New New Orleans, Titan, Saturnine Confederacy -- 11 Mar. 2057: An uncrewed interstellar research instrument headed for a flyby of several exoplanets believed to be potentially Earth-like has ended its journey on the frozen surface of Titan. The probe, which was scheduled to slingshot Saturn's gravity well to speed its journey to Gliese 581, is believed to have been nudged off course by a rush of ships heading in-system to help at the site of the disastrous spacecrash on the I-15 in which noted author Flamlix Tibulon was killed.
However, a crash which killed nobody and caused very little property damage is threatening to overshadow a tragedy in which the death toll has climbed to 12. The Saturnine Confederate Authority is refusing to release the probe's remains to the Interplanetary Astronomical Service, which under alliance law remains its rightful owner. The SCA is claiming that the IAS's claim is superseded by Confederate salvage laws, which dictate that the probe belongs rightfully to Gargus Abix Tessera, the Titanian hydrocarbon refiner on whose property the probe came to rest. Mx. Tessera reportedly intends to sell the probe to the highest bidder, and is additionally seeking compensation from the IAS in civil court for damage caused by the probe to zer hydrocarbon crystal farms.
According to Dr. Phlanigan Arbutus, professor of interplanetary law at Rubix University, "Although the SCA is nominally a part of the Alliance, this relationship has never been comfortable; during the negotiations which led to the signing of the Constitution Accord, the water magnates of Titan were able to use their economic leverage to exact a number of concessions, including the well-known language declaring the Alliance and the Confederacy to be 'equal partners within a united Solar System'. The Confederate Authority takes every possible opportunity to test its ability to defy the Alliance while maintaining nominally good relations. The SCA is particularly fond of situations in which it can claim it's just standing up for the rights of its citizens. This is a perfect test-case to see how far the Alliance can be pushed."
The incident comes as tensions within the Trapezoid are already high over the reinstatement of the mandatory Census, which the Libertarian-leaning Saturnine representatives have protested strongly. Although Dr. Arbutus expects fireworks, he believes the furore will ultimatelydie down with little harm done. "The SCA will maybe demand a few trade concessions, but I doubt much will ultimately come of this. Neither the Alliance nor the Confederacy ultimately has much to gain from drawing the hostile rhetoric out. It's a tempest in a teapot."