Dead... and Back is a survival horror Role Playing Game. The Anarchy Zones is its official setting - aliens, reanimates, and the ruins of 2055 America.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Welcome to Ulysses (Part One)

15:25 Eastern Standard Time

What the hell! You know how close you came to getting shot?

You want to join our raid? This isn't an open invitation. We put as much planning into these things as Operation Overlord. We don't need some mercenary to claim some choice bits in the name of helping... A fuel cache eh? And you really only want to learn about our life style?

OK a few ground rules so to speak. You will be accompanied by one of my men at all times. You will not touch anything without permission, and will check in on the hour. If someone says no, or you can't go there - no questions, just do as they say/ No asking for coffee or top shelf liquor - that is for my crew first, foremost, and only - they've been working unpaid overtime for years now.

Also don't try to impress me with your intellect by making James Joyce quotes. The vessel is named for the civil war general.

17:30 EST

Sorry if I was a bit too busy organizing a supply run to talk with you back then. You know, the whole feeding 137 people bit - gets tiresome, but well your parents will never get you a puppy until you prove yourself resposible right?

Now, lets try this again. You are attempting to collaborate on a book about the new societies emerging in the wake of the Event. You have visited a number of the places that have been so bold as to declare themselves city states. Well, let me tell you - you're on a wild goose chase.

Fact is, this is a temporary measure. The ship, the city states, all of it really. Remaining elements of the governments around the world are not just going to say, OK we failed, lets put up the chairs and let the next person have a go. Its not going to be ancient Greece all over again.

As for my vessel - well, I'm not trying to create a new society, not one of the other captains I've talked to is either. Staying on one of these things fore five years is already an accomplishment. You walk past a building, see some rust - so what - no one has painted the thing in five years, and who cares. On the sea - paint is a necessity of survival - every spot of corrosion is an inch closer to sleeping underwater.

True, painting is better then putting up with reanimates. Mostly. Unfortunately, the stories that they can't swim are a bit exaggerated. Some of them can, and often they're the more advanced ones. People have been stolen from the decks in the middle of the night. But you can't just lock everything down at sunset. For one - they can pry open watertight bulkheads, and are oddly keen on vandalizing anything they can find. No two ways about it - those things are trying to draw us out. If they ever get past the defenses... I've seen a few ghost ships. Much as we need the supplies - if we find one of them - if anyone finds them - just sink it. Too many places for things to hid on a ship, no light below decks - its their territory, no place for humans.

Excluding that, day to day life is, well, noting to write home about. Its well, huh.  Look, you must understand, that I live in close proximity to these people, and I'm their de-facto leader. I really can't say anything bad about them because hard feelings won't do, and they are my responsibility. Rumors get around, there are people who don't like my leadership style, and others who are just plain stir crazy - you put two and two together.

If you can find someone with a looser tongue than I, you'll have all the pieces. But in a nut shell - if the lights go out on land - you go out and cut down a damn tree or scavenge for some batteries. How many trees do you see growing five meters from our hull? How about five kilometers? There are a lot more ways to bide your time in one of these self proclaimed city states than on the open water. Add in the occasional pirate or citizen hydrofoil - and well, you've got a lot of fatalistic people.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Raid Negotiation

One could be excused if they thought the two men were brothers. Both had the same short sandy brown hair, round face, penchant for wrap around sunglasses, and a love of loud Hawaiian shirts. Mitch wore brown loafers, and his sport jacket/co-processor hung off the back of the lounge chair. George wore composite toe work boots, and had shoulders with the deep red welts from wearing ballistic armor eighteen hours a day.

George took another drag on the hookah sitting on the table between them. "What did I tell you - this is some great stuff. One of the advantages of being mobile like me."
"It is, but I do need you to do more than to learn the finer points of drug consumption."
George dropped the hose, clutched his hands to his chest, and drooped back in the chair "You... wound me. My name and reputation is on the line! If I thought the group was nothing more than drug abusing reprobates, I wouldn't have the courage to face you. Or at least, not the clarity of mind."
"Melodramatic much? Care to cut the theatrics and talk like an adult?"
"But people do so love the dramatics!" replied George, sweeping his hands about now, People want to believe their in the "big-time" with some quirky don like in the moves, or else want to see themselves as the the. LAST. Bastion. of civility and do enjoy knocking on the odd criminal types."


