Uncle Jimbo's Bug Huntin' Range
They left it out in the Oort before we crawled from the sea.
The gate of Paradise.
Or the mouth of Hell.
The third planet of the star system at Nemesis Iteration 6, currently known as Oasis III, was colonised in the late 21st century by the Shell Rothmans Corporation.
Most Shell Rothmans records were lost in the wholesale destruction of the Angel Incursion, or shortly afterwards during the collapse of the corporation. Reconstructed files show, however, that the planet was only marginally suitable for human life. It had a surface temperature of 58°C, sparse and declining amounts of surface and atmospheric water, and a 20% cover of sulphuric acid clouds. The alga-like native plant life was unable to colonise dry ground, away from the shrinking lakes and seas, and did not produce enough oxygen to halt the decline. Since Oasis III's greater mass holds a more dense atmosphere than Earth, and the planet receives 30% greater solar heating, The Strike was on the brink of a Venusian runaway greenhouse effect.
Shell Rothmans applied their enormous corporate resources to a fast and ruthless terraforming effort. The poles were bombarded with ice masses to saturate the water cycles, form ice caps and produce massive, if temporary, cooling from atmospheric dust. Modified Earth plant and symbiont-animal species were seeded over the planet, in progressively more complex and productive ecosystems as the climate was brought under control.
More for aesthetic than practical reasons, the Shell Rothmans executives bought out the most spectacular products of late 21st century cloning research, scattering their prized planet with long-extinct Pleistocene mammals from Novaya Zemlya and Middle Cretaceous dinosaur species from deep Antarctic ice. Numerous living species, and dozens of forms reconstituted after extinction in the 19th to 21st centuries satisfied the company's urge for a grand and exotic biosphere.
This splendid design, however, was interrupted by the devastation and collapse of Shell Rothmans' Sol holdings in the early 22nd century, and the immediate New UN seizure of the Strike system (as it was then known). The irreversible climate shift and spread of new biomes freewheeled across the planet for decades, abandoned by a UN administration with neither the resources nor knowledge to control it. The Oasis War saw several orbital strikes and regimental-scale landing actions, followed by a new Coca-Cola Lockheed regime with even less incentive to overhaul Shell Rothmans' terraforming work. The end result was a drier, poorer and far wilder planet than expected.
In recent years, Coca-Cola's biological surveys have revealed explosive rates of adaptation and behavioural change in the imported lifeforms, spreading into niches where their Earth forebears were unknown. Uncontrolled plant irruptions and small animal swarming are common in this rapidly shifting ecosystem, causing biological disaster across great areas.
Terrain and Wildlife
The polar zones of Oasis III were reshaped by the ice bombardment, and remain heavily cratered, with numerous active volcanic areas among vast barren lava flows. Snow caps have formed, and are increasing in size every year, with compaction into firn and young ice in the most central and sheltered region.
The North Pole has an unstable, deeply fissured volcanic shield surrounded by the Northern Ocean. The polar organisms seeded by Shell Rothmans have almost entirely died out, but recent expeditions have reported rapid adaptation of some temperate animals to sub-arctic existence. The largest seen so far are an enlarged dolphin species, feeding on krill-eating fish, and a polar form of otter.
The Northern Ocean extends into long seas and inlets, making the northern mid-latitudes relatively moist and fertile. These century-old seas and lakes are shallow, warm, brackish, and have few of the familiar landforms of Earth's oceans. Large areas have been choked by uncontrolled spread of watergrass and are rapidly reverting to foul and barren swamps. The highest forms of sea life are lungfish, blind river dolphins and giant otters.
The land areas have numerous peninsulas and subcontinents with odd pockets of lifeforms. The dominant terrain is savannah and light forest, with quagga, bison, warthog, wild horse and ornithomimid herds preyed on by loose packs of small-brained creodont polecats. The more intelligent, solitary sabre-tooths and the huge, but phenomenally stupid harvester complete the large carnivores. Numerous pterosaur species are common as flying hunters, though the spectacular quetzalcoatl has long since died out. Indricotheres and rhinos have few natural enemies, but have been wiped out in some areas by human predation or raptors migrating from the south.
