Jump Destinations: Geolan and Wasphome, Hamilton’s Star System
This article originally appeared as the featured article in the January/Feburary 2017 issue.
Only Jump-1 from both Telerine/Paryan System and Korvo/Virtchok System, Hamilton’s Star (Telerine Asteron Chamilton) is the third system in Telerine’s three-system pocket empire. Though deep within the Dole Moving Group, the system is technically not part of the DMG; its proper motion, greater age, different metallicity, and much higher Life Index mark it as an interpenetrating interloper.
Named for “Horrible Hamilton”, the Scout who first surveyed and cataloged the system shortly before the Long Night, Hamilton’s Star is a K4/K7 main-sequence binary star similar to 61 Cygni. The two orange dwarf stars orbit each other every 800 years, with a separation of 20 to 30 AU (Orbit 8-9); they are currently near periastron (20 AU/Orbit 8). Each component has a small planetary system.
Such a binary system in eccentric orbit tends to throw most of the protoplanetary matter out of the system during formation. Because of this, both stars’ planetary systems are close-in and low-mass, and the system has no Kuyper Belt, short-period comets, or circumbinary planets.
This system is unique in that both components have system main worlds. The second planet of Hamilton B (“Wasphome”) is the homeworld for a minor intelligent race, the Archoinsectoids cataloged as “Chitin A” and commonly called “Wasps”; the second planet of Hamilton A (Geolan) is a barely-habitable human colony world, originally settled by its motherworld (the Helleanan Republic on Telerine) to control access to the system.
While access to Hamilton A is fairly normal, access to Hamilton B is restricted – Wasphome is red-zoned and interdicted – effectively blockaded. The Telerines maintain a heavy system defense presence insystem to enforce the interdict; unauthorized ships attempting to run the blockade will be fired upon by SDBs or automated orbital minefields. After the Eliki Disaster, the Republic does not dare risk a “Chamax Plague” of highly-invasive alien species around any human-habitable real estate.
All ships entering the system must first proceed to Geolan for permission to access the system. All traffic to surface is by special Telerine insystem craft; the closest an offworder usually gets is Thyrasfika Highport on Wasphome’s inner moon.
Hamilton A and B are currently a little over 20 AU apart – just under
three light-hours. All telecommunications between A and B systems will have
a minimum five to six-hour turnaround and one-way travel times by ship can
vary from 5- 13 days:
|Travel Times: Hamilton’s Star A to Hamilton’s Star B|
A 1-G ship might be able to use its Jump drive to make a “Jump-0” between systems. Boosting out to safe jump distance from a K-class sun (“close neighbor world”) would add a couple days to the journey, so this trick would be slightly-faster only for 1-G ships – 10 days instead of 13.
Hamilton’s Star A (Asteron Chamilton Alpha, “The Prince Sun”)
The main component of the system is a K4 orange dwarf with four planets.
- (X320000-0, Orbit 0) is a cratered rockball similar to Mercury, tidally-locked in a near-torch orbit. From Geolan, it is usually lost in the sun’s glare, but makes appearances as a bright morning and evening star.
- (B5F2568-9, Orbit 1) is the system main world – small and arid, with a Thin/Low atmosphere that is breathable over less than 10% of the surface. All traffic in and out of the system passes through its B-class port on its inner moon Geolan Alpha (BS00368-9); military traffic passes through the Telerine Naval station on the outer moon Geolan Beta (CS002M9-9).
- (SGG, 40 T-mass, Orbit 2) is a small gas giant with four moons, two large and two small. Areos itself resembles a smaller ringless Saturn in coloration and banding. The two inner moons are Size 3 iceballs resembling Europa and Ganymede; the outermost moon (DS00268-8) is the fueling station for the system, with a permanent population of around 600 maintaining a small fleet of fuel lighters for skimming and refining.
- (D9AA368-8, Orbit 3) is a large iceball with a methane atmosphere, like a cross between Europa, Titan, and Thelara (Paryan System) with two small moons. A secondary colony of around 9000 works drilling and extracting exotic organics from the under-ice world ocean. Much of the labor force are locals (Wasps), who take the cramped and Spartan conditions better than humans.
Geolan (Hamilton’s Star A II)
Geolan B5F2568-9 Poor/NI Naval Base
Upon approach, Geolan appears similar to Mars but with less visible cratering and a mottled coloration of tawny sand and charcoal basalt as well as Martian Red, with brownish patches surrounding intermittent lakes in impact-basin lowlands. Just south of the Equator, at the antipodes from where the overlapping mega-shield volcanoes of the basalt highlands rise out of the atmosphere, lies a small circular sea at the bottom of a deep impact basin similar to Mars’ Hellas; a complex set of rift valleys like a deeper and steeper Valles Marineris extends from this sea a quarter of the way around the planet; this impact basin and rift valley system are the only habitable areas of the world and the only place on-world that has regular clouds and liquid water.
That appearance is accurate; Geolan is a slightly-larger Mars with rougher terrain and a slightly-thicker (Very Thin) atmosphere, still too thin to breathe except for one lowland region – the above-mentioned Circular Sea impact basin and attached complex rift valley, site of the surface colony.
Geolan Colony itself numbers about 600,000 humans (10% Telerine, 90% Korvan metikoi), mostly in two small cities at the Downport and down in the Rift itself. The Class B port facilities are limited to the Highport dug into the inner moon; the surface downport is Class D, located in the uninhabitable rim highlands (Very Thin atmo) to allow landing of partially-streamlined ships.
Not much larger than Mars but with much rougher terrain, Geolan is “Phaidonic”, with a Thin/Low atmosphere which becomes thick enough to breathe only in the bottoms of the deepest rift valleys and impact craters. Less than 10% of the surface is habitable: the Circular Sea filling the deepest and largest impact basin and the river system in the Great Rift feeding it, where the air becomes thick enough to breathe. Only these lowlands are terraformable and potentially habitable. The rest of the surface is barren wasteland – unbreathably-thin air, wind-carved mountains, crater rims, and sand seas swept by dust storms like a more rugged Mars.
The Hydro of 2 (20%) is misleading; half of this area are the permanently-frozen polar caps and the other half are mostly night-frozen lakes in impact basins and the “frost ring” of the basalt highlands, with the only permanently-liquid water on-world in the great impact basin of the Circular Sea and the Great Rift feeding it.
The Circular Sea and Great Rift are also the only place on-world with actual weather – clouds, rains, storms, all below the Riftwalls. Only high-altitude cirrus clouds and the dust plumes of sandstorms break the sky outside the Rift.
Surface Conditions/Sky Picture
As a Phaidonic world, Geolan has two sets of surface conditions: in the Rift and the rest of the planet.
Common to both:
Geolan’s day is 52 hours long, with a year of 54 local days. The long suntide-braked day gives warm afternoons and cold nights – colder outside the Rift where the atmo is too thin to hold the residual heat.
The first thing a visitor will notice (in the pressurized downport) is the gravity – 2/3 gee, the same as Korvo.
The main sun (Hamilton A) appears twice “normal” size, with a distinct orange tint and visible darker starspots. Its K-class sunlight causes a spectrum shift, moving all colors slightly down the spectrum for a sepia-tone effect; artificial lights (such as within the Downport tunnels and greenhouses) appear unusually bluish in contrast.
The three other planets are all naked-eye visible; Pyrak as a bright orange Morning and Evening Star, peach-colored Areos just bright enough to cast shadows when both suns have set, and sepia-toned Hydrane dimmer but still bright in the night sky. Areos’ two inner moons are a test of naked-eye acuity.
The secondary sun (Hamilton B) appears as a super-brilliant orange star, bright enough by itself to illuminate the landscape in an orange twilight when A is down and B is up. A BY Draconis-type variable, its brightness fluctuates by almost half as its 21 Geolan day (45 T-day) rotation brings massive dim starspots into and out of visibility. Its two outer SGG planets are visible through binoculars.
Geolan’s two moons are small, close-in, and irregular; only the inner moon Alpha is large enough to barely show a lopsided disc; the outer moon Beta is too small to resolve with the naked eye. Both hurtle through the sky like the fabled Moons of Barsoom – Alpha in only 1½ G-days and Beta in 3. Observed from the surface, Alpha’s short “month” results in a longer illusory month similar to Telerine’s Paryra.
In the Rift:
In the Rift, conditions are similar to the foothills of Korvo – Thin but breathable atmo, long days warming up in the afternoon but cooling down to extremely cold nights.
The first thing a visitor will notice at Riftbottom (if not previously acclimatized at the Port) is the Thin atmosphere, equivalent to medium altitudes on Korvo – the popping of the ears, followed by the shortness of breath and constant sinus headache of altitude sickness. There is little sunburn danger; the orange dwarf spectrum of the sun makes up for the thinner atmosphere. Then, when the main sun finally sets beyond the Riftwall, the long icy night; the thin atmo does not hold heat well. (Again, similar to the foothills of Korvo.)
