Monday, June 26, 2017

Battlecruiser

The Destroyer (p. 348 EP) is the most common military spacecraft in the solar system - a medium tonnage, fast and maneuverable ship designed for long endurance and escort duty which defends against attacks at short range. Because of their flexible armament, high-speed designs and very efficient power supply in the form of an antimatter drive, Destroyers are typically all that is needed by a space navy force to defend territory or patrol vectors used as trading routes. But, they are not the entirety of the design. Smaller ships, from fighters carried on destroyers and larger vessels, to armed shuttles which act as patrol boats, interception satellites and even "light cruisers" or "corvette" designs exist as small, fast attack and defense or long-term independant operation ships. There are, however, also larger designs - these take three primary forms:

  • Command Carriers are rare, large ships which are mostly armed with defensive weapons and almost always require escorts - their purpose is to launch and coordinate large amounts of smaller ships. Their mass harms their maneuverability and top speed, so these sluggish ships do not often leave their home ports but would be vital in an actual space war to force projection.
  • The fabled "Dreadnoughts" are even more rare, seen as an outdated return to military tactics of the past. Heavily armed and armored these large ship designs are much more popular in fiction than in actual military engagements. Almost designed to show off the material wealth and engineering prowess of their builders, these ships can easily be overwhelmed by smaller, more maneuverable craft which cost much less time and effort to build in large numbers. No new Dreadnoughts are listed as under construction, and the majority left in commission are in the Jovian Republic or LLA.
The third common large ship class is increasingly popular, and is the Battlecruiser. Battlecruisers are larger ships designed along the same lines as the destroyer. They sacrifice armor capability of their larger size to maintain speed, but are still heavily armed - the intent is to be able to chase down and outgun ships with lesser armament, but evade or outmaneuver heavier and more powerful ships. Modern, spaceborne battlecruiser designs first appeared in the era of conflict immediately prior to the Fall, as a countermeasure to prospects of Dreadnought warfare. Several constructed Battlecruisers did well in the limited space warfare during the Fall itself, both against human forces and even TITAN ones. Comparable speed and defenses but greater power make them a good match for small numbers of Destroyers, and better agility and similar power mean they are more cost-effective against Dreadnoughts. 

In the modern period, every faction with a major space force owns one or more Battlecruiser-type designs, and some of them own several and are constructing more. The main drawback of the Battlecruiser is its greater expense and logistics - they take more material to build and to fuel, and more mental resources to run, either in form of AIs or Egos. The fact that open space conflict is not generally a popular or advisable position also means in some polities (such as the Titanian Commonwealth) with high transparency or citizen influence that Battlecruiser expenses are often frowned upon or judged harshly as opposed to less expensive Destroyers for defensive purposes. On the other hand, the Jovian Republic is proud of it's fleet composition and energy resources of Jupiter to fuel them - and plans on having the largest set of Battlecruisers in the Solar System by AF 15. 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Web Grenade

Area denial is an interesting area in AF10. While landmines are still made (and due to less issue of lasting injury, slightly less stigmatized) they can present issues in tight spaces of transhuman construction, and risk infrastructure or even depressurization in enclosed habs. A mantrap can block a door or other route - but only covers a single surface. To this end, there is some desire for a device which can offer an expanded area of coverage to block doors and halls and hopefully cause less destruction than explosive traps. Luckily, materials science has solutions.

Web Grenade: While coming in grenade form, this device is more like a container for spools of carbon nanomaterial fibers, which end in grip head micro-anchors. When detonated (ideally in an airburst) the coils fly out in all directions to a maximum length of about 1.5 meters and anchor to surfaces, creating a web of black coils. These strands impede visibility, and are strong enough to be impossible for a morph to break under their own strength - they have to be cut with a tool, or the core grenade found and dismantled so the webs lose their anchor. Such a process can take several minutes, buying valuable time in a pursuit or security situation. Anyone unfortunate enough to be caught in the blast radius of a Web Grenade takes 2d10 DV with an AP of -5, and will effectively be grappled to the web grenade until they can extract themselves. This can be done as a Complex Action with a SOMx3 test, but causes 1d10/2 DV which ignores armor as the anchors are ripped out - or can be done as a more delicate proceedure over about 5 minutes (possibly requiring some form of Medicine test). This is available both as a minimissile and a grenade, but not as micromissiles, standard missiles or minigrenades. [Moderate]

Web Grenades are often used by scavengers and zone runners to keep away hostile exsurgents, TITAN bots or just fellow scavs by blocking narrow access points and delay long enough to escape. Some criminal operations (especially smugglers) also occasionally use them to delay rivals or law enforcement so they can get away. Military and security forces are also known to carry them, however, should they need to improvise security on a location with methods less permanent.

Addendum 2E: If converting to the 2E playtest, count the Web Grenade as Moderate Complexity. It still inflicts 2d10 DV, and applies Grappled status to anyone hit with it, and inflicts a d6 of DV which ignores armor if ripped out. They probably shouldn't be restricted, and also note the lack of the "Armor Piercing" trait. Any other aspects of Seekers and Grenades normally applies.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Heterotaxy Cyberbrain

"Heterotaxy" is the term for a form of genetic defect where major organs are not in the proper location in the body. While not unheard of in Flats, the defect has been extinguished in Splicers and better though technically some lines of morphs may be heterotaxic compared to standard transhuman or other "source" genes for design purposes. This idea of relocating organs for specific purposes can be applied to other things, such as implants, which led to the exotic development of the Heterotaxy Cyberbrain.

Heterotaxy Cyberbrain: In short, this implant/enhancement is applied to a morph which already has a Cyberbrain and relocates the cyberbrain to another location inside the body besides the normal one. For humanoid morphs this is typically the head, and the relocation may be to the body - but can be even so exotic as to be in a limb. The dimensions of the cyberbrain do not need to be exactly the same, but the relocated area must be able to hold a sufficiently strong computer to run the cyberbrain software. In place of the normal cyberbrain routing hardware is usually installed to make sure sensory input and command output is processed through the rest of the body correctly and prevent undue disorientation to the Ego. Sleeving into a morph with a Heterotaxy Cyberbrain is slightly unusual, and can be difficult, imposing a -10 penalty on Resleeving tests. This implant can only be applied to morphs with a Cyberbrain. [High]

The primary purpose of the Heterotaxy Cyberbrain is the obvious - a relocated brain makes it difficult to permanently disable a morph via cranial damage. While there are severe penalties due to problems with senses and coordination (i/e Wounds) for taking head trauma, a morph is unlikely to be stopped simply by suffering blows to the head - and instead suffers similar effects when struck in the area where the Cyberbrain has been relocated. It is often combined with the Possum Cache (p. 198 Transhuman) in order to better "play dead". Barring expensive implant masking, The Heterotaxy Cyberbrain is incredibly easy to detect if one knows what to look for, however. The cranial area is much less dense and will obviously lack a proper brain to scan ("empty-head" or "air-head" is a common nickname for HC users) and the increased mass and electrical activity of the relocated cyberbrain can be very obvious to many types of scanners. The users of the Heterotaxy Cyberbrain tend to be eccentric or paranoid.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Simulacra

Simulacra
Type: Terrestrial (Reducing)
Primary Star: K9V (Orange Dwarf)
Gravity: 1.22 g
Diameter: 15099 km
Atmospheric Pressure: .84 atm
Atmospheric Composition: 59% Methane, 28% Nitrogen, 12% Argon, trace others
Surface Temperature (Mean): 6 C
Day Length: 23 Hours
Orbital Period: 423 Days
Satellites: None
Gate Access: Portal Gate
Notes: Alien Microbes, Planetary Rings, TITAN Artifacts
Simulacra should be an entirely boring planet. It is a "reducing" terrestrial, with a volatile atmosphere which is poisonous to transhumans, a low temperature and an arid landscape except for some ice caps in the polar regions. The natural terrain is dry and relatively flat, occasionally differentiated by geologic activity. It does appear to have some extremophile microbes, very basic prokaryotes, but they are comparatively uninteresting in their early evolution - only a source of concern for greater preservationists. Or, it would be more accurate to say it would, if "preservation" of Simulacra was still a concern.
This is because the extremely notable feature of Simulacra which lends it its name is the fact that on it's surface around the Gate is a perfect replica of 1920-era London UK. Based on historical data available to Gatecrashers, the replica appears to scale and 100% accurate to the information that is to be had, though while some facades and elements are artificially weathered to match pictures in history, dating them has assumed that the constructs were all built within the past 10 years or so - presumably after the Fall.  Additionally, while materials appear to be generally correct, close examination shows that they were obviously built using advanced manufacturing techniques and nanofabrication tools to produce and assemble the materials. This project would have taken immense time and energy, even for TITAN capabilities (the assumed builders) and has no apparent purpose. While buildings have a roughly correct layout and floorplan, they have no distinct interior features apart from the architecture, such as furnishings or appliances. No utilities are networked in the buildings at all, and as of yet no living creature or construct has been confirmed to exist in the structures. It also appears to be incomplete; as it nears the edge of the nearly 1500 sq. km area historically associated with Greater London, buildings appear to be unfinished or unpolished. On the fringes, some of them are clearly partially assembled from the bottom-up, and the pattern in which they are made does not follow the street pattern but an exotic fractal one.
Upon being discovered several years ago, Simulacra was briefly a point of intense interest for the Gatecrashing Guild and many associate corporations and governments, but the fervor of scanning the planet has died down as investigation has mostly turned up things which are strange as opposed to interesting or useful. Experts in X-Risk analysis and archaeology frequently argue over the subject of the "replica city" and what it's purpose could be, but have yet to reach a solid consensus. After delays, news of Simulacra broke on Titanian public media several months ago and rapidly spread through the Solar System due to it's open nature - leading to an influx of many amatuer Gatecrashers interested in hunting for artifacts or capitalizing on Earth nostalgia for rep and fame. While some hope that more eyes will make efforts to "clear" the vast construct city for anything of note, the more serious academics are concerned that any valuable data may be destroyed or muddled by the influx - and have petitioned Isra to more strictly monitor those who are allowed though the gate to Simulacra. The Gate itself is located in the replica of Charing Cross - in the location where a statue of Charles I historically stood.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Swordstick

The "swordstick" or "swordcane" is an invention which has existed for long periods of human history - concealing a sword-length blade inside a cane or other stick which can appear harmless. While certain technological advances might make this seem obsolete, transhumans still have a lot of the same cognition as before the introduction of transhuman technology - biases and assumptions brought on by cultural memes and instinct can persist so carrying a "cane" which hides a weapon can be beneficial.

