Crosk

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The second planet from the star of the Asoral system, the hot and arid planet of Crosk is crisscrossed by immense canyons and valleys due to its active tectonic history. The planet is considered to be under the control of the Coalition of Colonies and has a fairly small population of only two-hundred million across its surface. Due to the planet’s size (estimated as 75-80% the size of Earth) this means that its surface is sparsely populated, with most settlements situated around the poles of the planet due to richer mineral veins there. This means that the rest of the planet is sparsely inhabited outside of a few small settlements - most of which also exist around naturally occurring mineral deposits that justify the town’s existence for as long as they are productive, and prove to be its undoing as soon as the nearby vein (or veins) dry up. The surface of Crosk is often covered in these small and abandoned prefabricated mining settlements, with their populations having moved on now that the mineral wealth in the region has been depleted.

Due to the canyon-filled topography of Crosk, air travel is the preferred method of transit for most of the planet’s residents. While for most residents this often means turboprop-driven planes able to take off and land on short runways common on the planet, Crosk’s reliance on air travel has produced a thriving entertainment industry based around flying - with the more daring and death-defying the stunt the better its reception.

The aviators of Crosk are a remarkably diverse population, and many of them come from off of the world. While many are human, a significant amount of the jockeys and their support are positronics of various frames with the most famous amongst them being the renowned PBU-9551 Team and their rival - Killswitch. Despite some controversies that IPCs are “too good” at Croskian racing due to their superior reflexes, positronics have continued to be extremely successful in Crosk’s racing circuit.


History

The planet of Crosk was first settled by explorers, entrepreneurs, and prospectors from Xanu Prime in the late 2300s. Drawn by the planet’s material wealth rather than its climate, the first settlement on the planet was the city of Koratabad - established near the planet’s north pole in 2395. Koratabad was quickly followed by Gimcheon, the first settlement on the planet’s southern pole, in 2396. Conditions on the surface of Crosk had been discovered by scans as most pleasant at its northern and southern poles, and were the prime targets for settlement by the early prospectors of the planet. Early settlement quickly ran into some difficulties due to the nature of the planet’s surface. While not nearly as tectonically unstable as Medina in the Republic of Elyra, the surface of Crosk was covered in a tremendous amount of canyons and crevasses due to previous geological activity. Cities on the poles - the easiest area to build - are typically built into these canyons, which offer protection from the heat and dust storms of the surface, rather than around them.

However over time it quickly became clear that the poles were not the richest parts of the planet, and more lucrative veins had been discovered around the middle section of the planet - particularly near its equator. Prospectors and other adventurers quickly set out to exploit this newly uncovered mineral wealth, but they rapidly ran into a problem: the amount of canyons and ravines made overland travel impractical and improbable, and the mineral veins themselves did not justify dropping supplies from orbit. However, veins near the poles were all claimed by companies by this point. To the new crop of miners and investors arriving on Crosk in the early 2410s, the question was one of bankruptcy by remaining in the poles where they had no resources to purchase or bankruptcy by dropping orbital equipment onto sites too small to support the drops. The solution that presented itself was an unusual one: fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters.

The aviation industry on Crosk had, before the 2410s, been fairly successful and profitable due to the nature of the planet’s surface. Air travel, generally by fixed-wing aircraft, was the only practical non-spaceflight way to get from the northern to southern pole of the planet, and helicopters were often used to scout out new dig sites in the poles themselves. The miners of the 2410s used these same machines to move equipment and personnel cheaply and effectively from the poles to the veins surrounding the equator. These efforts found massive success as the profits from the equatorial veins caused more and more money to roll into their pockets, leading to larger and large airplanes, helicopters, and even zeppelins being built and utilized to move equipment as mines dried up and new ones needed to be rapidly established - typically unintentionally creating ghost towns in the process, dozens of which now dot the equatorial regions of Crosk.

Over the years the many pilots employed on Crosk in a variety of craft developed a habit of racing informally to prove their mettle. While some opted for the highly dangerous technique of canyon racing - moving your vessel so low to the ground that you have no choice but to fly through the canyons that dot the surface - others pursued acrobatic excellence or pure speed. Gradually, over the years, these informal racing circuits coalesced into the Crosk Airborne Racing Network Asoral Orbital, which formally switched its name to the Asoral Orbital and Suborbital Racing Network in 2447 with the integration of Xanu Prime’s “debris runners.” IPCs, introduced onto Crosk as both industrial miners and lightweight pilots in the late 2430s, have long been a subject of some controversy in Crosk’s racing networks due to their superhuman reflexes.