The low gravity causes less pressure drop from altitude; however, “Circular Sea level” pressure is only half standard, so the limit of breathability (the transition between Thin and Very Thin atmo) is only around 1 to 2 km above the altitude of Phaidonopolis. Water boils at only 80 degrees C in Phaidonopolis, 70 at the limit of breathability a klick up the Riftwall. However, the Riftwall extends fifteen to twenty more klicks above that limit for its entire length.
In the Rift, a visitor is never out of sight of at least one Riftwall; at a minimum, the tops of one or both will be peeking over the horizon. Closer up, the Riftwalls are notched with canyons over Riftbottom taluses, with a peculiar “layered” appearance like taller mountains on Korvo – the (hypothetical) tree line (and occasional side-canyon glacier) near the bottom, a permanent “snow layer” above that, and wind-eroded rock formations above, too high for clouds to form or snow to fall. The upper part extends more than half the height of the Riftwall. Except for the terraformed area around Phaidonopolis itself, the terrain is stark and barren; no visible vegetation soften the canyons and taluses of the Riftwall.
Above the peaks of the Riftwalls, the daytime sky is deep blue, almost blue-black at the zenith, shading into lighter ochre-tinted “blue sky” on the wall-less horizon up and down the Rift. The brighter (Hamilton A) planets and brightest stars are visible in the daytime near the zenith, and clouds other than high-altitude cirrus form only in the bottom half of the Rift.
Outside the Rift:
Outside the Rift, the rest of the surface is barren wasteland – unbreathably-thin air, wind-carved mountains, crater rims, and sand seas swept by dust storms like a more rugged Mars. The sky is ochre from blowsand on the horizon, shading into dark indigo with the planets and brighter stars (including Paryan and Virtchok) showing through at the zenith. On the other side of the planet from the Circular Sea, the overlapping shield volcanoes of the basalt highlands actually extend outside the atmosphere.
Some of the other deep impact basins contain lakes, all orders of magnitude smaller than the Circular Sea. These lakes are normally frozen over, especially during the long night.
The 52-hour day produces extreme temperature variations. Like most habitables with such long days, most locals have two sleep/wake cycles per local day, sleeping during the coldest and hottest parts of the day (late night and late afternoon).
Three languages are spoken (Telerine, Korvan, and Galanglic) in two alphabets; Telerine (represented by Greek) has its own unique alphabet.
As with most orange dwarf habitable zones, the hundred-diameter safe Jump limit is determined by the sun’s gravity well, not the planet’s. Use “close neighbor world” distance for the safe Jump limit.
Most life-bearing worlds never get much beyond bacteria, and Geolan is no exception. Geolan’s Life Score of 4 (approximately that of Telerine) is just enough to (barely) oxygenate the atmosphere. Most native life is concentrated around the Circular Sea and its impact basin, the most complex forms being aerobic algae mats.
The land ecosystem (a “stripped-down Korvo” using Korvan-adapted flora and fauna) was imported during T-forming. Centered around Phaidonopolis, this transplanted biome is spreading up and down the Rift from its original site at Phaidonopolis.
Cautions and Hazards
The major hazards all have to do with the thin atmosphere, similar to Korvo except with less sunburn hazard.
At Port Geolan atop the Riftwall, the atmosphere is Very Thin bordering on Trace; all connections to the outside are by airlock similar to vacuum worlds, with emergency decompression shelters and compartmentation. The high-rent areas piercing the cliffs for the spectacular view are additionally compartmented, as only quartz pressure windows hold the atmo inside.
Even at Riftbottom, Geolan’s atmosphere is Thin; altitude sickness is common among visitors, and even Korvans need supplemental oxygen or compressor masks to breathe much above the altitude of Phaidonopolis. This is worse for visitors from thick-atmosphered worlds like Telerine, who will always develop altitude sickness on Geolan. Chitin A “Wasps” are limited to the pressurized Downport and special hyperbaric wings of hotels.
Even in Riftbottom, the thin atmosphere does not retain heat; coupled with the long day/night cycle, temperatures approach freezing during Riftbottom nights and always go below freezing on the Riftwall. Again, similar to the Korvan foothills; there is a reason why most of Riftbottom’s population and imported biosphere are transplants from Korvo.
Allergies and bio-toxicity are often a problem on life-bearing colony worlds, and Geolan is no exception. Like the brine seas of Korvo, the Circular Sea is not only strongly alkaline but full of exotic mineral salts, both irritating and toxic; this is why the settled area is well up the Rift from the Circular Sea.
A hazard unique to Geolan are Mars-like dust storms. GPS and weathersats give advance warning, and everything shuts down for the duration of the dust storm; after the storm, the rusty-sand smell can persist for days. In the worst cases, the high winds can scour the mineral-salt deposits around the Circular Sea and blow up the Rift, tainting the atmo in the T-formed areas and burning the eyes and lungs with moderate-to-fatal results.
Outside the Rift, the hazards are those of any Martian world – Very Thin atmosphere (normally unbreathable), Desert World with no surface water, severe dust storms. The basalt highlands at the antipodes of the Circular Sea literally rise outside the atmosphere; the slopes of the mega-shield volcanoes rise from Very Thin atmo to Trace at the peaks.
Population and History
Geolan is a Telerine colony, planted a generation before the annexation of Korvo when Telerine’s single superpower (the Helleanan Republic) was just expanding into its own pocket empire. Originally a small “trading post” colony supporting contact with Wasphome, Geolan expanded into a militarized blockade/control point when the Republic redzoned the system after the Eliki Disaster. Now all contact with Wasphome is under the direct control of Telerine through Geolan.
Telerine policy is that all its colonies must be self-supporting in minimal subsistence mode; the memory of the Long Night lingers. Accordingly, Riftbottom is being T-formed into “Korvo with Rimwalls” for agricultural self-sufficiency in case interstellar contact should ever be cut off. Conventional on-surface agriculture is taking over from the original hydroponics caverns at Highport and the hydroponics greenhouses at Geolanopolis Downport, but still has a way to go. The main food crop is that Korvan staple, potatoes.
90% of the population are ethnic Korvans; only 10% are Telerines proper, and most of those live in Port Geolan, older of the two cities on-world. Due to inability to tolerate Thin atmo, Chitin A “Wasps” are found only in the Highport and Port Geolan.
Economy and Trade
|Trade Class:||Poor/Nonindustrial (small size/limited development)|
|Eaglestone Trade Index:||1 (500 passengers and 2500 dtons freight/week; 40-50% of that through freight traffic between Wasphome and Telerine, 20-30% insystem resource exports to Telerine)|
|Exports:||Transshipments from Wasphome, exotic chemicals from Hydrane|
|Imports:||Transshipments to Wasphome, seed loam from Telerine|
|Services:||Refined fuel, ship servicing, small craft construction (B Port)|
Geolan is mainly a transshipment port for freight and passenger traffic between Wasphome and Telerine, with a secondary Belter-based economy.
As a Telerine colony, all money is in the Telerine drachma: 100 drachmae = one Credit. There are no fractional units in circulation except for some older 50-lepta coins. The lepton (1/100 drachma) is used only for online calculations of extreme precision.
“Seed loam” is a concentrated soil amendment/soil fungus/seed culture used in terraforming. (Yes, you can make a run shipping (very special) dirt between the stars.) Frequent bulk-freighter-sized shipments can make the difference between a 500-1000 year terraforming project and a 100-200 year one.
Starports and Cities
Geolan has only two cities on-surface: Phaidonopolis in the rift valley near where it joins the Circular Sea impact basin and Geolanopolis (the Downport) dug in atop the Riftwall above, 30km distant horizontally and 15km vertically. The two are connected by pressurized hyperloop tube systems for passengers and freight. In addition, the Highport on Alpha was once a small city and remains a major (orbital) town. In the order a visitor will encounter them:
- Alpha Highport
- A class B highport located on the inner moon, Alphaport was the first settlement on Geolan, serving as a base for insystem exploitation, T-forming of Geolan’s Great Rift, and “trading post” for access to Wasphome.
- Geolan Alpha is a small moon of irregular shape, tidal lock keeping it oriented with its long axis pointing to its primary. Alphaport is tunneled into its surface like a giant planetoid-hulled space station. The moon’s low surface gravity (only a couple percent of a gee) allows unstreamlined ships to “land” supported by special earth-fill cradles.
- Alphaport was the original Telerine outpost in the system, established as a trading post and terraforming base well over a century ago when Telerine was first expanding out from Paryan System. When Wasphome was Redzoned post-Eliki Disaster, Alphaport became the main base to enforce the resulting blockade; military facilities have largely relocated to Beta, but a presence on Alpha remains.
- The highport provides all B-port facilities and services for all ships (streamlined and unstreamlined), though the shipyards are designed around smaller insystem lighters of under 1000 dtons. Special sections of the Port handle local warehouse loading/unloading, small craft/insystem lighters, and what military traffic overflows from the main Navy facility on Beta. Ships land on-surface; the actual Port is tunneled deep into the moon.
