By Elliot Norbut
The purpose of this document is to set forth a description of the Venusian gypsy caravans in the Starsiege Universe.
The Caravans are one of the oddest facets of the Venusian civilization. The people who make up the Caravans are independent spirits, wanting the freedom to live life in their own way, according to their own desires - and without interference from the Empire. The vast majority of them travel in between robotic mining sites, fulfilling maintenance contracts in exchange for money, spare parts, or raw materials. Some of them generate revenue by other means as well, like performing their own small scale surface mining to supplement their meager supply of resources. Some of them actually run their own manufacturing operations. Due to the tightness of the Venusian workforce, the Empire has decided that it is more profitable to leave these people unmolested then to indenture them under Imperial law.
The Caravans periodically stop at arcologies to refit their vehicles and get out of their flash suits, and to mingle with the city dwellers and catch up with the news of the Empire. When writing about the Caravans, though, keep in mind that the only people who really know anything about life in a Caravan are the Vaneers themselves. There are very few city dwellers who know much about the Caravans, except for which Ceevan produces what. Also keep in mind that, while a very detailed aspect of the universe, the Caravans are also a small one.
The beginnings of the Caravans can be traced back to the wandering prospectors and repairmen who traveled to and from arcologies offering their services. They probably did this either out of entrepreneurism, tax avoidance, or merely because they were possessed of the pioneer spirit, and wished to test it out in Venus’ inimical environment. Venus, however, is an unforgiving mistress, and even minor accidents or injuries are usually fatal. In order to increase their survival rate, these pioneers began banding together, forming small groups where they could depend upon someone besides themselves. New pioneers naturally wanted to join the larger groups, with their proportionately greater potential for survival. The smaller groups eventually merged with other groups. Before long these bands became similar to a club or family.
Eventually there began to be some division of labor; first and most notably were the field medics, who did not do any manual labor and were paid by the group as a whole. The next major division to appear were the guides. These were pioneers who had survived out in the Venusian deserts for a long time, who knew the terrain and who were experienced in dealing with the harsh environment. Then there were the guards, pioneers or mercenaries who were skilled in the handling of military style scarabs, and who could protect the group from the bandits and highwaymen that plundered them occasionally. The final and most important division, in terms of shaping the current Vaneer culture, was the negotiating party. Originally, the repairmen would each secure their own contracts, and collect their own pay. Some of them were better at negotiating the contracts, however, and eventually the bands designated these individuals as their “negotiating party”. These pioneers would settle contracts for the entire group, and collect and distribute the payment when the contract was fulfilled. This set the stage for the centralization of the groups’ activities, and for the functioning of the group as a body instead of a congregation of individuals. The bands began to resemble companies or corporations in their operation, with the negotiation parties securing the payment and receiving the compensation for the job, and then giving the other pioneers their “paycheck”.
Through the natural progression of things, this negotiating party eventually evolved into the Guides, the governing body of any Caravan. Of course, they were not called this, at least not until 2789. That was when Broderick Peshtul, through scheming, cajoling and persuading, officially established Caravan Peshtul and laid down their charter. There is no doubt that Broderick Peshtul was a very charismatic and visionary man, but it is unlikely, even given the natural progression of events, that he could have succeeded so quickly and completely if he had not had the support of several key men in the negotiation party. Although it seems his motives were purely concerned with the survival and success of his caravan, those of the rest of his supporters are more doubtful, which may or may not indicate that the Shadow Syndicate had tentacles in Peshtul from its beginning.
Early on, Peshtul was the butt of jokes and even open ridicule from the other caravans. However, it quickly became apparent that the new system gave Peshtul an edge; several smaller caravans joined them, and they began growing and accumulating wealth surprisingly fast. In the early days, most caravans rarely got up over 50 people; one year after its founding, Peshtul was already had over 500 members and was still growing, and they no longer had any trouble from the scattered bandits that sometimes preyed on smaller caravans. Thus, several other caravans eventually set up their own charters, adopted Peshtul’s methods and philosophies, and became Caravans. Those that didn’t were either eventually absorbed by the Caravans, or just disappeared because they couldn’t compete. The Founding dates for the major Caravans are:
Peshtul: May 2789
Wayne: January 2791
Fencer: March 2792
Cyklad: February 2794
Bearhunter: April 2796. Made up of a group that split off from Peshtul and was joined by many bandits and highwaymen.
