The Abyss Federation
Equus/Lanth (Spinward Marches 2417)
Undivided federation without internal political subdivisions. Presided over by a governor and a bicameral legislature.
Abyss Federation comprises the smallest territory of any Commonwealth federation. The majority of its worlds are located in Lanth Subsector (Spinward Marches G), all of which is included, except for the worlds of the Spinward Main from Extolay (SM 1711) to Djinni (SM 2111), and the worlds of Treece (SM 2311) and Keanou (SM 2411), which are part of the Monoceros Federation. To spinward it contains the Vilis Subsector (Spinward Marches F) worlds of Ficant (SM 1417), Calit (SM 1515), Asgard (SM 1519) and Tavonni (SM 1520). Rimward in Lunion Subsector (Spinward Marches K) it includes the worlds of Arba (SM 1721) and Rabwhar (SM 1822). Its trailing territory comprises the Rhylanor Subsector (SM H) worlds of Kinorb (SM 2512) and the Natoko cluster at the subsector's rimward-spinward corner, and the coreward-spinward worlds of Mora Subsector (SM L) not directly connected to the Great Race portion of the Spinward Main.
Six silvery starbursts shrouded by a aquamarine or light blue sky. Abyss mercantile ships use a silvery Commonwealth eagle surround by six stars in a hexagonal constellation. Federation colors are aquamarine and silver.
The Abyssals are primarily Imperial culture humans of predominantly mixed Solomani-Vilani ancestry, with large communities of Zhodani (Plavokavl and Soprshan) and Sword Worlders thrown in at odd intervals. No alien races are native to the region, though the human descendants of Terran or ROM generation ships live on Sonthert/Lanth (SM 1817) and neighboring Victoria (SM 1918).
The Abyss region of the Spinward Marches was first settled by the Ancients around -300,000. They established a site on Victoria's moon of Albert that was apparently abandoned before the Final War, as indicated by the lack of war damage. The next explorers were Ziru Sirka scouts who first visited around five thousand years ago. Rule of Man scouts followed up with their own surveys about three thousand years after that. Because of the Spinward Marches's distance and remoteness, neither empire attempted large scale colonization, and the Abyss was a low priority for those few missions that were attempted. Three Terran sublight ships that were part of an effort that settled Cronor Subsector around -1900 made the mistake of landing on Sonthert, Victoria and Ylaven/Lanth (SM 1916), and the survivors were able to adjust to local conditions enough to have descendants who survived into the modern era. One ROM mission did ground intentionally on Echiste/Lanth (SM 2313) around -1820. The early Sword Worlders surveyed the region around -200, and established a colony at Asgard around -100.
Serious colonization was only effected after the founding of the Third Imperium. Sylean scouts retraced their predecessors' steps up the Spinward Main, and by IY 120 most of the trailing worlds of Lanth subsector were settled. Higher jump craft eventually opened up Vilis Subsector and the Abyss worlds, and by IY 320 colonies were established on all of the currently settled worlds. Most of these colonies were primarily transit hubs or lightly populated producers of primary resources for markets at opposite ends of the Marches. When higher jump starships were introduced, most of the primary trade routes were diverted around the smaller and poorer worlds, and living conditions became quite harsh on those worlds where the population was too poor to relocate. The only other power to have interest were the Zhodani, who invaded the subsector several times during the Frontier Wars en route to Rhylanor. The end of the Imperial era and the beginning of the Regency period did see some technological improvement, and Ylaven was recontacted in IY 1155 and lifted back into the interstellar fold.
Because of its remoteness and poverty, and the attendant government neglect, the subsector was one of the few in the Marches that did not favor the reactionary Purifiers and their expansionist fantasies. Several world governments actively protested the outbreak of the Crucible War, and resisted attempts by the Black Regent's government to activate local reserve units for military service in the former Zhodani Consulate. Mostly resistance took the form of bureaucratic foot-dragging over turning out and preparing their reserve units for frontline service. This political agitation became serious opposition after the bloody defeat of the Regency Navy at Zarontse. The fear that the Zhodani were coming back to their region of space created a state of near revolt, as local populations demanded that Regent Lemat Arthurian either resign or turn over his failed handling of the war effort to someone more competent. The tardy preparation of reserve units at least meant that most of their military units were spared heavy casualties and low morale following the Long Retreat, and were close to home to boot. When the War Council informed local commanders that their worlds would fall outside of the next manageable line of defense, they prepared their units for an extended guerrilla war, much as they did during the Frontier Wars.
