Project Eternity was built on the same architecture as Project Infinity, but had different goals. Where Infinity and its associated Matrix Maia, Eternity was a survival/horror simulation to determine how long isolated groups of people could survive under extreme hostile conditions with little to no outside support.
Project Infinity teased its candidates out of the general population by systematically seeking out average to below-average people with moderate to minimal levels of competence and confidence. These normals were then plunged through a training program, putting them under in a massive dream tank complex before proper safety guidelines were established. Maia was a meatgrinder of Wasteland warfare, cannibalism, extreme recycling, and a state of ongoing technobarbarism. Then the plug was pulled, and the entire affair was mostly swept under the run.
Like Infinity, the recruitment phase for Eternity involved finding fairly average people to participate in the simulation, while keeping the fact that it was a dream tank research accelerator secret. Like Infinity, the story was created that the new employer was looking for people with military, police, technical/support, and survival training. One of the core conceits of Infinity was that an aspect of the simulation was that if a participant was killed in the simulation, they would be resurrected via technology that only existed inside the sim, cortical stacks. The basic concept of Eternity was the opposite, it was constructed as a long game simulation to see how long people could keep a ship, habitat, or other installation operating in a hostile environment bereft of support from Earth and its technical, industrial, or manpower base.
The Eternity Pledge was simple. Sign up with Eternity and the company would turn a blind eye to dishonorable discharges, criminal records, negative social credit balances, debt, and anything else that would leave a person willing to take a hand up for a minimum four-year contract. Join Eternity, see the Solar System, and be involved in a megacorp start-up. Plenty of jobs: mining ops, exploration and survey ops, terraforming and hydroponics ops, all levels of industrial engineering, mechanics, and technicians, and security personnel, in large numbers.
Project Infinity scored close to seven thousand applicants/victims. Eternity had a less come one, come all plan and there were only 1400 applicants/victims.
The main fleet asset of the Eternity project is the Susquehanna class heavy frigate. It is strongly influenced by the Shenandoah class exploration frigate, but it is much more lightly armed, lacks the ability to land and break down into a base, and is almost twice as large, with greater crew space, cargo capacity, and endurance. The ship has an operational crew of 380, 150,000-ton cargo capacity, docking ports for six smaller ships, or can tandem dock, where two docking collars are used to link the ship to another equally large, or larger ship, assuming the rings match. The ship has two internal hangars, one fore and one aft, above the engines. The forward hangar is intended to carry shuttles, landing craft, and such. The rear hangar has facilities for twenty-four aerospace fighters.
The main supporter of Project Eternity is the Union Aerospace Corporation. UAC is footing a portion of the bill, through their black budget. The prize will be the data that Eternity generates from seeing how long they can keep their spaceships operational in the Post-Turn period of the experiment. The company is expecting to reap major innovations and advances in ship design, engineering, and field testing.
The Prometheus is intended to have regular problems with its power plant.
The Agamemnon is laid out to promote hostility between different factions of the crew, with the most obvious being that the officers have their own self-contained section of the ship, and the crew will have their own. Other divisions are being promoted, with some sections being very easy to isolate or defend, such as engineering, the cargo bays, and support systems not part of the main drive/power systems.
The Enterprise is intended to suffer through multiple damage crises, ranging from being struck by space debris to being actively hunted by pirates and other extreme hostiles. The plan is to extract data on damage control, repairs in the field, and maintaining a broken ship for as long as possible.
The Icarus is designed to have navigation problems, communications failures, and intermittent crippling of the central computer system.
The Daedalus is doomed from the start ship so there is functionally a randomized timer associated with the destruction of the ship. There is no telling if the fault will cause the ship to blow apart in minutes, hours, days, or even years. The only way to offset this is to operate the ship at minimal power, minimal thrust, and minimal demand on the systems because the location of the fault is unknown
The Hammurabi is the control ship, there is nothing wrong with it from the outset, and there are no preconceived flaws for the ship and its crew to test/survive.
Bases, Resupply, and Respite
There are a good number of orbital and off world facilities that the Eternity test crews will have access to. These are all fictitious sites and have the following traits
Name: all have names associated with Hell, Death, or terms related to the end of the world as per religious mythology. Thus: Perdition, Gehenna, Ragnarok, Gotterdamerung, Armageddon, Inferno, Avernus, and Abyss.
Crew: none, all facilities are unmanned, abandoned, or have been caught up in the incident to be revealed in The Turn.
Static Dangers: always. reaching a chance to resupply or make repairs is a calculated risk. Locations are distant or are in positions of peril. A resupply base orbiting Jupiter will have planet to moon lightning strikes. A base on the surface of another world will have weather related risks. Facilities will all be in lockdown, traps will be active, and point defense systems will be armed.
Supplies and Parts: available, but there will be questions of quality, as well as the risk of finding and returning the gear.
Limited Access: Many such sites can only be visited once, such as a fleet anchorage having the power and equipment to affect a major repair, but something causes the anchorage to become inoperable, or it explodes or falls to an environmental hazard, like gravity or radiation.
In Project Infinity the Turn was when the ships made the jump through the Pegasus Rift to arrive above Maia, coming out at widely different times from when they launched and being plunged into a desperate war world that wanted everything they had, from fuel to cortical stacks. Project Eternity has something more horrendous for their test crews, the destruction of the Earth and almost all of the human race. When the ships are launching from their slips, a dark object passes through the Solar System perpendicular to the orbital plane. Multiple objects trailing it smash into the Earth, the Moon, and Mars. Dozens of major stations are lost as they are pulled from their orbits by the object, becoming debris following in its wake. Hours after the strikes, the burning craters on the inhabited planets learn that the objects that hit them were littered with eggs, and now the chitinous space horrors are hatching and going wild. The humans who survived the impacts and the suddenly freezing post-impact not-nuclear but close enough to it winter, are being attacked and eaten. Those who aren't butchered for their caloric value are dragged down into the craters where their still-warm bodies are used as incubators and fresh meat for eggs that are just being laid by the almost fossilized queen insect horrors.
