In the far-flung reaches of the Sol System lies the planet of Pluto, one of the last bodies in the system to be formally colonised by humanity. While the planet (though the matter of it being a true planet is somewhat up for debate,) itself lacks any significant resource deposits beyond nitrogen ice (which also makes up the majority of its surface,) its position as the nearest significant stellar body to the Oort Cloud, and the Cloud’s significant Helium-3 deposits, Pluto has had an oversized impact upon the Sol Alliance itself. And thanks to its original colonisers - the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics - the planet has developed an economic system that may very well be unique in the Orion Spur. Due to Pluto's unique status as a colony established by the USSR and its unique system of government that is distrustful of outsiders from "corporate influenced," places, characters from Pluto will be descendants from the peoples native to the Eastern European or Baltic republics in the USSR, Russia, the Caucasus Mountains, or Central Asia.
Before the 2130s Pluto was regarded as something of a non-entity by the nations of Earth and their colonial subjects. It was far and away the most remote “planet” in the Sol System aside from a loose collection of dwarf planets dwelling even beyond the Plutonian orbit and lacked any reasons to make it an attractive colony beyond prestige. Though the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics laid de jure claim to the planet during the Second Space Age in the 2070s ongoing economic issues on Earth and the sheer distance between the two planets stymied any attempts at colonisation until the discovery of Helium-3 fueled warp engines by the USSR in 2130. With the proliferation of warp engines, inevitability after 2030, there was an increasingly large demand for the mining and refining of Helium-3, with the majority of the Sol System’s Helium-3 was located in the distant Oort Cloud. This combined with the desire of the Party’s bureaucracy to show that the USSR was still relevant in the era of increasingly powerful corporations led to the colonisation of Pluto in 2131 by the USSR. Immediately following the launch of the rockets that would carry the first settlers to Pluto, the USSR’s People’s Commissariat for Cosmological Sciences successfully lobbied for the reclassification of Pluto as the ninth planet of the Sol System in order to bring the Soviet Union’s new colony greater amounts of prestige in the eyes of the United Nations.
A desire to mine as much Helium-3 as possible in the shortest time and most efficient manner led to the Soviet Space Program establishing facilities not just on Pluto itself, but also upon all five of its moons. While Pluto, thanks to an extreme drive by the Soviet Union and high demand for Helium-3,has been a prosperous colony from the year it was founded up until today, its roots in the planned economy of the 22nd century USSR have left it has a somewhat odd planet compared to the rest of the corporate-dominated Sol System. The People's Commissariat for Economics and Finance of the Plutonian Special Administrative Zone (NKEF-OAZP) dictates Helium-3 mining in the Oort Cloud as per a contract between the Sol Alliance and the Plutonian System, then the NKEF-OAZP sells off its Helium-3 reserves to the Solarian Alliance, and then the Alliance, through the Solarian Corporate Authority, sells off this Helium-3 to private actors. In the post-Collapse Sol System Pluto marches on as the Alliance’s main source of Helium-3 and, despite its bizarre economic system, one of the most important planets in the Alliance. Glory has indeed come to those ones that looked forward.
As the furthest planet from the Sun Pluto is extremely frigid at the best of times, with light taking upwards of six hours to reach Pluto from the Sun. Thus the majority of the planet’s surface is covered in a lay of nitrogen-based ice occasionally cracked by cryovolcanos that shoot massive plumes of water and ammonia upwards of hundreds of kilometers into the air, reaching heights that are able to interfere with passing spacecraft and shuttles. Pluto’s gravity is also very low compared to Earth, which has led to the creation of what has been termed one of the wonders of the Sol System: a massive gravity generator built in the core of the planet which provides Earth-equivalent gravity. The five moons of Pluto have similar generators built into them, and likewise possess similar environments - frigid, icey, and free of most valuable resources. But, nevertheless, well-located for the refining and processing of Helium-3.
Society and Population
Plutonian society is, thanks to its unusual origins, extremely closely-knit one centered around microdistricts, the local term for a residential neighborhood. These microdistricts form the backbone of Pluto itself and number in the thousands, effectively covering almost the entire surface aside from the massive gravity generator complex at the northern pole and anti-asteroid shielding complex at the southern pole. One’s life revolves around their microdistrict and the community associated with it thanks to a massive central planning bureaucracy that ensures the workers in a given refinery facility - or from a given mining outpost or vessel - live in the same microdistrict, creating a shared sense of community on and off of the job. Public services - such as hospitals, clinics, schools, tram stations, shuttle ports, and so on - and small businesses - the only type of privately-owned businesses permitted in the Plutonian System - can be found in every microdistrict, and those that work in them likewise live where they work: in the microdistrict. Aside from apartments and small businesses most establishments are owned and operated by the Plutonian government.
