Cauldron of Ghosts – Snippet 09

Cauldron of Ghosts – Snippet 09 

Again, like looking through a keyhole. The problem wasn’t so much the distortion in what you could see. Some distortion was there, certainly, but you could adjust for it. The big problem were all the things you couldn’t see because your field of vision was too limited.

Much better and less censored news was available on subscription channels. But those were quite expensive and restricted to full citizens.

What were they not being told by the news media? There was no way to know. Not, at least, without access to information coming from outside the Mesan loop — and that was simply not available to seccies such as themselves.

“They’re planning something, the bastards,” Stephanie half-muttered as she watched the newscasters. “They’re spending more time than usual hollering and screaming about the Ballroom. Way more time, in fact. It’s practically all they’re talking about lately.”

Cary frowned. She knew what Stephanie was getting at. Provocation was probably the oldest trick in the counter-revolutionary book — and, unfortunately, was often very effective. If the Mesan media outlets were bombarding the populace with warnings about the imminent threat of terrorist outrages, those outrages were sure to come — carried out not by the so-called terrorists but by agencies of the Mesan government.

It was an effective tactic in large part because it was so hard to argue against, especially when you had no access yourself to any mass media. Fine to say, “people aren’t that dumb; they’ll see through it.” The historical record said otherwise. Over and again, throughout history, a lot of people had been that dumb.

“Nothing we can do about it,” she said, straightening up. “Except… Do you think we ought to suspend our regular check-ins for a while? Maybe a week?”

“No, don’t.” That came from Karen, lying on the bed. Cary hadn’t realized she was still awake.

“Why not?” asked Stephanie. “The odds against our check-ins turning up anything are close to astronomical anyway. So what’s the harm in suspending them for a while?”

Once a day, either Cary or Stephanie ventured outside the apartment to check one of the six dead drops they maintained in various places in the city. Four of them were in the seccie quarters. The other two were in heavily-trafficked areas frequented by seccies on their way to work as servants in the citizen districts.

The drop locations had been set up by the Manticoran agent who’d called himself Angus Levigne when he’d been active on Mesa. Months had gone by since he and his odd-looking partner had left the planet — or gotten killed, they didn’t know which. The odds against Levigne or someone else using the sites to get in touch with them again were low, of course. Maybe not astronomically low, but pretty close. Still, since they had no other means of re-establishing contact with anyone from off-planet, they continued to maintain the routine checks.

Painfully, Karen levered herself up on one elbow. “I don’t care about the drop boxes — although we may as well check them while we’re out.”

“I ask again: why? We can get food and supplies a lot closer than the nearest of the drop sites, so why take the risk?”

Karen shook her head. “You’re not thinking far enough ahead. How much money do we have left?”

Cary was their treasurer, insofar as the term “treasure” wasn’t laughable. Official Keeper of the Piggy Bank would be a more accurate way of putting it.

“Not a lot.”

“Enough to pay the rent and buy food and supplies to keep us going for six more months?”

Cary took in a breath and puffed it out, swelling her cheeks. “Well. No. I figure we can go another two months for sure. Maybe up to three, if we ration really tightly.”

“About what I thought. We need to face facts squarely, folks.” Karen made as little waving motion with her hand, indicating her body. “I’m most likely going to be dead within three months.”

Stephanie started to protest but Karen talked over her. “Cut it out, Moriarty! Optimism and keeping our spirits up is one thing. Dumber’n a box of rocks is another. You know as well as I do that I’m not going to last much longer unless we can get me some pretty major medical treatment — and how are we going to pay for that when we’re as strapped as we are?”

Slowly, just as painfully as she’d raised herself up, Karen put her head back on the pillow and stared at the ceiling.

“When I die, two things happen. Or rather, one thing happens for sure and the other happens if we plan for it ahead of time. The thing that happens for sure is that the money we’ve got left will stretch further because you’ll only have to feed two people instead of three. The thing that might happen — if we make our preparations ahead of time — is that you two come into a lot more money. Well… a fair amount more, anyway. Enough to keep you going for half a year at least.”

Stephanie’s expression was skeptical, bordering on sarcastic. “And just how in God’s name do you think that’ll —  Oh.”

