A Sci fi Space Opera set in the Shadowrun Universe
- 1 Introduction
- 2 The Anatomy of the Solar System
- 3 Space Technology
- 4 Space Society
- 5 Space Mechanics
- 6 Automatic Space
The world of Shadowrun is one of gritty streets, cigarette-butts, street trash, punks, rain, and neon. But above those mean streets that our protagonists strut loom glittering superscrapers made of monobonded glass and alloyed steel, filled with the coiffed and suited ‘winners’ of this world. Above them orbiting at tremendous speeds is the endless LEO traffic jam where space casinos rub shoulders with research facilities, microgee manufacturing sweatshops, and banks. But beyond that?
That’s where SPACEWAR comes in. Because out in that infinite black there’s corporations, my friend. Corporations doing what they do best - making money by any means they can. And where you’ll find corps, you’ll find the roaches under their feet and the tools in their hands - Shadowrunners. Only watch out, chummer, because the shadows in space are dark, and they are deep.
The Anatomy of the Solar System
From the antimatter research stations orbiting the dark side of Mercury to the bioresearch conglomerates setting up shop near Jupiter to avoid ‘restrictive’ Corporate Court decrees, the armed drones strip-mining Europa to the new shipyards being (optimistically) set up over Titan, the solar system crawls with human activity.
But very little of that activity is actually.. Human. The explosion of computer intelligence and AIs was the real creation of metahumanity’s Space Age. Without the need for gravity, atmosphere, food or water robots are the answer to how you explore - and exploit - the airless reaches of space.
The other advance was one of numbers. Initial estimates of the cost of space industry assumed the startup materials would be shipped from the surface of Earth. Once the drone mining began in earnest, those costs, they went down. And the number of corps willing to invest in space went up. That led to a boom, if a quiet one - without jobs being created on earth, and with many of the poorer workers lured to space by the promise of high wages never having the wherewithal to manage to pay for a flight home, it went largely unnoticed by the SINless and other proletariat that walk the streets, being solely the province of those with the money to make it to space and back in the first place.
Earth and Orbit
Mars And It's Many Wars
A red dusty dry and rocky planet located slightly further from the sun than Earth, Mars is a climate-locked earthlike rocky planet in the Sol system. It has long fascinated humanity, and metahumanity, originally with it's colour in the night sky and the myths that came to surround it, and later with its similarities to Terra itself.
Even later than all that, it became fascinating with all the ways it defied the many predictions made about it in absentia. For you see, when fusion technologies made powered space flight more possible, small missions proceeded to study Mars with the goal of terraforming it for metahuman occupation, convinced that with their technological prowess it would be a, perhaps grueling, but ultimately completable task. But it turned out that restarting a climate from scratch was something with more unplanned hitches than expected. And as funding increased, the tiny space station in orbit was enlarged into a fully functioning habitat, Phobos and Deimos developed mining bases to support the effort, and then populated science bases of their own.
The conglomerate behind this effort was an originally NorAm company known as Ares, and then Ares MacroTechnology, completely willing to throw heavy machinery and skilled minds by the dozens, and then the hundreds at this problem even as other conglomerates extended their reach for more tangible mineral resources in the Jovian orbital system or the Asteroid Belt, or more secretive projects undertaken in deep space or the solar disc's rim. For Ares, you see, had a vision. While there were many minerals in the solar system - too many to mine in even one hundred years - there was only one Earthlike planet that could easily - or with difficulty - be terraformed to support human life without needing to live in a dome or space station. By claiming and developing this resource they could position themselves to be the masters of an entire world's population - whether that was restricted to the rich, or used to populate vast manufactories and research centres churning out goods in the names of Ares, even if the short-term benefit was not as much as that of other conglomerates.
And that's why when 4 vessels of the EVO's Belt Mining Allocation Group arrived on the opposite side of Mars from what had started to be called Olympus (after the supermountain that is arguably Mars' most famous feature, and the geosynchronous location below the habitat built around the original research module built in '48) the first words out of the Ares' representatives mouth was a curt, detailed, and angry threat. This become a matter of public record as the EVO leader - a squid-like xhir named O'toom - wideband broadcast the entire communication to the rest of the solar system on wideband, in realtime. EVO responded by noting that that the extremely large cargo ship - the Expropriated Cultural Artefact, a tangle of struts strapped to an engine more than a 'ship' as sci fi would have it - was carrying a cargo of stealthed nuclear limpet mines. And that should hostilities commence, in accordance with EVO policy on the lives of it's crew members, the crew would dump the cargo in order to allow best speed in getting clear of the war zone. Cargo that had semi-sentient expert systems that could tell when it was in space and it's own parameters for defining an 'enemy target'.
