Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Lithus Sector: Telajan (Part Two)


Telajan (Coord. 06.01)
Part Two: Inner Zone Overview
Part One is Here.

Quick Recap: Telajan itself is a Type A White Giant Star, significantly brighter, hotter and more active than most similar stars in its category. But unlike most of its contemporaries, this star is surrounded by a massive cloud of dust and debris that abruptly stops right at the very threshold of the Habitable Zone. The Inner Zone of the Telajan System is a tempestuous, dense circumstellar-morass of dust, which would be more likely around an Asymptotic Giant Star, or around a star still caught-up in the process of developing its protoplanetary nebula. 


The Inner Zone

The Inner Zone is a region of hot dust that ends abruptly at the periphery of the star's Habitable Zone, where a loose belt of orbital pylons built by an unknown civilization contain and control the dust. At least that is if the findings from the three open source probes sent out to examine these Pylons are to be accepted.

Many leading authorities and Academic AIs reject the preliminary findings out of hand as unlikely and contrary to the known laws of physics, leading to an academic free-for-all as every crackpot theorist has come out of the woodwork to fling yet another half-baked argument into the swirling maelstrom of increasingly degraded and bowdlerized data. 

Anti-Corprists have a major source of spurious objections and rapid-fire legal challenges to any and every open effort or attempt to analyze and identify who actually built those Pylons and just what their role might be in this system. The leadership of the Anti-Corprists consider the exploration of the Pylons to be something they can use politically, one way or another, to further their questionable objectives. So far all they have managed to do is to drive all research into the mysteries of this solar system out of the public domain and into the closed labs and private projects of Merellon Corporation. A situation that has made many ask just what is going on. 

Merellon Corporation is engaged in a long term effort to study this system in detail, despite the constant sabotage and interference from outside agitators, anarchists and cultists who make increasingly bizarre, unverifiable claims regarding the Pylons, a supposed Precursor Species, and other such nonsense. What little information is publicly available regarding the Telajan System derives entirely from Merellon Corp.


Which makes sense, really.

Merellon Corporation holds a 93% interest in the Inner Zone of the Telajan system, as well as a 20% share of the Habitable Zone and a full 98% stake in the Outer Zone. They are the single largest vested entity within this solar system. What they do not own, they have tremendous influence over. A fact that the Corprik PR Teams do their best to downplay and dismiss as nothing to concern yourself over. But at the end of the day, this one Corporation remains the sole executive body overseeing the majority of this system's resources...and there are rumors that Merellon subsidiaries are diligently engaged in buying up any and every claim within this system, no matter how trivial, small or inconsequential it might be. This one rumor has set off something of a 'Claims Rush' within the margins of the Inner and Outer Zones where tramp prospectors and other vagabonds have sought to establish themselves in hopes of securing a corporate buy-out.

The effect upon the Habitable Zone has been horrendous and will be detailed in Part Three.


The Pylons

The Pylons are the single most commented upon aspect of this solar system. Very little is actually confirmed or known about them. No one knows for certain who built them, or how, or even really why...though there are a lot of theories regarding that, most of which are pure speculation, hogwash or just plain silly.

One fact that is known keenly is that the Pylons maintain the massive network of overlapping gravitational fields that keeps the hot dust and debris of the Inner Zone out of the Habitable Zone, just as the second ring of Pylons keeps the ice, dust and so forth in the Outer Zone from penetrating the life-bearing region of the system.

Just as nearly every other aspect of this system is hotly debated, questioned and challenged, it is abundantly clear that whomever built the Pylons did so in order to foster and protect the so-called Goldilocks Zone where liquid water forms easily and life has made itself at home.

In light of the ongoing efforts of the Anti-Corprists factions, The Board of Directors of Merellon Corp has authorized several covert, blacked-out missions to both the Inner and Outer Zones of the Telajan System. Despite the stringent safety protocols and usual corporate background screenings, agents from three different extremist factions have infiltrated some of these missions, compromising at least one of them. (See: White Out)

