Monday, July 1, 2013

Rifts: Houstown

(this is ported from my Livejournal)

So, about five or six years ago, I wrote up a bit about the city of Houstown in Rifts. Since I live here, I figured I'd give a whirl at fleshing out the very bare-bones description in Rifts: Lone Star. Now, in doing the research, I realized that the Coalition had a major base (like, "military population bigger than Houstown total population") not far away... at Beaumont. I live on the west side of Houston and Beaumont is only about a hundred miles away. You can shoot Rifts-tech missiles from downtown Beaumont and hit my house.

But, as is often the case with Palladium, I did my best with what I had, and turned out Rifts: Houstown, a short (only 17,000 words) description of the city, its post-apocalyptic history, and some of the major players.


        Houstown has, in the past two decades, grown from a small town on the new Gulf Coast into a bustling metropolis, widely regarded as one of the most stable city-states in Lone Star. This has not come without hardship; the last twenty years give the people of Houstown a reason to look back in pride. Now home to a burgeoning economy and a growing trade district, Houstown is faced with the proximity of the Coalition Naval Base, Fort Pinnacle, which threatens its status as a "safe" city, independent of the powers of the Domain of Man.
This PDF references several books; while it can be played with only Rifts or Rifts: Ultimate Edition, it makes reference to Rifts Sourcebook 4: Coalition Navy, Rifts World Book 7: Underseas, Rifts World Book 10: Juicer Uprising, and Rifts World Book 13: Lone Star. The Bionics Sourcebook and Rifts: Mercenaries are also useful.

Immediately prior to the Coming of the Rifts, Houston (as Houstown was then known) was on the grow. It had expanded from its traditional borders to encompass Katy, Waller, Kingwood and Anahuac, sprawling across southeast Texas in a megalopolis dedicated to the energy industry, computing, and medical technology. With its large and active port, Houston was also a shipping center; if it went to the Plains States, or came from South America, odds are it came through Houston.
As with all of Earth, the Cataclysm hit Houston hard. While Houstonians were used to having perhaps one or two major hurricanes a century, along with a number of minor storms, those mostly happened in the "hurricane season" between the end of May and the end of November. Immediately with the Coming of the Rifts, Houston was battered by three major hurricanes, entirely out of season (coming, as they did, at the end of December). Most of Galveston was washed from behind the seawall, and many large buildings toppled in winds that exceeded 200mph (320 kph). With the rampant flooding from the heavy rains, many were unable to flee from the coastal cities of Texas City, League City, and Baytown as they were swept out into the expanding Gulf of Mexico. At the same time, filth demons - a kind of corrupted water elemental - appeared in the most heavily polluted areas around Pasadena and the Port of Houston, and began wreaking havoc.
When Houston received a two-week long breather, after the first seven hurricanes, it was to look on a far different landscape. The constant hurricanes had protected them from ashfall from the Yellowstone volcano, but everything south of Beltway 8, and east of US Highway 59 was gone - simply gone, covered by 10-30 feet (3-10m) of water. All of the bayous had overflowed, leaving much of the rest of the city waterlogged. More than four million people had died in the storms, and those who survived were without food or clean water. The city would have burst into flames, then, had it not been so thoroughly soaked, as Houstonians, always an armed populace, took to violence to ensure their personal survival. Thousands died in armed conflicts with their neighbors, and thousands more from malnutrition or disease, while hurricanes, tornadoes, and lightning storms continued to batter the Gulf Coast.
It was some years before Houstown recovered some of what it once was. With a remaining population of less than 5000, Houstonians (the name remains, despite changes the spelling of the city's name) set to rebuilding what they could. Some few began to salvage the Medical Center, but many of the buildings were so damaged that it took decades to rebuild even a fraction of what remained. Much of the economy became agricultural and aquacultural; men and women began to fish in the Galveston Bay, now stretching almost fifty miles (80km) from the south side of Beltway 8 to the old Galveston Seawall. North and west of the city, others began to grow crops and raise sheep, goats, and cattle. These traded within the city of Houstown, using the remains of old high- and railways to bring their food to market, and take home their purchases. Sea serpents were always a problem, with one or two ships being lost a season to those monsters. Pecos raiders from the western part of the state and Crab Warriors from along the coast caused further problems, leading to a Houstown that was reeling.
Houstown, however, had a few blessings. The first was that it attracted a small community of line-walkers and techno-wizards. Strong ley lines off the coast attracted those who wished to draw from their strength, even though the lines proved too far from shore to be useful to most humans, magic picasso fish from the waters offshore provided a ready source of P.P.E.. Those ley lines also attracted also attracted a large number of psi-stalkers, who at first fed on the large number of entities that haunted the ravaged downtown, the monsters who would occasionally attack the city, and raiders who caused too much trouble. In addition, Houstown slowly recovered its medical technology (bolstered by a raid on the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, after that city was ravaged by vengeful vampires early in the second century of after the Apocalypse), meaning that health care was generally better than surrounding areas, and cybernetic and bionic implants, along with other forms of human augmentation, became more common. Some of the raiders who had once attacked the city now came bearing injured comrades, or seeking an edge which would make them better at what they did. Lastly, though Houstown doesn't realize it, the city itself is anathema to vampires. It is constantly muggy and wet, and when the sun isn't shining, it is likely raining (and, not infrequently, when it is). The few vampires who have come to Houstown have quickly left of their own accord.
By the year 1 P.A., Houstown was a relatively well established town, with just over six thousand humans and two thousand Psi-stalkers, with perhaps three to four thousand members of other races living in the city limits, and another thousand scattered along the coast. It was a trading town, relying on the remains of old I-10, I-45, and US-290 to connect it to the rest of the Pecos Empire. A fishing town, with almost a third of the population making their living from the water. It was also an agricultural town, bringing in crops and livestock from nearly a hundred mile radius, which fueled an industry in textiles and food processing. Most importantly, though, it had the premiere medical facilities in the Pecos Empire, giving it a degree of immunity from Pecos Raiders, eager to not be barred from the city. Its government was functioning reasonably well, as the city had settled on its mayor-and-advisory council approach (detailed later). It was about 1 P.A. that Houstown was hit with what's known as the Midsummer Hurricane.
Hurricane season runs from June until the end of November. Houston, however, is somewhat protected by the Caribbean Islands and the Yucatan, so it rarely sees a hurricane until late in the season, and prior to the Coming of the Rifts, people had plenty of warning about any incoming storms to evacuate or get any supplies they needed. That year, however, a monstrous hurricane hit the seawall (or, more precisely, the nexus which hangs over the seawall) exactly at sunset, with no warning at all. It created a large rift in the sky which promptly disgorged billions of gallons of seawater, and scores of angry Storm Riders, a type of sea serpent, directly into Galveston Bay. The city was ravaged by a mundane hurricane, augmented by the fury of a ley line storm and its rifted monsters.
For more than eighty years, the city was plagued with frequent attacks by the ley line beasts. The fishing industry collapsed as boats were destroyed and fisherfolk were gobbled up. The beasts would throw themselves against levees, knocking them askew enough that they could leap into the fields beyond to ravage the land. Any concerted attack upon one had it fleeing out to sea, back to the ley lines. The once-rich city became nearly abandoned; the "flying serpents" meant that few people wished to live within forty miles (40 miles/64 km) of the coast. Houstown's champions fell to them time and again, and finally did nothing about them, instead guarding against exterior threats that weren't giant flying sea serpents.
In 88 P.A., a giant arrived from the north. Orpheus, who was rumored to have traveled with gods and learned their secrets, came to town and dispensed miracles, healing illness with a simple touch of his hand. He listened to the people's troubles, and swore to end the menace of the Storm Riders. He stood upon the levee and many watched as he cast spells first upon himself, then upon the water, calling the beasts to fight him, or flee the area. Hundreds watched as the first slammed into him like a scaled torpedo, nearly knocking him off the levee, but cheered when he quickly threw it to the ground and destroyed it with a long stream of iron from his rail gun, his armor unmarred. He took the beast by the tail and heaved it into the the bay, and again cast spells at the water, daring more to come face him. Two more did that day, and he defeated them both, killing one and sending the other fleeing, minus a flipper.
At the end of the day, he cast a spell of prediction, and stated that no more would attack that night, so he met with the mayor and advisory council. As he had stood upon the wall, he had considered the problem of defending the city against these monsters, and was willing to invest in defenses. First, each day he would use his own powers to divine when the beasts would strike next, allowing the defenders to coordinate. He would also sink some of his personal fortune into buying weapons with which to fight them, as well as hire people who could help guard and reinforce the barriers. He also proposed arming the psi-stalkers in the fight against the Storm Riders, since they would help to debilitate the beasts, even as they struck.
Over the next year and a half, more than a score of the Ley Line Beasts were slain, and Orpheus was out every day, directing efforts to rebuild levees, cleanse fields, and fight demons. When arguments broke out, he would do his best to calm them, talking both parties around to the side of justice. When the mayoral election came around in March of 90 P.A., Orpheus was given the title of Lord Mayor by general consensus. There hadn't been a Storm Rider attack in more than three months, and that had been completely repulsed, met with three plasma mini-missiles as it leapt from the water. The city was once again attracting trade, and crops were once more flourishing in the lands between the levees and the Loop. This is much how it stood in 100 P.A., when the Coalition destroyed Port Horus, seventy miles (112km) to the east.
Port Horus had been a frequent trade partner with Houstown, but the strike was so swift and deadly that only a few refugees made it across the San Jacinto. Houstonians reacted quickly, gearing up to the next invaded, but the Coalition Navy stopped at Port Horus. This new threat cemented Orpheus in his position as Lord Mayor, as none wanted to change from his leadership in the face of a major Coalition presence. Much of the city's militia is now stationed in the east, in case of Coalition action.