That bit of honesty always seemed to stop them in their tracks. They would need to stop and evaluate just how smart, how read the negotiator was, and in turn what might be required of the deal. Success still wasn't anywhere near guaranteed, but they understood that this wasn't the case of city state with all the supplies they needed holding out some scraps to made dogs. It was a business with codes of conduct, parts to be played, and real logistics.

As it stood, George wasn't in a bad situation. He mentally ticked off the categories again.
  • People - subdivided into general followers (varying talent at maintaining things - but nothing too sell-able in this case), Troops, and Veterans. Good on the first, Ok on the second, and just enough of the last to give opponents a second thought.
  • Equipment - Rifles, body armor, transports, and military gear. No PA, no tanks, but enough storm tubes and missiles to put a serious dent in something.
  • Locations - Defense, Situation, and Resources.
At the moment, they were holed up in a safe place, and had most of the supplies they needed. This was just one of those times to earn a bit extra for a rainy day. Some extra trucks would be nice - but this settlement didn't look like it could spare any, and going too hog wild with demands would just shut him out.

"If this is all about theatrics now - how much would you play up a convoy raid?"
"You don't raid convoys. Moving targets - and sometimes the trucks you might have to disable are the most valuable part. You block the road and demand a toll."
"How much would I have to pay for no survivors?"
"Mister Bell - we are on a very, very different level here. What goes around comes around in the zone - and to survive you need to realize that. Assassinate a specific person, blow up a truck discreetly - that is an expensive job. Mass murder - unless you're going to give us a yearly tithe to make up for the equipment we expend trying to stay a step ahead of every bounty-hunter and contract we can't make with honest people- Name a different job and a reasonable offer, and I'll forget you said anything of the sort. Don't, and I'm walking out, and the quality of help you'll be able to hire will take a sharp drop."

Another pause.

"We've spotted fires about ten kilometers up the road, people squatting in the old apartment complex. The last thing we need is more disease ridden vagrants and smoke attracting undesirables. A recon drone picked up some of those alien armors north of here, and we don't want that kind of trouble."
"You don't need outside help for a simple eviction."
"You want a new truck to drive them out of here?"
"So just push them away, or do I need to get a waxed mustache to twirl and mutter something about back rent first?"

Friday, March 25, 2011

Rooftop Rain

I'm one of those odd people who enjoy the rain, no matter how driving it is. A thick Mackinaw jacket, an umbrella, and a plastic lounge chair, and I'm set. Maybe a stiff drink in a child's sip-it cup - don't want it getting too watered down. Its refreshing, takes the dust out of te air and off the ground. I breath easier. It helps me meditate.

Right now I've got a wonderful seat. Lightning over the ocean making double spider webs. White capped waves breaking over the old dams and rushing through the streets. My husband thinks I'm a bit macabre for watching major metropolitan areas get flooded.

Do you think that is true? I, I don't think so. No one lives there any more, its not hurting anything. And I did things to help when others didn't. Do I even need to explain how FUBARed things were? Peak oil and 400 dollars a barrel - double digit gas prices. Government rationing of fuel. Food prices going through the roof. Rioting.

I really believe that the aliens arrival staved off another civil war. Sure, the arco project saved oil and was beginning to pay off - but you can't tell me those billions wouldn't have been better spent feeding people directly, or building more power infrastructure. Or better yet, water and desalinization. Global warming's a b-

Did you see that? Is that someone down there? I thought I... There it is again. Big fellow. One of those power - no, no they don't move like that. Give me those binoculars.

oh my god.

Its not holding a gun, its lower arm is a gun. There's antennas sticking out of it. Get inside. Get inside now. Its one of those super reanimates. Tank killers. We got to go warn the others. No one here has anything that can even tickle it. We gotta go!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Port Authority Part Two

A dull thud rocked the van. Mart and May barely looked at each other and nodded. Butch was using too much ordinance again, but that was his way. They continued their work on the machines set in front of them.

Erica was rather less content with the twin's stoicism, and made a disparaging comment aloud. Mart ignored it and May didn't listen to her - this was just one of those weekly rituals. Something would get blown up, used up, or passed up - Erica or Tony would complain - and then the twins would chime in about the opportunity costs. The only big difference would be Tony tended to amend the argument with some comment about how he couldn't tell the androgynous twin from the one of indeterminate gender.

