Oct 142012
 

Read me the story:
abstract representation, in blues & grays on white, of binary dataThe look Jarvin gave her as she entered the Meeting Room would have peeled duracoat from titanium-alloy, and the impatient, skeptical looks on the faces of some of the other sixteen Seated Members promised signal vengeance for this disturbance visited upon them by (presumably) a female whim. She’d said very little in the three regular sessions they’d held so far, so it was hardly surprising they believed in her reputation as the eccentric, erratic, Kerant family ne’er-do-well. Only Undas Matlor, the cynical Member for Transport and a survivor of the old CivAdmin, knew her at all.

“Honorable Speaker, Esteemed Members,” she began, conventionally enough, but then dispensed with protocols that had evolved in a more leisured and less perilous era—all of twenty days ago. “The matter at hand is a notice from Ermetyne Finance Conglom that they have petitioned Galactibank Central for precautionary liens on our colony’s protectorates of Nerith Zeta, S’dernat, Lojau Hen, Surimaka Delta, and Aijala w’Oth. They have also placed the payment schedules of our primary and secondary notes under pending review.” She paused a beat.

“It is highly unlikely that the petition will be denied.”

She waited a moment for this to sink in, and sure enough, only half-a-dozen or so seemed to grasp the situation. One, for a wonder, was Jarvin, whose petulant expression had vanished into a half-frown. Another was Undas Matlor, who leaned back in his chair with a blank expression she knew meant he was connecting the dots… he’d be ahead of her in a minute or two, the old fox.

“I’ve routed to your screens,” she clicked the ‘send’ button, “a breakdown of those notes, the refinanced payment schedule that was contracted seventeen years ago, and a summary of the last semi-annual balance sheet. Please review.”

Frowning, the Seated Members turned attention to their screens. One by one, their looks of irritation, puzzlement, or indifference changed. Mostly to shock, but in some cases to wary confusion.

“Blessed Warrior…” muttered the Member for External Commerce, the other survivor (besides Jarvin and Matlor) of the old CivAdmin.

“But… I don’t understand! These figures… on the remaining notes outstanding… can’t be right! Certainly, we contracted additional obligations in the wake of the Mutiny, but those were a separate transaction. And short-term. Weren’t they?” Pentik Mabry was the newly-Seated Member for Planning Coordination. “And these figures are, uh, arranged differently than when they were presented at the last semi-annual review. Aren’t they?”

Zarel spared him an approving nod. Mabry might be young, but his family had been grooming him for a CivAdmin seat. He’d been following the issues of importance to his Seat, and since his hasty appointment, he’d been working hard to grasp the essentials of his division’s responsibilities. “Quite so, Member Mabry. A well-chosen word, ‘arranged.’ Without going into the sins of our predecessors,” she carefully avoided glancing at her brother, “past Finance reports seem to have aimed more at avoiding awkward questions than providing a clear financial picture.”

“The initial notes taken out from Rezprom Interhub after the Mutiny were secured separately with a revenue interest in the Lojau Hen protectorate. Once it became clear that the net revenues from Lojau Hen would remain, ah, inadequate, for an indefinite period, we offered to refinance. Rezprom refused. They sold the note to Ermetyne Finance Conglom, who offered us what seemed—then—favorable terms on a consolidation and refinance, to be secured by capital shares in the protectorates aforementioned.”

“I had no idea that the capital debt was still so large… Wasn’t the whole point of having protectorates to develop revenue sources to speed the payoff rate on our capital debts?” The Member for Air frowned.

Undas Matlor chuckled mirthlessly. “Theoretically. Unfortunately, the costs of the military operations required to take and hold the protectorates invariably exceeded—by a large measure—the expense estimates. And we’ve never been as successful as we’d like to think we are at generating revenue from protectorates.” He glanced sardonically at the Speaker.

Jarvin, to his credit, didn’t rise to the bait. Of course, he’d been Seated only three years ago, so it was still possible for him to blame any sins of his division on his predecessors.

