ENTRY 229: Isotope Ants
On Mars, Rusters plant metal cylinders into the ground. Cybernetic ant colonies powered by long-lived atomic batteries, at the heart of which lies a brainless queen. Across the system, users log in and take control, the system and first dozen drones goes live, and the queen starts laying eggs. Game on.
The Isotope Ants are crowdsourced terraforming. Each colony contains six breeds of genetically modified ants designed both to survive the Martian environment and perform certain functions, and wirelessly controllable by simple cybernetic interfaces. Users are encouraged to use their colonies for soil reclamation, extending the hive throughout the nearby area by building tunnels and processing the Martian dirt and dust. If certain critical goals are met, the user may be rewarded with a modest rep boost or unlock additional terraforming tools: new ant breeds, aphid-like slave species, refills on vital resources, etc. So far, Isotope Ants have begun reclaiming more than a quarter of a million square meters of Martian soil.
- Rogue indie developers have created a variant game called Atomic Ant Wars, where ant colonies are posted nearby each other and the different users battle against one another, seeking to invade each other’s base and kill their queens. The creators of Isotope Ants feel this is a betrayal of their basic principles and hire the PCs to express their displeasure by destroying the Atomic Ant Wars breeding facility—with prejudice.
- An abandoned Isotope Ants colony continues to function, even though that should be impossible. The developers believe a rogue AGI may be controlling the colony, but the three technicians they sent out to eradicate the rogue colony have disappeared. The PCs are hired to travel to a remote region of Mars and find the missing technicians.
- Planetary Consortium investigators are looking into where the Isotope Ants microcorp is getting the radioactive material for their long-lasting batteries. The PCs are asked to delay and distract the investigator team while the microcorp covers their trail and secures a (legal) source. All this has to be done without tipping off Isotope Ants’ actual source, who has been nipping the material from a stockpile of weapons-grade radioisotopes on Titan.
- A young and impressionable AGI named Myrmidon has become too deeply enmeshed in playing Isotope Ants, and the members of their peer-group are worried about their mental well-being. The PCs are asked to intervene…by puppeting a group of specially-made antlion micro-morphs into the hive and killing the “queen.”
- Firewall is concerned with the similarities between Isotope Ants and a little-known exsurgent technology that uses proto-wasps as literal “bugs in the system” to infiltrate and disrupt habitats. The PCs are asked to investigate Isotope Ants and determine the source of their technology, and any connections between its owners/employees and known exsurgent groups.
- Hacker AntLover69 has found a way to network multiple Isotope Ant hives together, so that a single user can control any number of colonies. However, the Isotope Ant microcorp refuses to invest in the technology. AntLover69 asks the PCs to help them prove the concept by installing sixty-six hives in a remote crater not far from the Zone. However, while installing them the PCs wake up some long-dormant exsurgent constructs.