The Rubycon II System is the star system that is home to the Imperial Navy void station known as Port Wander in the Drusus Marches Sub-sector of the Calixis Sector. It is centred on a a bloated red star that is nearly a thousand times larger than Blessed Sol and burns a deep crimson.
It is a dead system of two large gas giants whose pale surfaces flow with great typhoons that spread and die like bruises on flesh. These two planets are named the Ruby Brothers, and between the two worlds lies a wide and dense field of asteroids that may be the remains of a lesser sibling planet whose death occurred long ago.
The Rubycon II System resides beyond the far edges of the Drusus Marches, rimward at the very limits of the Calixis Sector in the Segmentum Obscurus. While nearby Rubycon I is a dim, white-dwarf star, alone and slowly radiating away its energy into the void, Rubycon II or Rubycon Majoris is a huge red supergiant with a small cluster of planets surrounding it. The star is nearly a thousand times larger than Blessed Sol and burns a deep crimson colour; many who dwell under its light refer to it as The Ruby or simply Ruby. The Rogue Trader who first officially charted the system, Vivaldi Jontur, regarded it as inconsequential and moved on after a cursory inspection found nothing of interest. With no signs of alien life to exploit or mineral riches to mine, there was little in the dead system to warrant further expense. It would remain deserted until Port Wander was established, centuries later.
The most notable features of the system are the two large gas giants orbiting slowly far away from the star. They were easily detected by Jontur's two sons, who were travelling with their father to learn from his travels. He named the planets in their honour, the nearest to the star becoming Carlon and the farther Thamos. Both planets are composed mostly of hydrogen and helium, but Thamos has a larger percentage of ice, in the form of water, ammonia, and methane. Neither has any moons and only a smattering of attendant asteroids in stable co-orbital positions, as if a strong wind had swept away most of the normal formations which surround such planets. Vast merchant scoopships mine both planets for their volatile gases, selling them at Port Wander for processing into fuel and organic base matter.
Far closer to Rubycon II is a single small, rocky, and tide-locked planet, scorched clean of any atmosphere or life. It is barely discernible through the red giant’s glare, brown and slag streaked, and was only discovered when the system was carefully mapped, years after Vivaldi Jontur's visit. Dubbed Rustrock, it contains many valuable ores such as iron and adamantium, and today the dark side of the world is covered with mining facilities and refineries, sheltered from the star’s heat. A steady stream of cargo ships carries the purified extracts to the station's foundries and shipyards.
Farther beyond Thamos in highly elliptical orbits are three small planets of frozen gas and ice. Kaiki, Apeli, and Skiri slowly travel along orbital paths that take hundreds of standard years to complete a single revolution. These orbits carry them far beyond Ruby's light and into the system's Ort Cloud. This makes them difficult to reach, though several expeditions have been mounted to chart and explore Kaiki and Apeli. Cursory examinations revealed nothing of interest, yet legends and myths abound in the port about buried treasures and secret xenos cities below the planets' icy exteriors.
The furthest planet, Skiri, has been more thoroughly explored by the Priesthood of the Adeptus Mechanicus. For unknown reasons, the Tech-priests decided to establish a research facility there: Altar-Templum-Calixis-Est-3, which keeps a constant gaze on the Maw, the difficult passage to the Koronus Expanse, to detect signs of instability. Through that dark portal it communes with its younger brother station at Footfall, Altar-Templum-Calixis-Ext-17, and only their Tech-priest masters are privy to the secrets they share. Non-Mechanicus starships that stray too close to the dark and icy world are warned to stand clear, and several ships have vanished after disregarding the warnings.
Terra In Excelsis
Approximately every 17 standard years, Big Brother and Little Brother approach conjunction, forming a line from Rubycon II along both planets and Port Wander itself. During this time, the Rubycon II asteroid belt is relatively quiescent, the competing gravity wells forming a temporary Lagrange point of stability. When this happens, salvagers, adventurers, pirates, and madmen scramble to make the most of the window of opportunity, flying into the field in search of wealth and glory. The prize they seek is the wreck of the Terra In Excelsis, a Hazeroth-class starship lost decades before for reasons unknown. After her arrival in the Rubycon II System, inbound to Port Wander, she simply went dead, responding to neither Vox nor astropathic communication, then drifted inexorably into the asteroid belt. Asteroid miners and other brave souls occasionally report seeing the shattered hulk of the ship, holed by asteroid strikes, appearing and disappearing again into the ever-moving chaos of the belt. Some claim that she seems to be mocking them, rising from above the plane of the ecliptic for just a moment, then sinking again out of sight.
