A world of big cities and rich corporations, New Colchis is built to serve those who have wealth. It is a strict dictatorship. but freedom of expression is greatly valued as long as it isn’t aimed at the ruling family.
Arriving at New Colchis is a complicated business in itself – the world orbits within the jump mask of its binary stars, and their unequal sizes and distance from each other creates a dumbbell shaped jump mask that can be tricky to plot an efficient course through. Many astrogators don’t take the risk, and come out of jump a bit further out than is absolutely necessary, but whatever course is taken, it can take over half a day to get to New Colchis itself after coming out of jump.
The world has two small moons, both airless but inhabited, and traffic between them and the main world is frequent, making the region a busy place to move through. A glittering ring of orbital habitats surround New Colchis, and the highport is located within that ring, requiring piloting through several approach lanes of small craft and avoiding the residential and industrial stations that surround it.
For safety reasons, as you get within 1,000 km of the highport, traffic control insists on taking control of your navigation, either directly or through verbal instructions. There is a 500Cr fee for anyone who is unwilling (or unable) to give over direct control of their vessel to the starport, so most regular visitors here have the necessary software installed to allow it.
The highport itself is a several kilometre long distributed web of structs, habitat modules, docking ports and industrial factories and weaving through the heavy traffic to get to your designated berth takes a high degree of concentration. Once docked, the service is as high quality as you might expect from a class A starport. Refueling, unloading and any necessary maintenance is immediately offered with a clear rundown of prices, and it is prompt and efficient when requested.
On leaving your docking bay, there will be a brief customs check to ensure that you aren’t carrying any weapons or armour (both of which are banned in the starport), and then let out direct onto one of the many crowded concourses which link the bays and central hub together. The first thing most people notice is the advertising – it is everywhere, with video walls and fully animated holovids which follow you around all day, pestering you will offers for ship services, trade offers, food, sex and drugs. The starport is rigged with cameras which monitor all public areas of the station, and hooked up to face, eye and gait scanning software to identify and track people wherever they go. There are no data privacy laws on New Colchis, and the data is for sale to anyone willing to pay. If you are willing to pay a lot, then information covering private spaces can be accessed.
A few of the more popular bars and hotels have a “No Tracking” policy where they guarantee not to be running their own scanning, and ban anyone else from doing so on their premises. They charge a premium for their services, but many are willing to pay for privacy.
New Colchis starport is not governed by the Imperium StarPort Authority, but apart from a few differences (the ban on weapons and lack of privacy protection for example), it tries to follow Imperium standards. Except in unusual circumstances (evidence of shipping slaves or bio-weapons for example), there are no custom checks of cargo until it leaves the station bound for an in-system destination.
There is plenty of warehousing which can be rented as a reasonable price, and a drone framework for shipping cargo containers from ships to the warehouses and back, so New Colchis can be easily used to move freight from one ship to another. As long as it came from outside the system, and is destined for outside the system, nobody will care.
Once the annoyance of the intrusive holo-advertising (including advertising for advertising blockers, which can range from Cr10/day to Cr50/day depending on effectiveness) has been overcome, the next thing noticed is the stark contrast in rich and poor. There is no safety net for the poor, no free food, no free housing and definitely no free health care, so the destitute rub shoulders with the rich. The availability of drugs and vices of all types is common, and it is not uncommon to see someone dying from an overdose on the street. Apart from some overworked and underfunded free services provided by volunteers (in particular, the Cathedral of the Holy Virgin), the official medical services won’t help unless you can demonstrate an ability to pay up front. Obtaining medical insurance cover (Cr100/week for visitors) is recommended, and then at least the constant surveillance comes in useful.
The main language spoken here is a dialect of Anglic (Islands English) which can be difficult to understand at times, but tends not to hinder trade for visitors from the Imperium. This is a class A starport, and there are a wide range of facilities, from cheap hostels to eye wateringly expensive high class hotels. There are few restrictions on what an be bought, consumed or done in the way of entertainment, as long as there is a suitably agreed contract between consenting adults.
And this is where part of the world’s Amber rating comes from. There are few rules to protect people, and financial and consumer law comes down to buyer beware. Slavery is outlawed, but there are almost no labour laws and contracts can be very binding (generally, contracts of employment are allowed to be renegotiated after a year).
The two laws that are strongly enforced are no weapons, and no criticism of the royal family.
The world itself is a slightly chilly garden world, with two primary continents covering the poles and a single ocean covering the equator. The downport is located at Dakota City, on an island near the equator. Travel to the capital at New Chicago can take a couple of hours by grav, or it’s possible to land at a smaller spaceport at the capital itself – all the major cities have their own spaceports, but berths are restricted to ships smaller than 1,000t, and are limited in number.
Dakota City is a startown, population 24 million, and customs checks on cargo occurs when leaving it. As at the highport, weapons are forbidden, surveillance is ubiquitous and heavily commercialised, and everything is available at a price.
The world is heavily urbanised. with dense central commercial districts and streets full of both the rich and poor. Cyberware is common here, and generally available from street markets much cheaper than elsewhere. As always on New Colchis, buyer beware, though there is a wide availability of online review sites that can guide you to a reputable source.
Fashion can be extreme, with body mods (both cybernetic and biological) being common. Tattoos and makeup are sometimes used to try and hide identification, as are face masks or hoods, but their usefulness can vary. Generally, the poorer districts have less effective surveillance.
Facemasks serve another purpose – the air here is both dense and tainted with industrial toxins which can cause breathing problems. Filters can be purchased at the downport for a relatively cheap price, or for slightly more implants are possible for those who don’t wish to hide their beautiful face. If you don’t have a beautiful face – there are plenty of surgeons willing to fix that as well.
New Colchis is a dystopian world which confuses the usual classification schemes. It has strict bans on weapons, but most other things are freely available with no restrictions. There is a strong dictatorship which forbids criticism, but there are few other limits on freedom of expression. The current ruler, King Wilhelm, rules from the Glass Palace in New Chicago, and though he has overall control the world is divided into several principalities, centred on the major cities. The police are heavily armed, and though it isn’t normally necessary the fact that guns are outlawed doesn’t mean that they aren’t available. There are some no-go areas in several of the larger cities, where crime is rife and the laws are difficult to enforce.
The royal families are considered to be above the laws, and criticism of them is outlawed. It does happen, and sometimes valid public criticism can reach the major new feeds, as long as it is properly framed, but even this can be risky. People aren’t disappeared – there will be trials, which will be ‘fair’ and public, but since criticism is a crime it’s not hard to find someone guilty. The usual punishments are large fines or prison sentences, and this applies to off-worlders as well as locals.