Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Traveller Tuesday: Idyll Hands

This is a rumor that I frightened my players with last game session....

The following is all rumor and hearsay, told by spacers in dive bars and by computer users on forums and newsgroups alike. It's about as believable as the theory that Lyme disease was bioengineered in the 1950s  at Plum Island Animal Disease Center in New York by former Nazi Eric Traub to be a weapon against the Soviets during the Cold War, i.e. there's no way to substantiate any claims, but the data seems to line up.

The Ship

According to the legend, there is a ship that trawls the spacelanes between Regina and Sol, collecting and transmitting data. Known as the Idyll Hands, it is a 10,000 dton Aquemna-class Fuel Tanker that was bought by an eccentric information broker. Completely automated, the ship requires no crew and carries only the owner himself. Given the massive amounts of fuel it carries, it can perform four Jump-2s before needing to replenish. Between this long range, and its capability to perform frontier refueling, the Idyll Hands disappears for months between check-ins.

And check-in it does; when it makes an appearance, it is nearly always within a system that is an Xboat hub. Failing that, it chooses a high-tech, high-population system with a good commnet. There, it sends out an information-dense burst transmission -- in much the same way Xboats do when arriving in-system -- and then refuels and departs. It is assumed that during this time the Idyll Hands is downloading data, but it has yet to be confirmed.

One would think that an automated tanker like this would be easy prey for pirates, but one would be mistaken.  For one, it travels at 4 Gs of thrust. For two, its sheer size (10,000 dtons equates to 66 hull and structure points) means that a single pirate ship will be unable to bring it down for the same reason that a single harpoonist cannot bring down a whale, and pirate armadas are shockingly rare outside of Vargr space. For three, it has almost certainly been up-armored and armed, because if you're an eccentric that is automating a capital ship, why not pay more for survivability?

It is worth noting that the ship never docks. Never. It jumps into a system, transmits, and then either immediately leaves or it hangs around for a bit (possibly refueling) as it uploads, and then it leaves.

No one knows how it takes on supplies or gets repairs. The general theory is that since ships of this class come with a 20 ton launch, perhaps it is being sent to port for supplies. Given its size and non-existent crew, it could theoretically go for years without needing repairs if sufficient supplies were laid in.

Or possibly the Idyll Hands has a tortuga port somewhere.

Or perhaps everyone on board ship is dead, and it's run by an AI that thinks it's human.

The Owner

Immediately after the burst transmission, posts from someone known as True Tomas pop up. If you have ever been a member of a mailing list, forum or website that has been in existence for years, you know that there is invariably one member of the "old guard" present, who has seen all of the newbie questions so many times that he has the FAQ set to auto-reply and can shut down most flamewars by his very presence? That's True Tomas, and he's on nearly every one of them that is dedicated to what you might call "useful information".

Conspiracy theories, war nerdery, political forums (of all manner of orientation), and the various gray- and black-net sites of legalities ranging from "dubious" to "a lifetime in prison,", True Tomas trawls them all. He rarely posts, mostly just aggregating data... but as the rumor goes:  If you need to know something, and you have information of equal or greater value to exchange, and you say his name, he will contact you and arrange a trade.

Sure, there are plenty of people who say they've had dealings with True Tomas, but none of them have offered any proof of their dealings.  It's generally believed that any who have information worth trading also have the good sense to keep their mouths shut about what was traded, and that the big mouths are just posers.

Sometimes True Tomas will post. It is VERY rare, and it is usually happens when someone is impugning his reputation. It is a data slapdown, done with all the grace of an @nuke (think of how 4chan deals with people it doesn't like), so destroying that person's reputation (both online and real) such that they have to find another planet on which to live.

No one knows how True Tomas manages to get all of his information. (The storage and aggregation isn't an issue -- a stock Aquemna has a Core/4 computer with a 50 Rating, more than enough to hold yottabytes of data.) Rumor has it that True Tomas owner is an ex-Scout who somehow managed to retain his access codes to their information network, but that rumor is... troubling... because this particular ship has been in existence for over one hundred years. 

And there are records that True Tomas has been around even longer...

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