Verge Organizations

Governments

Pannova Clans

The clans of the Pannovas are a driving force in their society, giving organization and structure to this otherwise fractous species. Although their influence is greatest on Solace, the greater Pannova diaspora throughout the Verge still carry their traditional clan allegiances and affiliations, and their members are welcomed within the clan no matter how far afield they roam.

Clans look after their own. They do what it takes to assist their members in trouble. In turn, the clan expects loyalty and service to the clan. Each clan has its own culture, values, traditions, and rituals. It is named after a totem or mascot that, in theory, exemplifies the ideals of that clan. In practice, it is not always clear to outsiders how the choice of totem is related to the stereotypical behavior of a particular clan.

Prominant Clans of the Verge

Centaury: The Centaury are the oldest of the clans, formed soon after the exodus to Solace by concerned troops seeking to aid the travelers and refugees. Centaury maintains a strong tradition of acts of service to this day, operating hospitals, hospices, and schools, feeding the poor, and pitching in to help keep their communites clean and safe. Centaury produces many doctors, nurses, and teachers. The clan established Centaury Central University, which counts as one of the premier higher education centers in the Verge.

The Centaury profess not to discriminate among the other clans, but offer their services and aid equally to all. That said, they often cooperate with Clan Peregrine in carrying out their mission of ministering to the people of Solace and the Verge.

The common centaury Centaurium erythraea is a small, nondescript herb with pink flowers. It is well known for its medical uses. The five-petaled flower is taken as the crest of the Centaury clan. The Centaury plant is commonly planted in the gardens of medicinal herbs at the center of the clan chapter houses. The clan's crest, heraldry, seal, and assorted associated symbols also depict the centaury's namesake – the centaur Chiron: sage, scholar, healer, and teacher of heroes.

Dragon: Dragon first formed as a professional association of power plant operators, later expanding into a full clan as they extended benefits to their member's family and troops. Clan Dragon puts a high emphasis on technical competence, and admires clever solutions to difficult problems. The clan produces a large number of engineers, builders, and designers. They are the sole owner of the Dragon Power Solutions corporation and several other engineering and manufacturing companies, and major stock holders in MetricEngineering, Inc., with dividends going to all clan members.

The Dragon clan finds its closest allies among the Linden, but view the Pirates and Wolverines with respect. The peregrines are admired for their commitment to keeping the knowledge needed to make technical civilization work, and the Centaury for disseminating it. They resent the Ravens for their snooping and meddling, find the Jets overly crass, and think the Herons too snooty. The legends of knights fighting dragons fuels a long-standing rivalry between the Knights and the Dragons.

The totem of Clan Dragon is mythological, admired by its command over the elemental forces of nature. The Clan uses iconography from both the East and the West, ranging from ethereal lóng snaking their path through the clouds to fire spewing, bat winged wyverns*. They celebrate the giant reptiles of old Earth as the closest they can get to their spiritual guides, with many chapter houses supporting serpentariums with pythons, crocodilians, venomous serpents, and various giant lizards. The clan's official position is that the populations of spitting cobras, Komodo dragons, reticulated pythons, and Cuban crocodiles now found on Solace were the results of a few misguided members not following official bio-containment rules; and not deliberate attempts at the introduction of their mascots to the Solace ecosystem.

* The brutality of the Chinese occupation of Solace looms large in the memory of the Pannovas. The common use and admiration of elements of Chinese mythology by Clan Dragon breeds some degree of mistrust and disdain among the other clans of the Verge. The Dragons stubbornly stick to their symbols – although in public they may claim that the serpentine eastern dragons of their sigils are Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, or Bhutanese in origin.

Hellbender: Clan Hellbender has a reputation as being a bastion of troublemakers – getting in fights, causing public disturbances, playing their music too loud, and roving around in gangs being drunk and rowdy. Although most are more or less law abiding, they have more than their share of criminals ranging from impulsive assaults to organized crime. The Hellbenders readily accept exiles and cast-offs from other clans, making them something of a cosmopolitan grab bag.

The only ally the Hellbenders have among the clans are the Pirates, who share a similar outlook toward authority. All the other clans find the Hellbenders somewhere between annoying and dangerous, and the Hellbenders think these others are snooty, stuck-up snobs.

There are rumors that Clan Hellbender chose its name because they liked the sound of it, without realizing what a hellbender actually is. Nonetheless, today they eagerly embrace this species of giant salamander as their totem. Woe betide any who call a Hellbender a "snot otter," "lasagna lizard," or other alternate derogatory sounding name for their beloved mascot. Naturally, the Hellbenders have attempted to introduce Cryptobranchus alleganiensis to Solace and other worlds in the Verge, and today many swift flowing, cold, well oxygenated streams host populations of these wrinkled aquatic amphibians.

Heron: The Heron clan has its roots in the Pannovas of the city of Highgarden and its surrounding area. Originally bandit kings, Highgarden was never fully pacified but in time came to derive its wealth from coffee plantations and tantalum mines. During the Chinese occupation of Solace, the rugged landscape made operations difficult for the invaders and Highgarden was never taken. The proud inhabitants formed Clan Heron shortly after the American re-conquest.

