A small, dry garden world with a thin atmosphere, Tobia is nonetheless the political and cultural capital of the Trojan Reach. With a population of over 23 billion, it is a heavily populated world full of high density cities which leaves little in the way of true wilderness.
Approaching Tobia from space it becomes pretty obvious that this is an important world. Chains of lights encircle the planet – orbital factories, residential habitats, space docks and research stations are prevalent and home to between two and three billion people at any one time. Light also enshrouds the night side of the world, where the huge sprawling cities cover the planet’s surface leaving little of the land untouched.
This is not the first civilisation to arise on Tobia though – what is currently here was built on the ruins of another (probably built by Vilani colonists during the First Imperium) which collapsed about 2,000 years ago, just before the Long Night. Most of the old cities were torn down and turned into fields, and then built upon when technological civilisation rose again centuries later.
About 40% of Tobia is covered by deep oceans which team with life – massive fish-like creatures are the apex predators here, some ten to fifteen metres in length, as well as giant crabs which were traditionally a staple food source before Tobia became a major trade hub and could obtain whatever it wanted from dozens of different worlds. The land based fauna and flora is simpler. The only trees have been introduced from other worlds, but thick grasses and tall fern-like bushes have been common for millions of years. Most of the flora is accustomed to dry conditions, though much of the world is now irrigated and desert and scrub has been turned into fields – or more likely towns. Surface gravity is about 60% standard, and the thin atmosphere makes living outside uncomfortable, though not impossible.
Birds never evolved here naturally, though they have become common due to the introduction of a dozen or so species from off-world. During the summer months, the atmosphere is filled with fungal spores which can cause serious allergic reactions in off-worlders who haven’t become adapted to it. Staying indoors during these months is recommended, though most of the urban areas have filter systems in place which remove most of the spores even from open city streets.
From Orbit to Port
Approaching the High Port at Tobia is impossible without noticing the Imperium Navy orbital fortresses, as well as the capital ships that are often docked nearby. The local space is busy, so the star port requires that all approaching non-military ships give themselves over to remote control from the star port authority. Most of the super-freighters dock at the high port, and there is always a steady stream of shuttles and cargo transports running to and from the surface. There is also an elevator that runs from the High Port down to Down Port at the city of Jashu. It’s slower than taking a transport, but the glass cabins provide a luxurious 12 hour ride with first class service, high quality food and drink and spectacular views.
As well as Star City, which has a population of around 1½ billion, there are seven other ‘Gigacities’ on Tobia, which with a population exceeding a billion. Most of them have a central hub of towering arcologies, the tallest of which exceed two kilometres in height. The total population of the world, including the orbital inhabitants, is about 23 billion. There are estimated to be about five billion robots working here as well, mostly serving the richer segments of society. It’s still cheaper to get humans to do a lot of the manual labour.
The gigacities provide secondary space ports, allowing direct trade to each one from orbit, and there is always a steady stream of transports bringing food, goods and people directly to them. Each is a bustling, cosmopolitan metropolis of people from hundreds of worlds, not just humans but also Vargr, Aslan, Florians, Darrians, Bwaps and others. Everybody is welcome at Tobia, for it is the world through which wealth flows.
However, wealth does not flow to all places and people equally, and the disparity between rich and poor is considerable. Whilst the wealthy luxuriate in their tower blocks which float (quite literally, since grav tech is pretty ubiquitous here) above the ‘grounders’, or at the top of the arcologies which make up the core of the Gigacities, the poor struggle to make ends meet at street level or below. As one rises in station on Tobia, so you also rise above the streets – the filth, shadowed darkness, smells and poverty all mix to turn these cities into pits of despair and desperation.
The government does manage to provide its citizens with a universal wage, but it’s barely enough to live on unless you’re happy with processed foods and an apartment in the slum districts.
The Duke of Tobia is currently Mark Duduuna Udi Aella, who dwells in the ducal palace that spends most of its time floating above Jashu. Also known as the Golden Palace, due to the metal that plates much of it, it is a heavily fortified fortress designed to survive nuclear attack and home to a legion of elite Imperium troops. The hanging gardens that surround the central pyramidal structure have their own artificially generated weather system, allowing for spectacular social events to be held in the open all year around.
