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Starports of Madoc Subsector

by Alvin Plummer

(Editor's note: This article refers to several worlds which are not in the canonical subsector, referees should feel free to adjust the worlds to those that are more suited to their individual campaigns. This article is set before the Collapse.)

This is intended as a colourful survey of the major locally-run starports in Madoc. I am assuming that, with a few exceptions, the Imperium owns at least one starport on every Imperial world, usually the largest and always the highest class in the system. However, several cities and minor worlds may run their own local port. Moreover, local governments, corporations, and organizations can build their own ports as well.

As an aside, the Imperium is also assumed to run many starports outside of it's borders, in allied or politically important worlds. My interpretation of Imperial ID is my own, and does not necessarily reflect canon. Actually, I tend to treat canon as just a set of guidelines rather than hard-and-fast rules: You Have Been Warned.]

Extracts from the chapter "My Luck in Madoc" from Shelters from the Dark: Starports in Diaspora Sir Howe Pearson, IISS (ret.) ( Audio Novel, Non-interactive Nouvelle Allure Publishing, Libert/Libert/Diaspora, 1113 )

As a Scout, I *always* use the local starports rather than the Imperial Main Port - it gives me an instant read on what the local culture believes about itself, what face the planetary government wants to show to the Imperium, what kind if tech is locally available, how much money is swishing around.... After some experience, you can even get information from the architecture used, and the kind of paperwork the people give you to fill in!


Now, take Jae-Bong Starport, on Kaesong. Sure, the metal "flag" on the pole outside isn't the Imperial Starburst, but that's about the only *real* difference between this A-class port and any other solid, prosperous port in the Imperium. The blare of languages on the intercoms, astonished immigrants offworld for the first time, the hustle of merchants, wailing children, VIP's with their servants and aides trailing behind them, it's all here, real as life.

Kaesong is a micro-G, near-vacuum environment, so you can amuse yourself watching the offworld yokels try to get the hang of manuvering around without looking like a *complete* idiot. As always, it's the kids who figure things out first, using the free small plasic "wings", hand-held airscrews (muscle-powered or electric), or just leap to the 5-meter high ceiling. Watch out when they figure out how to bounce around from wall to wall: twice here I got caught in a rain of small children rocketing through the air, seeing how fast they can fly off the walls.

Now, with most small-world, micro-G near-vacuum environments, you can just leave the starship in the HighPort while you yourself head to the LowPort. Unusually for a small A-class types, however, Jae-Bong Starport actually has two *pressurized, breathable, shirt-sleeve* hangars on the world's surface available, capable of handling up to 500 disp tons of starship each. I admit, it cost's a bundle to lease, but it greatly speed's up repair work: I never go anywhere else in the subsector to fix up _my_ baby.

Most port's, naturally enough, look like buildings from the inside, with maybe a skylight or two and perhaps a small indoor garden. Kaesong, on the other hand, is a proud and high-tech world, the capital of the subsector, and the local government has spent a *lot* of money making certainl publicly accessible areas - mainly concessions and eateries - look, feel,and smell as if you were walking outdoors in a pleasent meadow, rather than in a dome on a nearly-airless rock. Factor in enough money to put a steady, 1G pull in the "Green Grove" - and ignore the unusual curve in the "domed sky" - and the area is actually quite pleasant.

The inspiration for the place is *not* Terra or Vland, though, but the "lost biosphere of Ilelish". For those of you who don't know your Imperial history, centuries ago Ilelish system once had a truly famous and impressive range of wildlife, but - - after evacuating the population - the planet was deliberately blasted into a sterile desert at the end of the Ilelish Revolt in 435. For a loyal subsector capital world like Kaesong, it's an _interesting_ selection. But of course, Kaesong wasn't always a loyal subsector capital...


Two parsec's or so Rimward are the Vacare Systems - you know, those mystics that that Sylean writer... uhh, what's his name? Yeah, Odcicantah. Odcicentath? OK, *Odcic* then! Look, I was raised in Rim Anglic, I can't *handle* the long names! Anyways, it's those mystics that Odcic was so enthralled about. The largest port that they run is at NightVision, and it's got to be the most gorgeous port in the subsector. I know people who skip right over the ho-hum Imperial Port, and land at Neustria Starport just for the eye candy!

