Saturday, May 18, 2013

138: The Reliquary Cluster

ENTRY 138: The Reliquary Cluster

Shortly after the Factors announced their presence, astronomers noticed an artificial satellite orbiting Uranus—what appeared at first to be a conglomeration of large, irregularly shaped, partially translucent solid organic polymers with darker objects apparently embedded within. When questioned about the artifact, the Factors displayed their famous reticence, but later sent a probe to attach a navigational beacon to the satellite, which broadcasts a generic warning in fifty human languages to any vessel that comes within about one-hundred and fifty kilometers. The presence of the artificial satellite as much as anything else is responsible for rumors of a Factor settlement in the atmosphere of Uranus.

While all of the Factor’s trading partners have a tacit agreement not to interfere with the object, nearly all of them have trained their telescopes and more exotic sensors on it, and any vessel that goes anywhere vaguely near Uranus on any pretext is sure to have all of its sensor time purchased or rented by various anonymous parties. As a result of this surveillance, researchers have confirmed early reports: the object is a collection of heterogenous macromolecules similar to amber, with colors ranging from red-green to a deep orange-purple, varying in size from clusters less than an inch in diameter to monoliths up to ten meters long. Trapped inside these pseudogems are what appear to be hundreds or thousand examples of xenofauna—everything from insects to a multilimbed critter the size of a small whale, though most appear to be only fragmentary remains such as heads, limbs, shells, and organs. All of the visible specimens appear to suffer the typical degeneration one would expect of long preservation, though a few appear remarkably well preserved.

Speculation on what purpose the Reliquary Cluster may serve the Factors—if it does indeed belong to them, and is not an artifact of the TITANs or some forgotten human faction—is rampant among those who know of its existence; while no-one openly advertises the satellite’s existence for fear of offending the Factors, its existence is a fairly open secret to most of the major governments and hypercorps. The most paranoid believe that the Reliquary Cluster is a honeytrap, designed to lure transhumanity in with its vast trove of xenobiologicals, while others suspect it is a storage facility for when the Factors eventually leave this system.


The Reliquary Cluster is an irregularly shaped jumble of spaceborn amber (or something close enough to it) about 500 meters in diameter, though density studies suggest it isn’t solid and there are probably open spaces or chambers within the body of the object, possibly with atmosphere. On the surface there is no atmosphere, no gravity to speak of, and no more radiation than typical around Uranus, making it safe enough for a spacewalk barring whatever protections the gamemaster may choose to have installed on or around the site. Most transhumans have difficulty looking at the Reliquary Cluster, as the colors of the amber are outside the typical spectrum of human sight; this applies a -30 modifier to Perception Tests when trying to observe any part of the object, including when on the surface.

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