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Berlichingen is a world of small mining townships built into the barren rock. Many are miners, extracting precious metals dissolved in the subterranean water deposits. A handful of rich families own most of the land, and charge a cut of any minerals dug up. The starport is the only entertainment centre, where anything can be had for a price.

Approaching Berlichingen from the 100 diameter limit, it is a red world of airless deserts lit by binary red dwarf suns. It rotates rapidly, taking barely more than 5 hours to complete a whole day. Its two small moons take slightly longer to complete their orbits – 7 hours and 34 hours respectively.

Descending towards the starport, the twin suns around which the planet orbits can cast harsh double shadows across the landscape, and the sunlight can vary between full daylight (both suns visible), twilight (one sun behind the other) and full night. The two suns orbit each other every four days. Tourists have been known to come here just to witness the occasional double shadows of the moons on the surface of the world.

Berlichingen with its two moons. The world-moon system spins on a 45° axis.

The starport sits right next to the equator, right on the edge of the only major settlement called Spin City. The starport is a collection of small buildings connected by subterranean tunnels, with the few docking bays set into the ground with airlocks that close over the ships once landed. The locals speak Islands German, but most also speak Anglic and are happy to use it with off-worlders.

There is basic warehousing, a small administration building which includes a TAS ticket office and a burger bar here, but for anything else you need to take a 10 minute ride by train across the surface to the city. There’s not much to look at on the journey – just flat dust plains that used to be an ancient ocean bed. During the day it is a deep red, at night (all 2½ hours of it) when lit by artificial lights the outside surface is much browner in colour.

The city is similarly built, with the tops of buildings jutting above the surface but most of the activity is beneath the surface. At any one time there are maybe 50,000 people here, though only about half that are permanent residents. After arriving at Spin City the outward options are two train lines – one which heads east around the equator and the other which heads west. Both end up back at the city, but stop off at a handful of small mining townships. The trains are a mix of passenger and freight, which circle the planet in about 150 hours and pass through the other major ‘towns’. Most of the freight is water taken from frozen aquifers, or the precious metals filtered from it. Since the largest concentrations are found near the equator, that’s where most of the activity is focused.

Even smaller settlements which aren’t directly on the train line are reached by wheeled ATVs, which are available for hire at most stations.

Berlichingen, with its equatorial train line.

Stepping off the train and into the city, the first thing that is noticed though are the pedlars of fossils and other ‘artefacts’ claimed to have been found on the world. Berlichingen is a Necro Gaian world – it used to be a verdant garden world, but some catastrophe a hundred million years ago stripped it of is atmosphere and seas. The world had life, proven by the countless fossils that can be found across it. Though there are plenty of real fossils to be had, sometimes its easier for someone to invent something new and odd, as if an ecology based on multi-limbed (anywhere from 5 to 13) radial symmetry wasn’t odd enough.

For those not interested in xeno-palaeontology, there are traders willing to sell water or rare metals to off-world merchants, or simply entertainment professionals looking to make extra money by catering to those same off-worlders. Spin City is the only place on the world which has any major entertainment, and most of the locals are from other towns here to relax and spend their money.

Despite the enclosed nature of the city, it is reasonably spacious and clean. Berlichingenners pride themselves on running a tight ship – everywhere is clean, and life support and other systems are well maintained. “This isn’t Topas” is a common refrain when anyone comments on how well things are running. One thing that does surprise people though is that there are oil fuelled power stations here – the previous ecology had enough time to put down extensive oil reserves, and few care about pumping pollutants onto the surface of an airless rock world.

The world is run by half a dozen local family-run companies. They control licenses for all mining that goes on, and keep a close eye on anything unusual. The locals grumble about the cut that the companies take of any water, metals or unusual fossils, but the companies insist it helps them keep the world running smoothly. So far no-one’s been able to successful argue that the companies aren’t doing a good job, because except for the odd bit of smuggling, or drunken brawl in the bars or brothels of Spin City, the place is running smoothly.

Berlichingen is in New Islands Subsector, Reft, 1621. For more information on the system, see the detailed entry.

Samuel Penn

Samuel Penn