The Crosk of today continues to remain an industrial and mining powerhouse, and is regarded throughout the Orion Spur as the premier producer of atmospheric aircraft due to the amount of investment in its aviation industry and the experience of said industry’s engineers. Croskian sporting and racing aircraft are prized throughout the Coalition of Colonies and beyond for their high quality, though the majority of factories on the planet continue to produce aircraft for industrial use. IPCs, while still a minority on the planet, have achieved remarkable success in Croskian aviation, with the PBU-9551 Team and Killswitch - and their rivalry - achieving fame throughout the Orion Spur.

An image of Crosk from orbit, displaying its large desert regions and the planet's central asteroid belt that makes most attempts to orbitally drop supplies into its equatorial regions impractical.

Environment

The environment on Crosk is entirely habitable but not exactly comfortable. The planet is fairly hot due to its closer than average proximity to its star compared to other habitable planets, and the planet tends to dwell in an eternal summer as a result. Despite this hot temperature rain, and life, are not uncommon on the planet and many organisms make their entire lives in the canyons that tend to be cooler than the planet’s surface - including most of the planet’s human population. The other major weather type on Crosk are its massive dust storms that tend to occur near the planet’s equatorial regions due to both large deserts and desertification caused by strip mining projects in the area. Some of these dust storms - sometimes called “Croskian Howlers” - are large enough to be seen from orbit, and may take several days to pass by an equatorial settlement due to their sheer size. Small mining settlements facing a Croskian Howler often simply cut their losses and leave, rather than attempting to endure upwards of a week of constant dust and sand howling through the air.

The majority of the planet’s surface is covered in either environments resembling Earth’s savannas or deserts, with large forests only being present at the poles of the planet. The savanna regions are more common on the border regions of the poles, though they extend well into the equatorial regions of the planet where they often coexist alongside Crosk’s significant deserts. However, the massive amount of mining operations in recent years has caused the deserts to overtake some savannas, ultimately leading to massive desertification in some equatorial regions. Both the Croskian savanna and desert alike are crisscrossed by a variety of canyons, crevasses, and ravines. While there are less canyons near the poles of the planet, there are still enough to make overland travel outside of major settlements impractical for most vehicles.

Xenoflora on Crosk is generally somewhat small and unspectacular outside of the poles, with most plants clinging to the ground to avoid storms. The savannas contain an exception to this rule, with the magnificently flowering taajratn tree rising several meters into the air and producing seeds able to roll for kilometers across the sands of Crosk. The kaantedaar is a native plant found in the northern polar regions that is notable for possessing barbed spikes along its entire trunk, preventing most attempts at harvesting it. Xenofauna is similarly small in most regions, with most creatures tending to keep to canyons to avoid the heat and dust. The zhanshi, a large lemur-like mammal roughly the size of a human child, is one of the planet’s most notable animals, due to its ability to fly long distances on the winds of Crosk’s savannas and deserts. This omnivore typically feasts on either the fruit of the taajratn or on small creatures it is able to catch using its spectacular sense of vision. Zhanshi possess opposable thumbs, and have been observed using primitive tools in their lives.

Life on Crosk

In the eyes of some of its residents, “life on Crosk” is better described as “life in the air.” The various mining settlements of the planet and major cities of the poles both depend upon air travel to connect them with the greater planet due to the difficulties of Croskian terrain, and the overwhelming majority of settlements appropriately feature an airport or helipad of some kind. The majority of Croskian aircraft are, contrary to the image portrayed by the Asoral Orbital and Suborbital Racing Network of high-speed jets, humble turboprop fixed-wing aircraft designed to take off and land on runways that must, by the nature of Crosk’s limited non-canyon building space, often be only a few hundred meters long. Despite the difficulties presented in travel on Crosk, its cities are typically remarkably diverse in their populations due to the young nature of the planet and cosmopolitan nature of the Coalition of Colonies itself. IPCs of various frames form the largest nonhuman population on the planet, due to many being employed or used as pilots and miners.

The vast majority of immigrants to Crosk are drawn by one of two things: its lucrative mining industry, or the thrilling adventure that flying on Crosk seems to present. Flying on Crosk has been heavily romanticized throughout the Coalition of Colonies, and nowhere is it romanticized more than on Xanu Prime - where the pilots of Crosk are typically seen as daring devil-may-care heroes and adventurers in popular media. Natives of the planet primarily tend to concentrate in the cities of the northern and southern pole and are more involved in the planet’s aviation industry than mining.

Daring and dashing pilots aside, the less glorious mining industry of Crosk provides the majority of the planet’s GDP and has led to high living standards in the poles of the planet due to profits from the sales of raw materials and the aviation industry of the poles. While the poles are wealthy, the mining settlements in the equatorial region of the planet are often less wealthy and less permanent. These prefabricated settlements, often dropped from helicopters or from zeppelins depending upon their size, are intended to last for only twenty-or-so years, allowing the settlement enough time to clear out its nearby ores and then pick up and move to the next mineral deposit without much cost. The massive Croskian Howlers that sometimes ravage the equatorial regions make these settlements only more practical, due to the sheer destructive power Howlers hold. It is, in the eyes of Crosk’s mining companies, often better to evacuate entire mining settlements and rebuild them later rather than attempting to weather a Howler for a week or more.