Arkensys: April 2797. A group who split off from Cyklad because they liked artistic pursuits, which the rest of the Caravan considered “impractical”.
Bertic: July 2799. The last major Caravan to form. In 2799, the Kintervilt family had already begun consolidating a noticeable power base. Nearly half the Caravan, under the leadership of Gerland Bertic, split away because of this.
There are other, smaller Caravans as well, but there is no consistent number; there are splinter groups occasionally splitting off from the major Caravans, and often the smaller Ceevans join one of the main ones, or another small Ceevan, so the actual number of minor Caravans is in constant flux. The major Caravans have become well established by now, and have not grown markedly in the past few decades.
INSIDE A CARAVAN
The technologies and vehicles of the Caravans are as unique as the people that use them. Because of the unusual environment in which they live, the Vaneers use many materials and technologies that are not common even in the Venusian arcologies. Before going into a detailed description of a Ceevan, some of these need to be laid out.
One of the most important aspects of the Vaneer culture are the chitons, the large, heavy tracked vehicles that make up the Caravans. They are generally slow, with extremely thick walls to minimize the chances of a rupture in the crushing Venusian atmosphere. There are three main types of chitons:
• Domchitons. These are where the vaneers live, similar to a 21st century motorhome. They are the smallest type of chiton (about the size of a motorhome), and usually the most rounded or streamlined in appearance. They are also the most common.
• Lifchitons. Lifchitons are the middle-of-the-spectrum Vaneer vehicle. They are used to ferry large amounts of bulky cargo, spare parts and supplies that cannot be carried by the domchitons. They are larger than the domchitons, and are more blocky in appearance. Think of a one-piece big rig. They are slightly less common than the domchitons, although even the smallest Ceevan possesses a few.
• Inchitons. These are the largest chitons, and are specialized for a particular industrial function - surface mining, refining, scarab construction, etc. Caravan Cyklad has several chitons that are highly specialized for glassmaking. Inchitons are huge, and usually resemble a box, a set of boxes or even a small building on tracks. These chitons are very rare; most Ceevans don’t even own any, and those that do usually have three or less. Remember that most Caravans rely on contracts for maintenance and repair work on remote mining sites rather than their own resources. The Ceevans that possess the largest number of inchitons are Caravan Peshtul, with twenty inchitons, Caravan Fencer with eighteen, Caravan Cyklad with twelve, Caravan Bertic with ten, and Caravan Bearhunter with six. Wayne and Arkensys have none, and neither do most of the other minor Ceevans.
There is a fourth type of chiton called a flychiton. Flychitons are not a chiton in the most technical term; rather, they are armored hovercraft. Hovercraft on Venus are not as effective as on other planets, due to their relative delicacy and the massive air pressure, but flychitons are a valuable part of any Ceevan military. They are usually open air vehicles, armed with a single EMP weapon, and with room for anywhere from two to four scarabs. Some larger ones also have a small cargo hold in the rear. Bearhunter has a large number of the latter, providing their military not only with a mobility advantage, but with a way to carry their captured goods. Flychitons are relatively rare, though not as rare as inchitons.
There are several materials, alloys and minerals that are used on Venus. Most are used widely, but some are almost exclusive to the Caravans.
• Glass. That may sound silly, but glass is widely used on Venus because it is impervious to acid and, when used correctly, quite strong. Its main drawback is that it’s brittle (although tempered glass is hard enough that you could technically make a working hammer out of it, even though it would get chipped). Many variations of it exist, providing different attributes.
• Polysilicate glass, commonly called polyglass. In plain English, plastic glass. This is used extensively by the Caravans, but not as much by Domers. Its greatest asset is that it is flexible, but it is the “glass alloy” that is most affected by acid. Its most conspicuous use is in flash suits. Polyglass is generally a milky white, but it can be colored or clear. It can also be made hard instead of flexible, and can even be tempered to an extent.
