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Nutema (JZ-02358)

This article was originally posted to the pre-magazine Freelance Traveller website in 1995, and was reprinted in the March/April 2017 issue.

Nutema (Rhylanor: Spinward Marches/3112)
A864543-A N Ag Ni           822Re M3V   (RISS 1201)
g=1.0600 day=23:03:00; year=51d 00:29:05.37 std/53d 02:50:05.37 lcl
atmo=1.00, natural weather
temp=+6 (7/lat +27 to -43) (season -23 to +14, 16 deg lat)
daily temp range 15
Agri, Crys, Comp; AgriProd, Met, NonMet; Parts, Dur, Cons; Docs
Prog/Adv; Comp/Neut; Har/Xphil
Legal 3-34432, Tech AA-AAAAC-AAAC-BB-D

Nutema’s claim to fame in the Spinward States is as an exporter of meats and meat products that are without equal on any known Spinward planet. Everyone knows of dragon steaks by reputation, and many are lucky enough to have had the opportunity to eat some in a luxury restaurant.

The traveller to Nutema will notice a significant difference between Nutema and the nearby worlds as soon as he debarks from his ship. Starports on planets that have direct commerce with Nutema are all strongly influenced by Vilani and Sylean attitudes. They tend to be orderly places, with a clear demarcation between administration, security, and service personnel. Not so on Nutema. Administrators are likely to be directly interacting with passengers and carrying bags or teamstering cargo, service personnel shout out orders to each other with abandon, and there are no security guards anywhere in sight. That's not to say that your arrival will be chaotic. The efficiency of the Nuteman system is surprising, and you’ll be ready to depart the starport for the planet’s surface within a standard day—including processing by CHI (Customs—Health—Immigration). The apparent lack of security at Nutema Skyside (the only starport at Nutema—there are no “dirtside” facilities for starships) is also no reason for concern—each and every Nuteman you see will be armed (an effect of Nuteman attitudes toward government, and of the needs of the ranching industry), and they all know how and when to use their weapons.

Nuteman Startown is right there in the Starport. The organized chaos of the port area extends here as well, with commercial, governmental, and residential units intermixed in whatever way the various owners felt was most immediately useful, and people doing whatever needs to be done whenever it needs doing, without regard for whether they are the “proper” person to be doing the job. Note that although the entire starport is considered to be the extraterritoriality zone, Nuteman notions of what is right and proper are the ones that are enforced, not those of the interstellar powers. The result is a much more anarchic atmosphere, where the cardinal rules are to look out for oneself, expect others to do the same, and be careful to avoid giving offense. For this reason, travellers are advised to contact the Imperial Tourism Bureau office before exiting their ship. This office has the de facto status of Consulate, but its ability to intervene on behalf of an offworld citizen is limited. The office maintains close contact with personnel based planetside, and the traveller who remembers to file an itinerary with the Bureau will find that almost any unexpected problems can be quickly cleared up. The exception to this is encounters with the legal system, where the most that can be done by the Bureau is to arrange for competent Nuteman legal assistance, and “affairs of honor”, where the Bureau’s ability to act is limited to ensuring appropriate medical attention and legal assistance, or, in extreme cases, arranging for the traveler’s body to be shipped back home, along with timely and appropriate notifications to next-of-kin and other designated persons.

Conducting business on Nutema is a matter of “let the buyer beware”, and of contracts where “every piddling detail” is spelled out in full. Regardless of the respective addresses of the parties to a contract on Nutema, disputes over contractual matters are always settled according to Nuteman protocols, which means plenty of negotiation and arbitration, optionally assisted by third parties (for a fee) before it gets to a Nuteman court. The court will look only at the language of the contract and the facts of the case; “intentions” not spelled out in the contract count for as much as the color of the sky—which is to say, not at all. That’s not to say that Nuteman businessmen are out to fleece the unwary; rather, they bend over backwards to ensure that any contract is fair to both parties—doing otherwise is, in general, a sure way to get called out in an affair of honor.

