The Shattered Ring
Foden’s Folly is the name given to the debris field that orbits the gas giant Gilgamesh in the Babylon system.
Anataris Foden was an up-and-coming executive of the Petron Corporation (a Zvitter subsidiary). Youngest son of a prominent Zvitter Consortium family, Anataris desperately wanted to escape the shadows of his parents and elder siblings. Eager to prove himself, he saw his chance on the fifth moon of Gilgamesh when Petron received reports from probes of a wealth of mineral deposits, as with all of Gilgamesh’s moons. Anataris secured funding to lead the expedition, fighting off a number other bidders and risking valuable Petron assets in the process.
Initial results from Gilgamesh V were very promising, with high densities of a number of very valuable metals discovered. Anataris was not satisfied with this comparatively mundane outcome, however, and demanded that the drilling apparatus be used to bore a deep shaft. The moons of Gilgamesh were known for increasing densities of rare minerals with depth, and Anataris hoped to discover deposits of unprecedented richness at the greatest depths, or possibly hitherto unknown elements formed by the incredible pressures near the cores of the moons of Gilgamesh. So eager was he to pursue this course of action that he dismissed his chief mining engineer, who expressed concern about the wisdom of the venture, and moved his headquarters to Gilgamesh V so he could oversee progress himeslf. The whole enterprise became shrouded in a veil of secrecy as the drills dug deeper, and Anataris himself was seldom heard from. Rumours drifted out of the mining complex that he was as a man possessed, and that he worked the miners harder than any but the cruellest taskmaster.
No satisfactory explanation has been found for what occurred next. Two years after drilling commenced, communications arrays on nearby Gilgamesh III registered unusual activity on the surface of Gilgamesh V. Shortly afterwards, the signal from an automatic distress beacon was registered, failing after a short period. Unable to achieve contact with the facilities on Gilgamesh V, the station leader on Gilgamesh III requested that the patrol vessel Sable Triad approach and offer assistance to the ground crews on Gilgamesh V.
As the patrol vessel approached, its crew observed unusual levels of seismic activity on the surface of the normally-dormant moon. As the ship reached 180,000km from the surface of Gilgamesh V, the moon abruptly began to fragment, hurling cascades of dust and rock into space. The Sable Triad was unable to approach further due to navigational hazards, and was able only to watch from a distance as the moon tore itself apart. Over the following 120 hours, the moon collapsed from a sizeable planetoid into an immense debris field, slowly spreading out to orbit Gilgamesh. The Sable Triad sustained serious damage and was forced to retreat to the other side of Gilgamesh, so was unable to provide close observation of the phenomenon. Nearby moons – Gilgamesh I and III – reported heavy incidence of meteorite strikes and substantial damage to surface facilities. After the debris field had stabilized, no sign could be found of survivors – only floating fragments of mining machinery and surface structures.
Foden’s Folly remains a substantial navigational hazard for ships approaching Gilgamesh I and III. However, the debris contains an immense number of fragments rich in the minerals that brought miners to Gilgamesh V in the first place and so has attracted a small but steady stream of scavenger-ships willing to try their luck salvaging the folly of Anataris Foden. Some scavengers come for more than just mineral wealth, hunting for clues amongst the scattered pieces of wreckage – the Foden family and the Petron Corporation would both be willing to pay a high price for information about the disaster that befell the mining operation.