Houstown is laid out in two concentric rounded squares. Galveston Bay now comes up to the southern and eastern embankments of Texas Highway 8, and continues up to north to I-10 east of town, and as far north as US-59 southwest of the city. Immediately around the city is a wasteland of rubbled buildings, which have largely been reclaimed by nature. To the north, this stretches to where the city of Conroe used to be (about 30 miles); to the west, it goes as far as the old borders of Brookshire (also about 30 miles). To the east, much is salt marsh, but the ruins stretch about 25 miles, from what used to be Channelview to Wallisville.
North and east of the city are pine forests, with the north being somewhat hilly, and the east being flatter and wetter. All of East Texas is salt marsh as far north as the remains of US-90, and underwater south of I-10. Fort Pinnacle, the Coalition Navy base, is seventy miles to the east, near where the city of Beaumont used to be. West of the city is rolling, grassy, plains, growing more rugged towards San Antonio, but fairly well-watered and dotted with small towns. Northwest, towards Los Alamo, are forested hills and ranch land. A fast hovercycle can reach San Antonio or Los Alamo in about an hour and a half, but ground travel takes half a day; beyond the maintained roads of Houstown, all that's left is chunks of concrete and a few places where towns have kept up a road. Going to Worth takes about 3 hours if one pushes a hovercycle, and a full day and a half by the remaining roads in reasonably rugged wheeled vehicles. Anyone running to Lone Star City can make it in about 5 hours in a flat-out hovercycle run, or two and a half days by land vehicle; the terrain is fairly rugged, unlike the mostly flat run north to Worth, or west to San Antonio. El Dorado is a lot closer; 4 hours by hover cycle (only three if you can keep it above tree level), and two days by land vehicle. Fort Pinnacle is only about half an hour from Houstown by hovercycle, and that's without pushing the vehicle too hard. Not that a lot of traffic goes between Houstown and the Coalition, but it's always useful to know.
The city itself is flat and swampy, and now is largely confined between the remains of the I-610 Loop and Beltway 8; Houstown claims an official eastern boundary at the San Jacinto river. The middle of the city was badly hit by falling structures, and so has a lot of debris (both from the Cataclysm and subsequent looters). As that is cleared, Houstown is expanding into the city center; until then, the area is the domain of monsters, wild animals, and entities. Much of the city's drainage is provided by bayous, which were heavily reinforced before the Cataclysm, and are now kept clear by the city. The city also has several reservoirs within or just outside the city, providing ample clean water (a commodity that they sell to those heading towards the desert or planning on fighting vampires).
Houstown is, to most humans, a hot, muggy, place. For most of the summer season, Houstown's average temperature is above 90* Fahrenheit (32* Celsius), and average humidity above 90%. In winter, temperatures rarely drop below 50* Fahrenheit (10* Celsius). Both spring and summer see frequent thunderstorms, and the city gets more than 54 inches (137cm) of rain each year. By comparison, Chi-town gets only 36 inches (92 cm) a year, and Amarillo gets less than 20 inches (50 cm). Air conditioning is very popular with the human and human-like population; not a few people have likened a Houston summer to "like trying to breathe underwater while gargling a hovercycle."
South of Houstown is Galveston Bay, which is part of the Gulf of Mexico. The bay itself is defined by the small network of ley lines that run along the old Galveston Sea Wall, which still stands, even under 30 feet (9m) of water. The past twenty years have seen the rebuilding of its fishing fleets in the bay, with some going into the Gulf itself (a risky, but potentially lucrative, proposition, as there are larger and less heavily worked fisheries in the Gulf). Trade takes place all along the coast to the west (Fort Pinnacle bars most traffic to the east), and so the bay is a major part of the Houstown economy. It is rumored that the remains of an old American Empire military base lie buried off-shore, somewhere near the deeper portions of the bay. No one is quite certain; prior to the start of the Post-Apocalyptic Calendar, no one was able to find the site (which was supposed to be located in Texas City). Of course, soon after the P.A. calender began, the bay was filled with sea monsters, and Houstown was in no position to explore. Few people in the city have heard rumors of the site, and none are very specific as to what was there; it possible that everything has been washed away, or destroyed by centuries of storm and salt. (G.M.'s, this would be a chance to introduce some older technology into the game; being a major port, Houston did have a fairly large NEMA presence, but much of it was destroyed in the first few days of the Cataclysm. Since Houston has never been able to support underground bunkers, there will be at most one M.D.C. building intact, with perhaps 1D6+4 Silver Eagle S.A.M.A.S. Suits and one or two Chromium Guardsmen i.e. Glitter Boys, with squad weapons for 5-10 infantry or marine troops; the rest is likely scattered across the bay, badly degraded.)

The plurality of Houstonians are human, but not by a large margin; 9000 of the 28,000 permanent residents, and 10,000 of the 30,000 who live in the Houstown area. Most Houstonian humans show a mixture of white, Hispanic, and African-American features, and, in addition to American, speak Texican, a mixture of American and Spanish that is peppered with curse and food words from Asian languages (especially Vietnamese and several dialects of Chinese). Those who speak only American or only Spanish have a -40% to understand things said in Texican because of the mixed grammar and vocabulary; those who speak both languages have no penalty, though there are occasional problems with loanwords. Texican is rarely written; the written language of choice for Houstown is American. Many humans are amongst the elite of Houstown society, but, similarly, many humans are at the lower edge of it, as well.
In addition to humans, there's a sizable population of psi-stalkers (6400) who live in and around the city. Many congregate in the city center, fighting monsters and entities, bringing out occasional bits of Pre-Rifts loot to sell for needed supplies. Others range around the city, both inside and out, seeking prey and excitement. Psi-stalkers are frequently hired as private security because of their physical abilities and senses. Many join the city guard, and they're frequently used as scouts and shock troops. Feeding within the city is tightly controlled, and it must be voluntary or in the line of an approved duty (or committed against an acknowledged monster). Employers whose psi-stalkers get too rough on duty can find themselves fined, in addition to fees levied against the psi-stalker himself, so those inclined to break the law are frequently unemployed. Psi-stalkers in the city will approach individuals with high P.P.E. bases and ask them if they would be willing to donate P.P.E. for their feeding. The usual price for P.P.E. can vary, but most psi-stalkers find themselves paying approximately 100-200 credits per week for "food", plus an additional 50 for a clean blade and healing the small cuts they cause.
Houstown is home to many D-Bees, and there are surprisingly few racial tensions. Very early in the city's post-apocalyptic history, the city had an influx of what can only be called "useful" D-Bees... aliens who showed up at just the right time to encourage Houstonians to be open-minded towards D-bees in general. Ganka and Chasseur Vert both inhabit the wilder places of the city, and the swamps to the east belong to them and the Idie Swamp Men. Not surprisingly, there is a clan of Bayou Ursines in the bayous and reservoirs of Houstown, living mostly by rolling drunks and fishing. There are 13,000 people in and around Houstown who are neither human nor psi-stalker, and almost every species common to the southeastern swamps and the western plains makes its home in the city. Squilbs have found employment in the city guard, and enjoy serving so just a leader as Lord Orpheus. Fingertooth Carpetbaggers ply their trades in the markets, and Posluznik surgeons and undertakers are active in the Westheimer Medical Center. Houstown is also home to a large number of mutant animals; the Lone Star complex is a good distance away, but Houstown has a reputation as a place where a Dog Boy or mutant bat can make a home without prejudice. See Rifts: Lone Star and Rifts: D-Bees of North America for information about these races.
Special attention, however, should be given to the races that live off-shore. Galveston Bay is home to two pods of dolphins; one of normal dolphins, the other, with 4 members, pneuma-biforms. The pneuma-biforms act as go-betweens for the dolphins and the people of Houstown. They also trade with the Kreel-lok of the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean; these Kreel-Lok are fighting a war against Naut'yll incursions from the Atlantic, bolstering their numbers with escaped Kreel-Lok slaves, dolphins, and larger cetaceans (the larger cetaceans avoid Galveston Bay, as it is very shallow). The dolphins primary problems are the remaining Storm Riders and a few Loaks, but they also help to watch against incursions from Horune Pirates and the Coalition. The remains of the Galveston sea wall, and the shallowness of the bay keep the largest Horune ships from attacking Houstown directly, but it's still a tempting target, and several Horune raids have been fought off over the past century (though the presence of the Coalition at Fort Pinnacle has reduced these substantially). See Rifts: Underseas for more information about these races.

Houstown makes its money in a variety of ways. Many, especially to the north and west, are involved in farming and ranching; premium prices are paid for Coalition cattle for breeding stock, and for Coalition grains for seed stock. In South Houstown, much of the land is given over to the raising of "wet" crops, like rice. The land is heavily irrigated from the bayous, and provides a substantial amount of the local food.
Inside the city, there is an active reclamation industry. The remains of old buildings from the ruins of Houston and surrounding cities are recycled into new buildings. Psi-stalkers frequently accompany teams who go into these ruins to defend them against ghosts and entities who haunt them; they often find themselves defending their employers against the psi-stalkers of Downtown, as well. Houstonians also purchase "broken" items of metal and M.D.C. materials and recycle them into usable parts for other items; parts of your new cybernetic leg may have once been a Big Boss ATV, or a Psi-Cola bottle. With the new rail line from Fort Pinnacle to Lone Star City, Houstown has seen an unusually large amount of MDC metal in long, straight beams; Pecos Raiders have learned that three people with two torches and one power armor or robot vehicle can quickly remove a 20 foot (6m) section of rail and get good prices in Houstown and Los Alamo. The Coalition hasn't yet traced the lost rails to Houstown (the city produced a lot of material prior to this, making the new material just a bump), but is pressuring Los Alamo to find out where the rails are going.
Houstown is also a trade town. The city maintains paved roads twenty miles (32km) from the city limits, and cleared roads thirty miles (48km) beyond that. Most of trade comes into the northern section of town. As a relatively safe and neutral town, many throughout southern and eastern Lone Star come here to trade. One of the major types of trade is Houstown's medical industry, which is best represented in the Westheimer district, but Houstown also builds conventional vehicles and watercraft; most common vehicles are available in Houstown at or slightly below the normal prices, as well as many knock-offs of popular vehicles (such as Northern Gun hovercycles).
Houstown is still known for its contributions to the local energy supply. Off-shore oil and natural gas deposits have been tapped, and the city has a refinery which produces gasoline and other oil derivatives. Most of this gasoline is cut with ethanol from nearby farms, and others produce bio-diesel. Many Houstonians make use of solar energy (there's ample sunlight for much of the year), but the city's energy weakness is nuclear power. Houstown has only limited facilities and resources to manufacture the small nuclear plants of robots, power armor, and other modern devices. There is one nuclear reactor in town, in Pasadena, providing power to the manufacturing industry, but that is carefully guarded and maintained. Most of the nuclear material created by this reactor is used in 'borgs; any locally-built nuclear vehicles cost 50% more, while the increased cost for bionics is balanced out by the low cost of parts and the availability of surgeons.

