The Mnemosyne Files

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Damn it's been a while

Work and home life have both conspired to prevent me from working on this at the pace I had originally planned. Progress on the next version of the SilCore Vehicle Design Program has all but halted as well. I'm hoping that things will settle down enough that I will be able to put up some more original content here as well as get the application chugging along again as well.

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When Nothing is Something

Following is a piece of short fiction by Stuart Elle originally featured in Exo 1.1

Nothing can compare to this.

That was always the first thought in Michael's mind whenever he entered the observation bubble of the ISS Roaming Spirit. The long, narrow rows of cargo containers (called CC's for short) attached around the 400 meter spine of the Roaming Spirit spread out behind the command section of the ship. At the far end lay the cluster of four plasma engines, silent until the time of departure. But this sight was not what Michael came here for. It lay beneath them not caring what they did . . . Jupiter.

The swirling gas giant always made Michael's pulse quicken. The Great Red Spot. The swirling bands of orange, red, and white gases that circled the planet. He always came here to look at this awe inspiring sight before the ship left for its next destination. He wanted to make sure that this was the last image in his mind when the engines came to life; he would be too busy piloting the ship to get another look. If for some reason he did not return to Jupiter at the end of the voyage, he would die contented. Glancing at his watch Michael took one last quick look before heading to the Spirit's bridge.

Floating 'up' to observation bubble hatch Michael continued straight through closing it behind him. Continuing in the same direction and through another hatch was the intersection with the corridor that lead aft through the ship's spine to the engines and forward to the bridge. Michael pushed himself in the direction of the bridge, and grabbed the bridge hatch handle when he arrived. Opening the hatch and stepping through Michael was greeted by the captain.

"Glad you could join us, Mr. Benjamin."

"Thank you, sir," Michael replied to the captain, Vince Nichols, as he settled in the acceleration couch and strapped in. Nichols had been working on spacecraft for most of his life, so he understood the little rituals that his crew needed to do before they headed out for the long journey.

"All stations report your status."

"Communications and sensors green," replied Kim Franks.

"Engineering green. Engines are warmed up and ready to go," replied Kasei Horiko.

"Navigation green. Course loaded and ready to execute," replied Michael.

"Miss Franks, please inform Jovian Space Traffic Control that we are on schedule to burn for Titan."

"Aye, Captain," came the reply from the Kim.

"Mr. Benjamin, by the numbers."

"Aye, Captain." He didn't actually have to 'fly' the Spirit. He just had to press a couple of buttons to get things moving after he had the course plotted and entered in the computer. He made a last check of all the panels, and entered the command to start the countdown to the start of the engines. "Course entered. Navigation program for course to Titan is running."

The Spirit started to realign itself to slingshot clockwise around Jupiter for a gravity-assist back toward Saturn; it currently trailed behind Jupiter. He could have plotted a direct course from Jovian orbit, but the maneuver would save them a lot of reaction mass at the cost of a few more hours to get to Titan. A thirty second countdown began on one of his screen, and he counted down the last ten seconds.

"Ten . . . nine . . . eight . . . seven . . . six . . . five . . . four . . . three . . ." He could feel the slight tremble and gentle push into the couch as the engine power started to increase. "Two . . . one," and the engines quickly increased power to the required thrust. It felt like one of those lovely ladies in the bar was sitting in his lap and leaning back against him. He smiled to himself at that thought.

"The engines are running smooth at 47 percent maximum," reported Kasei. And they were on their way.

Nobody on the bridge moved to leave. They would sit here until they had left Jupiter behind. For all the reliability that the Spirit had exhibited in his four years onboard, things could still go wrong while they were whipping around Jupiter. Michael checked his screens to make sure everything was running smoothly.

"Position and course on profile," turning to look at the Nichols who nodded to acknowledge the report. The lady sitting in his lap had gotten up and been replaced by a well built man. As they approached the halfway point of the maneuver the acceleration reached its maximum, and would now remain steady until they had gone beyond Jupiter by several million kilometers. The Spirit's engines would continue to accelerate the ship to that point in space where they would then return to an idle. Again, a countdown appeared on his screen. He watched silently until zero when a barely perceptible nudge from the engines made sure they were on their way to Titan. A quick check of the screens.

"We are on the outbound leg. On course and on time."

And that was it more or less. No surprises was the way you wanted it. In nineteen days they would be entering into orbit around Titan. They would unload the all the foodstuffs, equipment, and other miscellaneous items at the Demeter processing facility in orbit, and load up on volatiles and synthesized organic compounds before the return to Jupiter. A problem with the previous supply shipment had the station critically short of some supplies, and now the above-average sized freighter Spirit was helping to relieve the problem.

* * *

The previous twelve days passed uneventfully for the Michael and rest of the twenty five crew members of the Roaming Spirit. If he had been superstitious Michael wouldn't like today very much. It like any other day. His day started with bland food and over-strength coffee before spending time in the centrifuge to workout. Next it was up to the bridge to run checks on the instruments and check the ship's course. Kim was already on the bridge working on the sensors. Everything looked normal.

"What's up, Kim?"

"Not much. The usual news and information packages are incoming. I'm working on some stuff I need to finish for my astronomy course."

"Your still taking those courses?"

"Yeah. It takes a little longer when you're always some where in the solar system other than the classroom." The console beeped at Kim, so she returned to her work while Michael moved to the pilot station and strapped in so he wouldn't float away. He had just finished his system checks when Kim huffed at something on her screens.


"The computer has an object alert on the astrogation sensors, but I don't read anything."

"You checked all the instruments?"


"Can you get a visual on it with the telescopes?"

Kim punched some keys to bring up the object the computer said was out there. She turned and gave him a quizzical look. "There's nothing there."

"What?" Michael unstrapped and floated over to Kim's station.

"There's nothing in the telescope image."


"I'll get one of the maintenance guys to have a look at the 'scopes." He looked at the screen for moment then turned to go back to his station. Something caught his eye on the screen, and he turn his head back so fast he started to spin away from Kim. Later Michael would wonder how he had ever noticed it while paying only half attention to the screen.

"What's that? Or more correctly, what isn't that?" he said as got the image zoomed in on a spot of blackness.

"There's nothing there. What could be blocking the stars?"

"Nothing that I know of."

"How did the computer pick up nonexistent stars?" Kim asked as he got back into his seat. Something in the back of his mind made him page the captain without realizing he did it. He called up the navigational data on his screen and got the computer to overlay the reference stars it was using to check the ship's course. There was a red triangle in the middle of the spot where a blue square with the star inside should be.

"There's something out there occluding a star the navigation program uses. Let's setup the computer to track the change in occluded stars. Maybe we can figure out where it's going."

This was easier said than done is many ways. First of all the change in the visibility of stars can be very slow. In the this case, it was. Secondly without some idea of its size it's hard to get a very accurate plot of its course. Of course the change in the size of the occluded area helped to determine the aspect.

"Which way is the 'scope pointed?"

"Just a few degrees off ship centerline."

The captain arrived to answer the page. The crew didn't page him for trivial matters. He knew his crew was good at what they did. This had to be something 'difficult'.

"What's up?"

"There's something out there. Possibly crossing our course."

"Have you plotted its course?"

"That's what we're working on now. We almost didn't notice it. There is something out there that blocked a star the navigational program is using as a reference. We have to track it by changes in occluded stars." Michael showed the captain the telescope screen.

"What? There's nothing out there that should behave like." Then he just floated there looking at the screen for a very long moment. "How long have you be tracking the object?" It wasn't a matter of 'if' it was there, but whether is could pose a danger to the Spirit.

"Just a few minutes. I didn't realize I'd paged you until you came in."

"That's OK. Keep working on plotting its course. Let me know when you've firmed things up. I'm going to run a quick inspection of the ship. If that thing is any trouble we need to be ready to go. I'll be back within an hour. Let me know of any changes," as he floated off the bridge. He wasn't gone ten minutes, and the captain was back with Kasei.

"This doesn't strike me as being good news."

"It's coming toward us."

"You're sure? Double checked the data?" This was serious. "No transverse occlusion and an expansion of the occluded area."

"Great. Range? Speed? Size?"

"We can't really answer the first two question without an idea of the third. For all we know we could smack into it when I finish this sentence." Not a good conjecture to make in the current situation, but nothing happened either.

"We assumed it was bigger than the particle screens and lasers could handle. It can't be a comet in this orbit, so it would have to be an asteroid. A small one, say one hundred meters would be easy to maneuver around with a minimal effect on time and fuel. No problem at all. But it's not a little one. It's big! We had to change the magnification twice to keep it all on the screen. The best estimates give us another six to twelve hours. The worst estimates say we should be dead."

"Possible changes in course?"

"Nothing good I'm afraid. Our current course is planned to take us from the gravity whip to an aerobrake maneuver around Saturn into orbit above Titan. Any maneuver we make will put us to far off course to get back on course. If it was possible I would have initiated a course change already." His next words would not be welcome news to the captain. "We need to eject most of the cargo pods to have a chance at clearing the object."

"What!" came the trio of exclamations. He hadn't mention this idea to Kim since she'd been busy with tracking the object.

"If we ditch the extra mass we should have enough fuel to produce enough delta-V to ensure we get out of the way, and get to Titan." It felt like a knife in his stomach. The people on Titan really needed the supplies.

"That would not make our employers very happy, not to mention the people on Titan when we get there."

"Captain, I realize the situation on Titan is reaching a critical point, but I don't see another way. If we end up splattered on that 'thing' the people on Titan will go without anyway."

Kasei was the next to speak. "If we need to do any aggressive maneuvering with the load, it will snap the ship's spine. If we don't balance the CCs along the spine, it could snap."

"Can you get rid of the CCs containing non-essentials and keep the load balanced?"

"I went through the manifests before we loaded. Everything is mixed together." Michael was getting nervous, but Kim was showing it. She kept glancing at the external cameras wondering if they were about to die. The telescope was close to being unable to keep the object entirely in its field of view. The captain looked deep in thought for a moment.

"Eject half the containers, Kasei. I don't care which ones. Michael, start your maneuver based on a half-load. Kim, communicate the objects path and our course of action to anyone who might be listening. We may need help."

Almost twenty minutes had passed since the object had been spotted. Michael picked one of the computer generated evasive maneuvers, and quickly modified it for a progressive change in course while Kasei ejected the CCs. A quick double check, and the program was active with the first pod. Watching the screens and the computer projections it would be close. Twenty five minutes after the object was detected, the last pod was ejected, and the engines and verniers went to full thrust. Michael clamped his eyes shut and saw Jupiter in his mind. He felt the jolt of collision. At the same moment warning klaxons began to sound. It hadn't been enough. To be more accurate the last CC wasn't ejected soon enough. The last CC ejected, cleared the engine housing, struck the object, and 'bounced'.

The container clipped the lower engine housing, crushing structural elements and the thrust louvers. The computer quickly shut down the damaged engine, but not before the unbalanced thrust and impact started the Roaming Spirit into a cartwheel spin, end over end. It was a fairly graceful looking spin, but to the occupants of the Spirit it was anything but.

The ship's frame groaned with the sudden rotation as unsecured crew and gear were thrown about. The computer finally shut down the remaining engines in a panic move to ease the structural overload. The spin put the gravity inside the opposite ends of the Spirit at about a half normal gravity. Not crippling, but enough to make damage control and other tasks just a bit more difficult. It was easier to move things in zero gravity. Michael quickly went to work on stabilizing the ship's spin as soon as he could be sure he could hit the right controls. Between the impact, vibrations, and general confusion following the impact, it took several minutes to get the Spirit stabilized.

Kasei was frantically working to coordinate the damage control teams and assess the damage to Spirit. Several times he shouted at Michael, "Take it easy!" Kim was busy trying to contact any ship that might be in the area for assistance, and let other ships know what was out there. They knew how big it was now. Once the ship was stabilized, Michael set to work figuring out where they were with respect to their destination and desired course. Can we even get back on course? Where the heck did it come from? Where's it going? Michael had chosen an evasion course that took them out of the plane of the elliptic. They were spun in the direction of the ship's last velocity vector at engine shutdown, about thirty eight degrees off their original course. Already moving at a good pace, and using maximum thrust to evade, the ship continued off it's course quite quickly. With the each minute the engines were shutdown, the longer and more difficult it would be to get back on course.

"What's our status, Michael?" the captain finally asked.

"Getting worse the longer we're without the engines online." He took a deep breath and continued, "And we used a lot of reaction mass evading. We lost a lot of re-mass to the impact too." Kasei nodded.