Flying directly down to the star city at Jashu is permitted, though only under remote piloting. The main port consists of actual ground bays and floating docking platforms which can re-arrange themselves to meet requirements.
At the capital can be found plethora of opera houses, orchestral houses, theatres, cinemas, restaurants, dance halls, night clubs and other types of entertainment. Tobia society can be quite conservative in some respects, and erotic entertainments and sex work is heavily restricted, only being found in the less reputable parts of the cities beyond the reach of the law.
If Tobia is the jewel of culture and sophistication in the sector, then Jashu is the heart that it is all concentrated in. From the perspective of wealthy Travellers, Jashu is a paradise. Grav cars take you from your ship to the star port halls, where high class shops, restaurants and hotels are available as well as more standard class fair for the Traveller on a budget. From there, you can reach anywhere you want to in the city by grav – either scheduled public services or private hire vehicles can take you to shopping districts, entertainment blocks, hotels or any of the floating gardens.
The technology of Tobia is such that restructuring of the huge cities can happen on a regular basis, at a scale that staggers many visitors. It has been known for whole tower to have anti-gravity lifters fitted to their foundations, and for the blocks to be moved across the city when the inhabitants decided they didn’t like the area – or their richer neighbours decided they didn’t like them and wanted to construct something more grandiose in their place. Holograms are used to paint many of the city blocks in glorious works of art, which change over the seasons – or sometimes over the course of a day. Some of the most famed artwork that comes from Tobia takes the form of city-spanning displays that gradually morph in sync with the shifting towers and lighting conditions.
It is rumoured that the Garden of Telperion, one of the great attractions of Jashu, was created when some noble decided that they wanted a garden, so had several tower blocks elevated above the ground and the park was constructed beneath their shadow. Since the park got little light, it was planted with trees whose fruits glow with a silvery light. Nobody on Tobia knows who the park is named after, though occasionally a Solomani student of ancient literature will smile and nod knowingly and refuse to let the locals in on the secret.
Tobia’s planetary government is highly rigid without much room for democratic freedom. Each of the Gigacities is governed by a Marquis, with Barons controlling the less populous settlements. Given the population size of each city, the wealth of the Tobian Marquis is often greater than that of whole worlds elsewhere. Most of the gigacities have a number of lessor nobles governing individual districts, and how much autonomy they each have varies from city to city.
The city of Shuulem in Sharadik, on the coast of the Gurekka Sea, differs in that Marchioness Ushja Shisshi Ralilursham governs the city directly via a strict bureaucracy rather than the feudal structure present elsewhere. Laws here are stricter than elsewhere, and heavily enforced – though ironically crime in the lower levels is often higher than in other cities due to a high degree of corruption in the lower levels of the bureaucracy.
There is a lot of political friction between her and the other rulers, but she has been holding firm on her ways and there is some fear that she will try enacting more extreme measures to bring things under control. Several illegal factions are working directly to undermine her authority, and there are rumours that they have some support within Shuulem’s bureacracy.
Tobia is a mixing pot of many different cultures from across the Trojan Reach and beyond. The cultural ways of Tobia itself though tend to be conservative. Its critics say that its people look to the past for validation rather than to the future for inspiration, and there is probably some truth to that. It’s population is so vast though, there are enough free thinkers, radical artists and genius scientists for Tobia to still hold its own against other worlds.
Local clothing styles tends to be flamboyant, and tends to cover the whole body with long dresses or trousers for women and coloured suits for men, often decorated with wrist ruffs, ties and other adornments. Hats, scarfs and cloaks are also quite common.
Eating at home is seen as a sign of poverty, and anyone who can afford to will often eat out at restaurants, bars or cafes. This makes such places packed, often to the annoyance of Travellers who come from quieter and less sociable worlds. Drugs of all types are common, though taking any to excess is seen as poor manners. Theatres, cinemas and music halls are of high quality and used regularly, with most people going several evenings a week. For the lower classes, cheaper options are available, though cheap doesn’t always mean poorer quality – there is enough talent across Tobia to provide quality at most levels of society, especially when holo-theatres can stream live performances to multiple locations simultaneously.
