Tantalus V

  • Planet Name: Tantalus V
  • Class: L
  • Moons or Rings: None
  • Gravity: 1.2 G
  • Climate: Standard atmosphere; 68% hydrosphere; cool climate
  • Demographics: 900 prisoners and 300 staff; swollen to 4,000 prisoners during the Dominion War
  • Civilization: Prison facility, bureaucratic hierarchy under a director
  • Resources: None

Far out of the spacelanes in the Alpha Quadrant, Tantalus V orbits a Type G IV yellow subgiant star with a dim red dwarf companion. Isolation is its defense; it also traditionally draws a front-line starship for relief and resupply for reasons of security – it is a prison, after all.


Although the planet is pleasant enough, its inconvenient distance make it impractical to fully settle using 23rd century technology. The water on Tantalus V has a strong alkaline content, and strips the digestive sheath of many humanoid species, creating a steady sensation of rawness and thirst. (Willpower test against TN 12 to resist continuous drinking of the local water; every gallon drunk does 1 point of damage to the throat.) More importantly, the food proteins on the world are all “left-handed” levoproteins. A humanoid escaping the colony somehow would be unable to metabolize the food on Tantalus V and would literally starve to death with a full stomach. Only on the hydrolyzed water and replicated food within the prison complex can humanoids survive despite the planet’s seeming beneficence.


Tantalus V is mostly one large continent, Sisyphus, in the eastern hemisphere of the planet; several small islands dot the Ixian Ocean. The southeastern quarter or so of Sisyphus, the Phlegethon Uplands, is highly volcanic; the sulfur content of the atmosphere colors the sky yellow in that region rather than the pale blue-white seen elswhere on the world. The Tantalus V Penal Colony is located in a large, open steppe in Sisyphus’ temperate zone – any escaping prisoner can be seen for kilometers by satellites and sensors in the prison.


The Tantalus V Penal Colony follows the basic pattern of Federation prisons established and guided by the Central Bureau of Penology in Stockholm on Earth. This pattern sets goals and standards for every Federation prison from the Federation Penal Settlement in New Zealand to the Elba II facility. Prisons are not punishment centers; they exist to isolate, reform, and rehabilitate their inmates. The personal safety and security of prisoners from each other and from guards is of paramount importance to Federation jailers; similarly, prisoners are not to be allowed to run the facility from within. This much supervision requires a very large staff; Federation prisons average 4 prisoners per staffer, but some reach a 1 to 1 ratio. Tantalus V is a civilian institution; it is not under Starfleet jurisdiction, even when holding POWs. However, if there are a large number of enemy aliens interned in a Federation prison, the Central Bureau usually requests a Starfleet liaison officer to serve the prison as security or tactical director under the prison director.


In 2238, the Federation Central Bureau of Penology ordered Starfleet to establish a pilot prison colony; after a careful survey of targeted sectors, they settled on Tantalus V and began building in 2242. Dr. Xian Leung became the first director, and immediately set Tantalus V toward its goal of rehabilitation rather than punishment. Under his successor, Simon Van Gelder, conditions became even more generous; Starfleet officers often described Tantalus V as more like a resort than a prison. In 2264, Van Gelder invented the neural neutralizer, and attempted to use it in the therapeutic and rehabilitative process. Unfortunately, using the still-experimental device drove Van Gelder insane, and his assistant, Dr. Tristan Adams, attempted to take control both of the neutralizer and the Tantalus colony in 2266 to further his own political and social goals. After Adams’ death in a neutralizer mishap, Van Gelder returned to sanity and his position, but resigned due to continuing ill health in 2275.

Over the next two decades, Tantalus V held high-profile Klingon prisoners, primarily as bargaining chips in exchanges for political prisoners held in Klingon gulags. With the Khitomer Accords, all Klingon prisoners were repatriated to Qo’noS and Tantalus V became a simple prison again for the next six decades. Extremely dangerous prisoners went to Elba II, and although Tantalus V never returns to its “resort” status, its relaxed security made it possible for the occasional escape despite the obstacles. Tantalus V did hold Cardassian VIP prisoners during the Cardassian crises of the 2340s through the 2370s, in generally higher security areas, and Tzenkethi POWs during the Tzenkethi War of the 2360s. However, the real crunch came during the Dominion War, when the number of POWs overwhelmed available Federation space. Tantalus V wound up holding far more prisoners than its design specified, and numerous escapes, raids, and other crises kept the facility on a knife edge for the last two years of the War.


The Tantalus V Penal Colony is the only place of particular interest on the planet. Its layout is a rough quadrangle, with the staff and security office in a tower at the north end. This building also holds the transporter pads, armory, fusion plant, weapons system controls, and other key systems. Access is only through force doors or pattern-keyed transporters. The water hydrolysis tanks run down the east side of the quadrangle, with self-contained pumping facilities and redundant filtering and decontamination systems. At the south end is the main prison dormitory; further dormitories run along the west side. This building also holds the prisoners’ sickbay, library, and other common areas. The flat open area in the middle serves as a solar hydroponics shelter and sight-line. The prison colony is protected by a force shield identical to that over the Elba II facility (Protection Rating 20, Threshold 10, Reliability B) to prevent transporter use or any possible escape beyond its one-kilometer radius.

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Tantalus V

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