A Few Random Scenario Seeds for the Pylons
  • The Pylons exhibit distinct self-repair capabilities. A clandestine researcher working for some undisclosed wholly-owned (and thus disposable) subsidiary of Merellon Corp is quietly recruiting for the sorts of adventurous types who won't be missed very much. His project is completely off the record. He wants to see if he can damage a Pylon using some prototype weapons systems in the hopes of evoking some sort of response. A basic background check will reveal that this is the fifth clone of the researcher to attempt something like this...a fact that certain Anti-Corprist agitators very much want to alert him to, before it is too late. Of course Merellon CorpSec is watching over this asset. They consider it a total win-win scenario: either they get good data on the so far untested weapons, or they capture infiltrators.
  • The gravitational fields anchored and curated by the Pylons appear to be a sort of sponge-like structure somewhere between a sponge and a curled fractal. Curiously enough, intricate spiral patterns have been etched deep into nearly every xeno-archaeological site found within the Telajan System. Similar markings have been documented in several other systems including deep within the ruins recently found on Balajang (02.00) and at Kazix (02.01). Where else have these patterns been found? What is the connection? Could there really be some sort of star map or diagram for a type of 'psychic receiver' buried in all of these intricate swirlings, just as some of the less violent cultists and other Believers who are coming to Telajan on pilgrimages or at the behest of dream mentors. Could these symbols really unlock some sort of immaterial alien technology? If it is all just some fabulist fraud, then why have certain of the less flaky proponents of the 'dream machine hypothesis' gone missing or been found dead under suspicious circumstances?
  • There are thousands of Pylons just in the belt circling the Inner Zone. So far no one has been able to come up with a definitive census. This may be because the things keep moving, or perhaps there is something to the wild stories of a broken-down dust-skimmer who claims to be the only survivor of a team that was sent out to survey one of the Pylons as part of a Blacked-Out mission that has since been scrubbed from public record. He lost his arm back there, only, he claims, he didn't lose it; it's still attached, it just isn't in the same time/space as the rest of him any more.
  • MacReynolds claims to have a holographic map imprinted on his brain by squishy-looking aliens who abducted him nigh onto twenty seven years ago. At least he makes that claim whenever he's seriously drunk. Which is often. Everyone pretty much ignored him or humored him with a little bit of charity once in a while. Then one night he coughed loose a slick, blue dongle that really had been lodged in his sinuses. What other parts of his story are likewise true? Where is he now? What happened to the blue dongle? Where will all this lead?


Shipboard Encounters in Proximity to the Pylons
  1. Tramp prospector in a barely serviceable ship is in serious trouble. They tried to drag a sizable chunk of iridium-rich debris into the Habitable Zone from the Inner Zone. They've been experiencing a great deal more drag than they originally calculated or planned on. The drag is increasingly. Slowly. Inexorably. Soon the prospector's ship will be dead in space, and if any of the onboard AI's projections are accurate, they'll start going backwards, even against full thrust. They refuse to release the rock. One of the crew has triggered a distress call. Tensions are high among the six contractors and three vested owner-employees aboard the ship. Systems are failing. Morale is crashing. And someone has decided to make use of this momentary lapse in leadership to settle a few old scores. The first body was just discovered five minutes after the distress call was sent.
  2. Sixteen Kliks wide and rapidly expanding, a cloud of metalfoil seedlings stream past as they accelerate to escape velocity. It may be possible to capture one of the things as it passes by your ship. People claim to have done it after all. There are several hundred clips uploaded to the local Net showing how various crews have attempted to do this, but most of these clips look fake. You'll only get one shot at this, so you can't afford to waste too much time scrounging through bad video footage trying to figure out how best to catch a seedling. But if you do succeed...you'll be famous for a few minutes as the proud owners of a larval-stage solar sail that you can either auction off or outfit however you like (or can afford) as a living starship.
  3. A cloaked mine just erased a section of your ship's hull. The good news is that your ship's auxiliary systems have the situation under control. The bad news is that there might be 1d6 more of these mines in the immediate area. Who the hell uses such things any more? And why would anyone string a set of these obsolete weapons way out here? Could it have anything to do with the reports of an unregistered slivership prowling about in this region?
  4. Crash Alert claxons blare. Some idiot just dumped a CraShell out of Intraspace and it is headed right for your ship. It is blacked-out, unlisted, no transponders, scrubbed of any identification. It appears occupied. Then, as suddenly as it appeared, it fires thrusters and reorients itself on a trajectory your systems project will take it directly on a crash-course for the nearest Pylon. If you do decide to follow it, all your Comms will be jammed by the ECM package that will go live as the CraShell reaches the point of no return. Who is in that thing? What are they doing? How will the Pylon respond?
  5. Your transponders are being pinged by the Main Node at the center of a missile-cloud. It doesn't like your current course. You have been warned. Either change your course or it will begin to launch missiles at your ship. Your sensors confirm the presence of antimatter...
  6. The Socratic Sodality of Silan has placed a data-relay buoy out here to stake their claim to...oh...never mind. It would appear that the buoy has drifted off-course drastically over the last three hundred sixty seven years. But now that you've stirred its autorepair systems back online it'll soon be on its way to re-stake the (possibly) defunct group's claim on a chunk of rock deep within the Inner Zone.

