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Poem: "Stock in Trade" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith
ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "Stock in Trade"

This poem was inspired by further discussions with audience members, including a prompt from my_partner_doug and the #10 Fragment slot on the Rainbowfic Vellum list.  It has been sponsored by technoshaman.  It belongs to the series An Army of One: The Autistic Secession in Space.


Stock in Trade


Router looked at the requisition list
that Sam the Gardener had provided,
of which the top two items --
more smugglers and plant seeds --
posed the biggest challenge.

He gave a wistful sigh for the old days
before the secession, when he had
a whole network of contacts to draw upon:
other supply officers, the soldiers
who liked to trade in contraband,
a handful of civilian suppliers
on the black market.

Now it was harder, most of his contacts
gone or refusing to speak with him,
leaving him with only a fragment of what he once had.
Router missed his fellow officers most,
for he was the only one of his kind left in the Lacuna.
The secessionists weren't sociable people on average,
not given to networking. 

Oh, the former Carinan forces had
Operetta who knew the smuggler Short John.
On the Orion side they had
Hootowl who knew almost everyone
and the Minotaur in the starship junkyard
and Lord of Pr0n who surely had contacts.
But that was about it.

Worse, Router didn't have much
to offer in trade, even when he could make contact.
People wanted the usual valuables,
of which he no longer got shipments
so there was no chance of a windfall
if far too much got delivered;
and the requests for war souvenirs were up,
but for that people wanted Orion goods
and all his stock was Carinan.

Fragments of records mocked him,
incompleted transactions
that would never come to fruition now.

Router watched his storerooms empty
and the deck space grow,
worrying about how to provide
for his new crewmember to come.

Router wanted to make the Gardener
feel welcome here on the base,
which meant he wanted to have
as much as possible ready before arrival,
because if the fellow was anything like Backup
then he wouldn't like change very much,
so the less upheaval after he got here, the better.

The chemicals were the easy part --
nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium --
and he had plenty of lights.
Estelle would provide extra water
and trace elements from comets.
The plant seeds and the smugglers
pretty much fell to Router, though.

A breakthrough came when the Minotaur,
who was trying to determine whether
any of the derelict ships could be repaired,
complained about ridiculous requests.
People wanted souvenirs from him too --
but they were asking the former Orion
for Carinan  souvenirs.

The Minotaur had none of those,
but Router did, and just like that,
he was on familiar ground again.
"Weapons are the most desirable,
followed by medals and rank patches,
but anything with a serial number on it --
even a fragment of battle scrap --
has some  kind of value," Router explained.
"Send me a list of what you have,
I'll send you mine, and we'll talk trade."

Once they swapped goods with each other,
they could turn to their separate contacts
and barter for the things they really needed.

It turned out that the derelict ships of Sargasso Base
contained a great deal of defunct weapons,
while Supply Base Bounty 3D3N held
a variety of rank patches and medals.

With new trade stock in hand,
Router tracked down a smuggler
by the name of Anne Goede
who was taking advantage of the chaos
to expand her market reach.

"You want what?"  she said,
laughing at him over the comm.
"Plant seeds," Router repeated.
"See the appended list for varieties."

It took time, but the goods arrived:
lettuce seeds as fine as sand,
strawberry seeds scarcely larger,
wrinkled green peas and dark beans,
round balls of coriander,
and the flat black tabs that would become
moon-and-stars watermelons.

Router stocked them in the supply closet
that he had begun to think of as the garden shed,
and ticked off the top two items
on the Gardener's requisition list.

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Current Mood: busy busy

18 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
From: technoshaman Date: May 27th, 2013 09:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
*smiles* sometimes barter gets tricksy... but with patience and luck...
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: May 27th, 2013 09:56 pm (UTC) (Link)

Yes...

Use what you have to get what you want. The secessionists have a lot of ground to cover in order to become self-sufficient, but they have an idea where to start.
rix_scaedu From: rix_scaedu Date: May 27th, 2013 10:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
At least the smuggler Anne Goede isn't going to have to do illegal things to obtain those seeds, thought she might want to split the quantity up between different suppliers.

ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: May 27th, 2013 10:50 pm (UTC) (Link)

Well...

Have to, no. She's a pirate; she might steal them on principle!
rix_scaedu From: rix_scaedu Date: May 27th, 2013 11:02 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Well...

On the other hand, if you order them, you get want you want but if you knock over a warehouse you don't know, can you find what you need? Or find out that it's not as easy to transport as you thought - I'm thinking in terms of breaking in and finding big industrial hoppers of seed...
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: May 27th, 2013 11:06 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Well...

A cunning modern pirate hacks into the manifest first to find places that have what a client desires. ;)
rix_scaedu From: rix_scaedu Date: May 27th, 2013 11:38 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Well...

Some things are so assumed in the organisation they are noted in the manifest?
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: May 27th, 2013 11:41 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Well...

Shipping manifest is a list of cargo.
From: siliconshaman Date: May 28th, 2013 09:32 am (UTC) (Link)
Not quite turning swords into ploughshares...but close!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: May 28th, 2013 09:41 am (UTC) (Link)

Yes...

That's the basic idea. I'm glad you liked this.
From: siliconshaman Date: May 28th, 2013 09:48 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yes...

I'm contemplating bailing from society because there's every indication that our civilisation is going down in flames, or going down a very dark path. As such I'm trying to work out how to build a self-sustaining habitat a long way from anywhere, not quite a space-ship or starbase, but pretty darn close in terms of non-reliance upon external support. So, I'm basically dealing with the same issues as the secessionists of the lacuna, minus the people wanting to shoot me! [well, so far anyway.]