The conclusion it had taken her half a sentence to reach had come to Cary almost immediately.

“Jesus, Karen,” she said.

“When did you get religion?” Karen said. “Although I guess I should aim that more at Stephanie, seeing as how she’s the one who claims to be the atheist here and you still cling to some shreds of your childhood faith. But I remind you that faith doesn’t think anything but the soul is eternal, so what does it matter what happens to my body after I’m gone? I don’t give a damn, myself.”

She raised her head again, just enough to give her two companions a ferocious glare. “What I do give a damn about is that I don’t want that chiseling scumbag landlord pocketing the money — which is what he did with Farouz’s remains. So when I die, keep it a secret from the shithead. Cut me up yourselves — the bathtub’s one of the few things in this dump that works — and freeze the parts. Then sell what you can.”

She sagged back down. Her voice was getting weaker. “But you have to plan for it. Go out there and find the market. You’ve got weeks to do it. You ought to turn up something.”

She was silent for a while. Then she said, very softly: “I’m so tired.” She was asleep within seconds.

Cary and Stephanie looked at each other. Neither of them said anything for perhaps a minute.

“I don’t think I can do it,” Stephanie finally said. Her eyes were tearing up. “I really don’t.”

Cary had known that already. Stephanie had her strengths — plenty of them — but despite the airs she sometimes put on she just wasn’t what you’d call “hard-boiled.” She was tough enough when dealing with enemies. But butcher a dead friend? She’d make a mess of the business before she gave up altogether.

“I’ll do it,” Cary said. “But only if we’ve found a buyer.”

There was silence again, for another minute. Then Stephanie sighed and got to her feet. “I guess that means I check the drop box today. And then…”

She raised her hands in a gesture that was half-despairing and half-aggravated. “Where the hell do I go to find a buyer for body parts? The only person we know who’d know is the shithead himself. And we can’t ask him.”

“We’ll figure out something,” Cary said. Trying her best to believe it.


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44 Responses to Cauldron of Ghosts – Snippet 09

  1. Andreas says:

    I don’t get it. A society that has no bioethical scruples, that is this obsessed with genetic engineering, can grow complete babies in a petri dish, or geneengineer any human body part into a pig for chrissake, why would you pay anything for old, probably damaged (maybe poisened by radiation) organs or tissues? They can grow them much cheaper, cleaner and more bio-compatible for their specific use.

    Organ transplantation from dead donors is a last resort in current medicine. Even without selling the parts, the whole transplantation process is extremely expensive, and involves putting the patient on medication for the rest of his life, compromising his immune system. In a prolong world (which Mesa’s seccies at least aren’t) this would be like taking a second mortgage to pay for a little band-aid.

    It’s hard to imagine that Mesa, with all its pharmaceutical and slave-breeding technology is not capable of doing a lot better using much fewer resources. Even seccie society would rather be able to afford this than conventional transplantation. For that matter as much as we know about seccie society, they are much too poor to do anything like that.

    Even considering nanotechnology “making an organ compatible” doesn’t make it affordable. Then it would still be cheaper to grow and harvest a pig, then make that organ compatible.

    Also these operatives are afraid of being tracked. A society this obsessed with genetics doesn’t have a genome registry? Doesn’t analyze DNA traces at every corner? These operatives might not be in the database, but their relatives might. Even if they are descended from clones, you could probably tell the relationship with our current technology by deep sequencing because of inevitable germ line mutations if not artificial genetic markers. In practice it would take a sequencing technology that is about 1000 or 10000 times cheaper than today’s sequencers because you’d need perfect assemblies from multiple single cell genomes. Give it a decade or so at the past pace …

    So the buyers and eventual end-users have to so unscrupulous and black that they don’t care how irradiated, diseased or illegal their ware is.

    I hope this little rant doesn’t come off too aggressive. I highly appreciate the snippets and Eric Flint’s fiction. I am very willing to put my genomics hat aside to enjoy it!

    • Matthew says:

      The whole “people going incognito” 2000 years in the future is getting more and more ridiculous, but it’s one of the things we have to accept if we don’t want the fiction to be a boot stepping on someone’s face forever.

