“I’ve been from the Maw to the edge of the Rifts of Hecaton and back and seen all the highs and lows of Mankind, but I’ve never seen a place as desperate and squalid and truly Emperor forsaken as the Breaking Yards. May the Holy One have mercy on their pitiful souls.”
–Trade Admiral Jonquin Saul
Located in the Cinerus Maleficum region, near the center of the Koronus Expanse, SR-651 is a red giant star standing silent watch over an empty system. Whether the system ever had planets remains unclear, but the entirety of it is littered with dense asteroid fields, the shattered remains of voidships, and the detritus of millennia of passing fleets. SR-651 is also occasionally lashed with terrible warp storms and plagued by strange gravitational anomalies that cause the ever-present debris to shift and flow like currents and pool here and there in clumps hundreds or thousands of kilometers across. Despite the desolation and navigational hazards, SR-651 has two very important redeeming qualities: it’s located conveniently near the dead center of the Expanse, and lies directly off one of the larger trade routes that cross from Winterscale’s Realm to the Heathen Stars. These factors, plus the surfeit of cheap labor from the surrounding systems and the constant need for voidship components, gave birth to the Breaking Yards.
History of the YardsEdit
The Breaking Yards were founded by the Rogue Trader Iridas Holden, the scion of a powerful family from the Calixis Sector that was heavily invested in both shipyards and the salvage trade. On a fact-finding mission through the Expanse, Holden’s ship, the Salvare, was blown off course by a particularly savage warp storm and deposited, battered and limping, in the SR-651 system. He immediately sought a sheltered anchorage for his wounded ship above one of the intact planets at the far end of the system and put his crew to work. While his crew and tech-priests were busy with repairs, Holden took the opportunity to survey the heretofore unknown system. He scanned everything within reach of his auspex arrays and sent parties out in the ship’s boats to search farther afield. One of these survey parties stumbled across a small station anchored close to the system’s center, housing a small-time salvage operation breaking up wrecked ships amongst the remains of a shattered asteroid. After a tense negotiation, the foreman of the salvage operation, a grizzled and ancient voidman named Haargoth Agamar, agreed to return to the Salvare to meet with Captain Holden.
Upon arriving at the ship, Holden and Agamar entered into lengthy discussions about the history of the system and the nature of the salvage operation. Apparently, numerous minor salvaging organizations had been operating in the SR-651 system for centuries. Rogue Traders would deposit teams of workers who would operate for a while until their masters retrieved them or were wiped out by some natural disaster or marauding pirates. While the system itself was rich in constantly renewing salvage thanks to its location, steady traffic and ever-changing navigation hazards, the region of space was largely deserted, and the few human outposts not wealthy enough to take advantage of the situation. Holden, however, felt he could succeed where his peers failed. After pumping Agamar for all the information the old voidman possessed, Holden immediately pressed him into service, then sent impressment teams to do the same to the remainder of his men. With his repairs completed, Holden returned to Port Wander to muster resources and lay plans.
One year later, Iridas Holden returned to SR-651. He had crafted a plan to make himself incredibly wealthy by building massive breaking yards in the system, recycling derelict ships and selling the components and raw materials. He reasoned that with the constant wrecks that happened throughout the system, and with negotiated contracts with Rogue Traders such as Saul to have broken ships sent to his yards, he could build a lasting ship-breaking empire.
In the Imperium, it is rare that ships are broken and scrapped. Each starship is a valuable prize representing decades of construction and filled with arcane and priceless technology. However, through battle, disaster, or hard use, some ships do become untenable. With a flotilla of ships, tens of thousands of pressed men to work as ship breakers and a handful of lucrative salvage contracts, Holden claimed the whole of the system as his own. Once the headquarters was established on a planet-sized jumble of asteroids and planetary debris held together in one of the systems gravitational sinks, Holden would set to building his empire.
