(Another background post this week – this time the desert world Skardree IV which Robert Garry visits in the novel ‘And Here The Wheel‘. No story spoilers!)
A world dominated by desert, Skardree IV is too close for comfort to its sun, Skardree. Most towns are built half submerged or underground to protect from the heat of the day and to retain heat during the cool nights. There are small polar ice caps which supply the majority of the drinkable water on the planet. The mid latitudes are dominated by a rocky desert called the Red Wash.
The planet was first inhabited in 2987 by a hardy group of pioneers who saw vision in the stark landscape. They hoped to convert the desert to something more hospitable using cheap terra formers. They failed and the population eventually died out.
People returned to Skardree IV in 3122 to find the empty towns and equipment still in relatively good condition. They re-populated the planet, intending not to change the planet but to accept it and adapt themselves. Taking cues from ancient Australian mining towns they established several successful cities with links to the polar caps where water could be evaporated, pumped and condensed back at the cities. They found that certain areas of the desert sand had a decent spread of elemental metals which had value on the Galactic market. This trade allowed for the import of water condensers, a technology crucial to population expansion. There is currently one major starport on the planet with all the usual amenities. For the price of a night’s accommodation a visitor can hire a life suit and head into the Red Wash. At dawn the setting sun appears to turn the desert rock and sand to liquid fire, a ‘hidden gem of beauty’ according to Random Intergalactic Gossip. Once the sun sets the desert comes to life with all manners of reptiles and insects prowling for their next meal.
The locals call the sun ‘Killer’ for the obvious reasons: off-worlders have died for simply remaining out in the open for too long. The working day on Skardree IV is split into two shifts, the ‘Warming’ shift from 6am to 11am and the ‘Cooling’ shift from 3pm to 9pm. The four hours in between are known as the ‘Siesta’. Everyone heads below ground to hide from the heat of the day, either drinking or sleeping until the Cooling shift starts.
Many of the early settlers shunned the established towns, preferring instead the isolated life that the desert afforded them. There are many half buried rondavel huts scattered through the desert, made from a combination of mud bricks and salvaged ship remains.
Despite the ubiquitous red dust that blows across the planet, the towns are blindingly white, designed for maximum heat dissipation. Survival is foremost on the population’s mind and this makes them hardy and intolerant of mistakes.