"Any responses to our request for assistance, Kim?"

"No responses. It looks like the long-range communications gear shorted out. It may require a complete refit. Short-range tight beam is all that's operational."


"We've managed to maintain atmospheric integrity in the hull so far. That doesn't mean that a stressed bulkhead won't blow any moment though. The number four engine is pretty mangled from a remote visual inspection--lots of twisted and crushed structural members. And, of course, we lost a lot of re-mass from the tanks around the engine. It will take almost another hour to make sure that the other engines weren't damaged in any way and restart them."

"We won't have enough re-mass to make it to Saturn if it takes that long," stated Michael. Kasei's face twitched then snapped.

"And when the other engines explode!?"

"Kasei!" It was the captains turn to bellow. Kasei's features quickly blanked.

"I think Michael realizes that you don't want to jeopardize the ship if there is other damage, nor does he. But the fact remains that we won't make it to Saturn." He turned to Michael.

"Any other options?"

"The Trojans are out; we've passed them. The asteroids are further away than Saturn, and we still wouldn't have the reaction mass. If we eject the last CCs it would be possible to make a hard burn to get us back on course to Saturn, but we'd have to aerobrake pretty hard to make sure we stay in orbit."

"Most of the CC attachment locks have been twisted or damage by the impact or sudden rotation. We'd need to cut them loose. At the very least we need a visual inspection to see if any of the CCs could be ejected automatically."

"How long will that take?"

"At least an hour. Maybe two."

"I can go outside," Michael volunteered.

"No. You stay here and work the computer to optimize the course back for as little re-mass as possible. I'll go outside with any one you can spare, Kasei." Nichols looked at Michael again.

"You're the one getting us home. I want your undivided attention to the problem of saving our butts."


* * *

Almost two and a half hours later, the engines were online, and the CCs ejected or cut free. Michael waited for the airlock hatch status to turn from red to green.


The engines came to life like with the invisible big guy sitting in his lap again. Captain Nichols had tried to contact him to tell him to get them moving, but his call was cut short by the sudden acceleration knocking him, and the rest of the crew members in the airlock, into the airlock's wall. Almost six hours later the computer cut the engines, and the Spirit was coasting toward Saturn.

* * *

A week later the Roaming Spirit had arrived at Saturn. What little reaction mass left in the tanks was used to make minute correction to ensure they didn't burn up during the aerobrake maneuver. Michael had said it was going to be a hard brake, but he never mentioned exactly how hard until the day before they were to arrive.

Saturn was quickly growing on the view screens.

"Three and a half g's!" was Nichols shouted exclamation up finding this out.

Kasei was only slightly quieter. "You're going to get us all killed!"

After the initial reaction of loud curses and derogatory statements directed at Michael, they calmed down . . . a little.

"The ship could very well fall apart under that kind of stress! Maybe if we hadn't torqued so badly from the impact." Kasei shook his head. "But three and a half g's!"

"I said you should save our butts, not fry them in Saturn's atmosphere."

"It was the only way. If we could have burned sooner it would have meant almost a full g less on deceleration. There's not much I could do."

"Kasei. See what you can do to reinforce any weak spots in the hull. Michael. Kim. Make sure everything is locked down tight."

The inspection and preparations finished, they were at yet another countdown. This one to life or death in the atmosphere of Saturn.

"Four . . . three . . . two . . . one." The Spirit began skimming the upper atmosphere, starting with a faint vibration and quickly building to a almost violent tremor. The noise the ship was making was less than comforting--rattling objects, the occasional screech of metal. The crush of three and a half times normal Terra gravity was almost painful as Michael was pushed into his acceleration couch. Looking at the screens that showed the outside of the ship, it looked like the Spirit was on fire. The friction of hull against atmosphere was heating the hull quickly, turning it bright orange-red.

Viewed from a distance the Spirit would look like a fireball circling Saturn. Even though the actual temperature on the bridge hadn't risen since they started aerobraking, Michael felt hot and sweaty just looking at the screens. It was so noisy that Michael had to yell, "THIRTY SECONDS!"

And the noise and tremors began to subside in the reverse of how it all started. Finally it all stopped. Michael hadn't realized he'd closed his eyes, hoping that thirty seconds was all that was left. For the second time on the journey Michael saw Jupiter in his mind. Opening them slowly he looked at the screen and then checked the navigational readouts. "We are in orbit around Titan and completely out of re-mass."

"Miss Franks, please contact Demeter station. Tell them we could use a tow."

"Aye, captain."

"Captain? I believe we need to contact Jovian officials as well."

"And why would that be, Mr. Benjamin?" He'd been pretty busy in the week after the collision. He'd finally had the chance to run the data on the object through the computer before the aerobrake maneuver. It came out with an answer just before they started around Saturn.

"The object is headed directly for Jupiter."

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Monday, February 27, 2006

Guidebook to Installations of the Jovian Confederation - Chapter 5

Here's part 5 of the Colony articles (after I cleaned up some HTML issues when I first tried to publish it). I'll be posting some gems from my own material as well as more EXO articles...keep an eye out!

Chapter 5 Nairobi: An Agricultural Cylinder

5.1 Basic Layout

  • Rotational Period: 82.8 seconds

  • Outer Cylinder Radius: 1.9 km

  • Inner cylinder radius: 1.7 km

  • Habitable surface area: 310

  • Population: 1.60 million

  • Density: 5160/

  • Overall length: 35.1 km

  • Maximum radius (to top of radiators): 3.9 km

  • Operational date: April 27, 2168

  • Cylinder 43

  1. South Pole Facility

  2. Southern Thermal Radiator

  3. unline

  4. Comm. Tower

  5. North Pole Dock

  6. Gee Level

Nairobi is built with very few external signs of its role. Much of what it does is either completely internal, or completely external. Both the premium crops (grown inside the cylinder) and the bulk crops (grown outside on associated facilities) make few demands of the design. With that much out of the way, the engineers were free to make Nairobi not only one of the most efficient cylinder designs ever produced, but one of the most pleasant places to live in the entire Confederation.

The layout is the familiar cylinder with polar docks. Unlike the industrial cylinders Nairobi has no spine of any type. What it does have is a very large complex of counter-rotating docks at the south pole. These are used for handling the auxiliary installations that produce staple foods, leaving the cylinder itself to produce premium items resistant to hydroponic or microgravity growth. At the other pole massive radiators similar to the ones used on industrial cylinders serve both as sunshades and as radiators. As a result Nairobi and her sister cylinders keep their north pole more or less pointed at the sun.

5.1.1 Cityside

Nairobi really has two distinct cities: one is located towards the northern end of the cylinder and is known as Denali, and the second is Kilimanjaro to the south. The denizens of each like to consider their city a hotbed of political intrigue, and in some sense they are. To an outsider though it would be evident that what passes as high political guile in these two cities is little more than a simple way for the citizens to entertain themselves. It is almost childish at times, and that is to be expected. Nairobi’s comfort and beauty have become legendary in many circles, and a number of twenty-something Jovians who have somehow overlooked the option of JAF service often choose to vacation for a year or more on the colony. The presence of an undemanding university -- some would say ‘party school’ -- at Denali only heightens this effect. Much of the population of the two cities is entirely transient, either students or simply between occupations.

The regulars are tolerant of this. Much of the cityside economy is based on the money brought into Nairobi by these youngsters, and the population has a pacifistic bent, so there are few snide comments heard about the lack of military service. At the worst the residents can complain about loud parties, and roving bands of partying hooligans. Even these instances are rare. In turn the visitors are more than tolerant of the locals.

5.1.2 Countryside

Nairobi’s two cities are surrounded by huge open fields and forests. It looks like nature has run rampant over the cylinderl; it does not look tended. This is by design. Virtually every square centimeter of Nairobi’s interior is planned and managed, but with that sort of control the need for simple, regular shapes is gone. The forests are mainly orchards, and the fields are full of crops. The appearance of chaos comes from the reality of complete control. Harvesting is labor-intensive, and this, once again, is by design. Agriculture could very easily become a machine-only task, only exacerbating the underemployment typical of the Confederation. Not content to be a colony of button pushers, Nairobi’s planners took steps to ensure that a large population could be employed in the agricultural industry; deliberately finding ways to conduct more and more sophisticated agriculture, this requires more and more trained hands in the field. Most of these changes are even useful, resulting in Nairobi’s produce being a cut above other colony’s. Other colonies have chosen different paths; some of them have managed it well, finding light industries to keep their populations employed while the agriculture machine goes on almost unattended, and others have failed miserably, becoming chronically underpopulated.

Life in the countryside is anything but rural. In fact it is extremely sophisticated. The one universal constant for all the crops grown inside the cylinder is that they have been engineered to grow without respect to any seasonal cycle. Early attempts at establishing ecosystems inside vivariums proved how sensitive plants are to seasonal changes. It was not surprising then that the lack of such changes was also disruptive. In the course of correcting these inconveniences genetic engineers have often been able to rebuild the fruiting mechanism to occur three or four times a year. The various crops are all staggered, so at any given time something is being harvested. Most of the basic crops also have more than a dozen strains. Even the most unskilled worker is responsible for monitoring a dozen soil factors, keeping an eye out for the encroachment of unwanted plants, and reporting any change in the illumination of the area. Still others, specialists in each crop, decide what the quality level for any particular harvest will be. This is based on demand, and on the degree of soil fatigue in a particular area. Anything that falls beneath the quality criteria is not harvested, but allowed to fall and rot naturally to keep the soil enriched. This is only a partial solution, but it dramatically slows the need for crop rotation.

5.1.3 Thermal Radiators

Nairobi’s thermal radiators employ two different types of old technologies. The first set of three radiators are set near the north pole of the cylinder. They are much like the radiators used on the industrial cylinders. But these are silvered on the north side, and radiate towards the south. They serve a dual purpose, both as classical radiators and as crude sunshades. A second array of radiators rims the south pole. These follow the pattern set by the radiators on the spines of some industrial cylinders. They are essentially long spikes with a triangular cross section. They radiate through the narrow knife-like edge. A system of heat sinks conducts heat up the length of the radiator. Both types of radiator are closed to the public.

5.1.4 Communication Towers

As the Jovian Confederation grew the communication needs of individual vivariums grew with it. Nairobi mounts six major communications towers and dozens of auxiliary arrays. The throughput of this system is tremendous, and is expected to keep Nairobi’s citizens amongst the best connected in the Confederation for decades to come. The major towers are arranged in two sets of three, one north one south. Each tower is staggered so that it is mounted with a radiator to either side. This allows them to bend out at an angle that brings them clear of the radiators and of most of the colony’s own interference.

5.1.5 Docking Areas

Nairobi’s northern dock is built to take a huge amount of traffic. It has to because the entire south pole is taken up with a facility designed to handle the outlying agricultural modules. The northern docks take up the slack by allowing all smaller ships to exit off axis. This launch method is tricky, but it keeps the main axis free for incoming traffic. As a whole Nairobi does not require more throughput than the average colony, if anything somewhat less, but operations at the northern docks are always far more hectic than average. Docking fees are almost twice as high as those for industrial or first-generation cylinders, so casual tourism is rare. Large vessels are discourage from docking at all, fees for vessels larger than that which can depart through the off-axis launchers are downright punitive, instead they are encouraged to send auxiliary craft to conduct their business.

The southern docks are even more complicated. They are part dock, part shipyard. They are responsible both for handling traffic to and from the free-floating agricultural modules, and building and servicing those modules themselves. To accommodate the construction yards in the design the entire complex was made to counter-rotate. Unlike the factory spine of most industrial cylinders this section is coaxial to the main colony, making it a simple matter to transfer goods from the docks to the colony and vice versa. The JAF maintains no permanent presence on Nairobi, but in the event that an emergency required military shipping to dock with the colony the southern docks would be appropriated for that function.

5.2 History of Nairobi

Nairobi is relatively young as active agricultural colonies go, but that speaks more to the special circumstances of agricultural colonies than to any lack of age. Indeed, agricultural colonies have always represented extremely long term investments. The soil standard that must be achieved before export of the premium produce can begin is very high, and not easily achieved. Indeed, this stage in the colony’s life is not achieved until several decades into its habitation. Until then the colony is still operating at a loss, with the export of bulk consumables from the outlying microgravity farms barely defraying expenses, and not even beginning to pay back the cost of construction.

