- Published: 26 March 2020
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Recently liberated by the Fleet, Vahn’s world is an important source of Tangle for fleet elements and represents the leading edge of Terran Sphere’s counter offensive efforts. However, its time under Shohan Blockade required the Colony to make a deal with its criminal elements that now threatens the stability of the offensive.
The Semaphore System
Centered on a yellow dwarf star slightly larger than the sun, the Semaphore system is jokingly referred to as the sol system, supersized. The innermost planet is, much like Venus, a tidally locked hell hole made even worse by the terminator winds that surge between the day and night sides of the planet. The second world, Vahn’s - named for the Captain of the first survey mission to the system - is quite earthlike, only larger and further out from the sun. The heavy gravity is strong enough to be uncomfortable for those not raised in its grip. Rather than a monochrome moon, Vahn’s World boasts a colorful ring system almost like a rainbow permanently etched into the sky. Spectacularly beautiful, the ring system has been the bane of many a potential colonist, creating a fatal hazard for any attempt to build a beanstalk - one of the mainstays of colonization since the beginning of humanity’s expansion into space.
Beyond Vahn’s World, there are two other rocky worlds that have failed to hold on to significant atmospheres. The fourth world, which is slightly larger than Mars, does support some simple life. Locked under ice topped seas, it is life at its faintest breath. Further out, there is a relatively dense asteroid belt. Three gas giants make up the outer system, each larger than Jupiter, and likely having consumed any material that would otherwise have formed into icy worlds beyond them. The last major orbit is actually occupied by a double planet system collectively known as the Fighters, and individually as Yeoman and Li-Clark after a pair of boxers with a notorious rivalry at the time of the survey mission. Yeoman, the primary world is a gas giant only slightly larger than Jupiter, while Li-Clark is a water/ice giant in a wide retrograde orbit around Yeoman. Although they are currently the only bodies in the orbit, scientists believe that a number of moons orbiting both worlds were ejected or consumed while Yeoman was capturing Li-Clark, and that one of these may explain the ring system around Vahn’s World today.
The ecosystem of Vahn’s World is fairly immature. In the oceans, life is experiencing its first bloom of complex multicellular life, not unlike the Cambrian Explosion on Earth. However, while the seas are home to all manner of strange and unique creatures, the land was relatively barren, with only sparse lichen analogues clinging to the rocks. For the early colonial effort, the blessing of a clean slate was somewhat tempered by the effort required to install entire ecosystems on top of barren rock and sand. Most of the effort has gone into seeding the great northern continent with Terrestrial life, along with a few equatorial islands that serve as resort destinations. Collectively this area is known as the Terrestrial Ecology Zone/Zona de Ecologia Terrestre (ZET) and much of the land outside of it remains the primordial wasteland it was before humanity first set foot on the planet. As a result, the population is faily centralized. Currently, approximately 97% of the planetary population lives within the metropolitan area of Conímbriga, nestled in a fertile valley deep within the ZET.
Settlement and History
The Founding of Vahn’s World traces back to the aftermath of the Takeover, the successful revolt by the disadvantaged inhabitants of Stella Insula and their outsystem allies. While the new political order technically gave the former overlords of the star system a voice in the new government, the Union Hall system that was adopted contained numerous blocks to prevent them from regaining their former stranglehold on power. Over the years, many of Zanzibar’s Executivos grew weary of the rules imposed on their corporate holdings in the Stella Insula Restitution. When ansibles were salvaged from the Kriak and the Terran Sphere first began building its commercial network, a number of younger scions saw an opportunity to seize control of their own destinies. They determined that the Semaphore system was right on the path to the up and coming world of Artemis III and beyond, with an attractive environment for those used to weight of Zanzibar on their bones, and decided to settle there, where a steady stream of colonists and traders could be sold tangle both coming and going.
At the time, the newly founded Vahn Consórcio de Comunicação, or Vahn Com, was the leading colonial sponsor for the colony. While several new Telecom companies have been founded on Vahn’s world in the meantime, the Consórcio remained the dominant economic and political interest on the colony, with little happening without its say so. In recent years, consecutive reformist governments have managed to disentangle the government from the Consórcio to a degree, but the two remain heavily intertwined.
Unsurprisingly, these Executivos had little interest in the Union Hall system of Stella Insula, instead opting for a presidential democracy, one where the executive branch holds a significant amount of power in their own right. “The Five Year King” is a common turn of phrase to refer to the colonial president, and while it is mostly used jokingly, the colonial President does wield an almost astonishing degree of power compared with other contemporary Terran Sphere member worlds. The position has proven to be a mixed bag for the colony. While the current officeholder and his predecessor have implemented necessary reforms, most would agree they were necessary largely due to the actions of previous presidents.
