Rigel System

The largest pirate fleet, the most lucrative slave trade, and the most powerful criminal syndicate in two quadrants have all originated in the Rigel system. Despite a Starfleet presence in the system going back to the founding of the Federation, it seems impossible to root these unsavory elements out completely. Among Rigel’s 11 billion inhabitants, and between the cracks of civilizations that range from nomadic barbarism to futuristic splendor, it’s easy to stay hidden and anonymous. Rigel hosts at least four indigenous sentient species – and the Human colonists there don’t always act like the rest of their species, either. The Orions, Rigel’s dominant species, built at least twelve quadrant-spanning empires centered on Rigel over the past 200,000 years, but after the fall of the Twelfth Empire around 5,200 B.C., they gave up on overt rule and settled in to amuse themselves and make a few credits off whatever they could find. Orion merchant clans, the caju, developed a trading network even larger than their greatest empire, and seem fairly unimpressed by relative newcomers such as the Federation. The repeated rise and fall of empires across the sector left artifacts and ruins on almost all of Rigel’s sixteen planets, six of which are still continuously inhabited.


What everyone (including an increasing number of the inhabitants, as Starfleet increases its presence there) calls “Rigel” is, technically, only Rigel A, the enormous (60 times the size of Sol), bright, blue-white B-type supergiant at the center of the trinary Rigel system. Rigel A burns 50,000 times brighter than the Earth’s sun and its nearest planet orbits 150 AU out from that blazing surface, five times farther out than Neptune orbits Sol. (A swarm of uninhabitable asteroids and protoplanets orbits 10-30 AU out from Rigel, creating a navigational hazard equivalent to a level 5 plasma field.) Fifteen more planets extend Rigel A’s progeny a total of 420 AU (over two lightdays) into space. Circling a further 1500 AU out are the much smaller B-type dwarfs Rigel B and C, which also orbit each other at 28 AU. The old star charts on Earth called Rigel “Beta Orionis,” the second-brightest star in the constellation Orion. Rigel’s most successful and in many ways most characteristic species takes its common name from that old Earth term, although the Orions call themselves the Kolari and their star Kolar.


The dominant species of the Rigel system, the greenskinned, decadent Orions claim Rigel VII as their homeworld, although it is more likely that the Preservers or some other ancient culture may have “seeded” them there. The Chelarians, who resemble giant, upright, saber-toothed turtles, are actually a relatively pacific species, members of the Federation since 2275. They are indigenous to Rigel III, and find most other worlds inclement and uncomfortable. Some older data banks call them “Rigellians,” but to avoid confusion with the Vulcanoid “Rigelians” of Rigel V, that name has gone out of fashion. The Rigelians were an offshoot of the exodus from Vulcan that also created the Debrune, the Romulans, and other cultures; they retained their psionic gifts through careful breeding and study, but never abandoned emotion. The likely original native species of Rigel V, the Kaylars, never ascended past primitive hand weapons and TL 1 or 2 on their own. As mercenaries and slaves, the Kaylars have been settled on Rigel II, IV, and VII, where they usually returned as soon as practical to their preferred state of nomadic unsettlement once their masters’ empires fell. In addition to these four species, the Rigel system holds millions of Human colonists, and traders, rogues, mercenaries, and settlers from many other worlds and cultures.


Rigel is 913 light-years from Earth in the Beta Quadrant, roughly halfway to Qo’noS, the Klingon homeworld. The Rigel system has been a hub of galactic trade routes for many millennia, with commercial contacts reaching from Cardassia to Deneb to the Romulan core worlds – as well as Andoria, Tellar, and other crucial Federation planets. Open to all comers, Rigel has managed the tricky balancing act of getting rich and staying independent for most of the last 250 years. Human colonies on Rigel XII and Rigel IV, and the continuous plague of Orion piracy, slavery, and smuggling, drew Starfleet into the system on numerous occasions. First the Klingons, and then the Romulans, attempted to use the Orions against the Federation, the Romulans being particularly eager to “reunify” Rigel V with their own Star Empire. Both the Klingons and the Romulans maintain covert bases in the system, although the Federation considers Rigel part of its own “strategic space.”