For those who can afford it, robots are common place in homes. They act as cleaners, nannies, cooks and general assistants for the family. They are generally shaped and dressed as a person, though have a metallic skin to make them stand out from ‘normal’ people. Though the robots here are very advanced, they are treated as objects with no rights. However, given how embedded they have become in the privates lives of many very powerful individuals, robots cannot legally be called upon as witnesses or used as evidence in legal matters.
Despite having several famous universities, Tobia isn’t known for having the best universities in the region, and tends to lag behind several other worlds in terms of scientific research or educational standards. Though the very foundations of its culture is based on the application of advanced engineering, actual science isn’t viewed as a pursuit worthy of anyone of high standing.
It is said (on Tobia) that everyone must visit Tobia at least once before they die. Others may disagree, but it is a world that provides ample opportunity for both culture and business. Given the amount of trade that goes through Tobia, there is always the opportunity to buy and sell something, both legal and illegal.
Being the most technologically advanced world in the sub-sector, Tobia is the place to come when looking for advanced equipment. The High Port has several resellers of military hardware that can be hard to obtain elsewhere. There are strict background checks to ensure that equipment isn’t falling into the hands of pirates or other potential enemies of the Imperium, but finding ‘respectable’ middlemen who will happily buy anything needed for you, and sell it on for a decent markup isn’t that hard to do.
Tobia is of course also a great place to simply relax and spend some time just enjoying the entertainments available.
Things Not To Do
Whilst on Tobia, the following options are not recommended for reasons of health and safety. On the other hand, if danger and excitement is what you’re looking for, then maybe you could give them a try.
Stand clear of the edge
Roof races are considered a sport in the less well off districts of the Gigacities, especially where grav controlled towers and buildings can be easily moved to make for exciting routes. Grav suits are deliberately configured to allow leaping and gliding only, since it wouldn’t be fun if there wasn’t at least some chance of falling to your death onto the streets below.
Don’t talk about fight club
Especially not in respectable company where such things are looked down upon. Elsewhere there are two schools of thought. The first is that the best thing you can do is to strap yourself into a giant mechanical robot equipped with claws, chainsaws and blades and go head to head with another such robot in a fight to the finish. The other is that it’s more fun to grow a gigantic biological monster, control it via direct neural link and rip another such creature to shreds. The first risks physical death, the second brain damage from neural feedback when the creature dies. Adding safeguards is possible, but the contestants claim that it slows down reactions.
Much money can be made in betting or even participating (though you may need someone to sponsor you unless you can afford your own mech or bioroid). There are also plenty who will be willing to aggressively disagree with anyone who claims that one version of the sport is better than their own favourite.
All hail the Marchioness
The back streets and side alleys of the gigacity of Shuulem are not always the safest place to hang out, but they may be a good place to find work if you’re willing to help insurrectionists destabilise their local government. Blackmail, extortion, bribery and kidnapping are all considered valid tactics against the bureaucracy, but the cost of getting caught is death. At some point actions may escalate to bombings, but that hasn’t happened yet.
The intelligence service of Shuulem are also looking to entrap those offering their services, or for off-worlders willing to help infiltrate the criminal organisations and help take them apart from the inside.
Second hand hardware
There are always those wanting to buy that which isn’t allowed, and always those willing to sell it to them. The star port has much for sale which requires a strict background check, but for those with a clean record purchasing is quite easy. Immediately selling them onto those without a clean record is definitely illegal, but can net a nice percentage of the price as profit, as long as you’re not caught.
The diamond mines of the Jovian world of Tobia III are operated by robots who mine the hydrogen seas for carbon crystals containing metallic hydrogen, critical in some of Tobia’s industrial processes. Given perfect timing, awesome piloting and a coincidental glitch in the planetary sensors, it would be possible to slip beneath the clouds and raid a mining barge as it comes up to the surface. There are plenty of competitors of Tobia who would pay well for such material. Risk of being crushed in the atmosphere – high.
Disturbing the dead
The ruins of the previous civilization have mostly been built over, but there are some ways into the old bunker complexes and service tunnels. They are homes to those that don’t like strangers trespassing in their territory, but even further down are unexplored ruins which may contain historical artefacts from thousands of years ago. Many claim to have maps to such places, available at a low low price. A few may be telling the truth.