The Member for Military Liaison, however, seemed to take a personal affront. “Perhaps if certain Democratic Companies in the military supply sector worried less about inflating profit margins, and more about meeting timelines and staying within budgets, there would be less discongruity between estimates and reality,” he sneered, glancing pointedly at the Member for External Commerce and at Zarel herself.

She snorted. “Member Nexep, having requested this Emergency Meeting to acquaint the CivAdmin with a very real and very immediate threat, I’ve done my job. If we don’t want to discuss this information further in any substantive way, I’m happy to adjourn the meeting, and you can convene a meeting to discuss the sins of our dead rivals at your leisure.”

She was older than anyone at the table except Matlor, and most of them were young enough to be her children. The tone of voice she used was one that had always been particularly effective with her own tiresome offspring during their pre-adolescent adjustment adventures. There was a momentary, rather shocked, silence.

Jarvin stared at her, eyes narrowed. All of Harlis’ warnings about their sister’s intractability, unfeminine willfulness, and filial disrespect came back to him in a rush, and it took a severe struggle of will to set aside the impulse to deal with a wayward sister, and address the crisis at hand. A crisis she’d brought to their attention, of course. He found himself on the verge of grinding his teeth, and pursed his lips, instead. She hadn’t actually created the crisis, after all.

“Order, please, Members. As Member Kerant has reminded us, this is her Emergency Meeting until she chooses to adjourn or until a majority votes for adjournment. Do I hear a motion for adjournment?”

He let the silence stretch a good fifteen seconds before he nodded at his sister. “Member Kerant.”

She nodded back. “Honored Speaker.” Then she looked around the big table. “Members, the facts are at hand. The liens will be granted, I can assure you. Nothing in Galactibank Central’s historical pattern gives us any hope otherwise. You have all seen our current balance sheet, and our current revenues and immediate projections. Even with full control of the protectorate revenues, we would soon have fallen behind on capital debt payments. I’d hoped we could squeeze five years out, to give ourselves time for contingency planning.”

She shook her head. “We would have faced the decision soon enough, in any case. But the Three must now chart our course of action in the light of this new information. It will be incumbent on us to ensure that our Speaker,” she nodded in Jarvin’s direction again, “has the information and support needed for these deliberations. Honored Speaker,” she addressed Jarvin directly, “What do you wish from our divisions, and from this body?”

He blinked a moment, then picked up his cue. He looked down at the figures on the screen, then back up at the others. All eyes were on him. He blinked again, and drew a deep breath. “Right now, we need to be sure we understand all the implications of this information, and develop some preliminary recommendations for action. I will have to present this information to the Supreme Commander and the Cardinal Prelate, and it might be useful to have some options to consider.”

“In addition, I would ask each of you to accelerate the timing on the resource inventories your divisions have been conducting. If the Member for CivAdmin Operations would be so kind, could you coordinate the receipt and summarizing of the inventories, Felep?”

Felep Kostak’s mouth dropped open, but he nodded. “Yes, Honored Speaker, certainly.”

“Very well. Member Kerant, if you accede, may we adjourn this Emergency Meeting, and I will convene a regular session in one hour from now?”

“The meeting is adjourned, Honorable Speaker,” Zarel bowed respectfully. Slowly, the eighteen civil leaders of Klaros dispersed.

Oct 022012
 

Read me the story:
A long oval table with pads, chairs, water & cups arranged for a meeting, against white walls and an artificial tree and "window" viewscreen.“There’s a three-flagged message, Member.” Zarel detected a faint resentment in her First Assistant’s voice—Porlot had expected her to give him the comcodes to screen all incoming traffic, but she’d limited him to low- and medium-priority matters. He’d be complaining to her brother Jarvin any time now, but let him. Until she had a better handle on Klaros’ financial position, she wasn’t letting any of Jarvin’s greedy little timeservers paddle their fingers in the tank.

Although it would have been a great relief to have someone she could trust to discuss things with—what she’d already learned was unnerving, to say the least. Even frightening. Why hadn’t the rest of the CivAdmin asked any questions of her predecessor, when the semi-annual financial presentations were reviewed? The colony’s capital debt was being reduced at a glacial pace, and the refinancing after the Lojau Hen mess had locked them into some very risky terms. There was going to be trouble, and this triple-flag message might be it.

