This document is in the process of being written. I am including it on the web, despite its unfinished state, so that I can get feedback on the direction it is going, what I have missed and/or what else needs to be considered. Already it has gone in some directions I didn't expect. How does the planet's Earth-like gravity help explain the existence of super powers? Read on! :)|
Please feel free to contact me if you have any comments or additions. I will include acknowledgments for any part of this work which is actually contributed by others.
One source that I have already used to help me conceptualize life under a military occupation is Choices in Vichy France: The French Under Nazi Occupation by John F. Sweets and copyright 1986 by Oxford University Press. I've found it to be very helpful and surprisingly readable. I highly recommend it for Game Masters who are trying to get a handle on this type of game setting.
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Note: I'm bringing up some of the following issues, not to question the authors, but because I think it provides an interesting challenge to accommodate some of the planetary data in the book that seems unlikely. I think my answers lend a somewhat alien feel to the world, which is good (in my opinion, anyway). They also, somewhat surprisingly, lead to a pseudo-scientific justification for things like super powers! These explanations are not needed to enjoy the game, but I think it is interesting how you can make even unlikely aspects of the setting all tie together. If you don't want to use them, jump ahead to the other sections.
The source book has a few statistics about the planet Seeron that, at first glance, I felt were unlikely to produce a world that is similar to Earth. First, the book indicates that the planet Seeron has a radius of approximately 2,935 miles, which means it has an approximate surface area of 108,250,000 square miles, or only 55% of the Earth's surface area. It also means that it has only 41% of Earth's volume, but since its gravity, and hence mass, are 96% of Earth's, that means it has to be quite a bit more dense than Earth. Second, Seeron is in an orbit which is almost 2.2 times further from its sun, Charizol, as Earth is from Sol, yet the average daytime temperature is 81 degrees Fahrenheit. While Charizol is twice as hot as Sol (and I'll assume provides twice as much heat to its planets until an astronomer tells me otherwise), radiation falls off at the square of the distance, so Seeron still only gets 41% of the solar heat that Earth gets. Both of these statistics pose some interesting questions.
In order to have the gravity listed in the book, Seeron must have a very dense core, much denser than Earth's. According to the article Earth at Microsoft Encarta Online, it is believed that the Earth's core is mostly iron, with the upper mantle and crust being made up primarily of oxygen, silicon, aluminum, iron, calcium, sodium, potassium, magnesium, titanium, hydrogen, and phosphorus. For Seeron to be so much denser than Earth, either the core has to be proportionally larger, or there needs to be a larger proportion of heavy elements in the core, mantle and crust. Most likely, both explanations play a part. By assuming that Seeron has a very large core and is also very rich in mineral content, including much higher quantities of heavy elements like Uranium that are rare on Earth, it is possible to explain why the planet has a gravity field almost as strong as Earth's.
This has a couple of interesting side effects. Most obvious is that the world is a treasure trove of minerals, which would make the Tarlok all the more determined to keep control of it. Another is that the planet's magnetic field is likely to be very strong (maybe giving some bonuses to supers with magnetic powers?). More importantly, it means there is a much higher level of radiation in the core due to the higher quantities of heavy elements. Since it is believed that radioactivity is one of the main sources of heat in a planet's core, one side effect of the extra radioactivity is that Seeron's core will be also be much hotter. This leads to more tectonic activity, faster continental drift, more earthquakes, higher mountains and more volcanos.
Even assuming that the higher quantities of iron and other metals in the crust help shield the surface from the full force of the radiation in the core, it is still likely that Seeron has a higher level of background radiation than Earth. Fortunately, it is a standard premise of SF stories and Palladium's random alien generation in Heroes Unlimited(TM) that life, even human life, can adapt to higher levels of radiation, so I don't think the Seeronians need to be too worried. However, it would help in nicely explaining the mutations that led to the evolution of Seermen and Talus, as well as the mutation of the Tarlok genetic virus and the development of super powers on Seeron. While long-term visitors to Seeron may have cause to be concerned, I'll assume that during the period when Seleniak were beginning to settle here the Seeronians were able to find a medical solution. A society as advanced as (I hope) the Earth will be in the 22nd century should be able to have very sophisticated anti-radiation treatments for the less-resistant aliens settling on Seeron.
Another benefit from assuming that the core is much more radioactive and therefore hotter is that it helps explain the high surface temperature of the planet. It may not explain it totally, but I don't think it stretches the realm of possibility that it would at least have made the planet habitable by humans, especially if the world also had a higher percentage of greenhouse gases to begin with than Earth. As civilization developed industry and increased its technology, a further build-up of greenhouse gases would have led to a further increase in surface temperature. All combined, I'm willing to say that an average daytime surface temperature of 80 degrees is possible.
Finally, some statistics that were not included in the book include length of year, axial tilt and percent of the surface covered by water. I've decided that on my version of Seeron the year is 864 days, and Seeronians don't divide the year into months. They have 54 weeks with 16 days each. Dates are generally just referred to by the year and the number of the day within that year (for example, my campaign began on the 573rd of 30 T.D. in the period referred to as the Tarlok Dominion). The axial tilt of Seeron is only 9 degrees, much less than on Earth, so there is only a little variation in seasons. The oceans only cover 51% of the planet, but they are very deep due to much smaller continental shelves and steeper descents.
On my Seeron, dry land covers approximately 49% of the surface but it is somewhat more divided than on Earth, due to the tectonic activity, resulting in 12 small to medium sized continents and many islands where mountains or volcanos thrust up out of the ocean. There are very large mountain ranges on all of the continents, both in area and in altitude. Many mountains average 15,000', with some reaching up to 40,000'. While the tallest mountains may be near the center of a range, a mountain range as a whole tends to cover a very wide region, as opposed to being primarily narrow bands separating two plains. Combining the ruggedness of the terrain with the rapidly falling temperatures as you go up in altitude (which I think would be more extreme than on Earth due to the reliance on greenhouse effects for heat), only one third of the continental surface is suitable for civilized habitation. Since many of the islands are also too rugged to support modern civilizations, the actual amount of suitable land is just over one quarter.
