Mustered Out on Mertactor
Mertactor Library Data
Planetary details: Starport Class B, Good Quality Installation. Refined Fuel is available, as is annual maintenance overhaul. A shipyard capable of non-starship construction is present. A Travellers’ Aid Society is present.
World diameter is 1,927 miles (3,100 km).
11 million inhabitants (90% Humaniti/10% Aslan)
Self-Perpetuating Oligarchy – Government by a restricted minority, with little or no input from the masses
Law Level 2: Potable energy weapons, including laser rifles and carbines, are prohibited
Tech Level B: Imperial Average
Trade Classifications: None
On the fringes of Imperial space in the Spinward Marches lies Mertactor, a nexus for mercantile activity at the termination of the xboat route through the Glisten subsector.
As a planet on the frontier, Mertactor is known for its free spiritedness and lawlessness. Felons fleeing the authority of the Imperial Navy, Ministry of Justice and/or bounty hunters frequently stop off at Mertactor on their way to the independent worlds and client states spinward and rimward of the Imperium. Merchants carrying illegal goods find Mertactor to be the ideal port to sell their wares. For the disenfranchised, disillusioned and disingenuous, Mertactor is the last port on a journey to the outlands of unincorporated space.
A small planet in its star’s habitable zone, Mertactor is approximately 3,100 kilometres in diameter with a surface gravity of 0.82 (Normal G). This seeming contradiction is due to the fact that Mertactor’s planetary sphere is made up of abnormally high concentrations of metals and heavy elements, giving it a density that is rarely seen in Charted Space. The geological age of the world appears to be 325,000 years, far too short a period to account for atmosphere, plant life, animal life, or anything. Yet the dating is not wrong; something else about Mertactor is wrong.
Offworlders are often uncomfortable with prolonged exposure to Mertactor’s low gravity. Generally, hostels that cater to offworlders provide 1G suites for those who can’t abide Mertactan lightfootedness for extended periods of time.
About 70% of the planetary surface is considered the “drisk,” desolate areas of rock, gravel and mineral deposits which inhibit plant growth and settlement expansion.
The world’s unusually robust gravitational force also helps it to hold a light Standard atmosphere which is breathable by humans but volatile in another sense: “drisk storms” are sudden, turbulent gales which kick up the rocks and pebbles of the drisk in highspeed funnels and twisters; near the outer edges of the storms it can literally be raining rocks while the storm centres are cauldrons of wind-blown destruction. Curiously, they are mostly confined to the drisk proper; the scant seas and coastal areas (about 19% of the planet’s surface) as well as the surrounding light forests are generally safe from the worst aspects of them. Were it not for
these extremely dangerous storms, Mertactor would enjoy vast wealth from its abundant metal and mineral resources as it would have long ago been developed into the largest open pit mine in the Imperium. However the apparently random and regular occurrence of the “drisk storms” has so far rendered economic exploitation of Mertactor’s surface economically marginal at best.
Much of Mertactor’s native fauna is comprised of flyers and gliders due to the light gravity and the strong winds that buffet the world. The local fauna is relatively harmless to humans.
The first colonists set foot on the system mainworld’s terra firma in the early 300s. The majority of lots had been purchased by Moran interests, which, under pressure from the Moran government, designated Mertactor (then known as 567-910) as a population overflow world. Consequently, Mora issued the Relocation Initiative of 324. The initiative was not looked well upon by the displaced colonists or the small band of colonists already on 567-910. Although Mora publicly used “population relief” as their motive for the deportation, the deportees included an inordinate number of religious dissidents, ex-cons and other malcontents. Draw your own conclusions.
To villify the Moran Matriarchs, the colonists deported from Mora named their world after the notorious freebooter, Wilhelm Mertactor, who had raided, raped and pillaged the coreward subsectors of Gushemege Sector in the twilight years of the Ramshackle Empire. An ambitious public relations campaign by the Moran Matriarchs failed to conceal the facts about what was happening on Mertactor and many a political career fell by the wayside in the ensuing scandal.
Surprisingly, the Mertactans refused the clemency of the Moran government in 328, when they were offered repatriation as compensation for their “unjust deportation”. The Mertactan colonists had become accustomed to their new home and the majority decided to stay. By appealing to the IISS Exploration department’s colonial bureau, Mertactor was granted independence. Imperial officials saw this as an opportunity to prevent word of the relocation scandal from travelling all the way back to the Iridium Throne. As part of the deal, the IISS was allowed to establish a base on Mertactor. It wasn’t until after the Fourth Frontier War that Mertactor finally accepted overtures made by the Imperial Government to apply for membership.
