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by Pete Grey

Kutadis is noteworthy for its heavy forests and rich floraculture. The planets largest continent of Arborea (70% of the local landmass) is geologically stagnant, the result of dormant rifting and slow tectonic progression. The subsequent lack of orogenesis (mountain building) and the minerals that are weathered from them, gives Arborea poor soils.

This creates a rather unique evolutionary problem. Arborea is well located within a temperate zone amenable for the growth of forests and grasslands, and the lack of mountains does not impede the huge troughs of tropical moisture that sweep through during the northern summer. But the poor soils require that trees be niche dwellers to a degree not normally expressed by most temperate flora. The result is an explosion of arboreal diversity almost unparalleled in charted space.

Kutadis is home to over forty thousand species of trees, and twice that number in shrubs and herbs. While the planet lacks much advanced fauna, the diversity in that area is also stupendous. Exploration and commercial has been daunted by the huge task of cataloging, assaying and domesticating such a vast number of species.

Ironically, antebellum society had little interest, or was just plain ignorant, of a treasure like Kutadis. Much of this was probably local cultural bias: most of the nearby worlds were populated by tech-starved Imperial communities more interested in industrial development than in poking and prodding stodgy old trees. Kutadis also has a wide array of amazingly poisonous fauna, and the world was deemed to be of little interest for development. Nor did it help that it neighbored the then interdicted Novoterre, with Imperial Naval units from the interdiction patrol showing up to alleviate tension or boredom by using the planet for impromptu target practice (interdiction patrol in non-Imperial space was widely considered in the antebellum Navy to be the most mind-numbing duty crews had to suffer through).

First settlement came in 1071 with the establishment of an E class starport by the Imperial Navy to aid stranded or disabled passing ships. A survey by the IISS demonstrated the world's huge diversity, which led to the formation of a joint venture company, based on both Urnian and Mirriam - Five Sisters, to explore and exploit the world. The company, Aeschus-Brunave LIC, established a research station onworld in 1090 to do basic botanical research and suggest development options to the company for marketing.

This preliminary assessment recieved a boost from the lifting of Novoterre's interdiction in 1129. By that time Aeschus-Brunave's botanists had developed a number of basic products that were uncompetitive with high tech substitutes, but were perfect for a TL 5-8 world like Novoterre. Many of these products were simple medicinal, confectionary and structural products that Aeschus-Brunave percieved would be in much demand given Noveterre's volatility. Money made from sales of these products would underwrite the more expensive research into high-tech alternatives, and the longer ranged expeditions into the outback of Arborea.

So far, about 300 hundred species of trees have been cultivated and adapted for sale. Most of these continue to be harvested for sale to Novoterre, but the market has been steadily widening to include the subsectors other industrial worlds, and possible export markets in Avalar and Marrekeshi space. Products so far marketed have included, cheap biological plastics and rubber replacements, chewing gum and candy, a medicinal suspension gel with better absorption qualities than gelatin, a gutterpercha replacement (known pithily as "Bettapercha"), vitamin concoctions, toxic waste removal technology, fiber for medical applications, biodegradable lubricants, antibiotics and anticarcinogens, and even explosives (which brought a "concerned" delegation of Regency Marines to the company's operations, and subsequent demise of that particular product line.) These are all the low tech applications so far marketted, and only just scratches the surface of what possibly could be achieved.

The company compound is located right at the starport. The listed TL is the result of the companies restrictions on destructive industrial technology, as it doesn't fully understand the world's ecology, and doesn't want to muck it up (yet). The entire population is equipped to TL-10 standards, and the local security forces enjoy TL-13. The local economy is centered around large, heavily guarded groves of trees that exhibit both easy growth and useful properties. Genetics labs, storehouses and vehicle parks make up the rest of the compound. The species raised here make up only a very small number of the ones exploited by the company, and the rest are deep in the forest, in carefully guarded locations, that can only be reached by air rafts with special location transponders monitored from the downport or in orbit.

The company has an extensive number of backwood encampments populated by armed caretakers. These are backed up by a growing surveillance net in orbit, and by a company sized contingent of combat armored infantry and their g-carriers. Interlopers who have no apparent business in-system are carefully monitored by a squadron of starmerc gunships, and are invited to leave if they persist in loitering. Smugglers and trespassers, it should be clear by now, are neither welcome (nor survive long).

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