Clan Heron prides itself on the inherent nobility of its members, exemplified by comporting oneself with elegance and composure, refined sensibilities, and an appreciation of aesthetics. Its chapter houses are gracefully sculpted around their host trees, adorned by manicured gardens of epiphytes on the main branches. Heron's ceremonies involve courtly tradition and patience. While they value enlightened inspiration, poise, and restraint; like their mascot are ready to act swiftly and decisively when necessary. While Heron produces many renowned poets and artists, they are by no means effete – they can be crafty and dangerous warriors, skilled in the martial arts, fierce in defense, cunning in offence, striking suddenly and by surprise when the moment is right.

The Herons respect the Knights for their military culture, the Peregrines for their knowledge and cultured attitudes, and the Ravens for their ability to gather intelligence. They consider the Jets as useless poseur rich boys and divas. The other clans are generally beneath their notice.

The totems of Clan Heron are, naturally, the stalking wading birds of the family Ardeidae. As might be expected, several species of heron have been introduced to Solace. The most commonly seen of these are the night heron and the great blue heron, whose presences now grace waterways across the world.

Jet: The Jet clan arose from wealthy business owners that used the lack of significant regulation on early Solace to leverage their advantages and gain control of much of the means of production, service industries, and finance on the planet. This moneyed elite moved together in their own social circles, inter-married into each others troops, and soon merged into a clan both to enhance their ability to mingle with the other elites and present a unified front to represent their interests. Today, the net worth of Clan Jet is not known but they are suspected to be one of the richest organizations in the Verge.

Those in Clan Jet tend to measure one's worth by one's worldly goods. To impress each other, they use extravagance, ostentation, conspicuous consumption, and displays of wealth. However, they also value physicality, and athletic prowess and a well-toned, attractive body are sure to gain positive notice as well. Jet parties are notorious for their hedonism.

The Jets admire the Herons for their effortless nobility, and can only aspire to match them. Everyone else they consider a tool to be used, although the Ravens are a very useful tool indeed. As descendants of the property owners who originally oppressed the Lindens and Pirates, the animosity between these clans and the Jets remains strong.

As might be expected from their mascot, the Jets approve of fast, flashy vehicles. These are often valued more as a status or power symbol than any actual practical use of speed. However, since going faster than the other guy is a good way to gain status, racing is a popular past-time among the Jets.

Knight: Clan Knight formed during the Chinese occupation of Solace, from guerilla bands striking the invader's forces and then fading into the trackless forests. Forged in battle, the Knights carry their military traditions and outlook with them to this day.

The Knights are a clan that emphasizes tradition, duty, honor, and justice. They have little tolerance for rule-breakers, and believe in swift obedience and respect for authority. They have a strongly hierarchical organization, with harsh penalties for those who step beyond the line.

The Knights respect the Peregrines for their learning and the Centaury for their service. The Herons' martial prowess earns them some grudging respect, despite their origins as bandits. While the Knights appreciate the technical competence of the Dragons, the historical animosity between their two totems leads to a good-natured rivalry between the clans. The Knights detest the Hellbenders and Pirates for their lawlessness, disdain for authority, and flaunting tradition.

Their mascots are the landed warrior-nobles of old Earth. Given the importance of horsemanship to these mascots, it is not surprising that many Knight members are accomplished equestrians. As might be expected, this clan contributes heavily to law enforcement and the military.

Linden: Clan Linden is the largest clan on Solace and in the Verge, in terms of the size of its membership roster. It started as an association of working class troops of Port Ipsun, acting as something of a trade union to represent their interests against the over-reach of the property-owning class. By working together, the Lindens were able to win significant concessions in the form of fair wages and benefits in return for their labor. From this first significant success, they were able to rapidly recruit new members from working tradesmen and employees and formed new chapters in cities throughout Solace.

Linden emphasizes the virtues of honesty, hard work, keeping your word, and producing labor of practical value. They are known for their down-to-earth attitude and appreciation of simple pleasures.

Lindens tend to get along with Pirates and Hellbenders, and they respect the Centaury for their service and generosity. They often find they have common aims with the Dragons, as both clans value diligence, production, and dedication. Clan Jet is their historical enemy, and the two clans often feud to this day. They have little patience for the posings of the Herons.

Their totem is the Solace Linden, Parapopulus solacensis, a native tree not related to its Earth namesakes. Solace Lindens are known for the diversity of uses of their wood, bark, and leaves, with different sections of the trunk yielding wood of different properties.

Peregrine: The Peregrines originated among the lore-keepers of the original Solace refugees, maintaining records of old Earth and forging connections between the separate colony sites. The clan values knowledge and scholarship, as well as refined culture and sophistication. They cultivate an ethos of the citizen philosopher, to guide Solace to a better future. More than most other clans, they see the value of Human history and methods to inform the current Pannova society. This leads to some distrust from the other clans, who often view them as collaborators or "too Human."

The Peregrines respect the Centaury for their dedication to education and the healing arts, and the Dragons for their embrace of technical knowledge. Their similar attitudes toward refined behavior leads to mutual respect with the Herons. They have no actual enemies among the other clans, as they try to hold themselves apart from inter-clan squabblings.

