Jump Destination: Korvo, Virtchok System, Dole Moving Group
This article originally appeared in the May/June 2016 issue.
The Dole Moving Group (DMG) is a remnant of a star cluster, a set of stars with a common origin, age, and Galactic orbit. At an age of just over 2 Gyr, these stars are Type F through M main-sequence stars whose smaller members have not yet stabilized completely; many of its orange and red dwarf members (late K through M) are flare stars or BY Draconis-type variables with massive irregular sunspots.
Due to the group’s young/intermediate age, many of the worlds are life-bearing, but usually nothing more complex than single-celled organisms—prokaryotic bacteria, single-celled plankton, and colony organisms such as algae mats (Life Scale 3bis, maximum). Though limited to such primitive organisms, evolution has progressed far enough so those single-celled organisms are aerobic, “pre-Terraforming” the more earthlike worlds with not only an oxidizing but oxygenated atmosphere.
Because of this, many of the DMG worlds have been T-formed and settled.
Virtchok System (DMG 7)
Only Jump-1 distant from Paryan System (Telerine), Korvo is a medium-population, medium-tech world currently ruled from Telerine as a colony.
The system consists of Virtchok, a G8V main-sequence sun (“orange-yellow dwarf”), seven planets, and two asteroid belts.
Planet I, Yagan (X300000-0, Orbit 1) is a small, cratered rockball, a twin of Mercury baking in close orbit. From Korvo, it appears in the sky as a bright morning/evening star, easily lost in the sun’s glare.
Planet II, Korvo (B544764-7, Orbit 2) is the system’s main world, a Telerine colony with a native human population of 20 million. Trade class is Ag, with an Eaglestone Trade Index of 2. Its two moons, Huk (BS00569-9) and Iskay (XS00266-9), house various highport, industrial, and defense installations.
Planet III, Asilra (XAAA000-0, Orbit 3) is a large waterworld with a thick exotic atmosphere of methane/CO2/nitrogen; the heavy greenhouse effect keeps the oceans liquid.
Virtchok Inner Belt (D000565-9, Orbit 4) is a thin belt of primarily-metallic asteroids with a permanent population of some 700,000 Belters.
Planet IV, Melrissa (LGG, 100 T-mass, Orbit 5) is a Saturn-sized gas giant with ten regular moons plus dozens of irregular captured-asteroid moons. Because of its size and relatively-calm atmosphere, Melrissa is the fuel-skim site of the system. Melrissa’s cloud bands are swirls of Jupiter-like pastels, with few storm spots.
Virtchok Outer Belt (D000465-9, Orbit 6) is another thin belt of asteroids, primarily mixed stone-and-ice “centaurs” worked by around 4000 Belters.
Planet V, Yantor (LGG, 400 T-mass, Orbit 7) is the system’s dominant gas giant, with ten regular moons plus dozens of captured asteroids. A third again the mass of Jupiter, Yantor has too high a surface gravity and too strong a magnetosphere to be suitable for fuel-skimming. Yantor’s cloud bands are yellow-white with numerous storm spots, shading into blue-green on its polar regions and night side.
Yantor Trojan Cluster (D000463-9, Orbit 7) is a thick cluster of mostly-ice asteroids occupying Yantor’s leading Trojan point worked by about 2000 Belters.
Planet Vbis, Hahral (DCA6366-9, Orbit 7), a “Trojan Planet”, is Virtchok’s unique system feature, a large “Super-Titan” with thick hazy methane/nitrogen atmosphere, continents of ice, and oceans of hydrocarbons occupying Yantor’s trailing Trojan point. It is believed to be a capture. It is the site of a Telerine hydrocarbon-mining operation with around 3000 population.
Planet VI, Tanithra (SGG, 40 T-mass, Orbit 9) is a Neptune-blue small gas giant with six icy moons, alone on the outskirts of the system.
Outside of Tanithra is a thin Kuiper Belt of dwarf iceballs and comets.
Korvo (Virtchok II)
Korvo (Virtchok II) B544764-7
Agricultural; Eaglestone Trade Index 2
A small, arid, mountainous world with landlocked oceans, Korvo is barely large enough to hold a breathable atmosphere and under a heavy UV flux from its sun despite Virtchok’s G8v spectral class.
From afar, Korvo appears as a slightly-larger and much more rugged Mars with a thicker atmosphere and some hydrosphere other than icecaps. It is a small, arid, world of brine seas and rugged mountains, flanked by two small moons.
Only 30% of the surface is human-habitable; 40% are the brine oceans and their surrounding alkali salt deserts, and 30% are highlands and mountains, high enough the atmosphere becomes too thin for even Korvans to breathe (Very Thin).
The terrain is rugged, dominated by curving mountain chains, the remains of overlapping impact crater walls; as a young system, Virtchok’s Heavy Bombardment Period is not that far in the past. The oceans and salt flats/dry lakes have definite “flooded overlapping craters” shorelines and the lowlands around them show all the signs of impact basins.
Most of the population is in the lowlands, along river valleys and floodplains well away from the oceans and salt deserts. In its “natural” state, these would be grasslands and light forests along the rivers and watercourses flowing from the highlands to the oceans. In its settled state, this area is full of cultivated agricultural land, irrigated by rivers and canals and terracing up the foothills.
The highlands are more arid, dusted with exceptionally hardy Terraforming vegetation and Very Thin atmosphere on the edge of breathability. And cold, well below freezing at night; foodstuffs set out at night will naturally freeze-dry over the course of a couple nights into charkri (rhymes with “jerky”). Some thin forests and scrub grow at this level, just enough to support the mountain tribes that inhabit the area. And behind the highlands, barren mountains, their peaks extending beyond the breathable atmosphere.
Nobody lives near the oceans; the rivers cut through salt-flat deserts before emptying into the heavy brine, and the exotic salts are alkaline and irritating. (Think the Salton Sea, except with natural pollutants.) The only settlements in this area are along the rivers near the edge, making their living through salt collection and chemical extraction.
