Siculi

Siculi is a barren planet covered in sinkhole lakes and affected by intermittent geological activity caused by torsional stress from its largest moon (which is half Siculi's size but twice as heavy). These lakes (called "droon") are used to harvest an energy rich algal material called Protoalgia - it's bright orange colour is visible from orbit. The largest droon have settlements along their edges where the people reside. The inhabitants are almost all part of the labour gangs that work on the massive processoria, floating factory barges that extract and export the protoalgia. Unfortunately none of the inhabitants can consume the protoalgia as it requires complex processing and combination with other materials before it can be safely ingested. This ironically means that the Agri world has to import its own food. Once put through processing on other planets protoalgia becomes a highly energy efficient foodstuff, and is shipped out to many parts of the Imperium.

In fact, food is so important to the people of Siculi that it has become the unofficial monetary system, corpsewafers forming the hard currency. Religious Celebrations are held as large feasts, and ritual food consumption is seen as holy.

The governor lives on the smallest moon in the only spaceport, and rarely descends to the planet's surface. This leaves the planet to the control of the Guilds, massive companies that control most of the harvesting and other (limited) business opportunities. This control has led to riots and rebellions in the past, so the people need to be watched if the supply of protoalgia is to continue.

The Adeptus Mechanicus have a small research station on the largest moon, ostensibly there to study the relationship between the moon and the planet (considering their abnormal densities). They have also sent a few research teams into the droon to catalogue the bizarre organisms found there and to do geological surveys of the sinkhole themselves. Several expeditions (using expendable local help of course) have disappeared whilst others have recorded strange energy readings in the deepest droon.

An uneasy population and planet combined with the highly sought after protoalgia, have created a precarious existence. A seemingly indolent Governor, corrupt Guilds, and an underground freedom moment coupled with the strange readings from the deepest droon and the planet is ripe for investigation.

+++PLANETARY DATA+++

EQUATORIAL CIRCUMFRENCE: 27,961 Miles.

GRAVITY: 0.8G.

CLASS: Agri-world.

SUBSECTOR: Adrantis

YEAR LENGTH IN DAYS: Longstride: 422 Shortshank: 370 - due to the strange affect the largest moon (Siculi tertius) has on the planet, every second year is shorter than the previous one. The gravitational force required to do this is immense, and so it affects the geological stability of the planet.

DAY LENGTH IN TERRAN HOURS: 22.

SATELLITES: Two moons. The smallest (siculi secondus) is the main space port for the planet, and also used as the Governor's residence. It has a population of 20 million and is quite busy with continual flow through of merchantmen and the occasional navy patrol. The largest (siculi tertius) is inert and uninhabited except for a small Adeptus Mechanicus research station examining the moon's unusual relationship with the planet.

There is something unnatural about the relationship between the largest moon and Siculi itself. The moon shouldn't be as dense as it is, and Siculi shouldn't be as light as it is. The research station on the moon has had little luck scanning past the first few kilometres of the moon's surface, but it is altogether too smooth - its mean surface irregularity is only 50 metres.

POPULATION: 250,000,000+. The sparse population live in sprawling dockworks around the edges of the planet's droon (the local name for the massive lake networks covering the planet). The majority of them live in stark conditions, continually tending to the protoalgia blooms growing across the droon surface in their processoria; massive floating refineries continually harvesting and re-seeding the droon for export to the wider Imperium.

MEAN SURFACE TEMPERATURE: 10°C.

TROPOSPHERIC COMPOSITION: Nitrogen 74%, Oxygen 22%, Sulphur Dioxide 1%, Ozone 1%, Carbon Dioxide 2%.