Swordstick: Also called a swordcane, this weapon has a thin blade concealed inside the body of an appropriately sized stick or cane, with the head of the stick serving as a handle for the sword. Some models use mechanical releases to retrieve the sword, but most use meshed systems similar to a smartlink to ensure the release is done properly. Originally made of wood, the exterior of the stick can be any material - and tends to be made of particularly dense things to try and hide the blade from sensors. It's a -30 Perception test to determine the stick is also a sword if one is not aware of it. Sheathed, the stick acts as a Club, dealing damage appropriately (and using the Clubs skill), but when unsheathed it is a Monofilament Sword (and uses the Blades) skill. [Low]

The swordcane is still quite useful to many people - retro or anachronist fashion sometimes makes use of canes and walking sticks, which the swordstick can turn into a deadly weapon in a pinch. Some people may have persistent injuries, or more bioconservative souls may not wish for the rapid healing miracle of a Healing Vat and thus have injuries last longer. And of course, in certain areas which might include rugged terrain, a hearty stick is never out of place - thus allowing one to also get away with carrying a sword. In legal terms, swordsticks usually count as a concealed weapon intrinsically - and are regulated as such.

(nb - While as of this writing skills/CC hasn't been released for the 2E playtest, based on what I've seen from the initial preview this weapon will probably be a lot more neat under 2E's more condensed skill list. So keep that in mind)

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Cancer Sticks

Cancer was once a defining challenge for humanity. "Cure for cancer" was a magical solution which would herald riches and fame to whoever produced it. The jump to transhuman technologies has largely solved this problem. While Flats may still sometimes suffer from genetic predispositions, genefix procedures eliminate most of these tendencies in morphs. Implants like Radiation Tolerance (p. 189 Rimward) greatly increase the amount of potentially toxic radiation a morph can endure, which can cause cancers and other diseases as a long-term symptom. And modern nanomedicine procedures, along with more conventional medicines can easily eliminate cancerous cells which arise from carcinogenic exposure. If all else fails, resleeving or rapid organ cloning can avoid the possibility of harm from cancer.

In many places, this has skewed transhumanity's perception of what was once a great killer. Scum and even Ultimates may consume products or enjoy activities which could lead to cancer for thrills and to prove the superior endurance of their morphs. In the Inner System, in the heart of the Planetary Consortium like Progress activities like smoking are a sign of wealth - because long term organ damage and cancer is no problem for anyone rich enough to buy a new set of lungs. In the Outer System habs, these sorts of activities tend to be frowned upon as it "wastes" community resources, but rarely to individuals who engage in entertainments or hobbies which have side effects feel excessive pressure from the community - only the habitually wasteful.

But, there are some ways to market this sort of activity. A common item seen on Extropia and in certain similar cultures is Cancer Sticks. A parody of classic marketing for cigarettes and other tobacco products, the "Cancer Stick" is literally a carcinogenic stick. They can be sucked, smoked, chewed or sometimes dissolved in drink depending on the particular brand and configuration. Even the components can depend on who makes and sells them - but usually their composition is similar to candy or other "treats" which have some attractive taste or smell to them, possibly some additional components to calm, numb pain or even stimulate (meaning they be mixed with other drugs) to give a pleasant experience while also containing various carcinogenic compounds or elements, such as arsenic, asbestos, cadmium, nickel and radon. Lung, mouth, throat and stomach cancers are the most common effects of the Sticks, but depending on the substances a variety of areas can develop symptoms. A common variant on this style is "Radium Gum", a chewing gum made with radioactive elements or isotopes or other carcinogens mixed in.

Both iterations of this idea are often reserved for the fairly well-off, because their use of certain radioactive or heavy metallic elements and compounds is a draw on limited resources - which also happen to be rarer in the Outer System. The inherent medical costs also tend to bracket the users of Sticks to higher incomes. This means that the habit is usually seen among the middle and upper class in the Main Belt and Inner System, a "conspicuous consumption" which can be genuinely habit forming (especially for those with oral fixations), though the Scum "shits and giggles" trade in Cancer Sticks across the system is high - and their components can be recycled into useful materials which often makes them an interesting - if hazardous trade good. The Jovian Republic and many other individual Bioconservative habs heavily restrict or ban Cancer Sticks also, making them an interesting black market and sometimes politically-minded good; boxes of Cancer Sticks tend to show up  at the offices and doorsteps of notorious bioconservative politicians as a sign of protest.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Updates/Second Edition

So, in case you don't know, Posthuman Studios has launched a Kickstarter for Eclipse Phase 2E, which can be found here. It's already funded, so Second Edition is a for sure, and they have several interesting stretch goals already met and planned. To my understanding, there will be an open playtest starting on the 5th - so expect to see some thoughts and impressions here, possibly even some notations about conversion of earlier entries to new mechanics of 2E. I will not be doing a post-by-post conversion, and depending on the subject future entries will probably follow both or just 1E rules - but all fluff pieces and work should still be applicable.

I've been working on an unrelated writing project for the past week or so, which has taken up a lot of my focus from writing H-Rep. That said, I still have plenty of notes and subjects - including groups, new tools or weapons, concepts and locations, so expect to see them before too long at some period, probably once the 2E playtest gets my mental ball rolling.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Breach Hammer

Breach Hammer: Similar in design to the much larger Power Sledge, this one-handed blunt weapon has a shape and density adjusting head to bring maximal impact force when swung at a target. It is designed to strike both opponents in hardened armors, and also to be valid to use against some inanimate structures, like interior walls, doors and vehicle panels. Some are balanced to be thrown, but the weight means that this is not a usual tactic, reserved for morphs with enhanced strength and reflexes. [Low]
AP -3 1d10+4+DB DV

Breach Hammers are a rare sight, usually only carried by law enforcement or special forces operators in certain conditions where they might need to break down obstacles or break up armor - but aren't using tougher implements for more rigorous breach work, perhaps because they do not wish to harm civilians or infrastructure. Due to the hardiness of synthmorphs, riot police on Luna sometimes forego regular batons and other implements for hardier breach hammers in order to be better suited to actually damaging synthmorphs. And of course, while smashing down a door or wall is not "subtle", it can be quieter than using something like liquid thermite or plastic explosives to breach a door, meaning those who wish to act with swiftness and without incredible amounts of light and noise might use them for their typical purpose to breach.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Void Reef

Void Reef
Type: V-Type Asteroid
Primary Star: M8V (Red Dwarf)
Gravity: .03 g
Diameter: 530 km
Atmospheric Pressure: N/A
Atmospheric Composition: N/A
Surface Temperature (Mean): -50 C
Day Length: N/A
Orbital Period: 368 Days
Gate Access: Discord Gate, Tempest Gate
Notes: Alien Traces, Resources Available, Exhuman Settlement
Visibly, Void Reef is a striking Gate locale. It is named because the gate is settled into a family of V-Type asteroids which exist in a relatively small population system, with a couple of uninhabitable mercurian terrestrials in the inner system, and a large out system gas giant with a few moons which has mostly swept the area clear. Thus, the local region somewhat resembles a rocky shoal or reef - exemplified by the presence of some minor nebular gases which lend a slight violet tinge to the region. Go-Nin is deeply interested in this area for many reasons - rare V-Type asteroids are loaded with resources as they are stratified, often thought to be a destroyed planetoid. Also, the Factors have expressed an interest in V-Type asteroids, and Go-Nin hopes to parlay some of their research to them for technological favors, perhaps not counting on the Factor's reluctance to deal with Pandora Gates. Additionally, there are signs on Reef-1 (the primary asteroid which is the gate location) and the closest visible asteroids that other Gate travellers may have visited and the past, doing their own surveying and sampling.  Go-Nin's eagerness got even stronger when they encountered another unusual factor - that Reef-1 appears to have a fossil record, small coral like creatures and other forms are buried in the strata of the asteroid, along with signs of decayed organics and small macrofauna exoskeletons. Was the original planet destroyed by some force after it had evolved life? It is a great mystery Go-Nin is eager to turn a profit on.
Unfortunately for them, their efforts to categorize the entire Void Reef formation have hit a major stumbling block. There is a group of Exhumans here, believed to be allied with the Rortians, who call the Void Reef their "Shattered Nest" and lurk in some of the more far-flung asteroids, and have begun preying on explorers who move through those areas. They appear to be a clade of Adaptives and Soul-Eaters, who use hive-minded technology similar to Rortian dreadnoughts to share processing among several morphs in packs - which resemble insectoid bodies and are vacuum adapted, and may utilize Long-Term Life Support. This makes them very cunning and dangerous in large packs, and they are clearly more familiar with the terrain. Intelligence suggests they are taking some of the researchers and workers hostage to peel their Egos and gain new skills and information, possibly engaging in ascendant forking. This has in turn caused a large number of Ultimate "Purifiers" to move in and begin conducting patrols and raids in the area. All while Go-Nin keeps shipping in miners, surveyors and scientists to keep research and production moving forward as their expected pace.
This has turned Void Reef into an exotic frontier locale, with Ultimate Mercenaries and Raiders striking at Exhuman settlements, Exhuman pirates and soul thieves jumping workers who stray too far, and humble workers and scientists just trying to get their job done caught in between. All while several mysteries about the Reef itself persist.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Way of the Sword

In terms of combat efficiency and effectiveness, ranged weapons (especially kinetic ones or explosives) reign supreme. But there is a certain artistry in melee weapons, and value in their used for a lot of utility and some interesting things can be done with proficiency. Of these, the sword may be one of the more interesting and versatile melee weapons - unlike many others it does not necessarily evolve from a tool for working or hunting - but is a purpose built weapon to fight humans. This lends it a certain romanticism to the sword - which can be seen in the prevalence of swordsmanship both as a skill and sport in many parts of the Solar System.