She entered the security sequence on her comconsole, and looked up to see Porlot hovering in the doorway. “Yes, Mainyr?” she asked, with pointed civility. He vanished.

The message queue came up, and she selected the one with three flags and entered her decrypt key.

Half an hour later Porlot was startled by the abruptness of the ping on his comconsole, and the tension in the Member’s voice. It was even more ominous that she abandoned the meticulous politeness she usually used to him, addressing him without preliminary courtesies. “I need the backup cubes from the last semi-annual Statement, including detail on all balance sheet accounts, right now.”

Resentment at being so peremptorily ordered around by a female warred with a sudden, uncomfortable reminder of Zarel’s father’s manner when he was hot after some devious commercial maneuver. Or dealing with some incompetent subordinate.

The backups were among the cubes the Speaker—the former Speaker, Porlot reminded himself—had sent up in that last shuttle. They were readily available; all the Finance-coded cubes had been promptly routed to his office. He selected the correct cube, and took it to the Member, who barely looked up, and acknowledged him only with a nod, as he handed it to her. “Member…?”

“Not now.” Curtly.

Frowning, he left the office. Should he heads-up the Speaker? Surely Jarvin would be concerned to know the extent to which his crazy sister was exercising authority in the Finance office; he had assigned Porlot as her First Assistant to do the real work. But if Porlot complained, he’d likely be moved out of the office for failing to do his job, and the post given to some other of Jarvin’s hangers-on. That didn’t suit Otas Porlot, who had big ambitions.

Zarel was annoyed to see her hand tremble as she dropped the cube into the scanner. She was getting old, she supposed. And if the cube confirmed what she suspected…

It did. Warrior’s guts, but they were in trouble. And given their reluctance to deal with “bean counter” matters and their disdain for a female colleague, she’d have to have every single fact lined up and explained in one-syllable words for the rest of CivAdmin to see it. Not to mention her dear brother Jarvin.

It was any Seated Member’s prerogative to invoke an Emergency Meeting, though it was hardly ever done. But she could not waste the time it would take to explain everything to Jarvin, get him to understand the exact implications, and convene a regular session, even if it blew her meek pro-forma Seated Member act right through the dome.

She’d need, let’s see… she frowned over the backup documentation sent with the incoming message, and the certified digiseals. A couple of hours to download, transfer, summarize and lay out the information there. Another… three hours, maybe, to dissect those financials and extract the relevant, chilling facts. They’d have to meet at…half-sixteen. Uncomfortably late, but it couldn’t be helped. And in the mean time, she’d have to work in a private place, out of Jarvin’s orbit.

Entering her encryption code, she routed the Emergency Meeting Summons to all of the Seated Members’ desks, then gathered up the relevant datacubes and plastic flimsies, and stopped in her First Assistant’s cubicle on the way out.

“Mainyr Porlot, I’ve summoned an Emergency Meeting for half-sixteen. I’ll be back in time to convene it.” And she swept past him before he could ask any questions.

Sep 162012
 

A loan statement document, blank, with boxes for interest, payments, etc.“You’ve always been lazy. Bone lazy.”

It wasn’t necessarily true, Zarel thought, but it was probably fair. She inclined her head, a little stiffly. “As you wish, Brother. You are The Kerant.” She took refuge in formality, but it did not appease him. He glowered at her.

“Dammit, Zar, even if you don’t care about the family obligation, you might consider our duty to the people,” but even as he said it, he flushed, aware he’d overstepped. “I’m not discounting the sacrifices you’ve already made. But do you realize what’s at stake, here?”

Probably better than you, you little smarp, she thought, but allowed her face to show no trace of annoyance. She assumed a feminine meekness which, had Jarvin known her better, would have set off all kinds of alarms. “Brother, I’m well aware that civ is disastrously short of leadership, but so too are the Church and the Military. We are all, as you pointed out so eloquently in your last Emergency Message, in this pod together. You’d be opening yourself to considerable censure putting a female, and one who’s so near a relation, in such a sensitive post at this point— why take the risk? Of course I’ll do what I can to help, behind the scenes, as it were.”

