Tuesday, December 10, 2013

344: Third Run

ENTRY 344: Third Run

"Can it be synthesized?"
- Mo Kohen, Chief Technology Officer of the Tharsis League

There are still monopolies. Chemistry is the science of processes, and while most transhumans think of chemistry in terms of the end products, chemists and chemical engineers know that the real difficulty in any synthesis are determining the processes involved, and the more complicated or obscure the molecules involved, the more difficult it can be to reverse-engineer how to make a given substance. When it comes to biological substances like flavinoids or aromatic compounds, which are typically synthesized using genetically-engineered organisms, reverse-synthesis can be difficult or almost impossible. So it is that a few hypercorps, habitats, and even individuals can have a virtual monopoly on certain substances, simply by keeping their processes and raw material trade secret. While eventually competitors will be able to create comparable products, by refusing to patent their processes or copyright the genetic codes involved, the monopolists require chemists and genehackers to work from scratch, trusting entirely in secrecy rather than legality for protection of their intellectual property.

On Mars, the most important monopolist is the small incorporated habitat of Third Run, a predominantly ethnic Indonesian enclave independent of the Tharsis League. Third Run is the only producer of nutmeg, mace, and related essential oils in the solar system, and the export of these materials is the basis of their wealth. While it is assumed that the Third Run community has access to the original genetic material of Myristica fragrans, and possibly other species, the habitat is too small to contain whole nutmeg trees, suggesting that they use some other method to produce and harvest the spices. Many hypercorps maintain a sizable bounty for any industrial spy that can crack the secret of Third Run's production processes and/or return with a sample of nutmeg genetic material, but so far the paranoid, security-conscious community of Third Run has prevented any leaks, spending a considerable portion of their nutmeg export earnings to keep their security state-of-the-art.

Generally isolationist, Third Run has accepted a few hypercorp visitors over the years. All of them report that beyond the airlocks the atmosphere is kept near-tropical, and the scent of spices and human occupation are omnipresent and nearly overpowering at first. Reportedly, the culture of the habitat places severe emphasis on personal responsibility and celebration of individual effort, but also a closeness to community, lack of personal space and property, and near-xenophobia towards outsiders, along with a graded security/taboo concept where access to certain areas/substances/individuals was restricted based on practical and social necessity. Outsiders were warned that they were not permitted into any region marked with yellow indicator lines - which corresponded with sealed portions of the habitat believed to lead to medical and lab areas - and were not allowed to enter until they signed a contract agreeing to abide by these restrictions. The few individuals who have violated the yellow line never returned from the habitat.

Using Third Run

A tough nut to crack, Third Run is primarily presented as a challenge for player characters looking to practice their breaking & entering skills, and in many respects represents a classical dungeon scenario for Eclipse Phase. However, this is a carefully-set-up ruse - an elaborate headfake or honey trap designed to discourage and mislead thieves. Security increases the farther the PCs get into Third Run, but the secret of the habitat doesn't lie in it's mythical, heavily-guarded "production" facilities, but in its inhabitants. The genetic material for nutmeg was coded into a pair of diseases (nutmeg is viral, mace is bacterial) that forms a chronic infection in the population of Third Run, and the nutmeg, mace, and related substances are carefully harvested by individuals and processed discretely under the guise of waste management. The Third Run inhabitants carefully monitor and track the expression, spread, and treatment of their disease, as prolonged episodes can lead to hallucination, illness, and death.


  • A disaster in Third Run: the mace bacteria has mutated to become resistant to typical antibacterial treatments, the an outbreak of "mace pox" threatens to get out of control. Third Run microbiologist Peya is sent out to obtain the technology necessary to contain the disease, and the player characters are hired as her bodyguards and helpers, as Peya has never been outside Third Run before. While her yellow tattoos mark her as taboo to the inhabitants of Third Run, in the crowded habitats which do not recognize her society's customs the prospect of personal contact is disturbing and horrific to her. Unfortunately for Peya and the PCs, some bounty-hunting chemists think this is an ideal chance to grill Peya for some answers to the secrets of Third Run.

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