This leaves less than 13% of the total surface, about 14 million square miles or an area only 75% the size of Asia (of course, Asia is not 100% habitable, so its a little better than that). With a population of 20 billion to feed (and the population was higher before the invasion), natural and hydroponic farms take up a significant portion of the remaining area, at least several million square miles.
At first glance, it would seem the remainder of the habitable area would have to be completely covered by one huge urban sprawl in order to accommodate the population, but it isn't really like that. The scarcity of land drove the people to build upwards, creating the towering buildings for which the world is famous. Materials for building the cities, and for driving the society's technological advances, was plentiful due to the high mineral content. However, they would have needed to incorporate some major building improvements so that the skyscrapers could withstand the earthquakes. Seeronians with an architectural background who found themselves on Earth would find some very lucrative work in California and Japan! :)
Because of the vertical space provided by the skyscrapers, the cities actually only cover a total of about 2 or 3 million square miles world-wide, or about 20% of the available surface space. This means that there can be hundreds of miles between cities on the same continent. Even if another 40% of the land is used for farm land and facilities, and 15% is suburban towns with relatively low populations (mostly farm workers and mining communities near the mountains), at least 25% of the habitable countryside can be reserved as wilderness preserves. These forests are the largest remaining uncultivated plant life, and were historically a protected resource due to their importance in maintaining the atmosphere. Under the Tarlok domination, the forests are not faring as well, but even they see the need for conservation of life-giving resources (at least until they finish mining the planet!). While there is no real shortage of wood in an absolute sense, when compared to the population there is a definite limit to how much is available for use per person, so wood is something of a commodity and can be expensive.
There are approximately 200 cities scattered around the world, each covering an average area of 10,000 square miles (just over 100 miles in diameter) and having an average population of 100 million. Rylor, the largest city and the Tarlok capital, is nearly 400 miles in diameter with a population of over one billion. Nearly a century ago the Seeronians attempted to expand onto the oceans and built a few floating cities, but they proved particularly susceptible to orbital bombardment during the Tarlok invasion and in the early days of the war they were quickly sunk as the underlying superstructure was damaged. It is believed that over 150 million died as these four cities fell. The ruins have never really been explored, either to assess the dead or reclaim resources. However, in recent years there have been some rumors among the resistance that one particular group of freedom fighters has established a base in an airtight portion of one of the cities.
The axial tilt of only 9 degrees means there is a much smaller seasonal variation in climate than on Earth. All year, temperatures for most of the planet average around 80 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and only drop to about 70 at night due to the near-constant clouds.
As you travel more than 60 degrees north or south of the equator you begin seeing cooler temperatures and a little more seasonal change. For the 22 weeks on either side of the hot and cold seasons, temperatures average around 70 and 55 (day and night). In the hot season temperatures increase to around 80 in the daytime and 70 at night for approximately 5 weeks or 80 days. In the cold season temperatures are around 50 and 40 (day and night) for the another 5 weeks.
At latitudes more than 80 degrees north or south of the equator, temperatures drop further with 55 and 45 (day and night) being the average, but changing plus or minus 20 degrees in the hot and cold seasons respectively. At latitudes more than 85 degrees north or south of the equator (ie, the Poles) the average temperatures are around 40 during the day and 30 at night, with the hot season being 15 degrees hotter and the cold season 10 degrees lower. The Poles tend to have small ice caps for the cold season and most of the rest of the year, which melt during the five weeks leading up to the hot season and the five weeks of the hot season, and then slowly begin freezing again over the next five weeks.
All of the temperatures above are averages only. The temperature does not vary as much as on Earth, but on any given day will probably be within 10 degrees (above or below) the listed averages. However, occasionally an extended high pressure zone can cause clear skies for several days and nights in one area, which results in a dramatic drop in temperatures as heat is radiated away rather than being reflected by the clouds. Even cities near the equator are likely to be hit with near-freezing or below-freezing temperatures a few times per year, and since these cold spells are due to weather patterns and not seasons, they can happen even during the "hot season". Since the cold spells accompany high pressure fronts and have few clouds, snow storms are rare for most of the planet, and when they do happen the snow rarely lasts more than a few days before returning high temperatures melt it.
On the other hand, rain is frequent across most of the planet. Despite the smaller ocean surface, the high average surface temperature all year long results in warmer oceans (great for swimming!) and more water being taken into the atmosphere than on Earth. Unfortunately, this also means higher humidity, and some very severe storms where it accumulates against the sides of the mountains. In most areas, rain falls approximately 4 times per week (25% chance per day), but there is more near the mountains (35-40% chance per day). Most areas receive about 120-150 inches of rain per year ( but remember that a year is 864 days).
The Tarlok occupation forces are organized in a pyramid hierarchy, which includes both military and civilian government divisions. At the top is the Headquarters of Military Operations and Pacification, which oversees the second rank of organizations, including the civilian government, the Tarlok Military, and the Bureau of Control and Registration.
The top of the food chain on Seeron is filled by the Tarlok Headquarters of Military Operations and Pacification (MOP), which is the organization which is ultimately responsible for the Seeronian Theater of Operations. BloodChief Alakru'ez is the senior officer in charge of the Tarlok in and around Seeron, which, for all intents and purposes, makes him the highest authority on the planet. The UnderChiefs responsible for all branches of the Tarlok military and civilian administration are also considered part of HQ MOP. While HQ MOP is the most powerful portion of the government, it actually has the least to do with the civilian peoples of Seeron, even the resistance.
The only way in which HQ MOP directly interacts with Seeronians is in the new Seeronian government. The MOP imposes high-level requirements on the government, which must then implement them. These requirements usually take the form of imposing an "occupation payment" which the Seeronian government must pay each year, preventing anti-Tarlok sentiments from appearing in the media, forcing public obedience and halting the resistance, and otherwise monitoring and controlling the populace.