- At its peak, Alphaport had a permanent population approaching 30,000, self-sufficient with fusion plants and hydroponics; today, most of that population (and hydroponics) has displaced to Geolan’s surface, leaving only 6,000 in (not on) the moon operating the trans-shipment stop for Wasphome and Hydrane’s exports, servicing the ships coming through and building/maintaining the insystem craft operating between A and B and building the special shuttles used to access Wasphome’s surface. Over two-thirds of the original Port tunnels are abandoned and closed off, slowly outgassing to space through the rock of the moon; though the active portions are kept at Standard atmo and (mostly) at half a gee of induced gravity, the abandoned tunnels could be Thin, Very Thin, or even Vacuum. And all in the moon’s micro-gee.
- The tunnels of Alphaport are a huge sprawling maze of corridors, staterooms, and common areas like the subsector’s largest and most randomly-arranged starship. Most of the human population is an even mix of Telerines and Korvans both ethnically and culturally, living in separate ethnic residential sections; Wasps in transit stay in a third dedicated section called Entomopolis (“Bugtown”).
- Geolanopolis Downport
- A Class D downport, Geolanopolis is the original surface colony site, established as a “trading post” base for the system and Terraforming base for the Rift below over a century ago.
- Since then, the Port has grown into a city of 90,000, a kilometers-wide “Alphaport with natural gravity” warren of dug-in multilevel tunnels and artificial caverns, with hydroponic greenhouses, pressure domes, and landing bays of up to 6000-dton capacity breaking the surface. This maze of tunnels is pressurized to Standard atmosphere, breathable by dense-atmo Telerines and Chitin A “Wasps”, thin-atmo Korvans, and offworld visitors. (Better download a map as soon as you disembark; after 100+ years of tunneling, it’s easy to get lost.)
- “Old Town” is the Downport area itself; “New Town” lies along the Riftwall, with the new Akropolis (Central City) extending through the Riftwall cliffs with multi-story views of the Rift and far Riftwall through large pressure viewports. The view – far Riftwall on the horizon with ochre sky above and cloud systems forming below deep in the Rift – is worth the decompression danger.
- The only permanent population of Wasps on-world is in Geolanopolis, thousands in their own dedicated Entomopolis. Though Entomopolis’ atmosphere is human-breathable Standard, access is restricted; humans can enter by invitation only (escorted by a Wasp Emissary) and Wasps go outside only in groups accompanied by an Emissary who understands and can interact with humans.
- Most of the human population here is Telerine, as is the atmosphere and cuisine; the general feel is “Telerine in tunnels”. The main difference is less wine and (since Riftbottom settlement) more coca tea and chicha. Telerine (represented by Greek) is the most common spoken language.
- Like Alphaport, all signs are in three languages: Telerine (with its own alphabet, represented by Greek), Korvan (represented by Quechua) and Galanglic (interstellar Common Tongue). Wasps do not have any single common language; different Hives interact linguistically and culturally through Emissaries.
- The trip down the Riftwall is by hyperloop tubes, either 12-passenger or 60-dton freight capsules; both are pressurized, shifting pressure between Downport and Riftbottom conditions on the trip. Passengers and freight are separate systems using different sized tubes. Passenger capsules take only 10-15 minutes down into Riftbottom (with gravity assist) and 20-25 minutes up to the Rim.
- Phaidonopolis (at Riftbottom)
- At the bottom of the Rift and the other end of the hyperloop system lies Phaidonopolis, the official capital and largest city at 300,000, spreading out in a growing semicircle from the hyperloop terminals forming the core of its Akropolis.
- Phaidonopolis is located in the Rift a few kilometers upstream from where the Rift enters the Circular Sea impact basin, by a series of small lakes (improved by artificial earth-fill dams) on the main river running down the valley; these lakes provide water without the toxic salt contamination of Circular Sea brine.
- If Geolanopolis is Telerine in domes and tunnels, Phaidonopolis is Korvo with Riftwalls and two suns, a smaller and newer Pumayaqta spreading down the talus. Much of the edge of the city is agricultural suburbs, a tight ring of agricultural areas and towns connected with the city’s transport system.
- Geolanopolis and Phaidonopolis are the only cities on-world; all other settlements are small villages, towns, and outposts working the land, limited by the slowly-T-forming arable land area. The T-formed area spreads up and down the rift from Phaidonopolis, first farming towns that could have come from Korvo, then smaller and more isolated villages amid smaller patches of terraced croplands, then T-forming outposts amid T-forming lichen and weeds growing out from their seed loam drop sites, then frontier areas being “crop-dusted” with seed loam as it arrives on-world, then finally the barren rocks and crags and red sand and dust of Riftbottom.
Tech Level Notes
As a Telerine colony less than a century old, Geolan’s tech level is second only to Telerine itself – GPS, satellite phone/Internet coverage, full-function smartphones (at least in Geolanopolis and Phaidonopolis) and all the goodies of the early 21st Century. Like Telerine, GPS is accurate to within a couple meters, and Ransdell Metal battery technology from Bronson’s Star is more like TL12-13.
The only drawback is all this high-tech is imported from offworld; Geolan colony is barely large enough to start its own production, and once you get away from Phaidonopolis the tech level can drop to TL5 or 6; small agricultural villages and T-forming outposts up the Rift do not have much in the way of manufacturing capability.
Government and Society
Geolan is a Telerine colony (Gov 6 Law 8), directly ruled by the Republic through an appointed Governor-General and a Navarchos (Admiral) in charge of the redzone blockade forces. The navarchos is headquartered in Alphaport; the Governor General in the Akropolis of Phaidonopolis, with alternate Standard-atmo facilities in Geolan Downport. Outside of Phaidonopolis, Korvan-style ayllukuna run themselves in the farm towns of Riftbottom.
As a Republic colony, Geolan retains the Telerine two-tier social system of Citizens (Telerine) and Metikoi (Korvans plus whatever Wasps are on-world).
Geolan’s only intrinsic armed forces are a single home defense regiment of Tech Level 9bis militia. Active-duty insystem military presence is entirely Telerine – primarily Navy with some protected forces for groundpounding.
At any given time, Ham A system hosts about 1000 dtons of Tech Level 10 SDBs, fighters, and armed small craft rotating to and from the Wasphome blockade/interdiction force at Ham B. These SDBs and small craft provide system defense for Ham A, but the main focus of the naval presence here is maintenance, repair, and rear-area logistics for the blockade force.
Ground forces are represented by one or two TL10 Telerine protected forces battalions, primarily a reserve in case the blockade force requires surface operations.
All Telerine units insystem have the privilege of using a stylized wasp on their rondels and badges instead of the usual phoenix.
The Moons of Geolan
- Geolan Alpha (BS00368-9)
- – Inner moon, Civilian/Commercial Highport, unusually small for its traffic volume. Described in Alpha Highport section above.
- Geolan Beta (CS002M9-9)
- – Outer moon; Navy station of several hundred supporting the logistics tail of the redzone blockade. Undersized for its task; the Navy facilities still overflow to Alpha. Closed to civilian traffic.
The outermost world of Hamilton A, Hydrane is a snowballed super-Titan almost the size of Telerine with a surface temperature between Mars and Ceres; greenhouse effect from its moderately-dense methane/nitrogen atmosphere keeps the temperature from dropping further.
The planet is a frozen-over waterworld with a day only eight hours long, a giant Europa with atmosphere and a second crust of chemically-reacted “soil” over the frozen surface. The atmosphere is just hazy enough to blur surface features from orbit, block the light of all but the brightest stars, and show haloes around the suns.
In an arrangement similar to Zandisill Prime but smaller, an on-world population of around 9000 (more than half Wasp labor) staff several dome habitats around drill sites extracting chemicals from the ocean beneath the ice crust. Said chemicals are extracted and refined on-world before being shipped out in insystem lighters to Alphaport.
Gravity is 10% above Standard, with the sun an orange blur hurtling across the hazy sky; the two moons are barely-visible. Village-size dome habitats dot the low rugged landscape around the town-size dome array of the Downport, steam trailing from the vent stacks like smoke from TL6 industrial smokestacks, condensing into plumes of snow falling downwind.
The majority of the “permanent” population are Wasps, similar to Telerine’s installations on Zandisill Prime; the insectoids from Hamilton B system take the Spartan conditions and crowding much better than humans.
- What lurks in the closed-off tunnels of Alphaport? Smuggler drops? Descendants of Wasphome fauna dumped to avoid the blockade? Salvageable stuff? Homeless squats? The abandoned tunnels can be treacherous in and of themselves – pitch-dark, icy cold, in microgravity, some with Very Thin, Trace, or Vacuum atmo from leaks.
- First encounters with Chitin A Wasps, most likely an Emissary. Both highport and downport have Entomopoloi, and Alpha Highport is the main transfer point for Wasps going offworld. Novice Emissaries would be delighted to practice interacting with humans – especially Novices without much xeno-experience. All their training in humans has been from other Wasps, and the real thing is going to be very different; expect all kinds of faux pas.
- Riding out dust storms in or out of the Rift. Even in Riftbottom, dust storms can be serious business; outside the Rift, Geolan is not much different from Mars.