The population of Pluto stands at roughly two billion permanent residents of which all are required to be registered members of the Communist Party of the Supreme Soviet of the Plutonian System and Surrounding Space (PSSSR-SPOK, often colloquially called the “SPOK” by residents of the planet) or face fines and eventual deportation from the planet. Pluto itself is where the vast majority of the population - estimated at upwards of 95% - can be found, thanks to the planet’s original central planning committee designating Pluto itself as the primary residential zone and its moons as the Helium-3 processing and refining areas. Most residents on Pluto reside in large hab-complexes arranged in the microdistrict system that are typically partially underground for safety. Housing on Pluto is by design very utilitarian and non-extravagant with all families provided a sufficient apartment for their use by the central planning committee. While this makes Pluto highly unattractive for immigration it has led to a very tight-knit and communal life that few of its residents move away from permanently, leading to a very stable - if still somewhat small by the standards of the Sol System - population. The majority of the current residents of Pluto are the descendants of the original Soviet colonists and immigrants from Earth, with a small minority coming from other human planets and a tiny alien population.
But despite the government of the Plutonian System providing a great amount of welfare to its citizens and the absence of megacorporation domination, life in the System is far from the most free in the Alliance. Even in the era of massive megacorporations the Plutonian System remains a command economy under the often-heavy hand of the People's Commissariat for Economics and Finance of the Plutonian Special Administrative Zone, which effectively controls all aspects of the economy. Massive bureaucratic interference by the Presidium and Commissariat is similarly common in the Plutonian System, and travelling abroad is often an exercise in exceedingly bureaucratic frustration. The first option is to go through the traditional bureaucracy to receive a work passport, while the second option is to enter oneself into the Commissariat’s labour permit lottery - both options allot roughly half of the Commissariat’s yearly permits. Most privileges - such as permanent residence in the Plutonian System - remain locked behind official Presidium-granted Party membership. Uniquely in the Solar Alliance, anti-Party sentiment is a felony in the Plutonian System that can carry up to five years in prison and - more importantly - a summary stripping of one’s Party membership. Party membership is currently restricted to Solarian citizens only and there are no known non-human Party members. Dual citizenship automatically disqualifies one from a Party membership due to concerns over split loyalties.
The Plutonian government is a very atypical one by the standards of the modern Orion Spur - it is a bicameral system divided along the line between economic and political matters. As per its colonizer, the planet is run by a system of soviets beginning at the neighborhood level and concluding with the Presidium of the Supreme Plutonian Soviet located in the system’s capitol of Tereshkovgrad on Pluto itself. The Presidium manages the politics of Plutonian System, and - critically - is the organization responsible for issuing SPOK memberships in addition to providing temporary residency permits for non-Plutonians and passports for Plutonians to travel abroad. It often works alongside its economic counterpart, the People’s Commissariat, in interstellar concerns. The NKEF-OAZP, otherwise known as the People’s Commissariat, is responsible for all economic policy in the Plutonian System. The most important duty of the NKEF-OAZP by far is the setting of yearly Helium-3 mining limits and targets, giving the Plutonian System large amounts of control over the price of Helium-3 as it goes to market and bringing significant revenue back to both the Presidium and Commissariat in the process while also ensuring that the extremely plentiful Helium-3 deposits in the Oort Cloud are not strip mined until the market crashes.
There are two key figures in the political environment of the Plutonian System: the Chairman of the Supreme Plutonian Soviet and the People’s Commissar for Economics, Finance, and Industry. The current Chairman, Konstantin Malashenko, is beloved throughout the Plutonian System as a man of the people that has used the increasingly large profits from Helium-3 since the invention of the Suzuki-Zhang Hammer Drive to massively improve the living conditions on Pluto itself, though the Plutonian System itself is far from a tourist haven. Meanwhile the current People’s Commissar, Nadezhda Petlina, has overseen a massive increase in the amount of Helium-3 mining to be conducted during 2463, and the NKEF-OAZP has begun - for the first time ever - issuing mining permits to non-Plutonian ships not affiliated with a megacorporation. While this opening of mining rights is unpopular with many on Pluto, the sheer size of the Oort Cloud and massive demand for fuel in the post-collapse Solarian Alliance make it necessary for supply to meet demand. With massively spiking demands for its primary export the future of the Plutonian System looks, if nothing else, extremely profitable.
The economic system of Pluto is, as previously mentioned, a unique one in the Sol Alliance and perhaps in the entire Orion Spur. The People’s Commissariat for Economics and Finance sets yield targets for Pluto and its surrounding moons, then sells off its reserve to the Sol Alliance’s government (which earmarks a significant amount for the Solarian Navy,) before it is finally sold to private actors such as Einstein Engines (the primary purchaser of Helium-3 mined in the Oort cloud and refined on Pluto). While this may initially come off as an extremely inefficient and irrational method of mining what is perhaps the most valuable substance in the Orion Spur after phoron, various factors such as the colony’s early founding, the relative power of the Solarian government, and the low demand for Helium-3 have kept the mining rights for the entire Oort Cloud in the hands of the NKEF-OAZP. With the support of the Solarian Corporate Authority, the Commissariat’s rule over the Oort Cloud seems beyond reproach.
