“You have to get to know the meaning not just of joy but also of grief, before being allowed in the spacecraft cabin.”
Yuri Gagarin, the first person in Space
- The Blackwell crew is on rotation; when they are redeployed to an emergency on Titan.
- They pack their bags for the journey to Saturn; and quell some problems with the passengers.
- The crew begins investigating the Titan facility; except things are more complex than expected.
- The crew begins their return to Mars; when the network goes down.
Life aboard the MERS Elizabeth Blackwell is routine. 2m ticks on, 0.5m ticks off. Rinse. Repeat. After departing from Ceres from their 0.5m ticks of off time, the crew settles in for another routine run through the Belt. For the next 2m ticks they can expect to take all sorts of emergency response calls and help, in a small part, determine the fate of the Belters.
Luckily, the situation in the Belt is still frontier enough that false, or even worse prank, calls are almost unheard of. There is something reassuring knowing that every call you receive is important to someone. Then there is the dark side. When every call is important it means every decision the crew of the Blackwell makes could directly affect someone’s life.
The Bridge of the Blackwell is always crowded. There is a body at every one of the nine stations, plus the standing Captain. Workstations are divided into sets of three along each wall of the triangular room. The left and right chair in each trio are “Chief Stations”, elevated above the central “Junior Station”.
The crew is belted into their state-of-the-art stations, in case of an emergency, but gravity is maintained with the bridge’s Centrifuge Accommodation Module. Making it the only place, other than the O’Neill habitation module, to have artificial gravity.
The center of the room is raised even above the Chief Stations in order to provide an easy sightline to all the surrounding stations. This is where the Captain of the Elizabeth Blackwell, Oscar Connelly currently stands. A man of dark complexion with jet black hair and dark brown eyes, Captain Connelly is the youngest Officer on the deck. A cursory scan reveals he is a mere 0.93B-Ticks old, stands 1.7 meters tall, and measures 978 newtons.
Along the starboard wall Chief Officer Calvin Foss sits along with Communication Officer Addison Sutton. Dr. Floss is a white male with black hair and blue eyes. He scans as 1.35B-Ticks old, stands 1.8 meters tall, and measures 734 newtons. Two chairs away, Officer Sutton sits with pale complexion, blonde hair, and blue eyes. Her scan lists her as 1.25B-Ticks old, 1.7 meters tall, and 533 newtons.
On the port wall sits the First Pilot Omar Bradley and Chief Navigator Camilla Wells. Pilot Bradley has caramel brown skin and his hair and eyes are a deep black. He is 1.02B-Ticks old, stands 1.68 meters tall, measures 604 newtons. Navigator Wells has skin a slightly darker brown than Omars. Her hair is also jet black but she has shining dark brown eyes. Her scan lists her as 1.17B-Ticks old, 1.7 meters tall, and 529 newtons.
Finally, the stern wall has stations for the Chief Scientist Reagan Vic and Chief Engineer Willis Blackthorn. Doctor Vic is another white male, his brown hair prematurely graying to match is gray eyes, who scans in as 1.3B-Ticks old, 1.9 meters tall, and 911 newtons.
The darkest complexion on the bridge belongs to Engineer Blackthorn with black hair and brown eyes. When scanned he’s 0.99B-Ticks old, 1.78 meters tall, and 774 newtons.
The bridge is always alive with noise and light. Dozens of voices stream out of Officer Sutton’s station, reports flood across Dr. Vic and Engineer Willis’s terminals, pilot Bradley and Navigator Wells call out their status reports, while Dr. Foss begins filing standard orders for the crew. Captain Connelly takes in all the information, letting it wash over him, responding when needed or directly called on.
When the inevitable call comes in the crew needs to quickly evaluate each situation, determine the validity of the crisis, and begin enacting a disaster relief plan. Welcome to life aboard the Blackwell.