A threat, too, although one slightly more veiled. A swarm of stealth limpet mines in Mars orbit would make approaching the red planet extremely dangerous until the mines could be found and removed, an extremely expensive, potentially years-long endeavour. Backing down, the Ares representative sent a quick message to Earth asking for guidance and in the meantime asked the EVO captain why he was here. The answer was the worst one possible - 'Why, to help, of course.'.
The Cultural Artefact remained in orbit for several more years while the EVO ships came and went, quickly assembling their own habitat on the opposite side of Mars - which they named the _Antipodea_, presumably referencing the Ares orbital it was built in direct opposite to. In fact, by the end of the construction process the nuclear limpet mines - that may or may not have ever actually existed - were theoretically shifted into multiple different containers, some disguised, some not, and placed over all of EVOs 'half' of Martian orbital space in response to a nearly-successful Ares commando effort to take out the _Artefact_.
Of course, they still nearly came to blows again when the first of the Project Ark ships arrived. EVO had always maintained 'mission' outposts in various Earth slums. All conglomerates did, generally to recruit chaff for their various wars and deniable causes. But EVO took it one step deeper than that, with charity aimed at creating goodwill amongst the very people their economic policies forced into terrible penury. It worked really well. So well that when EVO representatives in jumpsuits emblazoned with the logos of EVO(subscript)[space](/subscript):tm: walked among them with clipboards asking for volunteers to 'settle mars', they got so many signups that it gave even their corporate leadership pause, a pause that transmitted itself to the highest levels before the authorization came back to 'go ahead', the logistics of which took a significant chunk out of EVO(subscript)[space](/subscript):tm: 's new and shiny budget. You see, EVO had a plan. They were going to terraform Mars, but not with technology. They had a plan to do it via magic. That required bringing magic to Mars, something many mages would scoff at doing so. But rather than an elaborate ritual or an ancient artifact, EVO just planned to ship people there. People were the cause of magic, right? Gaiasphere, and all that? Move enough people there, and magic would naturally bloom. Or so went the theory.
And well, let's just say there were contingency plans upon contingency plans for how the 'human resource' could be 'utilized' should the primary plan fail - the minds that ran EVO(subscript)[space](/subscript):tm: at that point had moved from success to success, the latest being gaining control of half of Mars space without needing to fight for it, and were justifiably or unjustifiably confident they could do no wrong. Shipyards were extended and then extended again to build the massive ships required, and orbital dormitories were constructed to sadly minimal standards that would prove the rule rather than the exception for this endeavor. This activity on EVOs part kicked off a massive ship-building and solar system expansion phase amongst conglomerates and national space efforts, being read (incorrectly) as an attempt to build a military machine powerful enough to dominate the solar system for itself - or even take a run at world domination, as control of low orbit would make the Earth a helpless prisoner.
It wasn't until the third ark was completed and launched that other conglomerates started to realize what was happening. No-one had _thought_ to look at what was happening in the massive slums that surrounded the glittering hearts of cities in brazil, north America, Europe, Asia, or Africa - who cared about those places? But in them, a steady migration was occurring, families in rags being waved on to EVO-controlled spaceports where ramjets waited to carry them at ruinous cost into orbit, and from there in long unsteady queues into the tin can mass people movers that waited patiently alongside the powered rails that would launch them on their months- or, as the orbits dictated, years-long journey towards the red orb in the sky that these metahumans had set their hopes and futures on.
They had been sold a song, these people. But they had so little that that song sounded mighty good. What they got was half-spoiled vacuum rations, bad air seals, accidents, inadequate water filtration systems, lack of low-gee alleviating medication, of doctors, of spaceflight crew, of everything. 'Wastage' was slightly above 8%, considered an adequate rate for the 'exigencies of space travel'. When they arrived, things were not much better.
