by S. John Ross, part of the Untaken Treks
|Note: This material makes reference to the Chelarian material written by James Maliszewski for Final Frontiers. A developed version of James' text was to be reprinted along with this in Sky Princes. The two works are meant to be taken as a single piece, and can be read in either order! Big thanks to James for making his work available online!|
Note to developer: The umlauts in some Chelarian words (which I wanted to sound vaguely damp) indicate a diphthong. Their specific placement within the diphthong indicates syllabic emphasis. So "Löablanëe" is "LO-ah-blah-NAY-eh." A note to this effect would make a good layout-correcting boxout, if required. Other possible boxouts include stats for swamp-skimmer craft and for dealing with Luglamo-drowning..
"Chelar," the native term for Rigel III, means "deep place" or "the pit." Chelar is 700 million square miles of wetlands, jungle, and smoking volcanoes. She's as ancient and storied as any rock warmed by Rigel, but her secrets are well hidden. To know Chelar is to be drawn down into the hot muck of the pit, to lose yourself in the deep place.
Civilized Chelar is a modern network of plastic cities, polyrail trans-tubes, and glassteel structures gleaming in the foggy sunlight. But all this is imposed on a wilderness that still dominates much of the surface - a world heady with the hot reek of the primordial soup, where dinosaurs chew grass on the shores of sulphurous lakes, giant plants can devour an unwary man, and the evolution from beast to free-willed sentient isn't ancient biology, but a childhood memory.
Due to Chelar's thick, cloudy atmosphere (Rigel is often described as soggy-looking by astonished offworlders), a powerful greenhouse effect warms every part of the planet's surface, and blurs the climactic zones into very broad and indistinct bands. Chelar ranges from steam-burn tropical at the equator to a warm-temperate at the poles. The coldest spot on the coldest day on Chelar is barely "cool" to a human, and the humid, oxygen-rich air can render newcomers drunk, giddy, and exhausted all at once. Along with the sultry beauty of the greenery and smoking mountains, this creates a profoundly romantic impression on many visitors.
The surface of Chelar is 92% water, but a casual glance from space wouldn't make it apparent. The planet is blanketed by two enormous continents - Löoqua and Lüebra - separated by a thin strip of briny ocean that runs from pole to pole like a belt. These large continents, however, are themselves barely "land." Here on Chelar, the distinction between land and water is as hazy as the evening sky, and the green masses of foliage rest on a blend of marshy soil and open swamp, riddled with rivers, lakes, and tiny seas. To find genuine "dry land" on Chelar, you need to climb a volcano - and many of those are active.
Rigel III is a literal "hotbed" of life; every part of the planet is in a constant cycle of birth, growth, and fragrant decay. The rich, the rotting vegetation perpetually feeds Chelar's spongy soil, and provides the planet with an unmistakably fecund perfume.
Chelar has many hundreds of small cities and thousands of villages, many very isolated. There are only a few large metropoli of any account. Löablanëe, the greatest of these, sits in the exact center of Löoqua, just south of the equator. Its distinctive domes of amber plastic - like all permanent Chelarian structures - are built to resist the corrosion and rot that come quickly, here, to anything made of wood or even brick. Everything in Löablanëe is made of either the amber plastic, or some combination of black volcanic metal and smoky volcanic glass. In the summer, the citizens gather in the walk-tubes and plazas to witness the billions of glittering insects, sparkling in the moonlight, as they try vainly to chew their way in. In the winter, they watch the same insects die, driven by the deadly Öameq clouds erupting from the marshes, dropping into a thick layer of sparkling corpses to enrich the bubbling muck . . . the "Chelarian snowfall," humans call it.
Deep within the city, the contrasts are less grotesque, and more political. Löablanëe is a starport, friendly to all kinds of offworld traffic. Klingons are as common as humans, here, and both groups are alien minorities to the Orion and Chelarian presence. Even the Kaylars are here in greater numbers, though they aren't nearly as visible in starports.
