Transhumanity has extended out from its lost homeworld and colonized not only the solar system but various exoplanets as well, thanks to the discovery of the Pandora Gates. This section provides an overview and incomplete sampling of transhumanity’s settlements.
Today the sun remains a crucial source of energy, but its outer reaches have also become home to some. The adaptations required to dwell here make these suryas one of transhumanity’s most unusual offshoots.
Perhaps an example of transhumanity’s most extreme neogenetic creations are the morphs adapted to live in the sun’s corona. Suryas, named after a Hindu sun deity, are large, whale-like, and uniquely adapted to dwell in the brilliant, superheated plasma cloud of the sun’s outermost layer. Each surya is like a miniature version of a circumsolar habitat. Their metabolisms generate powerful magnetic fields that shield them from the sun’s heat and radiation, while acting as magnetic sails and scoops by which they sail on the currents of the solar wind and extract elements carried on it. Suryas are protected by layers of liquid water “blubber” that capture harmful ions, which internal medichines extract and eject, while maintaining useful elements such as oxygen and hydrogen, from which more water can be synthesized. They communicate using patterns of dark and light coloration on their exterior skins and are extremely sensitive to the helioseismic soundwaves that are the sun’s pulse, using these vibrations to predict and avoid heavy weather in the coronal atmosphere.
A second type of coronal morph is the salamander, a tiny humanoid morph with gas jets on the back and chest for maneuvering in vacuum. Salamanders have very similar metabolisms to suryas, but are unable to survive unprotected in the corona. They subsist on the chemicals and energy extracted from the corona by Ukko Jylina, the only habitat where they are found.
Both suryas and salamanders communicate either via transmissions from their implants or by “sunspotting”—shifting dark and light patterns on their skins to form language.
Habitats in Sol’s corona face challenges more extreme than those faced by habs anywhere else in the system. Transhumanity’s only means of shielding a habitat from the heat and radiation emitted by a G2 star is to generate strong electromagnetic fields. Even then, the dangers posed by solar flares and coronal mass ejections— massive explosions that jettison coronal material tens of thousands of kilometers out into circumsolar space—mean that the Sun’s polar regions are the only safe space in which to position habitats. As such, circumsolar habs require extraordinary expense to build and maintain, and two of the three major circumsolar habitats are heavily backed by distant organizations.
The outer layers of circumsolar habitats are covered with thousands of electromagnetic dynamos drawing power from the sun itself. These dynamos generate the powerful fields necessary for shielding. Within are intermediate layers filled with liquid water that captures ionized particles, teeming with nanites that collect the ions and vent them into space. The water must be regularly replaced from captured iceteroids that are imported using heavy electromagnetic shielding of their own. Within the water shield is a cluster habitat, an array of modules on a framework following a roughly spherical plan.
Operated by a consortium including hypercorp interests and the University of New Shanghai, Aten supports a population of about 12,000 transhumans. Rumors abound that military research is a major component of this habitat’s mission. Aten is heavily policed and difficult to visit. The most publicized discoveries from this habitat involve propulsion systems and new solar energy collection technologies.
The argonauts and Titan Autonomous University are the major supporters of this habitat, which supports a population of about 4,000. In contrast to Aten, access to this habitat is relatively open. Major avenues of research include pure science and research into corona adapted morphs.
Ukko Jylinä is the name used by outsiders for the suryas’ safe harbor. In the surya tongue, the name for the place is a common sequence of helioseismic vibrations. When transposed fifteen octaves upward into the usual range of transhuman hearing, this sound is a chaotic rumble to most ears, but the suryas consider it one of the most beautiful sounds the sun makes.
Ukko Jylinä is more of a camp than a hab, an area of refuge for suryas during severe solar weather. It also serves as a place for suryas to socialize and mate, replenish water from imported iceteroids, and egocast or resleeve. The population therefore fluctuates a great deal, usually hovering around 300, but swelling to 3,000 (nearly the entire surya population) during heavy weather. Ukko Jylina also has a few modules in which non-surya morphs can survive.
Very little of Ukko Jylinä consists of enclosed hab modules. Instead there are many utility modules with their access ports open to space. Bereft of the solar wind, suryas within the camp generally wear gas-expelling maneuvering harnesses or resleeve in salamanders if they need to do work requiring fine manipulation.
The Vulcanoids are a population of asteroids that lie between Mercury and the Sun. Based on the predictions of early 21st-century science, the number of Vulcanoids is unexpectedly small.
Discovered in the early 21st century and subject to a flyby by a Japanese solar research mission in the 2020s, V/2011-Caldwell was nothing but a line on astronomers’ catalogs, notable only for the virtual lack of cratering on the one side that was photographed. Then, a few years after the dust settled from the Fall, a small team of prospectors from Venus discovered a Pandora Gate. Now controlled by TerraGenesis, Caldwell was used primarily for exoplanet research for several years, though the hypercorp is now engaged in several alien world terraforming and geo-engineering projects. TerraGenesis regularly sells gate access to other hypercorps and organizations. Caldwell is a remarkably smooth, spindle-shaped asteroid about four kilometers long and half a kilometer in diameter at its widest point. Called the Vulcanoid Gate, it is situated at the bottom of a deep crag near one of the asteroid’s narrow poles.
The closest planet to the sun has a mass comparable to Luna but is a great deal denser due to its iron-nickel core. Mercury rotates slowly and has no atmosphere, so that its day side is hot enough to melt most metals, while its night side is bitterly cold. Because it lacks many of the elements needed for transhuman colonies to be self-sufficient, Mercury is sparsely inhabited, save for a handful of solar power relays, a few underground mining stations, and a single large surface mining concern, Cannon.
Most of Mercury’s economy is based on mining. Iron, nickel, and other metals make up 70% of the planet’s mass, making it the richest source of ferrous metals outside of the asteroids. Mercury also does a brisk business in relaying solar power and serves as a jumping-off point for solar research concerns unwilling or unable to support stations in the solar corona. Mercury has limited Helium-3 deposits, although these are predominantly mined for local use. It is an open secret that several powers have antimatter production stations here. Officially, these stations are massive solar power relays, but the immense toroid particle accelerators and large spherical magnetic containment units required for antimatter production and storage are nearly impossible to disguise.
The only known site of TITAN activity on Mercury during the Fall, Caloris 18 was a sparsely-crewed solar power relay station belonging to Lukos, a now-defunct Russian corporation. Vanya Ilyanovich, the AGI administering the facility, rounded up all of the station’s transhuman inhabitants and fused their morphs into a gigantic, centipede-like abomination before destroying itself in a failed attempt to merge consciousnesses with all of the minds in its creation. Since then, Caloris 18 has been under strict quarantine.
Mercury’s largest surface settlement is a city-scaled solar-satellite-powered mobile mass driver that crawls along the cool side of the planet, flinging apartment building sized ingots of extracted metal into space. The habitat is owned almost entirely by the hypercorp Jaehon Offworld, which built Cannon with backing from Lunar banks looking to diversify in anticipation of a post-He3 Lunar economy. Most of the 10,000 inhabitants are Jaehon employees, and security is tight. Cannon makes a long loop of the heavily-mined Caloris basin during the long Mercurian night before following a route that takes it around the planet’s northern hemisphere, avoiding the blasting rays of the sun. Along the way, it stops at a series of mining operations, collecting the gigantic ingots for launch into orbit.
Venus is Earth’s closest neighbor and the planet most like it in terms of size and geology. It is a rugged world of volcanic mountains, canyons, high plateaus, and sweeping volcanic planes crisscrossed by riverlike magma channels. Much of the surface is basaltic rock. The climate of Venus is one of the most inhospitable in the solar system. Perhaps only the hideous radiation of the inner Jovian moons presents a more difficult challenge to transhuman colonization. The Venusian atmosphere is a superheated maelstrom of carbon dioxide and sulfuric acid, with an atmospheric pressure at its surface equivalent to that five kilometers below the surface of Earth’s oceans. Venus also lacks more than trace amounts of hydrogen, meaning that water must be imported in the form of iceteroids from the outer system.
Nonetheless, transhumanity has come to Venus, and with it, debate over how to make use of the planet. Venus has no permanently inhabited surface settlements other than a few equipment and supply caches used by planetside researchers. Despite difficulties, transhumanity has found survival strategies that work here. The most surprising of these are the aerostats, lighter-than-carbon dioxide habitats that float in the thick Venusian atmosphere. Aside from a few independents or ones loyal to the Planetary Consortium, these aerostats are the base of the new Morningstar Constellation power bloc. Notable for their research labs, nanofab design houses, software studios, and luxury resorts, the Constellation’s aerostats are increasing at odds with Planetary Consortium and Lunar-Lagrange Alliance interests.
On some aerostats, areas populated only by indentured synthmorphs are open to the Venusian atmosphere. Some 500,000 transhumans live in aerostat habitats and another 10,000 on the surface. Roughly 5,000,000 transhumans live in habitats orbiting Venus.
Venus is a fascinating place for climatologists, geologists, and other planetary scientists. The discovery of Venusian protobacteria created a new branch of life sciences overnight, though so far the practical applications for organisms with such radically different metabolisms from terrestrial life have been limited.
Gerlach is an O’Neill cylinder supporting about 100,000 transhumans. Generally recognized as the research powerhouse of Venus, Gerlach is also one of the strangest places in the inner system. The inhabitants have strong ties to the argonauts and sympathies for the outer system autonomists and are strong proponents of morphological freedom, cognitive experimentation, and open innovation. Gerlach’s main activities are planetside research and exploration, hostile environment morph design, and aerostat construction.
Octavia is the most successful aerostat habitat to date and the political center of the Morningstar Constellation. It maintains an altitude of roughly 55 kilometers above the northern highlands of Ishtar Terra. Octavia resembles an immense, mushroom-shaped skyscraper, 450 meters tall, ringed at its center by four radial outrigger spars, each ending in a stabilizing gas envelope filled with helium. The cap of the mushroom is a hard, translucent dome that provides an open, park like space while also serving as the main gas envelope (oxygen, which is much lighter than the CO2 making up most of Venus’s atmosphere, is the main source of buoyancy). The habitat is fluted from top to bottom, going from a diameter of almost 300 meters at the base of the dome, to 15 meters wide at the very bottom. A huge counterweight tethered to the bottom of the structure prevents the habitat from capsizing during storms. Atmospheric craft and shuttles from orbit may land at flight decks near the base of the outriggers. 500,000 people live aboard Octavia.
One of 20 smaller aerostats, Aphrodite Prime hovers 54 kilometers above Aphrodite Terra. It is a center for Venusian tourism; fully a quarter of this aerostat is a resort for wealthy off-world visitors. Aphrodite Prime is also the primary research station for the design and creation of life forms adapted to live in the Venusian clouds. This aerostat has a population of 300,000 and features closed-environment test aviaries populated with clouds of air plankton and schools of recentlydesigned flying squid and balloon fish.
Ecologically devastated and infested by the weird spawn of the TITANs, transhumanity’s homeworld doesn’t get many visitors. Earth’s once-populous urban regions are massive sprawls ruined by war and heavy weather, infested with dangerous artificial life and the occasional survivalist gang. Elsewhere, irradiated blast zones and desolate wasteland prevail. Due to harsh climatic conditions, the wilderness has been slow to reassert itself, and vast swaths of dead forest or burned grassland are common sights.
Even from orbit, Earth shows deep scars. Breaks in the sooty cloud cover created by orbital bombardment during the Fall reveal continents ravaged by coastal flooding, desertification, and radical temperature shifts. The only known detonation of an antimatter bomb within a planetary atmosphere, centered on what was the Chicago-waukee Metroplex in North America, left a crater over 200 kilometers wide wherein most matter was instantly vaporized. Craters left by mass driver bombardment dot the surface as well. Mass die-offs of lynchpin species like honey bees and krill destroyed entire ecosystems, leaving vast swathes of barren land and sea inhabited by only the most adaptable species. Most of Europe is sub-artic; much of Africa and North America, desert.
