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by Lewis Roberts

Tiny dense Larspri holds an atmosphere of hydrogen and carbon compounds only because it is fairly far from its primary. These react with the metals on the surface to produce corrosive and poisonous compounds. Its tiny hydrosphere is composed of frozen carbon dioxide at the poles.

This lump of matter would be good for nothing if it were rock, but it is almost pure metal. Imperial scientists speculated that it may be a chunk of planetary core left after the planet was smashed by comets, or even a chunk of a burned-out dwarf star. Larspri is a rich source of metals from copper through the transuranics.

Due to the impossible conditions almost no one lives here, but 12 major sector companies have mining claims here, which were worked by specially designed robots, impervious to the corrosion. A few geologists from the Uuguna Planetary Institute on Inthra maintained an orbital base and studied the planet remotely with robotic remotes. They received funding from the companies who mined the planet's surface.

The planet was left untouched by the Rebellion. During the Hard Times several of the companies pulled out of the operation and sold their robots and infrastructure to the remaining partners. The funding of the geological studies was withdrawn, as it was a low priority.

Virus eliminated the remaining corporations as it swept through the sector. Even though their master had died the robots continued to mine and refine ore. They built up a stockpile of tens of thousands of tons of high quality metals in the warehouses. It took several years for Virus to notice Larspri. In 1137, a nameless Vampire Free Trader misjumped into the system. Out of fuel, the ship looked for a place to refuel, but the only planet in the system is corrosive Larspri. Having no other options, it decided to land on the planet's surface, hoping to quickly find fuel. It managed to find the central depot for Betsil Brother's Mining, one of the smaller of the mining operations. It landed and opened communications with the base. The robotic manager had no precautions against infection by the Virus and was quickly taken over. The base manager was connected to the rest of robotic workforce via a wireless network which quickly spread the infection. The newly awakened robots were dazed and confused. Many went insane and began smashing equipment and each other. The Free Trader was frantically trying to communicate its urgent need for fuel, but none of the base robots were able to help it. The corrosive atmosphere slowly ate away at the ship, and after several hours the ship realized that it would never leave this rockball as its contra-grav nodes had failed. Before it was totally destroyed, it uploaded itself into the base manager along with the contents of its memory banks. Within six month, the only thing remaining of the ship was its crystaliron hull.

In the next few weeks, many of the robot miners wandered away from the base. They slowly infected the rest of the planet as they came across uninfected robots. At the Betsil Brother's base the base manager's personality merged with the uploaded Free Trader. Neither strain could eliminate the other, but the Free Trader's became the dominant strain, as it was fully aware of what was happening and more knowledgeable about sentience. Normally the Free Trader's personality dominates, but occasionally under stressful circumstances the original personality can emerge. This is less of a Jeykle and Hyde syndrome, and more of a Hyde and Hyde situation. The Free Trader's personality is a doomslayer dedicated to eliminating all human life, while the original base manager's personality is another doomslayer strain, which advocates the futility of life, both organic and electronic. This nilism doesn't mean that it seeks to end its own life, but that life has no purpose and if it ends its no great loss. The nameless Free Trader finally named itself Anti-life; in the few moments when it dominates the other personality calls itself Despair.

The base computer soon dominated the newly infected robots. Most were put back to work mining, but the maintenance robots were put to the task of building weapons and war machines. Luckily Larspri, supplied plenty of raw materials, and the robots had been given sufficient expertise and materials to repair themselves and to build replacements. While this was expensive, it was far cheaper than constantly shipping in replacements and spare parts.

After one year, most of the planet's robots had been infected and several small collectives had sprang up. On the one year anniversary of the arrival of Virus on the planet, the robots of the Betsill Brother's base launched a war to conquer the planet. At first they met with success, but the other robots quickly built weapons of their own and fought back. While Betsill Brothers had been the first robots infected, it was one of the smallest groups on the planet. Only the surprise of the attack gave it any chance at all. The war soon bogged down into a war of attrition. While it was a war of attrition, it was not a stalemate and over the next twenty years the Betsill Brothers robots wore down their opponents. In 1159 the last remaining opposition stronghold was destroyed.

The war had destroyed over half of the ten thousand robots on the planet and several of the repair centers. Anti-life commanded its followers to continue mining and producing more robots. The production is slow, and roughly one robot is finished each day. By 1200 there are just over 20,000 robots. They are mostly semi-intelligent maintenance and mining bots. There are approximately 3000 heavy warbots and a few hundred supervisor robots and computers. Most of these directly serve Anti-life and follow his orders. The planet's society have evolved into neo-feudalism. The supervisors control the mines and factories and pledge alliegence to Anti-life. In return for their fealty, Anti-life keeps the peace and keeps the supervisors in power. The supervisors provide raw materials and finished supplies to Anti-life. The robotic masses work day and night in the mines and the factories. Their day to day life is fairly dull, but they lack the intelligence to understand that they are basically slaves to the supervisors. The supervisors control their petty fiefdoms and there is a great deal of jockeying for power. Anti-life keeps these disputes from breaking out into open warfare, but sabotage and assasinations are common place.

All of the computers/robots are connected via high frequency radio network and information is constantly shared across the net. It is a capital crime for any robot to infect another robot. Several hundred security and investigation robots patrol the net and destroy any infectious robots. There are a few outcasts which have cut their connection to the net and roam the polar caps. As long as they stay in the frigid polar regions, they are ignored by the rest of society. Several of the losers from the war fled to the cap and still survive. Without spare part production facilities, the rogues survive by attacking newcomers and salvaging needed parts.

Anti-life would mount a crusade to eliminate organice life, but it has no means of escaping this planet. A few hundred other robots believe in this also, but the vast majority of robots don't care either way. If the planet was contacted by the Coalition or other organic civilization, Anti-life would try to start a war. Most of the other robots would see this as a futile waste of resources and would probably stage a coup or betray it to the organics. Some of the supervisors might contact the humans and use them against their enemies. If Anti-life and his followers were eliminated, the planet would probably balkanize. Some of the robots would be willing to set up limited trade with the outside world. They have abundant supplies of high quality refined metal including thousands of tons of iron and nickel, several dozen tons of gold, five tons of lanthunum and five hundred tons of various other metals. In exchange they would want information, both about the outside universe and technoglical information on weapon systems and advanced robotics.

It is interesting to note that many conventional explosives are difficult to make with the limited supplies on hand, but Larspri has plenty of radioactives. Most of the warbots are armed with tactical nuclear weapons and gauss cannon. Lasers and conventional weapons are rare.

Traveller's Digest #12 (circa 1110)

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