Monday, 29 December 2014

The Problem In Margin Of Profit

Nicholas van Rijn's Solar Spice & Liquors Company supplies cinnamon and London dry gin to Sector Antares. Other companies of the Polesotechnic League also have markets there:

"'...if Jo-Boy Technical Services bring in no more engineers and scientists, the colonies will train up their own.'"
-Poul Anderson, The Van Rijn Method (New York, 2009), p. 140.

Surely that is what the colonies should do in the long term? Maybe Jo-Boy should open a training center in a colony?

However, there is a more immediate problem:

"'...certain irresponsible elements of [Technic] civilization...'" (p. 150) have for high pay helped to modernize the backward terrestroid planet Borthu which has been forcibly united by a paranoid culture and has built an interstellar empire that includes the route to Antares. Borthudians detect the wake of a League ship, intercept, phase in, hit with a tractor beam, haul alongside and burn through the hull. They want not the cargo but the trained crew whom they condition to work for them, to maintain their forty light-year diameter empire, the Kossaluth of Borthu. Fifteen percent of shipping is lost. The Federated Brotherhood of Spacefarers votes and refuses to take ships through the Kossaluth.

Possible Solutions, Part I
Suggested by Lodgemaster of the Brotherhood Captain Torres:
Detour, either through astronomically more hazardous regions or by a safer albeit further route.
Objections from van Rijn:
Double or quadruple voyage length! Halve or quarter deliveries! Boost salaries and other costs! Losses would be greater traveling through the Gamma Mist or the Stonefields {Interjection: I would like to know what those are. PS.}. Crews would be dead, not prisoners whom we can try to get released. The safe route would mean an absolute loss.
Torres: "'We'll face meteoroid swarms, infrasuns, rogue planets, black holes, radiation bursts, hostile natives -'" (p. 142) but not Borthudian impressment. (It is good to see rogue planets mentioned again.)
Suggested by Torres: A punitive expedition would be guaranteed full crews.
Van Rijn: the League lacks a large combat fleet. Force can be used against a planetary ruler but not against an enemy capable of interstellar war, which would in any case bankrupt many companies. The government of the Solar Commonwealth would accuse the League of imperialism or piracy and might even help Borthu.
Torres: League measures short of war?
Van Rijn: Threats, trade offers, sanctions and attempted assassinations have not worked. We have nothing to bribe them with. Avoiding their territory will suit their cultural isolationism.

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