Stars Edge Redux
The second largest planet in the system is a much more favorable habitat for transhumans than Jupiter. Saturn’s lower gravity and milder magnetosphere are a boon to gas mining operations, and for resource hungry habs, the Rings are a feast (literally, in the case of the new Hamilton cylinder type habitats). Hypercorps have a presence here, but any major expansion by the Planetary Consortium is kept in check by the anarchist stations of the Rings and the technosocialist Commonwealth of Titan.
Because Saturn is so distant from the Sun, solar power generation is extremely inefficient. Growing photosynthetic plants with sunlight is impossible without large arrays of mirrors to focus the light. The abundance of water and volatiles makes the rings ideal for both scum barges and Hamilton cylinders. Gas mining is vital to the survival of almost every habitat and moon settlement in the Saturnian system, so habitats located further out from the planet that wish to be self-suf cient almost always maintain their own gas mining stations close to the planet. Security for these installations and the atmospheric skimmers and tankers they dispatch is tight, and it is never advisable to approach one unannounced.
Resources and Economics
Gas mining on Saturn supplies thirty percent of the system’s reactor mass. This role is expected to grow as Helium-3 deposits in the Lunar regolith become less accessible. For ships traveling to the far reaches of the outer system, Saturn is an important alternative to using Jupiter for gravity assists. Less restrictive than Jovian regimes and richer in resources than the Trojans, Circumsaturnine habs and settlements are important innovators in habitat design and cultural organization. Since the discovery of the Pandora Gates, the Titanian Commonwealth is the only entity actively pursuing interstellar exploration through conventional means.
Rings and Classic Minor Moons
Saturn’s rings are made up of countless small icy objects, most of which range in size from dust specks to boulders 10 meters in diameter. The rings are designated by the letters “A” through “F” in the order in which they were discovered. They vary in thickness between 100 and 1000 meters and in width from 20,000 kilometers down to just meters. In places there are gaps between rings. The widest, the Cassini division, is 4,000 kilometers across.
Saturn has over 60 satellites, a number that jumps into the hundreds if one includes the uncounted objects less than a kilometer across orbiting in the A ring. Most of Saturn’s moons are small, rocky, ice objects less than 100 kilometers in diameter. The smallest of the classical moons, Pan, is only 10 kilometers across. The rst eight moons, from Enceladus inward, lie within the ring system. Atlas, at the edge of the A ring, and Prometheus and Pandora, which flank the thin F ring, are known as the Shepherd Moons. Several of the moonlets occupy Lagrange points relative to larger moons. Telesto and Calypso share the orbit of much larger Tethys, while Helene trails another large moon, Dione.
Volkov, a Slavic energy cartel, controls this tiny moon. Volkograad is a beehive habitat with about 50,000 residents. Much of the moon is given over to skimming, refining, and shipping infrastructure. A cloud of wreckage trailing the moonlet by about 100,000 kilometers serves as a reminder of the Atlas Incident, a brief but massively destructive battle that erupted when Fa Jing attempted a buyout of the moon. Tinkers from Phelan’s Recourse still salvage the floating derelicts regularly.
Dione’s main settlement is Thoroughgood (population 350,000), a hybrid beehive and orbital cluster habitat set on a plateau amid a dramatic range of ice cliffs. Dione hosts the Long Array, a 150 kilometer high communications spar ascending from the surface settlement to an orbital station that acts as a counterweight. The Long Array’s sheer size is something of a publicity stunt, as the bulk of its capacity goes unused. However, it drew enough attention to make Thoroughgood a major communications hub for the outer system, and thus a place where hypercorp, anarchist, and other factional interests meet. Dione shares its orbit with Helene, a tiny, rocky moon at its L4 point, and Polydeuces, an even smaller body that trails it at the L5 point.
Rich in organic compounds, Enceladus is a biochemist’s playground. Profunda (population 850,000) is the major settlement, a beehive dug into the moon’s surface capped by domed parks and clusters of sleek, translucent minarets—well protected from collisions by an aggressive satellite defense network. The lower levels, stretching deep into Enceladus’ icy silicate mantle, include a prospecting operation that extracts carbonaceous soils in search of exotic compounds. Another deep section has been converted into a kilometers-wide, reactor-heated primordial sea, part of a long-term experiment into the origins of life supported jointly by Titanian academics and a collective of Enceladian biochemists.