High-ranking Tarlok, mostly UnderChiefs and Warlors, will meet periodically with various government officials to review the current state of the government and how these requirements are being implemented, as well as to modify or impose new goals and requirements that the government must meet.
In addition to these high-level meetings between MOP officers and government officials, the MOP also appoint lower-ranked Tarlok officers as liaisons to each government department, to oversee the actual operations of the government and make sure that their directives are being followed. Most of these liaison officers have the rank of Fightleaders, though particularly important posts may have Warlors.
Unlike all other official interactions between the Tarlok and the Seeronians, the administrative liaisons in the MOP are the only Tarlok who maintain a civil working relationship with the natives. The Tarlok liaison officers are generally chosen for having an even disposition and they work with their Seeronian counterparts to achieve the best results. Their fundamental task is to improve the economy and maintain a peaceful (ie, subservient) and effective workforce, for the benefit of the Tarlok empire, so they are motivated to cultivate a firm but at least semi-fair attitude towards the Seeronians. Combined with the fact that they primarily interact with collaborators in the government, or at least Seeronians who are not strongly anti-Tarlok, the interactions between the MOP and the Seeronian government are actually quite civil.
This doesn't mean they always agree, however. There are constant maneuverings between the Tarlok liaisons and the Seeronian officials, as each try to achieve their own goals. The Tarlok seek to maximize the value of the Seeronians to the Tarlok empire. The government officials, more often than not, want to increase their personal power or influence, but occasionally they seek what is best for their planet and people, either because there happens to be a decent official on a committee, or because in some situations the greater good also corresponds to what would most benefit the individuals. Regardless of these conflicting goals, however, both the Tarlok liaisons and the Seeronians understand the rules of the game and maintain a civil relationship. And since the Tarlok really hold the power, they usually get what they want in the end.
The HQ MOP was originally based in an occupied building in Rylor. Over time, however, it was subject to such intense infiltration and sabotage that it was decided to move the HQ off of Seeron. Early in the occupation, the Tarlok had transported to Seeron four huge satellites from their other conquered worlds, each of which was was a major staging platform for the Tarlok and capable of supporting at least one fully Army (more than 200,000 soldiers). About 20 years ago, the ranking BloodChief moved HQ MOP to Space Platform One, which is the satellite closest to Rylor. There is still a major branch office of the MOP in Rylor where the government liaisons are based, but the ranking officers of the Tarlok remain safely in orbit.
Note: Originally, each of the four Space Platforms were in equally spaced geo-synchronous orbits above Seeron's equator. However, a few years after it was deployed around Seeron, Space Platform Three was destroyed (see below), and it has never been replaced. Rumors say that the Tarlok are finally using Seeronian technicians and laborers to design and build a new Space Platform based upon the more advanced Seeronian technology.
The Tarlok need a local government. They cannot effectively govern the planet themselves. With a native population of 20 billion, on a world this far from their home planet, it would be very difficult for any invaders to handle day-to-day functions. For a race like the Tarlok, since there probably aren't many volunteers to be administrators, this would be especially true.
In many ways, it would be in the Tarlok's best interest to form a government that would try to be tolerant of the natives, since a sufficiently benevolent government might be stoically accepted instead of resisted. However, while that might be most effective, it rarely happens in the real world and given the attitudes of the Tarlok I think it is even less likely to be the case on Seeron. Besides, it wouldn't be as much fun! :)
Presumably, the Seeronians deemed "appropriate" to serve the Tarlok would have to be collaborationists and willing accomplices to the brutal invaders, so they would tend to be individuals who are strict, authoritarian, and power hungry. In many cases, the extreme right-wing fascist political parties that would have been an unpopular minority under the original Seeronian government would be most willing to serve the Tarlok in exchange for finally achieving real power and the position to get revenge on their old political adversaries. Criminals that were released by the Tarlok are clearly another group which would relish a chance to assume positions of power over their ex-oppressors.
The Tarlok would appoint the most trustworthy collaborators to the most important and senior positions in the new government, who in turn would appoint people to the subordinate positions under them. There would be no form of democracy or popular vote in choosing officials at any level of the occupation government.
However, the majority of the civil servants would have remained in their old jobs, since replacing all of them would be next to impossible and result in much more disruption to the society and, more importantly, the economy. Only the people who publicly held strong anti-Tarlok attitudes would have been immediately replaced, along with any others who voluntarily quit instead of working for the new government. As time went by, new government employees would need to be hired, and while the collaborators would try to include as many Tarlok sympathizers as possible, there still wouldn't be enough to fill every position in a global government. Even after thirty years, only the government officials and senior civil servants would be strong Tarlok supporters (maybe the top 5% of the government), a larger number (maybe 10-15%?) would be Seeronians who are more-or-less neutral towards the Tarlok, while the remaining millions of civil servants (at least 80%) will generally share the same attitudes as the rest of the population (see the section below on passive resistance by the people). And, of course, a small percentage of the government employees will be active in the resistance as spies and sabateurs.
As discussed above, the Tarlok leaders impose requirements on the civilian government, and appoint Tarlok officers to act as liaisons and overseers within each government department. For a variety of reasons, the liaison officers generally do not actually run a government department, but instead oversee and provide instructions to the department's Seeronian official or manager.
The government organization follows a general pattern that has some military overtones. At the top are President Lehbel Nilahje, a female minor psi Seerman, and Vice President Riba Cyquona, a female norm Talus. The executive council is made up of Ministers of various deparments, such as the Minister of Technology, Minister of Taxation, Minister of Defense, etc. The world is no longer administratively divided into the 4 traditional sectors. Instead, each city is controlled by a Governor, who appoints Prefects to control major divisions within each city. Generally, a Prefect will oversee a region of the city that has a population of around 5 million citizens.
