Sunday, February 23, 2014

Savage Space XXIII: The Celadon

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The Celadon

It was three centuries before the colonists on Vestas came to accept that the cunning predators called the Celadon were, in fact, intelligent. Vestsas as the fourth moon of the third gas giant in the Procyon star system, and the only habitable body this system roughly 11.2 light years away. It was one of the first of the "founding colonies" of the old slow-FTL drives, a colony formed from explorers who spent twenty years in cryosleep before arriving at their destination, with a plan which required the cannibalization of their ship to start the colony. It was a risk, but unmanned probes in prior decades had revealed Vestas to be a lush, inviting earth-like locale, one of the best of the early colonial targets. The Deep Space Explorer Columbus was commissioned for the colonization of Vestas.

When the colonists first settled in it was with the knowledge that they might not hear from Earth or receive more supplies for a century or more. As it turns out, it was close to two more centuries before the invention of transitional drive in 2338, allowing for inexpensive travel in weeks instead of years. From 2150 during the landing of the first colony to the first contact with Earth 's second wave of faster ships by 2340, the colony was on its own.

Vestas at first seemed like a hospitable enough moon, with .79 gees and an atmosphere and environment roughly analogous to earth norms. The immense magnetic field of the gas giant called Cthon worked favorably with the moon, protecting it yet not inundating it with radiation, at least partially because of the distance of the moon from its primary. The colonists spent the first decade establishing the colony, utilizing the four shuttles they had to strip the mother ship and ferry parts down to the planet below. All seemed to be going well.

The first contact with the celadon came during a routine survey expedition, when colony scouts, mapping the moon, entered a region of wide open desert plains. There they encountered a colony of celadon young...calfs, they came to be known as. The calfs were small, some no bigger than dogs, but a few were growing at enormous rates. When the mother of the herd of young appeared she attack the scouts and nearly killed them all, while destroying their patrol craft. The scouts who returned told the tale, but there was a reasonable certainty that the celadon (so called because of their greenish, hardened outer shells with a ceramic look and feel) were indigenous to the hotter desert zone near the equator, and were not likely to reach the more temperate and wet rain forest region that Vestas Colony was settled at.

This proved to be wrong. At first scouts spotted the celadon at the periphery of their habitation zone in the southern deserts, then they found them migrating inward, through colder northern regions. One day, guards along the colony perimeter came back with terrifying news: celadon were at the perimeter of Vestas Colony. Dozens of them. Given that each celadon was one to two hundred feet in length....this was a massacre in the making.

The colonists did what they could, fleeing in the four shuttles, making as good an escape as they could, but the celadon smashed the colony to pieces. Dozens perished, but of the fifteen hundred colonists most survived the initial attack thanks to the leadership of he colony director, Winston Smith. Winston rallied the survivors, and moved them, along with salvaged resources, to higher mountain areas further north where it was believed the celadon could not easily approach. They were half right; it was another twelve years before the next celadon attack, this one in the mountain retreats.

This was how life went for over two centuries on Vestas. Settlements learned how to be mobile, how to utilize local resources, and how to look for signs of the surprisingly stealthy huge creatures. The game of cat and mouse degenerated the colony over the decades. By the contact with Earth's second wave of FTL explorers using the much faster and smaller transitional drive ships came about, the humans who lived on Vestas had degenerated to barbarism, and only a handful of survivors with memories of earth still existed. Evidence was found in the skeletal remains of the DSE Columbus of colonists and one working shuttle who tried to sustain themselves in space, but a malfunction of unknown nature wiped them out. On the planet's surface there was evidence of close to twenty thousand human survivors, all descended from the original colonists and living as nomadic wanderers, with curious legends and folklore about their origins in the stars, and the nature of the celadon which they were engaged in endless war with.

Over the following centuries the colonists were culturally and technologically uplifted in a program sponsored by the early Federated Commonwealth to restore Vestas to what it was intended to be. A large local military defense force was established to protect the ongoing colonization efforts and rehabilitation of the original colonists from the celadon, while an Academy research base was founded to study the celadon and determine what motivated their hostility and behavior in general. It was thanks to this research station that the first contact with celadon was established when Dr. Morgan Stern and Dr. Linda Shay figured out that the celadon were centient, and communicated through scent. Though the celadon were not tool-users, they actually had a sophisticated non-verbal language based on rippling motions, claw gestures and pheremone emissions, and a lush history and philosophical study of their own. It turns out that the celadon had a history of aggression due to incursions from space; over a thousand years earlier Vestas had been invaded by a race called the fashan, which in turn were wiped out by the kokatik. The fashan attemped to harvest the celadon as weapons of war, and they lashed out in retaliation. When this bit was learned, efforts to find the celadon on other worlds began, but it was not until much later after contact with the kokatik was made that it was revealed that there were indeed celadon on former fashon colony worlds; the celadon that were dropped on kokatik worlds were all wiped out.

This early bad first contact experience explained their immediate aggression to the current colonists. With much effort Dr. Stern and Dr. Shay managed to open a dialogue with the celadon, which ultimately led to the relative peace of the current era. Celadon, though not tool users by nature, have since on certain occasions participated in interstellar exploration efforts on worlds where their unique nature might prove beneficial. Likewise, certain celadon have an inherently aggressive nature, and have willingly joined reigstered private military contractors as mercenaries, or even the Federation military.

The Celadon
Agility D6, Smarts D6, Spirit D8, Strength D12+2, Vigor D12+2
Skills: Fighting D12+2, Notice D8, Intimidation D12
Pace 8 (+1D8), Parry 10, Toughness 22
Immense Size: Celadons are 100-200 feet long and 20 to 30 feet in diameter
Armor: +12 armored carapace
Claw Attacks: STR+1D12
Bite: STR+2D12 and on a raise the target is swallowed
Swallow: STR+1D4 per round and target is ground into a paste after suffering an incapacitation

The Moon Vestas
Orbital Location: fourth moon of Cthon in the Procyon system
Gravity: low normal (.79 gees)
Dominant Terrain: diverse (desert and jungle most common)
Atmosphere: normal
Population Desity: below average
Government: local democratic process under Federated Commonwealth law
Dominant Law: lenient
Spaceport: small spaceport managed by the Vestas Defense Force; several private basic ports.
Tech Level: average in the colony hubs, but widely varied outside of the hubs, and some "native colonists" from the old tribes are still living the way they learned to during the centuries of survival

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