Houstown is an elective dictatorship. Citizens are those who have lived and worked in the city at least one year, are vouched for by at least three other citizens, and who have registered with their local representative each year. Only citizens may vote in mayoral elections or sign petitions for the appointment of another representative.
The dictator, known as the Mayor or Lord Mayor, is supported by an Advisory Council. He is under no obligation to follow their advice, but they have the power, through a two-thirds majority vote, to call for a mayoral election. Beyond that, their official duties are to give advice to the Mayor on their area of expertise (be it technology, magic, monsters, or a specific group within the city), and to serve as registrars of citizens. The Mayor has final say in all decisions. The current Lord Mayor, Orpheus the Titan, is very popular with the citizens of Houstown, and is widely respected by the Council.
Currently, there are thirty-five members of the Advisory Council, plus Lord Mayor Orpheus (who has been, in his own right, elected to the Advisory Council, meaning he has a say in any vote to remove him). There are four to six representatives from each of the four city districts (Downtown isn't really a city district), representatives of certain species or interest groups (such as the Westheimer Merchants Association), and specialists in technical areas. The Lord Mayor appoints ten of these members as heads of the city departments; the rest of the seats are nominated by the people, and approved by the Council itself. In order to be considered for the Advisory Council, one must collect a petition with the signatures of 1000 citizens, and pass a two-thirds majority vote from the current council members. Local representatives can also be recalled with the signatures of 1000 citizens on a petition, a hearing by the Council, and a two-thirds vote by the Council.
The daily business of the city is carried out by ten departments; Agriculture, Foreign Relations, Justice (concerned with the courts), Militia and Law Enforcement, Port Authority, Power (electricity), Trade, Transportation (the city's roads and bayous), Treasury, and Water. Each of these positions is appointed by the Lord Mayor, and serves at his pleasure; he is free to fire them at any time, and for any reason. In practice, Lord Mayor Orpheus has made an effort to find the best person for each job, and only removes them for gross incompetence or at their own request.
Council Members include:
Artemius Finch, who represents the magical enclave in South Houstown. A corpulent phlebus ley line walker, he rarely practices magic these days, having delved deeply into politics. Though he is not the official expert in the magic for the Council, he is frequently called upon to give his opinion on magical matters.
Go-tak, a massive, brutish-looking psi-stalker; he stands more than 7 feet (2.2m) tall, and is rumored to be part ogre. Go-tak is the representative of the psi-stalkers who live in Downtown. Go-tak is quite impassioned, objects strenuously to almost everything (too many D-bees on the Council, the close proximity of the Coalition and "why aren't we doing something about it", Orpheus's emphasis on trade and diplomacy, too rapid incursions by recycling centers into Downtown, etc.), and has had to be physically restrained to keep him from attacking other Council Members. He grudgingly respects Orpheus, largely because the titan has proven, time and again, that he can restrain the psi-stalker if he gets out of hand. Many members of the Council would prefer if he were removed, but the Downtown psi-stalkers love him and keep renominating him every time he's threatened with removal.
Ctirad, the specialist in medicine that Orpheus has asked to join from the Westheimer medical community. A Posluznik. he is known to have traveled the Megaverse extensively, he frequently offers opinions on other specialties; he seems to have great theoretical knowledge of magic, and have encountered almost every species that has come to Houstown.
Mary Jackson and Raul Gonzalez, both local representatives from the East Houstown shipyards. They are members of rival (human) families and, between them, control more than 80% of the shipbuilding in Houstown. Though bitterly opposed on most subjects, both are strong proponents of supporting East Houstown's industry, and they are rumored to be having an affair.
Roy Connors is the head of the Militia and Law Enforcement department. Roy was, about 15 years ago, a Techno-wizard with the DemonBusters, Inc. mercenary company, with a real head for tactics and a flair for designing devices. However, he was badly injured while the company stayed over in Houstown, and agreed to undergo an experimental Techno-Wizard bionic procedure. The procedure failed utterly, and he was rebuilt as a 'borg in order to save his life. He is now used to being a 'borg, but still finds techno-wizardry fascinating, and funds a small techno-wizardry shop with his income (almost all of his needs are taken care of by the city).

Trade and Foreign Relations
Houstown is an open city, well known for providing a neutral place for competing groups to meet and discuss their differences. Lord Mayor Orpheus has only bolstered this reputation, reaching out to groups that are known to be warring in the Pecos Badlands and inviting them to stay in Houstown, at his expense, to settle their differences. To that end, Houstown has relations with most of the powers, and even the small tribes, gangs, and clans of the region.
Cordial, even friendly, relations are maintained with Don Marco and the Silver Dagger Gang in the ruins of San Antonio, the people of Los Alamo, and most of the small towns in between. These groups are distinctly not like Houstonians; Marco and his gang are bandits who run a city because it is profitable, and the people of Los Alamo are only one step removed from the Coalition; but relations with them have proven profitable over the years, and the more idealistic Houstonians (including Orpheus) hope that their good example will rub off on their neighbors. The Simmons Line doesn't quite cut Houstown off from the Kingdom of Worth, but the CS rail line from Ft. Pinnacle to Lone Star City does make travel there more risky, so trade with Macklin, never robust, has trickled off.
Further afield, Houstown (or, more accurately, Houstonians) occasionally trades with El Paso, Ciduad Juarez, and even Arzno. They know of these cities, but people travel there only once or twice a year, and do not count them as allies, but trading partners and sources of occasional oddities. Houstown has no appreciable contact with the Federation of Magic, the Colorado Baronies, Lazlo, or any of the countries to the north.
The elephant in the corner when one talks about Houstown's foreign relations is the Coalition, and when a Houstonian speaks of the Coalition, they almost always mean Fort Pinnacle. Ten years ago, Houstonians considered themselves blessed, as they were far away from the Coalition; they were the big fish in the local pond. Then the Coalition, with lightning speed, destroyed the friendly town of Port Horus and built a city almost four times the size of Houstown just seventy miles away. The military presence in Fort Pinnacle is greater than the entire population of Houstown, and Houstown has gone from a relaxed town to one with an edge of fear. Through non-magical, human, diplomats, Houstown has attempted to speak with the Coalition; offering to sell produce, negotiate fishing rights and territorial waters, or simply open a dialog, but the Coalition has proven less than open to diplomacy. For now, Houstown sends a diplomat whenever it seems appropriate (often accompanying a prisoner who has fired, unprovoked, upon Coalition troops), and freely broadcasts radio and television programs (which are censored) and information about weather and pirate fleet movements (which are silently accepted). An acceptable border of the San Jacinto River has been established, and Houstonian ships stay at least 50 miles away from Fort Pinnacle, otherwise. There is a standing invitation for Vice Admiral Copeland to visit Houstown; it is unlikely to be accepted.

Police and Military
From 80 P.A. until 101 P.A., Houstown did not have an official military. In the 80s, the remainder of Houstown's forces were whittled down to nothing in conflicts with sea monsters. After that, there has been less money available, and so the city militia has kept up the needs of defense. With the invasion of Port Horus by the Coalition, Houstown has increased its purchases and hiring of military forces. Los Alamo is a major source of Houstown's weapons and vehicles, though the city is slowly becoming more self-reliant.
Houstown has a permanent standing army of about 3000, and a militia of trained, part-time soldiers that numbers another 7000. In addition to this, there is an “unofficial militia” of retired adventurers; they number around 100, and work with the militia in exchange for repairs and ammunition, a unit of 400 psi-stalkers and rogue mutant animals, and about 300 men of magic who have at least some connection with the military.
The Houstown military is also the city police force. They maintain law and order as best they can, though many of them work more to referee and contain fights in the wilder areas of town (like the North Market). The city, while trying for a law and order reputation, is also a haven for Pecos Bandits, and so deals with flare-ups of violence, so long as they are contained and personal. Many minor crimes (such as a mutual fight, or public drunkenness) nets the perpetrators a night in jail, and a fine of 50-1000 credits. Greater crimes are investigated, both mundanely and with magical or psionic powers. The Houstown police force does not have a great success rate in arresting criminals, since many perpetrators will escape to the Badlands if anything serious happens.
Members of the military are usually Sheriffs, Deputies, Headhunters, or Merc Soldiers. All of them are given a headjack with radio enhancements, and addition to any other cybernetics or bionics they may have. The standard armor for the city guard is Bushman body armor, with officers being given either Chipwell Challenger or knock-offs of NG Gladius armor; most are armed with energy rifles, vibro-knives, and neural maces. The city owns very few “true” power armors and no giant robots. They instead rely on armored vehicles, like up-armored Mountaineer ATVs, Cavalry War Wagons (New West, pg. 202), and Wellington “Rolling Thunder” combat trucks (Juicer Uprising, p. 84). Houstown has also invested in medium-range missile launchers, similar to the shoulder-mounted missile-launchers of a Titan combat robot (10 missile capacity, volleys of up to four; each has 150 M.D.C. and a radar and targeting computer effective to 30 miles). Members of the military are paid well; 2000 credits a month is standard for enlisted men, with officers making 2500. They also receive room and board in city barracks, though many purchase and rent their own homes; privacy is not common in the enlisted barracks.
Not surprisingly, a good portion of Houstown's forces are 'borgs and other enhanced soldiers. 'Borgs are provided with complete mechanical care and repair services, plus an additional 2000 credits a month. Crazies and Juicers receive 2500 credits a month, plus maintence (drugs for Juicers, therapy and medication for Crazies). Houstown does not create 'Borgs, Juicers or Crazies for their military, but allows enhanced soldiers to enlist.
The 400 psi-stalkers and mutant animals of the Houstown police department are concentrated in North Houstown. Unlike the non-psychic soldiers, they are not provided with cybernetics, but they are armed and armored similarly to regular line soldiers (though their officers are given the option of Gladiator armor instead of powered suits). The mutant animals are paid identically to human soldiers, but the psi-stalkers receive only 1700 a month, in addition to willing donors of P.P.E..
The men of magic (primarily Ley Line Walkers and Techno-Wizards, though 10% are Shifters, 5% are Warlocks, and another 5% are Mystics and more exotic types) are concentrated in South Houstown. They're given Urban Warrior armor, energy pistols, and a Talisman with Armor of Ithan; they are expected to provide the P.P.E. to fill their own Talismans, if they expend them. Magical members of the militia are paid 2000 credits a month, and are encouraged to share spells with each other, though it is not required.
The “unofficial” militia is a scarce hundred retired adventurers who work with the city guard in times of trouble. Most of them are Men at Arms who maintain their own equipment and live their own lives; they may have settled into a mundane profession, or be independent mercenaries who hire on with the city when needed. They're paid either 70 credits a day, or 2500 credits if they work for a full month, plus repairs for damage sustained in service to the city, and ammunition reloads. Most are experienced (levels 5-7), and so the city uses them to lead independent units, or provide hardware that the city can't afford.
Members of the militia have at least Hand to Hand: Basic, and W.P. Energy Rifle. They are given an energy rifle (usually an L-20 Pulse Rifle, or a knock-off of Northern Gun rifles; all are made in town), 2 E-Clips, and Urban Warrior body armor. These come from the coffers of the city, and they're allowed to keep them at home, to provide a quick response (though the weapon and armor will be confiscated if they fail to meet their service requirements). In addition to training, they're paid 150 credits a month, and expected to serve at least 2 days a month. These individuals may be of any O.C.C., but are usually scholars and adventurer O.C.C.'s; warriors who join usually join the city guard.
Severely damaged soldiers will be made into 'Borgs if they agree to a further 5 years of service; this is agreed to when they enlist, rather than when they're injured. Otherwise, the city provides for complete medical care of those injured in the line of duty, including cybernetic replacements.

