Ardasii is a world of white deserts, split between the agoraphobic city folk who dwell in their white stone cities in the service of Ardasii Metals and the uncounted desert nomads who roam the wastes in their search for water and who answer to no-one save the spirits of the sands.
On approach to Ardasii it looks like a shining white jewel hanging in space, a world of white rock and bright white clouds that hint at water. Descending through the thin atmosphere though it becomes apparent that the clouds are dust storms rather than water, and the surface is sand and rock without a drop of surface water in sight.
The starport is at Ardasii City itself, built into the side of a mountain and surrounded by glittering arrays of solar panels that provide the city with all the power it’ll ever need. Sun shields cover the landing bays, a necessity given that the temperature is often over 40°C during the day, and white gritty dust regularly blows in from off the desert.
Most of the population live in a few cramped cities built into the rock, since building down is the only way to avoid the heat. Once travellers leave their ship and head into the starport, other than the heat the first thing they notice is that everything is far more cramped than is traditional for Imperium buildings. Streets are narrow, tables are small and people cram in close together in a way many visitors find uncomfortable. The environmental systems mostly take away the heat and smells, but everywhere is crowded. The surface gravity is 70% of standard, low enough to be noticeable but not uncomfortable.
Clothing is rather plain, most people wear simple tunics which cover the torso and upper legs – out of the sun the dry heat doesn’t require anything more. Colours are simple and plain, often white or grey with the occasional splash of coloured belt. Hair styles are commonly short for everyone.
But when you leave the starport and head down into the city itself, it becomes positively claustrophobic. What appeared cramp in the starport was the Ardasiians merely compromising between Imperium and local customs. The city dwellers do not like being alone, and often two or three families will share a single living space, including bedrooms. On leaving their parents home, young adults will often move into unisex dormitories where privacy, as they like to say, is very much a state of mind rather than physical distancing. The people here have learned to ignore things they aren’t meant to see, so whilst sex and nudity are still things that are considered private, private just means that its done in a way that allows others to ignore it.
And this culture of ignoring things that aren’t meant to be seen has extended into government and business, where corruption isn’t so much rife as a way of life.
The government is listed as a Civil Service Bureaucracy, which is partly true and partly not. As far as the government is concerned, there is only the Bureaucracy. The world has no individual, or even group of individuals, that can be considered to be the ruler. Multiple factions within the Bureaucracy vie for control over different aspects of the world, each with their own way of enforcing that control – either by police forces, or through control over access to power or the subterranean water caches.
Mostly, somehow, it all works. At least enough to prevent it from falling apart. Really important parts of the infrastructure are run by private companies, and where the Bureaucracy ends and private companies begin is sometimes difficult to determine. Ardasii has always been a mining world, with just enough of an electronics industry to keep their life support systems ticking over. As such, the mining and engineering companies are an important factor of life here, most of all Ardasii Metals which over the last century has swallowed up most of the smaller companies.
It influences the Bureaucracy in ways that are hard to determine, since it’s often through social contacts, bribes and individual people working two jobs – one as an Ardasii Metals middle manager, the other as a civil servant in the Bureaucracy.
Possibly about 75% of the city populations work for Ardasii Metals or one of its subsidiaries. Though it started as a purely mining concern, the same culture that allows people to ignore corruption also allowed the company to rapidly expand into new areas – several departments were unofficially created and by the time someone realised they should have noticed, the new department was being productive and making money. The biggest new area it has opened into is biotech, making use of some of the hardier species of plants on the surface to create new drugs and pharmaceuticals.
Out in the desert, the situation is different. Though it is mostly city dwellers who run the mines, it is the desert dwellers who do much of the work, especially out on the surface. Though robots are used where possible, it’s still more efficient for more flexible and adaptable humans to do a lot of it. Where they can, the city folk work in the tunnels leaving the transportation and other surface work to the desert folk. The latter are looked down upon by the city folk, so are obviously paid less and often treated badly.
The deserts are homes to the desert dwelling nomads, and though some work for the mining companies, many of them survive on desert plants and hidden water caches. A few are willing to trade some of the more exotic native biologicals to outsiders at prices much lower than Ardasii Metals will charge. The raw compounds of some of the plants are considered powerful drugs, and illegal in most places due to their high levels of addictiveness.
Though official numbers put the desert dwellers at a few hundred thousand, it’s possible that there could be ten times that. Some estimates put the true number even higher.
The desert folk are more colourful in their dress, tending towards long robes and long hair. They are gregarious and outgoing, but also not concerned with being alone in the great outdoors. They travel the deserts by solar powered ATVs at night, putting up tents during the day and leaving their vehicles to charge in the bright sunlight.
There is friction between the two cultures, though before the rise of the mining corporations they were pretty much a single people. Fighting happens occasionally, with raids into the smaller settlements by the desert folk not being unheard of. But such raids cause few deaths and are infrequent enough to not make it cost effective to try and enforce control over the nomads.
In orbit, the B class high port is mostly an industrial staging area for the shipping of minerals out to other worlds. There are a few basic hotels and corporate offices, but most visitors head down to the surface. The high port isn’t as cramped as the down port, but there are few windows especially out onto space, and it can still be claustrophobic to people who want to travellers wanting to stretch their legs. Most look forward to trying out the small ATVs in desert races, or finding a room at White Terrace, the only hotel at the down port built for the comfort of offworlders. It’s moderately expensive, but has more typical concepts of privacy and space, as well as a pool lined terrace with views out over the desert – said to be a glorious sight at sunrise.