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.

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