Surface Conditions/Sky Picture
The day is 28 hours long, with a year of 226 local days (.62 T-year). Climate is constant year-round, with temperate days and cold nights throughout the year, getting colder with altitude.
Only half of Korvo’s land area (30% of total) is habitable (Thin atmosphere); the other half (30%) are rugged highlands, with Very Thin atmosphere. New arrivals from thick-atmosphered Telerine will always contract altitude sickness; one in four of these will be unable to adapt to the Korvan atmosphere, and must return to Telerine or die.
The first difference a visitor will notice is the gravity—only 2/3 of a gee. Then (if not previously acclimatized on the journey) the Thin atmosphere; the popping of the ears, followed by the shortness of breath and constant sinus headache of altitude sickness. After that, the UV sunburn by the end of the day followed by an icy night; the thin atmosphere does not hold heat well.
The low gravity causes less pressure drop from altitude; however, “sea level” (lowland) pressure is just over half standard, so the limit of breathability is only around 2 to 3 km altitude, the transition between Thin and Very Thin atmosphere. Korvan mountain tribesmen can breathe up to just over 4 km altitude; above that, there are no settlements and even Korvans require compressor/oxygen masks.
Even in the lowlands, water boils at only 80°C; 70°C at the limit of breathability in the highlands.
The daytime sky is deep blue, almost blue-black at the zenith; the sun has a distinct yellowish tint, and appears about 20% larger than “normal”. Both moons are tiny, barely large enough to show a disc to the naked eye, and hurtle through the sky like those of fabled Barsoom; Huk has a month of just over two local days, Iskay four. Yagan periodically appears as the Morning/Evening Star, and Melrissa and Yantor shine bright yellow in the night sky, along with the two first-magnitude stars of Paryan (Telerine) and Hamilton’s Star (Geolan/Wasphome). These are also visible during the day, where the sky goes indigo at the zenith.
Tall mountains have a peculiar “layered” appearance, with the tree line near the bottom, ring snowcaps and glaciers at the “middle” elevations, and little-eroded barren grey peaks at the top, too high for clouds to form or snow to fall.
Like other surface-habitable worlds in the Dole Moving Group, Korvo never got beyond single-celled prokaryotes (Life Score 3—phytoplankton and bacteria), enough to oxygenate the atmosphere but not much else.
Most native biomass is in the alkaline brine of Korvo’s small landlocked oceans—extremophiles living under conditions where nothing else could live. Each ocean and salt lake has a different biota due to different salinity and alkalinity.
Except for windblown bacterial colonies in the uninhabitable highlands and deserts, the entire land ecosphere was imported during Terraforming. T-forming concentrated on the most habitable areas—along river valleys and watercourses, from the lower of the mountains through lowland plains, where the atmosphere was thick enough to breathe but not tainted by alkali blowsalt from the oceans and surrounding salt flats.
Vegetation is similar to the Andes Mountains of Earth, with domestic crops of maize, potatoes, quinoa, and hardwoods along the rivers from the highlands to the salt flats and seas. Three transplanted animals are important enough to mention:
Korvan Puma (Puma concolor korvanus): Large (25-50kg) carnivore/pouncer, descendant of the Terran Cougar adapted to the thin atmosphere. Apex predator of the forests and crags, not aggressive towards humans (which suggests they are descended from the Argentine Puma, the least aggressive subspecies). Important in Korvan lore and folk beliefs and associated with royalty (“Puma” is Korvan for “Powerful One”). During the Long Night, Korvans selectively bred a domesticated form, the “Korvo Cat” (Puma concolor domesticus) as a Royal pet; after the end of the monarchy, the Korvo Cat became popular as an exotic pet.
Quii is a generic word for three types of herbivore/grazers of varying size which serve as Korvo’s main meat animals. All are kind of dopey-looking:
Cavy (Guinea Pig, Cavia korvanus): Small (half-kilo), fast-breeding rodents with the IQ of the potatoes they are shaped like; they fill the ecological and agricultural niche of rabbits in most colony worlds.
Coypu (Nutria, Myocastor coypus korvanus): Large (5-10kg) semi-aquatic rodent found along the rivers and marshes, fills the ecological niche of the beaver or muskrat. Major agricultural pest due to its diet of water plants and crops; domesticable, but never successfully ranched; free-range in wetlands and culled for meat as needed in communal hunts.
Capybara (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris korvanus): Largest rodents in existence (25-50kg), land-bound version of the coypu. Herd grazers of the forests, hunted and culled the same way as coypu for meat, hide, and a fat-derived grease with pharmaceutical uses. Can also be domesticated.
Camelids (Lama korvanus): Large (100-200kg) primarily-domestic herbivore/grazers of the genus Lama, genetically-engineered hybrids of the llama (Lama glama), vicuña (Vicugna vicugna), and alpaca (Vicugna pacos), source of the fine wool that is one of Korvo’s major exports. Raised more for wool and as (light) pack animals than for meat. Very sure-footed; wild/feral herds roam the fringes of the mountains.
Cautions and Hazards
The main hazards all have to do with the thin atmosphere.
Even in the lowlands around the seas, Korvo’s atmosphere is Thin; altitude sickness is common among visitors. The highlands are worse; only native Highland tribesmen can breathe and work normally in the mountains; all others (even lowland Korvans) need supplemental oxygen or compressor masks to breathe. This is worse for visitors from thick-atmosphered worlds like Telerine, who will always develop altitude sickness on Korvo.
Despite Virtchok’s spectral class, the thin atmosphere also lets a lot of solar UV to the surface; sunburn is an additional hazard for light-skinned visitors over the entire world, and for medium-skinned people in the highlands. Korvans say they can smell Telerines and offworlders a kilometer away because they reek of sunscreen.