Although the Orions disagree, they are steadily less able to do anything about it. As the Federation increases its presence in the sector (Rigel III becomes a Federation member world in 2275, Rigel IV in 2287, and Rigel V in 2297) the Orion traders and pirates lose their freedom of action, and increasingly transfer their operations into the Alpha Quadrant with the Orion Syndicate. The Borg incursion and the Dominion War strip Starfleet assets from the Rigel system in the late 24th century, however, and the Orion Syndicate takes every advantage of the resulting opportunities. At the end of the Dominion War, the Rigel system is almost back where it was in the time of Captain Pike, with an entrenched Orion criminal presence thumbing its nose at Starfleet and fattening its coffers on piracy and smuggling while loudly proclaiming its neutrality and innocence to anyone who cares to listen. Since Rigel II, VII, and X remain officially neutral and independent, ships of any empire or civilization can enter the Rigel system without Starfleet approval or clearance – unless the Federation wishes to blockade its own vital trade hub.

The Mysteries of Rigel
In addition to the ruins, laboratories, space hulks, and monuments of at least twelve quadrant-spanning civilizations, the Rigel system contains an even greater mystery – the riddle of its own existence. The roughly 100 million years that a Type B star of Rigel’s size has existed is simply not enough time, according to accepted astrophysical theory, to form planets, much less for three of those planets to evolve sentient life and complex ecosystems. Certain ancient Orion records, as well as bizarre anomalies like the Rigel XIII superstring, indicate that an even more ancient race – known as the Architects – created the Rigel system around 50 million years ago by moving planets into orbit around the blue giant, or by building them from scratch out of cosmic dust. (The estimates are confused because at least some of Rigel’s planets seem to be older than the star itself.) The Architects also likely seeded their creations with life, around 10 million years later. Whether the Architects were Orions from the far distant past (or from the equally far future, perhaps using time manipulation to alter the rates of stellar and planetary evolution), a godlike species such as the Q, or an unthinkably ancient culture like the Tkon, remains unknown. According to rough astrophysical estimates, Rigel was born in the explosion that created the Orion Nebula, now inside the territory of the Klingon Empire. The Klingons have done very little investigation of potential Architect relics in the Nebula – or very little that they have told anyone else about, at any rate.

The Other Worlds of Rigel

A few highlights on the other ten worlds in the system:

  • Rigel I (Deyirdar): A blazing hot Class-F world, its nearly molten crust ejects trace gases and volatile compounds in frequent eruptions of fiery magma. These sometimes cool into valuable crystals, and prospectors brave any number of unpleasant deaths to harvest them.
  • Rigel III (Chelar): A warm, lush Class-M world of small oceans, thick steamy jungles, and bubbling swamps. Its native species, the Chelarians, became Federation members in 2275.
  • Rigel VI (Nedasar): A Class-T gas giant with a large ring system and a number of sizable moons used as pirate havens, profitable mining stations, and black markets. On the sixth moon, Gesh, is a very exclusive resort that claims to be able to grant any customer’s wish – for a very exclusive price.
  • Rigel VIII (Tavar): A Class-G world completely frozen under a planet-wide ice cap. What, precisely, lies beneath the ice remains a riddle; 30,000 years ago, the Fourth Orion Empire hastily abandoned a terraforming project that might have discovered the answer.
  • Rigel IX (Heitar): A small, cold Class-H world. Its domed cities fell long ago when the inhabitants somehow gained godlike powers and wiped themselves out. Spacers tell stories of ghost cities, mile-high statues, and angry life-force shells that kill anyone who lands there – and, indeed, visitors to Heitar have a habit of disappearing more often than they should.
  • Rigel XI (Sanidar): A frozen Class-G rockball used by the various Orion Empires over the millennia as a weapons testing facility. Scavengers can make a precarious living (in many senses of the term) recovering unexploded ordnance, heavy metals, and derelict warcraft from the surface or from its orbital “junk ring”.
  • Rigel XIII (Lonakar): A large Class-J superjovian gas giant, almost a brown dwarf star. 100 million miles above its south pole, a superstring twisted into a Moebius configuration spins in place; a temporal anomaly opens at its center during major sunspot activity on Rigel B.
  • Rigel XI V (Govar): This Class-K world is very cold and dry, with a ammonia-methane-sulfur dioxide atmosphere. Although known to be uninhabited and showing no life signs on sensors, occasionally passing ships resolve visual images of humanoid life walking around on the surface.
  • Rigel XV (Sheshar): Another Class-J jovian world (slightly smaller than Jupiter) with a large ring of gas and dust. Its powerful magnetic field can pose a shipping hazard during ion storms or sunspot activity, and its ring cloud makes an excellent hiding spot for pirate vessels.
  • Rigel XVI (Yagthar): A medium-sized Class-G world covered in sludgy methane ice and helium. The First Orion Empire conducted extremely dangerous experiments on this planet that have left knots of chaotic space all along its surface and orbital path.
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Rigel II
Rigel IV
Rigel V
Rigel VII
Rigel X
Rigel XII

Rigel System

Star Trek Late Night StephenWollett