The aborigines of K’Tharsis have a saying, that could be roughly translated as “sky-fallen demons’ footprints are filled with blood of our kin”, which accurately describes the history of this remote world; full of tragic and bloody events, that demonstrate the greedy and contemptuous attitude of humans toward nature, native aborigines and, even their own kind. The story of the first contact between the two civilizations (humans and aborigines) started when smuggler captain Lee Brennigan crash landed on K’Tharsis and discovered antigravium. This lucky discovery led the entire star cluster to an epidemic of a classic Gold Rush and caused the deaths of billions. Greed and ardor led the adventurous from all across the Known Space to a far corner of the Galaxy, where a fierce competition resulted in unbelievable cruelty. Ownership of the rich deposits rapidly changed hands, with the original proprietors vanishing without a trace. However, the most grim stories aren’t told about bloody massacres between freelance prospectors and bandit gangs of the first colonial wave. They’re about a unique, extremely deep mine in Hatton’s crevice that was opened much later after the initial booming colonization and was named The Devil’s Throat, for a reason.
Many prospectors were killed for less antigravium. When you find it, keep your mouth shut or you will be the next one to fill a shallow grave
The mining site called "Lucky Strike" was registered 30 years after Brennigan’s landing on K’Tharsis by none other than the late ++. Probably he was not the first to claim this patch of the double-sun scorched K’Tharsis’ land for himself after putting a dozen bullets between the eyes of those who tried to challenge his rights, but surely he was the smartest among the previous owners. Dave quickly understood that the treasure in his hands was too big for a lonely small fry to keep. He started to hire the less fortunate adventurers as workers as miners, paying them more than his competitors. He didn’t forget to invite the various armed and dangerous types to be his guards. Dave wasn’t stopped by the fact, that lots of them were outlaws and cutthroats in search of easy money. This proud owner of the most profitable private mine on the planet was charismatic and paranoid enough to keep his position for some time.
Eventually Dave became the first antigravium tycoon of K’Tharsis in the short era of the true "Wild Frontier Capitalism" in this remote world. It was his narrow, bony, grinning face with protruding cheekbones and his slightly maniacal gaze that were staring at you from the enlistment brochures and posters in the colonist recruitment centers all across the Galaxy. This was the golden age of the independent prospecting and strong personalities, who got their lucky strikes, that led them to either enormous wealth or a shallow grave. Diamond Dave was their prophet and his "Lucky Strike Mine” was their Mecca.
Dave also was hiring aborigines. Some of them learned fast and became skilled mechanics and miners, adapting quickly to human society
But nothing lasts forever and after a couple of years the small planet in the middle of nowhere with promising antigravium deposits drew attention of more serious players such as the corporations like the most massive one,Terraform. The corporate approach was not supposed to be cruel at all, it was mostly just efficient.
At first, Terraform was buying the claims by making very lucrative offers for their owners, which allowed a life of luxury away from this dusty planet. There are rumors though, that not one of those paid off by Terraform actually lasted long enough to enjoy their new life of luxury. But rumors are rumors, and the call of a couple hundred terro in your personal account in one of the prospering green Core Worlds is not easily to resist. There were others though, those who refused the offer, and after finishing their first step Terraform started working on the second part of their plan. Constant economic pressure and direct threats convinced those who valued their lives to sell, while the more stubborn owners were losing their lives in “accidents”, leaving their sites to the highest bidder, who unsurprisingly ended up being a Terraform representative.
Diamond Dave, however, was not so easy to get to. The massive profits from mining the richest antigravium deposit on the planet not only allowed him to defend himself against assassination attempts by hiring elite bodyguards, but also to maintain a whole army of mercs and a secret intelligence service analogue to guard the laws and borders of his own small empire. At this point, he went so far as to hire an entire elite mercenary group. The famous Blackthorn's Free Mercenary Company was formed by the battle-hardened core of Human-Orha war veterans. They had vast experience in protecting local planetary governments from coup d'états and corporate raids, and if paid properly, had no problem taking them down.
Dave was a charismatic leader and paid his hired help so well that Terraform had to spend five years to infiltrate his domain. It took this much time not because of peaceful development of K'Tharsis, but because the corporate espionage experts underestimated Dave’s shrewdness and the fact that an open military confrontation was deemed too dangerous, since it could damage the unique source of the purest antigravium ore in sector. That was a risk that the corporation could not afford to take.
