The pale stars of the Antonine Cluster lie towards the spinward edge of the Carthaxian Sector, their wan light ghosts in the night skies of the sectors more prosperous central worlds. At the centre of the cluster lie two decaying hive worlds, Perdido and Imshee, once prosperous worlds with economies based on the plentiful minerals once found in their star systems. Their asteroids and moons now mined bare, both worlds have fallen into poverty, ancient ties with the Adeptus Mechanicus the only thing keeping the worlds’ foundries from falling silent. The failing might of the cluster’s two main worlds is reflected in the decaying majesty of the shrine world Cessorin Rex, bereft of pilgrims’ coin, and Kayan, the cardinal world lost to the orkoid menace. The other worlds of the cluster are unremarkable: Hadros-Bell the twin agri worlds; the feral worlds Lucan, H-04, Hide and Meonoro; the civilised world Bolo and its giant satellite Nina and the dead world Jacinto are perhaps the only names likely to be recognised in the courts of Carthax. There is no doubt the cluster is dying, and like carrion circling a dying man, the ill of purpose have gathered to plunder the cluster for all it is worth.
The unwanted attentions of pirates and reavers, both human and xenos, clearly threatens the continuing survival of the cluster’s worlds, but threats from within further compound the damage these interlopers do. There are those within the cluster who have turned to criminal enterprise to survive, facilitating attacks from the vultures in exchange for protection and goods. Though the traditional commodities of the worlds are all but exhausted, the secluded location of the cluster and unimportance of its worlds in the eyes of the sector government has created a thriving black market in slaves, mercenaries, proscribed tech and xenos items. The mining of the Perdido and Imshee systems unearthed thousands, perhaps millions, of trinkets, weapons and unknown items of xenos manufacture. Though the Inquisition clamped down on the sale of these items after their discovery there is no doubt that many stayed in the pockets of the miners that uncovered them or were spirited away into the private collections of the rich and deluded. Now the Cold Trade in these forbidden items has grown to serious levels, and items are being found as far away as Iricadia, a whole sector away. Amongst the most sought after pieces are the “Antonine Amulets”, jewels of perfect blues, greens and purple set into metal of unknown composition. The purpose of these amulets is unknown, but whether they are power sources, weapons or plain baubles, they are highly treasured, drawing prices that could buy a transport vessel.
Attention therefore has fallen once again on the Antonine Cluster, but it is not in the form of aid or assistance in rebuilding the dying worlds, but in the form of greed and dogma. There are many within the Ordos keen to bring an end to the trade in heretical xenos artefacts, regardless of the consequences for a useless star cluster. But there are a few who would protect the Cold Trade for the money it brings to the region regardless of their feelings towards the legality of it and the moral consequences – without the Cold Trade, the cluster would die, robbing the Imperium of men and arms and leaving the worlds open for the enemies of mankind to invade and claim. The Adepts of Mars have much interest in the fate of Perdido and Imshee – as the sole backers of these worlds, there is much support and sympathy towards the Mechanicum in the hives and as a result the Antonine Cluster is something of a powerbase in sector politics for the Adeptus Mechanicus. Coupled with the desire to see these worlds survive, there is an increasing interest in certain sectors of the Mechanicum for all things xenos, not least the Antonine Amulets. Solving the mystery of these artefacts is a goal for many magi.
Aside from the major branches of the Imperium, there are many other groups with interest in the Cold Trade. The smugglers and archaeoxenans that handle the items clearly want to protect their interests, and mercenary forces put their wishes into action. Xenos races use the Cold Trade to cement themselves in the underside of Imperial society to put into plan acts of terrorism and corruption. Conversely, tales in the orbitals and bolt holes speak of alien craft actively seeking out craft involved in the Cold Trade for persecution. The identity of these attackers is unknown, but their attacks are without mercy, leaving craft lifeless hulks, their cargoes scattered to the void.
Finally, the agents of the dark forces of Chaos are ever at work, and the reavers that plague the cluster include those that bear the eight-pointed star.
The Cold Trade out of the Antonine Cluster is a multi-dimensional entity, at once economical, political and heretical in nature, and its continuing existence or demise is sure to have resounding effects on the Carthaxian sector as a whole.
All worlds of the Antonine Cluster are **Declassified** for players and GMs to add to the individual planet wiki pages, and to set campaigns upon.