The Rigel system is a navigational nightmare, devoid of any obvious signs of life (intelligent or otherwise) but plenty of potential for mineral resources. The system consists of five stars, all orbiting each other to a certain extent, with ten major orbital paths that occasionally swap stars. Sometimes, Rigel I orbits Rigel A, but then A swaps places with B or Rigel I moves into the orbital circuit of Rigel Ba.
The first world, Rigel I, is a small hot rockball with low interior heat, rare volcanoes, and a weak magnetic field that leaves the surface exposed to fierce solar radiation. It has no atmosphere. The terrain is hilly and rough. Exceedingly hot climate due to proximity to the supergiant stars. Not much in the way of resources, except for scarce deposits of gold and platinum, as well as rare deposits of industrial metals such as iron, tin, and copper.
The second world, Rigel II, is a Venus-sized hot rockball world with no atmosphere. The terrain is mostly steppes and plains. Metals are rare and the weak magnetic field allows radiation to cook the planet. It has ample deposits of the rare earth known as scandium (useful in alloys that can make starship production and other forms of metallic construction more economical).
The third planet, Rigel III, is an Earth-sized hot rockball world with high background radiation, frequent volcanoes and earthquakes, and extra heat due to internal radioactivity. Strong magnetic field helps contain a thin nitrogen atmosphere and generates a colorful aurora. Abundant deposits of rare earth scandium. Ample deposits of industrial metals such as iron, tin, copper, and zinc (for local use – not enough abundance for surplus). Barren desert terrain.
The fourth planet, Rigel IV, is a small hostile greenhouse world with a silicate composition similar to Pluto. Metals are very rare, as are volcanoes and earthquakes. Almost no internal heat. A weak magnetic field allows harmful radiation to scourge the surface and only manages to keep a trace “reducing” atmosphere of methane, carbon dioxide, and hydrogen. No mineral resources. Barren desert terrain.
The fifth planet, Rigel V, is a volatile Earth-sized world of volcanoes, earthquakes, and lethal heat due to internal radioactivity. The strong magnetic field allows for a dense, corrosive ammonia atmosphere with a colorful aurora. The hilly/rough terrain conceals ample supplies of gemstones for local use, plentiful scandium, abundant supplies of uranium and other radioactives, and lots of industrial metals such as iron, tin, and copper.
The sixth planet, Rigel VI, is a small hostile greenhouse world with a thin nitrogen atmosphere and widespread marshes of liquid nitrogen. Ample supplies of the rare earth resource scandium.
The seventh planet, Rigel VII, is an Earth-sized hostile greenhouse world with a very thin but toxic nitrogen atmosphere. Barren desert terrain. No mineral resources of significant quantities.
The eighth planet, Rigel VIII, is a Venus-sized hot rockball world with a weak magnetic field that leaves the planet exposed to harmful radiation. It has only a trace atmosphere, and that’s composed mostly of deadly methane. Plains/steppes are the primary terrain.
The ninth planet, Rigel IX, is an Earth-sized hot rockball world with a corrosive chlorine atmosphere and terrain that’s mostly plains and steppes. No significant mineral deposits.
The tenth planet, Rigel X, is Mars-sized hot rockball world with rare volcanoes and a weak magnetic field that exposes the planet to damaging radiation. It has a trace hydrogen atmosphere. Terrain is mostly hilly and rough. No significant mineral deposits.
An asteroid belt rings the outskirts of the chaotic stellar dance within the Rigel system. (edited)
As Galactix arrives in system, he slows to sublight and begins a thorough scan of the various systems. After a few minutes of scanning, he studies the preliminary results. “My my… if there were ever a manifestation of the human concept of ‘hell’, this comes pretty close.”
Vizgwyr watches the system information displayed on a holovid in one of the starship’s observation vestibules. He gapes in dismay as he sees solar storms churning from at least three stars at once. “Be careful, yezyez. Very careful!”
“Indeed. Radiation shields are at maximum.” Galactix says. “No signs of life but I am picking up large mineral deposits on some of the worlds.”
