Paramilitary Space Adventure and Failed States

Prompted by the Coriolis Kickstarter that opened this morning, I’m gonna brainstorm and blue-sky here for a bit.

You know what one of the very weirdest legacies of Star Wars has been for me? The normalization of armed civilian spaceships in space adventure stories. I think it’s incredibly weird when mapped to our world and carries with it a lot of implications that literally no games and very little fiction really pokes at.

Okay so just what is the Millennium Falcon? Somewhere between an RV and a long-haul truck, crossed with a cargo plane. Room to sleep and socialize, cargo space, and guns. Guns guns guns. Also shields.

So I’m sitting here thinking about how that maps to our world, given parallels to our own world are often a good way to understand scifi. Take a truck, even a big truck. Put guns on it. Plate it up with armor. You know who drives around armor-plated armed trucks? The Mujaheddin. ISIS. The Taliban. African warlords. Khmer Rouge. Basically, bad fuckers in failed states.

Normal places do not allow equipment like this! Normal, civilized stretches of the world, no matter how remote, have incredibly strict laws in place about paramilitary armaments. You don’t drive around remotest Alaska armed to the teeth JIC you get run down by similarly-equipped roving gangs; you bring a sidearm and maybe an AR-15 if you’re genuinely concerned.

So I’m thinking about that in terms of the template for space adventure I think everyone has. Everyone has (at least) heavily armored and defensible ships, because I think the underlying model for civil life is that space is either too big to have laws (see the Alaska example; I’m skeptical), or high seas piracy is the ruling metaphor (see actual piracy from real history and you’ll see the limitations), or…space is basically a failed state.

Is the Empire a failed state? It might very well be! I mean, shit, the Rebels are most certainly a good Mujaheddin parallel, and even if you’re not political (say, an Afghani drug lord) you still have a vested interest in defending you and yours absent a functional, non-corrupt police force.

Is the Alliance (Firefly) a failed state? Probably, although that directly contradicts the omnipresence of the Alliance that the game and show seems to play toward. Treating the setting as a failed state gives the antebellum South metaphor of Firefly a whole different texture, to my mind.

Dunno, I’m not actually going anywhere with this, just thinking that maybe welding plates all over my Outback and equipping it with pintle mounted weapons is a weird enough idea that it warrants further exploration. What would it take in our world for that to be normalized?

0 thoughts on “Paramilitary Space Adventure and Failed States”

  1. Ara Winter I seem to remember those triangular scout ships being unarmed but like literally everyone upgraded them, just as soon as they could scrape together the money and could reach a low-law world.

    But like…surely that stuff is pretty visible to any kind of futuristic sensor without taking a lot of time and money to hide it, i.e. a James Bond car.

    I’m pretty sure if some sovereign state nutjob decided the only way to defend himself against the tyranny of traffic cops was a .50 cal on the roof, The Authorities would have a word with him the moment he was spotted on a freeway somewhere.

  2. “Is the Empire a failed state?” Yeah, probably. When we first meet them, they are trying to consolidate power by massive displays of force, and are dealing with at least one open rebellion. Also, let’s not forget that Han Solo is explicitly a criminal. Until “spice” was bowdlerized, he was explicitly a drug smuggler for a cartel run by a space gangster. Exactly the kind of person who would–if he owned a truck instead of a spaceship–have a scary firearm or two concealed about his cab.

    “Is the Alliance a failed state?” I don’t think so. Serenity is very explicitly not armed. They make a point of joking about how yokels don’t know that cargo ships don’t carry weapons in the first half of “Train Job,” and in the movie, they have to weld a big cannon to the top of the ship. The only armed ships I can recall are either explicitly military or explicitly Reavers.

    I think the “pirate ship” model is the one that a lot of scifi writers are going for. The idea that you’re hauling valuable goods over long stretches between defensible locations, and accordingly every vessel gets a gun mount or two, even if they never fire them. This tracks to varying degrees of effectiveness, depending mostly, I think, on how “civilized” space is. In Firefly, there are scads of populated planets and moons, and the Alliance patrols between them pretty regularly, especially close to the Core. In Star Wars, there are also lots of populated planets, but lack of effective high-speed interplanetary communication means that getting a distress signal out is slim enough that a private citizen might be expected to take matters into their own hands.