Her last verified port of call was the Sunerisle colony, discovered in 743.M41, and from which her captain, Omar ben Judahra, was said to have recovered a relic with worth beyond reckoning. Here, sadly, the tale becomes confused and accounts differ. One version holds that Sunerisle was the last resting place of a lost Primarch, and that the Terra In Excelsis holds his corpse within its cavernous halls. Others tell of a xenos relic of unbelievable power. Still more believe that a map pinpointing the location of a Standard Template Construct database has been stored in the ship's archive.
In any case, every Rubycon Conjunction, swarms of small vessels ply the belt in search of the missing ship. While drunken voidfarers are prone to tall tales of the "ghost ship of Rubycon," none claim to have docked with the vessel and survived. The sole exception, to those in the know, are the traders and Renegades of the Beast House. Each Conjunction they dispatch a small vessel to the belt, carrying a squad of hardened killers, the best-trained and best-equipped mercenaries money can buy. Each Conjunction, this vessel returns, most of the mercenaries on board dead, but its hold filled with a cargo so dangerous and so valuable Inquisitors have been murdered to keep it safe.
In truth, the drifting hulk of the Terra In Excelsis is aswarm with Genestealers, xenos abominations so virulent and deadly that a single specimen, left unchecked, can topple an Imperial world. Any Rogue Trader who would brave the asteroid belt during Conjunction in search of the treasure of the Terra in Excelsis risks more than his life and his ship...he risks his very soul.
The Ruby Brothers so dominate the system that it was not until the construction of Port Wander began that Imperial astrocartographers discovered the asteroid belt that lies between them. Theories vary amongst the Scintillan Geologis Scholarium if these represent another planet torn to shreds by the intense gravity of the two Brothers, or are simply debris left from the origins of the Rubycon System. The field is relatively dense, filled with objects ranging from small grains to huge rocks thousands of kilometers across. The myriad orbital paths are in a constant flux due to the competing attractions of the two gas giants, making navigation hazardous. Once Port Wander became more than just another Imperial Naval station and the flood of merchants, civilians, and entrepreneurs arrived in the system, the field transformed from a navigational hazard to a civilisation of its own. Commonly called "Ruby's Belt" or simply "the Rocks," it is the home to many thousands who exploit its resources and hide in its dark shadows.
While Port Wander was largely constructed from prefabricated hull sections, a void station of its size does need a regular supply of raw materials for upkeep and repairs, especially given the constant if unconventional growth it sees. The nearby asteroid field is instrumental in feeding these expansions. Although it is not as rich in metallic ores as the dense inner planet of Rustrock, it has a wider variety of lighter minerals, including the materials used in the fabrication of plasteel and ceramite. These void miners make up the bulk of the regular population in the field, with several family operations dating back many generations. Their operations move from rock to rock, and whoever sets up an extraction facility first becomes the "owner" unless a more heavily armed group wishes to dispute the claim. Usually, there are enough asteroids that little fighting occurs. However, should word get out of an especially pure or valuable strike, then outright combat breaks out, with dozens of factions vying for control. For this reason most mining groups possess heavy armaments as well as mining equipment.
Miners are not the only armed parties in Ruby’s Belt. The dense and unforgiving nature of the orbiting rocks makes this area ideal for those wishing to avoid detection from Imperial agencies. Smugglers maintain hidden bases throughout sections of the field, where they can stash their contraband goods and ready their nimble craft for secretive rendezvous. Raiders, pirates, and criminal cartels also maintain stations away from the sensors of the Imperial Navy patrol ships, and woe to any miner who should discover one by accident. Some are even more secretive; tap room tales speak of nameless rocks home to escaped slaves or foul mutants who have stolen away from Port Wander or passing vessels. Other stories whisper of xenos cults who find the seclusion perfect for their blasphemous schemes, or even followers of the Ruinous Powers who are rumoured to thrive despite periodic Inquisitorial purges. Then there are the legends of the Ghost Rock, taken to be a common asteroid but on closer observation revealed to be an artificial construct. Those who tell the tale speak of rockcrete mountains bristling with weaponry, and escapes due more to luck than skill. It is never found in the same place twice, and most dismiss it as a fearful tale.