      • Randomiser says:

        Well, I get that you are expressing an opinion about how credible you think the storyline is, but you seem to go a long way on a whole pile of assumptions . I don’t see how you can be anything like as confident as you are about the economics of all this, particularly as we don’t know very much about the legal and social constraints. Can Mesa do better for citizens? Undoubtedly? Are those better therapies legal/affordable for seccies? We haven’t a clue? Are our characters thinking of selling parts into a black market? Almost certainly.

        • Andreas says:

          I think the basic assumption, that growing a pig with a compatible human organ is cheaper once you know how to do it (and we’re almost there, btw) than transplanting a diseased, incompatible donor organ from a dead person, is relatively sound. It doesn’t cost much more than 200-300$ to raise a pig, even in an laboratory environment once you do it on a commercial scale. That’s essentially the total cost the donor transplant has to beat…

      • Randomiser says:

        If those hunting you have a sample of your DNA and somewhere they know you have been recently to start from, then there are expensive so rather rare genetic tracers which will allow you to hunt you down. There was a whole explanation of the lengths StateSec and Victor went to to ensure there weren’t any such samples lying around in one of the books. So the issue has been addressed to some degree.

        • Matthew says:

          The question is what use would be the black market when newly built parts are easier and cheaper. The only thing that I was thinking is that they might not be able to age new parts, thus they need older ones. Or maybe they need to use them to make clones designed for deception be more accurate by giving them organs with two decades of use.

          But DNA wise, we’re already getting to the point where doing a full gene sequence is not impossibly expensive. 2000 years from now, doing a full genetic scan of someone based on a skin flake going to be as simple as tracking the IP addresses that visit a website now. All you’d need would be little drones who vacuumed the streets regularly and sent the results to a central database. Furthermore, these guys are seccies, not professional security operatives like Victor and Anton.

          Essentially I see the Mesan government keeping track of genetic codes and where they’ve been. Not that they’d use it most of the time, but then they could query the system where this code has been detected recently.

    • John Roth says:

      Yeah, the biology is on the far side of ridiculous. Part of that is because the series was planned in the early 1990s, when we didn’t know as much as we do today, but I suspect that part of it is that DW handed Mesa over to Eric Flint when he needed a “big bad” for his contribution to the Honorverse. Before then, “genetic slavery” was simply a name that didn’t have any detail attached to it. I like to think that DW would have taken it in a different direction if the collaboration with Eric hadn’t happened.

    • Robert H. Woodman says:


      I agree with you that the rationale for selling body parts seems thin, but I’m willing to suspend disbelief in order to enjoy the story.

      @Matthew, @Randomiser, @JohnRoth

      Some possibility for selling old body parts from deceased persons come to mind. One would be to use “body part remnants” after some criminal act or terrorist act to throw off the authorities. Looking for suspects? There’s a seccie’s bladder over here. The seccie has a criminal record. Other evidence ties him or her to the crime scene. Case close. Another use (medical this time) is to take the fully-formed, functional organ and remove all the cellular material, leaving only the cartilaginous framework, then seed the framework with the patient’s stem cells for that organ. Such experimentation is already being carried out in real life.

      I’m not saying that these two possibilities, or any other ideas I might have, are plausible in universe, but I mention them as reasons sufficient for me to suspend disbelief and enjoy the story. I must say, though, that the snippets I’ve read so far seem disjointed and imperfectly edited (as others have commented earlier), so this novel is likely going to be one of my e-books rather than one of my cherished hardcover books.

      • Drak Bibliophile says:

        Robert, it is disjointed but when Eric gave me the copy that I snippeting from, David Weber still had to work on it.

        It is strongly possible (and likely) that the final e-version (as well as the dead tree) will be better edited.

    • Terranovan says:

      Although these operatives probably don’t know it yet, one of the effects of the Green Pines attack was to completely erase the MAlignment’s genetic (and I think all other ) records of the Audobon Ballroom. It’s explicitly stated that “Jeremy X could have gone down the street, giving out [cellular samples, and they would not have been recognized].” (Brackets are because I’m not sure of my memory of the precise phrasing.)

