Of the three moons that orbit Sperous, only Alaundril can sup-port life. As the seat of planetary power and resources in the system, Alaundril is a vital link to the Stellar Ring and the systems of the Verge. It’s also the closest thing the system has to a refuge from Tendril’s radioactive fires. Still, it’s not Earth. Alaundril’s hot, rocky surface, its glittering golden sands, and its dark mountain ranges don’t welcome visitors. At first glance, Alaundril seems to be another lifeless victim of Tendril’s tremendous radiation.
Surface scans are much more revealing, showing small settlements across the surface, and the planetary capital of Babel is unmistakable, its golden towers apparent in all but the worst weather. Blue laser beacons and radio transponders guide all vessels toward the landing platforms at Babel.
Babel’s government is Alaundril’s government; no other settlement on the planet can compete with its size. The government is led by conglomerates of competing businesses, called the Gammon Council. Each consortium tries to ensure that its competitors don’t gain an unfair advantage. Only the largest and most profitable corporations in the star system gain representation in Alaundril government. Corporations based or head-quartered outside the Tendril system do not participate directly in the government. The only exception to this rule, made via special amendment in 2499, grants membership to the StarMech Collective.
Common Council seats are granted based on bottom-line profits,- the more profit, the more seats. In addition, a company can obtain additional ‘incentive seats’ by reinvesting its profits in various projects beneficial to Alaundril. Scott Williamson, CEO of Ion Productions, has led the Council for 43 years, and seems likely to continue in this role. No other business group comes even close to the sheer market dominance of Ion Productions.
Accounting firms guarantee that all citizens and businesses pay their fair share of the tax toad. Security firms keep order, with their profits tied directly to crime statistics. Representatives write and debate laws in the Common Council. Williamson presides over all of these groups from his serene position on high; he rarely interferes directly, instead making his wishes known through intermediaries.
Various churches control an independent welfare system, but their generosity is limited by the fact that they are taxed just as heavily as anyone else. The dominant religions on Alaundril are Humanity Reformation and Ancientism. The Reformers have maintained a church since before GW2; the Ancientists migrated to Tendril to study the relics and traces of ancient life on Atlas.
Business life permeates the city of Babel. From the electronic pulse of commerce in the marketplace to the soft hum of a video terminal late at night; almost everyone is trying to figure out a way to improve on old ideas or to launch the next great business. In the burning desert air of Alaundril, it’s profit or perish. Though it’s not fair to say that every citizen of Alaundril is obsessed with profit, it’s not that far from the truth. Entrepreneurs run rampant, and everyone seems to have a fresh (or crackpot) business idea. Some of those ideas saved Alaundril from disaster when StarMech abandoned it during GW2, while others caused widespread grief.
Alaundril is the gateway to Old Space. The Concord has scheduled the arrival of one of its fortress ships twice each year. In addition to enforcing the peace, the fortress ship and its convoy add to the importance of the Tendril economy to the rest of the Verge. The fortress ship drops off much of its cargo before heading back to the safe confines of the Stellar Bing. From Alaundril’s warehouses, profit flows to the far corners of the Verge.
The largest trade interest in the system is Copernicus Capital, whose holdings include hundreds of warehouses and more than BO transport driveships. Copernicus vessels are a common sight in the Verge’s populous systems; the trade routes between Tendril and Aegis, a central distribution site for the Verge, are especially profitable. While Copernicus Capital keeps the most lucrative trading deals for itself, its representatives often hire independent traders for marginal hauls or for runs to dangerous systems such as Algemron.
The Alaundril Ministry of TVade places a variety of cargoes available for bid on the freight exchange, where both independent and established traders can compete for hauling rights. Profits range from slim (less than 10%) to moderate (around 25%) on such hauls, depending on the degree of competition. The most lucrative trades are kept off the market by special arrangements, such as the private, long-term contracts between the Ministry and major shipping groups such as Copernicus Capital and InterSystem Services.
Alaundril, like most Verge societies, has yet to complete the transition to exclusive use of the Concord dollar, so it is one of the few places in explored space where a fortune can still be made in financial speculation. Representatives of the Concord’s Galactic Bank work hard to advance the timetable of the changeover, but it will be years before the last Alaundril scrip- primarily based on archaic currencies such as the StarMech bull and the Thuldan kent-has left circulation. For now, the situation is profitable for cunning traders, pawnbrokers, and bankers.
