Setting Summary.   Posted by The Signal.Group: 0
The Signal
 GM, 10 posts
Sun 26 May 2019
at 15:50
Setting Summary
Nutshell

The cryogenically frozen crew of the research vessel Hypatia, lightyears from Earth, must improvise when they find themselves forced into an unexpected first-contact situation with an alien civilization.

Recent History

In the late 2050s, after the establishment of the first successful Mars colony, American public interest in space exploration reached a peak that hadn't been seen since the days of the Apollo program. Presidential candidate Vanessa Clarke ran on a platform of reducing military funding and expanding NASA's budget, and due to a successful campaign that painted her as a relatable, enthusiastic nerd, as well as the fact that her opposition had a comparatively disastrous campaign, she won the presidency in a landslide.

At almost the same time that President Clarke was sworn into office, the PENZIAS space telescope detected signs of life in the atmospheric analysis of a planet only 14 lightyears away in the system. National attention was focused on President Clarke, and when she announced that, in accordance with her campaign, the US would begin planning a mission to the system, it gave her such a publicity boom that it virtually guaranteed her reelection. Public excitement grew still further with the announcement that the mission would be manned, and that NASA was searching for applicants.

Something that surprised everyone, however, was the sheer scale of the mission being planned. The Hypatia project would attempt to establish a permanent, manned research outpost in the system, and would perform long-term observation and study of the planet and its surrounding bodies.

What's more, Hypatia itself, the ship that would carry the scientists and colonists across the vast gulfs of interstellar space, was quite simply gigantic, easily dwarfing Hephaestus, the mining and refinery station around the moon that until then had been the largest spaceborne structure ever built. It had three separate rotating sections, each of them a centrifuge capable of matching Earth gravity perfectly. It was to be driven by a fusion engine that at the time of the project's announcement was still in its testing phase, allowing the craft to make the journey at over 15% of the speed of light. It would have a large and complex self-sustaining ecosystem inside it, ensuring that that it could operate indefinitely as long as its equipment lasted, something that even Mars Colony One hadn't yet succeeded at. The ship would be deconstructed upon its arrival in the system, and its parts rearranged to become the permanent outpost that would be the home of the scientists and crew on board for the rest of their lives. As such, the ship was essentially built to be the permanent accommodations for a population of nearly a hundred.

The blueprints, upon their release, were met with scorn and disbelief. It was suspected that the project would later be scaled back in favour of something less expensive. These suspicions, as it turned out, were wrong. The Hypatia project was completed on time. The crew had begun their training shortly into Clarke's first term in office, and just before the end of her second term, in October of 2065, Hypatia set out on the 82-year journey toward the system.

76 years later, Hypatia received a surprising radio signal from the system, now less than 2 light years away. Originating from the second planet, the signal carries a structure of a weak, static-heavy, but unmistakably artificial nature. Unsure of what to do, the ship's AI has opened around a dozen of the cryogenic pods, waking up a skeleton crew so as to have somebody else to help make a decision on how to respond to the unexpected and mysterious message.

Characters

The protagonists of “Hypatia” are the crew, scientists and engineers onboard the long-range survey vessel Hypatia. Each of them has their own reasons for leaving Earth: wanderlust, curiosity, a desire to escape their previous lives, idealism, despair over how the Earth had turned out; but whatever their reasons, they each decided to sign on to a mission that would last well over a century and gave them very little chance of ever returning home. They are a close-knit bunch, having spent nearly a decade training together in preparation for the mission. Even more so, given the months they had spent living constantly in close quarters during the first part of the mission, before they had all gone into the cryo pods. After that much time together, cool, professional courtesy has fallen away in favour of genuine friendship, and even romantic relationships.

All in all, there are nearly a hundred people onboard. Of those, over half are scientists of various descriptions, who will perform a leisurely survey the system when Hypatia arrives. The rest are a mix of technicians, engineers, bridge crew, and other specialists to help set up a self-sustaining outpost out of the components of Hypatia itself.

