Monday, 11 February 2013


Another piece I wrote for Prisoners and Exiles.

Unedited, but perhaps it can be of use to someone out there.

Domed Prison of Hagz

“There are few places as dammed as Hagz. A prison camp on a world where the air is poison to breathe, where even the guards are prisoners under that dome, and as if that wasn’t enough to make it unappealing. The Charioteers have just quarantined the local system as navigational hazard. A prison within a prison, within a prison.”
-- Warden Sadan Kahim, while on leave on Istakhr, 5007


The world of Dahab orbits Istakhr’s sun along with its now solitary moon, Darma, and the debris ring formed from the smashed remains of its second moon, Dora. The Charioteers Guild has marked Dahab as a navigational hazard following the collision of the Najahan Comet with the second moon. The comet struck with the force of a doomsday weapon, splitting the tiny satellite and scattering debris into a myriad of orbits about that world. Fragments of the moon have made impacts upon both Dahab and Darma, causing earthquakes and destabilizing the weather patterns of Dahab’s toxic atmosphere. 
The Hagz prison dome survived intact only due to the lucky chance that it was one the far side of the planet when the comet struck and avoided the worst of the meteoric fragment impacts.
The Dahab facility was originally established as a mining settlement during the First Republic and was later converted into a correctional facility for the detainment of dissidents and prisoners of war during the Ukari War. In the long centuries after the war, the prison population dwindled. Much of the facility became disused and fell into disrepair.
Rediscovered during the Regency, House al-Malik initially used the facility as part of Istakhr’s early warning system and stationed a small garrison there. In time it became a convenient dumping ground for prisoners of war, political dissents and more typical criminal offenders. In 4887 the military moved out of Hagz into purpose-built bunkers beneath the surface and the whole of the Hagz facility became a prison complex.


The dome itself is a huge geodesic construction composed of large triangular plates of ceramglass locked into a ceramsteel framework. The ground level of the dome has four large airlock gates that allow vehicles and personnel to move from the dome to the unprotected landing zone.
Outside the toxic atmosphere comprises a mix of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen and other trace elements. The thick cloud layer helps retain heat from geothermal vents allowing a weird and wonderful toxic jungle to exist. Ground heat and the chemical soup that falls as rain sustain the jungle flora. Plants generally form long convoluted fluted structures that guide the rain down channels so that nutrients can be extracted. 
Animal life is limited to the warm shallow seas and mangroves that form over most of Dahab’s surface. Insects and amphibians no bigger than a few centimeters are regularly encountered. The fish species are more numerous and much larger in size.
Under the dome itself is both the prison compound and the much smaller Warden’s Town. Despite the extra facilities in Warden’s Town, the guards are just as much prisoners as the inmates they police. A regular monthly supply run brings both supplies and new inmates. Those that have completed their time and correctional conditioning are shipped back on the return. Since the destruction of Dora, the supply shipments have become erratic which has caused discontent and in some cases rationing to be imposed. In general, the lack of supplies impacts more on the prison population than it does on the inhabitants of Warden’s Town.
For the wardens there are truly worse places to be assigned than Hagz, despite being little more than prisoners themselves, they can at least bring their families to live with them.
The current administrator of Hagz is Baron Haqkim Ib-Naz al-Malik and it was he who opened the prison’s doors to refugees when the Najahan comet struck and he gave shelter to prospectors and others who made their living in Dahab’s orbits. 
Despite the strain this placed on the facilities and resources, the influx of skilled freemen to Warden’s Town has brought other benefits. What is more, the Charioteer quarantine keeps them there—and gives the Baron new avenues to explore and the opportunities to make something more than a prison from his fief.