Historically, Stella Insula has had a deep class divide between the people who lived in the orbital habitats and now hold dominance in the system, and those who lived planetside and have lost stature since the successful revolution overthrew the old corporate oligarchy that lorded over the system. As a result, it’s perhaps not a surprise that much of the system infrastructure is located planetside and there were few orbital installations, with those mostly devoted to onloading tangle to passing ships.
Without a beanstalk, the colony is heavily dependent on Telekinetics for surface to orbit transfers. Previous colonization assessments had always stumbled on that fact, but the founders of Vahn Comm successfully recruited a number of Thral to the colonial venture. Today there is a thriving Thral community integrated into the colony, whose telekinetic proficiency has been the backbone of the colony’s surface to orbit transportation network.
When Vahn’s World fell to the Shohan following the general retreat after Artemis III, the few orbital facilities it had were destroyed. For reasons known only to the Shohan, rather than attempt to land on the planet, they instead elected only to erect a blockade around the colony. For the first few months after it was cut off from the rest of the Terran Sphere, the system managed to remain in contact but, as Tangle linked to worlds outside the system dwindled, this contact became increasingly fragmented. By the time of the Battle of Zanzibar, contact had effectively been lost. Because of the recent contact and the planet’s Tangle Industry, the system was a prime target for the Fleet once it launched offensive operations into the sector, while the Shohan were still reorganizing in the months after their loss at Zanzibar. With the Tangle spinners and other communications infrastructure located planetside, the planet’s industrial base largely survived the blockade intact. Since reclaiming the system, much of the orbital infrastructure has been replaced, albeit on a temporary basis, by Fleet engineering teams so Vahn’s world can help feed the Fleet’s prodigious appetite for Tangle.
Vahn and Games In The Dark
As the colony established itself, and the flow of information through the system expanded from a trickle to a flood, the willingness of various officials to be... profit oriented... has encouraged the creation of the thriving black market. Like many planned cities on terraformed worlds, the city of Conímbriga features massive tunnel works, dating back to its founding in anticipation of future expansion. The black markets have taken root down in the tunnels and thrived. So much so that the various black marketeers are collectively known as Tunnel Corps in the city. For the last two decades, these marketplaces have been one of the foremost locales for various islander groups to acquire the seed tech packages that they hope will sustain them in their dreams of independent living on the fringes of the Fourth Population. For various copyright and patent holders the place has been an ongoing thorn in their side, but during the Shohan planetary blockade the black market proved to be a true lifesaver for the planetary population. Its illicit designs and unregistered G3Ps provided a large portion of the necessary goods required to keep the city functioning while it was cut off from the outside world.
Unfortunately, their new found power spurred rounds of gang violence and blood spilled down tunnel drains as the various tunnel corps have tried to consolidate their power. Most of the violence died down prior to the liberation, some say with quiet government intervention. However, with the blockade now lifted and the communications flowing again, organizations like the Consórcio that had fallen with the blockade are rising again. The tunnel corps have no intention of relinquishing their new found power without a fight. The city of Conímbriga finds itself balanced precariously between three major powers: the Government under the leadership of charismatic president Augusto Alto; the Consórcio, emboldened by the military’s ravenous need for Tangle after nearly a decade of fading power; and the newly ascendant Tunnel Corps.
Battleground: Gravediggers (GM Information)
In the aftermath of any battle there is always debris and wreckage, and the battle over Vahn’s World was no exception. While the Shohan losses were far from what they lost at Zanzibar, Vahn’s already cluttered orbit is currently littered with wreckage from Shohan. Recovery teams from Project Leapfrog are hard at work processing the battle site, but the ring system complicates the issue. For the various factions squabbling on the planet’s surface, the bounty of Shohan tech, is a siren’s call too potent to resist. The government of Vahn’s World has started hearing rumors bubbling up from beneath streets, and it’s worried. Worried enough that it’s asked the Fleet, Project Leap Frog, and the OGI to help investigate.
Strategically, the Semaphore System is on the leading edge of the Terran Sphere’s counter offensive, and the Tangle it provides is a vital resource for the war. The system must be held and the assembled team is aware of the importance of their mission. At the same time, the various factions vying for control of the colony are more likely to see the investigative team as one more piece they can manipulate to secure their own dominance. Most are more focused on their local rivals than the overhanging threat of the War.
