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by Pete Grey

Zephyr is a near water world famous for its powerful wind currents, and its reliance on large wind-driven gliders and sailing ships for trade and contact. The world has a short, 14 hour day that gives it a perpetual wind speed of around 40-60 kph at all times, and makes its jet stream move at about twice the T-Norm level (about 120-150 kph).

The wind doesn't pose much of a danger during the equinoctial seasons, though it can reach gale force proportions during the winter and summer. It does disrupt the formation of low pressure systems, and makes rain less common than normal, and tropical storms and hurricanes are unheard of. Wind erosion is more important than weathering by rain, and much of the land is sculpted by blowing sand and wind.

The lack of moisture coupled with wind damage were severe disincentives to settlement, and it was only in the early centuries of the Imperial period that a colony was planted on the world. Zephyr has few resources to trade anyway, as most of the world is steepe and desert unsuitable for agriculture, and few minerals or ores in large enough concentrations for mining.

Most of the inhabitants rely upon fishing the estaurine seas, and herding of hardy local grazing animals known as the Gurpy. These activities require a semi-nomadic lifestyle, and most of the population away from the starport are transients who move in deference to the seasons. The fisherman live in large barges that anchor in sheltered coves and bays, and send out small catamaran fishing boats into the surrounding waters to harvest edible and commercially viable sea life. The Gurpy herders live in gypsy-like caravans of small trucks and wagons that roam over the world's two solitary continents.

The starport is a rather sumptous B-class facility that services the steady flow of trade between the Regency interface, Floria , the Hierate and the Marrekesh Trade League. What industry that exists on the world is based in the starports periphery, and most of it supports the port, and supplies worlds two main cultures materials unavailable through their own means. But a significant portion of that industry is oriented towards the "windtrade", and is what gives the world its fame.

Because of the dry prevailing conditions on the continents, there is little cover to absorb solar radiation and lower the world's albedo. The bare ground reflects that heat into the air, creating convection thermals that, when combined with the already massive energy in the atmosphere, create updrafts of up to hurricane force. These thermals can attain heights as great as 15,000 meters, and the locals exploit this phenomenon through the use of massive glider aircraft called "323s".

Most commerce and trade between the scattered communities is accomplished through aerial networks of these gliders. Since gliders are rather simple to construct and maintain compared to conventional aircraft, most communities can afford even mid-sized versions for their own personal use. Where on other worlds the young are trained in driving or grav-flying, the local adolescents are instructed in unpowered flight. Gliders are often supplemented with imported airfoil blimps that do weather and navigation surveillance work, and by CG powered airframes used by the local militia.

More extreme practitioners of the sailplane set often create their own wings out of ultralights, parafoils, and man-pack balloons. These daredevils, most of whom are offworld visitors, will tether themselves to one of these contraptions, along with airtanks and ballast, and shoot off into the breeze during the solstice periods of maximum wind. These "condors" try to set distance, speed and endurance records, oftentimes with some loss of life.

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