- "You stay in the tunnels long enough and you can hear it, the sound of picks striking stone and whips striking backs. The moans of aching muscles and the yelps of the victims of cold-hearted overseers. They're the ghosts of the old miners, the ones the British worked to death, still drenched in blood, sweat, and tears and still digging for the white gold that they labored like dogs for, salt."
|Notable Individuals:||Andrew Flannigan|
|Factions:||Provisional Defense Force|
|Notable events:||Miners' Mutiny of 2231|
|Current status:||Mining Town|
An infamous mining town in The Saltlands of southern Tamaulipas, this small village is the high water mark of the Royal Protectorate of Tampico, marking the border of their territory. Founded as a military installation and used as a penal mining center, Fort Comstock produced many of the atrocities that sparked the Native Rebellion of 2232 that nearly toppled The Protectorate and the PDF and set the whole of The Royal Dominion a flame. While no longer a penal installation, the salt mines of Fort Comstock still accept the sacrifice of human blood in exchange for offering up salt to the British. However as the remaining garrison is a testament to, there are many a tribe in The Saltlands that would like to see this no longer so.
Fort Comstock was established by the Provisional Defense Force in 2213 as an outlying colony in the Saltlands. When it was conceived, the frontlines were a good thirteen miles of barren wasteland north of the Fort, but that mattered little as it was the site of a rich salt deposit. Named for PDF hero, Major Monty Comstock, the fort was constructed over the course of two months and the mine constructed in six. Since slave labor had been made illegal thirteen years prior by the Constitution of the Royal Protectorate of Tampico, the mine was made by PDF troopers. However, it would not be attended to by such soldiers for any part of its history.
Since Fort Comstock was behind the lines of the Saltland tribals, there was literally nobody willing to risk going so far away from the safety of the Protectorate to work manual labor in the salt mines. However, the English provisional government needed the salt to trade and thus the Parliamentary Subcommittee on Resource Obtainment and Domestic Infrastructural Management (PSRODIM) decided that the salt should be extracted using penal labor from all sorts of criminals.
Fort Comstock became the Botany Bay of the Protectorate almost overnight. A most feared sentence, the conditions were atrocious. Being on the frontier, food shipments came seldom and were often rotten, with the soldiers taking the best food. Tribal attacks on the fort were common and it was well known that in the event that tribals or Lipan or Aztecas breached the walls that the soldiers would hole up in the blockhouse and the prisoners would be left to fend for themselves.
Prisoners were worked sixteen hours a day and corporally punished, normally with the lash if they disobeyed orders or didn't work hard enough. The overseers, stressed enough as it was and being less than happy about receiving such a godforsaken assignment often resorted to cruelty on the prisoners as a means of relieving their anger. An infamous practice arose of prisoners having their backs flogged to the nerves and rolled around in the salt of the mines afterwards to rub in the pain. If prisoners violently resisted then they were often hung as a warning to others, firing squad being too good for common criminals and ammunition being too valuable on the edge of "civilization".
As the years rolled on, the makeup of the prisoners began to shift. As the bipartisan expansion of capital punishment was overhauled in 2224, more dangerous convicts were executed in the Protectorate as involvement in organized crime syndicates, egregious assault, and grand theft all became hanging crimes in addition to other things. As many of these dangerous felons were the miners, the warden of Fort Comstock made requests to the judge of the First Circuit Court in Tampico for more prisoners to be sent his way. Consequentially, boys and girls as young as fourteen were sent to Fort Comstock with sentences from five years hard labor to life hard labor for offenses such as petty theft, and vandalism and adults found themselves in the mines for crimes such as minor drug possession, debt, and failure to pay taxes.
In just two years only five of the eighty miners in Fort Comstock were there for violent crimes and nearly half of them were under the age of twenty. However, the sadistic tendencies of the guards and the horrible working conditions didn't change at all. For over a lustrum this vicious abuse of human rights was continued in the name of salt and empire, and was widely unknown to even the Parliament or the PSRODIM. However it would not last forever.
Miners' Mutiny of 2231
It was in the freezing desert winter of 2231 that the convicted miners had decided enough was enough. After being denied blankets and being told that they would simply have to get over the cold nights of the Saltlands, the prisoners, most of whom had been either physically or sexually abused and all of whom had witnessed it made their move.
With mining equipment they stormed the barracks and blockhouse and while the initial element of surprise allowed them to overpower and kill three soldiers, their offensive ended there. All eighty three miners were shot that night by the garrison. When news reached Tampico, an investigation was staged and it was found that many were shot in the back and to an excessive degree, one man having thirty holes in him. This mutiny became the talk of Tampico, and when former inmates began to speak out what had happened to them there and physical evidence on the bodies suggested the abuse they spoke of was still being perpetrated in the Fort at the time of the mutiny, outrage was rampant.
A trial was demanded by the people and by a vote of the House of Commons and the House of Lords. The warden along with all members of the garrison was put on a mass trial, with every man charged with eighty three counts of first degree murder. All twenty men stood to face the death penalty, however only one man was convicted, Corporal Ignacio Rivera the only Mexican in the garrison. The other men, all of whom were of Anglo descent were acquitted, the reason being that it could not be proven that they had participated in the shooting as all witnesses denied it. Lopez and Rivera however were convicted on the basis that one young woman was found shot with rounds from a .30-30 and the only two men in the garrison with a weapon chambered for that cartridge was Rivera. Thus, he was summarily hung and the rest merely transferred to the First Fusiliers.