Why bother? There was just no arguing with idiots. Everyone else (Excepting one Beauford Ridley - a.k.a. Butch) seemed to think the power armors were some type of magic suits that let pilots just punch out any opponent like an iron plated super hero. If fact, they were designed explicitly not to get into close combat. The leg servos allowed jogging without fatigue, and the titanium spine could support heavier loads, and in turn - bigger guns. Actually using the fists as a weapon would probably end up damaging the tiny actuators in the fingers or knock the hap-tic feedback sensors out of calibration. All the manuals explicitly stated that the units should use the over-sized entrenching tools usually provided as a melee weapon rather than engage in martial arts. And of course, kicking would probably just lock the suits as the gyros and safe handling limitations kicked in.

Rapid popping noises outside the trailer serving as their work shack. That would be a problem. An occasional loud sound - an armor's heavy weapons picking of one or two, maybe a small group. Full auto gunfire, the things were close enough everyone needed to shoot back. The Twins once again looked up, nodded, and returned to their work.

"Moov asyde, its time for the cal very to rhide into acton."
"Not Yet" one replied "When its done" said the other.
"There his no reason to be one hundret per cent ettin up by undead, when an armor is ninety-fife percent ready!"
"Done" the two replied together, slapping down access panels simultaneously.

Erica ran up to the right side, pushed down on the flattened chest plate, and vaulted up, doing a hand stand before twisting ninety degrees and flipping her legs down into the machine. How she constantly avoided hurting herself doing that was a mystery, but it was a bit faster than the usual method of using a step ladder and then turning around. Starter button pressed, hydraulics whined, and brought the machine's front to its vertical position, then the head shifted forward from lying on the back to locking the two halves together. One foot stomped, then the other, and the arms came up in a quick bit of caleasthetics. Diagnostic complete, Erica grabbed a 25mm drum fed rifle from the left wall, and attached the snap line connected to the right shoulder of the unit to the weapon, letting it hang like a sling. From the other wall she took a 56mm metal storm tube containing a half dozen high explosive projectiles, and then headed for the double doors the twins had already swung open.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Port Authority Part One

The sky above the port was the color of gun metal. If clouds could rust, it would've been a perfect match for the unmaintained hulks anchored near the shore. Light rain fogged Tony's glasses, but he didn't even register that. Escalating waves - threatening to swamp his latest find, that could be an annoyance.

Gun shot. Twenty meters, Northwest. Lorraine just loved that Gauss rifle. Even claimed she could hear the difference between an electro-mag and a nitro burner. Sure, the differences were there - but for for all of a fraction of a second. Tony didn't buy it, but hey - snipers were supposed to be eccentric.

Tony's radio buzzed, Butch overly polite and California twanged. "Boss - we might want to try another day. Company is getting a might unpleasant."
"We're not passing up a coast guard cutter for a couple of walkers. You're in a mighty mac - use it!"
"I sent Mr. Bleeder a twenty millimeter invitation to lie down, but he snubbed my invitation."

Bleeder. Nanao pus hemorrhaging advanced necrotic type two Beta according to the old CDC records. Only one in a few hundred rate of appearing. More than capable of opening an armored vehicle like a tin can.

"The others will have the Ike ready in a few minutes. Hold them. The guidance chips from the missiles alone could net us another truck, to say nothing of recovering the explosives. Its floating gold."

"Thank you Boss, I wasn't sure what my life was worth before. Its a good thing to know. If you'll excuse me, I'll go turn on the charm".

Butch flipped the second of the power switches, going from motive limited to full combat power, warming up the radar, cooling the thermo-graphs, and setting the hydraulics to full pressure. The 1800 pound suit went from sluggish to - still sluggish, but capable of flipping a compact car. A few taps on the main control panel, and half the helmet mounted display switched to false color images. Triple cameras behind an armor glass plate followed his head movements.

It didn't take long to find the target. thirty-nine degrees Centigrade in an open window on a fifteen degree day. Two 80mm rockets qued up, guidance lasers bright one on either side of the blip. A quiet hiss and the rockets were...

Bam! "Armor Breach" yelled in the left speaker. Power failure in fuel cell number four. Like a swimmer in molasses the unit twisted around, but the assailant was gone. Probably already climbing one of the gantry cranes for another hit an run attack. No point in playing this thing's game. Throttle forward, and clanking footsteps carried the unit towards the front gate.

