ENTRY 228: Last Flight of the Chattanooga
Space is a frontier, with all the hardships and scarcity that implies. In the old days, on earth, the people on the frontier could content themselves that home was beyond those hills, over that sea. Now, Mother Earth is lost, and with it all the resources visible and invisible, all the skills and knowledge and heritage of generations. For all the bluster of the Planetary Consortium and empty high life sold by the hypercorps, transhumanity remains scattered in lost colonies, scraping by on what is available, cut off from our homeland—and despite what some may hope, there is no going back. Transhumanity stands or falls on what it can make do on with the technology and resources at hand. What are scarce, what is valuable in the solar system are those things that were peculiar and unique to Earth. They are prizes that can secure the rep of anyone, and there is one more valued than any other: the Chattanooga.
Lifting off from the Alexandria space port during the Fall, the Chattanooga was a fully-automated ark-class vessel, with a seedbank carrying specimens from over 150,000 plant species and 50,000 animals—including fifty species of mammal—and a cultural database containing over sixteen million volumes from university and public libraries all over the Middle East and North Africa, the vast majority of which were never archived elsewhere. The full scans of every cuneiform tablet dug up at Ninevah and every temple in Egypt, digital manuscripts that track the development of Arabic to before the rise of the Prophet, proto-terraforming experiment data for reclaiming the Sahara; all this and much more was sent out into space.
That flare as the booster rockets kicked in is where the Chattanooga left the pages of history and enters the realm of legend.
Originally intended to orbit Mars, most sensors lost track of the Chattanooga some time after it left Earth orbit. The final transmission to Luna was garbled, but suggests that the guidance program recognized the danger and took an “alternate course”—all records of which, if it is true, are lost. After the Fall, unconfirmed sightings started trickling in as transhumanity spread throughout the system—most in the main belt, some as far away as Uranus, though most diligent seekers doubt that the Chattanooga made it that far. While a nuclear reactor powers the ark section, the ship itself had a three-shot nuclear propulsion drive and limited maneuvering thrusters. Without constant acceleration, the range of the ship falls well within the limits of transhuman exploration…which makes the mystery of its disappearance all the more strange and unsatisfying.
Using the Chattanooga
Classic treasure-hunting set-up, just add setting info and characters: shake well and serve. Gamemasters can make an entire campaign out of chasing the Chattanooga, following the trail of sightings and possible routes it might have taken, dealing with treasure hunters and conservationists eager to claim it first for their own reasons, chasing down leads and artifacts—and that’s just the basic approach. There’s no guarantee that the Chattanooga was carrying what everyone assumed it was, or that it even existed; what most people think was the Chattanooga could have been a massive weapon carrying every nuclear warhead the Mideast could scrounge up as an attack against the TITANs. It’s a mystery, so play up the mystery: let your players speculate, play up some of their expectations, and don’t feel constrained by any of the “facts” presented above.
- During a gatecrashing expedition, the PCs come across a species of grass that is a 99% match for an Earth species believed extinct after the Fall. Further exploration finds more anomalous plant species…and then perhaps a chunk of wreckage. Could it be that the Chattanooga landed or crashed on this exoplanet? If so, how did it get here…and where’s the rest of it?