PLANETARY GOVERNER: Gherloch Murdugn lives on the smallest moon, Siculi Minor (or Gervpoot as known by the inhabitants in their pidgin gothic, literally "Governor's Rump" due to the unfortunate shape of the moon and their opinion of the Governor). He rarely visits Siculi, sending instead his appointed magistrates to the surface to enforce Imperial Law (usually backed up by a unit of enforcers or even Arbites on rare occasions) and ensure the Tithe Quota is maintained. Many are honest adepts, who believe that their service is vital to the Emperor and Imperium, but some use their power for personal gain, and are even rumoured to possess their own small enforcer armies bought with ill-gotten funds. This is a potential threat to the Governor's power, but every now and then a Magistrate will meet with an accident whilst planetside, although whether this is the will of the Governor or rival Magistrates is unknown. Certainly those who have met the Governor describe him as a vapid buffoon, although there are some who claim this is a ruse to keep his enemies complacent around him.

The Governor's position is hereditary (although only if they have an heir) and he mostly insulated from the settlements on the planet itself.

RELIGION: The hardy people of Siculi have little time for piety, as their lives are full with the Endless Harvest. When they do congregate to honour the Emperor, they do so at raucous family or guild feasts, the ritualised act of consuming the meal seen as a particularly holy event.

CLIMATE: The planet is known for its gales and dust storms that sweep the planet almost continuously. The barren landscape produces an abrasive wind of silica that eats away at anything in its path. As Longstride turns to Shortshank (known as Strideturn) the winds pick up and geological instability increases. Sometimes massive earthquakes split the ground and drain droon into underground caverns. On rare occasions the massive processoria and their crews will be sucked down as well.

CLIMATIC REGIONS: The poles are distinct white pockmarked caps. For some reason the planet's only known volcanic activity occurs at both poles, creating a network of frozen droon separated by magma flows and volcanic upheavals.

SEAS: The most notable features of Siculi are its lakes. There are no oceans on the planet at all, just thousands of lakes (or droon), ranging in only a few dozen metres in width to several thousand kilometres. The most peculiar thing about these lakes is that they are exceedingly deep; although the average is a kilometre, the shallowest reach one hundred metres, and the deepest surveyed reach almost twenty kilometres in depth. Each water body sits in a sheer walled sink hole produced by the upheaval of Strideturn. There are 37 major droon, with over a thousand secondary droon and tens of thousands of minor droon. The nominal capital of the planet (in that it is the biggest settlement) is Feendrohl situated on the second largest Droon on the planet. The largest droon, Grhaan, has been uninhabited for the last 1000 years since the entire city and all the processoria on it disappeared during Strideturn. No geological cause was ever found for its disappearance and the people refused to repopulate it, declaring it cursed. Despite this there are some who are greedy or desperate enough to covertly harvest the protoalgia that grows and rots on its surface. Some never return. The people are tied so closely to their droon that the name of the people and settlement is the same. Thus each settlement is named for the droon it occupies.

The droon have been scanned with limited submersible activity and strange energy readings have been found in several of the largest ones. The biggest, Ghraan, has produced the greatest consternation and mystery, both through the disappearing of an entire settlement, but also through the fusion signatures coming from its depths.

TERRA-FORMING: Only limited manipulation has occurred, mainly in the form of massive shallow canals. Sometimes an upheaval shifts the currents and takes the protoalgia with it, other times another close droon will produce a particularly good harvest. Thus temporary canals are built between the droon to allow the processoria to exploit them.

NATIVE FLORA AND FAUNA: The land is mostly barren, with no vegetative material to reinforce the soil it blows away in the winds. There are some small invertebrates, but the only animal of any real size is the Dirt Kelt. This is a bizarre creature, almost two metres in length. It moves rarely, and when it does it burrows through the sand and any rock in its way, using its stomach acids to dissolve them. The creature has backward pointing overlapping spines to give it grip as it moves through the ground and a tail separated into five articulated digits a third of its length, each covered in spines and barbs. These are used to anchor itself in its tunnels and give it a sudden burst of speed when needed Its head is little more than a knob on the back of its spine. It feeds by everting its oesophagus through the ground to the surface, and unfurling oversized cilia in all directions so that it looks like a disturbing fleshy flower. When a surface organisms' distinctive vibrations and electrical pattern stimulate these cilia they will contract suddenly, simultaneously causing a peristaltic convulsion that floods the surface with potent acids. Many an unwary human has lost their foot to this disgusting creature.