The clan's totem is the peregrine falcon, Falco peregrinus, whose high altitude vantage gives it a view of all that happens below. Some seek to emulate the speed or predatory acumen of the falcon, and the rivalry between the Jets and the Peregrines in racing competitions is legendary. Peregrine falcons are kept in many clan aviaries, and the clan falcon masters have studied the methods of falconry from old Earth. However, the cloud-shrouded coastal rain forests of the main Solace colonies are unsuitable habitat for this predator and no feral populations are known (although two species of Accipiter hawks are now well established among the towering trees of Solace).

Pirate: The Pirate clan started as associated fishermen and maritime workers. Initially exploited and oppressed by the property-owning classes, the Pirates took after their namesakes and staged violent protests, setting canneries ablaze and venturing upriver to ransack the gentry getting rich off the stolen profits of their labors. Solace at the time lacked a strong militia, and soon the Pirates had control of the seas and many coastal installations.

During the occupation, the Pirates suffered heavy losses. They retreated to remote hidden coves and secret bases. Yet they kept up what pressure they could on the invaders by raiding commerce, attacking fishermen, and pillaging aquaculture farms and deep sea mining installations.

The Pirates are known for their bloody-minded independence. They champion individual freedom but collective action, working together by choice for the greater good of society. Clan Pirate is ever a foe of corporate greed and entrenched power structures, fighting to restore the liberty of the common Pannova to exercise what the Pirates see as their native rights. The ethos of the clan lauds risk-taking, heroics, steadfast friendship, social equality, and life unshackled from the strictures of society. Because they are Pannovas, the Pirates still organize around a strong dominance hierarchy, but the Pirates believe that leaders should arise from the ranks by competence and charisma rather than coercion, wealth, or heredity. Like the Hellbenders, the Pirates are willing to accept the outcasts, exiles, and unworthy of the other clans; believing in second chances and strength through diversity.

The Linden have long been allies with the Pirates, in their shared interest in reducing the impact of moneyed interests on Solace. The Pirates see kindred spirits in the anti-establishment attitudes of the Hellbenders, although they are disappointed that the Hellbenders do not use their rebellious nature for social improvement. They admire the independence of the Wolverines, and the two clans generally get along well. The Jets are their traditional enemies, and the snootiness of the Herons tends to infuriate them.

Their mascot is, of course, rooted in the sea-raiders of old Earth, from the infamous pirates of the Caribbean, Barbary pirates, and Vikings to the desperate men and women of Somalia and the straits of Malacca in the 20th and early 21st century who rose up to say "enough" to foreign exploitation by taking up arms against imperialist nautical traffic. They use the Jolly Roger as their emblem, although with the Human skull replaced by that of a Pannova.

Raven: The Raven clan emerged from power struggles within the Jet nobility. Eager for information on their rivals, networks of hackers and private investigators rose to provide the dirt on powerful individuals and vulnerabilities in organizations – for a price. This informal web strengthened with increasing demand, until they were a full fledged clan specializing in espionage, information gathering, and data brokering.

Clan Raven prefers to keep to the sidelines and operate from the shadows. They cultivate contacts across all strata of society, seeking moles and back-doors in all organizations with influence on Solace and, now, the Verge as a whole. They have a reputation as tricksters and pranksters, with practical jokes used to prove one's superiority and gain renown within their clan.

The Ravens do not have allies or enemies among the other clans – only clients and targets.

Their totem is the common raven, Corvus corax. Chapter houses may keep several ravens in their aviaries, and by now these large black birds are established in many areas of Solace. The iconography of Clan Raven often features an elderly yet still powerful male Pannova holding a staff, wearing a cloak, one eye covered by the brim of a wide hat, with a raven on each shoulder.

Wolverine: Not all Pannovas settled close to major population centers. The loners, the prospectors setting off into the wilderness, the distant homesteaders and early rangers needed to look to each other to survive in harsh times. From these hardy explorers formed a brotherhood that became the nucleus of Clan Wolverine.

The Wolverines have a culture of traveling and exploring, wandering widely in search of new opportunities or just out of curiosity. They value tenacity, independence, endurance, woodcraft, and solitude; and are always willing of offer aid and hospitality to those in need. Clan Wolverine is always well represented in the Solace Colonial Rangers as scouts and trackers.

The Wolverines are remote enough that they do not have significant allies or enemies among the other clans. They have little use for the urban sophistication of the Herons or the flashy consumption of the Jets. The independent attitude of the Pirates generally sits well with the Wolverines. Any who venture away from civilization, take care not to abuse the environment, and treat the Wolverines with respect generally fall into their good graces.

The Wolverine's totem is, naturally, Gulo gulo; the giant snow weasel of old Earth's impenetrable mountain ranges and remote frozen north. Clan members commonly keep Wunderines as companions and working animals, valuing their canny nose and indefatigable spirit and seeing kinship in their common origins.

Corporations

Corporations are some of the most recognizable names with in the Verge. Whether selling you a cup of coffee or contracting with the government for a multi-billion dollar military wormhole contract, business corporations perform much of the manufacturing, services, and distribution of goods within the Verge. Most are organized with the aim of securing profit for their shareholders. Many corporations are responsible corporate citizens, who follow the applicable regulations for their trade, engage in charitable work, and merely seek to provide the best product for a reasonable value to their customers. All too often, however, you find a corporation whose drive to provide returns for its stockholders leads to ethical lapses – cutting corners on safety or environmental regulations, exploiting its workers, or engaging in deceptive business practices. Corruption at high levels often runs deep, and rooting out the rot in a corporation among the privileged and powerful people running the show can make exciting work for an investigator or journalist.

