Saturday, November 2, 2013

306: Shiprot

ENTRY 306: Shiprot

The majority of space vessels have a planned operational life of ten years - a decade in vacuum exposes a hull to deterioration from microimpacts, cosmic rays, and solar temperature differentials; the inner workings of the spacecraft suffer from oxidation, radiation leaks, accumulated biological detritus (if inhabited), and even infection. Vehicles that kiss atmosphere have even shorter operational lifespans, the added friction and pressures placing greater strain on the hull. Even ships that remain docked at major habitats for years at a time experience unexpected component fatigue from the "wash" of waste gases and chemicals of constant traffic that can accumulate around the space station. This general wear and tear on spacecraft is popularly known as "shiprot."

Ten years on after the Fall, shiprot is becoming a major issue as scumbarges and other older craft exit the window of their original planned use. Starware and other industrial hypercorps are already gearing up bids and facilities for major refitting, while autonomists are addressing the issue with community-driven DIY refit networks, working out where and how spacecraft owners can repair their own vehicles within their own means - not an easy task, and more than one older ship limps along with a poorly fixed hull or that has to make use of older-model toilet harnesses because they can't afford to gut the ship and start over. For those where their spacecraft pretty much is their home, the thought of gutting and rebuilding is a last-ditch resort, and they're willing to suffer a little discomfort to keep their old birds running.

Using Shiprot

The future can be bright and shiny and spotless and grimy and dirty and improbably venting steam at the same time. People think of space as an inconceivably large volume filled with really very little in it, and imagine that satellites and spacecraft can merrily float along for years or even centuries without suffering much of any calamaties, and by and large this is true - except that most transhumans insist on taking their spacecraft near moons and planets, to dock with habitats, to apply thrust to move them, leave them out in the sun, and of course live in them. While most of these activities do imperceptible amounts of damage (except biomorphs living in them; nearly every ship has a strain of superbacteria that they can never get rid of), the fact is that over time all the stresses and impacts add up. Spaceships, even shiny and new ones, eventually deteriorate (some quite quickly, if you're making multiple atmospheric launches with them), and while you might be able to float for quite a long time through the void without losing hull integrity, eventually the wires are going to rot and the hull plating will wear away enough to let cosmic rays through, and the superbacteria will mutate and kill you all. Long story short: spacecraft have a finite lifespan, and that is a good thing.

Shiprot is an excuse for something to fail. This can be a moment of tension, when the PCs need to don their vacsuits and go make an emergency repair, or it can be a larger plot point where the PCs are effectively stuck in their current habitat for a little while because essential repairs need to be made before the vehicle is safe for transhumans to go out in it again, and/or they need to raise the funds to refit their craft. Refitting brings with it the possibilities of customization and upgrades, which often appeal to the more detail oriented and technical players (or those that have just always desired a laser hardpoint on the prow, or the ability to reroute ship controls to their ecto). Given the general hostility of space, even small potential failures in spaceworthiness are generally issues of concern (at least to the transhumans riding in them), and can make a decent complication for what would otherwise be a boring journey getting from point A to point B.


  • Arriving at the latest habitat, the PCs find that their ship is quarantined after a routine biological survey detected the presence of genital crabs, believed to have been extinct on most habitats. The PCs can come out after a thorough decontamination, but eliminating all the insects from the ship will be a major undertaking - and made all the more difficult by local conservationists that want to preserve the insects for future generations.
  • The PCs receive a distress signal: an autonomist has decided to try and shield his hull from further microdeterioration by covering it with layers of water ice harvested from an asteroid. Unfortunately, the improvised device they used has malfunctioned, and the crippled ship is now being buried under layers of ice and they are trapped.
  • Parts for the Space Phantom II light cruisers are slim - and fetch a good price on the open market now that the ships are no longer in production and are beyond the means of most 3D printers to produce. The PC runs across an urgent ad with a shopping list on the Mesh, and it just so happens there's a space graveyard nearby nearby. Of course, if they try their luck they might have to fend with fellow scrappers looking to cash in.

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