While provision had been made on the surface, it had not fully taken into account the numbers of individuals or their needs. The 'dome cities' promised were nowhere in evidence. Instead, tunnels had been cut at the base of trenches and canyons in the surface, slightly more sheltered from the solar radiation scouring the surface, as well as the extreme low temperature, but claustrophobic to those used to open skies. These tunnels suffered many of the same defects as the space ships as well as some new ones unique to them, such as tunnel collapse, sewage system leak, fungal and bacterial epidemics (called 'recycler rot' by the denizens), cramped living quarters ('hot bunking' being the norm in four-to-a-room bunk beds), 'tunnel madness', crime, factionalism, gangs. EVO needed these 'settlements' to keep the inhabitants alive but had made little or no provision for comfort, and their blank-faced 'police' were little more than corporate enforcers and soldiers given a fancy title who often didn't leave the comfort of their own sections for anything less than damage to EVO-owned machinery and systems, which amounted to everything in the bases but the clothes on the 'colonist's backs.
Revolution was inevitable. It was a testament to the skill of the original EVO propagandists that it took as long to arrive as it did. Rafe Schimbel is credited as being the instigator of the First Rising, as it is known on Mars. He hacked the EVO network and broadcast a message to each and every 'colony' from his own - a small ice-mining station on the edge of Ares territory. A simple but angry message, an anger that lit a fuse EVO had unknowingly laid across their groundside Martian empire. Within minutes, nearly every station, colony, and outpost had erupted into violence, some with signs of long planning and others with every proof of spontaneity. EVO employees were dragged out of their comfortable, well-lit and heated sections and in some cases literally ripped apart by angry mobs. In other places they barricaded themselves in and screamed reports of lack of ammo and inability to shut down the oxygen flow to orbit. EVO's response was commendably swift. They dispatched a high level crisis negotiation team from earth, disguised as 'new administrators', and had the current crop of people 'in charge' of the martian 'colonization efforts', or reasonable facsimiles thereof, publically executed on feeds sent to the groundside colonies.
At the same time long-term EVO infiltrators on the Ares side of Mars revealed themselves and executed complicated sabotage. Toxins were put into air supplies, biological agents released into food supplies, reactors overloaded, ships crashed at high delta-vee into installations, electronic systems scrambled, AIs executed, and high-ranking individuals assassinated - throwing Ares (Martian Operations) into chaos, and arresting their efforts to retake 'their' planet from the EVO interlopers distracted by the uprising. Clearly a ploy put into place by EVO to eventually assume control of Mars entire, this card was played to forestall Ares doing the same to them, and it was a card that could be played only once - after the events of Black September, as it came to be known internally, Ares internal security in, on, and around Mars was phenomenally improved.
It had become abundantly clear to the EVO High Executive that if they wished to continue with their plans to magicform Mars, more effort would have to be expended in managing 'the metahuman element'. However, that understanding had come too late - some enclaves of 'colonists' had become entrenched and refused to believe anything EVO said to them - they asserted independence, _unto death_, and EVO reluctantly acceded to their 'demands' for self-rule not due to being unable to stop them but due to the casualties that would occur if they pressed the issue with military force. Elite commando forces poised to assault the colonies were stepped down, and instead emergency relief supplies were bussed in. They had convinced these people they were on their side once - surely it would not be hard to do again?
Well, no. Buoyed up by perceived success, a success against an incomprehensibly vast force that was so inconceivable that the shock of it drove some people mad, the 'independent' 'colonies' went _nuts_ with a fervour for independence and making a new life for themselves on Mars. And, quietly, slightly recovered from the catastrophic losses of the Black September sabotages, Ares started shipping them the machinery they'd need to stay alive on their own, overland. As well, of course, as a variety of guns, bombs, and nasty other devices designed to make taking that machinery off them quite difficult indeed. Revenge as much as expedient corporate policy, this was yet another unexpected result of EVOs actions coming back to bite them in the ass.
The result was an uneasy detente between EVO and the colonists. Some colonies being entirely independent, others relying on EVO aid to some degree, and others being entirely in EVO hands. In a belated response to EVO, Ares also began shuttling in colonists, although they missed the point by bringing in only very small amounts of the most trusted Ares corporate SINners, and housing them in very comfortable aboveground domes, ironically similar to the ones EVO had originally promised, with the most famous and largest being a large pleasure dome build on the flanks of Mons Olympus and considered one of the most exclusive luxury spots to go for earth execs given it's remoteness and unbeatable views.
What became was a world of opposites. Tunnels and subsistence living, crowded halls, and despair but fierce independence in the face of tyranny is one face of Mars. The other is a world of technology and luxury, but vastly fewer people, an overgrown science mission inhabiting both the orbiting moons.
A world at war with itself.
Fifteen years later
The world still lacks a manasphere, or even the beginnings of one. But metahumans have done what they have done since time immemorial. They have made do.