  3. Okay so yes, Serenity is a bad example. Buuut Adam D you bring up a good counterpoint re The Train Job: why would the yokels think cargo ships have guns? That’s Joss having a joke with the audience; that’s not anything that would actually happen in that setting.

    A DC10 rolls up toward me on a runway, I’m not worried about hidden guns on it.

  4. Other than that, yes: The majority of space fantasy governments are failed states.

    The Federation is probably not; does Cassidy Yates have any guns on her ship?

  5. Adam D also! Solo doesn’t have a gym bag full of machineguns in the cab, he’s got .50 cals on turrets front-and-back on his truck. Fully displayed. Right there.

  6. Paul Beakley well, yes, that’s a joke for the audience. But if I had to no-prize it, I might suggest that the only time most people ever travel in space, it’s on big fat people-movers, basically a space-bus. When off-world supplies come it, they come from either formal Alliance convoys (with armed escorts) or from small operators with a rep for being a bit shady. And, this is all in the shadow of a big space-war. People in that context might feel safe in assuming that small and midsize spaceships could carry at least a bomb or two.

  7. It’s space fantasy, right? Knights have swords to fight each other. Adventuring parties have weapons to kill the monsters in the wilderness. Pilots have (guns) to fight each other, and spaceships have weapons to kill the (space) monsters in the (space) wilderness.

    I guess you could treat it as a frontier analogue. You bring your muskets because (a) you’ll need to kill food to survive and (b) you never know when you’ll be attacked by a bear or a, uh, indigenous person who resents your invasion of their territory. Not a failed state, but a pre-modern proto-state.

  8. Paul Beakley yeah, I’m totally agreeing with you on Solo. The Afghan warlord analogy is very apt. Solo is the guy who drives his tactical from the opium fields to the Arabian Sea to get the product to market.

  9. There’s a very cynical part of me that wants to make a comment about the US gun stuff, and the idea that driving around with sidearms and AR-15 is “civilized”. For many people, that is “driving around armed to the teeth.” Folks have gun-racks in their cars.

    Counter point: Star Trek. Arguably the most utopic popular sci-fi, and definitely not a failed state (quite the opposite). Yet science vessels, cargo liners, diplomatic ships and even small scouts and transports are armed and have shields.

  10. Nathan Paoletta all good examples! But definitely not civilization. Maybe a D&D points-of-light kind of thing if it’s straight fantasy, rules and laws and tradition where folks can see you but get out a ways and shit falls apart.

    This stuff is also on my mind because it’s a constant conceptual struggle as I work through my Misfortune game about the American West. Mostly when tradition and law fell apart, it’s because everyone kind of agreed to it: indigenous traders intermarried for centuries with Europeans suddenly getting hunted for fun/profit. To my mind that also qualifies as a failed state.

  11. Sean Gomes yeah I have no idea why Federation ships are armed and have shields. Other than as an extension of the high-seas piracy stuff we’ve baked into space adventure.

  12. Sean Gomes also! Re the pistols/AR-15 thoughts: That to me is the crew walking around with sidearms and maybe having some heavier hardware on gun racks inside the ship.

    I think it would very interesting to have a world where open-carry laws are being fought over and what the fallout looks like. The whole fucking planet would be owned by a gun manufacturer, that’d be the twist.

    Build a wall, a big beautiful wall, to keep the aliens out. The very classiest wall.

  13. William Nichols it’s fucking killing me, the westerns thing. Pure poison, oceans of it, as far as the eye can see.

    Misfortune is for-real messing with my head so bad that I’ve had to put it on hold for a while.

  14. Adam D but he also stops in at Qatar to meet with his old gambling buddy, and the Qataris don’t seem to mind one bit.

    Now I’m trying to think through where all he flew the RV. They were going to fuckin’ Alderaan! I mean if it wasn’t destroyed, it’d be like driving to France. (On a highway comprised entirely of underground tunnels that nobody can observe because hyperspace and this is where my metaphor falls apart.)

  15. William Nichols the mythology of the Western is fantastically fucked up and it continues to fuck up the story we tell ourselves about ourselves. I can get into that in a different thread.

  16. I guess I was just going with the only real non-military-conflict/non-failed-state reason for your average person to have weapons on them constantly is if there’s everpresent environmental threats to survival right? This is kind of the zombie apocalypse scenario, where everyone needs a shotgun because you could turn any corner and there’s a zombie ready to eat you.

