The Xephone system, colonised just over a century ago, is the only Imperial territory in the Scyrian Expanse of the Achernar Sector. Its colonists have been tasked with manufacturing the materiel needed to support an expedition further into the Expanse, scheduled to leave in two years' time. This means attaining the right level of surplus food production, manufacturing equipment for the expedition's personnel, and the production of prefab units for the quick construction of outposts on new worlds.
The Xephone System has one major colony (Xephone Prime) and one outpost (Halan's Prospect).
Major Settlements & Population
Xephone is still a very small colony. There are only four cities on Xephone Prime, none of which have a population above a million citizens. There are numerous towns sitting at the centre of coastal agri-complexes, but the vast majority of Prime's extensive landmass remains unclaimed, and charted purely by satellite and aerial observation.
The capital, Toros Adventum, was somewhat egotistically named by Governor Torosian at first landing. It is colloquially known as Toros. The main structure around which the capital is built is in fact Aquila 01, the ship that brought the bulk of the colonists to the planet. Aquila 01, commonly referred to as 'the Eagle,' or more parochially 'the bird', houses the Administratum, Magistratum, and an adjunct of the Mechanicum in addition to the governor's palace. Like all colony ships, it is theoretically capable of taking off in the event of a mass evacuation, but the number of secondary structures that now rely on its sheer walls, along with the length of time the ship has lain dormant, lead most people to question the feasibility of such an attempt. The rest of the city is home to various civic buildings all constructed in the name of "making Xephone great," as Governor Torosian keeps saying. Statues, museums, libraries and grandiose chapels sit at the confluences of roads, so that it's almost always possible to see a building the governor deems to be inspiring. When an area of less salubrious housing builds up, it is often knocked down and replaced with more carefully planned-out residential homes slightly too expensive for workers to afford, and most end up commuting into the capital by tram.
Nova Sudor is Xephone's second city. It was founded just 40 kilometers from Toros and is Xephone's main port. System ships from Halan's Prospect arrive weekly, dropping off raw material for the manufactorums. Between the foundries and the orbital traffic, Nova Sudor is a sooty grid of concrete prefabs.
Caeruleum is Xephone's only coastal city - most coastal land is reserved for agriculture - and serves as a seaport for fishing vessels. Some regard it as Xephone's finest city; it lacks the pomp of the capital and the filth of heavy industry. Following the introduction of fish and other non-native aquatic life to the seas, the fishing industry has grown proportionately to the fishery stocks, and so the streets have grown organically. Since most of the inhabitants are fishers most of the buildings are modest affairs, resulting in narrow, winding alleys. Aside from the arterial trade roads the city is virtually impenetrable by vehicle; people simply walk everywhere, although skimmers can be hired to get around quickly and most streets maintain an empty square large enough for skimmers to set down.
Nezaka, situated at the western edge of the Great Southwestern Plain, is Xephone's main location for the industrial manufacture of clothing. Cotton, linen, and other fabric crops are farmed west of the city, nearer the coast. Nezaka was founded upon planetfall, and is built around the semi-dismantled chassis of Aquila 02.
There used to be several mining outposts on the moon of Aricia, although these have long since been abandoned after the discovery of the mineral wealth to be found at Halan's Prospect.
Xephone Prime's Climate & Topography
Overall, the climate is warm and relatively dry. Xephone does have several equatorial seas, but they only account for about 40% of the planet's surface. Almost all flora and fauna on Xephone Prime remain within sixty degrees of the equator; the polar deserts are so cold and dry that life is almost impossible for any complex organisms.
Most of the unoccupied land is dominated by a tree-like plants known as fan trees (sub-variants are the piccha trees and the much taller barha trees). They have a thin, flexible trunk and a broad, two-dimensional spread of branches and furry whitish leaves perpendicular to the prevailing wind, absorbing moisture directly from the air to mitigate the lack of rainfall. The resulting effect is that the forests look extremely dense from one direction, and extremely sparse from another. Local fauna have developed excellent camouflage, as they are vulnerable to aerial predators, which in turn resulted in the colony's first generation getting numerous shocks when tripping over concealed creatures.