Given below is a list of selected major corporations in the Verge. It is by no means complete – just like in the modern world, there is a lot of competition. So although there is just one food packaging corporation listed, for example, expect there to be several brands competing for your spending dollars.

It is worth noting that after The Bump in the Night all proprietary software became unavailable. Free software, however, could be downloaded by anyone. Thus, most computers in the Verge run some variety of Linux, and software is usually open source. There is no equivalent of Microsoft in the Verge.

    Alexia Motor Corporation

    Alexia manufactures vehicles, from personal vehicles from aircars to scooters and ATVs. They also have a line of mass transit and freight hauling vehicles – busses, trucks, lifters, and train cars.

    Headquarters: Gramma, Garcia's World

    Amir Forestry Corporation

    Amir Forestry owns large plantations, which they use for sustainable forestry practices. However, they are not above cutting virgin forest when given the opportunity. Amir agents are sent exploring in untamed places to find new valuable varieties of lumber.

    Headquarters: Portland, Valleya.

    Arco Tech

    Arco specializes in prefabricated or read-to-assemble buildings and furniture, appliances, and home accessories.

    Headquarters: Olympus, Garcia's World

    Chang-MacDonald Heavy Industries

    CMD is best known by the average person for their personal vehicles – cars, trucks, motorcycles – but they also make a variety of heavy machinery including tractors, construction equipment, tunnel boring machines, mining and logging equipment, turbines, and electric generators.

    Headquarters: Caprock, Žemyna.

    Corton Security

    Corton claims to be security consultants. This is a thinly disguised facade for mercenary work. When trouble breaks out and Corton is hired by one party to the trouble, the "consultants" show up with military grade gear and training and make sure the trouble goes away. Corton also provides facility security. They are not very particular about niceties such as avoiding civilian casualties.

    Headquarters: Dublin, San Agustín.

    Dragon Power Solutions

    Dragon manufactures energy storage solenoids, the electrical generating components of NOW generators, and off-grid power supplies such as solar panels and wind turbines.

    Headquarters: Big Tree, Solace.

    Emergent Robotics

    Emergent is a major manufacturer of robots, from automated lawn mowers to sophisticated androids.

    Headquarters: Švedas Crossing, Žemyna.

    Estrada-Groozhi Communications Corporation

    The venerable EGComCo resulted from a merger of Estrada telecommunications Inc. and Groozhi Nogi. Offering phone and data service throughout the Verge Republic and Gummi Space, EGComCo utilizes cellular, satellite, and wormhole technologies, with fiber-optic links or dedicated com wormholes for fast data transfer to fixed facilities. EGComCo has an exclusive license to maintain fiber-optic communications through the wormholes in the Zox Hierate.

    Headquarters: Nuevo Durango, New Carolina.

    Fāng and sons

    Fāng is a firearms manufacturer, producing quality needlers, lasers, stunners, and launch guns.

    Headquarters: Loadstone, Garcia's World.

    Kriktikik zz Transportation, Inc.

    KzT is owned and operated by the Kriktikik zz hive, former refugees from the Squirm who have come to dominate the shipping industry of the Verge. They run trucking, shipping, rail, and air transportation for goods. They build and operate wormhole stations and infrastructure, and are contracted by the FTA to run many of the inter-world transport wormholes within the Verge Republic.

    Headquarters: Thistledown Station, Žemyna.

    Larsson Foods

    Larsson manufactures food and drink products, from frozen vegetables to ice cream to canned meat – if it can be eaten and packaged, Larsson probably sells it.

    Headquarters: Mesa Station, Prospect.

    Lindeon

    Lindeon Corproation specializes in defense and aerospace products, particularly sensors, guided missiles, and directed energy weapons. In addition to defense contractor work, they manufacture laser smallarms for the civilian market.

    Headquarters: Henningston, New Carolina.

    Luwunoom Nogi

    Luwu, as it is often called, manufactures repulsorlifts, repuslor vehicles, and tractor beams.

    Headquarters: VziiHoo Aaa, Grummer.

    Mackenzie Outfitters

    Mackenzie sells rugged and durable clothes as well as equipment for outdoor expeditions, such as camping supplies; canoes, rafts, and kayaks; fishing tackle; guns and ammo; hiking packs and frames; and trail riding gear.

    Headquarters: Osho, Valleya.

    MetricEngineering, Inc.

    MetricEngineering creates wormholes and manufactures wormhole support frames and projectors. In addition to transit wormholes, it makes electric generators using non-orientable wormholes, com-grade wormholes, and wormhole-based munitions.

    Headquarters: Wazon, Solace.

    Moonoonfzee Nogi

    Moonoonfzee builds deflector screens and other defensive affector applications.

    Headquarters: Eeee, Doonzhee.

    Multiplex

    Multiplex is a search engine and advertising company, providing data services peppered with discrete targeted ads.

    Headquarters: Copper Springs, New Carolina.

    Papadakis Pharmaceuticals

    Papadakis produces medications and health-related biotech. They have had recent scandals where several insufficiently tested new medicines produced dangerous side effects.

    Headquarters: Copper Springs, New Carolina.

    Phoenix Express

    A courier service that delivers post and parcels throughout the Verge Republic and Gummi Space.