  2. John Roth says:

    To get back to the plot. I thought this was a new group, but apparently it’s what’s left of the group Cachet and Zilwiki were dealing with in Torch of Freedom. Are they simply going to mark time until Cachet and Zilwiki return and make contact, or are they going to actually, like, do something in the next few months.

  3. Carl Nelson says:

    I think the snippet makes sense in a way. You have to look at the society as a whole on Mesa. The Seccies are not citizens so parts that are vat grown may not be available to them or prohibitively expensive. Getting organs off of a dead person is probably a lot easier and cheaper for the lower classes. Not to mention that if you need a transplant with no questions and are using a black clinic you may have no choice but to get a cadaver grafts. Especially if you are trying to avoid questions and keep on the down low.

    • Andreas says:

      If you get a transplant from a dead body you have to put the recipient on an extreme drug regimen, which is more expensive in terms of resources. Except with better and cheaper genetic engineering technology, but then again you just slaughter a pig, at less than 100$ a piece, and adapt his organs.

      The most resource-intensive thing about transplant operations is the actual surgery. In some shape or fashion you need a highly trained doctor working a couple of hours and lots of equipment. Transplanting a liver, lung or kidney just isn’t something you can jury-rig beyond a certain minimal level of complexy.

      There are rumors about criminal enterprises doing this out of hospitals, but then it’s still not easy and infinitely more dangerous (and still expensive for the “patient”).

  4. Mike says:

    This whole genetic slavery thing is messed up and has been from the start. A lot of it doesn’t make any real sense in terms of economics. We are still feeling our way toward the implications of what happens when something that was always a hidden, random process becomes something that can be consciously controlled and engineered, but I don’t see it as a likely outcome that people will custom-grow slaves.

    As to the organ selling … back in the day Larry Niven had a bunch of stories about how organ donation could go wrong for society, with minor traffic infractions punishable by death (because the demand for organs would be so high). He wrote a novel about one world where a small group of people basically keeps all the other people as an organ farm. But then this all breaks down again when artificially grown organs become available, and they are even better than the natural ones. This process takes hundreds of years.

    But in real life, it seems more likely to take decades. Organ replacement has always been tricky because of graft-v.-host disease, which basically happens because the replacement organs are coded with the wrong DNA. But we can now make artificial plants with DNA cooked up in the lab. Yeast organisms can now be designed to produce vanillin — little bio-factories for chemical synthesis. How long until artificial livers?

    We have already seen in this fictional universe that most people can be made to “regen” their own organs. So why would there be a big market (or really, any market) for used organs from dead people?

    • Drak Bibliophile says:

      Genetic Slavery wasn’t started for “economic reasons”. Genetic Slaves are the “test beds” for the genetic changes that the Alignment intended for themselves. As for the other uses of Genetic Slaves, while there are better ways (in most cases) to do something, apparently sales of them does bring in some money. Basically, it’s a case where there are other reasons to create them so the Alignment considers their sale as the “icing on the cake”.

      Of course, the Alignment finds the Sexual Models as useful as bribes and for blackmail.

      • John Roth says:

        Um, Drak, that’s only one use for them. Read the last line of the prolog to Chapter 61 of Torch of Freedom. I quote:

        “Since all that was true, Detweiler further argued, it only made sense to genetically modify colonists for the environments which were going to cause their descendants to mutate anyway. And it was only a small step further to argue that if it made sense to genetically modify human beings for environments in which they would have to live, it also made sense to genetically modify them to better suit them to the environments in which they would have to work.”

        (Emphasis in the original.)

        DW also makes a point of describing the role of genetic slaves on Darius, which seems, on the surface, to be completely unnecessary if all they’re really wanted for is genetic experimentation.

        By the way, that “would cause their descendents to mutate anyway” is an example of the vast lack of comprehension of how evolution works that the authors show.

      • Andreas says:

        As I understood it, genetic slavery was started, just as the historic slavery, out of economic reasons.

        Sometimes “institutions” or “ways of doing things” survive even against more economical alternatives because of some reason or other.

        The genetic slave trade for example allows someone to expand his production (of whatever it is they are producing) without a big human-resources department, without investing in highly risky development efforts for the machines, and without the need to recruit from a limited workforce. In China we are beginning to see a shortage and shrinking of the kind of workforce you would expect to be filled with genetic slaves in the Honorverse.

