Vestrades is a system located in the Targean Veil of the Eridani Sector and the site of recent conflict with xenos (spec: Eldar). The system has a single main sequence star, Vestrades, four planets, and Beta Vestrades, a solitary brown dwarf in a distant orbit. None of the planets are permanently inhabited and the system was erroneously considered unexplored until recently by the Imperium; mining surveys have since revealed that the system was in fact once Imperial but has long been abandoned. This abandonment led to Vestrades largely being dropped from sector reports as opposed to being investigated. The reason for this disappearance from records is unclear, but the possibility that sector command decided to “forget” about the system in order to pursue some other objective at the time cannot be ignored.
In terms of strategic worth Vestrades is a relatively unimportant system. Isolated from major warp routes, surrounded by unexplored space and only being able to boast hydrogen as a truly abundant resource, the reason for its abandonment appears clear for all to see: no-one was able to turn a profit exploiting it. Beneath the surface however, the possibility that xenos involvement had a hand in the system’s depopulation is a troubling rumour, one made all the more plausible by the discovery of xenos (spec: Eldar) artefacts, and recent raids on the fledgling mining facilities being set up on Vestrades II.
Never given a name beyond its original survey designation, V1-4311 is a small rocky planet on a close orbit of Vestrades. It is a blisteringly hot world, far too extreme to support life without serious investment in technological work-arounds such as thermal domes and moisture recyclers. It has never been colonised by the Imperium, or anyone else for that matter - and while it does possess several radioactive compounds and rare metals in its crust thanks to the proximity to its star, the original system surveyors calculated that the cost to benefit ratio of overcoming the heat and radiation of V1-4311 in order to successfully exploit these resources was too high.
Vestrades II is the second planet in the Vestrades system. It has three moons, and is a world of deep forests, sapphire blue oceans and stunning mountain ranges that reach into the sky. It has a temperate climate and its poles are icy, though even then not extremely cold. It is ideal for life, a true garden world.
Though idyllic and beautiful, the world has little in the way of exploitable natural resources that the Imperium could not get elsewhere much more easily, in the same vein as V1-4311. Consequently it was only ever settled as a method of getting workers to Vestrades Prime, with the capital city (both of the world and the system) of Anchor being established in approximately late M.34-M.36 on the eastern coast of the largest continent in the northern hemisphere. Other, smaller settlements were also founded, but Anchor was the only city of note on the planet at any point in its history.
At some point (estimates vary anywhere from M.36-M.40; further archaeological research may provide more accurate dating) Vestrades II was abandoned along with the rest of the system. The planet now has no permanent population, the only recorded inhabitants being either archaeological teams or mining surveyors - though the possibility of pirate activity (human or otherwise) on the world cannot be ignored: It has no garrison, and Battlefleet Eridani patrol the system only infrequently as a favour to the Thonician archaeological team currently working on the planet. This, coupled with the world’s idyllic ecology, makes it a tempting prospect for those wishing to not be found.
A team from the University of Heracleion have been working on the Vestrades II Imperial ruins on and off for a few years. The digs are largely concerned with discovering why the previous colony failed millennia ago. More recent (and better funded) attempts have discovered xenos artefacts (spec: Eldar), and the finds have been followed by attacks targeting the dig sites (See Cobalt Scions after action report, appended below). Given this disturbing new development in the Vestrades system it is likely further Imperial scrutiny will be afforded to this apparent paradise in the near future.
Cobalt Scions after-action report
I regret to inform you that we arrived too late to protect the Heracleian archaeological team. I hope that our mere attendance will at least curry some of the political benefits you sought. Had the transit been a little faster, perhaps a day or so, they might have lived. The foul xenos were still at the scene, endeavouring to extract something from the dig site. The xenos labourers abandoned the site before we reached it, and we moved in to make what conclusions we could. It was then that the Eldar struck. They were of an unfamiliar aspect, quite different to others of their kin I have seen; not from a Craftworld, but not raiders either. I will present pict captures to the Ordos Eridani and see if they have any wisdom to impart. The foe wore strange, leering masks and moved with prodigious speed even by Eldar standards. They took some measure of blood from us, but I trust it will grant the Heracleians some satisfaction to know that we gave better than we got. To that end, I submit that we have avenged the slain.
As to the dig site itself, I can confirm that some of the artifacts unearthed are unmistakably of their race. Theoretical: there may be far more, and indeed this world may have more significance to them than it does to us. It may also explain why the original colony was a failure. Practical: if we consider denying the enemy something that is of importance to them, that is a strategic gain. However, it is only a strategic gain if this is an enemy we consider to be a credible threat at this time. There are other foes who pose immediate threats to resources we need.
Your loyal brother, Martellus
The third planet in the Vestrades system and the only world the original surveyors considered worthy of attention is a massive gas giant with thirteen moons. Vestrades Prime was the reason for the system originally being colonised by the Imperium on account of the truly vast potential for tapping its hydrogen reserves. While hardly a scarce resource in the wider galaxy, at the time the Eridani Sector was actively looking to expand its hydrogen supply lines in anticipation for a slowly gathering crusade. Never permanently settled, the workers instead lived on Vestrades II - spending months at a time on the floating mining platforms of Vestrades Prime before returning to their families for the rest of the year.
Vestrades Prime is cold, being just outside the habitable zone of the system’s star, but close enough to it that with some basic measures the Imperium was well able to set up several extensive mining operations. Eventually the platforms were abandoned along with the rest of the system - They hang there to this day, rusting and rotting in the swirling gas clouds, slowly falling apart but very much still existent.
As with Vestrades II, the planet’s potential for the harbouring of pirates and other enemies of the Imperium is high given its remoteness and relative comforts compared to the unexplored darkness of the rest of the Targean Veil. Before this massive hydrogen resource could be tapped into once more, this possibility would have to be addressed - a thankless task Battlefleet Eridani currently has no will for whatsoever.
Gas Mining Platforms
That the platforms of Vestrades Prime remain afloat in the thick currents of the world's atmosphere after so long pays testament to their robust design. Floatation is achieved with lighter than air gasses, and power maintained with wind turbines. These have kept the platforms' machine spirits operational for a long time. Far longer, in fact, than they were meant to. Without the regular ministrations of the techpriesthood, some of these machine spirits have grown eccentric or faulty, and have been known to designate unexpected visitors (i.e. anyone) as contaminants that must be tidied and recycled, resulting in attacks by maintenance servitors intent on harvesting visitors for parts.
Another footnote in the history of Imperial surveyance, V4-3074 is barely large enough to qualify as a planet. An icy ball hanging in an orbit far removed from the rest of the system, V4-3074 features almost nothing in the way of either resources or colonisation potential. Hypothetically this makes it an ideal location for a covert base of some description - assuming the builder can overcome the frigid geography and almost total lack of atmosphere.