The place from the air looks like a flawless temple, maybe one of those famous ones at Vland Sector or the early Roge shrines in Dagudashaag Sector. The geometry, the colours, even the way the light hits the Ternstone blocks - it takes your breath away.

When you land there, everything is done in a even pace, gentle but efficent. There is often local music in the air - not piped in, but actual singers and woodwinds playing in the port. The place is at TL E, but the people use the technology, instead of the other way around. There is the scent of incense in the air: different "flavours" are used, depending on a host of things: the time of day and year, if there is an honoured guest on the world, etc.

There are no native lifeforms on NightVision, but they managed to repair the old Vilani-style biosphere across the planet, and in the "food zones" they even have created thick layer of topsoil ( "The most valuable mineral in the Imperium", as the Ministry of Colonization likes to put it. ) They often give a thimble of this valuable soil to visitors who arrive, and a small, handmade crystal sculpture, symbolizing the Void, to departing visitors. Yeah, I know: more tourist junk to toss. Still, it might be a nice think to ship to a loved one: even if they're at the other side of the Imperium, it can't cost more than a few hundred credits....

Another thing is the range of sophonts on the system: there is a good deal of Vacare believers who are nonhumans, about 2% or so of the population. They have tended to congregate in starport operations, so about 50% of the employees here aren't human at all, but are instead from a range of species from Delphi and Old Expanses Sectors. If you aren't human, *this* is the world to base your operations in.


Now, every Traveller knows that there is always at least *one* world in the subsector that is completely taken over by control freaks: Kelvin, way over at the Spinward-Trailing corner of the subsector - certainly fit's the bill. And does the starport show it! Bioscans, heat sensors, psi-scanners, everything that a xenophobic TL D culture can afford to install is at Rousseau Access Point - the locals refuse to call it a starport for some odd reason or another. All these checks are in case you are smuggling...well, I don't know if even the guards know what they are looking for, but whatever it is, make sure that you don't have it.

As an experienced Traveller, you know that only people "In the Emperor's Service" carry Imperial ID. This is mainly because trying to gather, keep up to date, and insure the accuracy of data on any larger population - across interstellar distances and multiyear timeframes - is simply laughable. Even today, we still remember the rare (?) case of an Imperial Army General who was declared dead in Antares Sector twenty years ago. Seventeen years after his supposed death, he was rediscovered living as a mercenary commander - AND collecting his pension - in the Marches just three years ago (and it took a year and a half for the news to reach Diaspora, incidentally.)

Unfortunately, nobody seems to have told the Community of Reason on Kelvin that most people don't carry Imperial ID. The local Customs folk simply won't let you out of the starport if you don't have your Imperial ID card. Now, that doesn't stop planetary traders from bringing their stuff *into* the starport for cross-shipping or pickup by the locals, but it's a real bummer for more footloose Travellers, who want to take a look around the place.

If you have the notation "IISS" on your Imperial ID card, expect some serious bureaucratic hurdles just leaving the starport. For some reason, they think that we are all spies ( with a bright red Imperial Starburst on my uniform shoulder and my right chest? I Think Not! ). Some Scouts manage to get a pass to leave the starport and see the world, some don't: it strictly depends on your people skills.

May I modestly add that *I* managed not only to leave the starport whenever I wished, but the offical decided that I didn't even need a "Guide"? Social engineering, people, social engineering! Of course, good looks and famous charm had absolutely *nothing* to do with it!

OK, back to the port. The place is built like a set of concrete barracks, and has enough troops to be one, so leave the toys back on the ship. Well, most of them, anyway - The Guy's with the Gun's don't worry about knives and other melee weapons. This is mainly a cargo port, so there just isn't much luxury available, but the place is kept clean and reasonably efficent. A good deal of traffic runs through the port, including the rare, twice-a-year large freighter from the Solomani Confederation: the locals still have a sentimental attachment to that starnation, and devour's any news or entertainment goods from those systems.

I know what you're going to ask me: what about those billions and billions of people, dreaming away in their WorkPods? Well, you just don't see any of that in the local port: there is no great rush of migrants trying to leave the world, and - besides the enormous amount of medical equipment being shipped in - you couldn't know about the WorkPods by just looking around. I might talk more about it, if enough of you bother my publisher about it.