• Tetraglass. This is glass that is bonded with aluminum, steel or titanium fibers. It is much harder and less brittle than regular glass. It is quite expensive, however, since it virtually requires zero-gee manufacturing techniques. An inferior form of tetraglass can be made by using extremely high pressure, but such manufacturing techniques are only somewhat less expensive than zero-gee. Tetraglass has a distinctive silvered, slightly mirrorlike look to it.
• Glass carbide. Glass carbide is used widely where tetraglass is too expensive. It is completely impervious to acid, is very hard and has a high melting point. However, it is a semi opaque, cloudy gray, making it pretty much unsuitable for windows.
• Metaplas. Metaplas can be used in almost every function glass can be used in, and more. It is used inside the arcologies a lot, and can be made into any alloy glass can be made into. However, the Ceevans don’t use it as much, because it’s not as acid resistant as glass.
• Polyceram. Plastic ceramic, in other words. Light and heat resistant. Not used very much on Venus, even inside the arcologies. Its widest use is in personal armor. You will occasionally find metal that is laced with polyceram fibers being used in various things, or polyceram fiber heat insulation.
• Carbon. Carbon is hard and resistant to both high temperatures and acid. In addition, it is plentiful and cheap on Venus, since the atmospheric converters pull carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and convert it to carbonate rocks. Thus, carbide alloys such as titanium carbide and molybdenum steel carbide are common.
• Titanium. Light, durable, and with a high melting point, titanium is the ideal metal. Add to this the fact that it is virtually unaffected by acids, and on Venus it’s worth its weight in gold. That’s almost literal, too - titanium is expensive enough that in many cases carbide and molybdenum alloys are used instead. However, it is widely used in military grade scarabs. Bearhunter uses a lot of titanium, and will take it as direct payment for their scarabs.
• Magnesium. Magnesium is an alkaline earth metal, and is used in the enamels that coat scarabs, Hercs, vehicles, arcology seals and just about any exposed surface on Venus. This enamel is often called “magnamel”. It is combined with molybdenum trioxide to increase its adhesion.
• Molybdenum. Molybdenum is a calcareous material which is widely used in alloys. It is hard, resists corrosion and has an extremely high melting point; much higher than titanium in fact. It is widely used not only on Venus, but also in armor alloys used by the Imperial Legions and Knights. Not only can it be alloyed with most metals, but molybdenum trioxide can be used to increase the adhesion of enamels to metal, and molybdenum disulfide is a dry lubricant. Thus molybdenum is a common element on Venus.
The typical order of the day for a caravan goes something like this: The Vaneers wake up and break camp, which is similar to a wagon circle from pioneer America; the domchitons are arranged in a ring around the lifchitons and inchitons. The first order of the day is the morning meal, then once the camp is broken the caravan shakes itself out with the Guides’ domchitons at the front, the lifchitons and inchitons trailing, and the rest of the domchitons arranged in a sort of U shape around them. The soldiers run along the outside of the caravan, with several scouts, called “outriders”, scouring the terrain far out around the caravan. The caravan travels in this manner to their next job (Caravans always have contracts line up in advance, so they don’t run out of work), or the nearest arcology to sell their products. When they get to their destination, they set up a loose camp, not as tight as the nightly one because all the soldiers are roaming around, and because cofisc is usually done out in the open desert. Most of the time, a job will get done fairly quickly, but occasionally one will take a whole day or more, especially if it’s Wayne sinking a well or Fencer setting up a prelim mining site. If the job is done, the caravan collects their pay and moves off to the next site. If they have to stay through the night, they tighten up their camp into normal form and camp there until the next day. While the job is being done, the Guides spend their time securing other contracts and acting as foremen. A little over halfway through the day the Vaneers will stop working or halt the caravan and have their midday meal (they eat twice a day). At the end of the day, they set up camp again, andwhile the rest of the caravan sleeps the soldiers rotate watches through the night.