Zhodani forces had an easier time of overrunning the lightly defended fixed installations of Abyss world militaries, but were then obligated to garrison them with large forces as resistance turned deadly in the streets and fields. Naval raiders were the most effective resistance, operating out of well-stocked bases located in at remote calibration points in the murk, and put a serious crimp in the Zhodani Rhylanor offensive. When the forces of the new Commonwealth of Deneb broke out at Strouden and Lunion, they outflanked the struggling Zhodani garrison forces in the Abyss. With nothing serious to defend, the enemy withdrew after light skirmishes with counterattacking Common forces. All in all the Abyssals suffered the lightest civilian casualties and least material damage of all occupied territories. After liberation the world governments totally repudiated Arthurian by becoming one of the first federations to be incorporated into the new country.
The Abyss in the federation's name is a reference to an area of low stellar density that touches Vilis, Lanth and Lunion subsectors. This is a region of dark monoatomic hydrogen gas that seeped into an area depleted of major stars. The cloud actually spans an area of twenty parsecs in diameter, centered roughly rimward-spinward quadrant of Lanth subsector, and visibility at the middle is limited to a few light years in each direction, making neighboring stars look like dim lanterns. Navigation across the region is complicated, and starships follow the branch of the Spinward Main through the murk as closely as possible. In Imperial folklore it was an area equivalent to the legendary Bermuda Triangle on old Terra: a region of mysterious ship disappearances. In reality the loss rate of vessels in the region due to misjumps and accidents is about the same as other "normal" areas, it is simply the enormous number of ship traffic that passes through the subsector, combined with a previously lower quality of ship servicing and fueling facilities, that accounts for the seemingly higher loss rate. But the vast gulf has remained a part of popular imagination since Imperial times. Contemporary armchair astrographers use the term in a somewhat more derogatory sense, in reference to the federation's eccentric culture.
If the people of the Stronghold are dour workaholics who are constantly striving to do the necessary things needed for the perpetuation of society, the Abyssals are just the opposite. Their cathedral is a landscape painting of bucolic meadows, where the grass sings and every drop of dew has a name. They stress contentment, playing the grasshopper to the Stronghold ant, or happy Able to struggling Cain. This desire for bucolic transcendentalism seems to have started long before in the Imperial period, but was strengthened during the Crucible War as a reaction towards Arthurian's authoritarianism, and took a life of its own in the postwar period. At first these were mostly professionals, dedicated travelers and the odd vagabond looking to create a second home for themselves away from their lives and jobs on more heavily populated worlds in Monoceros and Sabinar. Eventually these gave way to a new kind of back-to-basics agrarian population of more blue collar background. Religious groups of all kinds built monastic retreats or communes either for R&R or more experimental living.
High population worlds in Abyss tend to be modestly hectic compared to neighboring federations, and smaller worlds often tend towards deliberate technological backwardness in those areas deemed not essential to comfort or health. Many people moved here for artistic, aesthetic or spiritual reasons, and do not have the fiery intestinal ambition that exists visibly in neighboring federations. What ambition that does exists seems to revolve around finding a pasture for one's own, far and away from the madding crowd. In other words, to find ones muse, guru, soulmate or any one of a million and one other ghostly apparitions that percolate up from the bottomless fantasy world of popular metaphysics. That it exists on the borderlands of a folkloric fairyland like the Abyss in the least developed region of the Spinward Marches makes too much bloody sense.
