Funnel Photo Finish

This snippet of story, all 800 words of it, exists solely because of the following image, used with the permission of its creator, Robert Cornelius. He does fantastic Photoshop work. Don't believe me? Check out his portfolio and blog. Look for more photo-inspired pieces like this in future posts.

This image screamed "DCC Funnel" to me, so I went with it. Enjoy!

Fight or Flight by Robert Cornelius. Used with permission.
Sixteen volunteers descend those cold and ancient steps in the keep's basement. Ninety minutes later only the Woodcutter still lives, desperate to find a way back up those steps to relative safety.

Eentra, The Goddess Between

Some call her Hecate, but
her name is more ancient.
Most scholars can’t agree on the exact time of day or the nature of the present moment, but all of them agree on Eentra’s status as the firstborn of the Human Gods. Before humanity could talk and before their tribes grew into urban centers of trade, people disagreed with each other. They formed opinions different from others of their kind, and in doing so they created a gap in understanding, a tiny gulf between what is and what should be, an uncomfortable space of simultaneous doubt and conviction. Eentra’s consciousness filled this void the very moment the first two humans disagreed.

Scholars disagree about when Eentra first coalesced, or even how she sprang from nothingness. Personally, I enjoy the thought that a disagreement over what to have for dinner first called her into existence. Berries again, or rabbit again? She has rarely let a mealtime pass since without creating a place for herself well before the food is served.

The Worlds Come Again

The worlds come again.

They nucleate at the bottom of the cauldron holding the turbulent mass of my mind. Their bubbles rise and pop, filling the air above my head with the umami aroma of miso broth and green vegetables. Perfect tiny globes of rock, water, jungle, air, vacuum, and spaceworthy vessel rocket through my mental soup. They demand attention.

After a famine of ideas, they are as welcome as a bountiful oasis shimmering in the desert's heat.

Shuttle Tiberius: A Routine Flight

“Janus, you old bucket of bolts! Good to see you!”

Janus's head pivots until his LED-blue eyes face the approaching human. “Greetings Ensign Decker.” His soothing voice turns his everyday speech into a relaxation program. “I noticed you requested the copilot seat again. Are you still pursuing your Ship's Boat certification?”

Decker claps him on the shoulder and sits. “I am! I really want my Pilot cert, but I'll take what I can get while I'm on satellite duty.”

“It is unfortunate that you lack the opportunity to study what you want.” Janus turns back to his preflight preparations.

“I can study on my own, but it just doesn't stick without actual practice with a real ship.” Decker turns toward the control panel. “Permission to assist?”

Corporate Overview: Pod InterPlanetary

Started in 1056 by a small coalition of refugees to provide temporary housing on the mining world of Habiel after extreme seismic activity killed half the population. Habiel was a beta site for testing a prototype of Rapid Resource's Fabrication Unit, which survived the quakes. They tested and refined designs for the original Habitation Pod in the field, saving thousands of lives in the process. Once the crisis passed, they incorporated, started manufacturing in earnest, and sold their Habitation Pods to the governments on nearby worlds

Rapid Resource ceased operations as of 1/1059, and PodIP purchased all assets and technologies later that year. PodIP further refined the capabilities of the Fabrication Unit and pressed it into service in their factories. In 1062 they diversified, opening a chain of Pod Shops to provide custom parts fabricated on demand for starships, mostly merchants and scouts, and especially older out-of warranty ships. PodIP's Pod Shops won Innovator of the Year from the Corinth Planetary Chamber of Innovation in 1063.

Products and Services
PodIP started by manufacturing self-contained living spaces. With the purchase of Rapid Resource, they started offering on-demand fabrication services. Rumors abound that the two business units will break into two different companies, but other experts contend that improving and distributing their manufacturing processes yields great synergy with the manufacture of their core Pod products.
  • Habitation Pods (also called Habs) provide basic shelter in extreme conditions, along with breathable air, drinkable water, and edible food. These 5 ton modules ship easily and deploy nearly anywhere, providing short-term basic comforts for up to 4 sentients. The entire construction is modular, so cobbling together a working HabPod from two broken ones is relatively easy, and hooking together several Habs with a pressurized "spine" corridor is trivial.
  • Vagabond Pods are the luxury versions of Habitation Pods. They're designed as portable homes for well-to-do clients. They're a fraction of the cost of a starship, but they provide the same opportunity for adventure and exploration with all the comforts of home. Vagabond Pods have found a following among sentients who want to travel in style, but don't have the means to afford a starship of their own. PodIP is always working on upgrades and options for customizing Vagabond Pods for their clients. Bespoke design services are available for an additional fee.
  • Pod Shops provide retail-level custom fabrication services for commercial and private spacecraft. Provide the specifications for the part, and a Pod Shop can deliver a replacement within a standard day. Some complex parts may take longer. They recently stopped providing critical parts for jump drives for liability reasons. (Editor's Note: Search for the Alexa Pride's misjump in 1064 and related investigation for background.)
  • FabPods create custom spare parts on a starship, eliminating the need to maintain an onboard stockroom of parts. FabPods, specifically the storage systems for the various fabrication media, are cutting edge technology currently being tested by the Subsector Navy. The technology has been classified. Possession of this technology outside of PodIP and Navy facilities is considered treason. The Scout Service is understandably upset about this arrangement, as they would greatly benefit from the added autonomy FabPods could provide their scout ships.
Their first product, Habitation Pods, still sell well. Several planetary governments have contracts for keeping these on hand and well-maintained in case of emergency. Some have been modified for prisoner transport by government, bounty hunters, and private security forces, but you will be hard-pressed to find that application anywhere in PodIP's marketing materials.

Vagabond Pods have caught the eye of the idle rich and off-grid travellers alike, and sales are trending higher. Innovating various Pod designs has become a diverse Maker Community effort, spreading across the subsector and far beyond. The used Vagabond Pod market is hungry for more product, so much that PodIP has released registration information to planetary authorities to prove original ownership in several criminal cases involving Podjacking.

The service arm flagship Pod Shops are spreading from world to world as leasing deals are signed. Various law suits throw a small hiccup into their expansion plans, but most starbases jump at the opportunity to offer custom replacement parts within a day instead of stranding their customers for weeks until a part comes in from offworld.

Results of FabPod testing by the Navy will probably remain sealed, but various anonymous sources involved in the testing report overwhelmingly positive results.

Overall Outlook
If the Navy finishes testing FabPods and starts installing them on every ship in the fleet, PodIP's earning potential is effectively limitless. If the Navy doesn't want them, the Scouts will pay nearly anything for the technology to keep their survey ships in the field for more involved missions.

Sales at Pod Shops have steadily increased for the past 2 years, despite the Alexa Pride's jump drive mishap. Habs and Vagabond Pods are both exceeding sales expectations. PodIP is well-capitalized with a board of directors that makes level-headed decisions. They're poised for massive growth throughout known space, though they're consciously throttling growth to build and maintain effective supply lines and system redundancy.

If you have any excess capital, investing in PodIP should reap excellent dividends.