Just under half a millennium ago, humanity used up the last of its homeworld. Earth had lasted us a good long while, but as any good folk know, there comes a time when the lights turn out and you gotta stop your dancing. We packed ourselves up, left Earth-that-was behind, and set out for the stars. A few generations later, we had ourselves dozens of new Earths. Dozens of new homes.
Peace didn’t last for long, though. Never does.
We grew too fast, planned too little. That’s what most people made of it, when it happened, and what most people think of it now. Leaving old Earth was a scramble, with not much time to decide who went where, who owned what, and who told who what to do. Eventually, the Alliance decided that was their job, and a few others decided it wasn't. Led to a lot of chaos. A lot of bloodshed. A lot of hurt feelings.
That was two dozen years ago, but the Unification War’s still a sore spot for a lot of folks. The core planets, they’ve got it good. The rim, not so much. Out here, goals are simple. Find a job, get some cash, and maybe try to make a name for yourself.
Capital PlanetsThe process of terraforming is an ongoing one, and the Capital planets represent the furthest progressions of terraforming technologies. During the initial migration from Earth, these planets were the first to be settled. Today, they are the peak of civilization.
Capital worlds feature the highest population density in the whole of the ‘Verse. The newest medical technologies are available on these worlds. The most efficient transportation. The lowest crime rates. The highest-paying jobs. The best schools.
The Capital planets are, as the name suggests, also home to the interplanetary governing body. The ‘Alliance’, or formally, ‘The United Federation of Allied Planets’ houses its parliament on the planet Londinium.
Of course, utopias don’t come without their tradeoffs. On the central planets, the law is enforced most severely. Surveillance is everywhere, and the eye of the government is omniscient. Digital records exist on citizens throughout the ‘Verse, but on the Capital planets, a person’s daily activity is captured on a monitor. Some like it this way. It keeps them safe. But for unscrupulous individuals, the Capital planets are not a place to do business.
Satellite WorldsLeave the comfort of the Capital, travel beyond the narrow asteroid belt, and you’ll reach the Satellite planets. Despite its efforts, the eye of the Alliance can only see so far. And the Satellite worlds lie far enough away from the central planets that law enforcement can’t always make out what’s going on. Here, the black-and-white rules of the Capital give way to shades of neon.
The Satellite worlds are an ideal destination for individuals from all worlds to conduct business ‘in private’. And whatever the nature of your business, you can find it here.
Not all business at the Satellite is illegitimate, though. The worlds are heavily industrialized, and various flavours of manufacturing facilities employ nearly a third of the population. On worlds where manufacturing hasn’t become the dominant employer, the tourism industry is booming. Capital-dwellers love to journey to Satellite worlds for an adventurous getaway, while Frontier settlers save their credits for a luxurious weekend retreat to a bottom-of-the-barrel hotel.
The FrontierAs one would expect from the name, the Frontier worlds represent the very latest in terraforming efforts. They are raw and untamed, only inhabited within the last century. Out here, technologies that are commonplace towards the heart of the ‘Verse are prohibitively expensive. Most people make do without. Folks ride horseback, farm with handmade tools, and develop their own forms of entertainment that don’t require electricity or batteries. In their own way, Frontiersmen can be just as haughty as those from the Capital - looking down their noses at the ‘soft’ folk who’ve never gripped a plow or cleaned out a horse’s stable.
The Alliance has a presence on the Frontier, and will increase that presence when necessary. But generally speaking, the grip of the law is more than a touch looser than elsewhere in the ‘Verse. Planets are overseen by a Governor, and moons looked over by a Magistrate. So long as things go more-or-less smoothly, the Alliance doesn’t interfere. People can’t rely on help coming when they need it, so they’ve learned to take care of themselves. Most folk own a gun. And everyone knows how to use one.
Despite the apparent depravity of the Frontier, if you look closely enough, you can still find pieces of 26th-century technology. From Cortex access terminals to holographic billiards tables to high-security bank vaults.