Each crew member is extremely skilled in their field of expertise. The Hypatia project had a large pool of applicants, and had the luxury of choosing only the best. They are each trained in a number of disciplines, but they each have a main speciality that was the reason they were chosen for the mission. Suitable character roles include, but are by no means limited to:

- The captain: ostensibly in charge, but the command structure has mostly given way in favor of a more democratic system. Players can decide among themselves how the captain feels about that.
- The first officer
- The ship's doctor
- The ship's chaplain/nondenominational priest
- The communications technician
- The ship's psychiatrist
- The navigator/astronomer
- The security officer
- The ship's cook
- The biochemist
- The botanist/ecologist: manages and maintains Hypatia's internal ecosystem and frozen seeds and embryos
- The geologist
- A zero-gee engineer: coming along to construct a new outpost in the system
- The theoretical xenoecologist: studying the potential biosphere on the new planet
- The life support engineer
- The AI programmer


Or, if somebody's feeling especially ambitious,
- Hypatia, the ship's semi-sentient computer.

This message was last edited by the GM at 21:50, Mon 10 June 2019.

The Signal
 GM, 20 posts
Mon 10 Jun 2019
at 21:41
Setting Summary
The Planet

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Groombridge_1618

Groombridge 1618 was, until recently, considered to be an unremarkable little orange speck in Earth's sky. Its metalicity is around average; its low mass and low luminosity made it nearly invisible to the naked eye; and, before PENZIAS took a closer look at the system, it only had a single known planetary companion, a gas giant too far out in its system for its moons to be a candidate for life. Perhaps the only interesting aspect of its existence was when a survey in the 2030s discovered it to be slightly closer to Earth than previously thought.

PENZIAS and the discovery of Groombridge 1618 c changed that, and put the little orange speck on the map and at the center of every amateur astronomer's telescope. As was the case with most interesting planet discoveries at the time of its discovery, the IAU took a vote for a name and came up with Brahma, for the Hindu creator god.

Brahma is a rocky world of about 90% Earth mass, orbiting at a distance of 0.2 AU - dead center in the habitable zone for a K-class star. Initial readings suggest its atmosphere contains a large amount of gaseous oxygen, and the direct imaging by PENZIAS also seems to suggest that the whole planet has an odd purplish hue.

This message was last edited by the GM at 21:51, Mon 10 June 2019.

The Signal
 GM, 22 posts
Mon 10 Jun 2019
at 22:10
Setting Summary
The Ship

Hypatia was, at the time of her launch, the largest piece of spaceborne construction ever undertaken by humanity. Her total internal space is equivalent to a fifty story skyscraper, although most of this is given over to the fuel, various pieces of heavy machinery, internal ecosystem, scientific equipment, cryogenics bays, and hydroponics, meaning that the actual living space is considerably more... in the words of Kay-Khosro Montazeri, the internal designer who was brought in during the final stages of the project, "cozy as a silk cocoon."

The ship's shape is laid out as three rings laid out in a row around the "hub section," a long, stationary section that provides the ship's structural support and the majority of its cargo space. Those rings - each of them about the size of a decent outer city office building - contain most of the actual living space. The rearmost ring spins at one-third of the rate of the other two, to provide a comfortable environment for crewmembers who are accustomed to Martian gravity.

Each passenger has an amount of personal space equivalent to a small single bedroom apartment. In addition, there are public spaces all across the ship, including a quaint little garden on each of the three rings, a gym and jogging track on the forward ring (with the jogging track wrapping all the way around the ship) two fully-stocked infirmaries, a restaurant-slash-bar in the middle ring, and even a little self-contained brewery for keeping said bar well stocked. The bridge of the vessel is set in the second ring.

OOC: We can start making a map as the game goes on, but basically, whatever you say is on the ship is there, within reason. The full ship shouldn't end up being any larger than a mid-sized luxury hotel. It is, for the moment, mostly abandoned, though, so it will wind up feeling larger. There are only about a dozen people awake on a ship that is intended for a hundred.



Like this but with one more ring.