Hamilton’s Star B (Asteron Chamilton Beta, “The Queen Sun”)
Secondary star in the system, a K7 orange dwarf, also with four planets plus a small asteroid belt. Ham B itself is a BY Draconis-type variable whose brightness can vary through the formation of massive dark starspots on a complex cycle; the dominant cycle is the stellar rotation period of around 45 T-days (20 Wasphome days), which rotates asymmetrical starspots into and out of visibility.
The planetary system is very symmetrical, with two rockballs in the inner system separated by an asteroid belt from two outer-systemsmall gas giants.
Except for “Wasphome”, none of these planets has an official name. Since Wasphome is a species homeworld, normally they would use the native names. However, Wasphome’s atmosphere is so congested and hazy the other planets and stars are not visible from the surface – only the suns and moons. Even Wasphome is an externally-bestowed name; every native language on-planet has a different word for “the world”.
- Hamilton B I
- (X200000-0, Orbit 0) is a close-in airless rockball, lost in the sun’s glare.
- (X798877-7, Red Zoned, Orbit 1) is the system main world and homeworld of the insectoid “Chitin A” minor race, with a thick congested atmosphere and two small moons; the inner moon contains a Telerine naval installation enforcing the Redzone blockade, a C-class Highport serving permitted traffic to and from surface, and a Belter base serving the Belter operations in Hamilton Belt.
- Hamilton B Belt
- (D000311-8, Orbit 2) is a thin asteroid belt, separating the inner-system rockballs from the outer-system gas giants. The Belt itself groups into two regions, with chondrites (stone asteroids) on its inner region and metallic on its outer. Like the belts in Virtchok system, Telerine companies are exploiting the Belt’s mineral resources using local labor.
- Hamilton B III
- (SGG, 50 T-mass, Orbit 3) is the main fuel-skim site for Ham B, a small gas giant with a ring and two regular moons, resembling a miniature Saturn with a slimmer ring. The only offworld presence is a small outpost controlling the fuel-skimming operations.
- Hamilton B IV
- (SGG, 50 T-mass, Orbit 4) is a small gas giant with three regular moons, resembling Uranus in color and faint banding. To date, the moons are not settled, developed, or exploited.
“Wasphome” (Hamilton’s Star B II)
“Wasphome” X798977-7 Alien Homew., Redzone
A warm, wet world with a thick congested atmosphere, “Wasphome” is the homeworld of a minor intelligent race, the Archoinsectoids cataloged as “Chitin A” and commonly called “Wasps”.
From approach, Wasphome appears as a better-lit greenish Titan flanked by two small moons, with surface features all but hidden under a greenish haze. From orbit, the ghostly shapes of continents and oceans can be discerned.
Wasphome is an old world (older than both Earth and the DMG worlds surrounding it) with less seismic/tectonic activity than Earth; its mountains are low, its seas are shallow, and its land area is broken up into no fewer than twelve small continents (two “major” and ten “minor) and eleven large islands totaling less than half Earth’s land area.
Surface conditions/Sky picture:
Wasphome’s day is 55 hours long, with a year of 54⅓ local days (⅓ of a T-year). Surface gravity is around 90% of a standard gee. But it is Wasphome’s atmosphere – dense, hazy, and lethally toxic to humans – that is the world’s trademark.
The atmosphere is dense, with about three times standard pressure at sea-level, heavily tainted by CO2 to where it is unbreathable by humans. Layers of aero-plankton in the stratosphere obscure the surface features from orbit; like Venus or Titan, Wasphome looks like a featureless greenish sphere with vague continental features ghosting through the haze.
On-surface, the sky looks like greenish haze, with an orange blur of sun (“The Queen Sun” in most every native language) a third larger than “normal”; the two moons are barely-visible, featureless blurs a third and a fifth the apparent size of the sun. Ham A (“The Prince Sun”) appears as a super-bright orange star, blurred into an illusory disk, bright enough to light the land in a greenish-yellow twilight when the Queen Sun is down. Other planets and stars are not visible from the surface.
This is compounded by Ham B being a BY Draconis type variable, with massive starspots that can vary the brightness by a factor of two rotating in and out of visibility on a 20 W-day cycle.
The heavy greenhouse effect of the atmosphere evens out temperatures all over the world, with little variation from time-of-day or latitude; the climate is universally hot and wet, regardless of location or season. Horizon haze is very noticeable, and the dense atmosphere triples the force of all winds – especially the hurricanes and hypercanes arising from the hot ocean. Wasphome has some storms that would not be out-of-place on a large waterworld or small gas giant.
The default biome is “Green Hell”, a dense forest/jungle swarming with native life under an eternal yellow-green overcast, lit during the long night by the Prince Sun or bioluminescent “fireflies”. Like a late-Carboniferous Earth with orange-tinged black leaves/fronds and dwarf trees; a low stubby rainforest where it rains organic green slime as well as water.
Life Score F (full complex ecosystem plus an intelligent native race). Most of the life-forms are known by their common or Telerine names, as the native names are hard-to-impossible to pronounce, and vary considerably from region to region.
Vegetation is normally dark, almost black in color, with a greenish or burnt-orangish undertone. Aero-plankton periodically rains from the sky, a thick and slightly-tacky organic substance called “skyfall” mixed in with normal rains. Unlike the similar “Ublek” of Khorlu, this substance can rain all year round, naturally fertilizing the vegetation into dense growth.
Terrain and vegetation varies quite a bit, resembling Earth in its Carboniferous era but with different forest biomes. Most vegetation is low and stubby due to the wind-force multiplier effect of the Dense atmo; trees are short and massive (about a third “normal” height), undergrowth is thick and dense.
Wasphome fauna has no phylum corresponding to chordates/vertebrates; instead, the most complex land and sea life are para-arthopods, filling most to all ecological niches expected to be filled by fish, insects, reptiles, and mammals. Sea life includes parallels to the Lace Crab and Anomalocaris of the Burgess Shale, sea scorpions, trilobites, and horseshoe crabs as well as separate phyla of pseudo-molluscs and various worms.
Land life is parallel to Terran insects, enlarged due to the Dense atmo allowing passive respiration: “dragonflies” half a meter long, meter-long centipedes and millipedes, soccer ball-sized “spiders”, and generally Carboniferous-looking insecta. As well as periergoi (“weird ones”) with no direct parallel on Earth; some of the mutant insects from “the Miasma” in Miyazaki’s manga Nausicca: Valley of the Wind would not be out of place (though there is nothing on-world like the gargantuan “ohmu”, though humans gave the largest species of Archoinsecta the name).
One of the flying genera of periergoi bears the Telerine name Ravdoi (“Rods”) – long, stiff-bodied flyers with multiple fused wings down the length of their bodies giving an undulating motion.
Other than that, most everything found among Terran insects can be found somewhere among Wasphome para-insecta: Venomous bites, parasitic egg-laying, venomous stings, bioluminescence (like fireflies), squirting caustic or aromatic fluids (like bombardier beetles or vinegaroons), solitary, parasitic, or eusocial hive structures.
Note that these larger-than-Terran insecta cannot survive in Standard or Thin atmo; their passive respiration system (direct diffusion from spiracles) is the limiting factor in insect size. Insecta that large require Dense atmo to breathe; in Standard atmo the largest insectoids will be similar in sized to Earth’s and only the smallest of those could breathe in Thin atmo.
One peculiarity is that Terran biospheres are more compatible with Wasphome life than Wasphome’s biosphere is to Terran life. Most Wasphome flora can coexist with Terran (at least in Dense atmo conditions) and most Wasphome fauna can eat or digest most Terran plant material; only with Terran animal products does incompatibility/toxicity become a problem.
The opposite is not true; Wasphome flora and fauna are toxic to Terran animals, though many of the nutrients are the same.
The most complex and advanced order (or subclass) of Wasphome land life are the Archoinsecta. Unique to Wasphome, these advanced insectoids fill the roles of Terran chordata (vertebrates), incorporating many features of reptiles and mammals such as closed circulatory system, internal mouth parts, and complex neural system. Archoinsecta have the following characteristics:
Exoskeletal – like all arthropods and insects, an exoskeleton of chitin which doubles as natural armor (up to Mesh or Cloth in the larger ones). Growth requires molting out of the old exoskeleton and letting a new one grow in. After molting, the Archoinsect loses all natural armor until the new chitin cures and hardens.
Hemimetabolic – do not undergo complete metamorphosis (i.e. larva/pupa/imago). Hatch as nymphs and grow to adulthood through a series of molts.
Hexapodal – six legs, anchored to the third, fifth, and seventh body segments (forethorax, midthorax, hindthorax).
Entognathous – mouth parts are internal, normally in the form of a short squid-like beak. The external insectoid mandibles may be retained as natural weapons and graspers, reduced to vestigial cheek plates protecting the hinge of the beak, or anything in-between. Normally retaining large external mandibles indicates a predator, but there are exceptions; many species of herbivores retain them as defensive weapons or for chopping and reaping plant material.
Exothermic – “Cold blooded” similar to reptiles; this is not normally a problem as Wasphome’s greenhouse effect gives uniform temperatures over its entire “habitable” surface, with little seasonal or even daily variation. Dropping the temperature to near-freezing triggers a hibernation/estivation reflex in most Archoinsecta; if not, low temperatures trigger a sluggish torpor.