The natives insist on peace in areas of business, and never hesitate to enforce their will accordingly. Spies meet their contacts at Löablanëe without fear of arrest; murderers and despots can rent a room for the price of a cheap meal. Petty hatreds and desperate needs are observed, exploited, and enjoyed by the Chelarian proprietors. Anything from love to vengeance is legal for sale, here, provided the fun parts of either are kept out of the plazas.
A kingdom of "wild" Kaylar centered near the southern pole of Lüebra, Rotoächko is a tiny pocket of life - but it's the largest non-Chelarian society on Rigel III. The Rotoächko tradition of kidnapping young Rigellian girls to be raised as members of their "celestial court" came to the attention of Starfleet in 2258, when a Lt. V'konn, a Vulcan security officer visiting Chelar with a research team, was mistaken for a Rigellian and taken to the depths of the Toäch harems. She was presumed dead, and it was nearly two years before contrary evidence led to a rescue effort. Far from killed, she had been "promoted" to the status of goddess of a nearby mountain.
There are many thousands of these on Chelar - the sacred ponds and springs consecrated for the care of infant Chelarians (though "care" is an overstatement; Chelarian young are left to fend for themselves prior to their Awakening).
For years, it had been assumed that nearly any small body of water was suitable for the laying of Chelarian egg-clutches, until a diplomatic snafu in 2254, when the well-meaning crew of the U.S.S. Mercury rushed a pregnant Chelarian diplomat to the wrong kind of pond. Doctor Sawyer's notes (see p.00) presumably included this detail amid the many lost sections of his documentaries.
Due to the unpredictably stormy nature of Chelarian weather, ground transport via plastic "polyrail tube" is the preferred mode of everyday planetary transport. Threaded like a corkscrew with a series of shifting rails that both power and guide high-speed gyrocars, the tubes also open into a network of long-range ballistic tunnels for rapid cross-continent travel. In the railless ballistic tubes, the gyrocars can safely achieve subterranean orbital speeds while sealed away from the encroaching muck.
Doctor Sawyer's Chelar
The Federation's introduction to Chelar's secrets was the (fragmented) work of Dr. Lucas Sawyer, who lived in and studied the jungles of Lüebra for 12 years, observing the dinosauroid life-forms there, poking into sunken ruins, and taking part in the cultures of the Abläe Delta region.
Inspired by reports from Andorians who'd met Chelarian traders in the early days of the Andor/Rigel corridor, Sawyer moved to Chelar with his wife and colleague, Cynthia, in 2233. Their first year was a trial that nearly killed them, with swarms of insects, the deadly gas-clouds, and the corrosive "hot quicksand" of equatorial Chelar each threatening them in turn. After Cynthia mastered the local Chelarian dialect, matters improved considerably, and the pair set to work cataloguing lifeforms, legends, traditions, and records of physical anomalies. They were welcomed by the friendly natives into many Chelarian communities, and recorded hundreds of hours of documentary footage. In 2236, while compiling the first batch of research in their home in the small city of Legäo, they had a son, Richard.
Quests and Tragedies
Emboldened by his successes, Sawyer took his family back into the deep jungle in 2238. Except for brief visits for mail and supplies, the Sawyers would never again live within the safe confines of civilization.
Carving his own path up into the higher plateaus of the rain forest, Sawyer pursued a legend. Tales of hidden ruins, concealed by vines and mud - and of an ancient temple where the Chelarians once received messages from their gods - drove him onward, and along the way he and Cynthia catalogued hundreds more varieties of insects, dinosauroids, and native flora.
Working meticulously over a period of seven years, the sawyer expedition covered over 4,000 square kilometers of the upper Abläe river valley and adjacent territories, much of it dangerously hostile jungle. The rest was nearly-impassable wetlands, traversed slowly by Padru - a native form of surface-skimming boat that can collapse into a package carryable by a single man. Federation science teams have recently recreated parts of Sawyer's travels with modern transport gear and the latest in tricorder technology, and they've covered the territory no faster than the Sawyers did with the tools of thirty years ago and a child in tow.