He was mollified. Their brother’s advice, “Never let your guard down with her for an instant,” might have been ash floating in the vortexes that engulfed the ravaged planet below them, for all he remembered. “Trust me, Zar. It’ll work out all right. In this case, it’s not so much a case of having you in the position, as not having someone else there. A Tarvine, for instance. Or a Kleksal. You see? You’ve seen the rosters, you know who we’ve got to work with, reconstituting an Administration. The Tarvines and the Kleks—among others—both have to have significant roles, but can you see the surviving doyens of either family in that Seat?”

He had a point. The Tarvine and The Kleksal had both been killed in the Conflagration, among fourteen of the seventeen Seated Members of the Klarosian Civil Administration. Their responsibilities had necessarily devolved to the senior males surviving in each family, which meant in the case of the Kleks, (who were Kerant allies,) a promising but appallingly inexperienced cadet who’d been completing a Practicum rotation on the Port Authority, and in the case of the Tarvines, (who were Kerant rivals,) a venal time-server in Commerce who’d been “inspecting” some incoming cargoes on Kitran.

“Don’t you see? That hitch you did as Adlitem Trustee for Ranlis and Yallan makes it perfectly reasonable to put you in as Finance Pro Tem. Even Harlis agreed your performance was stellar, and that was a complicated Trust. It’s enough experience to make it a reasonable Pro Tem appointment, and without a Klek or Tarvine capable of contesting it, it will have to stand for now. And at least I won’t have that to worry about. I’ll give you some of the best fixers we’ve got left, all you’ll have to do is keep an eye on things and flag me if anything comes up.”

She surveyed her younger brother for a moment, without letting her amusement at his transparency show. He wanted a puppet in Finance, and would doubtless set her up with some fixer from his staff—Galdrin, maybe, or Porlot—to do all the work, while his “lazy” older sister attended Administrative meetings and looked meek and nonthreatening. She wondered, not for the first time, what Harlis could possibly have been thinking of, to confirm this youngest of their father’s sons to the Seat, rather than appointing a Pro Tem for his own younger son Duglis. Just as well, as it turned out, since Harlis, Duglis and his older brother Teb, their sisters and most of their cousins had been vaporized with Kelarant, the family dome, in the Conflagration. At least the Kerants had an adult, functioning doyen who was already in the Administration, which made him almost an automatic choice for Speaker.

She spared a thought for Wallen Torans, who’d died with his hand on the controls when the Conflagration had engulfed Center. There’d been a window of perhaps an hour or so, once the news of the chain reaction at Rayki had been transmitted. Torans could have evacuated—there was always a surface-to-orbit shuttle standing by for the Speaker’s exclusive use—but he’d chosen to load it, methodically, with crucial data cubes and a few priceless historical artifacts, and then put his Chief of Staff’s three young children, who’d been visiting their father’s office as part of a school project that day, into the passenger seats and ordered the shuttle to launch for Station One with seconds to spare before the Northring jathrin domes had begun to collapse.

Jarvin was no Wallen Torans, and Protectorate Affairs had been the least important Administrative Seat. But he’d always been ambitious, according to Harlis. Zarel hardly knew him, he was the son of their father’s fourth wife, and younger than any of her own children. Almost young enough to be a grandchild. “He’s a scrapper, though,” Harlis had said. “And not as stupid as he looks, which is a valuable thing, even if he does take after his mother. One of us—Teb or I—just has to sit on him from time to time to keep him in line. And the extra vote in a pinch is a Creator’s blessing. I let him vote against us from time to time, just keep them guessing, but I can yank him in whenever needed.”

She’d seen Jarvin less than half-a-dozen times, but had never been particularly impressed. He’d been a greedy, pushy, unattractive little boy, and grown into, so far as she could tell, a greedy, pushy, unattractive little man, acquiring nothing of value along the way except a thin veneer of subtlety and a Parkel wife. And now you’re not around to yank him in anymore, Harlis, and he’s an Oligarch, with his hands on the fate of nearly a million survivors, all that is left of Klaros.