The response was outrage, it was felt that since the prisoners were Mexican and poor Anglos that the noble officers and poor Anglo troopers were given a pass, with the only man convicted being a Mexican. Even some in the House of Lords condemned the verdict and demanded a retrial, however double jeopardy prevented such an occurrence and thus they all went free and Fort Comstock became a symbol of the institutional racism of noble Anglo rule in the Protectorate.
During the Native Rebellion of 2232, Fort Comstock was a bastion of the government that its atrocities had inspired an uprising against. "Remember Comstock!" was a rallying cry used by the army of Jorge Cruces as PDF outposts fell like dominoes across the Protectorate. Being so isolated the new garrison remained in place, leaving the mine unattended and surviving by hunting for their own food.
When the rebellion ended and afterwards when the Cruces Administration took power, the garrison promptly surrendered to the reformed PDF. Cruces ordered that the mine at Fort Comstock be remobilized for production. However as penal labor had now been expressly criminalized by Cruces, the mine would be worked by paid manual laborers.
Post-Rebellion to Present
Since the Cruces administration, Fort Comstock has remained a small mining community and while the PDF has caught up to it with other outposts popping up nearby, it is still the frontier. The miners are now paid a government salary as the mine is still property of the PSRODIM and thus national property. Pay is minimum wage plus protection and while by no means is it pleasant work, it is bearable. Throughout the further conflicts with tribals, Fort Comstock has hung on. Its garrison defends it from most attacks by the tribals who have little interest in the small town anyways and its distance from Tampico means that internal affairs in the Dominion rarely have any impact inside the fort. While an important piece of Protectorate history, Fort Comstock's role now appears to be done as it has become just another mining operation made to quench the insatiable thirst for land and resources that the Royal Dominion has.
Being the literal edge of English civilization in Tamaulipas, Fort Comstock is overseen by a military contingent. The provisional military commandant, Andrew Flannigan is in charge of handling of resources, ensuring that the salt mines meet their quotas, and most importantly security.
There is however a civilian led government. The people of the town elect a sheriff whose job is to keep order in town and collect taxes which are then delivered to the military contingent. Should the duty of law enforcement prove too much for the lone peace officer to handle, he is authorized to call upon able-bodied citizens to act as his posse or to request assistance from the military which is permitted to allow its soldiers to act as temporary special deputies. In addition to the sheriff there is an elected mayor who acts as sole commissioner for County Comstock.
For judicial and electoral purposes, Fort Comstock is in the Frontier District and thus in the ninth judicial circuit. That being said, all judicial matters are brought before Circuit Judge Granville Hyatt who is in town three days a month. They elect their Member of Parliament (MP) to the House of Commons along with all other communities in the Frontier District, being the second largest establishment in that district, Fort Comstock is influential in the Frontier District. The current MP of the Frontier District as of 2281 is none other than native daughter of Fort Comstock, Larisa Barton who is serving her second term to parliament as a member of the pro-military and pro-expansion Dominion Party.
Most of Fort Comstock revolves around the salt mining trade. The salt mine is what the town was built for and of the roughly one hundred and fifteen inhabitants, seventy work in the mines with twenty five in the military garrison and twenty doing other work. Traders seldom pass through as the area is so remote that being said, most goods are produced in the town including clothing and food which is grown and hunted outside of the walls of the fort.
Since most miners can't afford to go into the more developed parts of The Dominion to spend their money on other goods, when a trader does come to Fort Comstock they become the talk of the town. However most money trades hands inside the walls of the fort in the pubs and casinos. The nightlife industry, though meager in Fort Comstock compared to that of other parts of the wasteland is very lucrative and while chems and prostitution are explicitly prohibited by parliamentary law, this has not stopped narcotics or harlots from finding their way through the gates to strip the miners of their hard earned money.
Fort Comstock's culture revolves around hard work and hard play. The lives of the people are simple, they labor ten hours a day in the mines from the age of eleven until their bodies physically cannot do it anymore. Pay isn't by the hour but by the amount of salt dug up, if the quota isn't met then their pay is deducted, the people of Fort Comstock thus believe in maximum efficiency and shun shirkers and other lazy habits.
When they aren't working, the miners want to unwind and while poor, they're willing to spend half of what they make on the drinks and fun that make the hours of breathing in salt and dust and rocks and swinging their picks in the mines worth it. Most every man in town pays a visit to one of the two or so bars in town on a daily basis, thus the pubs are used as polling centers, courthouses, and even for Sunday services as most of the miners are religious. The religious split is more Catholic than Protestant due to less Anglos working in the mines.
Living on the frontier, residents of Fort Comstock know that life is a fragile thing and every day is uncertain. They are willing to fight tooth and nail for what little they have. Since it is frontier territory, most sections of the Arms Act of 2232 do not apply to Fort Comstock. While automatic weapons are prohibited to the miners, they are free to obtain most other conventional firearms without any form of permitting and to carry their weapons without any permitting. While heavily armed, most fights in Fort Comstock are resolved with fists, killings are quite rare in the town and normally punished with lynch law tactics by other miners before the sheriff or military can deal with the perpetrator. This community violence, while considered a crime in The Dominion is seen as a cornerstone of frontier life and thus rarely punished.
Fort Comstock is arranged around the main salt mine which is in the center of town. Around the mine are the bunkhouses where the miners live and the pubs and the hotel which are located right as the miners are leaving so they don't have very far to walk once getting off of work. Surrounding this humble establishment is a fortification prepared by the PDF which is little more than a wood and cinderblock wall with the occasional sentry tower. There is a blockhouse and a barracks attached to the wall which serve as the place for planning, keeping supplies, and housing prisoners.
Fort Comstock is located to the Northwest of Tampico about 100 miles. It is roughly 300 miles south of La Ciudadela.