Tuesday, October 29, 2013

302: Vanth

ENTRY 302: Vanth

"The grey dust grew into a tree, tiny glowing advertisements running down its limbs and trunk and the roots that ate into the metal floor. Steam and smoke poured off of it as it vented heat from the transformation, and in moments the tree flowered, blossomed...and gave forth fruit. They were cherries, perfect spheres of glassy red... Maria ate the first one. I remember how she screamed as it ate her from within, saw the pale grey fuzz spread from her lips...and that's when I had the idea."
- Dr. Schloss, explaining the origin of the Vanth Forbidden Zone

Out in the Kuiper Belt are plutinos - small, icy dwarf planets like Eris, Pluto, and the "anti-Pluto" Orcus. Tidally locked with Orcus is a moon, it's only natural satellite: Vanth. While Orcus is the focus of water ice and hydrocarbon mining, Vanth is sealed off by treaty of the major powers in the Solar system, with everyone forbidden access unless approved by the Vanth Commission, a politically independent body that oversees the Vanth Nanotechnological Proving Grounds, informally known as the Forbidden Zone.

Vanth is a live test site for nanotechnological disaster scenarios - the legendary "grey goo" incidents of rogue or poorly-programmed nanotech devices and weapons which could pose a large-scale threat. The media currently estimates as many as 300 nanotech weapons have been unleashed on the surface of Vanth or its subsurface caverns. The exposure to multiple grey goo scenarios has reshaped the surface of Vanth, though regular assaults with EMP bombs, orbital HERF guns, and interplanetary weapons stationed on the side of Orcus facing its moon disrupt and and occasionally clear portions of Vanth from infection - although the Commission only does so in order to introduce new nanotech weapons to their ongoing test scenario.

Ammonia-miners on Orcus have taken telescopic images of Vanth, and describe it as a shifting, promethean surface reshaped by warring rogue nanotech, though cold and lack of sunlight appear to diminish the spread of individual swarms. Some portions of Vanth consist of a single metallic hypermembrane covering a hidden ocean rolling with a sargasso of mercury-like puddle-balls; the north polar regions show spindly towers or antenna and face frequent bombardment from Orcus whenever a radio pulse or signal is detected from that region, and the southern "continent" is an ongoing fractal structure, like a mountain carved by a jeweler into the perfect cut.

Using Vanth

A laboratory on a planetary (well, planetoid) scale, Vanth is ground zero for research into the deployment and counteraction of "grey goo" scenarios and nanotech weapons - critical research for most of the major political and economic powers of the Solar system, but too dangerous to have multiple test sites sitting around. As a setting, Vanth is exotic (and deadly) even by Eclipse Phase standards, with player characters facing near constant risk of infection from multiple hostile nanotech strains the longer they remain on the planet. That said, if the PCs are willing to make a run past the entrenched (and mostly automated) defenses on Orcus and in orbit around Vanth, they could conceivably make landfall and survive long enough to get a few primo samples, which could be worth millions of creds on the open market. Alternately, the Commission might hire them to test their security, to deliver a new weapon and observe/record the results, or even rescue another group - or, if the goo has gotten hold, eliminate them.


  • Rumor has it that the Planetary Consortium has secretly been using Vanth as a prison colony, keeping dangerous and insane mentons locked up in an underground habitat where they only survive by constantly reprogramming incoming nanoswarms. The PCs are hired to find evidence of this prison, and if possible to free the inmates. Unfortunately, a prison break scenario triggers an "Apocalypse Cless" nanowar event followed by a "clean sweap" series of EMP pulses from orbiting satellite weapons. Neither of which are likely to do the player characters any good.

No comments:

Post a Comment