From the beginning however, the entire endeavor was a disaster. Upon arrival at SR-651, many of the flotilla’s ships, piloted by captains unfamiliar with the treacherous system, were lost to collisions and asteroid impacts. Once the operation’s headquarters were established and the temporary habitats were built, a brutal, month-long warp storm swept through the system, disrupting asteroid orbits and sending shards of rock careening into ships at anchor. Many thousands of crewmen and impressed workers were lost, as well as the permanent habitats and a fair portion of the operation’s food and supplies. Supply shortages, hunger rations and deadly working conditions led to riots and work stoppages which were suppressed quickly and violently.
Holden attempted desperately to hold his operation together, appealing to investors for more loans and stretching his already thin fortune to breaking. News of the disasters and setbacks at SR-651 began to get out, and Holden was undone. A rival Rogue Trader clan, smelling blood in the water, took the opportunity to declare war on the Holden dynasty. They reduced Holden’s once-powerful family to poverty and sold the majority of them into indentured servitude. Finally, in the midst of this chaos, the crew of the Salvare rose up in mutiny and killed Holden and his officers. This mutiny, bloody, violent and expertly planned, was led by none other than Haargoth Agamar.
Now in command of a well equipped voidship and possessing an intimate knowledge of the system and its hazards, Haargoth Agamar picked up where the unfortunate Holden had left off. He brought the remainder of the doomed expedition together and made them an offer. Those who would stay and work would be provided shelter, food and a cut of any profits. Those who wished to leave would be given a ship and sent on their way. A surprising number decided to take Agamar up on his offer and stayed. They spent months in dangerous, back-breaking labor preparing the installation with what few supplies that they had left. The makeshift, temporary habitats were shored up and made, if not permanent, at least livable. They towed hulks and scraps from around the system for salvage and building material. Agamar made deals with surrounding systems, trading ship parts and raw materials for food and supplies. Eventually, and much to the surprise of Agamar and his followers who knew nothing of them, the first of Holden’s contract ships arrived from elsewhere in the Expanse to be broken down. They were followed by more, and soon Agamar found himself in the salvage business.
Sadly, soon after the operation was up and running, Agamar and the Salvare disappeared on a passage through the Maw. In response, most of Agamar’s employees disappeared, fleeing to other regions with whatever equipment, goods and money they could carry. The remaining employees couldn’t maintain the operation, which slowly collapsed into a skeleton of itself. Instead of a region-spanning ship-salvaging empire or an efficient and professional scrap concern as Holden and Agamar had envisioned, the breaking yards became a hellish industrial prison where the poorest and most desperate people of the Expanse toil away for endless hours in patched voidsuits, tearing ships apart piece by piece with inadequate tools. Here, life is incredibly cheap, the mortality rate is staggeringly high, and everyone is sick from radiation poisoning or contact with the dizzying array of hazardous materials used in building voidships. It became, like many places in the Expanse, not a place of hope but one of exploitation and despair.
The Yards TodayEdit
In the decades since their founding, the Breaking Yards haven’t changed much. The complex is comprised of two main areas, the Receiving Yard and the Breaking Yards. The Receiving Yard is a massive, spindle-shaped space station thirty kilometers long that orbits the Breaking Yards. It is here that incoming ships, many of which are completely unrepairable, are processed and inspected before being sent into the Breaking Yards for salvaging. The spindle contains the old administrative offices, along with living quarters for the clerks along with the yard foremen and their enforcers. A bustling marketplace dominates the central decks of the station, where ship components from the Breaking Yards are sold to anyone with the Thrones to purchase them. Everything from auspex array lenses to warp drives and Gellar Field generators can be had, in varying condition. Even whole ship hulls can be purchased at the yards, although these are a much rarer commodity. These are bare hulls, typically stripped to the gunwales and lacking even engines and generators, perfect for the Rogue Trader who wants to assemble a ship from the keel up.