        A lot of the planets in the verge or beyond don’t have a big population. It could be really tough for someone who opens a factory just to find 10.000 workers running about on an underdeveloped planet. The Manticorans after their plague solved this problem by recruiting and subsidizing a massive wave of Immigration, after making certain legal precautions that the new arrivals would stay socially and economically inferior in the mid to long term.

        One could see a case for someone less morally constrained to see a shipment of genetic slaves as a reliable and cheaper alternative, even if these slaves are individually less productive than free (as in speech) workers.

    • Robert H. Woodman says:

      In real life, scientists are already experimenting with 3D printing of organs.

  5. dave o says:

    Assuming medical science has advanced to the point where organ rejection can be prevented, it appears to me perfectly natural that a black market in spare parts could exist among the seccies. Their status on Mesa is such that they do not have access to modern medical care. Nevertheless, some few of them have probably got enough money to pay for what is available.

    “would cause their descendents to mutate anyway” is the shorthand way of saying that those of their descendents who mutated in particular way were the ones who survived and reproduced. Mutations are random, and not directed, so far as we know now, at any particular end. Differential survival is what evolution is all about.

    And I wouldn’t be all that sure that genes solely determine evolution. It appears to me that the whole question of heredity is becoming more complex almost daily.

    • John Roth says:


      Let’s cut to the chase. The thing that I, and I presume several other people, are hammering on from one point of view or another, is that if they’re going to breed specific lines of “genetic slaves” for particular kinds of job, they’ve done an absurdly bad job of it. Given free rein for around 500 years, what they seem to have arrived at is no better than an 18th century horse breeder could have done, if that.

      The general impression this leaves is that of someone trying to explain space travel by claiming that a rocket works by having the exhaust push against the vehicle.

      • Peter says:

        Really, John?

        People forget just how cheap it is to raise a human to a financially productive age. People forget just how cheap is to have “qualified” human labor. No investment in infrastructure, no investment in expensive machinery that would have to be brought from half the galaxy away, no more expensive machinery to repair the expensive machinery.

        Not to mention that a pliant, beautiful human being brings much more satisfaction than sheep, right? In case you forgot about that one.

        This may be enlightening:

        • John Roth says:

          I absolutely give a pass to any site that wants me to sign in to read their material, especially if it has a “donate” right on the front page. I suppose it’s possible that they’ve got good, unbiased information, presented in a neutral way that encourages lesurely thought on the issues rather than emotionally herding readers toward the donate button, but the odds aren’t sufficiently good to get me to waste my time.

          It is not cheap to raise a human being to adulthood. The reason people think it’s cheap is that it’s a background cost of being human: if doing it wasn’t a given, we wouldn’t be here.

          • Peter says:

            Who said adulthood? I said “financially productive age”. And it is cheap. Much cheaper than you think.

            It’s possible they actually have unbiased information that contradicts your opinions, but why on earth would you want your views challenged, right? Right. Except that the blindest person is the one who doesn’t want to see.

  6. John Roth says:


    Let’s pursue the economic issue for a bit. Specifically, let’s look at a management concept called “Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).” This is the argument that’s used to justify using florescent or LED lighting instead of incandescents: the greater initial expense is offset by a longer life and lower expense for electricity.

    Let’s consider one issue: service life. There’s a spot in ToF where it’s discussed that genetic slaves have significant medical problems and a shorter than expected lifespan. TCO suggests it should be exactly the opposite: the typical genetic slave should have a long productive life to defray the initial expense, and should be in robust good health for most of it, to reduce medical expenses. I’ll give them a pass on prolong: that’s a separate economic decision the way it’s described, and it might not be worth it.

    There are other issues. Whether “genetic slavery” makes economic sense in the larger scheme of things isn’t the issue: what’s at issue is that, having decided to do it, they’re making a horrible botch of it, for no reason that I can determine.

    • Matthew says:

      Ok, here’s a probably bad rationale but might work.

      In the punctuated equilibrium model of evolution, when out of a fitness niche a species will evolve rapidly until it occupies one. Once inside the niche, phenotypic change slows down because the better adapted a species already is, the more maladadaptive further changes are likely to be.