Dual Respiratory System – each thoracic/abdominal segment has spiracles leading to spider-type “book lungs” pumped by normal muscle activity; in their native Dense atmosphere, this passive system is their main respiration. A secondary set of airsacs serving as mammal-like lungs is used when exerting themselves beyond the capability of the book-lungs; this active system functions as an emergency overload in Dense atmo and as their main respiratory system in Standard atmo. The effect of this is that Archoinsecta of under 500kg can breathe Earth-normal Standard atmospheres, though their native atmo is toxic to Terran reptiles or mammals, lethally tainted.
Closed circulatory system like a reptile or mammal; their circulatory fluid resembles mammalian blood more than insectoid hemolymph, and looks kind of like urine – straw-yellow with a greenish tinge (i.e. “Zinc Chromate Yellow”). Instead of a single multi-chambered heart, they have several single-chamber “strap hearts” distributed throughout their thoracic and abdominal segments.
Two large compound eyes with greater visual spectrum but less fine detail resolution than reptile- or mammal-style eyes.
High resistance to ionizing radiation – depending on family/genus/species, both safe exposure limits and damaging/lethal doses are from 10 to 1000 times higher than for a human.
All of Wasphome’s megafauna – most anything over 6-12kg – are archoinsecta, including the indigenous minor race themselves, the Chitin A “Wasps”. Some samples of the fauna and megafauna appear on the next page.
|Vanafsi Skathari (“Brutal Beetles”)|
|(small)||Hunter||200kg||5D/3D||mesh||claws+1||A3 F4 S1|
|(medium)||Hunter||400kg||6D/3D||cloth||claws+2||A4 F5 S1|
|(large)||Hunter||800kg||7D/3D||cloth||claws+3||A5 F6 S1|
|Tromatiko Arachni (“Spooky Spiders”)|
|(small)||Pouncer||100kg||5D/2D||mesh||teeth||As Fs S1|
|(medium)||Pouncer||200kg||5D/3D||cloth-1||teeth+1||As Fs S1|
|(large)||Pouncer||400kg||6D/3D||cloth||teeth+2||As Fs S1|
|“Pit Spider”||Trapper||50kg||4D/2D||jack||teeth||As Fs S1|
|Tousoi (“Them”)||Hunter||100kg||5D/2D||cloth||claws and stinger||A3 F7 S2|
|(swarmers)||Eater||25kg||3D/2D||mesh||claws and stinger||A0 F7 S1|
|(small)||Gatherer||12kg||2D/2D||jack||teeth and special||F4 A6 S2|
|(medium)||Gatherer||100kg||5D/2D||mesh||teeth||F4 A5 S4|
|(large)||Gatherer||800kg||7D/3D||cloth||claws+3||F8 A5 S2|
|“Ohmu”||Grazer||6000kg||9D/4D||cmbt||hooves and claws ×2||F5 A5 S2|
|“Web Spider”||Trapper||3kg||1D/1D||none||teeth + special||As F8 S1|
|Arthopleura||Gatherer||25kg||3D/2D||jack||teeth-1||A8 F5 S1|
|“Scorpios”||Hunter||6kg||2D/1D||jack||stinger||A5 F5 S1|
|Jakelopterous||Pouncer||100kg||5D/2D||mesh||claws x2||As F6 S1|
|“Roaches”||Reducers||1kg||1D/0||none||teeth-1||A7 F6 S1|
|Carnivorous plants||Trapper/Siren||n/a||As Fs S0|
(note: all these names are the Telerine names):
- Vanafsi Skathari (“Brutal Beetle”)
- – most widespread megafauna predator; resembles a giant beetle. Large ones are solitary; smaller varieties hunt in small (1D) packs. “Claws” represent cheek-mandibles.
- Tromaktiko Arachni (“Spooky Spider”)
- – main pouncer, resembling a six-legged spider; venomous bite. “Teeth” represent palp-mounted venom fangs. Special attack: Leapers – can change 1-2 range bands with attack leap; the smaller the type, the farther and higher they can leap.
- “Pit Spider”
- – Burrowing Trapper in the manner of an ant lion. Venomous bite, bioluminescent patches. Unlike most Trappers, live in small colonies of up to 1D with networks of pit traps connected by burrows.
- Tousoi (“Them”)
- – Pack predator resembling meter-long ants, with mandible bite (claws) and venomous sting. The basic version is territorial with fixed territory and a Queen/hive structure; the “swarmer” species are smaller but nomadic, encountered in swarms like giant army ants.
- Trogonoi (“Eaters”)
- – A clade of herd animals resembling giant cockroaches or beetles. A genus of these were responsible for the Eliki Disaster on Telerine. The smaller ones have a “special” attack, spraying a caustic liquid to the rear when fleeing. One quasi-domesticated species is used to clear land of vegetation like a plague of ground-bound locusts.
- – Largest of the Trogonoi, so large they active-breathe constantly, giving off a constant low-pitched “unnh unnh” sound. Resemble huge beetles with thick carapaces and large mandibles used for chopping and reaping vegetation. Can just as easily attack (charging stampede) as flee. Hooves represent trample attack, claws the “reaper” mandibles.
- Web Spider
- – Giant spiders, web and all. Some species domesticated for silk production.
- – Giant millipede up to 2m long; wide and flat, like a long skinny trilobite. Amphibious (freshwater), with book gills along its underside.
- – Giant scorpions over half a meter long. Venom sting.
- – Giant sea scorpion 2-3m long; aquatic (with book gills lining entire underside) but can haul out and survive on land for short periods. Attacks land-based prey from the water in the manner of a crocodilian; “claws ×2” represent large pincers.
- – Small omnivore scavengers; look like their namesakes.
- Carnivorous Plants
- – Not as bad as the name implies; venus flytrap and sundew analogs sized around prey of 6kg or less; at most they could trap or entangle a man’s foot; “siren” types use pheromone-mimicking scents as lures. Useful as complication in other encounters; when fleeing from a chaser or stampeding Ohmu or when the Pouncer strikes, the giant flytrap traps your foot.
Cautions and Hazards
Though some of Wasphome’s fauna (Archoinsecta up to 500kg and the smaller para-insecta) can breathe Earth-normal Standard atmospheres, the reverse is not possible. If a human (or any other Terran mammal) were to stand unprotected on Wasphome, he would die within minutes from carbon dioxide/monoxide poisoning augmented by nitrogen narcosis and any allergic reactions from the alien biochemistry.
Humans can survive on Wasphome only in environmental habitats and/or breathing apparatus with trimix or heliox diving gas mixtures (and the accompanying voice pitch changes); the atmosphere is not only lethally tainted but at a surface pressure of 3000 millibars (three times Standard, the same as 20-30 meters underwater), the nitrogen partial pressure approaches long-term toxic levels.
Then there are the fauna. As in “Monsters from Green Hell”, hot jungles under a lime-colored overcast haze by day and lit by giant “fireflies” at night, teeming with predators and nasty/giant bugs.
Wasphome is home to some interesting and dangerous fauna and megafauna, and about half the land area is uninhabited wilderness for one reason or another. Besides Archoinsect mega-predators such as Skathari and Arachni, swarm predators like Tousoi, and locust horde-herds of Trogonoi, relatively-“normal” para-insects include parasitic (lay eggs in host), venomous, and eusocial swarming (“killer bee”, “army ant”, or “locust”) species.
“Bugs, Mister Rico! Millions of Bugs!” – literally. Over three hundred million of them, three times the population of Telerine and Korvo combined. A native minor race, highest of the Archoinsecta, cataloged as “Chitin A” and commonly called “Wasps” from their appearance – roughly human-sized, upright four-armed bipeds resembling wingless bees/hornets/wasps.
As Archoinsecta, they have all the Archoinsecta characteristics listed above. In appearance, the head appears somewhere between a wasp, hornet, or maybe mantis, with two huge compound eyes with 300-degree vision and antennae which serve both hearing and smell. The neck is noticeably slimmer, as are the “wasp-waisted” segments between the upper shoulders, lower shoulder girdle, and hips. A large wasplike abdomen of fused segments hangs behind the legs like an enlarged tail, containing the digestive system; except for the crop, the segmented torso is mainly used for respiration both passive and active. There is no stinger or wings. The four hands are four-fingered and the feet are four-toed, two forward and two aft in the manner of a roadrunner. The entire Wasp is covered in an exoskeleton of chitin; coloration and pattern varies from Hive to Hive, but the most common patterns are segmented “honeybee” or “yellow jacket” stripes, with elaborate natural tattoos around the head.
The exoskeleton also functions as Mesh-equivalent natural armor (Cloth-equivalent in the case of Behemoths).
Omnivore/Grazers with a bit of Hunter, they are highly eusocial with a specialized reproductive caste of 1-2% of the population, the remainder being naturally-neutered female “workers”, organized into “Hives” based around common ancestry. (“Hive” is a generic name for Chitin A social/kinship groupings, from a single pair of breeders and their offspring to clan/tribes of several intermarried breeding pairs to nation-state-sized groupings and alliances established by “intermarriage” exchange of breeders similar to human Feudalism.)