OK, on to the last major, system-run port in the subsector: Tyrannus Starport. This is a very *Ogadzi* port: almost everyone you see here is part of the same race, and the same Ismya Christian faith. What interesting as you come in is the fairly large percentage of ships from the Ogadzi Diaspora, mainly from throughout Diaspora Sector, with a very occasional representative from Alpha Crucis. As the Solomani dominate Alpha Crucis, it's harder for mixed-race Ogadzi to obtain a starship there, but such feats have been known to happen.

You can tell that this is *not* your everyday starport right away. At the spots where you usually would see a portrait of the Emperor or the planetary leader, you see a granite plaque with these words carved on it, in raised relief:

"Praise ye the Lord. Sing unto the LORD a new song, and his praise in the congregation of saints. Let Isreal rejoice in him that made him: let the children of Zion be joyful in their King. Let them praise his name in the dance: let them sing praises unto him with the timbrel and harp. For the LORD taketh pleasure in his people: he will beautify the meek with salvation. Let the saints be joyful in glory: let them sing aloud upon their beds. Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand To execute vengeance upon the heathen, and punishment upon the people; To bind their kings with chains, and their nobles with fetters of iron; To execute upon them the judgement written: this honour have all his saints. Praise ye the LORD." - Psalm 149

Not exactly a gentle introduction, but it does get straight to the point. The port itself is built on the triangle/circle motifs that the Ismya Christians so love, with the work sections walled with an slightly shimmering silver-crimson metal. The passenger and public access areas are quite graceful if austure, with walls faced with expensive red marble with a band of Jerusalem limestone running along the middle of the wall, parallel to the smooth flagstones on the floor. On the limestone is engraved numerous scenes of starport life: ships landing and departing, people meeting and hugging each other, cargo being auctioned, pickpockets being chased down, etc.

Most of the locals hold the Way of the Tyrant as an esthetic that shapes their lives, their actions and their way of living: the influence of the Way can be seen in local food, sports, phases, etc. In front of the starport, for example, that quote from Psalm 149 symbolises "Law", while the pictoral representations of the starships represents "Duty". If you look around, you can also find portrayals of "Blood", "Water" and "Purity".

Now, I don't *look* Ogadzi, so right away I'm an outsider. With the red Imperial Starbursts on my uniform, everyone shut's up when I enter a room, and wait's for me to leave or shifts to whisper mode. Eventually, a neatly dressed young man - followed by two large men who practically scream SECURITY - politely told me to either complete my business or leave, as this port is "not for tourists".

I could not spend much time in the port, as I always get hustled out the door and could barely get anywhere in the port without being stuck by mysteriously locking doors, running into grim-faced Security men, or having my way blocked by Ogadzi merchants with crossed arms. I'm sure that the only reason why I didn't have a gun pointed at me was because of my uniform: but I'm also certain that if I had pressed hard enough they would have used their electric shockers, the nearest blunt instrument, or their fist's if worst comes to worst.

If you start looking around you'll quickly notice that the people employed by Ogadzi starports are nearly exclusively *men* - the Ogadzi culture and the Ismya religion are definitely patriarchial structures, and the duty of women to raise their children well is expected to take precedence over other pleasures or employment. Moreover, starports are seen as dangerous areas ( from environmental risks to diseases to firefights among the passengers ): the lives of Ogadzi women are seen as less disposable then Ogadzi men's, so they are barred from employment there. Nonhumans are allowed to work in Ogadzi starports as translators, guides, and vendors, but are kept away from the starships, the berths and hangers, and any other sensitive areas. Interestingly, however, the janitorial and muscle jobs are strictly reserved for Ismya believers (maybe as a form of penance?)

Interestingly, there is a good deal of traffic around, mainly in-system commerce and emigration to seek out more opportunity elsewhere in Diaspora. It's mainly local free traders and the small local lines: the larger Sectorwide-plus lines use the Imperial Starport instead. Some of the local free traders are affilitated with one of the Church Militant organizations - either openly or covertly - so I definitely advise caution if you plan to do something of questionable legality here.

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