Eclipse Phase | AUSTIN, TEXAS | 2015-2019 A.D.
The Swarm's Course and Stopovers
Stars is unusual among scum swarms in that they follow a set route schedule that they loop through continuously. This route starts at the Main Belt and runs to Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and then back to The Belt. Because the swarm makes sure to visit these stopover points in the same order, their travel time between these places is erratic, given their different paths and speeds around the sun. Usually the swarm makes a complete circuit every nineteen to thirty-eight months, including a week-long stay at each stopover point. During these stopovers, the entire swarm will enter a stable orbit and pick up or drop off any new passengers and resupply. Each of these orbits is cause for a minor celebration and is treated as a holiday by members of the swarm.
The swarm also plots its path to pass by other habitats not in orbit around Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus or Neptune. The route almost always passes through one of the Jovian Greeks and Trojans on the way to or from The Belt, and it may also make a fly-by of stations in the Neptune Greeks and Trojans, various outer-system Lagrange points, Uranus orbit, and elsewhere. Whenever the flotilla approaches a station, the swarm will usually farcast representatives ahead to make contact and negotiate any exchanges or business deals. For habitats that are less than thrilled to deal with a scum swarm, the reps will often access darknet channels to connect with the less savory elements of the hab. The swarm itself never actually stops at a habitat, though they do sometimes throw themselves into temporary orbits; it is simply too costly in terms of fuel for the larger ships to make too many course and speed adjustments, much less slow down for docking and then relaunch again. Instead, any physical transfers between a swarm and habitat are handled via faster shuttles and small craft. There is typically only a small window of a week or so for such transfers to be economically feasible.
Some Jovian and repressive habitats restrict their residents from dealing with the swarm. Most, however, turn a blind eye to what occurs outside their station’s hulls, though they carefully monitor inbound cargo for security threats and whatever passes as contraband in the local legal system. A few habitats actively welcome the swarm, celebrating its arrival with carnivals and parties and hosting events with scum entertainers.
Stopovers and fly-bys aren’t just a chance to pick up fuel and supplies; they are also an opportunity for the swarm to pick up new members and travelers and drop off passengers who opted for the slow boat to their destination. Some habitats use the occasion to exile unwanted members and criminals to the swarm as punishment (and the scum sometimes does the same in reverse with their own antisocial elements).