Campaign of the Month: June 2014
Battletech : The Farscape Campaign
Comstar, the interstellar communications network, is the child of Jerome Blake, one of the most influential men in the thousand-year history of interstellar space travel. An electronic engineer and high-level bureaucrat, Blake was appointed Star League Minister of Communications by the High Council of the League in early 2781, after the conclusion of the civil war and the Amaris Crisis. He was charged with restoration of the League’s extensive and partially destroyed communications network.
The Star League was in absolute shambles in the years following the civil strife of the mid 2700s, with hundred’s of millions dead, and the communication ties with the Outer Rim Territorial States completely cut. Blake’s efforts, almost heroic in magnitude, managed to work almost exclusively to the restoration of communications with all Successor Houses and Periphery States. The continued existence of Comstar has managed to keep information flowing between the warring states and planets for centuries.
The ComTech Order has changed little since early in its organization. The organization is ruled by a Primus, who is elected to the position by the ten members of the First Circuit, all Precentors. Precentors each run stations, with the A-Class stations rating higher in the hierarchy for their central location and position as a hub of communications. Directly responsible to each Precentor, are a number of Adepts, ComTechs who have at least a year of service to the order. Adepts, unlike Precentors serve for a single year and then transfer to a new posting, a policy which ensures loyalty to the Order, and not any single group of personnel, superiors or planet. Adepts are further ranked according to a complex series of degrees, involving length of service, equipment training, and distinguished conduct.
Younger members of the Order are known as Acolytes. Following a ten-week apprenticeship, Acolyte’s are introduced to the “outer mysteries” of the Order; hyper-pulse equipment, the stations of the Order, and the basics of celestial mechanics. Following this instruction, if the student proves worthy, they are initiated and given over to a lifetime of service with the Order as an Adept. Strict discipline and the effectiveness of its internal policing services, known as ROM, restrict renegades to a tiny few.
Comstar has two specialty services; ROM and the Explorer Service. ROM is highly secretive and extremely independent subculture within Comstar’s own organization. It recruits according to its own priorities, most often from within the Acolytes of the Order, though it is rumored they also recruit laymen to perform select tasks under the aegis of the Order itself. From wherever their origins, the members of ROM are its most fearsome, ruthless and fanatical members (and killers) in the Inner Sphere.
The Explorer Service was founded recently by Primus Adrienne Sims, the predecessor of the current Primus. Particularly bright ComTechs may serve for a year in the Explorer Service. Explorer teams consist of two leaders (usually Sub-Precentors ) and five to eight Adepts are outfitted with a small jump vessel, a contingent of troops, and an old starchart, and are instructed to rediscover any worlds with which contact has been lost. ComStar policy is to inform the nearest Successor State of its responsibility for teh safety of the Explorer team, thus guaranteeing some protection against the potential hazards of their service.
The key piece of Comstar equipment is the HPG (Hyperpulse Generator), which operates on the same principles as the KF-Drive (Kearny-Fuchida Jump Drive). The Comstar communications network is composed of large number of HPGs capable of transmitting or receiving an instantaneous signal across a distance of nearly 50 light-years. These large facilities are the “A-Class” Stations, with well over fifty (50) such stations located at strategic locations around the Inner Sphere. In addition, there are strations capable of transmition and recpetion over a 20- or 30-light-year span. These are the “B-Class” stations located on most every inhabited world in the Inner Sphere, except for isolated Periphery worlds, such as Butte Hold, Redmond, Unuk al Hay, Santandor, Oberon and New Silesia.
Messages are processed serially, and the HPGs at an “A” station generally make transmissions to each station they serve every 12-24 hours, whenever enough messages have been accumulated. Priority messages can also be sent, but these tend to be astronomical. “B” stations process messages in the same way, though they transmit much less frequently (only two to three times a week), and always to the same “A” relay station. Messages are charged on a per-transmission basis, and so the cost to send one via multiple stations can prove extremely high.
ComStar Bills (C-Bills)
The most important Inner Sphere currency is the C-Bill issued by ComStar. These represent credit notes for its services. As the value of the C-Bill is constant throughout the Inner Sphere, they are used as the yardstick for all other currencies (A C-Bill has approximately the same purchase power as five US Dollars in 1986). C-Bills constitute about ten percent of the Inner Sphere’s currency, and is a fixed amount of ComStar service, transmission time , and delivery distance.
The practice of issuing ComStar scrip was first approved by the First Circuit in 2835 during the Directorship of Conrad Toyama. The idea was to offer payment in kind for resources and services ComStar needed, as the organization had no natural resources or land of its own on which to base a currency. For this same reason, ComStar has always been reliant on its clients to provide essential sustenance for its ComTechs.
As a result, the issuance of C-Bills has helped replace the system of barter that makes life haphazard for the organization, when there was no initial alternative. Because of the high regard for the organization throughout the Inner Sphere, not only are their C-Bills accepted everywhere, they also serve a a medium for transferring House currencies, particularly between Houses.
In the 250 years since the First Succession War, the Comstar interstellar communications network has evolved from a government service agency to a quasi-religious order whose knowledge and rituals are a closely-guarded secret. Those who become members of this mystical brotherhood only rarely come in contact with the outside world. They remain content to their long-standing commitment to provide an unbroken, politically neutral line of communications between each of the Successor State houses.
Nevertheless, there are persistent rumors of Comstar involvement in matters far outside its limited charter. Rumors, for example, of salvage missions to abandoned planets of the interior worlds, secret research into weapons and equipment technologies commonly thought to be forever lost in the constant ravages of war, and surreptitious contact with Periphery worlds. Though most high-ranking House officials will bend over backwards to answer the rare ComStar call for assistance, a small minority (some say Katrina Stiener )suspects ComStar’s ritualistic shroud for a smoke screen shielding a deeper, darker purpose.
Communication on System – Dumassas has always been spotty, and reliant upon expensive satellite networks (which tend to fail quickly over time), or microwave towers that are able to allow wireless transmission of communication across the planet. Comstar has persistently maintained this fragile network, and is considered the sole means of maintaining global communications under these difficult circumstances.
The technology isn’t particularly new or difficult, but ComStar has always had an interest in these sorts of things, so they have always been around to maintain the network, cheaply and efficiently. When the corporation took over the rebuilding of the HPG station at their “Enclave”, they also began to dabble in network programming, and established a world-wide presence in news reporting and funds transfers.
Since 3010, they have taken intense interest in the system, upgrading telecommunications world-wide, and recently establishing a military presence at their Enclave, ostensibly to protect the valuable work and equipment from casual raids. They have also engaged in world-wide broadcasting rights to the fighting occurring at Salager’s Arena, although interest in the fighting pits has waned over the last year, due primarily to the nation tearing itself apart. In Garcia District and the rest of the planet, however, it remains popular.
Following the Small War of 3023-4 in the Dumassas system, ComStar was contacted as a neutral third-party to settle the various disagreements some select nations of that planet could count on for their peace and treaty negotiations. Sadly, not all nations on Dumassas have been able to support a central government in the wake of that conflict, so these nations remain unrepresented during any discussion as the surviving nations struggle to maintain control.
In late-3025, the HPG in The Republic of Carbina went active, and the local Comstar security detachments were also activated to protect the site. The system’s inclusion in the greater interstellar community is likely to bring some wider considerations, as it becomes a known resource world, despite its recent civil disturbances.