far too common a practice to pawn off responsibility for a mistake, no matter how large or small, onto another person.

Let’s be clear right from the off: we are responsible for our own actions.

Courtesy Netflix

When we make a mistake, we want to find some explanation. Ideally, an external source — a diagnosed (or undiagnosed) mental condition of ours, a flaw in another person, extenuating circumstances. If we can seize upon one, out comes the blamethrower. We set alight the explanation quickly, setting it alight so that it draws attention, ours and that of others, away from the bad decision we made and towards whatever we’ve chosen to bear the brunt of the blame.

The insidious part is, it’s very easy for others to break out their blamethrowers as well. Fire is fascinating, and it attracts onlookers. All too often, they jump on the bandwagon, contributing fuel to the fire. In these days of social media and infectious groupthink, this can happen at an alarming rate.

Even worse, this can happen when the party getting set on fire has done nothing wrong.

Victims of assault and abuse are set alight with blamethrowers all the time. In those cases, it is often referred to as ‘gaslighting’. The more fuel is added to the fire, the more the person in question is dehumanized and perceived to be something or someone they’re not. As the rumor mill spins up to dizzying speed, throwing off flames like a Catherine wheel, it gets harder and harder for the person in question to cope with the situation, determine their true role in things, and assert their inherent personhood.

Worst of all, blamethrowing is a tool that can be used to further political agendas.

Those in positions of power, be it the potentate of a nation or the vanguard of a social group, can mobilize their key supporters to bring someone forward as a strawman to set alight. The nature of the person or the particulars of the circumstances matter little; what matters is burning down someone so that the “ruler” looks better by the light of the flames. When you exist in a social group, if you make a mistake that offends, or suffer abuse at the hands of, a person or people in power, it’s all too easy for you to come under fire; the bandwagon rolls on, and you are crushed underneath.

The only thing we can do in the face of blamethrowing is assert our sovereignty, own our portion of responsibility (if any, in the case of victims of abuse), and strive to be the best versions of ourselves we can be in light of everything. It’s never easy. But it’s all we can do.

On Fridays I write 500 words.

The Lonely Road to “Better”

Courtesy Warner Brs.

I have a confession to make. I don’t always fully disclose what I’m thinking or how I’m feeling. It’s not that I intend to engage in deception, obfuscation, or lies of omission. In my mind, I consider other issues far more important than something that occupies the entirety of a single head weasel’s diatribe. When it comes to therapy, I drill down below the layer of the feelings to general, foundational matters that could be holding them up. With others, I take the opportunity to shift my focus from something that refuses to change to something I feel I can change, and ask for help with it.

The fact is, the more I tread this road of getting better, the more I realize how lonely it is.

This is ongoing work, and precision work at that. When it comes to my own heart and mind, who is more qualified than myself to hold the metaphorical scalpel? Time and again, I’ve probed into the dark corners of my shadow, finding behaviors that have impeded me, or that even have informed toxic behaviors. I’ve cut them out like cancers. I try not to feel diminished by this, but liberated, because just like not every child is special, not every part of the self is good or valuable. Certainly, these aspects of ourselves have things to teach us; unfortunately, some of those lessons are learned in very hard ways.

Especially when we’re called on those problematic aspects by others. Or, worse, when aspects that need to be lovingly touched upon for healthy healing are instead exploited for the gain of others through shaming and emotional violence. But that is a discussion for another time.

No matter how we are made aware of what is required for us to get better, the realization can trip us up, perhaps even cripple us for a time. Anxiety over the past and present overwhelm us, attack us. Grief and self-recrimination join forces, twisting knives in our hearts and tying our innards in nauseating knots. We retreat, we hide ourselves away, we grief and we shudder and we cry.

We are not okay. And that, in and of itself, is okay.

I wouldn’t be where I am, able to articulate this, if I hadn’t spend a good amount of time not being okay. I’d visited that place repeatedly, falling almost immediately into suicidal despair, only arresting myself and getting the most direct and scorched-earth type of help I could. Doing this got me accused of “attention seeking”; all I wanted was some fucking help, right the fuck now. I wasn’t okay. I wanted to be okay. I wanted to get better.

I didn’t want attention for it. I had to do it alone. And I expected to. I didn’t want to. But, on some level, I knew I had to.

At one crucial point, it became clear that the lonely road, and hard days of walking it, were my only real option. To say nothing to the outside world, to share nothing of the walk along that road, to make my focus getting better. I was alone in my grief, isolated in my anxiety. I could, and did, get help when and where I could, in person and from professionals, out of public view. I wanted to get better for myself, not for the sake of any public perception.

When, in a recent discussion, the subject of ‘being on my side’ came up, I said this:

I’m not going to say anything calculated to get you on my side. All I care about is showing up, in this moment, in the best possible way I can. People can make their own judgments.