The typical domchiton is divided into four sections; the cab, with the driving and navigation equipment, the living room/kitchenette behind it, and the bedroom behind that, with a small bathroom on the side of the bedroom. The bedroom and bathroom are triple-sealed and surrounded with a layer of tempered molybdenum steel carbide or quad-bonded titanium carbide, in addition to the normal sealing and construction of the chiton. This is because these are the only rooms where the Vaneers don’t wear their flash suits. Flash suits are light, form fitting pressure suits of polyglass. They look sort of like radiation suits, but the head casing isn’t as boxy; it follows the shape of the head more closely and has a wider viewport. They provide you with a few more seconds to get to a hardsuit if your chiton suffers a rupture, and can be worn under a hardsuit as well. Fortunately, chiton ruptures are very rare.
In the cab, here is a large multiplate window of one and a half inch tetraglass that wraps around the cab. The dash consists of a few computer displays and a small driving yoke and throttle. Most of the actual “driving” of the chiton is done by an autopilot, much like the ones in a Martian dustcrawler.
The kitchenette/living room area is separated from the cab by an airlock-style door. It has no windows, and so uses full-spectrum light bulbs for illumination. Most of the articles in here are polyglass or metaplas. The kitchenette is generally against the left wall if you’re looking up toward the cab. On the right wall is the airlock to the outside. There are a couches and seats of polyglass-covered shockfoam against the walls and in various places, and there are several small computer consoles for communications and things, along with a small reading and entertainment center. Along the back wall are two doors (also airlock style); if you’re looking at them, the one on the left goes to the bedroom, and the one on the right, which is closer to the wall, goes to the bathroom.
The bedroom is nearly as long as the living area, but not as wide. Almost everything in here is metaplas fabric, not polyglass; metaplas breaths better than polyglass. Young Vaneer children (up to about two or three years old) are kept in here almost all the time, because of the enhanced sealing. The bathroom is… well, a bathroom. These are the only places where the Vaneers get out of their flash suits.
The Vaneers have a unique culture, almost an archaic culture, mostly in response to the harsh Venusian environment. There is no crime within a Caravan at all, and a Vanmember’s word is his bond. Vaneers do not sign contracts with one another; they don’t need to. A Ceevan is one big family; if anyone is in trouble they can count on the rest of the Vanmembers to help them. However, they all are expected to support themselves. If anyone doesn’t work, he doesn’t get a paycheck, and the Vanmembers won’t support a person like that (although widows and orphans are an exception). Basically, as long as a Vanmember works, the rest of the Caravan will see to it that he eats and has clothes to wear. Vaneers are also very concerned about personal honor and family honor, similar to the Terrans but not as fanatical. They won’t fight honor duels, because every Vanmember is important to the Caravan. Vanmembers take their grievances to the Guides, who figure out the compensation required. However, there are rarely any disputes that are serious enough, in the Vaneer’s mind, to take to the Guides. Most grievances are easily settled between the parties themselves. It’s basically Natural Law or Common Law.
It is difficult, at times, to distinguish Ceevan government from socialism. The last thing any Ceevan would be is socialist. Socialism doesn’t work, and in the hostile Venusian environment you cannot afford to use something that doesn’t work. It is helpful to think of any Caravan as a company, rather than a government. The major deviation from this is Caravan Peshtul, which has been under the direction and Headguideship of the Kintervilt family for the past four generations, and thus is more like an aristocracy than a company. This probably has something to do with Peshtul’s involvement with the Shadow Syndicate.
Ceevan social structure is a quiet but fairly rigid caste system, although it’s not called that in so many words. For the sake of ease, we’ll call the main “castes” the workers, the doctors or medics, and the soldiers. Individuals do sometimes change castes, though this is usually from soldier to worker or vice versa. Generally, the doctors are the most rigid caste, since they rarely move to another caste and members of other castes rarely become doctors. A person is not born into a caste; no matter who their parents are, they may follow any career they wish (again, it isn’t called a caste system, or even thought of that way, but for the sake of ease we’ll call it that). The Guides represent a sort of ruling subcaste, although a Guide can be easily voted out of office. Nevertheless, the Guides, and particularly the Headguide, possess a sort of mystique that has developed over the years. We will look at the castes in detail.
