Horizon: Salvaged Heroes, Ch. 5

Horizon could not find the words to describe the sensation of her flight at a quarter the speed of light. The closest equivalence her personal experience held for it would be this one time she had been convinced to try a sport airfoil on Surt. It had been a primitive vehicle, no radar, no AI assist, not even electronic controls. When she wanted to turn she’d had to physically move a mechanical control yoke in the direction she wanted to go. When she’d looked down she was able to see the landscape moving below her. It was a far cry from computerized space flight where the only indicator of one’s progress was a countdown on a monitor. She knew, intellectually, that the Resolution employed sensors and AI systems far in advance of any other ship she’d flown, and that she could only perceive movement thanks to her extreme velocity and long-reaching “eyes.”

They zipped past planetoids, homing in on the tiny habitat of Stouton. As the station swelled in her view Horizon could spy the debris cloud expanding out from it. At a light-minute out she slowed the Resolution to a more conventional speed for near-station maneuvers, she could ascertain that an explosion had occurred in one of the residential sections. “We’ve arrived,” she announced on the intercom.

“Very well,” replied Princeps. He gestured to the holo-tank and issued orders. “Give me a comm line to the station’s disaster relief center.”

Continue reading “Horizon: Salvaged Heroes, Ch. 5”

Horizon: Salvaged Heroes, Ch. 4

The opossum in the perfluorocarbon tank stirred, took a quick look around, then made a call on his BCI. Both Brom and Tanya saw the call notification on their HUDs, Horizon, who’d been exploring her own BCI, picked up first and subvocalized her words.

Horizon: Finally, you’re awake!

MechRat: Tanya? Is that you? Where am I?

Horizon: Relax, you can breathe, it’s perfluorocarbon. It’ll drain out in a few minutes.

MechRat: The breathable liquid? I’d heard some clinics and high-g ships used it to keep people alive, where are you?

Horizon stood up from the table where she’d been sitting and grabbed a robe, she’d already figured out how to reconfigure the smart fabric of her own into a jumpsuit using her BCI’s wireless interface. She walked up to MechRat’s tube and waved at him.

Horizon: We got up hours ago. What took you so long?

Continue reading “Horizon: Salvaged Heroes, Ch. 4”

Horizon: Salvaged Heroes Ch. 3

Tanya wakes up after being captured by the strange automated ship, and learns a bit of its purpose.

Tanya woke to a momentary sensation of fluid in her lungs, but it was dispelled in moments by a wave of bright white light. The light faded gradually to reveal a shining marble floor veined with gold and silver streaks, following the streaks led her gaze to the edge of the platform, rising uncountable feet over a green-coated floor dotted with metal and carbon-fiber spires that stretched almost as far up as she was. She quickly turned to glance upwards, finding not a ceiling, but a vast blue void over a horizon that appeared to stretch out into infinity.

Slowly, Tanya began to realize where she must be. It had been two decades since she had last been on a planet but that skyline was unmistakable. But how? And which planet? She’d only been on Jord for a short time but it didn’t look like anyplace on that frigid dustball, and she didn’t think there was any construction this big on Logi either.

“New Pallas.” A voice said behind her, as if in answer to her unstated question. Tanya spun around to spy a tall golden-furred vulpine dressed in ornate gilded robes straight out of a historical novel, a pair of white-feathered wings extending from his shoulders. Without thinking the raccoon tilted her head in reverence, though she did not know who this awe-worthy individual was. “Once, the jewel of the galaxy.” He waved his hand, and a wave of red fire swept over the landscape.

Continue reading “Horizon: Salvaged Heroes Ch. 3”

Horizon: Salvaged Heroes Ch. 2

Just over a month later, Tanya Loter gazed down at the radar readout of the Dustbin as it approached the strange object that had mysteriously appeared at the edge of the Tiere system. She took the distance reading and compared it to their rate of deceleration and breathed a sigh of relief, they’d be slowed to a standstill just before hitting the edge of the debris cloud surrounding the object. The new drive system was doing its’ job, hopefully this thing would be valuable enough to recoup the cost. As she watched the timers count down the feeling of false gravity around her lightened and finally ceased altogether.

Carefully she unclasped her harness and swung around in the open air over her seat, microgravity making it seem effortless. Tanya was not particularly athletic, though she also wasn’t as chubby as some of her species got. She easily massed more than 90 kilograms on a 170 cm frame, but enough of that was muscle that she could arrest her momentum when needed. She had barely cleared the cockpit bulkhead when she had to test that agility. Just after she pushed off into the corridor, she spotted a now familiar black form flapping her wings towards her. Acting on well-practiced instinct, Tanya flicked out her long ringed tail at the frame of the bulkhead she was passing through, causing a shift in her trajectory that flung her up towards the “ceiling” of the corridor. She reached out for one of the straps along all the walls of the corridor while also holding a hand out to guard her head. A second after her hand looped into the strap her other hand collided with the ceiling, causing her lower half to spin up towards the ceiling instead. She winced a little as her tail absorbed the impact with the wall, a little embarrassing to do in front of a planet-sider but the best she could manage in the situation.