The funding allocations for Nairobi were announced in 2145, and the charter process begun shortly thereafter. The charter was awarded to a group founded solely for that purpose, something that occurs in about twenty percent of cases. While the group functioned primarily as a cooperative, it was led by a group of intellectuals primarily concerned with increasing the available productive lifestyles in the Confederation. They were concerned that increasing automation and industrial specialization would soon bring most human jobs to rough convergence. Nairobi deliberately set out to avoid this, to encourage vocational diversity. While the scenario feared by the founders has not come to pass, their efforts were certainly not in vain, and modern Nairobi sports better employment rates than almost any other vivarium in the Confederation, despite the problems inherent in being an agricultural cylinder.

The colony finally came online for habitation in 2168, three years behind schedule after several autofacs were discovered to be manufacturing flawed structural elements. Even then the growth of population was slowed by the initially quiet economy. For the first twenty years only simple utilitarian crops were grown, slowly enriching the soil and bringing it closer to a natural environment. Then the colony really took off, from 2183 to 2190 the population almost doubled, as Nairobi got down to the business it was built for.

Meanwhile, the original charter group had used the slow increase in population to strongly entrench its ideals and doctrines. By the time the population began to rise, most of those who came to Nairobi came because they agreed with those goals, and not simply because a new housing allotment or employment opportunity had been made available. The elections from 2170 to 2212 are an unbroken chain of endorsements and chosen successors. In a very real way Nairobi is ruled by a democratic dynasty.

5.2.1 Soft Science, Hard Numbers

Nairobi’s way of life is by nature precarious. Economically it survives based on the sale of luxury items. If the Confederation were somehow to come upon hard times Nairobi’s economy would be one of the first to go belly up. If that wasn’t bad enough, the residents of Nairobi have become used to a way of life unsustainable in the rest of the Confederation. As a result, Nairobi’s leaders are forever aware of the policy implications of even the slightest decision, and they examine things far beyond the immediate scope of their own colony. Indeed, the colony almost always elects councilors versed in the social sciences, it has become something of a tradition. They aren’t figureheads either, the statements of Nairobi’s social prognosticators are taken seriously throughout the rest of the Confederation.

The truth of the matter is that the manipulations of the government go far beyond simply encouraging more Byzantine agricultural techniques, and keeping eagle-eyes out for anything that might disrupt demand for the colony’s business. In fact the leadership has established much more powerful means of controlling the colony’s destiny through unofficial alliances and under the table contacts that allow them to subtly control virtually every aspect of life on the colony, and to no small extent influence decisions made on Elysèe. It is a fortunate thing indeed that Nairobi’s government has enjoyed such complete continuity, it might have lost most of these capabilities had a new administration ever taken over from the old. Other agricultural colonies have done well, but only Nairobi has seen such uneventful prosperity. Were the administration to change and lose its contacts, it is likely that this immunity would also be lost.

There are exceptions to every rule, and for Nairobi’s unprecedented stability the breakdown was in 2195. Seeing a prosperous colony without obvious corporate giants to compete with them, elements of organized crime decided to see what sort of a profit could be had on Nairobi. Previously they had made most of their money working on the fringes of the great industrial apparatus of Olympus, diverting finished products, making deals both with pirates and their victims, and insurance fraud. Skimming off the margins of an agricultural operation was a new venue for them, but one to which they quickly adapted.

Violence was minimal, there were simply too few opportunities to gain advantage through violence. Somehow this low profile allowed the criminal elements to insinuate themselves into society while avoiding the attention of the government and its network of contacts. Some harvests were reported as failures when in fact they had gone perfectly well. These crops were sold on gray markets and the criminal operation proved itself entirely successful. Indeed, it was too successful. If the operation had been a failure, or even a more modest success, it is unlikely that the turf war of 2197 would have ever begun. When it did they could hide no longer from the omnipresent government of Nairobi, and a handful of arrests were made.

Far more significant were the events that did not make the public record. Through intermediaries the government brought its full persuasive weight to bear, assimilating the criminal elements into its own network. The government could never have hoped to successful prosecute these people, but it could co-opt them with the threat of prosecution. By the turn of the century operations on Nairobi were once again entirely legitimate. While the government continues to find it distasteful to deal with former criminals, it recognizes the need. Most of those incorporated were relatively old, and many people will breathe a sigh of relief when they finally retire. As far as the ordinary citizens of Nairobi are concerned, that case was closed more than a decade ago, and it should never bother them again. It shouldn’t even take much luck to make that entirely true, but secrets do have a way of coming out. It is not lost on the few people in the know, that the government of Nairobi was so easily able to merge a criminal operation into its apparatus.

5.2.2 Politics

In much the same fashion as the policies of Nairobi are decided from the top down, the electoral politics are mostly a matter of quietly steering the population down the path of stability, turning them away from the whims of the moment and towards the track record of times past. This has become easier as Nairobi’s history has grown longer and more successful. Indeed, the native population of Nairobi votes almost sixty-five percent in favor of the ruling coalition in every election. The real instability is in the population of cityside people who are recent immigrants, perhaps not even planning on staying. These people fancy themselves the most political of all of Nairobi’s residents, and in some shallow sense they are correct. As a result the political establishment of Nairobi has done much to indulge their political fantasies. When the short-termers feel included in this way they are more likely to vote for the establishment, particularly when the intrigues presented seem to indicate that there is some sort of a choice. This is rarely true. Usually the people who are running from outside the establishment come out of the agricultural industries, something with which the short-termers are vastly unfamiliar. Without familiarity they are even more likely to give in to their natural prejudices and dismiss these candidates as rural fools. It is this strategy that has kept the colony council completely stable in Seldon Hall since the founding of Nairobi.

5.3 Major NPCs

Nairobi is home to two cultures at opposition. While both are Jovian, it is hard to imagine a greater difference that could come under that umbrella. The NPCs below reflect the dichotomies that player characters on Nairobi will observe.

5.3.1 Vera Kenning

  • Age: 51

  • Hair: White

  • Eyes: Brown

  • Height: 160 cm

  • Weight: 48 kg

When you’re used to being an ivory tower intellectual, entering politics can be a shock. Even in as controlled an environment as Nairobi it is still a complicated and unclear business. Vera Kenning has put fifteen years into a political career, and just getting over the shock now, as she ascends to the council chair. Kenning did not chose politics, they quite literally chose her. She was selected from the staff of Cornell University of Nairobi to join the manipulative cabal of social planners, and she had accepted almost before she understood what that meant.

Kenning was a sociologist, primarily an analyst of Earth’s Fall. Her academic reputation was stellar and she was known throughout the solar system. However, it would be her first paper on predictive sociology that would bring the attentions of the Nairobi government. For a year they invited her to social dinners, explaining their positions on the issues, and revealing how extensive a network they had gathered to implement their policies. Kenning was impressed, and not too troubled by the regime’s manipulative side, after all, it does still adhere to fully democratic principles.

With the Nairobi government operating as a closet meritocracy, people like Kenning, who would never find themselves involved in politics in any other context, can suddenly find themselves free to experiment with their boldest theories. With Kenning her theories were very much compatible with how things had been run already, so little adjustment was needed. More problematic were her initial interactions with the complex web of contacts maintained by the government. Several situations almost went out of hand, and she very nearly lost the support of the establishment for her next bid for a council seat. Eventually that was cleared up, but not before Kennning learned to be much more cautious in using those contacts. Her experience with this, and recent rise to council chair have significantly reduced the governments reliance on these contacts. At the same time she is even better than any of her predecessors at predicting and manipulating the various factors effecting life on Nairobi. Only time will tell if she can continue this, eventually allowing the government to take a much less interventionist approach, or if it will backfire on her.

Kenning is usually quite self-absorbed, and reluctant to deal much with others. Usually she can be found running complicated computer simulations depicting the future evolution of Nairobi, and of the Confederation in general. She’s an ardent pacifist who detests the cloud of uncertainty that conflict with the inner system has brought to her projections. She was married once, for a decade, and then divorced. She has no children and has usually been described as oblivious to the men who have courted her since.

5.3.2 Kyle Haas

  • Age: 66

  • Eyes: Blue

  • Hair: White

  • Height: 175 cm

  • Weight: 72 kg

Kyle Haas is Nairobi’s most celebrated agricultural scientist. No other living person has contributed as much to the productivity of spaceborne agriculture. His contributions span agricultural methodology and genetic engineering. He won his name and reputation developing new and innovative strains of soybean that proved even more amenable to processing. Today almost a quarter of the soybean grown in the Confederation is based on Haas’ work. For almost a decade after that he disappeared into academia, his contributions worthy of note only to the most dedicated professionals. When he emerged it was with a new wife and his most dramatic discovery, a variety of water lily that could be engineered to grow the edible portions of several other plants. Potatoes, corn and certain squashes now took to microgravity cultivation with much greater ease. Swiftly these items were phased out of the surface of colony cylinders, opening up more room for crops that were still unique to a gravity environment.

Haas spent several years under low-intensity investigation by SolaPol, which was concerned that his research may have involved certain Edict violations. While there is no evidence that this caused any actual stress on his family, it is public knowledge that he blames SolaPol for the suicide of his wife in 2206. Since then he has become extremely uncooperative with all inter- and extra-national organizations, a position that has made his life in academia just that much harder. It is widely believed that he is seriously considering retirement.

5.3.3 Darren Coleman

  • Age: 29

  • Eyes: Brown

  • Hair: Brown

  • Height: 185 cm

  • Weight: 80 kg

With all the spoiled youth milling around the cityside areas of Nairobi, it is no surprise that they’ve developed some perennial sycophants. Darren Coleman, current president of the Nairobi Wine Society is one of those people. This is something of a surprise to most of his friends, who thought he was the decent sort when he was working simple logistics and administration job for one of the agricultural sectors. Unfortunately he grew bored with the work, and declared that he’d be taking a year or so off to enjoy life a bit more. He never did get back to his real job and his old friends. Rather he fell in with a group of similarly bored people from across Olympus, who happened to be living in Denali at the time. Soon all his time was spent continuously reasserting his social position as people cycled out of his peer group, and new arrivals replaced them.

The constant exertion of his social skills, and the fact that he became the de facto senior member of his peer set by the dubious virtue of never having moved on, gave him a sense of control and belonging that he realized he’d been lacking before. So he didn’t move on. He took occasional employment, but nothing serious enough to cause discomfort to his social schedule, and went to work enjoying himself. The particular institution that formed the core of his peer set was the Nairobi Wine Society, and almost without trying he became president. In the two years since he achieved that lofty goal he has kept himself busy arranging tasting sessions, and other frivolous endeavors. He has just begun to bore of it, and might be ready to leave this rut, but there’s been nothing to jar him out of it yet.

Coleman has had no serious relationships since he started his stint of idling, and only minimal contact with his old friends and family. For all his slacking he is well read and intelligent, and few things that he sets his mind to escape his grasp. He has recently toyed with the idea of running for public office, and his constituency would directly threaten the usual establishment plans.

5.3.4 Lieutenant Laura Flack

  • Age: 25

  • Eyes: Brown

  • Hair: Black

  • Height: 170 cm

  • Weight: 65 kg

The sole exception to Nairobi’s military isolationism is its mandatory internal garrison. The colony fields half a dozen Pathfinder exo-armors and almost a hundred Deckers as part of a force designed to prevent any casual threat from boarding the colony. When you add in support staff that puts Laura Flack in charge of more than five hundred JAF soldiers. It may seem like a large assignment for a mere lieutenant, but the fact is that garrison postings have never seen combat outside of the Battle of Elysèe, where several dozen exo-armors from Olympus and nearby colonies managed to exit their assigned posts to join the fray. The truth is, the job is very boring, and not the position of someone on the fast track to promotion either. Flack is an exo-armor pilot by training, and this was supposed to be a quick six month posting before she was transferred to become flight officer on a carrier. It has been eighteen months now, and still no sign of her expected advancement. It has just hit her that this may be as far as her career will go.

Flack runs a tight garrison, just like an officer anticipating review before reassignment should. This may begin to change as she feels more and more overlooked. Her prior service record is largely unremarkable, with the sole exception of a pair of Wyvern kills. One of those was a CEGA ace who had just shot down her flight leader. The fact is that the brass did intend to move Flack on quickly, but Nairobi is such a backwater they have virtually forgotten about her. She has no active patron, so there is no reason for her to be brought before their attention. JAF vessels hardly ever visit Nairobi, so the usual invitations to dine with the captain don’t exist as opportunites for her to create an impression. Flack has been a simple victim of circumstance.

