Zurich Orbital

Blatantly ripped off from ideas by William Gibson, Neal Stephenson, and Shadowrun

In amongst the orbital microgee factories and hollowed residential asteroids locked in their endless complex dance of orbits over the planet Earth, one place remains aloof. As well it should. This one place holds the wealth of nations, and enough dirt to blackmail it's way out of any problem. This place, anchored between the Earth and Luna at the LaGrange point, was once Europe's brightest star. This place is the Zurich Orbital data haven.

Founded in 2102 by an old-money Swiss banking firm, ZO was constructed in orbit, at prohibitous cost. Fortunately, the firm saw the potential uses, and being a patriotic sort, sold stock in their Zurich Orbital Space Station to the Swiss government. It's contents were to be kept secret up to the point of the station going online, and by some kind of a miracle, that's what happened. The station's placing had to be exact, and precision attitude thrusters keep it in position at all times.

In the wake of the Esperanza crash, ZO is still nominally owned by the remains of the Swiss government, but for all practical purposes acts as an independent nation. No government can force it to reveal what it stores, without an injunction from the remains of the Swiss government. So far, this has not happened. The station's contents remain as secure as ever, and that's what keeps the profits rolling in.

As it's name suggests, the Zurich Orbital data haven is the largest storage of information on or off the planet. It's data storage is split into two areas. The public area is connected to the OpNet via a satellite uplink, and can be accessed by the search routines of any computer agent, or by a standard 'low-level' connection. Anyone can upload information to the public area, and many people do. There is no cost past the yearly subscription fee to access the information, but faster searching algorithms and custom agents do cost more. Any time a piece of information is accessed by a visitor, the submitter of the information is paid cold, hard cash. Strangely enough, submitters do not have to be registered users of ZO, they only have to have an account that the money can be paid into. When the Haven came online, several general interest files on geography, history and the sciences were already online. This system, though it seems strange, does work. When one lone hacker released the script for a not-yet-shown episode of Strike Force Psion, said hacker reputedly gained enough money to buy a new motorcycle and still live for several months in relative luxury.

ZO also maintains private accounts, completely separate from the public sector. These are heavily secure, and breaking into one requires the would-be hacker to be physically present on the station. These accounts are paid for beforehand, and store everything from weapons data to research being carried out by distributed teams of scientists. This information is always encrypted past the ability of even most Electrokinetics to break, using at least a 16384-bit encryption key. At present levels of technology (as of 2120), this would take every particle of matter in the universe, assembled into a supercomputer, longer than the predicted lifespan of the universe to break. Only the correct pass codes and keys allow the access to the data. Needless to say, this service is expensive, and not used by many.

The station is a microgravity environment staffed by four eight-man team, which rotate every four months. Each member of each team knows each other, and additional security ensures that nobody can fake their way in without a hell of a lot of work.

There are several ways to use ZO in your games. The public libraries can be a valuable source of information, as long as a querant is sufficiently paid-up. It can also be a handy way for anyone with computer skills to make an extra bit of money on the side. Or perhaps a random thug, sent to ambush the team, has a code for one of the private 'information boxes'. What is contained within, and what does it have to do with the Psions? Then, there is the station itself. Where does the money go? It's controlling parties were wiped out in the crash, and many people are interested in becoming the new 'owners' of the station. And, of course, the very security of the station is a problem in itself when a never-before-seen virus is loose among the crew and the PC's are required to get them out. And one incredibly well-coded computer virus could cost the world's business markets billions.

A subscription to the public areas of the haven costs ***, and each search will take approximately three hours to run. Better software adds * or ** to the cost, and each extra dot halves the resultant time for a search (a **** subscription would take an hour and a half, a ***** subscription 45 minutes). A private databox costs *******, and whoever pays sets up the requirements to get at the information.