Melene Corus spread her wings wide and slowed her own approach, the neo-raven’s talons casually grabbed hold of a strap on the opposite wall from Tanya’s own handhold and she came to a stop within a meter of the raccoon. She turned her large black eyes on Tanya’s and asked a single biting question. “Shouldn’t you be at your station?”

Continue reading “Horizon: Salvaged Heroes Ch. 2”

Horizon: Salvaged Heroes, Ch.1

Amazon has finally unpublished by Kindle Vella serial, now I can release it to the public.

Through the inconceivable depths of space, a single small vessel streaked at speeds immense. Even with the field of negative energy folding space around the craft its’ journey had taken years. But now the long voyage was nearing completion, the target system was in sight. The Tiere system, colonized by the Old Federation centuries ago with two rocky planets and one moon of a gas giant terraformed into imitations of Ancient Earth. According to Ronkalli data, the system had a population exceeding 4 billion gene-modded colonists, but as with many stars it had backslid into barbarism with the collapse of the Old Federation.

Thus, the great Imperator Ronkall, in his infinite wisdom, launched Project Paladin to restore civilization to the stars. While sending a proper delegation all the way to bring even one star into the fold was infeasible, a small ship, such as the Resolution here, with a skeleton crew of trusted envoys and the seeds of a full nanofactory was just barely practical. According to the mission details saved in the ship’s computers, these envoys of civilization would recruit Tiere natives and provide them the advanced technology necessary to become the champions of galactic order their system surely needed. Given the proper tools these champions would surely bring peace and stability to their chaotic system, enabling it to properly join in the Imperator’s efforts to restore civilization to the galaxy.

Or at least it would, were it not for one little micrometeorite.

Continue reading “Horizon: Salvaged Heroes, Ch.1”

Serial Coming

Horizon: Salvaged Heroes just wasn’t attracting any readers on Amazon’s new episodic story reader, so I’m yanking it and posting all 14 chapters here (a week at a time I think).

Unfortunately they insist on 60 days exclusivity after unpublication before you put it on any free sites. Though if I’d wanted to package it as a Kindle ebook apparently I could have done it already according to their TOS.

Oh well, check back here in December for stories about a posthuman raccoon superheroine.

Or go to my Patreon, it’s been there this whole time (including the latest chapter which isn’t on Vella).

Organized Crime in the Federation

The Federation is no utopia, make no mistake, and while nobody goes hungry there’s still more than enough black market activity and social stratification to sustain multiple categories of organized crime syndicate.Their specific activities vary from world to world, depending on what vices the local government has banned. For instance, Secland has a habit of banning some product from nearly every newly colonized planet or recontacted Outworld for fifty years before the legislature experiences enough churn to reverse the ban. Swarzvelt doesn’t like weapons in the hands of commoners. EDI restricts most narcotics that could make their workers sloppy.The source of their membership also varies based on their culture.

Shadow Houses: Legitimate Centauran Houses are frequently engaged in a fair bit of shady activity already, but Shadow Houses don’t even have the veneer of a charter. Most have been formed by klientoj who were forced into contracts that left them no room to escape or improve their situations, they banded together to look out for each other and get some extra resources on the side. A few Shadow Houses claim to go all the way back to the post-plague annexation and the first ex-SPPS klientoj, but those claims seem dubious at best.

Cetan Tetrads: Shortly after the species caste system was established on Swarzwelt the “worker” species figured out the warriors didn’t much care about them and they had to look out for themselves. Hence, the quadrads, named for the four states of matter and the four castes. Quadrad members are stereotypically lapines, rodents, or vulpines, but a surprising number of clans consist or ungulates.

Zeroes: In the Eridani Directorate, ownership of shares in the corporation is the key to (legal) power, for those without shares, the law is less kind. “Zero gangs” live under the radar of the security forces, keeping their activities hidden from the security officers they haven’t paid off. Media tends to portray them as reckless teenagers breaking shit for fun, some younger gangs might be like that but they tend to dissolve or get absorbed by an older established gang quickly. The “Cyberpunk” subculture on Secland and other worlds is thought to be based on anti-Zero propaganda, but the genuine Eridani gangs tend to look down on Cyberpunks as “posers.”

Pirates: There are two types of pirates, privateers and idiots who’re likely to be dead soon if they don’t get out. Because there’s no stealth in space it’s extremely difficult to sneak up on another ship and any battle is going to be noticed by the system government. Sometimes in-system commerce in fringe systems can be raided and the pirates get away with it, but interstellar data traders are liable to delete or transmit their cargo if they can’t catch the pirates in their exhaust plume. About the only way to make a profit off piracy is to “take commissions”. Privateers might legally be hired to hunt down known pirates on the fringe, and it’s rumored the Federal Guard has authorized some to disrupt the space programs of advanced Outworlds, but they’re most notorious for intercepting data traders competing with their clients in deep space. There tends to be a degree of crossover between private security contractors and privateering, it’s not unheard of for a mercenary ship to approach an isolated asteroid and offer their long-term policing services while pointing their mass driver towards the main hab.

