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by Pete Grey

Nordstrom is a blue-black marble streaked with jagged yellow and white clouds. The world's atmosphere is a cocktail of nitrogen, water vapor and carbon dioxide so dense that it forms a sea of compressed gas that is about 50 kms in depth. The bottomost layer is actually a vast world ocean of oxygen poor water that obscures all land beneath a black curtain. When the world was first discovered by the Zhodani in -235, their surveys discounted the world as anything more than a curiosity. A later survey chanced upon the world's unusual life, and the world became a major research station that is still in place to this day.

Nordstroms' native life is unusual because it does not distinguish between the various layers, seperating the ocean from the air so to speak. The upper fluid layers are practically moving rivers of silt and organics, which are collected and consolidated by airborne plants and animals that float freely through the gloom. These airborne lifeforms can range from microbes to giant gas buoyed or gliding forms the size of starships. Plant life create vast "magic carpets" that float at various levels of atmospheric buoyancy, often growing to the size of city blocks in the form of trees that grow outwards in a circle from a central point. The deep oceanic layers are dominated by bizarre anaerobic lifeforms that are still poorly understood by modern science, but which grow into even more immense and bizarre shapes. The ecosphere is three dimensional and vertical, with diversity depending upon the amount of nutrients, wind and current velocity, and the amount of sunlight recieved.

The local economy is agricultural in nature, and is dominated by farming and harvesting of the huge, rapid moving streams of silt and fluid that exist at the "30 kilometer greenbelt layer." While the M5V primary is rather dim, more useful energy for plant growth comes from the high amounts of infrared and microwave radiation trapped by the gas mix. This coupled with the low ambient light at the 30 km layer creates an eerie gloom against which the locals harvest such bizarre crops like the Anonymous Berry (a gelatinous seed that can be squished into any shape), Green Oyster (a plant with a clam-like protective shell), and the Spear-Mint (A pungent, streamlined edible plant that resembles a 10 meter long javelin, which can fly at very high velocities). The world is self-sufficient in foodstuffs, and has significant exports to Avalars main industrial worlds.

Most of the population lives either in orbit, or ingenious submersible cities of local manufacture, that are capable of bouncing between the layers indefinitely. These cities are generally large sphere of asteroidal rock or metal, up to 5 kms in diameter, that are hollowed out and their contents are placed on gimbals and gyroscopically stabilised. Nevertheless the locals are incredibly surefooted within the constant turbulence of living in a jet stream of compressed gas, and their survival skills is akin to a desert nomads'. The local culture has the feel of a nomad society, albeit one where it is the community that travels from here to there with limited input from their inhabitants. While their lives are precarious, the locals seem to bear up with incredible fortitude, wit and patience, and they are suprisingly disparaging of the abilities of other Avalar populations.

Unfortunately, Nordstrom has come under very heavy pressure from Zhodani refugees in the last year, and an alarming rise in corsair raiding as well. This combined pressure has overwhelmed the narrow balance of survival that the local streamriders were subsisting upon. Refugees have been dumped on Nordstrom's airless moon, Gottenvald, in horribly crowded and deprived conditions with little food an no sanitation. Recent raids by "Zhodani" corsairs and marauders have escalated tensions between the locals and their new neighbors, and several retaliatory atrocities have been reported. Recently the Avalar military was invited to take over the planetary government, and that includes the locals flagging policing and relief efforts.

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