They key parts of Sawyer's discoveries remain lost, possibly forever. In early 2245, Sawyer was plucked by a band of Chelarian pilgrims from a plastic raft drifting down the Abläe. Nearly dead from exposure and mad from grief, he was clutching the body of his wife, who had drowned. Sawyer was unable to speak for weeks, until he was handed over to an Earth-colony trading vessel bound for the Alpha Quadrant. Onboard, he babbled about ancient evil surging blackly in the mud, and of a glistening paradise of Chelarian Ebony where the "beautiful ancients" lived. He died in his sleep on Stardate 931.8.
Young Richard, and the greater portion of the Sawyers' recorded findings, were never found. The few record tapes recovered along with the Sawyers themselves were a seemingly-random mix of cultural notes, interviews, nature footage and "home movies" of Richard demonstrating his extraordinary skills at swimming and acrobatics. When published in 2246, Sawyer's findings fascinated Federation biologists and anthropologists, encouraging new interest in the already-topical Rigel system. It created as many questions as answers, though, and gave a dangerously fragmented view of the Chelarians that only several years of contact has begun to complete.
Sawyer's final words before drifting to sleep, as recorded by Quartermaster David Macintyre of the I.T.V. Laughlin, were "Tomorrow, you must take me back to Richard. He is safe where they cannot steal his soul. Take me there tomorrow; promise me."
Recent rumors of a human "god-chief" leading a group of empathic Chelarians on raids of ongoing archaeological efforts have awakened fresh speculation on the final fate of Richard Sawyer, but the truth may never be known.
The history of Rigel III is the story of the Chelarian nations - a peaceful collection of industrious bureaucracies. While the Chelarians have certainly known war on occasion, the pacifistic nature of the species, reinforced and aided by a globally-unified set of religions, has served to keep wars scarce. For a long time, the Chelarians simply went about their slow and deliberate business, and the rest of the galaxy was beyond their interest.
With the multiple expansions of the old Orion empires, matters changed, and the Chelarians sharpened their instincts for self-defense. An army of quietly determined Chelarian warriors proved to be terrifyingly competent in battle, employing a variety of weapons, efficient hand-to-hand (claw-to-beak) styles, and squads of tactically-trained telepaths. Orion rule was a constant on Chelar for centuries at a time, but so was frequent and effective Chelarian rebellion.
In the post-imperial years, the Chelarians have turned their fertile muck into a bounty as rich as any dilithium mine, providing foodstuffs, natural bases for pharmaceuticals, and recreational plant compounds for much of the densely-populated Rigel sector.
Since Chelar's treasures - the rich, alkaloid soil and an array of enigmatic scientific/historical curiosities - are diffuse and require dedicated work to exploit, Chelar is an untempting target for a pirate or despot. Rather than rob them, the pirates tend to pay them rent! Well aware of the advantages of their position, the Chelarians welcome outlaws with open arms and beckoning trails into the rain forests, where anyone can be hidden for a price.
Flora and Fauna
Chelar is a rich, gray-green stew of life and decay, bulging and squirming and wriggling with vigor. Puncture an Aëva-tree's sac, and you'll unleash a thousand white worms. Ekëula lizards and ormo birds will devour the worms. The ormo birds become trapped in the sticky maw/fronds of one of Chelar's hundred species of carnivorous flowers, and so on . . .
From the depths of the rivers to the thick layers of clouds brushing damply against the treetops, every corner of Chelar is in motion (with no shortage of noise and smells, either).
Form: Large, swift, semi-bipedal dinosauroid predator with black teeth and a heavy tail for balance.
The Öagu, native to the equatorial rain forests of Lüebra, is nicknamed the "Chelarosaur" by Federation exobiologists - it's the most well-known of the many dozens of surviving dinosauroids on Chelar.
