Gemini Revisited: Twins In Space

Scott Kelly and Mark Kelly

A pair of identical twins, NASA astronauts Scott and Mark Kelly, are to be the “guinea pigs” in research on how long-term space trips affect the human body. Both have served on Mir and the International Space Station and Scott is now scheduled to stay in orbit for a year. The purpose of the investigation is to learn how a crew can better cope with weightless during a trip to Mars.

Read more here — link >>>


Space 1889: Microcosmic Adventures

Microscopic man is an idea that been used many times in science fiction, both humorously and seriously. The basic concept is that a person is miniaturized to a fraction of his normal size. He enters into a new and strange version of the ordinary world with many new dangers and problems. Miniaturization adventures are plausible within the context of the Space 1889 game universe. A scientist has made a marvellous discovery and the player characters end up being shrunk and have get out of that predicament. This article outlines three miniaturization technologies and two microscopic adventure settings.

Since a star traveller is called an astronaut, a person that journeys into the microcosmos ought to be be called a micronaut.

The game master must first decide on which methods will be used to miniaturize micronauts and how small they will become. Her choice is based on the requirements of the adventure.

Miniaturization rays: A device focuses miniaturization rays on an object to shrink it to desired size. The process is nearly instantaneous. The maximum miniaturization is one millionth of normal size. The duration is a number of hours equal to the reliability. (The time limit will usually put the players under stress: their task must be finished in time. It could also serve as an escape: if the characters survive long enough, they will automatically regain normal size.)

Shrinkfield emitter: The micronauts themselves alter the size of their bodies and nearby objects with a portable device, emitting a cryptomagnetic shrinkfield, to fit their needs. Everything within the field’s range is affected simultaneously and to the same degree. The alteration process is almost instantaneous. Greatest miniaturization is one millionth of normal size. The field’s radius is up to 10 feet × the reliability, modified for proportion. (If the emitter is at 1/1000 of its original size, its range is also 1/1000 of the normal.) The emitter has a finite energy supply, limiting the number of size alterations to its reliability rating. After that, it must be recharged by a power source when at normal size. The users can always return to normal size by shutting it off.

Cloning: Miniature body clones are bio-engineered from human genetic codes. The minimum size of the clone is 1/100 of the normal. The scientist must have some small pieces of skin and muscle tissue from the person being on which the clone is based. It takes about one week to make a clone. The mind is then transferred to the miniature by a mind-transfer device, while the normal body is put in suspended animation. The process takes about one hour. When the human wishes to return to his normal body, the process is simply reversed.

The characters are on a mercy mission. They voyage by submarine into a person’s blood system to save his life, e.g. by surgically removing a blood clot in his brain, by fighting some unknown ravaging parasite, or by installing some miraculous prosthetic device. The micronauts should use miniaturization rays or a shrinkfield emitter to achieve the necessary bacterial size.

The host body may turn out to contain many dangers: The vessel could get off course and the characters be forced to find an alternate route to their destination. Some routes are very dangerous, like passing through the heart. The submarine could suffer from malfunctions, forcing the players to improvise with the available equipment to get on to their destination. If the micronauts face unknown parasites, these may be more dangerous and intelligent than previously imagined. If the miniaturization effect lasts only a limited time, the micronauts are in a hurry and must get out of the body before they and the submarine regain normal size.

It could be interesting to send the micronauts into an alien creature’s body. The mission need not be to save its life. Instead, the characters could be sent to investigate the strange organism. The advantage of this scenario is that the game master can create many interesting challenges for the players inside the organism. Its immune system and organs may be very alien and it may contain unknown and dangerous parasites, symbionts, and substances. (James White’s many short-stories about a space hospital may perhaps give some ideas. He provides descriptions of many aliens suffering from equally alien diseases.)

In this type of adventures, the micronauts depend completely on their equipment to survive. Since their size (including their molecular structures) is perhaps one millionth of the normal, their bodies cannot handle normal-sized molecules. They must bring along enough miniaturized air, water, and food. They travel in some kind of submarine through the body fluids. It should be equipped with a drill, either mechanical or using energy rays, to be able to penetrate tissue. (Do not worry about damaging the host’s body; the “drill wounds” will be minuscule.) A micronaut must have diving gear when operating outside the vessel.

There is usually no problem acquiring necessary equipment before “departure”, since micronauts can use “ordinary” items that are miniaturized together with them.

Organisms from the human immune system (e.g. white corpuscles) or parasites (e.g. bacteria) may be aggressive towards a micronaut. Such organisms usually fight by “suffocating”, poisoning or dissolving their enemies. However, the micronaut’s miniaturized molecular structure is hardly affected by normal poisons or solvents. He can be harmed by being crushed or deprived oxygen, though. And only the gamemaster knows how extraterrestrial micro-organisms affect micronauts.