Flack put her social life on hold for her career, so she’s avoided fraternizing heavily with both the locals and the members of her own command. This is another thing that may be changing as she is grows further deterred. As the garrison commander though, she does occasionally dine with Vera Kenning, with whom she gets along well.

5.4 Location: Civic Center

When the short-term population of Nairobi has nothing to do they tend to get into trouble. Such is the way of bored youth. The leaders of Nairobi have chosen to combat this with a bread and circuses approach, encouraging all sorts of cultural events. Of course to have a cultural event you must have a place to hold it, and the colony has funded the construction of several civic centers in Denali and Kilimanjaro.

5.4.1 Description

The Jovian custom of using homes only for sleeping and little else is very much observed by the entire population of Nairobi. At the same time there are few huge public attractions. So rather than building massive stadiums Nairobi is littered with cultural centers much like this one. Residents will usually attend at least one play and social function at a similar establishment in any given week. Out of respect to Coriolis effects the total height of the structure is strictly limited. The first floor is shallow auditorium, split down the middle to allow two stages to share the same backstage workspace. The auditoriums themselves are aligned along the direction of spin. A hall, suitable for large public dinners extends to the south. Restroom and kitchen facilities are also provided. The second floor consists mostly of small meeting rooms. The third is mostly an open air patio with a small food court. The colony government controls the much sought after restaurant rental space, and it is a considerable source of income.

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Saturday, February 18, 2006

Guidebook to Installations of the Jovian Confederation - Chapter 4

Here is Chapter 4. Things slowed down a bit as work and home got kind of hectic, and I've been moving apace on version 4 of beta version of the SilCore Vehicle Design Program.

Chapter 4 Cologne: An Industrial Cylinder

4.1 Basic Layout

  • Rotational Period: 73.7 seconds

  • Outer Cylinder Radius: 1.6 km

  • Inner cylinder radius: 1.35 km

  • Habitable surface area: 195

  • Population: 2.63 million

  • Density: 13500/

  • Overall length: 27.6 km

  • Maximum spine height: 3.2 km from rotational axis

  • Operational date: December 15, 2140

  • Cylinder number: 27


  1. South Polar Comm Cluster

  2. Gee Level

  3. Environmetal Machinery

  4. Factory Spine

  5. Cylinder Environment

  6. Sunline

  7. Class-A Autofac Bay

  8. North Pole Dock

Cologne’s layout derives from two paramount facts. First, it was planned from the beginning as a dedicated industrial colony, catering to the growing needs of the Olympian state. Just as important was the newfound confidence of the designers. With an entire generation of colony cylinders under their belt, they were finally able to take some small, calculated design risks. The result is a mature design, more efficient and specialized. Cologne was built as one of the first colonies expected to be a city in a nation, rather than a city-state of its own.

The new design’s most prominent feature is the massive factory spine, more than thirty-five percent of the station by mass, and much more than that in terms of GDP. With the spine hovering just a few tens of meters above the rotating cylinder, the thermal radiators needed to be moved near the colony’s poles. The docks were also been rearranged, with separate facilities on the cylinder and factory spine. The south pole is now almost entirely dedicated to communications equipment and elements of the colony’s electrodynamic array. Cologne is typical of industrial designs in Olympus. There are perhaps three or four major variations on the theme, but for the most part the design had proven so successful that it became ubiquitous.

4.1.1 The Cylindrical Plain

Cologne must import much of its food. When it was designed in 2122, it had become clear that a stable human presence in Jovian space was not a pipe dream, in danger of collapsing under the waves of refugee immigration from the inner system. Being a closed system was no longer a virtue, and just as the factory spine represents the strength of this approach, the interior environment of Cologne showcases the weaknesses

The civic planners left next to no room for agriculture on the surface, instead they attempted to maximize the living space directly available to each citizen. This plan was also based on unrealistically high projections for the automation of the factory spine. When these projections failed to pan out, the opportunities for more and more workers in high-paying industrial positions created more immigration pressure. Unfortunately, the attempt to maximize personal space failed when increasing immigration drove the population density through the roof. Rather than seeing a colony with less than ample commons, government bureaucrats saw a colony with excessive living space per person. When they were done equalizing that discrepancy, Cologne was severely overcrowded.

Without the public parks and dual-purposed agricultural lands of the first-generation colonies, Cologne, and a number of her fellow industrial cylinders, were in trouble. These harsh times helped forge the stereotypical Jovian mindset where space is paramount. The population peaked in the 2160s and Cologne has since aggressively moved to establish parks and other public facilities as space allowed, but it is still behind the standards set by most other cylinders. Later industrial cylinders also corrected this problem, establishing public lands at the outset and encouraging a portion of their worker base to commute from other colonies.

Circa 2210 Cologne’s interior surface area is 50% residential, 25% commercial and 15% ecological. With such a small percentage of its surface area allocated for ecological use much of the atmospheric concerns -- gas balance and evapotranspiration -- are heavily aided by machinery. While larger in length than any one of the segments of the first-generation cylinders, the smaller radius of Cologne and her fellow industrial stations does not allow for much in the way of weather. Usually the closest thing that the average resident will observe is the Coriolis-distorted form of a high-altitude cloud.

Cologne uses a continuous lighting sunline with four strips. The design was cutting edge at the time of construction, and to this day reproduces most elements of the solar spectrum very well. The diameter of the illuminating portion of the line is thirty-five meters. However, this balloons to one hundred meters where the sunline meets the supporting struts that rise from the cylinder floor. Inside these vast caverns the lightest of the microgravity industries find low-rent facilities.

4.1.2 Thermal Radiators

While vastly lighter and thinner than the cylinder or factory spine of the colony, the thermal radiators have just as large a visual footprint. They rotate with the main cylinder and are angled in, reducing the acceleration on the outermost elements. The mounting is somewhat flexible, allowing the tethers that link to the radiators to slightly adjust the angle, and with it control the rotational period of the colony. This is used only slowly over the years as the cylinder loses energy to interaction with the factory spine. Once the radiators have exhausted their few degrees of movement they are relaxed while thrusters spin the station up to normal again.

The efficiency of these radiators allow the industrial stations a much greater energy budget than their early predecessors. Still, they can do only so much for the factory spine, to which they are not directly physically linked. Some heat is exchanged between the spine and the cylinder and radiated normally, but for the most part the spine must take care of its own thermal budget. A portion of the volatiles that would otherwise be used in the fabrication of goods must be set aside for venting to make up for this deficiency.

4.1.3 Communication Towers

Between the spine and the thermal radiators little space is left for the classical communication towers of the first-generation cylinders. Many engineers consider this no great loss; they were uncomfortable placing the communication towers in territory greater than one gee in the first place. As a result Cologne’s south pole hosts an extensive array of communications gear. The north pole has a few smaller towers, as does the factory spine, but the south pole handles the vast majority of communications traffic. This location makes the equipment extremely easy to service, but it deprives the colony of a south polar dock.

4.1.4 Factory Spine

In a very real sense it is the factory spine that gives the industrial station a reason to be. The proximity between highly skilled human workers and the advanced fabrication equipment of the spine is lucrative indeed. With advanced artificial intelligence barred by the Edicts, human workers are in high demand. While a good portion of the labor on a factory spine is automated, the flexibility of human response remains useful, both on-site and with real-time telepresence.

Besides the direct fabrication of labor-intensive materials and consumer products, factory spines also serve as light shipyards. While large interplanetary vessels are always constructed at dedicated free-floating facilities, smaller craft, launches, shuttles, cutters, orbital transfer vehicles, and to a lesser extent, exo-armors are often produced in factory spines. Industrial colonies often serve as a place of employment for workers from the regular shipyards who require a few months back under normal acceleration to keep microgravity symptoms at bay. Conversely, these light shipyards also serve as a training and recruiting ground for those who will be going onto a true shipyard for the first time.

The last of the primary tasks of an industrial cylinder is the construction and servicing of autofacs. Von Neumann machines are banned by the Edicts almost as strongly as extensive human bioengineering. Autofacs are extremely profitable, and in the face of the continuing military build-up the Jovian government is offering a number of security guarantees designed to assure that a massive industrial capacity exists regardless of the economic need. As a result investors are finding autofacs an even better choice all the time. The dorsal surface of the factory spine is littered with bays where autofacs of all sorts can be constructed. In an average month Cologne’s spine produces three small autofacs and one medium one. Truly massive class A autofacs are constructed on an irregular basis. Indeed, the central section of the spine almost always contains a moored class A, save in the rare case that one is actually under construction at that time. When there is no such construction in progress the owner of the autofac constructed previously will usually prefer to enhance the efficiency of his investment by hiring a relatively large staff from the colony to run the autofac. Only reluctantly will the owner accept the diminished productivity that comes with letting the factory loose.

4.1.5 Docking Areas

Cologne has three major docking facilities. The first is the north polar dock, serving the entirety of the cylinder. It is an enhanced and refined version of the axial docks used in the first-generation cylinders. The interior chamber is much larger, capable of docking large passenger liners such as Inaris on the far wall. Smaller vessels are diverted into low-gravity slips to either side, and multiple large ships can be handled by extending mooring arms into the centerline. This is rarely used to accommodate more than three large vessels, as the ships will then have to wait for the ship behind them to depart before they can leave.

No less important are the cargo docks on the dorsal surface of the factory spine. These docks take advantage of the clear approach that ships approaching from ‘above’ the colony have. Supplies are received and products shipped through these docks. The same approach and departure lanes are used by the autofac moorings and light shipyards for their respective products. The incredible mass of the shipping commonly accepted at these ports is such that each docking is a monumentally slow affair, to minimize risk and any inadvertent momentum transfer with the colony. The dorsal spine docks also serve the JAF, which owns a cluster of them at the southern end of the spine. JAF non-combatant and non-essential ships often put into dock at industrial cylinders for minor repairs and system upgrades. Warships do not because their systems are much more specialized and not suited to yards tooled for civilian systems.

4.2 History of Cologne

Cologne was born as one thing, and has lived as another. That dichotomy is the reason that Cologne is considered a paradigm for the success of the Jovian charter system. When Cologne was first chartered it was by the largest and most stable cult ever to develop in Olympus. They registered their organization as the Jovian Technophilic Society. Under the guise of a loose band of hobbyists, they were actually a religion structured like a business, or a business with the trappings of a religion, depending on who you ask. The one clear thing was that the were a clear and distinct community within the Confederation, separated by rituals and customs designed to drive a wedge between members and mainstream society. Public nudity was one such custom, the avoidance of naturally grown foods another. More materially relevant were doctrines on medicine, which demanded the most proactive interventionist measures possible. This brought them into conflict with the government on numerous occasions where physicians and government guidelines declared certain medical procedures that JTS members desired for their minor children to be unnecessary and possibly harmful. They may have been harmful to the children, but the publicity certainly wasn’t bad for the JTS, which continued to draw members from the fringe of Jovian society.

Membership of the JTS had swelled to more and a quarter of a million people by 2120, and that in an Olympus far smaller than today. The problem could not be ignored. The governments of Olympus and the Confederation came to agreement on a bold gamble to restore the social stability of the state. An obscure colony charter request from the JTS would be granted. Government projections showed that the JTS would be swallowed alive by the first wave of immigrants, and that is exactly what came to pass. No other colony would see its charter bent and abused in the same ways. The planners of the colony, then known as Fulton, knew full well the challenge they faced and were not about to deny themselves any tool in pursuing their ends. All this damage vanished, nearly without a trace, within five years of the colony opening. It was that year that the JTS stopped being even a tourist attraction. Cologne was too successful, and the Jovian political system too robust for such manipulation. Most likely either the economic boom, or the will of the majority could have spoiled the JTS plans alone. While the occasion has not arisen since to destroy a similar group in this fashion, the Jovian government does hold the contingency at hand.

4.2.1 Visionless Vibrancy

Despite the population pressures that plagued Cologne in the 2160s and 70s, the colony has never known any true hardship. Not only was the Confederation stable, but it was growing, and in great need of the services of an industrial cylinder. Even as the population blossomed jobs were plentiful. Over the decades leading up to 2210 there has been a slow contraction of the job market on Cologne. This is has not caused any real difficulty, there are still many jobs available, but the urgency has been reduced, and the fraction of jobs which are suitable for full-time employment has fallen. This has led to a large percentage of the Jovian population being in a position to work only irregularly, when their personal finances require it.