Cataracts are a universal problem with age; local legend is that a Highland tribesman is not made a clan elder until he has gone blind from cataracts.
The thin atmosphere does not retain heat; coupled with the somewhat long day/night cycle, temperatures approach freezing during lowland nights and do get below freezing in the highlands.
Allergies and bio-toxicity are often a problem on life-bearing colony worlds, and Korvo is no exception. The salt in the brine seas is strongly alkaline, both irritating and toxic; high winds scouring the surrounding salt flats can taint the atmosphere for hundreds of kilometers downwind, burning the eyes and lungs with moderate-to-fatal results.
Though easy to produce (all you need is fermentation tanks and a still), the use of alcohol as the main liquid fuel presents its own hazards. Alcohol burns very clean, emitting almost entirely infrared; an alcohol flame is visible only in low-light conditions as a faint blue flame edged with yellow. In strong light (daylight or strong artificial light), human eyes literally cannot see an alcohol fire. This increases the chance of burn accidents, as a character might not realize a fire was starting until he/she actually put a hand into the flames.
Korvo began as a small low-tech backwater colony, barely established
when the Long Night began. During the Long Night, the stranded colonists
adapted to local planetary conditions, drifting into a uniquely-Korvan
ethnic type and language.
Currently, Korvo has three main ethnic types. All are genetically near-pure or pure Solomani, but with different details:
The basic Korvans are a medium-skinned people with coppery complexions and distinct ethnic characteristics, adapted for the thin atmosphere and UV similar to natives of the Altiplano—slim from the low gravity, with deep barrel chests and ethnic characteristics of South American/Andean natives.
Peruvian politician/activist Hilaria Supa shows classic
Andean ethnic characteristics; her appearance and
clothing would not be out-of-place for a prosperous
Korvan city woman, including her jobona jacket and
montera hat. (photo derived from
CC-BY-2.0 Wikipedia user Athenchen)
The second are the Highland tribesmen—“Extreme Korvans” with darker skin, super-adapted to thin-atmosphere conditions but otherwise conforming to Korvan ethnicity. These highland tribes include:
- The Shiar, who have a cultural taboo against bathing and a genetic quirk where one birth in a thousand is pale-skinned and blond(e), showing no Korvan ethnic characteristics. (The taboo on bathing is probably a result of the extreme cold in the highlands, where stripping down to bathe or getting wet is inviting hypothermia.)
- The Chachapoya, a loose federation of fiercely-independent mountain tribes who have never bowed to the lowlanders, let alone Pumayaqta.
The third are transplanted Telerines of the colonial administration, with light-to-medium olive skin, a generally “Mediterranean” appearance, and huskier higher-gee builds; usually short of breath, dry-skinned, and either sunburned or sunscreened. There is no way to mistake a Telerine for a Korvan.
For purposes of character generation, Korvans are human with the following characteristics:
- Korvans are naturally adapted to Thin atmosphere, and may have problems with Dense atmo; rural Korvans will probably have a bonus skill of Survival(Mountains)-1. Prior Service type will have a bias towards Barbarian (or, surprisingly, Belter).
- Mountain tribesmen are even more Thin-atmo adapted, may have problems with Standard atmo and will have problems with Dense. They will always have the Survival(Mountains) bonus skill and will most likely have a Prior Service type of Barbarian.
Character names should be taken from Andean Quechua; typical names can be found at http://www.babynamespedia.com/search/m/quechua; (male) and http://www.behindthename.com/submit/names/gender/feminine/usage/quechua (female).
Korvan men wear a traditionally-patterned wool poncho; the higher the status and wealth, the finer the wool and the more elaborate and intricate the woven pattern. Men’s headgear is the chullu, an earflapped knit hat. The patterns on ponchos and chullukuna are traditional and vary by region; locals or “old Korvo hands” can tell the origin and social status of a Korvan from the pattern on his poncho and style of his chullu, sometimes down to the specific ayllu and village of origin.
In rural areas, most all Korvan men carry a machete, an all-purpose chopping blade intermediate between a Blade and Cutlass with elements of both. Treat as Blade or Cutlass depending on size. (And a Blade(Machete) or Cutlass(Machete) skill level of 0.)
Korvan women wear a large embroidered skirt called a poyera and a half-shawl, half-poncho shoulder cloth called a yikiya, patterned similar to a man’s poncho. Rural women also wear a carry-cloth or qipina over the shoulder for carrying things.
This woman is wearing a yikiya of a typical color and
pattern; she carries a young child in a qipina slung
underneath the yikiya for sun protection.
(photo derived from
CC-BY-2.0 Wikipedia user palindrome6996)
Women’s headgear varies from region to region; some regions’ women wear the montera, a wide-brimmed hat shaped like a giant lens; others modified versions of offworld hats; still others feminine versions of the chullu.
In rural areas, both men’s pants and women’s skirts are about knee-length to mid-calf, more practical for work in the fields and terraces. Below this, woolen stockings are normally worn—again, in bright colors and patterns if the wearer is well-off. Rural Korvans usually wear knee-length pants/skirts and sandals-over-stockings, city-dwellers longer pants/skirts and actual shoes.
For an overview of these articles of clothing (illustrated by their ancestral forms), see http://hubpages.com/education/traditional-andean-clothes.
The staple foods of Korvo are potatoes and beans, with some quinoa in the highland mountains and some maize in the lowlands near the seas; Telerines refer to Korvans as “Potato-Eaters”. (These days, maize is grown more for alcohol—both fuel and drink—than for foodstuffs.) The main meat is quii (cavy), with cameloid and game meats as more expensive alternatives.
One custom for festivals is the pachamanqa, a mixture of marinated meats, potatoes, beans, peppers, and anything handy slow-cooked in an earth oven similar to a Hawaiian luau or Maori kumara.
The main alcoholic drink (and drink of preference in rural areas) is chicha, a maize beer of around 3% alcohol. While bottled chicha from city breweries is OK, you don’t want to know how they make the homebrew sold by street vendors from big earthenware crocks. (Clue: “salivary fermentation”.)