    I guess you could get into the “but what (aka WHO) is considered a threat such that I need a gun on me at all times” vis-a-vis our current culture and climate but that gets too depressing real quick.

  17. Nathan Paoletta oh boy does it. And I guess that’s the thesis behind my thesis: all the fun-and-games of gamer-friendly space adventure is really pretty nightmarish if you just dig the very tiniest bit.

    If your space adventure setting defaults to civilians touring around armed and armored, that implies an ambient threat level that’s just completely off the charts.

    But maybe the danger is just between easily policed volumes of space and mostly folks don’t go that far out. So really we’re talking about a narrow and very specific subset of folks who have to arm themselves (shipping container ships in Somali waters, local fixers and translators moving journalists around Helmund Province, cartel drug runners, etc.) and what looks like normalized civilian arms is just the fact that these stories and adventures are narrowly focused on very exceptional people in very exceptional circumstances.

    It would be nice to see that division. Like…when that cartel drug runner goes into Miami to party, he might have a small pistol but he’s not gonna draw attention to himself by wearing a flak jacket and grenades at the club. Afghani warlords probably own very nice Mercedes for when they need to do business in Kabul and they don’t want Coalition checkpoints lighting them up on the drive in. And so on.

  18. Further: the fact, I think, that most gamers don’t dig this deep has all kinds of interesting political/values implications. Like…it’s not hard to fall back on “an armed population is a polite population” and “good guys with guns stop bad guys with guns” and all the rest of the hard-right 2nd Amendment libertarian stuff. Guns everywhere because the world is terrifying, the cops can’t protect you, laws are meaningless, a universe of scary others.

  19. “[H]e also stops in at Qatar to meet with his old gambling buddy [who is also the king of Qatar], and the Qataris don’t seem to mind one bit [except when they send two armed escort craft out to meet him, and shoot at him while they are still talking on the radio].”

    I’ll grant you Alderaan, though. And the fact that nobody seems to comment on it at any point. “We’ve got to get to Alderaan, avoiding any Imperial entanglements.” “Well, I’d love to help you, but they will 100% never let me land on Alderaan, because I have these giant guns on my boat.” Maybe that’s what Chewbacca is screaming about.

  20. Adam D my Star Wars example is pretty iffy.

    Really all my examples are iffy and imperfect.

    Everyone should just have fun.

    Don’t think so hard about anything everything.

    Just enjoy your firefights without consequences and the giddy pleasure of vehicular combat.

  21. Paul Beakley I will drive my Toyota-with-a-50-cal-welded-to-it up to anybody who says that this kind of deep analysis isn’t fun!

    But I think (beyond nitpicking your examples) that your deeper question is a really good one: why does all space adventure have this assumption, and why don’t we as consumers of media question it?

    I thought Nathan Paoletta’s comments about guns-in-the-wilderness for food collection to be really interesting, because nobody is using a spaceship-mounted blaster or torpedo to hunt space-elk. Like a concealable handgun is meant to kill humans, the only purpose of a massive space-zapper is to blow up other ships, and if independent shipping entrepreneurs feel that’s necessary… well.

    Does anybody remember if the non-military ships in the Expanse are armed? I think they aren’t, but I can’t specifically remember.

  22. “…and what looks like normalized civilian arms is just the fact that these stories and adventures are narrowly focused on very exceptional people in very exceptional circumstances.”

    This, I think. Even in Star Trek, the shows and films are generally all set on the frontier — one that borders with hostile governments or unknown threats. And even when we are in civilized space, we’re dealing with internal threats like the Maquis. I believe we have seen ships with little or no armament — I’m thinking of Beverly’s medical ship in “All Good Things” or even various civilian ships in TOS.

    And I think we’ve explained Solo above: “It is a period of civil war” is the first thing we see in the first film. Not only is Han a criminal, he’s not aligned with either side of the fight — he’s a target for pretty much everybody.

  23. Pretty sure the ice haulers in the Expanse are not armed. That’d cost extra delta V.

    This extends to other gamer areas as well: Why are fantasy games about an elite group of murderhoboes killing anything they want?

  24. But the larger issue you’re getting at is basically why so many RPGs are focused on violence. Is it the wargaming roots? Is it the source material? Is “…and you fight” the simplest rationale to design towards?

