“A stinking, painted harlot who would see your blood flowing for a few coins, that she may be, but who cannot say that they love the light that is known waiting for the traveller returned from the void.”
—Rogue Trader Cortin Blaine, captain of the Astra Veritas
Port Wander is a massive void station on the uttermost edge of the Drusus Marches Sub-sector of the Calixis Sector, rightly regarded as the last bastion of the rule of the Emperor of Mankind this side of the Koronus Expanse and the last stop before entering that untamed region of the Halo Stars. A place of desperate hopes and vain dreams; Port Wander teems with a transitory population of traders, spies, merchant factors, pilgrims, and missionaries amongst which move Adeptus Administratum functionaries and minions of the Adeptus Mechanicus, all feeding on the riches that flow from the realms beyond the Warp Storms in the Koronus Expanse. All who travel into the Koronus Expanse share one common experience in that they pass Port Wander. Be they the pious bringing the Emperor’s Light into the darkness beyond the Imperium or black-hearted monsters searching for the keys to forbidden dreams, many will stop in the last place where the rule of the Golden Throne keeps the horror and possibility of the unknown at bay.
Port Wander was founded by the Imperial Navy in 917.M40 as a staging ground to investigate the loss of many vessels on the fringes of the Drusus Marches. With the discovery of the Koronus Passage into the Koronus Expanse region of the Halo Stars in the late 40th Millennium, the space station grew in importance owing to its close proximity to the Passage. Its original role as a base for Imperial military operations was slowly forgotten, and Port Wander became a way station for those daring passage into the Koronus Expanse. Merchants and mercenaries began to choke the once — deserted corridors of the station, and strangers shook the dust of distant stars from their boots while trading wondrous things from beyond the Great Warp Storms.
Standing sentry at the gates of the Maw, Port Wander is the last outpost of Imperial law and order on the far rimward side of the Calixis Sector. 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.
Guardian of the Maw
Port Wander was founded by the Imperial Navy in 917.M40 as a staging ground to investigate the loss of many vessels on the fringes of the Drusus Marches. Originating as a standard pattern Xerxes Mark IV Naval void station, Port Wander was made from prefabricated and pre-blessed sectionals and transported into the system by mammoth Greathold freighters over many months. Assembly took only 17 standard years; the station was consecrated, declared operational, and thruster-anchored into position orbiting the world of Rubycon II far ahead of Thamos in a stable position a year later. Though smaller than many Imperial Naval stations, it is large enough to handle Battlecruisers and other huge vessels. Organised upkeep tends to be spotty, though, given its distance both physical and political from the sector’s subfleet headquarters, and much of the constant refurbishment was done as needed to better deal with the variety of vessels used by Rogue Traders. Over time, entire new modules and battlements were installed, and whole subsections became layered over with new construction such that little of the original voidfacing hull is visible. Deep inside the station whole decks were simply lost to poor planning, and only those well-versed in the ancient blueprints can find their ways through the mazelike passageways.
As the area grew in importance due to successful voyages to the Expanse and back, the station grew as well, attracting the attention of many Imperial agencies throughout the sector. What was a standard Navy-operated station became overrun with Rogue Traders, commerce shipping agents, merchant guilds, Administratum functionaries, Inquisitorial spies, Adeptus Mechanicus and Adeptus Ministorum preachers, and more, all vying for control. With more and more passages through the Maw and increased trade in exotic (and profitable) goods to be found on the other side, the original role of naval station began to wane and Port Wander began to become more of a transportation hub for Rogue Traders and others dedicated to transporting products into and out of the Koronus Expanse.
With less military and more commercial functions occurring and constant years of pressure, the Imperial Navy was forced under Imperial Palace decree in the early 41st Millennium to cede authority over the station to a consortium of Administratum functionaries, heavily influenced by factions of Rogue Traders, merchants, and guilds. Imperial Governors nominally led the station, but proved too easily swayed by outside interests or too inept to maintain their power. This, of course, was paradise to many, and with little or no oversight or regulation to counter them the merchant guilds and Rogue Traders became exceedingly wealthy. The lack of order spread wildly and the port quickly gained a reputation for lawless anarchy where Imperial Law is merely an afterthought to the fortunes awaiting. Rival commercial guilds took to outright combat inside and outside the port, and the port possessed little functioning defences against external attacks. After a dozen decades including long stretches of disorder and zealous excesses, even the Rogue Traders realised only the Imperial Navy could stabilise the port at a level where profits could be dependably made. They petitioned the Lucid Palace on the sector capital world of Scintilla for a solution in mid-M41, lest reliable access to the Koronus Expanse be squandered and lost.
