By Jon Allen

Opal is a penal world gone mad in the World of Progress. Formerly an industrial world the entire population (animal and vegetable) was wiped out in six months by a bacterial agent unleashed (officially - it was an accident) by the SLA Industries NBC Weapons Research Dept. A few survivors remained but their lives were short lived. SLA rounded them up to be taken away for treatment (their fate is still a mystery). Opal was discovered at the end of the fourth century but wasn‘t colonized until 590. In the space of three decades it became a massive industrial world. It‘s main output was from the huge mines that tapped away at the huge deposits of fossilised fuels on the planet. Massive refineries on the size scale of Artery‘s Angel facility sprang up. The biggest was in the city of Deychanbi on the northern continent. Opal was sixty percent land and of this landmass over seventy percent was desert. Ten percent was "beltland" (the land separating the desert from the ice covered poles). Apparently Opal was once a jungle world with masses of life (pre-historic lifeforms). Then the collapse of the neighbouring planet system caused massive changes in the stellar region. The Opal system was effected with four of the system‘s eleven planets being bombarded with debris. Opal‘s orbit changed and nearly wiped out all the life on the planet - hence the large amounts of fossilised fuel available beneath the crust). Some life did survive but the gradual change of the environment from temperate to arid desert caused many new lifeforms to evolve over the millennia and most of the old lifeforms to die out. SLA theorists reckon that if the planet hadn‘t of changed then it would have been ninety percent probable that intelligent life would have existed on Opal by the time the WoP had arrived there.

By the end of the sixth century much of the planet was made up refineries but fast running out of fuels to extract. When the planet‘s resources were centered to the development of alternative, artificial power sources. Huge reactors replaced the refineries. Many accidents occurred and many people died. A lot of the details are widely available. Soon the planet changed again to become the biggest producer of reactor systems in the WoP. Producing everything from mini-reactors for APCs to huge Fusion plants for the Atmosphere processors used on most worlds. Then at the beginning of the seventh century people started to die in one of the outer lying sectors of Deychanbi. A disease had spread it‘s way onto the planet. SLA quickly quarantined the planet and searched out every person who‘s transport records showed them being on Opal for the last six months. Within five years the population was ten percent of what it was. SLA withdrew to the colonized moons of the planet and watched as a world died. Radio communications were increasing as the few still alive sent pleading messages for help. Then on New Years Day 721 the last message was sent.

Approximately six months after the final message was received from Opal the SLA Foldship *Pallasades* came into orbit of the planet and off load a scout ship of Dark Finders. What they discovered were dead cities. They located a few pockets of insane people who‘s minds had become damaged by the death around them and the prospect of dying of massive organ failure. The Dark Finders returned and after they were tested for the disease they reported that the world remained fully intact and may of the automated factories were still producing en masse. Continuing to pollute the world.

Slayer read the report and ordered a massive clean up of the world and requested that world should be sanitised for re-population. By the end of 723 the world was announced safe for habitation. The SLA researchers predicted a twenty percent chance that the disease would recur again within the millennia and an almost one hundred percent chance that one day the disease will return in rather a mutated form. But the original strain of virus had been isolated and an anti-body and had been created.

The Dept. of Justice at this time were facing a dilemma. And they went to Slayer with a proposal that they knew would be thrown back into their faces. To their surprise it was agreed immediately. The request was simple. They wished for a world to be used to off-load convicts onto. A place where once they arrived they need never be removed and could be forgotten about. Slayer suggested Opal. No new people had arrived on the planet as yet and as Opal was far from the major space lanes was ideally suited to this kind of development.

By the mid seventh century the first convict ships had arrived bearing men and women and some aliens sentenced for crimes against people of SLA. Drug lords, tech runners, back room traders and the lick. The sort of people that would be able to adapt and form a society.

Within a hundred years a new society was flourishing under the watchful gaze of Slayer. Similar in the manner of Orienta. The criminals thrived in the new environment. A society of standing and power developed. Of groups which fought amongst one another and yet formed alliances and stood together to protect in what they believed in. Violence was rife but this came to an end when Xavier Montoya arrived. Formerly an agent with Internal Affairs he had started in dealing with technology from the SLA R&D labs. Stealing new weapons and devices and selling them on. IA and Cloak both investigated and found him guilty and he was lined up for one of the propaganda show trials that SLA occasionally used to keep people in line. Until Mr Slayer discovered the file and learned that Montoya was of huge intellect and was living a capitalist‘s life. In some way Slayer admired Montoya‘s courage to do what he had done. Slayer offered Montoya a choice. Live a life as "unofficial" governor of Opal or face the wraith of Cloak. Montoya chose the former and was shipped to Opal.