The public police forces are under the control of the government, and while most (maybe 75-85%) of the police officers are not Tarlok collaborators, their superiors assign them with tasks which focus on guarding against uprisings, hunting resistance members, protecting important collaborators, and investigating sabotage. They still provide protection to the general public against criminals, but they are less effective at it because of all the other, more political tasks that they are also given.
While significant Tarlok military forces are still present on Seeron, the majority of them only become involved in the most extreme cases of civil unrest and revolt. After the intense upheavals in the first few years following the surrender of the Seeronian government, the Tarlok military has rarely chosen to use significant force against the general population.
As described in the source book, early in the occupation the Tarlok BloodChief decided to use an orbital bombardment to destroy the first band of "Skraypers". While it's immediate goal was successful, it actually led to much greater resistance in two ways. First, the victims of the attack became martyrs and symbols that hardened the resistance and won many resistance sympathizers amongst the public. A more tangible result, however, was that the attack created many new resisters with even greater powers than the original Skraypers!
Even in the early days of the occupation, a small percentage of the general population had the potential for super powers, although at that point it was maybe only 5%. Of those, between 10% and 15% would have powers such as intangibility, invulnerability, energy absorption, force fields, and so on, that might let them survive an orbital bombardment provided that they were not at ground zero (50%). Given those assumptions, that means more than 400 (162,000 x .05 x .10 x .50) civilians survived the attack, all of them among the most powerful supers. While they may not have been active resisters before, and some would not have the appropriate personality to start even under these conditions, the Tarlok assault probably led to at least 50 or 100 new, very powerful, resisters who really wanted vengeance. Considering that the Tarlok attack was intended to destroy a band of maybe 10 or 20 Skraypers, they actually made the problem worse! All the new resisters created by these attacks were among the most powerful supers, and few of them would have joined the resistance if they hadn't been directly and personally provoked by the destruction of their friends and families. Within a few years, the Tarlok realized that the tactics of orbital bombardment, which they used to great effect on the other worlds they conquered, were generally counter-productive on Seeron.
Reluctant to give up what they considered a very useful psychological tool for discouraging resistance, the Tarlok experimented with more controlled methods of reprisal, such as publicly executing 10 Seeronians for each Tarlok killed by the resistance. Even this did not work out, however. Initially, they suffered from Skrayper raids and rescue attempts that disrupted the executions, which lead them to hold the executions in one of the orbiting space platforms. In one of the greatest disasters suffered by the invaders, the Space Platform Three was completely destroyed in the midst of the executions, killing several hundred thousand Tarlok, including both the ranking StarChief and DreadChief for the Seeronian Theater of Operations. Examinations of the wreckage lead to the conclusion that one of the victims was a latent mutant with the ability to transform into fire, and in his death throws he underwent some form of massive energy conversion and release that was roughly equivalent to detonating a nuclear bomb in the heart of the satellite platform. Perhaps even worse, for the Tarlok, because they were performing the executions to discourage the general population, the executions had been being broadcast live on all public news stations and there was no way for them to cover up the disaster. It became a symbol for the people and rallying cry for the resistance.
From that day on, the Tarlok have avoided any attempts to kill civilians in retaliation for resistance activities, and have relied on less dangerous methods of attempting to turn the public against the Skraypers. The only time that the Tarlok will now use military force against the general population is in the case of a major riot or public uprising, since they feel it is better to have a few hundred super-powered survivors than to have a hundred thousand normal and ten thousand super-powered rioters. When it does occur, military intervention against a rioting population usually results in either a massive orbital bombardment of a region by the Tarlok Space Fleet, or tens of thousands of troops, mostly Tarbulls, descending on an area and ruthlessly putting down all resistance. One of the most severe examples of this occurred on the fifth anniversary of the surrender of Seeron, when a crowd of over 500,000 people (including many thousand supers) rioted in the city of Kylia. After a few hours during which the Tarlok were unable to restore control, they pulled their forces out of the area, formed a line around the perimeter to keep anyone from escaping, and wiped out the entire crowd with a bombardment from their orbiting spacecraft. The soldiers then went back into the area and managed to capture or kill most of the supers who survived the bombardment. Only a dozen Seeronians are known to have survived and escaped.
While most Tarlok soldiers are only used against the natives on rare occasions, one particular sub-division of the military is much more active. The Tarlok Military Police (TMP) plays a significant role in combating the resistance.
One function of the BCR is implementing the government policy of rewards for citizens who report resistance members and criminals, so following up all denunciations, both anonymous and signed, is part of their responsibility. Unfortunately, there is a small segment of any race which thrives in a general environment of suspicion, and who inform the authorities of suspicious activities and even make up claims of illegal activities to discredit personal enemies or business rivals. While Control realizes that most such claims are fake, especially the anonymous ones, some may be accurate and they attempt to follow up on all of the leads.
They maintain a master list of all suspects, planet-wide, and grade each one on the number of complaints, degree of proof, and potential threat to the Tarlok. The city boundary checkpoints make extensive use of this list, closely monitoring the lesser suspects' movements and restricting the movement of more serious suspects.
When the claims against a suspect are judged to have some corroborating evidence (even if its not "beyond a reasonable doubt" - this is not a fair jury and the suspect rarely knows the judgment is occurring, let alone be given the opportunity to defend himself), the suspect will be detained for questioning. Unless completely satisfied of the suspect's innocence and lack of threat, the Control agent in charge can place him or her under temporary confinement, usually in prison camps on the edge of mountainous terrain or on one of the moons, while further investigations take place. Of course, a confined suspect is not a high priority, and these investigations take place only during "slow" periods. There are many cases of people still being held under temporary confinement after ten or more years, despite the lack of any clear evidence against them, let alone an actual trial. Detained supers that the Tarlok think are particularly dangerous or valuable are often never seen again and are presumably sold into slavery off-world.