But a Kerant Oligarch, at least. How their father would have laughed. Or maybe raged. It had been nearly a hundred years since the last Kerant had sat in the Speaker’s Chair. Tolvin Kerant had spent his whole life scheming to restore the Kerant fortunes after the disastrous Mutiny and the near civil war that had followed had decimated the family’s holdings, and he’d carefully groomed Harlis to be the next Kerant Oligarch. How bloody ironic that this youngest child, least regarded of his offspring, the late flowering of a final near-senescent fling with a fourth wife who had nothing more than looks to recommend her, would take the Chair.

Zarel stood, in a feminine deference that would have had Harlis’ eyes narrowing in suspicion, as Jarvin rose to take his leave, the cares of state almost visibly weighing on his shoulders. “Thank you, Sister. I knew I could rely on you. You’re not nearly as…” he chose a word, carefully, “…flighty, as family reputation makes you out, you know. Now if you can just, uh, tone down… some of your eccentricities… We have to inspire confidence, you know. We’re all the people have,” he said in his most solemn politician’s manner, seemingly oblivious to the offensiveness of his earnest advice.

She didn’t call him on it. She had nearly forty years on him, and a much better-developed sense of proportion. “I’ll do my best to be less eccentric,” she said; in a tone of voice dry enough to wrinkle the very air of the tiny cabin. It was wasted on Jarvin. “I knew I could rely on you to look to your duty in this time of crisis,” he repeated, and then, apparently dismissing her from his thoughts, he bowed perfunctorily and left.

Heavenly Bride! If Jarvin hadn’t been gifted with the infamous Kerant nose, it would have been easy to believe that fashionable mopstick of a bride had played her father false. Duty, indeed, and here it was, descending on her like an avalanche, she who had shirked duty and responsibility successfully, now, for nearly fifteen years. With a wry twist to her mouth, she turned to the datapak he’d left on the little fold-down desk, and began to make herself mistress of the financial affairs of a dead planet.

Aug 262012
 

Fountain crystals from Liralt-K, in an artificial vacuum display field.Five days before her world died, Zarel Kerant, the ‘eccentric’ older sister of one of Klaros’ wealthiest and most influential commercial barons, returned from a pleasure jaunt in her private yacht, the Star Song. The ship docked at Pykalt Interstellar, along the arm reserved for the cream of the private shipping trade, and she sent her crew—except her personal maid—on leave. Most of them left for the surface of Reveille C, where two sprawling rings of expensively engineered habitat complexes circled the planet just a few degrees from each pole, providing homes for nearly half a billion people.

Zarel’s home was there, too—the vast estate of Kelarant, in the exclusive Vardry Cluster. She had no plans to return there immediately, which was fortunate, as she discovered. Almost as soon as the Star Song had completed docking procedures, her personal comlink chimed.

She accepted the incoming transmission and, just as she expected, the head of the family, The Kerant, who was also her brother Harlis, appeared on the screen.

“Well, the stray lamb returns.” His smile reminded her irresistibly of someone trying to ignore gas pains.

“As you see, Brother,” she agreed amiably.

“Profitable trip?”

She shrugged. “So-so. Gems, foodstuffs, a few artifacts.”

His brow wrinkled. “Artifacts? Nothing…uh…controversial…?”

Zarel was amused. “Nothing that will raise a Censor’s eyebrows, dear Brother. Gharren weavings, some antique Galanian ceremonial weapons, fountain crystals from Liralt-K, that sort of thing. Barely enough to cover the trip expenses, if the truth be told. But I enjoyed myself.” Did he really think she was fool enough to try and smuggle forbidden artifacts past the Censors? Or stupid enough not to know what was on the current interdict list?

His smile relaxed a little. “Well, I’m glad to hear it. It’s been too long since we’ve seen you, Zarel. Ranlis was disappointed you weren’t back for the Yearturn holidays.”

“I got a relay from him when we stopped off at Kitran. Is the wedding scheduled yet? I haven’t updated my family calendar.”

“No, well, you’ve hardly had time, have you? That’s partly why I called… but no, the wedding isn’t scheduled yet. Still three months to run on the girl’s Presentation Year, you know. Bad luck to schedule a wedding before that.”

