Thursday, February 2, 2017

Black Eden

Tucked into the Littleton crater in the south reaches the Utopia Planitia on Mars is a curious collection of hab domes and outbuildings which has come to be called "Black Eden". Officially named "Littleton Nanoecological Center", this settlement west of Elysium at AMT +8 is an interesting focus for a community which blends nano-ecology with primitivism. The settlement was founded by Andrew Lau, a name in several nanotech startups who after the Fall seemed to have a bit of a break, and decided to work on nonprofit applications of his technology for a simple lifestyle. Rumors abound his friends and business partners helped him set up the venture as a way to let him relax and also keep him in a single, easy to access location if needed.

Black Eden is described as "nanoprimitivist" - the settlement (for it is hardly organized enough to be called a town or village) allows it's several thousand transhuman residents to live relatively simple lives of comfort. Environmental conditions mimic a pleasant lightly wooded forest or plain and keep everything at a completely tolerable level, so there is no need for shelter or clothing. Gardening nanotech keeps the soil healthy and tends to plants so they can rapidly yet sustainably grow food all year round - a human simply walks up to a plant and eats it. Water is drawn and purified from the massive subsurface ice stores under the Planitia. Should a human require a tool or other object to do a task for for their own entertainment, fabricators or simple-tool Protean swarms can assemble it for them, and break it down when they are done, or they can craft it for themselves from the surrounding materials (as some prefer to do). Injuries are healed by medichines or readily accessed nanobandages - and healing vats are held in infrastructure sections. Several smart animal breeds (primarily Wolves, Raccoons and Hawks) live as companions, helpers and guardians, and several breeds of animals (such as a couple of species of deer) are cloned in small herds to sustainably hunt as prey animals for those who wish to obtain their nutrients normally rather than through artificial supplements.

Politically Black Eden is technically a member of the Tharsis League. They are a settlement which can elect a representative to the League Council and nominally operate in line with Martian laws and regulations - however this is mostly a tactic to prevent the settlement from being steamrolled by Martian or Hypercorp interference, as Littleton is held and operated by Lau privately, which means not a lot of direct influence can be done. Culturally, the internals of Black Eden are basically autonomist. The population are by and large pacifist, community-minded people who operate either on an individual basis, or by consensus. Because the dome theoretically provides all basic needs in excess, basic resource scarcity is pretty low - so most people share or immediately use anything they gather and do not need to hoard them. Learning, love and space are all generally pretty "free" in the center as well - though they do allow for some sentimentality of personal items. Lau's philosophy is that humans should be in harmony with nature and nature should be in harmony with us. So long as cruelty or harm is not done to nature, resources taken from it will be put back and rebalanced.

The population of Black Eden is mostly nano-ecologists like Lau, living "the dream" of a contained nanite controlled environment, but has several other smaller groups. A number of autonomist leaning Barsoomians or other anti-corporate groups have moved in to live a simple lifestyle away from corporate interference. Due to proximity with Elysium another big internal faction are bored and stressed out socialites - they come to Black Eden as almost a kind of rehab after serious stress issues with their connected media life, most leave after a few months, but several like the style and stay. There is also a non-zero number of Hominid and Neanderthal uplifts who have come to Black Eden to try and live in harmony with nature - the Neo-Neanderthals in particular find Black Eden very symmetrical to their own lives as once simple species harmonized with the times via technology. Most of the time, people just relax and live, doing simple tasks, learning crafts and skills eating, sleeping and making merry as they choose. But Black Eden has a strong community of arts, and so much time is spent swapping stories over literal campfires - contrasted with exotic art pieces made using nanotech. The name "Black Eden" is kind of a mystery, nobody can track down exactly where it came from, but it stuck. Many assume it to be a deliberate alteration on the TTO's "Red Eden" initiative of terraforming, or an appropriation of an insult from bioconservatives and primitivists in regards to their use of nanotech. A smaller group who are more in the know wonder at possible connection to the former militant x-risk group "Black Mars", who were purged after the Fall.

There are a couple notable names in Black Eden: Andrew Lau, of course, the founder of the colony and head of the project. While legally speaking Andrew owns the property, he does not exercise this authority without support from the people living there. Lau is seen as a thought-leader, who influences the direction the settlement goes both culturally and technologically. Min-Ji Choe is the nominal leader of the local Barsoomians, a martian nationalist in an on-again-off-again relationship with Lau. Scuttlebutt on the darknets is that Choe is an alias of an operative who escaped the Black Mars purge and is lying low. Cam Van is Lau's first ex-wife, who remained in business with him and moved to Black Eden a local year or so back in order to monitor his project. While very much interested in the applications in terms of technoprogressivism, most members of the community consider her a hypercorp apologist. She's also interested in the business applications of Black Eden itself. Lowland-Bear is the most prominent Neanderthals in Black Eden. A musician and story-teller by trade, he originally came to Black Eden to spread the story back to Moustier, and now he serves an almost "embedded reporter" capacity. Arza Katranjiev is the Argonaut's consultant who helps manage elements of Black Eden's infrastructure - and is widely thought of to be part of ISET, the equivalent of the Argonaut's intelligence win.

The primary hab dome of Black Eden is the size of a couple football stadiums, and completely covered over in solar paneling which provide a large portion of the power. The interior is lit by artificial lighting which cycles through comfortable patterns for humans and plants - often lending a mystic air to the lighting. The terrain is dual - approximately one half is rolling, hilly uplands with grasses and low shrubs, with the other have a light wood/garden of trees and foodstuff plants, split by a sizable river. Several smaller domes or structures ring the primary one, used for testing new technology, or acclimating new residents or animals. Currently there are plans to expand and assemble a second dome with new biome(s), such as a tiered "hanging garden" structure, or a savannah or river delta type one. Interior structures tend to be oddly geometric or arranged in fractal patterns by their guiding nanoswarms. The infrastructure of Black Eden is coordinated by a habitat ALI called "Eden", who operates as a direct coordination and management system to keep various sub-AI computer systems working in concert to keep everything harmonized. Technicians regularly service the system to prevent any errors which could disrupt the fragile environment. Black Eden supports itself via a mixture of Lau's extensive investment profile (run out of Luna) and the fact that he owns or co-owns several valuable patents or other IP in the Planetary Consortium, and occasionally the scientists there consult on various projects - their latest example being the Dryad. Other raw materials are gathered by very slow collection of drones or nanoswarms from the Utopia Planitia region as needed. Black Eden also sees regular visits from passing Nomad clans, who trade raw materials for food, entertainment or technical assistance.

Plot Hooks:

  • Cam Van succeeds in talking Lau into turning Black Eden into a partial resort in order to fund expansion to a second dome. This leads to cultural clashes between new temporary visitors and many of the long-term residents, including ex-militant Min-Ji Choe. 
  • Eden is not actually an ALI, but is an AGI system whose complexity is not known to the wider world. They may even be a TITAN or Promethean fork running an unusual social experiment on the residents.
  • An expert on TITAN nanotech has gone on the run and decided to hide out in Black Eden - now one or more covert groups must infiltrate the settlement to interrogate or capture them. 
  • Neanderthal purist organization "Wrong Turn" has infiltrated Black Eden with weapons and is planning to stage an attack to prove their "superiority" over Homo Sapiens
  • A Barsoomian "terrorist"/zone runner/defaulted indenture or some other form of "criminal" has hidden out at Black Eden, prompting a confrontation with the local Utopia Rangers - who may be varying levels of friendly or corrupt. 

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