      The Mesans are all about perfecting the species, but they aren’t perfect at it. Essentially, the slaves get variations on genes that they want to try, but don’t know if will work. 990 out of a 1000 will get some crippling health problems but the ten that seemed to do better can then be the basis for further study.

      • Mike says:

        I don’t know how many people here read Bujold, but she explores this idea in her novel Cetaganda. There are three classes of Cetagandans that we see: Haut, Ba, and Ghem. Haut are the elite rulers of the society. Ba are an asexual servitor class, bred by the Haut as both servants and test subjects for new genes that may end up going into the Haut lines. Ghem are everybody else (that we see, anyway — they still seem to be the elite military caste, so maybe there are other classes of Cetagandans who are not Ghem). Only the Ghem can reproduce naturally, and even for them there seems to be some manipulation of the genes (by the Haut). The Ba and the Haut are both artificially conceived by the Haut. While genetic engineering is a recreational art form for the Ghem, they are not allowed to work with the human genome. Only the Haut are allowed this.

        Anyway, contrast this with what we see here in Mesa. Genetic engineering in the Honorverse seems to be strangely limited in scope. I think this is because Weber sort of backed his way into this. He started out with Napoleonic sailing ships in space and then added in the slave trade because that was consistent with the original source material. And I think he tossed in the “genetic slavery” concept as a commentary on some of the arguments people used to justify the African slave trade. But as this Mesa plot took over the story, then he had to write around what he had already established.

        It didn’t really matter that none of this made a lot of sense originally, when slavers were just background color for the books. But the more that they get brought front and center, the more the hand-waving about the technical and economic issues starts to become apparent.

        • John Roth says:

          I think you hit the nail squarely on the head. He wanted two elements: the “big bad” had to be into slavery for a number of reasons, including being as morally bad as possible, he wanted a high level of genetic technology, and he didn’t work out the implications of the technology on the plot elements.

          Working it out, I come out somewhat similar to the Cetagandan “Ba” servitor class, at least to the extent that they ought to be asexual and incapable of breeding on their own. Otherwise it’s not very close.

      • John Roth says:

        Two points on the “experimental” argument. First, given that they’re trying stuff out, why do it at that scale? I’d not only expect “experimental” lines to be a small minority, I’d expect that avoiding downstream health problems would be a rather high priority.

        The second is like unto the first: given that Mesa is supposed to be one of the two major centers of genetic knowledge, I’d expect them to be able to model the effects of a proposed change to a high degree of reliability. Granted, models aren’t reality, and you do have to try it out to see what actually happens, but if the models don’t work all that well, you fix the models until they do.

  7. The demonstrated result in the American south was that slave labor drives out free labor. Claims that slave labor cannot function in high tech of the time machine shops are rejected by history, and there is no reason to suppose that would change. One might wonder why the Mesan Supreme Overlord puts up with vast numbers of seccies.

    • Andreas says:

      The reason they put up with them is that it is really tough to “exterminate” a human group, especially an ethnic one. Both logistically and morally. All humans have some sort of inhibition against killing “fellow humans”. When you want to have some humans kill a lot of other humans, it takes serious effort. The Nazis for example tried to establish a German race such that other humans aren’t “fellow humans”. In the concentration camps they constructed the gas chambers such that minimal human action is required to initiate the killing. Shooting the victims or bleeding them out would have been a lot easier from quite a few stand points, but even the Nazis weren’t “tough” enough for that.

      Anyway back to the story: It would be unbelievably hard to “exterminate” the Seccies, even if the MA wanted to. The top of the Mesan society depends on an economic network that is permeated with Seccies…

      That would be worse than expelling the 10 Million or so illegal immigrants in the US. Politicians often act all tough about Immigration policy, but they know that they can’t get rid of them … both logistically and economically, if not even from such an unusual perspective as “compassion”…

  8. dave o says:

    In all the discussion about Mesan genetic engineering, it seems to be forgotten that Honor’s family, and Elizabeth’s, was genetically engineered. It also seems to be forgotten that no species is unlimitedly plastic: the Scrags were bred to be super soldiers, but the changes brought with them an number of undesirable traits.