Some magos biologis have speculated that the dirt kelt is descended from the fauna found at depth in the droon, and is the first air breathing vertebrate to have evolved on the planet.

The droon have a slightly richer biota, but it generally lives at depth, no less than 50 metres. None of the animals come to the surface normally, and thus don't generally pose a threat to the Endless Harvest of protoalgia. Several dozen droonsharks have been catalogued by the biologis, ranging from one to twenty metres in length. They all invariably exhibit an anguilliform swimming pattern and possess a rather well developed tail fluke reinforced with five ossified rays. Their main weapon is an elastic oesophagus. Part way down the oesophagus is an ossified ring with protruding spines that can be rippled through muscle contraction. The droonshark moves up behind its prey and everts its oesophagus, harpooning its prey with the spines. The muscles then contract and pulsate, rolling the prey down the oesophagus like a conveyor belt.

Some of those who return from Grhaan droon babble about the father of droonsharks, over one hundred metres long with a mouth large enough to swallow a small processoria. So far no specimen has been captured and most put it down to the curse that lies on Grhaan.

The dartfish is despite its name, a rather large and slow amorphous organism, its pulsating medusa-like dorsal surface reaching almost 30 metres in diameter. It drifts leisurely through the water using its highly developed electroreceptors to pinpoint the location of its prey. Once this has been determined it shoots a dart (from whence it gets its name) on a long tentacle toward the target, harpooning it and dragging it back toward its oral cavity.

ALIEN FLORA AND FAUNA: Apart from the protoalgia, the only non native organisms have survived for any length of time are ambul, accidentally transferred from other planets through merchant drops. Their numbers have remained surprisingly low, although it doesn't appear if they will die out of their own accord.

In the human settlements a variety of vermin from all over the imperium live, inhabiting the lower parts of the cities, and the sewer networks.

ECONOMY: Almost all the population of Siculi belong to one of the great Harvest Guilds as there is very little else of value on the planet. They crew the processoria as they endlessly move up and down the droon harvesting the protoalgia.

The guilds control most of the trade through the planet, using their power and influence to get their hands in whatever business appears. Construction and engineering are the most common non-harvest enterprises, geared entirely to maintaining the droon settlements and keeping the processoria afloat.

Some guilds have purchased expensive submersible barges from the Adeptus Mechanicus in an attempt to corner the market in droonshark meat. As the people of Siculi have a rather bland diet, these guilds don't just have financial reasons for these ventures. So far the danger of being damaged by the larger droonsharks or punctured by one of the dartfish has limited these operations to a descent depth of only 200 metres.

The sole export of the planet is protoalgia. In fact, if it wasn't for this one single commodity, Seculis wouldn't even be classed as an Agri-world at all. Protoalgia is a type of algae or fungus that grows on the surface of the droon across the planet. From orbit the bright orange colour gives the planet a rather bizarre appearance. Despite the less than inviting environment the protoalgia thrives, and requires little to help it grow. When they spore it is carried by the winds across the globe, seeding all the water bodies everywhere. The processoria suck up the protoalgia into massive processing machinery used to render it into its raw form. This is dried and packaged for export to various parts of the Imperium where it is refined with other materials to make it edible.

It is an unfortunate irony of Siculi that it produces billions of tonnes of produce, but that its own people are unable to eat it. Protoalgia is toxic in its natural form, and only through special chemical processes unavailable on Siculi and combination with other essential components is it rendered edible. Such elaborate measures are only willingly undertaken because protoalgia is one of the most efficient energy sources available to the Imperium, and it ships the final rendered form throughout the galaxy, and some say even the astartes themselves make use of it because of its energy output per gram. Siculi is one of the few places it is known to grow.