There are three major mountain ranges on Xephone Prime:
- The Widows are exceptionally jagged, cloud-wreathed peaks; a crumbling edifice of slate strata overhanging the continental crust they were shoved over. The area is impenetrable, and pilots are advised to maintain a generous altitude.
- The Bulwarks range much of the way around the edge of Great Northern Desert, and are so high that virtually no rain clouds pass over them, thus maintaining the desert's aridity. This arid northern plateau is referred to by Xephonians when saying they're 'on top of the world,' meaning they are lacking everything they need in life.
- The Sisypheans held much of Xephone's surface mineral wealth, and were mined bare within the first century of the planet's habitation by a workforce that famously suffered an appalling rate of industrial mishaps. Nowadays no-one lives there, leaving a spider's web of abandoned towns, tunnels and shafts.
The land itself is too arid to produce human food, and so most arable land is adjacent to the sea and irrigated by seawater pumped through vast desalination plants, although there are several agricultural areas situated around some of the planet's larger rivers.
Xephone is tectonically active, particularly in the Bulwarks, and networks of smooth lava tunnels have been discovered in now-dormant areas, although little effort has been made to map them.
The Vyatthan Desert is on the opposite side of the planet to the Iinalian Ocean, Xephone's only sea. Geological surveys indicate that the Iinalia is slowly shrinking, while the Vyattha seems to be remaining at the same size, indicating that the moisture is slowly becoming trapped in the soils and bowl-marshes of Xephone's piccha tree forests.
Bowl marshes are stagnant swampy areas created when fan trees grow in a depression lacking a river and, thus, drainage. They can be found at most altitudes, and range from early-stage marshland to impenetrable mangroves.
Government & Culture
Xephone Prime adheres to the standard Imperial style of government; Governor Zaahir Torosian has ruled since the death of his mother Yasmiin just over seven years ago. The Administratum, Departmento Munitorum and Magistratum all report to him, whilst the Adeptus Mechanicus and Ecclesiarchy maintain their normal independence (although there are a number of Torosian's family members seeded through the Xephonian priesthood).
The culture, as Torosian puts it, is one of devotion and duty. The colony has a job to do, and he is determined to achieve success at any cost, a trait he inherited from his mother, who as the first ruler of the colony insisted on the continuation of mining operations in the Sisypheans even after it became apparent that the unrealistic targets resulted in cut corners and a high casualty rate amongst miners.
Once Xephone Prime became a self-sufficient colony, efforts were made to take advantage of abundant resources elsewhere in the system. Mining operations were set up on two of Xephone's moons, and more extensively at Halan's Reach farther out in the system. The Reach has since become a substantial community with a population in the hundreds of thousands, and is responsible for the vast majority of metals extracted and refined in-system, with slabs of processed metal left out on the airless surface to await the next freight run.
Xephone Prime boasts a well-equipped Planetary Defence Force, as all their equipment is relatively new. Conscription for five years is standard for all adults, and relatively uncontroversial given the lack of conflict conscripts experience. Given the planet's status as a border colony, a small number of Imperial Guard are kept on-station, more as consultants for the completely inexperienced PDF officers, although out of habit they maintain combat readiness.
There have been a few recorded insurrections, but none serious enough to require off-world help, and none that lasted more than a few months. They related to working conditions; the concerns of the insurrectionists were not addressed, and if anything conditions have worsened since, particularly for those in the mining community. One anonymous visitor said of Xephone's workers, "they've got regular work, plenty of food, free healthcare and education... and yet they have a broken-spiritedness that one can only assume stems from a sub-par spiritual life. Has no-one set the priests targets to hit as well?"
Halan's Prospect is the most mineral and metal-rich place in the Xephone system, and as such has numerous mining operations on its surface. Whilst it is a comfortable 1.02G, there is no atmosphere. Port Jovian is the main settlement, with a population of around 300,000, and innumerable small holdings and workings are scattered across the moon's surface where the Mechanicum's geologists have located valuable deposits. Most settlements sport biomes in which they cultivate food, although Port Jovian is not quite capable of feeding itself, and is reliant on the freighters that run food from Nova Sudor, then take refined materials back with them.