Workers are the “employees” of the Ceevan. They handle the labor for the Ceevan’s contracts, which may consist of maintenance, scarab building, mining, driving chitons, glassmaking, etc. Of course, there are many different skills represented in the worker caste.
Doctors. Just what it says. Doctors are the medical experts of the Ceevan.
Soldiers. Also pretty obvious. Soldiers are experts at handling military scarabs, especially at maneuvering in them. They are all in peak physical condition, and excellent marksmen.
Guides. These men are the “rulers” of the Ceevan, although “bosses” or “employers” might be a better term. Guides are men who are very experienced at surviving in the Venusian deserts, and who are skilled at securing the best contracts for the Caravan or in getting the best payment for their products. They collect payment for contracts that have been fulfilled and distribute it to the workers that have actually labored to fill the contract. They also settle disputes between Vanmembers. They are highly trusted and respected by the entire Caravan. They are elected by the entire Caravan in an election held every year. Generally, they are men who have experience both as workers and as soldiers, though the former is more important. Although any Guide can theoretically be voted out of office if the Vanmembers dislike his performance, in practice this rarely happens, and a Guide is usually a Guide for life once installed. This is not because he consolidates a power base and fights to stay in office; there is no campaigning to become a Guide, and if a Guide is removed from office he goes without a fight and becomes just another Vanmember. It has more to do with the mentality of the Caravan society; the Guides are explicitly trusted and respected by all the Vanmembers, and they represent the Caravan at large and never betray that trust. Also, there is a sort of mystique around the office of Guide; they are looked up to as elders and wise men, although they never take advantage of this. The number of Guides varies from Caravan to Caravan; larger Ceevans have larger bodies of Guides. Peshtul has thirty Guides, while some of the smallest may have only four or five.
The Headguide is a special Guide. In the yearly elections, the Guides all choose one of their fellow guides, then present him before the whole Caravan for approval. This can result in some interesting power plays, since there are often “parties” within the Guides who want to elect a different man. So, to become a Headguide a Guide basically has to win two elections. The Headguide is always a man who has had experience as both a soldier and worker, who is married and has children, and who has been a Guide for several years already. He is like the president of a company; he makes decisions that affect the entire Ceevan, and the Guides as a body decide on whether to follow his directives. Generally there is little deviation from the Headguide’s decisions. In times of crisis he is given nearly absolute authority. The Headguide never abuses his power; the Caravan lives or dies by his decisions, and he lives or dies with the Caravan. He has even more of a mystique surrounding him than the body of Guides, if possible. When he is instated, he is given a rod of rigid tempered polyglass called a kesbaton. The kesbaton is about a meter long and has a quartz halogen light source inside it that is turned on and off through a combination of hand movements which are only the known by the Guides. Each Ceevan has its own kesbaton hand combination and light color. The kesbaton, and the simple ceremony surrounding it, serve to enhance the mystique of the Headguideship. If the Headguide has been newly elected, the old Headguide presents the kesbaton to him, held flat across the palms, along with a speech. When Tellarin Walker of Caravan Bertic was given Headguideship, this speech went as follows: “Guide Walker, through virtue of your skill and wisdom you have been chosen to head the Caravan Bertic. This kesbaton represents the trust and good will of the people. Head them as you do your own family.” If the current Headguide is keeping his office, he holds the kesbaton across his palms and says, “For a year I have headed the Caravan Bertic. The people have expressed their satisfaction and trust, and have granted me the kesbaton for another year, that I may guide and protect them. In this I will not fail.” Of course, each Caravan has their own variations on this speech. At the end of the speech the Headguide lights the kesbaton with the series of hand movements, which are subtle enough that it looks like the kesbaton is glowing in response to his words. Of course, everyone knows what he’s doing and that the kesbaton’s just a polyglass stick, but they all get into it anyway. Remember that Venusians are rather melodramatic people.