Something about his manner piqued Zarel’s curiosity, so she connected to the Family network and asked for a calendar update as she replied. “It seems like Ranlis’ Drone Year just ended, too, but it’s been, what… three years? I’ve lost a few hundred hours in the time-dilation lag.”

“Three and a half. You’ll see when you check your calendar.”

And she did, as the current family calendar opened in a window on her comscreen. She also saw a clue as to why Harlis, a man who rarely spared time for family chit-chat, had called her so promptly.

“I see you’re entertaining this Tenday. A reception for the newly-installed Prelate of Five Avatars. Impressive!”

“Ah. Yes.” Harlis cleared his throat, hesitated.

It was tempting to let him squirm, but she tried never to annoy The Kerant needlessly. Especially since there were so many occasions upon which he needed annoying.

“What a shame I won’t be able to make it. I’m planning on staying at Moonstation for a few days. There’s a dealer in Ruv Denal I want to see about these fountain crystals. And I’d like to discuss some refitting for the Song with Three Stars Chandlery. This and that. I notice the Kos Centrum Ancient Music Ensemble is playing at Pykalt Conservatory, too.”

Harlis didn’t let his relief show, she noted. But then, he’d learned a stoneface from their father, who had been one of the best in that line. “Well, I’d convey your greetings, but…” he said with unexpected humor.

She chuckled. “Why spoil what the Kelarant kitchens and wine cellars will effect? Insincerity is a minor sin, but one ill-suited to the presence of a Prelate… unless it’s the Prelate doing the sinning, of course.”

His smile froze again, momentarily, but he let it go with a snort. “Enjoy your stay upside. And if you run across Jarvin, try not to make too much trouble for him.”

“Jarvin? What’s he doing here?” Zarel had never had much of an opinion of the youngest member of the Family’s senior branch.

“He’s got the Protectorate Affairs Seat on the CivAdmin Council now. He’s upside for some kind of meeting. Gotta go now…I’m supposed to be at a senior staff conference. Creator bless you, Sister.”

“Warrior guide you, Brother. Love to Sirlet and the kids,” she broke the connection.

Well, she’d better get busy finding something to occupy herself with upside for a few days. The presence of the only Kerant ever to be tried for heresy would hardly be appreciated downside just now.

Aug 232012
 

Illustration of half-dome warren transit area, with panels showing HVAC & technical access.The type-3 terraforming of the new Klaros—Klaros II—concentrated on the planet’s viable near-polar zones, establishing two loosely-organized rings of warren/dome habitats with spurs extending (in the northern zone) to the polar ice cap for water mining, and (in the southern zone) to the largest lode of transuranic ores easily accessible to extant mining technology.

The Oligarchs also contracted independently with Rilm Habitat Systems for an administrative cluster adjacent to the northern ring, and another cluster on the planet’s primary satellite.  Over some objections from influential elements in the colony’s economic sector, the government opted for the more expensive thousand-year terraforming, committing both present and future colony assets to a major long-term obligation.

Southring

Southring is the more populous of the planet’s two habitation axes. It included nine major complexes of the standard warren/dome type, linked by high-speed gravprop tubes.

The largest, Gattrek Major, formed the colony’s main industrial hub, focused around the polis of Kos Gattrek, a city of 15 million or so inhabitants. Kos Gattrek included the colony’s largest (although not the most important) STG port and shipyard, and was the major Southring station for the AB shuttle that linked the two rings. (There were also less important Southring stations at Doxan Pab, Jethrik, and Oquanax.)

Nearby Gattrek Minor formed a high-amenity, high-end residential and recreation area for the elite of Kos Gattrek, and included many cultural and artistic facilities. Gattrek Minor had its own exclusive small-traffic STG port, as well as a free-surface reservoir lake with extensive “natural” terraforming around it.

