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Old 02-27-2024, 12:27 AM   #41
Johnny1A.2
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Default Re: ORICHALCUM UNIVERSE: VERANIS (Dyaxor A V) in 2123...

LATER.

PRINCE ZANHAR (fifth in line to the throne of Catakatia)

Species: Homo vertara
Age in 2124: 42 Terran years
Height: 6'1"
Hair: Red
Eyes: Green

IQ: 11
DX: 10
ST: 11
HT: 10


Spd: 5.0

ADVANTAGES:
Alertness 1
Ally Group (35 points minions)
Charisma 1
Common Sense
Contacts (15 points worth)
Empathy
Legal Immunity (Prince of Catakatia)
Strong Will 1



DISADVANTAGES:

Addiction (larsh)
Dependent (son, average, all the time)
Enemies (-50 points worth)
Fat
Greed
Lecherous at -5
Overconfidence
Secret (active psion)

QUIRKS:

1. Gluttonous at quirk level
2. Prefers to dress in white
3. Loves boating
4. Always impeccably polite
5. Dislikes flying

SKILLS:

Accounting 12
Administration 13
Area Knowledge(s):
Cataka City 15
Catakatia 13
Veranis 11

Boating 12
Dancing 9
Detect Lies 13
Diplomacy 14
Driving 12
Fast-Talk 14
Guns (TL10) 13
Hidden Lore(s):
City Secrets (Cataka City) 15
Catakatia 13
Veranis 11

Language(s):
Catakatian (native)
Thakarian (literate) 13
English (American dialect, illiterate) 11

Law (Catakatian) 12
Powerboat 12
Streetwise 11

PSIONIC ABILITIES:
ESP (power 8)
Clairvoyance 14
Telepathy (power 7)
Telesend with extended range) 12


Prince Zanhar is a prince of the royal family, a second cousin of Jarak Sahandar, and fifth in line for the Jarakship. He is also several kinds of trouble.

In appearance, Zanhar looks harmless. Deliberately so. He is somewhat overweight, but not grossly obese. Zanhar is neither noticeably handsome nor unpleasant to look at. He deliberately acts as if he is in worse shape than he really is, he genuinely is overweight, but there is muscle underneath it and he is by no means completely out of shape. Zanhar deliberately cultivates the public image of a somewhat dissolute, but not totally wanton, royal wastrel. He manages to come across as likeable and harmless, while concealing his very real ambitions and abilities.

This act is effective in part because it has seeds of truth. He really does have the Lecherous Disadvantage, for ex, but only a -5 level, but he deliberately cultivates the impression that he is a hopeless skirt chaser unable to stop himself. He really is mildly, quirk-level, gluttonous, he loves good food and plenty of it, but he tries to give the impression of being barely able to control his appetites. He really is addicted to a common drug called larsh. This is completely legal in Catakatia, but definitely not socially approved, and doubly so in the nobility and the royal family. He allows this addiction to be public knowledge to reinforce his public image of harmlessness.

In reality, Zanhar is extremely ambitious, though he does not aspire to the Jarakship as such. The Jarak is too public, too exposed, everyone is always watching and paying attention to everything the Jarak says and does. Zanhar would vastly prefer to be the real power behind the throne of a figurehead Jarak. At one time, he thought he was on track to be just that.

Zanhar was 22 Terran years old when the Terrestrians drove out the Thak-Tarak regime. All through his teen years, he had been 'cultivating' the crown prince, awaiting the day when the crown prince would ascend to the Jarakship, and Zanhar would rule Catakatia through the figurehead Jarak. The former monarch was elderly, and Zanhar had thought his rise to hidden power was only a matter of a short wait.

The defeat of the Thak-Tarak changed everything, and upended all of the plans Zanhar had been laying since he was in his early teens. The old monarch, and both his sons, had abdicated and fled with the retreating Thakarians. The Jarakship passed to his cousin Sahandar, a nephew of the former monarch, and the Three Powers became the new overlords of Veranis.

At first Zanhar had some hopes of manipulating Sahandar the way he had intended to manipulate the former crown prince, but Sahandar quickly proved to be both strong-willed and intelligent, and he rapidly established himself as an effective monarch. It soon became clear to Zanhar that it was no use trying to manipulate Sahandar.

Instead, Zanhar began building his own secret network of contacts and allies, setting out to establish a power base of his own. In the short term, he became a patron to major criminal figures in Catakatia, and skimmed considerable profits from this.

(He was already wealthy as part of the royal family, of course, but that money was public and watched. The cash flow from his criminal activities was secret and he could use it as he saw fit.)

Zanhar also cultivated contacts with the Thak-Tarak, entirely without the approval of the Jarak. In 2124, Zanhar has strong contacts in the pro-Thakarian underground movements, and some of them more or less work for him directly.

As far as his long-term goals go, they remain unsettled. Ideally, Zanhar would still like to rule Catakatia through a figurehead monarch. In theory he could do this under the overlordship of either the Three Powers or a restored Thak-Tarak regime. In practice, he would probably prefer the Thak-Tarak, because he could then draw on their harsher, more efficient ways of government for his own purposes.

In the medium term, Zanhar moves cautiously, because he knows perfectly well that Jarak Sahandar is 'on to him'. Sahandar knows about his criminal connections, and strongly suspects his borderline treasonous secret contacts with the Thak-Tarak. Zanhar is popular with the nobility and is public image is of a harmless celebrity royal, the monarch dares not move against him without rock solid proof.