When a young Vaneer decides upon his career, he is interned with an experienced Vanmember who is of the same profession. They don’t go straight into military service; they get a good “civilian” background first, so that they can support themselves when they get out of the military. Vaneers do not start a family until they can easily support one. Children are a high liability in the Venusian environment, and most Vaneer families have only one or two at the most, separated by about 2 or 3 years. Vaneer families with children usually spend a lot more time in the arcologies than the rest of the Ceevan.
It is rare to see an entire Caravan traveling together. Usually a Caravan will split up into several groups, called caravans (note that it’s lowercase), each under the direction of a Guide or two. This has several advantages; first and foremost, of course, is the fact that this keeps all of the Ceevan’s lifchitons and inchitons from all being grouped together, which would make a good target for cofisc. Also, these caravans can collectively do more business than could the entire Ceevan if it were traveling in one group, thus allowing the Ceevan to bring in a larger collective income.
Occasionally two Caravans will have a dispute over a certain piece of equipment or plot of land rich in minerals or ores. The first time two Ceevans actually fought over this, back in the early days of the Caravans, the casualties were devastating and the two Ceevans were crippled. Obviously, battles in the Venus’ inimical environment were not a good idea. Thus, a stylized, regulated version of warfare was developed, which eventually came to be called “cofisc”. Cofisc resembles a cross between a giant game of capture the flag, paintball, and tag, with the prize being either an inchiton or two, the contents of a lifchiton, or a piece of land. Domchitons and their contents are off-limits as targets for cofisc, even among Bearhunter, since they are the homes of the Vanmembers. The actual lifchitons themselves are also off limits, the target is the cargo they carry. Cofisc has two distinct styles; a “running battle” style and a “siege” style. Running battles happen when the target is a moving caravan, sieges happen when the target is a halted inchiton or piece of land. Regardless of the style of battle, the first action of the attacking caravan is to surround the target. In a running battle, this also involves heading off the target caravan to stop it or turn it to a course that is advantageous for the attackers. When the target caravan sees the attacking caravan, they immediately set up defensive formations, usually putting their non-target domchitons in a ring around the lifchitons, which are in turn arranged around the inchitons. The soldiers are arrayed in layered formation around the caravan, with some groups assigned to guard the lifchitons and inchitons. Thus there is usually some pretty complex maneuvering even before the action starts. From here on out, though, the two battle styles develop quite differently.
In the running battle, the attackers form into groups initiate “hostilities”, usually by sending in their flychitons in a wave with their scarabs close behind, using their maneuvering jets to bounce along at high speed and make themselves hard targets. The defenders form groups as well and meet them with their flychitons, trying to turn them or knock the scarabs off the enemy flychitons. This usually develops into a sort of dogfight outside the caravan. Meanwhile the attacking scarabs filter through and meet the defending scarabs. They then engage in what appears to be an elaborate dance, with a lot of feinting, dodging and jumping. Think of offenders and defenders in basketball or football. The goal for the attackers is to get around the defending scarabs, the defenders try to keep the attackers at bay. Physical contact is rare, to avoid damaging the hardsuits, so this is when the gunfire starts. Vaneer military scarabs are outfitted with low power EMP weapons, meant to “stun” enemy scarabs rather than destroy them (note that these weapons can be replaced by standard weapons). When a soldier stuns an enemy, he may either “pin” him by standing over him and preventing him from getting up, or may choose another target. Pinning takes one soldier from each side out of play, and depending on the relative numerical strength of the two sides, they may or may not be able to afford this. The attackers send one group per target into the caravan formation. Once an attacking group has engaged a target, the engagement begins to resemble a game of tag; if a soldier is hit, he must withdraw from that particular engagement and becomes a “sweeper”, harassing and distracting the enemy through the rest of the battle, either attacking incoming enemy groups, or guarding those groups until they engage their objective. If the defenders of a target chiton “tag” all soldiers in the group that is attacking them, then the chiton is secure for the rest of the battle. If the attackers knock all the defenders off, then the chiton or its contents are theirs. However, the sweepers may now attack them and attempt to recapture the stolen property. The attacker’s sweepers form a line or ring outside the caravan and may, in turn, move in to guard their captured goods. Once the captured property is moved behind the attackers’ sweeper line, it is usually captured for good.
