Subject: OX-006 – Shale
Threat Level: Majoris
Description: Shale is a small desert world on the spinward edge of the Genosan Expanse. The surface is covered in uneven dusty terrain and vast seas of finely ground rock. Small scale mining colonies designed to harvest the modest mineral resources are dotted across the solid areas of Shale’s surface. Contact with the world and mining tithe output have both become sporadic in recent years, coinciding with several industrial disasters. The nature of the threat to Shale has not been established, but it has been flagged for further investigation by the Inquisition.
Two larger scale mining operations had been established in the dust seas, but the giga-rigs have both disappeared without trace. A number of theories have been put forward, including Demiurg raids, fatal dust-static build up and attack by an as yet unclassified massive indigenous dust serpent [more on this later]. There is no conclusive evidence for any of these theories. It is worth noting that both giga-rigs are likely to hold significant mineral and technological wealth if they can be recovered.
The planet’s capital city, First Dig, is found in the northern hemisphere. Built around the original mining settlement, First Dig has grown from shanty town to sprawling city over the course of several millennia. First Dig exists as several levels both above ground in the desert sun and below ground in the old mine workings. Due to ample space it has spread outwards rather than upwards over the years, unlike many other Imperial settlements of a similar age.
Although self sustaining algae vats can provide the city with enough nutrient paste to indefinitely feed its population, First Dig is dependent on off-world supplies to supplement all but the most rudimentary living conditions. Widespread civil unrest is projected should this supply become interrupted by isolation from the Imperium. It should be noted that the Imperial Governor’s control over the lower levels of First Dig has often been nominal at best.
Before the recent incidents Shale enjoyed a certain amount of local notoriety for two reasons. The first is the infamous “sighting” of a titan-sized dust serpent. Although the original holo-pic was exposed as a hoax intended to devalue the area’s prospecting rights in 749.M39, a small tourist industry has sprung up in recent years. Many wealthy Imperial citizens from surrounding systems travelled to Shale in the hope of being the one to finally hunt down and kill the legendary beast. So far none have met with any success.
The second reason for Shale’s notoriety are the xenos artefacts known locally as ‘The Fingerbones’. These are near-identical to numerous other examples found along the Eastern Fringe, and as they appear to be in a dormant state have never warranted any special investigation. The best account we have – if I may be so bold – is an extract from this scribe’s own encyclopaedic travelogue, ‘The Long Way Round, or, My Travels Along the Eastern Fringe by Howtopher Buxcraft’.
“As our sand-train crested the dune I got my first view of the so-called Fingerbones. Even at this distance it was obvious how they got their name – or so I thought. Silhouetted against the pale sky, the henge of Xenos artefacts looked for all the world like a giant skeletal hand clawing up through the dirt.
It was only when our path bought us closer did I learn the real reason for their name. As the desert wind whipped dust and scree against the structures they made a hollow knocking sound, like the rattle of dried bones. That chilling noise followed us across the desert for a number of hours as we continued our journey to the west…”