"I heard a boom. Please tell me that was a good boom."
"I toasted one boss, but there is at least one more, and it hit the battery pack. Cell three is already dry, so I'm down to 50% here."
"Where is it?"
"I don't kn..."


"Its on me, its on me its..."
Metal talons caved in the camera pack, only inches above the pilot's head. A quick button macro, and the right arm swung across the armor like an old farmer wiping sweat from his brow - knocking the creature to the ground. Another quick joystick manipulation, and the left arm punched forward, stopping inches from the opponent. The 7.62mm machine-gun opened up for a full second burst, fifty bullets eliminating the need to drive a delicate manipulator into the concrete.

"Another one down."
"Stay sharp - more will be approaching after that explosion. Once we get to the boat, they should have a harder time getting too us."

Friday, March 18, 2011

How Dangerous is the Zone?

The short answer - is as dangerous as you want it to be.

There are some roving bands of thugs, living like pirates on the high plains. But remember, this is five years on. To survive the other hazards of the zone - food, water, weather, reanimates, and low enforcement, they had to be more than just some neighborhood gang. In short, real leaders, with plans that go beyond just attacking anything in sight. Many have become stable warlords, taking tolls enforced by technical (trucks with mounted weapons) rather than launching risky raids on established settlements. Along the Mexican border are entire fortress towns run by former cartels, while up in Canada, those with the guns control the fuel and heat necessary for making it through the winters, and are thus the de-facto leaders.

Reanimate numbers are really hard to gauge. They're almost a quantum phenomenon - no observer, no neighbors. Drones flying through old cities won't pick up much activity, nor will the initial scouts see all that many milling around. Yet, the longer an area is occupied, the more seem to show up. Some have speculated that they remain in a kind of stasis until potential prey comes into the area. Increasing numbers are activated until the intrusion is removed. There is still no explanation for why they act like a macro-immune system however.

Citizens are out numbered, often out gunned, unfamiliar with the terrain, and politically divided against themselves. Even presuming 90% of Earth's Human population died between 2050 and 55, that would still give humans a better than 20:1 advantage. When they leave their settlements in armed groups, its as often for their own protection as to achieve some military objective. however, there are groups of them who seek to expand their territory, or remove potential competitors before the enemy has time to organize. The ones in California are known to be quite territorial - almost no one is able to reach the west coast.

Most of the citizen ships seem to be in stable lunar parking orbits, and otherwise unmoving and un-illuminated. Its unknown what power-source they use, but interstellar travel must require a lot of energy - and thus they may simply be out of the fuel necessary to function. Others speculate that important pieces of equipment were damaged - either by prior happenings (which forced the Citizens to come here), something during the event, or perhaps even deliberate sabotage to keep them from being used in the developing citizen civil war. So long as the ships don't enter low earth orbit for bombardment purposes again, most people are content to not think about it.

Any industrial area that is likely to have a containment failure probably already has, or has reached a stable point. After a week, the heat of a shut down nuclear reactor is only .02% of what its active rating is, and continues to slowly drop from there. However, exploiting these plants is going to eventually become necessary as part of restarting the machinery of industry and civilization.

Diseases, by their nature, need hosts for transfer and incubation. Although it would be wrong to presume them extinct, after five years of no transportation and frightfully low populations, many of the truly worrisome viruses have died off with their carriers. While cholera, typhoid, measles, malaria and the like will never go away, it is unlikely to discover any of the  "2020 generation Vectors" that created the absolute need for Semi-Volitional Internal Agent augmented immune system. (Nano-vac) Unless of course, people go poking around in research hospitals seeking medicine or nanotechnology.

So its Safe?

Of course not. But it is not a place of small groups vs the world. Old warehouses continue to be old warehouses, not dungeons full of creatures that must be liquidated to retrieve the treasure. Parties don't need to grind against random encounters every time they step foot out of town. But things are rarely so calm as to go without a hitch.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Prototype Citizen Game Atributes

DriveThru RPG Japan Donations

The standard one through seven attributes of Dead and Back are based around human standards. Most of the players are likely to be familiar with this species, and may be playing one.

Citizens are smaller than humans, and unlikely to win in an outright physical contest. Their typical strength runs from one to three on the human centric attribute scale.