Ironically, transhumanity’s deployment of nuclear weapons against TITAN surface installations arrested the effects of global warming by creating a nuclear winter. Nuclear attacks against Earth have ceased, but the Lunar mass drivers still occasionally hurl captured asteroids at suspected surface works created by remaining TITAN war machines. In any case, the damage from humanity’s warming of the globe was already done. The patterns of life on Earth, and the very face of the planet, have been irrevocably rewritten.
Earth’s population is a matter of speculation. The reclaimers and Lunar authorities, both of whom spend a great deal of effort monitoring Earth, agree that surface energy emissions suggest a population of about one million once-humans living as servitors to the TITANs, although these numbers assume patterns of energy usage similar to those of pre-Fall humanity.
Though the Planetary Consortium claims that no survivors remain on Earth, reclaimer estimates guess that between 20,000 and 100,000 free humans remain. These numbers are hard to formulate, given the limited number of remote areas where humans could remain undetected while obtaining enough food to subsist. Some areas likely to conceal sizable remnant populations include the highlands of Papua-New Guinea, the Ozark Mountains of North America, and the jungle uplands of Vietnam and Laos, though it is also possible that certain underground and undersea settlements survive. Attempts to make contact with survivors have universally ended in disaster.
During the Fall, thousands of people unable to escape Earth resorted to having themselves backed up and transmitted off-planet. Many of these—along with some who had no backups—also put there bodies in cryogenic storage, hoping to wait out the Fall for rescue. Some reclaimers have speculated that dozens of these cryogenic facilities may still be functional.
Earth had a mature orbital industry sector and a considerable population in orbit at the time of the Fall, with over a billion people living full-time in space. Earth orbit was one of the fiercest battlegrounds of the Fall, however, and hundreds of habitats and other installations were destroyed or rendered unusable. As such, Earth orbit and the Lagrange points are littered with the detritus of pre-Fall humanity. Derelict habitats can mean tidy profits for intrepid scavengers, but many are also infested with TITAN spawn and hostile nanoswarms, making them incredibly dangerous.
To make matters worse, someone or something has unleashed a large number of autonomous killsats in Earth orbit to interdict would-be visitors. Some of these are repurposed pre-Fall military hardware, while others are newer construction. So far, no one claims responsibility for them. The Planetary Consortium is suspected, as they support and sometimes enforce a quarantine of the planet, but the possibility exists that the killsats may be TITAN relics or the efforts of another agency.
Despite the chaos of Earth orbit, numerous habitats remain active here, many of them participants in either the Planetary Consortium of Lunar-Lagrange Alliance. Dozens of formerly derelict habitats have also become home to squatters, some of them with criminal intent, others just looking to escape the squalor of life in the overcrowded Lunar-Lagrange habitats, even if it means taking a risk.
Essentially an armed-to-the-incisors scum barge, Fresh Kills is a salvage base near the edge of Earth’s L5 point. The base is built around a huge central docking spindle with moorings for small craft and habitat modules in the center, and massive weapons batteries at either tip. Scavengers can moor their own craft or, at considerable expense, egocast in, resleeve at the facility, and hire shuttles for excursions. The gun batteries are articulated such that any craft showing signs of trouble can be hastily jettisoned and destroyed. 2,000 transhumans live on Fresh Kills, although the population is transient and fluctuates a good deal.
Situated in a halo orbit at the Earth-Sun L1 point, Paradise was an exclusive spa and resort station for the ultra-rich before the Fall. In the wake of the Fall, Paradise fell on hard times, swarmed as it was with refugees and no longer an ideal vacation spot. Recently, however, Paradise fell back in favor with the inner system glitterati, who undertook measures to expel many of the lingering squatters and refurnish it as an elite social space. Recent rumors suggest the Consortium’s Hypercorp Council has used Paradise for important face-to-face meetings
The Reclaimers maintain this station in high geostationary orbit, monitoring Earth and making plans for potential geo-engineering efforts. Vo Nguyen is a small O’Neill cylinder hidden in a dangerous cloud of space junk and protected by swarms of killsats, gun emplacements, and drones. It is occasionally used as a jumping off point for secret surface expeditions.
The first planetary body to host permanent human habitation, Earth’s sole moon is home to the second largest population of transhumanity on a single planet and remains a lynchpin of culture and economic activity. Lunar history has been shaped dramatically by the Fall. Before the need to evacuate Earth arose, it was expected that the Moon would remain largely an automated mining concern, never attaining a population of more than a few million. Luna was never seen as an economically viable location for colonization, the focus instead falling on Mars and the outer system.
When the Fall came, every polity that couldn’t hope for a shot at Mars or elsewhere set its sites on Luna. The Indians were the only great power that had invested heavily in Luna. The other three major settlements, Erato, Nectar, and Shackle, were multinational and hypercorp concerns with no strong national affiliations. These three cities swelled overnight into polyglot refugee camps, while the Indian settlement, New Mumbai, was nuked black by the corps when it became apparent that a TITAN infection had taken hold there.
Nectar is one of the three fashion/design capitals of the system (along with Noctis on Mars and Extropia). The Lunar design houses have two major advantages: an inventive population and a low planetary gravity that makes it easier to design for the low gravities that prevail in much of the system. Some habitats elsewhere in the system even choose a rotational speed that simulates Lunar gravity in order to get the greatest benefit from Lunar designs. Bereft of nationhood, Lunars developed their own resourceful, tough-minded culture which has emerged as a counterbalance to the radicalism of the outer system and the excesses of Mars.
Transportation on Luna is largely by suborbital rocket, although trans-sonic bullet trains also operate along shorter routes. The major space port is at Nectar. There is also a skyhook—a massive orbiting satellite spaceport that drags a massive tether, which acts as a space elevator along a track running across the Lunar surface south of the equator. As a result, many smaller cities lie along the skyhook track.
Although it’s not the richest place to mine He-3, Luna has such good infrastructure for extraction and distribution that it more than makes up for the fact that Luna is very poor in hydrogen for more conventional forms of fusion. Unlike the vast reserves of the gas giants, however, the amount of readily extractable He-3 in the Lunar regolith is finite. Some of the richer deposits are already tapped out, and concerned Lunars consider their world’s future after these deposits are exhausted a major issue.
The Lunar banks are the oldest (and thus richest) in the system, though hypercorps like Solaris are close on their heels. Interestingly, the rise of the reputation economy in the outer system has not presented as much of a problem for these banks as one might have expected. Lunar banks got hip to the reputation game long before the Martian financial institutions and moved in to capitalize on it immediately. By the time Martian banks knew what was going on, Lunar financial institutions had struck deals with the Extropians and dominated all of the points of exchange where favors could be bartered for cold, hard cash between inner system corp types and outer system anarchists. The same genius fueling Lunar design created a complex barter to cash network that almost everyone uses. While some autonomists find it infuriating that they have to deal with a monolithic banking system to get by in the inner system, others are simply happy to deal with the Lunars instead of the Martians for this service.
Erato (population 5 million) is a major mining center consisting of a series of heavily shielded surface domes and a vast underground city. Erato is centered around the Eratosthenes crater on the southern edge of the Mare Imbrium (Sea of Showers), in the northern hemisphere of the Terra-facing side of Luna. Erato has access to both the rich titanium deposits of the Mare Imbrium and fields of Helium 3-abundant regolith.
Nectar (population 9 million) lies about 100 kilometers due east of Theophilus crater on the Mare Nectaris (Sea of Nectar) in Luna’s southern hemisphere. Nectar is a design powerhouse, home to the great Lunar design houses that set fashion and design trends for much of the solar system. Due to its location relatively close to the Lunar equator, Nectar also hosts Luna’s primary long-haul space port and is on the pickup path for the Lunar sky hook.
The incineration of the New Mumbai colony with nuclear weapons during the Fall to prevent the spread of TITAN infection left a scorch mark roughly 100 kilometers in diameter on the face of Luna that is still visible from high orbit. The colony was a heavily automated Helium-3 mining station, located in the midst of rich Helium-3 fields on the edge of the Mare Moscoviens. It remains a heavily-patrolled quarantine zone to this day.
Shackle (population 6 million), built in and around the south polar Shackleton crater, is centered around one of two major water extraction operations on Luna. New Varanasi, the city of temples, is the most impressive section of the city. Shackle was the other major site of old Indian influence on Luna, and with the destruction of New Mumbai holds special importance to descendants of the Indian diaspora. New Varanasi is a monumental artificial cavern complex with an intricate canal system fed by melted ice from the polar caps above. As a source of lifegiving water, it now holds the same importance to the Hindu faith once ascribed to the River Ganges on old Terra. Survivors of other Indian religions, such as the Jains and Sikhs, have also made their temples here. This makes Shackle a major pilgrimage site; tourism is the major industry after water extraction. A small herd of Indian elephants is a major attraction, and the elephant god Ganesha, Remover of Obstacles, is extremely popular on Luna, even with non-Hindus.
Earth was the cradle of transhuman civilization, but Mars, with a population of 200 million, is now its heartland. When humanity began its spaceward diaspora, Luna was its first stop. Yet while Luna boasts a sizable population, Mars was the first world humans settled where they could thrive entirely on locally available resources. During the first few decades, the early Martian settlers dwelt in tin can hab units, extracting methane from the local atmosphere for rocket fuel and water from the Martian permafrost, farming in inflatable greenhouses, and eventually manufacturing enough greenhouse gases to warm the planetary climate to the point where transhumans could walk the Martian surface unprotected, save for oxygen respirators.
The second phase of the great project of terraforming Mars—husbanding plant life and microbes engineered to rapidly replace atmospheric carbon dioxide with oxygen—was already underway at the time of the Fall. A belt of orbital mirrors helps to heat the planet by focusing the sun’s rays. The spread of plant life is a long-term project that will take several centuries to produce a fully breathable atmosphere, but the nigh-immortal transhumans of Mars are prepared to be patient. A new homeworld is worth the wait. Research into new plants and microorganisms capable of releasing oxygen and nitrogen into the Martian atmosphere at an ever-accelerating pace is a major focus of economic activity.
In the meantime, the red planet is a place of startling contrasts, from the stark beauty of its mountain ranges and high desert, to the slowly-greening bottomlands of the equatorial Valles Marineris canyon system. In these bottomlands, oxygen levels are slowly rising, and liquid water can now be found in canals that had already been dry for millions of years when transhumanity’s ancestors came down from the trees. Mars is a popular destination for travelers from around the system. Many Martians accrue wealth by operating lavish hotels, offering tours of historical sites, and leading wilderness expeditions to the rugged highlands and vast deserts of the untamed Martian frontier.
Mars now sports five vast, domed cities, mostly in the equatorial regions, along with numerous smaller settlements. Settlements are connected by surface roads, a network of near-sonic maglev trains, and air/ spaceports from which suborbitals, airships, and near space rockets fly on regular schedules. Thanks to the abundance of methane fuel and the one-third Earth gravity, transhumans on Mars have finally got their flying cars as well, and all settlements have well-delineated rights of way for these vehicles. Meanwhile, in the wild uplands, planetologists and terraforming engineers dwell in small villages, living the simple life in ruster morphs while seeing to the continued development of the Martian climate and atmosphere.
As a partially terraformed planet with vast tracts of unused land, Mars is one of the few places that can offer new sleeves to infomorph refugees. Martian brokerage houses do a brisk business in the purchase and resale of infomorph contract labor, with agreements (for some) leading to eventual sleeving. This has led to a sizable Martian underclass, however, organized as a growing resistance movement under the Barsoomian banner (though the hyperelite socialites disparagingly call them “rednecks”).
