So… I have a guilty love of the prohibition era. I’dd never want to LIVE then, but int terms of really interesting social dynamics, fashion, art and narrative possibility, its really, really interesting. During the ‘Would-Bacta-work-as-lube?“ question posed by @poplitealqueen a few months ago, I set about scouring-SCOURING, I TELL YOU- Wookieepedia and all my SW-related material to find out what Bacta actually COST, and how it operated, to answer the question of whether it was economically and practically feasible. And I found out that:
1. It apparently makes ideal lube, as long as you don’t mind the smell of Pineapple.
2. It’s basically ultra-thick saline with suspended nutrients and ACTUAL BACTERIA in it.
(so, these next couple conclusions are made in the face of conflicting canons, but it’s the one that makes the most sense for how shit plays out) 3. Bacta is the GMO reconstruction of Kolto, which is a psuedo-parastic microorganism that may or may not be related to midichlorians that alters it’s DNA to turn into the host’s cells. ( IDK it’s science fiction, roll with it) Kolto was the more effective substance, able to treat things like cirrhosis, brain damage, etc,- but was wiped out by a virus during the KOTOR era as part of a plot to get rid of the Jedi. Good job guys.
So Bacta is the GMO they managed to cobble together afterwards with the remaining info they had, and while it’s pretty miraculous as a traumatic injury treatment, it doesn’t do chronic diseases like Kolto did
4. Bacta is literally grown in cultured vats, much the way insulin is farmed today.
5. While it’s heavily regulated in the TPM era, because it’s MEDICAL EQUIPMENT, it’s still really easy to grow once you get your startup costs out of the way.
6. The expensive part of bacta is the administration devices- bacta doesn’t do well in tubes, so you either need to keep a small live colony (a bacta tank ala ESB), or flash-freeze them in the ultra thick saline, and have a small…bacterial microwave, essentially, to thaw bits of it out for use.
7. During the clone wars, Palpatine subsidized the crap out of the bacta industry so he’d have enough for his army and the worlds loyal to him- post 66, he was a punitive asshole who controlled all "legitimate” (but not necessarily well-run) bacta production, and would just not ship it to worlds he didn’t like.
The point I’m getting at is- The conditions are PERFECT for there to be a massive Bootleg Bacta trade starting in TPM and going all through the empire (and into TFA probably, we’ll see what the timeline looks like once this all shakes out) Just thing- ALL the shenanigans people got up to with bootlegging, but with bacta.
People with illicit ‘stills’ in the basement, people doing insane planetary runs to get it to worlds in need- or pirating Imperial ships for the stuff. Kids going to school with an “ice pack” in their lunch bag, only to give the frozen bacta to their Rebel-sympathizing teacher. Imperial Facilities get raided by Bacta Pirates, not for the shitty imperial strain, but literally to pull the piping and saline tanks out of the walls.
Of course, some people are gonna be unscrupulous and cut corners with their vats, resulting in horrible mutant strains that do god knows what (but that’s another plot bunny). Or Strains of bacta that are more refined and effective, because much of the scientific Community was not friends with Sheevy P, even before the war.
AND CLONES WOULD KICK ASS AT BACTA FARMING- because a LOT of bacta farming happened On Kamino, and hell, it was probably part of chores to tend to the tanks. “Feed the vats so your brothers can live”
The HARD part about starting your own farm is
1. finding/making suitable vats
2. GETTING YOUR HANDS ON A GOOD STRAIN.
Kix becomes an unintentional fucktillionaire distributing the Kamino strain. He wasn’t even charging, people just kept giving him money. “Uncle Jesse’s Extra-Viscosity Varmint Grease” is the joke name of the best strain. Kix is SO MAD that drunk Jesse named it that but you know? No imp inspection officer has ever wanted to open those barrels.
The things people pretend to be shipping instead of bacta though, which might actually include booze:
"Booze! Twelve million gallons of Zanbar Blue!“
"Oh that stuff is gross. Carry on.”
Also, the REALLY enterprising people who figure out how to start mixing spice in with their bacta- and create a medical revolution in the process. Glitterstim is a bad idea to snort, but the trace amounts in the “Candy Cane” strain heal nerve damage! "Pineapple express" is a strain that essentially acts as a topical PTSD treatment "Beskar Berserker" is a strain that has some pretty awesome painkiller/amphetamine combo, and while it was meant to keep people from coding, it becomes REALLY popular with former ARC troopers.
Hera gets Kanan a strain called “second sight” after he loses his eyes. She did it because it was supposed to be good for treating optic injuries and numbing visual hallucinations… they find out later it’s basically bacta + Midichlorian chow.
Anyway, this was a fun thought, please feel free to play with it if you want and tell me all about it