The dust cloud around the local star lowers the total amount of energy being fed into the Patterson-6’s biosphere significantly. The first settlers somehow used technology to ‘top up’ the energy available in order to ensure the planet was comfortably habitable.
The keyword here is comfort- there’s plenty of life on Patterson-6, enough to support a sizeable (not nowhere near Terran) population of humans. But most of it is plant life and what few animals have evolved have… well evolution selected for efficient animals. And as it turns out those are designs you really don’t want to eat. Even now there are only two groups of people who eat Patterson-6’s local flora and fauna, namely the destitute and the very rich; the former because they have no choice, and the latter to demonstrate that they have enough money to make just about anything edible.
As such most food consumed on Patterson-6 is non native in origin, and typically quite destructive towards the local life. Higher metabolic rates, speed, size and a general ‘faster burn’ means that introduced species can devastate local populations within months as everything local grows and reproduces so slowly.
The machines change that. Dubbed ‘Life Engines’ (or in some of the more extreme sects ‘God Machines’). They have some sort of subtle effect that no one really understands, but the impact of which is plain to see. Put simply the machines energise local life. It grows more quickly, it moves more quickly, and the general level of activity and expenditure of energy increases markedly in proximity to a Life Engine. The correlation is beyond doubt, but the causative link remains one of the Priesthood’s great unsolved mysteries.
Much of the local wildlife has adapted to the Engines. Even a small Engine’s area of effect is very large, but species have been observed migrating (very slowly) to areas of influence in order to reproduce. In more densely populated areas where the Engines never had to be repaired, colonies have become so large that life forms compete for space in the area of effect. In some such locations many Priests have observed the start of new evolutionary trends, with local wildlife beginning to exhibit proto-forms of weapons and aggressive behaviour to compete for space in the Engine’s AoE. Patterson-6 has carnivores, but they are mostly scavengers or detrirovores- not predators. However now there is an evolutionary niche for such a creature to exist in.
While some Priests speculate that the Engines may be having a direct impact on the evolutionary process somehow, it is generally accepted that any impact they have had is simply by changing the environment. Not, as the former postulate, a direct transformative effect on individuals.
For the human population the lack of light presents something of an issue. UV lamps are standard in all homes, and most street lights. Managing light intake on the planet is as important as managing food intake, with UV deficiency related illnesses being common. Mental illness is also a significant issue. While the local population have largely adapted, instances of depression are commonplace and visitors typically try to avoid staying on the planet too long.
Patterson-6 has seasons, but they are very mild thanks to an almost negligible axial tilt. Its orbital period is roughly 216 days. Settlements are mostly on or near the equator where the temperature is cool, but not cold. Warmth on the planet has to be created rather than found. That said fires are common and any outdoor gathering traditionally has a fire of some description. Many settlements have ceremonial fires that are maintained constantly. These fires usually mark meeting spots, market places, common land and other such public areas. In a subtle way fire is a symbol of community on Patterson-6, and the symbolism of fire finds a lot of use in the art and cultural products of the planet’s inhabitants. The roll of fire in forging metal also lends it a special place to a populace that has a fundamental spiritual connection to machines and industry.
The closer to the poles you get, the lower the temperature and light drop, and the fewer settlements you’ll find. These wasteland regions are devoid of all but the most basic life, and are the source of many myths and stories. The Priesthood maintains that the wastes are just that- wasteland, with maybe a smattering of moss and lichen. However rumours persist of monster and savage, predatory animals that prowl the plains. The given response to this is that if such animals can’t exist in the (comparatively) lush equator, what chance do they have outside of it? Nevertheless, there is one story that seems to fly in the face of such logic- the Nemesis Worm.
Descriptions of the animal place it as a long and worm like in shape, but huge in size. Reported sightings vary in claim from about 20 metres to 50 in length, with a scale like body covered in overlapping plates. It has a snake like head and large, sharp mandibles. It has numerous eyes, but they are all small and recessed. It has never been witnessed close enough to make out more detail than that. It’s usually reported a being seen emerging from tunnels in the ground or moving along the surface at speed. There are hundreds of reported sightings, but it has never been captured on film, or as a live specimen. Doubts are further raised as the most credible source of information about the worms was revealed to be false. It was an insurance scam, with a merchant attempting to claim for supplies and a vehicle that were destroyed by a worm while taking supplies north. Eager to get their hands on physical evidence of the worm, the Priesthood took a keen interest and the merchant quickly revealed the truth rather than lie to them. But almost any settler on the wastes will swear blind they are as a real as the sun.
Consistent sightings alone do not make a strong case for the existence of the Nemesis Worm. However the Priesthood has other reasons for suspecting the worm may be real- displacement. There’s very little soil churn on Patterson-6. Fields have to be carefully tilled and fertilized, and every so often ‘turned’ (essentially completely dug up and reset) as there is so little animal life to mix and feed the soil. However in the wastes soil samples show evidence of far more mixing. Older and younger soils are found together in the same sample from the same depth. Geologically inappropriate types of rocks are found in places where they should not be, and strangely soil from the wastes is more fertile than elsewhere, despite very little growing there.
This means something in the wastes seems to be mixing the soil, and whatever it is it’s doing it on a large enough scale to create a notable change in conditions- in a climate that can barely support mould. Other theories have been offered, but have been found wanting. While Patterson-6 is geologically active, the distribution of rock forms observed cannot be explained merely by tectonic activity. The idea that the soil was mixed a long time ago and whatever did it is long gone was also debunked by Master Yearning-in-coiled-springs, when he took samples from the same spot every 3 months for over 5 (standard) years and compared them with an isolated spot near the capitol.
