Habitat Infiltration

Getting onto or around a habitat without authorization is not easy, but for the determined many options abound.

By far the simplest route to penetrating a station is to darkcast inside and use a black market body bank. Finding a darkcast connection into a specific habitat is usually the most difficult part, but the proper application of @-rep or g-rep can work wonders. Upon arrival, the darknet receiver can direct the newcomers to a black market morph provider (p. 277, EP). These illegal body banks are usually equipped to provide fake IDs as well as other ID-defeating tools, depending on local resources.

There is sometimes a risk in transmitting your ego via darkcast, but the darknet providers have their own reputations to maintain. In habitats where one group has a monopoly on darkcasting, problems sometimes develop.

The vast distance between astronomical objects and most gravitational anchor points where stations and colonies are located means that communities are, by necessity, responsible for their own protection—against both natural threats and those who would do them harm. Isolation is a protective measure in and of itself. Spaceships can be seen coming, as long as they aren’t occulted by something else, and long-range transmissions are quarantined and authenticated before the data is allowed into the habitat’s primary system.

This protection is not absolute, though. Cold asteroids with a low albedo can be difficult to track on optical and thermal sensors. Mercenaries might sneak into close range by using commercial transport as cover. A determined adversary may even forgo subterfuge and attempt the direct assault. All of these possibilities must be considered and mitigated to the extent the resources and governing philosophy allow. Many habitats contract out these functions to private security firms and leave it up to the experts.

External defense is commonly performed by constellations of satellites and/or drones co-orbiting with the habitat. Distributing the sensors and weapons over multiple platforms and away from the main habitat makes it harder to disable the system and safer for the residents. Most civilians don’t want to live near directed energy cannon and high explosives. On the other hand, external platforms can be hijacked and used against the habitat. The advantage of a weapons emplacement on the side of a station is that it can’t be used to target the station. Each strategy has its risks.

Kinetic attacks inflict damage proportional to the square of the impact velocity. Thus, incoming projectiles must be deflected or vaporized to effectively stop the threat. Only doing enough damage to break up the projectile into smaller chunks just makes for multiple, smaller incoming targets. Directed energy weapons are the method of choice for kinetic defense because they will turn small objects into carbon compounds and inert gases and burn off mass from larger projectiles to redirect them. Conversely, directed energy attacks can be mitigated by clouds of dust or surface coatings that break up the beam.

Defense against incoming spacecraft isn’t as simple as in pre-Fall Hollywood and Bollywood vids. Taking out the propulsion system just means the vehicle will continue on its last trajectory indefinitely. It won’t miraculously come to a halt. Instead, the interlopers are attacked in such a way as to cause more pain to continue to press their assault than it is worth. Beam cannons are employed to ablate any armor and weaken the hull from far away. If that doesn’t send the message, the radiators are pelted with clouds of pellets to breach the ship’s vital cooling loop.

After attempts to get the enemy to divert from an intercept course fail, the next course is to eliminate the threat completely. Anti-ship missiles with shapedcharge armor penetrators can open up pressurized volumes to space. Teller mines detonate tactical nuclear weapons to form powerful X-ray lasers that will both ablate the hull through thermal erosion and cause lethal exposure to neutron radiation from secondary effects. Smart dust can be employed to both physically and electronically attack weapons batteries, airlock doors, communications and sensor arrays, and other vital systems.

Fixed satellites only require propulsion for stationkeeping, so they are typically used for mounting heavy long-range beam weapons, deploying large sensor arrays, and serving as depots for attack drones. Attack drones have the advantage of mobility, so most are little more than a fusion jet with a sensor package, missiles, and a beam cannon or railgun strapped on. They are intended to close the distance quickly, perform high-acceleration maneuvers that would kill a biomorph, and conduct precision strikes on key targets. Of course, the enemy spacecraft can carry drones of their own. The outcome of a battle often depends on the superiority of drone hardware and combat management software and can be decided by the survival of a single drone from that clash.

Secure communication in a defense network is invaluable. As a result, quantum farcasting is ubiquitous in defense systems that require wireless comms. Tight-beam optical communications are typical for line-of-sight transmissions, while encrypted millimeterwave radio is the standard over long ranges. The Jovian Republic is suspected of using quantum-encrypted neutrino transceivers to coordinate their fleet of dreadnoughts, taking the mass penalty in return for omnidirectional fleet networking. The expense of quantum-entangled communications tends to limit their use to highly sensitive covert operations that may require instantaneous, if limited, information exchange. Detecting the enemy is always the first part of interception.

At distances such as those between planets, the easiest tracking is done by watching the thermal signature move across the near-absolute-zero background of space. This only tells a habitat that someone is coming and gives a rough estimate of the contact’s trajectory. Radar is the most common method of pinpointing a contact’s size and mass and determining an accurate course and estimated time of arrival. Spectroscopy— separating out the light into its component spectra— can be used to determine the vehicle’s exhaust characteristics and thus likely propulsion system. At tactical ranges, lidar and tight-beam radar are used to construct a high-definition 3D map of the contact, correlated with IR imaging of major heat sources.

External sensors such as lidar scanners, radar arrays, passive T-ray detectors, and IR cameras are often mounted on modular pallets that can be repaired and replaced without requiring a massive overhaul of the habitat structure. These sensor pallets can also be easily distributed over the hull to increase the effective size of an array without necessarily making a bigger target. Large sensor arrays and antenna are only used for very specific purposes, such as wide field detection of galactic gamma ray bursts and military electromagnetic warfare operations (jammers). Smaller sensors arranged into interferometers and partnered with powerful data processing software typically are more than sufficient.

