Wednesday, September 08, 2010

What Sort of Imperium Is This, Anyhow?

One sees it again and again: Rich, civilized, prosperous star-faring worlds but a parsec away from hardscrabble, low-tech, downright unsurvivable planets. Worlds separated by multiple parsecs with more in common with each other than the star systems just a Jump-1 away. Two neighboring worlds: one, a world whose space lanes are well patrolled and regulated; the other, a haven for pirates and a deathtrap for merchants.

If this is the domain of a single galactic empire, it's an empire that appears to be based on selective neglect. Not necessarily deliberate in every case: the idea is well established in "canon" that the Imperium, however powerful it may be, cannot extend its power to every world within its reach at all times.

Consider the policy of the Scout Service of releasing its ships for "Detached Duty" rather than scrapping them. It's understood that those ships will maintain connections with the less fortunate worlds within the Empire. But a doughty S-ship isn't exactly a battle cruiser; and the presence of any piracy in these worlds - so close to civilization, yet vulnerable to predation - indicates that the Imperium's willingness or ability to patrol these areas is limited.

The sheer lack of a starport providing even something so basic as refined fuel suggests that not even the power of the commercial world is sufficient - or willing - to bring these orphans fully within the Imperial embrace. And such orphans are numerous! Roll up a subsector, go ahead: here's a nice one, 43 worlds, virtually all of them in the same J-1 main, but they're not really all that connected: huge swaths of them have only C or D ports; one end is cut off from the other by X and E port backwaters. Even if you wanted to link the civilized planets of the subsector with J-3 routes, there are whole quarters that would be cut off unless you stopped in C-ports along the way. And it's this way IMTU, as well.

The presence of an A or B port is an indicator of the importance of that world to trade or political power; either the world itself can establish such a port, or someone else deems it useful: in any case, these are worlds that truly make up the interstellar community. An empire, then, rather than resembling a geographical mass of territory, should be reminiscent of a root structure: a spindly, branching thing of links and tributaries connecting a handful of worlds out of every dozen. The Imperium's mercantile power flows along those paths; the Imperium's military power sits heavily on the key intersections. The lesser worlds huddled about the worlds along the sprawling roots of the Imperium may be considered part of the Empire, but only in name. The face of the Imperium they'll see most often are the scouts; less often, there will be a patrol cruiser in port. But they're largely on their own. The good news is that they're free to govern as they see fit; the bad news is that their neighbors are, too.

5 Comments:

Blogger Craig A. Glesner said...

Sounds like you have plenty room for adventure here. pirates and trade/brush fire wars galore.

I assume that the Imperium in YTU make patrols now and again to keep one of those branch worlds from starting its own pocket empire, by say working with a successful pirate band?

6:21 PM  
Blogger Craig A. Glesner said...

Just a quick thought, does your Imperium issue Letters of Marque and Reprisal?

I could see this as a method of keeping things on the branches under control. They could be issued like a Merchant Subsidy.

It could be issued to a ship for the route of World 1 through World 2 during the period of X through Y for the purposes of keeping the stability of the Imperium and safety of the space lanes.

6:33 PM  
Blogger Festeria said...

Fester's got patrol squadrons, and they'll hit most of these worlds too, but they don't stick around forever.

Most "Letter of marque" situations are going to be funded by the worlds in question themselves...

I have a vague notion that sometimes, an armed cruiser will come into a system and regretfully explain to the world's government that should they not be "hired" to "protect" the system, they wouldn't be able to guarantee the safety of any incoming or outgoing trade. Those "TP's" that show up might in fact have letters of marque issued by the local world, and may be filling their holds at the expense of the ships they board to "inspect."

12:17 PM  
Blogger Craig A. Glesner said...

I see. Nothing like your friendly neighborhood pirate.

4:38 PM  
Blogger Festeria said...

Another notion: "Corrupt Local Government On A Budget Seeks Starship & Crew To Provide Clout: Will Turn Blind Eye To Occasional Skimming of Trade For A Modest Cut.*"

*Keep your head down if the Imperials show up, we don't know you.

7:17 AM  

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