During the political chaos and warfare of the Fall, many space industry corporations pushed their work forces to the limits. Already suffering under extremely poor working conditions, the primarily synth-sleeved and indentured workers of Hindustan Aerospace Limited (HAL), working in the shipyards stationed in Lunar orbit, called a general strike. Aided by the Chinese anarchist human-rights collective Chı̄chı̄ Hēhē Cào (literally “Eat-Drink-Fuck”—named for what they believed every person was entitled without interference), they seized control of most of the production facilities as well as the armory. The workers quickly rounded up management and the security officers who had not joined the strike and put them on a shuttle to HAL’s Lunar surface facilities.
Precipitously, the corporate headquarters of HAL on Earth was overrun by the TITANs shortly after- wards, and the corporation’s other space-based assets were thrown into disarray. No attempt was made to unseat the strikers. As the situation on Earth deterio- rated and a full- edged evacuation was initiated, the strikers voted to retrofit the aerospace manufacturing facilities with more powerful propulsion systems and move the station from Lunar orbit to a high Earth orbit. While some considered the plan to move closer to Earth and the TITANs crazy, the strikers felt a responsibility to attempt to aid refugee craft eeing the chaos. Many refugees had jumped aboard anything capable of boosting itself into orbit without any consideration of where they would go once they were free of Earth and were being turned away by other habitats that were overcrowded, feared infection, or who simply didn’t want to let “undesirables” on board.
Once above the Earth, the facility’s crew teamed up with a nameless group of scum who had been eking out a living in orbit for decades. During this time, the strikers and anarchists worked feverishly to keep the makeshift HAL facilities in working order while also rescuing thousands and accommodating their new arrivals. Rescued refugees who were able to contribute to the rescue mission were quickly put to work. One rescue operation saved a group of Ukrainian refugees that included Lena Andropov, a nanotech engineering wiz, who led an effort to upgrade the factory facilities and aid the rescue efforts.
Over a period of eight weeks, these efforts saved the lives of thousands who might otherwise have been left to die. Eventually they had no more room for refugees and reluctantly pulled back, avoiding the worst of the TITAN-spawned counter-strikes against orbital defenses. It was during this period that an agreement between the refugees, the anarchists, the scum, and the strikers was reached. In order to preserve their safety from TITAN attacks and corporate attempts to reseize the shipyards, the group decided to go mobile and move away from Earth orbit. Taking everything they could salvage from the factory and every ship at their disposal, they launched a otilla towards Mars. They sent out a call to other scattered refugees in and around Earth and Luna and invited them to join, dubbing their fleet The Stars Our Destination, after an old science fiction novel.
Since then, the Stars swarm has enjoyed steady growth. Many new ships have been added to the flotilla through a combination of salvage and purchasing older hulls on the cheap and then upgrading them. The various cultural backgrounds of the swarm’s constituents blended together, with differences melting away as the scum’s open-armed embrace of living life to the fullest came to predomi- nate. Unlike others in the inner system, the crews of the ships in the Stars swarm are free to live however they please.
Course and Stopovers
Stars is unusual among scum swarms in that they follow a set route schedule that they loop through continuously. This route starts at Venus and runs to Luna, Mars, and then back to Venus. Because the swarm makes sure to visit these stopover points in the same order, their travel time between these places is erratic, given their different paths and speeds around the sun. Usually the swarm makes a complete circuit every nine to eighteen months, including a week-long stay at each stopover point. During these stopovers, the entire swarm will enter a stable orbit and pick up or drop off any new passengers and resupply. Each of these orbits is cause for a minor celebration and is treated as a holiday by members of the swarm.
The swarm also plots its path to pass by other habitats not in orbit around Venus, Luna, or Mars. The route almost always passes through one of the Martian Trojans on the way to or from Mars, and it may also make a y-by of stations in the Vulcanoids, various inner-system Lagrange points, Earth orbit, and elsewhere. Whenever the otilla approaches a station, the swarm will usually farcast represen- tatives ahead to make contact and negotiate any exchanges or business deals. For habitats that are less than thrilled to deal with a scum swarm, the reps will often access darknet channels to connect with the less savory elements of the hab. The swarm itself never actually stops at a habitat, though they do sometimes throw themselves into temporary orbits; it is simply too costly in terms of fuel for the larger ships to make too many course and speed adjustments, much less slow down for docking and then relaunch again. Instead, any physical transfers between a swarm and habitat are handled via faster shuttles and small craft. There is typically only a small window of a week or so for such transfers to be economically feasible.