The Grand Alignment heralded the return of the Imperial Navy to operational control over Port Wander. While the station returned to Imperial Navy control, the charter also granted some areas of authority to other agencies, and imposed limits on Naval authority. The Inquisition and Adeptus Ministorum were of course granted official status as agencies of interest and special spheres of control, and the Administratum given an unofficial but important oversight role. While still not recognising their rights over the Maw, the Adeptus Mechanicus gained rights to several areas of the void station for their own research. The merchant guilds kept much of their shops and trading halls, and continue to exert considerable influence on the station’s activities. The Adeptus Arbites were officially relegated to a lesser role than normal, but still required to police the “civilian” side of the Port’s population. The Navy works closely with all of these organisations where possible, as they free its personnel to concentrate on matters of military operations and station defence, areas that went unforgivably lax while it was not in control.
Port Wander has since re-established itself as a mostly lawful outpost, though its location on the edge of the Calixis Sector ensures it will never be at the levels of other naval installations or even established Imperial planets. It is at the demarcation from the Rule of the Imperium to the Rule of the Void and will always be a struggle between the two, making the port a site of constant pressure and tension. It is here where a Rogue Trader really begins his journey to riches and glory or ignominy and disgrace. Amidst the hustle of hundreds of explorers and merchants, officers and civilians, spirituals and heathen, Port Wander stands as the first step into the Koronus Expanse.
Siege of Port Wander
When WAAAGH! Gulgrog attacked Port Wander in 422.M41, it struck suddenly and forcefully. With charts and observations of the Koronus Expanse even more limited than they are now, warning signs of the oncoming assault were few and largely unnoticed: those who did see the Greenskin invasion coming either fled to safety or found their predictions falling upon deaf ears as the notably lax Port Authority busied itself with matters of profit. By the time the Ork fleet had swept past the recently established port of Footfall unhindered and entered the Maw, there was little that could be done to evade the swift and reckless invaders.
Moving at speeds that baffled Navigators who witnessed it, the Orks traversed the Maw in mere days, striking first at those vessels that rushed to depart Port Wander. Thirty-seven merchant haulers and transports were reduced to burning wreckage, and a dozen Rogue Traders found their prized vessels torn apart by swarms of raiders and frigates, while the bulkier “Kroozers” headed for the starport itself. Port Wander’s own defences responded admirably to the invasion, crippling and destroying innumerable vessels as the Orks attempted to board and overwhelm it. On a hundred occasions in the first years of the war, the Orks managed to land groups of warriors within the fortress, only to have them repelled at significant cost by the mercenaries, voidsmen and Imperial Navy armsmen who defended it.
The first year was, in the estimation of those who survived, the hardest of the siege. With most void ships crippled or destroyed, and the outer defences bombarded to ruin, Port Wander was essentially alone amidst the Ork fleet. Their momentum failing, the Orks slowly divided into factions, each squabbling to salvage the most intact of the hulks that littered the Rubycon II System and competing to see which would be the one to claim the defiant fortress. After two years of battle, the first reinforcements arrived, as Battlefleet Calixis and the Adeptus Mechanicus rallied to form a substantial rescue fleet. A squadron of Sword-class Frigates, supported by the reconnaissance of Lathe monitor-cruisers, launched lightning raids to clear the outer reaches of the system. Then, a combined force of Imperial Navy warships and Secutor light cruisers from Scintilla arrived to begin the conflict in earnest, supported by the Navy warships on patrol from Passage Watch 27.
The resulting war of attrition may have actually extended the war — the Orks’ initial unity quickly fractured in the face of a prolonged conflict, and while Port Wander could not hold out indefinitely, the arrival of Imperial reinforcements did not have the desired effect of routing the Orks. Quite the opposite, in fact — faced with new enemies and new plunder, the Orks rallied together around Gulgrog’s flagship (identified through unclear and poorly-translated Vox-transmissions as the infamous Da Wurldbreaka) and fought all the harder. The counterattack lasted for another standard year, as the Orks rallied to the fight, and was costly in terms of men, vessels and money. Lord Admiral Androvast Strophes is credited by many as being the hero of the war, leading fully two-thirds of Battlefleet Calixis in the final assault from his flagship, the Retribution-class Battleship Fist of Adamant, and crippling Gulgrog’s flagship in a punishing broadside duel that sentenced the Fist of Adamant to spacedock for half a century. After two days of conflict, the Orks were finally routed and, wearied from battle, the Imperial Navy moved to reclaim Port Wander instead of pursuing the Orks through the Maw.
