|Battered and Bruised, Mercury Still Has a Few Tricks Left...|
Just like any other element in the setting, I wont shy away from the bad and the good - and that includes faith. Its a tricky subject, for sure, but I have never been one to back down from a creative challenge.
The closest planet to the sun has a lot going for it. Its an amazingly tough place to live, but the rewards are enormous as well. Heavy metals, antimatter, and harnessing solar energy have all played a role in making Mercury an economically attractive place. How it became the second home of the Roman Catholic Church was due to an odd series of circumstances. Now, the Church, which considered its introduction onto Mercury as a bit of a windfall, is discovering that nothing comes without a price.
So, we have Mercury, the new Vatican (of sorts).
The Fires of Faith - Mercury: Mercury is an isolated polity, dominated by a number of small and isolated mining and research communities that either stay in the planet’s shadow, huddle in the shadow of the polar regions (with its dwindling water reserves), or embedded well into the crust. Many of the communities are examples of innovation married to cutting edge technology - the result of existing in such an extreme environment. The largest city, Tarshish, is built on what amounts to huge rails, and travels along the sun-line eliminator at a leisurely 14 km/hr, staying within the very narrow band of hospitable temperature ranges.
Tarshish has a population of about 100,000, well in excess of the next largest community which is a habitat in orbit in mercury’s umbra. Tarshish serves as the nexus of Mercurian trade and society and is the only large downport that can handle bulk Trans-A freighters. The history of Tarshish, and much of modern Mercury, began with a series of small venture mining firms who established a presence in the Mercurian well. While most stayed conservatively in orbit and the poles or only set down on Mercury for a few hours at night to harvest heavy metals and trace He-3, the Moors Company successfully lobbied and purchased a large band of land circumnavigating the planet’s equator for a relatively inexpensive price.
Plans were put in place for a traveling city that would serve as Moors’ headquarters for their expanding planetary interests. However, shortly after the tracks were laid, Moors went bankrupt and the rights to its territory passed legally to the OCRI Administrator who would serve as trustee and arbiter on which bids would assume ownership of Moors’ Mercury holdings. In a wholly unexpected move, the Administrator transferred the Moors’ land rights to the Roman Catholic Church (RCC). Despite numerous legal suits against the Administrator personally, and OCRI in general, the transfer stood (largely due to the sweeping powers Administrators were granted by OCRI and the General Assembly).
While the RCC had put in a bid as a pro forma exercise, it did not expect to win the Moors’ holdings. Mercury had, through happenstance, a disproportionately large number of active Catholics and Catholic-friendly Orthodox Christians working the mines and research stations (which is theorized part of the reason the Administrator made his decision). With the rights to the region, the RCC contracted the CSE BR/BP Distributions to continue construction of the Moors facility. In 2085 the new city, Tarshish, came online and almost immediately became a significant economic windfall for the ailing Church.
Besides the booming He-3 trade, Mercury enjoys a number of other economic windfalls. It's the ideal place to build a near-solar power system. Huge microwave antennas and solar-powered lasers clutter the space in Mercury’s umbra - beaming light to solar sailcraft and microwaves/radiation directly to the inner planets for ever-increasing energy demands. Mercury’s close orbit is also a major strategic issue for OCRI, as the huge microwave antennas and powerful lasers could do some damage in the wrong hands.
During the fall of 2028 Tarshish-based geologists announced they had found evidence of fossilized life buried deep in the mantle of Mercury. In 2030, biologists and paleontologists from four different Earth-based research institutions, sponsored by the Vatican, confirmed the recovered rocks did carry what was clearly bacterial and nematode-like extraterrestrial life.
In 2031, Tarshish is a veritable boom town of scientists, the curious, and watchful priests. back on Earth, the Vatican closely controls access to Tarshish, the fossil records, and the Moor’s holdings. Thus far, despite significant efforts, no other fossilized records of life have been found on Mercury. Tarshish also serves as the central hub and frequent downport for off-planet trade - especially in the increasingly valuable antimatter trade (for which Mercury is the largest supplier). Successful large-scale testing of antimatter powered capital ship drives has recently driven up anitmatter prices particularly for antihelium.
Notably, despite controlling access to one of the most profound scientific discoveries of all time, the RCC has refused to officially comment on the discovery of extraterrestrial life.
I think I finally have a name for the setting. I will sit on it for another day, to mull it over - but I think, finally, we have a winner. Stay tuned.