MERS Elizabeth Blackwell
The MERS Elizabeth Blackwell, also called The Blackwell or Lizzy Black, is named for Elizabeth Blackwell a British-born physician and first woman to graduate from and receive a medical degree in the US.
When Earth deemed it no longer economically viable to continue the expansion of the Lagrange-One Station they began construction of five Carrier-Class transports. The series was prototype ships built circa 8.46b (~2238), just prior to the Lunar Rebellion, designed around a semi-permanent habitation module which utilizes a smaller version of the early Lagrange-One O’Neill cylinder design.
The center O’Neill module produces an artificial gravity and can act as home to 1,000-2,500 people, depending on overcrowding restrictions. The rest of the ship acts as home to the 50 crewmembers required to operate the ship and is devoid of artificial gravity except for the cockpit which was built inside of Centrifuge Accommodation Module (CAM).
The design was poorly received and by 8.57b (~2241) the series was decommissioned. The Blackwell was purchased by Neogen Union in 8.93b (~2252) and used to support the first research stations on Phobos.
In 11.89b (~2346) Neogen was on the brink of bankruptcy and sold a large number of their investments, including Phobos Sation and the Blackwell, to Tanaka Industries. Tanaka, only interested in Phobos, sent the old ship off to the Belt to use as a “retirement home.” The Blackwell floated in the Belt until 12.54b (~2367) when Mars established the Mars Emergency Response Squadron and Tanaka donated her.
The final ownership transfer came in 15.86b (~2472) when Tanaka, divesting itself from the M.E.R.S. initiative, sold the Blackwell to Silverlight Enterprises. Silverlight began operating the Blackwell as a rehabilitation clinic for Belters receiving prosthetic transplants in addition to its service with M.E.R.S.
The Blackwell, now 8.7b ticks old, has survived every solar conflict the system has thrown at her. Her service jacket includes the time spent during the Lunar Rebellion, Interplanetary Depression, and the War of Worlds. She is the only ship of her original fleet left, the others being either scraped out or destroyed over the b-ticks, making her a literal one-of-a-kind. Described as reliable, but finicky, she shows no signs of slowing down. The only concern is that the majority of her systems are both outdated and irreplaceable. When problems with the O’Neill module occur the crew is forced to fabricate their own solutions, as no current manufacturer makes parts for the Blackwell.
Distress Calls – Set 1: Two Calls
Only 0.15m ticks out (roughly two days) and the Blackwell receives her first distress call. “Asteroid Collapse, Dinétah (Di Nay Tah) Protectorate” but before Officer Sutton can relay the notification to Captain Connelly a second request comes across her screen. “Power Failure, Hinenuitepō (Hi-ne-nu-it-pu) Quarry”.
From here the crew can request more intel for either of the calls, or simply make a decision. Navigator Wells can inform the crew that the Protectorate and the Quarry are not within the same path, necessitating a choice to be made between the two calls. Pilot Bradley says he can make both calls if one turns out to be a false alarm, but any delay at one of the locations for more than 14t-ticks (4 hours) will render the Blackwell unable to provide both sites with a response.
- “Power Failure”
- What: A massive electrical surge has caused the generators to fail. Life support, gravitational, and propulsion systems are offline. Requesting immediate MERS response for emergency power and generator repair.
- Where: Hinenuitepō (Hi-ne-nu-it-pu) Quarry, named after the Māori goddess of night, death and the ruler of the underworld, is a Venusian corporate sponsored mining operation harvesting a massive iron and magnesium asteroid. It is home to 350 miners.
- Contact: Kurt Alvarado, Male Asteroid Miner (Friendly, but scared)
- Complication: The Quarry has been requesting a PAM from MERS for 12m ticks (5 months) and, despite mortal danger, are resentful it took a disaster to get a MERS ship out to them.
- Ignored: If ignored everyone at the Quarry will parish.
- “Asteroid Collapse”
- What: An accident has ignited the Protectorate’s nitrogen vein. The rock is losing stability and an immediate threat to all inhabitants. Requesting permanent evacuation.
