The Lure of the Koronus Expanse
Port Wander orbits around a bloated red star and is surrounded by shattered remnants of ancient asteroids, some of which were converted into other installations – such as shipyards, housing units, research stations, repair docks, storage facilities, depots, palatial manses and estates and crude habitats. It appears as a cityscape with high cathedral towers in its centre and a lot of docks and piers on its circular rim.
Due to its fast growth, the Port resembles a patchwork of different textures, since part of its structure was expanded by joining to it many small vessels, such as the Solistice Imperialis.
The station’s keel is characterized by repair yards, dry docks for small vessels and elaborate devices and probes set by the Adeptus Mechanicus in order to investigate Koronus Expanse’s Warp behaviour. Inside the city there are many corridors, vast markets filled with citizens and local traders (such as the Court of the Dead), and dark dens.
Located at the very fringes of the sector, Port Wander is often dismissed as a barely-lawful outpost, and never mentioned as one of the more impressive or honoured installations of the Imperial Navy and Battlefleet Calixis. Though technically a Navy station, Port Wander would not exist without the support and trade of various other Imperial Adepta, Chartist Captains, and Rogue Traders, a point that rankles many prideful naval officers. Those assigned there frequently view their posting as a punishment or an attempt by enemies in the service to drydock their careers, and they typically serve with resentment bordering on bitterness. In addition, the station is filled with swaggering civilian captains, merchants fat of purse and jowl, and interfering factions of every sort, from supercilious Administratum functionaries to scheming Inquisitorial Acolytes. Port Wander is far more than a simple military base.
Despite its poor (if well-deserved) reputation, however, Port Wander is one of the more important facilities of the Calixis Sector. It guards the entrance to a largely-unexplored section of space, rich with exploitable resources, powerful artefacts, lost souls to recover, and potentially unimaginable wealth. Also, though undisciplined when compared to a proper naval vessel, it is a veritable ideal of the Emperor’s Law when compared to what lies beyond it. Here there is rightful law, though it is often tempered by gelt and influence. On the other side there is no law other than what can be enforced with Bolter and Lance. This space station is the last true outpost of both the Calixis Sector and the Emperor’s Light. Beyond it there is only what law a captain imposes on his crew and his fiefdoms, or that which is imposed on him by cruel xenos or crueler fate
From a distance, Port Wander resembles a small Imperial cityscape, with spires and cathedral towers arching upwards and a huge Aquila marking its allegiance to the God-Emperor. Numerous long piers protrude from the sides with spider-like docking fixtures, ready to bring in a voidship and anchor it to the station. Smaller shuttle bays dot the station where numerous small spacecraft carry cargo and people between voidships and the station. Deep crevasses run along the station, showing the slow layers of expansions through the many decades and the somewhat patchwork nature of many of them which includes parts from small vessels such as the nearly intact hull of the Solstice Imperialis, grafted onto one side of the void station many centuries ago. Further construction and external maintenance is constant, with servitors crawling over areas of damage or expansion like flies over a bloated metal beast.
On the underside of the station are the main repair yards, where damaged ships can contract out for refurbishment and mending. The yards include entire sealed drydock bays, where smaller ships can be totally enclosed for more intensive work. Also along the station’s keel are a variety of elaborate and mysterious arrays and probes used by the Adeptus Mechanicus in their arcane research into the nature of the Warp passage leading through the Great Warp Storms to the Koronus Expanse beyond.
Across the length and breadth of the station are Lance emplacements, weapons batteries, torpedo launchers, and Void Shield generators, all placed for maximum efficiency and kept in readiness. In addition to these static defences, squadrons of heavily armed monitor craft are stationed near Port Wander, and warships from Battlefleet Calixis pass the port on regular patrol. Port Wander may be the gate to the Koronus Expanse but it is a gate that is guarded.
At any given time there are at least a half-dozen Rogue Traders docked at the station, as well as other merchant vessels, enormous transports, and numerous smaller craft moving into and out of docking stations like swarming insects. Other vessels move through the area, offloading raw fuel gases mined from the two larger planets or minerals and ice from the further reaches of the system. There are also numerous asteroids sharing its space, most of which have been turned into fuel depots, palatial manses and estates, crude habitats, storage facilities, voidship yards, and other more useful installations.
