Crossroads: Planetary Background

11 Aug

For Quagmire…

Crossroads: Planetary Background

The planet the human race would eventually call Crossroads occupies a central position in the Templar Sector, but was not originally considered for direct settlement by the Imperium. Accordingly, two interstellar corporations established bases on the planet in 4325IE (Imperium Era) and formally annexed the planet a year later. It was not, however, until the highly-classified Templar Incident of 4331IE that the Wormhole Engineering Corps established the Templar Junction within the Crossroads System, too late for the Imperium to nationalise the planet without provoking heavy corporate resistance. Crossroads remains the only wormhole junction not fully under Imperium control.

Unusually for a G2 star, Crossroads-P (Primary) has only four planets; Kali, Crossroads, Minnie (named for the wife of the survey ship’s commander) and Sprat. Kali is a rocky world orbiting so close to the star that its surface is permanently molten, uninhabited and largely uninhabitable. Minnie is a gas giant, complete with two moons and a handful of captured comets and asteroids. Sprat follows a highly-eccentric orbit that takes it from the very verge of interstellar space to inside the orbit of Crossroads itself, raising the possibility that the two worlds will collide in several million years. (The Crossroads Development Corporation has seriously considered blowing Sprat into asteroids for mining purposes, but the project has been mooted as the one asteroid cloud in the system is capable of supplying the system’s projected needs for several thousand years.)

Although there is no asteroid belt, there is a large cloud of asteroids orbiting the star outwards from Crossroads. The general belief is that these asteroids were gathered by random chance, but some of the Jazzes (see below) think that this was the remains of their original homeworld, destroyed long ago by a freak accident. However, considerable study of the cloud by miners has revealed nothing more extraordinary than standard asteroids. These asteroids are now host to a small mining community supplying Crossroad’s industrial facilities with raw materials.

Crossroads is a fairly standard human-compatible world, with its own active biosphere; indeed, the one glitch, from a human point of view, is the presence of an airborne disease that is omnipresent on the planet’s surface. This disease is not lethal to humans (indeed, even baseline humans cannot be infected by it), but is known to cause itching (the Crossroads Crud) when it contacts human skins. Humans who settle on Crossroads permanently are advised to sequence a slight modification into their genetic code that prevents the Crossroads Crud from causing irritation. Standard medical nanites are also capable of countering its effects.

Geographically, Crossroads has four major continents, named Alpha, Beta, Delta and Gamma. Alpha, the most heavily populated continent, is actually a very strange landmass, essentially a ring of land wrapping around most of the planet, above the equator. Beta and Delta both exist in the southern hemisphere, with Delta actually turning to an icy landmass near the south pole. Gamma was heavily bombarded during the occupation of the planet and is currently radioactive in a number of places as dirty weapons were deployed by the CDC. (An investigation by the Imperium Senate concluded, after seventy years of legal wrangling, that the natives resisted purely to inflict additional casualties upon police and military units involved in pacifying the planet, rather than out of any hope of victory. Accordingly, the CDC was legally permitted to use extreme means to suppress them.) However, parts of Gamma are liveable provided that one is willing to take the risk of living there; clearing the entire continent would be a nightmare.

As is standard in systems that contain a wormhole junction, the Imperial Navy has prime responsibility for governing the star system. However, owing to the curious series of events that led to Crossroads hosting the wormhole junction, there is no overall government for the planet’s surface. There is a Planetary Council (elected by humans of class-three and above), but large strips of the planet are effectively controlled by the corporations, collaborator alien leaders – and some sections, mainly Gamma, are completely lawless. Accordingly, there is little real cooperation between the Civil Guard, corporate military and police units and what few alien policing units exist.

Crossroads is currently occupied by an estimated four billion intelligent life-forms, mainly composed of Kazak, Jazzes, Krait and humans. As is standard on Imperium worlds, the only population of political importance is the human population, but Crossroads has an alarmingly high percentage of class-four indents. The CDC manipulated the tax laws on Crossroads to lure settlers into debt, which rapidly became permanent and hereditary. Put simply, very few citizens who fall into debt can ever hope to pay off the original debt, let alone the interest acuminated since then. (The debtor laws also allow for indebted persons to be effectively enslaved if they complain too loudly.)

The Kazak are the original natives of Crossroads, but the Jazzes were already on Crossroads when the Imperium discovered the world. Quite how the Jazzes (who are not related to any other form of life on the planet) reached Crossroads is an open question; surveys of the Templar Sector have not revealed any other Jazzes, nor has any world been located that might have been their original homeworld. The Jazzes themselves have claimed that they were placed on Crossroads by their own Empire, perhaps the equivalent of a human pastoral world, but all such tales are considered myths as the Imperium hasn’t encountered any alien empire of even remotely comparable size. Nonetheless, the Jazzes hold strongly to a belief that their cousins from the stars will one day return and liberate them from the Imperium.