“Valuable, yezyez,” the Lotorian muses. “Hard to get, though. What you think we do?”
“Difficult… but with proper equipment, they could be extracted.” Galactix says. “At a minimum we should lay a claim to these resources. If a base is established in this area, then this could provide construction resources.”
Vizgwyr tilts his head, scratching his snout. “Yezyez.” His tail lashes about. “Maybe I help design base! Gonna be tricky. Dangerous place, this.”
“Yes… this might not be the ideal location for it, but if they want to establish an outpost in this sector, they’ll need materials.” Galactix says. “Perhaps we can use one of the probes to land on Rigel II and collect a scandium sample. That will help us to validate a claim.”
“Good plan,” Vizgwyr replies. “Hope it don’t break!”
“Indeed. I don’t have many to spare.” Galactix says. With that, one is loaded into Galactix’ launch tube and send speeding towards the planet. Its trajectory and telemetry display on the terminals through out him.
The probe approaches Rigel II and enters an orbital pattern prior to the final descent toward a suitable landing site. Unfortunately, its sensors are scrambled by a solar radiation burst. Effectively blinded, the probe AI opts against landing and instead struggles to return to the last coordinates of Galactix. That’s when another stormburst catches the probe and kills its propulsion management computer. Now inert, the probe drifts through the Rigellian hellscape.
“Well. I suppose that answers our question as to just how unstable this area is.” Galactix says. “Do you think you can increase the shielding in one of the probes against the solar radiation?”
Vizgwyr ponders. “Maybe, yezyez. Maybe! Gotta reroute power from something else.” He makes his way to one of the few remaining probes and examines the surface of it. “Could be we add extra plating to certain faces, then program good-timed twists and turns to deflect bursts. Always gotta keep sensor eyes covered, yezyez. Never facing bursts.”
“Indeed.. perhaps some sort of waveguide, polarized, so that the sensors can send and receive, but other forms of radiation are excluded.” Galactix says. “That, coupled with upgrades to navigation and the armor plating, could do the trick.”
The Lotorian bobs his snout. “All right! Yezyez! We do this!”
Some time later, Vizgwyr presents Galactix with the final design schematics of the improved probe. It is labeled: “STATICBREAKER.”
“Ahh, this should work nicely.” Galactix says.
“OK, OK, yezyez!” The Lotorian rubs his paws together. “Gonna get to work on the modifications. Won’t take long!”
The modified probe is loaded into Galactix’ launch system once again. A muffled ‘thwump’ and it heads out towards Rigel II. “Establishing telemetry link… let’s see what happens this time.”
The probe survives for longer this time and manages to begin a descent toward the surface of Rigel II. It’s able to gather data planetside for about six hours before the biggest Rigellian star rises above the horizon and pummels the sensors with brutal doses of radiation.
Vizgwyr checks the scan results. “Going to be tricky extracting resources, yezyez. Dangerous. Dangerous means expensive, yezyez.”
“Indeed. And expensive means there will be little interest in this area.” Galactix says with a hint of disappointment.
“Maybe not much legit commercial interest,” the Lotorian agrees. He taps a finger against the side of his snout. “Good place for dodgier elements to hole up, though.”
“My thoughts exactly.” Galactix says. “A potential area to avoid in the future if you want to keep your cargo intact.”
Vizgwyr sighs. “Can’t all be diamonds, can they, nonono?” He gives a shrug. “Well, guess we can at least warn other folks to steer clear. Rigel’s a nasty bit of work, yezyez.”
“Yes. I think we have learned all we can from this location. Perhaps it is time to move on to another system.” Galactix says.
“You want me to send a warning to the Consortium about this place, yezyez?” the Lotorian inquires. “Maybe they put big red letters on the map, say: VIZGWYR WAS HERE, YEZYEZ.”
Galactix chuckles. “Indeed, a warning is warranted. And if they don’t, at least in my star charts, it shall be so marked.”