Hard liquor is represented by qanya, a truly awful local moonshine served at important events—like negotiations with offworld free traders, which are often initiated with a qanya drinking bout, matching glass-for-glass. Offworlders unfortunate enough to experience qanya liken the taste to foul petrochemicals.
Mix chicha and qanya with the machetes every Korvan man seems to carry in rural areas and you have the custom of “Friday Night Machete Fights”. Casualties from these slash-em-ups are few and far between; despite the wild swinging of sharp objects, it’s hard to hit anything with that much chicha dissolved in your belly.
Non-alcoholic drinks include unfermented “blue chicha” in the country, sweetgrass-flavored soft drinks in the cities, and coca tea everywhere.
Coca tea is a bittersweet tea brewed from coca leaves; the trace amounts of cocaine give the brew a kick like strong coffee. Coca infusions of similar strength are used to fortify the soft drinks up to double-espresso/energy drink levels.
Despite being an exporter of various types of coffee, Korvans usually don’t drink it themselves; coffee is a city thing.
The Korvan language is represented by Quechua, complete with no fewer than fourteen regional dialects, some of which vary enough to be separate languages. With the advent of mass media, regional dialects are fading as the Pumayaqta dialect becomes the planetary standard.
Korvan is written using the standard Galanglic alphabet, with some unique spelling conventions (such as “Q” for “K” or hard “C” and “S” for “Z”). This orthography is not strictly followed in this article, as the actual Korvan spellings would not be easily understandable by English/Galanglic speakers.
Telerine colonists have their own unrelated language and alphabet, represented by Greek.
Korvo was settled just before the Long Night as a deliberately low-tech colony by Solomani humans of largely Andean ethnicity. Like most main worlds in the DMG, the planet was already partially “pre-Terraformed” by its native life, with not only an oxidizing but oxygenated atmosphere.
The remaining Terraforming was also low-tech, using geneered soil fungi and plants to prepare the world for its new biosphere of Terran flora and fauna, based on that of the Andes mountains and the West Coast of South America. Unlike Telerine with its islands and archipelagoes, Korvo was mostly dry land (some very dry), and the T-forming biota and followup biosphere spread naturally over the habitable areas.
Then came the crash and the Long Night. Korvo weathered it pretty well, as the colony was low-tech to start with, and the people regressed to the traditional society of their distant ancestors, loose federations of ayllukuna (lineages, tribes, and clans) which gelled into proto-national groupings determined by geography and region. Some of which were very well organized and run.
Ten generations ago, Korvo was a balkanized collection of Tech Level 3 isolated tribal states, petty monarchies clustered around lakefronts and rivers. Then an Inka (king) named Pachucuti (“World-shaker”) of one of the larger kingdoms “rooned” some pre-Long Night technology and knowledge from the ruins of an old starport near his city of Pumayaqta (“City of the Great Cat” or “City of Power”).
Inka Pachucuti’s son Inka Tupaq carried on his father’s goals, bootstrapping his kingdom through an Industrial Revolution to TL4 (early/limited Industrial)—enough to begin to overwhelm the neighboring kingdoms and start expanding with equal amounts of diplomacy, force, and political skill. Petty kingdom after petty kingdom fell to the Inka of Pumayaqta, their capitals turned into provincial capitals connected by new Royal Roads, their Royal Ayllukuna either disbanded or intermarried into those of Pumayaqta, their taxes going to enrich Pumayaqta. Only the Chachapoya, a loose federation of various mountain tribes, was never assimilated—mostly because their highland homes were so harsh and the atmosphere at that altitude (right on the edge of breathability) gave even other Korvans serious altitude sickness.
Two generations ago, Korvo was a single mostly-unified kingdom, ruled by the Sapa Inka (“Only King”) from the world capital of Pumayaqta, stable at Tech Level 4bis (late Victorian). While formally classified as Gov A (charismatic dictator in the person of the King), the Korvan monarchy at this time also incorporated elements of Gov 3 (oligarchy) and 9 (impersonal bureaucracy).
The Long Night was ending for Korvo and the DMG systems; the neighboring system of Telerine (then Tech 9bis) had made contact and was expanding into the outer system using locally-hired Korvan labor when the Korvan monarchy blew up in a succession crisis; Sapa Inka Yupanqui (“The Accountant”) had left no single heir but four, each from a different branch of the Royal Ayllu having roughly-equal claims to the throne. Civil war between the four Royal heirs seemed imminent.
The Overgovernors of the Four Quadrants had become a Regency Council tasked with selecting the next King from among the heirs; whichever one they chose, the other three would plunge their world into civil war.
The Four Governors avoided this by (after a long dance of secret negotiations) awarding the succession to Telerine’s dominant nation the Helleanan Republic, inviting the offworlders to annex the system under terms of the negotiated agreement—a contract between the Korvan and Telerine governments, backed by the Overgovernors’ forces. Since Telerines were outsiders not of any Korvan ayllu, none would be offended (at least in theory—two of the four Royal heirs backed the Regency Council’s decision, but the other two didn’t).
Styling themselves Sapa Inka Pachucuti VI and Sapa Inka Atahualpa II, the two dissenting princes both tried to seize the Puma Throne for themselves (and from each other). Both the Overgovernors’ and Telerine forces (including Laconian mercenaries and Special Forces rushed to the system) saw some action until the matter settled down.
Annexation did improve the lot of those Korvans being exploited as grunt labor insystem—upon annexation Korvans became Metikoi (resident non-citizens), with some rights and protections under Telerine law. The Republic’s Department of Metik Affairs had to do more than a few investigations and prosecutions before conditions improved.
Ever since, Korvo has been a Telerine colony ruled under the terms of the agreement by appointed Governors-General and a civil service bureaucracy in the manner of the British Raj. The Telerines inherited the old Royal bureaucracy, which kept on with business as usual; little has changed except for a Telerine colonial presence on-world and where the taxes go.
