The history of the Castra System might be as close of a mirror to Humanity’s relationship with the Xi’An as you can find. Discovered in 2544, only 14 years after our first encounter with the Xi’An, Castra was terraformed for military use. As tensions with the Xi’An relaxed, so did the military’s presence in the system. Today, Castra is primarily a trading hub, though certain areas have stayed under military control and ready for action at a moment’s notice.
Castra is a simple system containing two planets orbiting a stunning blue-white star. It was discovered by UPE military pathfinders probing the Perry Line for undiscovered jump points. After the initial exploration, early reports noted the system as “unremarkable” from an astronomical perspective, yet the military brass immediately grasped its strategic importance as a staging post for the brewing Xi’An conflict. The system was named Castra, after the ancient Roman term for land used by the military as a defensive position, and terraforming of its second planet began immediately.
Decades later, when a jump point from Castra into Xi’An territory was discovered, the system was thrust into the front lines of the conflict. As government funding flooded the system to improve its defensive fortifications and military infrastructure, it quickly changed from a mere staging post into a focal point of the Xi’An cold war. A large orbital platform was even built to support capital ships and long-range bombers, which were ever ready to attack Xi’An space should the order be given.
When the Messer regime fell, the UEE tried to ease tensions with the Xi’An. In 2789, in a show of good faith, the UEE reduced their military footprint and, for the first time after two centuries of strict control, permitted the public to move into the system. The decision was, and still is for some, a controversial one. A hawkish minority of military bureaucrats and political elites believe the system best serves the Empire as a dedicated (and solitary) military outpost.
Upon Castra’s conversion, businesses arrived in droves to take advantage of the system’s exceptional infrastructure and affordable real estate. At this point, that makes Castra a prime destination for haulers looking to offload raw materials and leave with goods. Recently, Castra’s government has pushed to increase tourism to the system in an attempt to diversify their industries.
Castra’s first planet lacks an atmosphere or any raw materials worth mining. Still, Humans realized that Castra I was good for one thing — target practice. Designated “Bulls-eye” by the UEE Navy, this dead world was used for bombing runs during the cold war. Today, the way the system’s star reflects off Castra I’s pockmarked surface is probably the most interesting thing about it.
Only Castra II is suitable for habitation. The UEE military designated the planet as Castra Command, which was shortened to Cascom — an unofficial name that has stuck, much to the dismay of some current politicians. The military terraformed the planet as fast as possible. Some scientist today even say possibly too fast, suggesting that the escalated speed at which Cascom was made ready is to blame for its pronounced cloud layer.
The military wanted to construct an ideal defensive position, so they dug in to the top of Mount Ulysses to build the city of Sherman, making it both superbly secure and breathtakingly beautiful. This fortress city, situated above the clouds, has earned the nickname “Island in the Sky.” Upon seeing Sherman for the first time, Admiral Kumasi Klein famously said, “It’s the city of my dreams. Picturesque and protected by big guns.”
Since Sherman was under government control for centuries, it remains a sterling example of state-sponsored architecture. The oldest government buildings in Sherman reflect the austere Hennowism style that was prominent during the city’s initial construction. When Monumentalism was championed by Imperator Messer III, Sherman’s skyline was updated to reflect the style. Today, Sherman’s historic architecture remains as one of the primary reasons to visit the city.
Ever since the military opened the system to Citizens and civilians, Sherman has searched to define its cultural identity. For centuries, living on Castra II was an assignment, not a choice. People from every corner of the Empire spent time there, but few put down roots. When the system opened up, industry became the planet’s most obvious new resident. Although companies like Kruger Intergalactic injected new life into the planet, they did little to give it a new identity among the masses of other imperial worlds.
That changed in 2833 when the planet elected Andre Novoselov president. President Novoselov worked closely with the business community to attract more residents to Sherman. For years, businesses had struggled to find enough employees to fill available positions. Together, they launched pro-Sherman promotional campaigns on planets around the Empire. One of those campaigns resurrected the “Island in the Sky” motif and featured the iconic image of the mountaintop city sitting above cloud cover sparkling from the light pollution of cities below. For the first time, the Empire saw Sherman as more than a military outpost or industrial park. It was President Novoselov’s hope that he would see Castra II earn representation in his lifetime, but sadly his transition from President to planetary Governor never came to pass, and the planet has yet to earn its senatorial seat.
President Novoselov’s push to populate the planet worked. As more people arrived, so did a wide variety of service industries to meet the increasing demand. Sherman became a melting pot of high-end stores, restaurants and hotels, intermixed with businesses geared toward middle-class and blue-collar workers. In many parts of the city, people in designer suits and those in graphene-toed boots shop, dine and live in the same part of town.
Recently, Cascom’s cheap real estate and scenic views have become a popular home for retirees. In an effort to attract a younger crowd, Sherman has promoted its beautiful, mountaintop location as the ’verse’s premiere extreme sports destination. For a while, paragliding above the clouds was extremely popular until numerous amateur paragliders landed on military installations and forced the city to impose a ban on the practice. Even if paragliding has been prohibited around Mount Ulysses, there is more than enough awe and adventure awaiting anyone who visits Castra II.
Heard in the Wind
"The Xi’An conflict, when it does occur — and note I say when, not if — will ultimately be determined by our strength in one system alone, Castra. I implore all of you to appropriate funds swiftly and accordingly."
Admiral Connelly Reeves, excerpt from a speech given to High-Command, 2716
"The strength of the lines and the unforgiving audacity of the edifice as it pierces the firmament leaves no doubt to what the intent of the structure was, nor any room to debate that the establishment of Sherman embodied the spirit of the era as much as it helped define it."
Reggie Chapolt, Brick by Brick: Truth in Hennowism, 2880