The Mertactan Chamberlords reserved approximately 25 percent of the planet’s wilderness as preserves to avoid the ecological calamities that had occurred elsewhere in the region due to reckless colonial bootstrap development programs. The remaining unsettled territories were tendered to offworld corporate interests interested in developing the planet’s resources and promoting trade and industry. In order to preserve their independence, however, the Chamberlords carefully screened out any megacorporations, megacorporate shadow companies, and sectorwide corporations in order to prevent a takeover attempt by any one corporate entity.
Their conservative approach backfired and industry never really took off on Mertactor. Seeking to teach the upstart colonists a lesson, the megacorporations conspired with mid-sized corporations to boycott the Mertactans. Employing every type of coercion imaginable, the megacorporations managed to squelch independent-minded investors from circumventing the boycott.
Undaunted, the Mertactan merchant fleet took the initiative and began establishing trade agreements with the worlds of the Darrian Confederation and the Sword Worlds. Famous Mertactan free trader and gambler, Michaela Wallace, took her business all the way to the fringes of the Zhodani Consulate, and established trade ties with the Zhodani that have survived numerous frontier wars and survive to the present day. While most of the early Spinward Marches colonies also traded with the established interstellar governments of the region, few dispute that Mertactan mercantile savvy can open twice as many doors in half the time.
Modern Mertactan industry essentially exists to support the planet’s lucrative mercantile sector. Rather than being a producer of industrial or agricultural goods, Mertactans like to think of their system as “the best damned conduit for trade in the Imperium.”
The Mertactan Free Trade Administration operates the planet’s sole orbital starport and city. Built in 1004, FTA Orbital was originally intended as a place where offworlders could comfortably trade without having to make planetfall. The idea initially did not catch on with visiting merchants, however, and resulting cutbacks in public funding made it impossible to properly maintain the port – which quickly deteriorated to a D-level facility. Ironically, traffic at FTA Orbital has increased over 300 percent since its deterioration, and it is now the most active black-market trade center in the subsector.
Landing at Mertactor downport can be a harrowing experience. The unregulated close orbit and airspace of the planet are subject to more accidents per capita than any other planet in the sector. While there are ample spaceports on the planet, only the B-quality facility in the capital city of Seacheard and the C-quality installation in Kaydah provide services for interstellar craft.
There is an Imperial Scout base in the system, which operates around a dozen Type-S scouts, several tenders and a large amount of xboats; heavy exploratory vessels are also a common sight. Mertactor’s lack of a gas giant means that the port’s refuelling operations are handled by atmosphere-capable tenders that process hydrogen from the planet’s few seas, another unfortunate roadblock to the system’s growth and the rare area of Mertactan life that is highly controlled and regulated by both orbital and planetary police forces.
A deep-site meson gun dedicated to planetary defense is located somewhere within the Rassad Ridgeline. There is a company of Imperial Marines garrisoned at Mertactor downport. The Imperium is prepared to defend Mertactor, although the last military action in the system was fought nearly 500 years ago.
Protection of the world is mainly down to the Seacheard Lift Infantry/Mertactor’s Own Imperial Regiment which has a phenomenal battle record, although the few times that it was caught in disaster was a tragedy on Mercator, as few families were unaffected by losses.
Mertactor is known for many things, but to the ordinary Imperial citizen it is renowned for a truly remarkable cuisine. Fully 3% of the chefs serving the Imperial Household are native Mertactans. The rather high mineral and metallic content of the native plant and animal life led to the development of light and heavy sauces of every imaginable nuance to accentuate or obscure flavors as called for by the occasion and the chef’s inclinations. Heavy marinades were developed which, in effect, predigested meat otherwise difficult for humans to use.
The closeness of extended families in fact living near each other and in practice enjoying each other’s company created many occasions for feasting and partying. When a family banquet could reasonably expect to seat 3,000 people. food management and preparation became a subject of much attention. Children start learning to cook as soon as they are able to wield a knife. Mertactan natives grow up with an unnatural familiarity with edged weapons – knives, cleavers, boning blades – everything associated with butchery and cutlery.
Because of the world’s low gravity and high winds, human powered flight is a very popular sport on Mertactor, with many competitions held annually which the locals take very seriously.
About 10% of the population is Aslan, descended from a group of mercenaries employed by the Imperium around 950. They are pretty thoroughly assimilated, although their presence does attract attention from Aslan long range traders.