Conversely, Citizens are fairly fast moving, and quite agile. They are well adapted to climbing and rough terrain. Their minimum quick is two, though it still maxes out at seven - they are not super-human.

Comparing Alien and Human intelligence is almost impossible - it is hard enough to create unbiased intelligence tests for different segments of one nation. However, given that they have computers, power armor, firearms, and of course space ships - it seems fairly evident that they are on par with a first world power in matters of education. There is no difference in range for tech.

Although they often seem nervous around humans - a human standing near a tiger wouldn't be so calm either. Generally, citizens do have a handle on their emotions and reactions. In fact, with a wider field of vision, excellent hearing, and their sensitive antenna - they have excellent awareness. As such, their Wits ranges from two to nine

Combat Attributes:
Citizens tend to show the same range of ability in a fight as humans. Although quick and perceptive, they are not notably strong, and combat training is hard universal.

For a citizen animus is calculated as normal. However, when it come to jumping, they can clear a gap equal to one third their animus with a running start, or a full fifty percent with a short start.

Citizens get a three point bonus to deadening - they are capable of going longer than a human without sleep, and require less food and water.

As with intelligence, psychological stability is rather hard to accurately measure between different societies. However, between a divided society and the uncertainty of their position in this new world, the Citizens still seem to be in a collective state of shock. As such, they have two points less lucidity than a human with similar stats.

Each point of pack for a citizen is only one kilo, but the limit for object numbers is the same -  (Tech + Wits)

A citizen can only carry about half as much as a human - or 2.5 kilos per point of up-rise.

Skills and Abilities:
Citizens are quite capable of learning just about any skill - though guild alliances often determine their areas of expertise more than personal interest. Despite the common impression from by humans - the use of an encounter suit is a fairly rare special ability.

Shipwright G#G#BCb-8 (of the family) x'k-LA (in the nation of) Ozensosk
Strength: 2
Quick: 4
Tech: 5
Wits: 6
Close Combat: 2
Ranged: 3

Deadening: 8 11
Lucidity: 10 8
Pack: 11 (11kg)
UpRise: 7 (21kg)

Known as "Sing Sing" to the humans she has met G#G#BCb-8 is a fairly typical example of a Citizen. Prior to arrival on earth, she worked at a port maintaining electronic equipment and loading vessels with the ubiquitous bipedal "fork-lift" of the PCs - the Eekaide robot. 

These skills made her a valuable addition to the colonial fleet, despite her initial reservations about leaving. Two of her brothers were originally slated to go - but the untimely death of FGBCB-6 turned here attitude 180 degrees. The murder was apparently part of a long running intrigue between here family and another - and she did not not want to be present for the cross fire.

Due to her technical skills, she was not thrown into the initial combat against the humans. However, the losses taken during the conflict meant she was given training in using the attachable weapon systems.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Jobs in the Zone

There are some who claim that life in the zone has reverted to "the law of the jungle" - kill or be killed. However, the truth may be a bit different.

Now as I see it, there are two types of people that maintain this social Darwinist mindset. Brigands seek to justify their actions with a "him or me" attitude. Settlement leaders lose their power base of people feel free to rely on themselves or walk off. Everyone else has a vested interest in not making enemies, and well - a reputation as a sociopath isn't exactly making friends.

I've had a few close calls. If it wasn't for pockets of bullet stopping gel sewn into this load bearing vest, I'd be dead four or five times over. However, that is because I go looking for trouble. Most people don't need military grade flexible armor, or even obsolescent Kevlar. There are plenty of non-violent ways to make a living in the zone.

For example - a lot of places want couriers. Signals propagate only so far without repeater stations, cables, or satellites. Working alone or in small groups or even alone and avoiding other contact is the best way to do that. Manual labor will keep you fed - replacing the aforementioned cables and repeaters can do a person well. Caravans are a little more dangerous, but often have the strength in numbers to mitigate anything too bad.

For that matter, not every foray into the zone is an epic search for the last V8 Interceptor, 200 Gauss rifles, and the spear of Longinus. There is profit to be had in the little stuff too. Un-rotted teddy bears for children, a back up drive with wedding photos, discographies of certain bands - quite a few people want their comforting reminders of the old days.