Zanhar knows that Sahandar is looking for just such proof, and much of his activity in 2124 is built around keeping the monarch from gaining that evidence. If Sahandar could prove his case, Zanhar has committed offenses that would justify the death penalty under Catakatian law, and Zanhar knows that Sahandar would not hesitate to sentence him to death if he had proof of his suspicions.

Zanhar has another deep, dark secret, one that is incredibly useful to him, but which he must keep hidden to keep it useful: his is an active psion. Zanhar has a significant ESP faculty, and Telepathy as well. His Telepathy is mostly short-range, but he can use the Telesend skill with Extended Range. His basic Telepathic range is about sixteen meters, but his Telesend range is nearly a kilometer with people he has trained to 'hear' him.

His clairvoyance has a basic range of about thirteen meters, and this gives him an incredible advantage in secret information gathering. His skills do not extend to clairaudience, but he can remote-view and read lips, and he is skilled at reading text and other such information remotely.

Zanhar was discovered as an active psion by a Thak-Tarak secret program when he was twelve years old, and received training in his powers from them. In theory, he could display other Powers, but this has yet to happen as of 2124.

MORE LATER.
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Old 02-27-2024, 10:47 PM   #42
Johnny1A.2
 
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Default Re: ORICHALCUM UNIVERSE: VERANIS (Dyaxor A V) in 2123...

LATER.

Zanhar is not a fighter. That is, he has little in the way of combat training or direct experience in melee combat. Zanhar is not cowardly, as such, he just isn't a fighting man.

He is competent with several firearms, and he has used one to kill someone in his life (This is one of the secrets he works to keep the monarch from discovering. Even though that particular incident was arguably self-defense, it happened in the course of activities that could get him executed if known.).

As far as fighting goes, though, he has people for that, competent ones, and he lets them handle such matters. He is rarely far from at least two trustworthy security men, who are personally loyal to him, and who do know how to fight, both with weapons and hand to hand.

Zanhar would be a difficult target for most enemies anyway, because he is a member of the extended royal family, and as such anyone engaging in violence with him would be facing serious legal jeopardy, unless it was a clear-cut case of self-defense.

Zanhar has several residences, but his primary home is in Cataka City, in the New Town region, where he maintains a very comfortable townhouse. Additionally, he maintains a mansion on private land about five miles upriver from Cataka City proper. This mansion is at the center of a ten square kilometer estate that is heavily guarded.

Zanhar was married, but his wife died in 2018, of entirely natural causes. He has a son, about Terran years old. His son is a dependent, and totally unaware of the illicit activities of his father. Whatever his other faults, Zanhar is a doting father, and could probably be brought down if someone were to gain control of his son.

***

There are some things about Veranis that remain mostly unknown to both the Terrestrians and the natives. Among them are the fact that the old Lakegrandian civilization left more ruins than are known. The largest single abandoned Lakegrandian city on Veranis is totally unknown to both the modern Vertarans and the Humans, both the Thakarians and the Terrestrians.

The five major continents of Veranis are all within one hemisphere, as mentioned above. The vast and mostly empty ocean of the other hemisphere is analogous in many ways to the Pacific Ocean, in terms of both size and underlying geology. There are island chains, mostly hot spot volcano chains, but little other land in the vast ocean, other than the prison island and the one other significant island.

What few know in 2124 is that before their mysterious disappearance, the ancient, original Lakegrandians of Veranis migrated from their surface cities in the equatorial continents, into a single huge underwater city on the abyssal plain of the vast Otherside ocean.

(It is customary among the Terrestrians in 2124 to refer to the hemisphere containing the continents as Mainside, and the vast oceanic hemisphere as Otherside. The natives, of course, have their own names.)

The Lakegrandians dwelt there in this vast complex, several hundred million of them, for several centuries before their actual final disappearance. Millennia later, when the first Vertaran interplanetary civilization arose, they certainly discovered it and knew about it, but interfered it to only a limited extent, because it had many active defenses and dangerous legacy technologies still operating.

When the Vertaran interplanetary civilization blasted itself apart, the survivors were reduced to a Bronze Age level (at best), and the underwater city under the Otherside ocean was forgotten, or reduced to unrecognizable legends that rapidly degenerated into noise as the centuries passed.

The Thakarians did explore the oceans of Veranis to some degree when they arrived, but it was never their primary interest, and as with Earth, the oceans of Veranis are enormous, deep, and very dark. The ancient city below was specifically designed to not be obvious from the surface, as well. Even the old advanced Vertaran societies of millennia before only discovered it well after they reached space flight technology levels.

Today, the ancient, abandoned city lies under five kilometers of water, spread across a wide stretch of abyssal plain. It is even better preserved than the ancient Lakegrandian cities of the equatorial continents, in part because many self-repair and self-maintenance systems are still fully operational.

The city structures are built mostly of basalt mined on-site from the ocean floor, and arranged in such a way as to resemble natural formations on the sea floor. The city sprawls over thousands of square kilometers, in clusters and semi-random arrangements, adding to the difficulty of recognizing its presence.

(Sonar can certainly detect the ancient structures, but the shape of the structures and their arrangement mean that it is easy to mistake the sonar returns for natural outcroppings of seafloor crust.)

Adding to the difficulty of detecting the ancient city is the lack of light. Nowhere in the vast complex is there a single operating source of artificial light. The utter darkness of the deep ocean remains unbroken. The machines that maintain the ancient structures operate through a combination of passive sonar and inertial guidance systems when they must operate in the open. Most of the time, the ancient robots move from building to building through tunnels cut into the sea floor.

Sunpower tubes provide most of the energy, and these emit little in the way of tell-tale radiation. To minimize both tell-tale noise (always important in operating secretly underwater) and thermal emission, the robots work according to a slow and irregular schedule.