There is no guiding principle to Cologne’s existence. The population is largely content to enjoy what it has without grasping for more. This is where Cologne is most emblematic of the malaise of success that seems to have come over much of the Confederation. While some of the older vivariums seem to have redirected their energy into petty bickering and internal politics, Cologne has remained curiously quiet.

4.2.2 Politics

Cologne has never shared the isolation of its Olympian neighbors. This is largely due to the massive contingent of Martian immigrants. Some came directly, fleeing the territorial expansion of the Martian Federation in the times of flux that followed independence, others were from the Federation itself, political refugees. While many of these displaced persons found refuge in the Free Republic, some held such a dire view of Mars’ future that they chose to emigrate to Jupiter. The Confederation was never hostile towards these refugees, but it felt very much empowered to find them permanent housing in its own good time. These simple delays led to a Cologne where former Martian citizens were entirely over-represented.

Political scholars have often likened Cologne to Miami of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Cologne is also a community of exiles that polarizes the context in which a great power, in this case the Jovian Confederation, views a minor power. It is this three sided relationship, between Mars, Cologne and the Confederation at large that defines the character of Cologne’s politics. Where everything else is concerned Cologne usually votes with other industrial colonies, but it has a unique political axe to grind.

Not only do these issues affect the positions of representatives sent to the state and confederation governments, but the otherwise unremarkable local politicians will often use their office as a soapbox to discuss the evils of the Martian Federation. It is widely believed that Cologne is home to a number of Jovian citizens who have aided the Free Republic, and non-aligned terrorist organizations, over the last several decades. While these contacts are almost entirely illicit, Cologne is the only place in the Confederation where the authorities have so blind an eye.

4.3 Major NPCs

Cologne has a diverse population, all the more so for the rarity of local flavor. The five NPCs below are all important to Cologne, be it politically, economically, or culturally. More than that they are the fulcrums about which Cologne’s society will evolve. They are likely candidates to have interaction with player characters.

4.3.1 Theodore Kohlmann

  • Age: 64

  • Hair: Grey

  • Eyes: Blue

  • Height: 187 cm

  • Weight: 112 kg

Confederation politics are almost always too tepid to qualify as exciting, but Theodore Kohlmann has energized an extremely loyal voter base with his unique approach. His most remarkable feat is having remained a nation-wide figure in politics for three decades, with a mere six years in office. When he first stormed to the public’s attention it was in a blitzkrieg run for a council seat on another station entirely, Sisyphus. That station was gripped by a rare economic crisis, one which Kohlmann quickly turned around. While only one councilor among many at the time, he had virtual complete control due to a sweeping election mandate. When he chose to stand down at the end of his first two year term, it shocked political observers. Rarely in the history of the Confederation had a single individual held such power on a colony, and he walked away from it. Soon thereafter he emigrated to Cologne.

Twice now he’s run for office from Cologne, and twice he has won. Each time he implemented a specific goal and left at the end of his term. Each time he was untouchable during his term. In these three short terms he’s earned a reputation as being invincible. Even as he sits on the sidelines for a span of years, the shadow he casts is long. His weekly editorials on the SysInstruum are widely followed among both the political elite of the Confederation, and his loyal supporters in the electorate.

Currently Kohlmann is eight years into his second marriage to Maria Saba, a locally famous former athlete. He has embraced Cologne as his new home with open arms. His politics, firm and nationalistic to begin with, have now long rung with the strident tone peculiar to Cologne. Even for an Olympian politician his zeal for intervention in the politics of the solar system is extreme.

4.3.2 Olga Moratonovich

  • Age: 26

  • Hair: Black

  • Eyes: Green

  • Height: 164 cm

  • Weight: 53 kg

Olga Moratonovich is a young, up and coming businesswoman. Currently she heads the division of Hephaestus Industrials in charge of renting excess space in the laboratories and yards of the Cologne factory spine. The work is low margin to say the least, but Moratonovich is making an effective administrator. She is responsible for the aggressive marketing of the latest ‘lab assistant’ expert systems. These programs had to undergo extreme scrutiny before it was decided that they did not violate the Edicts against artificial intelligence. With all the publicity that arose from those inquiries, Hephaestus has been generating record sales and rentals. The new systems allow extremely sophisticated experiments to be run with minimal human intervention. Moratonovich is currently engaged in rebuilding the company’s physical infrastructure to make the best use of the new technology.

Seemingly manufacturing additional time at her whim, she is also very active in the social and cultural circles of Cologne. She is a frequent guest at political dinners, where she has allied herself with the most strongly pro-business elements of the colony’s council. She has strongly denied having political aspirations of her own, and all signs point to the truth of this. Moratonovich has also managed to become the front person for several cultural events funded by Hephaestus, giving her the unearned reputation as a friend of the arts.

She defines her relationships with people with extreme care, not to avoid confusing her personal and business lives, for she does not make that distinction, but to more accurately deal with the other person. While she may appear genuine, only her annoyance at being detained by insignificant people truly is. When her friends have confronted her about her slavish devotion to Hephaestus, she does nothing more than assure them that she believes there is more to life than corporate success, but she steadfastly refuses to say just what that might be. Even her friends are puzzled, unsure if this means that she truly does not know what else matters to her, or if she simply does not want to talk about it.

4.3.3 Andrew Behr

  • Age: 43

  • Hair: Red

  • Eyes: Brown

  • Height: 180 cm

  • Weight: 84 kg

Andrew Behr is one of the leading artists of Olympus. His signature art form is attention-responsive visual media. Each piece must be viewed by one observer at a time. A compact laser tracking system monitors that persons eyes, both direction and depth of focus. With that information the system consults a program that alters the displayed imagery in accordance with the artist’s wishes. With the use of ‘smart’ materials almost any object can become the subject of such a piece. Behr’s works include items designed to look like paintings, vases, chairs and pizzas.

Behr has only been at this particular form of art since 2209, prior to that he was primarily a landscape artist who occasionally dabbled with cellular automata. Then he spoke to an acquaintance working at Jovian Optics, and soon the notion of using HUD laser tracking technology to create interactive art was born. Behr’s fame has made him one of the few artists allowed to use a significant amount of space in his works. He has been commissioned several times to create interactive statues for Cologne, including replacing the obligatory statue of Alfred Decker with one of his own. That figure is considered controversial for its unflinching depiction of all the character traits the historical giant exhibited.

Behr has a wife who works as a government functionary, overseeing the legal aspects of certain contracts between the Confederation government and private business. After five years of marriage she is still very much in love with her husband. He in turn has not done anything to be undeserving of her loyalty, contrary to many artist stereotypes he is extremely emotionally stable and jovial. He has one grown child from a previous marriage, Roberta, who has had many jobs since coming of age but has never settled into any one career path, not an uncommon lifestyle among the under-employed Jovian population. While not reclusive, Behr does not seek to be in the public eye. Usually he goes about his affairs quietly, and doing only the minimal number of publicity appearances when a new gallery of his work is opened.

Unlike so many other forms of Jovian art, it is impossible to properly appreciate attention-responsive material via the SysInstruum. It has long been the rumor that Behr is working on a project that will both convert the essence of his material, and create a new way of interacting with it for the SysInstruum. Many art critics have taken a dim view of one recent trend, the practice of creating only a minimal algorithm for a piece, offering up its changes only after long study. The practice has numerous detractors, but a vocal group of critics declares it to be genius, forcing the viewer to appreciate the underlying value of the subject before being rewarded, and hopefully surprised by the twist the algorithm puts upon it.

4.3.4 Jonathan Crenshaw

  • Age: 57

  • Hair: Black

  • Eyes: Brown

  • Height: 175 cm

  • Weight: 102 kg

Jonathan Crenshaw is the CEO and majority owner of Perijove Transport, one of three major shuttle services on Cologne. He came into this position after starting as an OTV pilot in a rival company. Eventual he became an administrator, dealing primarily in the logistics of a certain set of assigned cargo and passenger routes when Perijove made him a better offer. Five years after he took the position with Perijove he inherited it from the previous owner, with whom he had become close. His leadership has been undistinguished, but that has served Perijove better than flashy, radical decision making. The economic environment has been conducive to the company’s growth, and the last twenty years have seen such an increase in the personal mobility of Jovians, and in the amount of cargo coming in from the other solar nations, that it would be difficult for a company in Perijove’s line of work to be less than prosperous. Market share has been eroded somewhat, but with the size of the market growing explosively this has hardly concerned Perijove.

Crenshaw himself is pleasantly absorbed in the task of running the business, though his definition of absorbed seems less than rigorous to many of his subordinates. Nearly everyone in the tier beneath him has their own radical plan to revitalize the company and make it the prime player in the shipping markets of Cologne and nearby Olympian colonies. Indeed, it is true that Perijove possesses numerous strategic advantages that could make such a move successful, but Crenshaw has shown no desire to reinvent the company. The other investment partners are happy enough with this, none of them invested in Perijove expecting the strong returns that they’ve received so far. A low risk policy is perfectly fine with them.

What the investors and vice-presidents do not know is that Perijove has taken an active role in semi-legal support to the Free Republic. While it rarely breaks the law outright, it has systematically altered the manifests of items that might otherwise have been indefinitely tied up in red tape. Jonathan Crenshaw’s mundane face masks the very real fact that he is very much involved in international politics. With the recent outbreak of hostilities on Mars, it is very likely that he will step up his involvement, possibly supplying entire weapons systems.

4.3.5 Jane Skorsen

  • Age: 29

  • Hair: Brown

  • Eyes: Blue

  • Height: 172 cm

  • Weight: 61 kg

Running the docks on a station as busy as Cologne is a major task indeed, and assistant dockmaster Jane Skorsen is more administrator than traffic controller, but that removal is no respite. As dockmaster she is responsible for maintaining the docking facilities, establishing queues, and handling custom inspections. As dockmasters go she’s extremely good. Her career is really just getting started, she was promoted to her current position in 2211 after three years as a traffic controller. A handful of times she has found herself shaking her head after a strange and awkward conversation with a fellow employee, she still doesn’t quite know what they were trying to get at, but she knows it was being put to her in a painfully oblique way. The truth is that they have tried to subtly bring Skorsen into the ring of collaborators with the Perijove smuggling operation. Skorsen’s rigid propriety has allowed her to totally overlook their probes, and it is thought far too likely that she will soon stumble onto the operation herself.

4.4 Location: Microgravity Lab

Microgravity environments have a multitude of uses in the Confederation, and not all of them dominated by huge industrial conglomerates. Many small organizations and even some private citizens can find them useful as well. To fill this market small microgravity experiment and fabrication palettes have been designed, and these in turn situated in rooms that are something like morgues, with all the walls lined with drawers containing the palettes. If a Jovian is to have contact with a microgravity lab, this is the most probable kind.

4.4.1 Description

Each lab is built around a central access area. Depending on the terms of the lease the access area may be accessible to the leasing party, or it is used only by the facility staff, who will perform any necessary maintenance or experiment retrieval. Since the very basis of this sort of business is to cater to the wide variety of miscellaneous microgravity uses, there is no one standard palette size. Usually any given lab has slots for several different types. The result is still very ordered, the north wall may mount ten by eighty by five centimeter bays, designed to take a brace of ten microcrystal growth mechanisms while the south wall contains no more than five massive bays for metal-alloying. Usually the variety is more restrained, yet the most efficient rental labs take up all their volume in the money-making palettes and not in the large access passages needed to move the largest palettes in and out.

Each palette type is also configured for a particular set of power and resource couplings. In most cases electrical power is provided in the cost of rental, but additional resources are paid for on the basis of usage. Palettes will commonly need electricity, a network hook up, and most rarely, cooling water. Additional services include outside human or machine monitoring.

4.4.2 Uses

The fraction of Jovians who will use these labs would be small except for the fact that Jovian secondary schools tend to teach at least a single required semester of engineering. Many of the common projects in these classes involve basic microgravity fabrication. Usually this is in one of two forms: a class renting braces of crystal fabricators for individual experiments, or a group project wherein the entire class is involved in the process of setting a microgravity alloy and machining it into a common part. With these programs in place the exposure of these labs to the general population is quite high.

From the perspective of the company renting the bays, secondary schools hardly account for a discernible fraction of their business. Most of their business comes from artists, researchers, and machine shops that find themselves lacking the proper facilities for a custom part. The ebb and flow of users is frustratingly unpredictable to the rental companies, who typically find a large portion of their facilities unused at any given time. Still, with aggressive marketing and cost-cutting measures, these facilities have remained profitable.