He was given special favours to allow him to set up with some of the smaller gangs and organisations and quickly won favour for his ”harsh but fair” regime. Soon he had allied himself with many organisations of power on Opal and set up The Council. An organisation of overseers. The leaders of the most powerful crime syndicates on the planet. Whilst internal power struggles inevitably ensued the end result was that everyone had a leader. A big daddy that would hit you hard if you stepped out of line. Montoya was rapidly replaced and soon the Council became rather paranoid and developed into one massive crime syndicate that ran the show. Disagreements were laid aside and what became of the council was a group of men and women all obsessed with the same thing ”power over the people”. The council formed an army of men to patrol the street and collect from the civilians. For once everyone knew where they stood and a hierarchy had been established. Montoya was recalled from his exile a changed man but one who could keep the council from in-fighting. This he did with aplomb.

Observers from the World of Progress watched as the people of the planet began trading with one another and fighting small trade wars which regularly broke into open violence. The Council often stepped in and ruled against one side. The weak die and the strong evolve. Soon there many organisations of varying sizes in different sectors constantly changing with the frequent arrival of new prisoners. But one thing remained the same. The Council. Although the members issued commands and orders they themselves kept themselves very much to themselves. The ruled from a distance and let the natives continue to fight provided it didn‘t become too widespread and involve too many people. Or that it didn‘t threaten their power. As long as their fee-collector and scouts were not impeded all was well. Anthropologists said that a mini-World of Progress had developed with the Council ruling in the same manner as SLA did. There were disagreements regarding this but in essence it was true.

As of SD901 Opal was one of the successes of SLA. If you should show personal initiative to prove your enterprise in the world (became a criminal ruler) then instead of eliminating this it was allowed to flourish. In your own personal sectioned of area of the WoP; Opal. Slayer believed that if you thought you could do better then go ahead - but do it on Opal. Just remember though. Being a criminal is one thing. Speaking out against SLA is still punishable by death. Slayer made a clear line between making money out of braking the law and actually being seditious. Producing your own goods was seditious. Selling them wasn‘t. Stealing SLA property was seditious. Selling them on wasn‘t. In the end Slayer and the Dept. of Justice had final say. On Opal ninety nine percent of population were those who didn‘t disagree with the system but thought that they could make money from it.

Entrepreneurism is against the law.

SLA Industries History File No:IA-(MrSl-off)122562278.120001(C)
This file and it's associated sections are classified SCL6. Anyone found to be in possession of these files in any form electronic or otherwise without proper authorisation is subject to arrest, investigation, trial and related penalties. If found please return to your nearest SLA divisional office/Main Shiver Station/Any Operative Unit.

Xavier Montoya & Opal Council.

When Xavier Montoya arrived on Opal he not only found a flourishing society within the already established settlements but a massive criminal world in which everyone was working agaimst one another and trying to be "the best". Murder was happening openly in the streets and gangs and units of criminals were being created and destroyed on a daily basis. Some people who came to Opal wanted to live a new life but most so Opal as a land of freedom to do what they do best. Activities that previously were against the law were now common practice on the street. Street kids as young as six and seven were running in streets toting homemade weaponry looting bodies for the currency they had (drugs, alcohol, tobbaco; anything that could be used for trade).

At first Montoya was filled with dispair. Over three million people from all over hte WoP had been dropped off onto Opal never to be picked up again. To these folk life was long party. None of them *knew* of the history of the planet and that the virus may spring up again and wipe them all out. It was something SLA had neglected to tell them. All they were interested in was ruling over those who had less than them and toppling those who had more. Montoya saw this as a no win situation but with no outside help from SLA or anyone else for that matter (his Darknight contacts tried to have him killed when SLA caught him for fear of *their* truth being given away) he saw little option but to try and start a hierachy.

Xavier went to ground for several years planning his campaign. He could have walked into a city and said "I am the leader!" He knew that he would die within minutes. During his hding he secretly contacted as many of the major criminal leaders that had survived for the last few months. A few sent search parties to have this newcomer killed. A few simply said go away. A few listened and thought and a few admired Montoya's vision and attempted to lure him for their own needs and wants. All of this enabled Montoya to establish himself as a name albeit not one that was particularly well established or should be taken seriously.

During this time Montoya had contacted a number of criminals willing to work for him because they beleived in his ideals and a few rogue SLA Operatives joined Montoya. At first this riled Montoya but he realised that they could be used as an asset as anyone trained as well a SLA operative would be useful for those odd occasions when people needed to be leaned upon.