Beyond that caveat, doing business on Nutema is very much a social activity. Count on “working lunches” and “working dinners” in which little work and much “schmooze” gets done. Nuteman are willing to exchange anecdotes about various occasions in their lives at the drop of a hat; be prepared to do the same—Nuteman businessmen want to “know who they’re doing business with”, and won’t be satisfied with the arm’s-length relationship common on most worlds. Also, it is considered entirely proper on Nutema to address an acquaintance, either business or social, by his/her first name, or by an unadorned family name, omitting any titles or honorifics. Deadlines are less important than agreement on the essentials; expect an attempt to pressure a Nuteman businessman to be counterproductive.

Most business with Nuteman concerns can be conducted at the Starport, and there are definite advantages to doing so—for example, no taxes or import/export duties are levied on transactions at the Starport, and many businesses receive subsidies from profits from berthing fees, allowing prices on goods and (non-berthing-related) services to be relatively low. The down side is that many courtesies that are provided free of charge at other starports are available only for a fee at Nutema—shuttle service to the surface is one such. Nevertheless, you’ll be encouraged by your Nuteman business contacts to “c’mon down and visit”, and such a visit is not to be missed.

In spite of the hustle and bustle that you’ll find at the starport, and on the planet’s surface, the pace of life on Nutema is relaxed. Things get done “when they’re done”, and firm schedules are viewed almost as an imposition on personal freedom. You’ll find that proper care is taken on all matters, however, and that includes quick completion of a task when appropriate.

Nutema uses two calendars and two clocks—one of each is synchronized with the standard Imperial time measurements; the second calendar is synchronized with the local revolutional periods. The second clock (the “decimal” clock, in Nuteman terms) is a strictly Nuteman invention; the Nuteman day is divided into 100 “centads”, each of which is divided into ten “mills”. Each “mill” is thus 83 seconds long. The Starport operates according to the Imperial clock and calendar, as does the local government in terms of financial matters and interaction with the Imperium. Most other matters are handled on the basis of the local calendar, measured in local days. Note that a local day, when described using the standard clock, starts at 0000 (midnight) and ends at 2302—2303 is the same as midnight, and starts the next day. The decimal clock starts at 000 (midnight) and runs to 999—one mill later, it is 000 again, and the next day begins. The distinguishing factor between the clocks is that decimal time is always written with three digits, while standard time is always written with four; when speaking, standard time is always suffixed by “standard” or “hours”, and times before 1000 are always pronounced with a leading “oh”—”oh-six-hundred standard” refers to six hours after midnight; “six hundred” refers to a time nearly eight standard hours later (13 standard hours and 50 standard minutes after midnight). It is highly recommended that the traveller become familiar with the decimal clock, although many clocks on the planet give times in both the decimal form and the standard form.

There is one shuttle port at each of Nutema’s cities, with commercial air-raft (the “bus”, in local parlance) or maglev service from the shuttle port (Class F, universally) to the nearby smaller towns and larger ranches, and commercial air-raft (“bus”) and shuttle service between the shuttle ports. Most shuttle ports are also bases for fleets of chauffeured air-rafts (“taxis”) that provide reasonably priced door-to-door service between any two points within a certain distance from the center of the city, and generally to other nearby cities as well. Travellers should note that the shuttle ports are not considered extraterritorial.

Nuteman cities are compact conglomerations of buildings interspersed with parks and other recreational open areas. Zoning, per se, doesn’t exist, any more than it does in the Starport, but unspoken informal agreements have resulted in most heavy industry (meat processing and manufacturing, mostly) being concentrated, usually a short distance away from the city proper, and most of the more raucous forms of commercial enterprise are concentrated in the center of the city, away from residential concentrations. While almost any needs within a city can be met within walking distance, each city is home to at least one, and most likely several, enterprising individuals or organizations that provide the visitor—or resident—with transportation (like “taxis”) to more distant parts of the city.