Terraform was investing tons of money into K’Tharsis. You still can find the traces of their enormous ambitions, rusting in the desert
Finally, the impressive sums of terro combined with carefully crafted blackmail materials made it possible to buy out the tycoon’s inner circle. This tactic paid off: Dave’s luck ran out when he was murdered by his own bodyguard. In turn, Terraform absorbed his empire and eliminated all witnesses. Despite the efforts, the cover-up wasn’t perfect. Although there are rumors that the leak was intentional to send a message, some argue, that Dave survived and managed to escape the betrayers and the corporation. In the end, his presence in the history of K’Tharsis since that moment was nonexistent. Even his mine was renamed to the standard corporate identifier “Facility M39”.
This story could have ended here, leaving only blood-chilling legends for the following generations of the K'Tharsis population, if only the deposits of precious green mineral at Facility M39 could be depleted by the typical large-scale mining operations in a couple of decades. Unfortunately, this cursed place was abnormal in every way: unprecedentedly rich deposits of antigravium went deeper and deeper. The main shaft reached the depth of ten kilometers after fifty years of intense mining, and branched in several directions, leading to large pockets with explosive gas and lava pools. With other mines running dry, M39 became crucial during the devastating human-orha war. That is why the drastic measures taken to insure and even increase the output. Over the many years of exploitation, Facility M39 became a graveyard for countless men and aborigines alike. Newcomers on the "Antigravium El-Dorado" - as they called the K'Tharsis in the days long gone - were driven to this remote planet in the madness of the Crystal Rush. Most were tough and just looking to get filthy rich, but couldn’t help getting spooked by the legends of this terrifying place. The unfortunate ones soon learned that these legends and rumors mostly true when it came to annual body count and horrific working conditions down where the "new gold" gains its real price in blood and suffering. But that was just the tip of the iceberg.
At some point the mine was turning into a deadly maze of small shafts and caverns, filled with volcanic gas and unstable rock formations ready to collapse from only the slightest push. Conventional methods of cutting ore and transporting it to the surface became unviable. The standard equipment was plagued by the heat, antigravium-induced bugs and malfunctions, and were broken in no time. Any machinery more complex than a simple jackhammer or circular saw was practically doomed in the deepest parts of the mine. The production numbers went down and the local Planetator (acronym for a Planetary Administrator, the highest ranked corporate on the planet) was on the verge of losing his post with massive personnel and equipment withdrawal following.
The name of the Planetator, Anolnd Thrask, became a common noun for describing a bloody murderer on K’Tharsis, like King Herod’s in old Earth’d history. This man, cursed by generations of the local inhabitants, found a solution that was so effective production of antigravium increased to pre-war levels. His solution was to put the hand laborers in the deepest shafts and pockets of the mine (the ones capable to reach for the precious ore and then climb up to feed the processing machines placed on safe levels) hundreds meters above the hellish labyrinth. It is then that the first aborigine slaves were brought to work alongside hired prospectors. This merciless corporation was enslaving whole native villages, females and children were working among males in wretched conditions. With typical corporate cynicism it was called "A Charity Program of Education and Employment for Developing Species". And that is when locals started to refer to Facility M39 as “The Devil’s Throat”.
Planetator Thrask's efficient solution
The slaves of antigravium, the blood crystals. Nowhere to run, noone to ask for help
The Planetary Administrator Thrask was a big fan of the old Earth's history. The solution he found for reaching those precious crystals at the very bottom of the Devil's Throat was inspired by the historical examples of the biggest constructions built with primitive tools: the Egyptian pyramids, and the Great Wall of China. He realized that rulers from the past didn't need the advanced machinery to build them. They just used a lot of working hands, something he could find in his "realm" as well.
Unlike the rapidly deteriorating machinery, unfortunate aborigines were working out of fear of punishment and only required a meager ration, which allowed the corporation to be excessively profitable. The slaves were sent into the most dangerous shafts of the mine, regardless of earthquake and collapse risks, which had buried expensive machinery under tons of rock numerous times. Compared to that kind of loss, life of a native slave was worthless. The Devil's Throat was devouring entire generations of settled natives; their typical way of life destroyed by the unstable climate, created on K’Tharsis due to the unfinished terramorphing program. With their culture compromised by the new values of the "sky-fallen demons", the traditional big communities, old agricultural kingdoms of aborigines situated in fertile valleys and river deltas, could not sustain themselves. They eventually perished. The peripheral nomadic savage tribes however, built up quite a resistance and their members often managed to escape the "educational" detention camps and mines. To prevent this, telemetric collars with pain inducers were designed and mass produced. They proved to be very effective at the time. Never before had the humanity managed to train such submissive slaves, for which a thought of escape or revolt was an impossible dream. At first the mine didn’t have gates and fences with barbed wire, only control towers marking the perimeter. Runaways in collars were forced to crawl back in agony if he walked a couple hundred paces away from the cursed mine.
