In a centrally located and often-travelled region of the Reykjavík galaxy lies a surprisingly seldom-visited solar system known as the Amsterdam system. How and why it received such a name is a mystery lost to time, but connotations of reckless debauchery and unhinged fun was doubtless the desired effect of the name. It is a system much caught up in its own outmoded, outdated and anachronistic ways, and yet contains a few astrographic oddities, and even the occasional mystery or two.
In this system there are five planets orbiting a hot orange star, which we will call Amsterdam Prime. The four rocky planets are inhabited, as is the largest moon of the system’s lone gas giant.
Beyond the gas giant’s orbit lies the first of the Amsterdam system’s many oddities, a technological construct known as HaZar.
HaZar is completely uninhabited, and is usually left alone, except for the occasional curiosity seeker and scout satellite, snapping pictures for some unknown archive.
Mysterious mechanical pulses echo from it across the heavens, and giant radio dishes echo glimpses of long-forgotten broadcasts from other worlds. Is it a factory of some sort? If so, what is it manufacturing? Is it a habitat? If so, by whom is it inhabited?
Strangely, it is almost as if the construct is capable of feeling (or at the very least broadcasting) human emotions, for some of its messages seem to reflect the timeless pains of the human heart. Indeed, rumours abound of an organic life-form who sits at the centre of the machine, orchestrating its emissions.
And what does this life-form want? Experts studying the emissions have concluded that it wants one thing, and one thing only: to dance.
Travelling in-system, one crosses the orbit of a massive bio-research lab which has been dubbed The Way Down. The Way Down is crewed by a diligent staff of scientists who carefully maintain the lab’s expansive bio-dome. They live simple, relaxed lives as they float through space, unobtrusively working to provide the system’s populace with sustenance, and even the occasional delicacy.
The sixth moon of Amsterdam’s garishly coloured gas giant, Skorpulifur’s curious rotation and noxious, fume-laden atmosphere ensures that it is perpetually bathed in an acrid pink hue. Its largest population centre, a nightmarish maze of lawless streets and high-tech bazaars and brothels, is situated in such a place on the moon’s surface that it never sees the light of Amsterdam’s sun. Skorpulifur City’s suburban slums have spread to cover the entire moon.
Although most civilized beings consider the entertainment Skorpulifur City has to offer trite and unrefined, the moon’s barbaric blue-collar yuppies revere them as gods, and when their shifts in the shantytown factories are over, they flock to the permanent midnight of downtown to see the horrid, drug-addled freaks perform.
As one nears Amsterdam’s amber sun, the outermost of the rocky worlds appears. A bland, densely populated world currently undergoing an economic boom, Spacevestite is harmless, easily navigated and utterly devoid of culture. It has a balmy climate, a friendly population, and no memorable geographic features of any kind. Its leading exports are aged cheeses and its thoroughly filtrated water.
The third world from Amsterdam Prime is Pornopop. Once home to a powerful, technologically advanced society, Pornopop is a world of gently rolling hills, windswept plains and temperate forests. A visitor would be hard-pressed to believe that the planet was once home to sprawling cities and factories producing highly advanced cybernetics and computers. Now, the people dwell in ancient castles, manors and mansions, all their needs provided for by robotic servants, and the heady days of their adventurous past only a memory. Nothing much happens on Pornopop these days, but that’s just the way the natives like it.
Amsterdam’s most populous world is Hljómsveitin Ég. A small, unremarkable world, Hljómsveitin Ég has contributed little of value to the Amsterdam system’s culture and economy. A hardscrabble mining colony nestled close to its sun and largely forgotten by the rest of the system, its inhabitants are crude, uncultured oafs who nonetheless consider themselves great thinkers and philosophers.
Inside even Hljómsveitin Ég’s orbit lies Ikea Satan, a near-toxic hothouse world that is home only to a few primitive tribes. The tribes live variously in mountain villages, underground warrens, or amongst the sprawling, ancient ruins that dot the planet. Some say that the ruins are evidence that the inhabitants of Ikea Satan were once an advanced civilization that has somehow regressed to primitivism. Others say that this is unlikely, that the ruins were built by another race and their current residents have only appropriated them as their own.
Echoes of this mysterious race of ancients abound throughout the Amsterdam system, and most agree that it was them who first settled the six worlds. Legends tell of ancient aliens known only as ‘blues’ (due to the hue of their skin, no doubt), and that the civilization now found in the system has merely appropriated their ways and technology.
But, like most things, it is a mystery lost to time, and the truth is unlikely to change anything, least of all the denizens of the Amsterdam system.
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