City Districts
One thing not many people are prepared for with Houstown is how spread out the city is. Including the city center, there are almost 600 square miles (1554 km2) within the area currently claimed by Houstown; without the center, there are still 550 (1424 km2). With a population of 28,000, that means that there's an average of 12 acres (5 hectares) for each person in the city. Most people don't live on 12 acres (5 hectares), but the result is several smaller communities that are still under the name and jurisdiction of Houstown.
West Houstown, sometimes called by the archaic name of Westheimer (after its main street), is the center of Houstown's medical and academic world. Several old hospitals have been refurbished with new and pre-Rifts medical technology, leading to Houstown's place as a medical mecca. Prior to the Cataclysm, Houston developed a network of hospitals, research institutions, and medical schools; more than 20 sizable or specialized medical facilities within a few hundred yards of each other. By the the time the Cataclysm hit, the Texas Medical Center made Houston the premiere civilian medical destination in the world; while other places were better at human augmentation, the TMC was best at putting humans back together. The Cataclysm did massive damage to the TMC, but reclaiming medical technology was a high priority in the early days. Houstown quickly rebuilt its medical community; were it not for Lone Star, it would be the best medical facility in the Southwest. Spread through Westheimer are three hospitals and nine clinics, with a total of more than 650 beds and more than 150 doctors.
The specialty of Houstown is mundane care and basic cybernetics; while one of the clinics performs Juicer augmentations (standard, Hyperion, Titan, or Phaeton juicers), two work in bionics, and one in M.O.M. technology, basic care for wounds and illnesses is inexpensive and cybernetics, both standard and bio-system, are at a 10% discount due to the doctors' experience and the high demand. A good number in the medical field are psychics, and the use of psychic powers in medical practice, especially in emergency situations, is an accepted part of care. Magical healing is rare, but available; some of the doctors understand the principles of it, and one clinic, the Caduceus, specializes in magical cures and treatments. In Houstown, one can expect to pay about 50-100 credits per point of P.P.E. or I.S.P. necessary to use a given spell or psychic power; magic is usually more expensive than psychic healing, due to its rarity in the city. Of course, a power like Psychic Surgery may be much more expensive than that, often costing more than traditional surgery (because of the speed of healing and the combination of knowledge, talent, and expertise required).
Because of the TMC, West Houstown attracted a large number of highly technical O.C.C.s. In addition to a large number of Body Fixers and Cyber-Docs, as one might expect, there are also Operators and Rogue Scientists who develop medical devices and procedures. West Houstown actually manufactures many cybernetic and bionic devices. It was also to West Houstown that many of the books rescued from the ruins of Houston were brought. Many of these books wound up in private hands, but a small industry in producing books on infochip is growing. Lord Mayor Orpheus has purchased a large number of these, and readers for them, to form a non-lending library in Westheimer; he hopes to duplicate this in other areas of the city, as well.
At the northwest edge of Westheimer, near where Beltway 8 and I-10 join, one of Houstown's large markets is set up. This market is much smaller than the North Market, and doesn't handle farm goods beyond a retail level, but is known as one of the best drug markets in the city. Many drugs, from the medicinal to the recreational, can be had in one wing of this refurbished mall. Nearby, there is also a medical emporium, selling medical kits and micro-robotics kits. Of course, the usual array of weapons and armor is also available, and even a few suits of power armor, but most goods in the Westheimer Market are small, high tech, and expensive.
About seventy miles (112km) northwest of town, in the remains of College Station, there's a gathering place for Simvan (and other raiders, but primarily simvan) who are coming off the western plains. The population is always shifting, but it is run by Kimic, a rather unusual individual. About 20 years ago, Kimic was part of a tribe of Simvan who drove a large herd of cattle into town. One of the bulls, for reasons that are still unknown, suddenly went berserk, grew to six times its normal size, and began rampaging through North Houstown. As the steer tore through a store selling fine porcelain, Kimic noticed that it was about to trample a small child. He dove in front of its hooves, throwing the child to safety, but received multiple shattered bones for his heroism. The merchants of North Market took up a collection for his healing, and had him remade as a Cyber-humanoid. No longer able to take part in the lifestyle of the simvan, he set up a camp for them on the west side of town, acting as a broker for any simvan tribe that requests it. He's grown quite wealthy, but sees that as a small consolation for the pity of his fellow simvan. A good portion of the income comes from a small library he's salvaged from the remains of Texas A&M's libraries, and a small veterinary college.
North Houstown is concentrated around the remains of Bush Intercontinental Airport and what used to be Aldine. The airport has become one of the major trade emporiums of the city, a destination for mercenaries, merchants, and farmers alike; many of the 12000 people who live in North Houstown are traders or work in one of the many entertainment establishments on the north side of town. North Houstown has all three of the city's breweries, 90% of the city's bars, and 75% of the city's temporary lodging. Also popular are the strip clubs and bordellos of North Houstown; Lord Mayor Orpheus objects strongly to these, but has taken no action beyond ensuring that the workers are there willingly, are free of drugs or coercion, and health standards are maintained.
As might be expected from an area with a large transient population, crime is rampant. Houstown's police spend a large amount of time in the area around the North Market, concentrating mostly on keeping feuding groups apart and violence to a minimum. Even so, the area can get pretty wild, especially when a new tribe comes in out of the Freelands with their seasonal booty, intent on spending all their money on booze and E-Clips. Almost every establishment either has its own security, or chips in with neighbors to hire joint security. Neighborhoods tend to police themselves; anyone who doesn't belong is met by a friendly local with a shotgun (or M.D.C. weapon) and asked to explain himself. This friendly local usually has back up concealed around the area, and someone ready to call the guard.
North Houstown has a few residents of note. The first is Mike Song, who runs the Seoul House about half a mile from the North Market. The Seoul House is popular with Pecos bandits and Houstonians alike because the prices are good, the beer is cold, and the place is kept safe by an almost inhumanly tough psi-stalker named "Digg"; Digg is rumored to have beaten two men until they needed cybernetic reconstruction to walk again, and takes particular glee in "eating" any psychics, mages, or D-Bees who cause trouble. Mike works hard to keep up the reputation of the Seoul House as a good place to meet and eat, since he's in charge of the Coalition's Pecos Empire Intelligence Unit. Mike Song is, more properly, Lt. Colonel Michael Song, a 7th level CS Military Specialist; Digg is Sgt. James Diggory, also of Military Intelligence. The popularity of Seoul House provides the perfect cover for agents to come meet with either Lt. Col. Song or Sgt. Diggory, pass on their information, and then leave with a bellyful of bulgogi. About once a month, a courier will come from Fort Pinnacle (until 101 P.A., it was Lone Star City, but it's since changed with the construction of Fort Pinnacle), and Mike will pass on his information. To date, no one has clued into Mike's true purpose, but the Coalition also makes few overt moves in Houstown itself.
Also worth noting is Doctor Tom. Doctor Tom (Thomas Anderson) is a Cyber-Doc who's decided that more money can be made working in the North Market than down in Westheimer. As such, he's probably the only Body-Chop Shop in the city of Houstown; he survives by being incredibly low-key. 90% of his business is simple doctoring; repairing wounds, dispensing medication for illnesses, and even delivery of babies for those who don't want (or can't wait) to go to Westheimer. 5% of his business is legitimate (or semi-legitimate) cybernetic and bionic enhancement; the parts are new, the prices are reasonable, and the authorities are rarely informed. That last 5% is what he doesn't want anyone to know about. He happily sells drugs to any who ask for them, supplying a small network of dealers and abusers in Houstown and beyond. He also purchases "used" cybernetics and bionics and installs them in whoever can pay, and performs experiments on those who cannot; not a few bandits have experimental cybernetics or bionics that they're "trying out" in lieu of payment. He's perfectly willing to take trade, and has an amazing ability to not ask questions about the source of anything he buys.
East Houstown, better known locally as Pasadena, is home to the Port of Houstown, the city's industrial base and its reclamation industry. While old (pre-Rifts) Pasadena was south and east of Texas 225, the new Pasadena straddles the Ship Channel, nearer to the old district of Galena Park, right next to the Ship Channel. This area is home to the poorest of Houstown's residents, a fact which Orpheus has attempted to combat, though with little success. Many work in the port, the factories, and the recycling centers. Houstown has very few commercial robots (due to its inability to provide new nuclear plants for them), and many Houstown businesses make use of cheap power armor, like the Chipwell Challenger (see Rifts: Mercenaries) and the Northern Gun Gladius Exo-Skeleton, to provide additional physical capability for its mundane workers. Of course, many with supernatural strength or bionic bodies are employed in Pasadena.
This area is home to most of Houstown's shipping industry, as well. While routes east have been cut off by the Coalition's Fort Pinnacle, Houstonians still trade along Mexico's east coast (Tampico is a frequent customer), with the Gulf's Kreel-lok, and down to Colombia in South America. Very few make an attempt on the Yucatan; most established sea routes completely avoid that area. A few brave souls trade with the humans at Altun Ha, and, warily, with the people of Tulum. It is traditional (and required) to bathe in the Gulf after such a trade, and many crews will soak the entire ship.
Pasadena is also home to the most of Houstown's military. Fort Pinnacle is just 70 miles east; it's possible to hit the city with a medium range missile from Houstown, or vice versa. Lord Mayor Orpheus has declared that anyone making an unprovoked attack on Fort Pinnacle will be captured and turned over the Coalition at Fort Pinnacle; he has no desire to stir that hornet's nest. Several small arms manufacturers are located in Pasadena, mostly making common weapons and knock-offs of Northern Gun and Wilks technologies.
Pasadena sees frequent outbursts of filth demons; sprite-sized globs of foulness, these will erupt from corrupted water like pus erupting from a lanced boil. Physically, they are almost harmless (4-5 SDC, only 1D4 S.D.C. damage from a kamikaze ramming attack; they take full damage from the attack), but they are potent little stinkers – literally. Any item upon which one dies cannot be cleaned without a ritual of exorcism, and any living creature upon which one dies (even if it dies upon their armor, though not upon power armor) begins to revel in filth. They refuse to bathe, go out of their way to cover themselves in foul substances, eat rotted or decayed food, etc., unless a save vs. insanity is made for each creature that dies. This obsession can only be cured by a remove curse cast for EACH failed save vs. insanity, and removing the curse forces a second save vs. insanity, to avoid an obsession with cleanliness (with a -1 for each day that the person was obsessed with filth; maximum -3). Filth demons can only be destroyed by fire or energy weapons, clean water (at least 1 gallon per demon, or they simply overpower it), or bludgeoning weapons at least 6” wide that strike with a 10 or better (hitting them square, and sacrificing the weapon to foulness).
Of special note in Pasadena are three businesses. The first is Houstown Cyberworks. This small company has absolutely no connection to Archie III, the insane computer built by the pre-Rifts company, Cyberworks Network, but chose the name because it seemed appropriate for their products. They make use of cybernetic and bionic technologies in ways that non-cybernetic individuals can use; glasses with the capabilities of a cybernetic eye, breathing systems based on cybernetic lungs, and reworked versions of common robotic and cybernetic technologies used in innovative, and non-invasive fashions (see new equipment for some of their creations); they also manufacture cybernetics and bionics for implantation. Though they don't actively support cyber-snatching, they are in the market for unique cybernetic devices. One of Archie's reconnaissance robots came across this corporation in the late 90's, and he has sent several robots to work there over the years, borrowing technology and trying to determine what connection they have to his creators (which is absolutely none, but Archie refuses to believe this). There's a 15% chance that a robot from Archie will be working at Houstown Cyberworks at any given time; most remain only a short while before returning data to Archie.
There are also two shipyards in Pasadena, belonging to two fiercely competitive families, the San Jacinto Shipyard (run by the Gonzalez family) and the Gulf Coast Harbors (owned by the Jackson clan). Both do excellent work, producing a large variety of boats and ships (up to about 100 feet, though 20-30 foot boats are their bread and butter; see World Book 7: Underseas for common sea vessels), but bad blood going back to the beginning of the sea serpent incursions a century ago has led these two families to many acts of sabotage. Both are keen to acquire some "edge" which will allow them to completely dominate the shipbuilding industry in Houstown. The Gonzalez family has recently purchased two "Black Galleon" gunboats from the Republic of Colombia (World Book 6: South America), which they think will help overtake the Jacksons; the Jacksons are almost frantic to either destroy those boats, or get their secrets for themselves.
South Houstown is the least densely populated of the entire city; much of the land between I-610 and Beltway 8 has been converted to agricultural use, with the actual settlement being at the junction of old I-45 and Beltway 8, near Hobby Airport (which still functions). The fishing docks of the city jut out from the embankment of Beltway 8, and provide a good haul of daily fish. South Houstown is also home to most of the city's sorcerers and techno-wizards, including Lord Mayor Orpheus.
One of Lord Mayor Orpheus's early investments was to purchase and have restored a pre-Rifts weather plane. Since Houstown is vulnerable to hurricanes, this weather plane provides advance notice of conditions in the Gulf. It makes daily flights during the storm season, and weekly flights throughout the rest of the year. This weather information is freely broadcast, and Orpheus has paid for upgrades which make sure the information is available as far as 100 miles away (including Fort Pinnacle), provided the ley lines are relatively quiet. This plane flies out of Hobby Airport.
South Houstown is home to a great many spellcasters and other types of men of magic. A new study that is beginning in South Houstown is Ocean Magic and Whalesongs, learned from the dolphins who inhabit the Bay. A few have developed into Sea Druids, Ocean Wizards, or Whale Singers because of the magical community here and interaction with the dolphins and Kreel-lok. Orpheus encourages this development, as it leads to more defenders and allies for the city. He does NOT encourage the occasional summoning of storms and directing them at Fort Pinnacle, nor does he know that a cabal of Ocean Wizards has taken to redirecting any and all hurricanes in that direction. Trade with the Kreel-lok has brought some naut-yll techno-wizard devices to Houstown; these are not widespread or commonly available, but are becoming more popular as their powers become known (including the ability to be used, though not recharged, by those without magic or psychic powers).
Because it is home to Lord Mayor Orpheus, South Houstown is also home to the city government. Due to Lord Mayor Orpheus's size, he has had his own home constructed, which includes a meeting chamber for the Mayor's advisory council, meditation chambers, and a small library. Representatives to the Council are coming and going throughout most of the day.