Despite their “hive insect” social organization and reproduction, they are not a communal hive mind but individuals, though of a species much more social than humans. Wasps will always join with others of their Hive/Overhive into herd-like groupings, and are prone to “lone-madness” when alone for extended lengths of time. (The main exceptions are Emissaries, who are selected from those least likely to go lone-mad.) Wasp Emissaries operating alone often “adopt” humans or other local races they interact with as “substitute Hives” and can get pretty clingy.
Wasps have three sexes (Male, Female, Neuter) organized into two castes (Breeders and Workers):
- Brood Queens (Female, Breeder Caste)
- – the egg-layers of a Hive, around 2-3m tall with enlarged abdomens and ovipositors limiting their mobility. Note that they are not “swollen egg-factory sausages”, but can move around with assistance.
- Unfertilized eggs (asexual reproduction, the great majority) hatch into Workers; fertilized eggs (sexual reproduction with a Brood Prince) hatch into future Brood Queens and Princes. The sex ratio among Royal nymphs is around three males (Princes) for one female (Queen).
- Brood Princes (Male, Breeder Caste)
- – around 2-3m tall, in positions of authority and command as unlike Brood Queens they are fully mobile, resembling taller, larger, more “elaborately regal” Wasps. Princes interact with offworlders indirectly, through Emissaries.
- Workers (Neuter, Worker Caste)
- – naturally-neutered females, 1.5-2.5m tall and of varying builds depending on Hive and specific Brood Mother; they are not otherwise biologically-specialized. Two specific castes of Worker are of interest:
- – a form of gigantism whose frequency can vary from Queen to Queen. Over 3m tall and built like bricks, massing up to a ton; used in war as Heavy Weapons/organic Battle Dress and in peacetime for heavy construction/excavation work.
- – Wasps specially selected and trained as heralds/diplomats/interpreters to interface between Hives, acculturated to both their home Hive and the Hive they’re emissaried to – including humans; it’s said that “You don’t know the Wasps; you only know the Emissaries”.
Wasp player-characters will almost certainly be Emissaries; Wasp Patrons will be Emissaries or Hives (Queens/Princes) working through an Emissary.
In addition, when removed from the pheromone aura of other Wasps, one in a thousand Workers will morph into a “proto-Queen” and start laying parthenogenic eggs which will hatch into clones of the mother. These are much less prolific than a true Brood Queen, laying single eggs at intervals.
Humans are often uneasy around Wasps, and (except for Emissaries) the feeling is mutual.
Humans find many Wasp mannerisms disturbing; complex mouth parts (inner beak, outer cheek-mandibles) and antennae in constant motion, unconsciously-synchronized movements and gestures within a group, and the appearance of a giant stinging insect. Emissaries to humans go out of their way to dress, act, and generally present as “normal”.
Wasps in turn find humans utterly alien, eldritch abominations from Beyond-the-Sky like something out of H.P. Lovecraft. The closest equivalent on their world is a worm or slug; other than that, humans are completely-different in bauplan or anatomy than anything on their world. (At least humans have the idea of “bug” or insect; they had no such basis for description. Their biosphere has no genus even remotely resembling a Terran chordate/vertebrate.)
Encounters with Wasps would primarily be with Emissaries, either an Emissary representing a Hive, on their own (Detached Duty like a player-character Scout), or as interface to and accompanied by a group of Workers. Player-character Wasps would be detached-duty Emissaries or groups of Workers with Emissary interface operated as one.
At the time of First Contact, nine out of ten civilizations are stuck at the Tech 3 Plateau, and the Wasps were no exception. Their Tech Level advancement had been extremely slow even before the plateau for a variety of reasons.
Wasp society was ultra-conservative to the point of stasis. Under their Hive/Caste system, the Princes and Queens made all the decisions and their first (and only) priority was preserving their lineage (Brood and Hive). Their communistic Hive economy prevented any concentration of private wealth which could be used to spark an Industrial Revolution to TL4; like several human tribal cultures with the same problem, any windfall to one had to be shared with all.
And Wasps were every bit of aggressive as humans at similar levels of development; their history was that of inter-Hive competition, inter-Hive warfare, and tangles of conflicting inter-Hive alliances negotiated by Emissaries and sealed by exchange of Breeders in the manner of feudal European political marriages. A “Game of Hives” in a Cosmic Egg where nothing existed beyond the yellow-green overcast above except the Queen Sun (Ham B), the Prince Sun (Ham A), and two lunar wanderers.
Then something came from Beyond the Sky.
According to surviving Scout Service records from before the Long Night, Hamilton System was cataloged and first surveyed a few generations before the start of the Long Night. The system was named after the Scout in charge of the survey, one “Horrible Hamilton.”
First Contact was attempted after detailed survey, and had to be done slowly and carefully. As far as the Scouts could ascertain from a distance, the natives had no concept of anything outside their world and their biosphere no phylum corresponding to chordates/vertebrates – humans would be utterly alien, “Fungi from Yuggoth” literally coming out of Nowhere, completely outside even the natives’ imaginings. A botched Contact could get violent – the natives were easily as aggressive and competitive as humans, and nobody wanted to risk “kicking over the wasps’ nest”.
“Alien Abductions” were used to gather intelligence and attempt contact under controlled conditions, but immediately ran into a major problem – the abducted Wasps went “lone-mad” upon the separation from their Hives and immersion among these things.
The breakthrough came when they got an Emissary – a trained interface diplomat resistant to lone-madness and isolation from their Hive. With this Emissary they were able to establish some rudimentary communication, and with this communication came another problem: How to make actual Contact without triggering an inter-Hive war or causing fatal trauma to the civilization.
Two things worked in the Scouts’ favor – the group structure of Hive society provided more of a stabilizer than any human society would have and (unlike Asimov’s classic “Nightfall”) only a few Wasps would experience what lay Beyond-the-Sky: a skyful of stars and other worlds. Hives would be contacted one-by-one, learning from each contact.
There was still massive disruption and a couple inter-Hive wars, but otherwise the Wasps weathered First Contact without too much damage; surviving Scout Service records show limited Amber Zone contact, xenological/cultural studies and documentation, some resource extraction, some established trade/tech transfer, some big-game hunting. And some accounts of “Men Who Would be King” adventurers “pulling Von Danikens” on the Wasps with varying (and sometimes fatal) results.
Then came the Long Night, and the ships from Beyond-the-Sky stopped coming.
The Long Night
Wasphome weathered the Long Night pretty well; without offworld imports, their society drifted back to what it had been before First Contact, with some scavenged higher tech and memories and history-becoming-legend of ships and alien things who came from “stars” and worlds Beyond-the-Sky.
According to various Hives’ legends, some humans might have been stranded on-world but none survived for long. Surviving records and legends are inconsistent, suggesting sporadic offworld contact for a time – probably random raiders and pirates grabbing what they could. The abandoned Highport on the inner moon was stripped and salvaged sometime early during the Long Night.
As the Long Night drew to a close, other now-independent worlds in the surrounding Dole Moving Group began to stir; acquiring Jump Drive technology, they started to scout and expand outsystem, contacting the other known worlds in their vicinity. The closest of these to Hamilton’s Star was the dense-atmo near-waterworld of Telerine, only one parsec distant.
Second Contact from Telerine followed the pattern of First Contact but was much less disruptive; this time the Hives had archives and legends of what lay Beyond-the-Sky and the Telerines had surviving Scout Service records. Both sides had some idea what to expect.
Two-three generations ago, Telerine’s single superpower formally annexed Hamilton’s Star, reactivating and renaming the abandoned pre-Long Night highport and making contact and trade overtures to the Hives. Specialized cadres of Emissaries were surgically-altered and trained to interact with humans, and Wasps began to be used as grunt labor outsystem (such as Paryan and Virtchok outer systems and Zandisill). Unlike those other metikoi the Korvans, Wasps could handle high-radiation environments and “spam-in-a-can” crowded habitats much better than humans.
Then came the Eliki Disaster.
The Eliki Disaster and Redzone
Imported Wasphome fauna broke containment and overran the smaller Republic island of Eliki on Telerine, crowding out and exterminating the island’s existing Terry/Terraforming biosphere. Not only invasive species, but highly-invasive to human-habitable real estate.
The Republic’s first reaction was to deploy its Navy under a war footing and shut down all travel into or out of Hamilton System. Some human cultures would have gone to a Final Solution of orbital bombing, but Telerine was conflicted. Eliki was no deliberate act of war, yet Wasphome life had showed itself as dangerous, able to take over human-habitable worlds and crowd out most all other life. And since Telerine had annexed the system, Wasps were legally Metikoi (resident non-citizens), just like the Korvans and many humans on Telerine itself. And Wasps were already preferred offworld for high-radiation and overcrowded environments.
The solution finally agreed on was to Redzone Wasphome and blockade the world, allowing only limited and highly-controlled contact.
