A large snippet from a forthcoming project.
Chaos reigns in the Dagda system. Heavy industries poisoned the atmosphere of Eriu, leading to a mass migration to its own moon, Airgetlam. This moon is far too small for refugee population, and many live in orbital structures under claustrophobic conditions. The Orbital Commission attempts to retain control over an exploding population, shipping malcontents to penal mines on the edge of the system and without overstepping their control and finding themselves ousted by the sheer weight of the population.
In the outer cold of space, a small democratic colony on Dian tries to build an alternative way of life despite the airless, waterless rock they live upon. They find themselves an unofficial colony of the OC, held captive by their dependence on outside food. A religious sect similarly dwells on Tuireadh, offering sanctuary to those able to escape the penal mines. The OC is not equipped to crack their fortified home, and so bides their time.
Archlight in System
When the Archlight is in system, their cargo-lighters buzz between Eriu and Airgetlam, collecting high-tech salvage and raw materials required to keep the ship running. Huge crowds gather just to catch a glimpse of the Wheelsmen, proffering out their children to be taken aboard. Those in the Academy assemble and present themselves, their families gathering in hope that their sons are picked to serve. Such a ceremony is a wedding and a funeral - a dedication for life, and a guarantee they will never see their child again. The families are given medals representing their sacrifice - the most illustrious have walls of glittering markers, each with a name stamped on the burnished metal.
6000mi - Dense, Tainted Atmosphere - 20% Water Coverage - Pop 3452
Eriu, once the capital of Dagda, is now under the stewardship of the Eriu Salvage and Reclamation Corporation, a major power in Dagda politics. Employment with the ESRC is coveted despite the predatory practices and debt accrued in training and transport to Eriu. The managers and administrators live in the single spaceport, Greengate, whilst the workers dwell on-planet. The Salvagers live in mobile bases supporting teams of 20, spread across the planet and paid per ton of useful salvage. The Farmers tend to huge estates growing monocultures of GM crops, worked by multiple generations. These crops contribute to the terrible health of Airgetlam Orbital dwellers, as the plants absorb contaminants from the poisoned air.
Both the Farmers and the Salvagers are indebted to the ESRC, their pay mostly covering the interest. The monopoly of the ESRC Company Catalog - where all tools and luxuries should be purchased - is alleviated by the active smuggling operations on-planet, the wages of many administrators nearly doubled for their ignorance. Many of these smugglers operate bases in the picked-clean ruins, hiding from the Orbital Commission.
Once a true starport, able to service the interstellar ships active in the Pocket, Greengate has been gutted and re-purposed to service the heavy haulers transporting goods to Airgetlam. It houses around 500 administrative staff and 250 technical staff dedicated to maintaining the station and any ships using it. Non ESRC ships can be serviced, albeit at eye-watering mark-ups. Access to the planet, outside of tightly-controlled tourist trips, requires the bribery of an official who offers a 30 minute window to enter the atmosphere.
Phuntsok Gonpo,a Wheelsman Broker is stationed here, wearing the traditional all-black uniform. They watch the technical staff closely for potential Wheelsmen, although they entirely ignore those on the planet as unsuitable.
Ivan Boysen heads up the security force on station - and therefore over the entire planet. His small cadre of 50 marines, 4 orbital fighters and 2 troop transports are woefully insufficient. Even more corrupt than most of the ESRC, none of his security service see any action beyond breaking up drunken brawls - when they aren’t starting them.
Salvage Team 897b - “Drop Dead Crew”
Set up within a standard tracked-type Mobile Operations Centre, the Drop Dead Crew are typical Salvagers - stressed, underpaid and with a terrible track record for accidents owing to poor-quality equipment. They are currently stationed by a beach, using pocket-submarines to lift sunken wrecks. Apollonia ‘Sweetness’ Elia, the forewoman, checks and re-checks the pocket submarines - she has lost crew to them before. If they succeed in lifting the current wreck, they will find its hold full of gold bullion - enough for them all to retire, if they can get it off-planet and avoid ESRC scrutiny. If they turned it in, the finders-fee would be about a month’s paycheck.
Alexandru ‘Curly’ Stratan has been scanning the horizon - he knows they are close to a particularly secretive smuggler base, belonging to the Lyon gang. Within the ruined hulk of a hospital, they operate an illegal medical facility and drug-lab. There are 20 members present, their ship currently off-world shipping supplies to the Penal Mines. If they become suspicious, they will attempt intimidation. If that doesn’t work, they are not above killing the crew and staging an industrial accident, destroying all evidence.
