Nature of location
Kashmir Orbital Annex is a massive hollowed out asteroid space station hanging in a low geosynchronous orbit over Hyderabad, India. The complex took twenty years to be completed, and is now one of the busiest Surface to Orbit layover points between Earth and the colonies. Much of this traffic is unregulated and lightly monitored. KOA is a free port that isn't associated with any of the global super powers. As such, it is a safe haven for criminals, smugglers, weapons dealers, and other people who don't want to deal with the heavy security associated with passing through regular avenues such as the Atlantic Federation's four major Orbital Annexes, or the heavily policed ACPS corridors. India remains a minor but independent player in the global scene, refusing to join the ACPS, or the Eurasian Alliance. Kashmir is one of the things that keeps the country from being anything other than a backwater region.
Appearance: Kashmir is a very large, very fat target. It is a megastructure several miles across, composed of rocky silicate material, now heavily built up and reinforced. Very little of the stone core can be seen as it has grown vast hangars and bays to accommodate ships going to and from the station, as well as handling the movement of cargos, and transferring them from ship to station and station to ship. The station can be seen from the ground. During the day, it is a very faint point of light. At night, Kashmir is usually the second brightest thing in the Indian sky (after the Moon and it's cities)
Defences: Kashmir has a three tiered defence system. The principle layer of defence is the weaponry of the ships and their protective fighters that are docked at the station. It is not uncommon for ships registered to all of the world powers to be docked at a given time. This creates a situation of balanced tension, and everyone generally plays nice. The second layer of defence comes from the Kashmir Airwing, a cadre of ethnic Indians who are trained aerospace pilots and fly a selection of second and third tier aerospace fighters. Most of their craft are either export versions of ACPS fighters, Federation export craft, or are supplied by the SAUR. The final layer of outside defence are a collection of missile batteries and point defence lasers. Despite the size of the Orbital Annex, it primarily relies on solar panels to power it, so lacks energy and high energy weapons or rail and magnetic weaponry. Compared to other annexes Kashmir is very poorly defended.
Kashmir has worked to retain a neutral position, and operates as a neutral port. It has also worked as a safe point for meetings and summits between world powers, ambassadors and other factions especially in affairs dealing with the Indian Ocean area and Asia in general.
The Space Docks: Kashmir is famous for it's massive space docks and the steady flow of goods both from Earth to the colonies and from the colonies to Earth. The Docks are divided into the actual 'docks' where ships are berthed, loaded and unloaded, refueled and repaired, the cargo holds or the 'space wharfs' and the solar system famous Spice Market.
The Spice Market: There are few places more infamous than the Spice Market. Nominally named for the old trade markets and bazaars of the Silk Road thousands of years ago, the Spice Market is the biggest flow of drugs and illicit substances in the Solar System. In addition to the typical goods, narcotics, hallucinogens and so forth, the market deals with genetic augmentation chemicals, black data streams, illicit data (extreme pornography, snuff and murder porn, etc) and all the other distractions that the Cosmic Era can churn out.
The Spice Market, rather unsurprisingly, does carry a large amount of spices and food stuffs, ranging from exotic and luxury foods (chocolate, real fruit, etc) to actual spices, and industrial food production stuffs such as mycoprotein starters and meat tumor cultures.
The Taj Mahal: The original Taj Mahal is ash and dust, destroyed in the brief thermonuclear exchange with now defunct Pakistan centuries ago. It's purpose as a tomb has been forgotten, and the Space Taj is the human trafficking market, with a large legal section, dealing with moving and ordering clones and androids, and an illegal segment that is hidden in the press of business. This section deal with abduction of replacing people with doppelgangers and human sex trafficking since there are still people who want the 'real thing' and are willing to pay for it.
Corruption as Usual: The painful truth about the Kashmir Orbital Annex is that corruption, leadership, and business are largely interchangeable. The relative poverty of India and the local population makes it vulnerable to bribery, while many of the criminal elements interested have deep pockets. The first rounds of bribery and coercion were isolated events. Wealthy parties offered their financial assistance to look the other way. Financial contributions from the European terrorist organization Armas saw to the repair of the central life support systems. The Indian ocean pirate sect the Python Patrol's bribes repaired communication masts. The first bites were the hardest, but after that is was easier and easier. Rather than occasionally taking bribes, it is now customary that if there isn't bribery then nothing happens. Repairs aren't mounted unless the right bosses are paid off, and if the fuel haulers aren't given their cut a ship might sit well past when it wanted to leave waiting on fuel, or it might have a fuel tank filled 'accidentally' with human waste water.
Any dealings with Kashmir officials will invariably come down to how much the interested parties are willing to pay under the table. Docking and other basic services are simple, and the bribe is now functionally a tip up front. Larger issues are much more difficult and expensive to deal with, such as missing crewmen, stolen or damaged goods, and so forth.