- Where: Dinétah (Di Nay Tah) Protectorate, named after the Navajo homeland and meaning “among the people”, is an independent religious commune settled on an asteroid with a rich frozen nitrogen vein, which the locals mine and oxygenate, making them an air-independent settlement. It is home to 200 settlers.
- Contact: Jeremiah Parsons, Male Priest (Loyal, but sad)
- Contact: Josef Conner, Male Theologian (Pleased, but torn)
- Complication: Some Dinétah settlers refuse to leave the station, knowing their death is imminent, believe it’s the will of God that they die upon his rock. They actively attempt to prevent other Dinétah from leaving the Protectorate as well.
- Ignored: If ignored everyone at the Protectorate will parish.
Distress Calls – Set 2: Three Calls
After completing the first call the crew may have up to 200 Dinétah refugees aboard. The logical plan is to return to Ceres for a drop off but there is still plenty of room onboard the Blackwell. Ultimately, the course of action is the Captain’s decision to make. Regardless of what he chooses, Officer Sutton’s comms light up with three more requests. “Outbreak, Styrkur (Striker) Barracks”, “Derelict Ship, Bathala (Bat-Ha-La) Terminal”, and “Microburst Collision, Stilla Position”.
Again the crew can request more intel for any of the calls, or simply make a decision. Navigator Wells can inform the crew that the three locations are relatively near each other but odds are against them being able to respond to all three calls. Pilot Bradley agrees with Navigator Wells assessment but offers the advice that whichever call they take second will likely be worse by the time they arrive.
- What: A highly contagious disease has broken out of containment and is threatening the entire base. Requesting temporary evacuation and quarantine.
- Where: Styrkur (Striker) Barracks, named from the Icelandic word for Strength, is a Lunar infectious disease research base. It’s population is unknown.
- Contact: Fermin Murray, Male Military Officer (Social)
- Complication: The base is really a front for a military installation and the 500 soldiers are VERY territorial. After all, the outbreak wasn’t cause by a containment failure but by an experimental weapon misfire.
- Escalation: By the time the Blackwell arrives quarantine is not an option, only 100 survivors may still be evacuated but the Barracks have been devastated.
- Ignored: If ignored everyone on the Barracks will parish.
- “Derelict Ship”
- What: A derelict ship is approaching the Bathala Micro-Beam, if it crosses the network it’s sails will pick up the beam and begin to propel the ship along the network. Without a crew to escape the beam the ship will crash into the fresnel lens. Requesting MERS intervention to prevent the ship from crossing into the beam.
- Where: Bathala (Bat-Ha-La) Terminal, named after the ancient Tagalog supreme god of being, is a Ceres owned micro-2BN station that converts ambient solar radiation into propulsion beams for Belters.
- Contact: Winnie Curry, Female Engineer (Very frightened)
- Complication: The ship’s main generator has been long dead, meaning no life support onboard and no ability to use the ship’s own propulsion systems. The Blackwell can either attempt to tow the ship or jump start it, either way it risks being pulled into the Beam along with the derelict.
- Escalation: The ship crosses into the beam and begins to be pushed along the network, Bathala Terminal reduces power in hopes of prolonging the ship’s travel time but the Blackwell can no longer use the micro-Beam for quick travel.
- Ignored: The ship crashes into the fresnel lens, taking out one of the few Belt lanes which results in several remote facilities to risk permanent isolation.
- “Microburst Collision”
- What: Astrological reports indicate a microburst is due to strike the Position soon. Requesting MERS intervention to propel the Stilla’s asteroid out of the microburst’s path.
- Where: Stilla Position, from Swedish for “Still”, is a North American owned mobile mining platform tasked with gathering any frozen liquids encountered in the belt and transporting them back to Earth. It is home to 700 workers.
- Contact: Heather Foreman, Female Miner (Close, but aggressive)
- Complication: None.