Mars is broadly divided between the lowlands of the north and the highlands of the south, which in many places are separated by dramatic cliffs up to two kilometers high. Mars has seasons just as Earth, and both north and south poles have permanent ice caps that persist despite transhumanity’s success in warming the planet. Both regions present obstacles to terraforming. The northern plains are open and windswept, while the rugged southern uplands remain a difficult terrain for life to gain a foothold. Even so, tough Earth species like cacti and succulents are able to grow in the best spots.
Ma’adim Vallis: This deep canyon system on Mars holds one of the Planetary Consortium’s most treasured possessions: the Martian Gate. This Pandora Gate was originally discovered by nomadic Barsoomians, then violently wrested from their hands by hypercorp troops—an event that still rankles the rednecks. As different hypercorps themselves nearly came to blows, the Hypercorp Council was forced to step in and offer a resolution that all could agree to. A new hypercorp was founded—Pathfinder—which would control exploration and exploitation of the gate and resources beyond, with special privileges and rights given to Planetary Consortium members. The Martian Gate is now a staging point for numerous exoplanet colonies, though some fear the prospect of keeping a presumed TITAN artifact operational on transhumanity’s most populous planet.
Olympus Mons: Mars’ most notable landmark is the mighty shield volcano Olympus Mons, on which the first—and still principle—Martian space elevator was constructed. Similar in shape and origin to Earth’s Hawaiian Islands, but now dormant, Olympus Mons is one of the highest mountains in the solar system, rising 27 kilometers.
Olympus, the settlement in the volcano’s caldera around the base of the space elevator, was once the chief city of Mars, but waned in popularity as a place to live when terraforming made other regions more attractive. A maglev train from Olympus takes a little over three hours to reach Noctis; air travel is even quicker. Despite the waning of the city, the space elevator still sees heavy use.
Valles Marineris: Most of transhumanity’s terraforming efforts center around the winding Valles Marineris canyonlands, which twist and turn over 4,000 kilometers east-to-west along the Martian equator. In these relatively warm bottomlands, liquid water is becoming abundant and the land is green with hardy Terran plant species like crab grass, dandelions, and towering Douglas firs (which botanists estimate may reach heights of 180 meters in the low Martian gravity). 75% of the transhuman population of Mars lives in this region, giving it the highest density of transhuman habitation in the solar system.
The Zone: Officially labeled the TITAN Quarantine Zone, the TQZ is a large area stretching from the smooth plains of Amazonis Planitia (between the Tharsis and Elysium volcanic areas) and southeast to Arsia Mons (just west of Noctis). This zone is known to be crawling with leftover TITAN machinery: warbots, nanoswarms, and other dangerous things. Several devastated habitats lie in this region, including the former Islamic stronghold of Qurain. Few dare venture here, though some rumors suggest that Barsoomian smugglers make use of the Arsia Mons caves and even scavenge for TITAN tech, despite the risks. Planetary Consortium drones keep a vigilant eye on the Zone’s borders, though for unknown reasons the TITAN relics rarely stray beyond its bounds.
Ashoka is located in a crater in the Ares Vallis region about 3,000 kilometers northeast of Valles-New Shanghai, not far from the landing sites of the early Viking and Pathfinder probes. The town is a popular spa and spiritual retreat for Martians wanting to revisit their pioneer roots. It is also an active terraforming station and a major point of contact between the seminomadic Barsoomian culture of the high desert and the settled Martians of the equatorial canyonlands. 10,000 scientists, historians, terraforming workers, and spiritual gurus live in the town and surrounding area. A major attraction is a museum housing the Pathfinder lander and the Sojourner rover (which was still operational when humans landed and discovered it circling endlessly in a crater). The Viking lander is in another museum a short monorail ride from town. In a move that infuriated historical purists, all three machines were given modern hardware upgrades when discovered and now house AIs who act as historians of early Mars exploration. Sojourner is particularly friendly and sometimes leads lucky groups on walking tours of early landing sites.
Located in the Elysium and Hyblaeus Chasma in the north of the Hesperia region in Mars’s eastern hemisphere, Elysium is the entertainment capital of the system and the largest Martian city outside of the canyonlands of the equator. It is also the most physically remote of the large Martian cities, though transhumanity’s advanced transportation technology (suborbital flights and rocket flight from habitats above) make this remoteness a trivial quality. Elysium and Hyblaeus Chasma together make up a 250-kilometer long canyon system in the shadow of Elysium Mons, a 14-kilometer mountain located about 200 kilometers northeast of the city. In between is the Zephyrus Fossae, an undulating, windswept lava plain. The city was the vision of one person, Zevi Oaxaca-Maartens, an eccentric entertainment magnate who was intrigued by the close proximity of the eminently terraformable Chasma to the unspoiled Hesperian terrain.
Elysium is mostly built into the canyon walls of the Chasma, sprawling over a 75-kilometer stretch, all of which has been domed over. Unlike the big domed metroplexes of the south, Elysium takes advantage of the canyon walls, which are close enough together that rather than building free standing domes, the builders have simply built great enclosing arches to completely cover the canyon. These expand northward year by year as the city grows. From low orbit, it looks like a great, glistening serpent.
Image is everything here, and to visitors it may seem as if everyone in this city is either blindingly beautiful or calculatedly ugly. The most successful performers and entertainment tycoons live lives of glittering privilege that would make the richest gerontocrat in New Shanghai mildly envious. Everyone else, from up-and-coming game producers to the virtual ero performers, has to hustle constantly.
With a population of 13 million, Noctis-Qianjiao is the major metroplex in the west of the Valles Marineris region, an area known as Noctis Labyrinthus. Although not as hospitable as the Eos region in which Valles-New Shanghai lies, Noctis Labyrinthus is considered prime real estate for its gorgeous scenery and well-developed river systems. The metroplex boasts two major domes: Qianjiao, on the northern bank of the River Noctis, and Noctis City (normally just called “Noctis”) to the south. Connecting the two domes and spanning the river is a sprawling network of lesser domes and souks, although these have been pushed north and south over the years as the planet warms and the river grows wider.
Noctis-Qianjiao is the center of the Martian design and fashion industries, which in the abundant Martian economy arguably makes the city as important as much larger Valles-New Shanghai. This settlement’s proximity to the Zone sometimes alarms visitors, but there have been no public incidents to cause concern so far.
Olympus, with a population of 1 million living in a space designed to accommodate 6 million, is something of a ghost town. The former principal city, built in the caldera of Olympus Mons around the space elevator, is now fallen into disuse. As the temperatures rose and the climate improved in the Valles Marineris canyonlands, most of the population left the windswept caldera for more hospitable surroundings. Olympus is not and never was a large domed city, consisting instead of a souk-like network of minor domes and antiquated tin can hab modules. Low atmospheric pressure and bone-freezing temperatures at the city’s altitude of 27 kilometers mean that most transhumans venturing outside the souks and hab modules still need the equivalent of light vacsuits to survive. Martian Alpiners, a rare morph found in few other places, are not uncommon here due to the harsh conditions.
The city center is well-maintained and carefully overseen by the Olympus Infrastructure Authority, a minor hypercorp that operates the space elevator. The outskirts are economically depressed and sometimes dangerous, mostly deserted and populated by squatters, indentured downloads on the run, and other people who really want to be left alone. Occasional outbreaks of dangerously mutated artificial life are one of the few reasons for which the Authority bothers to intervene in the outskirts. Otherwise, the old tin can habs and their strange inhabitants are left to decay.
Progress is one of the largest Cole bubbles in the Solar System. With 8.5 million residents, it is second in population only to Extropia in the belt. Progress was created when Fa Jing evicted all of the former residents from the Martian satellite of Deimos, excavated the inside of the moonlet, and used a massive solar array to convert it into a bubbleworld. From an engineering standpoint, Progress is something of an embarassment. The habitat was originally meant to exceed Extropia in size considerably, but difficulties with heating and spinning Deimos forced Fa Jing to abandon their efforts early or risk the moonlet breaking apart.
Progress is nonetheless an impressive habitat, home to hypercorp glitterati and an outpost for a host of major political and economic concerns. Its sister moon, Phobos, remains a warren-like tunnel habitat due to the presence of multiple legal interests unable to agree upon the disposal of the satellite.
The principle city of Mars, Valles-New Shanghai is transhumanity’s largest planetary metroplex, with 37 million inhabitants. Valles-New Shanghai lies in the heavily terraformed Eos region in the east of the Valles Marineris canyon system. The metroplex is comprised of five major domes connected by a network of Martian souks. The souks are a unique architectural feature of large Martian cities, consisting of covered thoroughfares and galleries lined with bazaars, eateries, and squats. It is said one can find anything if one spends enough time walking the souks.
The domes themselves are tamer, with artificial waterways (many of which now connect to the tenuous rivers etching the surface of the Eosian bottomland), grand architecture, residential mini-arcologies, entertainment complexes, and hypercorp conference centers. The most impressive by far is the Bund, the larger and older of two domes making up the city of New Shanghai proper. New Shanghai is roughly bisected by the twisting Ares, an artifical river that helps regulate the dome’s climate. Near its center is an almost brick-for-brick duplicate of the original Bund from the destroyed Earth city of Shanghai.
Valles-New Shanghai is transhumanity’s wealthiest population center, a hotbed of art and culture, and one of the system’s great centers of hypercorp activity. The populace includes an extremely high percentage of gerontocrats, but their stifiing influence on culture, economic mobility, and the legal system is only one force among many in a city of 37 million people. The city has expanded so much to accommodate its exploding population since the Fall that new construction is a constant. Crime and corruption are widespread, though the worst of it is contained to Little Shanghai. Valles is a place where dreams are made and broken every day, if not every hour.
Not to be confused with the much larger Jovian Trojans, the Martian Trojans are a small group of mostly rocky asteroids trailing and preceding Mars at its L4 and L5 points.
Qing Long, with a population of 2 million, is the largest O’Neill habitat in the system. It is situated among the Trojans at the Martian L5 point. Qing Long has its roots in the Chinese Mars colonization effort. Despite its exceptional size, it is one of the oldest habitats of its type, having been built almost entirely from metal-rich asteroids mined near its present location.
Qing Long is a major underworld haven. The habitat’s administration is beholden to several criminal organizations who normally refrain from killing one another. The habitat nominally obeys some hypercorp principles, such as limited access to cornucopia machines, forking, and AGIs. However, thriving grey and black markets enable people with the right connections to acquire just about anything here.
Spread out over a massive region between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, the belt contains a few hundred asteroids greater than 100 kilometers in diameter, over a thousand objects greater than 30 kilometers in size, and countless smaller ones. Despite this, the total mass of asteroids in the belt is only a fraction of one of the inner planets, meaning that asteroids are spread out over great distances. A spacecraft flying through the belt is highly unlikely to encounter an asteroid unless it deliberately navigates toward it.
The rich, easily accessible mineral deposits in the Belt were a major link in transhumanity’s first steps toward the outer system. Automated mining and high-impulse ion boosters enabled outer system colonists to move metal-rich Main Belt asteroids into the orbits of Jupiter, Saturn, and beyond, where metallic asteroids are much scarcer. This activity continues to this day as transhumanity pushes further out into the system.
Hundreds of small habitats, mostly involved in prospecting activities, dot the belt. Distant from Earth, settlements in the belt were largely spared the devastation of the Fall. Both hypercorp and autonomous outposts flourish here. Derelict habitats abandoned when nearby asteroids were boosted into the outer system or depleted are common here as well, although some of these are now occupied by residents who are best left to their solitude.
One of the system’s three dwarf planets (along with Pluto and Eris), Ceres is almost 1,000 kilometers in diameter and hosts a population of almost a million. Unlike most Main Belt asteroids, Ceres has an icy crust with a layer of liquid water beneath it, like a miniature version of Jupiter’s moon, Europa. With its abundant water, Ceres has a major role in resupplying other stations in the belt. Similar to Extropia, Ceres operates largely along anarcho-capitalist lines. However, the Hidden Concern, a cartel run entirely by uplifted octopi, holds sway in the sub-crustal sea and maintains a stranglehold, as it were, on water extraction operations. Cerean octopoid morphs are specially adapted to survive in the ammonia-rich waters of the Hidden Sea.
