The Shattered Ring
Sundered Ring, The
The Sundered Ring is the most breathtaking of all the artefacts of The First. Originally a structure known as a Dyson Ring, the design envisioned a habitat encircling an entire star, orbiting entirely within the star’s habitable ‘Goldilocks’ zone. Spun to produce artificial gravity, and with a surface area greater than millions of normal worlds, it should have been the ultimate home to mankind for aeons to come.
However, at some point in the past the Ring suffered a catastrophe of an unknown nature, and now it is shattered into countless fragments and debris. The incredible vision of The First now lies in ruins, picked over by archaeologists and scavengers.
The sole exception is a single piece of the ring which has survived more or less intact, the Prometheus Fragment.
Humans are not ‘native’ to the Sundered Ring, in the sense that a civilisation left over from The First survived their disappearance, as happened on other worlds in the cluster. Instead the Ring was found by an exploratory craft from Heorot, the first culture to achieve Slipstream travel.
As the scale of what they had found became obvious, the system quickly attracted the scientists and engineers who, to this day, hope to unravel the Sundered Ring’s mysteries. The Prometheus Fragment, the only habitable environment in the entire system, quickly became home to a small but dedicated community of researchers.
This all changed only a couple of decades later when Zvitter also achieved Slipstream capability. While the Heorot researchers where there mostly as a result scientific curiosity, Zvitter saw the opportunity to make money, and lots of it. Scavengers and treasure hunters fanned out all over the debris ring, and a thriving trade sprang up on the Prometheus Fragment for artefacts. As further systems in the cluster were opened up, and the Great Circle trade route became established, the Sundered Ring became the hub of galactic commerce, situated as it is between Heorot and Zvitter, and with links to the plentiful resources of the Mines of Gilgamesh.
Very few people actually call the Sundered Ring home – instead it is home to an ever-shifting population of transients, ranging from starship crews who are just passing through on their way elsewhere, through to the scavengers hoping to strike it lucky so they can retire to Sekothai.
The Sundered Ring is a relatively dangerous place to visit, due to a number of threats.
The main one comes from the debris field itself. While the Prometheus fragment seems to be able to protect itself from impacts, there are no accurate charts of the entire ring and it is hazardous to navigate. More than one starship has been damaged or destroyed by a hyper-velocity impact, and the in-system ships used by scavengers and researchers always feature heavy armour. Nevertheless damage is frequent, and many ships simply disappear without trace.
However, not all ships vanish due to natural causes. Because there is no centralised government, merely a collection of vested national and commercial interests, piracy is a very real danger. Using modified scavenger craft with added weapons, they prey upon other shipping in the Ring, stealing cargoes and kidnapping passengers for ransom. The Prometheus Fragment’s markets are the perfect place to dispose of stolen cargo, with many buyers willing to take anything for the right price, no questions asked.
Despite many years researching the Sundered Ring, the archaeologists, scientists and engineers of the cluster still have little idea how the ring was built, or why it now lies in ruins.
It seems likely that the ring was not finished whenever the catastrophe occurred – physics dictates that if the ring had been fully spun up to simulate 1G on it’s surface, then every piece would have had more than sufficient velocity to escape the star’s gravitational pull. If this had been the case then the initial explorers would only have found only a puzzlingly empty solar system, instead of the vast mountains of rubble and debris of today.
The ring material itself is indestructible to any known test of modern science – over a century of research has failed to produce a single hard fact about it’s nature, other than very basic information such as it’s mass. This is perhaps unsurprising, given it must be incredibly strong to support the forces involved in creating a Dyson Ring. One theory even states that it is not in fact a physical material at all, but is instead a force field of some kind, sustained by atomic-scale devices beneath the surface.
Given it’s apparent invulnerability, scientists have no idea what could have shattered the ring. Nevertheless it now lies in pieces, ranging in size from shards no larger than a grain of sand, up to almost intact segments millions of miles long.
Technology +1 (averaged over different cultures present)
Resources -3 (no natural material left)
Environment -1 (one fragment has atmosphere)
- Tactical choke point
- Marketplace of the cluster
- Lawless frontier