It is governed by Prefect Tengiz Ivane, a practical man who began his career as a dock worker. Some say he is an inveterate micro-manager, but he gets the job done by working thirteen hour shifts and drinking the worst coffee in the Segmentum Pacificus.
- Cargo 1, captained by Otar Amiran.
- Cargo 2, captained by Ilaria Archil.
- Cargo 3, captained by Eduard Misho.
- Cargo 4, captained by Merab Nino.
- Cargo 5, captained by Natalia Meliton.
- Cargo 6, captained by Ilia Zviadi.
The invasion of Bolgruf Neckbiter
Notable xenos individuals
- Warlord Bolgruf Neckbiter (en route to Nova Sudor)
- Warboss (killed in Nova Sudor)
- Gishnog Wurrzappa (in Nova Sudor)
- Wuzdrog the Fixerer (in Nezaka)
- Izembork the Mekaniak (location unknown)
Extract from the Intemperance's Log
10-day flight from Kaprun to Xephone system. D1 is the day the mission was issued by Admiral Tryphosa.
D1 Mission issued by Admiral Tryphosa. The Intemperance is assigned as the mission flag, with Cpt. Ortano named as commodore. Assigned light cruiser San Celestine as main escort under Cpt. Dorschel. Frigate Squadron 17 (Rebuke, Reprimand, Reproach) under the command of Captain Westcliffe and Frigate Squadron 23 (Kontos, Sovnya, Sarisa) under Captain Soler assigned to the mission. Flotilla departed from the Aureole in the Kapran shipyards, bound for the Scyrian Expanse.
D10 Arrival in Xephone system following successful warp translation. Temporal and spacial drift both logged as within parameters. Arrived at Halan's Prospect, a mining outpost, and established contact. Halan's Prospect has had no contact with Xephone Prime for some weeks; cause of communication blackout unknown. No signals from system ships.
D11 flight from Halan's Reach to Xephone Prime; discovery of vast ork fleet including numerous line ships and one battleship-sized vessel.
D12 flight back to Halan's Prospect
D13-15 repairing San Celestine following clash with enemy capital ships
D16-17 rescued six system ships transporting foodstuffs from Xephone Prime to Halan's Prospect, Reproach incapacitated; towed to Halan's Reach.
D18-19 quarter-orbit passage to test xenos ability to intercept radio transmissions. Final half of day: combat drop of C Company onto Xephone Prime; San Celestine and escorts lure the ork fleet away whilst the Intemperance makes a pass at the planet. Kontos sustained damage whilst luring the xenos fleet away from Xephone Prime; ork-held space station incapacitated, but the time taken to do so meant the guard dropship landed in Caeruleum with bingo fuel. 3 ork ram ships destroyed during engagement.
D20-21 return to Halan's Prospect for repairs. The Kontos estimated to need 13 days' worth of repairs. Captain Soler's two remaining frigates sent to patrol asteroid belt to search for ork base following a sighting of an ork escort showing different colouration to the main ork fleet, and apparently benefitting from low-level emissions baffles (i.e. primitive stealth technology).
D22 Swords, Intemperance and light cruiser attempt ambush. Westcliffe takes his frigates to Xephone, lures two ork lineships and a squadron of four escorts away, and brings them to a dust cloud where the Intemperance and the San Celestine lie in wait. The battle goes perfectly; the ork escorts are obliterated by the Intemperance's ordnance, and Westcliffe's diversion lasts just long enough for the capital ships to concentrate on the two enemy cruisers in turn, with bombers playing a heavy role in the fighting. Finally, assault boats are launched to board one of the hulks in search of enemy intelligence.
D23 One of the kroozer hulks is towed then launched at Halan's Prospect after being tugged by the Imperial line ships for 12 hours. The hope is to salvage the once-Imperial warp engine.
