Helios is the rare place in the settled galaxy where natural beauty can stand directly beside junkyards and military fortifications, with seemingly no overlap.
The star itself is partly to blame for this unusual variety of purposes. Helios is a Helium Strong type B star that produces an unusual astrophysical phenomenon: long bands of non-ionized helium. These bands result in strong magnetic fields in the photosphere, which in turn wreak a peculiar type of havoc with ship sensors: even large capital ships are capable of ‘hiding’ in the star’s EM wake.
Helios’ unusual photosphere also attracts countless scientists from around the Empire who have built a series of platforms close to the star as labs and observation posts. These platforms, moved in by barge and designed for short-duration use, are typically discarded into the sun itself and replaced with new stations as particular project needs change.
Helios’ discovery certainly ranks as one of the livelier origin stories for a system, as it is the only one ever discovered by the Advocacy. An outlaw pack colorfully known as Daybreak Marauders had been prowling Odin system, knocking over convoys from the local mining companies. As quickly and efficiently as the Marauders would attack and rob their prey, they would disappear without a trace. This went on for months. One business, Orion Mining Corporation, lost so much of their cargo that they went into debt hiring merc groups to safely escort their ships out of the system — a debt that would ultimately drive the company into bankruptcy.
The Advocacy finally got involved. They assigned Special Agents Avon Dorville and Gia Trask to hunt down this elusive pack. When the Advocacy agents finally found their quarry, they were stunned to realize that the Daybreak Marauders hadn’t discovered a particularly effective route through the remnants of Odin I, they had discovered a jump point.
Helios I is a dead planet that has never attracted an especially significant amount of interest. It has no atmosphere, and only limited minerals that are blocked from access by the world’s proximity to the star. Helios I was the site of a brief flurry of interest in 2937, when a scientific survey station actually crashed onto the planet’s surface. A daring rescue by members of the local Gladiator garrison (rapidly modifying their fighters for high heat protection) saved six lives from a horrific death on live vid.
Helios II is an oceanic world with a greater circumference than Earth (though a lower overall gravity). It has a single ‘fast orbiting’ moon with a dense nickel/iron core. The low density of the ocean planet combined with the moon’s unusual orbit give rise to frequent and unpredictable volcanic activity, ultimately causing terrestrial islands to form and then be reclaimed by the sea rapidly. Originally classified as mineral-rich, the planet was quickly terraformed and deep-sea mining rights sold to a variety of mining outfits. It wasn’t until decades later that the planet began to see an influx of the rich and famous.
Despite the rapidly changing and erratic tidal and volcanic activity, it has become vogue to construct elaborate temporary housing on Tangaroa’s short-lived islands.
More permanent housing is often established on or under the sea. For those who want to enjoy the planet without the risk, hospitality magnate Tyler Newman recently unveiled plans for a permanent undersea hotel.
Only the polar regions sustain standard populations. To the north, scientists and engineers typically call the planet home, supporting the cottage industry that has grown up around Helios’ odd star. In the south, the limited amount of land belongs to R&D facilities that support the nearby military forces. Failed projects and surplus equipment are often shipped from Helios to the nearby Odin system. The planet’s capital and prime landing zone, located in the north, is officially named Mariana, although it is called Shorebreak by the natives. Shorebreak offers an interesting case study in land use, as the city has literally used up every square foot of land and is now expanding ever-forward into the sea.
Not everybody lives in fear of the planet’s unique tidal nature. Native subsurfers celebrate it as they pilot streamlined and maneuverable submarines in rides on thousand-foot waves.
Perched in orbit above Helios II, Hephaestus Station is the most accessible military outpost in the system. Landing on the station’s main landing pad requires special permission, but a planetside outlet station allows traders to sell the luxury and home goods most requested by the military forces assigned there.
The station acts as a general staging area for system security, but traveling battle groups will occasionally also use the station to stage wargaming scenarios and training exercises.
The third planet in the Helios system is a large gas giant. Helios III is an unremarkable globe save for its use as a pit stop: the planet is a source of readily accessible hydrogen with minimal impurities. Helios III does approach the upper bound for gas giants in terms of size, a fact that has attracted the occasional scientific survey. The planet itself is unattractive, lacking the distinct bands of color and the complicated lunar systems found on many Jovian planets.
Helios IV is a common ice planet, much like those found in the outer systems of most stars. Why, then, did the UEE government expend the massive amount of credits and material required to terraform the site? The official answer is that Helios IV is a strategic military base, offering unspecified facilities beyond those aboard ships on station or at Naval Base Hephaestus. Helios IV has become known as a world where careers go to die. Seen by many in the military hierarchy as a dumping ground for trouble spacers, it is considered one of the least desired duty stations in known space.
Civilian analysts, however, point out that none of this explains the cost of terraforming the planet. Ad-hoc military environmental structures could have been established on the planet providing a similar low quality of life for servicemen and women unlucky enough to serve as a tripwire. The strong suspicion is that Helios IV’s surface hides a larger-scale black ops-centered base. Absolutely no solid information exists to support this initial supposition, and theories range from Helios IV hiding a permanent strike base capable of engaging in operations behind the Empire’s border to the creation of a site for illegal biological experiments.