This article originally appeared in the November/December 2012 issue.
Economy Passage is an alternative to Low Passage, eliminating the need for cryoberths in commercial ships. I do not see them eliminating cryoberths completely, as cryoberths do have advantages in some situations, such as preservation of the mortally ill or wounded during transport to competent medical attention.
Two well-known Traveller elements combine with some easily-designed custom equipment to create the Economy Passage: Fast Drug and Med Scanners already exist; the transfer bunk and the grav gurney are custom-designed.
Fast Drug is described as a survival drug that slows the metabolism of the recipient, causing time to seem to speed up by a factor of 60:1, so for each minute of perceived time, an hour actually passes. Standard Fast Drug comes in pill form and a single dose lasts 60 days. Fast Drug is available at TL 9 and has a retail price of Cr200 per dose.
As Fast Drug is well-established in the milieu, there are no intrinsic dangers to the passenger from its use. Sleeping in a protected environment, monitored by machines, significantly reduces the physical dangers to someone living at such a slow rate.
A technology not discussed in Traveller material to date, but available today in the ‘real world’, is Non-Invasive Drug Administration (NIDA). Most readers will be familiar with it in the form of the hypospray from Star Trek. At current technology levels, the apparatus is bulkier than depicted, but works on the same principle, and can be used to replace injection or intravenous administration. Here, rather than pill form with binders, fillers, and time-release agents, the drug is supplied in pure form, shipped as molecular powder, and dissolved or suspended in a liquid for administration as required. Because it is not pressed into pills it requires less processing by the pharmaceutical manufacturer, it is available in the Traveller milieu in lots of 222/9 dose equivalents for a base cost of 4kCr which works out to 3Cr/day.
Med scanners come in two sizes, compact and regular. The compact med scanner can provide vital readings in a matter of seconds, record those readings, and be set to alert on certain conditions, for example if the breathing rate, blood pressure, heart rate, or blood glucose drops below or climbs above a particular range. They include a NIDA function and are capable of administering up to three different drugs. A compact med scanner is used with a single patient. The regular version can do what the compact one does, and can interface with and monitor a large number of compact scanners on a rotating basis. It also includes a complete expert system diagnosis computer, which allows individuals with little or no medical skill to diagnose and treat illness and injury on an emergency basis.
The accommodations for our economy passengers take the form of what I call a transfer bunk. In the design sequences for seats in Fire, Fusion, and Steel, the only difference between the first three types of seats is volume. I interpret this as providing flexibility for exact size. I therefore decide that the mass of a transfer bunk will be about 75kg including the med scanner, air circulation equipment, enclosures, a specialized low power computer, comm gear, and the magic fingers in the mattress to prevent bedsores. The transfer bunk also contains a power source so that it can be disconnected from ship power and relocated to a ground facility if needed. The cost is Cr250 plus the cost of the med scanner. Add the mass for the passenger and baggage allowance and you have what you need.
The baggage allowance can be whatever you decide; perhaps 10kg, like Low Passage. I allow up to 125kg for the passenger and baggage for a total mass of a transfer bunk of 200kg. The volume for stowage of baggage is included in the transfer bunk.
The computer interfaces with the med scanner and comm gear and can access the ship’s computer to download (only) entertainments such as books, movies and music. The only output device is a “cloth” touch screen, typically mounted over the head of the bed which can produce flat images, low-res 3D, and sound.
Transfer bunks are typically 0.8m wide × 2m long and stacked four or more high (depending on deck heights). They are usually spaced 1m between the opening side and any obstructions at a minimum to allow for operational room. On ships with large Economy Passenger sections, the bunks can be placed on tracks so they can be slid from side to side to share the 1m between multiple racks of bunks.
Next, we need a gurney to move the economy passengers from where they go to sleep to the transfer bunk assigned to them for the voyage. If a starship has a sickbay then there is probably already a gurney onboard. If not, you can use my design or design one of your own.
All grav gurneys are 70cm wide by 2m long with a height that varies with TL, and have 5kN of CG thrust, a portion of which can be used laterally as indicated in the table. The integrated electronics package includes a CM 1.00 CP 1.00 computer, gyrocompass, radar altimeter, transponder, voice activation system, follow-along radar, and inertial positioning.