Five generations of Becks have lived and died on this nutrient-poor soil. Shambling nu-cows strip the earth, whilst the Sandwheat fields sway in the winds. For four of these generations, they have feuded with the Kallu family - Old Man Beck raided their farm when a blight wiped out his own fields and the ESRC threatened termination if quotas were not met.
Felix Beck, the youngest of the family, watches the estate through a high-powered scope attached to a rifle handed down the generations. The labouring families, their names absent from the ranch or the share-listings, toil down below. Theodore Clarkson deals with the passing Salvagers for scrap to keep their machines running and often thinks about joining them off-books - he wouldn’t be the first.
The remains of an orbital-missile silo now house the Bajrapāta, a reconfigured mining ship and now the pride and joy of the Mallick family. They run a smuggling operation but also use their hideout as a safehouse for those fleeing the Orbital Commission. Bansi Mallick runs the family, lavishing his cousins with gifts.
Currently, Harm Dokter is hiding out here. An unlicensed zero-g welder, he is wanted for manslaughter - a botched weld venting a third of an orbital habitat. The administrator of the habitat is not being prosecuted, despite choosing to hire unlicensed staff. Harm has no long-term plan, and his money is running short. He can afford to stay here three more weeks. The Mallicks won’t return him, but will turn him loose on Eriu.
Salvager Teams have 1d6+15 members at any given time.
|1||Ruined City||Dire - injuries, mutiny, catastrophic equipment failure.||Friction with nearby Smugglers.|
|2||Poisoned Forest||Bad - low morale, poor returns, equipment breakdown.||Mutant wildlife need dealing with.|
|3||Industrial Run-off Bog||Poor - hard working conditions and many shifts left before R&R.||Imminent inspection by management.|
|4||Sludge-locked Ocean||Middling - recent good fortune breaks the monotony.||Newest member of the team is a Union Representative.|
|5||Ashen Deserts||Good - Success without setbacks, unbroken string of good luck.||The team has information on a huge haul - in the middle of a nearby Farm.|
|6||Lifeless Waste||Unusual - Something outside the normal scope of Salvager life.||Member of team is an OCIA agent.|
Farms have 5d20 resident workers run by a core family of 3d6.
|1||Nu-Cow Ranch.||Dire - injuries, mutiny, catastrophic equipment failure.||Feud with nearby Farm.|
|2||Erian Rice Paddies.||Bad - low morale, poor returns, equipment breakdowns.||Unionisation talks amongst the resident workers.|
|3||‘Heritage’ farm under a glass dome.||Poor - hard working conditions and widespread disenfranchisement.||Inheritor to the Farm wants nothing to do with it.|
|4||Box-Chickens & F-Corn.||Middling - no major incidents to complain of.||Imminent inspection by Management.|
|5||Insect Farm||Good - set to have a bountiful harvest.||Issues with mutant wildlife damaging crops.|
|6||0-G Fungus Nursery||Unusual - something outside the normal scope of Farm life.||Being extorted by smugglers who are paying off management.|
Smuggler Groups operate in groups of 4d6, and have access to 1d6-4 (min 1) craft. There is a 30% chance the craft is off-world, leaving only d6 Smugglers at base. There are 1d6 - 1d6 people using their base as a hideout.