The Belt is also host to more hospitable places. There are several major repair yards, nominally to service mining vessels -- though many are willing to do discrete shipwork on the side. A few have an underground reputation for discretely working on xenos mechanisms as well, if the Thrones are golden. Other larger rocks have been transformed into opulent manses for the nobles who have chosen to live in the system, where they can be close to the rich excitement of the Expanse (but not too close). Complete with enclosures of actual grass and even trees, they represent wealth beyond imagining. There are also the farming asteroids, hollowed out and pumped with atmosphere to grow fungus, algaes, and other primitive organics to feed the Port's teeming multitudes.
While most of the congregational shrines for travelling pilgrims devoted to the Imperial Creed are located near Port Wander, several asteroids have been converted over to permanent dwellings for those who have returned from the Maw but cannot imagine returning to the Calixis Sector, such is their spiritual transformation. Here they exist in a monastic setting, interacting little with the rest of the system except to barter their meagre products for fresh organic slurry and water, enough to maintain their simple livelihoods. They are rarely disturbed by anyone, as even most system pirates recognise their worthlessness as targets. Even with these motes of civilisation, the area is akin to wandering into a deep and dark forest; there are dangers both obvious and subtle for the unwary traveller. Navigating without being struck by an errant rock is problem enough, but navigating the twisting feuds, rivalries, and hunting grounds that fill "the rocks" can be lethal.
What Lies Beyond
Beyond the planets of the system are vast fields of comets and other debris, forming an Oort Cloud ranging far into the borders of the interstellar void. The comets are of particular interest, as these fetch a premium price on the station, and scores work these dim regions because of them. Most are void miners who have chosen to switch from rock to ice, trading more dependable finds for higher risks and the chance of higher profits. While most live somewhat ordinary lives, mining and transporting their frozen hauls back into the warmer depths of the system for sale, others spend their entire lives on their icy homes. These are the true Cloudminers and they hold sway over this dominion. Many will never leave the clouds, though others visit the port for trade negotiations or to barter their ice and other discoveries for their needs.
Their finds are often remarkable, and the clouds are home to many a wrecked vessel. Some are the obvious remains of disastrous Warp attempts or pirate attacks, while others could be millennia-old Space Hulks or even xenos vessels beneath the accumulated impact scores and encrusted soot. The Cloudminers also mine these finds, and what they uncover has lead to furious bidding wars and outright armed conflict. For there are others in the clouds. Pirates and raiders of all types lie in wait to attack unwary traders returning from the Koronus Expanse, hiding amidst the ice to patiently stalk their prey. Smuggler networks also ply the area, ready to pick up those items not permissible even on Port Wander and escort them to eager buyers. At the cloud fringes lie the standard system beacons established by the Imperial Navy to aid in navigation for approaching and departing vessels, and the flickering astropathic boost-relays to aid interstellar and Warp-communications. Beyond the clouds are the endless depths of the void. These deep oceans only are disturbed by passing vessels hurrying into the system or towards their Warp jump location. Rubycon II is far removed from other Calixian star systems, and no Imperial starships would think to brave the long Terran centuries of passage to the closest stars via realspace travel.
The Maw and the Fleet
Beyond the Rubycon II System, the Koronus Passage looms wide, ready to swallow the Rogue Trader starships that brave its depths. The Maw is so vast it is more a region of space than an opening in the Warp Storms along the Drusus Marches -- but the Maw can also swell closed when the Warp Storms rage, shrinking to the narrowest passage. Though the political boundaries of the Calixis Sector end at the entrance to the Maw, there are certain Imperial organizations that venture beyond those bounds. Chief amongst them is the Battlefleet Calixis of the Imperial Navy which maintains a watch of warships at Port Wander, the entrance to the Maw, and some say, within the Expanse beyond. This squadron, under command of Fleet-Captain Nathaniel Horne, is on extended detached duty from the rest of Battlefleet Calixis.