The Öagu's powerful, orange-and-grey body is reminiscent of the extinct Terran Allosaurus, and the visual analogy holds true: the Öagu is 4 metric tons of danger, a fierce predator that devours large animals to sate its appetite. The animal-rich Lüebran jungles offer no shortage of food, but Öagu seem to enjoy variety, anyway, since at least nine Federation citizens have been maimed or devoured by the beasts in the past five years. Six of these have been Tellarite, an alarming proportion that's generated a chill and disquiet in the entire species, forced to consider that there are deadly animals in the galaxy who fancy their flavor. One popular holoplay, a lurid horror story, has already appeared to capitalize on the morbid statistic.
Both Rotoächko Kaylar and some secretive "primitive" bands of jungle Chelarians use the Öuni, a smaller, more quadrupedally-inclined cousin of the Öagu, as trained ceremonial mounts. This recalls the days of the Orion empires, when trained Ouni were used as war-mounts and living weapons against the Orion overlords.
Megu ("Chelarian Venus")
Sometimes, when a vine appears to twitch or slither, it's a trick of the light. Sometimes, it's a deadly serpent. Sometimes, though, worst of all, it's really a vine.
The Megu - Chelar's largest and hungriest carnivorous plant - is common on both continents, anywhere that's wet in the broad tropical band that straddles Rigel III like an oily green cummerbund. The largest known Megu (the "Öemu Family," a tourist trap - seldom literally - just outside of Löablanëe) weigh in at over three metric tons per feeding-cluster. A cluster is an acres-wide mass of pulpy root-bulbs, tentacular vines, and sickly-sweet flowers concealing gigantic "Venus flytrap" style maws. Such a plant requires a man-sized victim every two or three days to thrive and expand. Most, of course, feed on several smaller creatures, instead.
Fighting a "Chelarian Venus" can be like fighting the jungle itself, with vines appearing from all directions. The sensitive blooms that activate the feeding response are often many meters within the boundaries of the plant's feeding zone, leaving few escape routes for travelers who haven't learned the distinctive sight and scent of the flowers, or how to distinguish either from the visual and olfactory "noise" of the jungle.
Many megu grow near pools of Luglamo (Chelarian "hot quicksand") magnifying the threat. If a Megu doesn't feed on animal flesh, it can survive for several years (shrinking its feeding area slowly) on rich soil and weak photosynthesis.
Planet Name: Chelar (Rigel III)
System Data: Chelar has two very small moons, Uäno and Uvor
Gravity: 1.1 G
Year and Day: [Ken: It wasn't made clear in the outline what distance this and other worlds are from Rigel itself, so I can't calculate the year]
Atmosphere: Oxygen-rich atmosphere, higher than average pressure and typically humid, with a powerful greenhouse effect. Oxygen levels aren't high enough to require protective gear, but are sufficient to noticeably affect human emotions and fatigue levels.
Hydrosphere: 91.8% surface water, very diffuse. One oceanic band, with the rest being spread among Chelar's many wetlands, rivers, lakes, and small inland seas.
Climate: Warm to hot, extremely humid. Minimal variation in climate zones, minor but noticeable seasonal variation.
Intelligent Life: Chelarians (6.3 billion), with numerous others representing less than 5% of the total (highest non-Chelarian concentrations are Orion and Kaylar).
Tech Level: Tech level five overall, but with many pockets of more primitive levels. The starports are closer to tech level six.
Government: Several nations, mostly heavily-bureaucratic republics with a few oligarchies.
Culture: Spiritual, agrarian culture with considerable value placed on intelligence and tenacity.
Affiliation: Independent, with ties to stronger powers in the Rigel system and in open negotiations with the United Federation of Planets.
Resources: Rich botanical resources of every kind.
Places of Note: Löablanëe, the major starport. Rotoächko, a "wild Kaylar" kingdom.
Ship Facilities: Relatively primitive service available in the minor starports. No shipyards.