DemographicsIn the final days of Earth-that-was, there were two global superpowers. The United States of America and the People’s Republic of China. Historians can separate the two cultures, but in the year 2535, centuries of amalgamation have occurred.
There are a handful of planets where cultures are preserved. Londinium, home to Alliance Parliament, favours a distinct Western culture. Along with its sister planet, Sihnon, it was one of the first to be terraformed. Today, Sihnon serves as the seat of Eastern civilization among the core worlds.
But on other worlds, the mixing of cultures is far more homogenous. It is not strange to see women wearing cowboys boots with their qipao. Restaurants and street vendors provide forks, chopsticks, and both western and chinese-style soup spoons. Not to mention, the menus. Chef’s salad with a side of chicken feet. Grilled steak. Baozi. Bacon and eggs, alongside a bowl of congee for breakfast. When ordering spaghetti, make sure to take note of the predominant culture of the world you’re visiting, or you may be in for an unexpected flavour.
On paper, both Mandarin and English are the official languages of the ‘Verse. Government broadcasts are relayed in both languages. Official signage is written in at least Roman characters and traditional Chinese, and often accompanied by simplified chinese characters and pinyin. In practice, English is the lingua franca of the ‘Verse, while Mandarin is often reserved for slang, insults, or greetings in very formal situations. Depending on the world, one language or the other may be more dominant, and code-switching is universally common.
Though the early ‘Verse was primarily inhabited by either Americans or Chinese, other ethnic groups also contributed to the earliest demographics of settlers. Today, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, and Native Americans contribute to the population of the Union of Allied Planets.
CompanionsAt the height of ‘culture’ is the Companion’s Guild, a society of well-educated and highly respected professional courtesans. While prostitution was outlawed years before humanity left Earth-that-was, the state-sanctioned profession of ‘Companion’ emerged in its place. Companions begin training at a young age in a variety of disciplines, including dance, martial arts, calligraphy, and music. The art of love is taught only after successfully completing the rest of the schooling.
Currency‘Officially’, the currency of the ‘Verse is the Unit - an intangible, fully-digitized monetary unit that is cyber-linked to every citizen’s Cortex account. In reality, things are hardly so straightforward.
On the Frontier worlds, Cortex access points are few and far between. And even on planets where the Cortex signal is prevalent, you don’t always want your every transaction monitored by an interplanetary government. As such, many still use coins, in silver, gold, and platinum denominations. The farther out you go, the less official things get. At the Frontier, the power of the barter system can not be debated. And while trading in human life is formally illegal, anything goes as long as it’s off-the-record.
The CortexThe Cortex represents a vast interplanetary computer system - the 26th century version of the antiquated World Wide Web. Cortex admittance requires valid login credentials.
On Capital and Satellite planets, the signal is usually strong enough to gain Cortex access with a personal device. On Frontier worlds, it requires a wired access terminal or a handheld long-range Sourcebox. Login credentials are directly linked to an individual’s identity, so guard yours carefully. A person’s digital footprint is tracked by the Alliance, and you don’t want unscrupulous folks walking around in your shoes.
Medical TechnologyMost diseases can be cured with some drug or another. Today, library of medicine is vast, and doctors require years of schooling to understand it in its entirety. At the best hospitals, there’s virtually no ailment that can’t be cured. For those with access to good medical care, death usually results from lethal incident or old age.
Unfortunately, not all citizens have access to top-of-the-line hospitals. For rural planets, medical care is a luxury. Citizens rely on bi-weekly shipments of essential medications from the Capital planets. Often, supply doesn’t meet demand, and medical rations in small communities have led to sickness and death on more than one occasion.
In some corners of the ‘Verse, ‘old’ medicine is still practiced religiously. Oils, spices, herbal blends, candles, prayers. Place whatever faith you will in them, but there’s a reason these methods have persisted for thousands of years.
Weapons TechnologyWeapons can be divided broadly into two categories - those that are legal, and those that aren’t. Every so often, equipment from the latter category creeps into someone’s hands, and very rarely will they let go of it.