|1||Dying thicket of trees, filled with parasitic vines.||Dire - internal pressure rupturing into violence, OPK/OCIA pressure.||Member of the gang has turned informant to protect their family.|
|2||Disused orbital defence missile silo.||Bad - lack of work, recent shipment seized, money lost on speculative venture.||Highly dangerous/volatile shipment.|
|3||Subterranean transit system in a dead city.||Middling - a life of pressure outside the law is always a balancing act.||Those in the safe-house are planning a violent take-over.|
|4||A vehicle-graveyard, arranged by Salvagers.||Middling - a life of freedom penned in by the powers that be.||One of the gang has fallen for a member of the local Farmer family.|
|5||Within a Farm, at great expense.||Good - recent successes and savvy bribes.||Nearby Salvagers with a reputation for incorruptibility threaten their hideout.|
|6||Torn-apart mountains, wounded by mines.||Unusual - something outside the normal (wide) scope of Smuggler life.||Their ship has broken down, and spare parts must be stolen from Salvagers, orbit or other Smugglers.|
|1||A novel disease lingers within the group, manifesting as suspicion and terror eventually causing death by heart failure.|
|2||The group is being converted to the creed of Teacher Entjes.|
|3||The entire group is an OPK/OCIA plant, here to keep an eye on the planet.|
|4||The group is dying from the poisoned environment - all are too weak to do anything about it.|
|5||The group has found a motherlode - enough for them all to retire, if they can get it off-planet.|
|6||The group pool all their wealth and equipment for a break-out attempt on a Penal Mine ship holding a relative.|
2000mi - Thin Atmosphere - 20% Water Coverage - Pop 567 million
This moon is barely visible through a cloud of orbital habitats, each strained and cramped. Millions are packed into windowless spheres, living and dying in aluminium corridors. On the surface, the estates of the rich extend and crowd out prime agricultural land. All of this is nominally under the control of the Orbital Commission - once an arm of the coalition formed to manage the flight from Eriu, they have grown in importance and swallowed all other forms of government. Constitutionally their power on the surface is limited, but their influence leaves them the de-facto government on Airgetlam as well as above it.
Many of the Orbital Habitats are constructed from and around the original ships built to flee Eriu, some approaching 500 years old. Conditions internally vary on a gradient of hellish to bad - each Habitat it’s own knot of vicious power-politics and desperation. Politically, each Hab is a member of the federation headed by the OC, which apportions work and supplies - supposedly by need, but all know this is one of their tools of control. Another is the Orbital Peace Keepers - a paramilitary ‘police force’ kitted in power armour capable of 8 hour vacuum operations. They are some of the most vicious practitioners of a bloody profession, linked to several deliberate explosive decompression events which killed entire sections of ‘troublesome’ Habs.
The OC, despite their authority, is aware that they are a thin veneer atop a huge population - effort is made to remain popular, to keep their repressions quiet and naked violence to a minimum, attempting to act through local intermediaries where possible. When they have overstepped in the past, mass demonstrations have forced them to take corrective action. The OC Accountability Board is dedicated to reducing corruption and abuses of power, but they are small and over-worked. The OC Intelligence Agency actively works to cement itself in all levels of power and insidiously counter any threats to OC domination of the system. Despite this, much power is devolved to the individual Habs.
Once a super-heavy freighter, built before the disaster to service the outer rim mining efforts, High Expectations is now the biggest Orbital Hab, folding outwards like a metallic fungus. It houses the primary shipwright in-system, the old cargo-hold still exposed to the vacuum and filled with the skeletons of half-built craft.
The power of the Shipwright’s Guild is the largest organised threat to OC hegemony in-system, and the High Expectations is their stronghold. Little occurs aboard without their knowledge and cut of the proceeds. They began as a traditional labour union, but long years of calcification and privilege have corroded their solidarity and left them interested only in securing lives for them and theirs.
A significant amount of the OPK’s forces are permanently stationed aboard the Habitat - both as a central node for travel and as a challenge to the Guild. A small fleet of interceptor craft are housed here, the crews known for starting fights with those born to the High Expectations.
Erian Wheelsman Academy
Constructed on prime surface real-estate, the Academy generates its own economic system - a sprawl of specialists and service personnel dedicated to the Academy. Of each intake, the administrators have no idea how many will be selected - those left behind are snapped up into the OC or high-end executive roles. Most of the students are scouted by the distributed Brokers throughout the system, although there is a growing number of families bribing administrators to select their children - the benefits of enrolment ensuring continued success.
O-HAB 5277 - ‘Easy Gi-Gi’
A smaller habitat, constructed from the salvage torn from Eriu. The 10,000 inhabitants are communally minded, voting on all internal matters whilst trying to distribute the demands of the OC amongst the entire population. The air filtration algae farms are dying from a shipment of contaminated water sold at bargain value by Mallick family. A small band of youths are considering raiding a nearby Hab (O-HAB 992 - ‘The Lobster Returns’) for a replacement system - formal assistance requests to the OC have become lost in the bureaucracy.