The Republic’s political tradition is that of a parliamentary democracy with extensive social-benefit programs, and they extend that tradition to a limited extent with their Korvan subjects. While the Telerines are definitely in charge of the government and all offworld affairs, on-world their hand is light. The Korvans are mostly self-governing in their traditional manner, with the Telerines overriding the councils of ayllukuna only when Telerine interests are threatened. Telerine is interested primarily in the rest of the system’s resources, and lets Korvo handle its domestic affairs as long as it doesn’t jeopardize the arrangement.
In addition, the Telerines provide offworld employment for Korvan employees in their outer-system mining, Belting, and industrial installations.
The main exceptions are the Chachapoya mountain tribes, who continue the same arrangement with the Telerines that they had with the Sapa Inka: “You leave us alone and we’ll leave you alone.”
In the process, Korvo’s Tech Level has risen to TL7 (mid-Cold War), still below their Telerine overlords’ TL11 (mid-to-late 21st Century).
With the difference in Tech Level and culture, Telerines consider Korvans to be primitives, though legally Metikoi. This attitude is more pronounced among new arrivals; Telerines who have been on Korvo for generations and “gone partially native” have much less of an attitude, and will often “set straight” the worst of the new arrivals. Still, all it takes is one pig-headed Governor-General or newly-appointed senior bureaucrat to mess things up.
Economy and Trade
Since Telerine annexation, Korvo is in the odd position of a separate economy from the remainder of Virtchok System. (Odd for a system main world.) Accordingly, the main world classifications differ from the rest of the system.
Trade Class: Agricultural.
Exports: Textiles, Coffee (or equivalent), Pharmaceuticals (Cocaine), Hardwoods.
Imports: Medium-tech manufactured goods.
Trade Class: Industrial.
Exports: Alloys, Chemicals.
Imports: Supplies for all the offworld industrial outposts.
Eaglestone Trade Index: 2 (over 1500 passengers and 6000 dtons freight/week; 70-80% of that with Telerine)
Services: Refined fuel, Starship maintenance/repair, resupply
While ruling with an easy hand over Korvo itself, Telerine interests are exploiting the remainder of the system using Korvan labor, draining the off-Korvo economy for Telerine’s benefit. Korvo itself remains pretty much untouched, a backwater agricultural world.
Korvan agriculture has traditionally been by ayllu in farming villages; however export cash crops are changing this into a plantation system, with scale-efficiency coffee and coca plantations. Control is passing out of the hands of rural chieftains and villages into factory farming run by offworlders or city ayllukanu, and the strain is starting to show.
Offworld is a whole different matter, with Belters mining the two asteroid belts, chemical lighters mining the gas giants Melrissa and Yantor, and exotic chemical and methane fuel extraction on Hahral. When it comes to high-tech, non-Ag interstellar trade, the Telerines get the better end of the deal.
This causes some friction between Telerines and Korvans, but so far nothing beyond serious grumbling about their Colonial overlords. Major exceptions are mountain tribes who want to be left alone and don’t like outsiders, period, and one or two minor terrorist organizations with delusions of grandeur. (Or organized crime with a veneer of Free Korvo terrorist agendas.)
Speaking of organized crime, here’s some details regarding the export entry of Pharmaceuticals (Cocaine):
Coca—the botanical source of cocaine—is an integral part of Korvan culture; coca tea and coca-fortified soft drinks are drunk in the more “civilized” areas, while backwater rural Korvans chew the raw leaf. In both these forms, the cocaine is present only in trace amounts, with a maximum effect like an energy drink or strong coffee.
Cocaine proper is extracted and refined from the coca leaf into a concentrated form which even at high Tech Levels is still in demand for medical uses, the lowest-tech of local anesthetics. And Korvo is the major source of “Korvan Marching Powder” for half the subsector.
Coca is grown on coca plantations (owned by local governments or ayllukuna) as a cash crop for both uses.
And then there’s the reason most neighboring systems search every ship coming from Virtchok System—the other cocaine trade. “The Korvan Connection” began when Telerine annexed Korvo; diehard anti-Telerine factions associated with the two Rebel Princes started “The Korvan Connection” to get back at the Telerines by getting as many of them as possible addicted to Korvan Marching Powder, made from diverted (and dangerous) coca paste/refinery tailings. A generation later, the money became too good and political/terrorist organizations mutated into organized-crime ayllukuna, their original purpose all but forgotten. Basically, they are now crime families who mouth a Free Korvo agenda for justification and provide a constant headache for law enforcement, both traditional and Telerine.
Cities and Starports
Korvo’s Highport is located on Huk, the innermost moon. A natural space station in the shape of a potato, the tiny moon’s surface gravity of less than 0.05 gee permits micro-gee docking of unstreamlined ships of most any size.
Hukport is a TL9bis Class B Highport, with all the amenities and services except for starship construction. The port is divided into three sections of almost equal size:
- The starport proper, handling outsystem traffic.
- A spaceport handling insystem traffic from the Telerine industrial outposts in the asteroid belts, including fuel and chemical lighters and intermodal transfer to the starport proper.
- A Telerine naval base housing the Republic’s insystem naval presence and Planetary Defense Command.
Except for the surface docks, the port itself is dug into the moon, supporting a permanent population of some 40,000 in a cramped warren of tunnels. Internal atmosphere is at Standard—not too thick for Korvans, not too thin for Telerines, and breathable for Chitin A “Wasps” (from Hamilton’s Star). This atmosphere is characteristic of all insystem outposts. Internal gravity can vary from Korvan standard (60% gee) to natural (not much above microgravity); inducing gravity over the sprawl of the entire settled area would be too expensive.
