TORCH OF FREEDOM — Snippet 17

TORCH OF FREEDOM — Snippet 17

Remorselessly, the middle finger joined its fellows. “Point three. You don’t care about marriage anyway. You’re only telling yourself that because you’re still” — he paused for a moment, his heavy features disfigured by a caricature of thought — “at least four months away, by my best estimate, from the liberating realization that you don’t need to be married to get laid — which is actually what your Mongol horde of hormones has got you worked up about, when it comes to Cousin Jennifer.”

“That’s really not –”

But it was hard to divert Uncle Andrew once he was on a roll. The ring finger came up to join the others. To add to the unfairness of the moment, despite Andrew Artlett’s anything-but-gracile appearance, he was actually very well coordinated. Coordinated enough to be one of those rare people who could lift his ring finger while leaving the pinkie still curled in the palm of his hand.

“Point four. Once that realization comes to you, of course, the relief will be only temporary — since it will also become obvious to you the first time you attempt to act upon your newfound knowledge that Cousin Jennifer has no more interest in humping you than wedding you.” He bestowed a cheerful smile upon his nephew. “Whereupon you will suddenly realize you are condemned to a life of chastity — that means not getting laid — as well as a life of celibacy, which merely refers to remaining single.”

Despite himself, Brice had been intrigued. “I didn’t know there was a difference.”

“Oh, hell, yes. Ask any churchman. They’ve been parsing the distinction for eons, the lecherous bastids. And don’t try to interrupt me. Because it’s at that point –”

Inexorably, the pinkie took its place. “– point five, if you’ve lost track — when you’ll go completely off the deep end of early adolescence and start writing poetry.”

Brice’s protest died aborning. As it happened, he’d already started writing poetry.

“Really, really bad poetry,” his uncle concluded triumphantly.

Sadly, Brice had already come to suspect as much.

****

Brice brought the cab to a halt at the very apex of the curve. He couldn’t have done that with most of the roller coaster’s cabs, of course. Even those which were functional — still more than three-quarters of them — had been originally designed for tourists. Tourists were a species of the genus imbecile. Hardly the sort of people any sane amusement park would allow to control the vehicles on the various rides.

However, despite the unfortunate results of Uncle Andrew’s enthusiasm on that memorable day, Elfride Margarete Butre had not tried to impose tourist rules on her family. She had not remained the undisputed head of the clan because there was anything creaky about the old lady’s brain. She knew perfectly well that preventing recklessness altogether, in a clan which had as many children as hers did — not to mention the childlike nature of some of its adult members — was impossible anyway. Far better to provide suitable channels for excessive enthusiasm.

So, although she’d rendered most of the roller coaster cabs dysfunctional, she’d seen to it that three of them were brought fully up to snuff — which included turning Uncle Andrew’s jury-rigged controls into something approximating a professional design. And she’d imposed no restrictions on their use, except for the obvious rule that no one was allowed to ride the roller coaster without someone else in the control room — and not more than one cab at a time was allowed on the track. She went even further and enforced that last rule by re-engineering the track so that the power would automatically cut off if more than one cab entered it. Only the Mysterious Lord of the Universe knew how rambunctious teenagers could manage to stage races on a roller coaster, but Ganny El knew perfectly well that the youngsters in her clan would certainly give it a try if she let them.

She probably also knew that her great-great-nephew Brice Miller had managed, with his uncle’s help, to circumvent the controls enough to allow the youngster to ride the track any time he wanted to, whether or not the requisite observer was present in the control room. But, if she did, she chose to look the other way. Elfride Margarete Butre, being a wise old woman in fact as well as theory, had learned long ago that rules were meant to be broken, so the savvy matriarch always makes sure to put in place a few rules for that very purpose. Let the children and would-be children break those rules, and hopefully the ones that really mattered would go untouched.

Besides, although she’d certainly never told him so and Brice himself would have been astonished by the news, the truth was that Brice was Ganny El’s second most favorite nephew of all time.

