Tuesday, September 17, 2013

260: Amberwald

ENTRY 260: Amberwald

“Step through the Gate and enter the world-forest…five-mile high pylons, supporting an artificial canopy that holds in the air for a massive greenhouse effect…mega-architecture on a scale never even attempted in our Solar sytem…and riches yours for the taking! Volunteer your team to go gatecrashing today. Some restrictions may apply.”
- Amberwald Incorporated Commune advert

The first gatecrashers on Amberwald returned with a half-dozen unknown xenospecies covered in purple-blue chunks of amber, some the size of their heads. They spun a tale of a world grown under an artificial sky, where weird hydrocarbon-heavy saps leaked down from the pylons like slow-moving, inexorable rivers, capturing and asphyxiating all life in their path. With the proceeds of selling the material from their first mission, the gatecrashers incorporated as the Amberwald Incorporated Commune and began selling the right to gatecrash Amberwald to anyone that would sign up. Most gatecrashers who take them up on the idea aren’t heard from again. Smart gatecrashers might ask why AIC, which keeps the Amberwald coordinates as a carefully-kept secret, hasn’t been back itself.

The truth is, the founding members barely made it back last time, and far from the lush and exotic paradise that they make it out to be, Amberwald is a hellworld. The pylons exist, but the upper canopy is damaged and incomplete, so that the air quality can drop from Terra-optimal to “surface of Venus” in a matter of minutes when the wind changes. The hydrocarbon-heavy polymer saps that dribble down the pylons to form the multicolored “amber” are distillations from the toxic upper atmosphere, and most contain unusually high impurities of radioactive salts and grit. Most of the native wildlife—if it is native, and not introduced—has been completely trapped and covered in subsequent waves of this tarry glue, and it is believed that only the native sixteen-limbed insect species and a form of exploding tree still thrive. Even most of the liquid water remains trapped beneath the amber, hidden lakes where the life has long suffocated except perhaps for bacteria.

Still, every now and again a crew actually manages to straggle back—and having paid their 50,000 credit fee to AIC, they are free to sell whatever they can haul for top whatever they can get for it.


Most of the time, Amberwald is fairly hospitable, with near-Earth level mix of oxygen and nitrogen and temperate temperatures a little warmer than the surface of Mars. However, according to irregular tides a stream of toxic outside air will dip in from a rent in the canopy, temporarily rendering the atmosphere corrosive (10 points of damage per action turn) for up to 10 minutes. The liquid amber is another natural disaster, somewhere between an avalanche and a flood—the streams of heavy hydrocarbons are sticky, dense, can move amazingly quickly, and can seal a morph in seconds if they don’t move quickly enough. The local insects have an inherent radiation sense that they use to help predict and avoid the amberflows.

No comments:

Post a Comment