So, yeah. I like this whole series.

Edited at 2013-05-28 09:48 am (UTC)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: May 29th, 2013 06:18 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yes...

Can't say I blame you. I'd like to reduce dependence on the mainstream.
From: rhodielady_47 Date: January 20th, 2015 05:04 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yes...

Actually you might want to consider becoming a small engine repairman (very handy person to have around!) and then finding a small town near an old electric generating plant to move to. Be nice and friendly and the locals will welcome you.
Reasons:
1) There really isn't any place left in the US that's truly isolated from everywhere else these days that someone else hasn't thought of and already moved in.
2)No one can be everything. One reason why humanity became the social species that it is, is because we noticed long ago that we do better by divvying up the work so that everyone can get really good at their chosen work.
3) When the bottom finally drops out, living near an old power plant or at least a site where a small electrical generator might be built, will come in handy.
People will enjoy having electric lights at night and maybe AC during the heat of the summer.

Just a few things for you to think about...
My own parents skullf--ked this topic to death back in the 60's so I think I've heard almost every variation possible on this theme.
I hope you'll find the ideas useful to think about.
:^}
From: rhodielady_47 Date: January 20th, 2015 04:49 pm (UTC) (Link)

Being a gardener myself, I much enjoyed reading this poem but...
You've left out something VERY IMPORTANT for the gardener!
Router is going to have to come up with some bees to do
Gardener's pollenation work otherwise Gardener's plants won't be able to fruit or produce new seeds.
Perhaps some colonies of the smaller orchard bees which don't sting unless really provoked would be best for Gardener.
(These are small solitary bees. Some of them need only a set of straws to build their nests in.)
:^}

ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 20th, 2015 08:38 pm (UTC) (Link)

Well...

I haven't left it out, they just haven't gotten to that problem yet.

They do not have bees, probably can't get them, it would be hard to make a space station safe for bees, and I doubt people would agree to bees anyhow. It's not impossible but it is unlikely.

So in practical terms, their first choices are to plant things that don't rely on flowers or to hand-pollinate the flowers. Potatoes can be grown in a barrel of compost and propagated by division. They have the benefit of being a staple food crop and they dehydrate well. Strawberries have large flowers easy to service with a paintbrush. They are a delicious luxury food with valuable nutrients, and one of the easiest hydroponic plants.

Some things like lettuce are just such a nuisance to breed that it's probably more sensible to keep buying seeds.

Anything with largish open flowers can be pollinated by butterflies: strawberries and many other fruits, lots of herbs, and a dozen or two edible flowers. Butterflies are harmless, thus much more feasible than bees. Containment would still be a concern, but more for the larvae. Butterflies do not share bees' love of crawling into tiny holes.

Feel free to prompt for developments along this track. Food security is a vital issue for the Lacuna. These are serious problems and they need to solve whatever comes up as they go along.
From: rhodielady_47 Date: January 20th, 2015 11:24 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Well...

And don't forget to include mushroom spawn for Gardener. There are quite a few of mushroom species that can be grown on leftover paper and cardboard or leftover garden waste such as the potato plant after the potato's roots have been harvested.
Matter of fact, I think Gardener almost has to have them because in a few years' time, there's going to be a lot of garden waste that will need to be broken down by fungi.
Here recently there were a couple of Irish girls who did a science fair project to see if innoculating cereal crop seeds with the bacteria that legume seeds are generally treated with would make a difference. It did!
So Gardener is going to need more than just seeds and tools....
Gardener is going to be a very busy fellow once he arrives and gets started gardening!
:^)

ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 20th, 2015 11:36 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Well...

>> And don't forget to include mushroom spawn for Gardener. There are quite a few of mushroom species that can be grown on leftover paper and cardboard or leftover garden waste such as the potato plant after the potato's roots have been harvested. <<

That's true. Feel free to prompt for mushrooms. Spores are finicky as fuck to sprout, but spawn plugs are fairly easy. On the other hoof, keeping things alive in space with an artificial environment can be tricky, so there's no telling what will really work or not.

>> Matter of fact, I think Gardener almost has to have them because in a few years' time, there's going to be a lot of garden waste that will need to be broken down by fungi. <<

Yes, that's true. What he really needs is a carton of somebody's compost pile. You can start one with whatever commensals are on plants and people, but it's probably missing some important pieces.

A worm farm would be another awesome idea. That's one that anybody could keep even in a small place, they're no bigger than a garbage can. They eat waste, produce valuable worm castings, and worms are edible protein. If you can get spacers to deal with the dirt, of course. They'll probably be more popular with people who grew up planetside and just live in space.

>> Here recently there were a couple of Irish girls who did a science fair project to see if innoculating cereal crop seeds with the bacteria that legume seeds are generally treated with would make a difference. It did! <<

Fascinating! Yes, a garden is a tiny ecosystem.

>> So Gardener is going to need more than just seeds and tools....
Gardener is going to be a very busy fellow once he arrives and gets started gardening! <<

That's true. He's starting with the things he knows are necessary. The other needs will come clear over time -- usually when something goes wrong, as happens to most gardeners. There is much that we know, from personal experience or reading, that the Gardener just hasn't met yet.
From: rhodielady_47 Date: January 21st, 2015 02:24 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Well...

"The other needs will come clear over time -- usually when something goes wrong, as happens to most gardeners. There is much that we know, from personal experience or reading, that the Gardener just hasn't met yet."
True.
The "school of hard knocks" has a large garden just for its gardening students--many of whom return again and again for more schooling.
:^}
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