The only silver lining to this cloud is that Control is stretched pretty thin, so they are cracking down on false denunciations. Where they can identify the informant and prove that the claim was false, they tend to severely punish the person who wasted their time.
Under the totalitarian government set up by the Tarlok, one of the founding principles, and a chief subject of the propaganda to justify its existence, is that the "liberal" government of the last generation was responsible for the planet's fall because it followed a policy of expansion into space and contact with the Seleniak, which directly lead to the mutations that "plague" the people. And, of course, the old government failed to adequately protect Seeron, which is further proof of its incompetence and justification for the "new order".
Another principle of the Tarlok occupation government is that "duties would precede rights; discipline, order, and respect for authority would be stressed" (Choices in Vichy France, page 33). Such a philosophy is needed by the collaborationist government, because one of the most contentious issues they face is probably the Tarlok taking Seeronians off-world to be used or sold as slaves. Some of the slaves-to-be are prisoners, suspects, and other trouble-makers, but they can't keep the people from knowing that more "innocent" people are also disappearing. Since that is a fact of life under the Tarlok, the puppet government has probably spent some time working on a propaganda campaign to give it the proper "spin". They couldn't make the people happy about it, but they probably put a fair amount of effort into keeping the masses from becoming TOO unhappy about it and revolting.
An example of this in WW II era France was the mandatory forced labor draft where French laborers were being sent to Germany, and the Vichy government tried to spin it as a "good thing" since Germany offered to release prisoners of war in exchange for the laborers. Of course, only one POW would be released per three laborers... Despite the propaganda, the labor draft was widely resisted by all levels of French society and many people successfully dodged the draft by hiding in the country side and being given shelter and food by the farmers in exchange for work in the fields.
The Tarlok efforts are in a slightly different class, as they deal in clear-cut lifetime slavery, but it is not portrayed that way in the official media. The official propaganda is that there are off-world "opportunities", emphasizes that everyone owes a duty to the state, and claims that these off-world "terms of service" will reduce the occupation payments owed to the Tarlok (see below). By reducing the occupation payments, the government claims everyone benefits by lower taxes and stronger local economy. Most people don't really believe the propaganda, and are very disturbed by the situation, but it plants enough of a seed of doubt that the population as a whole hasn't boiled over. Resistance to slavery usually takes the form of people aiding refugees and hiding them in the lowest levels of the cities and in the countryside.
In addition to its role in slavery, the government has made many other in-roads into basic human rights. One of the first to be revoked was the right of free speech. The government censors all the media to the best of its ability. In a society as technologically advanced as the Seeronians, paper is probably history, at least with respect to news delivery, and the primary forms of news dissemination would be both textual and video news feeds on the global data network (GDN) that individuals can subscribe to. All news sources must be licensed and monitored by government agents, and it is illegal for individuals to post anything which is anti-Tarlok, anti-government, or could be considered inciting to riot or disobedience. To enforce this, they have gone to extreme lengths to ensure that all access to the GDN can be traced. Attempts have also been made to purge the GDN of any books, serials or other data sources that might promote "inappropriate" ideas in the populace. This has been fairly successful, but attempts to purge private data files and old printed libraries have been much less successful.
In attempts to maintain public order, the occupation government has removed the right of assembly, so it is illegal for private groups of more than 10 individuals to gather in public places. Of course this does not limit many separate individuals or small groups from making use of public facilities, such as restaurants and theaters, at the same time. However, if the authorities believe that a gathering of random spectators is actually forming into a single large group, say because they are celebrating a patriotic holiday, listening to a public speaker, or the appearance of Skraypers, the authorities have been instructed to break it up and disperse or detain people as deemed appropriate.
Of course, there are also strict laws against inciting a crowd to riot or public disobedience, and the agitators will be handled with much less tolerance and much more harshness than the rest of the crowd, up to and including an immediate death sentence if the crime is deemed serious enough.
Other restrictions imposed by the occupation government include limitations on travel to or from certain regions. Travel within or between most cities is not actually restricted, but it is always closely monitored. In all cities, checkpoints have been set up at a handful of the key roadways that cross the city boundaries, and at all public transportation stations. All legal travel into or out of a city must be through one of these checkpoints, and where possible all other means of entrance and exit have been closed (roads torn up and bridges destroyed, though that can't stop flying transports or in most places even walkers). To further enforce it, there are frequent patrols flying around the perimeter of the cities, and being caught sneaking in or out is treated as proof of resistance activities. However, in a handful of cities where there have been significant resistance operations and public revolt, all entry and egress is actually restricted. Travelers must apply for a visa to enter or leave at least 24 hours prior to the trip and all requests undergo both a very thorough computer background check and a quick review for confirmation by an agent of the Bureau of Control and Registration.
Another new government policy is a standing offer of a reward for any citizen who provides information that leads to the arrest of a resistance member or black marketeer.
As discussed in the section on the Tarlok Military, above, the occupation government no longer uses mass executions as a method of reprisal against Skrayper activities. While the Tarlok, like many human totalitarian states, believe in the value of such atrocities, and continue to use them on other worlds, they have learned the hard way that on Seeron it actually creates an even greater threat. However, less extreme methods of reprisal are used extensively by the occupation government.
Skrayper raids, especially the successful ones, will result in large investigations and BCR agents poking into and generally disrupting the lives, loyalties and activities of many civilians who are either suspects or happened to be bystanders in the area of the raid. Curfews are another frequent response to Skrayper raids, usually resulting in the public being restricted to their homes after 6 or 7 pm, and effectively cutting off all means of recreation such as movies, bars and clubs, shopping centers, etc.
These methods of reprisals are safer for the Tarlok and the occupation government than their earlier attempts at massive slaughter, while still being likely to anger the population and turn them against the resistance. In a few locations where Skraypers have been particularly active and the reprisals have gone on long enough, the citizens have gotten fed up and forced the Skraypers to take a break or move on to other areas. Still, most of the people are willing to put up with the reprisals for a limited time since it means that the resistance has struck a blow against the invaders. It generally requires an extended period of curfews and intense restrictions by the government before the general population will turn against the Skraypers.
