Centuries ago, humans colonised Jørn, a lonely planet on the far side of the galaxy, only to discover, after a few short years, that the planet was killing them. The culprit, a native spore, carried on every wind to every corner of the globe.

A map of Jørn.

This map of Jørn is a work-in-progress. The five human cities are shown as red dots.

Just over 1,100 light years away from Old Terra, Jørn is the furthest human-inhabited planet from the Sol system.

An Earth-like planet, with planetary rings and two shepherd moons, it’s roughly twice the size of Earth, with a higher gravity and slightly more geological activity (e.g. earthquakes). There is also some space debris left over from when the colonists arrived, as well as satellites from the original survey missions. None of these are visible with the naked eye, and most of the satellites are either defunct or barely functioning. However, there may be one through which {{ DATA SCRUB – ACCESS RESTRICTED }}.

The atmosphere near the surface carries a spore that is toxic to humans, and although there is considerable land, none of it is habitable by humans without some form of environmental protection. Instead humans live in floating cities, bio domes or plateaus/mountains above thirty-thousand feet.

The same toxic spore, known as the Pollen, has also prevented detailed exploration of the surface. Although much has been done from the air, there is still much to be discovered about the surface and the plants and animals that inhabit it.


Hero leaned closer to the screen. There was something wrong with his eyes, black and shiny and mechanical. “Are they…?”

“Cybernetic,” Norah said from the other side of the workbench, her eyes glued to another screen. “And they’re not the only greywork he has. If you plugged him into the planetary net, he could double as an AI.”

Implants inserted into the brain. Although primarily used to repair neural damage – such as that caused by birth defects or injury – it can also be used to enhance human intelligence and memory.

In the past, greywork (also known as greyware) allowed humans to interface directly with computers. While this is still possible, given the state of current AI technology (which hasn’t advanced much, if at all, in the last 300 years) it is cheaper and more efficient to do so manually.

Over the last several generations, there has been an increased incidence of rejection amongst greyware patients, where implants simply stop working.

Research suggests the increased rejection of neural implants is linked to the Pollen.

Industrial level

Sandwiched between the Twilight and Street levels, the Industrial is the second largest of the city’s levels.

For over a hundred years, before the mag-web made the satellite ‘burbs possible, the Industrial level was the heart of Cumulus City’s manufacturing and agriculture, supplying the city with all of its needs. Now it’s mostly deserted, occupied mostly by businesses that either cannot afford to move to the ‘burbs or require specialised equipment and/or premises.

In the last decade, moves to reclaim/repurpose the Industrial have been made by local zone Chiefs.

A massive nano-rail network runs through the Industrial level, its purpose to carry freight to the freight elevators stationed around the city. The nano-rail picks freight up from the huge industrial docking bays, which receive freight from the sky-trains that move goods between the cities. The network is overseen by the city’s AI, with a number of smaller, localised AIs handling the minutiae of shuttling freight to specific destinations.


Before her, in overlapping squares and rectangles projected outward from the wall, were holos of her mum, except the girl in the holos didn’t look like her mum, not exactly. Surrounded by friends, laughing, talking, smiling, her flurry-thyt either perched on her shoulder or cradled in her arms, she looked happy and fun and all of the things Hero had never thought her mum could be.

In essence, holo-walls turn entire walls into gigantic holo-screens, allowing a user to access a building’s AI as well as the prime- and sub-nets. Frequent uses include:

  • displaying external scenes, giving the illusion of windows overlooking gardens and exotic locales
  • displaying artwork. A new artistic movement has taken advantage of the technology and now many homes and businesses feature intricate artworks that respond to the mood of the occupants
  • audio-visual entertainment
  • conference calls

Although there is no restriction on the size of a holo-wall, it has yet to be adapted for outdoor use.

The holo-wall is a relatively recent advent in human technology. Although first invented well over 300 years ago, before the Jørn colonists left Earth, lack of resources turned holo-walls into a luxury the colonists couldn’t afford. It is only in the last 70 years that it has been ‘rediscovered’, and can now be found in the homes and businesses of most upper-middle class citizens.

The Farm

She frowned as a memory from her first day tickled her mind. “Wasn’t your sister expelled?”