Design-wise, fundamentally styles, patterns and types of swords remain unchanged, but in order to keep up with advanced in armor technology almost all of them utilize the "monofilament" style blade and advanced composites for sharpness and durability. While fabricators can mass produce swords, there is also something to be said for having them crafted specifically by those with knowledge and talent to do so - and quite a number who make swords are also capable of wielding them. The really daring can bridge into the exotic, utilizing vibroweapons and plasma swords.

Traditional swordsmanship sports persist in quite a few places, including forms of fencing in multiple styles and other HEMA groups on Venus, and the traditional kendo remains prevalent in several locations as well. Cultures with strong history have preserved historical martial arts schools related to the blade, taught for competition, self-defense and preservation of history. New arts and sports even arise, based on new weapons tech or cultural markers. Due to advanced in medical technology "blood sports" of all kinds can be popular in the system, and dueling in many forms has returned as a hobby sport, or even a way to settle disagreements. Numerous Extropian legal houses accept an honor duel as an appropriate way to settle a legal dispute.

These do not do as much to preserve the skills and utility of the sword as the concept of the "Street Samurai" however. Dating back to the 20th century, the idea of using swords as a weapon even when more advanced systems exist is kept alive in popular culture and seen as a marketable skill. Firearms may be restricted for safety or fabrication concerns, very few cultures are extreme enough to prevent a person from openly carrying a sword (in general public anyway). Restriction on longer weapons both by custom and practicality also occasionally makes smallswords, the Japanese daisho pair, and small parrying daggers or other accompanying weapons popular.

Carrying swords is intimidating, offering an air of danger but class to a person. It shows one is armed, and probably not afraid to fight - and that they have enough confidence to use a weapon which can require extensive training as opposed to an iron or a needler. Due to the ease of manufacturing and more common ability to carry this means many freelancers, hitters, troubleshooters and covert operatives train with various blades and may carry them to use - and some gangs focus entirely on utilizing blades thematically over guns (or perhaps, because they can get access to a pile of diamond axes). Additionally, the low-tech nature of a sword may make them preferable when faced with certain high-tech risks, as seen by use of Ultimate Purifiers and Rajput - an Exhuman neurode or TITAN puppet cannot backhack a katana.

Romanticism often turns to mysticism and urban legend, however. Many tales are told about the exploits of those who dare only to use blades. People still insist the classic "Zatoichi" tale of the blind swordsman is true. Legendary blade maker known by the alias "Masamune" is said to produce blades sharp enough to cut bullets like falling leaves - and a colleague (or possibly the same person with an alternate name) known as "Raikiri" can make blades which "cut lightning". And Alexandria the "Atomic Knife" is said to make a blade so sharp the right angle and force will cut an atom. Many have heard the urban legend of Annie Walker, who took only a blazing blue plasma sword into a camp of Martian bandits and killed every last one in revenge. One of the many skills the legendary operator "Jane Excalibur" has said to have mastered though countless lifetimes of forking and resleeving is use of a traditional longsword. While denied by the public media, the anarchist operator known as Thanatos once recovered an asset from Hypercorp hands in a daring highway raid vs Les Ghoules and Oversight armed with only katana and pistol. If you go to Phelan's Recourse, you might find Lou o' Light, who can teach you to cut the top off a small mountain in a single swing. And of course there are urban legends aplenty about hitmen who only fight with swords - such as the Night Cartel's Falconer M. or or the Triad's "101 Blades".

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Cairn

Cairn
Type: Terrestrial (Venusian)
Primary Star: G1V (Yellow Dwarf)
Gravity: .93 g
Diameter: 12,507.2 km
Atmospheric Pressure: 20 atm
Atmospheric Composition: 53% Nitrogen, 19% CO2, 15% Sulfur Dioxide, 12% Methane, trace other gasses
Surface Temperature (Mean): 52 C
Day Length: 15 hours
Orbital Period: 294 Days
Satellites: None
Gate Access: Vulcanoid Gate, Ascension Gate
Notes: High Population of System Bodies, Dangerous Natural Terrain, Alien Ruins
Cairn is a burial ground. An ancient alien civilization, at least to a tech level equivalent of the early Industrial Period, died out as their planet hit a greenhouse effect similar to Venus and they were killed by a massive shift in temperature and pressure, along with all other major life on the planet, leaving only traces of their civilization. As far as anyone can tell, the locals of Cairn were a probably insectoid race who lived colonial lives, similar to ants or termites, and mixed underground and aboveground structuring. Very little physical remains of their species has been found (though some samples appear to have made it back to the rim and into the prototype designs of the Samsa morph), but Genehackers from both TerraGenesis and Pathfinder are eager for more samples. Sadly, in addition to territorial disputes between the two Gate corps, Cairn is difficult to traverse due to the extreme pressure, high temperature, poisonous atmosphere, all of which is compounded by the rough terrain of Cairn, which is filled with unstable tunnels underground, shifting sediment layers and unsettled rock formations, in addition to fierce sandstorms and other erosive forces. This makes Cairn highly unsafe to explore. Cairn is also of interest as, despite the very thick atmosphere, its system is estimated to hold as many as 11 other major planetary bodies, which would be highly interesting to study, if possible. The Cairn Gate is located atop a wide, relatively stable mesa, part of a cluster of such structures which rise high above a sandy desert formed by the collapse of many structures of the local civilization (perhaps a city built near the Gate), who are usually referred to as the “Formics”.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Homesteading

Historically, "homesteading" refers to both a legal principle of claiming "unclaimed" natural resources which forms a strong foundation in many anarcho-capitalist philosophies, and a self-sufficient lifestyle on a "homestead", a dwelling which may have isolation from those around it but retains it's origin in the original legal principle - or is enabled by a government for physical expansion. Both of these uses of the term have a strong background in space colonization and are now still relevant to certain activities by the Inner System.

Luna and Venus do not have good terrain for classical homesteading either way, and required too much structure and technical assistance to settle. Mars, on the other hand, has much more land availability - and so in the early colonization period it was not uncommon for governments and early corporations to offer "homestead" plots for cheap on scales similar to classical Homestead Acts, often with caveats about terraforming or legal taxation. These systems enabled the diaspora of certain small settlements on Mars pre-Fall, and lead to the small croppings of homesteads, smallholds, compounds, etc which can still be seen in some regions today - though due to the rough environment of Mars, nomadic life was preferred.

After the Fall, the legal issues of "de-nationalization" for many colonies, the rise of the Tharsis League and the Planetary Consortium and their cooperation via the TTO on terraforming issues threw the legality of some prior homesteading for a loop. Relocations due to the TQZ or terraforming was not uncommon, and corporations often got first choice on acquiring new land. But the influence of the Martian city states can only go so far, and the Tharsis League wished to lend structure to the outback in some way - leading to the revival of some legal homesteading acts. This was done to appease rural martians and nationalists, but also had the approval of the Planetary Consortium. For hypercapitalists, the homesteads promote a middle class of consumers who can be marketed to for luxury goods or are otherwise engaged in the system - for the Barsoomians the hope is to gain control of land seperate from the hypercorps and promote self-sufficient living. Ultimately, neither side got their exact desire out of the resulting legal framework - but should political shifts occur strongly one way or the other the League's rules could help promote influence for either side.

The basic way this functions is handled in a Homesteading contract. Similar to an indentureship, but with the focus on land instead of a morph and with different labor expectations. The homesteader buys the land from the Tharsis League (or occasionally an interested hypercorp) for a much reduced fee or in payment over a period of years, usually 5-10. In exchange, they must live on and work on the property for the duration of the contract - after which point the provisions are removed, and the land is fully legally owned by the homesteader who can do with it what they will. Typically "working the land" often has provisions to aid in terraforming operations - which can sometimes breed tension between homesteaders and Nomads. Tharsis contracts are generally fairly plain, other than the requirements to follow TTO guidelines - but also often lack support, being fully self-sufficient farms. Corporate contracts tend to involve more legal complexities and components aimed to bring profit to the corporations, such as a famous instance where Fa Jing homesteaded a large plot of land, but retained the legal right to seize back any land where the Homesteader discovered mineral deposits - basically arranging a scheme where people paid to survey land for minerals.

Homesteading is not as popular on Mars despite it's origins as it is with the Pathfinder corporation on Exoplanets. Homestead contracts are intended to bring in those "middle class" colonists who are already instanced and may not require a new morph but can still provide valuable skills and labor to colonies in non-specialist ways. While these contracts involve more varied terrain and support, many, such as in the Outer System, see them as slightly more predatory - the unspoken constraint being that all supplies must come and go through the Pandora Gates controlled by Pathfinder.

As a legal principle, homesteading is also a huge aspect in asteroid families and regions, like the Main Belt. It's one thing to claim to own an asteroid from several AU away - it is entirely another thing to actually settle on it and begin to work it. This sort of attitude drove the success of many strains of Extropian thinking in early asteroid colonization and mining. While corporations and governments would lay claim to asteroids, very rarely did the greater transhuman community uphold such claims unless the claimant could show they were willing and capable to physically access and produce from the body - cutting down on entities attempting to extort others by holding and selling legal rights to an object they would never practically exert control over. As hypercorps grew in power and influence in the time immediately before the Fall, however, several militant expulsions of "squatters" occurred, which may drive why self-defense is a strong meme in many brinker and Extropian clades.

