Tartarus Sector: Tartarus

This is an extremely fertile world, with thousands of species of plant/animal hybrids that use the sun’s energy and the rich carbon dioxide/oxygen atmosphere for growth. Although it holds great promise, it is now the site of a major crisis for the ICC.

Tartarus was discovered only a generation ago, but it was already habitable and was quickly developed. An unusual feature of Tartarus is its rotation, which is perpendicular to its orbit. It takes 40 years to complete its orbit around the sun, so it has a 20 year day and a 20 year night. The constant sunlight of this extended day produces a vibrant and diverse ecosystem. On the night side there is little life, and the world waits for day to return. These are three major continents on Tartarus, only one of which is currently in daylight and which is colonized. The environment has been ideal; there is an abundance of life with no particularly dangerous creatures, and excellent atmosphere and climate.

Knowing about Tartarus’ peculiar orbit, the settlements were designed with a slow migration in mind. Each continent would be colonized in turn, and as night settled over a part of the colony, it would be shut down and the inhabitants would move ahead to a new site, one which was entering the daylight.

This process was just beginning a few years ago, as sites which were within a year of twilight prepared for shutdown and the colonists got ready to transfer to new locations on a continent that was nearing its dawn. Darkness would settle over the rest of the first continent over the course of eight years. The transfer was eagerly anticipated by all the Corporations present, as a test of their abilities and an opportunity to develop new areas. It was at this point that the most dangerous native lifeform made its appearance. Scientists had been looking forward to finding out hw the environment handled the transition from day to night, but these ravenous monsters are not what they had in mind.

The creatures are called Harvesters, and that is exactly what they do.As a continent enters its night, these immense, armored creatures burrow up from tunnels far below the surface to devour all organic materials. This material is shredded and carried back underground, to cysts where the Harvesters live. The Harvesters live off the organics for years, and slowly generate the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which in turn regenerate the surface life when daylight returns. It is a strange ecological cycle, but one which remains in balance. Unfortunately, the Harvesters do not differentiate between their natural food and the Colonists who now live on Tartarus.

The Harvesters look something like huge armadillo. They are capable of digging and boring through rock and concrete, and their jaws can shred almost anything. They move in packs of several dozen, and these packs often fight each other for control of fertile areas. A pack will coordinate its activities, and organizes for war in the same way that ants do.

Colonial Marines and other forces have been sent to Tartarus to protect the many settlements scattered across the daylight continent. Missions include evacuating colonists, delaying Harvester attacks, retrieving abandoned equipment from devastated communities, and Harvester hunting and research. The Harvesters are sweeping across the continent, and will be done with their work within three years if Humans do not stop them. Parts of the continent will still be in full daylight at that time, however, and Corporations which own communities in these areas do not want to abandon them until night falls. In these places, plans have been made to defend the communities against Harvester attacks; how well this will work is unknown.

To assist in these defenses, missions are being sent down into the Harvester tunnels to see if the creatures have a weak point. To date, no one has reached any of the cysts where the Harvesters live and store their food. When they do, another surprise is waiting for them. The Harvesters have a smaller form which never leaves the cyst, called a Drone, which is used to defend the cyst from underground pests, ranging in size from small insects up to nearly Human size. The Drone is little more than a large pair of powerful jaws, and it is not even a self-supporting life form. Instead, the Drones grow on Harvester variants called Carriers. When they leave their Carriers to fight, they have only a few hours of life left. They attack the invading creatures by biting with their immense jaws, which lock in place. Like a bee, they give their lives defending their lair.

Aliens Adventure Game (1991), Leading Edge Games.

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