Just Past the Edge of the Empire
T+1, E0, R+2
Bergard is a mining system with a rich asteroid belt, from which it mines minerals used in the creation of ship shielding and weaponry. There are six planets in system. Its Governor, Severand Hast, rules the system from the fourth planet, its only garden world, while mining colonies exist on the third, fifth, and sixth planets and in the asteroid belt around the perimeter of the system. The second planet is long since tapped of all resources, however there is a small population of rebels. The first planet in the system is a gas giant, tidally locked to the sun and orbiting so close that the sunward side is constantly aflame. The reaction between the sun and the first planet, named Godseye among the natives, produces high levels of radiation that saturate the system and dominate the politics and biology of the system.
While high levels of radiation would create high levels of mutation in any population, by some quirk of both the radiation and genetics involved, nearly 2/3rds of the children born in the system have damaged sex chromosomes. These “steers” develop without sex organs or the typical dimorphic physiology. This puts significant reproductive pressures on the remainder of the population and has dissolved the traditional family structure. The only marriage in the system is between Governor Hast and his wife Theresa who have recently celebrated their 200th year of union, and long term relationships are rare. Children born as steers are given to other steers to raise, and “real” children are raised communally. Hast’s line seems immune to the curse of the Godseye, and rumor has it that he has gone to great lengths to prevent the dilution of his genetics.
One in ten real children are brought to the surface of the garden world, to the small equatorial continent on which Hast maintains residence. These children are raised by Hast’s guard and trained from birth to be fanatically loyal to him. Those who excel are inducted into the guard. Those few who fail and yet survive are kept as servants in the Governor’s house. The result is a sizeable corp of red uniformed fanatics that maintain his stranglehold on the system. His guard are given fine accommodations and allowed to engage in relationships with any of his hundreds of offspring. The children of these unions are usually horribly deformed and mutated beyond anything normal for the system. In past years they were set loose on the unoccupied continents of the garden world, but Hast recently discovered that these creatures had an incredibly accelerated reproductive rate and could multiply ten thousand fold in just a few decades. With all but his fortress continent overrun, he ordered that all children born of a union between one of the governing family and one not of the family must be killed at birth.
Because the system is well situated to export important materials, Hast has become very rich. Though he has been unable to create slip capable ships, the production facilities in the capital do manage to create warships and ore freighters quite quickly. The capital is a wonderful place to live, free of steers and safe under the watchful eye of Hast’s finest. The mining outposts are a different matter. The majority of the population, both real and steer, work long hours in the mines on one of the mining outposts, also under the watchful eye of Hast’s finest. They earn scrip that they can use at the stores provided for them. These stores also offer credit, and with prices fixed carefully, most people end up slipping deeper and deeper into debt. The guard also run a thriving black market, bringing fine goods, drugs and weapons from the capital and bettering them for exorbitant rates. While things are bad on the mining worlds, the asteroid belt is far more dangerous. Only steers work out that far, their frail and decrepit mining ships under the watchful eye of Hast’s warships. The attrition rate is tremendous.
There are some who rebel from the iron fist of the Governor and they have made the mining tunnels of the second planet, long since tapped out, as a base. They are few, and the conditions are difficult. They gain members mainly by defection as the radiation is much harsher that close to the sun. They are a pale and sickly lot, but they believe in what they fight for; freedom from fear and debt, the equality of the steer and the real and the fact that Hast is a downright bastard. Even Hast does not dispute that last point. In fact, his treatment of the rebels simply highlights it. With a word, he could order his guard storm the planet with their superior firepower and wipe out the rebels with minimal casualties. Instead, Hast lets them survive for two reasons. First, Hast is devious and knows that a hotbed of rebel sentiment will draw other rebels to it, concentrating dissent on one irrelevant planet and away from important facilities. Second, Hast is a hunter, and every hunter knows that if you overhunt your favorite prey, it may not be there for your next excursion. Indeed, every year Hast, a renowned swordsman and archer, will lead a contingent of his guard to the second planet and engage the rebels, breaking their morale and stalking their weak and injured through the tunnels, reveling in deaths, full of terror and pain deep below the cold uncaring rock.
• Both sheltered and savaged by the same monster’s hands
• Pillar of the Imperial Economy
• God’s eye of mutagenic vengeance