A siege battle is much simpler; all the attackers charge in at once and try to push the defenders off of the target, be it a halted chiton or a piece of land. Visually, the battle is similar to a running battle. However, once someone is “tagged” they must withdraw from the battle all together. Sieges are usually quicker and “bloodier”.
Flychitons have special rules. A flychiton is not considered “tagged” until the pilot is tagged. Before engaging a target, if a soldier is knocked off a chiton he may get back on. After engaging, a soldier that is knocked off becomes a sweeper. If the pilot gets tagged, the flychiton becomes a sweeper, but any soldiers still on it get off and may join an attacking group until they are tagged individually.
Cofisc is usually initiated by the attackers alerting the defenders and stating their objective. Cofisc is also rarely performed over chitons. The major exception to this is Bearhunter, who usually launches surprise attacks and who commonly target chitons. After cofisc is complete the two caravans go their separate ways; they cannot follow each other, nor can they cofisc each other again for 72 hours.
Despite the seemingly archaic culture of the Vaneers, they are really full fledged 28th century people. They use the Imperial monetary unit and have bank accounts in the arcologies, they are quite comfortable with technology, they have careers, they have “employers” so to speak, they buy and sell, they fight with enemies and have personal disputes and disagreements, they fall in love and get married, they have friends and family, and they play games, especially action games of the type that would help them in cofisc. When writing about them, make sure to portray them as normal people who just happen not to have permanent addresses.
There are several Caravans roaming the Venusian deserts. These are the most important and powerful Ceevans and their characteristics.
Caravan Arkensys: Arkensys is a Ceevan that circulates primarily around the Byron area. They are more artistically inclined than the rest of the Ceevans, and peddle their wares in the ready markets of Byron. The paintings of Vanmember Setlan Parshamir, in particular, have become very popular on Venus and even Earth, with their sweeping depictions of the harsh yet majestic Venusian landscape. Arkensys is rarely molested by Bearhunter, since they have little material wealth.
Population: About 900
Insigne: Inverted green V on a white circle.
Caravan Bearhunter: Bearhunter is the most martially accomplished of all of the Ceevans. Bearhunter does not rely on contracts from the arcologies as its primary source of income; instead, it takes what it wants from the other Caravans through cofisc. The other Ceevans regard them as little more than pirates. Their nickname among the Ceevan community is “Seagull”, after that Terran bird’s habit of waiting for other sea birds to do the work of catching the fish, then harassing them until they drop their catch. Bearhunter constructs excellent military scarabs, which are highly valued by the militias of the arcologies. Even Drachensatem, which has the best militia of any arcology, uses Bearhunter scarabs. Almost all Ceevans will cede the field to Bearhunter if there is a possibility of armed conflict. Even Peshtul avoids direct confrontations with them.
There is one Caravan that is completely free of the ravages of Bearhunter; Bertic. Ironically, Bearhunter relies upon Bertic expertise to help construct and maintain their scarabs. Because of this they are often seen in the Ishtar City area, not only to sell scarabs to the facilities there, but because Bertic also frequents the city.
Population: About 3,000
Insigne: Three white slashes in a blue circle.
Caravan Bertic: Bertic is one of the most powerful Ceevans, along with Peshtul and Bearhunter. They deal primarily with repair and refit of equipment, most notably scarabs. Their specialty is the manufacture of brachs, the manipulator hands or arms of scarabs. Scarab brachs are the component which requires the highest maintenance, since they are by their design a relatively delicate piece of equipment, and because they see the most intensive use. Bertic has refined the manufacture of brachs to an art, and they have no shortage of contracts for maintenance of scarabs. In fact, the construction and maintenance of scarabs and vehicles has become their sole source of income, replacing the normal robotic mining site maintenance that most other Ceevans do. They often visit Ishtar City because of the many scarab construction facilities there.