Surprisingly, there was apparently no major fighting between the Kazak and the Jazzes when the two races first encountered each other. (Human researchers have concluded that the Jazzes were actually seeded on Gamma, but the radioactivity left behind by the bombardment makes it hard to actually be sure.) This may not have been too surprising; the Kazak are a principally inland race, with little willingness to travel over water, while the Jazzes live for sailing and have an affinity with the water shared with many humans. It is believed that the Jazzes traded with the Kazak, then took settlers from Alpha to Beta and Delta.

The Kazak, apart from a few minor incidents, seem to have largely accepted humanity’s control of their world. (Their race is very communal; rogues are almost unknown.) However, the Jazzes did not; outmatched through they were, they fought the human invaders with a desperation born of futility. They have also been the main source of resistance ever since the humans arrived, often using their sailing ships to smuggle goods from one part of the planet to another. It is generally believed by the human settlers that the Jazzes had subdued the Kazak before the Imperium arrived, but objective studies have suggested that the relationship between the two races is more complex than that.

When humanity arrived, they brought the Krait with them. The Krait are almost completely pacifistic, to the point where very few of them will fight even to save their lives, although they will fight to protect their community. When they were discovered by the Imperium, the Krait realised that resistance would merely result in widespread devastation and surrendered en masse, asking only that they were permitted to expand into space as junior settlers on human-controlled worlds (thus protecting their community.) The Krait are widespread throughout the Imperium, serving as everything from cleaners to janitors; indeed, there is a sentiment among humans that the Krait are too stupid to be anything else. This is not so; they Krait share the same basic intelligence as most races, but are content merely to work and survive for the community. They simply do not possess the personal ambition that leads humans to attempt to rise above their station.

Apart from its location, Crossroads provides many other important benefits for the Templar Sector. It is a major producer of food for nearby colonies, asteroid settlements and passing starships. (Minnie has a cloudscoop for mining HE3, controlled by the Imperial Navy.) However, the political situation on Crossroads has been turning actively dangerous for years and may be on the verge of exploding into open violence. This has merely been made worse by the arrival of various outside political groups.

The Secessionists, although based mainly along the Rim, have been active on Crossroads for at least twenty years. Put simply, the Secessionists want to leave the Imperium and form their own political unit, casting aside the laws that bind the Imperium together. While not all Secessionists are alien-lovers, several subgroups have been reaching out to alien communities to offer them an equal place in a post-Imperium entity. They have certainly been involved in shipping advanced weapons down to the planetary surface.

The League of Alien Allies is unashamedly a pro-alien organisation. They believe that aliens and humans were created equal and, accordingly, the virtual enslavement of aliens by the Imperium is wrong. The LAA is actually split between the pro-Imperium faction, which believes that humans should grant aliens equality within the Imperium, and the pro-Secessionist faction, which believes that alien homeworlds (at least) should be granted independence. Both factions are believed to be active on Crossroads.

Opposing the LAA is the Humanity League, aka Pure Humanity. The Humanity League (which is actually a quasi-legal organisation) believes that humanity’s virility is sapped by association with alien races, therefore the best course of action (depending on which wing of the League is asked) is either to outright enslave the aliens, restrict them to their homeworlds or outright exterminate them. (Rumour has it that several undiscovered races have been exterminated by the League’s adherents in the Imperial Navy.) On Crossroads, the League is very involved in drumming up hatred against alien communities, urging the human population to push the aliens away from human communities. They are known to be supporting the creation of militia forces for the coming war against the aliens.

Finally, the Nihilists are also believed to be present on Crossroads. The Nihilists are not a political organisation in the normal sense; their core beliefs state that existence is worthless and death the one sure thing in the universe. As such, Nihilists seek to kill as many people as possible in grand gestures, often through suicide bombings and attacks launched without any expectation of a safe escape. There are relatively few Nihilists in existence, but those who make it into the organisation are fanatics, devoted to their art. It is impossible to bargain with the Nihilists and those who try often end up dead.

The CDC was largely unaware that it was sitting on a powder keg until 5482, when a series of violent incidents occurred all over the planet. Unsurprisingly, local military forces (mainly police) were outmatched by the ‘terrorists,’ resulting in a number of deaths. Since then, the CDC has been pressing for the Imperium to send in heavy military units to safeguard the human settlers and crush the insurgency. However, this suggestion has met heavy opposition in the Grand Senate, for various reasons.

A counter-proposal is for Crossroads to be effectively annexed directly to the Imperium, bringing it in line with the other junction systems. This is supported by large elements of the Imperium’s military – particularly the Marines, who would have to take the lead on counter-insurgency operations – and many settlers, who believe (correctly) that they would have more say in their own affairs as an annexed world. The CDC opposes this measure, as they would have to pay their investors compensation for the nationalised planet (and their lost investments.) Their senior management is prepared to deal if those expenses are met by the Imperium’s treasury, a suggestion that has – naturally – met considerable resistance. A deal will eventually be worked out, it is believed, but quite how far the situation will degrade before then is uncertain.

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