My thanks to Roger Sanger, the copyright holder, for granting me
permission to host this article on my web site. To quote him, "I was looking
for a new home for DGP's 2300 AD articles, and naturally I picked the best fan
sites on the Web for that purpose. Kudos to Pentapod's World! Enjoy!"
- Kevin Clark
- January 24th, 2000.
Disclaimer required by Far Future Enterprises: This item is not authorized or endorsed by Far Future Enterprises ( FFE) and is used without permission. The item is for personal use only. Any use of FFE's copyrighted material or trademarks in this file should not be viewed as a challenge to those copyrights or trademarks. In addition, this item cannot be republished or distributed without the consent of the copyright owner ( DGP).
The name "Clarkesstar" applies to all six gravitationally bound members
of this stellar group, with each component referred to by its specific
designation. Because of its position at the entrance of the American
Arm, the system became a center for the Arm's early development.
Many exploratory missions originated from bases in the Clarkesstar system,
and the system's abundant resources helped more than one nation begin its
leap to the stars. Though not as active as in the past, the system
has become vital to future development in the American Arm.
The British presence in the Clarkesstar system is the only non-Australian/non-American installation on the American Arm. DeVilbiss Station is named for British scientist-industrialist Brian DeVilbiss, who strongly advocated a joint British-American-Australian space program and was on record as saying, "The ESA might as well have been called the French Space Agency".
In 2183 DeVilbiss chose an asteroid in the VB-8B system as the site for his scientific outpost. He felt that with proper encouragement, the British government might be persuaded to withdraw from the ESA and concentrate its efforts on the American Arm.
DeVilbiss had a strong fascination with VB-8B: the study of brown dwarfs was a great interest of his, and, as it turned out, would be of vital interest to the future of the American Arm. Construction began on the outpost in late 2185. When it was completed in 2187, the DeVilbiss Station had accommodations for 800 personnel and was equipped with an extensive array of sensors for observing the brown dwarf.
In the interest of conserving resources, the American Space Force ( ASF) and Royal Australian Space Navy ( RASN) constructed adjoining facilities in the DeVilbiss Station's asteroid and signed a lease to rent support systems from the existing outpost. This ASF-RASN facility was to be "returned" to DeVilbiss in 2220. Many joint ASF-RASN survey missions were based out of DeVilbiss Station. In accordance with the lease agreement, the two space agencies moved out of DeVilbiss Station in 2220, leaving space for an additional 700 personnel.
Another agency renting space at the station was the Baytown Corporation. A major American mining concern, Baytown had official American government sanction to locate and exploit tantalum deposits for the fledgling American Space Force. Surveys of Weylan ( VB-8B-I) indicated that the planet was rich in heavy metals. Baytown had starships and landers available, but not a convenient base of operations.
Baytown set out for Weylan from DeVilbiss Station in early 2189. The survey's discovery of tantalum on Weylan resulted in a large flow of men and supplies through the station until 2198, when all mining on Weylan ceased. Baytown then cancelled its lease and was out by 2203.
After Brian DeVilbiss's death in 2207 and the subsequent breakup of his company, the British government took over the station to prevent its closure. In 2261, the InterSystem Baseline Interferometry Program ( ISBIP) was initiated by the Australian-American Exploration Council ( AAEC). With the need for a receiving dish in the Clarkesstar vicinity, the AAEC saw DeVilbiss Station as a choice site. Its orbit about VB-8B was distant enough to reduce the giant world's electronic "noise" to manageable levels, and its support facilities would simplify dish construction. A contract specifying control and maintenance of the dish was signed with the British, and construction of the dish was completed In 2264.
With the DeVilbiss Station asteroid tidally locked to VB-8B, the dish was built into the face-out side. The dish's reception direction may be altered by steering the receiver. In this fashion, the dish can observe any object within a 96-degree arc of overhead "sky", at any given moment.
Since the ISBIP dish became operational in 2269, an additional 300 personnel have resided at the station. The ISBIP program, once fully functional, led to the discovery of several previously unknown planetary systems with brown dwarfs ( which are hard to locate, as they give off little in the visible range of the spectrum) as their stellar primary. The most notable of these discoveries was the brown dwarf designated as ISO 417, located strategically between AC+20 1463-148 and AC+2 2155-242. This placement bridged the gap between these two systems and opened up a whole new region of space for exploration.
The AAEC is currently planning to expand its facilities around VB-8B
to include a new 40-meter optical telescope, the Woomera Telescope with
construction of the subassemblies slated to begin in 2302. The primary
mirror will be built in an orbital facility around King.