When fighting in body fluids, ordinary projectile weapons are useless. Instead, a micronaut must wield an electric rifle or melee weapons.

The characters become test persons in a scientific project that searches for a way to enable more people to live off the limited land area. (Already in the late 19th century, there were dire predictions of run-away population growth.) They get mouse-size bodies (approximately scale 1:40), created by a cloning process, to investigate whether such small humans can survive in the wilderness. While the characters are in their miniature bodies, they get removed in some way from the project base. For instance, they could be snatched by birds-of-prey and deposited far away or drift away on a raft on stream. The characters end up in a dangerous world and forced to survive on their own, while finding their ways back to their base, where their ordinary bodies rest in suspended animation.

These micronauts have no problems with breathing, drinking or eating, since their bodies consist of normal-sized molecules. They can survive on nuts, roots and insects. Cats, foxes and birds of prey are lethal opponents, while mice and rabbits may be tamed and used as beasts of burden.

The climate may cause problems. The proportion between skin area and body mass is less advantageous for a micronaut, and he loses body heat fast when not properly dressed. A temperature that is merely uncomfortable to a normal-sized human may be dangerous to him.

The micronaut also has an advantage from the change of proportion. A mouse-sized creature survives a fall from any height, since the air resistance slows the descent speed to perhaps 15 ft/sec. A landing will be soft enough to avoid injuries.

The miniaturization process only affects the micronauts’ bodies and all equipment must be custom-made. A very skilled artisan can make ordinary objects as small as scale 1:1000, provided he has appropriate tools. However, a micronaut will likely have only a limited set of equipment due to high construction costs: the price of the original object multiplied by the scale. (Example: A telephone made in scale 1:40 costs £2 pounds × 40 = £80.)

The choice of weapons is limited. A gun, powerful enough to harm a target, has a recoil that will injure the user. Instead, micronauts will probably use melee weapons, e.g. spears and sprays, with strong poisons that will knock out or kill a living target. An electric rifle is also a possibility, though its effects should be limited. Its miniscule batteries cannot carry much charge, giving it quite a weak “punch”; perhaps its discharge would only blind or stun a cat or hawk.

A gamemaster with a taste for the eccentric may combine this type of scenario with ideas from Richard Adams’s Watership Down and Plague Dogs: maybe there are intelligent animals which the characters encounter and with whom they may cooperate to improve their survival chances. (Read also GURPS Bunnies & Burrows for inspiration.)

Neither Jules Verne nor H G Welles touched the subject of miniaturization, though they might well have done so. (The concept is probably very old; Jonathan Swift dealt with similar phenomena in Gulliver’s Travels, i.e. the realm of Lilliput.) To get inspiration the GM must therefore look to more modern versions of the theme. Here I mention some useful ones that I have read or watched over the years; there are of course many more. (A long list of such books and comics is located here: link >>>)

Miniaturization has been used in several movies, e.g. The Incredible Shrinking Man in the 1950s, Fantastic Voyage in the 1960s, and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids and Innerspace in the 1980s. The two older ones are serious, while the two recent are comedies.

Isaac Asimov wrote the novelization of Fantastic Voyage, which turned out to be better than the movie. Regrettably, he decided during the late 1980s to write a new, much thicker book, Destination Brain, on the same theme; it is so bad you should not bother with it. Both deal with micrometric “submarine” expeditions into a human body.

Around 1980, Gordon Williams published three novels about The Micronauts , in which a team of cloned centimetric micronauts is stranded in Earth’s wilderness. Soap-opera characters, but a reasonably good account for the milieu in which they struggle to survive.

Miniaturization ray generator: weight 1 ton; cost £1000; power *; research data Ether (33, 5)
Shrinkfield emitter: weight 40 lbs; cost £8000; power **; research data Ether (40, 5)
Miniature cloning: weight n/a; cost £5000¹; power n/a; research data Biochemistry (38, 5)
Mind-transfer device²: weight 1 ton; cost £500; power 1; research data Ether (38, 5)

*Power requirement is 1 point per ton of the object being miniaturized.
**The emitter has a finite energy supply, limiting the number of size alterations to its reliability rating. After that, it must be recharged by a electricity-generating power source when at normal size. The recharging process takes 1÷reliability hours.
¹ Cost is per clone.
² The mind-transfer device is necessary to “move” a person’s mind from his original body to his clone and vice versa.
n/a = not applicable

Copyright © 1996 Anders Blixt
Space: 1889 is Frank Chadwick’s registered trademark for his game of Victorian Era space-faring.

