July 29th 2014
For most of Humanity, the system of Rihlah was known as a former military bastion located one jump beyond the Perry Line, although it was not always that way. The Xi’an are very clinical when it comes to expanding into other systems, and Rihlah’s initial industrial focus is no exception. With the rise of the Human threat, Rihlah was converted into a major staging area for Xi’an military forces, and the system’s two worlds were redesigned with this purpose in mind. Massive barracks facilities, training yards and munitions plants came to populate the system. If the Xi’an Empire had ever gone into all-out war with Earth, Rihlah would have been a key strategic launch point.
Today, however, Rihlah is a star example of the thawing of relations between the Xi’an and Human Empires. With the increase in trade and other relations between the powers, the ready-made invasion force has been withdrawn and Rihlah has been formally redistricted into its original purpose as an industrial zone. The conversion, and the integration of Humans on the system’s planets, have had an interesting effect and resulted in a particularly unique place for Human visitors to explore (within some very specific limits).
Cosmologically, Rihlah is an A4 main sequence star with a thick green band capable of supporting a pair of large ecosystems. Jump points lead to both Human and Xi’an worlds, although the latter are kept uncharted on all official maps shared with the UEE. While the bulk of the fighting force has been withdrawn from Rihlah, a well-trained border defense force remains, making it an inopportune point for smugglers hoping to break into Xi’an space.
The first three planets in the system are largely unremarkable. Rihlah I is a rocky, star-swept protoplanet incapable of supporting any known form of life. Rihlah II is a gas giant with a large radius but a very low density that’s unusual due to its proximity to the star. Rihlah III is an Earth-sized world with a rapid daily orbit, a very thin atmosphere and a surface of dense, jagged rock, making it an unlikely candidate for terraformation.
The fourth planet in the Rihlah System, called Shorvu was terraformed to serve as a barracks world: dotted with facilities to train and house military ground forces as well as mid-range weapons factories capable of equipping them. With the drawdown of the last century, the military factories of Shorvu have been methodically dismantled and replaced with corporate industrial zones (the very sight of which is a fascinating process, as massive machines strip structures for repurposing).
Today, the conversion into an industrial world is nearly complete. Although there remain scars of the former military occupation everywhere, Xi’an corporations have moved to Shorvu in force. Unlike most Xi’an worlds, Humans are encouraged to visit Shorvu, via a landout in the industrial complex at Yahti, a former troop-training megapolis. This was a calculated decision on the part of the Xi’an governance: corporations needing to interact with Humans are given tax breaks to establish offices in Yahti, keeping Human intrusion into Xi’an space to an absolute minimum. The result is a corporate “office park” with outlets occupied by the big players, from shipbuilders like MISC and Aopoa all the way to food processing companies and simple import/export barristers.
Shorvu also buys outside goods to fuel their industrial development. Heavy metals as well as a variety of electronics are in demand here, and the population has become acclimatized to purchasing these from Human transports where necessary.
Called Xi (“zee”) by the natives, Rihlah V is technically classified as a Xi’an Habitation World. A natural super-Earth, Xi is a temperate planet roughly 3.5 times the size of Humanity’s homeworld. Like any Xi’an focus planet, Xi’s dedication to a single task has produced ultra-ordered results unlike anything you might find orbiting a Human star. Though Xi is densely populated, Xi’an efficiently inhabit the world’s dozens of massive cityscapes.
The exception is Corilla, a smaller city surrounded by dense tropical rainforests. Open to outsiders, Corilla has become a de-facto trading post where interested Xi’an can interact with Human, Banu and Tevarin shipmasters. Over the years, Corilla has become home to a distinct community of UEE expatriates and political refugees, who have begun to subtly merge their distinct Human culture amidst the city’s standard Xi’an hab-world architecture. UEE law enforcement has no jurisdiction in Xi’an space, and so it has become a popular place to ‘hide in plain sight.’
Visitors are warned not to try and explore other regions of the planet, for both sociological and practical reasons. In the case of the former, Xi’an culture remains extremely xenophobic, and Humans are absolutely not welcome in settlements beyond Corilla and anyone caught in another settlement will be immediately arrested. Additionally, it is generally impossible to simply walk out of Corilla: the settlement’s surrounding rainforests are impassible and are stocked with a variety of toxic plants and deadly animals.
From the surface of Rihlah VI, the system’s distant dwarf worldlet, the light from Rihlah’s star is barely visible. This is not, of course, something the typical traveler would ever experience due to the strict travel restrictions in place.
Do not attempt to land outside of designated Human zones. While this order is not always rigidly enforced, the Xi’an military has a standing shoot-on-sight order for Humans found in unauthorized areas of the system.
“There’s something liberating about living outside your culture. Especially when your home has refused to rise up against the whims of a despot. I don’t know. Twenty-five years in Corilla and that sense of freedom has never waned.”
- Maximilian Desco, award-winning author of This Way to the Lost, 2752
“That is the beauty of function. Although it may seem static, time changes all things. What is useful one day, might be useless the next. The trick is to recognize that nature of function and have the power to change it.”
- Excerpt from the Li’toua, Edward Ciardi (translation)