Asimov Freehold

Description

Asimov Freehold is a Consortium military research outpost. It specializes in advances in robots and androids. It has a focus on their wartime applications. While visitors are allowed on board, research facilities have tight security and outsiders are prohibited access to much of what goes on within.

Asimov Freehold walks the difficult line of morality regarding androids and acceptable uses for them. Pre-Cat, Asimov Freehold was secretly used as a warehouse and research facility for new robotics projects, androids, and research into the possible development of AI. Less than a tenspan before the Catastrophe, the communications systems on Asimov went out. It was assumed to be a result of increased flare activity, and before anyone could investigate, the Catastrophe hit. Cycles later, when the Consortium was able to recoup enough to send out teams to explore all of their post-Cat “blackout” stations, they discovered a horrific sight.

It seems the androids which the scientists and engineers had been working with had, all at once, turned on the humans. The androids violently killed the high ranking members of staff. Scientists suffered horrific deaths; they were ripped in half, smashed against bulkheads with inhuman strength, and decapitated. There was no fire fight and only androids have that kind of strength. On top of the carnage, the station’s computer systems were wiped clean.

Teams of researchers were sent to study the neural nets of the androids which had apparently gone mad and discovered that the hard-wiring for the core laws of robotics was still intact. These four laws were still present in their programming:

A robot may not harm humanity, or through inaction allow humanity to come t o harm.
A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

This discovery led researchers to believe that something the pre-Cat team on Asimov discovered presented some kind of danger to all of humanity. By the logic of the androids aboard the discovery justified killing the senior staff and destroying the evidence. But what did they discover? Did whatever happened on Asimov cause the Catastrophe?

Statistics

System: YZ Ceti
Affiliation: Consortium
Level: 19
Legal: Strong
Orwellian: High

Areas

Bank

The bank is minimalist, white and automatic. Most of the bank’s operations have been outsourced to smartly designed automated bank terminals. Only a couple of human staff are ever on duty for emergencies. For the most part, these staff members sit behind their desks with little to do.

The security at this bank is tight. Armed android guards stand outside of the bank with expressionless metal faces. Wary of the station’s history with androids, armed androids are not permitted any degree of AI. They are programmed to scan for signs of suspicious behavior, make arrests, and shoot at criminals in extreme situations.

You may transfer your account to this Consortium bank for 1412 credits

NPCs

Brig (Asimov Discipline Center)

The Asimov discipline center usually houses nosy outsiders who have tried to access restricted zones. The brig has a long line for cells protected by force-fields.

Inmates pace restlessly as they await their punishments and trials. The edges of activated force-fields glow dimly blue and illuminate the faces of inmates eerily.

Clones (Asimov Emergency Cloning Services)

Asimov Emergency Cloning Services is a vital resource of this station. It’s a clean white space with smartly designed cloning vats. Lights fixed above the vats cast gentle light on the faces of those suspended in the cloning fluids. Each cloning vat is a tall cylinder with a touchscreen interface beside it to check the vitals of any clone at a glance. Attendants in white lab coats do their rounds at least three times a day to check up on the health of every clone.

Asimov Freehold goes through quite a large number of clones regularly. Often new androids, especially those being tested for military uses, can go haywire and cause injury to the people working on them. As part of their compensation package for their work, each scientist is afforded one free “hazard clone” by the Government. Additional clones are available for a significantly discounted fee or can be negotiated for in salary mediations. Most of the high ranking scientists have gone through 3 or 4 over the course of their careers here.

Available Clones

NPCs

Decommissioned Area (Ore Processing Plant)

A large area located adjacent to the Port where huge chunks of celestial rock are processed for heavy metals and other useful elements. Robotic arms break apart the chunks of rock and load them into the processing vats. Specially trained staff monitor them for ideal conditions to melt and separate out various resources within the rock.

While Asimov receives the bulk of its funding from the Consortium Government, the very location of the station helps to mitigate its operational costs. Asimov, and indeed all four of the “Iron Quad” stations in YZ Ceti hang in relatively close orbit to the star’s asteroid belt. The belt holds lush mining opportunities of a variety of precious metals and ice. Mining staff take small shuttlecraft between Asimov and the belt to collect chunks of asteroid for processing. Through running their own mining operations, Asimov is able to collect much if its own materials for minimal cost. They regularly process more ore than they are able to use, and the sale of their excess provides another source of income and more money to run their research with.

