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Pasternak

C573944-7

by Pete Grey

Pasternak is an industrial world situated at the far spinward-coreward corner of the Avalar Consulate. It possesses an unusually low tech level for such a world. This is partially the result of political conflicts with the Consulate government, but mostly to do with its unusual astrographic position. For Pasternak orbits the smaller dwarf companion star in the system, rather than the primary star.

This situation is the primary reason that the world is habitable at all. An orbit closer, within its G0V primary's life zone, and it would be too hot to support life. But while this makes the world livable, the orbital period around the smaller star makes for alternating seasons that go from frigid to unbearably hot, in as little as two standard months. During the hot season, massive amounts of water are evaporated from the world's small oceans and lingering glacier ice, and differential heating creates massive thermals that are dangerous for inexperienced pilots to fly through. During the cold season, this moisture rains down in massive storms, with rain quickly becoming snow and ice that can flatten small structures. The ground and soil are practically useless for agriculture under these conditions, and the ground is heavily broken up by "flash" weathering and erosion.

The world's local lifeforms have adapted to this pummeling cycle through very unusual adaptations. During the hot months, the local fauna are ravenous in their appetites, accumulating thick insulating shells or fat layers, as temperature decline, to the point of extreme corpulence. They then drag themselves into deep warrens, or dig burrows to weather the glacial season. When the hot season begins again, they shed these outside layers, which are quickly decomposed by rapidly growing fungi and plant life. Seasons on Pasternak, then, are typified by rapid explosions of death and florid life. Metabolisms are paced throughout the local life cycles, but long lived species are a rarity.

Despite its severe weather, Pasternak was colonised around 710-717. The world had very rich mineral resources, and the Consulate government was only too happy to provide conscripted labor for the development of the mines. So rich were Pasternak's minerals and ores, that it could pay for most of its food imports, and sustain fairly comfortable living conditions for its work force. Most of the planets population lives in deep underground warrens adjoining the mines, that are little more than caverns blasted and quarried out of the surrounding rock, with few free-standing structures of any kind. Some of these cities are huge affairs kms in depth, and the population has become inured to the dirt, darkness, and excessive heat that is found in the lower habitation levels. Virtually every factory and mine processing station is found in the lower levels, and the stench of industry, smelting and refining can permeate every corner to the point of being unbearable.

For their part, the locals have adapted to the local constraints, and are content with their lot. Time tends to move very slowly anyway, as the locals rarely spend that much time on the surface except for urgent business, and the passage of seasons is irrelevant except for the flow of ore shipments. Other Avalaran worlds tend to look down upon them, contemptous of their lack of ambition and disconnection from the ebb and flow of events within higher society and the states' politics. Pasternakians tend to reinforce this stereotype with a feigned bumptiousness and a loudly stated disdain for luxury and manners.

While the rest of the Consulate may be disgusted with their poor show of manners and tolerance of spartan surroundings, Pasternak has made a real success out of its local political system. The slow progress of technological development, the egalitarianism of the mines and the concentration on procedural matters related to the mines and social consensus has created one of the strongest democratic governments in the entire Consulate. Well developed political parties, strong republican traditions, a well established bicameral legislature, and a civil service known for its deference and competency are in strong evidence. Naturally the style of this government and associated local traditions epitomise everything that the greater Consulate and the usual local authorities are not. Conflicts with Consulate government over interference in local politics and jurisdictional responsibilities have been a perpetual feature of local politics, often more important in the time they consume than most other political priorities combined.


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