This massive beehive habitat is a major crossroads and anarcho-capitalist/mutualist marketplace. Extropia is a neutral free city whose infrastructure and social fabric is maintained by a loose association of anarcho-syndicalist affinity groups. Extropia’s neutrality hinges on strategic alliances between key local figures, their networks, and an unusual array of outside interests that include the Lunar banks, technolibertarian factions, and outer system colonies dependent upon raw materials exported from the belt. The hypercorps use Extropia as a tax shelter and a haven from which to do illicit business. There are no laws or government as such; visitors are advised to register with an insurance and security provider. Named after one of the first transhumanist movements, Extropia is considered a utopia for transhumans looking for body modifications. AGIs and forking are accepted and allowed here. The transhuman population is nearly ten million.
One of the more unusual near-weightless habitats is Nova York, the main city on Metis, a large nickel-iron and silicate asteroid located in the main belt. Nova York, the third largest habitat in the main belt, is a thriving metropolis of 500,000, with the main portion of the city located in a spherical cavern approximately four kilometers in diameter, the top of which is two hundred meters beneath the asteroid’s surface. Lit during the day by a series of huge light tubes in the outer walls, at night the lights of the buildings cause the surface of this sphere to resemble an enormous geode. The habitat’s basic design consists of many thousands of exceptionally tall and fragile-looking buildings that extend between one hundred and fifteen hundred meters above the surface, as well as a few buildings that stretch from one side of the cavern to the other. In Metis’s minute gravity of 1/140th of a g, up and down have little meaning, and even relatively fragile buildings are in no danger of falling down. The vast majority of the buildings, including ones more than one kilometer tall, are made from thin plastic panels over a durable supporting framework. These buildings jut out at all angles from the sphere.
Many inhabitants of Nova York move from one building to another by jumping, and a single leap can carry someone many hundreds of meters. Residents do not worry about falling—the combination of air resistance and exceedingly low gravity means that even someone falling from the top of the cavern to the bottom is in no danger of injury. In this environment, the only real meaning of up and down is that down is where you look for objects to come to rest (as long as an air current does not pick them up and blow them around).
Large enough that it could almost have formed the nucleus of a protostar in its own right, Jupiter’s massive size makes the Jovian System one of the most challenging places in the system to colonize. Jupiter’s powerful magnetic field means that its inner moons— and the outer ones, when their orbits pass through its immense magnetotail—are bombarded with enough ionizing radiation to kill transhumans not protected by the heaviest of shielding within a matter of hours. There are sixty-three moons and moonlets in the Jovian system, but only the well-explored, populous, regular moons are described here.
Jupiter’s powerful gravity well is a major hindrance to gas mining in the planet’s atmosphere, as even craft that do not succumb to the violent, centuries-long atmospheric storms can achieve escape velocity with only the most powerful propulsion systems. Given the need for heavy shielding on such craft, gas mining on Jupiter is not nearly as efficient as on Saturn. Jupiter has a tenuous ring system, much less dense than Saturn’s, which extends out for 20,000 kilometers around the planet, encompassing the orbits of its two closest moonlets.
However, Jupiter’s gravity is also a valuable resource. Craft bound for Saturn and beyond can slingshot themselves outward by circling the planet to pick up velocity, cutting months or years off their trips. The heavily militarized Jovian Republic levies tolls against all spacecraft using Jupiter’s gravity to pick up velocity, including asteroids under propulsion. This protection money is the Junta’s primary source of revenue. Planetary Consortium ships generally accept the payment as part of operating expenses. Other factions are not so cooperative, and the Junta regularly seizes or destroys blockade runners.
Most of Jupiter’s moons are really captured asteroids, lacking the size and geological complexity of planetary bodies. All are occupied. Some were converted to habitats; others host only Junta military and mining outposts. The Jovian moonlets consist mostly of carbonaceous rock, poor in metal, with some of the larger moonlets having layers or even cores of ice. Beehive habitats and Reagan cylinders predominate in the Jovian system. Reagan cylinders (called “sarcophagus habs” by every other faction) are an inefficient variation on the O’Neill cylinder in which excavators hollow out an immense, cylindrical cavern in a rocky asteroid and then alter the asteroid’s rotation with external thrusters to simulate gravity.
Other habitat types are rare in Jovian orbit, especially within 2 million kilometers of the planet, where the radiation is strongest. For a bioconservative faction unwilling to adopt radiation-resistant morphs, the Junta is in a poor location. Shielding their populace beneath tons of rock is a necessity. Despite its military hegemony, the Junta can’t control all of Jovian space, and there are things it can’t do on its own—like exploring Europa. A number of unaligned habitats and surface settlements exist in the ring system and the orbits of the Galilean moons.
The Jovian Republic has renamed Jupiter’s moons after various neo-conservative heroes from Earth’s history. From closest to most distant, the moonlets are Metis (Bush), Adrastea (Fairway), Amalthea (Solano), Thebe (McAllen), Leda (Chung), Himalia (Pinochet), Lysithea (Friedman), Elara (Buckley), Ananke (Nixon), Carme (Kissinger), Pasiphae (Schilling), and Sinope (Garcia). All are tiny, between 5 and 100 kilometers in diameter.
The largest of the moonlets, hollow Amalthea is probably the most livable sarcophagus habitat due to the large lake created from its icy core. Living on Solano carries some prestige among Junta citizens. Rumor has it that most of the residents are well-placed RAND think tank personnel, most of whom work on defense projects. A fusion-powered axial light tube illuminates the 30-kilometer diameter central cavern, whose landscape is patterned after the subdivisions and office parks of an early 21st-century suburb. All buildings have envirosealing so that the occasional bouts of environmental sepsis resulting from the poorly regulated interior ecosystem can be purged with toxin bombs. Less fortunate support personnel dwell in the beehive warrens crisscrossing the moonlet’s crust between cavern and surface. Like most of Jupiter’s moonlets, Amalthea’s space crawls with patrol craft and killsats, making approach for unauthorized craft problematic at best. 1.5 million transhumans live on Solano.
Beneath Io’s tenuous, patchy atmosphere of volcanic gases and neutral atomic dust lies a barren, grayish yellow, rocky surface coated with a thin frost of sulfur dioxide. Tidal heating caused by gravitational interaction with Jupiter makes Io the most volcanically active body in the system—so active that the meteor cratering found on every other planet and moon is completely absent on Io. Massive volcanic calderas, lakes of molten rock, and geysers of sulfur dot the surface, with eruptions and accompanying seismic activity lasting months or years. Volcanic zones on Io reach surface temperatures of up to 1,500 degrees Kelvin, hotter than any body in the system.
For all that, transhumanity’s worst peril on Io is radiation. Ejecta from geysers and volcanoes flow with Jupiter’s magnetic field to form a titanic, toroidal flux tube that rotates with Io around the gas giant. Travelers to Io must either use the heaviest radiation shielding available or resleeve into synthetic morphs.
Transhuman activity on Io centers around scientific research and harvesting the volatiles ejected by Io’s geysers, particularly sulfur. Bases tend to be modular and mobile due to the ever-changing seismic activity. The Junta’s most notorious prison, Maui Patera Rehabilitation Center, is dug into a (mostly) extinct caldera wall north of the equator.
Europa has no atmosphere and lies within the fearsome magnetosphere of Jupiter, and as such its surface is bombarded with enough radiation for an unshielded transhuman to receive an irrevocably fatal dosage within a few days—much faster when Europa’s orbit passes through Jupiter’s immense magnetotail. As a result, transhumans on Europa dwell beneath the icy crust, largely in the ocean below, adopting a variety of aquatic and amphibious morphs for survival. The only surface facilities are the heavily-shielded ice elevator heads at Conamara Chaos and several other points through which reactor mass and other crucial supplies can be delivered to the Europans below.
Transhumanity is still exploring and imaging the Europan ocean floor, a task complicated by the hideous pressures at work in these waters, which are ten times as deep as the Earth’s oceans. A further surprise awaiting transhumanity was the terrain. The geology of Europa suggested that beneath the ice would be fathomless depths of black water ending at a depth of nearly 500 kilometers in a relatively flat, featureless sea bed. Were Europa a lifeless ball of ice and rock, this would be the case, but over the estimated billion years since the rise of life on Europa, tiny lithoderms (analogs to Earth’s coral) have built silicate reefs that rise to within a few hundred meters of the ice crust. It is on these biologically formed mountain tops, home to complex ecosystems, that the Europans have built their habitats.
While based on water-carbon chemistry like life of Terran origin, life on Europa is completely autocthonic, having originated beneath an impenetrable ice sheet that cut off Europa’s subsurface ocean completely from outside. This is in marked contrast to Terran life, which many biologists have theorized might be the result of galactic panspermia, the slow diffusion of microbes through the vacuum of space aboard comets or asteroids. As such, the fauna of Europa are of great interest to transhuman bioscience.
Europa’s lifeforms, unique perhaps in the universe, are its greatest treasure, and transhumanity’s efforts to catalog them are only beginning. The rush to exploit Europan biodivesity puts the Jovian Junta in an uncomfortable situation. While they control space traffic and commerce in the Jovian system, they lack the native talent to take real advantage of knowledge gleaned from Europa. At first, they engaged in ham-fisted excise operations aimed at squeezing revenue out of knowledge exports. But once farcasters and egocasters came online below the ice, this type of extortion no longer worked. Now the Jovians have shifted to a two-pronged strategy of levying tariffs on new equipment and people brought down the ice elevators by hypercorps and research collectives, and of holding the entire population of the moon hostage by refusing delivery of key resources like reactor mass and rare elements if protection fees are not paid.
Europan habitats take two forms: fortified fishing and farming havens clinging to the spires of the lithodermic reefs, and spherical bubble warrens constructed by boring into the lower reaches of the ice crust and shoring up the hollows created. The latter are the only air-filled spaces beneath the ice. The largest warren is Conamara, at the base of the Conamara Chaos ice elevator. Conamara is surrounded by five nearby reef havens, also considered part of the habitat. The total population is 1.5 million.
Nearly as large in size as Luna, but darkly colored and not as heavily cratered, Ganymede and Callisto are very similar worlds. Neither is as dense (nor has as much gravity), as their mantles consist of more ice than iron rock. Both possess abundant volatiles and water (albeit frozen), making them ideal candidates for habitation. Ganymede, with its differentiated surface of rocky and icy terrain, has an iron core and thus a faint magnetic field. Callisto, the smaller of the two, is composed mostly of icy silicate clays. As on Luna, most cities on Ganymede and Callisto are built below ground to shield them from meteor impacts (and, on Ganymede, from Jupiter’s radioactive bombardment).
While within the “protection” of the Jovian Republic, both moons are a patchwork of city-states. Some are full members of the Jovian polity, while others are only tolerated. Ganymede tends to swing more heavily toward the Junta, as its citizens still see the Junta-maintained infrastructure—accurately or not—as necessary in such a hostile environment. Callisto, outside the worst radioactive effects of the Jovian magnetosphere, is an easier place for technoprogressivism to gain a foothold.
The nucleus of this city-state was a research station founded by a coalition of Pacific Rim nations in Callisto’s Valhalla region, a massive primordial impact zone where the icy subsurface lies exposed, simplifying extraction of clean water. When the Fall came, Hyoden, which had long faced labor shortages, opened itself to those refugees who could make it to Jupiter. Now Hyoden has two million inhabitants, making it the largest city-state on Callisto and the largest non-Junta state in the Jovian system. Hyoden is itself heavily militarized, as the tendency of the local authorities to turn a blind eye toward operatives using their territory for forays against the Junta makes for uneasy relations with their powerful neighbor.
