*QotM is a solitary waffle hand cooked by William Shatner himself and thrown at you from across the restaurant by Later Levels
I know what you’re thinking “What are you doing? This isn’t a regular posting time!”. Indeed, this is a bonus post to provide an answer to this year’s first Question of the Month. The puppet-masters have mixed it up for 2019 giving an overall gameplan to the QotM formula. Over the next 12 months they’re hoping to compile all the elements of “The Ultimate Video Game” by tasking bloggers to come up with a new element each month and then selecting the one that is ..erm… the most ultimate… does that make sense? No? Well there are plenty more details here!
For January we’ve been tasked to come up with a ‘setting’ and in truth the whole thing put me in a bit of a quandary. Yes, there are heaps of excellent game settings, but they’ve already been done. Surely for something “ultimate” it should be something new. It also threw me a little because the form of the question/post was unlikely to fit in to my “normal” niche of rambling gaming related posts. Traditionally I like to use QotM to go a little rogue, but this is well past bizarre convoluted plots to take control of gaming kingdoms. Hence I’ve set it in this bonus post outside my normal posting schedule… pretty sneaky huh? It’s almost like I’m in charge of the blog and can post whenever I want; ‘on’ or ‘off’ topic it doesn’t matter, I make the rules!
… anyway, this is what I came up with for my “Ultimate Video Game Setting“… enjoy!
The Keeler gap; a barely 35 km wide slither of black in the shimmering plane of Saturn’s rings. Either side their incomprehensible span stretches away to what would be the horizon should such a thing exist out here. Our Earth-defined language incapable of approaching the magnitude of this celestial body. Looking inward, the soft swirling clouds of the planet appear almost peaceful. Hints of lilac and highlights of yellow subtly pick out the edges of impossibly large storms which transform to a flickering epidermis of electric blue veins in the night’s half of the planet. Past the outer of those vast radii, nothing, a carpet of stars. Our Sun, more prominent than most, casts the only shadow; that of Delta-Chi-743. Once a gas-harvester, the angular body is decorated with irregularly spaced striations along its length, a characteristic of thirty-second century space-freighter design. These channels provide a functional frame of reference for goods flow, docking ships, habitation containment, and unauthorised limpet craft hopping from planet to planet.
Delta-Chi-743’s vast steel hull silently towers several kilometres above the plane of the rings and, like some terrifying interplanetary ice-berg, stretches even further below. The octagonal shrouds of three ion drives dominate the rear of the vessel; a deep blue glow emanates from somewhere inside and faint white conical clouds of ions indicate that the engines are set to idle. They’re holding the ship snugly in the gap by providing just enough thrust to counteract the slight drag of the solar wind and impact of microscopic dust particles travelling not an insubstantial fraction of the speed of light. It is parked with barely a kilometre of breathing room either side…
… and has been for the past one hundred and seventy-five years.
The hull’s exterior shows only the faded red and gold paint of the company logo; An angular phoenix encompassing the entire side of the ship. A reminder of the civilisation that once lived, worked, and died here. Inside however a new realm has formed both miraculous and terrifying.
Left unattended the gas processing plant systems defaulted to a fail safe mode. The molecules of explosive hydrogen and oxygen, still being drawn from the clouds below, bonded using the near inexhaustible energy from the ship’s fusion reactors to form water. Over the years tanks ruptured, bulkhead doors failed, decks flooded, until now the entire ship is submerged. An absurd encapsulated ocean in perpetual orbit within the rings of Saturn.
Inside the ship the sealed conduits and robust infrastructure keep many of the systems running. Long habitation corridors are bathed in sickly green as the bulkhead lights shine through the murky water. Molluscs cling to these steel rimmed lamps, bathing in their glow, unaware that a colony of beady eyed crustaceans are merrily picking through their brethren a few feet away. Occasional reminders of the former human occupants drift by; a chocolate wrapper, a melon baller, page fifty-two of ‘Great Expectations’. The glint of a safety pin distracts a set of those beady eyes from its task and a delicate claw takes hold of the object. Intrigued, it loops the treasure around one of its legs to admire later. Like a tiny eight legged punk it resumes the feast. Up on the ship’s bridge large curved windows look out in to the expanse of space. It is silent except the occasional meteoroid tapping on the glass of this implausible aquarium as though trying to get someone’s attention. From under the navigation console a sleepy tentacle extends and curls over on to the panel above. Hundreds of suckers coat the underside of the slick purple appendage and caress the touchscreen causing it to burst in to life. Illuminated star charts dance across the display as those suckers inadvertently plot navigation courses and a curious, jet-black eye slowly peers up from under the console to admire the display before returning to slumber.
Deep in the ship’s processing tanks, colonies of bio-luminescent anemones cling to the walls near the reactor. Sustained by its warmth their colour changes and ripples in time to the gentle pulsating fusion cycles below. Their own nuclear powered deity. Tiny butterfly fish play in the glowing tendrils unaware that a stalking shadow eel is watching them and preparing to strike. They continue to play; the anemones offer light. The anemones offer protection. The eel darts forward causing the small heliotrope fish to scatter, but the anemone colony is faster. Those hypnotic tendrils lock around the shadow eel and begin to tighten. The process of consuming the careless predator begins.
Elsewhere in a canteen, a bloated warbling shark bobs amid scattered chairs and rusting cutlery. Schools of crested herring spiral around him, teasing him in the relative safety of the well lit chamber. The warbling shark idly tries to disperse them with a lazy flick of his tail, but they know he’s in no condition to chase them so they continue to engulf him in elaborate helical paths before he finally retreats in to the sanctuary of his kitchen. There he deftly flicks the lever on the ice-cream machine; a sizeable globule of dairy-free ice cream inflates from the nozzle and the warbling shark casually turns to consume it. It’s produced by proteins on the biological reactor deck and piped directly to the various eateries; it’s also the shark’s favourite.
Throughout the ship a thousand different tales unfold every day. Some insignificant like these and some with just enough inertia to set weighty events in motion. All inside this ocean, quietly nestled within the rings of Saturn.