Her most favorite was Andrew Artlett.

****

Brice spent perhaps twenty minutes just gazing at the splendid vista that his perch on the curve provided him. In the distance, serving as a backdrop, was Yamato’s Nebula. It was actually a dozen light years away, but it looked much closer. Most of Brice’s attention, though, was given to the giant planet around which the station revolved. Ameta’s cool blue-green colors belied the fury that swirled in that thick atmosphere. Brice had spent enough time watching Ameta to know that the cloud belts and the periodic spots in them were constantly changing. For some reason, he found that continual transformation a source of serenity. Watching Ameta could remove for a time almost all of the fourteen-year-old angst that afflicted him.

Not all, of course. His two efforts to transfer that ringed glory into rhyme and meter had been . . .

Well. Disastrous. Truly putrid. Poetry so bad there was a good chance the spirit of ancient Homer had shrieked for a moment, back there on distant Old Earth.

About twenty minutes after arriving at the curve, all of Brice’s momentary pleasure vanished. He’d finally caught sight of the vessel coming toward the amusement park’s docking area.

Another slaver had arrived.

He’d better get back. Things were always a little tense when slave ships showed up to use the park’s facilities. They had no legal right to do so, but there were no effective authorities out here in the middle of nowhere to enforce the law. Soon enough, anyway, to make any difference. The mining boom that Brice’s great-grandfather had expected to develop on Hainuwele had never materialized, despite several false starts. The gas-mining operations that did take place in Ameta’s atmosphere required far less labor than old man Parmley had counted on to keep his amusement park in business — and those miners were in no position to serve as the system’s police force, even if they’d been so inclined.

Years back, the first two attempts by slavers to use the park’s mostly-abandoned facilities as a convenient and free staging area and transfer station had erupted in pitched battles with the clan. The family had won both fights. But two of them was enough to make it obvious that they couldn’t possibly survive many more — and they were now much too poor to abandon the park.

So, a combination truce and tacit agreement had developed between Ganny El and her people and the slavers. The slavers could use the park as long as they kept their activities restricted to specified areas, and didn’t bother the clan. Or the tiny number of tourists who still occasionally showed up.

And paid something for the privilege. Fine, it was blood money, and if the Audubon Ballroom ever found out about it there’d probably be hell to pay. But the clan needed the money to survive. There was even a little bit left over after each transaction for Ganny El to slowly build up a kitty that might, some day, finally allow the clan to give up the park altogether and migrate somewhere else.

Where? Elfride Margarete Butre had no idea. It wouldn’t happened in her lifetime, anyway, as slowly as the funds accumulated.

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22 Responses to TORCH OF FREEDOM — Snippet 17

  1. JN says:

    Ah. Light dawns. “use the park’s facilities” could mean almost anything, though I doubt it realtes much to riding rides.

    J

  2. Dean says:

    Hey, slavers love rollercoasters as much as anyone!

  3. laclongquan says:

    The vast warehouse? The auto-kitchens? The auto-first-aids-stations? the repair stations?

  4. JN says:

    Not ot mention “stage and transfer.” One gets the impression of a livestock pen: clean, sort, grade, auction. So a 14 year old boy can come in contact with pleasure slaves. Add this to the hints of a slave underground on Mesa, and the words “information conduit” spring to mind, if you have acertain sort of mind.

    J

  5. robert says:

    Wondering. If Manpower is raising genetic slaves then what are the slavers doing? Are they capturing runaways? Doubtful. If they are taking slaves from backward planets or captured vessels, then who buys them if Manpower can “manufacture” them to spec? Weber never made that clear as far as I can remember, and the idea of slavers makes no sense (to me)in a universe with Manpower in it. Of course, in a technologically very advanced universe, slavery makes no sense. I consider slavery in the Honorverse a mistake and an idea not well thought out. And I know, I know, that Manpower is a front for other nefarious doings, but slavery makes no sense anyway.