The rude tunnels of the EVO side of the planet have built a network of production and trade that keeps them alive, even as their numbers grow, despite the terrible conditions persisting. It is one thing to live in a slum on earth with its atmosphere which, if polluted, is breathable. With its hot and cold, which if sometimes overbearing, doesn't kill you. With its sun, that if it burns you through the holes in the ozone layer, doesn't give you cancer with a day's exposure. Air leaks and machinery failure kill each year. Something that has simply become a fact of life, and the population grows despite it.
'Air farms' have started, funded by various interests but most notably by EVO and Ares who control their sections of orbit and cast greedy eyes at the surface, constantly scrabbling to control more of the independent interests and colonists who escape their grasp more through bloody-mindedness and distributed infrastructure than anything else. Tiny, haphazard terraforming efforts made of scraps of recycled solar fabric and old, scavenged machines translating thin permafrost into dirty smog that collectively are beginning to make a dent on Mars' famous climatic intransigence.
'Martians' have begun to develop an identity of their own, one of persistence and careful husbanding of resources. Of extreme violence in the face of persecution and a deep and thorough understanding of how to live inside a controlled environment. Ares has becomes synonymous with luxury and wealth, watching the world from their high-tech outposts - although Phobos and Deimos both have sizeable collections of 'Martians' living on them now too, as you cannot stop population bleed with that kind of proximity without it turning into a PR nightmare, turning the cities of the two moons into something more closely resembling real cities rather than simply understaffed company towns, a chaotic jumble of tunnels, caves, mines, and prefab shelters dotting the surface of the two moons like eczematic hives. EVO remains somewhat maligned despite vigorous PR work and having their fingers in slightly more than half of the surface settlements, sitting in orbit and waiting for their plans to be complete.
But something happened that neither of the two conglomerates - or those who would come to call themselves 'Martians' - predicted. This vast resource - manpower - became something that corporations expanding into space began to value. Earthers could not be trusted in space. They broke systems they should have treated like glass, wasted water or air, had trouble maneuvering through tight maintenance spaces, didn't understand conservation, recycling, vacuum living, zero-gee, or any of the many hardships of living in space. Martians were not quite the same as spacers - those born or raised in low orbit or the drone mining operations of the Belt. But they understood air safety. They understood temperature safety. Vacuum safety, airlocks, conservation of biological material, bodging together life support tech, and most of all, and overall were more useful, especially in a technical sense, than those from earth's slums - and, once you factored in transport costs, overall cheaper.
When you needed to recruit someone to do something horrifically dangerous, where a drone brain wasn't good enough and an AI couldn't be trusted, a Martian was about as good as a trained earthman, and far more willing to risk his or her life for a laughable sum. Low-gee/space trained earthers could get a job in low orbit, a humming area that could always use more hands. For Martians, there were fewer job prospects. Belt remote miners? Recruit in Mars. Orbital smelteries? Martians. Low-survival job for void-capable infantry? Something about living in tunnels on a colony world makes you keen enough on your family to take a job where the only upside is the death benefit for them. This led to a simple axiom - if you need someone to do a non-specialized job in space, you hire cheap labour on mars.
And that went double for troops. For decades, corporate militaries had recruited from slums preferentially - finding a tougher, more easily indoctrinated individual from those kind of locations for the kind of personalized violence that militaries still needed to employ even in the age of the drone and remote, emotionless kill. This went double for space. For every novahot plugged-in infowar specialist in his stealthed temp-neutral no-emission fighting platform tethered to an asteroid as he pilots a swarm of microdrones to interrupt and take control of a mining operation, there's three rickety bucket of bolts cargo containers fired at a barely-survivable velocity towards manufacturing or research hubs filled with Martians in skinthin space suits clutching mass manufactured vacuum-rifles, knee-to-knee and knowing their lives are utterly expendable. Metahumans are a lot harder to hack than a drone, and in the free-for-all slow-motion resource grab that is the Belt, being hard to hack is a highly rated commodity. Being hard to hack and cheaper than fielding a fully equipped hacker? Makes them a valuable resource. Initially used by EVO to upset the operations of a rival, the use of 'martian infantry' quickly caught on amongst the space arms of the Earth conglomerates, and a war that had been fought mostly in bits and bytes quickly became fought in flesh, blood, and ever-increasing casualty figures.