The largest corporate entity on Alaundril wasn’t always the behemoth that it is now; it wasn’t even always synonymous with shipyards and quality spacecraft. When the Second Galactic War drew StarMech’s interest away, Kane Williamson made the bold move of investing his reserve capital into converting his tool- and-die business, Ion Parts & Manufacturing, into a full-fledged shipyard. It was a risky move. If the Second Galactic War had been as short as the first and StarMech had returned quickly, ship construction in the Stellar Ring would have bankrupted Ion Productions.
Some have called Kane’s smart investment foresight, while others dismiss it as luck. It was most likely a combination of the two, but Kane’s luck ran out in 2451, when he died of radiation sickness while on a survey mission to the Cyra Belt. His 21- year-old grandson, Scott Williamson, became the CEO and quickly solidified his position in the company.
Scott’s business acumen proved tough to compete against. While the businesses of Alaundril vied for supremacy, he took the direct approach. After opening the Kane Academy military training facility, he invited the best of Tendril’s small navy to take advantage of Ion Productions’ generosity. He presented a handful of advanced prototypes to the military for inspection, with crews directly from the Kane Academy. Influence in the Tendril military gave Williamson a small edge over his trading competitors; his later control over the military gave him a huge advantage. At the same time, Williamson’s gifts to Tendril’s defense made him the patron saint of the establishment. Recently, Williamson signed a deal with an Orlamu corporation to secure a steady supply of stardrives for the next generation of Ion driveships.
Today, Ion Productions guarantees that Alaundril maintains a trade surplus with respect to interstellar trading in general and the Stellar Ring in particular. Without the production capital of Ion Productions, Tendril could quickly become simply another backwater source of raw resources.
Ion Productions wasn’t the only philanthropic corporation in the new economy. A handful of companies supported Williamson and continue to operate in-system. StarMech contracted TaskCor Communications to administer Nova Station’s drivesats, and it profits heavily from Its investment in Alaundril’s communications system.
Paramilitary corporations lead the Alaundril economy. Quest, Inc. developed the body armor worn by security personnel of both the government and major corporations. Encryptix established a standard data-encryption format for the Tendril Grid, and Bynamic Response Ltd. became the premier supplier of small arms in the Tendril system.
Finally, Solar X, a publicly held corporation with a 51% share owned by the noble House Blackmore of the Borealis Re-public, has one of the highest-trading share prices on the Vessy stock exchange (see page 154). House Blackmore recently lost two members ol its family to the corsair lord Kalt Terenz, and has offered a reward of f 2.5 million for his head. The Solar X Corporation produces mining equipment, e-suits, and specialized ore-processing equipment for ground-based crushing and smelting.
Eager to cement relations with a neutral power, Scott William-son has been quick to provide the Galactic Concord with any-thing it needs. Williamson is in no hurry to give StarMech the keys to Tendril. Concord vessels’ repairs take priority over any others, and the Concord has opened an embassy in the city Df Babel. Ambassador Dmetri Demerot (Hm/Concord/DFA-13) represents the Concord, but he understands the delicate balance between StarMech and Babel and refuses to take sides. His assistant, Idan Jil Tir, handles the day-to-day issues while he determines policy.
Bemerot’s goal is to secure the system as a permanent port of call for ships arriving from the Stellar Ring. He contracts with the various trade interests to store supplies for the Concord; attends diplomatic functions, dinners, and negotiations; aids the [Alaundril government in drafting laws,- and assists the Galactic Bank in introducing the Concord dollar.
While the Concord maintains a small garrison in Babel at the embassy, most of its military operations are conducted from military spacecraft or during the semiannual arrival of a fortress ship. The Alaundril military has opened its own bases to the Concord in an effort to strengthen ties between the two governments. Alaundril shipyards have also given priority to the repair of the CSS Ganesh, a Star Force battle cruiser recently damaged in a February 2501 action in the Hammer’s Star System. The ship looms large in the dry-docks, and is the scene of constant activity, as the Alaundril yards are pursuing a round-the-clock repair schedule.
Located in a rocky basin near the equator, the metropolis of Babel is a sprawling city whose lights are visible from space. The city’s original urban planners divided Babel into distinct districts; today, the focus of each district has wavered due to the city’s rapid growth since 2497.
