Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Lamplighters: Pallite

"Finish whatever thought you are writing and then proceed this way, class.

This area is the morgue, which the administrators of the mine have been kind enough to allow us access to for this trip. Be grateful, pay close attention, and do not touch anything.

As I am sure you all know, the extraction of pallite is not without its dangers to the human body. What you are about to witness are the remains of a miner who has regrettably died from pallite poisoning in the past week. I am told that his name was Navin. While this is unfortunate for him, his family was selfless and considerate enough to donate his body to science. Take that to heart and show your respect, please- these are the men and women who keep your homes illuminated.

... Now, now. Keep it together, everyone. I warned you about eating lunch before coming here.

I am sure that some of you noticed the smell as soon as you entered. You've been looking particularly green around the gills since you walked in, Alisher. These body bags are made of very heavy-duty material, but even they have trouble suppressing an advanced case like this. Mind you, class, that this is not the scent of decay that you are smelling. This is the smell of raw, unrefined pallite. The smell clings to you long after everything has been scrubbed down with chemical wipes.

If you will step in closer--I said, if you will step in closer, thank you very much--you will see how advanced the tumors grew before Mr. Navin expired. Four of them metastasized, and the fifth here on his abdomen was well on its way.

See also how early signs of squamous-cell skin cancer began to appear on his face, as well as around his hands and lower legs- all of which are normally completely covered in protective clothing.

Yes, Rani, question?

I'm sorry?

Rani, Mr. Navin was not the victim of any "containment breach". There haven't been any breaches at any facility owned and operated by Morning Star Limited in half a decade, or so I am told.

This is the result of constant, low-level exposure to pallite radiation over the course of an average twenty-year career. As far as other Depth-3 miners are concerned, he died of natural causes.

Now please stand back while I attempt to excise one of his corneas.The damage caused by years of direct pallite illumination is quite distinct, and can even manifest as physical scratches on occasion..."

- Dr. Baruch Yohannes, Professor of Pathology at Canopus' Landing Polytechnic

A Brief History

The miracle fuel known as Pallite was discovered sixty-eight years ago.

It wasn't "discovered" so much as "stumbled onto by a half-dozen independent actors simultaneously", of course. Had it been the product of only a single team's experimentation, the human race would have come even closer to extinction at the end of the sun's final hours.

The first pallite deposits to be found were gas jets and liquid reservoirs close to the planet's surface. They were found by the lucky few who managed to bore deep enough into the earth to escape the immensity of the dark above ground. They were horrific sights, like sulfur lakes crossed with volcanic eruptions. But the lurid light each outcropping shed was different from the mundane sources of illumination that the survivors brought with them. It was enough to keep the deeper darkness at bay.

It was enough to draw humanity to it like moths to a flame.

As those filthy, fear-ridden refugee camps grew in size, their occupants dug deeper in order to compensate. It wasn't long before their picks and shovels struck pallite in its solid state. Being somewhat more stable in its crumbly mineral form, this was the first type of pallite which was deliberately harnessed as a light source.

Through painful trial and error, it was eventually adapted as a fuel just as it was needed most. Solar energy died with the sun, rendering the majority of non-emergency power sources useless. Centuries of abuse prior to that ensured that fossil fuel reserves were either depleted, or buried so far beneath the earth that the amount of labor available to humanity made extraction impossible. Not even burning wood was an option before long, thanks to the darkness caking up over the dead forests of the world. Anything that still grew out there was tainted. Geothermal and hydro power are still theoretically possible, and small attempts would be made to take advantage of them in the future.

But in that desperate time, humanity gave itself to pallite.

It embraced them, and in doing so exacted its price.

Properties of Pallite

There is no general consensus on what exactly pallite is. Theories posit that it is a newly discovered element, a group of isotopes of one or several elements, or more complex chemical compounds whose catalysts for creation are completely mysterious to experts at this time. Attempts to observe the atomic qualities of pallite have proven unsuccessful, primarily because of a lack of necessary equipment and professionals trained in its use.

In all states, its density and vapor pressure are slightly higher than that of sulfur. This, coupled with pallite's coloration and distinctive odor, has led some to draw the conclusion that pallite is some form of sulfur. While exposed to open air, pallite naturally evaporates or sublimates into a gaseous state and then dissipates over time according to its MTP-adjusted half-life.

(MTP Adjustment refers to the manner in which pallite "breaks" the normal laws of radioactive decay, if indeed that is even what you can call the change which pallite undergoes. Under normal conditions, any radioactive substance decays at a certain rate which is proportionate to its nuclear mass and unaffected by temperature or pressure. In pallite decay however, decay is theorized to be slowed down exponentially by the presence of other pallite nuclei, but sped up by applied temperature and pressure. To quote a cliche from a bygone era, "further research is needed".)

This release of energy results in pallite's "pallid light" and radioactivity. Applied heat or agitation of pallite in any state causes a higher release of energy. Sufficient disruption results in combustion. Efforts to observe or force the transition of gaseous and liquid pallite back into a solid state have ended... poorly.