Conversely this helped the growth of Mars' population. With a commodity to sell - themselves - the Martians could afford the technology needed to sustain higher numbers of people, and the death rate fell for the first time since initial colonization. As a result, it became socially acceptable - even encouraged - to seek work offworld in dangerous fields with the expectation that you would 'send money home' that would allow one's family to survive and grow.
And grow they did. The birth rates for Mars are high, and the numbers of children per family as well compared to earth. As of the last count, the population of Mars, it's moons Phobos and Deimos, and it's orbitals exceeds 60 million, with the vast majority being concentrated on the Martian tunnel and trench colonies and living in conditions not that far different from the barrios of Earth's slums and shanty-towns.
Spaceships In Space
Equip yourself for Space
In a world where the temperature, the oxygen, the ability to get from room to room, to eat, to clean yourself, to know how to fix or change anything is all mediated and governed by electronic systems - the sheer requirements of keeping metahumans alive in space much less mobile meaning that the ability to lean less on machine systems is completely gone - those with power over such systems have far more power than they do on the ground. Early space exploration was characterized by electronic failure and sabotage engendered in a variety of seemingly never-ending ways by clever hackers (and no small number of Otaku and Technomancers who had few problems leaving the comforting arms of the earth as the electrosphere extended into the heavens, even if those few problems were somewhat.. troubling) and as the first fleeting stopgaps proved wholly insufficient, corporations bent themselves with a will to 'hacker-proofing' space
Hardened electronic systems, manually-activated backup systems, standalone components, point-to-point laser communication relays (known as 'networks', or 'mesh' of laser communication), quasi-sentient expert systems for autonomous operation, and of course the usual array of defensive firewalls, programs, agents, and AIs. But the usual defense systems for electronics, an array of skilled personnel (either in the Grid Overwatch Division or local corporate Spiders) are absent in space - spaceship crews usually can't afford to bring dedicated ewar personnel on board due to mass/weight/life support considerations, and electronic reinforcements are crippled by the speed of light delay at any reasonable distance. This means that despite the huge weight of innovation in counter-hacker protocols, skilled deckers are the true boogymen of the cold hard depths of space. BB-o7, Twist, Str0bel1ght, Creggs, Yellowjacket, to name a few, may not be well known Downwell but are legends known to every true spacer.
The dangers of space travel, and this weakness to electronic warfare that no amount of money seems able to patch also means that despite the thousands of armed drones, volleys of fusion missiles (that work just fine in space in all tests to date), and hundreds to thousands of soldiers recruited from some of the poorest hellholes on earth that the powers that be can deploy, some of the most dangerous and most coveted weapons are skilled hackers and the stealth insertion teams - known as greasejacks - who get them into position to do their work.
Many thought that space would be the natural extension of the many resource wars being waged on earth - big, messy, and utilizing the masks of political discontent in all their myriad forms to justify massacres, soldiers and spaceships fighting on many fronts. However, none of that happened. Space was, and is, simply too big. That kind of intense warfare, human lives spent for scraps of heavy metals, was ludicrous and cost-ineffective where human lives had to be shipped out there especially and it was generally pretty obvious who had done it. So a subtler kind of warfare evolved, especially after a few corps and nations lost groups of ships to mutual destruction in atomic fireballs, one based on sabotage, misdirection, trickery, and quiet violence. As an anonymous philosopher on Mars put it - 'a Thinking Man's War'. That bitter joke took root, but only after it's writer was deceased - the entire dome that comment came from suffering catastrophic pressure loss during a seismic event.
Corps In Focus
Crime and Mercs
Shadowrunners in Space
It is common knowledge on ShadowNET that horrible things happen in space. In particular runners must take care not too loose a cyberarm as this has happened on several space missions.
Not dead yet... in space!
|Papertrail Security Consultants||Rejakor|
|Mei Chaofeng||Lord Smogg|
|Bonny Sailor Boy I||Rejakor||25 May 2017||Mutt|
|Bonny Sailor Boy II||Rejakor||11 June 2017||Smogg|
|Bonny Sailor Boy III||Rejakor||23 June 2017||Smogg|
|Spacelab||AfroNin||8 August 2017||Mutt|
|Red-Hot||Rejakor||12 August 2017||Professor|
|The Revenant Echo of an Electronic Scream||Rejakor||19 November 2017||Smogg|
|Luna, Luna||Rejakor||6 October 2018||Smogg|
|It's Aviation Time, And All I Do Is Fly||Rejakor||23 March 2019||Smogg|