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Persephone (AP-02095)

Editor’s note: This was recovered from an archive of a website, called “AVANTHAR”, but no further information is available. It appeared in the May/June 2023 issue.

Persephone (Lunion:Spinward Marches/2228)
B775833-A W 922Re M2V
B4A-0 502-8NA0-2A Re3
g=.7962 day=26:03:35.06; year=64d 19:10:59.75/59d 16:15:46.60
atmos=.92, natural weather
Temp=0 (6/lat +18 to -42) (season 17 to -26, 16 deg lat)
daily temp range 15
Agricultural; Durables; Recordings, Software, Documents
Conservative/Indifferent, Expansionistic/Militant, Monolithic/Aloof
Legal 3-40535, Tech AA-AAA99-AAAB-AA-D

Persephone has always been noted as just a whistle-stop on the Strouden—Glisten xboat route. Most traders, pre-Collapse and today, don’t even bother to land on Persephone itself. Instead, they merely refuel at the Gas Giant Demeter (diameter: 84,329 km), which Persephone orbits.

A flotilla of ships and small space stations, greeting the local traveller near Demeter’s northern polar regions, glistens like red stars against the planetary tempests below. This flotilla serves a vital purpose for local traffic: providing fuel (both refined and unrefined) and basic repair services, which the small, TL A local starport cannot provide. The flotilla is a transient affair, growing with increasing traffic through Persephone, shrinking as traffic weakens.

There is no organization in the flotilla: each and every ship is a law onto itself. There are a few common characteristics shared by nearly all of the thousand or so ships and stations: they are all registered with nearby Strouden (Lunion: Spinward Marches/2327 A745988-D), never set foot on Persephone itself, and have a running vendetta against the local Persephone System Guard regarding taxes and tarrifs. Although hostilities between the Guard and the flotilla rarely break out in violence, there is a near continual game of hide-and-seek between them. The Guard strives to record every major transaction while the flotilla conspires to hide “the big stuff” from the Guard and their ugly taxes.

Approaching Persephone, the casual traveller can easily make out the Dam Aspshii, a major sea covering ? of the world’s surface. This circular sea is widely believed to have been the result of either a massive impact crater or the work of the local Keo Neseb civilization. While my scout ship (the R.S.S Aurora) did not dock at the high port, we did take a pass. The port seems to be nothing but a long communication antenna, with a stub at the end for insystem shuttles and living space.

The small size of Persephone Lowport—it can hold a grand total of 1600 displacement tons worth of craft—is fabled throughout the subsector. I counted at least 47 craft on my sensors waiting to land. According to legend, a messenger with an Imperial Warrant, waiting to speak to the King himself, was left waiting in orbit for 52 hours as traffic untangled itself. One large merchant, which needed the entire starport to land, waited for an entire month until finally the port was freed for landing. The fact that the port can only repair ships to TL A does not endear it any more deeply to hard-pressed merchantmen.

The current activist monarch, Queen Ashki, is laying plans to expand the starport drastically. Already construction has begun on a new starport just outside of the system capital of Ki Didimgamu, finally laying to rest the jokes of a “starport smaller than a tirken’s mouth”. (especially since the Moran tirken doesn't even have a mouth, just a small, noticable pore.)

My pilot waited two hours in orbit, but we finally landed at the Scout Way Station rather than the Lowport. The station administrator laughed at my troubles, and she promptly swamped me with tales of ‘backyard landings’ and ‘running touchdowns’, leaving me helpless with laughter.

The next day, I took an air/raft to the Lowport. If you examine the Law Code closely, you’ll realise that there is no trade law on Persephone. This makes for cutthroat trading, indeed. It also makes Persephone The Source for all sorts of goodies you can’t find anywhere else in the subsector. I recommend that only experienced traders visit Persephone’s Giilumadgii Trade District, people who know what they’re doing.