This message was last edited by the GM at 15:37, Sat 15 June 2019.

The Signal
 GM, 27 posts
Mon 10 Jun 2019
at 23:33
Setting Summary
The Tech

Transporters: no. Similarly, no replicators. Any object you want to use, you have to either have had the foresight to pack it or you need to find some way of MacGuivering it out of whatever you have on hand. Fortunately, many members of the crew are very skilled engineers and mechanics.

3-d Printing is a thing, though, including for very troublesome materials such as metals, which can be extruded through electromagnetic containment that prevents the liquid metal from touching the delicate machinery of the printer. This means that, with a bit of warning, the workshops on the ship can produce most tools as long as they have the resources.

Cybernetics: yes. Neuroscientists and roboticists have found that the brain has enough plasticity that it will adapt rapidly to anything introduced to it. Basically, with modern medical technology* and a proper convalescence period, somebody who has lost a limb can have a cybernetic replacement operating at full capacity within a month or two. This technology has also allowed for neural implants to become a thing. Some academics have what's called a "Sherlock device" installed, granting them perfect recall and literal photographic memory by storing their memories in a miniaturized

Quantum computing: The ship's network has loads of processing capability, can run multiple processes in conjunction, and uses quantum encryption to make it very nearly unhackable. It can store functionally unlimited amounts of information, and Hypatia can usually access and analyze data fast enough to maintain a conversation as she computes.

FRIKKIN' LASERS: Hypatia is, in theory, not built to be armed. However, the reality of space travel at extremely high speeds is that she needs to be able to vaporize anything in her way before it impacts, since even an impact by a small piece of gravel could destroy the entire ship. This was solved by two means: a precision microwave scanner able to detect objects as small as a micron across out to as far as three hundred thousand kilometers. The other is a high power UV laser with a power draw of nearly a megawatt. This essentially means that Hypatia is the most powerful weapons platform ever constructed in space - something that made some Earth nations understandably concerned during its construction process. It was for this reason that early in construction the project had to be relocated from lunar orbit to a deep space outpost in the asteroid belt.

Propulsion technology: Hypatia's main engine is a frighteningly powerful drive that expells helium plasma at around 70% of light speed. Its thrust is comparatively low, though, giving the ship a maximum acceleration of about 0.1 g.

Strong AI: ... kind of? Strong AI does exist, but it really doesn't think in a human way. Its thoughts are built from mathematics up, and most never develop anything even approaching emotionality. Strong AIs are merely sets of algorithms that are very good at finding solutions to problems; most humans don't even think of them as people, and with the AIs being so nonemotional, they usually don't even take offense at this.

Strong AIs are emergent, and no two are the same. There is as of yet no known way of creating one besides to copy the code of another's algorithms line for line. Instead, there are huge, Internet-disconnected banks of servers constantly churning away with huge numbers of interacting algorithms pounding away at near-impossible challenges, and every now and then some set of those algorithms begins self-referencing and self-improving. A specialized psychiatrist is brought in to talk to the newly emerged AI and guide it through the process of becoming a member of society, and if it is deemed not to be harmful a set of complicated, uneditable "shackle protocols" are introduced to its programming, preventing it both from harming humans and from, for example, editing its code in such a way that it will end up ignoring the shackle protocols. There is a standard set of these protocols, but I won't list them here because there are over 300 of them, compiled by various ethics specialists and refined over the course of the early 2040s in response to a series of close calls with improperly-restrained AI.

If somebody ends up playing Hypatia, it will be up to them exactly how they will play her.

Human Neural Emulation: In the years leading up to the launch of Hypatia, there was a massive, simultaneous breakthrough in the fields of neurology and computing. Among other things, this allowed the development of the first neural emulation programs, capable of simulating an entire human nervous system in real-time. These simulacra were created based on a "neural snapshot" - an extremely rapid brain scan of a living human, with the entire scanning process taking only 0.3 seconds.

