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Zandisill (Glavion Cluster 05)

This article originally appeared in issue #006 of the downloadable magazine.

This system originated in 30-year-old campaign notes. This is a more generic version for insertion into any Traveller campaign.

In the original notes, Zandisill was a location for four exotic alien races, all refugee populations living in domes. This became Zandisill Prime; Zandisill Secundus was an unnamed world from another set of notes that “felt” like it belonged in the same system.

C323679-6/D102561-7 Carbon Cryoworld
NA/NI/Poor Trade Index -2

Zandisill System is a wide binary consisting of a carbon white dwarf (Zandisill A) with a distant red dwarf companion (Zandisill B). The two components orbit each other approximately every 80,000 years with a current separation of 300 AU. Both insystem points of interest orbit Zandisill A.

Zandisill A (Carbon WD white dwarf star) is believed to have originally been a late B/early A main-sequence star with high metallicity (enhanced carbon) and a planetary system of “Carbonaceous” worlds where carbon compounds dominated over silicon in the rocks, oceans, and atmosphere – carbides and hydrocarbons instead of silicates and water.

At the end of its main-sequence life, Zandisill A swelled into a red giant, vaporizing its inner planetary system and cooking the outer worlds; after which, it shed its outer layers in a series of core-pops and imitation-nova eruptions until only its core remained: today’s carbon white dwarf, a white-hot diamond the size of a large rockball world. This dead star is only slightly more luminous than its M9 companion; after almost being boiled away by the dying star, the Cthonian remnants of the remaining planets froze under the dim white remnant. This resulted in a system of “Carbonaceous Cthonian” planets frozen in stasis, the only known such system in the Cluster.

Currently, Zandisill A has two planets of interest; both Cthonian:

Zandisill Prime (C323679-6, Orbit 6) is the system main world, a surviving gas giant core whose exotic chemical surface has attracted extensive mining/extraction industries from both major powers in the cluster as well as two minor ones. All planets closer than 5AU were consumed by Zandisill A as it became a red giant.

Zandisill II (SGG, 50 T-mass, Orbit 7) is the only surviving gas giant of the system, a Saturn-sized Uranus with a sickly blue-green atmosphere and a series of thin rings. Most of the atmosphere was swept away by the death throes of Zandisill A; what remains is highly contaminated and requires special refining to be used as fuel. Its largest moon, Zandisill Secundus (D102561-7), also supports resource extraction from its surface sludge and Belters working the other, irregular moons.

Zandisill B (M9v red dwarf/flare star, Orbit 12) has only a thin disk of carbonaceous asteroids and carbon dwarf planets. Due to the danger from solar mega-flares, this disk has not been settled or exploited, though there might be occasional freelance Belter activity.

Zandisill Prime

(Zandisill A I) C323679-6 NA/NI/Poor
Trade Index -2

Carbonaceous Cthonian cryoworld with a very thin nitrogen/ammonia/carbon monoxide atmosphere and oceans of liquid ammonia and exotic hydrocarbon sludge under a white dwarf sun. The innermost surviving planet at 5 AU (Orbit 6), Zandisill Prime is believed to be the surviving core of a small Carbonaceous gas giant whose entire atmosphere boiled off when Zandisill A died. The star’s death not only boiled off the SGG’s atmosphere but cooked the carbon compounds in the exposed core into exotic organic chemistry before freezing them under the remaining White Dwarf. This resulted in the exotic organic sludge now being exploited by four industrial colonies.

Zandisill Prime retains its former gas giant rotation and strong magnetic field, resulting in a day only six hours long. The Small Gas Giant-level magnetosphere protects the surface completely from any hard radiation emitted by Zandisill A by trapping it in gas giant-level Van Allen belts; all approaches to and departures from the world must be either high-gee or over the polar holes to avoid radiation exposure.

Surface Conditions/Sky Picture (Z Prime):

One of the most hostile settled worlds in the Cluster, Zandisill Prime is a rugged world about the temperature of liquid nitrogen, with a low gravity (half a gee) and a Very Thin Exotic atmosphere. Like Titan with a much thinner atmosphere.

From surface, the sky is an eternal starry night, broken only by occasional cirrus clouds and two especially-bright stars: the bluish-white of Zandisill A and the blood-red of Zandisill B, flying across the sky three hours from sunrise to sunset, casting a bright starlight over a fantasy landscape of graphite-colored rugged crags dusted with CO2 ice and snow and chaotic terrain rising from seas of inky black sludge veined with greys and browns. Occasionally Zandisill B brightens from blood-red to yellow-orange as massive flares convulse its surface; sometimes flaring bright enough to actually bring out color in the ghostly landscape – blacks, browns, and charcoals dusted with tawny CO2 ice and whitish CO2 snow.

Around the colony/industrial domes, trails of nitrogen/methane steam rise from the processing plants like smoke from TL6 industrial smokestacks, ghostly plumes dissipating quickly in the thin atmosphere, sometimes condensing into nitrogen rain and methane snow falling in half-gee slow motion.

Interstellar Trade Situation (Z Prime):

Eaglestone Trade Index of –2 (NA/NI/Poor) exporting Polymers, Crystals (diamond), Special Alloys, and Petrochemicals; the four colonies are utterly dependent on their mother countries.

