Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Traveller Tuesday: Random Thoughts about the IISS

Because someone on the Traveller Facebook group posted a picture that caused me to riff, here are just my idle musings about the Scouts in no particular order.

My use of Traveller setting and dress falls under
fair use guidelines for both Mongoose and Far Future Enterprises.

Scout service uniform colors are officially silver and flat dark earth, with imperial red accents. Ostensibly, these colors are supposed to be symbolic:
  • Silver represents the unknown void of space, both jump- and regular. (The Imperial Navy already laid claim to black, and silver is more romantic in a dreamy, nebulaic* sort of way.
  • Flat dark earth represents fertile soil -- both the soil of home, and that of new planets Scouts seek to find. 
  • Imperial red represents the sacrifices made by all Scouts, and wearing this color honors their service and memory.
* NO, I don't mean nebulous. I literally meant "like a nebula". 

These are the official reasons. However, during long missions older scouts like to tell junior members this plausible tale: 

"Tenderfoot, you stay on expedition long enough and soon all your clothes end up looking the same colors. All that dirt, all that washing in recycled water, and pretty much all the colors fade to a dull gray-white and all your whites acquire a sweaty beige grunge. And some fool will invariably leave something red in the wash and give everything a pink tinge. So the Eagles on Sylea, knowing what Scouts get up to and what we give a damn about, decided that they'd make the official uniform in un-faded colors to begin with. This way, we're still considered 'in uniform' no matter how long we've been in the field."

Typical Scout service fatigues look a bit like the picture above (replace the black with flat dark earth, add some red trim on collars, shoulders and sleeves, and subtract the strange dangly bits). They are basically a utility jumpsuit with a slightly dressier coat that can be tossed on to look presentable. The jumpsuit fits comfortably under a tailored vacc suit.

Senior Scouts wear white uniforms, with the connotation being that they were in the field so long that everything faded. This is not always true, however (see slang). 

Special Operations Scouts do not have a distinctive uniform. 

  • The proper term for a rookie Scout is Tenderfoot.
  • Especially competent scouts are (informally) known as Badgers.
  • Senior Scouts are referred to as Eagles. This is allegedly because they are the most competent and a comparison is being drawn to the ancient, respected Fraternal Order of Eagle Scouts. 
    • But to anyone in the field, being called an Eagle is a sign of derision: an eagle considers itself above everything else, and its feces always falls on everything below it. 

Naming Conventions
(Some parts reprinted from a previous article)

The Imperial Interstellar Scout Service frequently makes reference to what we would consider pop culture -- frequently science fiction and fantasy. From their perspective, naming a ship out of something from Star Wars, Star Trek, Doctor Who or Battlestar Galactica is just as literary and honorable as NASA naming the first space shuttle Enterprise or the US Navy naming the first nuclear powered submarine after Jules Verne's Nautilus.So if you ever encounter an IISS ship named Thunderbird 3, you ought to know you're dealing with someone who has a respect for the ancient cultural roots of space exploration.

This frequently results in Scouts trying to, essentially, out-nerd each other. Sure, every Scout worth his vacc suit knows what the Delta Flyer is -- but meet one with a ship named Nell and he'll look at you with an expression of "Eh? Eh???" to see if you get it.  If you do, he's impressed; if you don't, he scores social "coup" against you and you're forced to listen to him explain the mythological roots of the name while you buy the drinks. 

This does however lead to certain unfortunate names, as Scouts attempt to one-up each other. Naming a courier ship Boom Tube is worth a giggle once (twice if it's being used by SpecOps) but it's generally not that funny or clever after that. Naming the Stellar-class liner assigned to an expedition as mobile hospital and R&R ship Cloud 9, however, turns you into the Scout version of someone who thinks its funny to pass gas in elevators or throw rocks at birds of good omen. But naming a Purcell-class Xboat Tender Kearny-Fuchida? That's pure gold.

Scouts -- like all explorers -- are properly superstitious about their ships, and so there is a formalized ritual for un-naming and then re-naming a ship. I imagine it goes something like this.

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