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by Pete Grey

It only seems natural that a world named after the soccer stadium of one of ancient Terra's most colorful sporting teams would have a culture to match. Highbury is a member of the "Football Cluster" (only a idiot with a death-wish refers to it as the Soccer Cluster in earshot of a local) a four-world grouping noteworthy of their peculiar culture, which is directly descended from the ancient culture of Terra's British Islands.

How this group got here is one of the strangest stories in the annals of starflight. The "Footies" arrived here around 750, in a fleet of derelict sublight ships that were sent out from Terra around the time of the formation of the Terran Confederation. The group that inhabited the ships are largely thought to be voluntary exiles, possibly runaways or dissidents that seized or blustered their way into possession of these ships. At any event they showed more chutzpah than judgement,as few of them had the requisite skills needed for survival in a colony. For that matter, few of them showed any skills of any kind.

The Footies used to claim that they were part of a larger fleet of vessels, whose populations were segregated according to their skills. The first wave of ships carried people that were mostly skilled at telephone sanitisation and other necessary jobs, and they were to be followed by later waves of vessels carrying the best and brightest. Sadly, a Footie will tell you, no evidence of this follow on fleet was ever sighted, meaning that some kind of catastrophe must have overtaken them. Incredibly enough, the Avalar Consulate government actually believed this stupid story for about ten years after contact.

With Avalar and Zhodani assistance, the Footies were settled on a cluster of four unclaimed and lightly populated worlds, which were quickly named after the stadiums of popular British football (please refer to the above admonition) teams. Highbury is named after the playing field of London's famous Arsenal team. Interestinly enough the ships' population actually seems to have dispersed according to their sports loyalties, and settled accordingly. One colony, Anfield, did not succeed, which is explained away by their fellows as, "That's Liverpool for ya."

While Trafford and White Hart have managed to attain a semblance of civility with Avalar and Zhodani assistance, Highbury has remained true to whatever street culture bred its ancestors emerged from. It is joked that besides football, rioting is the national sport. Civil disturbances are a common occurence, and a natural conclusion to many major events. Rioting, looting, street fighting and anarchy are rife. Loyalties in street battles run from family, to street, to neighborhood, to communities, and finally to the geographic region and commercial loyalties.

But what is most suprising about this seeming disorder is its ritualised nature, and its economic nature. Highbury is a reasonably comfortable agricultural world, but aside from foodstuffs the world has little means by which to attract income, as it lacks viable alternatives or heavy industry. The world's tech level is sufficient for automation of most agriculture, which leaves few outlets for young workers. But early on, Highbury discovered that Foreven had a critical need for mercenary soldiers trained in urban warfare, police action and peacekeeping. Hence, the real purpose of these street fights is to hone skills among the young and the unemployed that are put to real use in the sizeable contingents of merc troops that the planetary government hires out, mostly to the Avalar Consulate.

The Arses like to explain that it only seemed natural given the world's association with a team with a name like Arsenal. While the world does hire out some of the toughest mercs in known space, troops who unflinchingly carry out the toughest duties, the people of this strange little planet are treated as being the internal cogs of some strange mechanical mystery, and visitors to neighboring worlds from Highbury are often greeted with heavy police surveillance.

Currently the Zhodani Exodus has given the locals the reason to take a vacation from their current government. Another caretaker government will probably be announced in the near future, once the current celebrations wind down (and the fires are put out).

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