O-Habs vary hugely in population - the smallest holding hundreds, the largest supporting millions. All have good and bad areas, and offer most services. All are interdependent for specialist expertise - technicians of all sorts, but especially those not directly affiliated with the OC, travel often and freely between them.
|1||Teetering on the edge of total collapse.||A saboteur, paid by the OCIA, is active.||Council of Elders.|
|2||Declining standards across the O-Hab.||A cell of students of Teacher Entjes plan militant action.||Strongman and his gang of cronies.|
|3||Stagnation and decay.||A crew from the Penal Mines broke out and hide here.||Small council of richest inhabitants.|
|4||Stable but poor living conditions.||Two major families feud through proxy-conflicts.||Single landlord who technically owns the entire O-Hab and leases it to the OC.|
|5||Stable but poor living conditions.||Disaffected youths form gangs armed with pipes and wrenches.||OPK direct-rule.|
|6||Unstable, but currently improving.||A small, anti-OC insurrectionary cell operates on-station.||Direct democracy enabled through ubiquitous personal computing.|
|7||Undergoing several major internal changes, the effects yet to be felt.||An OPK informant has been relocated here, but thinks those he fingered have found him.||Representative parliamentary system.|
|8||A period of quiet after major internal strife.||In d6 days, the power-supply will catastrophically fail and explode.||O-Hab divided into autonomous ‘clan’ territories.|
|9||Improving all the time.||In d6 days, the O-Hab will suffer a collision with another.||Professional guilds convene as a council.|
|0||Good - life in relative comfort.||Dissatisfaction with the current local power grows louder and more organised.||Self-styled Orbital Prince.|
8000mi - No Atmosphere - Pop 781
A huge, airless rock, Dian now hosts a break-away colony. Sick of the OC and slow death in orbit, a group calling themselves the Free Erian League hijacked an Orbital Habitat, restored the engines of the original ship and broke free of Airgetlam’s orbit. Those who were unwilling to join them on this journey were allowed time to leave, although this led to significant bleed-off as many volunteers deserted. In the 100 years since, those dwelling in Good Hope, the single settlement of Dian, have found out the cost of their liberty. Unable to grow their own sustenance, they are in effect a mining colony of the OC with nominal independence and voting rights over internal matters. Each generation has fiery radicals who wish to break free such fetters - and some have come close to creating controlled, self-sustaining eco-systems. The OC has several spies on the colony who ensure such efforts fail. Currently, a secretive band of Dian scientists are close once again to establishing the first steps to food independence. The OC Intelligence Agency has been unable to get close enough to ruin their progress and is considering hiring outside assets to do so.
8000mi - No Atmosphere - Pop 892
The nameless monastery-settlement upon Tuireadh has stood for a century, founded by the most dedicated adherents of Teacher Entjes. The core of the sect is a dedication to good works and dedicated resistance to stifling forces through non-violence. In the early days the OC was happy to allow the Entjians to shoulder some of the burden, but this quickly led the to accumulation of power and the enactment of their other tenets, leading to several general strikes from the more faithful Habs. Pressure was applied and a smear campaign enacted, enabled by some who used the faith for personal gain and abused followers. This eventually led to settlement of Tuireadh. They now survive entirely on donations - many of those moving to the monastery forgo all material wealth. Entjian recruiters are active on Arigetlam, especially amongst the rebellious children of the wealthy - several fortunes have been gained this way. The Circle of Abbots view this as a necessary evil - they must ensure their own survival before they can continue their great work of spiritual liberation. In the mean time, they accept any escapees from the Penal Mines - an easy way to swell rank, albeit attracting some uncomfortable attention from the OCIA.
The outer edges of the Dagda system buzz with activity. Mining ships, their systems locked to allow navigation only between allotted work zones and The Cells - the central control, refuelling and ore processing station which enables the entire operation. The OC sells this brutal system as providing prisoners usable skills by which they can get a good start upon release. Between industrial accidents and long sentencing, less than 20% of prisoners return able to utilise their experience.
The work-gangs the Wardens like are given the easier tasks - using powerful mining lasers from functional ships. The rest are left the gruelling work of guiding ore into the huge furnaces, prospecting amongst unstable-orbit asteroid complexes, and blasting hard rock for buried rare minerals where a mining laser might cause too much damage.
There are 90 mining ships in the Penal Fleet, varying from 40-berth long-haul to single-pilot tugs - all crewed by half-trained ‘convicts’ dragged to the very edges of their solar system.
If you would like notifications for blogposts and product releases, please sign up for my mailing list.