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Monday, February 06, 2006

Technology in JC Part I - Robots

This is a little article I've been pecking away at here and there, so I thought I'd fill the gap until I can get the next Colony article up.

In Jovian Chronicles, there was a general slow down in technological development, brought about by the Fall and the colonies' subsequent struggle for survival. On top of this, there are the Edicts to guide the direction of development. However, many seem to take this to mean that during the Fall and afterwards innovation itself stopped. This leads to a misconception that Jovian Chronicles is stuck in a technological stasis.

If you sit back and think about it though, the Fall and the subsequent 180 some-odd years afterwards probably lead to surprising innovations as various societies struggled to sruvive. Now, with the relative ease that knowledge and skills can pass between Solar Nations, technology is ripe to start developing again - and the mixing of new knowledge with known technology can lead to rapid development in multiple fields.

In our modern world, the rapid pace of technological growth is fueled by many factors - but technology itself is driving social change. Many science fiction settings, from Cyberpunk to Blue Planet to Transhuman Space - assume that this is still the case a hundred or more years from now. However, in Jovian Chronicles it seems that the situation is reversed - society is driving technological change. This means that technologies that fulfill a social need will be developed to their fullest.

As an example of way that society drives technological change, I'll be looking at the potential use of robots in Jovian Chronicles. Not necessarily just as combat drones either - but robots used for maintenance, security, personal assistance, you name it.

The foremost consideration when dealing with robots in Jovian Chronicles are the Edicts. Often misunderstood, the Edicts do not make any technologies "illegal" - they only restrict and control (through treaty, no less) research into certain technologies - most importantly to our discussion, biological engineering, nanotechnology and artificial intelligence. This doesn't mean that research does not take place, just that it is subjected to rigorous inspections, restrictions and disclosure about the nature of the research by the entities performing it.

However, to be useful a robot in no way has to have the level of artificial intelligence required to be regulated by the Edicts. In a similar vein, a robot can be a nanomachine but not have self-volition or the capability to replicate. This leaves a lot of room in the setting for robots pretty much everywhere you can imagine.

As a result, the average colony cylinder would have thousands, if not tens of thousands, of drones performing important tasks necessary to keep the colony operational and safe. They would range from the smallest microbots inspecting and performing repairs in bulkhead conduits up to autonomous delivery trucks and even shuttles. The supply networks that run between colony cylinders would consist almost entirely of autonomous vehicles.

Spacecraft would have their own small hive of robots, performing much the same tasks as they do on colony cylinders. Even exo-armors, fighters and vehicles could benefit - microdrones could repair internal systems as much as possible (especially if used in conjunction with something like this). Maintenance and inspection tasks would be less prone to error, reducing turnaround times. Human technicians would then be freed up to handle problems that require intuition or creativity to solve.

In addition spacecraft, exo-armors and fighters could have their capabilities enhanced by controlling small swarms of drones. Sensor information would be aggregated from the drones, giving the pilot a much more accurate picture of the battle sphere, as well as providing additional defensive and offensive capacity. Rather than replace the human pilot compeltely with a drone, armed forces would be able to benefit in much the same manner as technicians - let the drones do the grunt work of identifying and responding to threats, freeing the human pilot to tackle the more complicated aspects of the mission. It also does not preclude the capability of a pilot to remotely control one or more drones, allowing access to areas of the battlefield that the exo-armor or fighter can't reach. Not to mention the USV's, UGV's and UAV's that will no doubt be ubiquitous on the battelfield.

In the medical field, microbots would almost be a necessity for any advanced medical procedures. Controlling a small swarm remotely, a surgeon could accomplish any number of tasks without invasive procedures. Broken bones that have been set could have the fracture filled with a bonding substance by the microbots; blood vessels could be repaired and cleaned. When an invasive procedure is inevitable, such as during an organ transplant, the microbots would help ease the stress on the patient's body as much as possible, helping to regulate vital signs, deliver doses of medication where they're needed, and helping with the healing process. In the end, the microbots would be deactivated and flushed from the patient's system

On a personal level, small autonomous robots would serve as everything from toys to personal assistants to lifesaving tools. "Household" robots would take care of most cleaning tasks, including repairing personal equipment, arranging for replacements or other supplies, and coordinating other activities with other robots in the colony's network. For instance, a robot finding some kind of damage in someone's living quarters might contact the occupant for authorization to arrange for repairs, then contact the central control for the maintenance drones to come and make the repairs.

The Edicts provide an aegis against the classic philosophical quandaries - should AIs be treated as citizens, are the robot workers being exploited - by firmly planting robots into the realm of "tools". Socially, if there's a prohibition against your robot from having self-volition and consciousness, there's as little question in the your mind that your robot assistant thinks and feels as there would be if it were a weedwacker. This doesn't preclude people becoming attached attached to a robot they work closely with - it is human nature to anthropomorphize our tools. It also doesn't mean that mistakes won't be made or accidents won't happen - after all, that wouldn't make for very exciting stories involving robots.

So, as you can see, despite the perceived stifling of technology under the Edicts (or perhaps because of it) there's a lot of room for robots in Jovian Chronicles - from mere background detail to useful tools to compelling plot devices. You just have to put a little thought into how they fit into the setting.

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  • You know, I thought I distinctly recalled the description of the Edicts involving a 'code built into all institutions of higher learning in the Solar System limiting information on advanced biotechnology' amongst other things. There are definitely indications of the Edicts being about opacity, not the transparent monitoring that your interpretation proposes.

    I intend to play the Edicts as real, but creepy in my campaign. This largely reflects my technophilia and transparency loving political liberalism.

    I am curious if you've read Karl Schroeder's Lady of Mazes, which has a lot of interest on how to understand human liberty for very advanced societies.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:25 PM  

  • Acutally I haven't, but I'd probably be interested.

    I find the idea of responsible development of technology according to social needs, as opposed to the rampant development that drives social change as seen in most near-future science fiction, much more appealing. It's why I like JC and don't mind that there aren't catgirls and full-conversion borgs running around.

    I might be off on my interpretation of the Edicts (and it might be colored by extrapolation from before there was more information - I'm not fond of the SolaPol book, for instance) but even with transparent monitoring I think it's unrealistic to assume that all knowledge of a technology would be "invisible" to everyone.

    In reality, the Edicts are probably no more enforceable than any other treaty. As such, it just seems more "realistic" that anyone participating in research in a technology restricted under the Edicts would be forced to submit to independent scrutiny. Otherwise, technology in JC is forced to only find innovation in existing technologies. So the researchers file the right requests, get everything approved and in accordance with Edicts regulation, and then get to work.

    A good modern example is nuclear weapons technology - sure, only those with the proper clearances can actively participate in R&D but the knowledge of the basics is part of the greater scientific community. None of it is hidden.

    But there are international treaties governing nuclear programs, what kind of scrutiny that nations have to submit to, availability of facilities to UN inspectors. The difference here is that the USN has teeth (small teeth, but teeth nonetheless) and there is always the chance of a political rival throwing in any dispute over Edicts research.

    The combination of some amount of actual enforcement, social and governmental pressures against developing certain technologies in the wrong direction, and the added cost in time and resources required to get a research project off the ground do a good portion of the work "enforcing" the Edicts.

    Regardless, there's really nothing in the Edicts that would prohibit extremely intelligent robots - as far as I can tell, as long as they don't self-replicate or are self-aware, they can be as smart as you need them to be ;)

    By Blogger Rivetgeek, at 1:47 PM  

  • There are robots in JC, we just didn't focus much on them. (My memory is hazy, but wasn't there a rescue 'bot in MechCatII?)

    In retrospect, there was probably a better way to handle new technologies. The Edicts were a somewhat believable but ultimately cludgy way to keep control over the tech of the setting.

    But hey, hindsight is 20/20. :)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:13 PM  

  • That's kind of why I reimagined the Edicts - they're certainly not a bad idea or implausible, I just think it's more interesting if they're a little more three-dimensional in implementation. My version still has plenty of room for the EEB to show up at a laboratory and say, "This is an illegal nanotechnology research lab, we're shutting you down and confiscating everything."

    As for robots, probably the biggest jump in conceptualizeing them in JC would be vehicles having their own menagerie of small bots that do maintenance work, repairs, and if they are external provide additional sensory capability or offense/defense. I actually have not really seen it mentioned in any science fiction game, and there are scarce few examples in literature that I can think of. There are too many good reasons to have this in the setting and I'm certainly going to include them in my games.

    By Blogger Rivetgeek, at 3:01 PM  

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Saturday, February 04, 2006

Promising news

From the DP9 Forums:


Dream Pod 9 and VBAM Games have made an arrangement allowing VBAM Games to produce a sourcebook using the Jovian Chronicles setting.

I just wanted to introduce myself to the Jovian Chronicles community here at the DP9 Forums. My name is Charles Lewis and I have been selected by VBAM Games to write the Jovian Chronicles sourcebook for their Victory By Any Means campaign system.

Once completed, VBAM:Jovian Chronicles will allow players to vie for total control of the solar system. Combat can be resolved with either VBAM's strategic level combat resolution system, or guidelines will be included to show how to translate a VBAM encounter to Lightning Strike, 2nd Ed.

I welcome any comments and suggestions the JC community might have. While I am not an "old skool" Jovian Chronicles player, I am familiar with the setting and hope to do it justice. My intent is to allow you to take your Jovian Chronicles campaign to the next level and settle matters between CEGA, the Venusians, and the Jovians once and for all!


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  • Does this make anyone else want them to license making 1/500 capital ship models to one of those brilliant people now producing nuBSG garage kits? Because I want an Alexander or a Corsair /bad/...

    Don't even get me started on a line of 1/10 exo-suits or 1/48 interceptors...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:41 PM  

  • Well if you did not read the news portion of DP9's site, I almost went right past it since it was 30 some odd days before it was last updated but that is deffinatly Fed 2nd as the latest news update...

    scroll down a bit or you would miss the JC news.

    "And you'll get a preview of the new Jovian Chronicles minis for the new Blitz version of the game coming out this summer. Jovian Chonicles Blitz will have 2 levels of game play, the first will be a fleet level where the existing Spaceship minis are used along with new fleet counter minis (about 15mm tall) to represent squads of Exos, Fighters or one of the new Aces. Fleet counters will include 2 Wyverns for CEGA Exos, 2 Pathfinders for JC Exos, 2 Wraiths for CEGA Fighters, 2 Lancers for JC Fighters, 1 Dragonstriker for CEGA Ace and 1 Stormrider for JC Ace. When fleet counters come within 2 inchs of one another, if desired, then the second level of the game starts with the individual full size Exos, Fighters and Aces, but not the ships."

    By Blogger Frank Foulis, at 12:05 AM  

  • Yeah, ever smaller stuff for a game nobody ever actually gets a chance to play. I'd prefer full models!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:33 AM  

  • I actually think that if this is done right, people might play the games. There's a decent-sized hole in the science-fiction wargame market that this could fill (just like there's a good-sized hole in turn-based computer games for a good science-fiction game). Models I wouldn't complain about either, it might actually get me to collect a few and build them.

    By Blogger Rivetgeek, at 7:41 AM  

  • the Model niche is hard to sell too unless there was say an anime called Jovian Chronicles or even a decently made Manga.

    As far as done right. DP9 has had chances before and let the opportunity to slip.

    Though what I see on the horizon for them is nothing but good.

    By Blogger Frank Foulis, at 3:23 PM  

  • Aside from the wildly psychotic version of the Confederation displayed in Lightning Strike, I really like most all the published JC material. Call me nuts. I don't love the mechanical errors, the silly way the SotF books show older variants by cutting off bits of the aesthetically complete one, but by in large I like having material on geeky space crap, giant robots, big-ass ships, and the solar nations.

    But who are these people who buy minis for a game for which players are so sparse?

    Since when were you so close to Chicago anyways, Jolan?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:57 PM  

  • Always have been close to Chicago. Born and Raised here.

    I knew about 15 guys at one store down south who were into LS. But when the new mini's stopped for both HG and JC they went right back to Btech when Ironwind started up new stuff for the line.

    The LS storyline was all but cut when they redid the books into one book and did a Retcon to say it never happened.

    As has been pointed out in my locations JC has had a problem with not having a specific goal within DP9. Thus every writer who did something for them had thier own take on the setting and it just got through.

    What you get is a hodge podge of ideas that seem to sometimes contradict each other.

    For instance the one thing that STILL erks me to this day and I can get really worked up about is CEGA and its planet book.

