Astronomically speaking, Cathcart is basically void: a star with no true planets and only a loosely defined chain of asteroids and worldlets orbiting far from the theoretical green band. In theory, there is no reason anyone should ever have lived here. What is now known as the galaxy’s junkyard came from humble beginnings.. The system was first charted roughly five centuries ago and almost immediately abandoned. It was initially listed as a Class C military restricted system, with plans to construct a listening post complex … but rapid advancements in scanning technology meant that large-scale orbital listening posts no longer needed to be built so far from the core worlds. The Navy abandoned the partially constructed habitat platform structure to the void … little realizing where it would lead.
Then, the system spent almost two hundred years as a government dumping ground. Seeking to create a series of spatial ‘boneyards,’ the UEE selected Cathcart as an ideal (if distant) location for storing decommissioned spacecraft. The reasoning was simple: without planets or other major bodies, spacecraft would be easily stored in the void of Cathcart’s deep space.Craft stored there, far from most environmental influences, could be easily reactivated in times of crisis. A pair of pre-fab processing factories were towed in-system and for decades the system began collecting all varieties of obsolete military spacecraft: fighters “parked” in space, end to end for hundreds of kilometers; abandoned destroyers, cruisers, frigates and carriers; all stripped of various needed or classified systems, berthed together as far as the eye could see.
But Cathcart was out of sight and out of mind from the UEE command structure. Spacecraft decommissioned from the nearby frontier could easily be left there … but without access to the homeworlds’ supply chain, they were too expensive to effectively scrap and too difficult to re-crew or maintain for crisis. As galactic expansion moved beyond the Cathcart region, the UEE effectively abandoned the area. Eventually, the spacecraft salvage rights were sold off to the highest bidder and the entire system was reclassified as private industry.
This is where Cathcart’s history becomes fuzzy. The system quickly became a ‘trash pile’ for private industries wishing to dump crippled hulls, toxic materials and all other varieties of odds and ends. Who the first pirate was who realized the universe’s largest man-made mess could be a reasonable home is lost to history, but by 2750 Cathcart had a well ensconced pirate population. Individual pirates and smaller clans made the surplus military and civilian hulls their homes, retrofitting them with makeshift atmospheric containment systems and eking out an unlikely living, preying on each other as much as they did on convoys passing through nearby systems.
Enter Spider, a sprawling world-sized mass of crippled starships, abandoned colonizers and ancient platforms, all held together with pleximetal and prayer. Spider’s origin story is more the realm of myth than recorded history. Clan legends claim its creation was overseen by a unified pirate alliance which constructed the planetoid together. Tens of thousands of pirates and smugglers worked alongside one another, lashing together old habitat modules, destroyers, carriers and colony ships to form a living, breathing city … of sorts. Modern anthropologists consider this story unlikely, pointing out that pirate organizations have never been able to work together for very long. In all likelihood, a single pirate clan spent the lives of countless imprisoned slaves to construct Spider, and then lost control over the facility during an interclan conflict. Whatever the background, Spider is now one of the most fascinating domains in space: by far the largest place in the galaxy where pirates openly congregate, and unique in that it has garnered enough respect for even the larger groups to treat it as an effective free port.
Spider remains the only commonly ‘known’ pirate facility. The UEE is as aware as any citizen is, but is unwilling or unable to expend the treasure to destroy the facility. Many speculate that Spider plays an important role in keeping piracy organized … and that it is not in the government’s best interest to scatter the various clans to the winds.
The first thing to remember is that Spider is always changing. The abandoned Indefatigable-class battleship you docked with to purchase narcotics a month ago may be an agro-habitat today … or it may have been blown out into space after a pricing dispute with a no-nonsense buyer. Spider is also constantly expanding: junk located in Cathcart and crippled prize ships are added to the maze on a daily basis. Understandably, taking a wrong turn can be extremely hazardous to your health.
When you enter Spider’s airspace, you take your life into your own hands. No insurance company will begin to insure a spacecraft visiting Cathcart. The only thing going for you is the fact that it is the rare domain where pirates will almost never turn on their own. If you are accepted as part of a pack, the wolves will not strike.
Establishing your credentials can be tricky. Without the right codes — available for the right price in surrounding systems — you won’t survive a minute from arrival in-system. While there is no organized government patrolling Cathcart, plenty of low-caliber pirates hang around the jump point waiting to prey on hapless travelers. Begin signaling your ID codes before you enter the system; take no unnecessary chances here.
Spider itself, the largest gravity source in the system, can’t be missed, but if you need to fly on autopilot it is at 145 mark 200 mark 30 (Nav 7 if you are using an ACorp standard projection unit). A docking approach is, again, tricky. In short, the process changes constantly: the most recent docking protocol (which we warn you may be obsolete by the time this article is published!) is that you need to signal a tower four times for an approach vector. Any other number of signals will immediately designate you a target.
Once you’re in, though, you’re in! Culture aboard Spider is deceptively pleasant: everyone knows themselves to be in the company of thieves and any business done is no more or less honest than you would find in a public square on Terra. Don’t anger the locals, of course, but that’s good advice on any world. One important note: every segment of Spider has a different decompression alarm … so watch for flashing lights, beeping sirens or anything that might be trying to get your attention. The energy fields that contain the atmosphere are in no better repair than any of the other systems on Spider … so don’t be separated from your helmet and pressure suit.
At the center of Spider’s winding ramps and disparate starship hulls is a makeshift pirate court for settling on-world disputes, part of a fascinating and so far unexplored pirate subculture now taking shape. Appropriately, this is located on the unfinished platform hull that the Navy initially designated to be a listening post. Beware — disputes are most often settled the old fashioned way: with a duel to the death. Visitors are encouraged to bet on the outcome!
What can you sell on Spider? Basically, anything … with a clear preference for luxury goods. Those trying to build a life on the artificial world crave anything from the homeworlds — high quality foods, games, books, electronics and the like — and will always pay a premium for them. Illegal resources are not in demand because they are usually in surplus: go to Spider if you need to buy drugs, bootlegged products, slaves, cybots, human organs or stolen goods of any sort. You will probably find what you’re looking for; if not today, then within a week. Owing to its origin as a junkyard, Cathcart is also a great place to pick up ship upgrades … if you don’t have a problem with technology that may be a century or two out of date!
- Cathcart’s largest “world” is called Spider, a sprawling mass of abandoned UEE warships spiraling in ever-increasing mated tendrils around an ancient colony ship’s massive hull. Visitors are encouraged to keep their suits on during their stay, as the shoddy construction of the inhabited areas often gives out. Still, it’s a great place to pick up a bargain if you aren’t picky about what century your ship upgrades came from.
- Spider is the first location RSI considers good enough to base the final game on.