Rhenium, The Fortress and The Sun


After a 197-year space odyssey in 26 gigantic space carriers, around 9 million descendants of survivors from Earth landed on the planet Rhenium, so called because of the proliferation of the rare element discovered on the island now named The Orb.


The colonists settled and expanded across the habitable landmass and islands. A thousand years after Landing, the population of Rhenium numbered approximately one and a half billion people.

The Fortress

The Fortress is a solid asteroid fixed over 300,000km in space above Rhenium. Like Earth’s Moon, the Fortress used to spin on an axis. Like the Earth and Moon, the gravitational influence of Rhenium gradually slowed down The Fortress’s rotation and, in turn, the Fortress acted upon Rhenium to create tides on the waters of the main planet. The Fortress, like Earth’s Moon, no longer spins itself and, long before humans arrived on Rhenium, The Fortress became fixed in the “face” it presents to the main planet

In the Age of Orbiting (the decade before landing on Rhenium and first colonisation), plans were made to use The Fortress as a communications transmitter. In time this communications centre developed into the impregnable headquarters of The Senior Class red Orders (The Scaffold, The Garrison and The Temple.) The administrative buildings of the red Orders occupy a region of The Fortress facing Rhenium, largely housed in an artificial atmosphere under an immense, transparent cyborhenium dome (a stronger form of the same material from which PolyWalls on Rhenium are constructed.) The habitable section of The Fortress is always bathed in light from The Sun. There is a “Dark Side” of The Fortress which has never been explored and is understood to be barren and freezing.

Mercury (the head of The Network Order) controls access to The Fortress via UniQuad, the outer space transport system launched from a heavily guarded island in the Northern Plunge, just off the north-eastern tip of The College. UniQuad launches in a five-hour window during each day when the narrowest gap exists between the Fortress and UniQuad island and only when atmospheric conditions are favourable. More frequent journeys to and from The Fortress are scheduled in Spring, Summer and Autumn than in Ventosa or Winter when Rhenium’s atmosphere is more unstable.

The Sun

Rhenium and The Fortress, orbit a star named The Sun in memory of Earth’s star. The annual orbit of Rhenium around The Sun is fixed and there is an axial tilt causing the “North” of the planet to be significantly warmer than the “South.” The year is shorter than the ancient Earth year but the days are slightly longer in absolute terms. A second on Rhenium is longer than the equivalent measurement on Earth.

Early astronomers kept the 24 hour clock but did not distinguish between am and pm (so the population refers to fourteen o’clock and so on.) During the Age of Ordering (Years 15 – 18 OWO) Rhenium scientists fixed the new timings of years, seasons, months, weeks, days, hours and seconds.

Geography and Maps

The Islands

  • UniQuad (run by Mercury, The Scaffold and The Garrison)
  • Crown Islands – 21 habitable – (run by The Crown)
    • Sunshine Isle, Sunshine Eye, Indigo, Wentworth
    • Lorca, Louisionne, Nonni, Pom, Poire
    • Danton, Robespierre, Bon, Dubois, Tappi, Roland
    • Gumbo, Jet, Frantique Major, Frantique Minor, Versailles, Yarday
  • Green Island (run by Midway’s Proprietor)
  • Little Green (run by Midway’s Operator)
  • Nursery Islands (run by specialist NurseryCutters)
    • Endurance (Nursery Polar outpost)
    • Enduros Lagoon and islands
  • The Orb (Rhenium’s power station, home to The Orb’s Campus, The Terminal and its energy-producing recycling systems)
  • Isle of Rapture (run by The View’s Impresario connected to West View by WaterHack)
  • Isolation (run by The Cradle connected by tunnel to The Nest Campus)
  • Detention (run by The Academy connected by tunnel to North Academy)
  • The Mill (the largest island) – Northern Mill is temperate; Southern Mill is freezing

The oceans, plunges, seas, gulfs, bays, harbours

  • Solar Ocean, Polar Ocean
  • Northern Plunge, Southern Plunge
  • Windsor Sea
  • Green Gulf, Mercury Gulf, Mozart Gulf
  • Mill Straits
  • Bay of the Dock, Detention Bay, Poly Bay, Sleepy Bay, Tearful Bay
  • Benjamin Waters
  • Academy Harbour, Nursery Harbour, WaterHack Harbour, Temple Harbour
  • Enduros Lagoon
  • Garrison Landing, Quad Point
  • There are artificial water reservoirs on The Crown and in The Park (Moat Tenebris)