Finally, the Priesthood have attempted to trap a worm on camera. All attempts have failed bar possibly one- LF12, which came closer than anything else. Camera LF12 was deployed at the foot of a small mountain quite deep into the wastes. After several days it reported mild tremors and was activated. Less than 30 seconds later the tremors became audible. A few seconds after that, the camera was knocked over to one side, and then the recording promptly cuts out as the signal is lost. Earthquake, avalanche, storm, or worm?
Patterson-6 is far cooler than most worlds supporting a population of its size. But this low temperature also causes sluggish weather patterns and consistently damp air. Wind is unusual, and in larger settlements it’s not unlikely that the same air will hang over the area for several days (along with its accumulated pollutants). Matters are not helped by the planet’s atmosphere which is denser and of a higher pressure than normal. Gravity is also on the high side at around 1.2g.
Visitors to Patterson-6 often describe the planet as ‘oppressive’ or ‘bleak’. At least the ones with the better vocabularies do. For others the popular description is ‘hell with rising damp.’ Why anyone wanted to settle the planet in the first place is a mystery.
Much of the planet’s history is lost to time. At one point it had a sizeable population, but it is believed the degradation of the machines prior to their subsequent repair by the priesthood forced large amounts of starvation and warfare across the planet as resources dwindled. Earliest recorded history documents clans, fifes and tribes struggling for supremacy over each other. One such power successfully managed to repair one of the machines, and use its effects to bolster resources for trade and to feed its own people. As humans tend to do, they used this newfound power to conquer, cajole, bargain and threaten their way into unifying the disparate groups- or in many cases, slaughtering them to the last.
This group’s name has long since been forgotten. However the organisation they established to oversee the repair and research of the Life Engines across their empire remains to this day- the Priesthood. The group fell, and the empire split, but the cultural changes and peace that the oppression had brought meant Chieftains weren’t so keen on war. Instead they agreed mutual sovereignty and co existence, with matters to be solved at a court in the sight of all peers rather than on a battlefield. A lot of wars happened anyway.
The current planetary government was empowered via a rather short civil war. The revolutionary government against a Lansdraad of feudal chieftains.
The initial re-conquest of the planet (or rather the patch of it that was colonised) was so thorough that many tribes and identities were utterly destroyed in the centuries following it. The Lansdraad had lost many of its cultural roots, and the cultures or interests whom they represented were at best hazy. For better or worse, Patterson-6’s people were moving towards a global culture and mindset, with boarders becoming little more than a nuisance. However the Landsraad firmly held to a fundamentally divisive system which required their subjects honour boarders that ultimately held no real meaning to them anymore. The old adage of safety in numbers just didn’t work when the population already feels safe.
No one is particularly sure what the first spark of the revolution was. But two chieftains fell near the capitol, and one was killed in a popular uprising in his own keep- all in the first night.
In the end the revolutionaries won- sort of. The problem was that the Lansdraad didn’t really do anything. Chiefs generally ran their own fifes as independent entities; the Lansdraad was just a meeting rather than a governmental body itself. The revolutionaries occupied the Landsraad hall a month into the war, following a series of running battles around and in the capitol. They declared themselves the new government; the chieftains were permitted to keep their titles in exchange for swearing loyalty to the new government ‘as surely as the old Lansdraad’ (something they were happy to do), and then promptly left for their fifes to carry on doing what they always had done.
The only real difference the revolution made was that now there was an actual government to tell the chieftains what to do. The problem was that government had won its military campaign on the basis of clever tactics, misdirection and exploitation of anti establishment sentiments in the capitol. Their ability to actually project force was marginal. At best. As such the government had no effective means to enforce its will, and thus the chieftains and government began an uneasy standoff game of ‘Don’t poke the Bear’.
Over time, the situation has evolved somewhat. Civil war between the government and chieftains is now largely unlikely. Chieftains are still the rulers of their own fifes, but must implement certain laws (hardly any of them do), pay taxes (not one has ever paid the full amount), provide levy (The chieftains have a very clear idea of the type of solider they’d prefer to be facing) and offer minimum rights to their subjects.
That last one is actually done, mostly to ensure there isn’t another revolution which, this time, could be led by someone with an endgame.
But the net result is this- the government of Patterson-6 can’t get shit done outside of its heartlands, and only real has real power in the capitol itself. No one takes it seriously. The Chieftains make it a point of pride to make the government’s life as miserable as possible, and will be utterly uncooperative unless there’s something in it for them. While the government now does have a standing army, thanks to careful intransigence by the chieftains its effectiveness is… dubious- especially measured against the combined might of the chieftains.
The Priesthood continued its task of maintaining the Life Engines and research. They’ve also acted as a sort of buffer between the chieftains and the government. Technically, the Priesthood served the Lansdraad, but it would be more appropriate to say they attended it. The Chieftains are proud men and women with sizeable armies at their disposal. Armies that sadly mean nothing if the priests decide to stop maintaining the Life Engines in their territory. Or worse they decide you’d make an excellent guinea pig for their latest weapons. The mere implication of this is so powerful that the Priesthood has never had to raise its hand to the Chieftains.
The Priesthood has a rather stand-offish approach with the government too. They manage all of their own funding and resources internally, and so are not dependant on the government. The same is true of the Chieftains. The only reason the government has held on to any power at all is that for the priesthood they make a convenient distraction and do provide administration and structure around the capitol. In effect, the ‘government’ is little more than a civic authority to handle the day to day running of the capitol and the surrounding areas on the Priesthood’s behalf.
The chieftains remain more autonomous, but when given orders by the priesthood they will follow them. Sometimes eventually, but they will be followed.