Just Past the Edge of the Empire
T0, E+1, R+1
The people on Stick are quiet, straightforward folk. With only one planet, the system isn’t much to look at. Sure, that planet is a huge gas giant with 182 moons, but nobody on Stick likes to brag. It just t’aint becomin’. The only concentration of population is on Bootstep, Stick’s outermost moon. Much of the large moon resembles plains, and there are a couple of “forests” where the native insects build spire hives, and the floating fugus strands catch and take root. Aside from 2-3 km thread-like airborne fungal colonies, most of the life is simple grasses, mostly bred from earth stock that have outcompeted the previous inhabitants. Horses and cattle are also common, though they have begun reverting to their toed ancestors in the wild. The domestic stock is still straight out of a western.
Most of the other moons are barren, or icy, though many still stake claims to them, setting up outposts and mining what they can manage. These are mostly family affairs and their output is limited, but they scrape by. The flying can be very hazardous among the many moons, and these frontier families breed cocky flyboys like nobody’s business. That’s good, because The Company needs them.
Fuel only comes from one place in Stick, and that’s The Company. The Company owns the only refinery on Bootstep, and they hire those cocky flyboys to fly their skimmer rigs down real close to the gas giant, closer than sanity or safety should allow. They drop their skimmer rigs down into the giant while they fight gravity and defy death at the edge of the giant’s atmosphere. They come back, drop their loads at the refinery, get their checks and go drinking for a week before doing it all again. That job alone would make you one of the best pilots to ever live, but did we mention all the moons yet. Try dodging through a heavy gravity field, low on reactor mass, with a hold full of incredibly volatile gases with nearly 200 moons jerking you around and cutting off your paths. It ain’t easy.
Now The Company can’t build slip ships, but it can manage to keep the old ones running and it has some new ones shipped in now and again. It will trade the rare byproducts of the fuel refinement process for parts or new ships, but pretty much everything else it can manage to produce. It buys from the families mining the moons and then sells them back the products it manufactures. The ranchers sell them cows and buy feed, tack and building supplies. The pilots sell their labor and buy food, housing and entertainment. Everyone is an important part of the economy, especially with maybe 1 million people in the system. The Company has been known to offer lines of credit to those down on their luck, and to never call in for payment on them. The truth is, they can’t afford to have anyone starve. It’s rough out among the moons and life is precious.
• Plain talk, plain tech
• I’ve only got two guns . . . for every day of the week
• While any have food, none shall starve