Even now, there is a strong aspect of the homesteading principle to Belters. If you can land on a rock and live and work it, it's yours. You get first say on who else can work and live on the rock, and have a right to protect yourself from aggression against it. Due to desire to work with independant Belters and Extropians, many less militant hypercorps have taken the hint and prefer to buy out small communities who settle on asteroids they desire. Homesteading is not as popular in the Outer System excepting Extropian circles. The Jovians have no excess land to homestead, and groups such as the Commonwealth do not hold much with the principle for their socialist or communist ideals. That said, there is a similar provision for those who are reputable to live on their own in the Titanian wilderness, both in nomadic and structured form - just that the unspoken contract is that excess resources will be shared with the wider community.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Fab Food

"Fab Food" should be considered the modern evolution of the 20th century "Fast Food", which originally arose with the rise of the automobile. Now, with the development of nanofabricators (specifically those which can produce food, Makers) food-prep time is at an all time low. However, in the Inner System, many forms of nanofabrication are restricted to the public or require significant investment to obtain in one's own home. Similarly, food and the resultant blueprints are treated as a protected IP by major hypercorps. This means there is a market for maker-produced food which can be whipped up on the spot, or is pre-fabbed waiting for assembly into a final meal to hand to a customer on the go - even if most modern transhumans walk or take public transit.

A typical fab food outlet can be as small as a bulky vending machine - with racks of food and drink to order, or big enough to walk in and form a line, or sit at a table for a quick meal. Most common though are kiosks or alcoves about the size of a traditional food stall/stand. Here you will see many familiar brands and styles, though the names have often changed as a result of rebranding, public pressure or loss of original rights. Groups like Golden-M, Burger Queen, Wendi's, White Palace, Stardoes, The Colonel's, Taco Toll, Pizza Shack, Little Kaiser's, Wyld Zings and School of Subs still exist and "license" official branding and food recipes in blueprint form to franchises. Local installations to match the local culture are also common.

The food seen in Fab Food shops has a little variety, but is built on a theme - it must be quick to make from simple ingredients which can be assembled in a fab and either shaped to form in it or by a quick intervention of a bot or robot waldo, then packaged to go for the customer. The largest and highest quality shops have the proper meat flash cloning in the back, but most kiosks can only have the maker assemble relevant protein strands and apply flavoring substitute. "Burgers" and other sandwich substitutes, processed meat nuggets or strips, chipped and fried vegetable fiber, kebabs, noodles, flatbread, and various other packagings of meat and grain form the underlying menu of most places - in some combination. Much of the selection depends on local tastes. With synthetic flavoring and a rough equivalent in components, most people claim the food at least tastes like historical fast food - but some of this could just be Earth nostalgia. Even so, despite what many see as a low quality, the food is highly convenient, and modern medicine will prevent or alleviate most problems of consuming too much. Drinks are also sold in fab food places - either mixed on the go in a maker, or premade in bulk by fabricators in cans or bulbs to be sold instantly and replaced over time.

Typical setup for a Fab Food shop crews it with one or two bots (Servitors usually) or just a remote waldo setup run by one or more infomorphs - assuming the type of food being served can't be completely replicated in the Maker. These workers move food around in prep units or place them in containers or may assemble several bits of food into a singular item. Occasionally, they interact with customers - but this is not required, transactions are digital and ordering can be done via apps on the mesh or in AR. Operating these systems may be simple AI though many places are wary of AIs operating anything related to nanofabrication - meaning indentured infomorphs are increasingly common - an extremely low paying contract. In places where economics allow it or force it, these may be remotely operated by people at home who lack other job skills; the young (often students) who lack skills and experience, former indentures with no real job market, ex-criminals and others with problems integrating in normal society. A new trend in "premium" Fab Food Shops has arisen as well, where the price and quality are slightly higher, but really the user is paying for a brief interaction with a real human contractor - not an indenture, who is present physically or as a cheery AR avatar - an attempt to cash in on some anti-indenture movements.

Fab Food is all over the Inner System in tightly packed cities, and spin gravity habs. Some also occur in highly populated beehives, though their menus might be a little altered by the requirement to work in micrograv. Extropian habs sometimes work with Fab Food, but are often blacklisted by major franchises due to their more open policy on IP - and their more open stance on personally-owned fabrication. One typically sees them clustered around major areas of transit, such as in sky or spaceports and train stations, or in long rows along major thoroughfares. They mix flashy physical lighting with bombardments of AR ads - some of which will even fight with other ads. These little kiosks are intermixed with "traditional" street food, actual people frying up noodles, or in little stalls with cages filled with live poultry - or tanks of seafood, or with the kebab grilling right in front of you. These "mom and pop" operations compete with major franchises and can stay in business because of their increased "authenticity" of food and charge slightly more, though the food can't be said to be as convenient.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Heavy Torch

The modern Torch (p. 341 EP) is good as a utility weapon, for specific purposes of close quarters, terror or shock fighting and as a defense against certain hostile activities like Nanoswarms. However, it suffers from a lot of limitations which hurt its usefulness in major combat situations. Considering it's size and ammo storage, it has a very slow rate of fire. While dangerous, the fuel is not self-oxidizing and thus does not function in vacuum and does not always stick to a target to cause ongoing damage. Thus, military engineers have attempted to redesign the weapon so that it's positive qualities can be more universally applicable in combat situations.

Heavy Torch: This bulky, military flamethrower resembles a Torch, but is larger and armed with a bigger fuel storage tank. Instead of single shot pressurized capsules it features a larger tank which uses computer assistance to draw a specific amount of fuel per trigger pull. Also special about the heavy torch is the fuel blend, a much more adhesive, hot-burning and self-oxidizing mixture which produces it's own oxygen at high-heat, and thus burns until it runs out of fuel, or is doused in a retardant which prevents the reaction such as NotWater. Luckily for most, the torch fuel itself can only burn a few minutes before putting itself out - it requires an appropriate target to burn for long periods. Any character or object hit with the Heavy Torch immediately catches On Fire (p. 198 EP) and takes 1d10/2 DV per action turn, which grows normally. On an Excellent Success, this damage becomes 2d10 DV per action turn. Even though it is a spray weapon, the Heavy Torch can use the Sweeping Fire (p. 194 EP) and Concentrated Fire (p. 195 EP) rules. [High]
AP -4 3d10+5 DV SA Ammo 50
10/30/60/100

Due to it's fuel blend and large risk of collateral damage, Heavy Torches are banned in most enclosed habs as an issue of public safety - similar to some railguns or conventional firearms. Even "lawless" Outer System habs consider it in incredibly poor taste to carry one around in a beehive or cluster hab. This doesn't mean they don't see a lot of use, and milspec response teams often have at least one Heavy Torch in storage for the right situations. They are also often seen in the hands of response teams for Hypercorps, able to quickly dispose of experiments and research run amok. This also means that anonymous "boogeymen" like Firewall and Project OZMA are fond of using the Heavy Torch when they run clean up missions. Fire is a great equalizer.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Way of the Bow

(Author's Note: Bows are probably a fairly widely homebrewed resource, because they are given as an example, yet remain unstatted. This entry does not assume any particular stats for bows, it is more just a general commentary on their possible place in the universe. My personal preference for stats is picking a few from AUGC by SquireNed to utilize as appropriate)

The bow and arrow is a tool for hunting and warfare which predates history. A simple device, it's primary use in warfare was long supplanted by the development of gunpowder, but for it's simplicity and history the design and methodology has retained even after The Fall. Archery has a strong cultural connotation for many, both as a sport, an art and even in spirituality - folk heroes, legends and mythological figures can be associated with the bow, or are said to govern the art.

With the wide spread of knowledge and technology, bows remain fairly simple to make. Almost anybody with survival skills can scrounge a basic "self bow" from line and raw materials, while tools or fabbers can produce a basic recurve or composite bow. While they take a little assembly time, compound bows are also fairly easy to produce using carbon composites - and some designs take it further - shape adjusting smart material bows, or self pulling "automatic bows". Arrows have a similar revolution, from chips of glass and volcanic rock on carbon tubing to monofilament accushot smart arrows. The variance of gravity and atmospheric density, combined with overall greater physical aptitude of transhumanity can similarly make very impressive displays of archery.

Archery is preserved as a traditional sport many places, with target archery still being the most common - but Field archery is practiced on Mars, and the largest and greenest Lunar cities and Cylinder habs which have the available space. As a classical art, archery also persists. HEMA enthusiasts on Venus have recovered or engineered several historical styles, including a revival of the English longbow. Traditional archery is popular on Luna, with their high Indian population - the Sanskrit word for "archery" was eventually applied to all martial arts. Hybrid English-Indian systems and styles are popular in the Outer System. The real place to go for the competitive market in archery sports and arts is Mars, however. North African and Central Asian diaspora have preserved horseback archery, even some attempts at chariot archery. There is enough East Asian diaspora that traditional arts like Korean Gungdo and Japanese Kyudo are still taught, while Indian, European and American influences also exist. And Mars has the space and low gravity for some impressive shooting. Sadly, outside of neo-primitives and the exotically rich, bowhunting and fishing has gone almost completely extinct.

But, archery is not just a sport or an art - the bow is a weapon. While their efficiency is still outpaced by more modern weapons, they have advantages which a skilled user can make good use of. Bows are very quiet compared to firearms, seekers and even railguns which still have a supersonic report. They are much less disrupted by atmospheric effects than energy weapons (especially with the right smart arrow), and have a unique advantage that their ammunition can often be recovered after a fight. All this while retaining a decent range, accuracy and damage profile. The Rajput of the Ultimates swear by the effectiveness of a proper bow in the hands of the adequately skilled and augmented in killing "soft" biomorph exsurgents and small TITAN bots - and doing so quietly. Martian Nomads sometimes use them to pick off small Wild Artificials or neogenic creatures like Causapods. They also occasionally use them to quietly dispose of bandits and corporate busybodies who trespass.