Profunda is run along anarcho-capitalist lines. Thanks to the rich supply of organic chemicals, its upper reaches are home to many of the outer system’s best known morph designers. The Enceladian Glitter Bloc is said to have as much influence over body styles as the Lunar fashion houses do over what people wear.
Epimethus and Janus (Twelve Commons)
These twin small, icy moonlets share virtually the same path around Saturn, orbiting within 50 kilometers of each other. Set between the F and G Rings, the moonlets form the center of Twelve Commons, a neighborhood of small and mid-size habitats arranged in a flat cloud about 20,000 kilometers in radius. About six million people live in Twelve Commons. Habitats in Twelve Commons range in size from Dang Fish Echo, a tin can hab housing about 60 eccentric aquaculturists, to Janus Common, a beehive occupying much of Janus with a population of 900,000. Some of the habitats in Twelve Commons feature very unusual designs, such as Nguyen’s Compact (population 80,000), a variant Cole habitat in the G ring where an asteroid was heated and large amounts of steam were blown through it to produce a series of interconnected bubbles between five and three hundred meters in diameter. In effect, the interior of the colony is like a solidified foam or Swiss cheese with no obvious up or down. Without an ecto or basic implant to provide location and navigation information, navigating through this maze-like habitat would be exceedingly difficult.
The habitats of Twelve Commons organize themselves primarily along open source anarcho-syndicalist lines, with work groups and research pods acting as the basic political unit.
The Gateway settlement, on Saturn’s outer shepherd moon Pandora, holds the rst publicly known wormhole gate. The Gatekeeper Corporation keeps the gate open as a means of exploration and scientific investigation for all factions and powers. Gatekeeper was originally a Titanian microcorp but is now independent. The Commonwealth of Titan still holds a major stake in it, though not a controlling interest. Granting autonomy to Gatekeeper Corporation was a diplomatic maneuver made in response to Planetary Consortium claims that the Titanians sought hegemony in the outer system. So far, Titan’s neighbors are buying it, even if the Planetary Consortium doesn’t.
With its chaotic, virtually unpredictable rotation, Hyperion is a dangerous place to land ships. It remains uninhabited.
Iapetus is one of Saturn’s larger icy moons and once boasted a population of 200,000 living in the dense warrens of Analect, its main settlement. Probably because it is one of the few large moons of Saturn that contains sizable deposits of silicates and minerals in addition to ice, Iapetus was a target of the TITANs during the Fall. After enslaving a tenth of the populace as worker drones and using the rest as seed stock for tissue cultures to feed their fellows, the TITANs began to build what appears to have been a matrioshka brain. Iapetus now occupies twice the volume it once did, the ice and silicate of the planet’s outer layers having been reworked into a delicate lattice of circuitry millions of layers deep.
Strangely, the project simply stalled at some point prior to completion. Speculation has it that the controlling intelligence was either destroyed by an unknown outside force or devoured itself in a flat of compuational ecstasy. Whatever the case, the drones simply stopped working and died and the moon’s automated defense grid went dead, leaving a strangely beautiful but lifeless machine behind to slowly decay from meteor impacts and gravitational stress. Several research teams now reside in small orbital stations, quarreling over the scraps. Rumor has it that a number of researchers trying to understand the matrioshka circuitry have lost their minds in the process, perhaps by some mechanism akin to a basilisk hack. It is also believed that some of the moon’s internal defenses remain active. If anyone has plumbed the interior and come back, they’re not talking about it.
The full name of this unique habitat is Turn Yourself Into a Giant Mass of Space Meat for Art!, and as the name implies, 90% of the habitat’s structure consists of fast-cultured vat bacon, battened on the abundant resources of the ring system. MeatHab started out as someone’s art morph, but then, against all expectations, squatters moved in. MeatHab now has a population of 500. Similar to a Hamilton cylinder, the kilometer-long habitat harvests and processes ring material to grow itself. The outer surface is frozen esh ten meters thick whose surface resembles a cross between a tree trunk and ank steak. Past the axial space dock is a warren of veinous, skin-covered corridors lit by bioluminescent panels and maintained by small, reptilian symbiotes that eat away dead skin and may have other immune functions as well. Gravity inside is 0.5 g.