Croskian clothing is often light and intended to breathe easily despite multiple layers, in order to better withstand the temperatures and dust of the planet. Clothing is, surprisingly, heavier near the equator than it is in the poles due to the need to withstand dust storms. Facial coverings such as dust masks, respirators, and goggles are commonly worn in the equatorial region - where dust storms are often a common occurrence - but are rarely found in the planet’s poles, which never see dust storms. Aviation-inspired clothing is common on Crosk, with bomber jackets of all types of cuts being a common sight in the planet’s cities.

Aviation on Crosk

A common saying on Crosk is that “Without aviation, there is no Crosk.” For the planet, this is absolutely true: the primary method of travel on Crosk is by the air in turboprop planes, the largest sport on the planet is orbital and suborbital racing, and Coalition surveys have found that there are more aircraft on the planet than any other form of transportation. It is estimated that upwards of 70% of non-IPC planetary residents over the age of twenty hold some form of Coalition of Colonies pilot’s license. The percentage of IPCs with a pilot’s license is estimated at 60% due to the amount employed as miners. There are a wide variety of aircraft utilized on Crosk, which can be divided into several categories.

Fixed-wing aircraft are the most common form of aircraft on Crosk, with most being powered by turboprops. However, this category includes far more than the planes used by most mining companies. It includes everything from high-end racing jets, to spaceflight-capable racing craft, to massive cargo liners that routinely make flights from the north pole to the south pole and vice-versa, to AI-operated racing craft designed to perform daring stunts beyond anything a human is capable, and many more. The racing jets and craft of Crosk are often what comes to mind when the planet is mentioned to those that do not originate from it, due to the massive success of the Asoral Orbital and Suborbital Racing Network. Some of the most famous pilots in recent memory on Crosk are Henry “Bulldog” Newman - a human pilot from Xanu Prime with a flair for the dramatic, a famous mustache, and winning smile that famously ran the eight-canyon circuit of Crosk faster than any non-AI controlled plane - and Priya - a shell member of PBU-9551’s team originally from the Technoconglomerate renowned for her orbital flying.

Helicopters, while lacking in the glamour and spectacle of their fixed-wing counterparts, are considered to be a vital part of the mining and racing industries on Crosk - even if they do not participate in races of their own. Despite their slower speeds helicopters are prized throughout the mining-focused equatorial regions due to their ability to take off and land on very limited space, and they are often utilized by mining companies to drop prefabricated buildings that will eventually become mining operations. Croskian helicopters are often quite large due to the power needed to lift and carry heavy mining equipment for long periods of time.

Zeppelins are by far the largest category of aircraft utilized on Crosk, and they are generally used for the transportation of both industrial equipment and people. Nobody has been brave (or foolish) to attempt racing a zeppelin, due to the comparatively slow speed and enormous size of most Croskian zeppelins - some models can be as long as seven-hundred meters in length, though most are generally smaller than this. Zeppelins, due to their mammoth size, are typically used to haul both cargo and people across long distances on Crosk - particularly travel from the north to south pole, where a refueling point at the equatorial region is not guaranteed.One of the most famous zeppelin captains on Crosk presently is Aysilu Khidiatullina, a Fisanduhian refugee from Moroz who is one of the only zeppelin captains brave (or insane) enough to mount jet engines on their zeppelin - something that has made her zeppelin, the Fighting Fisanduhian, the quickest zeppelin on the planet.

Racing on Crosk

The sport of orbital racing is why Crosk is known as more than just another Coalition of Colonies mining world, and the sport is almost as old as the colony is. While the massive Asoral Orbital and Suborbital Racing Network serves as the largest organization dedicated to the sport and broadcasts racing events all across the Orion Spur - including to Tau Ceti, where it has been a smash hit - a multitude of racing groups of varying sizes and fame can be found throughout Crosk. Orbital racing is seen both as a sport and as an art on Crosk, where the pilot produces a kind of modern-age dance via the motions of their aircraft as they carefully weave their way through obstacles ranging from canyon walls to dust clouds to asteroids and lasers. Despite safety protocols in place to ensure that pilots are not lost with their aircraft - aircraft that often run afoul of course hazards - danger is a real constant on the Crosk racing circuits. Racing on Crosk is divided into two categories, orbital and suborbital, with two leagues, organic and synthetic.