The simplicity and construction of some bows means they can even be concealed past some security measures, so they have been occasionally used in assassination attempts, terror attacks and intrusions. Some bioconservative or even primitivist groups have used simple bows to kill as a public statement, where as quiet intrusion specialists just prefer the low sound level to lethality ratio. This also doesn't discount fantastic phantom thieves and hitmen who just like to show off. The Way of the Bow is alive and well in AF 10, in a multitude of ways.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Case UNLIMITED CLOCKWORK

<<CLASSIFIED TOP SECRET - BERZERKER VOID, IRON WIND & NECRONOMICON EYES ONLY>>

The case dubbed "UNLIMITED CLOCKWORK" by Firewall analysts is an interesting one. At first blush, this substance appears to be an actual silicon-based lifeform, a simplistic, naturally replicating microbe which resembles a few extremophile forms formerly found on Earth, or which exist in certain other Exoplanets. It was reported in small clusters through several Gate networks on [REDACTED] and [REDACTED] before it got Firewall's attention. Unfortunately, this spread kind of turned it into a jurisdictional clusterfuck in terms of major servers and operations, until some high level Crows were able to get real data on it, and sort it into it's proper classifications. This means there may have been some de-compartmentalization among Sentinels investigating, which may even have spread to non-Firewall friendlies and contacts. It's also still up in the air which other agencies and groups may know of this.

Original reports from the field indicate that at certain exoplanet sites, gatecrashers were locating strange silicate deposits which A( appeared to "grow" or change shape over time, and B( had active radiating emissions which could resemble active tech or even lifeforms - the exact emissions reported depended a lot on what gear the crashers were actually carrying. Initial reports from experts (Including Firewall ones) in the field was that apparently there was some kind of silicon-derived microform, not quite a nanoscale worker, which naturally replicated and assembled more of itself into large colonial deposits, almost like coral - but with semiconductors. "Large" in this case refers to the macrofauna scale, very few colonies of UNLIMITED CLOCKWORK were initially spotted larger than a small shrub or a large dog. Samples were taken by a few groups following normal protocol - who also noted the system seemed to heal itself over the next couple days.

Complex examination of the samples is what really got Firewall interested, and further probing. The best way to describe it is "self-replicating silicon". By current definitions of transhuman science - it isn't quite "alive", in the same way viruses often miss technical definitions of "life", but it does self-replicate, consume resources, and its semiconductor colonial growths structurally resemble many other forms of xenofungus. It doesn't interact strongly with many organic compounds, or carbon-based life, and thus also doesn't harm nanoscale "rod and pin" computing made from dimondium compounds. So, it is not a direct "grey goo" risk to transhumanity, but it can be the source of a couple of unpleasant scenarios.

The first is that, while not as potent or sophisticated as some of the exotic materials used by the TITANs or some alien relics, or being developed in secret black labs - the structures formed by UNLIMITED CLOCKWORK are an idealized computing strata. If carefully boxed or even if cut off and sterilized, it makes great computers - the source of which heals itself back in days if properly resourced. If combined with a solid source like a silicate asteroid, this could produce a significant hellfarm rig without much effort by the creators. Observations at Firewall's HOTFIRE labs have also indicated if given new resources, a colony can fairly explosively grow in a short amount of time. Luckily for us, the UC itself has no apparent sentience or "programming". and do not actively use their own structure for much "thinking". Since it is not a conventionally organic compound, it can lie dormant for quite some time before reactivating. The second risk is that it could pose an informational problem. While ideal computing in of itself, it can also "eat" extant computers based on silicon semiconductors if they're put into direct contact, effectively reformatting the machine to become part of the UC's structure. While there are alternate computing materials in use, a lot of machines are still based on silicon chipsets, and dumping a load of this into a server farm could lead to an unpleasant result. It also can work on ceramics, which might cause structural damage.

Firewall immediately began tracing UNLIMITED CLOCKWORK, securing or destroying whatever samples or instances of it we could find. Best guess is that this was some kind of colonizing method of a long-dead alien race who needed ways to build computers fast - perhaps a heavy automated or digitized society which did not reach nanofabrication first. The other, less accepted, theory is that this arose naturally on a world with a Gate, and that visitors accidentally or intentionally propagated it through several systems. Through multiple network connections, Firewall has found what may be UC's source, but the exact Gate Address is classified with "need to know", and scattered and heavily redacted reports only referring to it as "[The] Clocktower". The reports indicate it to be a bleak, terrestrial planet with a barely breathable atmosphere, with massive colonies of UNLIMITED CLOCKWORK which grow to be the size of buildings and heavily cover the surface, the only other remnants being shattered and broken metallic objects, some even resembling primitive weapons, scattered across the surface, and ominous storm clouds circling the largest UC colonies. Through friendly contacts in Gatekeeper and the Titanian Science Ministry, Firewall has managed to cover up the Clocktower's addressed - though it's always possible an alternate gate chain will lead there. Some reports of UC colonies through Mars-connected Gates were not suppressed in time, and were picked up by Pathfinder - who has since locked out those locations and put them under supervision of Oversight for possible TITAN activity, which means Project OZMA is now probably involved.

Standing field order from the Server(s) studying UNLIMITED CLOCKWORK is Destroy or Contain, Firewall has enough samples to Study. The material should be fairly easy to neutralize. Guardian swarms will treat the UC microforms as hostile nanotech, though Bio Defense Swarms do not seem to recognize it. Disassemblers and Saboteur nanobots treat it as normal computing material to work on. While Silicon has a relatively high melting point, it conducts heat very well, which seems to still disrupt the delicate structure of the UC itself without destroying the colony structure. The material is also still fairly brittle, and can be destroyed with explosives or physical force - though be careful of spreading particulates. Sterilizing radiation also appears to "harm" the underlying microform. However, acids, caustics and other chemical methods which typically harm organic compounds have minimal effect on the UNLIMITED CLOCKWORK colonies.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Venom

Venom
Type: Terrestrial (Vitriolic)
Primary Star: K1V (Orange Dwarf)
Gravity: 1.15 g
Diameter: 14,420.88 km
Atmospheric Pressure: 12.31 atm
Atmospheric Composition: 77% CO2, 22% Argon, trace other gases
Surface Temperature (Mean): 125 C
Day Length: 23 hours
Orbital Period: 268 days
Satellites: None
Gate Access: Portal Gate
Notes: Volcanism, Sulfuric Acid Oceans, Alien Life (Microbes)
"Ever wanted to visit a planet with literal oceans of acid? Now you can!" - ExploreNet article on Venom
Venom is a hellhole of a planet. Classified as a "vitriolic" type, it was once a world which was blessed with large water oceans, but underwent photodissociation where it's water divided back into oxygen and hydrogen, leading to formation of sulfuric acid with high levels of sulfur and a carbon dioxide heavy atmosphere. Venom is thus molten hot, with a very thick, poisonous atmosphere, strong gravity, and frequent volcanic activity which perpetuates the "sulfur cycle" of the world. Yet, exotic, extremophile life is believed to exist in microbial form in some "calm" pools or springs of the acid, living off chemosynthesis. Due to the fact that vitriolic worlds are very rare due to specific circumstances, there is a keen interest from nearly every major learning institution in the Solar System to study the planet, despite its incredibly harsh conditions. Venom is also of potential economic value, as it is theorized that part of its inherent volatility is due to higher than average concentrations of radioactivity in it's composition, an incredibly valuable resource if true - tempered by the fact that it would require complex mining most likely via Q-Morphs to work. There also may be valuable precious or semi-precious stone mining to be had. The Gate is located on a low clay plateau over some sulfurous springs, which have eaten away at materials to form deep pools and channels.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Air Sled

In the early 21st Century, several military forces attempted to make "transforming" or otherwise adjustable armored vehicles which could rapidly switch between ground or short hops of air travel. Some of these succeeded, and in many ways are the ancestors to the Flying Cars (p. 168-9 Sunward) which are frequently seen on Mars. Other designs, however, did not directly incorporate "transforming" functions, but more of an accessorizing or attaching function. This effectively functions a bit like an EVA or Diving Sled, but for vehicles. While not as required as it may have been on the Earth, there are enough locations, including Exoplanets with atmospheres to make this design viable.

Air Sled: This long, skeletal airframe is designed to go over the top (or rarely the bottom) of a ground-based vehicle, such as a Mars Buggy. Made with collapsing and extending frame and anchor points, it can adjust its exact size to suit multiple configurations of vehicle. This allows it to lift up the vehicle off the ground several meters to clear obstacles or rough terrain and save time, or avoid complications such as mines. Like a Flying Car it can be considered a sister technology to, they are powered by methane and utilize vectoring turbofans to generate lift and motion. Typically, the unit is open to the air, unarmored, and designed to be utilize via physical or wireless interface with the attached vehicle - but some models have command and control chairs built onto the sled so a dedicated pilot can move vehicles from the Sled itself. Some also feature handholds so other passengers may grip them. The sled grips it's payload vehicle with powerful electromagnets and grip pad technology, making it almost impossible to dislodge. However, as it is balanced to carry heavy loads, the Air Sled tends to be unstable when flying just on its own, especially at higher altitudes. [High]

AIR SLED
Passengers 1*  Handling +10  Movement Rate -- Max Velocity 150 AV 10/10 DUR 100 WT 20

Air Sleds are not necessarily common around the Solar System after the Fall, but do see some use, and several of the milspec blueprints have leaked onto the Mesh. Commonly they are used by rural Redneck Martians who need to move around buggies and other vehicles over rough hills, poorly-maintained roads and even canyons and wadis. Local security and police forces sometimes use them for this purpose as well, but the Martian Rangers are much more likely to deploy a Flying Car or Security VTOL in their operations. Smugglers and militant Barsoomians may also utilize them to hide vehicles in locations which are otherwise inaccessible by ground. Gatecrashers occasionally use them to move around their ground vehicles or even large bots over difficult terrain, and similarly this may be used on Titan to move a single vehicle if the load does not require a full Cargo Copter.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Companion AI

Muses are a fairly standard issue AI template, a system which serves as a personal assistant, pocket therapist and life organizer. Due to their vast customization and heuristic parameters, most people are friendly or comfortable with their Muses as is natural for what may be a vital function in daily transhuman life. Though still Limited, Muses are fairly expressive and have great ability to adjust to the needs of the user - however while they have some personable and psychological functions a Muse is an AI which has grown out of various smart assistant software, it is not designed primarily to offer comfort and companionship to transhumans. Depending on your culture, friendly or intimate relations with a Muse AI may be seen as unusual or even taboo. But, before the Fall greatly made people rethink AI, transhumans had attempted to automate or mass produce many functions.