Physically, Port Wander is a maze of passageways, halls and chambers that has grown ever more complex as it has been haphazardly repaired and expanded. In many ways it more closely resembles a small hive city than a station, and within it bustles a changing population of strange and exotic individuals. Rogue Traders and their fellow explorers often spend many weeks in port while their ships are refuelled and repaired and cargo loaded or off-loaded. Missionaries charged with bringing the light of the God-Emperor to lost human worlds come to find passage into the unknown accompanied by pilgrim militia. Traders and smugglers whisper deals behind curtains in the station’s drinking dens, while mercenaries and bodyguards look for business. Here also are many items for sale which would normally not be found deeper in the Imperium, and better still, no questions are asked. Strange artefacts brought from the depths of the Expanse, exotic wines and narcotics from worlds yet unnamed, valuable gifts and tokens from appreciative traders, all this and more is traded throughout the artificially lit days and dimmed nights of the station. Finally, what cannot be found at the port can often be found outside it, for the system hosts a wide range of services, from extensive repair and refurbishment facilities, spare parts, and even vehicles and intersystem craft for sale. Watching over this constant carnival of outlanders are the Imperial Naval authorities, brooding in their Bastion with barely-concealed resentment and disapproval.
Port Wander Central Bastion
Though the entirety of Port Wander is technically the dominion of the Imperial Navy, their stronghold in this den of rogues and wanderers is the Command Bastion. It sits at the heart of the station, separated by code-sealed hatches, isolation bulkheads, and sentry weapons. Behind these defences are the staff and systems that keep Port Wander functioning and safe.
This cavernous room rises above the upper reaches of the superstructure, forming a grand deck house with dozens of consoles and displays, dimly lit and filled with the smoke of purification incense. The station weaponry is directed from here, along with other vital systems. Usually the centre is manned by junior officers unless there is a major docking or military operation ongoing.
One of the main spires reaching above the central axis of the station houses is Port Wander’s Sensorium, in which vast Auspex displays watch over the movement of all vessels of interest throughout the area and voidships in dock, logging them when they arrive, and monitoring them until they leave.
For those requiring in-system communications between ships and the port on commercial business, the Vox Centre Office will route messages as needed for a nominal fee, usually included with routine docking charges. For longer-range messages outside the system, the port’s Astropathic Choir-Sanctum can provide psychic communications — though since they are servants of the Imperial Navy, they may not give such requests priority without reciprocation in Thrones or favours.
Port Wander has several top-notch medicae amenities for those who can afford premium care. For the rest, there are smaller back-room offices that provide more basic services, such as setting bones or staving off infections. Most visitors rely more on the care their own ships provide, while Imperial Naval personnel have official care facilities for their treatment. The Adeptus Ministorum operates a crude hospice to the rear of the port, where they tend to those with no other hope of care. Service is free to all, and often the last place many unfortunates spend their days.
All Imperial Naval personnel are quartered in the Central Bastion; from the commander’s lavish quarters to the fetid bunkrooms for the lower ranks. Visiting Naval officers are quartered in fine cabins. Ratings and enginarium workers exist in huge barracks where dozens rest from the long day’s labour in squalid conditions.
Imperial Guardsmen are usually sequestered in these spartan quarters when their transport ships are in dock. Like most Naval installations, officers on both sides of the Aquila know the less the two intermix the better for everyone’s health. Many Rogue Traders who employ fighting brigades as part of their ship’s complement also use these facilities for their warriors, but grant them more leeway in travelling through the port.
The Stockade and Pressment Centres
Discipline for the crewmen on any Imperial Naval vessel is harsh, and violators of regulations are sent to the stockyards for sentencing, assuming summary judgements are not carried out on the spot. The kiss of the lash, gruelling days in the stockade or void-pillory, or even a swift round to the head are all punishments that can be meted out without trial for a myriad of crimes should the officer class see fit.
Located next to the stockades, the pressment centres house those hapless souls who have been impressed into service either at the port or by a visiting ship in need of ratings. All ships require untold bodies toiling in unending labour for them to function, and the pressmen do their best to fill these needs from wherever they can find warm bodies.
For affairs of honour there is The Circle, located not far from the stockades, where offended parties can settle disputes through trial by combat (or more frequently have their seconds fight for them). Crowds often gather as these are considered great sport (and free to boot), with numerous side-wagers conducted on everything from first blood to last punch (or strike if blades are used).
