The Corridor, from Esperanza to Gateway.
The Corridor was originally a backwater - a branch off the Main, controlled by the Xa Imperium. When humans colonised Esperanza (1518) and then Bessel (1417), the Xa incorporated them into their empire. Soon, however the Esperanzans rebelled, and over nearly four centuries of warfare, they eventually expelled the Xa from Corridor altogether.
Bessel (1417 B765547-9 pop=300k)
Dark green poisonous forests, jungle, desert.
Bessel is the second planet orbiting 61 Cygni-A at a distance of 0.65 AU. It was colonised via sub-light directly from Earth, although jump drive enabled early explorers from Esperanza to survey the planet before the colony ship Marinus Van Der Lubbe arrived. The planet has a lush vegetation that is highly poisonous to human and Xa alike. The Imperium had only a small landing field located in one of the planet's deserts.
When the colonists arrived, they decided to embark on an ambitious programme of forest clearance and soil sterilization. While this approach has been successful, the colony has grown painfully slowly.
Today, a communist government rules the planet by popular consent. They maintain a small but capable starport that is a popular stop-over for traffic heading out from Esperanza. Bessel is a member of the loose "Commonwealth" that was established by Esperanza during the struggle to drive the Xa out of Corridor. Besselers are terrified of an Esperanzan take-over. The Next Step party is growing in influence, but so far the Communist party has managed to hold on to power.
Voy (1416, C000697-7 pop=8m)
An asteroid belt that orbits the red dwarf star Gliese 1. Voy used to be a backwater. A few prospectors would come here, seeking out magnetic monopoles or beryllium crystals, but few stayed permanently. That all changed when the J1+ drive was introduced. Suddenly Voy was only two weeks from Gateway (1414) and the system became a major transit stopover.
The starport is large, but basic. At its core is an ancient Xa military base, built into a large asteroid. Major industries are deuterium extraction & haulage from the system's three gas giants, and He3 gathering/processing from the asteroids. The Commonwealth navy has an observation hub here - it collects intelligence data from all through the Xa Imperium and the Long Republic. Several secret projects are also rumoured to be based here.
Nebelwelt (1216 C597523-6, pop=800k)
Dark green forests, mountains, jungle
Nebelwelt is a third planet in the Gliese 892 system. Formerly called Xa-Gol, the Xa inhabitants were evacuated as part of the armistice settlement that concluded the 2nd Xa War. Humans from Bessel (1417) established the new colony, which they called "Nebelwelt" (Mist-World).
The world has lush vegetation, a dense atmosphere and wide oceans. The atmosphere is often filled with fog or mist. There are many flying creatures, some of which are quite hostile.
Today, Nebelwelt is a sleepy agricultural world. Commonwealth forces have seized control of the starport, which is an important stopover for Jump-1+ craft en route to Teowahaha (1017). Year Zero has not yet made much difference in the rural outback. The jungle-choked ruins of the abandoned Xa towns are shunned by the Nebelwelters, but are a minor tourist attraction for visitors from the starport.
Mirfaq (1115, C532243-6 pop=200)
The Commonwealth maintains a starport on Mirfaq (µ Cassiopeiae) as a service to shipping. There is no other convenient source of deuterium fuel in the system, so jump-1 ships are forced to land there. Processing fuel from the planet's shallow seas is the one main industry. There is a small archaeological team studying Xa ruins.
Cassiopeia (1315 C7B1867-6 pop=400m)
Hell-hole with thick, corrosive atmosphere. Acid rain.
For a century, η Cassiopeiae was the Commonwealth's frontline against the "Xa threat". The system was captured during the 3rd Xa war, giving the humans a beachhead only one jump from the bastion at Xa-Arrack (Gateway - 1414). Despite the hostile conditions, great effort was put into expanding the colony - which had been a modest Xa mining base.
After Xa-Arrack itself was captured during the 5th Xa war, Cassiopeia remained the Commonwealth's military "backstop". Naval squadrons are stationed here, ready to strike back at any Xa encroachment on Gateway.
In the subsequent years, trade florished and Cassiopeia became a crucial stop-over on the Corridor - the last major, safe human colony before alien space. At its peak, its hiring halls rivaled those on Junction (0712). Much trade still comes along the Corridor, but the J1+ drive has enabled many human ships to bypass it altogether. That's undermined Cassiopeia's importance, and lead to a catastophic recession.
Today Cassiopeia is wracked by unemployment, crime and falling population and living standards. Recruiters for semi-legal indentured labour services have offices in all major settlements.
Gateway (1414, C8B068A-5 pop=9m)
Formerly called Xa-Arrack, this planet lies in the Gliese 33 system. Gateway is a hot desert world with a thick corrosive atmosphere that orbits only 0.3AU from its star.
For centuries Xa-Arrack was a fortress, built up by the Xa Imperium as their last line of defence against the Esperanzan Commonwealth. The Xa wished above all to keep humanity bottled up in Corridor, preventing them from accessing the Main. Eventually Xa-Arrack fell, and the human "genie" escaped its bottle. The Esperanzans renamed the world "Gateway", and used it as a springboard from which to launch further attacks on the Xa.
Today, Gateway is a highly controlled frontier world. The Xa lie only one parsec away on Xa-Maxin (1514), and the Long Republic's nearest world, Vorposten (1413) is also only a parsec away. Traders from both directions use Gateway as a meeting point, and marketplace. There is a vibrant, if closely controlled, merchant quarter. This is the most exotic place most humans of the Core worlds will ever see. Goods from up and down the Main are available to buy. There are aliens from a dozen species living here, and even stranger visitors regularly pass through.