Wednesday, October 30, 2013

303: Hyperia Light Mining Co.

ENTRY 303: Hyperia Light Mining Co.

There are estimated to be over one million asteroids with a diameter of at least 1 kilometer in the Main Belt alone, with a total mass only four percent of Luna - and yet that represents a greater exposed mineral wealth than has been mined in all of transhuman history. Miners tend to focus on the metal-rich M-type asteroids, looking for the easy pickings in the form of close-to-the-surface nodes and exposed veins. Yet even though there is wealth enough out there for generations of bouncers to ply their trade, stories roll in of "played out" mines and being "beaten to the punch" as an indie miner rolls up to a promising specimen and finds that the richest outer takings have already been worked over by a previous miner. Outside of any habitat's legal jurisdiction, claim fights can quickly get vicious.

Hyperia Light Mining Co. aims to solve that problem. Originally a microcorp asteroid miner based out of Ceres, Hyperia specialized in surveying, and quickly found that they did not have the resources to exploit their finds, and that it was more lucrative to sell their findings to other miners than try to capitalize on all of them. So Hyperia has begun the transition to a data services corporation, buying and bartering for astronomical, fiscal, and survey data, building up the biggest archive of the Main Belt currently in existence. Complicating the matter somewhat is that their main "competition" is also their customer base.

FreeMiner is a Mesh-based app where surveyors and miners in the Main Belt (and beyond) can upload their data to a volunteer community database, showcasing asteroids, claims, mineralogical surveys, core samples, distinguishing features, amusing rock formations, graffiti tags, individual profiles, etc. As with other community projects the quality of the data varies, made more difficult because follow-ups and confirmations are expensive undertakings and many miners prefer to keep data to themselves, or even seed FreeMiner with false or misleading data. At least one mining corporation tried to close FreeMiner over use of its proprietary data, but couldn't find a suitable jurisdiction to pursue the case - and when their hackers tried to hit the site, they found themselves facing every miner with an access jack and quickly backed off.

Hyperia deals with FreeMiner by working with the app instead of against it. They pay credits for verified, high-quality survey data; post "bounty lists" of asteroids that they particularly want miners and surveyors to check out; issue surveyor qualification tests and digital certificates; and issue updates to FreeMiner via a 'ransom' model, averaging once a week. The microcorp makes no bones that this is a business as well as a community service, and sometimes attempts new products like "elite memberships" for FreeMiner with access to advanced algorithmic tools that suggest asteroids which are unclaimed and mathematically likely to have good deposits, but such efforts have had little 'stick' so far, as the data is often pirated and posted onto the normally accessible FreeMiner in short order. Still, individual miners and hypercorps sometimes hire Hyperia for private computations or even early access to their regular updates.


  • The player characters are hired as security by a Hyperia surveyor out to catalog an unusually small, compact asteroid family which is being picked over by rival miners - one of which is one bad job away from turning into full-blown space pirates. If they can keep the surveyor alive and get the data out safe, they'll find that not only do they get paid, but they've developed a small rep in the Belt community and have several job offers waiting when they get back.
  • A malicious hacker is going to obscure corners of FreeMiner and changing key data, costing the community considerable time and effort to clean up their work - enough that a group of sysadmins gets together and offers a bounty if the PCs break their limbs and tell them to knock that shit off. Of course, when they get to the hacker's domicile, it turned out to be a 12-year old menton who was just having a bit of fun...
  • Hyperia wants to expand beyond the Main Belt, consolidating data from other Mesh apps into a single pan-Solar Mining Registry. The project is still in its early stages, and dealing with all the different local apps and miners is proving a headache, especially for a microcorp that doesn't have much presence outside the Belt. The PCs are hired to act as Hyperia's representatives on their habitat to negotiate with the local miners, surveyors, app-programmers, etc. However, the locals are suspicious, and to earn their trust the PCs will have to join the local Mining Guild and be certified as surveyors. Hyperia will pay for the classes, but can't prepare them for the initiations, which may venture from the ridiculous ("the hair vacsuit") to the dangerous ("dead man's spacewalk" - a short trip through vacuum without an vacsuit - don't hold your breath!)

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