But, as new buds put forth,
To glad new men,
Out of the spent and unconsidered Earth,
The Cities rise again.
— "Cities and Thrones and Powers," Rudyard Kipling
Earth is deep in an ice age, but its civilization is doing fine. Earth owns the rest of the Solar System and has terraformed Venus and parts of Mars and Luna. It dominates a federation of several dozen nearby systems, the Terran Union. Its nearest neighbor is the Vegan Confederacy. Together, they are the main powers in the Old Skies region and stand at one end of the Corridor, the band of advanced systems that runs from the Old Skies to the Core of the galaxy.
By now, Earth is very culturally homogenized. Most speak Terranic as their first language, though local languages are used for color and as hobbies, as are local costumes, festivals, and traditions.
Earth is well into a glaciation, causing geographical changes, such as the following:
Terraforming could have prevented or reversed many of these changes, but the economic and ecological cost has always been prohibitive.
Betelgeuse, Alpha Orionis, 640 light-years from Earth and the star on Orion's right shoulder (on the left as seen from the ground) is no longer a red giant. Several thousand years ago, it went supernova and is now a small white dwarf. It outshone the moon for a time, but caused no ecological damage.
Due to the precession of the equinoxes, Polaris is not the pole star at this time.
One of the largest meltworks on Earth, it creates a bay in the glacier line.
The ancient city of Lunnan is north of the glacier line, in a major system of meltworks. Lunnan features:
Areas that the Acrotects designate as no-go zones are patrolled by their creatures, the strigs, suteks, and wendigoes. Strigs are the commonest.
Strigs are eight-foot-tall cyborganized birds, produced by speed-growing tachygenetic tissue on a nanofiber skeleton bearing the mechanical parts. It resembles a giant secretary bird — that is, a long-legged eagle. The plumage is usually pale gray, but can change. Strigs have the following features:
A strig does not need to eat, sleep, or rest, and it is rumored that if you blast all the flesh off its bones, the mechanized skeleton continues to fight.
Suteks are quadrupedal analogs to strigs. They are basically canine, but are patterned on the Set beasts of Egyptian mythology, having forked tails, bent muzzles, slit eyes, and squared-off ears. They do not fly, but can walk up walls and across ceilings and make prodigious leaps.
Wendigoes are humanoid analogs. The publicly known ones are covered in fine gray fur, but it is of course rumored that there are wendigoes that look exactly like humans, or were human once.
Venus is patrolled by bat-winged, featherless variants on strigs, called drakes.
The World Trail pre-dates the geographical changes of the glaciation, but the new ice bridges and land bridges have aided it. The World Trail is a system of parallel highways and tracks that circles the globe. Using familiar place names:
Starting in Buenos Ares, the trail runs up the east coast of South America and divides at Mexico City. The east branch runs through New Orelans, along the Gulf coast, up the eastern seaboard of North America, into the ancient Megalopolis. There it turns west and skirts the edges of the glaciers through Toronto and Chicago, across the Great Plains and Rockies to Seattle, where it rejoins the west branch.
The west branch goes up the west coast of North America through Los Angeles and San Francisco, meeting the east branch in Seattle.
The Trail then continues up the west coast, to glacier-bound Juneau, where it continues across the ice bridge to Tokyo, on to Seoul, then Beijing, Nanching, and Hong Kong.
A southern branch starts in Sydney, passes through Brisbane and Darwin, then runs up through Jakarta, Singapore, and Bangkok, to join the main Trail in Rangoon. The Trail then runs through Calcutta to New Delhi. Then Kabul, Tehran, Bagdad, Istanbul, Vienna, and Paris, to finish up in London.
Genetic projections and, very possibly, time travel have produced revivals of many species wiped out in earlier periods. Many are simply circulating again in the ecology, such as dodos, passenger pigeons, blue whales, quaggas. But the megafauna from the previous glaciation are kept in revival parks. These are fenced off, often in clear areas surrounded by glaciers. In these areas, mammoths, sabre-tooth tigers, ground sloths, and other megafauna can live again.
