Morkai is a Class H desert world in the Vengence System of the Corvus Cluster. Once an important mining center, the planet has suffered severe depopulation in the past millennia and, with a rapidly declining biosphere, it is estimated that life outside of environmentally controlled hive cities will be impossible within two millennia.
Arid desert conditions dominate 98 percent of the planet surface. Two mountain chains force easterly winds to rise over higher elevations, creating adequate precipitation to support two small regions of significant vegetation.
Summer temperatures range from -10° to 10° C in the polar regions to 20° to 50° C at the equator. Winter temperatures average 20° lower in polar regions and change minimally at the equator.
The atmosphere consists of oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and high concentrates of toxic particulates and promethium-based, carcinogenic pollutants.
Minimal oxygen-producing vegetation, coupled with the significant toxic pollutants of industrial plants, has severely degraded the planetary atmosphere. Current projections suggest the atmosphere will be unbreathable by humans in 2,120 Terran years if current rates of emissions continue.
Despite harsh surface conditions, a surprising degree of flora and fauna exists on Morkai, albeit much if is subterranean.
The most notable life form is the Morkai Sandworm. These non-arthropod invertebrates–giant worm-like creatures–are carnivores that can exceed 25 meters in length and weigh 16 metric tons.
Although normally feeding on smaller species of subterranean worms and insectoids, recent centuries have seen a marked increase in Sandworm attacks on humans. Genetors with the Adeptus Mechanicus speculate that these attacks are sparked by Morkai’s collapsing ecosystem, which may have led to a decline in the population of smaller creatures that serve as the Sandworm’s traditional food source.
Whatever the cause, Sandworm attacks are described as sudden and terrifying–with the creatures erupting out of the sand without warning, grabbing a victim in its tooth-lined mouth, and dragging it into the ground, never to be seen again.
Approximately 18,000 indigenous species exist on the planet, largely divided among insects, worms, and fungi. Vast colonies of fungi exist underground, made possible by still-significant deposits of subterranean water, which provide the basis for a relatively complex food chain.
Efforts at importing food stock, such as ambull and grox, proved uneconomical even before the planet’s ecosystem began its decline. Still, small long-abandoned herds of these creatures occasionally are reported wandering the wastelands.
Approximately 150 million. An educated upper class, who administer government affairs and oversee mining and industrial operations, constitute 20 percent of the population. Seventy-two percent of the population consists of mining and factory workers who perform less technical, labor-intensive work.
The final eight percent of the population consists of mutants and other outcasts. Open mining of uranium and other radioactive ore, along with toxic pollution produced by industrial centers, have resulted in a growing population of mutants and former laborers no longer fit for work due to disabling health issues.
Under Imperial law, these populations—at least mutant populations—should be culled. But their numbers have grown so quickly in recent years that the easiest solution for the planetary government has been to drive the mutants into the wastelands—to starve or eke out whatever miserable existence they can.
This policy has not achieved any noticeable decline in mutant numbers. It’s estimated that as many as 12 million of these undesirables live in the squalor of shanty towns on the outskirts of the great hives, make homes in the abandoned hives, or migrate across the desert wastelands.
The world is governed by a Council of Electors, consisting of the rulers (Electors) of each of the four remaining hive cities and the senior member of the Ecclesiarchy, the Cardinal Elector.
The council is led by the Grand Elector, essentially the planetary governor, who is chosen by council members from among the four Electors. Under the planetary charter, the Cardinal Elector may vote for Grand Elector but cannot serve in the world’s most senior post.
The current Grand Elector is Fabius Nemetorius, who has served as Elector of Golgenna Hive for the past five decades. He is serving his fourth five-year term as Grand Elector.
Ninety-eight percent of the population worships the Emperor under the Imperial Cult. The Cult of the Machine God is the faith of the small Adeptus Mechanicus presence on the planet.
In recent years, the Ecclisiarchy has heard disturbing rumors of a new cult—a new religion—spreading among the desert outcasts. The Cult of the Sybaritic suggests mutants are the evolutionary future of humanity.
Needless to say, this theology has outraged the Ecclesiarchy and inspired numerous Arbites raids attempting to crush the cult and prevent its expansion through the shanty towns surrounding the hive cities. These raids have, however, proved fruitless, as have attempts by the Ecclesiarchy to expand its influence in the shantytowns as a counterforce to the cult.
Heavy metals, promethium, and radioactive ore are the major exports of Morkai. At one time, the mining world also was expanding its industrial capabilities, but both mining and industrial activities have declined significantly over the centuries, as mineral deposits were exhausted and environmental toxins contributed to a significant decline in the birth rate and a steady drop in the labor population.
Artwork of desert mutant is courtesy of Navroz Lai (“Naznamy’) at http://naznamy.deviantart.com/.