Tuesday, October 8, 2013

281: Europan Quarry #1

ENTRY 281: Europan Quarry #1

Things swim in the cold, dark seas of Europa, beneath the crust of planetary ice. They live, they love, and they die, their remains drifting down to lower depths as a gentle organic snow, the prime source of nutrients and energy for the stranger things adapted to the high-pressure deeps. They in turn die, and their remains lay on the sea floor, accumulating into piles and mounds, eventually crushed beneath their own weight, forming the rough sedimentary rock that makes up the bulk of the Europan sea floor. Over geological time, this raw material undergoes further chemical and physical changes - slight volcanic activity, asteroid impact, etc. - resulting in upheaval and metamorphosis. The result is a rarity in the solar system: a soft, lustrous white marble, sometimes containing the dark grey fossilized remains of ancient Europan sea life.

Sites of Europan marble are few, and currently under a monopoly of the Europan Mining microcorp, which has established three deep water quarry sites. Taking an artisanal approach to mining, vast chunks of marble are blown out using explosives, and then transhuman biomorphs cut and shape the chunk into sheets and blocks using environmentally-friendly watersaws. Most of the material is reserved for construction, being a luxury export, but the smaller material is shaped into goods and artwork by a local feminist artisan community, the Parliament of Mermaids; the detritus from mining and art is powdered and sent to other habitats, where is it mixed with resins to form a cheaper false stone material.

Using Europan Quarry #1

Rock isn't something that most players are given to think about. However, it bears reminding that most everything we know and hold familiar about geology applies to the planet Earth. Other worlds, where there are no plate tectonics, no liquid water, no little carbon-based lifeforms to die and leave behind layer upon layer, have very different forms of stone, not to mention rock formations. This doesn't necessarily mean you throw out the book when it comes to rock and gemstones, but it does mean that a lot that players and gamemasters often take for granted can actually be presented as novel, rare, valuable, and fascinating. The Europan Quarry is one such site on which to hang related plot hooks, but Europan marble by itself is a neat little detail to work into a campaign from time to time. In addition to statuary, cups, and the like, polished Europan marble may also be considered a kind of gemstone suitable for jewelry, and can show up in other habitats far away by way of trade, and buildings made or decorated with Europan marble are a display of wealth which can be worked into the campaign.


  • Exobiologists are attempting to call a halt to mining operations at Europan Quarry #1 so that they can examine and classify the fossils within the lustrous white stone (indeed, the artisans carving the stone often carve around the fossils to better show them off for clients). The PCs are hired to physically deliver the work stoppage order and represent the exobiologists' interests as negotiations continue. Work grinds to a halt and tensions aboard the small habitat get tense, with the PCs caught in the middle. Can they help negotiate a way out, or will they accept a bribe from the Europan Mining Corp. to let work continue and hope their rep doesn't take a hit? Or maybe they'll just investigate who is illegally labeling and selling off-grade white rock as marble...
  • One of the "mermaids" in the artisan community has achieved notoriety for her small statuettes and cameos of exotic interspecies erotica, often featuring transhumans and one (or more) creatures based on native Europan lifeforms - including a few science hasn't identified yet. A group of collectors, scientists, and moralists have pooled their credits and hire the PCs to descend into the depths of Europa and find the reclusive artist - so that they can deliver her fanmail, cease-and-desist orders, special requests and offers, scientific inquiries, etc.
  • A mystery is occurring on the player character's habitat: a mysterious disease is causing transhumans to calcify and slowly transform into statues of Europan marble! Local medtechs haven't been able to determine what exactly is going on, but that hasn't stopped the media from blaming the spread of the "Medusa virus" with an "infected" load of Europan marble jewelry that recently arrived. A little legwork and maybe a few long-distance calls to Europan Quarry #1 might put the PCs on a different tack: looking at the main competitor to the local marble importer, a specialist nanofabricator of artificial stone who has been losing business and might have the skill to program a nanoinfection.

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