The Zone Pioneers is an organization headquartered in Nexus City. It was founded by Donald Rieke, a paleontologist who left his home reality (1976 Lassen 1) shortly after it was discovered. Rieke's early years in These Strange Worlds are a closely guarded secret (and a matter of some speculation) but a few facts are known. Rieke soon moved from the Yellow tunnels to the Red tunnels, where he was known to associate with Emperor Heinlein. He had some kind of association with the Zone Assassins. After approximately five year in These Strange Worlds, he somehow convinced a number of the Zone Assassins to change their focus and help create a new group -- The Zone Pioneers.
The Zone Pioneers travel the realities helping rescue those in need. In general, they tend to concentrate on assisting with specific dire circumstances and (apparently) show little desire to meddle in local politics. They do produce and sell a "Zone Pioneer Survival Kit." To a certain extent, these are customized for each reality. The cost is a extremely nominal fee that usually equates to eight pseudo-dollars or about one day's unskilled labor. A typical kit might contain the following:
Survival cookies (not so tasty cookies that are compatible with many species' metabolism. They come with an assortment of flavor kits
Water tablets (water is compressed to approximately 100 times its original volume and sealed into a pill. Each pill makes about one gallon.Do not consume!
Survival lasers (short range cutting, signal, message, illumination)
Omni-batteries and interface squid (provides power to a wide range of products
Smart suit (very basic model)
First aid kit including human medical nano. This includes a broad spectrum anti-bacterial and anti-viral treatment.
Guides (Those staff that currently manage a Hexagon)
Hexagons (Groups of children, including a Leader and an Archivist)
Alumni (ex Hexagon members)
New Hexagons are formed once or twice a year during a "Phase of Doors." By the time of the thirty-first Phase of Doors, nearly one thousand Hexagons have been formed. Over 5,000 sentients had been initiated. Attrition is very significant. Over 4,000 Zone Pioneers had resigned, been killed, or were just plain missing. There were only 164 Hexagons were active at the beginning of the thirty-first Phase of Doors.
About 20% of all Zone Pioneers resigned within two months of initiation. Casualties were actually relatively low. 270 Zone Pioneers were known to have died in action, with another 900 or so missing. This survival rate was a tribute to the medical care available.
Members of Zone Pioneer Hexagons must be orphans and are usually individuals who crave diversity (often because they enjoy fantastic literature). They must be orphans and must abide by "The Six Rules." As the Founder tells are candidates:
"OneDon't initiate violence. This is a hard one sometimes. But in most cases, the bad guys are all too willing to be the first to resort to violence. When they do, be prepared to defend yourself, rescue their victims, and crush them ruthlessly."
"Two. Keep learning and growing. We'll help. You will never have to go to school again, unless you want to. But our program assures you will get smarter, wiser, and more knowledgeable. You've probably heard about the 'Zone Pioneer Compendium of Useful Information Concerning These Strange Worlds.' You'll soon hear a lot more."
"Three. Maintain your chastity. For a lot of you, this isn't even an issue. Yet. For other's it will be a significant sacrifice. Rule Three is the main reason Zone Pioneers resign. Fortunately, many go on to become guides or staff."
"Four. Perform service. You'll be called upon to support the Zone Pioneers' goals. This can include participating in athletic events and rescue missions, recruiting, teaching, and even fundraising. I promise you we'll find a way for you to serve that you'll enjoy and that will help keep you learning and growing."
"Five. Support your fellow Zone Pioneers. There are many thousands of you out there now, and thousands more retired alumni. There are also nearly 500 Guides. They are all available to help you. They would appreciate it if you return the favor. You can recognize them by the arrows." The Founder held up his hand to show that he too had an arrow on his palm. "Once you get you're Compendium, you'll learn more about how the arrows work."
"Six - and the last is the most important: Rescue. That's why I founded the Zone Pioneers and Rule Six will always be the most important rule. If you have to violate any of the other five rules it had better be to follow the sixth rule."
If accused of breaking a rule, a trial will be convened. The jury will consist of the members of the accused Hexagon and six randomly selected guides and six randomly selected zone pioneers. Each member of the jury can ask one question. After all questions have been answered, the jury votes. If necessary the Founder will break any tie.
The main reason for the high attrition rates are the high standards and the famed "Six Rules." It is no coincidence that after the first shake out, resignations peak at 3 years after initiation: about the time Zone Pioneers begin to butt heads with the chastity rule.
On the other hand, the Founder aggressively recruited support staff from the ranks of outgoing Zone Pioneers. Many continued on as docents, technicians, and specialists. The best ones became Guides. Although the Founder didn't recruit Guides exclusively from Zone Pioneer alumni, the vast majority are alumni.
Candidate Zone Pioneers are identified by a mysterious entity know as the Prognosticator and receive an invitation in their home realities. They travel to Nexus City, form Hexagons, and receive training from a Guide. A Hexagon contains 4-6 members including a leader and an archivist and must contain members from all three tunnels.They receive a "Master Key" that allows them to enter and exist tunnel Doors and receive a copy of the Compendium. A Compendium is divided into four sections:
Content: the handbook and encyclopedia.
Public Daylogs: A diary intended for pubic consumption
Private Daylogs: A diary intended for private thoughts only
As long as the six rules are supported, each Hexagon has quite a bit of leeway concerning how activities are carried out. Some emphasize teamwork and some basically consist of six individuals who only occasionally meet. Some aggressively promote rescue and some work subtly and in the background.
The Zone Pioneers are immensely wealthy, but also spend their funds very quickly. Sources of income include sales of the survival kits but especially the sponsorship of two or three grand Strange World Arena competitions: one or two Zone Pioneer Treasure Ball competitions and one Champion Treasure Ball Tournament.
Although not mandatory, during the Champion Treasure Ball Tournament many Hexagons return to Nexus City to meet with fellow Zone Pioneers.
The Zone Pioneers (as represented by Rieke) are members of the Arena Alumni Association and apparently control between 250 and 500 Reality Zappers -- enough to entitle them to three or four days a year of Arena time.
Zone Pioneer Headquarters in Nexus City is a large modernistic high rise building includes:
The Founder's offices
A sprawling dormitory
Storage lockers (including trophy rooms)
Kitchens and cafeterias
Laboratories and Medical suites
Most Zone Pioneers have a storage locker but many prefer to make their own living arrangements (elsewhere in Nexus City or in one or more realities).