The best-known revival park is the one due west of the ancient Megalopolis on the east coast of North America. It is bordered on the north by the glacier fields that now cover Lake Erie; on the east by the glacier-covered Appalachians, dividing it from the Megalopolis, which now occupies a relatively narrow strip of land between ice and ocean (this land including newly-exposed ocean floor); on the south by the Allegheny river; and on the west by a series of fences.
Megafauna include mammoths, mastadons, sabretooths, ground sloths, diatryma, dire wolves, cave bears, and a wide range of equids and camelids. Rumor has it there are revivals of Neanderthal there, too. There are certainly strigs, suteks, and wendigoes patrolling for poachers and other trespassers. Tours and hunting parties are allowed only by authority of the Ecology Ministry, which belongs to the Acrotects.
The Sahara is now plain, not desert, and a major farming region, with its own regional culture and government. See the Saharan States.
The geosynchronous zone above Earth's equator has been full of orbital cities and other satellites for millenia. This is visible in the night sky as a straight line of dim stars. Rising four hours before and after Luna, there are two tight clusters of dim stars. These are the clusters of Lagrange stations, more orbital cities.
The oldest orbital stations are spinning rings and cylinders. Later ones are double-ended towers and clusters of towers, vacuum-tight, in air-bubbles, or in diffusion barriers.
Major cities of the Geosync include:
Current and recent Terran fashions:
See also Culture, Fashions and Styles.
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The strict, rigid side of Earth's culture centers in the Acrotects, hypercompetent officials devoted to infrastructure and to public health and safety. They are responsible for draconian laws about population and environment. They also have great influence on the technologies allowed, alien species allowed (including sapients), public safety from time-travel effects (so that they largely oversee the Terran Time Force) and communicable psychic effects (so that they heavily influence psionic practice and the definition and prosecution of psychic crime). They make full use of the tools of cybureaucracy to gather information and can draw on the corps of government "yaggers" (psionically gifted manhunters and detectives) at will.
The Acrotects are theoretically part of the civil service. They are appointed, not elected, and serve for centuries at a stretch. If they get too extreme, the elective government can try to reign them in, but this is a major political convulsion, a form of coup. There have been several Acrotectic coups and attempted coups, overruling important Acrotectic programs or firing or even arresting major Acrotects, but the last was two hundred years ago. Most often, an offending Acrotect is put down by other Acrotects.
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Earthly culture is famous for a dichotomy between a rigid core of laws and an anything-goes attitude toward matters outside the law. It is also heavily decentralized.
On the lax side of Earthly culture, there are no planetary laws against dueling, prostitution, gambling, drinking, drugging, dorfing, sparking, zeening, poffing, splicing, eunuchism, mating groups of arbitrary sexual combinations, fortune-telling, or magic, though all of these are prohibited by some local governments.
The strict side of Earth is also represented by draconian sumptuary laws against misrepresenting your class, one of the following:
It is also severely illegal to misrepresent whether you are human or non-human.
All wards must have legal guardians, individual or organizational. This is the nearest Earthly law comes to the concept of the family. There is no concept of marriage or parentage in planetary law, though these institutions are widely practiced and recognized in the law of various regions.
Chattels are owned, though protected by humane laws. Various classes of creatures are automatically labeled chattels unless they pass individual competency tests; being promoted out of such a class, to ward or citizen, is difficult.
Besides the four classes that must not be falsely assumed, there are two others that are vitally important to Earthly politics and culture: electors and the indentured.
Electors must be full citizens of at least 50, pass a competency test, and must vote often; skipping too many elections gets you a fine and a mark on your public record lasting ten years. It is not illegal to make false claims to be an elector, unless, of course, you try to use the false claim to vote, but it is very poor form and Not Done. YOu can opt out of being an Elector, but to opt back in requires passing the competency test again.
