Campaign of the Month: January 2012
Star Trek Late Night
- Planet Name: Rura Penthe
- Class: M (barely)
- Moons or Rings: None
- Gravity: 0.8 G
- Climate: Thin atmosphere, 100% hydrosphere (ice), very cold temperature
- Demographics: thousands of prisoners
- Civilization: corrupt prison despotism
- Resources: Dilithium
In each major culture, there are those who defy the social order. Among the Federation, criminals are sent to rehabilitation centers, where they have a chance to recover and return to society. Among the Klingons, however, there is Rura Penthe… the prison planetoid.
Rura Penthe is the sixth world of seven, orbiting a red dwarf star deep within the Klingon Empire. It is more than thirty light years from any other inhabited world, in hopes of keeping casual traffic (and potential escape routes) far away from the Alien’s Graveyard.
Though Class M and technically a water world, Rura Penthe’s average equatorial temperature is -18 degrees C. Out near the poles, the harsh cold reaches -30 degrees C or more. Though there are common windstorms, it’s actually rare that enough water from the surface sublimates to allow for snowfall. The bitter conditions make traveling and working on the surface in anything less than a full environmental suit dangerous. Because the cold is so lethal on this world, the Klingons do not even post guard towers or erect electronic frontiers to contain their prisoners. If someone escapes the mines, it is certain that he is embracing death.
Rura Penthe is a rocky, ice-covered world. Over 96% of the planet is covered by glaciers, some of which are over ten kilometers thick in places. As a result, the prison is located mostly underground, both for proximity to the dilithium mines and to allow the ice and rock above to insulate the habitats, reducing the power requirements to heat the prison.
Dilithium is plentiful here, which is why the Klingons decided to use Rura Penthe as a prison colony. The “world” is barely more than a glorified asteroid, with only the dense mineral content giving the planet enough mass to hold a breathable atmosphere, ice and water. The mines produce a majority of the ship grade dilithium needed to keep the Klingon fleet flying.
For a Klingon warrior, there is no greater dishonor than being captured and not being allowed to die. Only the most dishonorable of deeds warrants exile to the harsh prison of Rura Penthe, and few Klingons reach the world without committing suicide first. As a result, the vast majority of Rura Penthe’s prisoners aren’t Klingons, but aliens from a hundred worlds. Many are from subjugated races under Klingon oppression. Others were captured during actions the Klingons found dishonorable. As a Klingon’s honor is prized above all else, it is assumed that any sentence to Rura Penthe is worse than a life sentence, and there is no mechanism for either appeal or clemency. Given the wide range of races imprisoned here, and the near total lack of escapees or released prisoners, Rura Penthe has become known as the Alien’s Graveyard in the Empire.
Klingon guards and wardens assigned to Rura Penthe are often dishonored warriors as well, though their dishonor is not so great as to warrant death by their own hand. Certainly, no honored and valuable warrior would be exiled to so bleak an assignment, so the prison administrators are among the most venal in the Klingon military. Between this and the permanent nature of imprisonment on Rura Penthe, the prison society is corrupt and harsh, with the strongest prisoners preying on the weaker prisoners for clothes, perks, minor comforts, and the like. Anyone sentenced to Rura Penthe had better be ready either to fight and win, or to get used to giving up their goods and doing all the dirtiest work.
Which is not to say anyone has it easy on Rura Penthe. The Empire might not respect the Alien’s Graveyard, but they need the high-grade dilithium it produces, and no shortfalls of dilithium ore are permitted. The most powerful gang lords of Rura Penthe still descend to the mines every day. The work is arduous and cold, and in a given year a good number of prisoners die mining, only to be buried next to their work as the mining continues on. The atmosphere on Rura Penthe is oppressive, with cynicism and despair breeding hand in hand, and the closest of friends among the prisoners turning each other in for more food, extra blankets or a nice coat.
Rura Penthe was scouted very early in the Klingon Empire’s expansion to the stars, but it was only after the development of Warp 4 capable starships – and dilithium’s ability to regulate matter/antimatter reactions – that Rura Penthe became valuable to the Klingons. However, the question of developing such an inhospitable world was a difficult one. Certainly, no Klingon would willingly travel to such a desolate place, far from where honor held sway. Early mining colonies used slave labor from conquered worlds, but this was found to be inefficient at best. Rura Penthe was simply too far away to transport slaves, and the practice made conquered worlds unacceptably restive.
However, these very qualities made Rura Penthe an excellent devil to keep conquered peoples in line. In 2098, Chancellor Kapok of the Klingon High Council announced a new policy: dishonorable acts of rebellion (meaning any rebellious act where the rebels did not openly attack and fight against their Klingon lords) against the Empire by conquered races would to be punished by transportation to the dilithium mines – a fate terrible enough to discourage subject worlds from getting too far out of line. In 2108, Kaltof – a powerful member of the Klingon High Council and political enemy of Chancellor Kapok’s – was implicated in a plot to poison the Chancellor. This act – dishonorable in the extreme for a Klingon warrior – resulted in Kaltof and twenty of his warriors being exiled to Rura Penthe. Eighteen of those warriors committed suicide en route to their prison, but two – Kaltof himself and one of his aides – arrived and worked in the mines for the rest of their lives. This established an important precedent: Rura Penthe would be the prison world for any subject of the Empire whose dishonor was too great to warrant death.
Almost no one ever escaped from Rura Penthe. The stigma of the world was too great for any loyal Klingon or Klingon subject race to overcome. An exception to this occurred in 2293. Captain James T. Kirk and Doctor Leonard McCoy, both of the USS Enterprise-A, had been implicated in the cowardly attack on and murder of Chancellor Gorkon of the Klingon High Council, when Chancellor Gorkon had been traveling to Camp Khitomer to negotiate an alliance with the Federation. The attack – apparently staged from the Enterprise from complete surprise – had involved a sudden torpedo shot damaging Kronos One and crippling the artificial gravity. While the artificial gravity was off, preventing the Klingon warriors within from engaging their enemies hand to hand, two Starfleet officers in environmental gear and magnetic boots beamed aboard Kronos One and murdered Gorkon. This attack – the absolute heart of dishonor among the Klingon people – was found to be the fault of known Klingon hater Kirk and his personal physician (whose only real crime had been an inability to save Gorkon’s life).
Kirk and McCoy were innocent of the crime, however, which had been plotted by a group of renegade Starfleet officers and Klingon warriors who were opposed to the alliance. The crew of the Enterprise were able to prove the innocence of their shipmates, and penetrated deep into Klingon space. Once there, they were able to find Kirk and McCoy’s biosigns (the only human ones on the world) and beam the pair back to the Enterprise. Thus reunited, the crew of the Enterprise were joined by the USS Excelsior, under the command of Captain Hikaru Sulu, and the two starships were able to expose the conspiracy and exonerate Kirk and McCoy.
In the decades since, Rura Penthe has remained of crucial importance to the Empire. While the importance of natural dilithium in the Federation and Romulan Star Empire has declined with the discovery of advanced dilithium recompositing techniques, the Klingons still depend on natural crystals in great number for their warfleet. So long as this is true, and so long as traitors and cowards live within the borders of the Klingon Empire, Rura Penthe will be well populated.
PLACES OF INTEREST
There is little of interest on Rura Penthe beyond the living quarters for the prisoners and the dilithium mines themselves. Of course, the presence of so much unrefined dilithium ore can be a tempting target for pirates and thieves… if pirates and thieves are willing to travel so deep into the heart of the Klingon Empire and back.