Eventually Montoya arrived in the main city of Opal - Phlebas and along with his small but efficient army took over the former SLA Industries HQ. The fight was long and bloody but ultimatly successful and with his team of soldiers and his supporters from the ghettos and the main criminal elements of Opal he set up the Council. A group of thirty two enigmatic men who's identities were either highly open and publicised to so shady and secretive that some people didn't believe they existed.

With several alliances under his belt Montoya set about creating a set of rules that people should work by on Opal. Many of these rule proposals caused friction within the council as many of the council memebers would be hit hard by the rules. Eventually a clear set of rules was created to be enforced by the secret police that had become the council's bodyguards and henchmen. Whilst the number of these secret soldiers was small they carried with them little concern for kindly meeting out justice - obliterating those who speak out against the council was their main concern and this they did with aplomb and occasionally a bomb!

A few years after the inception of the council and with it's supporters growing in numbers each day a major discovery was made. Montoya was in league with Mr Slayer and had regular contact through an isolated communications channel with the tall one. This came as horrific news and as soon as the council became aware it was scadalised and tried to cover it up by removing Montoya. Montoya was lamost killed and went into hiding in the ghettos. The communications with Slayer ended and Slayer was concerned - deeply concerned. He off-loaded a number of special operatives from the Dark Finders and the Black Chapter on the planet on permenent assignment. They were to help Montoya seize back control and perform as chief bodyguards and leaders of the secret police service. The units located Montoya and protected him from many attacks.

Meanwhile the council was suffering from internal feuds and power struggles that had resulted in their abandonment of the SLA building. They became homeless - roaming around the cities and never meeting in one place. They become more mysterious and they're influence became more dominant. Their forces enforcing the rules with a fist of iron. Any crime was treated the same and the perpetrators were slaughtered violently. Contacting council members was next to impossible - they always contacted you if they learned you wished to see an audience - and this they did rarely. Council memebers were being killed off by other memebers frequently and then they realised that Montoya needed to come back because he had no enemies. He was always there and no one questioned this.

Montoya was eventually found and he was eventually persuaded to return to remain as the lynchpin of the council in order to stop it from ripping itself apart. Montoya agreed and used his new resources not so much to police the planet but to act as intelligence gathering for any possible uprisings. These were quelled with ease and Opal is currently under a state of change. Montoya is re-affirming his grasp on the planet and his operatives are only just beginning to establish firm contacts within the major criminal groups outside of the council.

It is predicted by SLA that within twenty years Montoya will be dead and if this happens then they will have three choices. Let Opal burn itself out with constant rioting and murder. Despatch a new leader to take over from Montoya. Start afresh by re-releasing the virus that wiped Opal out in the first place.

Mr Slayer will make the final choice when Montoya is no longer a force on Opal.

The Geography of Opal

Opal at present is a hot, dry and arid world for the main part. It has only one albeit vast ocean and a number of small inland seas within it's two continents. There a many small islands and whilst it became a massive industrial world during it's time under SLA influence the extent of the dominating megalopoli is less than that of other worlds.

The small islands that dot the vast Maritz Ocean have not been fully esplotied although once they were a major home for rich and pwoerful on the planet and the one large island of Gorash still has a massive network of huge cable cars running through it's mountainous landscape which stretches right down to the coast. Within these huge mountains are the former estates of the lords and and the families that once ruled Opal. It is also here that the ground base was located buried beneath the highest mountain where the atmospheric testing of the virus was. The massive cable cars are a sight to behold and it is still used as many criminal rulers live in these old estates. The cities on Gorash have not been tainted by SLA and have remained luxurious havens where only the rich of the Opal society roam.

Khamazad was once the capital and boasted a population once of nearly one hundred million people. It's architecture is wildly different from Mort in that the city has remained flat and has been able to expand north into the tundra and south into the temperate regions. Upward construction has remained minimal and Opal was never given te chance to build down into the crust. It is an unusual cities where you can go from temperatures of +40 to -20 in one day between northern and southern sectors of the city. A place where the only things to fall from the sky are either sand, through to blinding snow.

There is high population of gangs and criminal organisations within Khamazad and many of these inhabit the Cavern. A massive hollowed out mountain on the edge of the city that used to be a gas storage facility. The gas has escaped fully and the criminals entered and set up many businesses, homes and clubs within it's interior. It is busy constantly but doubly so at night when the clubs open and offer something for everyone - literally.