  25. You know who drives around armor-plated armed trucks? The Mujaheddin. ISIS. The Taliban. African warlords. Khmer Rouge. Basically, bad fuckers in failed states.

    Also, suburban police forces in the US.

  26. Oh, weird (counter) example: Dune. Not a failed state per se, since at the outset, the Emperor seems to be in complete control, but still… kinda? Because the various houses are constantly at some stage of war, either hot or cold.

    But the ships are not armed, and interplanetary piracy isn’t a thing. This emerges at least in part because of the Guild monopoly on FTL travel. Nobody else can fold space, and nobody will risk a Guild boycott by risking harm to one of their ships. Hm, maybe a bad example generally, since I can’t think of any substantial civilian-owned infrastructure in that setting; everything is owned by a House, and thus quasi-governmental.

  27. Paul Beakley Ah, right. But! Even if there is an advanced civilization, our stories are all far from their grasp, right? So is it failed civ or frontier justice?

  28. Adam D Right, the Houses of the Landsraad have near continual warfare against each other, but only through assassins and crap. They cannot go to full out war, because the Bene Gesserit and the Guild won’t let them.

    This is an interesting inversion, as the only safe space is on the ships and not on planets.

  29. See also East India Company, West India Company, VOC (the Dutch Version), the Belgian Congo…

    The idea that civilian mercantile operations shouldn’t go armed is an entirely recent phenomenon. Through most of history…of course they were armed.

    In fact for a good couple of centuries there, the private army of the British EIC was several times larger than the actual British Army.

    Failed state? Rather, standard engine of empire.

  30. Ralph Mazza oh yeah definitely.

    I’m trying to think of sci-fi that looks like the EIC. Like…I don’t think of Han Solo at all in those terms, because he’s not operating under license of a nation using him for colonial security by proxy.

    Really if Rogue Trader actually worked, it’d be the perfect EIC-in-space game. With all the ugly colonialism.

  31. Well, Han isn’t operating under license…Han is a victim of people operating under license.

    We are big mega corp. We have exclusive rights to trade in this sector…and we stretch those rights to claim rights we don’t actually have, because we can because we have big ships with big guns, and powerful shareholders back home who like profits and manipulate justice.

    You are small trader just trying to do what you legally are allowed to do, and maybe some extra legal stuff that you morally should be allowed to do if we hadn’t bought the law. But as a result, you are declared smuggler, pirate, unlicensed operative…charged with having no sneeze guard on the salad bar…whatever we want to charge you with. So you equip your ship with guns, speed and shields and embrace the lifestyle of thumbing your nose at the man.

    Point being, I don’t think either the Empire or the Alliance has to be a failed state to get to Han and Mal. They just have to be your ordinary every day bought and paid for successful state.

  32. Ralph Mazza I really don’t know the history very well so maybe you can help me: during the EIC era, were there small-time freelance shippers/smugglers who armed themselves (either to defend against…EIC ships? Pirates?)? Or are you talking about the BIG shippers arming themselves against privateers or other state-backed actors?

    I’m just trying to settle out the scenario you’re laying out in my own mind. Maybe you have something I can read through? This was kind of where I stumbled during my Rogue Trader attempts as well!

  33. Starfleet ships are armed for battle because they’re out in the unknown and untamed frontier, not within the safe borders of the Federation that’s far behind them. At least that’s how it was often depicted in the original series, where it was explicit policy that stories would never take place on boring future Earth (I kinda hate later movies and series for forgetting this crucial policy).

  34. yeah, further on the “don’t need a failed state” thing (1), I have always wondered what the cash-handling operation of my local (Seattle) dope store looks like. You have this quasi-legal operation with bales of cash that federal banks are forbidden to handle. You’d figure there would have to be guns and armor involved — maybe even protection payola to the local syndicates who have lost their marijuana market but are handy with guns, secure movement, and money laundering.

    (1) recognizing that some people regard the USA as a failing state, and I think Robert Bohl is winning the thread right now.

  35. Addressing Star Wars now, its relevant that the galaxy at the start of the first film is pretty much Europe in 1947. Everything has been raked over many long year’s of war, there’s wreckage everywhere (both material and sentient) and there’s a lot of leftover ordinance all over the place. Probably no end of opportunists taking advantage of the disorder, those who take up arms to protect themselves from those opportunists and plenty who are a little of both.