Situated along the southern edge of the vast, rocky plain called Galileo Regio, almost on Ganymede’s equator, Liberty (population 7 million) is the Junta’s largest planetary city-state. It is closely tied to Liberty Station, a major shipyard and defense installation in geosynchronous orbit. Major industries include shipbuilding, space construction, fabrication, and security products and services. The Castle, the central security network point from which all surveillance data collected in the Junta is monitored and processes, is rumored to be in or near Liberty. Liberty is mostly underground, but it boasts a number of parks in armored surface domes. If one were to spend enough time topside, one would see the deceleration torches of incoming metal asteroids from the belt bound for the shipyards lighting up the sky several times a day.
The Trojans and Greeks are two 600 million-kilometer- long arcs of scattered, icy rock asteroids sharing the orbit of Jupiter. They orbit in the stable L4 and L5 points sixty degrees ahead of and behind the giant planet. Mars and Neptune also have Trojan asteroids, but when someone speaks of, “the Trojans,” they’re normally talking about the Jovian groups. In the early days, L4 asteroids (ahead of Jupiter) are named after Greek heroes of Homer’s Iliad; L5 asteroids (trailing Jupiter) are named after heroes of Troy. Asteroids discovered more recently break the old convention, as there are far more objects in the Trojans than there were characters in the Iliad.
Politically, the Trojans and Greeks may be thought of as a collection of sometimes overlapping neighborhoods whose inhabitants tend to group around particular cultures, factions, and sometimes languages. A neighborhood in the Trojans might span anywhere from 250,000 to 2 million kilometers at its widest point. Within neighborhoods, almost everyone knows one other. Because of the wide dispersion of resources, Trojan habitats tend to be small—from one to two thousand people—and built largely along scum barge or cluster lines (although it is never advisable to refer to someone’s habitat as a scum barge unless they refer to it that way first).
Although the sheer size of the two regions means a lot of cultural diversity, anarcho-collectivism is a powerful meme here and the reputation economy is prevalent. On one hand, neighborhoods, habitats, and even individuals are expected to be self-sufficient. Unlike the denser Main Belt, the Trojans lack the safety net provided by pervasive transhuman presence. The ideal Trojan or Greek is a Neo-Renaissance being, incredibly competent in a wide variety of fields. A person who can’t maneuver in zero g; maintain their gear, ship, and hab; and navigate between rocks and habitats can have a tough time surviving. At the same time, a spirit of cooperation prevails. Bartering services or even gifting them to gain reputation is common. Everyone appreciates a specialist, as long as they’re not specialized at the expense of baseline self-sufficiency.
Prospecting and salvage are major activities in the Trojans, where metals and rare elements are scarce and settlers don’t usually have the economic muscle to import raw materials from elsewhere. However, the Trojans are rich in silicates, volatiles, and carbonaceous materials. Necessity has led to many innovations in materials science. Beyond the simple problem of raw materials, the widely scattered habitats of the Trojans have to be wildly inventive on many levels to retain their independence. New robot, morph, and vehicle designs appear all the time, enabling an unusual array of business and leisure activities, like whaling (organizing a flash flotilla to rapidly mine asteroids and comets with erratic orbits as they pass near the Trojans), mekking (simulated—or sometimes real—combat between robotic suits or synthetic morphs on uninhabited asteroids with interesting terrain), and shrining (stealthing up on another habitat and resurfacing it with nanosculpters to create an art object—mostly a scum barge pastime).
Locus is the largest cluster habitat ever formed. It is still growing, with over one million inhabitants in the habitat proper and another million in the nearby suburbs of scum barges and small asteroid stations. Locus is located in Cassandra’s Reach, one of the denser regions in the L5 Trojans. The habitat is positioned at the center of mass around which the two asteroids making up the binary object Patroclus orbit one another. Both Patroclus asteroids are themselves inhabited and hold defense installations, mines, and refineries.
The design of Locus is very similar to the much smaller Lot 49, but Locus is eleven kilometers in diameter and somewhat irregular in shape, as growth along some spars is faster than others. A quarter of its total volume is cut out in a roughly conical shape all the way to the Amoeba, an immense, softly glowing sculpture at the center of the habitat. Some differences from smaller Trojan clusters are dictated by Locus’s size. The immense structural spars radiating from the habitat’s center are hollow, with arterial floatways and elevator-trams running inside of them. Lesser spars run between the arterial spars, providing more mooring points for modules. Adjacent to each arterial spar are wide “roads” leading to the edge of the habitat so that modules can maneuver out if the owners decide to leave.
Beneath the shimmering mesh stretched over the geodesic frame to keep out micro-asteroids, tens of thousands of small ships and habitat modules moored along the spars pulse with an ever-changing array of lights. Habitat modules and large ships are asked to stay out of the conical empty space. This space teems with small craft and people on thrustpacks or voidscooters as they cross the habitat, play zero-g games, or visit the free-floating spimes and sculptures that dot the area. The Amoeba, which periodically changes color and shape based on its resident AI’s programming (often it looks like some sort of animal), serves as a central reference point for navigation. When someone gives the address for a module, it is as a point on a spherical coordinate system with the Amoeba at its center. Large ships and shuttles dock on the outer surface of the habitat, at the terminal points of the arterial spars.
Locus was founded by a joint anarchist-argonaut venture and was the firrst major stronghold for the autonomist factions. Unlike Extropia, which has the tacit blessing of the Planetary Consortium and encourages the presence of security and insurance companies, Locus runs on a pure reputation economy. Security, maintenance, expansion, and defense of the habitat are all performed by volunteers. Inhabitants interested in security monitor incoming ships and operate crowdsourcing systems that dispatch volunteers to perform WMD scans on new arrivals. Ships that won’t submit to a scan are asked to leave. If they don’t, anyone who’s designed a cool new weapons system recently is welcome to take a shot.
Locus is one focal point in a cold war between the hypercorp-aligned inner system powers and a loose coalition of outer system interests. While saboteurs from the Planetary Consortium and other hostile entities can and do occasionally cause trouble on Locus, the hypercorps are currently unwilling to attempt a direct military attack on the habitat. The first time they tried, the Planetary Consortium and the Martian city-state of Valles-New Shanghai sent a small expeditionary fleet. The interlopers were caught completely off-guard by a fierce and wellcoordinated defense. Six months later, they sent a much larger fleet. Help arrived from elsewhere in the Trojans and Greeks and from Titan, whose citizens took a dim view of any Planetary Consortium expansion beyond the belt. The Titanians now maintain a permanent base near Locus. Rumor has it they agreed to a mutual defense pact with one of Locus’ citizens, possibly the famous programmer-armsman Teilhard Liu.
Lot 49 is moored to the small asteroid 28349 Pynchon in the amorphous Vonarburg-Shadyside neighborhood, toward the center of the L4 Greeks. Vonarburg- Shadyside is named after two rocks that roughly delimit its 500,000-kilometer length along the arc of Jupiter’s orbit. Neighboring habitats within 100,000 kilometers (with populations) include Craftsbury (450), Greenview (28), and Blackhawk (1020). With a population of 400, this station is more or less typical of the Trojans in terms of layout.
From the outside, Lot 49 looks like a shiny, meshedover geodesic sphere, 800 meters in diameter, with numerous protruding instrument spars and some triangles left open to space so that shuttles can pass through. The mooring to the asteroid is temporary in case a potential collision is detected. Inside, a central utility module with a communal reactor, factories, and machine bay is surrounded by evenly spaced but irregularly shaped habitat modules in a riot of colors and lighting schemes. Structural spars and floatways connect everything. One entire spar is given over to a rotating cylindrical module that generates about 0.7 g and contains medical, cloning, resleeving, and darknet egocasting facilities.
Lot 49’s population and most of their neighbors in Vonarburg-Shadyside tend to align with the scum and anarchist factions and speak a mixture of English, Portuguese, and Thai. Lot 49 is in a densely inhabited part of the Greeks, placing it near a crossroads. Main economic activities include shuttle design, whaling, and ferrying people and goods around the region.
The second largest planet in the system is a much more favorable habitat for transhumans than Jupiter. Saturn’s lower gravity and milder magnetosphere are a boon to gas mining operations, and for resourcehungry habs, the Rings are a feast (literally, in the case of the new Hamilton cylinder type habitats). Hypercorps have a presence here, but any major expansion by the Planetary Consortium is kept in check by the anarchist stations of the Rings and the technosocialist Commonwealth of Titan.
Because Saturn is so distant from the Sun, solar power generation is extremely inefficient. Growing photosynthetic plants with sunlight is impossible without large arrays of mirrors to focus the light. The abundance of water and volatiles makes the rings ideal for both scum barges and Hamilton cylinders. Gas mining is vital to the survival of almost every habitat and moon settlement in the Saturnian system, so habitats located further out from the planet that wish to be self-sufficient almost always maintain their own gas mining stations close to the planet. Security for these installations and the atmospheric skimmers and tankers they dispatch is tight, and it is never advisable to approach one unannounced.
Gas mining on Saturn supplies thirty percent of the system’s reactor mass. This role is expected to grow as Helium-3 deposits in the Lunar regolith become less accessible. For ships traveling to the far reaches of the outer system, Saturn is an important alternative to using Jupiter for gravity assists. Less restrictive than Jovian regimes and richer in resources than the Trojans, Circumsaturnine habs and settlements are important innovators in habitat design and cultural organization. Since the discovery of the Pandora Gates, the Titanian Commonwealth is the only entity actively pursuing interstellar exploration through conventional means.
Saturn’s rings are made up of countless small icy objects, most of which range in size from dust specks to boulders 10 meters in diameter. The rings are designated by the letters “A” through “F” in the order in which they were discovered. They vary in thickness between 100 and 1000 meters and in width from 20,000 kilometers down to just meters. In places there are gaps between rings. The widest, the Cassini division, is 4,000 kilometers across.
Saturn has over 60 satellites, a number that jumps into the hundreds if one includes the uncounted objects less than a kilometer across orbiting in the A ring. Most of Saturn’s moons are small, rocky, ice objects less than 100 kilometers in diameter. The smallest of the classical moons, Pan, is only 10 kilometers across. The first eight moons, from Enceladus inward, lie within the ring system. Atlas, at the edge of the A ring, and Prometheus and Pandora, which flank the thin F ring, are known as the Shepherd Moons. Several of the moonlets occupy Lagrange points relative to larger moons. Telesto and Calypso share the orbit of much larger Tethys, while Helene trails another large moon, Dione.
Volkov, a Slavic energy cartel, controls this tiny moon. Volkograad is a beehive habitat with about 50,000 residents. Much of the moon is given over to skimming, refining, and shipping infrastructure. A cloud of wreckage trailing the moonlet by about 100,000 kilometers serves as a reminder of the Atlas Incident, a brief but massively destructive battle that erupted when Fa Jing attempted a buyout of the moon. Tinkers from Phelan’s Recourse stil
Dione’s main settlement is Thoroughgood (population 350,000), a hybrid beehive and orbital cluster habitat set on a plateau amid a dramatic range of ice cliffs. Dione hosts the Long Array, a 150 kilometerhigh communications spar ascending from the surface settlement to an orbital station that acts as a counterweight. The Long Array’s sheer size is something of a publicity stunt, as the bulk of its capacity goes unused. However, it drew enough attention to make Thoroughgood a major communications hub for the outer system, and thus a place where hypercorp, anarchist, and other factional interests meet. Dione shares its orbit with Helene, a tiny, rocky moon at its L4 point, and Polydeuces, an even smaller body that trails it at the L5 point.
Rich in organic compounds, Enceladus is a biochemist’s playground. Profunda (population 850,000) is the major settlement, a beehive dug into the moon’s surface capped by domed parks and clusters of sleek, translucent minarets—well protected from collisions by an aggressive satellite defense network. The lower levels, stretching deep into Enceladus’ icy silicate mantle, include a prospecting operation that extracts carbonaceous soils in search of exotic compounds. Another deep section has been converted into a kilometers-wide, reactor-heated primordial sea, part of a long-term experiment into the origins of life supported jointly by Titanian academics and a collective of Enceladian biochemists.