Gurneys come with a set of preprogrammed commands for basic operations. Programming new commands only requires a basic computer task. Combining commands can allow more efficient operation, such as using ‘find center of gravity’ with ‘follow tilt’ to allow the operator to ride on the gurney with the patient at a faster rate than would be possible with a simple ‘follow operator’ command.
We need to account for life support usage during passage. If life support for a normal passenger or crewmember costs 2kCr per trip (2 weeks) then 24 minutes of life support would be 2.38Cr. Economy passengers are asleep with lowered metabolic rates and do not eat during passage. So reducing that to 2Cr/day would be reasonable. Add 3Cr/day for Fast Drug and the total upkeep for an economy passenger would be just 5Cr/day.
How much should Economy Passage cost? I use 1kCr per jump, just like Low Passage. A transfer bunk takes up much less room than a cryoberth, requires only normal life support (at very minimal levels), and the upkeep is less than half that of a cryoberth. Because Fast Drug puts the patient at less risk than cryoberthing, you could reasonably charge more for the added safety factor, if you choose.
Tips and Tricks
Sleeper Under the Bed
You could add a transfer bunk for each stateroom without any added volume requirement if your staterooms have built-in beds on the same wall as the door. Consider the illustration: The four numbered doors open into identical 3m × 3m staterooms. #1 shows the normal layout. #2 shows what is under the bed: two sets of 50cm × 55cm drawers, and a baggage area and bunk for an economy passenger to hibernate the trip away.
All you need is 60cm or so clearance beneath the bed. #3 shows the transfer bunk slid out into the passageway for access. This could be crew country or passenger territory.
The Fast Watch
Fast Watch could replace Frozen Watch. The Imperium could use a slightly different formula or dosing which gives a ratio of 61:1.
For a trooper a year of Fast Watch will seem like 24 days. Standing what feels like a 6-hour watch in battledress ready for action will actually be 15 days and 6 hours, which will be followed by 18 hours off-watch and off the drug. For each year of Fast Watch the actual age of the trooper will be 342 days less than the chronological age. It is important, of course, to determine how long it takes for the body to return to normal after drug administration stops—in case the trooper is actually needed for action.
If a typical passenger sleeps 8 hours per night, that would translate to 20 days real time. However, dosing could start several minutes before sleep begins. After all, how many people lay down and go right to sleep? If the dosing starts as soon as the bunk is closed and it takes them 24 minutes to fall asleep, that’s an extra day.
Since the computer provides entertainment, each hour the passenger lies awake is 2½ days ship time.
Administration of Fast Drug need not stop immediately upon the passenger waking. If Economy passengers are required to wait in their bunks until an attendant comes to let them out, a half-hour wait would not be too much of a problem for most and the extra 1.25 days could make a big difference in ship’s operations.
Most soporifics put the user to sleep or keep them asleep but interfere with normal sleep patterns, which is why most doctors don’t recommend using sleep aids for extended periods. However, if a soporific were used on an Economy passenger, it could be used to extend the normal sleep time, especially if the drug regimen were tailored to avoid interfering with a good night’s sleep in any major way. Each additional hour of sleep for the passenger represents 2.5 days for the ship’s crew.
You would probably want to board economy passengers the day before lift so they are sleeping when the other passengers embark. They could arrive in the evening after they have eaten and just before they are ready for sleep, or earlier to enjoy some entertainment before the trip starts (for them) at bed time.
Depending on how you choose to make things work, they could board several days early to enjoy themselves before Fast sleep starts and the ship’s company could earn a few extra credits feeding and entertaining them.
Editor’s note: Clearly, there’s nothing stopping you from ruling that the Fast Drug time ratio is something other than 60:1 for Economy Passage. However, using that ratio, the Economy Passenger that sleeps under the influence of Fast Drug for eight days of ‘ship time’ will only experience a bit over three hours of ‘personal time’. Proper timing of administration of Fast Drug after sleep begins may allow for more psychological comfort for the passenger on one-Jump trips.