Even if you're unwilling to settle for a lesser take, don't fall to a mind set based on rationalization. Sure, if you're like me and hunting big jack-pots, you're going to run into some competition. But news gets around. And if it doesn't - well, a good working relationship can help - who wants to miss our on a great find because they made an enemy of the only one with a map. And of course - never underestimate alliances of convenience. One fifth of a take is better than being unable to recover anything at all.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Citizen Speech

To most humans, a conversation between Planetary Citizens is completely unintelligible. The parts that are in the audible range to humans sounds a bit like a chorus of teakettles and small birds backed by a broken fan, or ultrasonic bagpipes. Citizens have two sets of vocal cords, and equate lower pitched noises that travel farther than ultrasonics as shouting. (Humans sound like they're underwater and SPEAKING IN ALL capital letters.)

Communication in the other direction is somewhat easier - Citizens can pronounce most human languages. They have a tendency to sound like parrots in helium rich enclosures or cartoon characters when doing so however. Furthermore, there tend to be a lot of miscomunications when doing this, in part because they often lack the education, and because their speaking patterns are a bit different from humans.

Sentence Structure
Citizen speech follows a object-adjective-action-adverb pattern, with tone affecting meaning of many descriptions. For example, a human speaking English would say. "Robin is quickly reading her blue book " A citizen would render the scentence:

"The Book that is blue and belongs(owned) to Robin is being read(quickly) by Robin."

The parenthetical areas are where tone makes a difference. A rising, flat, or dropping tone on belongs can alternately mean  "owned by", "In possession of" (borrowed/stolen), or "Intellectual Property of" (she is reading the book she wrote). Quickly could be "Hap-haphazardly", "Fast", or "With all due haste" (Only what matters/emergency response)

Fortunately, the Citizens have developed translation computers to simplify communication. However, this still faces a number of problems. Many things like nation or family names simply don't have an applicable translation or pronunciation - which in turn is why most humans have no idea how many families or groups are present. Furthermore, it depends on how much contact the particular group has had with humans. The more aggressive ones may have only commands and taunts, while others can hold long conversations with fail few interruptions from gaps in the dictionary.

Citizen Writing
The PC alphabet is at both simple and complex, and comparable to musical notation. Letters are a three high and two wide arrangement of lines and dots on a grid 7x2 grid. Standard emphasis is written in the middle, while changes of tone (and thus meaning) are indicated by shifting the letter up or down two rows. Most standard writing surfaces are broken into appropriate grids with spaces in between, and failing that, an unbroken line is drawn through the grid.

Example of standard emphases three letter verb, followed by two letter rising tone adverb:
                         ..  ..
                       l l  .
l  -    / /  _ _     -   ..
l  .      .   _ _             
l  .   -  .      .        
There is also a shorthand script composed of pictograms that can be rendered in only one or two strokes. Usually, these are commands and warnings (Stop, Caution, etc.) though it can also apply to very common terms (Food, Store, Walk) or some concept that has earned the right (Space Travel, Famous Individuals, Nations).

Citizen Names
A citizens individual name is a short signature whistle or chord, with an attached number indicating birth order. so for example G#G#BCb-8 is G-sharp, G-sharp, B, C-flat the 8th. However, their full name accounts for their occupation, matriarchal family name, and nation. So for a full example:

Shipwright G#G#BCb-8 (of the family) x'k-LA (in the nation of) Ozensosk

Not surprisingly, those that spend much time with humans adopt alternate names for convenience and communicability.

Citizens that have established themselves as somehow special - a single birth (quite rare), war hero, great leader, etc. - can earn a single descriptive name like "Iron Dream" or "Blue Princes".

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Unnecessary Citizen Surgery

Alice slipped off the rubber gloves, and threw them in the hamper. Then the mask, hair net, scrubs... Yet even as the grime slipped into the baskets, a clean feeling wouldn't come. Slipping into the autoclave probably wouldn't help at this rate.

William met her as she entered the antechamber outside the operating theater. "How soon can I expect the report?"
"When its done."
"You'll have to do better than that."
"I just had to dissect a sentient creature! You were talking to it yesterday!"
"Just because it has a voice, doesn't mean it is our friend."
"But it could have been. It was quite reasonable, and probably could have told us everything we learned on the operating table!"
"I am your superior officer, I told you to take that thing apart, and you will have a report on my desk tomorrow morning."
"Officer maybe, but superior? Forcing people to do unethical things by threatening their family is not the mark of a leader."
"The transfer orders are still in the system, and may take a bit to rescind"
"You'll have your report."