Space 1889: Schutzgebiet Westdioscuria

Germany is a dynamic actor in the late 19th century, a new great power that wants to establish its place among the old ones. There is little canon
Space 1889 material on the German presence on Mars, so this article is an attempt to rectify that shortcoming.

The Germany military became interested in establishing a presence on Mars at the end of the 1870s, when they saw what advantages the British had gained from the Red Planet, like liftwood airships that could topple the military balance in Europe. The General Staff wanted bases close to the Astusapes, an area with the precious liftwood.

Western Dioscuria with the cities of Dioscuria, Protonilus, and Ismenilus seemed to be a proper place in which to place troops and airships. It was reasonably close to Astusapes, while it at the same time did not belong to the sphere of influence of some other major political actor. In the mid-1880s Bismarck offered the three sergals (city princes) protection against foreign enemies together with domestic autonomy in return for German base rights, control over the cities’ foreign policies, and trade advantages. The three cities were relatively weak and their sergals feared that they would involuntarily drawn into the triangular power struggles between the Boreosyrtis League, Great Britain, and the Oenotrian League. They saw advantages with the German offer and accepted it (how gratefully is hard to say though); in 1887 the Schutzgebiet Westdioscuria was formally established by the signing of three protectorate treaties.

Each city, headed by its autocratic sergal, handles its own internal matters, but the jurisdiction is limited for human residents. For instance, German citizens are not subject to local penal codes, but only to German. The cities are similar in culture and share a common language, the sibilant Dioscurian. The German Foreign Minister appoints the senior German official, der Reichskommissar, residing in Dioscuria, with responsibility for military matters of the protectorate and its relations to other political entities on Mars. He has of course also a significant influence on domestic matters and the three sergals usually listen carefully to his advice. The current Reichskommissar is Curd-Friedrich Graf von Wartburg, appointed in 1888.

Kaiser Wilhelm II is young, restless and ambitious, a man determined to prove his mettle as the ruler of a rising empire. So he has a personal interest in Germany’s acquisition of colonies in faraway places. The Germans are attentive to what uses their industry may have for the resources found in their colonies. Like the United States, Germany is right now in a period of explosive industrial expansion at home. No other European country has a faster growth in GNP. The Kaiser’s goal is to overtake Great Britain as Europe’s biggest industrial power soon after the turn of the century. The resources of Venus and Mars are important in this process.

The military and political establishments in Germany are dominated by the Junker nobility so ambitious individuals of the rapidly growing bourgeoisie find too few opportunities there. Instead they can make careers in the colonies, where the emphasis is put on competence rather than on heritage. Every year, the Foreign Ministry picks the best from the multitude of applicants that want to go abroad. This has given Germany the most well-run colonial administrations in the solar system, be it in Africa, on Mars or on Venus. The Germans treat their foreign dependencies in a broadminded manner compared to most other European nations. The purpose of these possessions is to make Germany stronger and richer and assure her of “her rightful place in the sun”. The German colonial service claims that the best way to achieve it is by treating the natives decently and provide them with, e.g., clinics, schools and a sensible administration.

Archaeology is a major field in the German academia. Many scholars have earned great fame for excavations in Mesopotamia and the Aegean. Martian archaeology is a growing field at Germany’s universities and many young men and women venture into the ruins of the Red Planet in search of explanations why its ancient advanced civilization declined so badly. (The unspoken corollary is of course whether Earth, too, could suffer such a fate.) They also believe that their efforts prove the greatness of German science and culture to fellow western countries. Once again, the emperor cannot resist to interfere personally, e.g. by economic support and more or less appreciated advice.* Hence Germany’s plans for Mars entail extensive geological and archaeological surveys; government surveyors turn up in the most unexpected locations.

The Germans have chosen to deal with natives in local languages. The official language of the German East Africa administration is Swahili and in Westdioscuria it is Dioscurian. All officers and NCOs of native units and all civilian officials must possess adequate language skills. They are also expected to learn about native cultures and how Canal Martians think, simply because such knowledge makes it much easier to rule the protectorate. Some causes for the Sepoy mutiny in India in the 1850s were due to the lack of understanding the British had for their Hindu and Muslim subjects and the Germans do not wish to repeat that error.

Such flexible attitudes should, however, not be mistaken for softness. The Germans deal harshly with any attempts to destabilize or threaten their presence on Mars. Since they have guaranteed armed protection to the cities of Westdioscuria, such will be provided in doses strong enough to deter potential trouble-makers. The Hill Martian tribes around the protectorate learned that lesson in the second half of the 1880s, when their raids on outlying Canal Martian villages were avenged with impunity by German forces. The vicious Karshekoat tribe was hunted almost to extinction in 1888 and its remnants had to flee to the Syrtis Lapis area to survive.