Even with all this, if the Thakarians, or the Terrestrians, had been or were actively looking for signs of such a city, they would soon detect it. Absent such a conscious search, though, the signal of the presence of the city is lost in the noise (both literal and figurative).

If the city was known, it would cause a huge stir. The working technology and well preserved city systems would be of great scientific and historical interest. The fact that this was the last inhabited city of the first civilization on Veranis could shed light on the 'Lakegrandian Question'*.

Above all else, though, the city contains a substantial amount of refined orichalcum in its various machines and systems, as well as storage depots containing more of the substance. If the Thakarians had known about it while the ruled Veranis, they would certainly have attempted to remove the orichalcum, as they did with the ruined Lakegrandian cities of the equatorial continents.

(What such an effort might have stirred up in the still-working automatic systems of the ancient city is a good question.)

The Terrestrian regime is less rapacious, but the orichalcum would be a temptation for them as well.

Of course, there is absolutely no way to know what else might still be active, or lying dormant, in the ancient underwater city.

MORE LATER.

*The Lakegrandian Question is a scientific/historical one. The ancient Lakegrandians appear to have simply vanished from the planet, very suddenly, and nobody understands why or what happened or where they went, if anywhere.

(In fact, the archaeologists have it slightly wrong, the disappearance of the Lakegrandians from the land-cities happened when the moved into the vast undersea complex. Of course, if that was known, it would leave the question of why they did that. Also, a few centuries later, they really do vanish from the history of Veranis without explanation, leaving their underwater city working but empty.)

Everyone knows what happened to the Vertaran interplanetary civilization a few thousand years later, it self-destructed in interplanetary war. The fate of the older Lakegrandian civilization, though, remains one of the great unanswered questions of archaeology in 2124.
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Old 02-28-2024, 12:39 PM   #43
warellis
 
Join Date: Jan 2014
Default Re: ORICHALCUM UNIVERSE: VERANIS (Dyaxor A V) in 2123...

How advanced are the Lakegrandian underwater cities? More advanced than the Terrestrians or Thakarians?
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Old 03-03-2024, 10:38 PM   #44
Johnny1A.2
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Default Re: ORICHALCUM UNIVERSE: VERANIS (Dyaxor A V) in 2123...

Quote:
Originally Posted by warellis View Post
How advanced are the Lakegrandian underwater cities? More advanced than the Terrestrians or Thakarians?
In some ways. The ancient Lakegrandians of Veranis were TL10, but they were high-end TL10 and TL10, in my world, covers a lot of different territories.

The Old Lakegrandians of Veranis moved their entire population into thier underwater city and lived there for several generations before their final disappearance, so yeah, they were pretty good at it.

On the other hand, one of the unsolved mysteries of the Old Lakegrandians of Veranis is that their society was easily as technically advanced as Earth or Thakaria, and they definitely had access to the necessary raw materials, including orichalcum, but they do not appear to have ever developed FTL travel.

(I really need to assign a specific name for that civilization, because 'Lakegrandian' is like 'Human' or 'Vertaran', it's a species, not a society. There are Lakegrandians elsewhere in the Galaxy that have nothing to do with the old civilization on Veranis, and their most recent common ancestor was on Earth 72,000 years ago.)
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Old 03-03-2024, 11:52 PM   #45
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Default Re: ORICHALCUM UNIVERSE: VERANIS (Dyaxor A V) in 2123...

LATER.

We saw upthread that a long east-west mountain chain cuts across the Central Continent. We saw something of the territories leading up to it, but the mountain chain itself is the product of subduction. About thirty million Terran years earlier, the Northlands and all three of the equatorial continents were one land mass. The three continents that today straddle the equator rifted off the major northern one, and have been drifting south ever since (a spreading zone lines in the ocean between the Northlands and the equatorial continents.

As they drift south, the small plates containing the equatorial continents override ancient oceanic crust, driving up huge mountain ranges on the southern coasts of the three equatorial continents, and fueling volcanic activities in many stretches of those mountain ranges.

To the further south, in the Southern Hemisphere, lies the Southlands, the large southern continent (as the name suggests). The Southlands is the largest of the five main continents, larger by about a fifth than the Northlands, and substantially larger than any the equatorial continents, though the three together are larger than the Southlands.

The Southlands plate is driving northward, likewise overriding oceanic crust. The result is that most of the northern coast of the Southlands is one long, rugged mountain chain, analogous to the Andes on Earth. In amother thirty or forty megayears, the equatorial continents should begin to coalesce with the Southlands, if the trends continue.

The northern coastal range of the Southlands contains the highest mountain peaks on Vernanis, along with substantial volcanic activity in some places. The subduction zone off the northern coast also contains the deepest points in the Veranisian oceans. The north coast trends roughly east-west, but with a modest northeast trend. The entire land mass of the Southlands is vaguely triangular, wider to the east.

South of the northern ranges, the lands level out into a vast plain, sloping very gently to the south. The wide expanse of near-level ground is comparable to the Great Plains of North America, or the Pampas of Argentina, in some ways, but larger. The plain runs about three thousand miles east-west and nearly seven hundred miles north-south (with some local variation, of course).

The continent is so located that in the western reaches, the prevailing westerlies, and the rain-laden clouds with them, slide in south of the North Range, making the westernmost part of the vast plain rainy and well-watered. Temperate forests cover the western reaches of the plains, with substantial rivers and many notable lakes.

As one moves eastward, one enters the 'rain shadow' of the Northern Coast Range. In those areas, the prevailing westerlies come ashore, strike the steep northeast-trending faces of the Northern Mountains, and release their water there. South of the mountains, the land becomes drier as one travels eastward. Forest gives way to lush grassland, then to dry-weather grassland, then to prairies and finally to open dry plains.