NPCs

Employment (Employment Center)

Most of the people who live here are scientists employed by the Consortium Government, but they do need support staff from time to time. Ore specialists, android wranglers, temporary housing clerks, and other non-scientific jobs still need doing. This is where to apply for them.

People read datapads and stand in lines to speak with career advisory bots.

NPCs

Career Advisory (Asimov Emergency Cloning Services)

Most of the people who live here are scientists employed by the Consortium Government, but they do need support staff from time to time. Ore specialists, android wranglers, temporary housing clerks, and other non-scientific jobs still need doing. This is where to apply for them.

People read datapads and stand in lines to speak with career advisory bots.

Discreet Work

Sometimes jobs are offered by those who need to be able to deny involvement. Don't ask too many questions; you won't get many answers. And don't be surprised if you wind up in the brig or sickbay.

Side Jobs

This is the right place if you are looking for quick and easy jobs.

Name Description Credits Statistic
Android Handler Newly re-activated androids can be unpredictable. We need strong men and women to subdue dangerous bots. 100 Multiple
(Agi, Str, Str&Agi&Sta, Str&Sta&Int)
Ore Processing Worker Workers are always needed for ore processing. 95 Multiple
(Str, 2x Int, Str&Agi)
Robotics Repairs Albanus Sibusiso is looking for an assistant to help him with simple robotics repairs in his shop. 115 4x Intelligence
Ship Scrubber Wealthy ship owners don't trust androids not to scratch their vehicles so we do it the old fashioned way. Ready to get scrubbin'? 90 4x Agility

Government Center

The Government center here on Asimov is a tall and striking building. Consortium flags proudly adorn the front and hang along the walls. Government officials move through the office, dignified and purposeful in dark blue uniforms. The labs which are off-limits to anyone but official personnel are attached to the Government center to show off new developments to visiting dignitaries.

The Government center here not only serves as a rations dispensary and performs regular operations, but it’s also where the boardroom is located where the heads of each department report their findings to officials in Sol once a week. For that reason, there are normally teams of scientists in waiting rooms, quietly talking through their plan for an upcoming meeting, or discussing how to frame it as if they’ve made slightly more progress than they have.

NPCs

Gym (Training Area)

This state-of-the-art gym is well designed and a few of the more fit scientists can usually be found here lifting weights or going for runs.

The gym here isn’t very busy. Most of the people who live here are engineers and scientists who are more consumed with pursuits of the mind than body.

You must have minimum combined physical stats of 75 to avoid injury at this gym.

Inn (Section 85)

Section 85 is the portion of the station which is dedicated to recreation. Built off the Bar and Lounge of section 85 is the temporary housing for travelers passing through the station on a short stint.

If you hear people talking about “the 85” they could mean the entirety of Section 85, or they could just mean the Bar which bears the same name.

NPCs

Bar (The 85)

The 85 is the main watering hole for the people living on Asimov Freehold. Much like the rooms in the Transitional Housing Units, the 85 is strikingly white. The floors, the tables, the fridges behind the bar, the chairs. All of it is clean, polished to perfection and bright white. Instead of a human barkeeper, a friendly looking android pours drinks and participates in (sometimes a bit disjointed) conversation. There is a generous amount of floor space and enough tables to ensure everyone who wants a seat always has one.

It never gets very rowdy, most of the people in here have just had long work days and want nothing more than to have a relaxing drink with their friends. Sometimes travelers will come here too. With such a low population on Asimov, the locals welcome outsiders, hungry for new stories and perspectives or news on the outside galaxy.

Menu
(@ 5%)

NPCs

Hotel Rooms (Transitional Housing Units)

Each room is a perfect square and painted entirely white. The rooms are small, and the bed can be pulled in and out of the wall like a drawer to provide for more space. The table and chair in the room are white as are the walls, the sheets, and pillows on the bed, and the sparklingly clean tiled floors.

Most people who find themselves in the Transitional Housing Units do not find themselves there for long. The discomforts of the cramped space, small beds, and Spartan decor aren’t much of a problem for that reason. Short-term guests include buyers looking to purchase resources distilled from the ore, Consortium Government officials inspecting the work, perspective Syndicate members, and visiting family members of the scientists only there for the short, allotted amount of visiting days per cycle.

Prices
(@ 5%)

  • 1 day: 134.14 cr
  • 5 days: 536.56 cr
  • 10 days: 938.98 cr
  • 30 days: 2141.52 cr

You should have minimum intelligence of 25.5? to avoid injury while reading.