When you visit a Nuteman restaurant, you’ll be steered toward some of the more exotic “special of the day” dishes, almost none of which use dragon meat. They’re all good, but if this is your first visit to Nutema, ask for “a slab, dressed”, regardless of whether or not you see it on the menu—it’s available, and they’ll be happy to prepare it for you. Even if you’ve had dragon off-planet, you’re in for a treat, and you’ll realize that you’ve never really eaten dragon before. You’ll get a slab of dragon, five centimeters thick and easily twenty centimeters across, either grilled or roasted (your choice), the latter in its own juices, served with a collection of native fruits and vegetables. The particular assortment of fruits and vegetables varies, depending on the time of year. Nuteman drink beer with their dragon, and almost nothing else, but order an off-world brand if one is available (usually)—by almost any standards, a native Nuteman beer is as bad as the dragon is good, and even the Nuteman drink it only to prove that they can.

Dress on Nutema is a matter of practicality, especially given the climate. Most of the time, ranch staff will wear a “body sleeve” (really a space-suit liner) for routine work around the ranch, getting into combat armor when direct action against one or more dragon is needed. In the cities, more attention is paid to “style”, but again, practicality rules—the long, flowing garments frequently seen among Vilani traditionalists are nowhere to be seen on Nutema; neither are the ruffs and frills of the various noble courts and former noble courts. In general, Nuteman expect their clothes to be quite comfortable and to stand up to “normal wear and tear” for whatever job they expect to be doing—generally no more than that, but certainly nothing less.

Organized sports are arguably the most popular form of entertainment on Nutema, with free rugby (rugby in a zero-g field) and baseball being the most popular spectator sports, and baseball being the most popular participatory sport. Most Nuteman can throw, hit, and catch competently, and a “pick-up” baseball game is almost compulsory at any large social gathering. There are “company leagues” all over the planet, but no professional baseball organizations—the Nuteman feel that it would spoil the sport, and the only reason they tolerate professionals (many of whom are former offworlders with experience) for free rugby is because of the cost of the zero-g facilities. Other sports are not unknown on Nutema; generally favored are football (“soccer” in the local dialect) and an amorphous form of seemingly violent entertainment called “rodeo” which seems to have no fixed form. Most of Nutema’s limited habitable land area (basically the tropical zone around the seas—most everything outside it is tundra or worse) is devoted to its primary industry, dragon ranching. No matter which shuttle port you are headed for, your shuttle’s route will be within easy sight of a dragon ranch. One look at a herd of dragon will explain why Nutema allows heavy military equipment to be owned and used by private citizens—it takes a tank and its weapons to make an impression on a 25-tonne beast, and when that beast, or a herd of them, is angry or confused, and stampeding, not even a tank can hope to do much. In order to manage the herds, each of the ranchers maintains enough manpower and equipment to outfit a crack mercenary unit or three, and keeps both in top condition.

The government provides three, and only three, services: It maintains the starport and the shuttle ports, it provides command and coordination for planetary defense (with the ranchers providing the heavy equipment, and the population at large providing the manpower and infantry equipment), and it provides criminal and commercial justice services, including the Nuteman Marshalls, whose sole purpose is to investigate allegations of criminal acts and bring the accused to justice—they are not a patrol force in the traditional sense of a police department. The basic philosophy of all Nuteman with respect to crime and justice is that the individual is responsible for maintaining his honor, and his own safety and that of his property, and may take any action he deems fit to protect them—but if in doing so, he becomes a danger to his neighbors, they have the same right to protect themselves against him. This extends to protecting the planet itself, which is why the government does not maintain a standing army (nor would it be allowed to by the Nuteman—they take the position that a government that maintains a standing army has no checks, other than its own ethics, against oppressing its own people, or aggression against others), and is indirectly why taxes are absolutely minimal on Nutema (a government that is kept poor doesn't have the money to spend on standing armies—only on what the people feel they need from the government).