The smaller continent of Cartargia boasts the huge deserts that Opal was renown for and many smaller cities and settlements. The continets is linked by a massive and still funcioning network of highways with massive automated fusion driven road trains that go back and forth along their chosen route acting as service stations. Cars enter up a ramp at the rear of the train and are parked in cavernous car parks just above road level before driving out of a ramp at the front and overtaking the slow moving train and carrying on. These are now mobile ammo dumps and trade areas. They are treated a neutral territory and are frequently used by warring factions to meet peacefully. Frequently bloodshed occurs within them and Montoya's troop units that patrol these highways quickly quells them by stopping the trains and ending that train's neutrality. They then board and don't leave until the factions stop fighting or the train is destroyed. These trains can act as moving townships and some are. Some have their own rulers and their tribal units which take exception to strangers arriving on the helipads or the entry bays at the rear where cars and trucks enter to stop.Unbeleivably many people have cars - some much more primitive than others - or bikes on Opal as Opal was once a large maufactuer of automobiles and the parts for them. As a result the population has taken many of the eisting vehicles and many have also broken into the factories and started up the massive machinery to make their own personalised cars or bikes.

Opal is orbited by an etensive network of manned space stations with specialised security operatives aboard and the main station of Excalibur 1 houses a fighting force of five hundred troops - two squadrons of ion drive fighters and a squadron of bombers and four mass drivers. The other twenty one stations have one mass driver and can bombard the planet to oblivion if it is so desired. A communications blanket surrounds the planet allowing only authorised communications. A foldship is constantly on standby in the system to ensure no DN or Thresher raids. Only authorised prison transports are allowed onto the planet and their are strict security measures to ensure that no prisoners get aboard whilst these are on the ground - a team of former Cloak Operatives is quite adequate.

Opal itself is orbited by one moon with two installations on it. Both small. One is Deep space monitoring post that dot the WoP and also acts as a local navigation point for foldships. The other is a research facility which is highly classified and is believed to be deserted.

End Transmission. Have a nice trip....

Jon Allen

The remainder of the article is part of an E-mail message sent to me by Jon.

Sorry Pythagoras. The thing about Opal society is that the criminal element plays second fiddle to survival. My idea of Opal was a similar situation as played out in Escape from New York.

Whilst outwardly the denizens of this hell-hole would appear to be psychotic it has gone beyond the violent stage into the much intimidation and threatening behaviour. The threat of violence can often be more useful then actually being violent. Haven‘t you ever (even as a joke) threatened to hurt somebody if the don‘t do something and they‘ve done it. I am not saying that violence doesn‘t exist on Opal. The complete opposite is true.

Opal (as I will describe when I move onto the politics of Opal) has a semi-rigid hierarchy. Opal in some ways proves that there is honour amongst thieves. As I mentioned in my original email on Opal the planet is governed in the larger settlements by a council of criminal overlords. These overlords never remain in power for very long as paranoia is rife amongst them and assassinations are frequent. But they rule from the dark. It‘s their minions who do all the leg work. They have built up over decades a system of you belong to the Council or you live a very difficult life. Racketeering and extortion are the two biggest businesses on Opal. A large majority of the citizens of the planet lead what you could call ordinary lives in that they won shops and businesses. Fine the subject and matter of these businesses are considered very illegal in the WoP. It would almost be like going into your local supermarket and buying Crack Cocaine over the counter as you would a packet of cigarettes. Opal has become fragmented and there are areas that have degraded into massive free-fire zones but these tend to be very few and far between. I am desperately trying to think of something you can relate it to that you would understand and I think that if you compare Opal to Orienta on a much larger scale then you may get the idea. The only difference being that the Council is rather omnipresent. You don‘t want to piss them off - if you keep your nose clean than you won‘t have any worries. One final thing - everyone is looking out for themselves on Opal and this leads to a lot of paranoia. This is increased by not wishing to piss off the council either. I like to think of a rather wartime Germany type feeling. You may be selling nasty drugs to eight year olds and making some money out of it but remember to pay your share to the Council or face having your door kicked down in the middle of the night and having nasty man hold a knife to your throat. Hold back on your ten percent of all sales then this is considered fraud!!!I‘m notsure if this clears anything up for you Sam but I did try. Basically don‘t play it as a massive criminal free for all. In prisons of today there is trade and bartering going on under the eye of the guards and the wardens. Consider Opal like this with the Council being self-appointed guards and wardens. I‘m sure somebody is going to pick holes in this but I don‘t much care because I managed to make it work. There are a lot of gaps in this which I will try and address soon but I am little tied up for time at the moment.