Lounge (Asimov Coffeehouse)

A warm copper glow of the Asimov Coffeehouse couldn’t be more different from the 85. Where the Bar embraces a clean look, the Asimov Coffeehouse is impressively rustic aside from one thing. They have a staff of android baristas, who are trained to make the most impeccably delicious espresso drinks known to man. Meetings often take place here. Teams of robotics researchers exchange diagrams and schematics and discuss robots and androids, old and new.

While the evenings in Asimov Freehold belong almost entirely to The 85, early mornings see long lines at Asimov Coffeehouse. Most scientists start their day with a piping hot cup of coffee with imported beans from Amazon Station. Trade deals with Amazon Station allow Asimov to exchange some of their excess palladium and other metals for premium grade beans. The productivity improvements of the science and engineering teams when well supplied with coffee proved this to be a worthwhile trade.

You should have minimum social of 25.5? to avoid injury while socializing.

NPCs

Market (Asimov Market)

The market here is clean and well kept, the merchants allowed inside are pre-approved by Consortium officials. As such, this market lacks the usual “colorful” vendors present on other stations. Everyone here is professional and respectful.

Teams of researchers move throughout the various stalls in the market, examining parts that may be useful for their current projects. Sometimes androids even sift through the market during “test outings”, their handlers close behind and keeping a sharp eye on them.

NPCs

Vendors

Here you can find many things sold by different vendors.

Public Market

People offer things to be sold or buy things here.

Storage

The storage is very secure with double verification locks and android guards always present outside. This is necessary, as sometimes highly sensitive materials are stored here.

(@ 5%)

  • Small (50): 353 cr
  • Medium (150): 847 cr
  • Large (500): 2,118 cr

Port

The Port is usually quite sparsely populated since the Consortium Government strictly controls who comes in and out. Sometimes staff must be dispatched here to make sure all the safety protocols are in order in preparation for a solar flare.

The port is a large, white, well-maintained portion of the station. Armed android guards stand between the Port’s exit and the rest of the station.

NPCs

Docks

Rows of ships have their helms securely inside the station and locked in place with clamps, while the rest of the ship pokes out into space, surrounded by a force field. In this way, ships are able to “stack” upwards, and great rows of stairs lead up to ships higher in the “stack” than others. Force fields protect the exteriors of docked ships from any stray radiation from nearby solar flares.

The people who come here tend to be quite wealthy, and so one of the services Asimov provides is a complimentary hull-cleaning service. Asimov pays human workers to carefully polish the nose of each docked ship in a bid to win the favour of visiting officials.

Local Shuttles

Most visitors who arrive at Asimov are wealthy enough to do so by private transport. There are, however, some stragglers who come by local shuttles.

The shuttle bay is usually quite empty, very few visitors step on and off the local shuttles, so the human staff here is minimal. Android guards armed with weapons and ocular attachments which allow them to scan newcomers for weapons and harmful substances do the bulk of the security duties here.

Shipping Bay

The Shipping Bay is the most bustling area of the Port. The Consortium Government imports supplies from other systems to keep Asimov running smoothly and exports the excess resources they’re able to pull in their ore processing facilities. Very few individuals collect packages here, things are almost entirely received in bulk, through official channels.

Shipments are automatically sorted by large robotic arms which scan the contents of packages and send them off to their corresponding departments. The low whirr of the machines working reverberates through the room.

Ruins

These Ruins are vast stretches of rubble and chunks of half-melted Pre-Cat androids and barely recognizable chunks of ruined buildings are scattered across the ground. The Catastrophe hit this station particularly hard and vast swaths weren’t just rendered non-functional but demolished entirely.

The Ruins of Asimov are walled off from the research and residential sectors of the station. Syndicate members are permitted limited access to the station past the huge metal doors with specialized CORETECHS codes. There are also “wild people” living in these Ruins who are strictly barred out. The walls around the Ruins are diligently patrolled by armed androids to ensure compliance

The Wrecks

The Wrecks seem to go on forever in their vastness. Piles of metal and stone with halos of ever-present dust stretch on into eternity. Sometimes, teams of researchers with security details of bodyguards will go on expeditions here to search for useful parts among the thousands of ruined androids.

This station was once home to the main research facilities for robotics, androids and AI. The bodies found in these Wrecks are not those of humans, but androids. Humanoid metal hands, feet and legs are noticeable in the rubble as well as strange, nightmarish experimental bots with dog-like teeth, razor-tipped fingers, huge, eerie and unblinking mechanical eyes. The lack of biological decay makes the Catastrophe feel oddly fresh here.

These sewers are barricaded.