Eventually, the prairies give way to actual desert, mostly rocky desert.

In spite of the orographic effects of the northern mountains, though, substantial permanent rivers run through most of this vast plain. The reason this is possible is that the runoff on the northern plain was diverted by the Old Lakegrandians.

The continent is so positioned that during much of the year, warm, moist winds, the prevailing westerlies, come slamming into the Northern Mountains. The rain they deposit once mostly flowed into the nearby northern ocean, but the ancient Lakegrandians, for their own reasons, changed things. They bored huge tunnels through the solid rock of the mountains, and rerouted much of the runoff through those tunnels, and out into artificial rivers on the southern side of the range.

(Actually, some of the rivers were natural, but before Lakegrandians delved their tunnels, they were tiny.)

So much water comes pouring through the ancient tunnels that it can feed rivers that flow year-round, even through the parched deserts. There is such a significant artificial or augmented major river every ninety kilometers or so, across most of the east-west run of the plain. In the heart of parched deserts where rains comes once or twice a year at most, these rivers maintain weaving, winding strips of lush vegetations, and feed occasional lakes and oases. Eventually, most of these rivers reach the southern coast.

The southern coast of the Southlands is relatively gentle, and some parts of it are a peneplain. A substantial oceanic gulf penetrates the continent near the east-west midpoint, rain coming off this gulf flows northward during some times of the year, bringing needed rain to the high plains and grasslands.

The ancient Lakegrandian engineers knew their craft, and the river-tunnels in the North Range were superbly designed and implemented. Still, they have been in 'use' for over thirty thousand years, and that is a long time for any civil engineering project to last unmaintained. The tunnels mostly still work, but the system has suffered from the passage of time.

The same forces that raised the Northern Coast Range make the entire north coast of the Southlands vulnerable to earthquakes (or veranisquakes, if one prefers). Some stretches of the coast are more quake-prone than others, but significant quake activity happens all along the north coast. The ancient engineers could avoid the known volcanoes readily enough, but there was little they could do to avoid the danger of earthquakes.

In places, earthquakes have blocked the tunnels entirely, forcing the water to flow elsewhere. Sometimes the water in these cases returns to its ancient natural paths on the north side of the mountains. In other cases, it finds its own underground way through and emerges south of the mountains, but far from the planned exit point.

One such case is located on the southern slopes of the range, overlooking the driest part of the desert region.

MORE LATER.
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Old 03-04-2024, 11:29 PM   #46
Johnny1A.2
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Default Re: ORICHALCUM UNIVERSE: VERANIS (Dyaxor A V) in 2123...

LATER.

The northern faces of the North Range are steep, for the most part, though they vary somewhat. In a few places, accreted terrains create a shelving along the north coast. In other places, the mountains plunge into the sea in sheer cliffs. The highest waterfall on Veranis pours directly into the ocean over a one thousand meter drop along the middle reaches of the North Range.

The southern slopes of the range are much gentler, and in fact there are secondary ranges behind the main front wall of mountains. Depressions and valleys lie between the ranges, some of which are reasonably habitable, some of which are too dry or too high to be useful for most humanoid purposes. The entire North Range, with all its subsidiary ranges, runs from about three hundred to six hundred kilometers wide along most of the north coast.

As mentioned already, the ancient Lakegrandian civilization cut tunnels through the range, to transfer the water from the rain-soaked northern face to the drier southern slops and the plains beyond. In 2124, these tunnels are over thirty thousand Terran years old, and though many remain fully functional, others have suffered for lack of maintenance.

Though in some cases, blocked or destroyed tunnels caused the waters to return to their original paths, this is not always the case. About ten thousand years before the present, a major earthquake rocked the middle reaches of the North Range, and one of the major tunnels was collapsed. The water began to back up, but the same quake that blocked the tunnel opened fissures that permitted much of the water to flow out and along a fault line, and various natural caves and passages, within the mountains. Eventually, the water emerged into a natural depression in the rocky desert south of the mountains, forming a narrow but long and deep endorheic lake, which filled up as the waters widened their new passage and formed a stable path.

The new oasis was in the driest part of the enormous rocky desert that made up the central part of the Southlands. The valley was about one hundred kilometers long, east-west, and twenty to thirty kilometers wide north-south. The central lake, fed by what amounted to a semi-natural qanat, ran most of the length of the valley floor, and was about ten to twelve kilometers wide. A narrow fast river, emerging from a cave on the north side of the valley, flows into the lake on the north side. The river is about two kilometers long and is narrow, from forty to sixty meters wide, but it has carved a deep bed for itself over the past ten millennia.

Today, the entire valley is a lush oasis, thick with forest and grassy meadows. The lake is clear, and maintains a high water table within the rock-bound valley. Beyond the valley is especially dry desert, an expanse of sand and rock extending hundreds of kilometers to the nearest major settlement, and over one hundred kilometers to the nearest river.

The oasis formed over ten thousand Terran years ago. Even after the Vertaran civilization rose, it remained a remote if lush outpost, occupied by a few farmers and hermits, but otherwise ignored, as the interplanetary society spread out across the Dyaxor System. When the terrible wars tore that society apart, and the major inhabited areas of Veranis were irradiated, the valley became a refuge for a pitiful few survivors in the Southlands.

Recall the Vertaran vulnerability to ionizing radiation. During the terrible wars that wiped out the old Dyaxorian system-wide Vertaran civilization, many weapons were used: nuclear warheads, many of them 'salted', artificial plagues and other biological weapons, chemical weapons, and psionic weapons. Worst of all, though, were fine radioactive dusts, which could spread across a region and render it more or less uninhabitable to Vertarans.