Ships of the Swarm
The crown jewel of the flotilla is The Stars Our Destination, named after the swarm itself. Originally a deep-space scientific analysis craft, her crew was all killed during the Fall when their life support malfunctioned. She was rediscovered six years ago by members of the Eat-Drink-Fuck collective when they found her drifting among the Martian Trojans. This is the third ship to bear the name The Stars Our Destination as the swarm is in the habit of taking the most impressive ship that they can find—and repair—and making it their agship. In comparison to the rest of the otilla, the Stars is by far the most luxurious of the craft, mostly due to the work her crew has put into making it so. The Eat-Drink-Fuck collective is responsible for keeping Stars running, but all members of the swarm are welcome there.
The two barges (Dayeujin and Three Sheets To The Wind) are the most noticeable ships in the swarm due to their immense size and shape and the fact that they are riots of colors, lighting up the depths of space with vibrant reds and yellows and greens. Neither truly quali es as a ship, since they do not have the means for self-propulsion and must be towed.
There are four aging cargo haulers (Abstinence Only, Húli Jı̄ng, Pining For The Fjords, and Supercalifragilisticexpialadocious) that are part of the swarm. Each follows a standard design of a command module in front and propulsion module in the back, connected by a long spine along which are attached cargo containers of varying sizes. The haulers them- selves are very bare bones, lacking all but the most rudimentary of systems, and are usually navigated by beta forks. These craft lack any sort of atmosphere or gravity, although pressure and air can be enabled if needed.
There are three mining tugs (Angry Pirate, Disco Inferno, and Eight Arms to Fondle You With) in the swarm. Each is capable of maintaining a fully automated mining operation on any sort of asteroid or iceteroid encoun- tered to assist in the resupply of the otilla’s raw materials. Tug crews tend to be as close as scum get to loners, since they will often be sent on resource gath- ering away from the rest of the swarm. They maintain a good reputation, however, due to the valuable services they provide the eet.
The Factory Ship: Thoughtcrime
This inelegant hulking mass houses the heart and soul of the Stars swarm: their industrial nanofab- rication facilities. The Thoughtcrime contains four cavernous cargo bays that each have a fabricator capable of producing nished goods or compo- nents as large as ten meters to a side. Two of these fabricators are housed in a rotating part of the ship, ideal for processes that require gravity. These fabricators are mostly used to manufacture repair parts for the eet though they can also produce the autonomous kill vehicles (AKVs) the otilla uses for defense at the rate of one per week if needed. The Thoughtcrime also constructs cheap cases and other synthetic morphs for members of the eet who need a shell. Because it is the primary manufacturer of bulk goods for the swarm, all salvage and scrap that the Boytoy and We Come To Probe You! collect is usually dumped into the Thoughtcrime’s bulk bays. This scrap is then sorted into heaps that litter the decks and bulkheads of the ship, leaving visitors with the impression they have arrived aboard a mobile scrap heap.
The Thoughtcrime is the primary hangout of Lena Andropov, the swarm’s chief engineer, and her crew of nanoengineers. Most of the crew favor synthetic shells for their work and for the ease of maintenance these types of bodies afford. While there are nearly two hundred of them aboard the ship, it can often feel empty due to the sheer size of the Thoughtcrime and the amount of junk laying around.
Cases and other synthetic morphs and equipment can be manufactured in a matter of hours, though the demands on the fabricators usually means there is a three day wait or longer. Lena and the other nanoengineers may be willing to bump someone in line if their @-rep or r-rep is significant and they make a convincing argument.
The “Rig” got its start as the old living habitats for the HAL aerospace facility. During the strike, they were tted with upgraded propulsion systems and moved into a lower orbit for rescue operations. New sections were added on wherever they would t to accommodate the in ux of refugees. Additional rockets were strapped on to the ad-hoc LaFrance rig, enabling the structure to leave Earth orbit under its own power. Over time, even more sections and support elements have been bolted on to the Rig, many of them decorated with garish colors and murals on their exterior.
Inside the Rig, twisting spar corridors and float- ways open into large air-filled gardens, work and support modules, or habitation chambers with pressure doors that lead to more twisting corridors and chambers. The Rig’s internal power plants and life support systems have undergone repeated upgrades to account for the new modules attached to them. Though it looks unsafe, the core infrastructure is sound. However, individual modules and oatways are subject to leaks and blowouts, so most inhabit- ants wear smart fabric vacsuits or make sure there is something nearby to grab in an emergency.