When all else fails, many habitats still have their own defensive batteries to deal with drones, missiles, or other spacecraft that penetrate the outer screens. Beam weapons are often preferred because they can respond rapidly to many threats without creating additional debris. Lasers and railguns are often employed as point-defense weapons, while plasma cannon are favored for attacking armor. Missile launchers are almost always mounted as external modules with integral ordnance bays. Shaped plating inside the bays is designed to deflect an accidental detonation away from the primary hull.

Darkcasting isn’t always an option. For those who don’t want to test the reliability of their fake IDs or who don’t want to put their egos in the care of habitat customs, the next option is to try sneaking into the station.

For stations on planets or moons, this is often not very difficult. Major dome and warren settlements on Mars, Luna, and Titan are used to traffic around the exterior of their habitats. Some don’t even restrict entrance. Others feature local crime cartels who have already established underground tunnels or hacked airlocks in order to move contraband and so can offer to smuggle people in for a price. More isolated outposts, however, are likely to take an interest in strangers who drive up and start messing around outside their walls. With some preparation, however, it is usually not too hard to sneak up while evading sensor detection.

Habitats in space, however, are a different matter. Most are surrounded by thousands of kilometers of emptiness—a moat of vacuum that is perilous to cross. Sneaking up on a station without detection can be quite a challenge, as most keep an eye on their immediate environs with radar and infrared to spot the thrusting and braking of various drives. The latter is especially difficult, as any momentum that carries a ship toward a habitat must be arrested if the ship plans to stop there—and this means using drives that are a dead giveaway. For colonies on asteroids, the asteroid itself can sometimes be used to block line of sight for an approaching ship, though many stations deploy satellites that keep an eye on this angle as well.

Ultimately, all a potential interloper needs to do is to get close enough to the habitat to cross the void using an EVA sled or thruster pack. This can be accomplished by passing in the vicinity of the station and dropping the infiltrators off, by finding something nearby the station to hide a ship’s deceleration behind, or by catching a lift some other way.

Aerostats and bathyscaphes are somewhat easier to approach. Any number of aircraft can be used to sneak up on an aerostat—microlights and balloons being particularly difficult to detect. There is also the option of skydiving down from an aircraft passing overhead—or even high-diving from space (see High- Dive Suit, p. 167, Sunward). Bathyscaphes, on the other hand, require swimming or using a vehicle that doesn’t get noticed by the station’s radar and sonar.

Potential trespassers don’t always need to sneak across vast stretches of space to get to a habitat— there are plenty of options for getting close enough that individuals can sneak up on the station’s exterior under the radar.

The easiest option is to simply take a ship that docks at the habitat, either legitimately or as a ruse, and then using the opportunity to sneak into space and over to the habitat. For colonies that deploy harvester drones, another option is to intercept one of these bots and use it catch a list back to the station’s drone bay.

Once at the habitat’s exterior, an entrance can be found or created. This usually entails hacking an airlock (p. 164). Cutting or blasting one’s way inside (see Hull and Superstructure, p. 166) is also an option, though this tends to draw attention with things like decompression and explosions. Some habitats, however, may have blind spots where breaching the exterior does not trigger alarms—careful research of a station’s design might pinpoint these spots. Beehives or warren habitats, for example, might have unused or forgotten tunnels that lead to interior airlocks. Anyone lingering on a habitat’s exterior risks drawing attention. Many habitats keep security cams on their exteriors, overwatched by security AIs. These might be bolstered with infrared or other sensor systems. Particularly secure or paranoid stations may have seismic sensors built into the hull or may feature regular sentry bot patrols.

Workers on a hab’s exterior are another obstacle. While these workers are not normally armed or trained as security guards, they will report the position of suspicious visitors to habitat security. The chances of workers being present on the exterior of a hab vary depending upon the size and type of the habitat. Big inner system habitats like Progress and Qing Long generally have active work gangs in synthmorphs out performing maintenance at all times. Smaller habs might only have work crews out during their day cycles. Work crews are somewhat less common in the outer system, where automation is preferred to indentures in synths. In the Jovian system, almost all exterior work is done by teleoperated bots due to extreme radiation. In other outer system habs, such as big clusters like Locus, spacewalking is very common simply as a means of getting around, so being spotted is much more likely—though, depending upon the situation, the observer might not even bother reporting the infiltrator’s presence to anyone.

Inside a station, the standard tricks for avoiding detection apply (see Countersurveillance, p. 39). An interloper that prefers to avoid public areas can attempt to take advantage of a habitat’s infrastructure or service areas to get around. Many stations have service tunnels, venting systems, spaces dedicated to pipes and conduits, and so on. Though off limits to unauthorized personnel, forged credentials or clever hacking can gain access. The advantage to these areas is that they are far less surveiled, leaving a smaller footprint of records, and rarely traveled. On the other hand, any bots, workers, or security personnel are quite likely to regard an infiltrator they find here with suspicion. Characters in small morphs—neotenics, hypergibbons, swarmanoids, etc.—have an advantage in that they can fit into and access infrastructure elements that regular transhumans can’t, particularly ventilation systems.

Habitat Infiltration

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