The long strange trip
The Imperium operates a starport on each of its 11,000 worlds, as well as many client states and a few hostile worlds. These ports anchor the web of trade that provides both the reason for the Imperium and the means by which it exists.
As vital as that function is, starports play another role of arguably equal importance. Starports are where the Imperium and each of its self-governing worlds collide and collude. They usually represent the sole Imperial outpost on a world – and the world’s sole lifeline to the stars. Given their critical function for both governments, Imperial starports transcend their mundane role as transit station. In most citizens’ eyes, they stand as the symbol of the Imperial relationship. The details of this symbolism vary in accordance with the nature of each world’s view of the Imperium.
Imperial starports exist to provide fair and equitable support of interstellar trade. This they do, with an astonishing degree of uniformity across the parsecs. At the same time, the intense Imperial, local government, and public focus on each port transforms it into a unique culture – a place unlike any other on the world, perhaps unlike any other in all of the Imperium. A star traveler can expect to find a fixed set of ship services at a fixed set of prices at a given Imperial starport. In every other venue – atmosphere, attitudes, attractions – he should expect the unexpected. Beyond the landing pads and control towers, no two starports are alike.
THE IMPERIAL STARPORT AUTHORITY
The Imperium uses a number of agencies to indirectly govern its vast reaches. None of these – not even the Imperial Navy in all its dreadnought glory – can claim greater importance than the Imperial Starport Authority.
The SPA manages all Imperial public starports, which is to say, the port facilities for well over 97% of trade and travel in Imperial space. The job requires equal genius in administration, diplomacy, and crisis response.