Pluto’s centrally-ruled and designed economy much resembles the industrial towns of the Soviet Union, and has led to an atypical system of organization designed around the exploitation of the moons of Pluto to create the most efficient and safe system for the refinement of Helium-3. Locally known as the Geliy-Zavod System, the five moons of Pluto are divided into two supply chains. In the Geliy-Zavod System fuel from mining stations and vessels is first sent to Charon, the primary transport hub that services Pluto’s Helium-3 refining facilities (the irony of Charon’s name, it seems, was not lost on the Soviets) before being sent to conversion facilities on Styx or Nix in order to be transformed from “raw” Helium-3 into a concentrated, refined form more readily favored for use as fuel. From these conversion facilities the concentrated Helium-3 is shipped, for further improvements, to refining plants on Kerberos and Hydra for Styx and Nix respectively. Following this the refined and concentrated Helium-3 is shipped to Charon, before being loaded onto freighters bound to locations throughout the Alliance.
While the system of refining and processing Helium-3 is centrally-directed and designed, its method of mining Helium-3 is not. Thanks to a truly massive spike in demand as a result of the ongoing phoron shortage, the preexisting Commissariat-directed system of mining organized around state-owned mining barges and outposts has found itself unable to keep up with demand. As a result, the People’s Commissar for Economics, Finance, and Industry, Nadezhda Petlina, has done something unprecedented: in late 2462 she opened the market for private, non-megacorporate, actors to purchase limited mining licenses in the Oort Cloud. The resulting craze has seen a wild variety of public and private actors move into the Oort Cloud, though the wealth remains in the Plutonian System thanks to it, and only it, possessing the appropriate facilities to make engine-grade Helium-3 aside from mostly-decommissioned facilities on Luna that are too small and too far from the Oort Cloud to be economically viable. It remains to see how this “Helium Rush" will impact the state-dominated economy of the Plutonian System.
Major Settlements and Urban Life
Plutonian cities are often described as unique among planets with no atmospheres or inhospitable environments in that the typical approaches of either domed or subterranean cities are eschewed in favour of sprawls of space-proofed buildings all connected to one another with braced airtight insulated metal canopies at the ground level. These large networks of great metal aboveground tunnels cover everything from streets to parks, to shorter buildings, and are typically built in grid patterns much like a typical street system would be. This often gives Plutonian cities the appearance of looking like a vast silvery spread on the surface of the planet with any building taller than three stories poking out above the base metallic layer of the planet’s cities. A few cities break this trend, but the “Plutonian Carpet,” style of city building is almost universal on the planet. Living conditions in the cities are not horrible, but many of the more populated localities on the planet can feel cramped to even those used to Urban living, though they are not as tightly packed as other, more infamously urban, cities in the spur like the megapolises on New Hai Phong, the poorly planned boomtowns on Konyang, or the unending stretches of steel found on Callisto.
Each city on Pluto has a number of industries assigned to it by the government of the planet in order to appropriately coordinate the planned economy of the small world. This has led many towns on Pluto to identify strongly with their trade and take pride in local facilities such as factories, assembly plants, or farms. Along with these normal, typically industrial, cities, there also exist a small number of closed cities on the planet, localities that typically are involved with scientific or military functions, and are deemed too important by the Plutonian or Solarian governments to be open to the general public. Special permission is needed from the Plutonian authorities to enter, leave, or obtain residency in these areas. The most major Plutonian cities are listed below.
Soyuz Landing - The first and largest settlement on Pluto, named after the rocket that took the original colonists of the planet to their landing site, also called Soyuz Landing. The city is unique among Plutonian cities in that it is a single massive dome, the largest in the Solar System since the destruction of the great arcologies of Mars in the Violet Dawn disaster. Soyuz Landing's economy revolves around managing the various operations of the Plutonian economy and government, such as manufacturing and especially helium mining. Similarly, all government ministries are located in the Landing. The Landing also serves as a manufacturing centre for consumer goods and industrial machinery on Pluto and is the primary hub for rail transportation on the planet. Within the city are also the most prestigious universities in the Plutonian system such as the Boris Chertok State University of Engineering and Cosmonautics and the Oleg Gazenko State University of Medical and Biological Sciences. Most notably and arguably most importantly however, the Landing holds the primary facility for the operation of the Plutonian Gravity Generator, and the majority of maintenance operations and adjustments to the colossal engineering project occur there. People from all over Pluto and even from other planets in the Alliance can be found here, making it the most diverse of Pluto’s cities. The city’s defining landmarks are incredibly large space-proofed apartment complexes that can sometimes house thousands of people just by themselves, leading the city to have a very strong urban culture that revolves around the apartment and microdistrict more so than anywhere else on Pluto.