Correctional Doctrine
The al-Malik look upon crime and criminality as a social disease, poverty and the desire for things beyond one’s station in life, breeds crime. As a result, anyone can become a criminal and anyone can be cured of their criminality. The al-Malik maintain a correctional philosophy that is very similar to old correctional codes of the Second Republic, though incorporating ideas of social status and responsibility. They are the most forward-looking of noble Houses, and the only one to sponsor prison facilities that organize programs of education and rehabilitation, with a view to reintroducing the former criminal back into society.
Crime is primarily a disease of the freeman class, serfs are considered to be too lowly to have true desires of their own and usually come to criminal behavior through the inappropriate guidance of their civic leaders (nobles, freemen or priests). Criminal behavior by serfs usually leads to a charge against their social betters except in the most extreme cases when justice becomes summary execution, or maiming.
Freemen are at risk to criminal behavior precisely because they are permitted to own their own property. This acquisition of wealth exposes them to the desire to accumulate more, resorting to crime when other means prove unsuccessful. A freeman found guilty of a crime and unable to pay restitution may appeal to the court to be made a serf rather than face custody. 
Nobles almost always escape custody by paying restitution, but in serious or serial crimes a noble may be stripped of his station and remanded to a custodial facility to serve a correctional sentence. As a result the al-Malik have relatively few prisons and those that do exist tend to incarcerate freemen.
Once within the penal system, a prisoner can expect a better standard of living than many serfs receive on the outside. They will be provided with a basic level of education intended to enforce al-Malik social ideas about citizenship and provide the freeman with the skills to perform a trade and become a valuable member of society again

Under the dome, the facility is divided in to two sections the Prison and Warden’s Town. The prison complex takes up approximately 70% of the area forming a moon-shaped crescent about the securely walled off Warden’s Town.

Warden’s Town
A securely fenced-off compound with dedicated access to the west gate airlock. Originally constructed as billets for the Wardens but later expanded to accommodate whole families and all the supporting services that would be required for a small township. Warden’s Town is not fully self-sufficient, but must rely on regular supply shipments. 

Hagz Prison Compound
Designed as an interlocking series of wings and walled-in exercise yards, capable of holding 100,000 inmates in double cells. Specialist facilities exist in the sub basement levels, including isolation cells and educational facilities.

Landing Zones
Only a kilometer to the north of the Hagz Dome is a cleared area covered with permacrete that serves as a landing pad for the monthly supply shipment from Istakhr. A small building next to the landing area houses a small generator and a signal beacon for guiding the ships through the murky atmosphere.

The Old Workings
Deep under the Hagz Dome are the ancient mine workings that were the reason of the dome’s construction, although the ores became uneconomical to extract during the First Republic. The presence of a convict labor force means that ore processing continued long after it ould otherwise have been economically viable. These days the mines are treacherous and unmaintained, leading to random tunnel collapses, flooding or simply the slow bleeding away of breathable air.
There are many rumors about the Hagz tunnels; some speak of escaped convicts surviving in the deep tunnels or worse creatures. Subsidence, tectonic movements and erosion of the rock minerals have opened new caves and crawl spaces into the honeycomb centre of the planet. No one really knows what lurks down there. Some even say that the workings are haunted by the ghosts of those ancient miners who were long ago trapped in cave-ins, unable to rest until their bodies can be discovered and laid to rest.

The Hagz Prison was a closed compound, accessible only to the convicts and the wardens that supervise them. With the impact of the Najahan comet that has all changed, the dome has become a shelter for the many prospectors and military personnel that could not safely escape the fragments of the cometary impact with Dora. 
The normal regimentation of life under the dome has suffered but a new vibrancy is growing. The influx of people has brought tensions and new opportunities. Many are now just as stranded here as the regular convicts, unable to evacuate and forced to make the best of living under the prison dome.
The navigational hazard that Dahab now represents ensures that only the bravest and most foolhardy pilots would risk trying to reach the prison. The regular supply shipments from Istakhr have become erratic and Baron Haqkim has been forced to try and make his inhospitable fief more hospitable and self-sufficient. Ultimately the greatest limitation he faces is that the dome is only so big, and that space within must be balanced between housing the convicts and housing the wardens and refugees. The need for food is leading the Baron to consider all possible ideas, including the processing of indigenous flora to produce edible food pastes and the exploring of the old mine workings seeking other resources and space for expansion.
For those intrepid enough to risk the Dora debris field and venture to Hagz, the place offers a wealth of opportunities. Security has become harder to maintain and several prisoners are believed to be at large somewhere within the dome or stowed away on the few ships to have landed since the destruction of Dora. Engineers and others with technical skills are always in demand to keep the facility operating and the old mine workings offer both a hope for new resources and fear of the unknown.