    As I type that, I just realized it’s kinda creepy that Star Wars across its many eras always seems to be in a state of aftermath.

  36. Guys. Guys.

    I need to put the brakes on here for a second.

    There are doubtless countless ways to justify or rationalize the presence of heavily armed and armored civilians. It’s not a problem. Really! I can come up with lots of scenarios as well.

    In exactly none of the scenarios do you have a functional, peaceful society where those armed and armored civilians are. That’s my point. My point, in the OP, has to do with how space adventure gaming seems — to me — to start from the unexamined premise that that’s who the PCs are: armed civilians in possession of armed paramilitary non-state-sanctioned ships.

    And yes of course there are exceptions. Jesus. Do we really need to trot out Star Trek again? Well done, you’ve identified a generally functional, peaceful sci-fi setting where the guns are generally pointed outward at the frontier and enemy nations. Great. We nailed that one down.

    I mean is my premise completely off here? Or is it just kind of fun at this point to find the exceptions?

    I know that whenever I’ve started up any kind of space adventure game, the first place everyone goes is into how to arm their ships. I’ve run Edge of the Empire several times, I’ve run Stars Without Number, I’ve run WEG’s Star Wars, and so on. Shit, back in the day I ran Star Trek but then you’ve got the premise that you’re very much a state actor. You’re damned right you and your crew is safe(ish) inside a militarized exploration ship.

    So, because maybe it wasn’t totally clear in the OP and maybe it’s more fun to dream up exceptions and maybe that feels like it’s discarding my premise, I just want to restate first principles:

    * I think it’s weird that gamers start from such an unexamined set of assumptions w/r/t their space adventure gaming. I blame Star Wars, never mind a deeper read from the EU stuff. Han’s a smuggler flying around with military hardware strapped to his cargo plane and that’s become the baseline for space adventure.

    * I think if we took a minute to think about what life would be like where not-exceptional folks felt the need to pack heavy, it would stop being such a romp.

    * Very charitable reading here: It might be that the template for space adventure everyone has just doesn’t include anything about the non-exceptional surroundings because it’s boring? I don’t think it’s boring. And that’s one thing I’m thinking a lot about.

    Feel free to #notallstarwars  the whole thing. That’s fine. SW is the first but not the only example. Here I’m thinking about Killjoys and Dark Matter and Firefly(ish, yes yes the Serenity isn’t armed) and Traveller(ish, yes yes the starting cheapie Scout doesn’t come armed) and Consider Phlebas and…

  37. Sure, SF does this. But, so does fantasy. What is DnD if not non-state actors walking around with ridiculously powerful military grade weapons (fireball, resurrection, etc). This isn’t unique to Science fiction.

  38. I mentioned the thing about there being advanced civilizations up there a few posts ago.

    Agreed entirely that lots of scifi gaming is rooted in fantasy gaming tropes. Also weird.

    I think it’s weird.

    It’s okay that I think it’s weird.

  39. Weird is just whatever isn’t Normal. And by the perspective … no, it really isn’t. Role-playing games aren’t generally about modeling societal precepts or examining real structures of morality. For most people, they’re wish fulfillment, and being the person with the power to shoot up the bad guys is a very appealing fantasy (fully acknowledging that fantasy gets troubling on examination).

  40. Paul Beakley there were lots of merchants who could arm themselves, and there were no laws against doing so, nor would anyone look askance at it. The operative decision point was profit. Guns meant weight not dedicated to cargo and the crew to man them were extra sailors who needed paid, so when the sea lanes were safe, not much need. During periods of war when the enemy would commission privateers, or immediately after a war when large numbers of naval sailors were discharged and out of work, and would turn to piracy as the only job they knew, the possibility of discouraging a pirate could be worth the expense.

    The vast number of pirates were tiny operations. Coastal boats, primarily rowed (looking an awful lot like Somali pirates today) that would dart and grab. No merchant would fight off Queen Anne’s Revenge, but that’s why those pirates were legend. Most were just punks with boats, and a coupe guns could send them off.

    The East Indiamen were the best armed (the size of a fourth rate SoL with armament roughly equivalent of a small frigate) because they had the longest voyages with the most valuable cargo, and being large ships operating in the tropics already had excess crew.