The bridges

  • The different Orders control 10 Bridges connecting different regions of The Landmass and The Landmass to The Islands:
  • (Red Garrison) Ramzor Bridge = from UniQuad to The Network
    • named after Ramzor Johnston, the first Sovereign Scaffolder
  • (Red Temple) Rashida Bridge = from The Shrine Campus to The Terminal Campus
    • named after Rashida Khan, the first Deus
  • A sealed tube beneath the Rashida contains an artificial canal, The Vein of Lethe, in which The Temple transport the dead and the (unmistakably) dying, in boats called arks, to The Orb for recycling
  • (Red Scaffold) Zambu Bridge = from The Dock to the Processing Plant
    • named after Zambu Gant, the first Judge and the Inventor of Branding
  • (Orange Crown) Orvonne Bridge = from The Orange Palace to Sunshine Isle
    • named after Orvonne Windsor, the first Emperor
  • (Green Orb) Gudrong Bridge from The Orb to The College Campus
    • named after Gudrong Lund, the first Chief
  • (Green Midway) Grayton Bridge from Midway to The College Campus
    • named after Grayton Prado, the first Proprietor
  • (Blue View) Klondyke Bridge = from The View to The Square Campus
    • named after Klondyke Vaughan, the first Impresario
  • (Blue Cradle) Andor Bridge = from The Cradle to The View
    • named after Andor Klint, the first Executor
  • (Blue Cradle) Benjamin Bridge = from The Cradle to The Academy
    • named after Benjamin Brain, the first Chancellor
  • (Purple Mill) Portolan Bridge = from The Mill to The Square Campus
    • named after Portolan Day, the first Broker

The borders

Any Individual from any Class in any Order can travel freely throughout Midway and Midway Central. All Individuals are subject to Transit Controls when not travelling throughout Midway and Midway Central. All borders are protected by Garrison Guards controlling PolyWalls and UniGates.

The PolyWalls are constructed from cyborhenium (a translucent material manufactured from a blend of Rhenium, plastic and metal alloys and organically powered by Rhenium.) Attempts to breach PolyWalls result in death; the top half of the border is fatal and if you accidentally walk into the bottom half you are physically repelled.

There are high fence posts at some distance between the “sheets” of cyborhenium but UniGates are solid constructions, varying in style between the Orders. You need Warrants to pass through UniGates and across bridges. Before you are Branded, you can pass through UniGates and across bridges via iris recognition or fingerprinting. Once you have a Brand, the central nub on the Brand contains the technology that allows you passage. WarrantVassals (in The Network) are charged with issuing Travel Warrants.

The Balance

Keeping The balance

This phrase has become the sacred principle of the NOW (New Order of the World)

To Keep The Balance all Individuals should:

  • play your role in Rhenium’s hierarchy, respecting all above you and all below you
  • understand how your role contributes to Rhenium’s success and harmony
  • work hard at your role for the whole of your life
  • follow all instructions issued from above and obey all Scaffold regulations and laws
  • report any suspicions of UnBalanced behaviour or speech
  • Float gracefully when the time is right



Praise the Orders

Keep The Balance

Praise The Scaffold preserving The Balance

Praise The Garrison protecting The Balance

Praise The Temple sustaining The Balance

Praise The Crown guiding The Balance

Blessed be the green and the blue and the purple

Blessed be the Classes and The Ginnel and The Cut

Blessed be Supporters who service our lives

Blessed be the land and the oceans and sky

May I know myself, nourish myself, believe myself, anchor myself

Keep my place, keep my word, keep my path, keep my faith

I shall be, breathe, work, die, dream.

Praise the Orders

Keep The Balance

The Twelve Orders

Everyone joins one of 12 Orders: The Scaffold, The Garrison, The Temple, The Crown, Midway, The Nursery, The Orb, The View, The Cradle, The Academy, The Mill or The Network. Between the ages of 7 and 17 children spend half the year (5 months) in a Campus dedicated to training and teaching the “mysteries” of each of the 12 Orders. The Campuses are named: The Dock, The Citadel, The Shrine, The Orange Palace, Midway Central, The Park, The Terminal, The Arena, The Nest, The College, The Square and The Hub.