To the northwest lie immense factories and the Ion Productions shipyards, whose bulk obscures the skyline. Southeast, on a large outcropping, rest the Founding stones, home of the wealthy elite. West and southwest are military bunkers and government landing pads. East is the business district, and northeast are common homes, a 26th-century suburbia. The government district and main landing pads are at the old heart of the city. Slums consume the northern ward. South lie col-leges, research facilities, and recreational parks.
The first thing to greet a ship and its crew after landing are businesses eager to offer services. Ship repairs and upgrades, communications and financial services, hotel accommodations, casino promotions, and similar offers abound. The government sets few strictures on travelers and businesspeople,- after a brief customs inspection, tourists have free access to the city.
Babel is a civilized enclave, not some lawless anarchy. Carrying guns in public is illegal, except for police officers or Alaundril, Concord, or StarMech soldiers. The port authorities politely ask visitors armed with handguns to leave their weapons aboard ship. Those who disembark from ships armed with rifles, shotguns, or armor-mounted SMGs get a more emphatic request to disarm.
Once here, visitors discover a city ready to welcome new-comers from the Stellar Hing. Most of Babel’s businesses cater to high-end tastes, believing that travelers are looking for an es¬cape from the bad food and cramped quarters of most space vessels. Four-star dining establishments such as Hannoley’s, Kanstoi’s, and Yesterdays intermingle with luxurious hotels such as Bergenhost, Holocourt Hall, and Traveler’s Sanctuary.
Sites of Interest
Visitors to Babel can find hundreds of professional, technical, strategic, or entertainment-oriented sites of interest. Five of the most important are described below.
This luxury hotel lies on the outskirts of the Founding stones district. Surrounded by six acres of manmade forest, Holocourt Hall is a sanctuary in a troubled galaxy, and security is correspondingly high. The three-meter-high stone wall surrounding the property contains a variety of electronic surveillance equipment, but it’s impossible to tell from casual observation exactly where the devices are located. Guest rooms are sealed by the latest bioelectric locks and monitored from a central security office to ensure privacy.
Each room is a large suite with all the modem necessities- video terminals; grav beds; a bar with selections of exotic beverages,- full Grid access,- a chef, masseuse, personal assistant, and dreamwalker (a mindwalker who specializes in programming one’s mind for special dreams). Of course, such amenities aren’t cheap. A night’s lodging starts at around §1,200, not including gratuity, meals, alcohol, and staff service charges. Despite this, the Hall is normally booked weeks in advance.
Jokingly referred to as the theme park of Babel nightclubs, the Spacewalk is a gigantic, popular bar built around an old Earth pirate motif. It was founded decades ago by Jack ‘Steelheart’ Loman, a Solar who had adopted the trappings of a 17th-century buccaneer. Loman requires that the Spacewalk’s patrons wear garb of that era-naval uniforms, pirate costumes, or other 17th- century Earth clothing. It’s not unusual to hear the thunder of cannon or the steady click of a wooden peg leg (normally just a holo projection) upon entering the Spacewalk. Colorful Caribbean drinks (in large glasses topped with bright Dowers) are the most popular beverages, but rum, ale, and beer are also served.
Ever since its construction, the massive club that occupies two city blocks has been a favorite among both the rich and the fashionable of Alaundril. Its success is due to Loman, now 132 years old and a rich man in his own right. Loman himself has become something of a cult figure. A few thousand of the Spacewalk’s fans have adopted the Solar practice of "culture preservationism’ by joining Loman’s faux buccaneers, at least on weekends.
To make the establishment even more fantastic, engineers have altered the gravity in various parts of the building. This allows acts of bravado that would otherwise be impossible, and also permits them to stage small boat-to-boat battles along the small stream that snakes its way through the club.
Much of Alaundril’s military can be found in a large complex on the rim of the Shadowrock basin, overlooking Babel and keeping a wary eye trained to the stars. Ships approaching Babel without responding to hails are greeted with a weapons lock by Shadowrock’s ground-based defense stations.
The Shadowrock Base is a city unto itself. Rigidly organized into various departments, the military outpost contains housing, administration, weapons, storage, repair yards, and other necessities for maintaining an independent existence. Military personnel seldom confine themselves to the base, preferring to visit Babel during off-duty hours. The Shadowrock base is the biggest threat to any enemy military force. Security sweeps across the base and unannounced drills and inspections are common exercises conducted to keep the base alert. The base security chief is a little paranoid about infiltration by unauthorized personnel.
