Also see Nova Station
Given Alaundril’s more habitable conditions, it’s no surprise that Atlas was ignored for years. The planet is a cold and lifeless rock in space, well outside the star’s habitability zone. Without an atmosphere to protect it, Atlas suffers the full force of Ten¬dril’s radiation despite its greater distance. In some systems, Atlas might have become a home to sentients in a domed and controlled society. In this star system, there’s no real need for such measures.
Atlas has been settled anyway. A group of radical Orlamists set up a colony in 2333, seeking privacy and freedom. They soon found seven sites indicating the presence of a previously unknown civilization. Archaeological expeditions began a few years into the Long Silence. Eventually, word of the expeditions reached the Stellar Bing and led to the Augustine’s arrival in the summer of 2405. Forty years after the Augustine disaster, the planet’s mysteries attract more interest than ever.
Today, the original dig site is well guarded and researched. The Danwin site, named for the Augustine’s lead researcher, has been thoroughly examined. Nothing there has explained the ori¬gin of the planet’s previous inhabitants, or even their precise na¬ture: The unknown aliens could either live in vacuum, or have arrived as colonists from somewhere else. To investigate the civilization, hundreds of privately funded operations have sprung up and have established bases scattered over Atlas’s surface. Furthermore, the original Orlamist missionaries have been joined by a larger number of Ancientists. Neither the Alaundril government nor StarMech has effectively controlled these groups.
The Skyward Caverns are located in a mountain range on Atlas’ southern hemisphere. These extensive caves, clearly artificial, are the most important sites for Ancientist and Hatire examina¬tions. Unusual artifacts retrieved from the Caverns in the last year have set off a flurry of excitement in the archaeological community. Several independent groups have staked claims to the Caverns themselves. The Borealin research arm of the Col¬lege of Justice Ethics has been investigating a site in the Cav¬erns named the Pipe Organ Gallery, after the exquisite stalactites that line one of its walls. So far, the results of their research have not been posted to the Grid, but early indications are that the Borealin scholars are making faster progress than their Hatire and Ancientist colleagues, who spend as much time feud¬ing with each other as they do in the field..
The Hatire-Ancientist dispute is one example of this infight¬ing; what should be a collaboration of brilliant minds investi¬gating a fantastic mystery instead turning bitter and violent. The competing archeological groups routinely hire security forces to ensure that their territory is well marked and the borders are respected. Accidents and deaths have increased; in one case, explosive decompression of a team’s shelter killed more than thirty people. The news reports of conflicts fill Tendril’s news services.
The cause of these conflicts is simple to identify. Most of the groups are funded by private corporations, and all of them hope to make an incredible fortune from the first intact alien devices found. The Galactic Concord, noting the failure of both Alaundril and StarMech to intercede, has promised to send a negotiator to help end the crisis.