Terra Nueva

Liber Novi Orbis Terrarum
Vergili Agricola Vicinius

[This prose – the “New Aeneid” – is a work in progress. It will be updated as I get to it. It may or may not pay homage to the original Virgil and his mighty poem. I compose in English and not in Latin for the convenience of the GM and the players (including the author). The latin title translates to “the New Book of the World”.]

I sing of the ship and the people
Who, first exiled by fate and guided by mind,
Came to Terra Nueva and the new sun from Aute.
Thrown cold and longing to a far world, onto it’s lands and seas
By the force of the gods and engines of power
To escape the shattering anger of birth.

Minerva gave us hand and mind fourfold,
Eye to ai and cheek to cold coffin cowl
Across unnumbered gulfs of star flecked cold
Pinpricks of light guided us to our unhome.

Terra Nueva

Life teems and writhes ungodly strong
Deep within and without the oceans.
First landfall is short and warm and now we belong
Not to our broken past but to our future.
We child brides and grooms of green, red, blue
And elongated day and night.

Does it have a common thread?
In unlikely theme new life treads upon unhallowed scheme.
Minerva Goddess grant insight in this City of Unright.
The tree writhes and grasps, its neighbor gasps to spit forth bird and mole.
We lived through First Night.

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"It's Not Fatal" 1x02
Doctor's Log

Medical Caution

Atmospheric pollens are more troublesome than anticipated. All of us are noticing minor symptoms, and I’ve never had hayfever before. Vicinius has had the most severe reaction. The combination of the thinner atmosphere and congestion in his lungs left him bedridden for 25 hours, this despite confining him to the ATV and increasing the oxygen level. Medical records of any colonists being sent to the surface should be checked for history of allergies or respiratory compromise. Priority should be given to producing anti-histamines for those most affected. Recommend alpha pods include medical personnel with training in respiratory issues.

Medical Caution
Local life forms include some using iron based blood (birds), and others using copper based (hemocyanin) blood (lizards). Some animals and plants also have increased selenium levels which may cause problems in using them for food. Others use phosphorous. Biosensors may need to be altered to monitor selenium levels; further research needed on safe levels for adults, children, and in pregnancy.

Observation Log

The animated trees (Murder Maples) are much more complex than we expected. Almost like one of Vendell’s coral reefs. When Adams approached one in a sealed suit (to avoid its infrared detection) and lopped of a limb, a large number of beetles streamed out of its roots to attack him. The suffocation swarm beetles are drawn to opening, which they cover with their sticky bodies. They are difficult for a person to remove by hand and are so numerous that even a strong person would be rapidly overwhelmed. AUD1 killed most of the swarm with an electric discharge. We also saw a human sized slug exit another opening, examine the wound, and return. At night, AUD1 saw previously unnoticed small mammals in its branches, unmolested by the tree. They were eating insects on its bark. When AUD1 approached too closely, a bird came out of another opening and attacked him with a disorienting sonic cry. The suffocation swarm also responded, but could not harm him. The hole we saw opening for smaller mammals may be to provide attractive nests – the mammals may act like clownfish or remora, cleaning the tree in return for protection. Late on the first TN night, a swarm of small bugaloo roar through the area – the tree’s mammals, suffocation swarm, and slug, cooperate to fight them off. The tree does not have any obvious fruit, tho perhaps it may grow berries near its base, to lure herbivores close to it. If it is using an attraction scent, we haven’t noticed it.

Adams tested the core wood and bark of the tree. The bark is flame, and acid retardant. The wood does burn normally for freshly cut green wood. The sap includes trehalose sugar. This is found in rare plants and micro-organisms that go dormant, rehydrate, and are back on their feet. Other plants have this quality to their sap. The electrocuted bug samples (and all samples) will be presumed dormant until proven dead. Analysis of the wood “muscle” will take time and more than our field lab.

The bloodvine, so far, is not as complex. At night, it closes up into a beehive shape, with hard outer leaves protecting it from the bugaloo swarm. The grass walks into the river to avoid the swarm. (Personal note, I have been testing our grass sample with a small maze to see if has intelligence, is trainable, or can learn. So far, no success.)

[Personal note: I had second night-watch with AUD1, while Vincius recovers. The sky is almost unimaginably dark and clear. Aute’s star is barely visible with magnification. For a moment, looking at it, with not a familiar night noise to be heard, it was clear how far from home we are and that we have no choice but to make this work.]

There are pollinators – small feathery butterflies. And a purple tulip-like flower that eats them.