Points of Interest
Mertactor’s thriving tourist industry offers a plethora of activities to visiting travellers. In the city of Seacheard, visitors will be astonished by the beauty of the Darrian flame sculpture exhibit at the Seacheard Museum of Art. Donated by First Frontier war hero, Admiral Koenig, the exhibit features some of the finest Darrian artwork to be produced in the last millenium. At the Colonial History Museum, visitors may view artifacts, holovids and antique equipment from the Spinward Marches’ colonial past. Of particular note is an exhibition featuring what the museum’s curator claims are the original blueprints for the Type-S scoutship prototype. Children will enjoy visiting The Wild Frontier, Seacheard’s largest amusement park replete with an imported Moran virtual reality entertainment center.
Inghvernar, Mertactor’s largest ocean, lies 280 km west of Seacheard. Mertactans on holiday flock to its golden beaches. Well-travelled offworlders will be less impressed by this body of water, which would only constitute a large lake on most larger planets. On Inghvernar’s east coast is the Lubvenar Fossil Museum, where travellers can discover the rich natural history of Mertactor through an fascinating series of exhibits and holodynamic displays.
Kaydah, the seat of government, features the impressive Mertactan Legislature Building (MLB). Constructed of reinforced synthetic sandstone, this ivy-draped obelisk seems to thrust right out Mertactor’s terrestrial crust and through the planet’s thick equatorial jungle as if it had been there since time immemorial. Standing atop Mount Aseldon, the MLB looks over the busy streets of northern Kaydah like an alert sentry.
Perhaps the most outstanding educational establishment on the planet is the Mertactor Mercantile Academy. While the academy is on par with most other Imperial educational facilities for the most part, its language department is outstanding. Just about every language spoken within 80 parsecs is taught at the academy, including each and every Vargr language in the Extents. The academy emphasizes cultural behaviors and idiosynchrasies as well in order to train the ambitious merchant cadet for any eventuality.
Mertactan trading companies benefit from the presence of the academy. Some of the most finely trained merchant personnel in the Imperium can be found in Mertactan trading companies. Mertactan traders are known, however, to be quite bloodthirsty in their competition for business insystem and will stop at nothing to obtain their goals. The rather ineffectual law enforcement administrations of Mertactor are unable to prevent trading blocs and factions from colluding, bribing, embezzling and on occasion shooting each other.
Politics and Culture
Despite Mertactor’s historical animosity toward Mora, its own governmental institutions are heavily influenced by those of the ‘homeworld’. While Mertactor is not a matriarchy, women traditionally get preference for most cabinet posts and tend to be elected to Chamberlord positions at a rate of just over 60 percent. The Chamberlords are a select group of nine individuals, elected for lifelong terms by a subordinate network of sheriffs, who are popularly elected by the rather disproportionately sized counties of Mertactor.
Concerned mainly with the starports, offworlders, commerce, the disposition of the Seacheard Lift Infantry and with interstellar relations, the Chamberlords meet only when an occasion arises and constitutes what amounts to the planetary government.
Descended from working-class deportees, Mertactans are proud of their uncompromising heritage. Mertactans tamed the wilds of their planet, forging an advanced and forward-thinking society. And, as befits any cosmopolitan world, the fashion and culture of Mertactor are heavily influenced by visiting merchants and adventurers. “Anything goes”, is the motto on Mertactor. One will find visiting travellers sporting anything from traditional Vilani lagaash robes to the virtual nudity of Glistenite tailored vaccsuits. The jaded Mertactans are nonchalant and accepting of such diversity.
Recently, the rimward encroachment of Aslan ihatei has had an interesting effect on the mercantile subculture. Disputes between trading companies are now frequently resolved by dueling. Unfortunately, the Aslan code of honor is absent in Mertactan dueling. Shooting or stabbing one’s opponent in the back or poisoning his food the evening before the duel is not uncommon.
Visiting free traders should not fear, however. Oddly enough, the virulence shown by one fellow Mertactan trader to another is not extended to offworlders. It is thought that a general sense of pity for the poorly trained foreign trader makes him unworthy of such treatment. The prevailing attitude is “if he’s not Mertactan, he’s no good at trading anyway!” Though you’ll never hear a Mertactan say this in public.
To borrow from an ancient Terran metaphor, Mertactor has a ‘Jekyll-and-Hyde’ culture. To offworlders and potential trading partners, Mertactans are amiable and welcoming, while to one another they are the most vicious of opponents, professionally speaking. While the divisiveness of Mertactan society may appear anarchic or perhaps downright hostile, it is embraced by Mertactans as an integral part of their culture. To survive in a universe fraught with danger and deception, Mertactans believe that, “It is better to do unto others before they do unto you.”