The vast majority of the population lives in conditions that seem to mix preindustrial challenge with a minimal modicum of advanced technology. Families tend to be sprawling extended ones, with multiple generations living in close proximity in an apartment block or a large compound. Homes tend to be self-contained, with their own means of food and power production, water and air recycling, and even educational and medical facilities. Professions are filled mainly with generalists, with specialists found primarily on the more heavily populated worlds. Visual artists and "living" philosophers are most esteemed, as are those crazy visionaries who pulled off great coups of discovery or social development. The most advanced technology is concentrated in areas of production rather than on piffles like entertainment or diversion. Because of their desire to live off of the land, ecosystems have to be carefully cultivated and balanced with technology to produce the desired output with the intent of long-term habitation.
In a land that depends so much upon dreams, time in the Abyss seems to run off of a broken clock whose hands run forwards or backwards depending upon which direction the wind is blowing across the dial. A schedule is as alien concept here as technological material teleportation. Things will invariably take longer or shorter to accomplish, depending upon the local planetary culture and the mood of the individual or group. Organization is limited to necessities of defense and general welfare, and everything else is run on an ad hoc basis. The bulk of the population's attention will be focused upon either their own business, or in subject areas of impenetrable and opaque importance. Metaphysics, ranging from the vulgar to a very high aesthetic, are a favorite and constant topic of discussion. And no matter the level of education or income, locals are infected with the kind of antediluvian fairy tales and folk religion that should have ended with the first contact of Terra or Vland with other alien races. In fact superstition and fairy tales tend to constitute a major part of the local oral and written cultures.
This is not to completely disparage them. One of the problems of rational science is its inability to peer beyond its own professional dogmatism. When confronted with areas that lie outside of scientific purview, particularly the most primal aspects of human existence, it tends to reply with a condescending testiness. The Tangible is a manufactured abstraction, whose existence is an argument for nothing beyond the fact that humanity is a creative animal who might have some inkling of how things work, but the fact that he drives a car and reads a newspaper is not evidence or proof that he is in fact the master of his own fate. Abyssals have the good sense to tread in those wild and woolly pastures of the soul. Granted they do little more than eat the flowers most of the time, but their existence does call attention to the oftentimes narrow and materialistic directions that the Word and Way are sometimes bent, even for a nation whose social and cultural fabric sprang in part from ponderously exacting religious and mystical sources. For such a goofy culture, the worst they have to face from their neighbors is a grudging tolerance. It is worth noting that the largest population of psionics per capita is native to this region. No academic or scientific researcher has as of yet been able to piece together how this occurs, even taking into account the passage of the EWF or the advent of the Borderland Consensus.
Worlds of Abyss Federation
The ad hoc nature of Abyss worlds is evident primarily in the nature of social organization. There isn't any. Or at least any beyond the basic necessities. Government in the federation is perhaps the least formal in the entire Commons, largely because it is the most democratic. Everything is participatory, guided by well run civic and local councils with minimal bureaucracy. This minimal government tends to subtly touch the community in every tangible way. Larger communities usually make some serious gesture towards normal infrastructure and rigid urban conformity. But this discipline breaks down rapidly towards the suburbs and is almost nonexistent in the sticks. On worlds with adverse environmental conditions, services are briskly efficient, but even here there is an anarchic undercurrent.
Travellers will discover local starports are generally the strongest touchstones of interstellar community. Beyond the startown limit they should be prepared for anything. It is a rule of travel that the differences between worlds within a federation are generally greater than differences between federations. It is a corollary that constants in culture generally supersede regional differences. These remain true in the Abyss, but in ways that visitors cannot really explain. Architecture and services seem are unctuously intangible, even though they follow normal design protocols and the rules of engineering and social designing. It seems that the locals have mastered some way of incorporating intuitive or subliminal features into the adamantium skeleton of their urban areas, which can be quite maddening if too much time is taken trying to contemplate them according within rational categories.
Accommodations tend to run the gamut: from sumptuous resorts to piss-stink hostels cobbled together out of old bus stop benches and packing crates (you had to be there). The locals are warm and friendly, but their hospitality tends to be personal, so invitations and some previous networking are prerequisites if you plan to stay in private homes. As in Monoceros, laws are fewer in number and scope, but legal enforcement is much more stringent as a result. And the locals abhor anyone abusing their communities, meaning that word of the deed never tarries on its journey to the ear of the law. The local Brotherhood is also quite dedicated, and much of it is volunteer or part-time, meaning that the fruit cart dealer you've just threatened with mayhem is about to put your ass into a psionic trance. And as befits a metaphysical world, all of the latest psychiatric methods. Fortunately matters of jurisprudence is usually handled by rather kind magistrates, meaning that the punishment usually fits the crime. Most legal matters are handled in a manner more befitting of the old Zhodani Consulate: with community elders handling most of the mediation.