Six Encounters At/On the Pylons
  1. That black bulge over by the far Pylon is moving. It seems to have spotted you, as it is moving in closer quite fast. It is heavily shielded. Your scans begin to crash even as they report military-grade ECM going into effect. Whatever this thing is, it is big, fast and armed for bear and looking for a fight. Right now, you are its target.
  2. Less than a thousand Kliks out from the base of the Pylons is a freshly-made crater. Initial indications are that the wreckage billowing out from the impact-point are the shattered remains of a disposable bulk ore scow. It might have been empty when it struck. Or it might have been carrying something looking to use the impact to obscure their tracks. Investigating the wreckage turns up evidence of robotics. Proscribed alien robotics that are not supposed to even exist any more, according to official records. But how did this sort of contraband get here? And why?
  3. Six heavily armed mercs from the D-List outfit Ma Turner's Turncoats have just stepped out from under a signal-skipping umbrella. Now that they register on your systems...what do you want to do about it? They don't appear to be immediately hostile.
  4. Three Achernarians are huddled together in a small EmergiSphere. Their ship was hijacked while they investigated the Pylon. They claim to have no idea who took their vessel. They also don't have a lot to say about what they might have discovered. They do want to rent time on your CommSystem to contact a 'friend' and request them to come rescue, or rather recover them. The address they use is a hardened blackwared military site. The 'friend' they've signaled is a warship on station just North of the Ecliptic. They'll be here in five minutes.
  5. Twelve Anti-Corprist radicals have pooled their resources in order to rent an Orbital Skipper. Usually these things aren't brought this close to the Inner Zone, as they are relatively fragile, civilian vehicles intended for use in-between orbital installations, habitats and cylinders. These radicals have stolen some off-schedule weapons from an unscrupulous but sympathetic alien merchant. They are hunting down a pair of Merellon Corp agents whom they believe are on their way to this Pylon on a mission they have not been briefed about. The radicals feel that they are on a need-to-know-basis, so the less they know, the better they can carry out their missions. There is a base 1 in 6 chance of these gun-happy would-be killers mistakenly identifying someone in your crew as one of the Merellon Agents. There is also a chance that you really do have a Merellon sleeper agent in your midst. Or you might have a member from some rival outfit who is working as an infiltrator, using your crew as a cover, while they work their way into position as part of some long-term plan. Or...
  6. Originally there had been twenty contestants. Now, a week later, there are four. Five, if you count the girl in a coma. These people are all unarmed civilians. They're under intense steady-state surveillance as part of a game show being broadcast live across the Net. Smile; you're the newest members of the cast...

Six Encounters Within the Inner Zone
  1. Hot dust sleets through the immediate area, stirring up all manner of electromagnetic mayhem in its wake.
  2. Gravitaitonal Anomaly: your ship has been displaced 1d6x1,000 miles clockwise around the Inner Zone. Apparently there is no damage, and your ship's systems will compensate for the sudden shift...but how's your fuel or energy reserves?
  3. 3d6 boulder-sized bits of random debris tumble by. One of them might contain some potentially useful ore, but the other boulders are seething with highly unstable radioactive isotopes, making any effort to extract tricky and dangerous.
  4. Immature metalfoil seedlets have a base chance of 1 in 6 of striking your ship as they roughhouse and jockey for the best place from which to unfurl their reflective surfaces and shoot out across the system to the rich reserves of ice and other such things in the Outer Zone.
  5. A huge wavefront of hot dust moves in, scrambling all comms and sensors. 
  6. Waves of intense hard radiation boil across your ship as a direct consequence of the birthing of another pod of metalfoil seedlets. You may have just glimpsed an aspect of their life-cycle no one has ever even suspected. But what do you intend to do with the data your systems have collected? Who'd want it? What would they do with it? Do you care?


4 comments:

  1. Outstanding and the pylon encounter development is really inspired!

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    1. Glad you like it--we're doing more in-depth delving into the mystery of the Pylons, but it will take place within an adventure that we're building right now...

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  2. This stuff gets better and better!

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    Replies
    1. Thank you! We're having fun with this project and we're really glad to know that others are enjoying it as well. What sort of stuff would make this more usable, more useful for you?

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