Proceeding westward around Southring from the Gattrek complexes, the next major habitat was Hirst Niepach, a large agronic production and processing center. The polis of Demira (about 2,000,000) was also a destination for religious tourism, based on the life of Warter Manjek, a Prelate at the time of the Transfer who was credited with saving an entire shipload of colonists and believed to be an “Avatar,” a saintlike figure in Duo-Latteran Hamartic theology. Although Manjek was not officially accorded Avatar status until nearly a century after the transfer, pilgrimages to the Holy Shield Monastery where he lived and died began almost immediately after his death.

A long way further west (the Southy gravprop, or GP tube, had to be blasted through a major geological formation,) the habitation ring resumed with the Zenlis Complex, including the small but influential polis of Oquanax. The Zenlis Complex, though not heavily populated in itself, linked several offshoot complexes including the Ampart Maxicells processing facilities (Ampart Central,) the Pon-Trevis Research Complex, Wendlach Mining, and a small military base, South Gamma.

Fard Karachik, the next Complex in the Southring, had no major polis but several smaller ones, including Limnak, Purvap, Doxan Pab, and Reschek. The Fard Karachik domes and warrens were widely dispersed to take advantage of a cluster of rare ore nodes and most of the communities are mining-oriented. Many were nearly wholly-owned subsidiaries of the half-dozen Democratic Companies dominating Klaros’ extractive sector.

The large Home Legion training base was the center of Morj Alpha Complex, which also included extensive residential complexes and some high-end domes and warrens outlying the smaller of the Complex’s two polises, Alpha Nex. The larger, Mag Alpha, was a city of about three million that is oriented around military and military contractors’ activities. A substantial military STG field/base was the northernmost node of the Complex. The Home Legion military academy, Kortallis Dome, was the southernmost.

The next Complex, Martabal Bwes, was loosely-dispersed among one of the more salubrious areas of the planet’s surface, a valley among long-dead volcanic ranges that has the planet’s last remaining free surface watercourse. Vestiges of the native xenons could be found among the sparse stands of vegetation, and several “exotic tour” vacation resorts and tourist facilities made the major polis, Jethrik (pop. about a million), a popular destination. There was also a scattering of industrial complexes and the Karvich University’s research complex.

Tikparran Complex was home to several facilities developing and producing communications equipment, components, and consumer goods, as well as some major military contractors. It was the home of Keval Ust University and the Corporate Headquarters of Chagarth Fabrik, the colony’s second most influential Democratic Company. The only sizable polis, Metarad, was a modernistic city of half a million or so high-status emp-class, exec-class, and owner-class enclaves, surrounded by suburban domes housing the smaller communities of emp-class and cit-class workers who fulfilled the menial functions of Metarad.

South Ust Complex was the eastern neighbor of Gattrek Major, a sprawling network of cheaper habitats housing light manufacturing and low-status housing. The largest polis, Ardill, was home to about three million Klarosians but noted for being very high in violent crime and possibly under the control of criminal elements. A valiant civic leadership was constantly working to overcome this perception and vitalize the polis (and the Complex) with new development, but the outcome of the struggle was always in doubt.

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Northring

Less populous, but more influential, the ten habitat complexes of Northring were home to many of administrative headquarters of the colony’s governing institutions.

Northring was dominated by Center, the largest habitat complex on the planet and home to the colonial capital, Kos Centrum. A polis of nearly thirty million, Kos Centrum also formed the nexus for Klaros’ financial industries and services. Adjacent to Center, the Admin Central complex formed the civadmin’s major facilities. Center was home to the planet’s most important STG port, Centrum Bek, and had been extended several times to incorporate smaller polis and industrial domes and warrens.

West of Center, the complex of Jait Hurst was the largest concentration of military facilities on the planet, including the Shirch Prime military academy, Legion Hospital, the heavily-fortified Supreme Command Center, Tarvich Fleet Base, and the Miranat Testing Complex adjacent to the south. The major polis, Port Andall, was a nexus for military families and retirees, and several smaller communities included extensive recreational facilities.

Devlit Complex to the west of Jait Hurst was a small cluster of prestigious residential and very high-tech research and development facilities, many exclusive enclaves of military contractors among the Democratic Companies. Three communities, Pentrad, Xellek, and Chart Deb, formed the main central nexus of warrens, clustered around a small patch of xenic biome sustained by underground watercourses from the northern polar cap. Several Boardsman families had domes in the biome.