Downtown is the region defined by the 610 loop, comprising the entire center of the city. Before the coming of the Rifts, Downtown referred to a just the north east quarter of this district, but the devastation from wind-damaged buildings and flooded bayous was so total that most people moved to the higher, better protected, lands of the north and west, only going to the eastern and southern parts of town in search of food. The subsequent centuries have led to Downtown being a ruin of twisted metal and concrete, overgrown with a dense jungle of live oak and other native trees. It is haunted by entities of all kinds, and even has native wildlife; in addition to feral dogs and cats, there are several dwarf tigers (severely inbred creatures who survived from the Hermann Park Zoo) and even colonies of great apes. Native Texas cattle and horses have bred with more exotic types that escaped the zoo, leaving pygmy zebra-horses and much larger (and tougher) wild cattle to roam in this limited space.
King of all beasts within Downtown are the psi-stalkers. They have slowly trickled into the area for as long as people can remember, fighting the monsters and beasts of Downtown, as well as each other. Two tribes exist within downtown, the Tiger and the Horse, and they have ritualized warfare between them over territorial slights and personal insults. Such fights always take place on the dividing line between them, the ruins of I-59, and are always fought with a single knife, supplied by the opposing tribe. Go-tak, the representative to the Mayor's Advisory Council, is from technically from neither tribe, but instead defeated several champions from each tribe for the right to hunt wherever he pleases. They tend to bully the D-bees who live in downtown as well, but many (especially those who have little magical or psychic ability) have reached agreements with the psi-stalkers to where they are not molested (often).
The Tiger live in the smaller area north of I-59; this area is more densely populated by entities, but is also the far more difficult terrain. It includes the remains of “traditional” downtown, which is a favored hunting area for the Tiger, but also the old Chinese embassy and an expanse of jungle just north of 59. There are about 30 members of the Tiger, but that fluctuates seasonally; psi-stalkers from outside can join by capturing a dwarf tiger by hand, without weapons, and a few do every year, while other Tigers leave due to injury, death, and taking work outside of Downtown.
The Horse live in the much larger area south of 59. Their lands have a thick overhead cover, but are relatively clear of undergrowth. Their lands contain the old Museum District, including the Hermann Park Zoo, Rice University, University of Houston and the old Texas Medical Center. Many of these areas have been looted, but the lure of undiscovered treasure means that many Horse hunt treasure hunters. In order to join the Horse, one must defeat three Horse champions in simultaneous combat; yourself unarmed, and they with knives. The Horse has about 60 members, but that fluctuates daily; a third of them may be wiped out in a struggle against interlopers, while twenty-five may join the next day as the tribe licks its wounds.
Other Houstonians, especially from Pasadena, frequently come to Downtown to scavenge materials; there is a large business in recycling old buildings into raw materials. Others, usually from outside of Houstown, come following the lure of lost treasures; they read or heard of a certain thing that was supposed to be located in old Houston, and wanted to find it for themselves. The local psi-stalkers regard these as intrusions, and will frequently terrorize and kill members of these expeditions unless well paid (two or three energy weapons, five to ten E-Clips, or a single, brand new, vibro-blade or magical hand to hand weapon given to the current leader). These battles will frequently reshape the landscape of Downtown; while the psi-stalkers prefer hand weapons, adventurers and scavengers are likely to be packing lasers, plasma weapons, or even missiles which will remove former hills or set off sizable fires. Go-tak has gotten the tribes to agree to allow the Department of Water to send workers Downtown to maintain the bayous, especially when it was pointed out their role in containing fires to smaller areas of downtown.

NPCs of Note:
Lord Mayor Orpheus, the Titan
Much was said of Orpheus's past in World Book 13: Lone Star; his friendship with Gilgamesh and Enkidu, his draw to the south, and his coming to Houstown. He's now been resident in Houstown for thirty-one years, and mayor for twenty-eight. Despite the difficulty of his work, his enthusiasm for and dedication to his adopted city hasn't dimmed in the least.
Being mayor has made Orpheus very rich, though not through bribe-taking. Instead, he has invested heavily in the city and its businesses. He's put out three times the amount he has taken in, however, and watched the city grow as a consequence. Though Orpheus isn't an ascetic, he spends very little on his own comfort; even his new mayoral palace is as much an administrative center as it is his home. Instead, he's bought weapons and power armor for the city's militia, funded hospitals and businesses at the start, and invested in infrastructure to allow all of Houstown to prosper. In return, the businesses he's invested in have repaid him steadily, allowing him to invest even further.
His greatest concern in the past few years has been the Coalition's installation at Fort Pinnacle. He has difficulty understanding how the Coalition's citizens can believe the things they do, so his overtures of alliance to Fort Pinnacle are genuine; he hopes that if they can see how the people of Houstown live, they'll want to live that way, too. To that end, he's provided passive aid to the Coalition (information about pirate fleets and weather), and makes Houstown's programming freely available, to show the Coalition what life is like in a free society. The Coalition's ECM prevents most of this from getting through, he knows, but he hopes enough gets through to convince a few, or at least cause some doubts. Of course, when new refugees from Fort Pinnacle come in, he worries that they may be spies. His ethics won't let him put them to psychic probing, and so he's left to trust that either they are not, or that, at least, his people are competent enough to keep secrets.
Real Name: Orpheus Stonewalker
Species: Palladium Titan
Alignment: Principled
Hit Points: 55 MDC: 160 Age: 188
Height: 13 feet (3.9 m)
Weight: 700 lbs. (317 kg)
Attributes: I.Q.: 13 M.E.: 10 M.A.: 12 P.S.: 21 P.P.: 25 P.E.: 26 P.B.: 20 Spd: 12
Disposition: Orpheus is basically a nice person who was forced by circumstances to become somewhat aloof from the people he governs. He accepted the position of Lord Mayor all those years ago because he felt that no one else could do the job as well as he. Orpheus tends to leads by example, and time has proven him a role-model for many Houstonians. The rest of Pecos, however, tends to regard him as overly idealistic or simply naive about the way the world really works (his objections to raiding are regarded with particular confusion).
Experience Level: 9th level Mystic and Interdimensional Palladin
Skills of Note: Speaks Dragonese/Elf, Troll/Giant and American at 98%, and Texican at 80%; literate in Dragonese/Elf at 98%, and in American at 80%. Dance 90%, Horsemanship: Exotic 86%, Wilderness Survival 90%, Holistic Medicine 75%, Streetwise 61%, Lore: (Magic, Demons and Monsters, Psychics and Psionics, Law: General) 75%, hunting, W.P. Sword, W.P. Knife, W.P. Heavy, W.P. Heavy Energy Weapons.
Combat Skills: Hand to Hand: Martial Arts
Number of Attacks: Seven (7)
Bonuses: +2 on initiative, +7 Pull Punch, +7 Strike, +8 Parry, +8 to Dodge, +4 roll with impact, +3 to disarm, +6 vs. poison, +22% vs. coma, +8 vs Horror Factor, +2 vs. possession, +10 vs. magic. +3 vs Psionics. +4 to perception (double on Ley Lines). 50% to charm/impress. 4D6+6 S.D.C. on a restrained punch, 2D6 M.D. on a full strength punch. Critical Strike on 18-20, Paired Weapons, Body Flip/Throw, Kick Attack
Natural Abilities: Supernatural Strength and Endurance. Nightvision 90 feet (27.4m), see the invisible, Bio-regenerates 4D6 S.D.C. per minute (4 melees), turn 6D6 dead at will (80% success ratio), impervious to vampire's bite, dimensional teleport at will (45%; +10% on a ley line, +20% on a nexus).
Magic Knowledge: Globe of Daylight, climb, concealment, levitation, mystic alarm, see aura, thunderclap, fingers of wind, turn dead, armor of Ithan, charismatic aura, resist fire, trance, cure minor disorders, shadow meld, superhuman strength, superhuman speed, cure illness, tongues, globe of silence, invulnerability, wisps of confusion, oracle, mute, speed of the snail, mystic portal and control/enslave entity. +3 to spell strength (opponents need a 15 or higher to save). P.P.E.: 260
Psionic Knowledge: Clairvoyance, Commune with Spirits, Exorcism, Sixth Sense, Suppress Fear, Astral Projection, Sense magic, intuitive combat, induce sleep, psychic purification, P.P.E. Shield, and Group Mind Block. I.S.P.: 79
Weapons and Equipment: Orpheus relies primarily on magic for protection (his armor of ithan provides an additional 90 M.D.C.), but he does own a suit of giant-sized chain armor for sentimental reasons (it was a gift from his father upon coming of age). The armor has 90 M.D.C.. Orpheus is usually armed with an NG-202 rail gun (1D4x10 M.D. per burst) and a giant-sized vibro sword (which does 4D6 M.D.) He also owns a recent gift of a TW Lightblade, modified to run on P.P.E./I.S.P. (20 P.P.E./40 I.S.P. per activation, 1D4x10 M.D. per attack), and some T.W. Modified chain armor (90 M.D.C., with the enhancements of Impervious to Energy and Breathe Without Air.)
Description: A muscular giant with metallic silver hair and dark eyes.
Money: At any given time, Orpheus has perhaps 500,000 credits readily available; most is tied up in business ventures and other investments. With a few days, he could get his hands on 16 million, but that would involve selling off a lot of investments.