Alice stormed off, William just shook his head, thinking "Women" - quotes and audible sarcasm included. Always letting their hearts take the place of their better judgement. Woman judges letting filth be protected by law,

And really, what did they know about these aliens? Calling themselves "Citizens" despite not having any loyalty to the land or god that oversaw it.

Apparently, their world had smaller tectonic plates than earth, yet being a bit larger containing many more of them. as such, the planet had far more mountain ranges and archipelagos, and continents were often split by giant rifts or rain-shadow deserts. Most of their distinct exterior anatomy was seems to make them natural climbers and inhabitants or these volcanic mountains.

The lower pair of arms lacks shoulders and thus a wide range of movement, but does offer excellent grip while the other six limbs search for purchase. Twenty eight toes and fingers, with about a third opposed made for excellent grasping on any outcropping.Chitinous plates on the creatures backs, chests, and stomachs was as much about protecting from rock falls and sharp AA lava flows, as protection from predators. Indeed, much like humans they had hunted the arboreal creatures that ate them to extinction, and the sea dwelling ones could be avoided with vessels too fast or large to be caught.

Two pairs of eyes also helped them maneuver rough surfaces. The larger pair - often mistaken for bug like compound lenses, offered panoramic views in a still undetermined spectra range - though that report should be available soon enough. Still, its apartment good enough that the citizens feel a bit limited by the cameras mounted in their encounter units. The smaller stalk mounted eyes could both look in other directions, or focus quite finely on details. The antenna apparently can be regrown - odd for such an "advanced" animal.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Citizen Social Structure Part One

So, what can you tell us about why citizens seem so schizophrenic?
"I am not familiar with that term."
"Why do they change their minds so often - sometimes they help settlements, other times they go in guns blazing."
"Citizens are often too stubborn and do not change their minds enough. The problem is you are meeting different Citizens each time. "
"But you're the ones with continued international communication. Why don't you have more cohesion?"

The alien shifted in its seat, the antenna drooped a bit, and it began drumming eight of its fingers on the table. Normally, they didn't betray their feeling so obviously, at least not in a manner that humans could tell. Part of their communication is in the ultrasonic spectrum and rather like some Asian languages - tone played a big role in meaning. I know they do have facial expressions, but its a bit more subtle, and spread over a fairly long face.

"Its part of why we are here.We do not get along so well, and our society tends to not break it up so well. There are three parts to it. Family, nation, and guild.
Families are the base of loyalty, and education - they are the ones that own land and resources generally. It is very rare for citizens to birth less than two children, four is more likely. In fact, a single birth is often taken as a omen of greatness. So they grow very quickly, and thus can come into conflict.

Nations are meant to organize families. They usually handle law enforcement and trade, sometimes transportation.

Guilds represent special industries - like metal workers, medical research, mercenaries. Generally speaking, nations do not have jurisdiction over guilds. The purpose of this is ... humanitarian... a nation can't stop the civilians from receiving building materials or medicine. But this also means that strategic materials can't be interdicted. A nation can ask a family to pressure its members to stop, but really doesn't have control.

So we have powerful extended families, entered into strategic alliances, and its illegal to stop certain supplies from reaching your enemies, even if they're produced in your own country. Conflicts can either get very vicious, or end up as being fought in the shadows.

An international coalition is in charge of the space program. Party, to demonstrate what we can do if we work together, but also to try and find a way to put as many miles between warring factions as possible. However, exploration fleets need to be made of representatives of all groups so no one gets an unfair advantage. 

Finally returning to the short answer to your question - you have about seventeen nations, twelve guilds, and sixty eight families represented here. Not including any individuals with their own agenda of course. And to make it all worse - one of the few ships you did destroy was the fleet's flag vessel."

"So all of this could have been avoided if we didn't open fire."
"You are asking the wrong person. I am not part of the government, I am only guessing the numbers. My family in particular doesn't care about humans one way or another. By talking to you, my stance is a bit more obvious."

Friday, March 4, 2011

Crystal Disk

The object I hold in my hand is ninety-four millimeters long, ninety wide, and nominally ten millimeters thick. Well, the left edge is actually twelve, and the right eight mm, and there is a bit of a bulge on the upper side as well - all features to make sure it can't be inserted with the wrong orientation into the drive. If you're an archeology buff, that makes it about the size of three 3.5 inch floppy disks staked together. Mostly, its made out of poly-carbonate material - light gray in this case - that can withstand small caliber bullets.