  41. But to your point, in any reasonably realistic science fiction setting, I would expect most civilian ships to be armed. It would be a much cheaper solution than state patrols. I’ve seen some calculations that suggest only high value goods would be shipped in space (something you wouldn’t mind paying $100,000 per ton in shipping charges). Small high value cargo is eminently suited for smuggling, and plundering — and this would be consistent with the cargo capacity of the Falcon (even allotting for standard cargo containers pushed barge-like between the forks).

    So, a plethora of ships carrying high value cargo is ample reason for arming them. And the primary reason why Age of Sail merchants preferred to go unarmed (weight of gun, powder, shot, and a bunch of crew) wouldn’t necessarily apply to space weapons.

  42. Paul Beakley why did you to post this while I was traveling? I can’t rant endlessly about the debased nature of scifi’s obsession with 18th century pirate romance. As Ralph points out, it’s all Age of Sail nostalgia because that is seemingly the only analogue we have and pirates were so sexy. As you point out, it’s witheringly boring. As soon as I read “you have a non-relativistic gun ship with cargo capacity, air breathing crew and guns…” I’m already staring off into space wondering where sf has run off to.

  43. Adam D I was waiting to see how long it took for the expanse to come up. I think it is a counter example – See “Holy Shit, NUKES” and how big a deal it is when the military vessels show up, and how much trouble it is to hide/justify the Roci’s super-civilian armaments and capabilities.

    I think the interesting part here is that Expanse grew out of an RPG, so is the treatment of the PC party’s super-ship a post-facto examining of the “armed space adventurers trope” or did that reflect in their games?

  44. Naturally, being based on an RPG, of course the Expanse PCs end up with a heavily armed paramilitary vessel. That actually stood out as extra-game-y to me. Welp, shit, we gotta get the PCs into a gunship somehow.

    But yeah, all credit to the writers for making that matter in the fiction.

  45. I’ll buy the “shields are necessary, just like modern peaceful cargo ships have hulls that can stop bullets” argument a lot of the time. But the gun turrets thing… Yeah, always seemed a little weird, in terms of space-opera settings.

    Get a little more towards the hard-SF end and you find yourself noting that ANY spaceship is less like a truck and more like rolling around in a nuclear-powered sub. It’s really not worth quibbling about whether I’m allowed to bolt on a deck gun or not, because there’s a fucking nuke in there. This is, I think, part of Traveller’s heritage? But I’m mainly thinking of Cherryh’s Union/Alliance stuff,* where sure, ships are armed I guess, nobody really talks about it in quite those terms because what would an “unarmed starship” even mean? Okay, you don’t have a purpose-built flak cannon, so you’ll have to dump a shipping container of ball bearings at .07c if you want to wipe out my station. It’s significant that the thing civilian spacers really freak out about when purpose-built warships show up in Cherryh isn’t “that thing carries how many guns/missiles?!?” but rather their acceleration and jump capabilities.

    But then, also worth noting that ships are treated like junior state actors in Union/Alliance and are expected to behave on that level. If some merchanter showed up acting as feckless as a bunch of PCs, well, expect to be answering some really serious questions before the police guard lets anyone back aboard.

    So again, not exactly dodging that “real serious social implications for your game-world” issue, just relocating them from “how fucked is your society that everyone walks around loaded for pirate” to “um, apparently we trust feckless player characters with the world-destroying power of a starship now?”

    *”I’m mainly thinking of Cherryh’s Union/Alliance stuff” is also a true statement about my lifestyle.

  46. Devin Binger raises a good point: any spaceship that cruises around at relativistic speed is a weapon.

    If you don’t make turnaround, that’s a planet killer.

  47. It seems like the most common thread to the discussion is most similar to the Firefly universe model. The campy spaghetti western was fun and more in line with the “frontier”, in that it was set in recently terraformed rim planets. While the inner worlds more closely resembled classic SF like Expanse, Babylon5, Battlestar Galactica, etc.

    The key would be a strong focus on antagonists beyond the type you can attack from orbit. Some of the best SF plots focus on the survival aspect of deep space. Crew vs. Hal, or heck even running some high class NPCs out to hunt space elk. (Have you seen the teeth on those?). A sudden failure of the ship throws the crew into an unknown zone full of mystery…… Higher level social gameplay is supported in the more central industrial worlds. The example of political powers at play in the Expanse was great and easily adapted to

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