Naturally, since the more intense the radiation the shorter the half-life, the dusts did not remain so utterly deadly all that long. Humans, and most other humanoids, would have been able to reoccupy the 'dusted' territories within a decade to a century or so, depending on how heavily dusted the region might be.

Vertarans, with their particular vulnerability to radiation, needed far longer. Most of the best land in the Southlands is on the southern coast, and was heavily 'dusted' in the terrible final stages of the wars. The hidden oasis formed by the redirected river was one of the few places in the Southlands to both escape the radioactive dusts and to have sufficient arable land and fresh water supply to sustain survivors. The original few hundred inhabitants of the oasis were joined by perhaps a few hundred more survivors who managed to reach it, a pitiful remnant of the millions who had dwelt on the south coast.

The few hundred survivors living in the oasis were reduced to a subsistence existence, and this continued for generations. Centuries later, though, this tiny population would become one of the largest genetic sources for the repopulation of the Southlands.

MORE LATER.
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Old 03-05-2024, 11:33 PM   #47
Johnny1A.2
 
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Default Re: ORICHALCUM UNIVERSE: VERANIS (Dyaxor A V) in 2123...

LATER.

Before the interplanetary wars that wrecked the Vertaran civilization, the population of the Southlands was in the neighborhood of five hundred million. Terrestrian archaeologists would later estimate that the population after the war was, high end estimate, perhaps somewhere around one million. It was that bad.

The survivors were scattered across the continent. The desert oasis described above was one of three or four refugia with a tiny concentration of people. The oasis had perhaps two or three thousand people living in it after the war, a mix of the original inhabitants and the pitiful few survivors who managed to cross deserts to reach it.

Refugia such as the oasis were usually places that had the combination of arable land and fresh water, a population big enough to be genetically viable, but small enough not to overstrain local resources, and remote/unimportant enough that the sites were never nuked, lased, mindblasted, gassed, or dusted into uselessness. The very remoteness of such sites, in turn, made it very hard, often all but impossible, for the scattered few terrified, hungry, thirsty, radiation-sick, poisoned, or otherwise hobbled survivors to reach them if they knew about them. Which, tragically, might have enabled some of the smaller refugia to avoid being overwhelmed with more mouths to feed and sick and injured to care for than their resources could cope with.

The oasis had enough land, and water, to sustain a population of several thousand, and the already-extent settlements there knew how to farm it. It had been a remote, economically minor area to begin with before the wars, and even though the farmers suffered from the loss of high-tech fertilizer and equipment, the site was fertile enough to permit them to survive the change.

Afterward, the hundreds of kilometers of barren desert all about both contained the population for a long time, limiting their ability to expand their numbers or resources, and also acted as a protection when raiders and other threats began to be a thing, centuries after the end of the wars. They were a rich target, with water and food and women, but a very inaccessible one.

Eventually, civilizations arose again in the Southlands, and the oasis began to trade and intermarry with outsiders once again, a thousand years or so after the end of the wars. The genetic base after the wars was small enough that 'founder effects' left major impressions on the new population of the Southlands.

Even before the wars, a genetic mutation had become common in the small original population of the oasis. Most H. vertara have red hair (though various shades exist) on both head and body, and either blue or green eyes. A few in the oasis valley, though, had a mutation that gave them light white-blonde hair (though the rest of their bodily hair was usually still red) and irises almost of a steel-grey color.

After the wars, the limited and genetically isolated population allowed the mutation to become common among the oasis population, and as the new population expanded, they provided enough of the genetic base that this mutation, exceedingly rare elsewhere on Veranis, made up nearly fifteen percent of the Southlands Vertaran population. [1]

This same mutation, along with the effect on physical appearance, was linked to another trait: Vertarans carrying it were significantly more likely to develop active psionic powers compared to the baseline population of the species. It was still by no means guaranteed, of course.

Typically, on Veranis, one Vertaran in ten thousand is naturally a latent psion. In this context, 'latent' means that their natural Antipsi Power doesn't autotune to cancel out their own other psionic potentials, as it tends to do in the enormous majority of all Humanoids. [2]

A latent psion can learn to use psionic power with the right training, with no other intervention necessary. The large majority of latents who never recieve such training go through their lives not suspecting what they could potentially do, but a very few discover their power on their own. But with the right training any latent psion can learn to use the power.

On Veranis, about one Vertaran in ten thousand is a latent psion. But among those carrying the 'blonde and grey' genes, the percentage of latency is closer to one in one hundred.

MORE LATER.


[1] Other Vertarans tend to find these individuals either unusually attractive or notably not so, the mutation usually either raises or lowers Appearance by one level in GURPS terms compared to the general run of Vertarans. How Humans react is very individual.


[2] For why this is, see: The Devourers
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Old 03-11-2024, 12:15 AM   #48
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Default Re: ORICHALCUM UNIVERSE: VERANIS (Dyaxor A V) in 2123...

LATER.

The high incidence of psi-latency in the Southlands population was known to the Thak-Tarak. It is not obvious, because most psi-latents never actually manifest any of their potential abilities consciously, and of those who do, most tend to be subtle or minor manifestations. Still, the Thak-Tarak more or less ruled Veranis for over a Terran century, and during that period, they discovered the (relatively) high incidence of psi-latency in the southern population, and they determined the genetic reason why.

The total population of the Southlands, by the time the Terrestrians took over, was about twelve million people, most of them Vertarans. The individuals possessed of the 'blonde hair and grey eyes' mutation made up about fifteen percent of that, or some one million eight hundred thousand, give or a take a bit. Of those, about one percent were psi-latent, or about eighteen thousand.