    You have this idea that CEGA is a single government body. It is in fact a coalition of nations under a uber form of UN. Erks me so bad I gotta end this comment now :)

    By Blogger Frank Foulis, at 9:01 PM  

  • See, myself I like the fact that there are member nations within the CEGA. It makes it like Soviet Russia, where a unified front was always presented to the outside world but there was tons of conflict brewing internally. It gives it more character.

    "In Jovian Confederation, you don't get much space. In CEGA Navy, space get you!"

    By Blogger Rivetgeek, at 9:36 PM  

  • See that explanation works for me. The way the limited presentation of that crap book gave it made it suck.

    By Blogger Frank Foulis, at 10:15 PM  

  • So whatever is the official continuity these days? Is the hand-of-the-author smashing of Kurtzenheim via Gilgamesh still in play?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:42 AM  

  • As far as I know, the events of the Chaos Principle are canon. The near future events of Lightning Strike 1e, I'm not too sure of.

    By Blogger Rivetgeek, at 11:13 AM  

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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Haven't forgotten

I've just been busy with work and some other things (like finishing up releasing a new version of the SilCore Vehicle Design Program and working on the next one). I'll finish up the last parts of the Colony articles this week, plus get some new stuff up.

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  • Does blogspot let you use tags? I suspect that's your best way of keeping archiving organized as your grow content...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:04 PM  

  • I think archives right now are sorted by month and then title. I'll look at the code that I can include - Blogger is much easier to customize than Hivejournal.

    By Blogger Rivetgeek, at 2:16 PM  

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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Guidebook to Installations of the Jovian Confederation - Chapter 3

Chapter 3 of the Colony articles

Overall Length: 38.13 km

Interior Radius: 1.80 km 

Exterior Shell Radius: 2.20 km 

Habitable Area: 271.30 square km 

Maximum Radius (to top of thermal radiators): 4.01 km 

Rotational Period: 85 seconds 

Operational Date: March 6, 2097 

Cylinder Number: 5 (designation assigned October 2134)

1: South District

2: Central District

3: North District

4: Sunline

5: North Polar Docks (axial)

6: South Polar Docks (counter-rotating)

7: Gee-level

8: Communications Towers x3

9: Thermal Radiators/Induction Arrays x3

Alexandria II is one of the largest vivarium cylinders in existence. After the construction of Elysèe, size went out of fashion, but Alexandria II is very nearly as large as Elysèe. Surprisingly, this is not the greatest source of pride for the residents of this colony, rather it is the academic renown of the stations many educational and research institutions that is the hallmark of this station. The internal surface area supports no fewer than five universities and six other institutions. All this is accomplished in one of the worst space-utilization designs in vivarium history. 

The most obvious feature of any station following the Elysèe design model are the independent sections. Alexandria II has three, each of which is an entire colony in itself. When the early station designs were made, it was thought that vast reserves of machinery, and massive redundancy were the answer to the dangers and instabilities inherent in pioneering this new design. Later colonies would rely more strongly on smart engineering, not over-engineering. Still, when the construction of Alexandria II was approved in 2084, it seemed a shame to retool the factories that were already set up with the Elysèe model in mind.

Visitors are often told that Alexandria II is one of the greatest testaments to Jovian caution. Each redundant section is eight kilometers long, and over three and a half kilometers in diameter. The sheer volume of the design guarantees tolerance against atmosphere leakage, and a healthy, if occasionally unruly, internal weather system. Each section can technically be sealed off from the next, but only the most catastrophic breach could necessitate that. Standard doctrine calls for an open-atmosphere evacuation.

This design was also chosen to allow control over the internal environment. Much of the machinery between the sections is devoted to brute force solutions to humidity and temperature control. The ecosystems of all three sections have proven remarkably stable, but the excess of machinery can’t stop the occasional unscheduled rainstorm. Residents like to claim that this adds charm to the environment, but most complain about it when outsiders aren’t about to hear.

Alexandria II is home to 3.1 million people. This equates to a population density of 11,500 persons per square kilometer. For an Olympian colony this is bordering on cramped. Many residents blame the colony’s excessively redundant design, and there are always rumors about plans to build additional housing in some of the areas that experience almost a full gravity. These areas, located just beyond the endcaps of each section, already have cheap hotels and other housing for visitors who do not need, or can’t stand, a full one gee.

These sections have more than just engineering consequences, they have also created three distinct neighborhoods. These divisions have no political implications, but one does have to use mechanized transport to get from one to the next, so there is a certain degree of separation. Commuting is common, but people usually prefer to live in the same district as they work. Community leaders have constantly worked to suppress any sort of regionalism caused by these divisions. They have been largely successful as evidenced by the lack of familiar names for each district.

The North District is perhaps the best known, as it is home to Alexandria University, the first of the academic institutions that have made Alexandria II so deservedly famous. It is a large school, boasting 15,000 undergraduates, and 34,000 graduate students and faculty members. About seventy-five percent of the undergraduate population is from Olympus, twenty percent come from the Trojans, and another five percent are foreigners, mostly Mercurians and wealthy Venusians studying abroad for a year. The curriculum is notoriously difficult, consisting of a set of stringent requirements divided equally amongst the humanities and hard sciences.

Aside from its college and academic graduate schools, the university also has three professional schools. Graduates of the Olympus Medical Academy are almost always highly sought after, and no other institution has better facilities and treatments for severe burns. The downside is the sixty percent drop-out rate. Equally illustrious is the Vale Law School that offers both praetorial and basic legal programs. The final school is the least known of the three. The Jovian School of Engineering has met with little success since it was founded in 2165. Rumors abound that this division will soon be abandoned. Much of North District’s economy revolves around the university and its related institutions. Of all the districts this is the most severely academic.

Central District is home to a variety of museums and the best boarding school in the Confederation. Suleiman’s Preparatory Academy has a two year course of study, and half the pampered sons and daughters of Olympus have suffered through it. Despite the unpleasantness, virtually all of them will point to those two years as the most character-forming of their lives. This district is also the seat of colony government, located in a modest three-story structure. The location is no accident, nor is it purely a concern of centralization. The location was specifically chosen to distance the center of power on the colony further from Alexandria University which, during decades past, has often been thought of as the de facto government. This impression is not as strong now, but if this is real, or just spin control, is not known.

South District is best known for the Kelmann Institute of Technology. While it and Vanguard Mountain’s VMIT are in a tight rivalry for best technical school, the geographical location of Kelmann gives it the edge in prestige. Hard on math and computer science, anyone who graduates from this school is automatically given respect. The school also has a special relationship with the JAF, and students often take a leave of absence to serve a year with the JAF in an engineering capacity. The JAF will often try to entice these participants to return following their graduation. Some programs even require credits from this program to graduate with honors. Kelmann graduates are known for having a near mystical skill in applying computational methods to problem solving.

The next thing that a casual observer would note about Alexandria II are the three large thermal arrays. Each is emblazoned with the name and number of the station in self-maintaining chromapaint. Unlike some other stations, Alexandria II has regulations prohibiting the use of chromapaint surfaces for advertisement. The interior surface of each radiator is laced with a conductive network that serves to tap power by induction from the Jovian magnetosphere. This array is located between the central and northern sections of the colony.

Alexandria II should not have three thermal radiators, it was designed and built with the usual complement of six. Unfortunately, during the initial spin-up of the station one of the struts between the central and south sections broke off. The cause has never been discovered, but it is believed that there must have been a severe manufacturing defect. With one radiator gone, the other two in that set were also jettisoned to maintain radial symmetry. The designers were faced with a dilemma. They could despin the colony and rebuild the radiators, possibly adding a year and a half to the construction, or they could stretch the capacity of the northern set, and accept that the colony would have to periodically vent volatiles to cool. Less serious, but also troubling was the fact that a single off-center set of induction field arrays could not be used for any sort of propulsion, the force would be unbalanced and spin the station. Instead Alexandria II must use even more volatiles for ion propulsion. While the engineering crews were loathe to accept that Alexandria II could never be a true closed system, the population crunch decided the issue. To this day this has never presented a problem for the colony.

Each radiator is connected to the colony by long struts. While mostly utilitarian, these are technically open facilities. Usually you will only find maintenance bots and a few fitness fanatics jogging about in the 1.2 gee areas, but youth gangs and other petty criminals are known to use its relative desertion to ill ends. More rarely some of the areas only trivially over a gee will be used for hosting weddings and other social occasions since the struts are one of the few places with windows.

It is 2097, and Olympus is still coming to grips with its unasked independence from Earth. The PCs are members of a security entourage, or workers on the colony project when disaster strikes. The silent destruction of the radiator is a deadly threat, and while all hell is breaking loose, one of the players sees something suspicious. If he can convince his fellows to follow up and investigate they will uncover a conspiracy of radicals dedicated to adapting humanity for space. These criminals are trying to sabotage the vivarium projects. The PCs must then expose the group, and prevent the destruction of the next station to go online.

Colony planners realized early on that broadband voice, data, and visual communications in near real-time were the only means of truly maintaining cultures larger than a single cylinder. As a result the communication capabilities of vivariums are taken extremely seriously. While most short range communications are performed using point-to-point lasers, the increasing cluttered nature of the Olympus cluster has caused a reversion to RF transmissions for messages of a lower priority. The advantage of these broadcasts, that they are not subject to interference from particulate matter and simple physical occlusion, is somewhat canceled out by the fact that RF transmissions are difficult to detect on a vivarium colony. Even antenna built into the station hull, outside of the rock shielding are still subject to distortion from the colony’s own powerful magnetic field generators. As a result Alexandria II’s communications towers stretch far from its hull. Only the thermal radiators extend farther. The towers mount RF reception and transmission equipment alike, as well as standard
Comm lasers. Certain channels are always reserved for JAF use. 

Every colony needs a docking facility. No matter how few people travel to and from it, supplies will always be imported and exported. Space docks are much like marine docks in that they are full of gruff and forever too busy workers and large cargo-handling mechanisms. Alexandria II has a docking system similar to most Elysèe-style colonies. The northern dock is a simple centerline dock with off-axis small ship egress ports. The southern dock is a counter-rotating ring, capable of docking ships of almost any size. Technically, there are also docking points on the surface of the cylinder, but these are single-use departure points only. Each houses a massive lifeboat which can separate from the cylinder with almost a thousand people aboard. These lifeboats are not widely publicized. In total they can evacuate less than three hundred thousand people, only a small portion of the colony’s population.

The north dock is by far the most used. This is where the colony admits most passengers, and almost all of its supplies. All regular inter-colony shuttle flights arrive and depart from these docks. Each port, be it main or auxiliary, has a pair of huge space doors. These are closed whenever a ship is not coming in, or going out, so they are rarely closed. The doors are
technically airtight, allowing the entire central docking bay to be pressurized. This is rarely done, as it is easier to tent and pressurize individual docking slips when the need arises.

The face of the dock also has four banks of supplemental thermal radiators, helping to make up for the missing trio of main thermal radiators. Beyond this simple facade lies a huge chamber. Incoming ships match rotation and enter the chamber through the bay doors. Once inside a docking frame is extended to them, attached, and withdrawn to a low-gee docking slip. The entire bay has about two hundred slips of varying sizes, capable of handling ships as large as one hundred and twenty meters. Usually, shuttles, OTVs, and Aquarius and Mule cargo vessels comprise most of the docked ships. Occasionally an Anopheles or luxury yacht can be seen. The former usually bearing some asteroidal oddity to bring to the researchers of the colony, and the latter usually belonging to spoiled students at a preparatory school.

Each dock then has three pairs of access tubes to the North District. One of these is a simple passenger monorail, which proceeds to the northern endcap and descends much like a ski lift or gondola, to the gee-level surface of the cylinder. The other access tube is much larger and more complicated. At heart it is also a monorail, though one dedicated to cargo transport. Instead of exiting the northern endcap, this track stays within the cap itself, going downwards beneath the surface of the habitable area of the colony. From here it can stop at any number of points which have access to the surface to unload cargo. Alternatively it can continue on to the other two segments.

The south polar docks are much more complicated. The main JAF presence is located in this end of the colony, and these docks feel that presence strongly. Initially, the traffic does not look to be different, but most of the vessels docking at this end have the fist and thunderbolts emblazoned on them, signifying government service. Technically civilian vessels can dock here, but most of the time the JAF asserts precedence. This is not out of arrogance, but out of simple logistics. Most of the JAF is not made of warships and exo-armors, but crew transfer shuttles, tankers, and other mundane classifications. Almost all colonies have some set of docks set aside for JAF use.

