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by Pete Grey

Quhaiathat was a snowball world colonised to exploit its rich mineral deposits. Despite its poverty of air and water, it possessed massive subterranean deposits of Platinum group metals, a great deal of Gold, and huge Iron deposits. Colonisation began in the period after the Second Frontier War, one of the few of the Sisters' worlds that actually benefited from the slowdown of Imperial investment and expansion.

Located far from its primary, the world is bitterly cold. Surface temperatures approach -200 K, and most settlements are located within former mine shafts. Most of the worlds power supply, and therefore life support margins, are given over to the mines and their vital treasures. As a result, the use of air and water by the rest of the community had to be strictly monitered to prevent waste. The original technocratic government became an impersonal bureaucracy known as the Core, and its edicts are enforced by the Containment Service, the world's "air police."

Rationing of air and water is strictly enforced. And inhabitants put up with constant surveillance by the Containment Service, monitored for excessive usage of air and water. Everyone is taxed according to the amount of water and air that they use. That tax is payed for with either money, or by additional compulsory labor in the mines. Wasters of water and air, and tax cheats, are usually confined to the mines, in squalid conditions, until they pay off their "debt." And this penalty is applied to everyone, regardless of stature or standing, including Core bureaucrats. Needless to say, few people even attempt to cheat the taxman.

In the past, Visitors were confined to the worlds starport, or were only allowed visas with short time expirations. Immigration was limited to a few thousand people per year. Despite these harsh laws, the output of the worlds mines were rich enough to give the common people a high standard of living, undermining dissent. The Representational Reforms eliminated the world governments efforts at limiting offworld contact and immigration, but was able to compensate through careful recruitment of offworld professionals, and a program of technological upgrade.

Quhaiathat also has the opprobium for the highest industrial accident rate for any world of its tech level and nature. Since wealth is measured by the amount of water and air that the locals can afford, many are driven to overwork in an effort to escape the draconian regulatory oversight. Oddly for a world of its legal imprimatur, few regulations exist in restraining or deterring such suicidal behavior. Perhaps the payoff of obsessive voluntary productivity is too great to supress. No matter what the reason, the population has a swaggering nature reminiscent of any dangerous occupation, only to an extreme degree.

Luck is as important as work ethic, and the society seems to thrive on thrill seeking to some degree. A play hard and why worry attitude is cultivated among the young. Miners who've surivived past ten years of such behavior are looked upon with a perverse mixture of respect and dread. Sports are extremely popular, as is just plain stupid daredevil behavior. RQS and Naval personnel dread visiting the world, as the locals are sometimes given to playing chicken or hide and seek with local patrols.

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