    Headquarters: Fènghuáng, Jiàngluò.

    Pinnacle Insurance

    A major insurance company, offering policies on everything from traditional staples such as life, home, and vehicle insurance to risky ventures such as off-world exploration.

    Headquarters: Newbank, Garcia's World

    Rebond Aerospace

    Rebond produces commercial, military, and private aircraft, and rockets for space launch.

    Headquarters: Twist-Oak, New Carolina.

    Rubis-Mazeika

    One of the largest financial and banking companies in the Verge, Rubis-Mazeika dates back to the chaos following The Bump in the Night, when Toma Mazeika stood at the steps to the shuttered First National Bank to accept deposits and hand out loans while Martynas Rubis recorded names and amounts in a tattered notebook.

    Headquarters: Thistledown Station, Žemyna.

    Ruiz Agri

    Ruiz Agri specializes in mechanized farming. Owning vast tracts of land on many worlds, its fleet of robots cultivate many of the foodstuffs that feed the Verge. Ruiz Agri is not publicly traded, it is still under the ownership of the Ruiz family.

    Headquarters: Playa, San Agustín.

    Scholz

    Scholz is a department store chain selling clothing and household appliances throughout the Verge Republic and Gummi Space.

    Headquarters: Švedas Crossing, Žemyna.

    Sòng Electronics

    Sòng is a top manufacturer of consumer electronics, from phones and music players to in-home holovid theaters. They are also a leader in remote sensors and have a profitable subdivision researching, manufacturing, and selling directed energy weapons. Sòng is making rapid advances in merging Human and Antecessor technology in their products. The founder of Sòng Electronics was the famous billionaire, war hero, inventor, and all around genius Jack Sòng. His legend lives on around the Verge, and adds to the cachet of his company.

    Headquarters: New Clarkston, Homestead.

    The Concrete Gentleman

    A clothier known for their stylish suits and formal wear. They have expanded into casual wear which nonetheless retains an elegant and fashionable aesthetic. Despite the name, they also produce ladies' wear and outfits for non-humans. Clothing and accessories bearing The Concrete Gentleman label are priced at a premium.

    Headquarters: Thistledown Station, Žemyna.

    Thistledown Times

    A hard-hitting, investigative news organization, the Times is known for ferreting out the truth, undercover reporting, and exposing criminal malfeasance of powerful individuals and organizations. The Times is one of the most respected news organizations in the Verge, with a reputation for impartial reporting.

    Headquarters: Thistledown Station, Žemyna.

    Verge Farmer's Collective

    The Verge Farmer's Collective is an association of free and independent farmers established to provide financial services, legal assistance and collective marketing. Members agree to abide by a basic set of rules in return for assistance in selling their products and finding services necessary for running an agricultural operation. In this respect, the collective is somewhere between a worker-owned corporation and a trade union. Participating in the Collective allows small farmers to effectively compete with agribusiness giants like Ruiz Agri.

    Headquarters: Falling Creek, Prospect.

    Verge Media Corporation

    VMC provides news and entertainments services, both broadcast and on-demand. It maintains extensive studios for filming holovids and producing animations. Their somewhat … aggressive … approach to copyright violators has landed them in trouble in the past.

    Headquarters: Crystal Creek, New Carolina

    Whumum Nogi

    Whumum Nogi's business is electrical power distribution. Subscribers are installed with an E-wormhole that links to Whumum's generators, providing safe, reliable electricity even in the face of harsh weather, intense solar storms, EMPs, high power microwave attacks, or E-bombs. No guarantee is made in the event of causality attacks, however. Whumum's E-wormholes can connect to residences, vehicles, or any other device that uses electricity. For security reasons, it is strictly forbidden to take an E-wormhole through a transit wormhole.

    Headquarters: Uumii, Grummer.

    Yurlop Extraction Corp.

    Yurlop is a mining and company. Its machines can chew away mountains and dig vast pits to get at valuable minerals. Much of its wealth comes from asteroid mining, however. A wormhole can be projected to an asteroid with a promising spectrum, and mass in valuable transition-group metals can be traded for mass in worthless rock from the base world.

    Headquarters: Portland, Gateway.

    Zhāng Chemical Corporation

    Zhāng Chemical Corporation produces most of the industrial, consumer, and agro-chemicals in the Verge. It is commonly criticized for its lax attitude toward environmental protection.

    Headquarters: Hónghé, Jiàngluò.

Trade Unions

Trade unions are associations of workers with a given area of expertise, to promote the interests of their profession. Unions may act to promote common standards of a trade, improve community trust, and set guidelines for ethical practices and resolving disputes. However, they are most well known for agitating for higher wages, benefits, and improved working and safety conditions. By coming together, unions can effectively bargain with corporate employers by threatening to deny them labor. When a corporation does not agree to acceptable terms, unionists may strike, refusing to work. Occasionally, a union may become unruly beyond the usual limits of responsible organizational citizenship. Criminal sabotage, intimidation and assault of non-compliant workers or corporate shills, or association with organized crime are all known.

Non-Governmental Organizations

NGOs are not-for-profit agencies not affiliated with a state. While this covers a lot of ground, the term is usually reserved for those founded with a particular cause or agenda. They are typically charities funded by donations. NGOs are often accused of being overly meddlesome, or of being so focused on their specific cause that they overlook the greater picture.

