Zuflucht would be an unimpressive world if it wasn’t the spinward gateway to the Islands. It is technically independent, but has a strong Imperium presence. Most of the population lives around the coast of the Mer Violette in large walled communes each with their own security services. Outside of the communes, there are few laws and regulations except those enforced by force of arms.
Zuflucht is a smallish world, and one of the first things to notice on approach is that most of the surface is land, which appears to be mostly a mix of forest with scrubland towards the centre of the continents. There are two major oceans, split from each other by continental land masses which stretch from pole to pole. The atmosphere is thin, with white clouds at high altitude. Despite the thin atmosphere, it is a warm world, with only a very small northern polar cap. The southern pole is water covered and ice free.
There are normally two to three Imperium warships in orbit, including the Ishagi, a Fer-de-Lance class destroyer escort that is more or less permanently stationed here. They are a constant reminder that Zuflucht is an important world to the Imperium, being the first step that joins its Spinward systems to the core worlds. This has the advantage that there is almost no pirate activity in the system – even activity in the outer system is closely monitored.
There is an orbital star port here, which is heavily geared towards bulk traders, with basic services to serve those stopping over just long enough to refuel. Most Travellers will be directed down to the main downport at the city of Bordeaux. Bordeaux sits on the shores of the Mer Violette in the northern hemisphere, a sea named for the purple bio-luminescence from algae that lives in the waters during the spring. The bulk of the urban population can be found in the crescent around the sea – multiple cities that light up the nighttime shore of the ocean with clear evidence of civilisation.
Though the port itself is only a class C, coming into land it’s pretty obvious that this is a large class C starport. There are numerous docking pads and warehouses that sit along the cliff tops. The city itself merges in with the starport – there’s no defined border between the two, no customs and no regulations on where buildings may be built. Arrivals can walk off their ship and straight into a cafe or shop around the starport, then down the street into the city itself. There is no public transport here, but ground car rentals or taxis can be used to take you pretty much anywhere. If you don’t want to land at the starport, then there are no restrictions on landing elsewhere, however any captain that does so is on their own as far as securing their ship.
Zuflucht is a small world, with 64% normal gravity and a thin, tainted atmosphere. It’s breathable without a mask, though heavy exertion can lead to quickly becoming fatigued for those not used to it. There’s a pollen present in the air for about half the year (spring and summer) that has a strong floral aroma, and can cause a hay-fever like reaction to off-worlders. In a few people, it can cause serious breathing difficulties. Wearing simple face masks helps, so off-worlders can often be identified by their masks.
Beyond nuclear, biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction, there are no weapon restrictions here. Scanners are in place at the starport and some other places to check for the former, and detection of any are one of the few things that will bring out the planet’s small military forces. Other than that, any weapons can be carried and any armour worn – though over equipped travellers may be given the cold shoulder when looking for service.
Most locals carry sidearms (nearly all slug weapons – laser weapons are quite rare), both concealed and open, though armour is quite rare, simply because for the most part it’s not needed and is impractical. If someone starts a gunfight, then others will respond to take down perceived threats. Though there are no police, there are private security teams that can be hired to hunt down and capture or kill anyone guilty of murder or other crimes. Though the laws here are lax, bordering on non-existent, society within the urban regions are reasonably civilised.
The technology level is significantly lower than the Imperium standard – the most obvious effects of this is that nearly all transport is ground transport, and advertising is mostly limited to flat video displays or static signs. As you leave the starport, the buildings become tower blocks, with shops and restaurants on the lower levels and corporate offices higher up. The streets are clogged with vehicles, mostly running off fossil fuels which doesn’t add to the freshness of the air.
Most of the things that Travellers will need can be found in Bordeaux, and many choose not to venture beyond this city. There are plenty of mega-corporations, patrons looking for crew willing to take on small jobs, and shops and services offering everything the planet can which they might need. There are also Imperial security forces stationed here, who look out for Imperium citizens, providing legal services if they are required. The further one wanders from the starport, the more complicated things become. The most obvious sign that you have wandered away from the starport is that the language switches from Anglic to Islands French. Though nearly everyone (except in some rural regions) speaks Anglic reasonably well, and is happy to speak it to off-worlders, the common language is French.
The rest of the urban crescent around the Mer Violette is divided into communes, each being a walled region with its own rules and regulations. Entrance into most of them is via well guarded gates, and though visitors are allowed in most without an invitation, they are best to be aware of the local laws. Most communes though are peaceful places, and their laws are simply to do with education, healthcare and social welfare. Some have rules on consumption of drugs, clothing styles (most are extremely flexible as far as clothing goes, but some insist on very formal clothing, and at least one forbids all clothing) or noise late at night. Some restrict weapons and armour, some have curfews for outsiders.
For the most part local commune laws are light, but they do generally favour the residents, and the local security services will automatically assume that any trouble has been caused by the outsiders. Generally, trouble makers will be held overnight and given a trial the following day. If there is evidence that they weren’t responsible, then they will be let go, but lawyers and even investigation into what really happened requires paying someone. Most of these places aren’t corrupt (the communes would rather there was no trouble, so if a local has started things they’d rather find the truth so it doesn’t happen again), but it’s difficult to organise witnesses when you’re in a cell.
A fine is nearly always the outcome of being found guilty. If it can’t be paid, then there are those willing to pay it for you – though it’s expected to be paid back, with interest. Large fines may mean getting your ship impounded. If you can’t pay, and won’t agree to any of the financing options, then the world has no long stay prisons – it’s either agree to pay or be cast out as an outlaw.
Outlaws immediately have all their property confiscated, and will be kicked out of the commune. From that point, there are no laws that protect you, and there are groups who make it a hobby to hunt down and kill outlaws just for kicks.
Away from the urban regions, there are plenty of small independent settlements across Zuflucht. The legal protections are even more limited here, and it mostly comes down to family groups who look out for themselves and nobody else. Except for a few individuals, most such settlements are civilised and reasonably safe. If you get on the wrong side of people, then you’ll have problems, but most see visitors as customers, or at the very least a source of fresh entertainment. If you turn up at a farmstead looking for shelter, you’re more likely to be invited in and given food and a bed than you are to be robbed or turned away. You may be expected to pay – either cash (Imperial credit coins are excepted, though electronic payments often aren’t) or simply providing entertaining stories of your travels.
Zuflucht isn’t entirely lawless, but it can be dangerous once you leave the starport if you aren’t aware of how things work. There have been questions why it isn’t listed as an Amber zone, though it may be that the Imperium doesn’t want an Amber world at such a prominent location and discourage trade. A second argument is that unlike places like New Colchis or Neubayern, there aren’t predatory corporations or restrictive governments to worry about. For the most part the people here are peaceful and willing to accept strangers – as long as they are polite and respectful. Zuflucht itself claims that there’s only trouble here if you bring it with you, which is mostly true, though there are some spots which off-worlders probably want to avoid.