Tof Oqualat, the next westernmost Complex, was the location of the colony’s major watermining collection and processing facility, the North Oasham Plant. A string of adjacent dome and habitat clusters extended to the north, to house pipelines operated by the Segeth Vanus Company, the prime contractor to the colonial government for water production and distribution. Several free-surface reservoir lakes centered prime high-end residential real estate especially for retired exec-class and wealthy emp-class individuals, and a large hospital and medical services complex served their needs as well as being home to the Bride’s Mercy Medical Academy, the Church’s most prestigious medical education facility.

Kos Parkel, the next Complex, was an almost wholly-owned enclave of the colony’s most powerful Boardsman family, who controlled Parkel Multigen, the prime contractor to the colonial government for power production and distribution. In addition to the massive industrial domes and the planet’s deepest-delved warren spaces housing the largest power generators on the planet, adjacent to the north a smaller cluster known as Parkel Quast housed the Quast Vallek campus of Center University, the colony’s most advanced engineering school. Stenzak, the planet’s largest single-dome polis (sited between the two complexes,) was home to nearly six million Klarosians.

Veztarran Major, almost directly opposite Center on the Northring axis, was a sprawling mixed habitat of light industrial, manufacturing, and financial interests, including the Ulgarast Port facility, the colony’s third-largest but highest-volume STG Port. Most of the colony’s major merchant shipping interests had headquarters and shipyard facilities there. It was regarded as a center of immorality and possibly even heresy by the Church, which tried in vain to control the various “sin industries” common in the res-class and cit-class habitats clustered around the port areas.

Veztarran Minor, very close (almost adjacent) to Major in the Northring, was a considerable contrast to its larger neighbor, being the home of the famous Sword of Eternity Monastery and the Warrior’s Rest Basilica, as well as numerous small colleges training teachers, medical workers, and proctors. It included a number of retirement facilities for the Church’s lower-echelons, pensies, stipies, and eesies, as well as some very luxurious and exclusive facilities for administrators. A large tourist industry and some “family recreational” complexes were clustered around Palatis (population about 3 million,) the major polis.

Tang Matris, a mixed complex of industrial, military, and financial sectors, was almost adjacent to Vezterran Minor, and included the Legion’s Quental Academy and a good many Second Legion bases and facilities, as well as the Hellgate Training Base, at the far western end of the Complex, whose facilities extended into the large area of usable but harsh planetary surface environment that formed a high, extensive plateau between Tang Matris and Storrest Bek. The major polis in Tang Matris was Garravet, population about half a million. A loose cluster of residential habitats extended south of the Complex, housing a number of smaller communities and military families.

Fendal Points was a long way west of Tang Matris, with the GP tube snaking across Hell’s Plateau to reach the cluster of educational, research, engineering, and light manufacturing facilities dominated by Kervik Dome, the tallest dome on the planet and the headquarters of Kerant Cryston. Regarded as an exclusive, Boardsman’s recreational area, the adjacent Vardry Cluster provided high-end recreational and entertainment facilities. Fendal Points was also home to the Klarosian entertainment industry and its main polis, Istarak, boasted many celebrity homes and a flourishing arts community.

Piskal Haret, Center’s eastern neighbor, was a smallish cluster of habitats holding a mix of commercial and communications interests, as well as the Church’s Extant Stand cluster of warrens housing the bulk of the Church bureaucracy and the Bride’s Gift theological seminary. Although the spiritual “center” of the colony was at the Glorious Revelations Basilica in Center, where the Supreme Prelacy was headquartered, Extant Stand was the real “guts” of the Church. The rest of Piskal Haret’s habitats were heavily influenced by Church-related activities, but it was also the center for distribution of entertainment media (being conveniently close to the Shining Truth Proctory so that media could be reviewed for “appropriateness to the public good”) and the headquarters of some large entertainment industry companies. Adjacent to Piskal Haret and extending far to the South was the colony’s largest Reformatory, the Compassionate Bride, which held nearly a million and a half penitents along with proctors and stipies, and a small Home Legion unit, who provided security.

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