Though the squadron, Passage Watch 27 Est, is not large, especially compared to Battlefleet Calixis as a whole, it is comprised of several Cruisers, Light Cruisers, and Battlecruisers, supported by multiple Destroyer and Frigate Escorts. These warships are some of the most combat experienced in Battlefleet Calixis, as they are almost constantly in conflict with raiders, pirates, and the occasional xenos vessel that come through the Maw to plunder the Calixis Sector. Passage Watch 27 Est is hard-pressed but vigilant, and on occasion has sent its distinctive crimson-prowed vessels on counter-actions and reprisals into the Koronus Expanse. This has led the ships' crews to refer to themselves, only half-jokingly, as "Battlefleet Koronus."
Zone 15 and the Jericho Reach Warp Gate
Within the last century, Passage Watch 27 Est has placed a blockade on one of the rare becalmed sections of the Maw. Once dubbed the Fifth Station of Passage, this barren and unremarkable star system is now known as Zone 15. Imperial Navy Frigates constantly patrol the edges of the system, and unauthorized vessels are challenged first with terse warnings, then Lance fire. However, Zone 15 sees a large influx of voidship traffic. Convoys of mass conveyors and unwieldy transports put into Port Wander for fuel and supplies, though neither the crews nor passengers (if any) are allowed to disembark. These convoys vanish into the Koronus Passage, and those who traverse the Maw regularly claim their destination is Zone 15. When the convoys eventually return, their holds are empty and their hulls often show the scars of combat.
On occasion (and with increasing regularity in recent decades), Rogue Trader vessels have been given leave to pass into Zone 15. These vessels return months or years later, if at all, although most of their captains remain tight-lipped, some speak of an ancient relic, a "gate" that leads somewhere...else. If these captains know where this "Jericho Reach" lies, they do not speak of it. However, with increasing numbers of ships entering Zone 15, it is only a matter of time before the truth of the existence of the ancient xenos-built Warp Gate that allows travel across the breadth of the galaxy to the Jericho Reach in the Ultima Segmentum is publicly revealed.
Crime in the Ruby's Light
Port Wander supports a thriving underclass of criminal activity. This ranges from pirate raiders that drift in the outer cometary clouds, to smugglers, thieves, brokers and murders that infect the station itself. Smuggling is a common crime; most captains cannot resist an opportunity to supplement their income by hauling some additional, illegal cargo. Smuggling is so common that many intersystem ships or transport shuttles contain hidden stowage spaces for that very purpose. Many of the Port Wander shuttle clans are known for making a tidy profit as go-betweens for larger vessels returning from the Halo Stars and brokers aboard the station. There are also larger smuggling networks, with Warp-capable vessels, intersystem ships, and even hidden asteroid bases. The infamous Cold Trade of xenos artefacts runs through Port Wander, and it is not the only smuggling venture in the Rubycon II System. The Calixis Battlefleet would have to station at least a quarter of its starships at Port Wander to even put a dent in the smuggling, something the Imperial Navy has little interest in doing.
Pirates also infest the system, attracted to the rich bounties being harvested from the Koronus Expanse and the heavily-laden vessels supplying the system. A common tactic is to attack transports as they translate into realspace or lure them with false distress calls. Many merchant vessels approaching the system operate in fleets in an attempt to stave them off, but with little success. Xenos raiders are also a threat, though major attacks have been rare in recent decades. Be they human or alien, pirates are ruthless and generally leave no survivors. Captured starships are either stripped for parts, refitted and re-crewed as prize vessels, or left to drift and die without power.
- Rogue Trader: Core Rulebook (RPG), pg. 341
- Rogue Trader: Edge of the Abyss (RPG), pp. 51, 111
- Rogue Trader: Hostile Acquisitions (RPG), pg. 132
- Rogue Trader: Into the Storm (RPG), pp. 248-252