Its the thing that made the world go round. Its a container for a crystal that stores optical data for Computer Aided Design and Manufacturing. Micro-Fac Blueprints.

In a world of micro factories and nano integration, actual products are of fairly low value. Raw materials might be a problem, but if you can get the data, anything is possible.

Because of that quirk, no one was willing to just e-mail design schematics. They were pretty close lipped about all the software involved actually - you don't want someone to re-purpose a civilian lab to be putting out chemical weapons, assault rifles, or missile guidance systems.

I've had my legs broken at least three times by mafia type guys trying to get one of these. Occupational hazard of a threese - Three C - CAD/CAM/Currier for those who don't follow industry jargon.

Standard crystal media is a lot smaller, and akin to an old flash key rather than a disk.

But of course, you know that. And you know what having a functional factory can do for you little enclave. Meanwhile, I have this disk, and know where to find a few more.

The bids from the last place included a new truck, a Gauss rifle, twenty kilos of food, a couple of miscellaneous pieces of equipment, and two women. Can you do any better?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

D&B Art Direction

A week ago I introduced the new edition, and the concept that I could use an artist. It probably should have occurred to me to mention what kind of artists I want. However, I'm not very good with visual arts, so I have to admit, my definition is a little hazy as to what is needed. My current ideas about illustration stem almost entirely from technical matters within the constructed world. A fresh set of eyes may be needed to convey the feeling rather than the blueprints.

I can't draw all that well, and have little sense of proportion, so those things I do attempt always seem a bit misshapen. (One of my sisters is a commercial architect - so we know where all the talent escaped to.) Engineering challenges tend to look better to me than statures and canvases.

During college I needed to write a paper about art and Immanuel Kant's theories on aesthetics (ie, the good, the beautiful, and the sublime). Instead of analyzing a painter, I turned the discussion to a matter of battleships in WWII. These are the ultimate objects d'art in my view. Without knowing anything about naval history or tactics, you still get a sublime feeling about power from one of those old vessels. To fulfill to "good/useful" aspect - well they are utilitarian bits of engineering for a specific job. However, historically  they were mostly "infective" art not serving their intended purpose. Aircraft and submarines proved far more decisive and effective overall.

That long aside out of the way, I do know a few things I want for the setting. 2055 is kind of a "retro-future" as seen in the pages of popular mechanics or the covers of Baen Books SF. Its not about recycling motifs from the century before based on the date. Rather, the technical constraints of the world bring this on.

Nano-vac exists because anti-biotic resistant stains of bacteria are everywhere. Arcologies that cost as much as the moon shots are only economical if eliminating cars really is that important - and 2050 would be ten to twenty years after peak oil - so reducing transportation needs is critical. Non-Petroleum based power sources are far less energy dense, so you need a larger car to accommodate a sufficient number of batteries/fuel cells/etc. for a good range - and just owning a car is something to flaunt through sheer size. Zeppelins might be slow, but hydrogen is cheap and they're more efficient than airplanes.

A lot of focus is going to be on green buildings, glass and sun tubes, geodesic domes,perhaps mixed with cheep pre-fab construction to account for rapidly growing populations, and how people shift due to the more extreme weather.

Things that sounded like good ideas - but just couldn't compete with the economics of traditional building designs have come back because the economy has changed.

Planetary Citizens have two bit motifs - organic and tropical. Much of their home-world is mountainous or archipelagos - the Philippines and Hawaii are the closest Earth gets to being a paradise for them. They prefer low communal dwellings with either neutral tones similar to the surrounding earth, or fairly vibrant colors seen in exotic birds and flowers.

Turning back to art - I'm not sure if five years is really long enough for unique architecture to start cropping up in the city states. Yet I kind of see using alternating artists, or at least different styles to try and convey atmosphere about each place. Tesla is has a Tokyo at night/old 80s cyberpunk vibe, while New Birmingham is kind of a fascist gated community. NESTs were once bright and maintained like a seaside part of Los Angles or Miami, but now have kind of decayed and darkened, akin to those cites on the eve of a big storm or hurricane.

Suggestions about appearance are welcome of course.