  6. Maxim says:

    @4
    I do not agree with you Robert. I think given that the political situation allows for that, slavery makes perfekt sense. The technological developement has nothing to do with it.

    Slavery even not that much for the use of humans as laborworkforce, though at one place Weber describes(I couldn’t cite, but perhaps somebody will remember where it was written) where this also makes economic sense.

    Slavery is much more about control(pleasure slaves could surely be replaced with advanced adroids, but then it wouldn’t be the same) and power.

  7. Maxim says:

    If you think about it a little. In todays age there are very many slaves still out there.

    We do not see them, but even if you ignore people who are enslaved through economic, ideological or other means, even in “civilised” western hemisphere there are for example enough whores who have been forced to work as such, and then (mostly because they don’t speak the native language and have no documents) they stay there forever.

  8. Maxim says:

    Another example is Chechnya (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chechnya) as the political situation got out of control there were very many people obducted and held as slaves.

    And I do not see that in the Honor universe the human nature is any different as it is today. Given that the political situation allows for that, slavery “always makes sense”

  9. Peter Z says:

    @4 Robert, think about it as Manpower franchising the ditribution of their product. The vast majority of the risk in dealing with slaves in the honorverse revolves around distribution. By using independent distributors, Manpower has reduced some risk to their own people being caught and executed (if unlucky). They get their money up front from the slavers and face no risk of losing ships or lives to law enforcement.

    Your concerns about the viability of salvery as a business model are sound. DW mentions himself that slave labor is not viable. Pleasure slaves are a different kettle of fish but do not have enough mass apeal to generate massive amounts of money. There are other ways a group so good at bioscience can make even more money. So, there must be another reason. I suspect that since Eric is co-authoring some of this new series what we all will be treated to is an argument in literary form dealing with how a given moral paradigm is justified.

    Is morality subjective to individuals or does it have an objective/absolute basis? Do human beings have ANY inalienable rights? If so, where do they come from? In this series we have Honor and Grayson who believe that human rights derive from God. In Cachet we have a subjective perspective. He will bear the cost of protecting all he holds dear AS HE PERCIEVESs those things and requires no divine justification or suffer any divine limits on his actions to do so. Mesans do the same things Victor does, only they hold different things dear. The storyline will delve into the ramifications of each outlook.

    From this perspective, slavery is essential to the story, because it embodies a condition of humans being deprived of all rights. Without that end of the spectrum, no discussion about how many rights are truly inalienable is meaningful, let alone from where such rights may be derived.

    Peter

  10. robert says:

    @5 and 6 Yes, cultural & economic conditions may result in stuff like “white slavery” today and it does exist, but except for some idiots in the garment industry, it does not exist in the world of work.
    What I am saying is that in the time and place we are reading about, either Manpower will produce the required “product” genetically or machines will do the job better and more cost effectively. Furthermore, what do slavers do that Manpower doesn’t? I say that the idea of slavers, that is, people who capture other people and sell them into slavery, is far fetched in the Honorverse. Also, if the “product” is of any value (which I doubt) then shipping the Manpower-produced slaves in the horrid conditions described is also not productive. So excepting Manpower (also doubtful), all the other stuff about slavery is not reasonable–to my mind, anyway.

  11. robert says:

    @8 Peter that is an elegant argument for self-determination and self-government, both from a religious and and a humanist perspective and I agree with it completely. We have seen Weber do religious material in other than an Honorverse context (e.g., Safehold).

    Leaving aside literary considerations, and accepting the Manpower situation (slavery as a distraction or ruse loss leader), you are saying that the slavers are merely Manpower transportation contractors. If that is all, then I accept their role. But I am under the impression that they do more than that–they actually enslave and sell otherwise free people independently of Manpower. Am I wrong?

  12. Peter Z says:

    @10 Probably not wrong, but I haven’t seen any textev supporting the idea of non-genetic slaves being sold into slavery. We have the Warneckie’s of the galaxy enslaving people and ruling over them, but vanishingly few instances of selling his subjects into slavery. As supporting evidence the discussion between WEB Duhavel and Michael Oversteegen concerning the moral basis for slavery shows how foreign any idea of a slave that is not genetically engineered as a slave was to the other attendees of Cathy’s party.

