The Poseidon Adventure
This adventure originally appeared on the author’s website, and was reprinted in the September/October 2017 issue.
Poseidon is a water world in the Suleiman subsector of the Solomani Rim. It is owned by Quaver, a planet two parsecs distant. The Quaver government has set up a research base on one of the many small islands present on the planet. The nature of the research is not listed.
The players are arriving in system in pursuit of the mystery of the Jala’lak. Somewhere on the planet, they hope, is something which will lead them to the people that transported the Jala’lak from Midway, to Gaea and Heironymous. The only clue is “Go To (obscured) Every (obscured).”
If they succeed in finding the information, and can then turn it into the last chapter of an authoritative book on the Jala’lak, then they will be allowed to keep the ship that they are currently borrowing. It is a handsome prize.
Their request to land is accepted and they soon find themselves sitting on a fusion baked landing strip next to a series of low buildings. The atmosphere is poisonous, but the doors to the base are open. Why?
All the scientists are dead. The base is unharmed, but someone has opened all the doors and windows, allowing the toxic atmosphere into the base. However, if any of the scientists did this, they are dead now. All members of the base can be accounted for.
It is not a human that killed the base, but a computer. Inside cyberspace a hacker had planted a bug which would take over the computer in response to a set signal. The bug was planted by a rival government which suspect that the work on Poseidon could be very lucrative.
Unfortunately the bug was triggered prematurely, and the computer killed everyone present (not something that was initially planned). The computer is expecting a team from the rival government, and initially assumes the players to be that. However, when the players fail to provide the correct authorisation it will quickly decide that they too will be eradicated.
The computer is quite advanced but killing is not its line of work. It will only repeat its earlier, successful, attempt by re-pressurizing the base then releasing the atmosphere into the air .
However, should one of the players enter cyberspace, then it will attack with all its might. The battle should be quite furious and potentially dangerous. Renegade security programs have been known to kill unwary hackers. The players may not be hacking, but the computer will treat them as intruders all the same.
Should the computer defeat a player then, at the very least, he will be imprisoned within cyberspace. Should the players win then they will be able to eradicate the bug. It will self-destruct should it consider its position compromised. It will be almost impossible to identify the source of the bug.
With the bug destroyed the computer will behave normally, and the players will be able to begin looking for something which fits their clues. The Quaver government will, naturally, be very grateful to the players for discovering the problem. The rival government, should they arrive on the scene, will not be so generous.
Searching through the records reveals a periodic hurricane which appears regularly once every two years centred at the same spot. It is this the inscription on Heironymous was indicating, and the players will find an old, weatherbeaten temple there.
In the ruins of the temple they find an antechamber which is undisturbed. There they find very old computer crystals. The crystals are intact, and can be read by anyone able to build a First Imperium computer. Records of such machines are not hard to come by. When the crystals are read, the information presented below in The Jala’lak Mystery becomes available.
Poseidon: Poseidon/Suleiman 0110 D8AA169-D. Poseidon is a non-industrial water world owned by Quaver. It has a rich, exotic atmosphere with traces of a number of unusual elements, possibly indicating some sort of cataclysm in the distant past. Although classified as a water world, Poseidon is littered with thousands of tiny islands and upon one of these Quaver has set up a small research base.
Cyberspace: This is an artificial reality created by a computer which human operators can enter and manipulate to their own ends. The ease of programming within cyberspace means that some very high level computing can be done, and it is the preferred means of research computing.
Cyberspace is a fluid medium to work in, the boundaries of which have yet to be fully explored. Hackers are a constant source of irritation and millions is spent refining security procedures. Unfortunately, it seems that if there is an outside link, hackers can get in. A secure cyberspace is an isolated one.
The Jala’lak Mystery
During the First Imperium a small, dedicated and rich group of scientists started to explore behaviour patterns. In particular, they wanted to create a new humaniti, one which would not war and fight. They wanted peace.
For their experiments they set off, away from the First Imperium and into unexplored space, the region known today as the Solomani Rim. There they found a peaceful race on a jungle planet that would be ideal for their experiments—the Jala’lak. These they transplanted to a similar environment on another planet, and began to experiment. They never learnt just how close they had come to Earth, their true mother planet.
They built the Jala’lak temples, and altered them. Their experiments worked on the principles that if they could find out what made a race warlike, then they could make it pacific as well. Two control groups were also created, a peaceful group on Heironymous and a warlike group on Poseidon.
But problems were afoot. The scientists had been betrayed, and were being followed. Small police stingships combed the void, looking for the renegade scientists. A small skirmish with the police caused the scientists to take notice. Their experiments were already far too advanced to be forgotten. Something would have to be done.
The scientists fled to Poseidon, leaving subtle clues along the way. At the temple on the water world they amassed their knowledge so that others might use it. Then they moved to the other side of the world, and waited for destruction.
The battle was fierce, but one sided. Several stingships were destroyed, but eventually the scientists were destroyed. However, the battle had ruined the atmosphere irrevocably. The destruction of the ship had released an unlikely mixture of chemicals with a quite lethal result. The planet never recovered. The Jala’lak died out, and the police not finding them.
Included with the report are the scientists findings. They are worth a considerable sum of money—not only were the scientists more advanced, but they had almost succeeded. If their work could be duplicated, then perhaps Humaniti could be made more peaceful…