Saturday, 1 October 2016

In Flight Entertainment

Low passage in Known Space is not all about refrigeration, it’s about sensory deprivation, bodily invasion and embarrassment too.

The Low Berth tank first becomes available at TL 10. The passenger is anaesthetised, many interesting implements and tubes are inserted into every bodily orifice and they are cooled to about 4 degrees celsius. They then awake, partially, and spend the trip drugged into immobility and semi-consciousness, boredom kept at bay by virtual reality headsets. At higher TLs it becomes possible to keep the passenger in the tank longer with fewer long term repercussions.

The process is not that dangerous as long as precautions are taken to prevent pressure sores and deep vein thrombosis, the nutrient mix pumped down the passengers gullet is of sufficient quality and the bodily wastes are removed efficiently by the suction pumps at the other end.

It does take a toll though, and passengers will need a few days to fully recover at the other end. For the longest trips a course of physiotherapy to return the limbs to full use and a weaning process to rehabilitate the gut to solid food are recommended, and it is not recommended for older passengers.

But it is cheap. A medical orderly with very basic nursing skills (Medic - 0) can manage 10 passengers during the trip, plus 10 more per level of medic skill beyond that. Most dedicated ‘Fridge Ships’ make extensive use of automated monitoring through computer expert systems.

Upon opening the berth at the destination the attending doctor makes a medic roll. These can be hired at a class C or above spaceport for 50Cr plus 10Cr per medic skill per passenger de-tank, cheapskate transport companies like RyanSpace charge this as one of their many hidden extras. A stay in a rehab centre at the spaceport will be a minimum of 100Cr a day.

Add the passengers Endurance bonus, the doctor’s Edu bonus, -1 per two weeks in the tank, +1 for TL 11, +2 for TL 12.
Roll

0 Possible permanent injury, make an ageing roll

1 Possible permanent injury, make an ageing roll at +2

2 Possible permanent injury, make an ageing roll at +4

3-5 Lose 1 from Dex, Str, End and Int per two weeks in the tank. Recover 1 point at random per day spent in a quality rehab facility, if you make an End roll gain an extra point. If a stat is reduced to 0, there is a permanent loss of 1 point to that stat.

6 Lose 1 stat point per week in the tank, roll randomly for each, may be from Str, Dex or End, regain 1 a day through a stay in a medical facility.

7 Lose 1 stat point per two weeks in the tank, as above.

8-11 Lose 1 stat point per four weeks in the tank.

12 No stat loss, can walk away after an hours medical check up.

Poor or miserly passengers may decide to forego the recovery clinic and tough it out, walking off stiff muscles and dealing with the vomiting and diarrhoea as their gut wakes up to solid food again. Recovery takes twice as long if inactive and just relaxing in a normal hotel, five times as long if the passenger insists on bustling about the city or wilderness. 


There's no such thing as a bad trip in  HappiCorps low berth tank!


In Flight Entertainment


The VR set ups in the tanks again vary in quality. You may spend a couple of weeks trapped in a dire sub-D&D MMORPG, you may have a relaxing jaunt through one of the standard travelogue programs like the sights of Old Earth, or endless re-runs of soap operas. Military ships of course take the chance to put their tanked soldiers through battle sims, exploration vessels enable their staff to brush up on their science education, and there is usually some kind of language learning or cultural orientation sims for those planning a long terms stay in a destination colony.

Skill training packages can be used in the tank, but being drugged up makes the information hard to retain. Roll 8+, + Int bonus for a week in the tank to count as a week of training in a given skill.

And there are persistent rumours of these VR sets being used to do nefarious things to passengers. Colony ships taking bulk shipments of indentured labourers to Torch allegedly get the poor sods used to their future life by running them through sadistic programmes of simulated beatings, the Orphean League allegedly pay space lines to subject travellers to ideological indoctrination in Orphean Humanism, all ESA Starbuses supposedly try and hypnotise passengers into talking French and liking camembert, the CIA choose random passengers to turn into ‘Manchurian Candidates’ to assassinate key people on their destination worlds, etc.

One fact that is undeniably true is that some people are vulnerable to VR addiction, and many high-tech worlds have Tank Parlours where people may enter suspended animation and play these VR games for days, weeks or even months at a time without the excuse of being in transit on a boring spaceship ride. There are some tough worlds out there and plenty of boring ones with little but dull repetitive labour due to robot shortages or meaningless unemployment due to an excess of automation; tank addiction is on the rise.

Adventure Hooks

  • It’s fucking MMORPG time again, three weeks passage between Quintus and Fargen mugging orcs and pootling through Elder Scrolls CXXXVII… Some sonofabitch is making the whole thing even worse by fragging everyone, and how did he level up so fast anyway? Has he been stuck in the tank grinding away for months? Yes he has, he’s an Aquilan businessman’s tank addict son, he’s been in the ship’s tanks for about a year now blowing thousands of credits hiding from his dad. His father might offer a reward for his safe return but his body will be in terrible shape after a year and getting him out alive will be a major medical operation and you might need a shrink on hand to convince him that he is not in fact Ygloog the Necromancer. Takes it mighty seriously - getting the rest of the passengers to gang up on him in game might take the little snot out, but he will bear grudges and his baggage allowance is mostly taken up with an auto-laser.
  • Half a dozen people on Zephyr have been found babbling in an unknown language, apparently suffering from some kind of amnesia and nervous breakdown and exhibiting quite high levels of violence. Psychiatrists are baffled until some nerd realises they are talking Klingon and further investigation leads to the ‘Enterprise III’, a Free Trader where the medical orderly in charge of the low berths ran out of the usual anaesthesia for the low passengers and started using some street-drug shite that was mostly scopalamine. He spends his off shifts in the tanks himself and subjects the passengers to a lot of Star Trek fanfic.
  • J’accuse! An experiment in AI is underway at the University of Fargen. Volunteers wanted to spend a month in the tank in a simulated Revolutionary period France, but the twist is that one or more of the other players will be the latest model of political science AI rather than the usual dumbass NPC subroutine. The originator of the scheme, Professor Davide Danton is so sure no one will spot his cyber-sans-culottes he is offering 10 000 Cr prize money if you do. Try not to get guillotined, I hear this AI plays for keeps.
  • The code-monkeys of Neuland on Epsilon have always excelled at producing genuinely interesting VR entertainment and also at stealing, cracking and recycling whatever content comes their way. One such, Ultra-Simian Odin-seven of the Galloping Gibbons collective (they are a silly lot in Neuland), wants a Chinese military battle-sim and will pay handsomely to get it. Or he already has it and Chinese security agencies, baffled by the anarchist antics of the Neulanders and losing agents, want it back and have to get outside contractors to do it. Or it happens to be a simulated space marine drop on the US colony of Newhio and a PC who experiences it in low passage gets the distinct feeling that it is too good and too uncannily accurate to truly be purely a Neulander shoot-’em up game and feels the urge to dig further.