Mustered Out on Mertactor
Walston Library Data
Affiliation: Client States ( Cs )
Starport class C, Routine quality installation.Only unrefined fuel available. Reasonable repair facilities present.
Medium sized world. Surface gravity of .625 G.
World diameter is 5407 miles (8700 km).
Thin, oxygen-nitrogen tainted by mild pollutant affecting low-lying areas. Filter mask needed.
43% water. Cloud cover is 20 percent.
3,000 inhabitants (3,000 Vargr/300 Humaniti)
Self-Perpetuating Oligarchy. Government by a restricted minority, with little or no input from the masses.
Law Level 8: Long bladed weapons (all but daggers) are controlled, and open possession is prohibited.
Tech Level 8: circa 1982.
Trade Classifications: Non-Industrial.
Walston has probably the shortest histories of any of the worlds in District 268, having only been first settled in 1084. The world was awarded to a Vargr Mercenary Leader, Colonel Angsko, as a reward for his services during the Fourth Frontier War.
Walston is an unacknowledged project of the Glisten branch of the Colonial Office, a Ministry of Colonization agency with branches organized on the subsector level to implement the policies of the ministry. One of the Office’s main purposes is to encourage the growth of planetary populations and tech levels to the point where the worlds can contribute significantly to the defense of the Imperium. The Glisten branch is furthermore supposed to induce the worlds in District 268 to voluntarily join the Imperium, a task at which it has been embarrassingly unsuccessful so far.
Walston was an attempt to manufacture a world with a population that was loyal to the Imperium from the start, and thus get a world from District 268 to join the Imperium for the first time since Mille Falcs joined in 956. The report of such a triumph would not have gone into too much detail about how long Walston had been settled or how big its population was.
The initial high hopes for the Walston Project were not fulfilled, however. Colonel-turned-prince Angkso and later his daughter, Princess Aeoruz, preferred the status as a heavily subsidized client state to an ordinary full membership. Possibly they suspected that the subsidies would dry up once Walston had joined the Imperium. Population growth has been far lower than hoped for, and Walston’s government has resisted all suggestions for expanding the population through immigration, fearing to become a minority on their own world. The Colonial Office never expected that the subsidies, which come primarily out of its own budget, would have to be kept up for so long, but at the glacial rate Walston’s population is growing and its infrastructure is developing, it looks like they will be needed for many decades to come. The Office has suggested cutting back, but Duchess Muktheswara has vetoed that.
Prince Angsko died in 1103 and he was succeeded by his daughter, Princess Aeoruz. Princess Aeoruz is a charismatic Vargr and enjoys the support of 21 pack leaders to whom the Vargr population in turn are loyal too. Treating the human population well, Princess Aeoruz is generally well-liked by the entire population of Walston.
Walston is not the most inviting of worlds. It is rather dry, with highly variable temperatures thanks to the thin atmosphere, which requires a filter mask to breathe safely. Lying on the outer edge of the Life Zone, Walston does not get excessively warm, even during the day, and at night temperatures plummet well below freezing in all regions.
Somewhat less than half the planetary surface is under water,though not all of this water is in liquid form. In the polar regions the seas are constantly frozen to a considerable depth, and icebergs are common even close to the equator. Nightly freezing of fresh-water bodies and the surface of some seas is a fact of life. Rainfall tends to be minimal since there is little evaporation of frozen water. Walston has no satellites, so there are no tides to contend with.
There is little erosion on land, due to a combination of thin atmosphere and relative dryness. Walston has a number of fairly impressive mountain ranges which create windshadows and further deprive inland regions of rainfall. Thus the landscape tends towards being rugged and impressive, but inhospitable. Rocky badlands and dusty plains are common, though most coastal regions are better watered.
A number of major deep-sea thermal vents exist, giving rise to warm currents that make some areas much more habitable than others. Indeed, there are several obvious sites for settlement, though at present there is only one center of population. This lies on Settlement Island, off the eastern coast of the world’s largest continent, Walston-Main.
Settlement Island is fairly large; some 200km from north to south and 350km from east to west. The sea between it and Walston-Main is shallow and dotted with small islands. A drop in sea level of just a few meters might create a land bridge, though this is not likely to happen. The island itself is not particularly high above sea level except in the southern extreme where a huge extinct volcano (Mount Salbarii) and its surrounding hills rise steeply from the coastal plain.
The island is washed by a warm current which creates a zone of higher than average rainfall and fertile seas; Mount Salbarii traps some of the rain over the island, feeding two great lakes which then spill over into northward-flowing rivers. These rivers not only make the island’s interior the most habitable part of the planet, but they also serve as highways between the main and northern settlements.
Walston-Main is large, cold and uninviting. Mountain ranges (with the odd active volcano) are interspersed with dusty plains. A number of deep canyons run roughly east-northeast across the continent. These have never been explored. Erosion seems an unlikely explanation for their presence; tectonic activity or some ancient cataclysm may be the cause.
Walston-Main contains about 50% of the world’s land mass. Most of the rest is split between the Main-Southeast Subcontinent, Walston-Antipodes, The Shallows and Varken’s Continent. Main Southeast is connected to Walston-Main by two narrow isthmuses. One is more or less impassable, consisting of a chain of volcanic mountains; the other is a frozen desert. Thus Main-Southeast is effectively a separate land mass.