The former category contains most manner of handguns, pistols, and rifles. On Capital planets, there’s no specific law about bearing arms in public. But businesses, malls, restaurants, schools, and any other privately owned building are allowed to make their own rules, and often place weapons scanners at the doors. Even though not strictly illegal, the culture on Capital planets is to travel unarmed.
On Satellite worlds, weapons are concealed. On the Frontier, they’re worn openly and proudly. Even if you can’t see a gun, assume the person has one.
Weapons on space-faring vessels are restricted to small auto-cannons, for the purpose of defense or asteroid blasting. Not that it stops people from using their firepower for less benign purposes. Government ships are more well-equipped, carrying bombs, missiles, and electromagnetic depth charges.
Sonic weapons exist, and are available to the public, if you can afford the high price-tag. Laser weapons are a different story. They are reserved strictly for the Alliance military, and are both illegal and prohibitively expensive for civilians. Laser weaponry is perhaps the only category of illegal firearm that no one is trying to get their hands on. You don’t want a laser weapon aboard your ship. You don’t want anything that can cut through a hull aboard your ship.
It’s a good ship. It’s...got a few surprises. The last owner added some features, and Ed did her thing with it, too. At this point, I’m honestly not sure of the specs. But it’s reliable. It’ll get us from point A to point B every time, and it handles like a dream.
The Caliber is not a large ship. Originally, it was built for short-range shipment of goods. A few modifications during her early years of operation increased her range, and expanded her cargo bay. Now, she’s a space-worthy interplanetary vessel - if a little on the smaller side. Over the years, sections of the ship have been co-opted for other purposes, and then re-purposed back to their original function. Med Bay, originally, was another passenger bunk - before the owners gutted and refurbished the room in stainless steel. A thrown-together operating theatre for when the going got rough. Under present management, things have not been rough. And the med bay countertop is usually piled high with shipments of goods - Unless Ed or Ke Ko move them for various tinkerings.
A dedicated mess-hall contains the ship’s foodstuffs. The counter is crowded, but has all the necessities to prepare a decent meal. Small oven, electric stovetop, microwave, even a blender. And plenty of canned and dry goods. Nearly every inch of usable space has been converted to storage of some sort, with cupboards lining the walls and even portions of the floor. The ‘pantry’, delocalized though it may be, it always stocked. Cold foods are housed in the walk-in freezer. Aboard the Caliber, foods are either packaged or frozen. There’s no refrigerator. Fresh vegetables are a luxury, reserved for the few days immediately following a planetside visit.
Accommodations are tight, but private. With 8 dorms, the Caliber has more bedspaces than she does crew - meaning that, if the crew wanted, they could transport passengers for a bit of extra coinage. Each bunk measures 6' by 10', and contains a single bed, a chair, and a small wardrobe. A mirror is affixed to the back of the door. Furnishings are bolted to the walls, preventing rearrangements or jostling during turbulence. It's not a lot of space, but a crew member's bunk is their personal territory aboard the ship. What you do in your cabin, from decorations to activities, is your business - so long as it doesn't disrupt the ship's operations.
In terms of amenities, the Caliber is bare-bones. But when it comes to features, she holds her own, and walks the knife’s edge of what is considered legal. The ship has firepower - a set of autocannons and a stock of short-range missiles. The guns are remote-piloted via the CRT monitors and sticky joysticks housed in the operations room, just off the bridge. Her weaponry is all well within the confines of the law.
Her stealth features, on the other hand, are not. The Caliber is one of the only ships in the ‘Verse to possess a Dreamcoat system. Though not perfected, the Dreamcoat is still the closest that technology has come to true invisibility. When the system works, the entire ship is impervious to most forms of detection. Visible light, sonar, infrared tracking. No signal can track it. Unfortunately, Dreamcoat systems never made it past the prototype stage, and the few that are floating around today are prone to...glitches. Often at the most inopportune times.
You ready to fly?