Saturn Ascending

There's No Place Like Gnome

With the assistance of Beta-9, Fletcher has identified Blessings Forgotten’s three extra-solar bases:
1. Exaltation (large moon with a large variety of plant and animal life underground);
2. Gnome (cold planet with an ice crust and sub-surface oceans);
3. Queens Home (small moon hollowed out by large honeycomb patterns in rock).

Fletcher has created a research mission and meshed the crew their new identities. The “missions” to all three locations are to set up surveillance equipment to measure radiation levels and atmospheric conditions. Once the planet or moon has completed a full orbit of its parent sun or planet (a “year”), a second team will be dispatched to gather the equipment and the data collected. You are all posing as individual subcontractors for TerraGenesis, a terraforming hypercorp.Solomon Early is traveling under the alias Harvey White (safety expert), Thessa is Anne Black (electronics specialist), Octavius is Doctor Calamari (xenobiologist). Each gate will only open twice: once to drop you off, and then 48 earth hours later to allow you back through. If you fail to return, your back-up insurance will initiate within two weeks.

Exaltation was discovered three months ago by the anarchist Love and Rage collective. The environment is extremely conducive to life, with only a little more oxygen and a little less gravity than Earth normal. The gate is underground in a cave network. The underground creatures are fed by sustained by large underground lakes fed by surface rivers. Recon teams found a wide diversity of plant and animal life including a number types of ambush predators. Attempts to cull the number of predators failed because they seem to have extensive social ties, and are able to bring large numbers of individuals together to provide a coordinated defence or attack. The Love and Rage collective is currently assessing whether or not any further development of the moon is financially viable. The crew decided to skip Exaltation and go straight to the next option, Gnome.

Gnome was discovered year ago by Terragenesis. The gate sits on the floor of a sub-surface ocean. The ocean is dark and cold, with an ice crust, where icebergs lodge and dislodge themselves from the ceiling. The ocean varies from a few hundred meters to a couple kilometers, and is largely unexplored. Sensors indicate bacterial life and algae, although no large animal life has been found so far.

The crew traded in their Outsystem Skimmer for a delicately-used 4-person sub. They loaded up some explosives and research sensors, and floated out of the gate and into a murky sea. Small white flecks, which were identified as cryo-algae obscured their vision past a few meters. It is unclear what has been feeding them since reports from the last gatecrashers two months ago didn’t report anywhere near this much life. Solomon took samples. Records from Beta-9 indicate that the exhuman research station is only about a six hour swim away, so the sub should make it there in two to three. They jettisoned the research drones and headed out. As the crew got closer, sensors picked up two medium-sized objects flailing in the water, moving closer and closer to the sub. Once they appeared in visual range, it was clear that they were exhuman experiments called Leftover Specials — pretty much the remnant limbs and torsos of other experiments randomly sewn together around a cyberbrain. Once they got over the initial shock, Solomon expertly piloted the sub around, catching the creatures in the rotors, doing extensive damage to the creatures, but minimal damage to the sub. The crew moved closer.

The research station was a giant floating cube with access hatches at the top and bottom. Large sail-like nets billow out from the sides, capturing samples that flow by in the sluggish current. Octavius swam out to enter the top hatch while Solomon swung the sub around to the bottom hatch. Inside, they were ambushed by smaller leftover specials consisting of two hands sewn together at the wrist around a cyberbrain with sharp needles protruding from under the fingernails. They latched on to Octavius and Solomon, puncturing their suits and sending a trickle of acid into their veins. Thessa, still in the sub, noted about seven more creatures heading for the station, as if an alarm had been set off and the guards on patrol were on their way. She strapped one of the crates of explosives to her saucer and sent it out to meet the guards. Meanwhile, Solomon carefully pried the creature off stuffed it into the moving mechanical parts of the research machine. Octavius fired randomly at the thing, eventually killing it, but also putting a few bullet holes in the hull of the station. Water streamed in. Rather than fight the AI, the crew simply pulled out the server (containing all the research as well as the AI) for Fletcher to sort out. They left the explosives, got in the sub, and headed home.

The research on the server ended up being relatively valuable. There are pockets of hardy black kelp in the ocean. Madeline Yu has discovered some of the farms and transplanted it on Mars, adapting and nurturing it into a disease-resistant version that she used to develop an aggressive cure for some TITAN plagues.

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