Campaign of the Month: June 2014
Battletech : The Farscape Campaign
Free Trade Orbital Habitat of Taurus
Just a short shuttle ride from the glittering lights of Taurus, is the equally bright, though far less important orbital habitat of Joshua’s Station. The glow here is from the countless company signs decorating both the colony’s surface and the hulls of the surrounding factory and docking facilities, advertising everything from children’s toys to heavy weaponry. The bustle of ships is obviously more varied than elsewhere in Taurus space, with battered free trader’s DropShips jostling for landing clearance alongside sleek corporate shuttles. This is Joshua’s Station, Taurus main orbital trading center and out-port, and the self-proclaimed “Most Exciting Place in the Taurian Concordat”.
Joshua’s Station is a large “Vivarium”-type colony cylinder. Like most such structures, it is divided into twelve Segments, numbered consecutively from one end to the other. The colony also has longitudinal demarcations, known as Plates. O’Neill colonies have three Plates each, in alteration with large light-providing windows. The closed orbital colonies, lacking such features, are divided into any manner in which the colony planners might choose. However, for the sake of simplicity and order, a standard six-Plate division tends t be in use across the Concordat, designated by the Greek letters (Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon, and Zeta).
The Cluster : A large swath of Joshua’s Station is characterized by massive overbuilding and restructuring. Large open bazaars are linked by claustrophobic alleys and twisting tunnels, and a perpetual state of dull twilight exists during every hour of the day. The open areas serve as the trading houses for the legitimate trade that passes through the city each day. Almost any commodity can be found in one office or another, and these areas are often crowded with an interesting mix of civilians, traders, shopkeepers and mercenaries. In these public areas, business is fair (mostly) and danger to one’s person remains low.
Deeper inside “The Cluster”, though, where twilight becomes permanent night, one can get into all manner of life-threatening dangers. The multi-level nature of “The Cluster”, with its dark and twisting corridors and enclosed bazaars, is rife with dealers in illegal trades even on Joshua’s Station. Its nature has further made it a result of one or two fatal duels each night. If one appears rich enough and looks hard enough, trade in illegal drugs, Edict-violating substances and human flesh can be found here. Most people avoid these places, however, since aid is long in coming, and likely to find no traces when it does arrive.
The deeper areas of “The Cluster” are accepted locations for staging areas and “Vacation homes” among the mercenaries employed by the Concordat government. Unwelcome in any other station, these troops are well-trained, heavily-armed individuals and are a force for both order and chaos in the deep Cluster. In areas where patrol officers are few and frightened, many mercenaries take it upon themselves to limit (or encourage) the activities of slave-traders and drug runners, enforcing a strange sort of law and order.
Interestingly, the Cluster is generally considered as safe a place as any other on the station for children to wander around in, provided they stay in public areas and avoid enclosed regions. Since children are both harmless and not particularly rich, few citizens of the Cluster pay any attention to them. The Cluster supports twice the patrolling officers and call boxes of any other section of the station, and as a result, is often the site of numerous children wandering the streets, looking for deals on music chips and imported foodstuffs, lending a curious overlay to the undertone of life and death on the station.
The Leviathan : Opened in 3006 by trader/entrepreneur Karl Lotjonen, the Leviathan is a popular restaurant in Joshua’s Station. Occupying the lower two levels of the Hugo Office plaza in area Gamma Four, it is known for its hefty prices and rapidly filled reservation schedule. A massive, double-tiered structure that remains dimly lit, it surrounds a central tank of salt water housing two three-meter Mako sharks, and a dozen tanks filled with other fish and fauna all along the outer edges. The skill of the chefs is belied by the fact that there is no fish on the menu, and all food served is vegetarian and highly creatively crafted.
The Parnassus Hotel : Arguably the finest hotel in the entire Concordat, the Parnassus is known for its unfailingly courteous staff. Rates are, of course, appropriately high, with basic room service starting at 2000 Cs per night. Located in Beta Five, the diplomatic/ business district, it is highly patronized by visiting business men and dignitaries.
