March 15th 2015
Helios is the rare place in the settled galaxy where natural beauty can stand directly beside junkyards and military fortifications, with seemingly no overlap.
The star itself is partly to blame for this unusual variety of purposes. Helios is a Helium Strong type B star that produces powerful solar winds that wreak a peculiar type of havoc with ship sensors: even large capital ships are capable of ‘hiding’ in the star’s solar winds. Helios’ unusual photosphere also attracts countless scientists from around the Empire who have built a series of platforms close to the star to serve as labs and observation posts.
Helios’ discovery in 2509 certainly ranks as one of the livelier origin stories for a system and is the only one ever discovered by the Advocacy. An outlaw pack colorfully known as Daybreak Marauders had made a name for itself knocking over convoys in the Ellis System. As quickly and efficiently as the Marauders would attack and rob their prey, they would flee into the Taranis System then disappear without a trace. This went on for months. One business, Uros Shipping Concern, lost so much of their cargo that they went into debt hiring merc groups to safely escort their ships through the Ellis System — a debt that would ultimately drive the company into bankruptcy.
The Advocacy agents assigned to the case, Special Agents Avon Dorville and Gia Trask, were determined to hunt down this elusive pack. For months, the special agents tracked the Daybreak Marauders into Taranis only for them to escape again and again. When the Advocacy agents finally found their quarry, they were stunned to realize that the group hadn’t discovered a particularly effective route through Taranis’ asteroid belts. Instead, they had been using a previously unknown jump point to leave Taranis and hide out in what would come to be known as Helios.
Helios I is a dead planet that has no atmosphere, with only limited minerals that are difficult to access due to the world’s proximity to the star. Helios I was the site of a brief flurry of activity in 2937, when a scientific survey station actually crashed onto the planet’s surface. A daring rescue by members of the local garrison (modifying their fighters for high heat protection) saved six lives from a horrific death.
Helios II is an oceanic world with a greater circumference than Earth (though a lower overall gravity). It has a single ‘fast orbiting’ moon with a dense nickel/iron core. The low density of the ocean planet combined with the moon’s unusual orbit give rise to frequent and unpredictable volcanic activity, ultimately causing terrestrial islands to quickly form and then be reclaimed by the sea. Originally classified as mineral-rich, the planet was quickly inhabited and deep-sea mining rights sold to a variety of mining outfits. It wasn’t until decades later that the planet began to see an influx of the rich and famous who showed up for the beautiful oceanic vistas.
Despite the rapidly changing and erratic tidal and volcanic activity, it has become vogue to construct elaborate temporary housing on Tangaroa’s short-lived islands. More permanent housing is often established on or under the sea. For those who want to enjoy the planet without the risk, hospitality magnate Tyler Newman recently unveiled plans for a permanent undersea hotel.
Only the polar regions sustain standard populations. To the north, scientists and engineers typically call the planet home, supporting the cottage industry that has grown up around Helios’ odd star. In the south, the limited amount of land belongs to R&D facilities that support the nearby military forces. The planet’s capital and prime landing zone, located in the north, is officially named Mariana, although it is called Shorebreak by the natives as the city extends well past the land into the surrounding sea.
Not everybody lives in fear of the planet’s unique tidal nature. Native sub-surfers celebrate it as they pilot streamlined and maneuverable submarines in rides on thousand-foot waves.
Perched in orbit above Helios II, Hephaestus Station is the most accessible military outpost in the system. Landing on the station’s main landing pad requires special permission, but a planetside outlet station allows traders to sell to the military forces assigned there.
The station acts as a general launching area for system security, but traveling battle groups will occasionally also use the station as an operational headquarters to stage wargaming scenarios and training exercises.
The third planet in the Helios system is a large gas giant. Helios III is a source of readily accessible hydrogen with minimal impurities. Helios III does approach the upper bound for gas giants in terms of size, a fact that has attracted the occasional scientific survey. The planet itself lacks the distinct bands of color and the complicated lunar systems found on many Jovian planets.
Helios IV is a common ice planet, much like those found in the outer systems of most stars. Its most notable feature is a massive military complex built into the planet’s glacial surface. Criticized as a notorious example of military waste, the military has never officially commented on the reasoning behind the huge amount of credits spent on the construction of such a remote outpost. While many in active duty see assignment to Helios IV as a sure sign of a stalled career, there are some who suspect that officials are not revealing the complex’s true strategic importance to the public and that it may be housing black-ops training facilities or top-secret research labs.
Beware of the high-intensity solar winds. What can hide you from other ships can also hide lurking ships from you and can distort or even disable your sensors, leaving you blind.
“With the great distances that separate Humanity as we expand through the stars, it is a great comfort to know you can still count on your neighbors for help.”
- Dr. Ariel Thario, survivor of the 2937 Helios I Disaster
“Amazingly that wasn’t even the most expensive item of the night. That distinction went to a package offered by interstellar hellraiser Ellroy Cass, who auctioned off his infamous private party pad in Tangaroa! This private paradise includes an estate that sleeps 16, two private beaches and a massive indoor pool connected to the famous grotto by a number of elaborate waterslides. If only those walls could talk, we would have enough StarWatch material for a millennium.”
- Callie C, StarWatch, 2945.11.04