Companion AI: Similar to a Muse, the Companion AI is a limited AI built for human interaction. Unlike the Muse, Companion AIs are not designed for work assistance or personal coordination, nor are they typically intended to move with a person wherever they go in an Ecto or Mesh Insert. Their primary design is socialization and human companionship. While they are often used for romantic or sexual relationships, this is not required, as they also can be used to help socialize those who are introverted or antisocial, offer companionship to the young or elderly who may not have many associates, and some are even used to help AGI build normal socialization. The Companion AI has modular templates similar to Muses - though they tend to be less heuristic and more pre-configured. This includes personality aspects, physical presentation and general aspects of the relationship and interactions. Like Muses, Companion AIs are loyal to their prescribed owners and users and put their best interests at heart (which is why they usually include basic first aid training) and will act to protect and even defend users - and some modify their Companions to serve as bodyguards. SAV 20. Skills: Academics: Psychology 60, Interest: User's Interests 80, Interfacing 30, Kinesics 40, Medicine: Paramedic 40, Perception 20, Persuasion 30, Profession: Companion 60, Protocol 40, Research 20. [Moderate]

While AI paranoia grips the Solar System, Companion AIs are still not unheard of in many corners. Their basic medical training makes them ideal for use as nurses of several varieties in the Ayah Pod (p. 9 MRG). Companion AIs can make great "NPCs" in VR games, operating in roles assigned to them by game admins and server operators dutifully, and you can also find them sometimes assigned to a role akin to a "governess" or chaperone for youthful members of elite classes, though often these groups will upgrade to a full AGI. Companion AI are naturally perfect fits to run Pleasure Pods, but due to their intense personalization and focus on singular user, they work much better in personal "dolls" or companions rather than on the open market. Too many frequent users or factory resets can result in data corruption and unpleasant or even dangerous errors. Companion AIs may replace or act as a stepping stone to Muses for those who are recently re-Instantiated to help them get back into the swing of life without getting too invasive, and in the Outer System some autonomist groups utilize Companion AIs as "social workers" to help community members better integrate with their communal societies.

Companion AIs occupy an interesting space in AI rights. Very few of them tend to be uplifted or emerge, and when they do they tend to still wish to remain with their original transhuman companion(s) - unless they are radically modified. While some mercurials dislike the nature of relationships Companion AIs have, which might be subservient or abusive, in general the conclusion is that without transhumans to interact with, Companion AIs would have no purpose or primary activity, and thus have little reason for radial separation unlike more technical or mechanical AIs.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Corporations #3

ANDROMEDA MERCHANTS
Major Industries: Food, Makers
AM is a fairly standard Hypercorp mostly based out of Luna and Mars. Their original industry was in supplying meals and food service to prisons and penal indenture in areas in the orbital sphere of the Earth (including the Moon), but as criminal justice mostly phased away from physical prisons, they needed to do some restructuring. After rebranding, Andromeda took their established industry and marketed it more toward both public and corporate spheres. They sell multiple levels of makers, from small personal food prep stations to big industrial scale ones for corporate stations or indenture housing. They also offer pre-prepared meal plans for those who are not able, or do not wish to own a nanotech device in their own homes. There are strong and persistent rumors that Andromeda regularly donates funds to the Ultimates. Their logo is "AM" emblazoned over a galaxy.

APEX PERIPHERALS
Major Industries: Computer Peripherals
Apex is a relatively standard hypercorp based on Progress who develop and sell computer peripherals and accessories. This includes fiberoptic and other connection cables, external holographic projectors, speakers and displays, ecto accessories, simulspace headsets and more. Like many corps, they iterate their designs frequently to encourage consumers to buy again and help prevent piracy - which is rampant for their designs in the Outer System. Despite relative popularity and quality, they are a corp with middling value and success, usually because they sell relatively cheap products and do so frequently. Their logo is a barely stylized "APEX" or "AX-P" on their products.

FU-GREEN SYSTEMS
Major Industries: Batteries, Energy, Weapons
Ostensibly, FGS primary industry is in batteries - both conventional and nuclear - and various charging and connection accessories for their batteries. However, their battery designs almost exclusively are integrated into powered weapons, such as beam weapons and railguns. Not only is Fu-Green compatible with most leading brands of these weapons, they also produce their own blueprints for many common weapons or aftermarket "upgrade" kits for certain high-power components, such as magnetic rails. Early intelligence indicates that several of the controlling members of this corp may be Asyncs and funneling their profits into efforts to conceal or even train Asyncs in hiding. Their logo is an indigo star.

GOTO-COLLINS PRODUCTIONS
Major Industries: Genetics, Robotics, Entertainment
"Bringing you a Magical Life" 
Goto-Collins is a company which has grown steadily over the past couple decades and absorbed or integrated several other corps. Originally, as just "Goto Production", they were a "prop-maker" or production company which specialized in custom bioscuplting and robotics or animatronics for props in vids, vidgames and physical locations. Since then, their business has expanded, not only do they do production work, but they also offer custom bodysculpting and cosmetic mods for morphs (both for entertainment or personal use), detailing and customization on bots and smart animals and even custom, to-spec builds of drones or vehicles. Their logo is a lavender mermaid.

HELIOS AEROSPACE, INC.
Major Industries: Spacecraft, Synthmorphs, Bots
Helios is an unaffiliated Hypercorp based in the Vulcanoids and coordinated by a board with owners from several groups who specializes in "Solar"-rated technology. They produce external and integrated shielding and protection systems for spacecraft, bots or external platforms and synthmorphs (such as the Sundiver) to operate in the orbits close to the Sun. This gives them access to a wide variety of technologies and even clients - and they are known for strict political neutrality to provide products to many groups. Some of their tech is even being utilized in Exoplanet systems via the Vulcanoid gate. Their logo is a shield over a sun.

JONES GAMBLING
Major Industries: Virtual/Electronic Gambling
This hypercorp is based on Venus, and specializes in electronic or virtual gambling. They primarily run mesh addresses mirrored across aerostats to handle gambling in traditional games, sports betting and fantasy sports and other methods virtually - all done with simple interfaces. For those with nostalgia, Jones also produces high quality electronic machines which one can place in a place of business, such as slots, pachinko and virtual poker. Due to virtual integration, transfer of money is done fairly quickly and without much fuss - with harsh penalties for those who go into debt officiated by Extropian legal contractors. Many have attempted to draw connections between Jones and several major crime syndicates, but there appear to be none. Their logo is a tan card with "jones" printed on the back.

NEBULA SYNDICATE
Major Industries: Data Mining and Analysis
Nebula is a independent contracting corp who handles data gathering and analysis. Unlike Stellar Intelligence, they are do not perform what might be considered "espionage" work or any advanced forms, but will collect and analyze public data. Their best functions are in traffic analysis (either data or physical movement) to aid governing bodies or corporations, but they can also track memetics, engagement or interaction and general trending and make projections accordingly. Due to their relatively innocuous nature, it is highly suspected that Nebula is either a front for some other organization (Such as Oversight, Sybils, ID Crew, Firewall, etc) or has higher levels who work for one or more groups such as that. Their logo is a purple octagon.

NUCLEAR FRONTIER INVESTMENTS
Major Industries: Investment Banking
NFI is a banking and investment group, split between majority holding in Luna and Extropia. They handle primary physical banking and resource investment and speculations - their name coming from their original business speculating and trading in investments in radioactive isotopes and fissile materials. They have since moved on to handle transactions involving other heavy and rare metals, volatiles, fusibles, antimatter or even low-value trading and banking in common substances such as carbon and silicates. NFI's physical branches also will hold physical materials in secured, shielded containers for clients, meaning that they've been targeted by erstwhile "bank robbers" before, none of whom have had much success. Their logo is an atom inside a box, which represents a bank vault.

NYMPHOODS
Major Industries: Agriculture, Food
Nymphoods is an extropian-based hypercorp who work in foodstuffs and in "agriculture". Unlike some other groups, their work is based heavily in nano-ecology. They not only sell food produced in nanotech enhanced environments, but also home kits to grow food aided by nanotechnology (such as gardener swarms). This advanced tech tends to make their products expensive, but high quality. Nymphoods also owns and operates a restaurant in The Noodle on Extropia which displays the excellence of their food, and is also known for its interesting scene with attractive service staff and modular environment and atmosphere via smart materials. Their logo is the stylized "Nymphoods".

WAYCORP-MICROBREAK FOUNDATION
Major Industries: Environmental Shielding, Stasis Tech
WM Foundation is a bit of a low key, but steadily working hypercorp. They produce a variety of environmental protection and shields for habitats, such as micrometeorite protection, atmospheric seals, various temperature insulation, etc. This includes both external shielding, and protection for various internal facilities, such as for medical facilities or special storage. They also have recently branched into medical stasis tech, such as for morph storage or long term medical care - or even cryogenic preservation. Apparently the company has developed a focus on building habitats and structures to withstand any disaster. Rumors have recently begun circulating, however, that one of their major researchers is actually an infamous con artist. Their logo is a set of connected hexes with W-M overlaid.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Phobos/Wauxhall

Phobos
(From p. 126-27 Sunward)
"Phobos orbits Mars about every 7 hours and would
have destroyed the space elevator within a week of
it going up if they hadn’t done something about this
sucker’s chaotic orbit. Now Phobos orbits the straight
and narrow and is crawling with Cognite employees.
Cognite has a controlling interest in Phobos, sharing it
with with several other corps, including Direct Action,
ComEx, and Eng/Dilworth, an IT firm specializing in
automation and security for orbital stations.
Phobos is where the project that created the
Lost generation got its start; the first crèche servers
were located here. Cognite’s Wauxhall Institute was
involved in the Lost project and is also rumored to be
taking part in experiments with the Watts-MacLeod
strain of the exsurgent virus."

Phobos is similar in composition to a D-type asteroid, with numbers of silicates, carbon and oxides with organic chemicals, and sub-surface deposits of water ice. Phobos also has a very low density, as it is a “rubble pile”, not a singular body of rock but many smaller ones held together by gravity, though colonization efforts have taken great pains to stabilize the asteroid.