Profunda is run along anarcho-capitalist lines. Thanks to the rich supply of organic chemicals, its upper reaches are home to many of the outer system’s best known morph designers. The Enceladian Glitter Bloc is said to have as much influence over body styles as the Lunar fashion houses do over what people wear
These twin small, icy moonlets share virtually the same path around Saturn, orbiting within 50 kilometers of each other. Set between the F and G Rings, the moonlets form the center of Twelve Commons, a neighborhood of small and mid-size habitats arranged in a flat cloud about 20,000 kilometers in radius. About six million people live in Twelve Commons. Habitats in Twelve Commons range in size from Dang Fish Echo, a tin can hab housing about 60 eccentric aquaculturists, to Janus Common, a beehive occupying much of Janus with a population of 900,000. Some of the habitats in Twelve Commons feature very unusual designs, such as Nguyen’s Compact (population 80,000), a variant Cole habitat in the G ring where an asteroid was heated and large amounts of steam were blown through it to produce a series of interconnected bubbles between five and three hundred meters in diameter. In effect, the interior of the colony is like a solidified foam or Swiss cheese with no obvious up or down. Without an ecto or basic implant to provide location and navigation information, navigating through this maze-like habitat would be exceedingly difficult.
The habitats of Twelve Commons organize themselves primarily along open source anarcho-syndicalist lines, with work groups and research pods acting as the basic political unit.
The Gateway settlement, on Saturn’s outer shepherd moon Pandora, holds the first publicly known wormhole gate. The Gatekeeper Corporation keeps the gate open as a means of exploration and scientific investigation for all factions and powers. Gatekeeper was originally a Titanian microcorp but is now independent. The Commonwealth of Titan still holds a major stake in it, though not a controlling interest. Granting autonomy to Gatekeeper Corporation was a diplomatic maneuver made in response to Planetary Consortium claims that the Titanians sought hegemony in the outer system. So far, Titan’s neighbors are buying it, even if the Planetary Consortium doesn’t.
With its chaotic, virtually unpredictable rotation, Hyperion is a dangerous place to land ships. It remains uninhabited.
Iapetus is one of Saturn’s larger icy moons and once boasted a population of 200,000 living in the dense warrens of Analect, its main settlement. Probably because it is one of the few large moons of Saturn that contains sizable deposits of silicates and minerals in addition to ice, Iapetus was a target of the TITANs during the Fall. After enslaving a tenth of the populace as worker drones and using the rest as seed stock for tissue cultures to feed their fellows, the TITANs began to build what appears to have been a matrioshka brain. Iapetus now occupies twice the volume it once did, the ice and silicate of the planet’s outer layers having been reworked into a delicate lattice of circuitry millions of layers deep.
Strangely, the project simply stalled at some point prior to completion. Speculation has it that the controlling intelligence was either destroyed by an unknown outside force or devoured itself in a fit of compuational ecstasy. Whatever the case, the drones simply stopped working and died and the moon’s automated defense grid went dead, leaving a strangely beautiful but lifeless machine behind to slowly decay from meteor impacts and gravitational stress. Several research teams now reside in small orbital stations, quarreling over the scraps. Rumor has it that a number of researchers trying to understand the matrioshka circuitry have lost their minds in the process, perhaps by some mechanism akin to a basilisk hack. It is also believed that some of the moon’s internal defenses remain active. If anyone has plumbed the interior and come back, they’re not talking about it.
The full name of this unique habitat is Turn Yourself Into a Giant Mass of Space Meat for Art!, and as the name implies, 90% of the habitat’s structure consists of fast-cultured vat bacon, battened on the abundant resources of the ring system. MeatHab started out as someone’s art morph, but then, against all expectations, squatters moved in.
MeatHab now has a population of 500. Similar to a Hamilton cylinder, the kilometer-long habitat harvests and processes ring material to grow itself. The outer surface is frozen flesh ten meters thick whose surface resembles a cross between a tree trunk and flank steak. Past the axial space dock is a warren of veinous, skin-covered corridors lit by bioluminescent panels and maintained by small, reptilian symbiotes that eat away dead skin and may have other immune functions as well. Gravity inside is 0.5 g.
The nameless biodesigner who created the place—and who may or may not still inhabit the gigantic morph—was a genius. Although the habitat is not by any stretch of the imagination a pleasant locale, it appears healthy. Its full workings are not understood, and the inhabitants range from extreme flesh freaks who are fans of the artist to serious biodesigners studying the place to learn more about its construction.
Led by legendary Chinese dissident poet Hao Lin Ngai, Harmonious Anarchy broke from the Fa Jing cartel during the tumultuous years prior to the Fall. Hao sought to create a society in the spirit of the ancient Taoist state of Great Perfection that existed in Szechuan 1,700 years earlier—with considerable updates from modern thought.
Harmonious Anarchy is an Extropian mutualist society heavily involved in software engineering, logistics, and relocation of metallic asteroids to the outer system. Most of Mimas is a very low-g beehive arranged into Black, Red, Yellow, Green, and White neighborhoods, based on the five classical directions of Chinese mythology. Each color boasts an ornate central cavern, with extended families living in radiating subwarrens. While adhering to mutalist economic principles, Harmonious Anarchy simultaneously takes a traditional Chinese approach to social organization, with family at its core.
In addition to the classical satellites described here, three groups of small objects unknown to early astronomers orbit the planet. These moonlets are designated as the Inuit, Gallic, and Norse groups. Because these moonlets were still little explored by the time of the Fall, most of them remain sparsely populated. With a few exceptions, inhabitants of the moonlets are generally people who want to be left alone. The exceptions are Skathi and Abramsen (formerly S/2007 S 2), which, along with Phoebe, were captured and moved into Titan’s orbit, where they serve as defense installations.
Volkograad’s closest competitor is this anarchocapitalist outfit, most of whose founders were South African. iZulu has a somewhat lower capacity than Volkograad but will ship reactor mass to unusual locations like the Trojans and the Kuiper Belt. iZulu is a very crowded beehive with nearly 400,000 inhabitants and an unusually large number of infugees. The nations of sub-Saharan Africa were only starting to achieve widespread 20th century-levels of prosperity in the late 21st, and so they had the lowest capacity to physically evacuate their citizens during the Fall of any region on Earth. iZulu and a handful of other habitats with roots in Africa thus have high infomorph populations and millions of people in dead storage.
Phelan’s Recourse (usually just called “Phelan’s” by inhabitants) is the largest nomadic settlement in the system, with a population estimated around 250,000. Phelan’s is a swarm of some 10,000 small craft and tin can habitat modules that orbits Saturn along a highly elliptical path somewhat inclined to the plane of the ecliptic. The swarm’s orbit is calculated to maximize the number of encounters with near moons and stations, providing a six to eight hour window in which craft can leave the swarm for trade. Phelan’s Recourse passes through the rings once a month, allowing craft to resupply with water and volatiles.
Phelan’s accepts all comers. One could meet just about anyone here, from the government in exile of East Timor to Hasidim from Brooklyn. The core of the swarm is the Stills, a fusion-illuminated grain farm and distillery operated by an allegedly reformed gang of Irish travelers who conned their way off Earth a few weeks before the Fall and escaped to the outer system. The Stills produce Phelan’s Ma, the most sought-after whiskey in the system, and Phelan’s Da, possibly the worst beer ever made. Despite the Phelans’ protestations of legitimacy, the criminal element is heavily represented here. The swarm represents an important link in red and gray market supply chains.
Marseilles (population 80,000) is a beehive habitat operated by the Titanians. It is rumored to harbor an antimatter factory, a theory supported by the large number of skimmers that arrive from the surface relative to the number of tankers that leave.
At a 764 kilometer diameter, Rhea is Saturn’s second largest moon. Composed almost entirely of ice, Rhea’s surface is sparsely inhabited, but a population of over 800,000 dwells in Kronos Cluster, a major habitat in orbit. Kronos Cluster’s mass microfactured violet spherical modules make it look like an immense, irregular bunch of grapes suspended in space, an impression added to by the winding space dock (nicknamed the Vine) extending from the wider end. Within the mass of habitat modules, the Vine branches out in all directions, forming massive central arteries and twisting side passages. These can be traversed by pushing off hand and toeholds on the walls, or by catching hold of fast-moving grab loops that move along “fast lanes” in the walls of major floatways.
Nearly five kilometers long and three wide, Kronos has major problems with crowding and infrastructure that have kept it from growing to the same size as Locus. The designers simply did not plan for the size the place might reach, and as a result another 150,000 people live in suburbs of tin can habs and scum barges in the space around the habitat.
The situation is exacerbated by the Kronos Port Authority, a junta of ultimates who operate security for the spaceport. Originally an Extropian hypercorp, the KPA fell into the hands of the ultimates when they decided that they could profit more directly by owning the company outright than by working as hired muscle. They violently ousted the original management and now use indentures in worker pods to maintain the port. This situation is tolerated by the local crime bosses and loathed by the mostlyanarchist autonomist citizens, but so far no one is able to challenge the KPA, which enforces use of the port rather than any other mooring point with killsats and artillery.
Composed almost entirely of ice, Tethys is one of Saturn’s larger moons and the site of Ithaca Chasma, a 2,000-kilometer long valley covering three-quarters of Tethys’s circumference. Fifteen years ago, prospectors from an ethnically Indo-British autonomist collective called the Rioters touched down on Godwin Head, a projection in the chasm wall so named because it resembles a headland projecting out into the sea. Instruments on their ship, the Caleb Williams, had detected what looked like mineral deposits in the ice, rare on Tethys. What they found instead were relics thrust to the surface by a geological event eons earlier, the remains of primordial life that became extinct millions of years ago when Tethys cooled and its subsurface ocean froze over.
Godwinhead is now a dense, efficient settlement of 200,000 built into the five kilometer high canyon walls. The central point of the town is the Caleb Williams, which has been towed back into a sheltering cavern in the wall and converted into a communal workshop and town hall. The face of the valley wall is honeycombed with excavated ice caves hosting habitat modules, connected by conduits to a communal utility grid. The trusswork and cabling for the utility system is also the public transit system, easily traversed in the minute Tethyan gravity. The unofficial mascot of Godwinhead is the Tethyan Flatworm, a two millimeter-long translucent worm that represented the pinnacle of Tethyan evolution. A large number of the inhabitants are involved in biosciences, xenopaleontology, and prospecting for frozen lifeforms.
Tethys shares its orbit with its Trojan moons Telesto and Calypso, both of which are small and sparsely populated.
Saturn’s largest moon is shrouded in a permanent orange atmospheric haze, hellishly cold (averaging 180 degrees below), and whipped by winds produced by tidal forces four times stronger than those influencing the Earth’s climate. On its face, it appears even less hospitable than the airless balls of ice and rock comprising every world between Titan and Mars. The meager sunlight reaching its surface is insufficient to grow any but the hardiest plants, the mostly-nitrogen atmosphere is dangerously toxic, and the surface is dotted with lakes and seas of liquid methane. In spite of all this, abundant hydrocarbons, a thick atmosphere, and diverse chemistry make Titan one of the few worlds in the system where colonists may rely entirely on local resources. Titan’s population is now over 60 million.
Social money and the microcorp system have led to some spectacular gains and failures. On the up side, Titan’s civil resleeving industry produces more morphs than Mars and Luna combined. Massive infrastructure programs have provided enough space for 60 million people to live comfortably on a hostile world. The Large Collider, the biggest particle accelerator ever produced, in polar orbit, enables physics experiments that can be performed nowhere else in the system. And two years ago, Titan dispatched the first conventional interstellar probe, the Aubade. It will reach Proxima Centauri in just under 20 years. On the down side, Titan’s “body for every mind” law burdens the civic resleeving system with a lot of people who no one would ever have bothered resleeving otherwise. The failure of the Scoop project, an extremely costly attempt to build a pipeline from Saturn’s surface to low orbit, allowing massive gas extraction without costly atmospheric skimmer operations, stymied Titan’s ambitions to become a major antimatter producer. Titan does produce antimatter, but on a much smaller scale than was envisioned when the Scoop project began.