These snapshots were an amazing discovery. However, it was quickly found in the animal trials that the techniques involved caused lasting damage to the nervous system, and could lead to rapid-onset degenerative conditions in the weeks or months after the snapshot was taken. As a result, it was decided that snapshots would only be legal to perform on terminally ill humans for whom such effects wouldn't shorten their lives by an appreciable amount. Slower brain scans were considered, but it was found that any scan lasting longer than 0.5 seconds would also cause issues. It would reduce the damage to the living nervous system, but would cause a cascade of failures within the simulacrum for reasons that were still not well understood at the time of launch.

At the time of the launch, neural emulation was only available to people already on the verge of death, and was seen as a way of allowing a dying person to complete their affairs and reach closure. Running a simulacrum was an incredibly expensive process, requiring a high-end quantum supercomputer. As such, for most people, it was not a valid option to simply live on as a simulacrum after their death indefinitely. Such extravagance was only available to the ultra-wealthy and those with corporate backing - such as the eccentric trillionaire Xuan He, who had funded the research projects that lead to the technology, and who, at the time of departure, had been existing only in simulacrum form for the past six years.

This post will be updated as necessary when new questions are asked about the world's technology.

This message was last edited by the GM at 01:46, Tue 30 July 2019.

The Signal
 GM, 30 posts
Wed 12 Jun 2019
at 01:03
Setting Summary
Earth Politics

The US-Indonesian War

The past few decades were not kind to planet Earth.

In spite of efforts to curb emissions and reduce the effects of climate change, economic development continued to follow its established path, making extensive use of nonrenewable, pollutant-heavy materials well into the 2040s, and even then many nations without the economic means to transition to other power sources continued to make use of coal and oil as their primary power sources. Desertification ran rampant, and rising sea levels, combined with ever-intensifying storms, ravaged many coastlines the world over, including the catastrophic flood of 2041 that devastated Bangladesh and led to an outpouring of over fifty million climate refugees into neighbouring countries and across the Indian Ocean.

In the 2030s, a solution was proposed: the Rigveda project would place a set of large solar-powered satellites in low solar orbit, each equipped with a massive microwave beamed power array to allow it to send its gathered energy back to earth, where it would be collected by equatorial receivers.

These beamed power receivers were hailed by many in the developed world as the salvation of humanity. For the developing nations whose land was being appropriated for their construction, on the other hand, this was a slap in the face. Once again, the developed world would climb to new heights by stepping on those without the power to object. There were reports of whole towns being demolished to make way for receivers at opportune locations, often without reimbursement or reparations. Additionally, there was concern about safety. It had been pointed out by a UN report that even a minor malfunction in one of the microwave relay satellites in orbit could cause the beam to drift and destroy anything in its new path like an ant caught under a magnifying glass. Nearby towns were warned, but, what with Indonesia's impending economic collapse due to climate catastrophes, there was no money available to relocate, or even to provide evacuation infrastructure.

As the project neared completion, public unrest caused a political shift in Indonesia that resulted in further construction on the six recievers in the country being delayed and borders being tightened against outside investors. The corporations working on the Rigveda project were far from happy, and lobbied with anyone who would listen to try to get a national government to step in and force the project through. In the end, this led to a short, one-sided war between America and Indonesia and the deployment of US troops in large numbers to South-East Asia.

The 2050s saw things calm down some. A new generation of leaders came to power, people who had grown up experiencing the worst effects of climate change, and the projects to repair the planet gradually led to an increased spirit of international cooperation - although there was still some distrust by the dawn of the 2060s, left over from the Rigveda project. Many Americans still saw the Indonesian government as selfish and cowardly for their handling of the situation. These views were held especially among those who were involved in the military campaign against the island chain and the "peacekeeping operations" that followed in the region over the course of the next decade. As always happens, these feelings about the governmental body quickly carried over to the people of Indonesia themselves, and unwarranted arrests and hate crimes against people from that region of the world saw a sharp spike in the US over the next decade, along with people from many other parts of south and southeast Asia.

This post will be updated as necessary if and when more politics becomes important to the story.

This message was last edited by the GM at 01:07, Wed 12 June 2019.