Kimic, Simvan Cyber-Humanoid
Kimic was a member of a smaller tribe of simvan allied with Zimchex's Pervic tribe of the Grande Range (see Rifts: Lone Star). As noted above, he was badly injured in a trading mission to Houstown when a bull suddenly and violently mutated into a gigantic monstrosity, and he chose to sacrifice himself to save the life of a child. In gratitude, he was rebuilt as a cyber-humanoid; almost nothing of the original simvan remains except for his brain and brainstem.
That was 20 years ago, not long after Orpheus became mayor. His native psychic abilities went away with his simvan body, so he chose not to return to the range. Instead, he went northwest to the small town of College Station. The former site of a university known for its agriculture, College Station was now a small farming village. Kimic carved out a large field and began to receive incoming herds there, paying fair price, and bringing the herds, or the meat, into Houstown on his own. As he grew more prosperous, he hired people to excavate the ruins of the university library, learning more, as he did so, about animal husbandry and agriculture, knowledge he bartered with others for money and labor. Within five years, he was the defacto ruler of College Station, and a major cattle (and other herd animals) baron. He has since cleared a direct road from College Station to the markets of North Houstown, and has considered putting in a railroad; it seems there is a large amount of bar stock available in Houstown, recently.
Kimic is now a major player in Houstown's economy. 85% of the city's food animals come through College Station, and he pays good wages for cowboys, psi-stalkers, psi-druids and bounty hunters. His excavation of the university at College Station has also turned up a large number of books, both paper and on chip, which he has sold in the Westheimer markets. Personally, he is one of the few who deals well with simvan, and prefers to ride a robot horse and be surrounded by robot dogs; using his cybernetics, he can control these almost as if he were still a psychic. He tries not to think about his age; at more than 40, he's reaching a point where many simvan start to slow down, but he's still going strong, and likely will for a hundred more years.
Real Name: Kimic
Species: Simvan (Cyber-humanoid)
Alignment: Unprincipled
Hit Points: N/A MDC: 100 Age: 42
Height: 6 feet (1.8m) tall
Weight: 300 pounds (135kg)
Attributes: I.Q.: 10 M.E.: 15 M.A.: 8 P.S.: 20 P.P.: 15 P.E.: N/A P.B.: 12 Spd: 58 Note: Strength is Robotic.
Disposition: Kimic tends to be fairly quite and reserved; rare enough in a Simvan of his apparent age (he looks like the young simvan warrior he was when he was injured). He will speak sharply to people, but his time as a businessman has made him much more diplomatic and savvy than many expect from a “barbarian”.
Experience Level: 3rd level Simvan warrior; 5th level Cyber-humanoid
Skills of Note: Speak Simvan (98%), Speak American 82%, Speak Spanish 77%, Literacy: American: 60%, Land Navigation 76%, Skin and Prepare Animal Hides 60%, Horsemanship: Cowboy 88/72%, Horsemanship: Exotic: 80/70%, Mathematics: Basic: 85%, Climb 60/50%, Dance 60%, Radio: Basic 75%, Intelligence 48%, Escape Artist 60%, Computer Operation 75%, Streetwise 46%, W.P Archery, W.P. Targeting, W.P. Knife, W.P. Energy Rifle, W.P. Energy Pistol, W.P. Blunt, W.P. Rope
Combat Skills: Hand to Hand Expert, Boxing, Wrestling
Number of Attacks: Six (6)
Bonuses: +4 initiative, +3 Strike, +5 parry, +6 dodge, +5 to pull punch, +3 roll with impact, +5 to damage, +2 v. Horror Factor. 2D6+5 S.D.C. on a restrained punch, 1 M.D. (often augmented by knuckle blades) on a full strength punch, 1D4 M.D. on a kick.
Natural Abilities: See Cybernetics.
Magic Knowledge: None. P.P.E.: 2
Psionic Knowledge: None.
Cybernetics/Bionics: In the past five years, Kimic has come to accept his new body and has spent a fair amount of money on improving it. However, he retains the completely Simvan look of his body, so all of his implants are completely concealed.
Left Arm: Computer and Calculator and Concealed Laser Rod in the forearm, a Wrist Needle (typically loaded completely with tranquilizers), silver-plated retractable knuckle blades (1D6+1 damage), a finger camera, fingerjack, and laser utility finger.
Right Arm: Concealed Electrical and neural mace rods in forearm, a concealed climb cord in the wrist (often used as an emergency lariat), vibro-blade retractable knuckle blades (2D4 M.D.), Fingerjack, and a DNA Analyzer in one finger (will sometimes scratch with vibro-blades if necessary to get a little blood).
Head: Built in speech translator, Molecular Analyzer, Built in Loudspeaker, built-in radio & headjack (with long range, wide band modification). Multi-optic Eyes (the left one is an alarm, the right one is also a clock), Amplified Hearing with ultra-ear and sound filtration. Bionic lung with oxygen storage cell.
Unlike most Cyber-humanoids, Kimic does not have many cosmetic features. Most of his enhancements are practical.
Weapons and Equipment: Kimic usually weapons a partial suit of Fury Beetle armor (50 M.D.C.) without a helmet, and carries a Vibro-Knife, and a Wilks 227 Pulse Pistol (New West). If word comes in of a bandit raid, he'll break out LE-B1 cyborg armor (135 M.D.C.), and a Northern Gun particle beam, but that's happened only a handful of times in 20 years. His preferred mount is a “Mustang” robot horse, and he typically works with two or three robot dogs.
Description: To all appearances, Kimic is a fairly average simvan. If one looks closely, however, his eyes are a metallic gray, and he seldom blinks.
Money: Kimic has approximately 2 million credits on hand every day to account for incoming purchases, and can easily get up to 6 million. If it became necessary to rapidly raise a lot of money, he may be able to get 10 million within a week, and 30 million within a month.

Mike Song, Restaurateur and Spy
Mike Song grew up in Lone Star City, the son of an Army officer. Never especially strong or agile, his intelligence and resiliency brought him to the attention of the Coalition recruiters early as a possible intelligence agent. He attended training in Lone Star, and then spent two decades as an operative throughout the territory, moving into small cities and towns, feeding information back to the Coalition, then moving on before anyone grew the wiser. He did, in fact, establish a name for himself as a cook in much of western Lone Star during that time, as that was his most common cover.
Ten years ago, Mike was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and assigned to Houstown. He had been living in Los Alamo, working in a small restaurant there, but he packed up and moved to Houstown, opening the Seoul House on the north side of the city, since that's where most transients came through. Soon thereafter, he “happened” to hire “Digg”, another Coalition agent, giving him the necessary security for his operation. He's well-known and well-liked within the city, and has even gone so far as to join the city militia; of course, he wouldn't take up arms against the Coalition, but it does provide him with a reason to keep an energy rifle and armor at hand, and keeps him privy to the military information of the city.
He is quietly proud of his role in the Coalition, and knows that it was his information (rather, information provided to him by operatives, but still “his” information to his mind) which led to the destruction of Port Horus and the establishment of Fort Pinnacle. Mike is, however, starting to suspect that this job is something of a career dead end; more and more of his operatives are being promoted out from under him, while he has been in place for ten years. He is currently under a lot of pressure to find out what has been happening to the rail line between Lone Star City and Fort Pinnacle, and while he knows that they are being sold in Houstown, he can find no pattern in who is selling them.
Real Name: Michael Song
Species: Human
Alignment: Aberrant, though outwardly Scrupulous
Hit Points: 29 SDC: 13 Age: 48
Height: 5'7” (1.7m)
Weight: 150 pounds (68kg)
Attributes: I.Q.: 15 M.E.: 20 M.A.: 15 P.S.: 11 P.P.: 12 P.E.: 16 P.B.: 19 Spd: 21
Disposition: Openly, Mike is very friendly and welcoming to everyone. He likes to talk to people, and takes care to remember what people like, and suggest other things that they might like (or that will go well with what they have ordered). In private, Lt. Col. Song is self-centered and slightly arrogant. He tends to word his reports in ways that downplay others contributions, and to consider every victory by the Coalition in Lone Star to be the result of his personal efforts.
Experience Level: 7th Level Coalition Military Specialist
Skills of Note: Speak American and Spanish, 98%. Literacy: American 98%, Computer Operation, Electronic Countermeasures 80%, Intelligence 84%, Pilot Automobile 87%, Pilot Hovercraft 90%, Pilot: Robots and Power Armor 84%, Mathematics: Basic 95%, Radio: Basic 95%, Weapon Systems 80%, Detect Concealment 65%, Detect Ambush 70%, Forgery 60%, Interrogation 70%, Undercover Ops 70%, Cooking (Professional Quality, specializes in Korean Food) 75%, W.P. Energy Rifle, W.P. Energy Pistol, W.P. Knife, W.P. Blunt, W.P. Heavy Energy Weapons
Combat Skills: Hand to Hand Expert, 7th level; Robot Combat: Basic
Number of Attacks: Five (5)
Bonuses: +3 initiative, +3 vs. Psionic Attack, +3 vs. insanity, +2 v. Possession, +1 v. Mind control, +1 vs. magic and poison, +4% v. coma, 45% charm/impress, +3 pull punch, +2 roll with punch, +2 strike, +4 parry, +5 dodge, critical strike on 18-20, paired weapons, karate punch, karate kick, backhand
Natural Abilities: See cybernetics
Magic Knowledge: None. P.P.E.: 9
Psionic Knowledge: None.
Cybernetics: Headjack (with radio receiver/transmitter), Optic Nerve Video Implant, Amplified Hearing, Sound Filtration. Also has a bionic Telepathic Blocker installed, and a Mind Control Blocker.
Weapons and Equipment: In addition to the militia-issued L-20 Rifle and Urban Warrior armor, Mike also keeps a Wilks laser derringer (2D4 M.D.) and a Wilk's Laser Wand (variable S.D.C. Damage) in quick-draw holsters under his shirt sleeves, and a vibro-knife in a small-of-the-back sheath. He purposely does not have any Coalition equipment.
Description: Mike is a handsome, middle-age Korean man.
Money: The income from Mike's restaurant has actually supported him and Digg completely for the past ten years, so his Coalition income has simply sat in a bank account. With a couple days to get at it, he has almost half a million credits if he really needs them. Without drawing on his Coalition funds, Mike has about 5000 credits in an instant, and could get another 10,000 in loans or repaid debts.

New Equipment
Houstown Cyberworks
Optical Enhancement Sunglasses
OpEnS utilize cybernetic technology in an external form, allowing the benefits of cybernetic vision for the average human being. Furthermore, there are special options that make them even more useful to those who already have cybernetics.
The theory behind OpEnS is simple. Cybernetic eyes have are a long proven technology, and their enhancement potential is undeniable. Most importantly, though, their small size proves that you no longer need clunky, visor-style goggles to gain the benefits of telescopic and macroscopic sight, thermographic vision, and even light amplification-based passive nightvision. Houstown Cyberworks, however, has taken the technology that allows cybernetic eyes to maintain their awesome clarity and versatility, and installed it into the lenses of stylish sunglasses, but without compromising the wearer's ability to see when our features are turned off. A small console, easily held in one hand or built into a suit of armor, allows the user to switch freely between any options installed, or between them and normal sight, just as if he had cybernetic vision installed.

Basic OpEnS System: 6000cr
The basic OpEnS System includes the glasses, which we will be happy to calibrate to match your vision; if you have any vision deficiencies, these glasses will correct them to 20/20, and even function as multi-focal lenses for those who require it.

Basic OpEnS Options:
Thermo-Imaging: 2000cr
Accurate to 1600 feet (480m)
Passive Nightvision: 2000cr
Allows vision clearer than any conventional image enhancer to 2000 feet (610m), 25% further than conventional systems.
Telescopic Vision: 1200cr
Adjustable to 8x magnification.
Microscopic Vision: 1200cr
Objects within 3 feet (.9m) can be digitally enhanced up to ten times their usual size and detail.
Computer Interface: 1500cr
The OpEnS system can access and display information from any computer attached to it by a universal plug (comes with 5 feet of detachable cord), including our cybernetic internal computers. Text and images are displayed in a Heads Up view.