    Peter

  13. Maxim says:

    @9 Peter, I agree completely with you that the current cultural and economic conditions in our world make the industrialised slavery not costeffective.

    My main point was another: The slavery does not go against human nature or the in other words I do not believe that the cultural developement of humanity all together makes it impossible that under certain conditions the application of slavery as a workforce wouldn’t be possible.

    The Honor Universe is not our Universe. You can not go out from a linear developement of moral, economic, political or other standards.

    In my opinion in the Universe, as Weber painted it, the slavery is logical.

    And the reasoning as laid out by Peter @8 is very well underlining, why Weber choose to bring the slavery in this Universe (additionaly slavers make very good enemies and enable him to set a fine setting for the story)

  14. Maxim says:

    A small correction: I meant @9 Robert at the beginning.

    Sorry, it is already pretty late(in Germany) and my concentracion suffers. :)

  15. Maxim says:

    I think these words are an interesting hint, in which direction the “Ganny El” clan will participate in the story:

    “Years back, the first two attempts by slavers to use the park’s mostly-abandoned facilities as a convenient and free staging area and transfer station had erupted in pitched battles with the clan. The family had won both fights.”

    I look forward to the meeting of these new charakters with the old ones. I hope there will be no misunderstandings because of: “And paid something for the privilege. Fine, it was blood money, and if the Audubon Ballroom ever found out about it there’d probably be hell to pay.”

  16. Thirdbase says:

    @#4 Slavers are not only people that go out and capture people and make them slaves. They are also the people that transport the slaves, recapture escaped slaves (see the story of Elaine Komandorski/Georgia Sakristos), they are also doing other transport jobs for Mesa/Manpower (See Shadows of Saganami).

    I imagine that they are also out there looking for new business operations, new places to do business from, and the other things that are needed to run a business.

  17. robert says:

    @15 Maxim, the clan will most certainly end up being removed by the Boewulf Commandos to the safety of…ta, da, Torch.

    Thanks everyone for a wonderful debate on slavery, etc. I really enjoyed reading everybody’s arguments, even if nobody really agreed with me. This is a great site.

  18. Peter Z says:

    @13 Maxim, I am not arguing your logic. My point has been that as a corporation, Manpower is NOT maximizing their profit by relying on slave LABOR as a source of revenue. Some of the darker elements of human nature may indeed find slavery apealing, those elements do not represent a huge market to exploit. There are larger markets available to generate truly massive profits, given Mesan bioscience expertise. My point still stands, profits are not the primary motivator for slavery in the honorverse. Manpower is devoting huge resources on an enterprise that does not maximize their profit potential. Some other reason MUST exist for Manpower to stubornly resist abandoning their less than optimal product lines (Salve devoted to physical labor). The corespondence discovered on Torch (Verdant Vista) supports this very premise.

    I won’t revist how obvious or obscure this point is in honorverse history. I will emphasize that right now (1921 PD) only a stupid, blind, paper-pushing SLN analyst with cultural blinders dark enough to shield a nuclear explosion from ground zero can fail to start persuing why Manpower is deliberately reducing their profit margins.

    Peter

  19. Maxim says:

    @15 Robert, why do you think that the clan will be “most certainly removed” to Torch?

    I am not argueing, only asking.

    @18 Peter, You could be right, that only a stupid and blind SLN analyst would fail to see the importance of

    “why Manpower is deliberately reducing their profit margins”, though if you take only this fact alone, there could be a number of explainations
    (stupid policy makers, departamental infighting, powerstrugle within Manpower…)

    But did you also think about, that the Manpower is a fact of life in Solarian Leage, and a fact of life which does not realy go against the interest of Solarian worlds(or better said against the interests of these in power)?