Bertic’s late Headguide Tellarin Walker was killed several years ago by members of the Shadow Syndicate, who were allegedly operating from Caravan Peshtul. Bertic and Peshtul have developed a deadly feud over this. Bertic’s new Headguide, Jewsen Torez - Tellarin Walker’s half brother - has been arming the Ceevan against possible hostilities with Peshtul, and has begun acquiring a large number of military scarabs from Bearhunter.
Population: About 2,500
Insigne: Gold cross on a navy blue circle.
Caravan Cyklad: Cyklad is the only Ceevan which has its own glass manufacturing capability. Cykladic glass, tetraglass and polyglass is of the highest quality, and their flash suits are used widely on Venus. Although no native Venusian arcology would trust the care of their seals to anyone but their own inhabitants, the Empire constantly hires them to perform maintenance on the domes of their mining sites. Bearhunter values Cykladic products enough that they rarely force them into cofisc. Despite this, Cyklad has a fairly large military force, as one of their glassmaker chitons would be an immensely valuable prize for any Caravan.
Population: About 1,800
Insigne: White circle with a C shape cut out of it.
Caravan Fencer: This Ceevan, unlike most others, relies more on their own surface mining and construction facilities than on contracts with the arcologies. They are the richest and largest caravan after Peshtul. They are also quite well armed, since their affluence makes them a prime target for Bearhunter. They are highly regarded as handymen and prospectors, and the corporation often hire them to locate rich deposits of minerals and ores and set up the prelim mining facilities.
Population: About 3,500
Insigne: Silver sword on a black shield.
Caravan Peshtul: Pronounced “Pesh-TOOL”. Peshtul is the original Caravan, and they take great pride in the fact. It is also the largest and richest. They have the closest thing to an aristocracy of any of the Ceevans. The other Ceevans view them as - well, egotistical is not too strong a word. They are certainly elitist, even from an impartial standpoint. It is widely suspected among the Vaneer community that Peshtul has become entwined with the Shadow Syndicate, an Empire-wide organized crime group. Thus, the word “peshtul” among the other Ceevans has come to mean “someone who has sold his soul to the devil.”
Population: About 5,000
Insigne: Red P on a yellow circle.
Caravan Wayne: Wayne is a Ceevan primarily of diveminers. They are recognized as some of the most skillful in the business and have often been hired by major corporations to do the dangerous first stages of deep mining - driving shafts down from existing surface tunnels. This is often referred to as “sinking a well” or “molerunning”. Wayne has managed to sink twelve wells in as many months with only a single casualty - a record unmatched even by Offworld Consolidated, whose diveminers are widely touted.
Population: About 1,700
Insigne: Four black horizontal lines.
A VANEER LEXICON
In addition to the normal Venusian slang, the Vaneers have developed their own pseudo-language around their unique culture.
Brachs: The mechanical arm assembly and manipulator hands on a scarab.
Caravan: When this word is capitalized, it refers to a specific Caravan, like Caravan Cyklad. When it is lowercase, caravan, it refers to one of the groups that the Caravans split up into when traveling.
Ceevan: Short for “Caravan”.
Cofisc: The process by which Caravans settle disputes over acreage or materials.
Diveminer: A miner who works deep underground. In many of the mines, the atmospheric pressure is greater than a Terran ocean, and the atmosphere itself is soupy. Caravan Wayne specializes in divemining.
Domers: What the Vaneers call arcology-dwelling Venusians.
Flash Suit: The polysilicate glass suits Vaneers wear when traveling between arcologies.
Headguide: The title of the leader of a Ceevan.
Gypsy: What most Domers call Vaneers. Among the Caravans, this is a derogatory term.
Peshtul: Colloquially, “One who has sold his soul to the devil.” Written in lowercase, “peshtul”, to distinguish it from the Caravan Peshtul.
Vaneers: Short for “Caravaneer”. What the gypsies call themselves.
Vanmember: A member of a Caravan. This word is used like a title, preceeding the person’s name.