The Redzone Interdiction
The basic premise of the Redzone blockade is simple: No Wasphome fauna capable of breeding can be permitted offworld, including Breeder-caste Wasps.
No technology that could give Wasps their own offworld capability is permitted on-world. (This is an effective limit of TL7, the Tech 7 Plateau.) This also applies to high-tech that they could reverse-engineer; high-tech electronics are in a limbo between permitted and forbidden, as TL11+ solid-state electronics are near-impossible to reverse-engineer from TL7.
Telerine controls all traffic to and from surface, enforcing the interdiction with SDBs and orbital minefields. All ships entering the Ham B system must proceed to Thyrasfika Highport on Wasphome’s inner moon and check in. Any unauthorized ship insystem will be hailed; any ship attempting to approach the planet itself will be fired upon by Telerine SDBs and orbital minefields.
All business is conducted at the Highport; only specially-built insystem shuttles and lighters (built at Port Geolan) are allowed to enter atmo and land on Wasphome.
These non-starships are deliberately “retro” low-tech with a minimum of TL8+ components, largely-manual controls, and minimal avionics. (Think of 1950s/early 1960s concepts of “future spaceships”.)
Any necessary TL8+ components on these shuttles are rigged with destruct charges. These are not “blow up the ship” charges, but only enough to wreck the high-tech equipment without much collateral damage.
Pilots for these shuttles form a special Guild, proud of the fact they have to manually “fly the ship” without fly-by-wire or computer assist.
These shuttles only operate between Thyrasfika Highport and about a dozen E-class downports, maintained and operated by Telerine-vetted and contracted Hives, with Telerine naval and protected ground forces standing ready for rescue and recovery. Having one of these downports is very advantageous for a Hive.
The Wasps’ reaction to this is mixed; Hives keep trying to get around the blockade and make direct contact with Beyond-the-Sky and the Telerines keep trying to prevent it. Smaller vetted Hives play off larger unvetted ones, and all use offworld Emissaries as spies and tech-pirates for their Hives.
Economy and Trade
|Trade Class:||“Semi-Agricultural” (Between Ag and generic)|
|Eaglestone Trade Index:||1 (300 passengers and 1500 dtons freight/week; almost all with Telerine through Geolan)|
|Exports:||Mostly processed and exotic agricultural products – Concentrated foodstuffs for offworld Wasps, organic chemicals (exotic proteins), high-tensile “silk” fibers, chitin-based organoceramics, even infertile eggs.|
|Imports:||Offworld manufactured goods, TL 7 maximum; dextrose-based sweets.|
|Services:||Big-game hunting (in some places).|
Except for population, Wasphome most closely matches the Agricultural trade classification. Accordingly, most of its exports are processed agriculturals, traded for offworld Tech 7 goods. Imported technology is limited to Tech Level 7 by the Telerine interdict; nothing higher-tech than their own.
The Hives chafe under this restriction, and try to get higher-tech through the blockade whenever possible. It is an open secret that Emissaries double as industrial spies for their Hives.
Though classified as an X port, Wasphome actually has a Telerine-run C-class highport and system defense base on its inner moon named Thyrasfika (“Wasp-port”). All traffic to Wasphome goes through this Telerine-run highport; the accompanying naval station enforces the Red Zone interdiction. This is enforced by insystem Telerine forces and orbital minefields.
Thyrasfika Highport is the center of activity for the Ham B system.
Here Emissaries for offworld are surgically-altered and implanted to be able to speak human languages.
Here apprentice Emissaries practice interacting with humans, often with no clue; there’s a difference between being taught alien personalities and culture and actually experiencing it.
Thyrasfika is the base for most all Belter operations in Hamilton’s Belt.
All traffic to and from Wasphome goes through Thyrsafika; offworld starships (including player-character ships) will get no closer than this Highport. All cargo bound for the surface is transferred to special shuttles and lighters; these are the only craft permitted to enter atmo and land.
Thyrasfika is also the transfer/embarkation point for all Wasps going offworld (Emissaries, trade expeditions, or Wasp labor for Paryan, Hamilton and Virtchok Belts, or Zandisill). Wasps are preferred for these tasks because of their high tolerance for both radiation exposure and tight quarters. Emissaries normally travel Middle Passage for maximum human interaction time and Workers in Low Passage taking advantage of their hibernation reflex – at near-freezing temperatures, they conk right out.
And the base for the Redzone blockade/interdiction force; there is a heavy Telerine military presence of Naval personnel and Protected Forces (including Laconian mercenaries) for surface commando operations.
Put the above three together and Thyrasfika becomes a hotbed of Casablanca-style spy activity – Emissaries gathering intelligence about the greater universe (and/or the blockade) and/or trying to smuggle in forbidden technology. Both sides know how the game is played and that the other side knows. (And they know the others know, and the others know they know they know…)
Thyrasfika Highport is similar to Alphaport on Geolan Alpha, tunneled deep into the small moon. The major differences are more Telerines, less Korvans, a larger military presence, and a huge Entomopolis taking up half the Highport accommodations. Total permanent population is around 2000 (half military personnel) with an equal (mostly Wasp) transient population at any given time.
Some of these Port tunnels date from before the Long Night; when the Telerines moved into the system after Second Contact, they discovered a pre-Long Night port that had been evacuated and stripped. No human remains were found; apparently the old port had been evacuated and abandoned after being salvaged/stripped. It was just a matter of rebuilding the existing facility back into operation.
What “downports” are in use on-surface are primitive Class E downports. Many have adjacent environmental facilities for visiting humans, using heliox and/or trimix diving gas mixtures to provide human-breathable atmo under Wasphome pressures. (The heliox/trimix has the expected changes on voice pitch; referees and players are encouraged to run communications to and from these in squeaky helium falsettos.)
Tech Level Notes
Wasphome was stuck at the Tech 3 Plateau (pre-industrial) at the time of First Contact, just before the beginning of the Long Night. Interaction and trade had only begun when interstellar contact ceased; Wasp civilization was still reeling from First Contact with these eldritch abominations from beyond the sky.
When the Long Night ended and Telerine expanded out to Hamilton’s Star over a century ago, the Wasps were still at TL3bis, just starting an Industrial Revolution but unable to complete it due to fits and starts between Hives and the damping effects of their eusociality.
The Wasps handled Second Contact better than they had First Contact; trade with Telerine became established, Wasphome Highport was founded, Geolan was T-formed and settled, and their Tech Level increased through imports, reverse-engineering lower tech from the imports. Then came the Eliki Disaster and the Redzone went down. Wasphome was around TL7 at the time, and the Redzone stopped all further tech imports, effectively freezing Wasphome at the TL7 Plateau, unable to advance from Industrial to Information Age without advanced electronics. A live operator still remains the best control system.
Wasphome remains around TL6bis (between WW1 and 2) to this day; the major anomalies are electronics and chemicals:
Electronics are barely TL5, without even vacuum tubes due to difficulties with the thick atmosphere; have you ever tried to build a vacuum tube in 3 atmospheres? Instead, they use a sort of primitive capacitance technology, even bulkier and less efficient than vacuum tubes. With no compute power, live operators become the main control system.
Solid-fuel rocket technology and its chemical/industrial base are around TL9, just the opposite.
With the thick atmosphere, local aircraft need only between half and a third the lifting surface of Standard atmo; this gives any Wasp-designed aircraft strange stubby proportions. And would make hovercraft very practical if they had a better power source than combustion engines; as-is, Wasp hovercraft tend to be large and heavy.
Another peculiarity has to do with their eusocial structure where the group always takes precedence over the individual; for instance, use of mass transit instead of private vehicles, communal facilities instead of personal.
Government and Society
“Wasp” society is based around the “Hive”, a small breeding “group/line marriage” of Brood Queens and Brood Princes and a much larger population of neuter Workers. These Hives fill a similar niche to a Vargr extended Pack or a Korvan ayllu and are fiercely competitive with other Hives, warring on each other or forming alliances by exchange of Queens and Princes with other Hives to group together into larger Overhives, the largest of which approximate nation-states.
Government of a Hive is a combination of Gov C (Charismatic Oligarchy, the Breeder Caste), Gov 5 (Feudal, in relationships and alliances-by-exchange-of-breeders between Hives), Gov 0 (Family bonds predominate, as each Hive is a heavily-extended family), and Gov 7 (Balkanized, from the vast number and variety of independent Hives).
Brood Queens and Princes rule, Brood Princes command when away from home, Emissaries interact with other Hives (including offworlders), and Workers and Behemoths do their thing.
Language and secondary customs can vary widely from Hive to Hive; Emissaries exchanged between Hives act as linguistic and cultural interpreters as well as generic diplomats.
By human standards, all Hives operate under “True Communism”; the Wasps’ extremely social nature naturally subordinates the individual to the collective and automatically coordinates the whole. Hives do compete with each other, both economically and violently; outside the Hive there is always the Other, just as among humans with their much smaller troop-size limit. The Emissary caste originally developed as a corps of professional diplomats to regulate this inter-Hive competition and conflict.
Within the Hive, the individual will almost always defer to the group. Like several human societies, an individual takes the career and life expected of her for the common good of the Hive, with her own wishes or desires secondary to the collective.