    Big chunks of money of Manpower goes to varios people in the Solarian Leage, so they don’t want anything to change, as not to endanger this profit source.

    And this means that the best analysts are not assigned to think about Manpower.

    And the analysts who think about it, do not have very many resources.

  20. Peter Z says:

    @19 Sorry, Maxim, I forgot tospecifically state that the analysist I was referring to are the Financial Analysts that rutinely follow corporations. Technodyne was a case in point. There is risk in investing in even the largest corporations. So, such analysts would have tried to discover as much as possible about Manpower. Even if Manpower was not publically traded, they probably have issued bonds or at least the Alignment has through Manpower. There are incentives to figure out where Manpower is getting their income. Furthermore, I suspect that private investment analysts have a much larger pool of funds available to analyze important corporations (at least in aggregate).

    One of these analysts would have asked that fundemental question. Even if whatever this hypothetical analysts discovers never sees the light of day publically, there would have been roumors with the “smart money”. Intelligence analyst would have picked up on this by now. Such a roumor may not have affected anything in the investment industry due to the massive bribes Manpower tosses around, but the roumors would still have existed. Think about the analysts who had their doubts about Bernie Madoff and Enron. It took years to actually uncover the facts but those analysts opinions were known within the industry.

    Peter

  21. John Roth says:

    @20 Peter Z.

    Maybe, maybe not. What you’re talking about is, among other things, credit ratings. A large part of the current mess came about because the credit rating agencies shifted from a ‘buyer pays’ to a ‘vendor pays’ basis for issuing ratings, which immediately created a conflict of interest that resulted in totally bogus AAA ratings for a lot of ultra-leveraged derivative securities that had enormous exposures to the utterly predictable business cycle.

    So how would a financial analyst judge the credit-worthiness (or long term viability) of Manpower? They’re not a member of the Solarian League, so any Solarian League regulations for accurate financial reporting wouldn’t apply. The appropriate government is Mesa, and we know how much credibility to give (dis)information that’s guaranteed by that source.

    If Manpower, the Jessyk Combine and so on and so forth aren’t looking for an infusion of off-planet investment money, there is no reason for anyone to want to look at Manpower’s financials. They’re a vendor, they most likely deal cash on the barrelhead.

    We don’t even know if they’re publicly traded off of Mesa. Most likely not, given the meticulousness that Detweiller and Co. have put into the “onion.”

  22. Peter Z says:

    @21 John, Manpower may indded not need additional investment either from inside or outside Mesa. However, I suspect that one reason the SL leaves them alone is that they do have non-Mesan shareholders/investors and so are traded outside Mesa. iAlso, if I recall correctly wasn’t Admiral Young (Crown of Slaves) engaged in investment activities funding Manpower operations?

    It appears then that they do finance the upkeep and development of every slave they generate. They have to pay the staff and maintain the systems for years before they realize any revenue for an individual slave. That’s a heck of a lot of resources assuming comparable wages to the rest of the SL. Multiply that by the number of slaves they produce each year and you will discover that the cost of their inventory is staggering. At one point in their history they would have had to seek some sort of financing for all this outside Mesa or they could not grow to their current size.

    Add to this the Alignment’s other activities and Mesan capital would be stretched to the limit funding all the other mesan corporations. I would find it difficult to believe that Manpower can maintain their cash intensive activities without having some sort of credit line outside Mesa. Credit lines would call for some sort of credit check. The more bogus Manpower makes their credit app, the easier to detect and then reject the credit app. It follows then that some information is accurate and would represent a place to start really tracking the money flows. Because unless Mesa really did isolate themselves totally from the outside galaxy, they will leave a trail of the types of acitvities they engage in.

    Even if Manpower relies on illicit channels for their required funding (like Adm. Young), those channels would require usury rates to offset their risk which would further beg the question why would a business continue to operate with such a high cost of capital in addition to this poor operational efficiency? Heck, I am sure Adm. Young hired analysts to assess just how risky his illicit investments actually were if for no other reason than to properly set his risk premium.

    Peter

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