Everyone is Branded with a distinctive left cheek tattoo denoting the Order they have joined. Branding takes place in a week of ceremonies every year in The Processing Plant. Individuals can apply to be Branded any time after the age of 7 but, before the age of 17, permission can only be granted by a parent or guardian and a Sponsor. Between the ages of 17 and 21 only a Sponsor is required to proceed to Branding. Individuals are considered “adult” at the age of 17. At the age of 21, if you haven’t voluntarily selected a Brand, The Scaffold will choose one for you.

The Brands contain the technology to access services, confer Credit and monitor location through OmniTech, the planet-wide surveillance system. Hard currency does not exist on Rhenium; attendance, punctuality and productive work accumulate Credit, which is deducted from an Individual’s (virtual) Trove in exchange for services, goods, health-monitoring and entertainment.

Between the ages of 17 and 21 the majority of Individuals commit to the Order that most suits their aptitudes, skills and talents. Before the age of 21 UnBranded Individuals can apply to transfer between Orders, always beginning with a training period in the Order’s Campus.

Supporters and the Supporter Nexus

About 19% of the planet’s population are given a coloured stripe on their left cheek which shows they have been designated a Supporter. Most Supporters agree to their designation; some choose the role because they have limited physical capacity; some are guided into the role because they have limited cognitive capacity; a few choose the role because they want an undemanding and servile life; a few are forced into the role through criminal routes (blackmail or people trafficking.) Midway HelpLords often campaign for Supporter Rights.

Individuals can be designated Supporters at any age from 7 to 21. After the age of 21 you can only be designated a Supporter by red Order Senior Class Individuals and it is usually a Re-Branding Punishment on The Fortress.

The Supporter Nexus is the word-of-mouth communications system that exists between all Supporters. Branded friends of Supporters benefit from the Supporter Nexus, particularly when a message needs to bypass OmniTech and remain unarchived.

The Brandless

Around 3.3% of the planet’s population choose never to be Branded into an Order. The Brandless are considered, either:

  • philosophically resistant to ideas of conformity
  • too clever or talented to be Supporters but resistant to holding responsibility
  • violent, subversive, chaotic, criminal, distressed, volatile, eccentric

The Brandless are given a cross on their forehead which connects to OmniTech but only records location and cannot accumulate Credit, access services or monitor health.

The Brandless rely on charity; they live mostly in Midway and often undertake tasks in return for food, drink and sometimes shelter. Outside population centres, Dole Cupboards are available for the Branded to leave food, drink, clothes, blankets and other charitable donations for the Brandless to collect. Registrars control the distribution of the Brandless and Garrison Guards sometimes move them around Midway if too large a group congregates.

Some Individuals fear and despise the Brandless but liberal Individuals see them as a necessary part of society, keeping alive the spirit of free will and the capacity for compassion. Brandless Individuals cannot cross bridges or travel by water; it is illegal to give a Warrant to a Brandless Individual. Since a Treaty signed in Year 952 (NOW), a controlled number of construction projects employ the Brandless on a temporary basis. They are transported out of Midway in sealed transport units and electronically tagged until they are returned to the Landmass. Brandless workers who complete their allotted work under these conditions are rewarded generously with food, drink and materials to build shelters for their communities.


Rhenium Outlaws are Individuals (unknown numbers) who have forcibly removed their Brands (and are therefore facially disfigured, sometimes fatally.) They may also be Brand-evaders and have escaped off grid before Branding takes place. There are rumours (and parental boogie-man stories) about Outlaws kidnapping children to swell their ranks.

Eastern Midway and the marshes around the foothills of Mount Tearful are notorious regions for Outlaws working with Brandless criminals to steal from the Branded. Outlaws subsist on foraging, charity from the Brandless or stealing.

Three Classes

Talented and productive Individuals are promoted through three Classes: Support, Standard and Senior, gaining additional privileges at each level. You go through The Ginnel to achieve Standard Class. You Make The Cut to reach a Senior post.

Up to the age of 17, a parent and a Sponsor are needed to encourage and mentor you through the tests and trials of being Branded, passing Through The Ginnel or Making The Cut. After the age of 17 you only need a Sponsor.

If you are successful in fulfilling your role in your Class and in your Order you are “Balanced” but if you disrupt the harmony of the system, either through actions or words, you can be reported and sanctioned for being “UnBalanced.” Calling someone UnBalanced in public is a serious accusation and, by law, has to be investigated by the red Orders.