The Turn begins the experiment, though the crews of Eternity have long since been spiked and slipped into their respective dream tank simulation systems. After the revelation of the turn, a full Hollywood-worthy spectacle or planetary annihilation, the program goes into full order. The ships are deliberately scattered, reports are likewise obfuscated, and each ship and its respective crew are forced into long-term self-reliance.
To further the impact of the Turn, multiple dramatic streams have been assembled, functioning as interactive shows to the detriment of the Eternity crews. They will be allowed to watch a variety of data streams of other Turn survivors as their situations go from bleak to signal failure. Ships are damaged, and their systems fail. Crews are left to make final choices, not how to survive, but how they are going to die. And as days turn to hours, the number of live feeds diminishes. Days turn to weeks, and 95% of the feed is static, final messages left on repeat, and just to keep things interesting, a number of weak and staticky feeds that either count numbers, or are broadcasting like nothing at all has happened, but don't respond to any signal, and attempts to locate their source is difficult to impossible.
The prestige comes at different times for different crews. Much like Infinity, the project ran to completion without interruption, and only about a third of the participants suffered long-term side effects or harm.
Short-Term Survival: Daedalus, Icarus, and Prometheus
These three ships had the shortest endurance, none lasting more than a few weeks. The ships would all come together in an attempt to jury-rig systems together and try to keep all of the ships viable. This was doomed to fail, as the unreliability in computer systems, power systems, and the ticking time bomb in the Daedalus were stacking flaws, not ones that could be overcome by cooperation. With the Daedalus reactor powered down, the Icarus providing power, and the Prometheus trying to handle computer controls and comms, they ticked over the Daedalus timer. The computer core on the Daedalus melted down, creating a thermal event, which cascaded through the linked systems, burning out vital systems on the other two ships. The crews attempted to cut their ships apart, but it was too late, and within a few days the crippling of life support left all of them deceased.
When the crews woke in their suspended animation tanks they were disoriented and confused, as many had suffered highly traumatic deaths, but had only been in the system for a few days at the most. Basic cognitive and digital therapy were able to sort them out, and they were compensated for their time, unwilling participation, and given NDAs. These weren't just contracts they signed but were cognitively planted in their subconscious while in suspended animation.
Long-Term Survival: Hammurabi, Enterprise, Agamemnon
The second group of ships lasted a long time. Within the simulation, each lasted several years. Agamemnon became a pirate ship, its crew overcoming the division within the accommodations and making a good deal of sport raiding the hulks of lost ships, and then through brutal tenacity gaining control over the Graveyard, the hulks of the three dead Eternity class ships. Its crew had the highest attrition rate as civility went out the window and many were killed in internal fights, interdepartmental gang wars, and the like. Sexual violence, drug abuse, and other hobbies filled the time when the crew wasn't fighting for their very survival.
Enterprise was the first lost among the second block as its constant and chronic bad luck finally overcame the ability of the crew. Combining the accidental rupture of a water recycling tank, depletion of fuel for the maneuvering jets, and a wing of hydroponic gardens being exposed to vacuum, the crew never really stood a chance, in the end.
The Hammurabi lasted the longest and took the fool's errand of chasing down where the errant signals were coming from, so ended up cobbling together a convoy of supply ships to follow it out towards the Oort cloud. As these ships were drained of fuel and consumables, they were kicked from the convoy and left to drift. The plan was that on the return trip to the inner system, they would be picked back up, salvaged for needed equipment, and their hydroponics bays would be harvested. They were left in a deliberate path. The Hammurabi reached the edge of the Solar system and the heliopause. There the surviving crew found their cruel answer. The source of the signal is a joke, a long-range probe styled like an atom punk flying saucer. Its fuel long expended, the thing is still broadcasting its inane signal into the inner solar system, the bottom of the probe acting like an antenna. The only reason they could pick it up was the death of humanity wiped out all the background signal noise, letting this quiet joke, more than two centuries old, get through.
The Hammurabi didn't survive the return trip to the Inner system. Depression and despair sapped the will of the surviving crew. Starvation rations and decreased energy usage to save fuel for the reactor, and the long slow burn to the inner system ensured that in small groups, the crew started checking out of the simulation, the polite program term for participants committing suicide.
The participants of the long-term surviving ships did not fare as well as the first ships. They had spent a much longer time in simulation and went through more extreme hardships, and personal sacrifices, and where the first half maintained their humanity and civility, pragmatism and stress caused the latter to engage in horrific acts in the name of survival. UAC raked in tons of data on the long-term operation of ships in extreme conditions, what to reinforce, what to do to better ensure the endurance and robustness of ships, and how to better maintain crews. This data paled in comparison to the social data gathered from watching the slow demise of the crews while having full access to their minds during the experiment. This would allow for greater skill in picking crews, assessing their personal profiles, and creating entire psychotronic training regimens for incoming crew cadets.
This does overlook that of the second group of participants there was a massive amount of long-term depression, PTSD, and Cognitive Psychosis. More than 15% of the total test subjects refused to believe they had been in a test simulation, and that they were having a psychotic break. Some claimed that they were dying and this was the final spasmodic paroxysm of their dying brain. Some claimed it was all a dream. Others were poisoned by the acts they had committed, and even when shown it was all just a game, they couldn't accept it. The suicide rate was horrific.
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