Korolgrad - Korolgrad is the industrial heart of Pluto. The city is named after Sergei Korolev, the father of the original Soviet space program, both in memoriam of his contributions to the progression of Soviet society, and in allusion to Korolgrad being the largest port on Pluto proper. Most of the port’s traffic is used to ferry shipments of cargo or occasionally people to the various refineries and mining facilities on Pluto’s moons, but a sizable minority of vessels leaving the port go to other locations in the Solar System such as Callisto and Luna. Korolgrad has many factories that mostly produce mining and construction equipment, along with building materials and space-proofed vehicles and small spacecraft. The industrious heritage of the city is something that its residents are very proud of and revere in various celebrations year-round, often involving a recounting of the city’s founding by Russian miners and factory workers. A small number of dockyards are also present in the city, producing mining vessels and cargo freighters. Korolgrad is also home to the Glushkov Deep Space Monitoring Complex, a listening post and deep-space radar complex operated by the Solarian Navy that functions as the primary space traffic and early-warning detection facility for the Solar System.
Chernozhemsk - Chernozhemsk is not so much a city as it is a single, massive enclosed synthetic field, with it lacking the characteristic microdistricts of other Plutonian cities and instead implementing a system of collective community farms. As this may imply, Chernozhemsk is where most food on Pluto is grown and this “city,” alone has effectively made Pluto entirely food-independent along with giving the area a very country-like feel. Chernozhemsk is not domed however, and instead sits inside a massive rectangular structure that has led local Plutonians to give it the nickname of “The Box.” The agricultural tradition of the city stretches far back to its founding from its original settlers being farmers from the Ukrainian SSR. The landscape of the area is steppe-like with green, synthetic grass and fields fueled by the massive sunlamps built into the roof of the city’s ceiling. This abundance of organic plant life relative to everywhere else on Pluto has made Chernozhemsk the only place on Pluto where “fresh,” air exists. The city is also notable for being the hometown of the current Chairman of the Supreme Plutonian Soviet, Konstantin Malashenko.
Novitashkent - Sitting on the twilight zone of the tidally locked Pluto is the city of Novitashkent. Novitashkent is the poorest of the major cities on Pluto, mostly because the industries it was assigned at its creation bring in comparatively less revenue than those of other cities. However, this is not to say that Novitashkent is unimportant, with the city’s economy of textiles, chemical production, and operation of the largest power plant on Pluto, the Rashidov Memorial Energy Plant, being integral to the planet's broader economy. The largest industrial chemical plant in known space outside of New Hai Phong, the Rakhimov Chemical and Fertiliser Factory, is located here as well, with many on Pluto referring to it along with the energy plant as the “Two R’s of Novitashkent.” Novitashkent also has in its boundaries large enclosed cotton fields to source for its textiles, and as such, the cotton flower has come to be a symbol of the city and its residents. Those residents themselves are descendants of cotton farmers and construction workers from Central Asia, with the vast majority of them hailing from the Uzbek SSR. Despite it being the poorest of the major Plutonian cities, Novitashkent still manages to provide its residents the services expected of a Plutonian city, though comforts and luxuries are even sparser here than they would be on an already spartan Pluto, with delays in services and programs being even more common than average. Waiting in line is often joked to be the official pastime of Novitashkent for this reason.
Sputnikiy-Baltisk - A blip of civilisation on the otherwise barren centre of the Sputnik Glacier, Sputnikiy-Baltisk is the smallest of the major cities on Pluto yet holds the position of being the largest closed city on the planet. Special permission is required from the Plutonian authorities to enter the city or to stay overnight, with residency being something granted to only those that the authorities of the planet deem necessary to the operations of the city. Sputnikiy-Baltisk was not always a closed city however, and originally was settled by colonists from the Soviet Baltic republics as an ambitious engineering project attempting to build a city on top of a glacier. This project was exceptionally costly but in the end successful, and the city began to apply its scientific prowess to developing a telecommunications industry. Upon the discovery of Phoron however, Sputnikiy-Baltisk was deemed a closed city, and numerous laboratories and institutes were established inside its borders to test phoron as well as compare it to the primary export of Pluto, Helium-3. Since then Sputnikiy-Baltisk has turned into the scientific capital of the planet, with a large part of the city’s population being connected to the dozens of laboratories in the city that research everything from robotics, to energy, to biology. The details of these studies are, of course, only known to those with the right clearances in the Plutonian and Solarian governments. Despite being closed, Sputnikiy-Baltisk still maintains a strong telecommunications industry, with some outside observers saying that the real reason the city was closed was so that the Plutonian authorities could use the communications hubs and data centres in the city to constantly monitor and spy on their own citizens.