It was the ships that had drawn Ailanthus here.
But also, and perhaps more important in the short run,
was that there was no sign of the war with the Drek here on Kali Prime, no sign
of the civil war flaring within the Imperium. The Drek border was as far as
one could get from Kali Prime and if the Drek fleets ever came this far, the planet
would already have been deserted, the Imperium already fallen. Kali Prime
was on the far edges of the Outer Sphere, a place where the laws and regulations
of the Imperium and The Church of the Blessed Prophets held little to no sway.
The Lesser House Eros had once been one of the pillars
of the First Imperium, tracing its lineage back to Agati Gossomer, sister to the
venerated St. Aurum Gossomer. All that had changed with the fall of the House
St. Peter of the Sacred Consecration and the rise of The Prime House Volans to the
Throne of the Imperium. An ardent backer of The Church of the Blessed Prophets,
the House Eros had held onto their allegiance to The Church Prime House St Peter
a little too long and as a consequence, had lost everything to the vengeance of
the Prime House Volans. Once a Greater House with fifteen systems under their
control at the height of their power, the Lesser House Eros now was lucky if they
could keep control of the three systems they claimed, two of them more of a hindrance
than an asset.
And yet, Bishop Aurva X, ruler of the House, was not foolish
enough to offend the new power that had taken over. Although not aligned with
the Imperium, those who controlled the Lesser House Eros knew that if not for the
power of the Imperium Navy, the Lesser House Eros would have fallen long ago to
the Druzsni, the closest threatening non-human species. And so those who called
Kali Prime their home might degrade the Imperium in public, but praised it in private,
their wealth directly tied into the control the Imperium Navy exerted, regardless
of whether the Imperium was openly chastised with merciless attacks. Those
whose business relied on safe trade knew better than to openly blast their protectors.
The making of credits always came first; personal animosity only after the profit
had been made.
The port itself, and the city that had grown up around
it in random bursts of scattered tenements and businesses, was alive twenty-eight
hours a day. The launching and landing facilities, the wire elevators to the
docking ports and shipyards in orbit and the extensive repair facilities had brought
with it the rest of the paraphernalia ports seemed to support. That included
those who made a living sucking the righteous dry. The slave markets were
but one aspect of the city intertwining itself around the port like a symbiotic
weed. Entire blocks were delegated to the selling and buying of the myriad
products falling from the sky every day in the form of shuttle craft and transports.
Interspersed throughout, like fungus growing in the dark shadows of trees, were
the mandatory brothels. These ranged from the scummiest pits of human degradation,
where one could have sex with or watch any number of species having sex with whatever
one could think of and a few things of which one would never think, to the classicist
centers of refined sexual pleasures where those with the money could lose themselves
for days in the embrace of another.
And then there were the restaurants, the smells and aromas
hanging on the stagnant breezes like humming birds, beautiful and enticing and quickly
to be replaced by another, drawing the unwary patron into a darkened pit of drunken
pilots and voluptuous bar-maids, or a glorious den of culinary delights matching
any that a Greater House could offer. It could all be found here, could all
be bought and sold. One could get lost in Caelo Reg as easily as walking down
a street into an open air market and disappearing in a mist of subtle garlic and
garbage. And many did, the number of missing person reports and delinquent
crew complains inundating the local constabulary each and every day. This
was a city in which to start a new life, or find an illegal hop to another system
and disappear forever.
It was exactly for what Ailanthus was looking.