Soil samples show high levels of selenium and continue to show low levels of phosphates.

Marak finds only granite samples, no useful minerals.

At best, this site is suboptimal for colonization. We explore upstream. There are a number of discussions about the extremely active local flora (and fauna) – we may need to consider sites with less competition from the native life, perhaps near the dessert, at high elevations, or nearer to the poles. Vicinius still recommends caves for our crops. Marak and Adams think we can get by with greenhouses.

We find a smaller murder maple and take a full sample, including a hosted mole-like nocturnal animal (tree mole, for now). We also encounter a heard of large bipedal reptiles – about 15’ long. They stop when they see the ATV, then fan out as pack hunters. We decide to continue onward. If we find a straggler, then it may be worth getting samples.

Marak sent the recon drone to follow the bugaloo swarm. They grow rapidly, nearly doubling in size in a planetary day. Many are consumed, but the remainder will likely grow into a new herd.

At a fork in the river, we are attacked by a vast (½ mile in diameter) river plant. Fortunately we are near the bank and at the fringes of its reach. Its fronds are coated with something that is sticky when wet – had it gotten a solid grip on the ATV, we might have been held down for quite some time until it realized the ATV is indigestible.

Not far from there, we have found an arid valley with a small pond filled by a natural spring. There is a herd of bugaloo here, and the remains of one near the edge of the grass. Testing a bit of chitin, we are astonished that it produces electricity –a natural solar panel. There are colorful thorn bushes, which the bugaloo avoid – they have not seemed animate. When Marak and AUD1 go to get more samples of the dead bugaloo, they are attacked by, and subdue, a large tusked reptile. Will examine it alive before dissection.

We have been here for 5 local days (10 AuDays). Our current plan is to spend a local day/night in the valley. If we don’t encounter any unmanageably lethal surprises, we will likely recommend an Alpha Pod for this location. Without geological examination, we don’t know if the water supply could support a colony, but so far the location seems less dangerous than the river side and we could use some full-time scientists to process samples and figure out more of this planet’s improbable biology while we proceed to the Beta and Gamma sites.

Vicinius and I are both pondering our first papers for volume 1, issue 1 of the first scientific journal of Terra Nueva. I propose the Journal of Improbable Biology as its title. I have never been one for teaching or publishing, but this place is inspiring.

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Landfall 1x01.5
Doctor's Log

The next weeks pass in a blur. I have been busy studying the defrosting records and trying to improve the awakening protocols. Others have been busy setting up hydroponics and looking at the satellite data. We have concerns, based on Oceana’s reports that their second ship may need to divert to TN. We need to have the colony set up and ready when they arrive.
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There is much discussion about where to survey. The eventual plan is that we will take Pegasus down for landfall. The Captain will have the honor of the initial landfall. We will then take the ATV to the Alpha site, survey it for 2 weeks, then move on to the next three sites for two weeks each. Much speculation, but not many decisions can be made without data.
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We make first landfall on the beach of a small island. After basic checks, the Captain steps out and says a few words. To all medical checks, she is fine. just a bit of eye irritation from hayfever. The air is full of pollens, and a flock of flying lizards. We step out next for samples. Vicinius decides to ditch his skin suit and run into the sea. I’ve never seen a bioscanner light up that much — the seas are full of life. Vicinius showers it off. I make a note to check him every 6 hours for any signs of rash or infection. Quick chemical analysis of the sea water is similar to home, missing some boron. Samples stowed away, we head to the ALPHA site.
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After Pegasus drops us off on a grassy field near the river, we see that there is no grass where Pegasus’ pads set down. With some experimentation, the grass is mobile. It moves away from vibration. Adams coaxed some into a sample tube. Fascinating.
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The river water is likewise full of life. Filters seem to clear it. Vicinius tries a filtered sample. More emphatic note to scan Virgil every 6 hours for anything amiss.
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Janus 2 asked for core samples of the local tree. When Adams tries to cut down a sapling, a tree swings at him with a branch. He dodges, parries a second branch, and rushes out of its reach. With some experimentation, the tree has some ability to sense heat. Small creatures, like a test hamster, it tries to lure in with a burrow-like hole. Larger creatures, it just hits. Most of the forest seems sessile. Marak finds another tree/vine that tries to wrap him up and eat him. We make camp for the long night. I’m thinking of sleeping in the ATV. We expect the fauna to be more active at night, when the trees are likely dormant. Some discussion of using a flare to distract a tree in the morning so Adams can hack one down and we can study it better.
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Just how smart are these plants? Are they single creatures or a gestalt? Is this isolated to this continent or will we find similar issues at the other three sites. The heat sense implies mammals — reptiles and insects would generate less heat.