Their forces broken and slaughtered, the Ork survivors slunk back to their worlds in the Expanse. Most believed that the threat had now passed, that the remaining Greenskins were too few and too demoralised to pose more than a trivial threat. For a time, they were correct — Ork raids upon voidships in the Expanse dropped dramatically in the following centuries. The relative peace, however, could not last, for Orks are not easily discouraged from acts of brutality and senseless violence. By the early eighth century of the 41st Millennium, the Ork menace had regained much of its strength and was as great a peril within the Expanse as they had been more than four Terran centuries before, drawing in Rogue Traders in greater numbers to combat the escalating threat with the promise of handsome reward. Yet still the threat grows, and now the Koronus Expanse stands on the brink of something terrible — a second Greenskin invasion preparing to burst from its depths, just over half a millennium after the last.
The Footfall Affair
As the Imperial Navy’s new Battlefleet Koronus’ operations in the Koronus Expanse grow, its warships come into increasing conflict with those already there. Though these certainly include the Expanse’s native inhabitants, there are those nominally affiliated with the Imperium — such as more than a few Rogue Traders — who find the Navy’s presence disruptive to their plans. Amongst these individuals, one incident stands out as particularly infamous. A half-century ago, a pirate wolfpack began operating through the Maw. The pirates raided around Port Wander, then would flee with their loot through the Passage to Footfall, where they claimed two of the outer hab asteroids as their base. One of these marauders was actually a Rogue Trader who turned to piracy to supplement his meagre fortunes, and the powers of Footfall showed little interest in dislodging him.
As the situation persisted, a coalition of brokerage houses and mercantile interests led by House Krin petitioned the Imperial Navy to take action and protect their interests. The newly promoted Admiral Nathaniel Horne (the current commanding officer of Battlefleet Koronus) agreed to aid them. However, instead of reinforcing the patrols around Port Wander, Horne took a direct action. A task force consisting of the Cruisers Gryphon, Sirius, and Gethsemane, escorted by a reinforced squadron of Frigates and Destroyers, travelled to Furibundus and attacked the pirates directly. The resulting battle quickly devolved into a confused melee, with Battlefleet Koronus warships dodging amongst the asteroids of Footfall while exchanging point-blank broadsides with pirates. Besides the pirate Rogue Trader, several other Rogue Traders and Free Captains found themselves drawn into the battle, often unsure just whose side they were on.
Though the Gethsemane and Frigate Pride of Vaxenhide took heavy damage and Cobras X-11 and X-24 were lost, the Navy destroyed a dozen pirate vessels, shattered their habitat asteroids, and sent the scattered remnants fleeing deep into the Expanse. Other Rogue Traders including Aspyce Chorda and Elizabeth Orleans raised a flurry of protests against the Navy’s “heavy-handed and barbaric actions,” which the Imperial Adepta ignored, tacitly approving Horne’s actions and giving him free reign for operations deeper into the Expanse. In the following years, many have speculated that this was the Admiral’s goal all along.
Rubycon II System
Rubycon II is the star system that is home to Port Wander in the Drusus Marches. It is centred on a a bloated red star that is nearly a thousand times larger than Blessed Sol and burns a deep crimson. It is a dead system of two large gas giants whose pale surfaces flow with great typhoons that spread and die like bruises on flesh. These two planets are named the Ruby Brothers, and between the two worlds lies a wide and dense field of asteroids that may be the remains of a lesser sibling planet whose death occurred long ago. This broken string of asteroids is a common hiding place for those wishing to avoid Imperial notice, and has become a meeting place for agencies of ill repute who would still chance the Koronus Passage to the Expanse. Beyond the orbit of these two bloated twin planets is Port Wander itself, set amongst a clutch of asteroids, many of which have been converted into other installations, ship yards, housing units, research stations, repair docks, and storage facilities. Surrounded by vessels of all shapes and sizes, it glows with the lights of hundreds of beacons and tens of thousands of souls. Beyond this island of life are the comets, untold hundreds of thousands of chunks of ice and carbonaceous soot, each a glittering mote in the heavens. Finally there is the true void, still and serene except for the silent roar of mighty plasma drives as voidships pass in flight or in hope.
In and Around Port Wander
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.
Read more at: http://warhammer40k.wikia.com/wiki/Port_Wander
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