April 16th 2013
Astronomically speaking, Cathcart is basically void: an A-type dwarf star with no true planets and only a loosely defined chain of asteroids and worldlets orbiting far from the green band. In theory, there is no reason anyone should ever have lived here. What is now known as the galaxy’s junkyard came from humble beginnings. The system was first discovered in 2438 by wanted fugitive Adelaide Lorris, who many believe had been using the system as a hideout and only reported it when she saw explorers scanning near the jump point. She named the system after the Marshal who had been chasing her. While the UNE toyed with potential uses for Cathcart, they never actually claimed it. Ideas ranged from deep-space comm research to plans to construct a transportation hub, but ultimately the system became a dumping ground for the military.
The reasoning was simple: without planets or other major bodies, spacecraft could be easily stored without fear of disturbing a local populace or local ecosystems. A pair of pre-fab processing factories were towed in-system and for decades the system began collecting all varieties of obsolete military spacecraft: fighters “parked” in space, end to end for hundreds of kilometers; abandoned destroyers, cruisers, frigates and carriers; all stripped of various needed or classified systems, berthed together as far as the eye could see.
For two hundred years, the fields of garbage grew in Cathcart, out of sight and out of mind from the military command structure.
That’s where Cathcart’s history becomes fuzzy. The system had quickly become a ‘trash pile’ for the military and private industries to dump crippled hulls, toxic materials and all other varieties of odds and ends, but in 2750, a young Naval pilot tasked with depositing a fractured hull came across something unbelievable in the deep sea of garbage.
Unbeknownst to anyone, Cathcart had a well ensconced population. Individual outlaws and smaller packs had made the surplus military and civilian hulls their homes, retrofitting them with makeshift atmospheric containment systems and cutting out an unlikely living. But the station that came to be known as Spider was something on a scale not seen before. A sprawling world-sized mass of crippled starships, abandoned colonizers and ancient platforms, all held together with tape, metal and prayer. Spider’s origin story is more the realm of myth than recorded history. Clan legends claim its creation was overseen by tens of thousands of pirates and smugglers working alongside one another, lashing together old habitat modules, destroyers, carriers and colony ships to form a living, breathing city over time. Modern anthropologists consider this story unlikely, but whatever the background, Spider is now one of the most fascinating domains in space: by far the largest place in the galaxy where pirates openly congregate.
Nearing the middle of the 30th century, the outlaw population in Cathcart and the existence of Spider had survived the Messers to become a somewhat normalized element in the universe. With their proximity to Nexus system and several other Unclaimed systems, there were rumors that talks had begun to organize an independent Human government, of which Spider would be the prospective capital.
In 2931, that would all change. Dean Kellar’s infamous Run began as a bar fight on Spider and spilled into five systems and embroiled over three dozen participants. It was this raging battle of lawlessness that made the UEE realize that they needed to exert some control in that area.
Shortly after, they officially reclaimed Nexus system and swept out the inhabitants who had been living there. While many of them relocated to Cathcart and Taranis, a large force stayed, resolute to not give up their home so easily. They struck back at the occupying UEE populace in a terrifying way: the Walzer Massacre of 2935.
The UEE’s retaliation was swift. Convinced that supporters of the attack were congregating in Spider, the Navy launched an intensive bombing campaign to try and destroy the insurgents. The massive trash fields prevented the Navy from effectively targeting Spider, but casualties were still significant.
The first thing to remember is that Spider is always changing. The battleship fragment you docked with to purchase narcotics a month ago may be an agro-habitat today … or it may have been blown out into space after a pricing dispute with a no-nonsense buyer. Spider is also constantly expanding: junk located in Cathcart and crippled prize ships are added to the maze on a daily basis. Understandably, taking a wrong turn can be extremely hazardous to your health.
Establishing your credentials can be tricky. Without the right codes — available for the right price in surrounding systems — you won’t survive a minute from arrival in-system. While there is no organized government patrolling Cathcart, plenty of low-caliber pirates hang around the jump point waiting to prey on hapless travellers.
Traversing Spider itself can be a confusing blend of protocols and rituals. The station is primarily run by the three outlaw packs: Dace Clan, Fist & Nail and NKZ. While in their respective territories you will be subject to their rules, so don’t disrespect them.
Culture aboard Spider is deceptively pleasant: everyone knows themselves to be in the company of thieves and any business done is no more or less honest than you would find in a public square on Terra. Don’t anger the locals, of course, but that’s good advice on any world. One important note: every segment of Spider has a different decompression alarm … so watch for flashing lights, beeping sirens or anything that might be trying to get your attention … so don’t be separated from your helmet and pressure suit.
Travelers to Spider can access different docking ports with different passwords. Note that these expire quickly and that using an incorrect password can flag you as hostile!