- Escalation: None, this is a false alarm.
- Ignored: None, this is a false alarm.
Distress Calls – Set 3: Five Calls
At this point the Blackwell could be housing up to an additional 500 Styrkur soldiers, if they also have 200 Dinétah refugees their habitats are nearing minimum capacity. If this is the situation, the next set of calls come through before the Captain can even suggest returning to Ceres. If there is resistance to responding to a call, Executive Admin Assistant Markus Tidus can remind the Captain that they can petition Business Development Manager Zhang Li to lift the population restriction up to a maximum of 2,500 passengers. In truth, the ship isn’t near capacity but is near overcrowding.
This time five requests chirp across the bands. The crew may still request more intel for any of the calls, or simply make a decision. Navigator Wells can inform the crew that some locations are relatively near each other but she’s not sure how many they would be able to resolve. Pilot Bradley agrees with Navigator Wells assessment but his gut says they can answer, at best, three of the five calls.
- What: The Haven has erupted in violence as the Belt workers have begun to rebel against their Venusian employers. Venus is requesting MERS response to quell the riots.
- Where: Surya (Sir-Yah) Haven, named for the Lithuanian Sun Goddess, is a Venusian corporate sponsored mining station focused on harvesting precious metals for its asteroid. It is home to 300 workers, 50 suits, and 25 enforcers.
- Contact: Lorraine Gilliam, Female Corporation Secretary (Powerless and sociable)
- Contact: Cecilia Mcknight, Female Miner (Mean-spirited – which deliberately conceals being social)
- Complication: The workers on Haven have it really, really, bad. A revolt was a likely outcome of the extended working ticks and poor conditions. The Blackwell must choose between towing the Venusian line (and keeping funding to MERS) or siding with the workers and liberating the asteroid.
- Escalation: Casualties escalate and by the time the Blackwell has arrived the station’s population has been nearly annihilated, only 30 workers, 5 suits, and 3 enforces remain.
- Ignored: Venus will write off the Haven and those left out there will be totally abandoned.
- “No Response”
- What: The Post has gone silent, no transmissions have been received for 30t ticks (12 hours). Requesting MERS investigation.
- Where: Proyek (Pro-Yek) Pos, from Indonesian for “Project Post”, is a lightly-manned communications relay station funded by L2 Station responsible for maintaining communication with Outer Planet settlements. It is home to 75 crew.
- Contact: Neal Mccall, Male Technician (Unfriendly, but many mistake it for being understanding)
- Complication: The system, having not been designed for this long of use, has completely failed. There is no way to get the Pos back up and running.
- Escalation: The system failure cascades across the Pos and by the time the Blackwell has arrived all the workers have perished from a failed life support system.
- Ignored: Distress calls from the Outer Planets take even longer to receive (impacts the upcoming request from Titan!)
- “Injury” (First Only)
- What: A MERS ship arrived at the Outpost with several hundred injured onboard. Requesting additional MERS support for tending to the wounded.
- Where: Qalupalik (Qwall-oo-pail-ick) Outpost, named for the myth told by Inuit parents and elders to prevent children from wandering to the shore, is one of the furthest outposts in the belt owned and operated by MERS as a waystation for MERS deployments. The Outpost is home to 250 MERS workers and the docked ship reports an active crew of 500.
- Contact: Serena Munoz ,Female Doctor (Humble, but petrified)
- Complication: The ship carrying the wounded is the MERS Rosalind Franklin, an old station of Dr. Calvin Foss, and some of the injured are the Franklin’s own crew.
- Ignored: Nothing, The Outpost and Franklin manage on their own, but several of the injured now face life-long treatments that could have been prevented.
- “Terrorist Attack”
- What: A group calling themselves the “CLF, Ceres Liberation Front” have seized control of the Station and are threatening to blow it up unless Venus recognizes Ceres independence. Requesting MERS negotiators to prevent loss of life.
