Janus VI is a Class F planet inhospitable to carbon-based life, but it has produced a remarkable silicon-based intelligent species known as Horta. The planet is valuable to the Federation as a lucrative source of minerals and metal ores, and mining operations have been carried out there on and off since 2217. The Federation colonized Janus VI in the mid-23rd century as a mining location for the extraction of heavy metals. Even after replication made some of these heavy metals valueless, the world continued to serve as a production facility for important alloys as well as rare compounds such as latinum.
Janus VI has a thin atmosphere that humanoids used to Class M standards can barely breathe. The air is very dry, and it never rains. Surface temperatures vary widely, from uncomfortably hot at the height of the day to over 100 degrees below zero at night. Ever since the Federation first settled the planet, plans have been hatched to terraform it and make the surface friendly to advanced life. They usually involve trying to unlock the water frozen at the poles. These plans never get very far, however, because the planet’s value has nothing to do with agriculture or creating a biosphere. Also, someone inevitably points out that no one knows how such radical environmental change would affect the Horta.
Janus VI has no bodies of water. The planet is one big landmass, interrupted only by the polar ice caps and punctuated by mountain ranges. There are active and extinct volcanoes, indicating that the planet is and has been geologically active, but no vast depressions that would suggest that Janus VI has ever had large bodies of surface water.
The silicon-based Horta are Janus VI’s native intelligent life form. They resemble throbbing lumps of living rock, and they have no appendages or obvious sensory organs. They live underground and secrete a highly corrosive acid that allows them to burrow through rock. They have no external organs for communication, so they exchange information telepathically.
Strictly speaking, the Horta have no civilization. They are highly intelligent, but their lack of appendages and opposable digits make it impossible for them to build a civilization in the sense in which humanoid races understand the concept. They also have a circular species life cycle (and with it a circular notion of time), in which every Horta but one dies off every 50,000 years, that tends to defeat the purpose behind long-term building and planning.
After an initial misunderstanding (which, unfortunately, proved fatal to some Horta young and Federation miners), the Horta freely gave their cooperation to the Federation colony, agreeing to share the planet. They happily assist the miners, insisting only that the colonists treat them with due respect. A few Horta have even served the Federation off-planet as technical advisors on mining projects.
The Federation colony on Janus VI has little to recommend it as an outpost of civilization, either. It exists to pull valuable rocks out of the ground, and that’s about it. At any given time, the majority of its population consists of miners who have signed up for 3-month, 6-month or 1-year shifts. Of them, most view their time on Janus VI as seasonal or temporary labor and few bother to bring their families with them. They come in, make a lot of money performing grueling (and sometimes dangerous) work for a short period of time, then leave. The long hours and continual confinement underground takes a psychological toll on those who live there, and not everyone finds the Hortas (friendly though they are) agreeable. The colony’s small permanent population encompasses a handful of supervising engineers, the colonial governor and his miniscule staff, merchants and tradespeople, as well as those few miners who keep renewing their contracts.
Very little is known about the history of Janus VI, and using the Horta as a pathway into the past has proven fruitless. The nearly complete absence of a fossil record suggests that little, if any carbon-based life has ever existed there. It tells nothing about the Horta (or any other silicon-based life) since they literally disappear into the rock and leave no trace when they die. The Horta themselves have no myths or collective memories that may provide clues; as far as they are concerned they have always existed on Janus VI, since time immemorial.
Federation surveys first detected vast deposits of pergium on the planet in 2266, and the next year the UFP established a mining colony there. Soon thereafter, engineers expanding the mine stumbled upon the Horta hatchery, the Vault of Tomorrow, just as the Horta had reached the end of their species life cycle. The miners broke some of the eggs, not knowing that they contained the seeds of living creatures. The last surviving Horta then struck back at them in defense of its brood. Only the intervention of the Enterprise, which had been summoned to Janus VI to investigate reports of attacks on the miners, defused the crisis. After that, the Horta agreed to help the colonists exploit the planet’s vast mineral wealth. (TOS: "The Devil in the Dark")
In 2370, independent prospectors discovered a vein of latinum at Vermilion Ridge near the south pole, and the Federation (with heavy financial support from Ferengi investors) set up another settlement to exploit it. Serious work there did not start until after the end of the Dominion War, however. Since then, disappointingly little latinum has ore has been taken been taken out of the ground, and rumors abound that the project’s Ferengi backers will either sell their interest or shut down the mine completely. The former prospect worries the Federation more than the latter, since they have no control over to whom the Ferengi may sell their stake.
Places of Interest
There are two Federation mining settlements on Janus VI. The original settlement was established at the base of Mount Herculus, near the equator, to exploit the rich pergium deposits in the vicinity. Over the decades, the Mount Herculus complex grew slowly, reaching a population of 10,000 by the late 24th century. By that time, deposits of ores of important industrial metals such as iron, titanium and zinc had been discovered nearby, and the colony encompassed a number of satellite mining stations within 100 km of the original mine.
As for the mining station at Vermilion Ridge, the population remains small, never reaching more than a few hundred at any given time. A few friendly Horta help the miners however they can, but morale always seems to be low there, depressed even further whenever rumors circulate that the Ferengi investors will pull the plug on operations.
- Burns, Eric, Kenneth A. Hite & Doug Sun. Star Trek Roleplaying Game Book 7: Worlds, Decipher, 2005. ISBN: 1582369097.