Monday, June 11, 2012

Another traveller hellhole: as primitive as can be.

Castaway E201789-7 G, A No bases

Perhaps one of the most isolated colonies ever founded by mankind, Castaway is aptly named, and was founded entirely by accident.

Castaway seems to be the result of a disastrously failed generation-style colonization effort. The colony, only recently located by the scout service, is on, or rather within, the sole iceball moon of a rogue gas giant/brown dwarf at least x parsecs from the nearest actual star system.

The moon is essentially a mico-Europa, with a large internal liquid water layer sustained by internal heat generated by the massive tidal forces generated by its companion. The main habitations are anchored to the bottom of the external ice layer, which is several kilometers thick. The actual surface is hard vacuum at near absolute zero. The water/ice zone covers a roughly circular area approximately 10% of the surface of the planet, and is likely the result of an early impact/meld with an ice body, possibly during planetary formation.

Little is known of the circumstances surrounding the no doubt desperate situation that necessitated the colonization of Castaway. It is clear that access to the liquid zone was obtained by impacting the asteroid based colony ship into the ice surface, hopefully after it was stripped and evacuated. Several beacons and at least one decommissioned shuttle have been found in orbits around both the primary, and Castaway, apparently in an attempt to mark their presence, as once the ice layer reformed no contact with the moon's surface was possible.

The surviving technology has been maintained at approximately TL 7, barely sufficient to support and maintain life in a subaquatic, low temperature microgravity environment.

Most technological equipment is adapted and recycled colony equipment; almost no new production is possible due to both the environment and the resource-poor nature of the moon; nonetheless, the original colonists, who seem to have been a fraction of the original colonists and crew, did have access to a large store of prefabricated and varied high tech colonizing equipment.

Almost all other resources available are scavenged from the wreckage of the original colony ship, and the asteroid hull. A few fusion plants are still active, along with a makeshift geothermal technology to provide heat and power to the habitations. Food is entirely based on either thermal based plant forms apparently introduced by the colonists, or vat grown protein and plants.

The habitations tend to be as self-sufficient and dispersed as much as possible, but an extensive communication system and submersible transport has maintained a mostly cohesive society, likely a testament to the constant struggle to survive.

The colonists have not lost memory of their origins, nor of the outside universe; however, it appears that the impetus for the initial colonization effort was to create a hidden haven for the human race, an ethos which is still strongly in existence. Accordingly, the society is extremely exophobic and opposed to any external contact. They essentially believe that they are the last true humans in the universe, and that an unspecified "evil empire" (physically resembling humans) has eliminated earth and all other colonies.

The colony as a whole is a loosely federated Polis, with full citizen participation in important decisions; otherwise, most of the habitations are governed by a changing board of expert technologists and biologists, who are quite ruthlessly and unforgivingly tested for competence and fired for failure.

The central goal in the society is survival and efficiency, and as a result individuals are very strictly tracked and monitored by the central committees, and each other, and observation is almost ubiquitous. This has become so ingrained in the population that the concept of privacy is almost non-existent; rather, the concept of "oversight" is taken as a basic human need. This observation is seldom if ever used for political or social manipulation goals; indeed such use of "oversight" is strictly taboo. Rather it is used to safeguard individuals in a very dangerous and unforgiving environment, and to allow constant refinement of working techniques. Indeed, given the strong social restrictions on oversight as a method of supervision or control, most inhabitants are acutely uncomfortable in its absence, and are highly agoraphobic when alone.

Population levels are strictly limited and limited to replacement. Life expectancy is low, and the population is as a whole fairly young. Education and training are universal, and begun at a very early age. Most individuals will be working for most of their waking hours, for most of their life.

Resources and property, as well as all production is entirely held in common, and strictly rationed and distributed on a strictly per capita basis; material goods or access to same is not used as a reward or benefit. Private ownership is limited to clothes, and, oddly, musical instruments and religious items.

Waste of resources or failure to recycle is considered a major criminal and moral offense. Interestingly, human life is also considered a scarce and perhaps the most vital resource (after power ) needed to preserve the colony (and thus the human race). Even the worst of crimes have no death sentence; however, the societies concept and implementation of "forensic resource recovery" would give even hardened criminals pause before offending.

Finally, it must be noted that the population has diverged significantly from the original human population, primarily due to adaptation to a constant microgravity environment. It is unclear if the colonists are aware of this divergence, and if so, what part it plays in their hermit/survivalist ethos.

The initial effect is that it is impossible for a baseline human to infiltrate their society.

Interestingly, all information suggests that the colonists are unaware of the orbital beacons which attracted the initial survey expedition; it is possible that this is the remnant of early, perhaps initial, schism in the colonist society.

The classification as an E starport is due to the scout presence on the surface. A semi permanent post has been created, as they anticipate a long, long period of study before contact, if it is ever deemed to be necessary.

Adventure hooks.

One obvious possibility is trying to make contact with the society. This would be a major challenge for a group –one that would have to be comfortable with a very “talky-thinky” campaign.

Another would be running the initial discovery by the scouts; note that in this case, the planet should still retain a type E port – insofar as the scouts quickly discover that someone has been here before, and plans to come back. Who ? Why ? well, seems that One habitation has broken the ultimate taboo; when a private ship had to enter the system, they found the colony and made contact with one of the habitations –the rulers of which are trading local resources for luxuries for the upper few. Obviously this is depleting the resource loop of the colony, and will likely cause its collapse if the mayor of habzone 8 doesn’t stop trading trace elements and compounds for really tasty food bars.

A less official scenario would be the players being hired to either find the colony by an undisclosed private company; the kicker is that when the colony ship set off, it was funded by the inventor and of a unique and very efficient fusion power plant (who was also owner of the start-up to exploit it) – a design which was never produced, an as she left with the colony ship and all known prototypes. The remains of the start up company were left behind, and actual ownership of the process has been passed from corporation to corporation, and been the focus of several unsuccessful attempts to replicate it, as it still has several unique advantages over current designs (GM: make up your own, could be as as simple as an extremely low production cost, could be as revolutionary as room temperature fusion). While it was supposed that the design and prototypes were lost with the ship, and have never been rediscovered, the patron has evidence that someone is trying to reverse engineer one of the exact designs of the originals with the goal of putting it on the market as their own invention. So, the mission is to find out where the unit came from. Turns out, the prototypes are the fusion units running the habitations –one of which recently vanished, condemning the local population to a rapid, icy, death.

Extra twisty bits (for those who need them) would be that the holding corporation is mostly interested in suppressing the design, as they really don’t hold ownership of it after all this time; a cheap, public domain design would cost Imperial Gizmotronics a serious hit in their profits . For further twistiness, make the reverse engineers are a subgroup of the same company with different goals; see, the patrons cannot kill the project, and its success may well put them out of a job; or at least supplant them. So, barring blowing their own lab (not really an option) they can either cut off the source of prototypes, or uncover the fact that it isn’t an invention of the rival department, or even that they killed a whole habitation to get it; thus possibly doing the right thing, for the basest of reasons.

Alternately, the reverse engineers might be agents of the inhabitants (only the highest levels know about this contact, see above as regards taboos) attempting to raise funds for the colony to be either improved or relocated, like say, to somewhere that isn’t the inner circles of hell. So, now we have the “big oil suppressing the water powered car” scenario.

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