The American Interstellar Science Institute ( AISI) mounted several expeditions to Weylan ( VB-8B-I). During the AISI's 2188 visit to Weylan, tantalum was discovered. The scientists were excited about the discovery and promptly returned to Earth with the results which were given to the AISI. The board of directors then sold the information to the Baytown Corporation.
It was a widely known fact that Baytown had been commissioned by the American government to "locate and exploit any and all accessible tantalum deposits in the American sector of space". Although America had developed stutterwarp technology independently of the ESA, the North American continent had little tantalum available. Sale of the stutterwarp technology to Canada, Australia, Brazil, and Argentina had netted enough tantalum to keep the ASF in business for a while, but the reserves were running out. In desperation, the government had contracted with Baytown to locate new tantalum deposits. Now, Baytown had found some.
Baytown's survey of Weylan located several major deposits. By February of 2189, several pressurized buildings were in place. The domed outpost, whose design was later used by the Japanese on Davout and the Brazilians at Ross 614, was completed in January of 2190. Full operations began two months later. Huge ground trucks carried processed ore to the central outpost to refine into pure tantalum. Baytown began producing tantalum at an incredible rate.
Large shipments went to the ASF for several years, then Baytown reported the lodes were disappearing too deep into the planet to be mined safely. Despite protests from America, which had contracted for many years' shipments, the output fell drastically, and then Baytown gave up.
Baytown pulled out of Weylan in October of 2198. Baytown had received contracts to participate in the mining efforts on King and was more than happy to write its outpost off as a tax loss.
The AISI returned to Weylan in 2293. Their scientific team moved into the upper levels of the old Baytown facility and are using it as their base of operations, with a multinational team joining them in a study of Weylan's atmospheric chemistry for possible uses.
If you intend to play this adventure, stop reading now. Further material is for referees only.
While passing through the outpost at Broward, one of the characters notices a strange advertisement on the outpost's information board. The ad says, "Troubleshooters needed for file maintenance and retrieval," and provides an address where interested individuals may apply.
The address happens to be the local office of the North American Research League. When the characters arrive, they are quickly led to back office by Thomas Ewing, the local NARL supervisor. He explains the mission to the characters: recent exploration of lower levels of the Weylan outpost by an undercover NARL agent led to his examining the outpost's old central processing unit ( CPU). There, the agent discovered a file which, as far as the agent could tell, may prove that Baytown diverted the tantalum to another country in defiance of the ASF contract.
Regrettably, the agent was not well-versed in computer programming and could not break the security coding on the file. Unfortunately, the agent was killed in an accident several days later. Ewing needs the characters to travel to Weylan and retrieve the file so that NARL may take its case to court. As there are many nations represented on Weylan right now and no one knows which nation got the diverted tantalum, this will have to be an undercover assignment also.
Ewing has already devised a plan for infiltrating the characters into the AISI-manned Weylan outpost. He provides them with credentials from the American Archaeological Society ( AAS). The group's cover story is that they wish to recover artifacts, such as clothing, and mining equipment, to preserve as reminders of America's space history, from the lower levels of the outpost. Ewing will contact the Weylan outpost and properly notify them of the party's arrival.
Payment for the mission is US$3,750 ( Lv3,000): half upon departure for Weylan, the other half upon successful delivery of the file. Running with the money is not recommended: the NARL is ( literally) everywhere. If the characters are cold to Ewing's proposal, he will not increase the pay, but instead, appeal to their sense of justice and patriotism. America cannot afford this kind of double-cross! ( If they still refuse, the ref should have another bulletin board adventure ready.)
Once the characters accept the mission, Ewing arranges travel aboard the cargo vessel ACS Connesstee Falls. Although the conditions aboard the Connesstee are fairly shabby, the characters find they have plenty of room.
The characters have computer terminals at their disposal and have access to all the information presented in the first part of this article. Let the players read it, but don't let them reference it once they're away from a terminal - remember, they aren't taking the computer with them.
Upon arrival in orbit about Weylan, the characters are transferred onto a lander and flown down to the planet's surface.
Upon their arrival at the outpost's landing grid, the group is greeted by Julie Peterson, the head of the AISI expedition. As the party travel to the outpost in the expedition's Explorer ATV, Peterson tells the characters about life in the outpost, describing everything from airlock procedures to kitchen duty. "After all," she says, "we're all in this together."
During their conversation, Peterson mentions to the characters that they are not the only newcomers to the outpost. A freighter which was delivering supplies to the outpost experienced a major reactor leak, and the ship had to be evacuated. Luckily, she explains, the AISI shuttle was nearby and rescued the crew of the hapless vessel. The crewmembers are staying in the outpost until their company sends a vessel to pick them up.