(By comparison, out of the entire remaining population of Vertarans on Veranis, roughly sixty million, only about 5800 are psi-latent.)

The Thak-Tarak Clan leadership had realized that this was a tremendous potential asset, if they could exploit it effectively. If they were to encourage population growth amid those with the blonde-grey mutation, and then recruit and train the growing number of psi-latents that would come with that increase, they could rapidly create a large corps of psionically-active agents and operatives. (Rapidly being over the course of a few generations, which is fast as such things go.)

For this reason, the Thak-Tarak had been going out of their way, in the decades before the Terrestrian ouster, to encourage population growth in the Southlands, and especially of the 'blonde/grey' subgroup. At the same time, t the Thak-Tarak had discouraged settlement of the otherwise inviting and lightly populated territories of the Southlands by other Vertarans. They wanted the local population to reproduce, not to grow the population by immigration, because they wanted the particular genetic patterns already present in the south to propagate.

Some attempts were made by the Thak-Tarak genegineers to accelerate the process by use of cloning techniques or direct genetic engineering, but as was usual in such cases, psionic faculties proved tricky to manipulate. While the Thakarian genetic technology was fully capable of creating viable clones, the psi-latency tended to go sour in such cases unless the genegineers went all-in, with host mothers, normal gestation periods, and normal maturity times, all of which defeated the purpose of the genetic manipulations.

Thus the Thak-Tarak leadership had resigned themselves to 'doing it the hard way', growing the population of the Southlands by conventional means.

When the Thakarians first arrived, the Southlands had a population of about five million, spread out across a continent almost as large as North America. About half of those people lived in the fertile, well-watered lowlands along the southern coast, another two and a half million lived on the vast middle plains, in a variety of tiny hamlets, nomadic groups, and desert bands. The lowlanders were more technically and socially advanced than most of the equatorial continent peoples, but well short of the more populous and advanced (technically and socially) Northlanders.

To make ruling the Southlands easier, the Thak-Tarak, as mentioned upthread, made an alliance with a nomadic chieftain of a warrior culture on the middle plains. He was a capable leader, a good tactician and strategist and a charismatic politician, and with the support of the Thak-Tarak he easily conquered both his fellow nomads, then the scattered settled peoples of the plains, and finally the towns and small cities of the southern coast. Before his death he ruled the entire southern continent (under the Thak-Tarak overlordship, of course). He was a harsh, but effective, warlord, and indeed, the title of lordship he chose for himself translates into English almost precisely as 'Warlord', or perhaps 'WarLord' would be closer.

He was not young when he began his conquests and he did not live terribly long after he made himself WarLord of the South. He was assassinated while indulging in a drunken dalliance with one of his concubines, and his son became WarLord, and though he was not the strategist or warrior his father had been, he was backed by the power of the Thak-Tarak and competent enough to hold his empire together.

The son ruled the South for over fifty Terran years, and it was during this period that the Thak-Tarak discovered the high incidence of psi-latency in the Southerners.

MORE LATER.
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Old 03-11-2024, 11:51 PM   #49
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Default Re: ORICHALCUM UNIVERSE: VERANIS (Dyaxor A V) in 2123...

LATER.

It was some decades into the reign of the second WarLord when the Thak-Tarak discovered the freakishly high occurance of psi-latency, and why it existed. It took a little while after that for the potential implications to penetrate the higher levels of the Thak-Tarak leadership. When it did, though, their policy toward the Southlands changed.

The population of the Southlands had already been rising since the Thak-Tarak arrived and the WarLord conquered the southern continent. In part this was due to the elimination of internecine warfare on the continent, in part this was due to improved medical and agricultural technologies and techniques introduced to Veranis by the Thakarians, but mostly it was due to immigration from the Northlands.

Up until this point (approximately the 2040s on Earth), the Thak-Tarak had been rewarding Vertaran supporters in the Northlands with tracts of land on the vast, and very lightly populated, southern continent. After they discovered the high psi-latency of the native southerners, the Thak-Tarak ceased this policy, and made immigration to the Southlands all but impossible.

Instead, through their puppet WarLord, they began to encourage large families among the native Southlanders through various incentives, and they instituted a very high quality medical program all across the Southlands. They included the non-'blond and grey' Vertarans of the south, because they wanted to conceal their real motivations.

Early marriage and early motherhood was encouraged, with incentives both for individuals and their families. Thakarian technology was used to irrigate vast stretches of otherwise barren or sparse plains, to create new farmland and encourage settlement and large families, especially among the blond/grey population (though the Thakarians were at pains not to be obvious about this last bias).

Among the Southlanders, it became common to note that the blond/grey Vertarans were more prone to multiple births than the general population (and Vertarans are already slightly more prone to multiple births than Humans). Records were not clear enough for most people to suspect that this was not entirely a natural situation.

In fact, within their overall excellent-quality medical program, the Thak-Tarak were using the opportunity to secretly give blonde/grey women drugs that encouraged extra ovulation, as well as the embryonic fission that produces 'identical' multiple births. This had, over the next two generations, the effect of raising the total percentage of blonde/grey Vertarans within the growing Southlands population.

The Thak-Tarak intelligence organizations also began a steady, quiet search for psi-latents in the population who might be amenable to working for their Thakarian overlords. There were always some who would do so, for the usual incentives. Money, power, status, all were often effective. Particularly desirable candidates could also be pressured, though direct threats to self or family were rare. It was little use in training a psion to wield power while alienating their loyalties at the same time.