General Karen Jestons (Hf/Alaundril/DCS-13) has been the commanding officer for the last six years. Well-known for her ability to inspire others, General Jestons frequently wanders the base, chatting with everyone from cooks to MPs. While she’s proven herself an able politician, she prefers not to involve either herself or her soldiers in the day-to-day political strife of Babel. This personal quest hasn’t met with universal success,- Scott Williamson, among others, considers the Alaundril military a tool to be wielded as he sees fit.
The Shadowrock base is also the system headquarters of Star Force, the naval branch of the Concord military. Star Force’s local headquarters is a structure that sits immediately adjacent to the Alaundril base complex. It’s nothing special to look at, just a reinforced bunker where visiting or newly as¬signed Star Force officers go to learn the intricacies of the Verge, but it is equipped with the most up-to-date jamming and signal intelligence equipment in the Verge.
More of an outpost than a city, Providence is a mixture of prefabricated buildings and old ship hulls. Scavenged housing marks the streets and alleys, serving as research labs, meeting halls, and homes.
Providence’s rough appearance is deceptive. Its sheet metal and mud walls hide research facilities that measure radiation, air pollution, and atmospheric composition, and its primitive housing is home to many of Alaundril’s finest scientists and technicians. Its scientific pursuits have changed over the years from measuring the long-term effects of radiation exposure to the fabrication of materials to shield against radiation. Providence’s research projects have changed the lives of Alaundrins for the better.
The clearest example of scientific success is a synthetic fabric called polythericlene. While it has the feel of silk and the wear of cotton, it also filters out more than 50% of Tendril’s intense radiation. For resisting high-radiation environments, it’s as effective as a soft e-suit, but much more comfortable. In Alaundril’s usual B2 conditions, this is enough to protect the citizens. The fabric has changed the textile industry, and virtually all domestic clothing is made from it. Polythericlene doubles the price of apparel on Alaundril
To protect humans from high radiation, scientists developed and tested a protective chemical that could be added to the water. Radilyn has become a standard supplement to the water supply and has proven effective in combating the high radiation. Anyone who drinks radilyn daily gains the benefits of anti-radiation serum. Radilyn’s only problem is its slow onset; it takes a month or more to achieve a high enough level within a host body to be fully effective.
Providence’s scientists are working to augment the atmosphere’s ultraviolet shielding and protect the planetary surface, probably by an increase in ozone, though other options are being considered. The atmospheric scientists hope to find a cheap way to significantly alter Alaundril’s atmosphere. If successful, they can sell their technique to a terraforming company to put into practice. The scientists haven’t had much luck so far, but they’re hopeful that their investigations will yield some salable discoveries soon.
THE SEERS OF TORAI
A lonely temple complex lies more than 800 kilometers west of Providence, in the heart of the desert wastes. Founded by Hatire mystics in the early days of the system’s exploration, it remains a stronghold of the Brethren on Alaundril. Over the centuries, it has attracted more fame for the predictions of its mystics than for its role as a religious sanctuary.
The Seers are led by Polfoal Liquurl (Fm/Tendril/MW-16), who serves as the group’s diocesan. Polfoal was among the community’s founders, and has held his present position for more than 150 years.
The Seers of Torai have documented many startling predictions over the last 10 years, but they refuse to aid anyone bearing cyberware or suffering from other spiritual poisons. Indeed, they refuse to help most supplicants, proclaiming them unworthy for one reason or another.
A variety of native life exists on Alaundril, and several of the major species occasionally approach the smaller settlements and even the outskirts of Babel. More often, Alaundril’s native animals fear human vehicles and the roar of spacecraft, and avoid the urban areas entirely. But the desert plains of Alaundril are not safe. Instead, they are home to a wide variety of dangerous predators. The most impressive are the sandgrotha, the gevlin, and the egistron.
The sandgrotha are three-meter-long catlike carnivores who always hunt in groups. They can run at up to 50 kph over the sandy wastes and strike without warning. Their dull gold-brown skin gives them excellent camouflage in the sand. The sandgrotha’s poor night vision prevents it from hunting after sunset.
Another carnivore, the gevlin, has even less fear of humanity. Willing to prey on small settlements, the solitary arachnid like creature burrows into the desert sand before attacking. It’s most active during the early morning and evening hours, avoiding Alaundril’s temperature extremes.
The nocturnal egistron are large, flying pseudo-mammals. They avoid sources of light, but anything else is fair game. During Alaundril’s baking summers and during particularly intense Bums, the egistron go into a form of aestivation, or summer hibernation, in the cool depths of their burrows.