When they arrive at the outpost proper, the ATV pulls into a garage and the characters are led down a long stairwell into the planet's surface. Peterson leaves the group to attend to business and the characters are taken to their quarters by one of the other AISI scientists. Since the only currently inhabited level of the outpost is the administration level, the characters are provided with a conference room for their lodging. "Welcome to the Weylan Hilton", their guide says with a lopsided smirk as he disappears out the door.
While the characters are setting themselves up in their room, the announcement for dinner beckons them from the computer station. Dinner is served in what was once the executive cafeteria. During the meal, the characters have ample opportunity to meet many of the outpost's staff and the stranded freighter's crew. ( Referees: make this situation difficult for the characters by having the NPCs ask them detailed questions about archaeology, their work, and the AAS. You can have some good fun making the characters sweat over this "interrogation".)
If the characters are suspicious of the freighter crew, they have ample time to talk with the crew eating. By most indications, the crew seems sincere and the accident an honest mishap.
The next morning, Peterson suggests the group begin its mission and offers one of her personnel as a guide. She is not offended or suspicious if the characters refuse the guide offer with a good excuse. If they stumble in refusing the offer and had trouble keeping up a front at dinner last night, the situation could get sticky, with Peterson restricting the characters from going below while verifying their credentials and mission, to the best of her ability. The AISI group, while friendly, can turn pretty nasty if deceived. If trouble does arise, it would probably be better to tell her the truth ( she is American, after all) and ask for her help in maintaining their cover. But let the players do it their way. If they keep up the lie in the face of suspicions from Peterson, their mission will become known when her off-planet inquiries are answered. She might then allow them to try what they came for, but it will be too late; they will have failed the assignment.
Before the characters begin the descent, they should make sure to take the correct equipment with them. Characters who opt to take infrared imaging gear with them will discover that everything below the administration level is of approximately the same temperature, and IR will be fairly useless except for locating fellow crew members.
Peterson has arranged for one of the three airlocks leading down to be opened for the characters. The stairwell is dark and fairly dusty, but in good repair. After the characters are through the airlock, it is sealed behind them, set to open again in 8 hours time.
When the party arrives at sub-level six, they find only inch-deep dust and the occasional scurrying rodent ( the descendants of escaped or abandoned lab animals from the AISI's first occupation). Their maps provided by the NARL indicate that the CPU lies in the Internal Systems Control Room of the outpost, diametrically opposed from their entry position on this level.
The journey around to the other side of the outpost's central shaft is slow. Debris from an exceptionally strong earthquake thirty years ago litters, and in some places, almost completely blocks the corridors. The movement of the characters stirs up the dust on the floor, in billowy clouds, further obscuring the beams of their lights.
When the characters near the control room, they may notice recent signs of activity; namely, footprints in the dust. This can be played up to increase tension, but the truth of the matter is that most of the prints were made by the recently deceased NARL agent. Though, upon closer inspection, the characters may notice there are two distinctly different, fresh sets.
Upon entering the control room, it is a simple matter to find the CPU access terminal. However, when approaching the terminal, they will notice a few wisps of very recently disturbed dust floating in the stagnant air, around and heading away from the terminal. The dust is certainly too much to have been raised by a passing rat.
It should be impressed upon the characters that there is almost certainly someone down here with them. Characters who brought IR gear, but discarded it, may now regret their decision. Several facts are unknown to the characters: ( a) who is in the control room? ( b) what is that person( s) doing here?, and ( c) are they dangerous?. What the characters can assume is that the unknown person was doing something to the CPU.
In reality, the "reactor leak" suffered by the orbitting freighter was intentionally set, in order to infiltrate one of Baytown's agents into the Weylan outpost. The agent, posing as a newly-hired engineering assistant, sabotaged the freighter's reactor and escaped with the rest of the crew.
Her goal is similar to that of the characters, but with a major difference: she intends to destroy the incriminating file. Baytown stands to lose more than just money if the file is made public.
The Baytown agent is just as surprised by the characters' appearance as they are by hers. The group has thrown a wrench into her plans for disabling the CPU and escaping, especially since she doesn't know whether or not they are armed. Since she doesn't want to gamble on that question, she has prudently decided to hide behind a crate of computer equipment until her tactical situation is better.
At this point, the referee should feel free to conduct a really confused melee between the characters and the agent. It is important to note that, though the characters outnumber the agent, she has at her disposal a set of IR goggles and a Traylor Model 57 automatic pistol. The characters should also be warned that stray shots may damage the CPU beyond repair, thus accomplishing the agent's job.