Indirect pressures could often be effective, though. The combination of an offer of money and security and a better life for oneself and/or one's family, combined with the veiled threat of lost income or jobs or security for the same, could often work wonders in recruitment.

It should be noted that this search for psionically latent Vertarans was not confined to the Southlands. As long as they were doing it, there was little reason not to scout the entire planetary population at the same time, and they found some viable subjects among the general population. Prince Zanhar, mentioned upthread, was one such subject.

The center of the project was always the Southlands, however, because of the substantially higher number of potential recruits to be found there.

The project began to pay dividends within a few decades of the first effort. By what was the middle 2070s on Earth, the Thak-Tarak had created a small corps of mostly loyal, moderately powerful, and very well-trained psionic agents. They made some use of them on Veranis, but most of them worked for the Thak-Tarak on other worlds, sometimes far across the galaxy beyond the HY1 gate. New trainees were coming through the pipeline at a slowly increasing rate, and the number of potential candidates was slowly but steadily rising across the Southlands.

As time passed, the second WarLord grew old, and died of natural causes. His son became WarLord in turn, and he was a source of some concern to the Thak-Tarak. He was neither the warrior and diplomat his grandfather had been, nor the unimaginative but competent administrator that his father had been. This new ruler was youngish, impulsive, arrogant and spoiled, and in the assessment of the Thak-Tarak intelligence services, not all that bright. He quickly proved to be an embarrassment as WarLord.

Within less than two years, the Thak-Tarak were seriously considering deposing him in favor of his younger brother, who seemed a more promising prospect, but had not yet reached any definite decision.

Then came the sudden Terrestrian victory and the collapse of Thak-Tarak control, and everything spun out of control.

After the Thak-Tarak fled the planet, the WarLord found himself 'on his own' for the first time. At first he was highly pleased to no longer have his alien overlords looking over his shoulder and supervising his actions. What he failed to understand was the degree to which is own power hinged on the support of the now-absent Thak-Tarak.

It would be a couple of years before the new overlords of Veranis managed to 'get organized' and establish the Three Power Commission, and even after they did, they faced an overwhelming task in policing and governing a planet they were new to and only barely understood. By the time they had a viable administration in place, the continent-wide empire of the WarLord had shattered, spinning apart into hundreds of micro-states, mini-states, tribal and sectarian alliances, city-states, and many other things. The empire had never been cohesive, it had been assembled by force and held together by the threat of force, and it had begun to spin apart the moment the threat was removed.

The third WarLord was killed in the violence, and his younger and more competent brother succeeded him. In spite of his real abilities, though, the fourth WarLord has barely managed to keep a core of the empire intact. It remains the largest state in the Southlands, but it is only a fraction of what it once was. The current WarLord would very much like to reassemble the former continental empire, but on his own he just simply does not have the necessary resources. Holding the rump-state of the former empire intact and secure is all he can manage on his own, and he knows it.

The Commission is in a quandary about how to handle the situation in the Southlands. One option would be to back the WarLord, give him the same sort of support the Thak-Tarek once gave his father and grandfather, and assist him in rebuilding a unified state across the Southlands. The downside of this would be that it would likely alienate most of the population of the south, because the former empire was never popular or widely supported.

The alternative would be to engage with the hundreds of new states, individually, and try to encourage civilization and peaceful trade and interaction among them, with the remnant of the former empire one state among many. The downside of this is the sheer complexity of dealing with so many governments and rulers, and the fact that many of them are perennially at each others' throats.

Complicating matters is the fact that the massive irrigation works the Thakarians installed to water the otherwise dry reaches of the enormous plain must be maintained. If they are not maintained, much of the new farmland in the Southlands will go out of production, and the newly increased population needs that food. It would be easier to maintain the waterworks if a single state governed the Southlands, but it is not a necessity. The value of the irrigation systems are obvious to everyone, and the Commission has already had to deploy the Thranne to defend the water system from attempts to capture and control them by various states.

Either of the options open to the Commission, is probably viable, but also mutually exclusive, and in 2124, the Commission and their personnel are divided about which option would be best (or least bad).

As far as the the Thakarian psionic project goes, in 2124, the Terrestrians have provided assistance to maintain the medical program in the Southlands, and to extend it to the Northlands as well, as best as can be done with the available resources. The equatorial continents are less civilized, but there are plans for them as well.

The Terrestrian ruling Commission knows that the Thak-Tarak favored the Southlands with a more elaborate medical program than the rest of the planet, but they do not know why. They have just recently, as of 2124, discovered the former, secret 'multiple birth program' that the Thak-Tarak had been running before they took over. They have no idea why, though, and as of 2124 they are keeping their discovery a classified secret. It is not widely known, even among most Commission personnel, and only a handful of Vertarans on Veranis know.

The reason is that the Commission personnel fear that if it was known, it would disrupt their efforts to make a viable health program work. It is difficult as is, the paranoia that might follow the revelation of the Thak-Tarak activities would make it harder.

The Commission is very interested in discovering the reason for the former program, though. As of 2124, they have not become aware of the high psi-latency among the Southlanders.

MORE LATER.
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Old 03-18-2024, 11:37 PM   #50
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Default Re: ORICHALCUM UNIVERSE: VERANIS (Dyaxor A V) in 2123...

LATER.

South of the vast plains of the southern continent, the land descends gradually toward the coasts. Much of the southern coast of the Southlands is what geologists call a peneplain, a region eroded down to basically flat ground. The land and ocean come together mostly gently on the southern coast, and much of the south coast is well-watered with regular rain during some seasons of the year. The soil is mostly of good quality, and in many ways the south coast of the Southlands is the most hospitable region of the continent for humanoid habitation.