    Ecological Protection Foundation

    The EPF's mandate is to prevent the ecological tragedies that ravaged old Earth. They employ armies of well-trained and dedicated lawyers and lobbyists to fight what they see as ecologically damaging or short-sighted laws and operations, organize rallies and protest marches, and will often just buy up vulnerable land. The EPF is suspected to provide money and support to the Nature Defenders, but these allegations have never been proven.

    Equal Rights for Enhanced Animals

    EREA's mission is to end what they see as the enslavement of enhanced animals, granting them full legal protection and freedom. Some members (or groups of members) of EREA verge on the extremist, willing to cause damage to property in order to make their point or free captive enhanced animals. For the most part, however, EREA works by raising public awareness and trying to pass laws protecting enhanced animals.

    New Earth

    New Earth seeks to re-create the ecologies of old Earth through terraforming and panspermia of Earth-descended life. They are opposed by the Ecological Protection Foundation and Nature Defenders, who see this as destroying native ecosystems and eco-genocide. In general, attempts to terraform worlds with only microbial life are the least controversial, while modifying the ecologies of worlds with complex life leads to more resistance. In the past, several attempted introductions have gone spectacularly wrong.

    Reconnection Institute

    Dedicated to re-contacting lost colonies, the Reconnection Institute sponsors wormhole expeditions to worlds that historically once hosted sentient beings. Reconnection explorers often return with harrowing takes of adventure and excitement among exotic cultures, many of which have made best-selling novels or popular holo-vid series.

    Rural Development Co-op

    The RDC seeks to promote basic standards of living among impoverished areas, including establishing sanitation, power, and communications, and educating people on effective agricultural practices. They often send members to newly reconnected former colonies to assess the situation and lend assistance to the residents for re-contact with civilization.

    Sapient Rights Council

    The SRC fights to preserve fundamental liberties of all peoples, through legal action, demonstrations, and lobbying for legislation that supports their cause. They have also been known to take more direct action, from sending agents to gather actionable intelligence that can be turned over to law enforcement to hiring mercenaries to rescue victims beyond the reach of the law.

Extremist Groups

Not all organizations in the Verge operate to promote an orderly society. Some want to tear it down, and they promote violence to achieve their goals.

    Church of Seekers of the Throne

    A Christian extremist group, who seek to bring about the biblical prophecy of the Book of Revelation, the downfall of society, and the second coming of Christ, after which the faithful shall be risen to life to live for eternity in paradise while the unworthy burn in the fires of hell. Not content to wait for the apocalypse to come about on its own, the Throne Seekers commit acts of terrorism to encourage strife, fear, and anarchy. They commonly target other religious sects or examples of secular, commercial culture.

    Free Zhǎngshān Army

    Many in Zhǎngshān are not pleased at being part of the Verge Republic. The Free Zhǎngshān Army has considerable support among the rural population, where they hide out in the mountains, strike at Republic targets, and plan acts of terrorism.

    Mankind First!

    Mankind First! and other similar organizations promote a racist agenda of Human superiority and repression of other sapients. Individual chapters may agitate for everything from protectionist trade policies to extermination of non-Human sapients. Mankind First! members have been responsible for many brutal attacks on non-Humans and Humans deemed "sympathizers". The organization leadership claims that these are the actions of individuals, and not officially condoned.

    Nature Defenders

    An eco-activist group, Nature Defenders skirt the line between legal activism and criminal activity. They harass those who they see as damaging the natural ecosystem, interfering with corporate or government operations. Some members or local chapters cross the line to engage in sabotage and destruction of property, although most will not participate in violent assaults on sapients or murder.

    Progressive Worker's Party

    The Worker's Collective is a violent anarcho-communist group that supports the overthrow of the Verge Republic and replacement with a "perfect society". This society would have all means of production in the hands of the workers, while abolishing private property and the state. In practice, for many members it is merely an excuse to riot, loot, and violently assault "members of the corrupt system".

Organized Crime

From the Mafia to Triads to cartels and street gangs, organized criminals moved with Humanity out into the Verge. Several powerful groups are known, involved in smuggling, human trafficking, prostitution, extortion, illegal gambling, drug trafficking, racketeering, identity theft rings, botnet operations, and counterfeiting. Often, they can thrive by buying off elected and public officials, allowing their operations to run with impunity. Many organized crime groups have a legitimate front organization as a cover for their activities. A legal transport company may serve as a front for a smuggling ring, for example.

Actual criminal operations depend on the local environment. As an example, on Žemyna mind-altering drugs are only lightly regulated and prostitution is legal. Criminals cannot make much profit in these areas (although some smuggling of drugs occurs to get around high taxes, and the occasional sex slavery ring is uncovered catering to people with more depraved interests). The highly networked and high-tech Žemynan society, however, makes it rife with data pirates and identity thieves. On more conservative and traditional Prospect, with recreational drugs and prostitution illegal, these are lucrative areas for the local crime syndicates.

Different groups claim different territories or criminal activities. However, it is not unusual for one group to try to edge in on that of another. The resulting conflicts can be both vicious and violent.