While there are differences between both leagues, there are some common traits: almost all racers, be they IPCs of all kinds of frames or humans from across the Orion Spur, make efforts to be unique and knowable - often becoming larger than life in the process. Pilots in the racing groups of Crosk must not only excel at controlling their aircraft in a variety of extremely challenging environments, they must also be able to carve out their own niche in the larger-than-life cast of characters that make up the famous pilots of Crosk. Famous pilots such as Henry “Bulldog” Newman or PBU-9551 are, arguably, their own media brands in addition to their racing accomplishments. Bulldog, for example, is often featured on advertisements for the Asoral Orbital and Suborbital Racing Network’s human league.

The divide between organics and synthetics in the sport is due to long standing concerns on Crosk that synthetics were “too good” at piloting their craft in situations that required rapid responses due to their programming. AI-controlled vessels, in particular, were a major motivator for the creation of two leagues as a racer that is their ship is difficult for anybody to beat.

The organic league of the Crosk racing circuit is the older and larger of the two leagues and generally focuses on suborbital racing, which is seen as both safer and more competitive by the mostly-human organic racers of Crosk. This is in part due to the background of most professional racers as pilots for the suborbital mining industry, and in part due to the simple fact that one can eject from their plane if needed and not be thrown into the void of space by their ejection seat. The organic league often views the suborbital league as having more potential, due to the greater variety of engines that function in an atmosphere. The races of the organic league often take place at breakneck speeds through the canyons of Crosk, with hundreds of cameras and an vast array of tracking beacons ensuring that their eager audiences have a good view of the ongoing race - and with racers going upwards of several hundred kilometers per hour, this vast array is absolutely needed. Natural obstacles are preferred, though sometimes artificial obstacles are thrown in to “spice up” races and present challenges to the skilled pilots.

Tajara are also present in the organic league of Crosk. Composed of retired veterans of the Tajaran revolutions; they ride Adhomian autogyros across the skies of the planet. Alongside competing with the other members of the league, there is an intense rivalry based on which Tajaran faction each pilot supports. People’s Republic aligned aeronauts are currently the majority. Rrhazumar Talalikhin, famously known as the “Republican Ace”, is one of the most renowned autogyro pilot. The Republican Ace is currently sponsored by the PRA, serving as the poster child of the People’s Air Force outside of Adhomai. Races with Tajaran participants are popular with the inhabitants of Little Adhomai.

The synthetic league of the Crosk racing circuit is smaller and younger than the organic league, and tends to focus on spaceborne orbital racing - particularly in the asteroid belt that lines the middle of the planet. The highly-elaborate racing tracks of the synthetic league in the asteroid belt can extend for dozens of kilometers and are state-of-the-art constructions. To keep the audience both informed and entertained they are dotted with on board cameras, millions of tracking beacons to ensure a tally is kept regarding which rider is where, and countless hazards and obstacles - both artificial and natural. Due to the better reaction time of synthetic pilots and operators, their courses typically feature more hazards and are generally seen as the more entertaining of the races to watch by many fans. Despite this hazardous environment, the robustness of IPCs to damage and extensive safety measures mean that racers rarely sustain critical damage - even if their ships are destroyed. Due to taking place in the void of space, synthetic league pilots are often able to reach higher tops speeds than their organic league counterparts and can often be clocked screaming around their tracks at upwards of one-thousand kilometers per hour. The famous Renter Max is known to be a major sponsor of the synthetic league, funding the famous PBU-9551 and their team.

Major Settlements

Koratabad is the largest and oldest settlement on Crosk, with roughly thirty-seven million permanent residents inside of its city limits. The city is located in the planet’s lush northern pole, and has a comparatively cool and wet climate compared to the rest of the planet. Koratabad is the center of Crosk’s aviation industry, and produces some of the highest-quality aircraft in the Coalition of Colonies. The Crosk Institute of Aeronautics can be found here, and is regarded as one of the best engineering universities on the planet.

Gimcheon is the second largest settlement on Crosk, with roughly thirty million permanent residents inside of its city limits. Unlike Koratabad Gimcheon is located in the planet’s southern pole, and is slightly warmer than its northern counterpart. The city has a significant aviation industry, though Koratabad slightly outpaces it, and a massive industrial sector related to mining. Gimcheon is, interestingly, partially built into several canyons that surround it, which has led to the city possessing several different layers. Many residents joke that the city is built more vertically than horizontally.

Ratchalang is one of the only permanent settlements in the equatorial regions of Crosk, with a small population of roughly eight million permanent residents. Due to its unique position in the savanna near the equator, the city serves as a major launching point for Asoral Orbital and Suborbital Racing Network pilots racing in the asteroid belt surrounding Crosk. Due to its position in the equatorial region, Ratchalang is sometimes battered by Croskian Howlers that plunge the city into massive dust storms for days at a time. The city has a large Elyran-produced energy shield to counter this, but dust remains a constant problem for the settlement.