The maintenance of honor effectively mandates honesty and respect between individuals; dishonesty or disrespect can be (and in the opinion of most Nuteman, should be) construed as an attack on the honor of the person lied to or treated with disrespect, and that person has the right to demand satisfaction, in the form of a duel, either to blood or death, depending on the perceived severity of the attack. A challenge to a duel is not given lightly, and refusal to accept is tantamount to openly acknowledging that one knowingly attacked the honor of the challenger. Duels are always performed in public, with witnesses; this is a courtesy to the Marshalls to ensure that any death is in fact identified as an affair of honor. If the offense was severe enough to warrant a death challenge in the opinion of the challenger, refusing to accept the challenge can, and probably will, cost the refuser his life. One can avoid the necessity of responding to challenges by wearing an orange-and-black armband (available at the starport, or at any weapon shop), but this also marks the wearer as a “second class citizen” who does not feel that his honor is worth defending. Such individuals are generally treated poorly by other Nuteman, but having renounced duelling, or indeed any “civilized” recourse to infringement of their rights, they have no real recourse against such treatment.

Except when their honor is offended, the people of Nutema are open and friendly, and the visitor who interacts with them openly and honestly will have no trouble acquiring a “friendly native guide” who will, almost certainly, invite the visitor to a party, or to dinner with his (the native’s) family, or to see a branding or butchering out at a ranch, or to some other form of friendly and informal entertainment. You’ll also have no trouble getting your guide’s opinions on the best places to eat and the best places to stay—but be warned, if your guide is one of the ranchers, you’ll be invited to stay with him “out at the ranch”, and “no” in any form is not an acceptable answer—unless you take him to meet the friend or business contact that you’ve already arranged to stay with.

In order to avoid inadvertent offense, it is advisable for the prudent traveller to be aware of certain basic philosophical decisions that the Nuteman have made with respect to governance, and the effect on the society that those decisions have had. Attention has previously been drawn to the custom of duelling, and the perceptions of personal honor behind it. Defense of property and personal liberty is taken at least as seriously as defense of honor; a Nuteman will not hesitate to take strong, decisive action in the event that he believes that his property is being stolen or damaged; nor will he hesitate to act against anyone who attempts to restrict his “essential liberty” (which is generally taken to mean that a person can not be prevented from doing as he pleases, save that any such actions may not interfere with the similar right of another). It is for this reason, as well as for the defense of honor, that all Nuteman go armed, and there is a general belief that a person who is not armed is one who is not willing to defend his “essential liberty” or honor, and is not therefore worthy of being treated with the normal courtesies. The visitor to Nutema is advised to get some rudimentary training in armed self-defense (if he/she does not already have such knowledge), and to purchase a weapon, before descending to the planet’s surface; both may be obtained in startown. In addition, each shuttle port, and most towns, have at least one, and usually several, weapon shops where the citizen or visitor may purchase weapons or have weapons checked, cleaned, and repaired.

An interesting effect of the minimalist philosophy with respect to government, plus the strong respect for individual liberty, has led to a governmental organization that would appear, at first glance, to be so totally unwieldly as to be ineffective at anything. The basic assumption seems to be that any government with sufficient power unchecked will become oppressive relative to those it governs. As a result, the government is divided against itself, with each branch having powers over the other two. In addition, as perhaps the ultimate check on the powers of government, there is a power vested not in any official of the government, but individually in the people of the planet: The people may respond to perceived excesses by most government officials in the same manner as they would respond to any offense against their “essential liberties” or their honor. Also, the only check on this power is that the person so acting may only be convicted of an illegal action if the effect of the action on the government official is “in nature excess of what response such official was deserving of”. It is instructive to note that death is not normally considered by the courts to be an excessive response to proposals to impose general and broad taxes or licensing fees.