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Karst

by Pete Grey

Starport: Class A
Diameter: 7688 Miles
Atmosphere: Normal, Tainted with CO2 and some Methane.
Surface Water: 59%
Climate: Very Hot
Population: 261,450,000
Govern: Imp. Bureauacracy
Law Level: 11 (for major settlements), 3 (outback)
Tech Level: 10

This world is named for its predominant terrain type. Karst is a barren limestone or dolomitic region characterised by fissures, sinkholes, caves and underground channels. The world oceans are rich in dissolved carbon dioxide, and the local maritime lifeforms use this as a building material for protective shells or skeletons. The accumulated layers of casts and shells of dead marine life are then uplifted by tectonic action or accretion, and these limestone barrens form nearly eighty percent of the world's dry land.

But because of the world's wet climate and high CO2 levels, rain dissolves weak spots in the karst regions, creating a world that is swiss cheesed by massive cave systems nearly unrivaled in the former Imperium. Solid ground is nearly nonexistent, as there are few areas where the ground has not been undermined by underground rivers or subject to the formation of sinkholes. To further complicate matters, the local water table is extremely high in most areas, preventing underground tunneling.

Because of the scarcity of land, and the infertility of karst without long term development of topsoil, the world's government is primarily concerned with alleviating scarcity of living space, and providing enough food and energy for habitation. The high law level reflects its draconian habitation laws, which in theory limits offworld immigration and population relocation. Weapons are also illegal on Karst, and traffic in such devices is a capitol offense. Most of the government is little more than overglorified municpal officials, as the world has very little infrastructure beyond some limited road and rail, and large tracts of wilderness effectively limit transport to air and water.

Most of the world's cities are built in either the drier cavern systems, offshore in shallow coastal waters, or most dramatically float in the larger sinkholes. The latter includes the capitol city of Bronko, which floats in a sinkhole nearly 5 kilometers in diameter. The world's downport is constructed on a granitic island about thirty kilometers from the capitol, and is connected to it by a long series of natural and manmade underwater and underground vehicle and rail tunnels.

Since the Collapse, the world's population has swelled considerably. It is no secret that Karst is a "firebreak" world, the next line of defense in case of a massive Virus or Vampire penetration of the Frontier. Its geology makes the world a natural fortress, one that Virus would have great difficulty in overcoming. The perception of this security coupled with the availability of unclaimed "land" in its wilderness attracted a massive number of refugees from Antra and Millions subsectors. But unlike many worlds which enjoyed an increase due to the Abandonment, local services have not been strained qute as much as expected.

This is largely due to a strong tradition of resistance to the government. The oppressive land regulations has long compelled Karstians to simply take off on their own into the outback. Because water is an abundant commodity, many "refusegees" will simply hook up a fuel or solar cell unit to the surface, and run power cables into a cavern or ravine, where a hydropod grows food or medicinal crops. Much of the world's cave networks have never been mapped or officially explored, and it is difficult not to stumble over somebodies sight unseen "homestead" in the wilderness. The government abhored the existence of these unregulated communities, but is reluctant to take strong action as their forces are at a strong disadvantage in these poorly explored caves and badlands. In the aftermath of the Collapse, millions of refugees did likewise, building wildcat settlements in direct abeyance of local laws. In the end the government simply accepted this fait accompli, and extended its security cordon around them with military and financial assistance from the Regency.

But in some cases the government has used these cave networks for its own advantage. Located under three hundred feet of water offshore of the main continent, a massive salt dome was partially hollowed during the 700s. When the company running the mine went bankrupt coincident with the advent of the Psionic Suppressions, the planetary government took over the mine, known as the Countinghouse, and converted into a deep storage facility. Use of this facility is not limited, and it has both private and public, and rich and poor clients that dump their belongings here for a small nominal fee. Everything from cuckoo clocks to Imperial/Regency documents can be found here, and its rumored that gold bullion and the other wealth of people and institutions fleeing the situation in Corridor during both the Vargr invasions and the Collapse rests undisturbed and unclaimed, as many owners did not survive to reclaim it. Security at the Countinghouse is very tight, and access is limited to a large natural cavern system that runs from a private Class C starport facility on the surface. The exact size of the Countinghouse is classified, and it is managed by a public corporation fully answerable to the government and its clients.

Rumors also exist of smaller facilities built across the world to cache arms and supplies in case of a Viral breakthrough. No evidence of these caches exists, though it is true that the Regency Navy and Marines have an unusual interest in the world, as evidenced by the heavy Naval traffic into the system.

Karst's small shipyard is owned by Specter Ironworks, a mid sized company based primarily in Trojan Reach and Reft. Ironworks products are geared towards the low end, taking advantage of the Starship Shortage in a shrewd manner. The local yard primarily builds a number of TL 10-12 budget freighters, using parts manufactured locally or on nearby Petrarch (1712), largely for the local j-1 or 2 traffic in the Karst Cluster or coming up from the Frontier into Inar.


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