The explorers turned their back on the mysterious Pod Eight and headed back to their indoor shanty town. The atmosphere was not so bleak on the way back, miraculously nobody had been sent to face their death inside the damage heap of radioactive wreckage. Not even Jimmy The Snitch! Speculation abounds as to what could be hiding in there. Robsitutes, death rays, piles of ancient literary masterpieces, useful exploration gear, private showers or maybe food that didn't taste quite so awful. The sky darkened as they walked, too early to be the onset of night, it was something worse. A storm was coming. The explorers picked up the pace.
Their empty-handed return receives mixed reactions from the general populace. What was the point of having a Canary if you didn't let him die in a dangerous risk when one presented itself? The storm hit an hour after the explorers had successfully decontaminated themselves. A wall of tiny sand particles battered against the outside of the pop. The thick cable providing power to the Xenofarm also kept them in contact, the workers were all sealed inside the processing plant.
Going outside would be possible, but not for long periods and not far. Even moving out to the farm seemed too much of a risk, the men were told to stay there. The storm was going to severely limit what could be done around New Botany Bay until it wore itself out. No exploration, no construction of new facilities. Hell, nothing to do but think about some of the problems you've been facing. Outside, the entire world was lost to the red soup.
Don't forget that there's a good amount of regular settlers in the mix, it ain't all convicts.
We could make a game of it.
Whoever stays out in the storm the longest, gets extra food on his plate.
Storm Chicken could become a traditon
The sound of the sand and dust was constant. Day and night. Anywhere in the Pod Six. There was no escaping it. Only a few venture outside, there was really nothing to be done. Production from the Xenofarm was down to what happened to be sitting inside the processing centre ready to go. The jackeroos gave up on the second day to join the masses.
Surprisingly there was no real rise in cabin fever. The people had become acclimatised to spending most of their life in the filthy labyrinthine interior of the pod. The endless sound was disturbing, but there was no notable rise in mysterious bodies being found (or people simply vanishing). Possibly some of this was attributable to the new craze - Storm Chicken. The bravest members of the colony competed to stay outside for the longest in the howling winds and abrasive dust, betting their rations on winning. It rapidly overtook murderball as the defacto sport of New Botany Bay.
The growing normality even manifested in population of New Botany Bay swelling slightly. The narrow corridors had more children playing in them, and the few kids that had been among of the colonists (Strangeways was not a youth detention centre) had grown up. The new mouths strained food a bit further.
[Population growth roll, +2 bonus to the roll from being stuck inside with nothing better to do. 1d6(-2+2) - 1d6. 3 - 2. 0.1k new second generation convicts join the labour force]
A few of the Sparkies ventured out from time to time, braving the storm to try and solve the fundamental mysteries of the universe. Or at least of this particular planet. All wireless commlinks and even short-range radios were subject to overpowering interference. While the external noise was always present, it was far from constant, making it impossible to simply filter for. A few of the science team ventured as far as they dared from the pod, recording how the interference fluctuated with position. Some were convinced there was a pattern. Others were sure it was random. The majority agreed that it came from the upper atmosphere. It would even explain the failure of the LNS to communicate if all of its signals were being blocked.
Still, knowing that it was "just an inherent property of this world" was not a solution. Lasers, however, were. Lasers were always the answer. A stream of photons wouldn't be affected by the field, and so if a large receiver dish was mounted on the top of Pod Six then explorers in the general vicinity could share information by carefully aiming pulses of infra-red light. The "solution" was far from complete. The communication would be a one-way data dump, would require taking up position on the high ground and carefully aligning the laser itself. It also had range limited by beam collimation and line of sight. A laser, tripod and encoding could be collected into a backpack. Demanding that explorers check in every few hours with their latest map data and information would prevent failed expeditions into the unknown being worthless, however.
[Comm laser can only work in the hexes adjacent to those you've got a building in, but they mean that even if the entire team die you'll still get some information back at the pod.]
The new information sends flurries of excitement through the Sparkies. They drone on endlessly about their findings. Groups of them rove, cornering the weak and subjecting them to hour long seminars on their latest theories about how the LNS might be contacted. It was a bleak time. A bleak time which ended only when the storm finally subsided. Outside was a mess, but there was no real damage. Some of the fungus looked to have been stripped from the colony, but it was now covered with sand. It wouldn't make much difference to the camoflague.
Worse, a standard stock taking exercises revealed that a third of the frozen bodies have vanished. Most people suspect the Cannibals of having butchered the dead and then either eaten them or used the meat on the healthy black market inside New Botany Bay. The people demand justice for the dead. Or a cut of the action