There are many dark places throughout the station, walled away by new constructions, powered only by flickering, half-exhausted lights and forgotten by almost all. These are the homes of the wretched refuse of the port, those who have escaped impressment or slavery, run from the law or debts, or simply fallen through the cracks of the station. Housed literally underneath the main decks, they rarely venture outside their lairs, unless in packs to pilfer food or other easily stolen items, only to vanish back into the depths of the dark tunnels when pursued. As the station builds more and more layers, older sections often lose power or airways are blocked, forcing the denizens of the underdecks to move elsewhere in search of new dwellings. Clashes with other groups are a frequent result, or worse still clashes with “civilised” areas unprepared for such encounters out of the darkness.
Adeptus Arbites Precinct Complex
At the bottom of the Central Bastion, separated by Arbitrator manned blast doors, the Adeptus Arbites watch and judge those who govern Port Wander. Here is where the servants of the Emperor’s Law reside and His Law is faithfully adjudicated. Heavily fortified like all Arbites Precincts, it can withstand almost any assault if needed and will stand as the last bastion of the Imperium should the rest of the station fall. There is rumour that the Arbites also maintain a hidden asteroid precinct-fortress as well, which they will neither confirm nor deny.
Port Wander has a population of roughly five million, and the majority of these people are civilians, all of whom must be housed within the port. From elaborate state rooms, simple berths, bunked quarters, or doss spaces near the outer hull all are available and all cost Thrones. For those not choosing to live in the station there are of course their own ships, if they are moored within a short distance and accessible by shuttle.
Merchants within the Gilt Processional attempt to sell their wares to prospective buyers
The Gilt Processionals are the vast and labyrinthine markets of Port Wander in which one can barter for strange and exotic wares or lose one’s life to a thief’s blade. The Gilt Processionals stretch for nearly a kilometre in a wide arc across the port, meandering between levels down wide holds that have long lost their original purpose, and twisting through cramped compartments thick with the scent of burning spices and heady narcotics. This ragged arc houses thousands of traders, whose stalls compete for space with criers hawking theirs dubious wares. Almost anything can be found in the Gilt Processionals if one has enough coin and knows who to ask.
Chamber of Gold
The Chamber of Gold is a great colonnaded chamber that opens off the Gilt Processionals. Here, beneath a painted ceiling showing Drusus the Warrior, the Gelt Brokers and money changers do their business. Vast loans may be negotiated from the rich robed factors of House Krin, and treasure from strange worlds bartered into Throne Gelt. On brass walkways above the factors and their scribbling scribes stand plate-armoured guards, their weapons and eyes watching for any attempt to interfere with the business of the Chamber.
The Court of the Dead
The Court of the Dead is the largest of the open holds that make up the Gilt Processionals. Some three hundred metres across, it forms the heart of the Processionals. Along its sides sit clusters of stalls from which spiced food and drink can be bought, and amongst the thoroughfares the greatest of Rogue Traders may exchange crude jests and rumours with void-crazed pilgrims. In the centre of the Court of the Dead one can find letter writers, watch displays of swordsmanship, pay to have one’s limbs or organs replaced with augmetics, and give coin for charts that claim to show passage to the untapped reaches of the Halo Stars. Above this swirling confusion of people, the faces of Rogue Traders stare down, etched into the metal of the ceiling and covered in precious gilt, each one the likeness of one who died seeking their desire beyond the Great Warp Storms.
Most Rogue Traders are gamblers at heart, and it is only natural they would frequent such facilities while on the port. There are scores of basic games of chance to be had in almost any bar, but Rota Fortunae is the finest dedicated hall for gamblers of all types, from high rollers wagering thousands of Thrones to smaller types pushing single gelt coins at a time. The décor rises with the stakes, and the rooms in the rear are dedicated to exclusive, invitation-only games. Here entire fortunes may be lost or made, and even entire starships are wagered on the turn of a card.
At the other end of the spectrum is Last Chance. It has no fixed location and it moves from place to place each night, with games where the stakes are not always measured in mere thrones. The regulars know where to look for it based on word of mouth and hidden runes left by the enigmatic operators. For novices who stumble across it or rollers desperate to try their luck, it may be their last chance indeed.
It is not surprising that a station as large as Port Wander has numerous places to purchase food and drink. The station’s taverns run a brisk business, both as public meeting houses and as places to grab a hot meal.
- The Blind Eye – This small-but-popular tavern lies near the station’s sunward shuttle bays, frequented by void travellers looking to do business. Many Rogue Traders use it as a meeting place for recruiting new comrades for their next voyage, especially those with prior experience in the Expanse.
