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by Pete Grey

Trafford is one of four worlds that constitute Foreven's "Football Cluster", a group of four worlds that were originally settled by Solomani colonists from Terra's British Isles.

Geologically the world is dominated by massive plains and plateaus, with very little surface relief. Its oceans are shallow, and several are landlocked with no outlets or outside circulation. As oceans on most worlds act as heat pumps and chemical absorbers, Trafford's have a minimal impact upon temperature regulation or the local CO2 and N2 cycles, due to their restricted flow. As a result the local biosphere has had to adapt in a drastic fashion in order to compensate.

During the aphelion sequence, local plant and algal lifeforms greedily thrive on the nutrients that are fixed by them directly from the air, or washed out of air and soil by rain. A massive explosion of floresence occurs, and the worlds forests and grasslands are smothered in a heavy tangle of rapid growing trees and plants. The atmospheric CO2 levels drop severely, and the O2 level spikes. As Trafford swings back towards perhelion, the O2 levels reach their maximum, and by early autumn combine with the higher summer temperatures in the Southern Hemisphere to create massive firestorms that recycle accumulated carbon and nitrogen back into the ecosystem. The CO2-N2-H2O levels rise to unbreathable levels, restarting the cycle.

Most years these storms are rather localised outbreaks, but every ten years or so the world can erupt into massive tornadic "hellstorms" that can sweep across entire continents in a matter of a few days or weeks. Hellstorms are massive storm cells, usually low pressure fronts in the temperate regions that magnify smaller fires into massive sheets of advancing, 100 km/hr flame that incinerate everything in their paths. These storms can last for weeks on end, and dramatically depopulate entire regions.

Most local plants have life cycles that rely upon these firestorms for germination and reproduction. Many are actually quite flammable, and it's the population explosion of these species that encourage the hellstorm phenomenon. Many types of marine algae develop surface blooms that develop flammability, and during hellstorms the surface of the local oceans and lakes can spontaneously ignite in brief, explosive spurts.

Given its dangers, and its dramatic shifts in atmospheric composition from one unbreatheable mix to another, it seems quite strange that anyone actually tried to settle this world. But several parts of the infamous Football Fleet settled the world around 670, and quickly adapted to its trying environment. The settlers were quick to exploit the systems longer growing season, and deftly manuevering crop cultivation in the worlds schedule of growth and destruction. The world is a minor breadbasket system for Titan subsector, and its most famous products are dark colored liquers and wines (due to their high carbon content), and a variety of unusual culinary products.

Trafford is dominated by the Combine, a consortium of farms, corporations and local communities that allied to create a common legal code, police force and governing protocols for the entire populace. True to their feisty ancestors, the locals are to divisive and disinterested to permit a more cohesive government, and the Combine itself is little more than a collection of overglorified clerks and minor bureaucrats that are accomplished at keeping out of the way of their more productive bretheren, and do just enough to keep the world from grinding into gridlock.

Trafford was formerly independent, but enjoyed good relations with the neighboring Avalar Consulate, who were its main market and patron. Avalar naval patrols commonly visited the world, and its food, ample liquor stocks and laid back attitude made a popular shore leave spot. The Collapse concerned the locals, who were afraid that the Quarantine would chill their important export markets, and the world asked for and recieved membership in the Avalar Consulate in 1133.

The local Venues are unusual compared to the Avalar norm in that they were drawn from the hard-bitten staffs of the local corporate and agricultural combines, and have a strong disdain for the prevailing soft and parasitical lifestyle. Traffordians are almost obsessive about work and labor, and are strongly disdainful of sloth and waste. Success is the local religion, and entrepenuers with proven records are considered to be the pinnacle of culture. Luxury is the result of an honest days work, and the long ten to twelve hour workday is topped off with meals prepared with religious fervor. The locals are accomplished cooks and bon vivants, and Traffordian cuisine is famous in the Consulate and along the Zhodani frontier.

The threat of wildfires and Hellstorms is taken very seriously by the Traffordians, and goes a long way in explaining their attitudes. Most dwellings are built of stone, reinforced brick, ceramic and steel. Communities are constructed with high walls designed to create a deflection layer of air around them. The areas surrounding them are kept clear of brush and grass, and are often paved over with gravel or cobblestones to prevent growth and drain accumulated rainwater. Many communities since the Collapse have been relocated to "stilt cities" built in lakes or along oceanic coastlines. Hellstorm season sees a dramatic tapering off of activity, and the world is amber zoned during its duration. The locals generally remain indoors (escept for rescue patrols), passing the time in semi-festivity. When the Hellstorm season passes, the population turns out in a massive festival known as the Turn of Regeneration, a celebration marked with almost bacchanal intensity.

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