With a Headjack plug installed in the temple piece of the OpEnS system, complete cybernetic control is possible of the system, removing the need for the controller. In addition, there are more options that can be installed, including a tracking crosshair, a micro-radio, and even an anti-theft Device. Also, if you have a Optic Video Nerve Implant, the OpEnS can be modified by a qualified technician (or ordered from the factory) to transmit the images that come across their lens, whether the OpEnS are on your head or not!

OpEnS Cybernetic Options
Targeting Crosshairs: 4000cr
The image of the crosshairs is projected on the lens, and tracks to the chosen target. When combined with one of our image-enhancement options (nightvision or telescopic vision), the target can even be highlighted against the background! These require a headjack plug in order to use. (These add a special +1 to strike with ranged weapons)
Built-in Radio: 8000cr
Much like the headjack option, this builds a small radio into the opposite temple piece from the headjack plug, and transmits what it receives to your headjack on a special, low-power frequency. A small receptor is built into a collar, allowing you to send messages as well as receive them. The range of the radio is 3 miles. This, of course, requires a headjack.
Ultrasonic Option: 3500cr
This small receptor is built into a temple piece of the OpEnS system, allows you to understand ultrasonic transmissions through your headjack, without having additional surgery.
Molecular Analyzer: 15,000cr
Much like the lung implant, this temple-piece mounted microchip samples the air around the OpEnS system and transmits alerts to you through your headjack.
Visual Data Transmitter: 1500cr
This is a simple, narrow-band transmitter that will, when combined with one of the image-enhancing options, send whatever your OpEnS system sees to your Optic Video Nerve Implant, allowing you to see whatever your OpEnS system does from up to a mile away (1.6km).
Explosive Temple Piece: 1000cr
This is the ultimate in anti-theft devices! If someone else attempts to plug into your OpEnS system, the difference in their headjack's electronic signature will cause a small fusion charge to explode in the temple piece, killing any mortal instantly (1d4 Mega-Damage).

Clean-Breathe Environmental Systems
The Clean-Breathe line of gas and oxygen masks is based on cybernetic lung implants. Using chemical cells, oxygen is stored from normal breathing, and gradually released for inhalation. Meanwhile, micro-robotic scrubbers and a series of filters cleans incoming air, greatly extending the usable air in any environment.

Basic Oxygen System: 25,000 credits
This system, consisting of a nose and mouth-covering mask and an oxygen cell, provides sufficient oxygen for 30 minutes of breathing. Without a special pump (only 500 credits more), one hour of normal breathing through the mask is required to recharge the cell between uses; with the pump, the recharging can be done automatically.
Advanced Oxygen System: 30,000 credits
An enhanced version of the basic system, this dual-cell system provides enough oxygen for up to an hour of breathing. Recharging the chemical cell requires two hours of normal breathing, but this system is available with a single pump or double-pump system to allow recharging when not wearing the mask. The double-pump system is only 800 credits, and recharges the system in only an hour.
Basic Air Filter System: 5,000 credits
Don't let the price put you off… this is no simple air filter. The nose and mouth mask uses micro-robotics and filters to remove more than 80% of all inhaled pollutants from the air! This is proven to reduce the suffering from allergies, as well as protect from weapons-grade chemical poisons. Filters need to be replaced every 120 hours, but new ones are only 100 credits each. (The system adds +3 to save against inhaled poisons and fumes, but is ineffective against tear gas and other chemicals which work by irritating the skin and eyes.)
Clean-Breathe Gas Mask: 40,000 credits or 45,000 credits for the dual-cell system.
Clean-Breathe Gas Masks are the best on the market, combining air filtering systems and oxygen storage systems with a tough, protective, hood. Special seals allow them to be integrated into fully environmental armor or used on their own, providing top of the line environmental protection. By engaging both toxin filters and oxygen systems, the system can last for three times as long as the oxygen systems alone when in hostile environments, or work purely off of stored oxygen in airless environments! Since the hood is specially treated to resist weapons-grade chemicals, they also provide complete protection from tear gas! This system can be customizes to include the advantages of our OpEnS system, for only 4000 credits, plus any other options you may choose! (The system adds +5 to save vs. inhaled poisons and fumes while the air filters are engaged. The hood itself has 2 M.D.C., but that only applies if the head is specifically targeted. Like the basic air filter, filters must be changed every 120 hours.)
Complete Clean-Breathe Environmental System: 60,000 credits
A complete body glove (available in several colors), made of the same tough fibers as Triax's Plainclothes Armor, it includes not only the advanced oxygen system, but also integrates it with the basic air filter and eye and skin protection to form an environmental suit which can even be worn under military and civilian armor! The integration of oxygen and air filtering systems can provide up to five hours of breathable air, or an hour running on completely sealed systems! Built into the system is a double-pump recharging system, allowing the system to recharge on its own when not in use, and can even recharge while the system's air filters are engaged! (The body glove has 10 MDC and a -5% prowl penalty, but otherwise functions as a fully environmental suit of armor; below 7 M.D.C., the environmental system is compromised, and will only work as well as the gas mask detailed above. Can be worn with other, non-environmental, suits of armor. When running partially on filter, the wearer has a +8 bonus to save vs. poison gases and fumes, including nerve gases. Like the basic air filter, filters must be changed every 120 hours.)
Molecular Analyzer Option: 15,000 credits
Any of the Clean-Breathe line of environmental protection systems can be enhanced with a molecular analyzer. As efficient as the version on our OpEnS system, the data can be transmitted either to a headjack, cybernetic hearing augmentation, or to a wristwatch style receiver.

Robotic Aid Systems
Based on the same Pre-Rifts technology as the Robot Medical Kit, the Robotic Aid Systems are each designed with to perform a single task. Each system consists of a tough case (6 M.D.C.), approximately 3 inches * 12 inches * 9 inches (or 7.62*30.48*22.86 centimeters) which contains between six and thirty tiny robots, each about the size of a shirt button. These robots are programmed to perform very specific functions. Each case is covered in solar cells, allowing the system to recharge simply by sitting in the sun; cords are also available for constant use, or recharging when sunlight is not available

Robot Demolitions Kit: 60,000 credits
The case of this system is specially reinforced for those who will be working on the front lines (15 M.D.C.). The system and its robots are perfectly capable of examining and defusing explosive materials; all they need is someone to activate them and direct them toward their work! The system handles most human-made explosives at 80%, but has some trouble with more complex explosives (-5 to -20% to work on alien explosives, unless very similar to those created by humans; Game Master's discretion).

Robot Diagnostic Kit: 30,000 credits for power armor or motorcycle-sized vehicles, 50,000 credits for giant robots or larger vehicles; information disks cost 7000 credits each
Each Robot Diagnostic Kit is programmed with one specific model of power armor or vehicle. Upon activation, it releases a number of our special robots (twenty for the smaller sized machines, thirty for the larger) which seek out damaged systems and report back to the case, providing a mechanic with a complete diagnosis of the machine's status, all within only 30 minutes! While the robots do not repair the damage, they are 75% accurate, and provide invaluable information for a mechanic.
While each kit is only programmed with the information for a single vehicle or power armor, the system can be reprogrammed with information disks; each different model of commercial power armor, robot, vehicle, or 'borg chassis costs 7000 credits and is accurate to 60%. Remove the disk, and the RDK returns to full efficiency for its original unit.
(Any mechanic making use of this diagnostic tool receives a special +15% bonus to repair the vehicle or power armor; this is reduced to +10% if the system has been reprogrammed. Attempting to use the RDK on a design for which has not been programmed, or a design which is too large for it, reduces the bonus to +1D20 -10%; penalties are possible, and the new penalty or bonus must be determined each time the RDK is used. Someone with both Robot Mechanics, Bioware Mechanics, Automotive Mechanics, or Aircraft Mechanics AND Computer Programming can program an effective information disk; takes 1D4 days of work.)

Robot Electronics Kit: 30,000 credits
More closely based on the Robot Medical Kit, the Electronics Kit can be used to repair computers and basic electronic devices, or provide more in-depth diagnoses for problems it cannot repair. Upon activation, up to a score of microbots will enter and inspect the target system, to either repair or diagnose the damage. Equal to a Basic Electronics and Computer Repair skill of 88%, and able to perform diagnoses for Electrical Engineer or Robot Electronics problems at 75%. Accurate diagnoses add +15% to the skill roll for repair.

Robot Hygiene Kit: 20,000 credits
The Robot Hygiene Kit is great for those who spend a long time away from the comforts of civilization. Upon being activated, six tiny robots are released from their housing and begin to traverse the body, removing dirt, cleaning hair and fur, and even polishing teeth and applying medication to acne and other skin blemishes. In only fifteen minutes, you can be once again clean and ready to face the day, whether that brings Brodkil or a state dinner!

Cybernetic Systems

Most people are familiar with a bio-comp as an integral part of the Juicer Augmentation process; indeed, that's where the concept originated. Within the past five years, however, the cyber-technicians at Houstown Cyberworks have experimented with using a Bio-Comp in conjunction with only the hundreds of microscopic sensor implanted in the body, rather than a Juicer's drug harness. Rather than optimizing the system to work with synthetic chemicals to create a superman, the reprogrammed Bio-Comps are designed to make the most of the bodies natural resources. This increases a person's capabilities, making them stronger, faster, and healthier without the negative side-effects of Juicer augmentation (most notably, the implants actually increase the individual's life span and prevent the sexual and emotional problems so common to Juicers).
The system works by constantly monitoring the body's state, and by storing any surpluses of the body's natural hormones until they might be needed. This allows the body to operate at peak, natural, efficiency, quickly shed excess weight, and resist a variety of diseases and drugs by optimizing the body's resources. The end result is an exceptionally healthy human being, who is faster, tougher, and better able to meet the challenges of the modern world, but still falls within the normal range of human abilities.
The system is infinitely simpler and safer than that used by Juicers, as it deals only with the body's own products. Additionally, since it works only with natural chemicals, an unlikely malfunction will have almost no negative effect. This simplicity and safety means that only a single processor is used in the basic system. Systems are available with fail-safe processors, to ensure that, no matter how great the injury, the Cyberworks Bio-Comp keeps working. The Bio-Comp also comes with an external system monitor (usually a wristband), so its modifications can be monitored and important information can be relayed.
Currently, the device is limited to augmentation of a normal human being. However, the cyber-technicians at Houstown Cyberworks are working hard on other uses for the device. Within a few months, they expect that they will have perfected a program optimized for psi-stalkers, and the Bio-Comp shows great promise in aiding in the detoxification of Juicers, by slowly changing the program to wean them away from the drugs. Early tests have shown that it increases the chance of a successful detox by as much as 30%, and make the effects of withdrawal less harsh on older juicers.