The careful reader will also have noted that there are no crystals, ores, or metals that are mined on Persephone. This is because the old resources were mined out by a long-dead civilization called the Keo Neseb. An insectoid race, looking more like a giant praying mantis than anything else, they originated on Penkwar (Lunion: Spinward Marches/2128 X978000-0), a Red Zone world a parsec from Persephone. They seem to have reached their apex about eight million years ago, and most likely changed Persephone’s and Harvosette’s atmospheres to their current states. No one knows what has become of them, although a few archeological digs were made on Penkwar.

Among the most important changes that has occurred on Persephone is a change of personality. For centuries, Persephonians were considered “Unaggressive/Peaceable" rather than the current "Expansionistic/Militant". However, the old easygoing attitude dissapeared due to the great (local) economic crash of 1179. The people, led by the young, aggressive Queen, have changed drastically, so don’t trust the old starman tales or out-of-date guidebooks.

Giilumadgii itself—the major startown on Persephone—is a rather pretty town of 72,000, set in the Aziramam Badlands, a heavily forested, cold region in the southern hemisphere of Persephone. The Persephonians themselves are rather distant from outworlders. While always polite, I have never seen one smile in my presence. Outside of Giilumadgii, children run from me and my crew, and adults only answer my questions exactly, forceing me to dig to learn anything.

It should be noted here that Galanglic is spoken only to foreginers. Among themselves, Vilani is the common tongue. My Tobian engineer, who speaks Vilani himself, claimes that Persephonian Vilani is strongly accented, but still can be understood: but the written language is something else entirely! Apparently, their elegant script, using glyphs and symbols to stand for particular ideas, is not related to written Vilani at all. This greatly surprised me: almost always, the spoken word changes but the written word remains highly stable. It certainly doesn’t morph into something completely different. I fear that it would take years for a foreginer to master written “Persephonian”.

The locals’ name for their world is Mudemzalushush, but they call themselves Ushamai (as do their related folks at Harvosette (Lunion: Spinward Marches/2129 C330737-9)). Local cities are not domed arcologies as on most worlds with tainted atmospheres, but rather like a warren of long steel corridors, with houses and public spaces being dome “nodes” connected by one or two corridors. [Incidentally, the airborne taint—which takes about a day of exposure before convulsive vomiting begins, leading eventually to death by dehydration—is exactly the same as on Harvosette, only with greater concentration there.] The domes are always above ground; the corridors may be above or below ground.

In private homes, the walls have engravings and are painted with bright abstract patterns. Some of the more traditional people still put up “wood” veneers from the local flora. The wealthier folk buy offworld holographic projectors. In the very few elite homes I was allowed to enter (exactly two: both actually owned by offworlders) the new fashion is to embed the walls with strips of black marble, with white or silver engravings on them.

I feel that a brief summary of local history would not be amiss to the casual traveller, so here goes. The Persephonians first settled here during the 420's, as political/religious refugees from Corridor. Here, they created their society around Gekashiishaa (their political/economic ideology) and Naminalus (their religious beliefs). They prospered and ‘kept balance’ for centuries until the Second Civil War, when Glisten was lost to the wicked Aslan. The loss of Glisten slashed trade volume through Persephone, striking an economic blow to Persephone that slowly, inevitabily let to the Crisis of 1179. Then, the newly coronated Queen saved her crown and Persephone independence fron their creditors, at the cost of general living standards. Her expansionist policies have brought Persephone a new spirit of greatness and hope, but most people still have not recovered back to pre-Crash years.

I eventually found myself in Kigiirpaku Limis, the major holy site on Persephone, and home to seven million priests, acloytes, confessors and attendant bureaucrats. Unlike most cities, Kigiirpaku is set in a arcological bubble covering the entire city, allowing a freedom of movement hard to find in Persephone cities. An unfortunate side effect, though, is that local temperature control is poor (whether deliberate or not, I don’t know), so the heat from the noonday sun really cooks.

The local faith—called “Naminalus”, related to a Vilani word for Balancing—centres on a triune God, but composed of Time/Space/Energy rather than the Christian conception of Father/Son/Spirit. The goal of the Naminalii Kuk Kusili—a follower of Naminalus, or “Maintainer of the Balance”—is to maintain the Balance demanded by God, by keeping the forces of Time, Space and Energy in Balance throughout their life. By doing so, a form of immortality is granted to the believer, being merged with the “Universal Balance” that all life depends on.