Real life inspiration of the Devil’s Throat: sulfur mining at the lake of Kawah Ijen
But the corporation didn’t stop there. Knowing that there were no other income sources on the planet, Terraform terminated project “Green K’Tharsis” (responsible for changing planet’s biosphere) and introduced high daily work schedules as well as exorbitant fines for free workers who did not fill the new daily quotas. Unable to earn enough for a return ticket from K’Tharsis, the price for which was higher than they could earn in a lifetime, people toiled till exhaustion to survive just one more day. Even the hired workforce, which was used on sites requiring qualified staff eventually became slaves.
The terrible environment full of hardships significantly diminished the lifespan of even the toughest miners. Workers were very susceptible to diseases, and that issue would be even more influential on shortening their lifespan. At the first sign of disease slaves were shot and burned, and for each one, two new slaves were brought in, whether captured aborigines or naive off-world born fools, hoping to make a fortune on K’Tharsis.
The miner carries twice his bodyweight. All of this backbreaking work is just to feed his family
A spontaneous and poorly organized revolt of human slaves led by John Wright (a desperate attempt to take back freedom) was mercilessly crushed. Terraform arranged for public tortures and executions to sow fear into those who still hoped to escape. Nevertheless, from time to time a few slaves still managed to escape, though most of them were eaten by predators, or died of heat, sun exposure, and dehydration in desert.
To reduce the risk of organized revolts, Terraform decided to introduce mind numbing implants for troublesome slaves. Those implants released a chemical into the bloodstream that only inhibits the higher-order thinking that is required for orchestrating an escape, but doesn’t interfere with more basic thoughts and actions like eating, working, and working faster to avoid being beaten. The same chemicals were added to the food rations, to keep the slaves docile and productive even in case of implant malfunction. However, even those drastic measures failed to hinder desperate humans and aborigines, who, due to a shared bitter experience, have set racial differences aside, united, and organized an escape.
Five decades before our protagonist Jack Sharp set foot on the dusty surface of K'Tharsis, the largest revolt in the history of Devil's Throat broke out. There were slaves, who managed to deactivate pain inducers and cut out implants. In order to purge the chemicals from their bloodstream, which were in their food rations, they starved themselves, barely surviving on the few life forms that were edible and managed to withstand the harsh environment. Some of them could pick locks and hack the DNA encoded weapons of the corporate guards. They got support from outside through contact via secret smuggler channels. A couple of nomadic tribes of aborigines, that were glad to damage Terraform in any way they could to help free up their kin, united for a brave attack led by a legendary Chief Rock Head. By capturing a train that was transporting enriched ore to a spaceport (ore is purified in the mine, then transported to an orbital facility to produce pure antigravium in zero gravity), they filled it with explosives and destroyed half of the outer perimeter of Devil’s Throat severely incapacitating the unsuspecting garrisoned guards.
The Nomads of K'Tharsis: freedom earned through sacrifice
Nomads of K’Tharsis. A proud nation born from freed slaves and those who helped them
Simultaneously, thousands of desperate daredevils started the most massive riot in the history of the mine, drowned the guards in blood, took their weapons and equipment, and escaped to the desert. Subsequently they turned into nomadic tribes, raiding remote mines and freeing up slaves. A new nation was born. Initially united by hatred and a wish for revenge, it eventually found a new way of living in constant motion across the ergs – the sand seas of K’Tharsis. An entire new ethnos that reverted to their wild nature as a means for survival, a nation that values freedom above life was born on K’Tharsis and this nation became a force to reckon with.
Terraform learned its lesson from what happened and increased defenses of the Throat three-fold, turning it into a complete fortress when it comes to frontal attacks. All successive attempts to take over the facility by force have failed. Facility M39 remained the main source of stable income for the Terraform in this sector for half a century.
Nowadays Devil’s Throat is still operational, consuming lives of miserable slaves in huge numbers. Currently, it is the last functioning mine of it’s size on K’Tharsis and still brings incredible profits for Terraform. This is the cornerstone of the corporation’s conflict with the Blackthorn's Mercenary Company, that settled down on K'Tharsis to build their own neo-feudal state, "protecting" the independent prospectors, with the Raft City as a capital (a large mobile base) constantly drifting in Grand Marshes.
Our protagonist will be working for whichever side he picks under your (players) control, deciding the fate of the infamous mine, chopping, or carefully untying the knot of intersecting interests that forms around it. But this won't be the only fateful choice he will face in Exoplanet First Contact. Stay tuned for more updates to get a glimpse into Exoplanet’s lore and Jack Sharp’s future adventures!