Add 3D6 SDC and 1D6 to Hit Points (the skin is maintained in a more healthy state, and stored hormones help to reduce pain and injury)
Add +2 to P.S., P.P. and P.E., and can last half again as long as a normal person before feeling fatigued
Add +1 to P.B., as the bio-comp tends to reduce one's weight, tone the body, promote positive pheromones, and even make sure that dead skin cells are removed quickly. On the downside, those attempting to track the character by smell receive an additional +10%, as the scent is more distinctive (due to the boosted pheromone output and dead skin removal).
Add +4 to Speed
Add +1 to initiative and roll with punch/fall, as well as +2 to save versus poisons, toxins, gases, drugs and diseases.
The character heals one more hit point and two more SDC per day, depending on what sort of care they are receiving.
Though it hasn't been tested (due to the recent use of the technology in this fashion), it is thought that people implanted with this device will live 10% longer than normal, due to their health being minutely controlled.
This device has no negative impact on either magic or psionics, and does not count against a character's limit for cybernetic devices.

Cost: 250,000 credits, at minimum; 50,000 credits for each additional fail-safe processor installed. At the present time, this cybernetic device only works on pure-blooded humans (not ogres, psi-stalkers, or any other offshoots), but within three months there will be a version optimized for psi-stalkers. The system will also require a slight retuning for each new cybernetic or bionic device is installed, to take into account that new system; this costs 3000 credits, and can only be performed by someone with both the Juicer Technology or Bioware Mechanics AND Computer Programming skills.
Juicers who undergo the still-experimental Bio-Comp modification process will be hospitalized for a full month while the system is constantly monitored and adjusted, but have a 5-30% (1D6*5%; every Juicer reacts differently), greater chance of a successful detox, and Juicers of up to three years old gain the same advantages as those detoxing in their first or second year without the system. The cost of such a procedure is 100,000 credits (but includes room and board for the month). After that time, they will add the benefits of a "tuned" bio-comp to their post-juice attributes.
(Note on the bio-comp as part of character creation: If a Bio-Comp is chosen as one of the cybernetic devices chosen at character creation (for OCCs like Cyber-Docs and Headhunters who receive cybernetics as part of their beginning equipment), it counts as two cybernetic implants (or one bionic limb) due to its extremely high cost. If implanted in a race for which it is not optimized, all of the above bonuses become penalties as the bio-comp fights against the body's system.)

Cybernetics System Monitor
Given the success of both the Bio-Comp and IRMSS Full-Life System, Houston Cyberworks designers decided to apply those same concepts, plus those from the RDK, to provide something for their cyborg customers.
The Cybernetics System Monitor works much like the standard internal sensors common to every cyborg. However, instead of just monitoring system damage, the CSM can be engaged to repair minor system damage, and even perform minor repairs on the frame and integral armor!
Taking the place of two large compartments, the CSM consists of a damage monitoring computer and more than fifty microbots. The damage monitoring system provides up to the second information about system functions and problems. Upon system shutdown, or activation by the user, half a hundred microbots pour out across the cybernetic body, initiating system repairs. These repairs are not fast, nor are they complete, but any cybernetic or bionic device not completely destroyed will see 50% of its function restored in ten to sixty minutes. To repair any more, the cyborg will have to undergo full bionics repair. Provided the cyborg is conscious, the microbots can be directed to repair certain systems first; otherwise, the systems are preferenced, in descending order of importance: life support, primary sensory, limbs, weapons, tools, peripheral tools and systems, and lastly armor. Armor can not be extensively repaired, and armor repairs always require a source of material. Each individual "wound" will see 1 M.D.C. worth of damage repaired, at maximum, and only if there is at least 2 M.D.C. worth of compatible material within arm's reach of the cyborg. (For example, someone hit three times for a total of 50 M.D.C. will get back 3 M.D.C. points from the repairs, while someone hit once for 50 M.D.C. will only get back 1 M.D.C. point.)
In addition to major system repairs, the CSM can also be engaged for routine maintenance. Usually, this is a combination of diagnostic sweep and cosmetic repair, coupled with lubrication and cleaning, but potential major problems will be detected before they compound into something more serious. Lastly, information stored in the CSM will help a mechanic repair any damage that the system cannot compensate for, much as if the 'borg had a Robot Diagnostic Kit tuned to them.
Cost: The Cybernetics System Monitor costs only 350,000 credits, and requires no surgery to install, only mechanical modifications. Houstown Cyberworks recommends that the system be serviced once every year, or after every instance of major system damage, and will perform such a service for the 3500 credits. These services replace damaged microbots, refill expendable supplies, and tune the system. Any time a new system is installed, the CSM must be updated with the information for that system; this is available for 2000 credits, or only 5000 credits if the system is serviced at the same time. These work well in conjunction with Cyber-Nano-Robot Repair Systems and Micro-Repair Robots (both from the Bionics Sourcebook), increasing the repair capabilities of either of those systems by 10%.

Internal Computer
This computer is implanted into the character's body, and is equal to the common PC-3000 hand-held computer (minus the micro-printer, though one can be attached through a jack port). With a headjack, optic video nerve implant, or special external plug-in devices, the computer can be implanted entirely within the body cavity, it's only visible evidence being five small universal jack ports for the attachment of peripherals, and a small access port for the loading of information disks. Alternatively, the computer can be implanted either in either the forearm or thigh, giving easy access to the screen and input devices.
Cost: Varies according to where the system is implanted. A system implanted into an artificial arm or leg costs 5000 credits. Those implanted into a living arm or thigh cost 10,000 credits. Those implanted internally, and accessible by headjack, video nerve implant, or external plug-ins cost 7500 credits, or a mere 2500 credits if they are implanted in a fully bionic body. A plug-in monitor will run 500 credits, or 750 if mounted on a headset; 100 credits for a keyboard/mouse combination.

IRMSS Full-Life System
This system is implanted into one of the body cavities of a human being; usually placing it between two reinforced ribs, right next to the heart. It functions exactly like the IRMSS system implanted in a juicer. Upon being activated by four strong strikes to the chest (four was chosen since the default for most pulse laser rifles is three; originally the plans called for a single strike, but many found that any weapon impact to the chest would activate the robots, whether they were needed or not), the implant injects twelve microscopic robots into the character's bloodstream, which will quickly seek out any source of blood loss and seal it closed. Once the damage is repaired, the robots will return to their housing for recharging and repair. The entire system runs off the body's natural bio-electricity, and so is very energy efficient. Service is recommended every three months (or 30 activations, for those who like to live on the edge) to replace microbots and refill its store of expendable supplies. As an option, the system can be linked to our reprogrammed Bio-Comps; the system becomes much more efficient, and no longer requires external activation (i.e. no longer requires chest strikes to turn on). If linked to a Bio-Comp, the system requires service only once a year (or 120 activations).
Cost: The basic system costs 85,000 credits, with each service costing from one to four thousand credits (variable as some bots might or might not need to be replaced). Linking the system to a bio-comp will cost only 5000 credits.
(The system is equivalent to a surgical skill of 75%. For every activation beyond the recommended maximum without service, reduce the skill by 5%; as they run out of supplies and bots need replacement, the system begins to fail. If the percentage ever falls to 0%, the entire system will need to be replaced. Service visits cost 2D4*500 credits)

Other Systems

DT-WLT-04: Written Language Translator: 9500 credits for basic system with one language, 100-1500 for additional languages/alphabets
Although illegal in the Coalition, the Written Language Translator is quite popular in Houstown and Lone Star! Consisting of a small computer (about the size of a paperback novel) and a detachable optical scanning wand, the Written Language Translator comes programmed with one language of choice. By simply passing the optical scanning wand over the text, the computer will decipher the symbols and read them back, in a second language. The system's accuracy is rated at nearly 80% under ideal conditions, but widely variant scripts can reduce that percentage.
Each unit is permanently programmed to speak in one language. However, data disks with additional languages may be purchased, allowing the system to read up to 10 languages. The computer can freely swap out these languages just as quickly as you can swap out data disks.
Available languages are American, Spanish, Demongogian, Euro, Dragonese/Elven, and Techno-Can. Houstown Cyberworks is always interested in hiring those with unusual linguistic knowledge to help develop more languages for this system. The default spoken language is American, but Spanish is also available.

DT-WFC-03: Weather Forecasting Computer: 20,000 credits for the entire system (including 3 globes and 9 parachutes), 1500 credits for each sensor globe, 100 credits for self-deploying parachutes.
The Weather Forecasting Computer is a large case, about 3ft x 3ft x 1.5ft (1m x 1m x .5m), weighing almost 85 pounds (40kg), with a detachable, hollow tube on one end, and a tube sealed on one end on the other. Opening the case reveals that the entire bottom is filled with a complex computer and receiver for narrow-band transmissions. The top has space for nine globes, each about a 10 inched (25cm) in diameter, and the detachable tube attaches to the partially sealed tube, forming a long, upright, barrel.
When turned on, the WFC begins collecting atmospheric data; air pressure, relative humidity, wind speed and direction, as well as requesting some information from the user about conditions the past day. From this information, the WFC has a 30% chance to accurately predict the weather for the next six hours, with a decreasing 5% chance every six hours after that. In order to get more accurate information, the system will prompt its user to load one of the sensor globes into the barrel, then give it three feet (one meter) as safe firing clearance.
The barrel is actually a quite simple Gauss cannon, consisting of some 30 rings of electromagnets. This Gauss cannon will fire the sensor globe just over half a mile (one kilometer) into the air, where it will gather more atmospheric data, including brief radar scans, more accurate upper-level wind speed, and visual images. All of these are fed back to the central computer on a narrow-cast feed. The globe will then deploy a small parachute, and float back to the ground, transmitting its data as it goes. It takes about 30 minutes for the entire procedure to complete, from set-up to firing the sensor globe to finishing the data analysis. Even with the parachute, there is a 15% chance that the globe will be badly damaged, and need to be repaired (fortunately, this only requires Basic Electronics; Electrical Engineers and Computer Repair specialists gain a +10%). The parachute is not reusable (it uses a time-release gas caplet to rapidly expel and expand the chute, which cannot be easily replaced without a large facility).
If the sensor globe is deployed, the accuracy of the reading raises to 75% for the next 24 hours, with the same decreasing 5% chance for every six hours after that. However, since the sensor globes make use of active radar and transmissions, anyone using this is very easy to spot using either active or passive sensors. The system's batteries contain enough power to be used 3 times without the sensor globe being deployed, or once if the sensor globe is deployed. It takes about 6 hours for the system to fully recharge using solar power (the top panel is always a solar panel), or about one hour from a nuclear power plant. While an e-clip can be jury-rigged to provide power, the entire process will completely drain two e-clips.

Incidentally, the Gauss cannon makes a lousy weapon; it is -3 to strike, and will inflict only 5D6 SDC damage to those hit by a sensor globe, but will has a 30% chance of knocking down a man-sized opponent with normal strength. Some mercenaries have experimented with using the Gauss cannon, in an emergency, to hurl grenades or other bundles of joy incredible distances (negating strike penalties by using range finders and Advanced Mathematics), Houstown Cyberworks is not currently planning on releasing any weapons specifically designed for the Gauss firing system; they concentrate on sensors, cybernetics, and robots, not weapons of war. Bandito Arms, however, is reportedly interested in using Gauss cannons as man-portable mortars.

1 comment:

  1. Great write up! This is great for GMs working with Houstown in their games. It helps fill in a lot of holes about what is a really interesting piece of the Lone Star setting. This should be in a RIFTER article, at the very least, if not in an updated New West/Lone Star sourcebook! Thanks.