Commonly spoken languages on Titan include Norsk, Francais, Deutsch, Mandarin, Svensk, Dansk, and Suomi. Most citizens inhabit hazers, a tall, fineboned morph with very similar characteristics to the Martian ruster. Parapelagia for gliding and flying in the light Titanian gravity are a common biomod. Titanians do three years of compulsory civil service at the age of majority, with an emphasis on military and security forces except for conscientious objecters. Every citizen who has done military service is part of the militia and has an assault weapon in their home.
Located near Titan’s south pole on the shores of Ontario Lacus, a wide, shallow sea of liquid methane, Aarhus (population five million) was the first site of human habitation on Titan, chosen for its proximity to abundant hydrocarbons. The city is the physical hub of Titan Autonomous University (TAU) and hosts numerous other academic institutions, most notably Titan Tech, a major engineering school. Unlike Martian universities, which have few physical campus buildings, TAU and other Titanian schools draw many of their students from the widely scattered habitats of the outer system, where delays in radio communication make distance learning ineffective. Fully 20% of Aarhus’s population are students, many of them offwordlers.
Aarhus’s layout is typical of Titanian cities. Three central domes are surrounded by numerous smaller structures, including lesser domes, fusion plants, and industrial outbuildings, the most massive of which is the now-abandoned methane utility plant on the lake shore. The dome interiors are hung with lighting rods and heavily built up with tall, narrow buildings, most of which have upper decks where hazers on the wing and pedal-powered microlights can land. Exterior structures usually have outer walls built of ice for shielding and structural support with internal walls extruded from local silicates. Many buildings are a rich azure or other shades of blue for contrast with the ever-present orange glow of the Titanian sky.
Unlike most Titanian cities, Aarhus relies primarily on fusion power. Aarhus is the center of Titan’s native preservationist movement, which opposes inefficient use of native hydrocarbon resources due to possible long term effects on Titan’s climate.
New Quebec lies on a plain in the Aaru region surrounded by endless rippling dunes shaped by Titan’s powerful winds. The region’s diverse chemical resources supply the colossal nurseries that have made New Quebec the system’s largest single producer of morphs.
The city is 50 kilometers from Montmorency Lacus, a 20 kilometer-wide crater lake of liquid ethane and methane. Originally thought to be an impact crater, rare on Titan, geological studies later showed it to be the collapsed remains of an extinct cryovolcano. Situated in a rainy area, the lacus slowly drains over the crater lip at Montmorency Cascade, a 200 meter carbonfall that empties into a series of alluvial channels from which the Quebecoise pump its output for fuel.
The St. Catherine Tong, the most dangerous native Titanian mob, is based in New Quebec. Titanian law is generally very permissive regarding individual freedoms, so the vices this gang trades in are of the blackest: snuff pods, stolen alpha forks, and nanoweaponry. A ready supply of fresh morphs bought from corrupt microcorp nursery administrators further fuels their rackets. The Tong is extremely violent and a major embarrassment to Commonwealth security forces.
Set near the equator amid the rolling ice hills of the Xanadu region, Nyhavn (population 12 million) is the largest city in the outer system and the capital of the Titanian Commonwealth. Nyhavn’s massive central dome, with its elegant blue towers and bioengineered parklands, rivals New Shanghai in size and ambition. Three surrounding domes and a sprawl of subsidiary structures are connected by high-clearance flyways, where ground vehicles and microlights form a steady stream of traffic at all hours. At the same time, the squalid blandness that prevails in the Martian suburbs and outlying souks is absent; the dwellings and neighborhoods of the Titanian working class display a riot of color and design, empowered by public fabricators limited by none of the enforced scarcity of Martian economics. For all its idealism, the Plurality is not immune to a desire to showcase its achievements.
Outside the city is a pipeline leading from the vast Tyska Lacus, 100 kilometers distant. Commonwealth Skyport, Titan’s principal spaceport, offers quick access to Commonwealth Hub, the Titan system’s long-haul space dock, located in geostationary orbit above the city. The surrounding countryside is dotted with smaller settlements connected to Nyhavn by trains and a well-developed network of surface roads.
Nyhavn is a major media center, with daily life closely attentive to the debates and decisions of the Plurality. At the same time, it is a cosmopolitan place, where Titan’s microcorp movers rub shoulders with visiting anarchist traders and (less commonly) legations from the inner system. There is an active underworld, despite the efforts of security forces, with the local St. Catherine Tong engaged in continual low-intensity warfare with triads from throughout the system.
After the conflict at Locus, the Plurality became embroiled in a hot debate regarding the dangers of hypercorp adventurism in the outer system. It was generally felt that the Planetary Consortium hoped to keep the outer system in a position similar to where the United States kept Latin America by meddling in its affairs throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and that the only counter to this was a show of force. Titan’s thick atmospheric haze makes ground-based space defense systems considerably less effective than on other worlds, but satellites and space platforms were too vulnerable to serve as command and control centers.
The solution was to capture three of Saturn’s small retrograde moons—Phoebe, Skathi, and Abramsen (once designated S/2007 S 2, now renamed after a pioneering Titanian economist). Phoebe is the largest of the three objects. The other two were maneuvered into the system’s L4 and L5 points. The calculations required to relocate these bodies were painstaking, and the energy expenditure tremendous, but all three now serve as major components of Titan’s orbital defense grid. Whether the system created thereby is impregnable has yet to be tested.
Once thought of as gas giants like Saturn and Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune differ from the larger planets in that they contain large amounts of water ice, methane, and ammonia and have rocky cores at their centers. This region of the system is sparsely populated. Uranus orbits at a distance 10 AU beyond the orbit of Saturn, 20 times the distance of the Earth from the sun.
Uranus, the coldest planet in the solar system, is a blue-green sphere of ice and gas. Seen from afar, it is virtually featureless compared to Saturn and Jupiter, but up close subtle cloud formations and a tenuous ring system may be observed. Probably due to a collision with an Earth-sized world when the solar system was young, Uranus rotates on its side, such that one pole faces the sun for 42 years at a stretch, and its moons orbit at a sharp angle to the solar ecliptic. At the time of Eclipse Phase, Uranus’s south pole is experiencing its south polar mid-spring, during which thick methane clouds darken the polar atmosphere. It may be the unusual tilt of its axis and the accompanying strange seasonal weather that give rise to the unconfirmed rumor that the alien traders called the Factors have created a settlement hidden in Uranus’s atmosphere.
Located on Oberon, this is the Uranian system’s primary long haul spaceport, with a permanent population of 8,000. Chat Noir has fairly advanced egocasting, resleeving, and manufacturing facilities for a frontier outpost and is operated by several collectives of anarchists. The reason for all the infrastructure is Fissure Gate, the only Pandora Gate in anarchist hands (despite several Planetary Consortium expeditions to wrest control of it).
Fissure Gate was discovered by a prospecting expedition from Chat Noir, then a tiny outpost. Seeking deposits of the useful carbonaceous ices that make up about 20% of Oberon’s mass, they instead chanced upon subsurface radio emissions near the foot of Mt. Hippolyta. After using triangulating the source, the prospectors landed and used subsurface imaging gear. What they got back was a blurry image of a rock fissure containing an ambiguous mass of mixed density and an extremely dense, possibly metallic object with a shape too regular to be anything but a structure or large artifact—all under 500 meters of ages-old frozen cryovolcanic outflow. The gate at Pandora was already publicly known at this time, so the prospectors drilled down, suspecting they’d found an alien artifact. They were not to be disappointed, although the discovery yielded gruesome salvage: the barely recognizable corpses of eleven gatecrashers. Why and how the Fissure Gate was erected under the ice remains a complete mystery. At some recent point, however, it was completely buried, with only a thin pocket of space between it and the surrounding ice. When the eleven emerged, buried in an airless space beneath 500 meters of ice, there was barely room to move, let alone escape—but the gate wouldn’t let them back through. Several of the crew had recoverable cortical stacks. This lucky handful are now prominent citizens of Chat Noir, but none plan to resume gatecrashing as a career.
The Fissure Gate remains in anarchist hands, operated and defended by the Love and Rage Collective. The gate is made available to almost anyone unless their rep score is tanked or they are pursuing commercial interests (ruling out most hypercorps). Support for gatecrashers is minimal—traverse the threshold at your own risk. Any discoveries made via this gate, however, must be shared for the collective good of transhumanity.
Uranus’s two largest moons are sparsely populated, with only about 10,000 transhumans living on each body. Most stations are mixed dome and beehive settlements and range from hypercorp communications and research outposts to autonomist freeholds. The pair are more chemically complex than most moons in the outer system, consisting of about 30% rock, 20% methane and similar carbonaceous ices, and 50% water. Titania is home to a spectacular canyon that rivals the Martian Valles Marineris. Several settlements on Titania cater to tourists from the inner system and the gas giants, who visit for rocketing, mekking, and other sports in the canyon.
One of two major strongholds of the ultimates, Xiphos is a Hamilton cylinder orbiting in the Uranian ring system. Though most of the tech underlying Hamilton cylinders is open source, the station’s frighteningly efficient weapon systems are not. Rumor has it the ultimates traded some major favors to Gorgon Defense Systems in the process of building this station. Where Aspis, the ultimates’ inner system habitat, is a relatively open place, used by the Ultimates for contact with potential mercenary clients, Xiphos is off limits to anyone not of this faction. The rumored population of ultimates here is only about 10,000, but the ultimates purchase a large number of infomorph indentures from Mars. Although there are no reports of any of these indentures returning, rumor has it that the ultimates download indentures serving in sensitive areas into deaf, visually limited flats with no AR implants and limited mental capacity.
Frigid, swept by 2,100 km/h winds, and tinged blue by methane traces in its atmosphere, Neptune is the last major planet in the system, orbiting at a distance of 30 AU from the sun. This far from the nearest star, plants will not grow and solar power is useless. The only sources of power are fusion, focused starlight, waste heat, and chemical reactions. The hypercorp presence in the Neptunian system is virtually absent, as the long communication lags and extreme travel distances from the rest of the solar system mean that few Neptunian ventures garner profits. Similarly, the Titanian brand of technosocialism has never found roots here. The few transhumans who live out here are a resourceful lot, and many colonists out here aren’t human at all. Anarchists, brinkers, and desperados comprise most of the population.
This habitat has the highest population density in the system, with 20,000 infomorphs living in a meshed cluster of twenty spherical structures that are 10 meters in diameter, powered by efficient central reactor systems. The habitat is attended by a cloud of factories, harvesters, and defense satellites that occupy considerably more space than the station itself. Various rumors circulate that the inhabitants are researching methods to improve infomorphs in the manner of seed AIs, or that they are engaged in some vast forecasting simulation effort.
Aligned with the argonauts, Ilmarinen is a hybrid beehive/cluster dug into and partially protruding from the large L4 asteroid Greymere. It is the largest habitat in Neptune’s Trojans, with a population of 7,000. Like many transhumans this far out in space, most of Ilmarinen’s inhabitants are heavily modified or inhabit exotic morphs. Vacuum and cold tolerant morphs prevail, and many sections of the habitat are unlivable for baseline transhumans.
The neo-avians who built this station threw away the manual on habitat design and revisited the longout of favor toroidal configuration. The result is a disc habitat—a plate half a kilometer along the edge and one kilometer in diameter, resembling a slice of an O’Neill cylinder with no windows. A fusionpowered, low-heat, axial light source nourishes the verdant hardwood forest below. Structures are built into the disc walls up to 500 meters in height. The disc, mostly woven from carbon fibers, rotates quickly enough to generate 0.5 g at the habitat floor. Mahogany has a population of 4,000 mercurials, most of them neo-avians.