Hukport has a heavy Telerine presence, with more Telerines than Korvans and a smaller “Wasptown”. All three rub shoulders in the maze of Highport tunnels. You are much more likely to encounter Telerine foods than Korvan, and all signs in three languages using two alphabets (Pumayaqta-dialect Korvan/Quechua, Telerine/Greek, and Galanglic/Interstellar lingua franca).
Located where two medium-size rivers come together, Pumayaqta (“City of the Cat” or “City of Power”) is the planetary capital, the largest city at two million, and the site of the Class B downport.
The downport sits atop a high mesa between two rivers emerging from the foothills overlooking the city, extending down the sides of the mesa on terraces. This is the heart of Telerine presence on Korvo, with a Telerine Colonial Army HQ and Governor-General’s residence/offices in a repurposed Summer Palace with a view of the city below. The downport hotels include special hyperbaric wings pressurized to Standard or slightly denser, for Chitin A “Wasps” and those Telerines who cannot adapt to Korvo’s thin atmosphere. (Including the third Governor-General, whose altitude sickness was so severe he spent his entire time on-world in the hyperbaric wing of the main hotel, conducting all business through airlocks and telepresence.)
Under the old monarchy, Pumayaqta was the only legal downport on-world, with the Royal Ayllu taking a cut of everything that came to Korvo through it. Since annexation, the Telerines have been putting additional D-class secondary downports in the provincial capitals and 27 other cities of over 100,000 to reduce the need for long-distance shipping to Pumayaqta on Korvo’s Inka Nan (“royal road”) highway network.
The repurposed palace used by the Governor-General sits on the edge of the mesa overlooking Pumayaqta itself. The view is impressive; funicular/incline connections extend down the side of the mesa to the head of Pumarqurqo (“Cat’s Spine”), the main boulevard running the length of the Old City. From the mesa, you can look down the entire length of the street, from the medium-rise commercial downtown nearest the port to the Great Plaza surrounded by the “Golden Gardens” of old palaces/Royal Ayllu Compounds to where Pumaqurqo ends at the “Cat’s Tail”, where the two rivers come together. The rivers flow through the city in stonework channels, a wonder of low-tech engineering. Secondary boulevards crisscross the Old City, extending over the river channels on stone bridges into the lowrise suburbs of the New City on the opposite banks, where they continue as Inka Nankuna (“royal roads”) into the countryside.
Close-up and away from the boulevards, the “Golden Garden” of the Old City is a maze of centuries-old streets flanked by stone buildings. Most of the architecture is of stone and fairly low; three to five stories around the Pumaqurqo and Great Plaza; even the recent construction of the downport commercial center is rarely over ten stories.
The Old City was said to be laid out in the shape of a great cat; the Great Plaza and surrounding Royal Compounds forming its heart, Pumaqurqo its spine, the confluence of the two rivers its tail, and the Downport mesa its head.
Stretching hundreds of meters across the heart of the Old City, the Great Plaza is the main governmental/ceremonial center, a combined huaca, park, and gathering place. The Royal Palaces/Ayllu Compounds around it house government offices (now used by the colonial government as well as residences for the remaining Korvan princes and their extended families/ayllukuna.
The two large suburbs of the New City are of later construction, sprawling away from the riverbanks in arrays of open gardens and one- to two-story buildings—mostly traditional adobe with tile or thatch roofs; some plazas break the sea of roofs where former farming villages were overrun by urban sprawl.
Pumayaqta is the only fully-electrified city on Korvo, juicing off fusion plants in the downport itself. Other cities (even provincial capitals) are only partially-electrified with small alcohol-burning powerplants (upgrading to fusion as part of Downport installation), and the real Outback doesn’t even have those.
Korvo has few cities; only 28 of them (mostly pre-unification capitals) are over 100,000 in size, and only Pumayaqta is over 1 million. Most of the arable land is scattered along the river channels with small villages and some towns along the Royal Roads. This world is fiercely rural.
Tech Level Notes
The highest Tech Level is at Pumayaqta itself, where a lot of imported TL10 (mid-21st Century) Telerine technology and equipment mix with Korvan TL7 (Mid Cold War). The farther you get from the cities, the lower the Tech Level, down to TL1 or 2 mountain tribesmen.
Even in the low-tech areas, there are some exceptions due to imported Telerine technology. Most communications are TL9-10, with global satellite cellphone coverage and GPS/map boxes accurate to within a couple meters.
Outside of Pumayaqta and some of the provincial capitals which have offworld fusion powerplants, the main liquid fuel is alcohol, distilled from the maize crop (with some diversion for qanya).
Because of its rugged terrain, Korvo never did develop railroads (which are limited to the shallowest of grades). Instead, alcohol-fueled trucks and jitneys carry freight and passengers over the network of Royal Roads, with all the side effects that entails.
Most of those trucks carry agricultural products; Korvo is proudly agricultural, from coffee and coca plantations to village plots, many of them terraced up the frequent slopes and hills, irrigated by canals from reservoirs behind earth-fill dams. What manufacturing exists on-world is small-scale, concentrated in the major cities and owned/worked on an ayllu basis. Most manufactured goods must be imported.
Korvan architecture and civil engineering is surprisingly advanced—good stonework, canals, bridges, earth-fill or masonry dams. Stonemasons form their own specialized ayllukuna and are greatly respected. Buildings tend to be low, rarely over three to five stories in the cities or one in the countryside, with a lot of stone construction in cities and adobe in the country.
In many ways there are two Korvos, with traditional rural Korvan culture being the norm.
The basic unit of Korvan society is the ayllu (plural ayllukuna), a network of related families tracing lineage back to a single ancestor/founder, holding land in common and generally self-sufficient. Similar to a Bryant’s World “Clave” or a Vargr extended pack (but generally more stable than the latter), these extended clans are generally self-sufficient, held together by networks of owed favors under their mallku (chieftain and elders). Within an ayllu, the economy runs on bartering and exchanges of labor and favors and debts; money is used outside the ayllu, not inside.
