When the Great Crusade swept through the Corvus Cluster, the first Imperial administrators arrived on Morkai with the intent of quickly developing the planet’s mineral resources for the support of the Emperor’s Legions.
Given the planet’s harsh environment, it was decided to organize compact communities atop the world’s existing mining operations. All development—industrial, administrative, residential—was focused on the 10 largest and most productive mining centers.
As is common with the Imperial bureaucracy, this initial decision went unchallenged or unquestioned in the years that followed and, over the millennia, all development remained limited to these initially modest communities. Thus each eventually evolved into a sprawling hive city built atop a honeycombed foundation of mine shafts that descended deep into the planet’s crust. Surrounding these cities grew a sprawling, poverty-stricken ring of shanty towns.
In more recent centuries, as the planet’s mineral wealth has been exploited—and the planet’s atmosphere has degraded—many hive cities have seen city populations decline precipitously. Plague and malnutrition has raised death rates and reduced birth rates, and many laborers have migrated to more economically successful hive cities in search of work.
Today, six of the planet’s 10 hive cities are officially abandoned—with organized governance suspended. Some abandoned hive cities are largely depopulated, while others still are populated by citizens who’ve been left to scrape out a living as best they can.
Highlights of some cities:
Golgenna—The largest hive city on Morkai—and the planetary capital—Golgenna is situated on the once-lush plateau west of the Northern Chain, a mountain range that runs north to south for thousands of miles.
Although there is a small jungle region on the western highlands, millennia of development has left most of the plateau an environmentally ruined wasteland, with indigenous flora or fauna slowly withering away. As winds move eastward, the air must rise to clear the Northern Chain, resulting in rainfall that maintains thousands of lakes that are little more than water-filled mining pits contaminated with heavy metal residue.
In the city’s upper spires, a small wealthy class of citizens look down on a squalid, industrial wasteland of factories, the flares of refinery vents, and miles of shanty towns that increasingly are filled with mutants and restless refugees.
Cynosore–The second largest hive city is situated on the lip of the Great Crevasse, an ancient rift valley that has exposed huge deposits of radioactive ore to the surface.
The city is heavily shielded against near-fatal radioactive levels in the surrounding countryside, and even the poorest citizens are granted at least some (although seldom adequate) radiation shielding. Unlike other hive cities, there are no shantytowns in the surrounding areas as long-term exposure to the toxic environment is impossible.
It is rumored, however, that a sizable percentage of the city’s less-desirable population have migrated deep into the mines and Underhive beneath the city. Although these underground areas are contaminated by radiation, this exposure is dramatically less than on the surface—and illness and mutation are preferable to an agonizing death outside.
Charcharoth—Millennia ago, a catastrophic ground tremor prompted the collapse of the city’s upper spires, killing vast numbers of the aristocracy and educated class. Anarchy reigned for more than a decade before a household of Imperial Knights arrived to restore order.
Although House Fenring has ruled the city since 286.M34, the upper hives were never rebuilt. Instead, large, ugly fortified block houses were constructed over the wreckage to secure the city’s ruling class. This is largely attributed for the particularly dark and grim character of the city’s populace.
Adding to the city’s troubles is that the mining shafts beneath the city are among the most extensive of the planet. This Underhive is a lawless frontier, a refuge for hive scum, criminals, and the mentally unstable, as well as mutants and other horrors that are only rumored about.
Violence is so endemic in the Underhive that the city’s rulers no longer send Arbites or Militia to keep order—trusting that closing off the Underhive with plasteel barriers will maintain security. While some quietly express concern that authorities have no idea of what dangers lie beneath, the official government position is that the underground scum will eventually kill one another off.
Totallia—This hive city has long been a bustling merchant center, with a surprisingly upbeat city culture focused on trade. The city’s government has aggressively reached out to other worlds in the Sector to develop trade contracts, and more interstellar ships land at its starport than all three of its rival cities combined.
Despite its relative economic success, the ruling class hides a deep, dark secret. For the past two decades, a sizable number of children from noble families have disappeared without a trace. Extensive electronic monitoring, heavy bodyguard details, and citywide investigations by the Arbites have failed to determine the cause.
Noble-born children whisper of “The Beast,” while parents pray fervently to the Emperor for protection—while often employing security guards to stand guard over their children’s bed.
Metropia—The more recent hive city to be abandoned, Metropia is a typical example of the so-called “Lost Cities.” It consists of hundreds of square miles of abandoned structures and burnt-out ruins, and encroaching sand dunes have left many buildings half buried.
The city is not, however, lifeless. At least 1 million mutants and outcasts continue to eek out an existence in the city’s rusting structures. The city is divided into at least a dozen domains ruled by violent warlords, who ostensibly rule their territories but often seem powerless to control anything but their level of pillaging among the city’s wretched poor.
WAR AND DEFENSE
War amongst the hive cities has been common over the millennia, although the ruling Electors have never allowed matters to grow so serious that the world’s annual tribute to the Imperium was interrupted (and thus risk the intervention of the Administratum).
As the planet sinks into ever-greater levels of poverty, however, relations among the hive cities have only grown more tense and suspicious. The need to maintain public order has only heightened tensions, as city leaders rely on the short-sighted strategy of convincing citizens that the other hive cities are a threat–and only the city government can maintain their safety. This us-versus-them strategy, once a cynical propaganda tactic to maintain order, has inadvertently begun to influence the opinion of the aristocracy itself.
In addition to the risk of inter-city warfare, Morkai finds itself increasingly vulnerable to outside threats. As the economy slows, it becomes more difficult to meet the Imperial tithe, and that has led the Council of Electors to shortchange investment in the planetary defense network. At least half of the defense laser satellites in orbit are non-functioning, and most hive cities lack the economic resources to maintain their void shields, leaving the cities vulnerable to orbital bombardment and land-based assaults.
The hive cities are not entirely defenseless, however. Each supports its own set of more moderate-ranged defense batteries, as well numerous regiments of City Militia. The city of Charcharoth also boasts a contingent of Imperial Knights, sizable war machines that are much smaller but still mighty cousins of the grand Titan war machines of the Adeptus Mechanicus.
The Cardinal Elector, as spiritual leader of the world, also commands a small detachment of Adepta Sororitas.
Hive city artwork courtesy of Remton at Deviant Art–http://remton.deviantart.com/.