Religious Organizations

Revival Religions

The Earth Heritage Revival movement led to a fluorishing of religions that had been rare or extinct before the Bump in the Night. Many of these are largely confined to specific localized entho-cultural groups looking to find the ways of their ancestors. Some, however, are more widespread across the Verge.

Gnosticism: Gnosticism may technically be a Christian faith, but is sufficiently divergent that it is included in its own category. It teaches that the path to enlightenment is through the achievement of gnosis, or revelatory self-knowledge. It therefore denies the authority of any church or sacred text except as a teacher or guide for the practitioner to achieve gnosis. Jesus Christ is revered as a great teacher, who brought word of the divine and the necessity and practice of gnosis to the world. Gnostics believe that the world is corrupt, created by a sub-divine entity called the Demiurge, and that through gnosis one can transcend the physical world and enter the realm of the divine. There are believed to be many supernatural agents operating in the world. The aeons are divine angel-like emanations of the true god as opposed to the archons, powerful supernatural beings attached to this world and thus corrupt yet often worshiped as gods. The revelatory teachings of Gnosticism subvert many of the traditional myths of the Abrahamic religions – for example, the serpent of Eden was a divine figure sent from God to elevate Adam and Eve from their ignorant state and bring them gnosis and unity with God; and the God of the old testament is said to be an archon or perhaps the Demiurge and not the true divinity. Many of the Abrahamic religions take exception to being told by gnostics that their God is in fact a demon or Satan himself.

Gnosticism largely died out in the 4th century AD. It is only present in the Verge through the Earth Heritage Revival movement, which recreated the religion from ancient texts. Today, Gnostics are a prominent though minority faith and are considered fairly mainstream on most of the Human settled worlds of the Verge.

Revival Paganism: During the Earth Heritage Revival movement, many people were drawn to traditional pagan practices. The most common pagan traditions are Baltic and Slavic, although Norse and Celtic paganists have their adherents. Many elements of European pagan religions are similar, featuring a father sky god, a thunder god (who may or may not be the same as the father sky god), a mother goddess of fertility and abundance, a water or sea god, a sun goddess, a moon god, a cattle god, a hearth goddess, a goddess of love, a cosmic serpent of water and chaos in opposition to the sky or thunder god, twin horse gods, a lame smith god, a goddess or triple goddess of fate, and a universe based around the concept of a world tree. The religions tend to focus on the cycles of nature, changes in seasons, fertility, and people's place in connection to nature.

    Baltic Paganism: Baltic Pagan practitioners tend to follow the Lithuanian customs, due to the large Lithuanian population of the Verge. The primary god is called Dievas, the source of all divinity, but Dievas is a remote being and for practical matters it is best to petition the more accessible gods who are closer to people and the worlds. The main gods are Perkūnas, the thunder god and god of the sky, and Žemyna, the earth mother (the planet Žemyna is named after this goddess, but the world was named before the Earth Heritage Revival movement resurrected Paganism as a significant religion). Laima and Dalia are goddesses of fate; Laima governs the major events in a person's life – birth, marriage, childbirth, and death, while Dalia is responsible for one's fortune and wealth. There are also many other gods and goddesses, as well as a wealth of culture heroes and a body of myths and legends.

    Slavic Paganism: One of the notable features of Slavic mythology is the conflict between the two main gods – Perun and Veles. Perun is the god of the sky, thunder and lightning, a warrior god, and is associated with high places and fire. Veles is a god of water, the underworld, magic, livestock, and is a trickster and serpent and shapechanger; Veles is associated with low places, chill, disease, and wetness. Veles is the Slavic version of the cosmic serpent of water and chaos, but is not evil. He protects livestock and stockmen, brings wealth, empowers magicians and shamans, and looks after the spirits of the dead. As a chthonic serpent, he coils about the roots of the world tree, providing a pleasant afterlife for departed souls. The eternal conflict between Perun and Veles is responsible for the life-giving rain that allows crops to grow - Perun and Veles are constantly stealing each other's water (and cattle), and the rain when Veles takes his water back nourishes the land. The cyclic nature of this struggle also explains the seasons, as part of a complex mythic cycle involving the marriage of the children of Perun and Veles (bringing springtime and fertility), their breakup and divorce, the return of Perun's son (and Veles's adopted son) to the underworld after his murder by his vengeful wife leading to winter once more.

    Slavic mythology features many other gods and goddesses, generally following the old Indo-European Pagan model. Slavic Pagans worship at shrines in wild places – woodlands if available, but on worlds without forests other untamed places of elemental nature will do.

Many religions are not particularly organized, from private but sincere Taoists to a shrine to Veles in a sacred grove used only for worship services by a small community of believers on important holidays. Others are organized at the community levels, with mosques, churches, and temples providing local charities and community assistance as well as planning get-togethers, festivals, and events along with religious education and worship services. Many community churches also sponsor missions to help improve the welfare of impoverished people in distant lands (and, often, to spread the word of their religion and gain new converts).

There are, however, several religious organizations that reach across multiple worlds, having a top-down structure with Verge-wide authority derived from a central church.

    Mormons or Latter Day Saints: The LDS have their headquarters in Bigwater, New Carolina, where they oversee a network of temples across the Verge Republic and parts of Gummi Space. They are one of the most enthusiastic proselytizers of the Verge, sending missionaries far and wide to spread the word.