Axis Park : Occupying all of Gamma Five, Axis Park spends its time as a huge public gathering location, complete with fountains, fish ponds and flower gardens. At least once each year, it is the site of a trade show or exposition, taking advantage of its multiple domed amphitheaters and large open spaces. Named as the central spine of the station, it stretches all along the central axis of the station. Its borders laden with restaurants, observation domes and low-gee playgrounds. The grandest structure in the park, the Opal Pavilion is a fifty-thousand seat shell-top amphitheater in which many notable public addresses and popular ceremonies are held.
Exo-Ball : In Gamma Twelve is a huge area barred by ticket booths with elevators leading up to the station’s axis. Here, a large spectator gallery overlooks, through three massive armored windows, a spherical zero-gee arena, known as the “Pressure Chamber”, the site of the station’s popular Exo-Ball games. Originally a private venture in 2995, attendance was slow at first, but word of the spectacular aerobatics and displays of athletics spread across the station. By the turn of the century, Jason McDougal had made back his investment in the arena, and was quickly earning massive profits. There are presently twelve Exo-Ball teams in the station, and another ten scattered across the orbital habitats around the Nebulae.
The rules of Exo-Ball are complex, but simple in practice. Played between two teams of four to eight layers each, they use a highly elastic ball. The objective is to pass the ball between each player of the team before throwing into a common goal at the “bottom” of the court. Body contact is strictly prohibited; producing some of the most awe-inspiring dodges and weaves imaginable. All games are played for exactly two hours. No more. No less. The most popular team in the League, is “Team Solomon” a collection of former ESWAT and Aero pilots, who are the undisputed champions of the sport.
Taurus Armor Works (TAW) : Founded in 2960 by retired Major Jefferson Hewer, Taurus Armor Works was created to research, develop and build a new generation of combat exo-suits. Starting with some cheaply bought offices and a single hangar bay, TAW saw a sharp rise in its power and wealth in 2967 when Hwewer’s hand-built “Hoplite” Exo-Armor dazzled military observers with its combination of speed, agility and potential firepower. Since then the company products have remained in constant demand.
His son, Robert Hewer remains in control of the company, and though a skilled engineer, he takes a more pragmatic, hands-on attitude towards matters, and does not have great business acumen. He is forced to rely almost entirely on his board of advisers and generally deals directly with his creations, leaving the daily grind of running the company to his father’s advisory board. The company continues to develop better versions of its exo-armor, but also provides high quality military-grade armor and some BattleMech components (such as myomer and actuators) for export, which remains the mainstay of the company’s production income.
Joshua’s Station began existence in 2879 as part of the second wave of colonization efforts in “Vivarium” colonies built in orbit of the capital. Heavily industrialized from the start, Joshua’s Station (named for Joshua Folke, son of the station’s first administrator) was modestly populated for many years. A slight boom was observed in the 2920s, when refugees fleeing the latest round of savage conflicts in the Inner Sphere led to a nation-wide increase in work projects and industry, but that was the last economic peak for nearly a century. Newer, far more modern factory colonies in orbit of Taurus led to some obsolete factories being abandoned. Within a generation, the population was once more half that of its peak.
In 2960, a fledgling company called Taurus Armor Works (TAW) opened its main offices on Joshua’s Station. The corporation quickly bloomed and began investing its new-found wealth (brought through government expense to procure valuable Mech parts and supplies) in the production of standard parts to supply TTI’s own industry; namely Thunderbird and Lightning-Class Aeros and _Leopard-Class DropShips. As TAW grew, Joshua’s Station grew along with it. Old sections of the station were reopened, renovated and immediately filled with new residents. Businesses that had left Joshua’s Station years ago returned, hoping to attract some of the many TAW workers and customers now crowding Joshua’s Station’s busy starport.