The tropics were once impossible for human life, requiring domed habitats and cool-suits to survive. They are still lethally hot, plagued with acid rain, home to unfriendly native and mutant lifeforms, and only sparsely settled. Dense super-jungle and seas are the typical terrain. Native life persists in the most acidic, hot and stagnant areas, consisting of slimes, worms and soft-bodies, some of which are dangerous to humans.
The flat, dry southern hemisphere has warm planet-circling prairie where water is more plentiful, badlands and desert, and continent-sized dry deadlands where almost nothing can survive. The prairies are spectacular and dangerous for their herds of mammoths and chalicotheres. These all avoid the gully forests, where packs of smart and deadly raptors wait. Southern horses have adapted to semi-desert life, where they compete with small ornithomimid flocks of the badlands and are preyed on by thylacines.
The South Pole is surrounded by land, mostly in tundra forest made up of pines and highly variant forms of birch. Impact craters have filled with cold, fresh water, forming a series of Great Cold Lakes. Rumours and hints persist of a Shell Rothmans attempt to introduce Kurg lifeforms to the South Pole, but few Strikers care to venture there.
Inhabitants: The Strikers
The long-term residents of Oasis III call themselves Strikers. They are descendants of many diverse human groups, brought in by Shell Rothmans as labourers for the corporation's many operations in the system.
The Strikers have had to fend for themselves for many years, building their own industries and trade networks after the sudden and shocking loss of off-world support. In recent years, the cities along the great old Spaceport Railroad have rebuilt trade links with other Oasis system bases and with Old Sol, restoring the supply of high-tech tools and consumer goods. Isolated towns and nomadic herders and hunters have settled into a self-sufficient economy which is in many ways more rustic.
The native Striker economy uses a silver dollar currency minted by the larger, more prosperous service towns. Farmers, herders and hunters bring their produce in to railhead towns, either by hydrogen-burning trucks or on the hoof. In return, they must buy hydrogen fuel cells, charge or cordite ammunition, synthetic cloth, medical supplies and other necessities. Intensive agriculture and industry is slowly spreading in influence, but the vast untamed areas of the Strike, especially the southern steppe, may remain sparsely inhabited for centuries.
Groups of Strikers have become known for their way of life, such as townsfolk, horse folk and boat folk. Many have followed the same occupation for generations, but others are recent immigrants from the crowded, stagnating Railroad or even off-planet.
Townsfolk are largely merchants and craftsmen, supplying and acting as middlemen to the country folk. Gunsmiths, mechanics, doctors, saloon-keepers and shipping agents are prominent. In the better-watered areas, farmers settle close to the towns. There is often a complex transition between farming, ranching, droving and hunting with increasing distance from a railhead.
A typical horse folk droving or hunting crew is based around a hydrogen-powered chuck wagon, often equipped with a small helijet for rapid communication with urban areas. The chuck wagon moves as little as possible to conserve expensive fuel supplies. The typical working transport is by hardy and well-trained horses.
Boat folk are fishers, fur-hunters and long-range transport operators of the Northern Hemisphere. Some are far-ranging, while others settle in one area as swamp-folk, forming some of the most isolated and odd Striker groups.
Most Strikers own at least a rifle, pistol and large knife for use against dangerous wildlife and bandits. Charge firearms are superior, but very expensive as they must be imported from off-planet. Percussion cordite weapons are most common, made in numerous arms factories among the service towns. Striker wilderness folk favour simple, robust semi-automatic weapons in large calibres. Those who are in particular danger from large carnivores may have a heavy machinegun in support of each group. Some isolated groups, such as long-rider horse folk, use flintlock long rifles and horse pistols of their own design.