Walston-Antipodes lies mostly in the Southern hemisphere and includes the great Antarctic ice shelf. It is not known how much land lies under the ice cap. The Shallows is a vast region of very shallow sea with many islands and mountain-tops protruding above the surface. The region would be extremely hazardous to seagoing navigation if any were undertaken. Much of the Shallows can be considered to be a vast saltwater swamp rather than an archipelago, land mass or sea area. In some areas it is possible to walk for hundreds of kilometers between islands, never encountering water deeper than a man’s waist. Varken’s Continent is a horrible place, with some of the worst terrain on the planet. Some small areas may be marginally habitable but these are surrounded by mountains and rocky deserts which effectively turns them into islands surrounded by an ocean of desolation and reachable only by air.
Countless small islands dot the surface of Walston’s oceans. Most of these are either covered in ice or near-vertical; few offer any real prospects for habitation.
Walston is home to around 3,000 individuals. Of these, some 90% are Vargr, who are from – and descended from – the packs of mercenaries assembled by Prince Angsko. The remaining 300 are humans who fought alongside the Vargr. Although they don’t recognize the charisma of the Prince’s off-spring in the same way that the Vargr do, the humans on Walston have always been treated with great respect by the Vargr – especially as they have adopted many Vargr ways and so are equal to the Vargr of the world.
The only inhabited region of the planet is Settlement Island, which has three major ‘towns’ of about 600 people each and a scattering of small hamlets in addition to the capital at Central Lake. Central, as the settlement is called, is home to about 300 or so inhabitants, most of whom do work connected with the government in some way. Expeditions occasionally visit Walston-Main for various reasons, prospecting being the most common, but until now there have been no attempts to create a permanent base on the mainland.
Law level is moderately high, but not excessive. As noted, Walston is an Imperial Client world, and receives protection from the Imperial Navy; this is more notional than real at present given the lack of naval forces in the subsector. Due to the low strategic value of Walston, the Imperial Navy bequeathed a couple of aging Patrol Cruisers and two squadrons of fighters to Walston’s Planetary Navy and pretty much leaves them to their own devices other than when an Imperial Navy ship passes through on a ‘fly the flag’ exercise. A small subsidy is paid to the world government to maintain and operate a Class C starport. This is located at Walston Startown, the northernmost of the settlements, rather than at the capital.
The Princess is currently involved in negotiations with one or more Imperial corporations with a view to licensing mining and other economic installations in remote areas of the planet. There is little chance for the people of Walston to exploit these resources, or to stop any group that felt like it from simply moving in, but the Princess still insists upon stupidly high licensing fees, stalling the whole process to no-one’s advantage. Meanwhile, offworld surveyors have begun to do their work. Perhaps the dictator wishes to hold out for a good deal when the surveyors find something that simply must be exploited. However, he runs the risk that a corporation may lose patience and simply move in without permission. With little ability to dislodge such an operation by force and too little money to make a challenge in the Imperial courts, there is a real risk that the Princess will provoke a fait accompli that cuts the world population out of any benefits of offworld investment.
Walston has a mainly subsistence economy based on shallow-water seabed farming off the island’s ice-free western coast and more conventional agriculture along the river valleys. What manufacturing there is operates as what are effectively cottage industries in the three main settlements. A mature TL8 industrial base is quite sufficient to provide a high standard of living and to meet the needs of the undersea farming industry. Virtually everything is craftsman made to order, and even utilitarian equipment tends to be of a high standard.
The planet is home to an unusual plant which, in addition to thriving in the glacial climates which dominate Walston’s surface, is used offworld in the production of certain anagathics. On the average, cargo vessels leave Walston twice a year with their holds full of the plants and make the jump to Caladbolg (via Datrillian) where they sell their goods.
The Imperial subsidy distorts Walston’s trade considerably, allowing the inhabitants to import a lot more goods than they would otherwise be able to. They trade primarily with Forine, Collace and Glisten. The Starport employs a few dozen people and brings in a modest income from passing vessels, crews stopping over and so forth. Ships come through fairly regularly – sometimes two or more in a single day – and the part-time port brokerage even turns a profit on speculative cargoes from time to time.
In addition to the aforementioned Planetary Navy, The Princess maintains a security formation of 200 men – most of whom are humansd – equipped with TL8 smallarms and vehicles, which acts as a law-enforcement agency, fire/rescue department and starport security force in addition to protecting the ruling elite.
There is no way to project force beyond the coastal waters of Settlement Island, and no real force to project. While a militia could be raised and deployed aboard the utility boat or seagoing craft such as coastal farming submarines, it unlikely that much could be achieved.
Flora and Fauna
The seas of Walston are home to a variety of hardy life. Most of this is on a microscopic level, though a wide range of fish species, seabed crawlers and free-floating invertebrates exists to feed upon them. Only two species of seagoing animals pose any real threat to humans.