- Where: Gotvach (Got-Vah-ch) Station, from the Bulgarian word for “Cook”, is an independent refining station that purifies water, air, and other basic survival elements for use on other Belt settlements. It is home to 500 workers.
- Contact: Anne Guy, Female Bandit (Suspicious – which unconsciously conceals being humble)
- Contact: Gwendolyn Hatfield, Female Politician (Extremely cruel)
- Complication: None
- Escalation: Nothing. The terrorist can’t really risk destroying the Station and will stall as long as they can.
- Ignored: Ultimately a Venusian Black Team will descend upon the Station and eliminate all inhabitants. Gotvach Station will lose its independence and become a Venusian installation.
- “Runaway” (First Only)
- What: An encoded message that simply reads, “Please. Help me.” is received from the Elyon Habitat. The message is sent on a loop and the Blackwell can determine it’s exact origin when within range of Elyon.
- Where: Elyon (El-Yawn) Habitat, named for the Canaanite creator, was one of the first post-Ceres settlements in the Belt that, originally, harvested ice from it’s asteroid, but has now become a gambling and prostitution den. It is home to 1,000 souls.
- Contact: Marina Reese, Female Slave (mildly withdrawn)
- Contact: Stewart Hansen, Male High Grifter (Petrified)
- Contact: Dillon Solomon, Male Aviator (Slightly assertive)
- Complication: The runaway is Marina Reese, a sex slave of a powerful Ceres organized crime syndicate, the Solomon Council.
- Ignored: The Council will recapture their runaway and the broadcast will vanish.
End of Rotation
After responding to their final call, the Blackwell’s rotation will end and they are expected to return to Ceres for R&R. They could, at this point, have an additional 75 workers from Proyek Pos and 1 Runaway from the Elyon Habitat. Pushing their potential total passenger count to 1,026. Luckily, upon arrival almost all of their passengers will depart via commercial transports. A handful of refugees may opt to enlist and stay on board, and if they rescued Marina Reese she will ask to sign on.
After returning to Ceres, the crew will have 0.5m ticks downtime. The players can have a chance to explore, expand, and explain what Ceres is like at this point. Remember that it is home to 2.3 billion people, just slightly less than the current population of China AND India combined. This means that Ceres likely has a large federal government, several states or provinces, thousands of cities, and just about everything modern Earth would have. Don’t forget to play the shure size of the colony. This isn’t some rinky-dink couple hundred people place. It’s a full civilization.
If the crew took care of the “No Response” call, after only few days off the call from MERS HQ comes in requesting emergency redeployment of the Blackwell. If the crew failed to respond to “No Response” then the call comes a couple days after their next rotation begins and they have to return to Ceres.
- “Titan Call”
- What: Emergency evacuation requested. No further information is supplied. MERS has gained clearance to redirect the Ceres to Mercury 2BN line (very infrequently used) to reach Titan within the week and will be towing a temporary fresnel len that can create a return line for the Blackwell.
- Where: Mirai (mee raa hee) Zaibatsu, from the Japanese for future business conglomerate, is the largest habitation on Titan jointly owned by Tanaka Industries, a Martian scientific research group, and Genetisoft Technologies, a Venusian engineering firm. It is home to nearly 2,000 employees.
- Contact: Robin Gaines, Male MERS Officer (Incredibly inquisitive)
- Mission: Mirai Zaibatsu’s agenda is twofold; to secure the Outer Planets for human colonization and to monitor beyond the Oort Cloud for possible interstellar expansion.
- Complication: In addition to their typical crew, the Blackwell needs to take several MERS investors from Tanaka Industries and Genetisoft Technologies. It is against MERS policy to allow civilians aboard during an response call but because of the unique nature of the emergency MERS has approved an exception.
The crew is given 0.08m ticks (1 day) off before they depart. Again, allow the players to improvise and inform. If they aren’t interested in telling little stories on their own, simply move along to their departure.