The nameless biodesigner who created the place—and who may or may not still inhabit the gigantic morph—was a genius. Although the habitat is not by any stretch of the imagination a pleasant locale, it appears healthy. Its full workings are not understood, and the inhabitants range from extreme esh freaks who are fans of the artist to serious biodesigners studying the place to learn more about its construction.
Mimas (Harmonious Anarchy)
Led by legendary Chinese dissident poet Hao Lin Ngai, Harmonious Anarchy broke from the Fa Jing cartel during the tumultuous years prior to the Fall. Hao sought to create a society in the spirit of the ancient Taoist state of Great Perfection that existed in Szechuan 1,700 years earlier—with considerable updates from modern thought. Harmonious Anarchy is an Extropian mutualist society heavily involved in software engineering, logistics, and relocation of metallic asteroids to the outer system. Most of Mimas is a very low-g beehive arranged into Black, Red, Yellow, Green, and White neighborhoods, based on the five classical directions of Chinese mythology. Each color boasts an ornate central cavern, with extended families living in radiating subwarrens. While adhering to mutalist economic principles, Harmonious Anarchy simultaneously takes a traditional Chinese approach to social organization, with family at its core.
Norse, Intuit, and Gallic Moonlets
In addition to the classical satellites described here, three groups of small objects unknown to early astronomers orbit the planet. These moonlets are designated as the Inuit, Gallic, and Norse groups. Because these moonlets were still little explored by the time of the Fall, most of them remain sparsely populated. With a few exceptions, inhabitants of the moonlets are generally people who want to be left alone. The exceptions are Skathi and Abramsen (formerly S/2007 S 2), which, along with Phoebe, were captured and moved into Titan’s orbit, where they serve as defense installations.
Volkograad’s closest competitor is this anarchocapitalist outfit, most of whose founders were South African. iZulu has a somewhat lower capacity than Volkograad but will ship reactor mass to unusual locations like the Trojans and the Kuiper Belt. iZulu is a very crowded beehive with nearly 400,000 inhabitants and an unusually large number of infugees. The nations of sub-Saharan Africa were only starting to achieve widespread 20th century-levels of prosperity in the late 21st, and so they had the lowest capacity to physically evacuate their citizens during the Fall of any region on Earth. iZulu and a handful of other habitats with roots in Africa thus have high infomorph populations and millions of people in dead storage.
Phelan’s Recourse (usually just called “Phelan’s” by inhabitants) is the largest nomadic settlement in the system, with a population estimated around 250,000. Phelan’s is a swarm of some 10,000 small craft and tin can habitat modules that orbits Saturn along a highly elliptical path somewhat inclined to the plane of the ecliptic. The swarm’s orbit is calculated to maximize the number of encounters with near moons and stations, providing a six to eight hour window in which craft can leave the swarm for trade. Phelan’s Recourse passes through the rings once a month, allowing craft to resupply with water and volatiles.
Phelan’s accepts all comers. One could meet just about anyone here, from the government in exile of East Timor to Hasidim from Brooklyn. The core of the swarm is the Stills, a fusion-illuminated grain farm and distillery operated by an allegedly reformed gang of Irish travelers who conned their way off Earth a few weeks before the Fall and escaped to the outer system. The Stills produce Phelan’s Ma, the most sought-after whiskey in the system, and Phelan’s Da, possibly the worst beer ever made. Despite the Phelans’ protestations of legitimacy, the criminal element is heavily represented here. The swarm represents an important link in red and gray market supply chains.
Marseilles (population 80,000) is a beehive habitat operated by the Titanians. It is rumored to harbor an antimatter factory, a theory supported by the large number of skimmers that arrive from the surface relative to the number of tankers that leave.
Rhea (Kronos Cluster)
At a 764 kilometer diameter, Rhea is Saturn’s second largest moon. Composed almost entirely of ice, Rhea’s surface is sparsely inhabited, but a population of over 800,000 dwells in Kronos Cluster, a major habitat in orbit. Kronos Cluster’s mass microfactured violet spherical modules make it look like an immense, irregular bunch of grapes suspended in space, an impression added to by the winding space dock (nicknamed the Vine) extending from the wider end. Within the mass of habitat modules, the Vine branches out in all directions, forming massive central arteries and twisting side passages. These can be traversed by pushing off hand and toeholds on the walls, or by catching hold of fast-moving grab loops that move along “fast lanes” in the walls of major oatways.