NPCs

The Wilds

The Wilds are prowled by the crazed, violent original inhabitants of Asimov station. No one is quite sure what happened on this station which caused the communications blackout just before the Catastrophe, but there weren’t many survivors of it. Syndicate members call these descendants“The Wild People.”

Rather than attempt to re-integrate the “Wild People” back into society, Consortium Officials opted to erect the wall around their research facilities and leave them to fend for themselves. Some say they were left there as test subjects for military-grade robots and androids to test on live targets. Regardless of what’s true, the Wild People are the Syndicates’ problem now. Skirmishes often break out between the two groups.

Security

The Security building has two floors. On the lower floor is main Security with an elegant glass door with the words “Station Security” printed on the front in pale blue sans serif. Beside that door, there is a white elevator which will take a visitor up to the second floor, where the bodyguard rental offices are located.

Official Station Security is a spacious room full of computer monitors displaying the feed from the hundreds of cameras placed across the station. Security staff watch these feeds diligently and wear ear augmentations attached to their CORETECHS which allow for discreet conversations with team members on patrol.

NPCs

Sick Bay (Asimov Health Services)

Sick Bay is spacious, clean and white. The doctors here each have their own set of beds and tech, unlike other less well-funded stations where physicians have to share. Researchers with small injuries like burns, scrapes, and cuts sit upon the beds to have their wounds addressed with a rare level of immediacy. Hyper precise, robotic surgical arms stand at the ready for a steady touch when surgery is necessary.

Injuries are quite common here. One of the dangers of working with androids and robotics is the chance of being burned by mismatched wires, cut by small sharp parts, or accidentally activating an android with haywire safety protocols who not may attack. Android attacks are particularly common when re-activating pre-Cat models.

Those unlucky enough to suffer the brunt a full-on android attack are not likely to recover. They’re always brought to Sick Bay first, but it’s exceedingly common to wake up in the Emergency Cloning Facilities in short order post-attack.

"Galactic Destinations" Introduction

Dear reader, we hope you’re in the mood for ‘droids and bots! This latest issue comes to you from Asimov Freehold, where our writer Aung Yeoh recently interviewed one of the Consortium’s best brains on the subject; Kelly O’Denshire. Below you’ll find her intriguing dispatch from this Iron Quad oddity…

“Don’t mess this up! It’s so rare for the boffins to give interviews. And don’t fall in love with a ‘droid. Yikes. You know what you’re like…”

With my editor’s parting words still ringing in my ears, I depart for Asimov early in Cycle 202. My task? Meet one of the tech bigwigs. Find out what makes her tick. What do the white-coats do here and why?

Am I excited? You bet. Nervous? That too. You see, after six Cycles of fruitless asking, Asimov’s officials finally agreed to talk to us this time. Maybe they’re fans of ‘Galactic D’ now? More likely, they just finally accept we’re not ‘Booter thieves or Gaule spies. Either way, I intend to make the most of the opportunity.

As the shuttle begins final approach into Asimov, my guts are fluttering with anticipation. This is why I became a reporter, right?

Archaeology among the stars

In the port I meet my host, and android tech expert, Kelly O’Denshire. We chat over tea, while Kelly explains the unique challenge of her work. “You should think of this as a kind of archaeology… We take relics of our past civilization and try to work out what they are; how they work, why they were built: all the usual stuff. Except the relics we study look humanoid and talk back to us as we examine them…”

Which brings us nicely to androids. These complex machines occupy the higher end of what pre-Catastrophe humanity achieved in the field of robotics. They possess simulated sentience and an unsettling polymer-made ‘flesh’, which is unnervingly similar to the real thing (and less prone to wrinkles!)

Kelly’s team carry out basic repairs to most android models, but the knowledge and apparatus needed to manufacture a new one is many cycles away. Not only is this a long-term project, some argue that it’s also a costly distraction from more pressing issues requiring humanity’s attention right now. Not that Kelly is deterred.

“Some of my peers went into military science; chemicals on Verde, surveillance on New York, all that stuff. They think I’m mad to spend my skills tinkering here with droids…” Kelly is thoughtful in her reflections, pausing to choose her words carefully.

“And in one sense they’re right. Shiny robots hardly saved humanity from disaster before, so they’re not exactly high priority for preventing a repeat. But I can’t help it. These machines fascinate me. Working on them forces me to ask what makes me human every single day. I never get bored of thinking about that!” Her mouth bends to the smile of a person who’s found her calling in life and is grateful for it.