The Colony Domes (Z Prime):

Zandisill Prime's only settlements are four colony domes run by four separate entities, all engaged in chemical extraction from the atmosphere and oceans. All these colonies are Government 6 and Law Level 9, differing only in Tech Level. (The high Law Level is not due to oppression, but a nod to the pressure-cooker realities of austere industrial colonies with cramped quarters in a low-gee, totally-hostile environment. Think of the Corporate Installation on Io in Outland as a pattern.) Total population is 1.2 million, broken down as follows:

Arnex, the dominant system in the cluster, has the most extensive operation with a total of 500,000 Gen employees working extraction plants along the coast of the largest sludge sea, including dredging operations from sea- and lake-bottoms. This is the highest-tech operation on-world, at the dominant Tech Level of the cluster.

Cauldron, junior member of the Arnex-Cauldron Axis, has the second-largest operation with 300,000 personnel, organized as a coalition of Cauldron’s three largest/highest-tech nations. This operation is Tech Level 9.

The other two colonies/operations, smaller than the two Axis powers, are coalition operations by the secondary powers in the cluster.

In the reconstructed Cluster, the larger of these two operations – 300,000 personnel, the same size as Cauldron’s – is run by Telerine in the Dole Subcluster. The other – 80,000 Vargr – hails from the Vargr mainworld of Macumeran in the subcluster of the same name. Both of these operations are Tech Level 8-9, with the Telerine operation using a lot of personnel from their vassal systems: Humans from both Telerine and Korvo, and “Wasps” (“Chitin A”, a pseudo-insectoid minor race) from Hamilton’s Star. The “Wasps” have their own domes and installations due to their differing environmental requirements; coming from a regimented society, they take the austere pressure-cooker environment in the domes much better than humans or Vargr.

The fact that four colonies were planted on this backwater cryoworld tells you something: Zandisill has some resource that is vitally important to the Cluster. Anagathics?

Zandisill Secundus

(Zandisill A II-A) D102561-7 NA/NI/Poor/Vacuum
Trade Index -3

Largest moon of a small semi-Cthonian gas giant in Zandisill’s outer system, another Carbonaceous world. Though a vacuum world with no atmosphere, a “petroleum jelly” of crusted-over exotic hydrocarbons covers 20% of its surface, formed by the same stellar death that cooked Zandisill Prime. This resource supports a colony of 20,000, a spillover from Zandisill Prime exploiting its unique chemical composition. Also serves as a home base for insystem Belters working the outer system, plus the only source of refined fuel in the system.

Surface Conditions/Sky Picture (Z Secundus):

Surface conditions on Zandisill Secundus are similar to Zandisill Prime, except with lower gravity (1/8 gee), less exotic terrain, no atmosphere at all, and even colder (like Triton instead of Titan).

Like most moons, Zandisill Secundus is locked in synchronous rotation just outside its primary’s Van Allen belts, with an orbital period and day of 120 hours. The terrain is more conventional than Prime’s craggy chaos, mostly ice plains like Triton, with crusted-over hydrocarbon deposits as black as the sky filling the impact craters and lowlands.

Sky picture is as per Zandisill Prime, with the ghostly disc of Zandisill II looming permanently in the sky, flickering with polar aurorae and mega-lightning, phasing from eclipse to crescent to full to crescent over Secundus’s 120-hour day, a faint blue-green on the side illuminated by A and almost-infrared when illuminated by B.

Interstellar Trade Situation (Z Secundus):

Eaglestone Trade Index –3 (Poor/NI/NA) exporting exotic Petrochemicals; utterly dependent on its mother country (which may not be the same as any of the domes on Zandisill Prime).

Secundus is also the main insystem fueling stop. Though a D port, refined fuel is available at double the normal price from a locally-maintained network of fuel-skim lighters and on-world refineries. Raw fuel skimmed from Zandisill II is so contaminated it takes two or three refining passes to be useable; the best normal fuel refining can do with it is the equivalent of Unrefined. (Treat raw fuel from Zandisill II as having double to triple the penalties of Unrefined fuel.) The fuel lighters and refineries have a secondary function as chemical extraction plants, storing the more commercially-valuable contaminants.

The exotic petrochemicals from Zandisill Secundus are secondary to those from Zandisill Prime. Probably Secundus’s surface wasn’t cooked as completely as Prime’s, and the sludge is more conventionally Carbonaceous.

Adventure Nuggets:

There are at least four rival operations insystem: The four on Zandisill Prime, a possible fifth on Zandisill Secundus (with control of the main fuel source), plus possible Belters. All these can come into conflict with each other, in a hostile environment similar to the movie Outland. Including “Wasp” habitats where the air is so dense and CO2-tainted as to be unbreathable by anyone except “Wasps”.

Both “settled” worlds are survival stories in and of themselves. A thinner-atmosphered Titan and an airless Triton, hostile environment worlds with none or very thin exotic atmospheres, liquid-nitrogen surface temperatures, high radiation levels, and daytime illumination between moonlight and starlight. Any hull breach or life-support breakdown would get very bad very fast.