Near the central part of the southern coast, a vast gulf opens up into the interior of the continent. This body of water is deep at the center and reaches hundreds of kilometers inland, providing needed rain to the upper plains during some periods of the year. The coasts of the Gulf are among the richest lands of the Southlands.

The same welcoming aspects of the south coast meant that during the days of the Vertaran interplanetary civilization, the population of the Southlands was concentrated in cities along the coast. The population of the Southlands, before the terrible wars, was well over five hundred million, and over two thirds of that population lived on or near the southern coast.

Which, in turn, meant that this region suffered horrifically during the wars that destroyed the old Vertaran civilization in the Dyaxor System. Nuclear explosions vaporized cities. Psionic weapons induced mass psychoses in the survivors. Multi-terawatt laser beams melted land into glass and destroyed extensive infrastructure. Chemical weapons poisoned Vertarans, animals, and plants. Bioweapons scourged the survivors with plagues and disrupted the ecosystems. Most terrible of all, the radioactive dusts settled across these fertile lands, and where the dusts were thick, the lands died.

Even by 2124, thousands of years later, the south coast has not yet fully, completely recovered its former fertility and vitality.

Time has healed much of the damage. The radioactives were intense, but that same intensity meant that the dusts had relatively short half-lives. By 2124, the background radiation of the south coast is effectively no higher than anywhere else on Veranis. Sensitive instruments can still detect a faint trace here and there, but no more.

The biological weapons long ago lost most of their potency, in the natural course of evolution and adaptation. An occasional mutation revives one of the ancient artificial plagues in a new form, but this is only an echo of what once was.

The most enduring damage was from various chemical weapons, which had no inherent time limit. Still, wind and rain have diluted them, washed them out to sea, and buried them. Life is again thriving across the south coast.

What significant cities exist in the Southlands in 2124 mostly are to be found on the south coast, as well. Most of these cities are actually more like large towns, few of them have a population greater than ten thousand people. The lands have great potential, however, and it is likely that with the passage of time some of these towns could become major cities.

The largest and most prosperous of these towns are located on the shores of the great southern gulf, and they are the main seaports of the Southlands as well. The fisheries to the south of the Southlands are thriving and rich, and a major industry in this part of Veranis is fishing. Oceanic fish provide a substantial part of the diet of a typical south coast resident, and some of the fish is exported to the Northlands and the equatorial continents, as well.

Even before the Thakarians came, the reviving Vertaran population of Veranis had returned to the seas long since. The Northlanders, especially, had mastered open ocean travel and had sent sailing vessels all over the planet, and along the south coast of the Southlands, long before the Thakarians came. Along with trade and commerce, of course, piracy also happened.

As happened on Earth, both in Antediluvian times and then again in the Age of Piracy, such piracy needed markets and a base. On Veranis, before the coming of the Thakarians, the greatest pirate haven on the planet was the city of Caliak.

Caliak is actually located on a small, mountainous island of the same name off the western coast of the Northlands. It is about thirty kilometers off the west coast of the continent, and the island is a sliver of land about thirty kilometers long (mostly north-south) and about half that wide. Sheer cliffs face the ocean along most of the coast of the island, ranging in height from twenty meters to two hundred meters.

There is one place where a gap in the cliffs opens into a sheltered bay, with a valley beyond the bay possessing fresh water and arable soil. The combination of a good harbor and a habitable location let to the formation of Caliak settlement, which became Caliak Town and then Caliak City. This city also became a pirate haven. Much as Port Royal in Jamaica, or the island of Tortuga, had once been on Earth, Caliak City was the place with pirates could find shelter, sell their loot, restock and repair their ships, and spend their profits on wine, women, and song (among other things).

The location was both hospitable, and also defensible. The gap in the cliffs that opened into the interior valley was narrow, and the sea approaches were filled with rocks and shoals, treacherous currents and whirlpools. Cannon emplacements on the cliffs could rain projectiles on hostile ships, while remaining secure within the caves and dugouts on the cliffs. A siege was not guaranteed to work, because Caliak City had access to local fresh water and food. Cutting off their trade might have brought them to heel, but they could not have been starved out.

Still, that alone would not have protected Caliak City forever. Other factors were also in play.

As with Port Royal, Caliak City was not a stand-alone phenomenon. For one thing, the huge amounts of money flowing through the pirate haven could be used to bribe officials, or buy goods and services from mainland merchants. There were people on the mainland who had motives to look the other way. Some pirates made alliances with various mainland states, becoming privateers. This too provided some insulation to Caliak City.

Moreover, the western coasts of the Northlands, in those days, were ruled by a state called Nysora. They were a medium-rank power among the states of the Northlands, but they had a substantial navy, and Caliak City, while nominally independent, was more or less under the protection of the Nysoran navy.

This was why the navies of the other Northlands states, such as Catakatia, did not destroy the pirate haven in response to the depredations of the pirate captains. The other states could certainly have either conquered or destroyed Caliak City, in spite of their defenses. It would have been expensive in blood and treasure, but so were the depredations of the pirates.

The risk of war with Nysora, though, argued against precipitate action.

Caliak City was not a safe place in those days, as one might expect. As a crossroads of piracy and privateering, it was a violent, dirty, corrupt place. The real rulers of the city were the most powerful pirate chieftains, and some of the wealthiest merchants who profited from them. Together, they formed a sort of unofficial council. They kept a rough peace and calm in the streets, violence was common and sudden and the peace was always tenuous.

Still, though Caliak City was dangerous, it was also profitable, and it was reaching new levels of prosperity when the Thakarians arrived.

MORE LATER.
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