Cognite’s primary outpost here is Wauxhall, home of the touted “Wauxhall Institute”, a dome settlement built into the massive Stickney crater on the surface of Phobos. The dome features many arcology structures which span the entire height of the space, with gaps between individual structures for air vehicles, trams and walkways. Wauxhall features a high degree of open space for a microgravity habitat. Rumors say that Cognite originally planned to utilize utility fog in the hab to simulate gravity, but after the Fall such technologies are highly restricted. Wauxhall is host to Cognite’s major central “offices”, and most of their more public industries - such as nootropic and cognitive enhancement research, while their more secretive projects are hidden away either in deep interior labs or on other outposts. All in all, several thousand Cognite employees and contractors and their dependants live in Wauxhall or it’s connected interior structures. Also, due to the volume of complaints and controversy directed at Cognite - as well as their own aloof and concealed nature, Wauxhall is host to a branch office of Oversight, staffed round the clock by tactical response teams of auditors and security contractors who keep an eye on Cognite, along with a small team of PR officials who work to prevent frivolous slander against a major player in the Hypercorp Council.

Wauxhall is an interesting habitat. It’s interior structures are designed with a very “Neo-Victorian” aesthetic, combining classical European neo-gothic or neoclassical architecture with Middle Eastern or Asian influences. Structures are artistically reinforced with visible cast iron or steel, various spires and columns are visible as accents, and many facades are covered in a reddish “brick” made from materials from Phobos. Ornamentation is everywhere, with tightly packed designs which verge on cluttered. Elitism is a large part of the corporate culture within Cognite, and verticality plays a large roll in Wauxhall. The higher “up” you live or work, the more important you are in the company. The core employees of Cognite (execs and scientists) also are very showy about their intelligence and creativity, littering their casual conversation with technical and philosophical jargon to appear more intelligent, and public displays of art are highly common and encouraged by the company. Contractors and support staff are less caught up in this particular aspect. Almost everyone in Wauxhall, however, projects as air of austerity and gravitas. People are aloof, polite and avoid open displays of emotion or even most body language. In Wauxhall, you never know if you’re being studied or analyzed, which creates a sense of social propriety (and paranoia). Social or mental problems are also kept under wraps, as it could end up with a quick trip to psychosurgery under orders of the company - something many employees are paranoid about. Emotional dampers are highly common.

Wauxhall is broken up into several broad districts and neighborhoods, typically by function and facilities, though some of these areas may be striated along the vertical axis.

  • Undertown is the colloquial name given to the lowest levels of Wauxhall and the warren of tunnels dug into Phobos beneath it. This area houses most of the distributed infrastructure of Wauxhall such as water reclamation, power distribution and other vital components. Many sectors of undertown are poorly sealed or even open to vacuum. This area is home to the synthmorph indentures who serve as vacworkers and support staff to Cognite. Contracts with Cognite are a double-edged sword: they almost always feature mandatory (albeit “temporary”) behavioral modification with open clauses for further psychosurgery, and the Muses the company provides are loaded with behavioral spyware like a Monitor AI - but on the other hand Cognite offers great mental health coverage and access to recreational simulspace. They also respect company loyalty, the most talented and loyal indentures can end up hired into better contractor positions within Wauxhall itself. 
  • Londinium, Germania and Gallia are the three primary arcology towers, arranged in a rough triangle around the crater, reaching from the floor all the way to the surface of the dome. The outside of these circular structures is adorned with various accents in the style of the rest of the hab. Apartments ring the outside of the building, with the center being a mostly open area layered with transportation methods and zero-g gardens and art installations. Occasionally floors of housing space are replaced with rows of shopping arcades containing basic necessities and supplies sold through Cognite after strict screening, or other recreational facilities. The quality of the housing sharply increases based on the height in the buildings, with the lowest floors little more than single-occupant capsules, and the upper layers having single apartments which constitute one apartment for a senior executive or researcher and their family and personal staff. The very top levels aren’t housing, but rather extravagant dining destinations which extend above the layer of the dome to give a breathtaking view - many high-powered Cognite meetings take place in these locales. 
  • Metaversal Studios started as a nickname, but became a semi-official title for Cognite’s VR division after a partnership with Experia. This tower focuses on the design and programming of various cutting-edge recreational and educational simulspaces, which push the limits of modern hardware for more realistic experiences. Simulspaces are coded, tested and fixed here, before being mirrored to Experia media servers for mass consumption. Cognite employs small legions of infomorph indentures as beta testers and QA contractors. Due to the highly advanced nature of the simulspaces being constructed here, Cognite also experiments in high end computer hardware. The lower levels of Metaversal are dedicated to less “advanced” jobs in “edutainment” vids and vidgames, or development of skillsofts. This zone has a volume of Experia contractors and representatives, who often bring their own flair to the compound.
  • The Candy Factory is another colloquialism. Officially, it is Cognite’s “Pharmaceutical Research and Design Division”. This section of the company is responsible for one of Cognite’s biggest sellers, nootropics. Built of several structures, this area of the hab is a study in contrast. The pharmacists, chemical engineers and research doctors developing or testing new drugs work in sterile, white-walled labs, while the upper layers are staffed by many of Cognite’s overworked marketing and public relations employees, trying to develop new tactics and plans to sell the drugs once their blueprints are encoded to be distributed. Experimental AR graphics and displays run wild on the upper floors, and it is a common joke among the scientists that the guys “upstairs” consume most of their products in order to stay on top of their game. 
  • Teatown is the name for Cognite’s “Cognitive Enhancement and Morphological Development” department, with the name coming about after the Fall and the rise of the “Black Kettle” morph growing operations on Mars. Here, Cognite develops and updated a number of cognitive implants and genelines, including their original variant of the popular Menton morph. Cognite is also feverishly trying to reverse-engineer the Hyperbright morph after Acumenic “embarassed” them with the Bright habitat. It is also known that Cognite also produces a modernized version of the Futura morph used by the original Lost project here, for “internal uses”. 
  • The Think Tank is one of the most centralized and secured structures on Phobos. The building has a dark, bleak exterior at odds with much of the other architecture on the station. It is insulated from many external mesh sources, and has a large airgap. This is because this is where Cognite does it’s “public” AI research, developing the latest templates for Muses and other specialized AIs, while they leave their more advanced (and secretive) research to other stations. Think Tank additionally works on forking work-groups and hives, especially the “autocratic” style which is currently popular with Cognite’s executives. The Think Tank has also been experimenting heavily with cyberbrain emulation states, and Infomorph/Eidolon designs - including Cognite’s special “edits” for Infomorphs to encourage productivity in indentures. 
  • The Morgue has no official name. It is Cognite’s cold storage center. After the Fall, Cognite was one of several corporations who began to buy up the massive stockpiles of Egos in dead storage, and begin processing them for indenture contracts. In addition to the massive racks of cold storage servers, there are also a number of Simulspace servers to process prospective indenture candidates. Most people find Cognite’s particular practices of indentureship particularly unpleasant, so this structure is heavily secured and secretive, with security personnel watching the location around the clock. Cognite doesn’t just store infugees here, they have several contracts to hold criminal Egos in some very secure servers at the heart of the Morgue. Due to secrecy, rumors abound about the Morgue, even among employees; possible ego trafficking with the ID Crew or Nine Lives, imprisonment of captured Egos of Lost Project subjects, or even that the Morgue contains a boxed pre-TITAN Seed AI.
  • St. Dymphna Mental Health Research Center is a pyramidal building built as a kind of miniaturized arcology. Here Cognite performs much of it’s psychosurgical and psychotherapy research. They also develop therapeutic simulspaces to help patients. Most of the work here is oriented on research, and so Cognite takes on a limited number of “patients” but is known to occasionally work on high-profile mental health cases for the publicity. In the lower levels of St. Dymphna are the Infolife and Uplift wings, which experiment on cognitive development, modelling and treatment for non-human cognition, with tales of unethical experiments often thrown around in Mercurial circles. Cognite also is known to dabble in psychosurgical loyalty modifications and interrogative simulspace and psychosurgery techniques for the Planetary Consortium here. 
  • Youth Cognitive Excellence Center (YCXC) is a private educational institution run by Cognite. Here Cognite specializes in the teaching of young people to best stimulate their development and maximize aptitude potential through a variety of experimental educational techniques. The YCXC was popular among Hyperelites and upper class Martians in the immediate aftermath of the Fall, but business waned after the Lost Generation fiasco. Now a majority of the student body are children of Cognite employees or contractors, who get a large discount on enrollment. Some of the students are also Cognite “projects” also. The YCXC was responsible for the rough educational planning of the Lost and some of their creche server environments, but had little to do with the execution.
  • Phobos Circus is the name of the circular district which rings the perimeter of the dome, and is home to what passes for the larger scale entertainment and recreation in Wauxhall. The Phobos Circus is also host to “embassy” or branch offices of affiliated hypercorps and Cognite subsidiaries. Here, there are a number of restaurants, cafes and teahouses, and large scale physical entertainment or exercise - such as zero-g soccer and racquetball. Independant shops sell goods imported from other locations, typically Mars, though at significant markup due to Cognite fees. There are several art galleries and museums here, all sponsored by Cognite, and it also contains the Wauxhall Theater, with a Cognite sponsored troupe who perform microgravity versions of many classic plays - though it is also host to other experiments in performance art, especially performances made possible through the kinds of technologies Cognite works with. 
  • Wauxhall Institute is the center of Wauxhall, located in the smaller Limtoc Crater inside Stickney. Here, Cognite’s scientists conduct their most advanced and bleeding edge research, though almost the entirety of these projects are strictly theoretical. Actual practical research is done on other Cognite stations. This is also where Cognite’s executives, including their board of directors, meet - either remotely or in person. The Wauxhall Institute is linked to all other Cognite “offices” around the system. Also contained in this region is Wauxhall House, which is the administration center for the station, and contains many primary infrastructure functions, such as Ego Casting and Resleeving, and is where the Oversight branch office is based.
  • The Dimondium Palace is the nickname for the orbital tether cluster held in orbit directly above Wauxhall as a spaceport and redundant communications hub. The nickname comes from the variety of windows and viewports to observe both Mars and Phobos as well as the space traffic. Dimondium also has a couple of rotating clusters and rings for certain kinds of work which must be done in “simulated” gravity. Shuttles to Mars and other stations on Phobos are most common here, but there are also regular movements to other major martian orbital habs. 