The first is Alderson’s Coastal Hunter, more commonly referred to as an ‘Alderson’. It consists of a broad body about 0.5m long, which is covered in thick scales, plus a whiplike tail roughly the same length as the body. The Alderson has a pair of puny lobster-like claws, but normally hunts by either surging from cover to grab small prey or entangling larger invertebrates with its tail. Aldersons can give a human a nasty bite and are very tenacious if they feel threatened
enough to fight over territory or if they mistakenly entangle a human diver’s limb with their tail. Their armor plates make them difficult to kill with a knife.
The other seagoing threat is more dangerous. It is known as the Deep-Water Brakarr for its similarity to a shallowwater dwelling beast encountered on some other worlds; in fact they are not related. The Brakarr is a sinister-looking beast which looks like a fish with an armored head from just behind which several manipulative tentacles extend. When moving at speed these are swept back but on the attack they grab prey and haul it into the Brakarr’s mouth. Brakarr over 0.5m long and massing as much as an adult human have been sighted in coastal waters. They are aggressive and can decimate farmed fish stocks if not driven off. They are also quite willing to take on a diver, and usually win. Fortunately, they seem to prefer much deeper and colder waters and are rarely sighted near Settlement Island.
Despite the harsh conditions there is a fair amount of life on land. Much of it is small; crawling insects and so forth. Terran creatures seem not to have gained much of a foothold on Walston, whose local fauna is fairly primitive. There are no major flying creatures, though several species of insect possess the ability to spread a ‘wing’ membrane and drift on the thin air currents. Some of these tiny flyers drift in swarms which can pose a hazard in inland areas. Prevailing winds keep the western side of Settlement Island clear of them.
Most of the land-dwelling animals on Walston are fairly harmless egg-laying burrowers of one sort or another. Most species can hibernate for long periods to survive a drought, and most possess a coat of coarse hair to insulate them. There is nothing on land that can directly harm a human, though some of the burrowers can be a nuisance. Favorite tricks include climbing into awkward spaces on vehicles to enjoy the warmth from the powerplant or burrowing under fences into a cultivated area, then engaging in a devastating feast.
One species of burrowers, known simply as ‘Walstons’, are kept as pets by many families on Walston. Sociable and loyal beasts the size of rabbits, Walstons are vegetarian and easy to care for, and seem to like living in the homes of humans and Vargr. They have absolutely no value as guard or working animals, being slow-witted and lazy when wellfed. They do, however, emit a pleasing humming sound when petted and will snuggle up to anyone in emotional distress, apparently to offer comfort.
Life on Walston
Daily life on Walston is slow and, for the most part, comfortable. Filter masks and thick clothing are needed when venturing outside, but otherwise there are no serious hazards. Dwellings are kept at an uncomfortably warm temperature (as far as offworld visitors are concerned) by humans; less so by Vargr.
Within the three towns and Central, buildings are blocky with rounded corners, and sunk into the ground rather than built upwards. Thus very few buildings have more than one story above-ground, but larger ones may have two or even three levels below the entry floor. Within a settlement, structures are grouped close together and connected by semi-sunken tunnels at the entry floor level. Most clusters have only a couple of ground-level entrances for personnel and a common vehicle garage. Outlying hamlets are mostly a single structure, though some have three or more independent buildings if the settlement has expanded since it was constructed.
Indoor clothing on Walston tends to be light. A kilt and a light shirt/tunic is the commonest dress for both sexes, with light sandals or bare feet. Vargr tend to wear bright colors, with humans favoring more sober outfits in gray, white, black, blue or dark red. This makes humans look like a somber lot compared to the Vargr, but in truth both groups are easy-going and friendly.
People of both races tend to be unambitious and find many offworlders to be more than a little bit manic with their go-getter attitudes. Asking most Walston citizens why they don’t go offworld to seek their fortune, or set off into the wilderness to find mineral riches usually results in a blank look and the oft-repeated phrase ‘but it’s NICE here!’
Most of the population work in farms close to the settlements, with smaller numbers employed as divers or submarine crews in the coastal seabed farms. A small percentage work at the starport (usually part-time alongside a craftsman or farming job) or are employed in the world’s tiny bureaucracy and security force.
The people of Walston are not good at reacting to problems, and are nervous about their responses until they are approved by whoever is perceived as being in charge. A few individuals are quite dynamic, such as the security managers at the underwater farms. These people deal with divers in trouble and other crises on a fairly regular basis and are comfortable with thinking on their feet. Most individuals prefer to get together with friends and neighbors and have a good talk about the issue. Hopefully one of the more usual troubleshooters will deal with the problem in the meantime. Thus if confronted with a minor disaster (e.g. a wastebin fire) the average Walston local will deal with it well enough. However, all the time he or she will be looking around for someone to defer to, and will not be comfortable until someone takes charge of the situation and approves whatever action was taken.
Walston’s Scout Base
The scout base takes the form of a landing field and a few huts that housed a handful of scientists. Its role was to undertake research into the erosive effects of a thin, dry atmosphere and to support the occasional scout vessel that came through. The station is located in a remote area, high in the mountains. It is currently unclear as to whether the base is still being manned by a skeleton staff or whether it has been abandoned by the IISS while they concentrate on more important worlds.
South West Settlement Island