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by Pete Grey

Ake is a cool world covered in extensive ice sheets. Most of its original atmosphere has leaked away, and most of its ground water is locked within the glaciers. Ake was settled for the same reason as Benoncra, strategic location at the end of a J-1 route, in this case the less heavily developed and travelled Raweh Track. Settlement was first led by a small group of Imperial investors in the late 330s, who constructed a basic D class port that attracted a trickle of trade.

When these investors went bankrupt in 346, their assets were purchased by a small-time trader, and convicted forger, named Valeria Yun. Yun had long been a thorn in the side of Imperial authorities with a long history of fraud and forgery crimes. And consequently her acquisition of Ake became part of her continuing criminal activities. Self styled as the "Matriarch of Ake," she attracted pirates, confidence men and other low lifes to congregate under her watchful eye. To forestall Imperial retaliation, she permitted enough real trade to create a patina of legitimacy, to conceal illegal activites and confuse the authorities.

Yun's petty criminal empire eventually passed on to her adopted daughter, a tradition continued to the present day. Ake's criminal links have waned throughout its history, the victim of competition with better organised syndicates, the latest being the Beyond Sector centered Enterprise. But the tradition of determined and strong feminine leadership has been unbroken, even if it doesn't quite epitomise the traditional feminist goal of liberation.

The Matriarch is essentially an elected post. Reigning Matriarchs "adopt" a girl or young woman they percieve as being capable of succeeding them. While succession is accomplished without popular consent, upon the death or resignation of the incumbent, the Matriarch is subject to annual votes of confidence by communal procters selected by the populace at large. An incumbent who recieves a vote of no confidence is automatically disposed of by her personal Bodyguard, and her successor is almost always selected, by the Proctors, from among the Bodyguard. Votes of no confidence are limited to constitutional issues like power abuse, dereliction of duty, and utter incompetence. Cultural and economic factors are never factored into these votes, as these are seen as being outside the Matriarch's control.

The world's long association with criminal syndicates is still heavily impressed upon local culture. While Ake has a nominal law level of A, it mostly applies to public areas and open spaces. A lot of malfeasance and vice occurs within private homes and offices, untouched by the local security forces. Persons harrassed while searching for contraband are often chagrined to discover that most of the local black marketeers and fixers are the same police agents that were tailing them earlier. Life on Ake, the locals like to say, is like an art auction: you pretty much know what you're going to get, as long as your willing to pay the price.

Aside from the Proctors, whose only authority extends to overseeing the Matriarch, most local authority extends to the bosses of local professional and civic institutions. Much of Akean life is dominated by such powerful yet petty officialdom, and is another residue of its criminal past. While it is ruled by a woman, strict sexual integration is enforced at all levels of local society. Wives and mothers are accorded a special degree of respect, and the military is a popular career choice for upwardly mobile woman who aspire to join the Bodyguard, and maybe become Matriarch in their own way.

Ake's economy largely revolves around commerce coming down the Raweh Track from Froin - Five Sisters, and acts as a break-bulk point for cargo making the J-2 trip to Noveterre. Consequently it has an oversized starport, and its low reputation attracts frequent visits from the RQS garrison on Raweh, who, depending upon whom you're asking, are either making precautionary sweeps, or are sampling the locals "wares." Ake has enjoyed a more than ten-fold increase in population, but nearly all of the migrants have adapted to the local culture and have little or no trace of their original homeworld cultures evident.

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