Saturday, 6 April 2013

F is for Finn MacCool

Finn MacCool, or Fionn mac Cumhail, was a really big, really tough Irish hero who did too many marvellous things to recount here, in Known Space he is a bloody great Irish robot and he lives on the planet Nua Domhan.

Nua Domhan

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Ireland in 2313 is still part of the European Union, and Irish settlers can be found all over Known Space wherever the EU has stuck its starry circle flag. But for one Irish patriot and freelance star-scout, David Delaney, that wasn't good enough, he wanted a bit of outer space that was forever Ireland, and so the unclaimed world of Nua Domhan was officially colonised in 2278. This was rather against the Irish government's wishes. Nua Domhan had gone a begging since it was one of the most useless hunks of junk in Known Space, a large Venusian type world with boiling temperatures, sulphuric atmosphere and more volcanoes than you could shake a stick at. What attracted Delaney was its rather pretty version of the Giant’s Causeway, a plain of hexagonal basalt columns larger in land area than Ireland itself, lapped by an emerald green sea of sulphuric acid and dissolved copper sulphate.

When the Irish Navy took absolutely no interest in guarding the place, a popular charity appeal raised enough money to by a second hand picket vessel to be despatched to guard Ireland's new interstellar empire.

Colonisation was a dead letter. Delaney's Irish Imperial Exploits company went broke, but not before purchasing, at a knock down price, Fionn MacCumhail, a giant construction robot. This was a failed project of Nakamura Industries to create a passenger carrying walker that could take tourists across the Pacific sea floor. Now it would stride across Nua Domhan planting atmosphere reduction machines that in a mere 30,000 years (at the current work rate) would make the planet a sizzlingly hot but just about inhabitable paradise!

This quixotic project is currently funded by the son of a former Saudi Prince who retired to his horse stud in Waterford county after the Arabian revolution, an Irish-American software baron, a national lottery and the occasional grant from the ever complaining Irish Dail. There are four personnel on the planet itself, living in extremely cramped quarters in Fionn's torso and going quietly mad from cabin fever and the stress caused by Fionn's frequent break downs and many niggling malfunctions. Another two guys mind the orbital picket ship and storage facility. They spend up to a year on duty at a time, with next to no visitors. The current owners keep making vague promises about buying another robot, or making a proper orbital station with enough room to swing a cat, or finding a way round the communications problems that mean Fionn can't be controlled from orbit, but nothing ever seems to get done. The low TL does not reflect the technology of Fionn (actually about TL10, TL11 for the self-repairing acid resistant smart material kilt), but the local capacity for manufacture, ie pretty damn poor. They can bang out a few very crude machine parts in the engineering section of the picket ship and that's it.

Adventure Hooks

  • Fionn has had it. He fell into a crevasse and broke and the crew need rescuing.
  • Nua Domhan has been invaded! Well, a gang of hard up belt miners took over the orbital station and stripped it for scrap metal. Quite how the Irish government will react no one knows, the speed of communication means they probably haven't even heard about it yet, but anyone in the area could defend Irish national honour and nab the varmints if they felt so inclined.
  • The guys on the ground are going off the rails. They say there's a monster following them, but the whole system is only a billion years old, there's no way bacteria could have evolved on the planet, even if a living system could ever cope with the bitterly acidic atmosphere and boiling temperatures, which the planetologists doubt. Lay off the Jameson's guys.
  • There's good money to earned on Nua Domhan for the right kind of people. The Fionn Mac Cumhail co want experienced spacers used to spending a long time in a cabin to run the robot. They go broke about a month into the PCs contract, and the picket ship is out of action.
  • Fionn's got a new brain! PCs deliver and possibly install an up to date AI unit. Thing is the provenance is a bit dubious, it looks a bit second hand really, and you had to pick it up on Annabel's Grave
  • The new terraforming bot has arrived, CuCuhlainn, an updated version of Fionn. The old soldier has been stoically plodding the sulphurous wastes for years. He's an old bot with no true AI, but could he have actually got a bit territorial? Anyway he's not responding to commands and heading for the new bot in what might be interpreted as a menacing and deliberate air.

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