Sector: Rimward Expansion Zone (a.k.a. the Free Colonies)
The quiet colony of Hephaestus started out as a community of Imams and their followers seeking to start life anew away from what they perceived to be the decadence of the Terran Protectorate core systems. The planet of Hephaestus, while not the typical earth-like world, was able to support human life with little terraforming. All that needed to be done was to melt the polar ice and flood the natural canyons that dissect the planet’s surface. That was two hundred and fifty years ago. Since then the planet of Hephaestus has become a place of meditation, piety and knowledge. It is comprised of many faiths. But they are frontiersmen, nonetheless. They tend to be hard, conservative, but honest.
But Hephaestus is not all monasteries and mosques. A planet needs an economy, especially in the independence-minded frontier, and Hephaestus is no different. Hephaestus is rich in radioactive elements, such as uranium. It also has extensive metal resources, many of them very rare, and some of the finest artisans in the Free Colonies. Combine that with the highly educated and detail-oriented society and you end up with a source of some of the highest-quality, finest high-tech luxury items in local space. An item registered as manufactured on Hephaestus is assumed to be of the finest quality, and the planet’s reputation stretches beyond human space into the Xintrin Merchant Guild, the Empire of Many Suns and even into the Freehold itself.
Such quality comes with a price. Hephaestus items are very expensive, and generally only for the well-off or for those who need quality regardless of price. And with price and quality comes piracy. Shipments from Hephaestus are considered prime targets for pirates and raiders, and as a result, the GISS has a heavy presence in the Moritania system, and Hephaestus itself has the Kan Avcilar, or the Blood Hunters. The natives of Hephaestus understand the dangers of piracy, and they allow the GISS to do its job as best it can. However, if pirates slip beyond the abilities of the GISS, the Kan Avcilar are let loose. They hunt down pirates and drag them back to the Crucible, a notorious, but well-run labor prison on Hephaestus. If they cannot reasonably apprehend them, they kill them.
One would think the Kan Avcilar would run contrary to the beliefs of the people of Hephaestus, but the frontier makes for hard people and hard beliefs. The residents of Hephaestus believe, in general, that without such extremes, they will forever be victims of piracy.
Hephaestus is a mostly arid desert planet, with massive super-rivers cutting across its surface from melted polar ice. The river valleys are fertile and teeming with life, cities and river traffic. The inhabitants of Hephaestus have blended the old with the new. Holograms spring up from marble plinths, laser calibrators are sold from wooden carts that smell of dates, and the morning call to prayer is occasionally interrupted by the roar of a star freighter lifting off.
Almost all of the cities are located along a major waterway, and while travel into the deep desert is not restricted, it is not advised. Hephaestus has a number of large predatory creatures. Evolution on the planet seemed to have been in a megafauna stage.
Hephaestus is riddled with extensive cave systems, particularly in the desert regions, and there have been tales for many years of Deep Time Artifacts or structures somewhere under the planet’s surface, but those rumors have never been confirmed, and the authorities don’t allow people to go randomly surveying the desert looking for alien artifacts. It’s noteworthy that almost all of the tales of someone stumbling onto some ancient alien underground city always involves someone being lost, dehydrated, and unable to find their way back. This has led many people to believe that the tales are just fever dreams of people who get lost, dehydrated, suffer from exposure, and start seeing things.
The population is comprised mainly of clan members from the Order of Voltaire, the Ares-Draconis Brotherhood, and Clan Hannu. People tend to dress and act conservatively and frown on having their lives disturbed. Off-worlders are welcome, and the rules of courtesy are very closely obeyed by most Hephaestus citizens, but off-worlders virtually never feel “at home” except among close friends.
Population: 25 million
Controlling Clan: Order of Voltaire
Diameter: 7,600 miles.
Atmosphere: Arid, with thin oxygen, but livable (like living in
Gravity: .98 G
Calendar: 27 hour days, and a 310-day year.
Satellites: Three moons, Cabeiro, Charis and
Defense Assets: Hephaestus is protected by a task force that is
almost identical in make up to a strike fleet from the first war with the
Arkhon. The flagship of the Hephaestus defense forces is the Archer-Class
carrier Aegis. There are also two
Stalwart cruisers, and four reconditioned Rama-class destroyers. The Aegis never saw action, and was being
built in orbit when the war ended. It was not completed until after the Free
Colonies declared independence. The four Rama-class destroyers were salvaged
from a debris field near the Empire of Many Suns. Hephaestus paid the Fahreen, a methane-breathing species of traders who compete
with the Xintrin, for the derelict hulks and had them
restored. There are also about two dozen Holstein-class pinnaces and half a
dozen Siena Ray transports. The transports, escorted by