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Clerical Error 1x01.1
Doctor's Log (Contains Patient Data, Confidential, Encrypted)

Awoken as scheduled one month from orbital insertion, by MedTech Marcea. Administrator Adams, Marak, and Vicinius awoken at same time. Councilor Talbot and Nurse Cho also awoken, but before they were scheduled. The Captain asks us to assist with a problem — some of the external identity tags on the cryopods have been mixed up. The Captain is having trouble finding the communications and satellite techs she needs — this may become a major problem. The star’s EM output is stronger than expected — if the satellites are not hardened and adjusted, they may not last long.
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It is so quiet. There are only thirty crew awake in this vast ship. For the first time it feels real — Aute and all we knew is gone.
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The Captain’s primary concern is whether this is human error or a ‘bot malfunction. The ship was designed for 230 crew. With Venus, it needs only 13 crew awake at once and 120 robots. Some functions are purely AI controlled. Adams’ House arranged for the ranking administrator to have an assistant — Concordance 3 has been assigned to him. Adams does not want to use her until we know if the bots are the problem.
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Marak and Adams begin by unloading their cargo — Adam’s AI and Marak’s computer gear. Vicinius begins inspecting the tanks. I start by confirming that the two sleepers we lost during the mission are who they claim to be, and looking at the medical logs to find the first errors. Marcea is working with the newly awakened in the other room — the sounds of someone nearby are comforting. Vicinius collects DNA for analysis, finds triangular scrape marks on the pods we know are wrong. None of the pods for children or families have been tampered with. Of the remainder, perhaps half have been tampered with.
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Looking more carefully at the marks, they are uniform — and arrow shaped. Venus, perhaps, of more likely something that thinks it is Cupid. Marak checks to see who accessed the files on genetic and personal compatibility — it was done 50 years ago from the work floor — an Anteros bot, most likely. I checked for any signs of personnel incidents among the crew awakened around that time, looking for something that might have given the bot the idea. Nothing. With the Captain’s permission, I have examined personnel logs. It appears that crew schedules were deliberately arranged by ISP to pair people who were not romantically compatible and thus not distracted. “Cupid” seems to have wanted to fix that. Adams and Marak look at the logs to see who might have hidden access to the security videos of the control room (checking on its success and identifies CUPID).
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After a night’s rest, Adams and I talk with CUPID, Adams being the stern administrator, I the diplomat. CUPID believes itself to be working in the best interests of the colony to make people happy, better families, by arranging potential pair-ups. It is concerned that humans, left on their own, often make poor decisions. It wanted to arrange potential matches before everyone was defrosted and had a chance to make bad decisions. Eventually, it agrees to give up the formula to unscramble the pods for the good of the colony. I have invited it, and any of the other bots who want to talk, to visit me in the med-bay. There’s nothing in the files on AI psychology — time to learn on the job.
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Timeline.
-80 years first death
-50 years first access of personnel compatibility database by Anteros
-40 years first noted error, wrong ship tech woken up.
-20 years dead body, outer tag switched

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Terra Nueva

1 year before launch you were quietly recruited by your Houses, Provinces, the Empire or I.S.P (Imperial Space Program) for this mission. Your Houses (read corporation/patron) all would have told you to carry their name to this new world and reestablish their existence and power on this new world. They would have reminded you it is because of them you have a future, and to them you owe all that you have. So go forth and make them proud. (Depending on the house this reminder may have been a little more or less subtle.) Should you have been in service to your Province instead of House, the speech would have been the same. Six months before launch you would have been brought to I.S.P for training, spending time at their facility in Vendell and at the moon base.

The day after your arrival at Vendell, you and the colonists from Janus 1 are addressed by Tadrak Gen Agrippa. Although he has no reputation as a compelling speaker, once he begins it is nearly impossible to not become deeply involved in the speech.

“I stand before you a son of House Agrippa (he is wearing a part of the Imperial regalia, a sword), as are we all. My line was not born by blood to this house, but chosen by circumstance, and adopted by Marcus Agrippa Navius, to make right a great wrong. You have been chosen by circumstance (fluidly drawing and pointing the sword) and adopted by the Emperors of the Alloy Kingdom to carry us to the stars. Bring to them not our petty rivalries, but our determination, show them not our shallowness, but the greatness which is Aute’s spirit.”

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