Baron Haqkim Ib-Naz al-Malik
Baron Haqkim Ib-Naz was once a prominent lord of the al-Malik. He fell out of favor during the Emperor Wars for opposing the al-Malik-Hawkwood alliance. Arguing that his House still had the resources to make a bid of the throne, he made the mistake of leveling an accusatory finger at the leadership of the House, claiming that they lacked the resolve and the political acumen to lead the House to victory. For his damning rhetoric he found himself rewarded with the Barony of Hagz on Dahab--in truth, little more than an exile from the court he once served.
But Baron Haqkim refused to admit that his critique of the House and its leadership had been unfounded. Instead he set out to prove that he was a more visionary and stronger leader than those who held his House in thrall. He took control of Hagz and instituted numerous reforms to build his power base from the place of exile into a thriving fief. His Republican ideals have helped shape the society that is now emerging.
The first reform he implemented was to portion off Warden’s Town and allow the wardens to bring their families with them. This gave him a more balanced population to work with. Secondly he would allow prisoners with useful skills to be rehabilitated into the Warden’s Town community earlier than their often-extensive sentences would permit. 
The disaster that destroyed Dora has been a mixed blessing. While it has made transport and supply difficult, it has also brought his fief closer to the eyes of the Known Worlds and given him an influx of skilled workers to his fledgling society. Hagz itself is operated more like a muster company town than a noble’s fief as fits the Baron’s ideals. Although he has a fief, he has no serfs; the bulk of the population are convicts being rehabilitated for a place in his new order, and every day new faces arrive to answer his call for daring adventurers to help in the current crisis. 
As the only fief holder on Dahab, the Baron has recently added the title ‘Lord of Dahab’ to his title and this addition has so far gone unchallenged in the al-Malik court. The Baron’s star seems to be rising even as his fief becomes harder than ever to reach. The comet has actually been a golden opportunity to raise the Baron’s profile within the House and beyond. His fief has received aid form the House military but the hazard of fragments in orbit has also meant the military listening posts on Dahab have been rendered useless. With the military withdrawal, the Baron has seen the opportunity to scavenge much-needed technology and weapons from the bunkers, some of which is of direct use to Hagz and other pieces are valuable commodities to trade for other supplies and services.

Prospector Kassy Mulaghan
Kassy and her small team of prospectors had been surveying old mineral claims on Dora before the comet destroyed the moon. Her team had just identified trace quantities of Pygmallium in the deepest areas of the planetoid when the evacuation warning went up. Without the time to evacuate further, she identified Hagz as a haven against the impending impact and took her team there for safety.
In an instant her dreams of making a fortune in a Pygmallium strike were wiped out as the comet ripped the small moon apart and scattered it across Dahab and Darma. But all is not lost, in the weeks after the impact she and her team were performing survey operations for Baron Haqkim. Investigating an astrobliff field where hundreds of micrometers had fallen, they discovered Pygmallium deposits, tiny crystallized spheroid deposits spread in a thin layer for miles in all directions, just waiting to be picked up.
Kassy now knows that she is sitting on a proverbial gold mine and that it will not be long before other people discover what she already knows. She has also made an educated guess that fragments of Dora now coalescing into a ring structure around Dahab are also rich in Pygmallium deposits. 
The only real question is how to capitalize on this discovery before a gold rush brings every prospector and a few independent operators to plunder her find. For the moment she has decided that secrecy is the best course of action, but already her team is starting to fracture under the pressure of such potential wealth. The Baron has the manpower to exploit this new resource but that would mean splitting the find with a partner. Yet, it might be preferable to loosing out to the Muster if they try to elbow their way in.