Please refer to the following AAB library articles for more information:
- Jump Bridge
- In the Empty Quarter though, they are a whole different story. The cultures that settled here from Terra brought with them the concept of the caravanserie - a small permanent camp used as a resupply point for desert caravans and as a free market.
- The caravanserie of the Empty Quarter serve as both for interstellar merchants.
Typical Caravanserie Configurations
Most caravanseries are located along routes which would normally be considered Jump-2 and allow Jump-1 ships to traverse the empty hex without having to install demountable tanks. Caravanseries are often established near worlds that make profitable trading partners, such as a few Non-Industrial or Agricultural worlds near an Industrial world.
The caravanserie itself is often a starship which has reached the end of its useful life as the core, with a mishmash of tanks and living spaces made from pressure tents, portable airlocks, advanced bases, asteroid chunks, and other flotsam hauled out to the empty hex. The caravanserie often looks like a metallic webwork with a starship at its center and parts trapped inside a snarl of scaffolding. Power is provided by the starship’s power plant typically while the rest of the drives are broken down and sold as spare parts. It should be acknowledged though, that many caravanserie owners are not too picky about where the ships have come from that are used to build the station. It is not unknown for pirates to unload their plundered ships at a caravanserie; what the station owners do with these vessels is considered their own affair.
Fuel is provided by belters who make a marginal living mining ice and hauling it to the caravanserie where it is processed into unrefined fuel. Merchants also practice ice hauling to caravanserie in the belief that an empty hold is more of loss than one filled with ice that goes for less than a hundred credits per ton. If the caravanserie is lucky, it is built upon some passing interstellar ice chunk hoping to become a comet. As a starport, a caravanserie is usually considered a type E with unrefined fuel at services priced at twice to three times normal. See, a caravanserie can get away with that because they are the sole supplier in an empty hex. Since most ships are just passing through, you’d think that very little trade would go on at a caravanserie, but you would be mistaken. Cargoes awaiting transshipment often find their way to a caravanserie, where the art of the deal is heavily practice. Many caravanserie traders are more interested in the act of dealing than they are in making a profit. Haggling over a price has been raised to a high art by the caravanserie masters. Point in fact, every transaction that takes place should be haggled over - it would be insulting to do otherwise.
History & Background (Dossier)
- Entire subcultures have evolved around Caravanserie, similar to the hard scrabble spacers known as belters.
- When a mainstream polity establishes a Jump Bridge, they typically use alternate terminology for stations or services that essentially perform the same function albeit with greater resources and support, but also... greater regulation and monitoring.
Caravanserie & Interstellar Commerce
Oh, the haggling that takes place in the makeshift corridors and access tubes of the caravanserie is a sight to behold. When two old merchants face off over the price of a cargo, it is like two fighters entering a ring. First, coffee is served to both, small cups of an oily potent brew that could be used to strip paint off a bulkhead. Yet you dare not refuse it, so just suck it up and get on with haggling if you’re smart. Bring your own mug and fill it to the brim and gulp the coffee down if you’re smarter - it’ll intimidate them even as it gives you heartburn. Then the sparring of prices commences, with each new bid tossed out as a punch to be blocked by the obligatory degradation of the seller’s item or the ritual insulting of the buyer’s offer. The thrust of cost against the parry of price seldom ends in a knockout blow of profit, but in a compromise arrived through mutually exchanged insults of friendly rivalry. As in any good haggle, the amount of money to be exchanged is only arrived at when the participants are satisfied that they have adequately swindled the other.
It warms the heart to watch.
The economy of a caravanserie is a service industry oriented one, with the majority of supplies coming from another world to be resold at inflated prices once they reach the caravanserie. Businesses that cater to the more base recreational needs do outnumber more respectable establishments. When a ship comes in to dock, the caravanserie becomes energized in a party atmosphere to welcome the fresh currency in a festive bacchanal. A caravanserie is decadence for a price in that respect. Trust me, liners and yachts do not frequent caravanserie because of the offering of these vulgar pleasures there. Since most caravanserie are built individually by merchants using ships that have reached the end of their useful lives, each one is a unique community. For instance, Josephus Rohsoe who owns the Rohsoe’s Hole caravanserie, holds an annual gathering that he calls a “swap meet”. Attendance for the gathering varies from 10 to 60 ships of various types. All of the ships dock with each other in a conglomerate around the caravanserie and trade goes on round the clock for the next seven days in a festival atmosphere in which not only cargoes, but sometimes crew and wedding vows are traded.
References & Contributors (Sources)
- Jason Kemp. "Empty Quarter Echo; The Caravanseries." Stellar Reaches 06 (2007): 23.
- Author & Contributor: Lord (Marquis) and Master of Sophontology Maksim-Smelchak of the Ministry of Science