Asimov’s ghosts

As we chat, I notice Kelly’s eyes have the clear irises typical of most Harsenes. They twinkle as she talks of her life’s work, but the mood gets more sombre when Asimov’s history is raised.

Like most of her colleagues, Kelly applied for a post here shortly after the station’s long-awaited reopening, when Consortium bosses finally decided the post-Cat quarantine had lasted long enough. Kelly’s assistant, Min-Su joins us at this point, chipping in to the discussion.

“No point obsessing about it. Lotsa stations had 100% fatality rate in the Catastrophe…” Min muses, taking small sips of her coffee. “Course it feels weird, and sometimes I catch myself imagining what it was like for the first recovery teams here. But we’re all living in the Cat’s shadow, right? Some places just got more ghosts than others…”

That’s one way of putting it. On Asimov, the entirety of the station’s small, mostly research-focused, population was – for some inexplicable reason – found crushed to death in a waste compactor, having triggered it on themselves. Why did they do it? Various theories were mooted, ranging from the unlikely to the ridiculous. Kelly chimes in.

“Look. This wasn’t some weird suicide cult. Maybe the pressure went? Or the air vented? Either way, they hid in there because they thought it was the safest thing to do… They made a mistake somewhere along the line and paid the price. Is it that different from other stations?”

An uneasy silence hangs in the air for a moment as the two women drain their cups. Kelly suggests a tour of their lab.

Enter the labyrinth

Housed in restricted-access labs within the Government Center, Asimov’s science teams work long shifts, trying to demystify humanity’s pre-Catastrophe android and robot technologies.

We pass through various security doors until we reach a network of corridors, each leading to some lab or other. The signage alone is worth a visit. In the zone dedicated to locomotion, there are doors marked ‘Spherical orb robots’, ‘Hopping bots’, and ‘Dynamic balancing/Controlled Falling bots lab’.

Further on, we pass rooms devoted to the study of power sources, sensory systems, and environmental navigation. Kelly notices my surprise on the sheer scale of it all.

“You expected something a little smaller, right? Instead, you got four levels, twenty-plus labs, and that’s just the ones I’m allowed to mention… And over a hundred researchers. Not bad, huh?” She chuckles, clearly enjoying showing me around what feels like her home. “We call it the labyrinth cos it’s such a maze. Get it? LAB-yrinth? Don’t worry, not everyone gets our humor… ”

Peeking into the labs, we find men and women in white lab coats, deeply absorbed in experiments of all kinds. Some tinker with the exposed circuitry of an Android’s open chest plate. Others run tests on a simple cleaning bot, timing its performance in various conditions. All are friendly – but also clearly unused to visitors.

“Bit of a need-to-know culture round here… So they’re not super chatty” Kelly explains. “It’s not a small-talk kinda place. Don’t take it personally!”

Say hello to Ennis

Finally, after more exploring, the tour ends in Kelly and Min’s lab, dedicated to the study of simulated sentience. They show me their current specimen; an Android called “Ennis”, built to resemble a baseline human. It greets us on arrival with a smooth-toned welcome. I’m not exactly smitten (yet) but he is very polite. Charming even…

“We call him Enny for short” Min tells me. “It’s strange but he’s sort of a friend. I spend more time with him than anyone else!” Kelly and Min chuckle at the joke. To my surprise, Ennis joins in. “See! He gets us! How do they do that?!” Min exclaims.

After the mirth, Kelly gets technical, explaining the details of her work. Most of it focuses on demystifying the Android’s impressive cognitive software, which enables it to perform well in basic interactions with humans. “Isn’t it amazing? Imagine if we knew how to re-create that! People managed it once. And I’m sure we’ll do so again one day…”

Now, I’ve met androids before, but this is the first time I’ve really appreciated just how impressive they are. Sure, you can catch Enny out quite easily if you want to. But you can also have segments of reasonably intelligent conversation with him. Heck, some of it’s better quality than I can find in my local bar back on Taungoo.

And then, finally, after a very interesting day, it’s time to leave. On the ride home, I think about all the conspiracy theories that get attached to this place. Is the Consortium trying to weaponize this technology? Well, yes; quite possibly. The four laws of robotics only prohibit machines from harming humans. They could conceivably be used against aliens. And is the Protectorate secretly running its own military robotics labs? Again, yes, or at least maybe…

But that’s not what people like Kelly and Min get up for in the morning. They do it because studying these weird machines helps them better understand themselves. And I, for one, wish them every success in it. Their findings will be of benefit to us all!

<—- Return to YZ Ceti

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