However, the Hive (through the Queens and Princes) does take into account individual talents and aptitudes when assigning Workers to career paths and functions. A Worker satisfied with her job and position is more of an asset to the Hive than an unhappy one. Just that there are more needed functions and jobs than there are satisfied Workers.
The main exceptions to this are Emissaries, who are selected from those more resistant to lone-madness and more comfortable with outside-the-Hive situations. (Similar to Droyne “Sports”.)
Despite their communistic psychology and sociology, Wasps do have the concept of private property, just it normally applies to personal possessions and not much else.
Wasps are very slightly psionic – mostly basic Telepathy, i.e. Life Detect and Telempathy, both mostly within their Hive kin-group. Humans are not really sure how much of this is truly psionic and how much is pheromone scent interaction.
It is possible some of the Breeder castes (Queens and Princes) might have actual trainable psi talents, most likely Telepathy and Awareness. Emissaries and various other “sports” may also have psi talents, but to a lesser extent.
Before contact, Wasps had no concept of anything beyond their world, and their belief systems reflect this.
Wasp “religion” is more a set of folk beliefs which vary from Hive to Hive, but all have some things in common. Such as basic cosmology, which echoes the Hive structure of their society:
The Godhead is female, a Cosmic Queen who laid the Cosmic Egg of the World (Wasphome) which in turn hatched all life.
Below this all-Mother are lesser supernatural beings – the equivalent of Princes and Workers – echoing the Hive structure of their society.
And the physical Cosmos, a geocentric pocket universe consisting of the World (the Cosmic Egg), the Greater and Lesser Suns and Moons, and not much else. Nothing else was visible through the perpetual yellow-green overcast which roofed the world and rained skyfall.
Then came First Contact. Like their original pre-contact society, this cosmology took a beating from the revelation of an entire galaxy and universe Beyond-the-Sky. By the time of Second Contact, the disruption had damped down into an interpretation that the above Cosmology was for Wasps and only for Wasps; the Others from Beyond-the-Sky would have their own Cosmos and Cosmology for them.
This causes some difficulty when going offworld into the Cosmos of the Others, but so far the Wasps have been able to handle it without major problems. The main unsease is what happens to Wasps who die offworld, away from not only their Hive but the Cosmic Egg – do they ever find their way Home?
Armed Forces: Telerine
The bulk of Telerine naval forces insystem are dedicated to enforcing the Red Zone – about 2000 dtons of Tech Level 10 SDBs, fighters, and orbital minefields (fire as turret or bay missiles), sharing the military section of Thyrasfika Highport with two or three battalions of TL10 protected forces. These ground forces are primarily intended for commando operations, inserted, recovered, and given air cover by state-of-the-art armed small craft without the TL restrictions of the commercial shuttles.
Within the Telerine military, Thyrasfika has the reputation of a not-unpleasant but very boring peacetime posting. The Highport isn’t all that large, there’s not that much to do outside Cyberspace, most of the Naval personnel are maintenance and logistics, fighter jocks, or blockade ship crews rotating to base, and the ground forces on-station primarily drill and practice Entomokynigi (“bug-hunting”) on maneuvers in the unoccupied pre-Long Night tunnels.
Armed Forces: Native
Native forces are entirely at the Overhive level, totaling around 100 divisions (200 brigades, 400 regiment-equivalents), mostly Tech Level 7 infantry with Behemoths as “organic powered armor” packing heavy weapons. Organization can vary from Hive to Hive to Overhive to Overhive.
None of these ground (and supporting marine and air) forces are off-planet, and are mostly used against other Hives on this balkanized world.
The dense hazy atmosphere favors shorter-range engagements; shotguns (and their relatives the LAG and RAM grenade) dominate as small arms. Heavy weapons are mostly rockets and missiles (including gyrojet direct-fire artillery) reflecting their advanced solid-fuel rocket technology; though TL7, they do have TL8-equivalent LAGs and RAM grenades. Tac missiles are wire- or radio-command guided, with some heavy ballistic missiles similar to a solid-fueled Redstone. WMDs are chemical (organophosphates and/or chlorinated hydrocarbons) or entomological (invasive species swarms) instead of nuclear; even pre-blockade, the Telerines made sure they did not give Wasps nuclear tech.
There has been some talk of Wasp mercenary companies. Wasphome could support some 40 regiments of mercs for dense-atmo offworld use, but such companies would have to be commanded by a Brood Prince, which are not allowed offworld. Some units commanded by non-breeders (including specialized Emissaries) have been experimented with.
The Telerines have additionally surrounded the planet with a ring of orbital minefields; these minefields will fire automatically on any approaching ship (as turret or bay missiles) without proper IFF. Shuttles and lighters to and from surface ports are given the proper one-use IFF codes at Thyrasfika Highport.
- “Bored soldiers are dangerous”, and Thyrasfika is a very monotonous and boring posting. Expect some of the Telerine military onsite to cut the boredom in various creative (and borderline-insane) ways. The least hazardous of these is exploring the old tunnel systems.
- Big-game hunting on Wasphome – some Hives invite offworld hunters to try their luck with local Big Dangerous Game for some hefty amounts of Telerine Drachmae or offworld Credits (or maybe minor offworld technology). Hunting Brutal Beetles or Spooky Spiders through an alien jungle on a hostile-environment world from a heliox-atmo base camp…
- And what happens if the life-support fails or goes wonky in that base camp?
- Wasp with a Secret – she’s a spontaneous breeder on the run, trying to suppress it with do-it-yourself hormone treatments. If she’s found out, the Telerines will deport her back to Wasphome permanently; acculturated to human society and customs, she finds other Wasps as alien as they find humans.
- It is an open secret that Emissaries double as spies for their Hives, gathering intelligence both political, newsworthy, and industrial/technological – anything that might give a Hive an advantage over other Hives or enable Wasps to get offworld through the Telerine blockade and take their place with all the others. A player-character Wasp will almost always be an Emissary (with or without an escort of other Worker castes possibly including Behemoths). Any PC who becomes a companion of a Wasp Emissary could easily find him/herself in the middle of a Spy Thriller.
- Or a dangerous smuggling run, trying to get past the Telerine blockade. Hint: A brute-force blockade run is not going to work. You have to get sneaky.
- And once you’re on-surface, now what? The local atmo is unbreathable, and the Telerines will intercept you (or their minefields shoot you down) if you try to boost out. The Hive you’re dealing with is obviously not one of the Treaty-vetted ones, and you’ve just ridden down in a high-tech treasure trove without any of the Telerine lighter/shuttle limitations. What’s to prevent the locals from just taking your ship?
- And the Telerine blockade force above – having to mount an expedition to destroy the ship before the Wasps can reverse-engineer it. This could be a protected forces commando raid to take the ship back and fly it out, or a simple ortillery missile drop – a force with near-space control can shoot up anything on-surface at leisure. Even low-yield nuclear weapons would be a possibility – a couple kilotons would definitely leave nothing salvageable, and radioactive contamination would be mitigated by the local fauna already being highly-resistant. Don’t know about the smugglers, though.
Hamilton’s Star began when a random system generation using Traveller Book 6: Scouts resulted in a pleasing small symmetrical orange dwarf system – two rockballs in the inner system separated by an asteroid belt from two small gas giants in the outer system. When the Chitin A “Wasps” were first developed, the second world in this system was modified into their homeworld and continued from there.
The Dole Moving Group had too few multiple-star systems, so the system was made a binary by rolling another four-planet orange dwarf system, seeing what came up, and fitting the two together with 61 Cygni as a pattern. When the solar spectral classes were adjusted for the relative atmospheres of the two system main worlds, the first system rollup became Hamilton B and the second Hamilton A, placed as close as possible according to the Scouts rules for binary system orbits.
When the trip times between A and B were calculated, they were found to be as far apart in travel time as two adjacent systems on a Traveller map – two systems for the price of one.
System nomenclature for Ham A was taken from an elemental pantheon in Wayne Shaw’s “Mageworld” D&D campaign of the late Nineties, organized around personifications of the classic Four Elements:
Geolan = Earth (somewhat surface-habitable)
Aeros = Air (gas giant)
Pyrak = Fire (Mercuriform in a near-torch orbit)
Hydrane = Water (frozen waterworld)
Thin/Low atmo was obviously inspired by “Canyon” in Larry Niven’s Known Space series; Geolan’s small size and low Hydro suggested Mars, so the world was conceived as a Mars with a single habitable lowland area.
Ham B system nomenclature was much simpler, as with their homeworld’s dense hazy atmo only the suns would be visible from the surface. So they’d have no names for anything other than the world and the suns.
Wasphome was originally designed as a homeworld for the Chitin A minor race, with the concept that they could tolerate Earth-standard conditions but humans couldn’t survive theirs. Its high Life Score made the system much older than the Dole systems, making a common origin impossible. The world itself and its biota became a tribute to 1950s “Big Bug” monster movies and derivative 1960s toy lines which provided a ready-made nomenclature.
Wasphome would make a great alien world for adventuring, but humans can’t survive there.