Monday, March 27, 2017

Solar Panels

Sunward, and in some exoplanets, solar power is a fairly reliable method to generate electricity. While not always potent, the sun shines bright enough to generate power on Mars, the Lunar surface and other locations scattered around the inner system region. Solar power can also be artificially stimulated for chargers and other devices, though obviously, simple witricity charging or self-charging batteries are often better. The portability of this is found in the Solar Recharger (p. 155 Gatecrashing) a backpack unit with an extendible photonic film/smart material panel which can generate power at a similar rate to nuclear batteries - though with slightly less rare materials and no effective limit on lifespan. While a backpack unit is useful for many things, like other tech there is no reason such devices cannot be installed in certain morphs.

Solar Panels: Based on the Solar Recharger, this simple augmentation embeds collapsible solar panels into the synthmorph, which can be extended as a Quick Action to begin drawing power. The augmentation uses a pair of slightly shorter (about 1 meter) panels instead of a single longer panel, having an appearance a bit like wings when unfurled. These panels generate power in sunlight similar to the recharger or a nuclear battery and can top off internal batteries or small devices connected via PAN in short amounts of time - or allow a morph with an implant such as Eelware to charge larger devices they are connected too. [Trivial]

Solar Panels are common in Martian synthmorphs who wish to live "off the grid" but don't want to carry an external charging device with them, or in a couple of space-based Synthmorphs (such as the Courier) as an add-on for those who might be catching enough light to charge internal power. Gatecrashing synths have also started investing in them, as a way to reliably generate battery power in terrestrial environments, with the low cost usually being worth it even if they end up in a locale not with solar power.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Neo-Raptor

Neo-Raptor (Biomorph)
A product of the "Lost World" Center in Burroughs Crater, this is a transgenic morph creation built from a combination of extant DNA samples, structural analysis of fossil record, neogenetic modeling of Dromaeosauridae and Neo-Avian uplift strains. The result is a small, avian-form morph which visibly and functionally resembles "raptor" dinosaur species. While the morph cannot fly and instead must glide short distances with feathers and membrane it has several advantages over the normal Neo-Avian, such as powerful legs and a counterbalancing tail for sprinting, greater sense of vision and smell over uplifted species, sharp claws on the hands and feet - the latter of which are designed to be highly flexible and prehensile. Because they were designed on Mars, the morph also comes "Rusterized" and able to survive many Martian conditions with lower oxygen values and temperatures. For purposes of logistics, most Neo-Raptors are based on smaller species and stand about 1 meter in height, but larger variants exist. This is a fully marketed product, and several Hypercorps have taken to employing them with Neo-Avian uplifts as patrol and security forces due to their inherent agility and intimidating appearance. It should be noted, this is not a proper uplift species. Not enough DNA exists to recreate a raptor species and uplift in situ - the Neo-Raptor is more akin to a specialized and adapted Neo-Avian morph and they do not exist as a species on their own.
Implants: Basic Biomods, Basic Mesh Inserts, Bioweave Armor (Light), Claws, Cortical Stack, Enhanced Smell, Enhanced Respiration, Enhanced Vision, Gliding Membrane, Prehensile Feet, Temperature Tolerance
Movement Rate: 4/20 (Walker)
Aptitude Maximum: 30 (20 SOM)
Durability: 30
Wound Threshold: 6
Advantages: +5 SOM, +5 INT, +10 REF, +10 Flight, +10 Freerunning, +10 Intimidation
Notes: Small Size, Nonmammalian Biochemistry
CP Cost: 30
Credit Cost: Expensive (30,000)

(This is an idea I've had since the first glimmers of Burroughs Crater - a way to add a bit of unique flavor for them into the game itself beyond the area of the crater. I know others have made dinosaurid morphs in the past, but this clicked really well for my own variation to work with Lost World. The result is a pretty pesky little bugger, with a lot of skill enhancements to counterbalance the limited SOM, relatively low DUR and limited implant selection, including the loss of the Wings. With this aptitude and implant spread, they make decent morphs for combat and scouting, with a lot of mobility. Range isn't their thing, but you could outfit them with Chameleon Skin and let loose if you liked - a raptor with a gun is probably a pretty fun image. I'm explicitly noting this is not a "Raptor Uplift" - that's a really complex process which would require reviving actual dromaeosaurs and carefully adjusting their genetics to make them transhuman level cognitives, and there's just not enough of the underlying DNA to work with. Even if someone was "born" into a Neo-Raptor morph, they'd just be a Neo-Avian pattern uplift with a specialized morph. Use enlarged size if you want to model a larger "sub-species" of Neo-Raptor.)


Friday, March 24, 2017

Burroughs Crater

TerraGenesis is not the only corporate entity working on reviving and studying extinct animals. Tucked away in Burroughs Crater in the southern highlands of Mars is a corporate facility where no expense is spared to attempt to recreate that which is extinct and market it to the people. Affectionately called the "Lost World" by visitors and marketing, the official name of this facility is "Burroughs Crater Wildlife Conservation and Revivification Center", a lab and research park covering large sections of the 100+ km area of the crater.

Pioneered by Edgar Kingsley, a venture capitalist who was a student of genetics in his early life, the "Lost World" center is part research project, and part an ongoing attempt by the Consortium elite to keep up with the actions of TerraGenesis. Sky Ark is a bountiful planet with a wide area where TerraGenesis' scientists are able to recreate all kinds of wildlife and their natural environments - Burroughs is a bit more limited in scope but still has some promise. Kingsley was interested in such developments on Earth to resurrect extinct large animals, but space and resource limitations prevented such ventures from getting beyond early research and planning phases. A healthy grant by the Hypercorp Council has allowed the Lost World center to flourish on Mars.

Primary habitation for workers and staff are in several arcology towers clustered in one edge of the crater, with access to a skyport and the local rail line. Guests have similar accommodations in a "hotel" arcology which is connected to but not actually with the other areas. The crater itself is mostly covered over in special materials which can absorb solar power and govern light levels and act as a "soft" seal for temperature and air pressure, with individual compounds, labs and sectors being isolated and environmentally controlled as needed. Navigation inside the facility is handled via buggies, a small tram system, or personal air transport. While the center does have multiple environments, terraforming is not its primary purpose - genetics research is. Tourism is only a secondary result to raise funding, and keep awareness of the project - to deter people from taking expensive vacations to Sky Ark.

The Center is run by a board of directors, which Kingsley chairs, and several high-ranking members of the center staff also sit on, with the rest being filled by investors, business associates and several other interested corporate heads. Due to the funding and land offered by the Council, Burroughs Crater falls firmly under the jurisdiction of the Planetary Consortium - though they also interact with the Tharsis government. While clearly a rival to TerraGenesis, the Center also openly works with them to collaborate on certain revival projects and share materials within the constraints of the Consortium's IP laws - ostensibly for the sake of preserving and reviving animals lost in the Fall. Kingsley himself is said to be deeply interested in this (though otherwise Reclamation holds no interest to him) but most of his corporate backers are only interested in keeping up with Sky Ark.

Burroughs Crater and its facility have several branches and departments working on various projects. Some focus on revivals based on extant DNA samples, other on mimicking long extinct animals using transgenic or neogenetic constructs. Other groups focus on tracking, behavioral mapping and even behavioral controls of the products. The veterinary unit is quite advanced, focused on the physical health and wellness of products which are created and often doing hands-on research in the "field" as new products are developed. The Center has corporate offices of course, who handle marketing to upper middle class tourists in the Hellas region, and the uber-rich out of places like Elysium to come see the products. Some creations of the Center are even marketed to corps as usable smart animals. Due to the sophisticated and technical nature of the park, very few indentures are employed, and they mostly in digital or customer-facing tasks. Repair work is done by AIs in bot units which are "unappealing" to any wandering products. Kingsley and his corporate backers do not prefer indenture when hiring primary staff such as scientists, but instead contracts with long NDA agreements and harsh penalties to breaking them to encourage workers to remain with the company while still maintaining the idea they have conventional freedom.

While not as extensive as Sky Ark, the Lost World center has made some strides in animal research and resurrection. They have managed to produce before TerraGenesis a number of animal lines, including Terror Birds, Anaconda, Glyptodonts, Argentavis, Giant Otters and Hyaenodons. They have also compiled several structures of various "raptors" (Dromaeosauridae) to create a morph which resembles them and several Neo-Avian strains - a "Neo-Raptor". Researchers at the Center have also collaborated on or developed in parallel several species now found on Sky Ark, with a focus on the long extinct ones. Unconfirmed rumors persist that in an attempt to one-up TerraGenesis' scientists, the Lost World has begun developing a Giganotosaurus subject to rival Tyrannosaurus forms.

Despite their scientific successes, not everything is ideal at Burroughs Crater - with the limited size the center can never truly rival Sky Ark and there has been some talk of finding an appropriate plot of land on an Exoplanet to move the work to, which would unfortunately require the destruction of many subjects too large to safely transport and would cost a great deal of money. Burroughs Crater is also in the middle of what is seen as Barsoomian territory. Nomads used to frequent the region and some groups still persist, and the Hellas region is a hotbed of Barsoomian terraforming politics. While the center keeps a response team to deal with all kinds of threats, the possibility of sabotage or terrorism still exists. This is compounded by the relative isolation of the center. The southern uplands are too uneven to support a wealth of high-quality roads, and rail lines are expensive to run in that area. If they were to be blocked or destroyed, the only way to leave the facility is by air - and the Center itself only keeps a small number of utility helos, aircars and a small jet to transport staff and sometimes visitors.