For a long time, the priests of Naminalus was concerned only with fellow believers on Persephone, Harvosette and Strouden. But now, as the old faith in Gekashiishaa fades away, the Queen—a strong believer—is urging the priesthood to spread the faith, to help restore Balance throughout the Regency, and eventually—especially—throughout the ex-Imperial Wilds. “Seekers” (Naminalusian missionaries) are now being sent throughout the subsector, and are causing quite a bit of comment, both good and bad.

Finally, I went to Ki Didimgamu, the capital of Persephone. An undersea city, set under Une Didimgamu (Lake Didimgamu), it houses 138 million people and is the largest city on Persephone. It is very much a Royal city, proud of its Vilani heritage. Most prevelant here is the Digamu, the ruling elite of Persephone, and their entourange. One of the most surprising aspects here is the absolute ease that the richly dressed rulers move through the commoners, many without any bodyguards.

Among the strangest sounds I have heard in my 24-year career as a scout was the Mortiousa Melody, often heard in the poorer quarters of the city. The best I can describe it is as a combination of Latin Chant and Cantonese Popsongs, with a fast samba beat. I have no idea how the poor folks sleep at night, it sounds so bad to my ears. Moreover, it is a tradition to never let the song die, but to pass it on from singer to singer.

As a lark, I sent a video message to the Palace, presenting myself as a Regency Scout asking for an interview. And not only was their a response, but the answer was yes! Well, a virtual interview, anyway. The contents of the interview is available elsewhere, but I can vouch for the fact that the Queen is quite a remarkable woman, with a strong ‘presence’ that is unmistakable.

Queen Ashki is a good example of how a minor noble can dominate a subsector, if the political enviroment permits it.

In 1179, Ashki inherited a bankrupt government from her father, King Shi (1094—1167; Ashki was Queen Presumptive under a regency from 1167 until her majority and coronation in 1179). For centuries Gekashiishaa, a ancient form of Vilani communism (it originated at Diaspora, at -7200 Imperial), worked well on Persephone.

The unexpected loss of Glisten in the early 1120s slashed revenue to Persephone, and the enormous bureaucracy failed to react quickly or creatively enough to avoid the long-term consequences, which persist even though Glisten was completely liberated and returned to Regency control only a decade later.

In 1179, Ashki became Queen of Persephone. Two months later, Persephone’s four main creditors arrived at her palace for discussions on debt servicing. But, Persephone could give no more without threatening the very stability of her society, and the Crown itself. So she recieved an ultimatum… “Turn over the administration of your government to us” [Give us your crown] or “Slash social spending.” [And face the planetary equivelant of the Rebellion and Collapse] or “Declare bankruptcy” [And have your crown stripped from you by the Archduke, for dereliction of Duty.]

Queen Ashki choose to end social spending, but in a way that kept her crown on her head.

Basically, she maneouvered the political situation so that not only did her political and ideological enemies, the leaders of the Old Order, receive the blame for the financial crunch, they also had to publicly sign the documents that ended the old system of Gekashiishaa. Moreover, in a stunning move, the Queen held them personally liable for the debt, and confiscated all their property and wealth to pay for it. All this at the tender age of 21.

After destroying the Old Order—by implication, but never by openly challenging it—Queen Ashki began to establish her New Order—again by her actions, rather than proclimation.

She surrounded herself with wealthy, aggressive young men whose destiny she controlled with steel smiles and velvet words. The priests who she favoured did not wish to perfect their inner faith, like the old establishment wanted. The “New Balance” required the conversion of offworlders, rather than “keeping your own life clean next to the spiritually dying, crying out for help and Balance in their lives”.

Those who suffered the most in the nameless New Order were mocked and attacked ruthlessly if they dared complain. Very few even understood what was going on, as the situation was so novel in their 770-year history that their wasn’t even a name for it, or a word to describe it. Those that did understood could do nothing: their leadership was disgraced, their ideology in ruins.