It is unknown by what mechanism concentrations of pallite appear on or near the earth's surface. The leading theory is that the topographical phenomena caused by unobserved areas of steeped darkness penetrates deeper into the planet's mantle than first guessed. This deep and sometimes violent disruption allows outcroppings of pallite to rise up to the surface from whatever point of origin they have.

Carcinogenic Qualities

Pallite illumination offers few of the benefits that the sun once did.

It offers no Vitamin D, but very high levels of Vitamin C(ancer), and its strange properties vex many common-sense precautions. For example, an electrical generator should generate the same kind of electricity no matter what fuel it's designed to use. Pallite-generated electrical power, however, carries with it just a hint of its unique radiation, even through miles of wire. It simply shouldn't, but it does. This is doubly troubling due to the fact that over 90% of food is grown or raised under pallite-powered grow-lights. As heavily shielded as those lights may be, they can't block 100% of harmful radiation.

The average uninvolved citizen of a larger town has relatively little to worry about in terms of death by direct pallite poisoning, barring freak accidents such as explosions which could irradiate a building or area. But they do still live with moderately higher risks of illness or congenital conditions than people did before the Long Night began.

This moderate background fear is not the case for people who live in smaller settlements, or who have careers directly involved in the handling of pallite, such as Lamplighters and many trade workers. They face the much more serious risk of complications from handling, maintaining, or fueling pallite machinery, and it is much more common for sickness to manifest in several ways. Pallite miners or extractors rarely grow old enough to retire, and the average life expectancy of human beings in general has been pulled down by anywhere from five to fifteen years compared to a century ago.

Random Pallite Effects

While its effects are not as severe as those of deep darkness, exposure to raw, unrefined pallite can lead to a host of physical and mental health complications over time.

The average manual worker directly involved in the extraction of refinement of raw pallite, whatever its form, will eventually accumulate as many as four or five of the below conditions.

The average Lamplighter worth their salt suffers from at least one symptom of pallite poisoning, either rolled for, picked, or invented and agreed upon between the player and referee.

Pallite Poisoning Symptom, Mutation, or Condition
Adermatoglyphia – Years of handling raw pallite rock, or years of scrubbing away its greasy residue, have left you without fingerprints. You also lack sensation in your palms.
Alopecia Areata – Say goodbye to eyebrows, eyelashes, and other types of hair. It happens at random, and very unevenly.
Anosmia – A lifetime of steeping in the reek of unrefined pallite has deadened your sense of smell, and some of your taste.
Blindness – The lurid yellow has taken most of your sight from you, leaving you with visibly warped and damaged corneas. You can still detect pallite lights, somehow.
Cutaneous Horns – A little splash here and there has left you with several conical projections from the epidermis resembling horn, wood, or even coral. They make clothes and hats ill-fitting.
D-Deficiency – Your vitamin deficiency is even worse than most. You enjoy weaker bones as well as increased risk of cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment, and all the cancers caused by pallite.
Flash Fever – A sudden, high dose of radiation from a mishap has left you vulnerable to episodes of elevated body temperature and delirium.
Haemolumia – Your red blood cells have become luridly bioluminescent. Some areas of your body even glow in the dark. That can’t be good.
Intestinal Distress – At one end or the other, your digestive tract has decided to take a long-term purgative approach to some radiation sickness.
Irradiated Gametes – Pallite has guaranteed the survival of future generations of humans, but it has also left its indelible mark upon them. Expect higher rates of mutation in your progeny.
Miner’s Perfume – The smell of pallite never leaves you. It’s in your skin, hair, and breath. It’s pretty bad. Don’t expect to make many friends.
Nyctophobia – You take greater comfort from the lurid glow than most. Without a light source close at hand, you are stressed and on edge. In a world where everyone fears the dark, you have an extreme fear of it. This may not improve your chances of survival in the long-run.
Pallite Allergy – How did you even survive to adulthood with this?
Pallite Tan – Your skin has been discolored by pallite radiation. Probably does not look like any natural skin tone. Not that you had a natural pallor to begin with.
Polydactyly – Beginnings of extra fingers and toes are appearing on your extremities. Invest in specialty gloves or shoes.
Pulmonary Sequestration – An extra lobe is growing off of one or both of your lungs, courtesy of pallite gas inhalation. The lobes are nonfunctional and take up space.
Siphoner’s Shakes – Your nervous system has started to reject pallite exposure- as well as most of the rest of your body. Constant or episodic tremors are common.
Sunsong – An auditory hallucination which leads you to believe that you can hear pallite resonating or “singing”. Occasionally drowns out all other noises.
Tumors – Handing them out like consolation prizes at an old game show. Whatever that is.
Weakness – Fatigue comes to you quickly, and it doesn’t take much to leave you looking anemic.

1 comment:

  1. In which I turn up the pseudoscience, only to realize I don't know enough real science to make it sound plausible!