It’s taken me a long time to figure out that I don’t have to live up to anybody else’s standards. Sure, in a working environment, standards must be met if I wish to remain employed. But in my personal life, on personal projects, the only required standards are my own. To be honest, I think a lot of the blame that’s been placed on my shoulders for things past came from my personal standards being so low and secondary to the standards of others. When others became aware of the fact that I prioritized their standards over my own, it became easier for them to shirk personal responsibility and push the causes for discord solely onto my shoulders. This isn’t to say I had no part in the course of events; indeed, I’ve had to look back critically to find which of my former behaviors pushed events in one direction or another. I’ve accepted that it’s what happened, I own the things I did wrong, and I’m working, constantly, to get better in that and many other regards.

I’ve had to let go of how others see me, of wanting so badly to be accepted, welcomed, loved by others. I’ve had to learn how to love myself, to care enough about myself to want to correct myself, shape myself into a version that meets higher standards that I alone set, to be a better self. It’s been difficult. It’s been heartbreaking.

It’s been lonely.

I’ve worked to get past the public shame. I’ve worked to define myself, by myself, for myself. I’ve worked to get fucking better.

And I’m not done yet.

I’ll still get anxious. I’ll still get nauseous. I’ll still be haunted by memories, sidelined by grief, temporarily crippled by heartbreak. Some things, some people, we simply do not get over.

I am not going to let that stop me.

Neither should you.

There’s an aspect of each of our selves that we’ve picked up along the way, through informed behaviors of others or the endemic troubles of society around us. It’s up to us to push those aspects away, put them down, walk away from them, let them wither and die. That is how we move forward. That is how we meet higher standards for ourselves. That is how we get better.

It’s not selfish for us to do this for ourselves. It’s necessary if we want to survive.

And we shouldn’t, for a single instant, feel guilty that we’ve torn ourselves apart, thrown away and destroyed that which has held us back, and put ourselves back together.

It’s a hard road. A lonely road.

For my part, it’s the only one worth walking.

And when it comes to those parts that were in the way of me finally getting better, when I give them a face and a name, and I cut them free of who I was, away from who I want to be…

I’m really, really glad they’re fucking dead.

Tuesdays are for telling my story.

500 Words on Elite Dangerous

Courtesy Frontier Development

When I finally get home from long commutes down to and back from the home in which my start-up employer operates, I tend to be tired and mentally drained. It’s difficult for me to muster the juices I need to fuel my writing — a fact I try not to be too hard on myself over. Still, between the fatigue and my growing disgust over the situation in this country and on this planet, I prefer to wind down my day by going to space.

For a while, this was facilitated through Star Trek Online. Star Trek is one of my favorite sci-fi universes, and I’ve met some wonderful people there. However, I slowly came to realize that in terms of gameplay, I was unfulfilled. Like all MMOs, the world is mostly static; no matter how many times to beat up a certain enemy faction, the missions in which you do so never change. It’s hard to feel like you’re having an impact on the world around you. There’s still a hard divide between your reality and that of the game world, unlike something like Skyrim.

Then, I started playing Elite Dangerous.

Digging out my old Attack 3 joystick and G13 game pad, I quickly found myself immersed in one of the best space sims I’ve ever played. A few years ago I played through a few Wing Commander games for charity, and when I was younger, spent hours upon hours in Elite Plus and Wing Commander: Privateer. In addition to the nostalgic feeling of having my hands on a “throttle” and stick, the more I play the game, the more incentive I feel to keep playing. The galaxy is truly vast, with a plethora of options of how to play. Trading, combat, mining, exploration, even hauling tourists to exotic locales — all of these are profitable ways to make your mark on the galaxy. And you can truly make a mark; the game’s background sim and Powerplay functionality mean that if you choose to, you can influence system control, shifts in allegiance, and even the course of superpowers.

I’m trying a bit of everything. My Commander has made his way far from his home system, has joined up with a like-minded group of spacefarers, and I’m fictionalizing the journey. I’m finding more and more ways to make my time in space more rewarding, more immersive, and more challenging. I’m upgrading my joystick, adding voice commands, and I’m very much looking forward to earning enough cash to fund true exploration endeavors to the farthest reaches of the galaxy. I also want to contribute more to the cause of Princess Aisling Duval, the only member of the galactic superpowers outspoken on the idea that owning people is inherently wrong.

The only drawback, so far, is a relative lack of roleplaying. However, I know that storytellers are out there. I hope we’ll run into one another eventually.

Space is, after all, quite big.

Which is why I can lose myself in it for a while.

On Fridays I write 500 words.

« Older posts

© 2017 Blue Ink Alchemy

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