The average resident of the Kashmir Orbital Annex is of Hindu/Indian heritage, but speaks an amalgam of English and Chinese. The annex does host several ethnic populations, the most notable being unsurprisingly an Asian section of the station. The Asian section is largely hostile towards the ACPS and it's personnel, or lapdogs as they see them. There is also a wing each for residents hailing from the USSA, and from the SAUR. These powers have benefitted from off world industry and manufacturing and work to keep said goods coming in from the colonies with less interference from the big block powers. The SAUR has an outpost here and uses it to move their own finished goods, especially weapons and combat vehicles to interested buyers.
Access to Location
Kashmir is an important setting in the Cosmic Era primarily for it's purpose as a trade and economic hub. Reaching the station is easy. Most of the major cities have shuttles that travel to the Station, usually at least once a week, several are almost daily for transit. Reaching the annex from outside Earth is simply a matter of flying towards the station until it guides the ship in, much like an airplane landing, or ship pulling into a harbor. Inside the annex, there are a few ultralight rail systems, though most are used for moving cargo and not people. People tend to move almost exclusively on foot inside. There are powered armors and hardsuits, but these are all on the light end of the scale of said equipment.
The Annex does not host an L/AISC or AISC, so the station is run manually, through linked basic computer terminals. This lack of a central computer system has not prevented the Annex from functioning as a meganode for the CogNet. The Annex has dozens of communications masts dedicated to the carrying of CogNet signals. Many of these data streams are the Black Band communications that the average terrestrial citizen is warned to avoid. They are not safe, nor sanitized and can contain viral weaponry, hostile viral intelligences, and illegal and illicit data. This has lead a number of known and outed hackers and cyberwarriors to escape Earth and take refuge on Kashmir.
Kashmir was built after India purchased a large hollowed out asteroid from the Metron-Tycho Holding Company of Luna. The megacorp towed the five mile wide rock and positioned it in a stable location over the Indian city of Hydrabad. The next twenty years saw the subcontinent working to build the asteroid into it's first city in space. Construction sputtered along in bursts of growth and periods of almost nothing happening. Corners were cut to facilitate the completion of the Annex. The station was built lacking a central power core. Other annexes have arc reactors, dimensional cascade engines, and other dedicated power cores. Kashmir has scattered banks of microfusion reactors and forests of solar panels. The station also lacks a central computer core and associated L/AISC. Instead, it has a hardline LAN, and standard connection to the CogNet through it's Amerikkan Command donated masts and communication systems.
It's early operational days were marred by technical issues, and this proved to be the gateway to criminal activity. The command staff of the station found it profitable and beneficial to them and the station to accept the bribes and criminal activities going on inside their station. The directors and leaders would eventually find themselves rich and would retire to villas back on the subcontinent, or take their gains and move places like a Federation seacology in the Caribbean. Each successive change in the the guard say this bribery and corruption become more normalized and accepted.
There have been several summits held at Kashmir, mostly between the ACPS and India, and the SAUR and the ACPS. There have also been several armed stand offs. These have ended peacefully, with both sides backing down at the last minute, or the balance of force shifting that one side beat a hasty retreat. It has been several years since the last major summit was held on the station and it's role in diplomacy has waned in light of it's growing underworld and criminal culture. This has not gone unnoticed or unopposed. The station has seen periodic riots, and there have been attempted mutinies and coups by various factions within the station. Thus far the corrupt current regime has survived, but it has come close to being toppled more than once.
The Crack in the Dam: It is said that the closer someone lives to a dam, the less they think about what would happen in the dam failed. It is the elephant in the room, everyone knows about it but no one talks about it. But rather than a dam holding back water, Kashmir is a piece of rock five miles across, over eight miles taking into account the antenna, solar panels, and other pokey bits sticking out of it. The Annex is in a stable, geosynchronous orbit, but there remains the chance that the station could come unstuck from it's position. Sitting in a low orbit, the only direction it will go is down. While the main complainers about this doomsday event are mainly living in India and can see Kashmir if they know where to look in the sky, if the annex did make landfall, it would smash either into the Indian Ocean or strike somewhere along the Saudi Arabian coast.
The damage would be devastating.
Best to not think about that.
Inspirations and Influences
Escala's rendition of Kashmir (the song) was the largest inspiration for this submission because as it played I could see the Kashmir Orbital Annex, a massive island of steel and blazing lights hanging in space, the hive to the swarms of spaceships in Earth orbit. Nar Shaddaa, the Smuggler's Moon from the Star Wars EU was an influence, tying the criminal elements into the cultural elements of the Spice trade and silk road from Europe to Asia.