For this reason, among others, one of the most urgent goals for government scientists is finding a reliable way to identify if a Seeronian has an active or latent mutation. This has proven very difficult, but if they can crack it then they can safely reinstate a policy of executing 10 Seeronians, non-mutants only, for every Tarlok killed by the resistance. This would be a more effective reprisal and deterrent than the current options, and preventing this research is one of the most important tasks of the resistance movement, because if the government succeeds the resistance will need to seriously curtail its activities.
This section is in rough draft only. I'll pretty it up soon.
It is also possible to "forge" an e-card, programming it with some amount of money that you don't actually have. However, since legitmate businesses won't accept e-cards anymore, forged e-cards would only be useful for stealing from the black market, never a good idea since they are more savvy about those types of things. However, if you wanted to try it, it would require some proper equipment, a few hours of work, and a successful cryptography roll, a successful forgery roll, and a successful computer hacking roll. Even if all the rolls are successful, the e-card is still a forgery. It is, for all practical purposes, impossible to break the real encryption used by valid e-cards, so the best a forger can do is come up with an encryption scheme that seems to mimic the real thing. This means that the forgery can automatically be detected as such by any merchant who has spent the money to have a validation program to check the encryption.
The original, pre-Tarlok, Seeronian legal system was relatively straight-forward and benevolent, with a small focused body of laws. Trials involved a tribunal of three judges and a nine person jury. The judges had a very wide degree of discretion, so the actual laws are relatively few and are based around the fundamental principle of "if it hurts someone else, it is illegal, otherwise go ahead." The duration of jail sentences usually fit the crime and most people were satisfied with the legal system. For many years, the death penalty was not allowed until just before the Tarlok invasion, when it was reinstated due to the actions of the Burning Scythe (see the source book).
A few laws that may not be obvious, and deserve mention, include:
With the advent of the occupation government, a true totalitarian state, many new laws have been passed to restrict personal freedoms, as discussed in the government policy section above, but the fundamental legal and trial system are still intact. Unfortunately, there is one major new loophole, since high-ranking government officials, including BCR officers, can choose to bypass the trial system and pronounce a judgment on the spot, either condemning or pardoning a suspect for any type of crime.
For most crimes and the average small-time criminal, the traditional Seeronian legal and trial systems are used. One positive benefit of this is that a Skrayper hero can capture a villain and deliver him to the police for prosecution. While the police generally spend less time actively preventing crime and are more occupied with political tasks like guarding manufacturing facilities and investigating resistance activities, they will certainly arrest any criminal who is delivered into their hands with proof of wrong-doing. Of course, if the Skrayper doing the delivery is himself a wanted criminal the police will try to capture him as well.
Provided there are other witnesses or sufficient physical evidence, the criminal can be tried and convicted even without the presence of the Skrayper who captured him, which is very good news since most Skraypers are themselves wanted criminals of the government and could not arrive in court to face the accused. If the Skrayper broke any laws (breaking and entering, assault, etc) in the process of capturing the villain, those crimes would be added to the warrant for the Skrayper's arrest, but that would not prevent the villain from being tried or cause any evidence to be inadmissible.
Unfortunately, since some government officials and BCR officers have the authority to bypass the legal system, many of the most powerful and wealthy criminals will never be convicted. By buying a corrupt official, or acting as an occasional BCR informant, any criminal with sufficient resources can effectively protect himself from prosecution in the public legal system. This has led the resistance and shadow government to set up an underground trial system to punish the criminals which are, effectively, above the law while protected by a corrupt official. For more details, see the section on the resistance.
Within the cities the population density is approximately 10,000 to 12,000 per square mile, or about equivalent to downtown Chicago. However, the cities feel much less crowded because of the number of floors available within all the skyscrapers. Even if 90% of the space within city limits is actually "lost" or unusable for living areas (spaces between buildings to let in light, the roads, bridges, monorails, etc), and if 25% of the space within each building is taken up by power, environmental and maintenance areas, the remaining space is more than ample. If the average one bedroom apartment is at least 800 to 1,000 square feet and the average home for four people is at least 2,000 square feet, the total space used in private homes would still only be about 3% of the available living space. The remaining 97% is taken up by workplaces, industrial production facilities, schools, large public parks, shopping centers, government offices, etc.
The skyscrapers come in many different shapes and sizes. Most range from 1,000' to 2,000' in height, with some reaching up to 3,000' or more. If there is an "average" skyscraper, it would be approximately 1,500' tall with a cross-section that is usually about 400' or 500' on each side. However, only the most boring of skyscrapers maintain the same cross-section throughout its height, and most will vary their shape every couple hundred feet of height.
The internal layout of each skyscraper varies widely, but as a generalization, most skyscraper superstructures will be divided into levels that are each 120' high. The average building will have approximately 10 levels with a utility and maintenance area between each level. Each level of the superstructure is somewhat self-contained, and will have on average 10 stories which are each about 10' high with each story being separated by about 2' of floor/ceiling materials and utility ducts.
Most levels fall into three patterns: a town square (65%), a single road (25%) or cross roads (10%). In levels designed as a town square, there will be a central common area, usually including a small park, surrounded on all four sides by 10 stories of buildings. The only access into the level is via a single tunnel to the outside for use by flying automobiles and public elevators in the common area that connect to the levels above and below it.
In levels designed with one road, the level will be split in half by a road that crosses through the center. On each side of the road will be public slideways and sidewalks, and then 10 stories of buildings. The road will exit the superstructure on opposite sides and connect to neighboring skyscrapers via bridges. Public elevators to other levels are located near the street on the first story.
In levels designed as a cross roads or an intersection, there will be two perpendicular roads that divide the level into four sections, each of which will have 10 stories of living space. Elevators accessible from the streets will lead to the levels above and below. The two roads will exit the superstructure on all four sides and connect with four neighboring skyscrapers.