Norah’s mouth tightened, but she nodded. “My dads sent her to that boarding school over the New Gobi ice forest. It’s not as awful as they say. At least they let her take Golem, her slale-bear. They could have sent him to the Farm.”

Hero shuddered.

Built partially into as well as around the peak of Mt Stevelin, near the western coast of Tonie, the Farm is the oldest human structure on Jørn, and the largest to be built on the planet’s surface.

The Farm contains the gene-banks, a repository of genetic material (both plant and animal) brought from Earth by the colonists, and is arguably the most important installation on the planet. As well as containing the gene-banks, the Farm is responsible for researching new and better crops and livestock, and is the main hub of Pollen research.

Earth, the Final World War

The central holo painted Mr Lee’s face in shades of orange and green as he paced the class, regaling them with tales of Old Terra’s final world war, when the door opened.

The classroom hushed. Tis came in first, pausing on the threshold, her eyes wide and her face just a little too pale, before scurrying to her workstation. Dorian came next, his face as pale as Tis’s. He didn’t pause like her, or scurry, or cast his eyes downwards, instead his gaze locked with Hero’s and he glared at her all the way to his workstation.

Grey was nowhere to be seen.

“Right,” Mr Lee said. “As I was saying, the Final World War…”

Dorian’s eyes bored into hers.

She smiled, grimly, and turned her attention back to the central holo as the political conflict between New Australnesia and the East Asia Alliance morphed into war.

In June of 2111, a longstanding disagreement between New Australnesia and the East Asia Alliance over territory and resources escalated into a conflict that became the start of the Final World War.

The war, which lasted for ten years, was the last war to involve all of Earth’s major governments. During the course of the conflict nearly a fifth of the world’s population died, either as a direct result of the fighting or from the food shortages and rampant sickness that accompanied it.

The war was ended by Unified Earth, a grassroots movement and quickly spread across the globe. The United Arabic States was the first to call for a ceasefire.

The ceasefire lasted for just over a year during which the ruling world powers, spurred by United Earth, agreed to unite under a single governing body, the United Earth Government.


“The first barrier is coming up.”

On the inside of her helmet, the view changed, a diagram of a semi-transparent wall, a round hole in its centre, overlaying the skybridge. “What is it?”

“A modified shock skin. You have to jump through the hole.”

“I thought this was meant to be hard?”

“It is.” The feed from Harish’s harness grew large on her holo-screen, and she saw a flurry-thyt hunched over a switch. “Unless the switch is down, there is no hole.” An oad-hawk knocked the ‘thyt from its perch, and a doe-oc slammed into the space where the hole had been. “But don’t worry, Harish knows what he’s doing.”


Classification: Light strider.
Specialisation(s): Racer.
Breeding Status: Currently being bred outside of the Farm’s program.

Weight: 300–500kg
Height (at shoulder): 140–170cm
Genetic combination: Deer (Terran), ocupline (Jørn)

More info

A variant on the disastrous doe-rahm, the doe-oc has become popular among barrier racers. Renowned for it’s speed and agility, it is ideally suited to the sport but, with the same vulnerability to the Pollen as it’s predecessor, is not viable for ground side work details.

The first companion species to be engineered outside of the Farm, the doe-oc represents a new era in companion breeding. While the P’Tember stud, who produced the very first doe-oc, continues to be the leader in non-Farm breeding, several other studs have sprung up in its wake.

Cumulus City

Surrounded by its sprawling mass of satellite ‘burbs, Cumulus City rose thirty thousand feet through the atmosphere, an endless patchwork of grey and green connected by the silver threads of bridges and the restless movement of the skylanes.

One of the five human cities on Jørn, Cumulus City hovers 36 thousand feet above the Klone Ranges.

The youngest of the five cities, Cumulus City has a population of over 72 million –making it the second largest city after Sabre– supporting 24 percent of the total human population. Like the other cities it is kept afloat via magnetic levitation, powered by massive generators under the city and {{ DATA SCRUB – ACCESS RESTRICTED }}.

Cumulus City’s satellite suburbs, or ‘burbs, have sprung up around the main city over the last 200 years, taking the pressure of the growing population off the original infrastructure. The ‘burbs now support much of its agricultural and industrial needs, as well as providing extra living space.