Rumors of what is or isn’t happening underneath Conímbriga run rampant, and no one is sure what the true situation is. The only common thread is that recovered Shohan material from the battle plays some central role. It will be up to the investigative team to discover the truth. Here are a few possibilities:
- The Light has discovered that Shohan technology will react to humans, altering them into a Shohan-human hybrid. Stronger than baseline humans with the ability to instinctively use Shohan tech, the Light sees these… Altered as soldiers in its war to take over the Conímbriga tunnels. The Light has been kidnapping people from the Underground, usually those with loved ones that give them some leverage over their new super soldiers. They’ve acquired some Shohan gear from dead Shohan soldiers, but any Altered they can field will be using a hodge podge of Shohan and Terran Sphere tech. While the Light has tried to be careful about who they expose to Shohan technology, there are now rumors of a sickness spreading through the tunnels.
- It has been well known that the Shohan have some interstellar communications system wired into their bodies, far different from the vast stacks of tangle arrays needed by the Terran Sphere and other Fourth Population races to communicate across the light years. Since the Battle, Vahn Comm recovered several Shohan corpses and has been experimenting with them. Its scientists believe they’ve isolated the communication structures in the crests of these dead Shohan. While they have been able to do little more than stimulate the equivalent of morse code through the link, and they are far from replicating the principles, they’ve caught the attention of the Shohan. Unbeknownst to the scientists, the captured Shohan crests have slowly been changing, seeking the slightest opening into the wider network. For the Shohan, the ultimate goal is opening a backdoor into their ansible network, exposing vast swaths of the Terran Sphere communications network, including the Fleet’s. For Vahn Comm, they are determined to be the ones to unlock a whole new era of interstellar communications and secure their dominance in the new order. They will throw their considerable financial, political, and even mercenary assets at anyone attempting to take away that vision.
- The 27th Street Group is rumored to have a new benefactor; one who is reversing the battered Tunnel Corp’s fortunes and restoring their place as the provider of cutting edge tech in the Underground. In truth, the Corp’s recovery efforts weren’t even focused on the Ring, but on some wreckage that had survived to land far outside the ZET. There, amidst the wreck they discovered a Shohan, battered, his distinctive crest half sheared off, among many other injuries, but amazingly alive. When he recovered consciousness, the Shohan surprisingly agreed to help his would-be rescuers. Govannon, as he has asked to be called, is of the engineering caste, and has used his knowledge to help upgrade the 27th Street Group’s designs while he considers his next move. The engineer’s injuries have cut him off from the rest of the Shohan, but if he can find a way to reconnect with them and provide support for their efforts behind the scenes, well... he’s already been hard at work laying the groundwork, and his upgrades might have a few hidden features waiting to be unlocked.
- A group in the government has gotten their hands on a Shohan Deployment Pod. While currently inert, at any moment it could activate, opening a backdoor for the Shohan to invade through.
- It has long been speculated that Shohan ships are sentient in some fashion. While few ships were lost during the battle, independent scavengers might have been able to locate a computer core from one of these that was still intact and could be made functional with the right supply of power and organic nutrients. Anybody hoping to reverse engineer one or hook it up for a boost in computational power may be in for a shock. The ship’s personality may play dumb while hacking its hosts, try to kill them outright, or be damaged and indecisive. Perhaps some tunnel hacker will alter things he doesn’t understand, and cause anything from personality disorders to a rampant seed AI.
- An auxiliary power supply was recovered, The Yellow Book. Their engineers think they’ve got it supplying a steady AC current, and it’s probably stable. Perhaps more importantly, they’ve discovered a surprising side effect for psionics entering into its sphere of effect: they find it easier to slip into the meditative states required to refresh the mind after heavy psionic use and those that do experience a profound euphoric effect while meditating in its presence. Quickly realizing the potential, the Yellow Book has opened up a spa catering to Psionics, hoping to build a web of influence among the Psionic community as repeat customers become ever more enamored of the service they provide for their weary minds. In game, this effect is represented by the [Ease My Troubled Mind 3] tag which may be freely invoked on Meditation rolls to recover or build temporary strain, but may also be freely invoked in persuasion attempts against partaking psionics by the operators of the device. Additionally, Psionics receive a rank of the [Euphoria] tag as per the rules for Psi Amps (Corebook, page 276).
[What Lies Beneath]
[Make Me An Offer]