    Catholicism: The Bump in the Night separated the Catholic faithful from their leadership. Without the authority of Rome, the Catholic organization lost much of its legitimacy. This led to increasing tension between the progressive and conservative elements within the church, and soon this venerable institution suffered a schism.

      Originalist Catholicism: The progressive elements labeled themselves as Originalist Catholics, as they looked for inspiration primarily to the Gospels and the examples set by the early church in the New Testament. They believe that salvation is achieved by following the examples set by Christ, including helping the poor and needy, not engaging in ostentatious displays of faith, accepting the foreigner and the outcast, loving one's neighbor, and rejecting the norms and pressures of society in favor of kindness and compassion. The Originalist Catholic Church allows the ordination of women and non-humans as priests and bishops, emphasizes support of the poor and disadvantaged, allows priests to marry, and takes no position on contraception. It still encourages chastity and does not grant divorces, but by reserving the institution of marriage to Humans it recognizes that traditional sexual values are not necessarily intended by God to apply to other sapient species.

      The Originalist Catholic pope oversees the church from a cathedral in Thistledown Station, Žemyna. They support missionary activities around the Verge, and are particularly well known for their hospitals, charities to help the poor, orphanages, and rural development assistance.

      Restoration Catholicism: The Restoration Catholics became the more conservative church. They kept the papacy at Constance, Garcia's World. Restoration Catholics deny that non-humans had immortal souls, and are thus incapable of salvation. Keeping with Roman tradition, only male humans can be ordained as priests and they must remain unmarried.

    Tzachiism: The veneration of the Zox emperor, and the Tzachi hive as the leader of the priesthood and keepers of the library, is common among Mants. Even Mant hives no longer associated with the Zox Hierate will commonly keep a shrine to the emperor, and descendant hives of Tzachi within the Verge Republic and Gummi Space still maintain copies of the sacred library.

    In the Zox Hierate, the Tzachi religion is a Hierate-wide organization nominally controlled by the Emperor, with the Colonial Governor having religious authority in the Emperor's absence. In practice, the Governor has little influence over the council of elder Tzachi priests, a split exacerbated because the current Governor is not from the Tzachi hive or one of Tzachi's descendant hives. Nonetheless, the Tzachi temple promotes virtue through government obedience and following the traditional Zox ways.

Religions without a hierarchical authority still have a strong presence within the Verge. Protestant denominations, Islam, Buddhism, Taoism, and Judaism are widely practiced in Human Space. Many displaced ethno-cultural groups that settled in the Verge retained their traditional religions as well, with Polynesians seeking mana and avoiding tapu, and members of Columbian plateau tribes going on vision quests for the aid of powerful weyekins. The Earth Heritage Revival movement also led to an increase of worship in previously rare or dead religions, such as Gnosticism and Baltic and Slavic Paganism.

Within Gummi Space, Uumuuluu or "The Oneness" has a strong following – a pantheistic philosophy of being and unity. Uumuuluu practitioners engage in transcendental meditation in order to unify their consciousness with the universe. Devout Uumuuluuans profess complete non-violence and compassion for all living things; less enthusiastic co-religionists can be a bit more lax on these doctrines. The Uumuuluu religion has found a considerable following among Mants displaced into the Republic or Gummi Space, who find strength in belonging to The Oneness and feel comfort in believing they know their place in an otherwise confusing and uncertain universe. Many Gummis also find an affinity for Taoism, with Taoist practices now found throughout many Gummi worlds.

Separation from Earth has led to challenges and creative solutions by many religions. For example, consider Islam. Muslims can no longer perform the hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca, that had long been one of the pillars of Islamic faith. It is generally agreed that Ramadan, the month of fasting, can be timed using CNT and ephemera for old Earth's monthly cycles extrapolated forward to modern times. Finally, faithful Muslims are supposed to pray five times per day facing toward Mecca. To avoid confusion with rapidly changing directions due to the motions of one's current planet, it has long been considered acceptable to pray toward the wormhole mouth that leads back toward Mecca, since the inter-wormhole coordinate system is just as valid as coordinate systems across galactic space. Since The Bump in the Night, there have been no wormholes that led to Mecca from the Verge. The Imams have allowed the tradition to continue, treating the broken wormhole at Garcia's World (and later, Jefferson) as if it were still operational until such time as contact can once again be re-established.

Universities

Universities are institutes of higher education and research. Professors are expected to teach introductory and advanced courses, mentor students in their field, and carry out original research. Funding for education and basic salaries is covered by the government – university education is free in the Verge to qualified students. Funding for research, however, must be scrounged up by the professor and his team, usually by applying for grants or asking for donations from wealthy individuals or organizations (although the latter is often suspect, leading to questions about the independence of the research). University researchers often travel far and wide, going into exciting and dangerous places in their quest for knowledge.

Most universities have sports teams. These generate considerable enthusiasm among the students and local population, with matches against other collegiate teams across the Verge. The extreme popularity of university sports often leads to scandals when student athletes are given preferential treatment or unethical recruiting practices are used, and many universities are criticized for putting sports first and education second.

Well known and prestigious universities include Thistledown University, University of New Carolina, Homestead University of Agriculture and Mining (the Aggies), Eewheeohm Advanced Learning Center, Centaury Central University, Goorwhiimoong Education Committee, and Valleya Institute of Technology (Val-Tech).

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