HELL OR HIGH WATER
When man first traveled to new planets, most folk went with one of four groups, those being the ones with funding and knowledge for at least a modicum of terraforming. At last check, those were the Prime Coalition of Equals, the Ket-Avet, Marko Veroni’s Ashes, and the Foundation of Planetary Rejuvenation. Those who chose to not align themselves with a larger group became farmers or miners on the outskirts of civilization, or float the Frontier as nomads.
Breaking new ground is never easy, and less so on a new planet that doesn’t want it. Though many had reason to leave mother Terran— overpopulation, political unrest, endless war— those who did finally leave had particular reason, each different.
For the Prime Coalition of Equals, it was the hope of a fresh start, a chance to do things the right way. Their way. Though their coda and propaganda claim the equal distribution of all things, their rule is absolute over their subjects. Those who travel the Frontier would do well to avoid their Enforcers and Agents of Assurance. The PCE settled first on the planet Incalo, named for their founder. A high-gravity planet, the ores of Incalo are dense and almost completely pure, making PCE metals highly sought-after across the Frontier. The PCE’s people are of a single mind, and work tirelessly to improve the things around them: For the People, for the Coalition, for Ever.
The Ket-Avet was more loosely based, and as a result of which is less technologically advanced than the other groups that made it across the Void. At the beginning, they were just a group of people with a vision: a massive key, casting a shadow over all of the planets, turning an endless lock, opening an edgeless door. Behind the door, no one knows. Many say there is light, a beacon. Others say there is nothing, just more void. Others still wield more obtuse conjectures, like “hope”, “freedom”, or “purpose.” Who knows. The Ket-Avet were fortunate in two regards: first, that a relatively small, quasi-religious sect was the first to ascertain inter-planetary travel. It wasn’t quite Near-Light, and we’re still not certain if they can reach that even now, but it was enough. It got them out their first, and they laid claim to one of the few planets already hospitable for human life. They call it “Avell”, and in the language they’ve developed since settling there, we mostly figure it translates to “home.” It’s a lush, jungle-like country, with tall trees and strange creatures. The Ket-Avet live amongst the nature, waiting for the day their visions reach fruition.
Then there’s Marko Veroni’s Ashes, that’s where I come from. Veroni was a soldier. No one remembers who he fought for, even fewer remember who he fought against. We know he was a man, and we assume he was a good one, because that makes us feel better. What we do know is that he was loved. When he died— shot up in a war he had no stake in— his ashes returned home to a small village. He was the last of their soldiers, the last of the men who could wield weapons and wage wars in the ways of the Old People. In response, we retaliated, instead playing the game by new rules. Our means of space travel were stolen from wherever we could find them, our first bits of terraforming kit were mix-matched from ransacked ships and planetary outposts. We peeled ourselves away from mother Terran as quick as we could, desperate to make it out alive. Unsavory, yes, perhaps even immoral by most folks’ standards. You wouldn’t be wrong to say that. But we earned freedom, and don’t answer to anyone anymore, and we took Marko Veroni’s Ashes with us into the stars. Mostly, we live in the more habitable expanses on Keldoon, a place we’re still trying to make better for ourselves. We spread ourselves out, though, we aren’t afraid of it. Anywhere in the System, if you walk into the most run-down dive bar you can find, you’re likely to find a Shipper, a Skiff-rider, even an Enforcer, who still pays attention to the name Marko Veroni.
No one knows what happened to the Foundation of Planetary Rejuvenation. Mostly, folks figure they failed. They weren’t the last to leave mother Terran, nor were they the first, by far, but they sure did make the most fuss about it. “We’re going to save you,” they said. “We’re going to save all of you.” We’re still waiting to be saved.
Though each group has claimed a planet to be more or less solely theirs by this point, that doesn’t mean there are the only planets out there, not by a Frontier mile. There’s countless bits of rock, untouched oases, or calamitous death traps still waiting out there. Some of them we’ve settled, and others we’ve stayed away from with reason. It was rumored at one point that someone had tried making a map of all of them, but I’ve never seen it. Maybe that’s something you can work on, while you’re looking for the next job.
Those who didn’t join a group? Well, like I said, they’re still out there. Some work as miners for PCE, others make a meager living as farmers, shipping goods to whoever needs them. Others buy a Near-Light ship and trade with the civilized folk, which I hear you may have done for a spell. The rest just float, scrounging up whatever they can, making ships out of whatever parts they can get. They’re the nomads, floating wherever the void winds may take them. Time to time, I hear rumors of them. I hear rumors of whole cities of them out there, huge ships of scrap metal with barely enough life support and never enough room. Whether there’s any truth to those is anyone’s guess. I suppose you’ll have to find out for me.
Interplanetary travel, though it certainly started a grip of different ways, is mostly done by means of a piece of kit called Near-Light. Near-Light engines are common enough that they can get fixed most places and purchased for cheap enough, plus they’re fast enough to hop from one planet to the next in a couple of days or so. You’ve just got to make sure your pilot’s good with numbers before flipping the switch— you never know what you’re going to find out there. Or what’s going to find you, for that matter.
Sure, we’ve fought wars in space. Most ships have some form of gun on ‘em or other. Lords know the PCE ships sure do. But nowadays those are just for insurance, we’ve had our fill of war. Like a good side-arm, a ship’s guns are just a guarantee that you won’t be messed with much while floating the Void. That is, unless the other guy’s are bigger.