If the characters succeed in incapacitating/capturing the Baytown agent, it should be a simple matter to break the security coding on the file and transfer the information to a storage medium. Upon delivery of the file to Ewing, he will give the characters their remaining money and congratulate them on their success. With the new evidence, the NARL will confront Baytown in court, in a bid to make an example of the company.
Of course, if the characters are unsuccessful in preventing the destruction
of the file, Baytown will have gotten away with their crime. While
Ewing will be most upset, he will not hold the characters' failure against
them. In parting, he will tell them to keep in touch with the NARL.
"You never know, we might need you again, someday."
Three binary stars make up the Clarkesstar system: DM-8 4352, Van Biesbroeck 8, and Wolf 629. Each system, along with its planets, is described in detail below.
The DM-8 4352 system has two M-class stars, 4352 A and 4352 B. The A component is an M4 V star with a mass of 0.38 Sol and a luminosity barely one hundredth that of Sol. Its companion, 4352 B, is a less luminous red star of almost identical mass. The two stars orbit each other at a distance of 2.73 astronomical units ( AU), with a period of 1.7 years.
The 4352 planetary system consists of three worlds:
Kelly, a 1000 km ice ball orbiting 4352 A at 0.9 AU; Lionel, a gas midget orbiting 4352 B at 0.8 AU, and Tell.
Lionel's ring system is very spectacular in color and size, with five major and almost 20 minor rings, all stabilized by small "shepherd" moons. Tell, the outermost world in the system, orbits both stars, at a mean distance of 15.31 AU from the system's center of mass. Only 2,000 km in diameter, Tell is covered by a sheet of smooth ice.
What has prevented development in the 4352 system is that both stellar members are unpredictable flare stars. The flares' magnitude, particularly 4352 B's, is sufficient to render the entire system lethal to unprotected humans. The irregular timing between flares compounds the situation.
Because of its flare problem and lack of appreciable resources, the 4352 system is only used for navigation. Starships approaching Clarkesstar home in on the 4352 system until they drop below the c-barrier. A more direct course to DeVilbiss Station or the Weylan outpost in the VB-8 system can then be plotted.
VAN BIESBROECK 8
The Van Biesbroeck 8 ( VB-8) system has been the object of scientific scrutiny since the late twentieth century. The system is composed of a red star, VB-8, and its dark companion, the brown dwarf VB-8B. It was the first example of a brown dwarf "star" to be discovered by man. Other notable examples of brown dwarfs known today are Tithonus ( Eta Bootis's largest "planetary" member) and the recently discovered ISO 417.
Ignoring the VB-8B component, the VB-8 planetary system has a single major world. Smythe, with a diameter of 7,500 km, orbits VB-8 at approximately 0.9 AU. It has a primitive biosphere consisting of some simple, tiny plant varieties which spread out like mats around geothermal vents in the planet's surface.
VB-8's dark companion supports its own small family of planets. Weylan orbits VB-8B at 2.8 million km and is described in detail later, in the Outpost History section. Rutherford is a desert planet orbitting VB-8B at almost five million km. Several minor planetoids fill out the system.
The Wolf 629 system has two stars and three worlds. Wolf 629 A is an M4 VI red subdwarf with a mass barely one-tenth that of Sol. The B component is a red star which is separated from its companion by a mean distance of three AU. Both stars are exceptionally stable, in vivid contrast to their hyperactive neighbors in the DM-8 4352 system.
Wolf 629 A's first planet is an ice-covered world named Kitt. Its large relative size and high albedo make it shine exceptionally brightly, when visible in the night sky of its planetary companions. Tompkins is another icy world which circles Wolf 629 A at 0.85 AU. Wolf 629 B's sole planet is Lucas, a small, extremely dense rock with a badly scarred surface orbitting at 0.7 AU.
The Wolf 629 and DM-8 4352 systems are separated by 894 AU. Thus, the
radiation emitted by the stars of the 4352 system has a negligible effect
on the worlds of Wolf 629.
1985: Van Biesbrock 8B discovered by, earthbound scientists.
2164: First Survey of Clarkesstar system by British explorers.
2187: British outpost formed on DeVilbiss asteroid.
2189: Tantalum deposits discovered on Weylan by AISI scientists.
2198: Weylan mining facilities closed down.
2261: ISBIP survey started by AAEC.
2264: ISBIP dish at DeVilbiss completed.
2269: ISBIP dish begins full operation.
2293: AISI research team returns to Weylan.
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