Each level will generally have one parking garage that has some public areas for visitors and some private areas for residents of that level.
Within each level, any public area (the central square or roads, for example) will be open to the ceiling of the level, usually 120' high. In lower class sections, the ceilings will have standard lighting, which may be kept on all day or dimmed during night time hours to save expenses, depending on the level of poverty in the level. In better areas, the levels will be equipped with holographic projectors which give the illusion of a sky instead of a ceiling, usually with a holographic sun that mimics the movement of the real sun and a dimmer "moon" which comes out at night.
The buildings which surround the public areas of each level will generally be divided into 10 stories. Stores are usually on the lower stories, often with their own entrances on to the road or common areas, while office space and living quarters tend to be on the higher stories and accessed via public entrances off of the common area on the first story, and internal elevators that open on to public lobbies on each of the 10 stories. In nice areas, the buildings will be designed to present a pleasing facade towards the road or common areas of the level, including architectural features like pillars, moldings, murals and other decorative features. Low-rent levels don't tend to bother with that, having just a plain metal or composite fiber/plastic siding.
Within the buildings themselves, any given apartment may be a single story or be multi-storied with an internal private staircase (or even elevator). The most expensive quarters are on the outer edges of the superstructure and include windows and (in nice places) balconies overlooking the outside. The next-most-expensive quarters will be on the inner face of each building, with windows and/or balconies overlooking the common areas within that level of the superstructure. The cheapest quarters will be in the center of each building and will not have windows facing either the outside or the inner common areas. However, all but the absolute poorest rooms will have at least one digital display panel that can be set to show any desired background scenery, such as mountain vistas, city skylines or even starscapes.
Considering the expense of building the massive superstructures, most skyscrapers are actually built and owned by the government. However, the apartments and office space within the skyscraper are all sold to individuals and businesses. The government does not rent out any space. Corporate or private owners of space may choose to rent it out, however, so there are just as many apartments and offices available for rent as there would be in a city on Earth. Of course, most people aspire to own their own home as they "settle down".
Between each level of the skyscrapers, the superstructure includes a maintenance level. In addition, there are large maintenance passageways and ducts that leave the maintenance levels to honeycomb throughout all 10 stories of the buildings within each level. Most people living within the buildings will never know how to access the maintenance areas, and wouldn't even know if there was a maintenance tunnel or duct running along a floor, wall or ceiling of their apartment. The original Seeronian government maintained a database of building schematics, but when they foresaw their surrender to the Tarlok and began preparing for a resistance movement, they took the database with them. The current occupation government does not have any original building schematics or blueprints of the maintenance tunnels! Of course, government employees who actually provide the day-to-day maintenance for a given level will be familiar with the areas they work in, and the government has been trying to use them to compile a new database, but the BCR and the Tarlok still have no comprehensive source detailing these areas of the superstructures.
While it can be said that most of the population are extremely unhappy with the Tarlok invaders and perform countless acts of passive resistance in their day-to-day activities, the reality is that life must go on, and only a small percentage participate in active resistance. While in the early days of the invasion the lack of weapons played a part, that is no longer true because of the increase in "natural" weapons in the form of super powers. Currently, the two major factors that lead to the predominance of passive instead of active resistance are a (probably valid) belief that a major upsurge in active resistance would cause massive orbital bombardments in retaliation, and also that most people have families to care for and feed. They, quite literally, cannot afford to give up their jobs to become freedom fighters. And while some employers will continue to provide cover and a salary for a resistance member or two, they cannot afford to do it on too wide a scale both because they can't take the risk of discovery and they have their own requirements to provide for their families and to meet government production quotas.
One specific group of workers that deserves special mention is government employees, who can be considered to be working directly for the Tarlok. As in the rest of the population, most are actually very unhappy about the situation but feel that they must continue in their jobs both because in the depressed economy they cannot find work elsewhere, and perhaps because they believe they may be able to help their people in some small way. In fact, although there is actually little they can do to protect their people directly, they are one of the key sources of information for the resistance.
The most common form of passive resistance practiced by the masses is reading and distributing to friends news materials published by the resistance and other Seeronian propaganda materials, all of which are outlawed. Many Seeronians also participate in minor acts of sabotage by providing the lowest quality goods and services to the Tarlok, everything from restaurant cooks that ruin the food ordered by Tarlok patrons to manufacturers who deliberately provide lower-quality or slightly flawed goods to the Tarlok war machine.
Generally, the population supports the active resistors in the Shadow Government and Skrayper groups. Where possible, many Seeronians will provide the resistance with any spare food or resources they can accumulate. In some cases, they'll also provide shelter or alibis to resistance members. However, the two most useful forms of support provided by Seeronian citizens include providing the resistance with any important information that they happen to come across and by keeping a code of silence about the location and activities of anyone that might be suspected by the authorities.
The only aspect of the resistance that the general population does not wholly support is significant outright violence and rioting against the Tarlok, not because of any desire to protect the invaders but because the Tarlok tend towards more extreme reprisals when the resistance conducts large, persistent attacks.
There are five primary elements in the resistance movement against the Tarlok. The first activity is the formation and maintenance of a shadow government, which oversees the remaining four resistance activities. In many ways, the most effective form of resistance, and the hardest for the Tarlok to fight, is propaganda. The resistance movement dedicates a significant amount of its resources to the distribution of news to the general population. The third major activity is intelligence gathering about the Tarlok and the occupation government, both by resistance spies and sympathizers in the general populace. Actual combat and sabotage by Skraypers and militant resistance cells is the fourth effort undertaken by the resistance. The fifth activity is running an underground legal system to protect the populace and provide justice when the corrupt system of the occupation government fails to uphold the law.