The city itself is divided into six levels, listed below from the highest to the lowest. The higher the level, the more prestigious, expensive and desirous a place it is to live.

  • the Upper
  • the Horizon
  • the Grip
  • the Twilight
  • the Industrial
  • the Street
  • the Pipes

As well as these six levels, the city is divided into three rings, which spread outward from the centre of the city. They are:

  • the Core
  • the Middle city
  • the Outer city

This creates 18 sectors, including:

  • the Core Grip
  • Outer Upper city
  • the Middle Street

Barrier racing

They were off again, the bulk of the pack stretched out before them, flyers dodging the bots and bombs being hurled through the air as the racers jostled for position. Twice they watched riders and companions fall, incapacitated by a puff of coloured smoke or a flash of light.

“The first barrier is coming up.”

On the inside of her helmet, the view changed, a diagram of a semi-transparent wall, a round hole in its centre, overlaying the skybridge. “What is it?”

“A modified shock skin. You have to jump through the hole.”

“I thought this was meant to be hard?”

“It is.” The feed from Hamnet’s harness grew large on her holo-screen, and she saw a flurry-thyt hunched over a switch. “Unless the switch is down, there is no hole.” An oad-hawk knocked the ‘thyt from its perch, and a doe-oc slammed into the space where the hole had been. “But don’t worry, Hamnet knows what he’s doing.”

Barrier racing is one of the most popular sports in Jørn society, with a thriving professional league that culminates in the annual Intercity Cup.

Barrier racing combines elements from several Old Earth sports, such as orienteering, cross-country and horse racing. In it, teams consisting of two human and companion pairs, compete with other teams to navigate an obstacle course. The first team to complete the course wins.

Teams are made up of one rider pair and one scout pair. The rider pair (made up of a human and a large companion, known as a strider) race other rider pairs around an obstacle course, following the navigational directions of their scout pair (usually made up of a human and a small flying companion, know as a flyer).

Apart from telling their rider where to go, scouts are an integral part in successfully navigating obstacles. They are often required to complete an action, such as holding down a switch, to allow the rider to pass.

Barrier racing is a sport that requires excellent teamwork, between both humans and their companions as well as agility, navigational and problem-solving skills.

Originally developed as a training program for Riders, who faced frequent and often deadly hazards on the surface, the sport helps to build important survival skills for those wishing to go ground side. It is still used as part of the training programs for ground side expeditionary, rescue and security teams as well as the police.

Over the years, barrier racing has become heavily regulated to improve safety and many of the gadgets and barriers that where crowd favourites have been banned from use, if not made illegal. This has helped to spawn an underground racing movement known as street racing, an illegal variant of barrier racing.

Dr. Augusta Woolsey

The Librarian disappeared from the holo, replaced by an image of an older woman, black hair threaded with grey and frown lines sunk deep between her brows. “Doctor Augusta Woolsey–“

Hero raised her brows. “The Crackpot?”

“‘Brilliant although unconventional’ is what is recorded in her files. Along with creating some of the most powerful Earth-Jørn hybrids, Doctor Woolsey was instrumental in unlocking the specific genetic sequence that granted immunity to the Pollen. She was well-respected for her discoveries, until she proposed that humans, not just flora and fauna, should be granted the same immunity.”

Doctor Augusta Woolsey, a xeno-biologist, was among the first of the colonists to land on Jørn, at the age of 47.

She came from Earth with her extended family –two sisters, a brother, a brother-in-law and several nephews. Augusta herself never married, too engrossed in her work and later, in the effort to save the colony from the effects of the Pollen. She gained the respect of her peers and the community at large by being the first to create a successful Earth-Jørn hybrid, the wombacow.

‘The Crackpot’ was a moniker she earned at the age of 73, shortly after proposing a plan to make humans immune to the Pollen. By this time she had become a recluse, known for creating the most dangerous (but also the most effective) of the Earth-Jørn hybrids –such as the ruc-pard, roomal and slale-bear– by using the DNA of Jørn’s top predators, which many considered pure folly.

Augusta died in a lab accident at the age of 127, while working on {{ DATA SCRUB – ACCESS RESTRICTED }}.