Though mostly inoffensive, the locals take their personal safety quite seriously. Their reserve militaries are usually well armed and led, and drill constantly. Planetary defenses are mainly designed for support of extended guerrilla operations, and these people are consummate strategists. Anyone thinking that they can take advantage of their perceived pacifism usually does not live to repeat the mistake. This same canniness extends to normal life as well, and they can spot a liar or an ass a kilometer away. Politically Abyssals are very liberal and permissive, but they take a dim view of elements that are disruptive of their balance and harmonious laws, and their penal systems make use of some very harsh means of retribution against criminals.
- Abyssal Psionic Seer
- The Abyss Federation has a higher than normal number of psions per capita. Over the years some individual Abyss psions have created a series of schools on its more remote worlds that train a carefully selected group of psionic students to plumb the depths of the human mind. These "Seers" are combination fortune teller and psychological analyst, using rituals and symbolic language to both penetrate the unconcious psychic defenses put up by their clients' minds. Unlike the typical sideshow charlatans that peddle fortunes, Seers are licensed psychologists whose primary task is therapeutic.
- Commonwealth citizen (preferably from the Abyss Federation), Undergrad, INT and CHR 7+, Must have taken Regency Psion career (see TNE Rulebook) for one term with talents in Telepathy and Sense
- First Term
- Psionics-2, Interaction-2, Psychology-2, Determination-1
- Subsequent Terms
- Psionics, Interaction, Psychology, Perception
- Special Adventure
- 8+ for Psionics, Medical, Linguistics, Explore and Vehicle
- 2 per term in Medical or Academia
- Additional Effects
- 2 Secondary Activities per term. +1 Psi if more than one term served.
- Drop Off
- The leading edge of the Empress Wavefront. In reference to the relatively undisturbed or quiescent psionic enviroment before its passage, in contrast to the bizarre psionic cauldron left behind. Currently (NE 72) it is located roughly along the bisector between the coreward and rimward subsectors of what were the coreward sectors of the Third Imperium, including the Spinward Marches, Deneb and Corridor.
- Plavokavl Zhodani
- "Windblown" Zhodani. Plavokavl can also mean "smithereens" or "fragments" in a social context. Refers to postwar refugees streaming out of the coreward war devastated regions of the former Zhodani Consulate. Unlike their Soprshans predecessors, they are less assimilated into neighboring states that have given them refuge. They usually have developed cultural practices that have deviated from the Zhodani mainstream because of their exposure to societal breakdown.
- Soprshans Zhodani
- "Uprooted" Zhodani. Refers to the first generations of Zhodani refugees that streamed across the Regency/Zhodani frontier during the period of NE 1 to 5. Because of their enormous numbers (around one hundred billion souls) they placed severe strain upon the ability of spinward Regency worlds to provide aid and shelter. By the time of Caranda's assassination, most had been dispersed into the Regency interior. Now in their third generation, most have assimilated to the point of being indistinguishable from their Imperial culture neighbors. These people are partly responsible for the "Zhodani" features now commonplace in the Commonwealth.
- General terms used to refer to Commonwealth religious culture. Commoner religion is directly descended from so called "Manifest Pantheism" religions like Taoism, Protestant Christianity, and Judaic and Islamic mysticism. In these religions the Divine is inherent in everything, but its true nature is hidden or occulted by materialism or idealistic illusions. The soul in mankind is the existence of the Divine in the person, though this does takes an existential rather than tangible form. The believer is dedicated towards reclaiming this inner self from sin, or whatever falsehood clouds it, with dedication through faith, an uncomplicated virtue and basic humility. It is usually eschatological and apocalyptic. And it is one of the two major foundations of Commoner culture and government, complemented by its highly effective political culture.