The station returned to and surpassed its former status. becoming the unofficial center of international trade in the Concordat. This status was sided in 2992 by a formal proclamation, declaring Joshua’s Station a self-administered free-trade zone (effectively a province of the planet, with a special trade clause). Barring gross violations and humanity crimes, the Concordat’s normally stringent smuggling laws pertaining to arms, pharmaceuticals and electronic equipment were suspended and left to the station’s self-elected Board of Overseers to enforce as they chose. Strict external security measures were implemented to prevent passage of contraband through other colony habitats, and to keep the higher-graded items solely the trade potential of Joshua’s Station alone. Entry into the station remains easy, but cargo and ships departing for other destinations are subject to thorough searches.
Gateway to Flannegan’s Nebula : Today, Joshua’s Station is widely regarded as the most cutthroat place in the Concordat. Most non-government ships coming into the heart of Flannagan’s Nebulea make their first stop at Joshua’s Station to unload a few pieces of “cargo”. On the way back out, another stop is often made to take on a return batch of Concordat goods that are of questionable legality in the Inner Sphere. At this point, the cargo is past the concern of the Concordat government; if other nations can’t shield their borders from smugglers as the Concordat can, it is their own problem. In the course of these cargo exchanges, a healthy profit is to be made by Joshua’s Station merchants.
A large portion of teh station’s economy is focused towards integrating Joshua’s Station’s economy with that of the rest of the Concordat. A steady registration for contraband items allows a portion of these goods to legitimately reach the rest of the Concordat – at a significant profit to the merchants in Joshua’s Station. In turn, the national taxes levied on the station take a portion of the colony’s yearly income, making continued permissiveness towards an otherwise undesirable trade a valuable source of income for the region.
Joshua’s Station’s current Board Chair is Catherine DeMille, a stout, motherly appearing woman known to station inhabitants as “The Shark”. In truth, DeMille seems to have a special affection for the local hot-spot “The Leviathan”, a popular, upscale restaurant, known for its massive central aquatic tank, where she dines at least once each month. DeMille has been noted over the past few years to institute a series of ordinances which make it easier for merchants to store goods of a military nature, in exchange for increased taxes through special “licenses”.
Joshua’s Hounds : Being what it is, Joshua’s Station has the highest crime rate in the Concordat, mostly a product of the large number of foreign visitors temporarily inhabiting the station. A large amount of greed-related crime occurs in the colony, stemming from an ever-present need to stay ahead of the competition. A temporary resident who goes broke on the station, will likely never leave (until someone is willing to take them away for a price unmeasured in credits), so many foreigners go to extraordinary lengths to protect their investments.
Beatings and property destruction are common across the station. Sometimes people even disappear – something almost unheard of elsewhere in the Concordat. Crime is not localized; the presence of so many free agents and police in the Cluster makes it actually a bad place to commit a violent crime. Rather, most violent crime on the station is the result of deals gone bad, or the deliberate targeting of a rich or influential individual and are generally well-planned to avoid interaction with the police.
It is legal for persons to carry a concealed firearm for self-protection, and most citizens, (even children carry chemical sprays and stun weaponry) exercise that right. The result, is most people are exceedingly polite in casual meetings, and those who are not can discover just how exceedingly violent things can get. The razor’s-edge society that results is kept in close check by Joshua’s Station’s large police force. They regularly sweep the city on bicycles, making their presence known everywhere possible and always respond to calls for help. Such officers are, however, poorly equipped for rapid chases, heavy firefights, or any encounter that involves long distance.
Responding to any serious threats to public safety are the BattleMechs and Exo-Suit Infantry of Joshua’s Station ESWAT division, known as “Joshua’s Hounds”. A dozen teams of exo-suited ESWAT are stationed along the axis of the station, one per segment, and from these micro-gravity stations, are able to deploy using jump packs in a moments notice. Response time is usually less than two minutes anywhere within their Segment.
The station’s current commander of ESWAT is Section Chief Thau Nguyen a Taurian Infantry veteran whose unofficial callsign is “Nitpick”.