Nearly five kilometers long and three wide, Kronos has major problems with crowding and infrastructure that have kept it from growing to the same size as Locus. The designers simply did not plan for the size the place might reach, and as a result another 150,000 people live in suburbs of tin can habs and scum barges in the space around the habitat.
Kronos can be an extremely dangerous place. Insurance companies don’t like operating here, and the habitat is a patchwork of criminal and anarchist neighborhoods. Anarchist neighborhoods are generally heavily armed and safe, but a trip from an anarchist holding to the spaceport is best done with a group of well-armed friends. Criminal neighborhoods are only safe if you’re in the neighborhood’s controlling gang, and even then con icts are up regularly.
The situation is exacerbated by the Kronos Port Authority, a junta of ultimates who operate security for the spaceport. Originally an Extropian hypercorp, the KPA fell into the hands of the ultimates when they decided that they could pro t more directly by owning the company outright than by working as hired muscle. They violently ousted the original management and now use indentures in worker pods to maintain the port. This situation is tolerated by the local crime bosses and loathed by the mostly anarchist autonomist citizens, but so far no one is able to challenge the KPA, which enforces use of the port rather than any other mooring point with killsats and artillery.
Composed almost entirely of ice, Tethys is one of Saturn’s larger moons and the site of Ithaca Chasma, a 2,000-kilometer long valley covering three-quarters of Tethys’s circumference. Fifteen years ago, prospectors from an ethnically Indo-British autonomist collective called the Rioters touched down on Godwin Head, a projection in the chasm wall so named because it resembles a headland projecting out into the sea. Instruments on their ship, the Caleb Williams, had detected what looked like mineral deposits in the ice, rare on Tethys. What they found instead were relics thrust to the surface by a geological event eons earlier, the remains of primordial life that became extinct millions of years ago when Tethys cooled and its subsurface ocean froze over.
Godwinhead is now a dense, efficient settlement of 200,000 built into the five kilometer high canyon walls. The central point of the town is the Caleb Williams, which has been towed back into a sheltering cavern in the wall and converted into a communal workshop and town hall. The face of the valley wall is honeycombed with excavated ice caves hosting habitat modules, connected by conduits to a communal utility grid. The trusswork and cabling for the utility system is also the public transit system, easily traversed in the minute Tethyan gravity. The unofficial mascot of Godwinhead is the Tethyan Flatworm, a two millimeter-long translucent worm that represented the pinnacle of Tethyan evolution. A large number of the inhabitants are involved in biosciences, xenopaleontology, and prospecting for frozen lifeforms.
Tethys shares its orbit with its Trojan moons Telesto and Calypso, both of which are small and sparsely populated.
Saturn’s largest moon is shrouded in a permanent orange atmospheric haze, hellishly cold (averaging 180 degrees below), and whipped by winds produced by tidal forces four times stronger than those influencing the Earth’s climate. On its face, it appears even less hospitable than the airless balls of ice and rock comprising every world between Titan and Mars. The meager sunlight reaching its surface is insuf cient to grow any but the hardiest plants, the mostly-nitrogen atmosphere is dangerously toxic, and the surface is dotted with lakes and seas of liquid methane. In spite of all this, abundant hydrocarbons, a thick atmosphere, and diverse chemistry make Titan one of the few worlds in the system where colonists may rely entirely on local resources. Titan’s population is now over 60 million.
Social money and the microcorp system have led to some spectacular gains and failures. On the up side, Titan’s civil resleeving industry produces more morphs than Mars and Luna combined. Massive infrastructure programs have provided enough space for 60 million people to live comfortably on a hostile world. The Large Collider, the biggest particle accelerator ever produced, in polar orbit, enables physics experiments that can be performed nowhere else in the system. And two years ago, Titan dispatched the first conventional interstellar probe, the Aubade. It will reach Proxima Centauri in just under 20 years.
On the down side, Titan’s “body for every mind” law burdens the civic resleeving system with a lot of people who no one would ever have bothered resleeving otherwise. The failure of the Scoop project, an extremely costly attempt to build a pipeline from Saturn’s surface to low orbit, allowing massive gas extraction without costly atmospheric skimmer operations, stymied Titan’s ambitions to become a major antimatter producer. Titan does produce antimatter, but on a much smaller scale than was envisioned when the Scoop project began.
Commonly spoken languages on Titan include Norsk, Francais, Deut