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by Pete Grey

Retief, formerly 975-452, was settled by the former Imperial Megacorp, Hortelaz et Cie, in the last few years before the Civil War. The company surreptitously constructed a large facility, and maintained a low profile colony on the world. Its reason for doing so is still largely unclear, but it is widely believed that it used the world as an "offshore" banking center, as well as a contact nexus for the company's intended expansion into the Spinward Hinters.

Despite its poor starport, or perhaps because of the low profile its mediocrity afforded it, the company built an extensive complex of support, recreation, conference and supply facilities to house and maintain staff and workers. While not exactly luxurious, the base was more than comfortable enough that it became a rest and recreation facility for its personnel, particularly in the contact and intel offices. Hortalez compensated for the lack of starship maintenance facilities by stationing a tender on a periodic basis in orbit, disguised as a company bulk carrier.

Bankrupted and destroyed by the Collapse, Hortalez was liquidated in the Great 1132 Fire Sale, and most of its former managers seized or absconded with many of the company's extra-Imperial holdings for their own personal profit. 975-452 was the most extreme example of this piracy. Local company personnel simply declared "independence" from Hortalez as a real sovereign world, and the world's facilities were spared a trip to the auction block. The new managers encouraged immigration, constructing schools and medical clinics and other amenities required to attract and hold new arrivals and their families.

Now bereft of its mother company's money and support, the new government transformed the world into a outside contact and commercial center (and black market nexus) between the Regency and its neighbors in the Hinters. The world sustains itself as a middleman, dealmaker and diplomat, and it makes a good profit and reputation for itself as a side benefit. A number of small shops and factories have sprung up in the last couple of decades, primarily to produce spare parts for megacorp systems that are outdated or out-of-production since the Collapse.

The world has few distinguishing features in of itself. And the colony, now open to every and all visitors, seems to be rather ordinary. Yet that ordinariness, a visitor quickly realises, is just an outgrowth of the facade that Hortalez maintained for itself. There is a lot going on behind the scenes here, and the unwary visitor quickly learns to become circumspect with the locals, whther they have important information or not.

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