Wednesday, June 26, 2013

177: Brauchen

ENTRY 177: Brauchen

During the Fall, countless ships left Earth—anything that even had a chance of making it. Not all of them did. In the ensuing chaos, rescue efforts sometimes took months or years…and all anyone could do was bury the dead and loot the remnants for whatever salvage could be found. Some ships remain unaccounted for; for others the records are corrupted and lost, so no one knows for certain how many ships actually launched, or how many were on them.

The Alma Germania made it to Mars. Engine failure hit somewhere in the upper atmosphere over what would be the quarantine zone; the pilot was reduced to steering thrusters as she tried to glide a 230 ton flying brick straight into a dust storm. All hands were presumed lost, the ship quickly buried by Martian sand and dust. Last year, a dust storm uncovered part of the hull, and word of the Alma spread out on the Mesh. There was a race to see who would get there first between the bone-pickers and scrap merchants on one hand, and the archaeologists on the other.

The first expeditions were repulsed with crude chemical bombs and ancient sniper rifles.

Follow-up expeditions showed that the Alma was still crewed. The ship, designed for years in space and packed with materials for a potential colony, had enabled the initial survivors of the crash to go on, even buried alive. Air, water, waste, all recycled as best as they could with the resources remaining to them. No-one knows exactly how many remain in the shell of the Alma Germania, or what the conditions within must be. A handful of survivors in ancient vacuum suits have been spotted clearing dust away from the solar panels on the ship’s hull. One or two always have their weapons at the ready, willing to take a shot at anyone who comes near.

Researchers trying to pick up any signals from the downed craft received a partial audio transmission of a sermon beginning “Die Brauchen…” The language and context of the sermon were both bizarre, based around a very debased German or Dutch dialect with considerable loan-words. Still piecing together an almanac on the Brauchen, as people have taken to calling them, from bits of the transmission, anthropologists believe that the survivors have formed an isolationist community, distrustful of the outside world. They practice strict controls on child-bearing, but are otherwise sexually liberal—and in the case of the community elders, aggressive. Children exists in a form of chattel slavery, and are sometimes subject to cannibalism according to the hard math of limited resources. Many common diseases appear to be thankfully absent, but certain parasitic infections appear nearly ubiquitous.

Public opinion is still divided on what to do with the Brauchen, and so they exist in political limbo. Conditions in the stricken Alma Germania are obviously hellish, but equally obviously the community appears stable and does not desire outside contact, having already responded violently. The latest idea to help establish communication and “open” the community, at least to researchers, is to provide a gift of salt, water, and medications…but even this has met with considerable backlash as it would be disrupting this primitive brinker-esque community.

Using the Brauchen

It’s a big universe, and there are some primitive screwheads in it. The Brauchen are an entire community gone a bit medieval, stuck in a rotting ship where no-one can even remember what air smells like that hasn’t gone through filters long past their prime, and yesterday’s abortion very well might be on the menu. As a gamemaster, this is your chance to get as strange, nasty, and creative as you’d like. Whether you make the entire remaining ship unrepentant cannibals or a religious fundamentalist society gone crazy is entirely your bag, but keep in mind that despite the dire conditions the Brauchen have access to as much philosophy as any contemporary transhuman, and the main limit to their technology is limited resources. While it might be difficult to keep them from shooting you on sight, if the PCs can talk to them (deciphering their mangled German patois) they’ll find a society that combines libertine attitudes of personal freedom with extraordinarily pragmatic approaches to basic survival. Children are not considered persons but property, the better to avoid emotional attachments, and at least a segment of the population has embraced cannibalism as both a necessity and a freedom from ancient taboos.

If a carrot is needed to further interest the PCs in this Brauchen, perhaps the Alma Germania was carrying the equivalent of five thousand early-prototype cortical stacks in its hold. Five thousand egos from old Earth, unsullied by the Brauchen’s activities…they might be mad, or damaged, but right now they wait in legal limbo until the authorities decide what to do with the Brauchen. Of course, there are certain groups that are willing to launch a rescue mission, and to hell with the authorities…and they could always use some extra hands.

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