Bloodstone – A much more dangerous place, the Bloodstone is a lowdecks tavern that lies off the Gilt Processional and is uncomfortably close to some of the passages leading to the station’s Black Holds. Only the toughest will ever gain the respect of the regulars; those who do not will rarely survive their second visit. To become regarded as a regular here is a mark of true respect among the scummers and heavies in the port.
Voidfarer’s Rest – A larger tavern near the Basilica, frequented by Navy officers. Operated by an ex-Navyman, it is covered with military decorations and battle prayers inscribed on yellowed parchment. By custom, the senior captains and command crew remain away from the place, and the mid and lower officers see it as somewhere to relax away from the pressures of the service. Civilian captains and their officers are exempt from the custom however, and friendly rivalries have resulted in some legendary brawls, leaving most with bruises, but also new drinking companions.
Places of Faith and Devotion
Faith is the essence of the Imperium, and on the edge of the unknown faith in the God-Emperor is one’s strongest shield against what waits beyond. Pilgrims on fool’s quests, Crusaders, missionaries, and fanatics are drawn to Port Wander like predators to a bleeding wound. The Port is thick with Imperial shrines and chapels tucked away in dead spaces, tended by ragged flocks who murmur prayers and light candles for hope. In the Central Bastion the formal cathedral echoes with entreaties of protection for those lost on the Sea of Souls. The Ecclesiarchy chaplains and ministers who watch over the port’s spiritual level are zealous in their task, for each day they see the signs of xenos corruption brought back from the dark places. Many believe the Emperor sealed off the Koronus Expanse for a reason, and any who would defy His actions are Heretics who deserve the pyre. Others view the Expanse as an opportunity to reclaim untold numbers of lost souls, and eagerly await their chance to make the journey. Internecine clashes between these and other differing views amongst the Ministorum are usually kept away from others, but outbreaks on holy days do occur where only the Arbitrators’ truncheons can restore calm.
The Solstice Imperialis is a derelict pilgrim ship that once ferried pilgrims to the station for many years, until their plasma drive failed to ignite. Despite the catastrophic implosion, no one was injured and the pilgrims took it as a sign of the Emperor’s grace. Over time the vessel was worked into the fabric of Port Wander itself and is now given over to chapels and sanctuaries of a hundred different branches of the Imperial Creed. Missionaries wishing to recruit militias of the faithful to accompany them beyond the Great Warp Storms often come to the Solstice to find strong souls willing to follow their faith beyond the circle of Imperial rule.
Numerous docking ports line the edges of the void station, managing the off-loading of hundreds of ships, from small inter-system ships to gigantic mass conveyors. The docks are also where most minor overhaul work and replenishments occur as ships take on all manner of provisions. Here, overworked Administratum Adepts are also charged with checking cargo, levying tariffs, and detecting contraband and proscribed goods; though as any smuggler will tell you, they are far from universally successful. A purse of Thrones works wonders in removing any bothersome questions amongst the dock officials.
Port Wander has shuttle bays located in roughly equidistant notches around the station. Given the multitude of voidships nearby, there is constant traffic into them. While most craft are dedicated to a starship or are Imperial Naval vessels, there are many for hire when short hops are needed. Some clans of shuttle pilots have been operating the same shuttles or lighters for generations, passing the ships from parent to child.
Port Wander has extensive repair yards located underneath the station where skilled void wrights can rectify damages caused by combat or accident. The station’s repair facilities are varied — smaller ships such as transports and Frigates can be worked on in cavernous, yawning zero-gee spacedocks that can be sealed against the void. For larger craft, there are yards on nearby asteroids that can accommodate even the vast bulk of the largest Imperial Battleships and mass conveyors.
Halls of the Mechanicus
The Halls of the Adeptus Mechanicus occupy a large, blister-like extrusion of metal and sensor spines at the base of the station. Here is where the Tech-priests conduct research into the strange objects brought out of the Koronus Expanse, and monitor the data sent from their many stations scattered throughout the solar system, only some of which are known to the Navy. The cavernous interior also hosts the altar to the Machine God, where hundreds of priests chant in binary rhythm with the station’s cyclic bass rumbling. The Main Enginarium is located not far from the Mechanicus Hall, and its enormous plasma reactors provide power for the station’s various systems, station-keeping thrusters, weapons systems, shielding, life support, and more. Extensive backup systems are in place in case of emergencies. With so many demands on its limited capabilities, however, large power drains such as Void Shield activations cause lights to dim across the port.