Superheroes Revisited

A while back I wrote about how the concept of superheroes might not fly in a transhumanist setting where anyone with sufficient resources might rebuild themselves into a superman.

But after writing about the different legal systems in the Para-Imperium I had a couple ideas for implementing them. One “above-board” and one “below.”

Sanctioned heroes: The “memetic badass” approach, where the security forces attempt to reduce expenditures by focusing not on big police departments, but on a small group of celebrity supermen with customized augmentations, movie-star good looks, and extensively marketed adventures. Not dissimilar to the purpose of Knights in Shining Armor in Middle Ages Europe. In this case, their purpose is less to fight crime as to dissuade people from committing crime in the first place, so only those with the resources to field their own super-villains, or attention-seekers like the guy Rorschach dropped down an elevator shaft, will dare to commit crimes. Either one tends to suit the entrenched oligarchy just fine, the fights make for good publicity.

A sanctioned superhero’s jurisdiction rarely extends beyond their home planet or habitat, and they’re typically part of a planet- or star system-spanning organization of other heroes. Attempts to form a Federation-wide group like the Green Lantern Corps or their Lensmen predecessors have thus far been stalled in committee.

This approach is vulnerable to the death of a superhero, as crime tends to skyrocket until a new hero manages to build an equal reputation to their predecessor. As such superhero leagues tend to have the best medical care available, including, it is rumored, illegal brain cloning.

Vigilantes: The “shadowrun” approach. These tend to arise most often in polycentric legal systems like the Pallene or Cetan law systems, in which feuds can simmer between factions for decades, centuries with life extension. The romanticized version is a tragic figure like Batman or Zorro who has a legitimate grievance that the conventional authorities failed to address. That type of vigilante does exist, but tend to be short-lived as they right the wrong that led them to take up the cape and then retire, or die trying. The more common variety are mercenaries more akin to Deadpool, supersoldiers for hire willing to act as deniable assets for any House or company with sufficient credit.

Legal Systems of the Core Worlds

The modern Westernized legal system is by no means the only way that things have been mediated throughout human history. It should be no surprise that parahuman legal systems vary widely as well.

Pallene: The Houses prefer to handle things internally whenever possible. The House Primus is responsible for settling disputes between members of their House and is even empowered to impose penalties for misdemeanor crimes against other members. When disputes arise between people in different Houses their Primii will try to sort something out first. But crimes against another House, or torts that get out of hand, the parties involved hire an Arbitrator from the Civil Guard, paying equally. Arbitrators are also called in for every instance of a felony, and especially in the case of murder. Premeditated murder carries an unambiguous death penalty, voluntary manslaughter (“spontaneous murder”) may be reduced to a hefty fine and probation for up to a century under drone surveillance or house arrest. Conspiracy to commit murder merits exile to an Outworld. Lesser penalties tend towards fines and probationary periods that might be reduced if the convict goes to therapy. Punitive incarceration is unheard of.

Gepatrono-klientoj contracts establish somewhat similar legal relationships between patron and client to that between a Primus and their House, but with a key difference. Nobody can be compelled to testify against another member of their House save in the case of capital offenses, but a patron can be made to testify against their client while the inverse is not true. However, patrons are also required to pay their clients’ legal fees and unofficially expected to use their connections in the oligarchy behind the scenes. Simply having a client who’s been convicted of a crime is a stain on the patron’s reputation, if the patron were to break contract when their client got arrested it would be even worse. In fact many Pallene oligarchs have become known for recruiting clients from members of less-wealthy Houses who’ve been accused of a crime.

Cetan: Old system: A caste-based system, when both parties were of the same caste they were judged by a local elder of their caste. For Labor-majority villages this was typically the village headsman. However if the dispute involved members of different castes a judge of the warrior-noble caste was called in. The warriors themselves benefited from a privilege similar to the kiri-sute gomen of Japan’s medieval samurai, allowing them to pass judgement and sentence on commoners who offended them. It was uncommon but not unknown for a commoner who bumped into a warrior on the streets to be cut down on the spot.

Federated: After contact with Alpha Centauri and the formation of a central government the warrior-nobles’ relative power has steadily eroded. Judges are now certified by a central testing system, with others prohibited from passing judgement regardless of caste. More recently it became possible for judges of any caste to arbitrate inter-caste disputes, so long as the judge doesn’t share a caste with either party.

Eridani: The Eridani Directorate (Inc) relies heavily on their surveillance system to detect crimes and dispatch security officers rapidly. Officers will then subdue (if necessary) and issue fines on the spot. The accused can attempt to appeal, but usually they’ll be lucky if they’re allowed to pay gradually. Very little private property in EDI areas is not owned by the company, with residents only leasing it, and the company tends to rate crimes based on damage to its’ property first and the livelihood of residents and employees second.

I recommend looking into David Friedman’s Legal Systems Very Different From Ours for more information.