Planet Profile: Damnation

Orbiting the star Ceti Tau Zeta 47914 is a tidally locked planet whose official registration is Ceti Tau Zeta 47914g. However, the rest of the civilized galaxy knows it by a different name: Damnation – the prison planet.

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Damnation was carefully shaped by the most skilled of terraforming and xenological engineers to closely resemble contemporary descriptions to the first chapter of Durante degli Alighieri’s Divine Comedy, the Inferno. Terraforming ultimately resulted in two separate and distinct hemispheres: the starward Muspelheim, baked in eternal light and fire, and the rimward Niflheim, cloaked in eternal darkness and cold.

Muspelheim

At the very core of Muspelheim lies the massive magma ocean known as Phlegethon. The ocean occupies more than a quarter of the surface area of the hemisphere. It is bordered by the continents of Tartarus, Muspelheim, and Diyu. These continents are in turn bordered by the oceans Stix and Eridanus.

Periodically, the waters of these two oceans overflow the gaps between these three continents causing a massive steam eruption that begets powerful storms that ravage over much of Muspelheim.

At the very periphery of these supercontinents lie the photovoltaic array, and near Phlegethon are the geothermal power stations, collectively providing two-thirds of the power consumption needed to keep Damnation’s infrastructure in full working order.

There are few facilities located upon Muspelheim for convicts, only those assigned to the repair and maintenance of the photovoltaic array and the geothermal power stations. These jobs are awarded as a “Second Chance” for otherwise unruly inmates who were incarcerated outside Hiflheim.

Niflheim

The dark hemisphere of Hiflheim is where the bulk of the Damnation’s prison facilities are located. The poor conditions here are the reason the planet was selected to become humanity’s largest penal colony. The gigantic ice cap of Cocytus covers much of the surface area of Hiflheim and even encroaches on (if not fully blankets) the continents of Jotunheim, Niflheim, and Svartalfheim. Only the island continents of Yomi and Nidavellir are free of the ice due to the massive oceans Erebus and Lethe which surround them. Each of these continents house numerous maximum security prisons surrounded by large territories of darkness.

night_creature_by_exomemory-d6l8a17The land between Hiflheim’s prisons is patrolled by an exported natural predators from another solar system known as Ammits. These creatures are truly eldritch life forms who are unable to withstand any amount of light. Exposure to light will severely burn them if not outright kill them due to their native biochemistry. Prison officials have had the Ammits genetically engineered to metabolise human biochemisty, making them able to consume and digest any escapees successfully.

Keeping order in the prisons are vast armies of teleoperated drones that are manned constantly by guards stationed kilometres away. Each sentinel drone is operated by no less than four guard operators on a random schedule. The randomness of their shifts ensures that no inmate can memorize the particular behavior of any one sentinel drone and use this to plot an escape. As an additional security measure, each sentinel drone is hard-wired to explosively self-destruct whenever an unauthorized tampering of the drone occurs. These sentinel drones are supported by a vast network of sentry turrets, protecting against damage to the drones and other prison facilities. When all else fails, the Shutdown Protocol is enacted, shutting down all power in a particular cell block or facility and exposing the inmates to the stalking Ammits.

Limbo

Between the two hemispheres of light and darkness, fire and ice, lies the terminator of endless twilight christened Vestibulum but more commonly known as Limbo. It’s here that the major infrastructure supporting Damnation’s prisons is located, upon the continents of Arau, Mictlan, and Elysium. These regions are also connected to the space elevators Charon and Anubis. The space elevators are held taught by ballast statite held aloft by solar sails. Many convicts desire to be incarcerated within this zone for it is the most pleasant compared to the primary facilities, a desire many prison officials take advantage to the fullest extent to keep the inmates in line.

The Damnation Corporation which owns and operates the various prisons, correctional facilities, and supporting infrastructure have developed a rather unique, some would say sadistic, prison culture and business model that has made Ceti Tau Zeta 47914g an icon of fear throughout known space. Essentially, the Damnation Corporation provides “Rent” to any criminal sent to be incarcerated upon Damnation whether the customer is a national government, an organization, or even as petty as a small group or even a single individual who have the accounts to afford such accommodation for their designated “Guest”. However, not all Rents are equal in both price and treatment of the inmate guest. Rather, there are various packages that the customer can choose to inflict upon the inmate, ranging from historically-themed incarceration packages to those focusing on modern and high-tech psychological and physical torture techniques.