Traditionally, an ayllu lives together in a “lineage compound” in the manner of a Vargr pack house. (In many ways, Korvans and Vargr understand each others’ traditions.) In cities, a lineage compound is normally a group of buildings—houses and communal structures—covering a full city block, sometimes grouped around a single ayllu-owned company or industry. In rural areas, a lineage compound can be a small-to-medium sized rural village. Or half of one—a rural village normally has two ayllukuna, marrying into each other to prevent inbreeding. A woman is “married into” her husband’s ayllu and “married for” her father’s; her children are “born to” their father’s ayllu and “born for” their mother’s. Outsiders can also join an ayllu by assuming the responsibilities of belonging: Minqa (communal work for the ayllu as a whole), Ayni (reciprocal trade in individual labor), and Mita (paying taxes levied on the ayllu).
Honored dead (elders and ancestors) are normally buried within the lineage compound, sometimes even under the floors of their kin’s residences to form a huaca, hallowing the place with their presence. Weddings are normally grouped together into a multiple/mass wedding followed by a joint pachamanqa feast.
The ayllu kinship/lineage system is strongest in the rural areas where it originated, but is starting to fragment in the cities—with the Telerine occupation, imported tech, and offworld jobs, the system is starting to show cracks, partially patched by the formation of ad-hoc ayllukuna from those separated from their rural home ayllukuna. Even so, cities are full of unattached urban Korvans without local ayllu affiliation, preferring their new Telerine-made smartphone screens to minqa, ayni, and mita. And with planet-wide cellphone coverage and satellite broadband, it’s spreading into the countryside.
Philosophy and Religion
Korvo’s most widespread religion is monotheistic, a relative of Telerine’s main religion (though Telerines are loath to admit it) but overlaid and syncreted with a lot of animistic ancestor veneration and folk religion which accreted around it.
This folk religion is shamanistic. In rural areas shamans are traditionally male and function as “traditional healers”. In cities it is the opposite; shamans tend to be female and function as “the local Witch”, casting love philters and other behavior-modifying castings. Both also fill the role of “Wise Man/Wise Woman” as alternate authority figures to ayllu chieftains. Many shamans (both rural and urban) have psionic talents. Shamanism provides a traditional milieu for psionic “magic”, both benevolent and destructive.
One characteristic of Korvan shamanism is that natural forces and spirits are considered evil—destructive enemies, neutral at best. Only the spirits of your ancestors can be counted on to be favorably disposed. This is probably due to the harshness of nature on Korvo, but comes as a shock to high-tech offworlders predisposed to romanticize “primitives” as spiritually-superior Noble Savages.
Many shamans (and their followers) are also active churchgoers, hedging their bets. The Church provides a respite from hostile nature, but Korvans are survivors and keep one foot in each. And Korvan shamanism is abstractly monotheistic…
The word huaca is usually translated “shrine” or “temple”, but can refer to any “sacred place”. Huacuna can be places of worship, shrines, graves or memorials of great men, or even prominent mountains which “anchor the world to the sky”. One uniquely Korvan ritual is “pattern walking” of laid-out labyrinths or mountain ridge trails from huaca to huaca at the upper end of breathability.
The present government is a planet-wide Telerine colonial administration (Gov 6) in the manner of the British Raj over TL4 India. The Governor-General resides in the old Royal capital of Pumayaqta, overseeing the old Royal bureaucracy plus an influx of Telerine Colonial Ministry administrators.
Provincial capitals are similar, except with fewer Telerines; as a rule-of-thumb, the farther from Pumayaqta the fewer and farther between the Telerines. The local ayllukuna administer their native provinces as they did under the Sapa Inka, collecting taxes for the capital and getting public works projects in return. (Depending on region, these taxes can be paid in the traditional prestige products of the area—precious metals or fine textiles—as well as money.)
Outside the cities, the local ayllukuna and lineages work the land and run their own local affairs as they have always done.
Korvo’s armed forces (under Telerine command) can field 10 TL7 divisions (20 brigades or 40 regiments) at full mobilization.
These are Telerine Colonial forces; each taxias (regiment-sized “brigade”) consists of one Telerine Colonial battalion (TL10, all Telerine, using grav vehicles instead of hovers) and three batallions of Korvan light infantry (TL7, Telerine officers, Korvan Metikoi enlisted men and non-coms, with heavy support weapons carried on “technicals”—light all-terrain trucks).
In addition, there is a TL10 Telerine garrison of a single taxias composed of Republic regulars, with additional Laconian mercenaries filling it out to an understrength division. This taxias is Protected Forces, available for offworld deployment. This is intended as a “fire brigade” in the event of rebellion, but mostly stays on-base with elements deployed on Security tickets throughout the system. A second taxias of Korvan Colonial troops is also Protected Forces trained and available for offworld deployment.
Colonial forces use standard Telerine ranks and rank badges; the main difference is that Colonial officer badges use a puma’s mask instead of the Republic’s phoenix and Korvan enlisted men wear Metik insignia, not Citizen.
Not counting visiting Telerine naval ships, system defenses total 2000 tons, divided among three SDBs and four squadrons of fighters as well as surface- and moon-based missile batteries. All are TL10-11 and under Telerine command.
Korvo has two small moons, Huk-Rikin-Killa (“First Moon” BS00569-9) and Iskay-Rikin-Killa (“Second Moon” XS00266-9), commonly referred to as “Huk” and “Iskay”. Both resemble roughly dug-up potatoes, orbiting in tidal lock with long axes aligned with their primary. Highport facilities (including a Telerine naval station) are located on Huk, system defense bases and remote missile sites on Iskay.
Hukport and its support installations are described under “Cities and Starports”.
