Tuesday, December 17, 2013

351: Comet For Sale

ENTRY 351: Comet For Sale

For sale: Encke's Comet. Gently used. Inquire within.
- Mesh Ad

Comet habitats have never really taken hold of the transhuman imagination. While the nucleus of comets are equivalent to sizable asteroids several kilometers in diameter, and comets often contain hydrocarbon compounds and water ice which are relatively easy to mine, the often erratic and sizable orbits are a turn-off, and the delta v necessary to lock trajectory and close with a comet through its thin atmosphere (coma) can make embarking or disembarking more complicated than an orbital habitat in some respects.

One of the few serious efforts at comet habitation was Encke's Comet - with a nucleus of 4.8 kilometers and an orbital period around the sun of 3.3 years, it seemed an ideal candidate as a sort of roving trading or scientific post. A development corporation was established, landed on the comet, and drilled down beneath the crust to carve out a series of chambers, roughly half of which were furnished and functional by the time the credits ran out. Worse, the construction period took so long that the comet was headed away from the sun by that time, and the majority of the crew abandoned Encke's Comet save for an AGI caretaker called Yngvi as it headed out to its aphelion of 4.11 AU and back.

The return of Encke's Comet in AF 7 sparked a renewal of interest, but legal troubles where encountered when the AGI caretaker claimed squatters rights; few of the original parties chose to contest it, and after a brief bout of fund-raising development on the comet renewed. This time, Yngvi focused on the installation of antimatter drive engines, intended to function as directional thrusters to help steer the comet to make flyby passes of certain habitats and thus increase its commercial utility, but found itself unable to procure antimatter due to the interference of the Jovian Republic (which already viewed the comet as a potential interloper and threat). Yngvi and Encke's Comet moved away from the sun once again.

Having now just returned in AF 10, Yngvi is tired of playing caretaker and is looking to sell the comet and settle down, possibly getting a little apartment on Titan. Beginning asking price is 250k credits, though Yngvi is willing to act as the banker in the transaction as long as it gets a down payment of 20% in cash.

Using Comet for Sale

Encke's Comet makes a good setting for a one-shot adventure, a fitting lair for a brinker or setting villain, or a quirky fixer-upper for enterprising player characters that don't mind being stuck on a fast-moving ball of dirty ice for a three-year tour of the Outer Rim. Being relatively large, isolated, and moving, comet habitats combine aspects of long deep space voyages and being stranded on an alien planet - although in this case, at least for a third of the trip the comet should be reachable by various transhuman habitats with fast ships, so in that respect it can allow player characters to visit many settlements they might not ordinarily get to in the course of their adventures.

Seeds

  • Lionel Beauchamp believes that the Tunguska Event was caused by a fragment of Encke's Comet breaking off and exploding above Earth - and wants to prove this to show that comets are weaponizable. Lionel and his fellow space pirates have boarded and taken control of Encke's Comet, and Firewall believes they plan to make a test strike on Luna. The PCs are the only ones in a position to stop them, since they are near to where Encke's Comet will pass.
  • Sauvegarder Com├Ęte Encke (SCE) is a grassroots mesh-based organization that wants to cease further development on Encke's Comet. They've raised 20,000 credits, but Yngvi is unwilling to sell the comet to them or place it under trust. The PCs are asked to negotiate a settlement, possibly with an eye towards turning Encke's Comet into a Universal Park - but they will have to work against a third party, a Jovian miner named Maria Manuel Escopetarra that wants to buy the comet just to strip it of its hydrocarbons.

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