Rhenium’s population statistics

The red Orders of Rhenium

The orange Order of Rhenium

The green Orders of Rhenium

The blue Orders of Rhenium

The purple Orders of Rhenium


Families, Bands
and Houses

Every Individual begins life in a Family and most Houses are allocated by Midway HomeLords to Families. Most Houses are designed for fifteen residents; some are bigger; less than 10,000 Houses accommodate fewer than fifteen Individuals. Couples who sign Living Contracts (agreeing to live together, pool their resources and become a permanent partnership) can apply for their own House, whether or not they intend to Breed or adopt children. Some Individuals remain in their original Family House or alternate between the Houses of different Family members.

Bands are groups of Individuals who have combined through choice, necessity, bereavement, estrangement, rehabilitation, social engineering or convenience because of their particular specialism in The Twelve Orders. WaterHackors, for example often live in Bands because they choose never to Breed and are sterilised when confirmed into The Network. Some Bands are formed by groups of Supporters who have been disowned by their Families. Bands are quite common in The View where groups of artistic Individuals are drawn together by their temperaments or commitment to a particular style of art.

Bands are seen as “alternative” to the planet’s norms and are monitored closely.

Living alone in a House is inconceivable for most women and men and only a few notorious Individuals have solo occupancy. Midway Registrars, HomeLords and HelpLords can (and do) assign (and re-assign) places in Houses according to Individual applications or instructions from Senior Class red Order Individuals. First Housing appeals go to Registrars and Second Housing appeals go to the MidwayCutters. Final appeals against Housing decisions are settled by Midway Operators.

Home Period
and Campus Period

Home Period lasts from March 15th to October 15th every year. For five months of the year, Individuals are allowed to spend time with their Family in their designated House. Life is slower and more leisure-focused during the five months of Home Period. Those needed for essential services are on a rota during this time. Individuals on HP-rotas (Home Period rotas) gain significant Credit when they work the Home Period. Transportation is free from AutoDebit for HP-rota Individuals during Home Period. Transport timetables operate at 50% frequency.

For the other five months of the year, “Campus Period,” young people between the ages of 7 and 17 live on the Campus of the Order into which they are expected to Brand. All Branded Individuals also go to work for five unbroken months wherever their Order places them. Sometimes this is in the region where the main Order is based but, often, you are stationed elsewhere, for example:

  • Teachers from The Academy work in pod schools in every region educating children in all Orders in basic skills for life and work
  • Shopkeepers from The Mill work in shops throughout Rhenium
  • Miners from The Mill work in various locations across the planet, under the oceans, up mountains and on The Fortress
  • PolyWayLords, WaterWayLords, Conductors, QuadTechs, PolyHackors and WaterHackors are the most itinerant workers on complicated rotas servicing the transport systems and repairing the technology of OmniTech all over Rhenium; a few WaterHackors make their bagnios so successful that they are granted permanent residency in one place (Felicity Kido, for example, in Eastern Midway)
  • Bagnios are spa-like gyms and bath-houses where adults relax and can openly and legally access sexual services

Communal accommodation is provided if your Campus placement is too far from your main House. Some Houses in Midway are loaned to other Orders during Campus Period if they would otherwise be empty.

Regions, Cities,
Sectors, Fifths and Communes

Within the Orders, certain areas have regional names (for example The Southern Mill or The Marshlands round the foothills of Mount Tearful.) Cities are the largest collections of Houses and work places. Cities are divided into Sectors (North, South, East and West), which are further subdivided into Fifths, which often have names (for example, The Drowned Fifth or The Jewellery Fifth.) Smaller neighbourhoods within Fifths or throughout the land are called Communes.

Midstar Festival
and Games

Every August, an enormous number of Individuals congregate on Midstar, the capital city of Rhenium for the competitive Midstar Festival and Games. The UniGates of The Arena also open for arts performances and watersports events and competitions.

Competitive events include: Body Boarding, Circus, Dancing, Design Buildings, Design Fashion, Diving, Football, Gymnastics, Handball, Jumping, Kayaking, Open Swimming, Painting, Pentathlon, Performing Group, Performing Solo, Poetry Recitals, Running, Singing, Solo Musicianship, Synchronised Swimming, Team Rowing, Throwing, Triathlon, Underwater Exploration, WaterHacking, Water Polo, Water Skiing, Wrestling

15th July is the Rhenium Annual Birth Day Celebrations (when everyone’s Birth Day is celebrated on the final Prizegiving day of the Midstar Festival.) Individual Birth Days are celebrated daily in Morning Rally which everyone attends wherever they are.