ENTRY 009: Titan’s Shoals
Along the shores of one of Titan’s methane-lakes is one of the most unusual and spectacular mining operations in the solar system: a wall of strange, warping stony brambles, tinged with flakes of metal, almost two kilometers long. In the right hour, when the pale sunlight is at its fullest or under the correct lamps, the whole shoal comes alive with shining threads and traceries of raw metal and crystal, apparently grown straight from the dirt and rock.
Mechanical and chemical separation of light metals and rare earths from the mixed soils of Titan is a complex industrial endeavor, with a tendency to produce toxic byproducts. Instead, an enterprising microcorp called Havelstag Mawr has begun seeding certain locations with colonies of engineered coral polyps and symbiotic bacteria. Under the right conditions the bacteria can break down and catalyze most of the materials in the Titanian rocks and soil, feeding the polyps. When the polyps die they leave behind a mineral crust, which serves as an ideal surface for subsequent Titanian coral to grow on. Over millions of generations—a few years in transhuman terms—the mineral reefs can reach appreciable size, at which point they are bulldozed, and the mineral wealth they contain much more easily processed from the wreckage.
Havelstag Mawr’s current breed of Titanian coral is still too inefficient for current industrial use, however. While in ideal conditions the shoals can grow up to thirty millimeters per day, the coral/bacteria ecosystem is fragile and subject to disruption if the correct nutrients are not available in abundance.
- A skeleton has been found out in the shoals, embedded in the coral due for harvesting in a few days. While local news outlets decry this as an example of insufficient safety precautions, Havelstag Mawr has publicly offered a reward for anyone that can identify the corpse and how it got there, and privately its agents have reached out to the player characters to investigate. Their theory is that the skeleton is the result of a murder by one of their rivals, intended to cause their stock to dip; the PCs are tasked with finding out the truth—and if it really is their fault, to destroy the evidence.
- Harvest season, and the player characters are among those morphs that have come to Titan as itinerant laborers to bulldoze the coral, collect it, and ship it off to processing. The work isn’t bad and Havelstag Mawr sees to its workers’ needs—so why are the PC’s biomorph coworkers getting sick? The afflicted report numbness in the extremities, and their skin begins to form thick grey sheets that eventually fall off to reveal raw flesh. HavMawr claims there is no sign of bacterial infection or parasitism, and the medical tests by HavMawr doctors tend to confirm that. Can the PCs find out what is going on before they too are afflicted?
- The PCs have happened upon a batch of Titanian coral, an early, hardier experimental breed that has gone wild, which has quietly been growing unmolested in platinum-rich sands. Now there must be almost a metric ton of platinum embedded in the beautiful, twisting brambles—if they can harvest it, process it, and sell or trade it without HavMawr, claim-jumpers, or local environmentalists from finding out.