Tuesday, November 12, 2013

316: Venuvius

ENTRY 316: Venuvius

Miners in the Main Belt rarely have the facilities to process the ore they harvest, which remains an energy and oxygen-intensive process which is most efficiently and economically handled in large lots. Consequently, while the Belt mining is dominated by small and independent miners and microcorps, extraction is gated through a handful of specialist hypercorps and even a few middlemen who buy small lots direct from miners and combine them into large lots to be sold directly to processing stations (or hypercorps that then send them to processing stations). Balanced against this trend to centralized processing are small individual processing stations, which are independent of hypercorps and often work on a cash-free basis. The largest and most established of these situations is the Venuvius habitat, located in the Vesta asteroid family.

Venuvius contracts with individual miners or groups, even microcorps, and specializes in the extraction of hydrocarbons and metals. The entire exchange is explicitly creditless; the workers of Venuvius receive a share of the processed material as payment for their labor, typically on the order of 10%, although particularly poor ores or difficult extractions and/or more involved processing can make their share up to 25%. For this service, the Venuvians handle the entire extraction process, including waste disposal and statistical quality sampling, though the other parties they deal with are welcome to participate in (or at least observe) any part of the process. The Venuvians then use or trade their share for needed materials and foodstuffs; given that they have the expertise and technical capabilities, most of their materials see further processing before they are shipped out, which further increases their value.

Inhabitants of Venuvius are predominantly German-speaking, with a heavy Vietnamese linguistic minority that makes for an interesting ethnic blend. The population does not have a distinct identity, but as a group shares certain values such as efficiency, independence, industriousness, and a dislike of waste which form the core cultural concepts of the habitat, and put most of the transhumans that live there firmly into the Autonomist camp. For example, the oxygen required for several of the furnace operations is generated via electrolysis from the asteroid's native water ice; the hydrogen gas would normally be considered a waste product, but the Venuvians use it as a coolant and in some other light industrial applications. Recycling, when economic to do so, is very big on the habitat, and any non-hazardous product without an industrial use is typically made available for art installations.


  • The great secret of Venuvius, if there is one, is that the current group of residents did not build the station, they only inherited it - and even now are discovering aspects of its design and construction. Case in point, the current group of administrators have accidentally triggered the transformation sequence, and the whole station is in the process of reconfiguring itself into some kind of giant spider-robot. The PCs receive a distress call to help reverse the station transformation, which requires them to infiltrate its "head" and overcome the security measures there.
  • The Venuvian holographic process-mark is one of the standards by which raw metals are measured by in the Belt, and marked ore ingots are typically used in place of currency on many smaller habitats. So when the Venuvians catch wind of a counterfeiting operation, they ask the PCs to find the counterfeiters, destroy their apparatus, and seize as much of the fraudulent material as they can, so that it can be re-graded properly before Venuvius' rep takes a dive.
  • A contractual quibble has grown into a full-blown legal row on Vesuvius, as a bouncer named O'Qeefe claims the station has taken more than its fair percentage. The parties involved have settled on a resolution method to everyone's satisfaction: nonlethal trial by combat. O'Qeefe and a few of his biggest miners will represent his side, and the Vesuvians offer to hire the PCs to act for them. If the PCs win, they'll get 0.5% of the total processed material - which works out to about 500kg of palladium. 

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