A Schutztruppe detachment skirmishing with a band of Hill Martian marauders.

Each of the Westdioscurian cities has a locally raised militia battalion, led by German officers and armed with modern rifles. (The Germans use the African designation Askari for their native Martian soldiers, too.) Each city also contains one detachment of the 1. Schutztruppe Westdioscuria and one of the 1. Marsianisches Husarenbataillon, both exclusively human units.

1. Schutztruppe Westdioscuria: This battalion-sized infantry unit was organized to serve German interests om Mars already in 1882, before the establishment of the protectorate. The field uniform is sand-colored and includes an Australian style bush-hat. Soldiers and officers carry a zivios, a Dioscurian blade, as their special mark of recognition. The unit contains a sprinkling of Austrians, Swedes, Finns and Norwegians who have been lured to Mars with the prospect of adventure. All artillery pieces and machine guns of the colonial forces belong to this battalion.

1. Marsianisches Husarenbataillion: This light cavalry unit, mounted on gashants, was established in 1887. It is trained for long-range reconnaissance in the wilderness. The hussars’ field uniform resemble that of the 1. Schutztruppe.

The Marsgendarmerie is a company-sized mounted constabulary charged with upholding law and order in the wilderness between the protectorate’s three cities. It is commanded by German police officers and the gendarmes are a mix of humans, canal martians and hill martians. It reports to the Reichskommissar. The gendarmes get paramilitary training and are armed with army carbines and revolvers. Their dark green uniform is designed on the Schutztruppe pattern.

The Martian flotilla of the Imperial German Navy is led by Kapitän zur See (navy captain) Diedrich Fritze. The cruiser Hamburg (commanded by Fregattenkapitän (commander) Lothar Berger) and the gunboat Marienburg (commanded by Kapitänleutnant (lieutenant) Johann Prien) are based in Dioscuria. The kites of the three cities are also under German command. Since there is no naval infantry in the German navy on Mars, Schutztruppe detachments are assigned to the ships when necessary.

The Marienburg is a brand new ship. She is small, unusually fast and look somewhat like the British Aphid class. There are rumors that her steam engine is of a novel design.

The German army and navy units on Mars are organized together in the Wehrkommando Mars under major-general Helmut Schulmeister in Dioscuria. He takes his orders both from the Reichskommissar and from the General Staff in Berlin, something that has caused friction both between the General Staff and the Foreign Ministry and between Graf von Wartburg and Schulmeister personally. Further, the navy officers dislike being commanded by an army officer and that has also been the source of some troubles.

Germany’s colonial venture on Mars attracts not only Germans. Of the several thousand Red Men living in Westdioscuria in 1890, only half are Germans. Businessmen of all terrestrial nationalities are welcome, few questions asked, as long as they contribute to the well-being of the protectorate and profess a reasonable loyalty to the Kaiser: Armenian shopkeepers, Hasidic jewelers, Swedish engineers, Dutch traders, Persian caravaneers, American arms merchants, etc. Also, many of the German officials here served earlier in the African colonies and therefore they often have arrived with African servants.

Mars is such an overwhelming place that most off-world immigrants feel a need to bond with fellow humans. Therefore inter-human prejudices grow weaker because they pose a danger to communal survival in this utterly alien environment. The Red Men live together closely in certain city districts and keep wary eyes on their Canal Martian neighbors. Intolerance is here mainly between species, and not so much between human nationalities.

The Germans have serious long-term plans for improving the economy of their protectorate. The canal between the three cities dried out thousands of years ago and since then a lot of inter-city transport is by caravan, a method that the Germans consider inappropriate for the 19th century. Faster and cheaper transports would encourage trade and promote growth. The corps of engineers of the German army have begun preparations to build a railroad along the dry canal between the cities. During 1889, various suitable routes will be surveyed and facilities to make tracks will be established. The construction is scheduled to begin in 1890. The engines and the cars should also be built on Mars, since it would be expensive to transport them from Earth. Several engineers are currently working on solving that problem.

The airship flotilla will increase in size during the next few years; emperor Wilhelm does not want Germany to lag behind Great Britain and France. The main limiting factor is the lack of liftwood and major-general Schulmeister therefore plans to send expeditions into the Astusapes to deal with the High Martians and to secure a good supply of the precious timber.

*A period German joke: “The Lord knows all, the Emperor knows best.”

Copyright © 1996-2014 Anders Blixt
Space: 1889 is Frank Chadwick’s registered trademark for his game of Victorian Era space-faring