Thus it is that food has become a valuable economic commodity, and the Siculi go so far as to use it as their currency. Unable to eat the food they unendingly harvest, the Siculi must import supplies (which of course does not include reprocessed protoalgia as it is far too expensive and useful being fed to the lesser servants of the Imperium) from offworld, almost entirely made from reconstituted corpsestarch. The corpsewafer has become the unofficial currency of the people of the droon, used in place of useless metal coinage.

This is why feasts and food in general are associated with the Emperor as a divine luxury.

The starport on Siculi secondus uses Scintillian currency and looks down with patronising sighs at the use of food as a currency by the planetdwellers.

SOCIETY: The droon people are very closely knit tied together through family bonds and labour gang blood ties. They protect their own from outsiders, and are wary of offworlders. The settlements are run by a Guild Council ostensibly voted for (but generally paid for) comprising multiple different Guilds to prevent any one from dominating. It is the guilds and their staff that have access to the more complicated technologies, and their enforcers are paid to protect it. The droon families have little more complicated than a vox, and weapons are generally limited to simple pistols and a lead pipe or three.

In the past there have been some rebellions due to food shortages. The Governor and his magistrates generally let the populace vent their anger at the Guilds (being safe as they are on Siculi secondus) until the food supplies return.

A more dangerous threat are the Droon Brothers, a secret group who believe the Guild's have lied to the Droon people about protoalgia and that it doesn't require such elaborate processing to be eaten. They claim this was a deception to keep the people under Guild control and reliant on external food supplies. They have set up secret home laboratories in an attempt to create a safe form of protoalgia in order to liberate their people from Guild oppression.

WATER SUPPLY: Because food supplies come in from off world, they are funnelled through the Guilds who in turn are selective of which families receive it. Many have turned to bribery to receive an adequate supply, whilst others use less legal means to acquire it. Water requires treatment as the droon are rich in sulphur and methane, and the Guilds control the water treatment plants.

PRINCIPLE EXPORTS: Protoalgia.

PRINCIPLE IMPORTS: Food and limited manufactured goods.

COUNTRIES AND CONTINENTS: There are no real delineations between nations or kingdoms, but the people don't move around much and so each droon city is effectively its own state and territory.

CONFLICTS: Intermittent 'freedom fighting' and uprises against the Guilds happen on occasion. Sometimes Droon Families draw blood oaths against each other, and the droon become a small warzone.

DEFENCES: Most of the planetary defence is in orbit. Massive orbital batteries and torpedo silos surround the planet and its moons. Ground defence is ostensibly the responsibility of the Guilds and the enforcer troops they pay for and maintain.

IMPERIAL GUARD RECRUITMENT: There have been few regiments raised, and they have all unfortunately been beholden to the memory of the Siculi 1st. A thousand years ago the Governor wished to raise the profile of Siculi (and himself) and decided to send a regiment of guard. They were seen as a joke by most of the guard, and were left to defend the supply depots behind the lines. They would have been lost to the annals of history were it not for a single event. In an engagement against the greenskins, an ork blitzkrieg had against all odds smashed through the guard lines. They rampaged through the line eventually encountering the main guard supply depot. Sensing an easy target they descended in a horde upon the supply tents. What the captain of the Siculi 1st said to his men is not known, but popular belief has it as something like "Protect the Emperor's Holy Rations!" When the forward guard elements finally caught up to the horde, they found utter carnage. Not a single ork was alive, and not a single foodstore had been damaged. The Siculi 1st, paranoid about their food had thought the orks meant to steal it, and had fought to the last man to protect the Emperor's rations.

From then on all regiments raised from Siculi have the expectation of self sacrifice and fearlessness in the face of certain death planted firmly on their unwilling shoulders. "Firster" is common droon slang used to describe someone who is distinctly insane.

CONTACT WITH OTHER WORLDS: Siculi is part of the Tephaine System, and has close contact with the neighbouring worlds Tephaine, Tephaine Minor and Reth. The nearest major world is Baraspine.

Many thanks to Doug Newton-Walters for all his ideas about Siculi.

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