Asilra (Virtchok III)
Asilra (Virtchok III) XAAA000-0
From orbit, Asilra looks like a blue-white marble; blue at the poles, white at the equator, and generally hazy. A large waterworld with a thick inert atmosphere of nitrogen/methane/CO2, Asilra would have been a super-Venus if it were closer to Virtchok; as it is, not only does the heavy greenhouse effect of the methane and CO2 keeps the oceans liquid and carbonated, the surface atmo pressure/density of five times Standard keeps the oceans liquid at a surface temperature of well above Standard or Korvan atmo boiling point.
Asilra’s world ocean has no solid bottom; like a gas giant’s atmosphere, it “bottoms out” in a layer of hot pressure-frozen Ice VII, tens of kilometers down.
Asilra has a 15-hour day, no permanent moons, the magnetic field and Van Allen belts of a small gas giant, a Life Score of 3 (anaerobic extremophile plankton only), and no settlements or outposts. Not even “Wasps” could tolerate those temperatures and pressures, never mind the total lack of oxygen.
Virtchok System is heavy with asteroids—two moderately-thin belts flanking the orbit of Melrissa plus a thick cluster at Yantor’s leading Trojan point. Telerines say that Virtchok got all the asteroids for both suns.
All are being exploited by Telerine interests using mostly-Korvan labor, with a side effect of a large number of experienced Korvan Belters.
Outer-system installations are similar to those on Huk, but with fewer Telerines and more Korvans—dug-ins and domes with atmosphere kept to Standard as a compromise between thin-atmosphere Korvans and dense-atmosphere Telerines.
Virtchok Inner Belt
Virtchok Inner Belt D000665-A
Asteroid Belt/Secondary Colony, Non-Ag
With a permanent population of 700,000, the Inner Belt is the center for Belter activity insystem. Inner Belt asteroids are primarily metallic—prime real estate for a spacefaring civilization like Telerine.
Belter activity here is on a full industrial scale, with Telerine corporations running the show from the largest settlement—a dwarf planet in the belt. Mining and smelting of metals from iron to iridium is the order of the day, with a labor force of half Korvans and half “Wasps” in separate installations—the pseudo-insectoids take “spam in a can” crowding much better than humans.
The heavy Telerine presence raises the Inner Belt to Tech Level 10, highest in the system. One of the side effects is a large number of experienced Korvan Belters familiar with zero-gee/vacuum operations and higher-tech.
Korvan characters generated from this background default their Prior Service type to Belter.
Virtchok Outer Belt
Virtchok Outer Belt D000465-9
Asteroid Belt, Non-Ind, Non-Ag, Poor
The Outer Belt is not as heavily mined; its asteroids are mixed stone-and-ice “centaurs”, less valuable than the Inner Belt’s metal ores. Still, there is enough Belter activity to support a population of some 4000 in both mining and chemical extraction. Basically a much smaller and sparser version of the Inner Belt.
Yantor Trojan Cluster
Yantor Trojan Cluster D000465-9
Asteroid Cluster, Non-Ind, Non-Ag, Poor
Farthest out of the system’s asteroids, this is a cluster of mostly-ice asteroids at Yantor’s leading Trojan point with just enough value to support cryo-extraction industries for a population of some 2000 Belters. Smallest and poorest of the outer system settlements, the Trojan Cluster places a distant second to the facilities on Hahral.
The Moons of Melrissa (Virtchok IV)
A Saturn-sized gas giant, Melrissa is the fuel-skim site of the system. There is some Telerine activity—Belter spillover—among its ten regular moons and dozens of irregular moons.
Hahral (Virtchok Vbis)
Hahral (Virtchok Vbis) DCA6366-9
Super-Titan, Non-Ag, Poor
A “Trojan Planet”, Hahral is Virtchok System’s unique system feature. A large “Super-Titan” in Yantor’s trailing Trojan Point, Hahral is larger than even Asilra, a failed gas giant core with a thick hazy methane/nitrogen atmosphere, continents of ice, and shallow hydrocarbon oceans over 60% of its surface.
Hahral is huge for an iceball—Size 12, right on the cusp of helium capture with a surface gravity of 1.5 gees and a “sea level” atmospheric pressure like Asilra or Wasphome. Its magnetosphere and eight-hour day would do justice to a small gas giant. Despite the heavy greenhouse effect from the methane in the atmosphere, the surface temperature varies between dry ice and liquid nitrogen. Here it rains methane and rivers flow with liquid natural gas.
There are a couple settlements with a total population around 3000, exploiting the rugged cryoworld for hydrocarbons and petrochemicals. Due to the crowding in the domes and dug-ins and the local atmospheric pressure, most of the labor force are Chitin A “Wasps”, with Emissaries as go-betweens to the Telerine owners and corpos.
Like most systems in the Dole Moving Group, Virtchok System is based on an ACCRETE run from 40-year-old planetary-formation simulations by an R.L.Dole published in Scientific American in the 1960s and referenced in Carl Sagan’s The Cosmic Connection. ACCRETE gave only planetary orbital distances and masses; the orbits were translated into Traveller notation and the planets detailed according to both Traveller world generation rolls and known planetology.
System nomenclature was taken from a para-Andean pantheon in Wayne Shaw’s “Mageworld” D&D campaign of the late Nineties. Since the nomenclature was pseudo-Inca, Korvans were based on Quechua-speaking Andean peoples, among thin atmosphere and rugged terrain resembling the Andes and Altiplano.
Referees are encouraged to use Peruvian/Andean Indian names and customs and local color. Their Telerine overlords have the trappings of Greeks.
The history of the Korvan monarchy deliberately parallels the rise of the Inca Empire; the annexation by Telerine is based on a Sikh account of how the British got the Punjab. The custom of “born for” and “born to” is actually North American (Navajo), but sounded like it would fit in the ayllu system.
Continuing the Andean theme, the city layout of Pumayaqta is based on that of Cuzco, Peru (Quechua spelling Qosqo), with the downport mesa in the place of Saksaywaman.
Asilra is based on one of the pre-Mariner probe theories about Venus—the Carbonated Ocean World.