The Breaking Yards are built on and throughout a clump of asteroids and planetary fragments roughly 3,500 kilometers in diameter, loosely bound together by one of SR-651’s errant gravitational anomalies. Massive chains and hundreds of kilometers of flexible, semi-rigid pressure corridors connect the disparate pieces of the complex. Each asteroid in the clump is studded with a multitude of slapdash hangars, slips and workshops bashed together from hull plates and other random detritus. Leaky, unshielded pressure domes and temporary emergency habitats make up the living quarters for those workers lucky enough to have them. Even with their fetid, poorly recycled atmospheres and tendency to de-pressurize or implode without warning, they are still preferable to sleeping aboard one of the space hulks in a vacsuit or in a makeshift hovel built from the scavenged cockpit of a gun cutter---as so many do. The entire place is full of wretched, hollow-eyed people and has the look and feel of a huge, dangerous slum. It’s dominated by the hulking shapes of derelict voidships and always lit by glaring floodlights and the glittering sparks of cutting torches.
Defense of the YardsEdit
With its wealth of voidship salvage, the Breaking Yards seem a prime target for raiders and pirates. However, while there have been occasional shipment hijackings or daring cutting-out expeditions led against the Yards’ fleet of marketable hulls, large-scale attacks are rare. This is due to a number of factors, the first being the Yards’ location. Navigating SR-651’s shifting asteroid belts is a dangerous proposition unless the pilot follows one of the charted passages, and the Yards’ have broken the hulks of numerous pirates who have tried.
Those who do follow the passages must contend with the Yards’ not inconsiderable defenses. The facilities of the Yards mount hundreds of salvaged, dismounted macrobatteries and lances, along with thousands of close defense turrets, bristling from the rocks and asteroids. These are manned at all times by a rotation of trained gun crews and co-ordinated from a salvaged ship’s bridge used as a command and communications center. This allows the Yards to defend themselves and the Receiving Yard at both short and long ranges. The Yards also maintain a small, ragged fleet of fast defense monitors and intersystem ships for interception and interdiction.
While mostly made from spare parts and thinly crewed with poorly trained pressed men, these ships still provide a decent defense force, and have driven off more than one raiding fleet. In addition, any number of powerful and expertly crewed Rogue Trader or pirate vessels can be found in the Yards at any given time. These ships are typically unhappy to be bothered in the middle of their business, and are more than happy to punish any interlopers. More than anything else, the power of the Yards’ macro-batteries and the goodwill of its trading partners have kept the Orks of the nearby Undred-Undred Teef, clearly the greatest threat to the Yards, from completely overrunning the place.
Of course, some Rogue Traders have succeeded in taking over the Yards---through force or dealmaking---over the years. However, ownership of the Yards proved to be the ruination of each, driving them to poverty, shame, and financial collapse. Whether poor luck or simply that the Yards are an ill-conceived venture, the facility seems destined to survive on its own, running on momentum and directed anarchy.
The macrobatteries mounted to the Breaking Yards give the structure incredible defensive coverage for what is essentially a planet-scale scrapyard. From any approach, an attacking ship will find itself facing either two lances or four macrobatteries of any type. The scavenged defense turrets give the Yards a Turret Rating of 3, and the random auger arrays give it a detection of +12.
As for its fleet of cobbled together ships, the Yards should have as many ships as the Game Master sees fit, and can be represented by the Wolfpack Raider, usually armed with macrocannons such as the Thunderstrike. In general, Yard crews are no better than Incompetent, although the crews running the actual Yard defenses are Competent.
Using the Breaking YardsEdit
Though the Yards have a poor reputation, they are something of a rarity in the Expanse---a (mostly) functional shipyard. This makes them invaluable for Rogue Traders who need to refit their vessels, or simply repair damage from a dangerous run. In addition, rumor has it that due to a bureaucratic mishap, a perfectly serviceable cruiser, formerly the property of one of the branches of the Imperium, has recently found a new home at the Breaking Yards. As if that wasn’t bad enough, depending on who you talk to, this ship is either equipped with some sort of heretical technology, or has a hold full of deadly weapons. Either way, if this is true, that ship is a danger to the yards and whoever lost it is going to want it back.