D24 Battle of the Belt: the orks gained the use of the 'Intaplanetary Gitfinda' after the ship spotted in the asteroid belt delivered it to the ork battleship. The orks use the gitfinda to home in on the Navy astropaths. The entire ork fleet moved to engage Westcliffe's scouting sortie; he withdrew at haste and rendezvoused with the fleet at the edge of the asteroid belt to fight backs against the wall. As the orks closed into range, an eldar corsair fleet under the command of Onduin attacked from the opposite end of the combat area, crippling one cruiser (7 damage points off) and the ork battleship (7 damage points off). 8 ork escorts also destroyed. Fleet retired to Halan's Prospect whilst Onduin left in search of the Mekaniak's base.
D25 Repairs at Halan's Prospect.
D26 Commodore Ortano and Onduin agree to press the advantage whilst the orks are still reeling from the battle in the asteroids, and launch an assault on Xephone Prime. The engagement is a decisive victory, with only one ork line ship escaping intact. The Reprimand is lost with all hands when one of the greenskin plasma drives detonates, but the allies suffer no other losses. Shortly after the battle, Second Lieutenant Hargrieve - having previously distinguished himself by spotting the stealthy ork ships - notices that a small section of the asteroid belt is now missing, and there is evidence of an in-system warp signature, suggesting that the Mekaniak has fled following the defeat of Bolgruf's fleet.
Log extract from C Company of the Duromagh Rifles: the Xephone Incident
D1-10: 10-day flight from Kaprun to Xephone.
D10-19: wait aboard the Intemperance during initial Naval engagements.
D19 Combat drop outside Caeruleum. Drop ship landed on a near-empty tank; immediately engaged by ork reconnaissance aircraft, which was shot down with missile launchers; Primaris Hesse and Le Guevel's platoon went to the wreck, killed all but one of the crew, and kept one - a servant by the name of Scribbz - prisoner so as to be able to translate greenskin radio broadcasts.
D19-21 Journey to Toros Adventum.
D21 Meet Lt Shapur 44th Cetan Rifles, helping to co-ordinate at the Eagle. Bridgadier-General Rostum commanding 5 PDF regiments in Western Toros Aventum. Vox units distributed. Aviation fuel brought back to Caeruleum for the drop ship by a drunk old noble called Gill. Mention of sub-terranean stockpile of armoured vehicles in Nova Sudor by Lt Shapur.
D22 Inflatable raft prep for Operation: Enduring Buoyancy.
D23 Final mission prep, then at night, the flight.
D24 Arrive in Nova Sudor, rescue young girl named Rani, await the dawn.
D25 Communique from Skribbz: radio chatter reveals five major players among the greenskins, including Warlord Bolgruf Neckbiter. By sheer bad luck, one of the five - an ork warboss leading the assault on Nova Sudor - is drawn to C Company after one of his patrols is blown up by massed autocannon fire. C Company hold against the warboss' band of trucks, and Isaak gained the opportunity to kill the warboss, imploding his skull with psychic force. Following their victory, C Company headed to the starport at the advice of Rani, who said there would be more soldiers there. Met up with General Riefnahl, the most senior PDF officer in the city, and Nihls, a waste disposal technician with extensive knowledge of the city's sewer system.
D26 Infiltrated sewer system with guidance from Nihls, gained access to armoured vehicle stockpile.
D27 Informed by Navy that they've had word from Admiral Tryphosa: ten regiments of Imperial Guard are en route, and will arrive within a fortnight.
D28 Subterranean munition stockpile secured in Nova Sudor.
D29 C Company oversee use of subway trains to haul shells from munition stockpile to vehicle stockpile.
D30-32 personnel moved to vehicle stockpile, including hastily-trained tank crews.
D33 Armoured breakout: over 1,000 armoured vehicles, including three super-heavies, emerge onto the streets of Nova Sudor guns blazing. They strike north and gather with General Riefnahl at Port Sudor. Elsewhere in the city, the final pockets of Imperial resistance are overwhelmed by the orks as more arrive from Nezaka.