    • Mike says:

      I don’t think I would use the CSA states as an example of the economic success of slavery, considering that they were economically defeated (and then militarily defeated) by the Union. It wasn’t just because of their use of slave labor, but that was at the heart of most of the differences.

      • Mike says:

        Sorry, I meant to reply to George’s comment, not yours.

      • John Roth says:

        There are alternative views for why they eventually failed, one of which is that they used unsustainable plantation agriculture technology, which meant that they had to keep moving west to find new fields for their plantations. The Old South didn’t recover until the Green Revolution of the 1950s and widespread public health eliminated several endemic parasitic diseases.

        • jimhacker says:

          I don’t want to get drawn into this massive slavery debate, but I can confirm (as this is one of my areas) that the chief reason for the economic collapse of the south was intensive mono-cropping – not the fact that slaves were used to do thus.

      • Richard H says:

        When I think about it in an industrialized context, I generally skip the South and go straight for the Nazis. (Yes, I know the Nazis lost too, but both of them arguably lost because they declared war on all their neighbors, IMO. Maybe that was inevitable, but I’m inclined to blame that on leaders.) Before they started losing WWII and determined it was time to exterminate the people in the concentration camps, they worked them to death instead, doing jobs which were necessarily more dangerous than would be acceptable for people that society actually cared about. A surprising amount of German military hardware ended up being manufactured by slave labor. (I don’t have statistics on hand, unfortunately.) There’s a reason for that sign saying, “Work will make you free.”

        • Andreas says:

          Actually, without WWII the Nazis didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of keeping in power. You can only make people frightened about enemies within for so long…

          Also it’s unbelievable how many assasinations Hitler survived. Give it a couple of years more and someone was bound to get him…

          Anyway, working people to death normally isn’t the major point for genetic slavery. But it is more “convenient” than having to feed or kill them once they reach “retirement” age. Killing vast amounts of humans is hard on almost any soul.

  9. dave o says:

    Until the cotton states decided to engage in treason, they were indeed economically successful. They may not have been able to maintain that, considering their agricultural practices, but that has little or nothing to do with slavery.

  10. The American South was an economic failure, because slave labor drove out free labor. Sorry if that half of the point was not clear. The southern states were rapidly falling behind the rest of the Union well before the civil war, and have never recovered. Other factors, such as the abysmal school systems, were also issues.

    Returning to the volume, the reason the organs might be of value is that there may be a trivial process for modifying cell surfaces to eliminate the immune response (“the magic nanites remove the surface sugar groups”) in which case the body is a free supply of pregrown organs.

  11. JeffM says:

    What I was wondering was that this scene seems familiar somehow–the dying woman with no legs. Is this one of DW’s “dupes”, transferred from book to book in the timeline?

  12. Margo says:

    As far as I can see – Karen should be able to survive some of her injuries – the only really problematic one is the damage to the brain. Lots of people only have 1 kidney, you can manage without legs – the liver regenerates if at least 1/3 is available, and you can get splenic tissue regenerating as well – extra help for the immune system, though I have a theory it doesn’t do the old red cell removal very well – and again, a lot of people have lost their spleens and survived. And seccy society may have uses for spare parts – this is after all speculative science. Given the Mesan control of the underclass? And remember – Manpower is camouflage – and also it has been pointed out that business-wise it doesn’t make economic sense!

  13. Kruhn says:

    I didn’t read the whole thread, but there is one thing you guys are overlooking. Mesa is set up as a planet-wide plantation economy or a South Africa on a planetary scale.

    The reason Moriarty(?) is thinking about selling her body after death is to seccie and, perhaps slaves who require organ transplants. While Mesan citizens would get health care that rivals Beowulf, I doubt that Mesan citizen doctors would treat seccie or slaves except for Manpower-related business. Therefore, there is probably a black/grey market of seccie doctors who are either self-trained in an apprenticeship system or are smuggled out of Mesa to Verge planets where medical training would be less advanced.

    In addition seccie doctors would lack the facilities to regrow or build prosethics, so, therefore an organ transplant system would be in place. The only two options is a list system as we have in this day and age or a market system where body parts go to the highest bidder.

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