These docks must be capable of handling vessels of any size, and so they are external and counter-rotating. For this reason the mechanism of these docks includes the only major rotation collar on the colony. It is regarded as an extremely reliable design, and is spun down and refurbished once every five years. Even if it were to seize up, it would not be disastrous. Unlike the massive factory spines of more modern stations, the docks contain only a small fraction of the mass of the colony, and the disruption would be minor.

Not every ship having business with the colony needs, or would be allowed to dock. Most cargo ships simply dock with a nearby cargo handling yard. Once there the cargo is off-loaded, the cargo waits for an OTV to pick it up along with the cargo of other ships. The owner of the yard usually buys the delivery contract from the vessel in question and consolidates the shipments. Managing to run a yard profitably is one of the most difficult business challenges in the Confederation. It is unsurprising that these cargo yards are often corrupt, owing their success to a special relationship with a colony dockmaster or some similar underhanded deal. This technique allows for a much greater flow of cargo and a manageable flow of cargo ships. (Cargo yards will be profiled in greater detail in Chapter 7.)

Alexandria II was the first colony to be born under the charter system. Construction was announced in 2083, as a wave of revulsion for the destruction wrought on Earth passed over the Jovians. 
Countless images of the destruction of cultural treasures were broadcast throughout the system, and the largest interest group to apply for the charter was the Jovian Historical Preservation Society. 
So it was that Alexandria II was created, looking backwards and inwards. 
The first government of Alexandria II set up a number of tax breaks, and some outright grants for museums and universities, setting it down the path to becoming the intellectual powerhouse of the Confederation.

Refugees from Earth were paid exorbitant sums of money for some of the seemingly mundane items they brought with them. 
Alexandria II would assure that Earth could not be forgotten. No government since then has had reason to regret this initial policy. Premium higher education is a lucrative business in Jovian society. Museums are a constant tourist draw, and even modest docking and secondary tax rates give the colony more than enough credits to maintain its budget.

While deeply respected throughout the Confederation, the rest of Olympus looks on Alexandria II as being something of an old, tired place. 
There are party schools on the colony, but the fact is it is still known for its somber institutions. 
Even the residents have come to share this feeling.  The students come and go, but those who stay are a slow-moving, unexcitable bunch.

Even in academic circles there is a feeling that the environment has lost something of its vigor, that the schools are not so competitive, and that the museums are no longer as daring. 
Others may demean these concerns as if the modern Alexandria II were being compared to some mythical golden age, but even they can’t deny that the sensation, true or not, is present. 
To combat this many of the local institutions have begun revitalization programs. 
They hire more of their own students to stay on, offer more competitive scholarships, and slowly but surely they exert civic pressure, replacing quiet community bars with louder, soundproofed ones. 
If these changes will be for the better is something that only time can tell.

One of the things that can not be said of Alexandria II, is that it has strayed from its charter. 
Even today its museums remain one of the largest concentrations of Earthly cultural treasures in the system. Experts from all of the settlements come to study and appreciate these wonders. At the end of the twenty-second century some had worried that it had lost its reason for being. The last thirty years have proven these critics wrong. The colony thrives, proving that even the return of Earth has not diminished the need, nor the desire, to both preserve and explore. This has been aided in no small part by the fact that CEGA showed little regard for cultural treasures until it resumed contact with the settlements. So much was lost that the archivists and curators of Alexandria II were at once aghast and reaffirmed in their mission. Politically, this is the ideal that shall always inform the governmental mind of the station.

For these reasons and others, Alexandria II is an anomaly in the Olympus state assembly. Even after the Battle of Elysèe its representatives have continued to vote against increased military spending. No other Olympian colony supports this position, but it has been a half-century since the Agora convened without a representative native to Alexandria II, and such representatives are usually aligned with the Trojan states. This has won the colony many friends in the outlying territories, and in part explains why so many students are willing to take the long trip on the Hanson Circuit to attend classes. Still, the people and politicians of Alexandria II are not unaware of the irony of their situation. It is out of their love of Earth that they wish to avoid war, yet most of them blame CEGA for much of the needless destruction. If there were some way that they could support their hawkish brethren without thinking of the damage it would wreak upon the object of their affections, they surely would.

The PCs witness a curious meeting between a shady looking character, and the well known chief of staff of Jonathan Dawkins, a member of the Agora. Later that day the PCs suspicions will be aroused when the chief-of-staff publicly resigns, and accuses his boss of conspiring with CEGA! If the PCs go looking for the mysterious man, they will find nothing but a lot of dead ends. However, if they approach the chief-of-staff he will eventually break down, appearing to guiltily disclose the name of his contact. When the PCs follow this lead they will encounter a Principii member operating on Alexandria II. The chief-of-staff will not recant his accusations, and the only way the PCs can clear Dawkins name is to apprehend the Principii operative. If they fail Dawkins will resign and a more hawkish interim representative installed.

Player Characters should feel free to choose either side in this conflict. If they choose the Principii thought, it should be made very clear that they are entering an illegal underworld. A series of adventures could arise out of their attempts to extricate themselves from this predicament.

Of the five NPCs below, four are major players on the Alexandrian political and social scenes. The fifth is not, and is included primarily as a social encounter, or for possible use as a recurring NPC assistant to the Player Characters. Gamemasters should feel free to make up Silhouette statistics to suit their specific use of the characters, or simply assign them to the closest archetype.

Age: 44

Height:165 cm

Weight: 65 kilos

Hair: Red

Samantha Nakomura has always wanted to sit in the Agora. She can dream of nothing more fulfilling than that one act. She has served her home colony for almost twenty years in various civic roles, and she has only her honor to show for it. Rebuffed by George O’Murphy when she ran for the Olympus state assembly, she now knows she will never advance beyond her current post. She has never learned the art of appearing useful, and will often subsume her own ego to better serve her electorate. This has garnered her no praise, only a grudgingly comfortable acceptance amongst the Alexandrian press and people who regularly poke fun at her apparent dullness. What few seem to notice is how very effective she
is. Politically she is strong on law and order, from criminal punishment right down to zoning regulations. Those who know her personally also can tell that she is an anti-CEGA hawk. The electorate could care less, since that view has never impacted her job duties.

Age: 67

Height: 185cm

Weight: 120 kilos

Hair: Grey

George Murphy is a fiery orator on the floor of the state assembly. What has always puzzled his colleagues is that he has little to be fiery about. His views are mundane, aside from the traditional Alexandrian pacifism he is almost never at odds with the majority. Yet whatever the topic is, Murphy puts the full force of his public speaking into it. Not once has he faltered or
wavered in this.

Murphy is somewhat less intimidating in person. He seems the sort to crush his friends in bear hugs, but in fact he is quite reserved and quiet. He is never found at a public event without his wife Eileen, who is known to be much livelier at the parties than he. The couple has three children, none of whom have pursued a political career. One is raising a family, and the other two are currently in the JAF.

He has served in the assembly since 2208, and has just won re-election to a new term. It is widely expected that he will continue to deliver excellent speeches on mundane topics for years to come.

Age: 37

Height: 172cm

Weight: 70 kilos

Hair: Black

Maria Tulley-Ortez’ hyphenated last name has been in the family for three generations since it was immortalized by Captain Benjamin Tulley-Ortez, who set numerous deep space endurance records and was the first human to set foot on a Kuiper Belt Object. This is still a rare distinction, and one she is not above bringing up. She often claims an interest in repeating the feat herself someday. By saving up her modest income she has purchased a fifty-percent share in a small prospecting operation. It is her hope that this investment will someday pay off, allowing her to purchase a deep-space vessel of her own.

Her job is more administrative than it is technical, and her training never prepared her for human relations. Whenever possible she will bury herself in technical details, preferably hydrology. After putting in twelve hour days she has been known to spend another eight hours in legendary parties. She enjoys discovering new bars where no one knows that she can drink anyone under the table. Also unbeknownst to her victims are her semi-legal implants, which accelerate the metabolization of alcohol. Ostensibly she has them because as a colony decision-maker she must be sober, or nearly so, at all times. The reality is that she just has far too much fun watching exo-jocks and unsuspecting college students make fools of themselves.

She is unhappy in her current position and is entertaining a number of other job offers. Her staff, and even close friends remain oblivious to both her discomfort and her ongoing job search.

Age: 83

Height: 152 cm

Weight: 45 kilos

Hair: White

As a profession economist is almost unheard of. Lenora Rebrov, a diminutive academic, did not let this stop her when she made herself famous by publishing her paper ‘Positive Sum Production and the Inner System.’ Ever since then it has been the centerpiece, some would say the manifesto, for prosperity through autonomous production and charity through imperialism. She is one of the intellectual parents of the movement given form by the Principii. Despite this she was never contacted by them or aware of their activities. In her duties as Dean of Alexandria University, she is known for being honest and trustworthy. She still teaches one class, invariably a freshman lecture in basic economics. It is thought that it is only her presence that gives any interest to the economics program at all.

Emerson Corman was once told that his lineage could be traced back directly to film director Roger Corman. He was young, impressionable, and took it very much to heart. The young Emerson read up on the director, studied his films, and idolized them. Among his most prized possessions is an actual 16 millimeter film projector. Unfortunately he has never had the occasion or room to use it.

After completing college, Corman spent about a year trying to persuade various graduate schools to create a film program. None were interested, and in time Corman returned that disinterest. Eventually he settled in to stay on Alexandria II, the community he was most familiar with from his college years. He found steady employment working as a gunnery assistant for the JAF administered Department of Near Space Security. Now he destroys wayward wrenches while daydreaming of recreating the old Roger Corman classics.

Commuter monorails are the backbone of Alexandria II’s public transportation. Almost the entire workforce uses at least one daily. The network is designed to be fast, flexible, and high capacity. It will deliver a person to a point no farther than a half kilometer from where they want to go. No fixture of daily life on Alexandria II is more constant or more common than the humble monorail car.

Each car is designed for optimal occupancy by sixteen people, though more can be handled if people stand. The interior is a mix of charcoal gray rubberized flooring, and a rich forest green for the seating and walls. The center aisle is wide, and balloons outward near the front where there is an additional space for people who like to stand and observe the view. No monorail car has been involved in a fatal accident since the modern system was developed in the early twenty-second century. As a result there are no seatbelts, and people are not afraid to stand. Acceleration is gentle and smooth, ramping up to roughly 150 kph along straight-aways.

The first design imperative of the Alexandrian transport system was flexibility, and that is the primary reason behind the small size of the individual commuter car. Upon boarding the car each passenger selects a destination. This information is shared with the entire transportation network, allowing optimal routing. At any one time there are hundreds of these cars operating on the colony. There are no set routes, a single car may serve every part of the colony of the course of a seventy-two hour deployment. After those seventy-two hours the car is recalled to a central maintenance area for an eight hour checkout and refurbishment. It is then returned to the operating pool.

The monorail car will often be a background set for any colony based campaign. When it is used like this it will often be enough for the players simply to know what it does for them, where it takes them and how fast. 
The cunning Game master will use this very mundane appearance to mask his true intentions. A monorail is as good a place as any for trouble to catch up with the Player Characters, and once onboard a hurtling monorail the action will have to be resolved once and for all! This complication can add to the tension of the scene, or make for even more cinematic stunts.

On the other hand it will not always be the PCs who get in trouble on the car. They can also be called in to help others who are in danger there. Perhaps a monorail’s control system has been hacked, and the car refuses to come to a stop, circling the colony again and again. A group of exo-suited police would be hard pressed to pull off this rescue without some quick thinking and steely nerves. Leaving action sets behind, the monorail still provides numerous opportunities as an intrigue setting. Covert meetings, secret exchanges, all of these things can occur in an almost deserted car streaking across the colony floor. Imaginative Gamemasters will almost certainly be able to think of applications to their own campaign.

Astronomical texture maps courtesy:

C. Thomas' Planetary Maps

David Seal's Maps of the Solar System

Bjorn Jonsson's Homepage

Read more!


  • Ah, this is the one I was waiting for. I mean, I still wince at the crudity of the North Polar docks, and shoe-horning in one of my corniest RPG character concepts ever (Emerson Corman was originally designed for a TNG-era Star Trek game) into the colony, but I kind of like this one still.

    I don't recall if I note it in the text, and I haven't reviewed it thoroughly yet, but this cylinder takes the green book illustration and caption as a jumping-off point.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:37 AM  

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