By 1190 the economy was finally recovering. With the death of Gekashiishaa a new, vigourous society was being born. In this society freedom reined, with one limit: never challange the elite, the Digamu. The drive of this society was for raw, unlimited wealth and power, cloaked/limited by an extreme piety to the High God and His Balance. Anyone could rise as high as they can, but if you fall, not a hand will be given in aid. A lot better than the old 100% income taxes. A lot crueler than the excellent old health care system, free to all.

In 1193, Queen Ashki again sent a political earthquake throughout Persephone, when she sent out most of Persephone’s 70 million-man army to fight on Florine (District 268: Spinward Marches/1533, D312975-A), a balkanized world on the edge of the Aslan New Lord territories. Currently, Florine is involved in a bitter civil war with pro-Aslan, pro-Regency, and pro-Independent factions (among others). The decision to send Persephone troops to war under the Imperial Banner electrified the planet at the time, providing a potent kick of patriotism. The troops are still there, but now mainly as garrison troops.

[This is the first time that Persephone’s army has fought (in anything tougher than police actions) in 360 years, and the first time ever that the Army has left the subsector.]

From 1195, the Queen, now sure of herself in the interstellar sphere, began to promote Persephone interests throughout the subsector. Diplomats and missionaries have been sent as far as the Consulate and the coreward Vargr states. Several major deals with large subsector corporations are turning Persephone into a hub of industry and activity. Her Royal Majesty is promoting large families, to increase population and become a major contender for the title of subsector capital.

The Queen feels that the greatest limitation to future Persephone greatness is tech level limitations and the fact that Glisten (Glisten: Spinward Marches/2036 A000986-F) has still not completely recovered from Aslan occupation, limiting commerce through Persephone. To remedy this, she is openly courting TL B and C companies to shift their operations to Persephone, via tax breaks, stressing the lack of trade laws and regulations of any kind, and the low, low wages that Persephonians are willing to accept. Slowly but surely, interest is picking up. She is certain that a critical point is nearing that will change Persephone forever, as high-tech companies move in.

As for Glisten, she is pulling strings in both Naval circles and at the Archduke’s palace to create a naval base at Persephone, and to rebuild trade through Glisten. As for Virus, we all know that Virus has died out back in the wilds, now don’t we? This ain’t 1130, after all.

This year (1202), she has just bought four TL B, 350-displacement-ton traders to handle increasing traffic. The new starport will be ready within the year. And the Naminolus religion is spreading throughout Strouden. The only fly in the bottle remains the new subsector governor, Subsector Governor Anthony E. Prentice-Hall, who attempts to stymie her every move. He endlessly proclaims, in his nasal whine, that Persephone is upsetting the entire subsector economy, with the possibility of a major economic shift in power and economic consequences which no one can forsee or control.

In subsector affairs, she has increasingly sided with Strouden (Lunion: Spinward Marches/2327 A745988-D) against Adabicci (Lunion: Spinward Marches/1824 A571896B-B) and the subsector capital of Lunion (Lunion: Spinward Marches 2124 A995984-D). This increasing acrimony is dividing the subsector into two competing blocs, and massive gridlock in the subsector government houses. The subsector Duke is attempting to calm the subsector with ineffectual meetings and soothing words, but it isn’t working.

Among her other drives, she is attempting to persuade the sector nobility to help her convince the Archduke to declare himself Emperor. She feels that this would give a strong boost to the fortunes of the Nobility, and promote the drive to reunify the Empire. Both of which are “Good Things” from her perspective.

She is angling for a promotion, eventually as Duchess of Persephone Subsector, but right now as Countess of Ushama. As Countess, she would have authority over nearby Penkwar (Lunion: Spinward Marches/2128 X978000-0) and Harvosette (Lunion: Spinward Marches/2129 C330737-9). Harvosette and Persephone share a culture—Ushama—and have the same system of rule; Harvosette was a colony of Persephone from the 870s to the 960s. Of course, only the Emperor can grant new noble patents… but maybe Regents can do so, too. Queen Ashki is trying out both avenues.

Finally, as Champion of the Widows, she is involved in several major charities throughout the subsector. She also promotes several events, both throughout the subsector and on Persephone, to bring the plight of widows (and widowers) to public attention.