Neptune’s other twelve moons are largely small bodies, icy and sparsely (if at all) populated. Proteus and Larissa, both sizable and relatively close to the planet, host small populations. Naiad and Thalassa are tiny but very close to the planet, and thus home to some atmospheric skimming operations. Neso, orbiting at about 1/3 AU from Neptune, has never been visited—even by robotic probes.
Trailing and preceding Neptune at the L4 and L5 points of its orbit are several hundred asteroids of diverse, mostly icy composition. Neptune’s Trojans are home to brinkers, hard-bitten prospectors, exotic exhumans, and other extreme survivalists.
Neptune’s largest moon has a tenuous atmosphere and is chemically complex, composed of equal parts rock and ices (frozen nitrogen, water, and carbon dioxyde). It is also geologically active, with cryovolcanoes continually resurfacing the planet. The surface has few inhabitants but several habitats orbit here, using the moon’s abundant raw materials and low escape velocity to their advantage.
Beyond Neptune lie only dwarf planets and icy asteroids waiting to become comets, roughly divided into two regions: the Kuiper Belt, from 30 to 55 AU from the Sun, and the Scattered Disk, which extends from 55 AU out to the Oort Cloud. Pluto, its binary object Charon, and Eris have compositions similar to Triton. A few small habitats orbit Pluto and Charon, eking out a living by prospecting for volatiles. A number of other dwarf planets orbit in the Kuiper belt and the Disk, including Orcus, Senda, and 2000 OO67. Of these, only Eris harbors a substantial population.
Located at 55 AU from the sun at the edge of the Scattered Disk, Eris is the largest dwarf planet in the system and the site of a grim struggle between two of transhumanity’s most militant factions: ultimates and exhumans. The focal point of the struggle is Discord Gate, the most remote of the system’s publicly-known Pandora Gates, located in an icy labyrinth half a kilometer beneath the surface of Eris.
The brief history of the gate is bloody. Go-nin Group troops violently wrested control of the gate from the Ilmarinen anarchists who discovered it. Titan and several anarchist and brinker groups both tried to dislodge Go-nin, but these attempts failed, at great cost in lives and ships. Go-nin’s control of the gate seemed ensured until the hypercorp apparently tampered too heavily with the gate’s black box controls. A devastating explosion ensued, all but wiping out the gate and Go-nin base. The gate, however, restructured itself over the course of several days, though its location has now shifted to the bottom of a melted crater. In the short period it took the Go-nin Group to hire a group of ultimate mercenaries to retake the gate, a hitherto unknown force of exhumans had seized the area. The ultimates succeeded, but a group of exhumans escaped through the gate. Go-nin now has nominal control of the Discord Gate through the ultimates, who maintain a heavily militarized base on Eris’s moon, Dysnomia. However, in recent years the gate facility has suffered several attacks by exhumans eager to infiltrate the gate—and according to rumors, at least one of those attacks originated from the gate itself.
The location of this habitat, a major stronghold of the argonauts, is a closely guarded secret. Attempts to search it out have revealed only decoys or lifeless rocks. Though a great deal of information is available about the habitat’s specs, operations, areas of research, and informational resources, only highly placed members of the argonauts may travel here. By all accounts, the habitat is a windowless beehive, designed to be virtually emissionless. Speculated locations include Pluto’s moon Hydra, the deep Kuiper Belt, and even the Oort Cloud.
Although travel between the stars is still outside the realm of transhumanity’s achievements, the Pandora Gates have allowed passage to myriad other star systems. A few are noted here, though many more exist not all of them explored.
Echo is a binary system consisting of a bright orange main sequence star and a pulsar (whence the system’s name) about 12 light hours from one another. The system has one immense, bright yellow Jovian world (Echo VI) weighing in at 1.8 Jupiter masses and boasting 101 known moons, two Neptune-like ice giants further out, a thin mid-system asteroid belt, and several Mercury-like inner planets.
The original Pandora Gate opens onto lifeless Echo V, a forbidding place littered with the detritus of a dead alien civilization. The hollow buildings of these precursors look out over once-verdant alluvial plains now home to only dry arroyos and dust. In other places, eons of wind erosion have carried the soil away entirely, leaving only barren expanses of dark basaltic slag. Chemically and geologically, the world is very similar to Mars, had Mars suffered another half a billion years’ loss of atmosphere. Research into the relics of the long-dead aliens suggests that they were morphologically similar to arthropods or arachnids, earning them the designation of Iktomi, after a Native American spider god. So far, little else has been discerned about them.
Echo IV, on the other hand, is the closest thing transhumanity has found to a paradise since losing Earth. The native life is carbonbased, with many plants and fish edible even to flats. The climate is warm temperate, the atmosphere breathable with no major contaminants. The northern and southern latitudes are home to trackless forests dominated by various species of valders—huge, maple-like trees with dark red leaves. In the equatorial regions lie balmy, nutrient- rich floodplains ripe for cultivation, broken up by the occasional mountain range. Echo IV is still geologically active due to tidal heating, though older than Earth by about two billions years, and has two megacontinents connected near the equator by a tenuous land bridge. Notable native life include the Unagi, a fearsome, eel-like deep sea predator, and the clown sprite, a flying primate-analog that exists in a symbiotic relationship with the Echolalian land anenome, a huge, venomous, carnivorous plant that grows in the cloud forests of the equatorial highlands. The biosphere is diverse with many other megafauna, some quite dangerous.
Luca is an M-Class red dwarf located in a region of the galaxy far removed from any point of reference known to transhuman astronomy. The system has only a single gas giant of about 1.4 Jupiter masses—insufficient to shield the inner worlds from constant asteroid bombardment. The lone gas giant is flanked by a tenuous metallic inner asteroid belt and a wide ice and silicate outer belt.
The only other bodies worthy of planetary status are a hellish inner world with Mercury’s richness of metal and Venus’ infernal atmosphere and a few large, sullen plutoids sharing Lagrange orbits with an asteroid field comprised of the shattered mass of a third plutoid. Accessible by both the Vulcanoid and Fissure Gates, Luca II is a heavily cratered terrestrial planet with a thick, dusty atmosphere— just about breathable to transhumans with the right gear. It is a cold, rocky world of craggy hills, knee-high forests, hissing geothermal bogs, and fungal meadows. The natives, who have been extinct for at least a million years, evolved from animals not unlike Earth’s aardvarks. Originally insect mound predators, the Lucans evolved vision well into the infrared (as demonstrated by the unusual pigments on their pottery and later-stage porcelain) and, based on analysis of their artifacts, had a sense akin to ultrasonic imaging. Their civilization went through several cycles of rise and fall, punctuated by celestial cataclysms that killed off less adaptable species and made resources scarce. The Lucans seem never to have evolved past medieval levels of societal organization prior to the Great Impact. Within a hundred years of that final impact, the last of the Lucans perished, never having invented the telescope, the computer, or space flight.
Luca II hosts Banshee, an underground settlement with a few prominent surface features, including a radio astronomy station, park domes, a short-hop aerospace port, and solar farms. It is set on the Howling Plain, a windy plain of scrub brush and bogs chosen for its rich hydrocarbon deposits and low incidence of asteroid impacts. Banshee is an uneasy blend of anarchist colonists and hypercorp interests.
Mishipizheu is a red giant. The planet from which the star takes its name, Mishipizheu I, is a Mars-sized sphere of water with an atmosphere of nitrogen and carbon dioxide and a rocky core. Mishipizheu I was an almost Venus-sized sphere of ice 700 million years ago, but the expansion of its star into the red giant phase melted the planet. Initially quite warm and full of pockets of ice and carbonaceous silts, the melting planet was a crucible in which life could develop and now hosts a complex ecosystem. Amoeboid boiler reefs composed of gas sac creatures and their symbiotes bob on the surface or maintain neutral buoyancy in the depths, becoming platforms for complex ecosystems of largely animalian life.
Mishipizheu I is orbited by a mid-size rocky moon, Nanabozho, reachable via the Discord Gate. Nanabozho is a mystery, as moons of this composition are not normally found so far out in a system. The best current theory is that Nanabozho was an inner system object with an erratic orbit. It was perturbed out of its orbit by one of the now-engulfed gas giants that must once have existed, whence by chance it was captured in Mishipizheu’s orbit. The extraordinarily slim chances of such an event, however, have led to wild speculation as to the actual origin of the moon, which is as popular a destination for gatecrashers as the planet below.
Among the first attempts to establish a gatecrasher colony beyond the original Pandora Gate, just 5 years after the Fall, was a group of two hundred and fifty colonists equipped with experimental headware communications technology. Shortly after the jump, however, a still unidentified glitch forced the gate to close and the mechanism could not be reset to the same setting and coordinates for an entire five years. When the gate technicians finally managed to reacquire the settings recently and reopen the gate, the colonists were found to have survived, but they had changed. The technology sent with them was largely AI controlled, enabling the creation of a hypermesh that linked the thoughts, emotions, and sensory experiences of each colonist with each other. After half a decade of difficult survival measures, this technology and the stress of the situation linked the colonists and their AIs into a group mind. Despite having the opportunity to return to the solar system, these Synergists, as they call themselves, have no desire to cut themselves off from their shared consciousness.
The number of extraterrestrial star systems that transhumanity has visited via the gates now numbers into the hundreds, if not more—though only a small percentage of these have been notable and/or hospitable. Only a few dozen have been substantially occupied or colonized by transhumans, though this number is growing rapidly. Among these, a few deserve mention:
Arcadia: Accessed through the Martian Gate, the Planetary Consortium is constructing an aerostat in the upper atmosphere of this Venus-like planet which will serve as a private resort for the hyperelite.
Babylon: Initially thought to just be an unremarkable scorched moon orbiting a planet very close to a yellow star, researchers measuring the star made an incredible accident discovery: what appears to be a derelict spacecraft orbiting deep in the star’s corona. Attempts to access this vessel have so far been thwarted, but other projects are in the works, including the possibility of towing the craft to safer climes.
Bluewood: One of the first anarchist colonies established through the Fissure Gate, this settlement inhabits a beautiful, small Earth-like world with a thriving eco-system. Established on the outskirts of a large forest of eerie, alien, blue “trees,” the colony was taken off-guard by the trees alarming growth rate. The modular settlement buildings have all but been surrounded and encased by overgrowth despite modest efforts to keep them clear. Still intact but engulfed by spiraling branchworks, the effect is beautiful and haunting.
Nótt: This barren ice-covered moon suffers from heavy geothermal activity that causes its frozen crust to constantly crack and refreeze. The unfortunate research station staff here, all indentured, claim that something out in the ice is stalking them—over a dozen have disappeared in the last year. Pathfinder refuses to pull the station back, however, and thorough searches from its security teams have turned up nothing.
Sky Ark: TerraGenesis is redesigning this dry, arid moonlet as an offworld preserve for animal life, including many formerly extinct Earth species resurrected from fossil DNA.
Wormwood: This maze-like warren seems to be an actual beehive habitat, though who tunneled it out or why remains an unanswered mystery. The former asteroid is part of the ring system of an unknown gas giant. Clearly artificial, gatecrashers so far have found no signs of technology or life.
Cole bubbles are generated by drilling into an asteroid and filling the hole left with water, capping the hole, then heating the whole asteroid with a solar mirror array and spinning the asteroid. what this does is the water in the asteroid vaporize and expands and the metal of the asteroid softens and stretch ina process like inflating a balloon. the spinning of the asteroid makes it more of a cylinder than a sphere. this stretching leaves a relatively smooth surface on which to build a habitat with a large surface area to work on.
Tori are habitats that have a wagon wheel structure with a outer ring(or several concentric rings) spun for gravity and spokes leading to a central hub. on of the most common designs involve orienting the wheel to be on edge to the sun and have a mirror placed at a 45 degree angle to the habitat which reflect light on to another set of mirrors which then reach the habitat though windows on its inward edge. this is done to minimize the radiation shielding needed.
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