There are two fundamental tasks faced by the shadow government. First, it is responsible for organizing the resistance and overseeing the other four activities listed below. This includes acting as the go-between for distributing information, ordering critical missions, and allocating resources. The second major task is preparing for the expulsion of the Tarlok and reassumption of political power. This involves the obvious things like preparing for a military effort to oust the invaders, but also includes less obvious tasks like preparing for the smooth takeover of the planetary government, because there must be a minimum of social and economic confusion if there is to be any hope of keeping the Tarlok away.
The original, pre-Tarlok government was a representational democracy consisting of four separate legal sectors, each with their own Congress, and a single over-riding Cabinet. The citizens of each sector voted for representatives who served in the four sector Congresses, while all citizens voted for the President, Vice-President and Cabinet positions.
When the government realized they were going to lose the war and prepared their underground resistance infrastructure, they effectively instituted martial law. The shadow government still has a President, Vice-President, global Cabinet and four small sector Congresses, but the holders of these positions are no longer elected by the people (since that is impossible while underground) but are instead appointed by the pre-existing members.
At the local level, there will be shadow officials who monitor the activities of the occupation government and coordinate the other resistance activities within each city.
With the strict government control of all public news sources, one of the most critical tasks faced by the resistance is the distribution of information. Maintaining the morale of the population, as well as the resistance cells, and letting them know that the fight for Seeronian freedom is on-going and succeeding is of paramount importance. There are no neighboring "unoccupied" regions that could broadcast news to the occupied areas, unlike Earth's World Wars. Any rebel broadcasts would be immediately tracked and eliminated by the Tarlok.
Use of the Global Data Network is one major method for distributing resistance propaganda, but it requires a significant effort on the part of resistance hackers to keep the occupation government from tracking down the sources. Occasionally, when the government is able to locate and shut down a site, there are major disruptions in the news distribution until word can filter through the population about new locations to look for news.
For this reason, the most effective method of news distribution is actually spreading electronic "newspapers" from person to person. There are number of weekly resistance newsletters that are distributed to local resistance members ("paper boys"), who wander around visiting known sympathizers and transferring the data to the sympathizers' data pads. These sympathizers will then distribute it to their friends and family, who pass it on to their friends and family, etc. It is a slow method of distribution, but effective and almost impossible for the government to stop. They have strict penalties for possessing these newsletters, and stricter ones for distributing them, but it is trivial for the data pads to store the newsletters in an encrypted form and to delete them in case of any unauthorized access. While the government probably could confiscate a data pad and bring it back to their labs to extract the data by circumventing the auto-deletion and encryption, it would take a LOT of effort and isn't worth it to catch some random sympathizer. After all, if the BCR are convinced that someone is distributing these materials, they don't really need proof to arrest them.
Without the intelligence operations of resistance members and sympathizers, the resistance would be nearly helpless. This network of spies provides the resistance with information about Tarlok activities, the occupation government's plans, upcoming attacks on suspected resistance locations, and lists of people suspected by the enemy of resistance activities. Just as importantly, they also provide information about important shipments of goods to the Tarlok, which is one of the major ways the Skraypers can hurt their foe.
The Skraypers are the combat arm of the resistance, and therefore the most visible and flamboyant members. While the Tarlok are clearly the enemy, many Skrayper activities are actually targeted more at the enemy support structure in the collaborationist government and industry. Few, if any, Skrayper groups can succeed in an actual attack on a Tarlok base, and attempts to rouse the population in an assault lead to orbital bombardments (as discussed above), so most operations by Skraypers avoid Tarlok installations.
Many Skrayper activities involve raids on the occupation government treasuries and collaborationist businesses to gain resources for the resistance, whether money or goods and materials. A related task is raids to gain codes and equipment to allow for the resistance to forge identification and travel papers, and to destroy enemy records about resistance members and activities. Other typical missions include attacks on the government communications infrastructure, including official news agencies, broadcast and telecommunications facilities. Raids on factories and production sites that are being used to support the Tarlok are fairly common, but generally not if there are non-collaborationist workers in the line of fire. Under those conditions, raids would be limited to attacks on the finished products during transportation, while plans to sabotage the production facility without harming innocents are investigated.
Because the Skrayper activities have generally fallen into these patterns in the past, the government and the Tarlok spend a fair amount of their resources on trying to protect the facilities listed above. Seeronian civil police forces, including some supers, are often assigned to guard important manufacturing facilities and transportation convoys. Communication facilities and other sites that are of particular interest or importance to the government will use BCR agents and even Tarlok Military Police.
Another major activity undertaken by the Skraypers is the policing their domains. While the police do still provide protection to the general public against criminals, they are less effective at it because of all the other, more political tasks that they are given. For this reason, the Skraypers have taken on the roll of vigilantes, guarding the people around them from the predators in society. In many cases, there is word on the street about how a citizen can contact the local Skraypers to ask for assistance if the official police are not able to help them. Of course, this poses some risk to the Skraypers, and the BCR often attempts to lead known Skraypers into a trap under the guise of a citizen asking them for help.
Since the tribunals function under effective martial law, they make free use of the death penalty for any crimes involving treason, torture, murder and similar war crimes. Such a severe penalty is not acceptable for lesser crimes, so the shadow government does maintain a few prisons in the depths of the mountains and other desolate locations. However, relatively few prisoners can be incarcerated in this fashion, so only criminals convicted of the most serious of non-capital crimes can receive a prison sentence. Most other crimes will be penalized by confiscation of goods or money, but it is rarely worth the effort since the criminal will go free and could possibly press charges of extortion, assault and kidnapping against the Skraypers who took them before an "illegal" court (in the eyes of the Tarlok government). Because of this, Skraypers are urged to deliver criminals into the public legal system whenever possible, and usually only repeat offenders who were unjustly pardoned of previous charges should be brought to the shadow tribunal for trial.
Skraypers(TM) cover art is copyright © 1998 Palladium Books Inc. and Kevin Siembieda.
This page is copyright © 1998 by Jim Stoner
Last Modified March 13, 1999