While I’ve been working on writing a sequel to Bury’em Deep (yes, I changed the name), I started working my way through some background material that seemed important. This is all rough draft material, only partial, and subject to change… but I thought you might enjoy some of the details! Read on for tidbits of Rhea’s history and its place in the politics of Saturn-space.
Rhea is a highly militarized and vigilant polity in Saturn-local space, named for the same moon which serves as its home base. Where Titan Station was established (and has long served) as a transshipment and trading center, with a separate focus on surface-based resource extraction operations, Rhea was colonized by a group of Inner System PFH loyalists who wished to create a resource-rich enclave to supply Inner System interests in the Outer System.
From its founding as a mining and military base, Rhea has maintained a more rigidly hierarchical social structure with less tolerance for independent factions in its domestic politics. It has a history of “forcibly reeducating” dissenters, and has gone through several cycles of succession crisis and purge when the chain of succession was contested after a leader’s death or removal. These purges most often take the form of demotion and exile to subsidiary colonies rather than execution, and “rehabilitation” is possible. Perhaps because of this *relative* restraint, the cycles of crisis and purge have always studiously avoided the colony’s critical support infrastructure, mining facilities, and ship construction and repair facilities. Personnel in those realms generally remain patriotic and “apolitical,” though they do in fact exercise some political power. Most internal civil and political disobedience has been limited to hand-to-hand and blunt force combat, rather than bombings, shootings, or other forms of violence. “Fair” fights are generally respected, and there’s some history of dueling.
For the past few generations, Rhea has experienced relative tranquility as leaders have willingly stepped down and passed the mantle on to successors. It is unclear whether this pattern will continue.
Because the original purpose of Rhean settlement was to create a high-density water and oxygen mining and resupplying operation in the Outer System, the primary settlements in Rhean-claimed space were actually under the surface of the moon. Unlike Titan Station, the first stations orbiting Rhea were primarily industrial rather than residential. Rhea was also seen as a superior base for local control and interdiction efforts, and a valuable refueling and victualing location for anyone passing through Saturn’s local space.
Over time, as Rhea cemented its position as a militarized supply hub and friendly port-of-call for Inner System ships, Rhea developed its own ship-services industries. This eventually grew into a refitting, repair, and minor manufacturing capacity, with a series of orbital shipyards that serviced Inner System navies in Saturn-space.
As advances in transportation and resource extraction rendered Rhea less necessary to the supply of Inner System ships in Saturn-space, Rhea lost many of its original Inner System backers and investors. The fallout from these developments has troubled local politics for some time, and caused no small amount of economic turmoil. The ship-service industries almost disintegrated, until they were eventually partially-nationalized by the polity in a fusion between the government and the relevant corporate structures. In an effort to prevent complete disarray, Rhea invested further in the expansion of its manufacturing capacity, licensing corvette designs from Inner System developers and building itself a navy. This has since expanded.
Despite the Inner System’s partial abandonment, Rhea has never fully broken with the Inner System and PFH-influenced powers; it remains a refueling hub and strategic ally for Inner System politics. In all official channels, Rhea remains very sympathetic to Inner System causes. It has also sought and gained additional backing and investment from a number of more shadowy groups. It is not clear whether these groups are Inner or Outer System in origin, but it is generally accepted that they are acting in accordance with Inner System goals—or at least not working against them. This off-moon investment has primarily been directed to the purchase and construction of additional naval infrastructure for naval resupply, maintenance, and warship manufacturing.
Many of the necessary resources for these industries are harvested by Rhean-backed mining operations in the rings, and Rhea-marked vessels are often found as far afield as the Asteroid Belt; Rhean miners in the Belt are seen as generally more reliable and palatable to Inner System authorities than mining operations from other polities, and as such are frequently more likely to land offers from Inner System groups which claim large swathes of the Belt. Many Belters hate Rheans for this.
In addition to shadowy investment in naval infrastructure, Rhea has derived considerable benefit from selling official ship registry to vessels in Saturn-space. Most of these ships are merchant vessels that include Saturn-space in their longer-range voyages, but the registered ships include an abnormally large number of vessels whose legitimacy other polities have refused to recognize. Other Saturn-based polities accuse Rhea of harboring pirates and criminals. Rhea maintains that they only allow law-abiding vessels to dock and use their facilities. Many stories of political intrigue and espionage set around Saturn include the use of Rhean registry for spies’ ships. Official Rhean media generally denounces this, though they sometimes romanticize it when the spies in question have Inner System sympathies and/or the stories portray Rhea in a positive light.
It’s a modestly kept secret that vessels based out of Rhea have raided Saturn-local merchant shipping and in some cases even been involved in proxy wars or territorial disputes. Rhea has censured and revoked papers for all such vessels caught (and thoroughly documented) violating the law, thereby paying lip-service to the Law of the Vacuum. This has not stopped them from continuing to serve as a base for egregious offenders who have *not* yet been documented breaking the law.
Moreover, Rhean courts are widely recognized as being predominantly sympathetic to Rhean ships, Rhean law enforcement, and Inner System causes. This has given them a foul reputation among Outer System sympathizers. However, because the Inner System authorities continue to recognize the legitimacy of Rhea rulings for all of their official proceedings (and often even favor Rhean rulings over those handed down from other courts), few are able to dispute a ruling from such a court without risking being caught up in larger conflict way above their pay grade.