Skilled torturers ensure that prisoners experience the desire level of pain, but also that they are kept alive so long as the rent payments arrive on time. When the payment plan is defaulted, for whatever reason, that particular inmate is no longer “covered” and is effectively vulnerable to the actions of other covered inmates without any punishment from the prison guards and officials or worse, placed into the Shadow Games – a popular spectator sport which sees two inmates battle each other to the death in an arena surrounded by chained Ammits.

Several human rights groups have condemned the Damnation Corporation for their inhuman treatment of their inmates, but few governments are able to take steps against the prison planet as many rely on their services. In fact, more than 90% of convicts in known space are housed on Damnation, and it remains the most secure and most economically viable prison facility in existence.

Artwork by Frieso Hoevelkamp (planet) and ExoMemory (creature)

Article by Alfonso Posadas Jr.

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  • James Pailly

    Reminds me of Salusa Secondus from the Dune novels, but this is much more richly developed. Something like this would make a great setting for a whole series of books.

    • It’s a wonderfully rich world isn’t it.
      The original submission came with a story idea about a prisoner escape (might post that later), but I’d be more interested in learning about the wardens/guards and their families who live on this hell hole and call it home.

      • James Pailly

        Oh, that would be interesting. Imagine being the child or spouse of one of the guards, not violent enough to be a prisoner nor tough enough to be a guard, but still stuck in this place nonetheless.

        • It would raise the question as to how the environment would impact the psyche of the spouse or especially the child. I can almost imagine that many of the kids would want to grow up to be guards just like their parents. For the kid who isn’t tough enough to be a guard and is not that willing to be a prisoner, the kid would probably make for the administrator route.

    • Thanks, wikipedia helps a lot in visualizing a few of the locations. But to be honest, it was originally a little fan-wank brain fart that revolved around a prison in eternal twilight surrounded by the Bio-Raptors of Riddick fame to discourage any escape attempts.

      Still, I can’t help but wonder if there could be room for intra-prison competition in the form of sports, blood sports or othewise that just might flesh out the prison culture of Damnation even more.

  • Christmas Snow

    Don’t see that as economically viable, unless prisoners are kept as “slaves” maintaining the prison facilities that keep them alive. This would mean granting them better living conditions, which is a fruit of their own labor. One example may be growing their own food. Only the chief engineers and technicians – which are not prisoners for security reasons – may maintain the out-of-jail facilities, like space elevators, docking stations and all the likes.

    • Well that is an idea, which isn’t too unfounded since unless I’m wrong, historically prisoners have been used as slave labor as late as the 20th century. Though I can only imagine that, for security reasons, they’re only responsible for the more local infrastructure that would potentially not help in any possible escape plan from that particular prison facility, let alone the hemisphere.

      As for living conditions, well that’s pretty much up to the administrators who, for the sake of Damnations’ own mythos, to make it as hellish as possible without killing said prisoners too soon. After all, the entire corporation is only paid rent if the prisoner in question stays at the prison i.e. is still alive.

  • avrorik369 .

    What’s “Ceti Tau Zeta”? Is it Tau Ceti or Zeta Ceti?

  • DC Larson just suggested an idea to me about Romeo-and-Juliet-esque lovers, the twist on the story being that one is in heaven and one is in hell. I think the starcrossed lovers story would work well on this planet, with one being a prisoner and the other a guard.

    • It’s a nice idea, though it kinda sounds like that old movie “Love Child” if anyone is even old enough to know about it.

      However, considering the nature of the guard system (that being tele – operated drones) it gives the plot outline chance to “plus it” as the Hollywood lingo goes. Might be even a twist in there where both ate the same gender,radically different age groups, or even a fully sentient drone. Pretty sure better writers can come up with even ore imaginary scenarios *hint, hint*