Western Annex: The Aeyrie
One station above all others fascinates visitors to Toe-Hold space. Without the actual probe record, the true date of discovery remains uncertain. What we do know is that a long time planetary prospector, Nicole Simpkin, filed her last system registration in 2172, ending a twenty-stanyer career. By 2173 reports surfaced of a new, unregistered Toe-Hold somewhere in the northern part of what would become the Western Annex. The reports named Simpkin as the leader but none could offer precise locations on the system—known as the Aeyrie—or the nature of the station itself.
Over the next five stanyers, Simpkin’s system drew some of the worst of the freebooters and claim jumpers in Toe-Hold space. Tales emerged about weapons manufacturing and armed vessels. Eventually, the station itself became known as Iron Mountain.
The nature of space makes actual piracy difficult. The vast distances between sparks of life and the nature of travel between them means that intercepting a vessel in transit is next to impossible. Humans, being the resourceful types they are, have found ways to rob, murder, and extort their fellow travelers in the Deep Dark.
Iron Mountain’s denizens have been blamed for freighter hijackings, claim jumping against asteroid miners, and even periodic raids on other Toe-Hold systems. Their ships are always suspect but seldom stopped. Those who frequent Toe-Hold space know the difficulties in identifying any ship’s home regardless of its registry.
As with most things in Toe-Hold space, the stories hold a germ of truth but do not necessarily reflect a reality. Simpkin’s legacy as a warlord still holds sway at Iron Mountain, but a visitor might be surprised to find the incidence of violence on the station close to zero. While establishing her station, Simpkin instituted some of the harshest penalties for criminal action among the Toe-Holds. An un-authorized biography of Simpkin, Empress Nicole The First, quotes her as saying, “I don’t care what you do out there. Here, you’re polite and considerate or you’re ice.”
She meant that quite literally. Punishment for infractions of the law in Iron Mountain resulted in a visit to “The Empress’s Freezer,” a one-way trip out the airlock. Her hand-picked enforcers have a reputation—even today—as being the most reliable and effective in the Western Annex. Knowing that their colleagues would not hesitate to toss them into the Freezer undoubtedly helps maintain their loyalty to the Empress’s Code.