Indenture is a form of term slavery. Full slavery is illegal in the Terran Union, but one may be indentured as a criminal punishment or sell oneself into indenture. Indenture is always for a specific period. The master of an indentured servant can make great curtailments of liberty, use a wide variety of coercive measures, and sell his rights to the indentured to another. For instance, a master may forbid marriage or divorce or reproduction, dictate dress and grooming within wide limits, dictate place of work and residence, abridge freedom of expression, and make educational requirements of the indentured. However, the indentured is protected, in law, from physical and psychological harm, or coercion to illegal acts, just as a chattel would be.
The Earth government is a parliament of three houses: DomPopul (based on district population), DomRegio (three representatives per district), and DomGentil (based on ethnic composition of districts). There are three corresponding prime ministers. There is also a World Court and a President.
Outside the political power structure, but forming part of an active ceremonial life, are the World Imperator (Emperor or Empress, depending; the current incumbent is World Emperor Norun XVIII) and the High College of Priests, consisting of Ideolatry's High Priests of the twenty main Arche, or Ideas.
The Earth government is widely known for its penal system, which makes varied use of mental punishment. Instead of using pain or sensory deprivation, Earthly authorities inflict phobias, depression, obsessions, amnesia, mental deficits such as aphasia and hysterical paralysis, and occasionally delusions or catatonia. "Imprisonment" by severe agoraphobia combined with deep depression is a common sentence. These may not be cured until a stated term is up.
The Earth government uses the astronomical Earth symbol (quartered circle) in white on blue as the planetary flag. The flag for the Terran Union is an Earth symbol over a field of stars, white on blue.
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Ideolatry used to be the state religion of the Terran Union, though even then the Union maintained a list of "tolerated religious positions." Ideolatry was at the top of the list, but it was a long list, and included "atheist" and "agnostic," though it was difficult to get the list edited.
However, when the Terran Union made its most recent expansion, Ideolatry was in a decline, Concilation and Entrega had been making advances throughout the Old Skies region, and many of the states being wooed by the Terran Union made greater religious freedom a condition of joining. Therefore, Ideolatry is no longer financially supported by the Union and membership in it is no longer a legal requirement for a position in the Union government.
Informally, however, Ideolatry still dominates. In fact, its set-back from being state religion inspired a resurgence. Elective government is heavily Ideolatrous; civil service almost entirely so. All Acrotects are Ideolators. It is much easier to find an Ideolatrous state chaplain than any other kind, and the main holidays of Ideolatry (quarter days and cross-quarter days) are government holidays. Government financial support has been replaced by free (though heavily expected) donations by wealthy members, especially government officials, and by myriads of ways in which the path of Ideolatry's temples is made easy.
In many territories of the Union, Ideolatry remains the state religion, and even where it does not, its criteria often define marriage, family relationships, bloodsiblinghood, and (on Earth only) ceremonial cleanness.
Ideolatry makes full use of cybureaucracy, both governmental (to which it has full but unofficial access) and its own, to track religious trends and implement guanxi (social networks). This means that, within the dominant Ideolatrous community, it is important to keep a good religious reputation to protect financial, political, academic, or of course clerical careers.
Ideolators are far from united on cultural and political issues, and use the cybureaucracy to see how each other measures up. The Arche (Ideas) that individuals favor strongly reflect/influence how they react to each other and you:
You need not declare your religion or your favorite Arche in your appearance, but to declare falsely is distinctly Not Done, like wearing a crucifix when not Concilian or a yamulke when not Jewish.
Conciliation and Entrega are a closely-spaced second and third place among religions of the Union, with other religious positions much further behind. Both are dominant in some member states, and may occasionally be state religions.
Beyond the Terran Union, the religious climate is different, especially as you move out of the Old Skies region and into the Corridor, and more so east, west, and outward.
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The initial motive for large-scale settlement of these worlds was helium-3 mining. This gas is very rare on Earth but relatively abundant in the surface soil of these worlds. ³He was valuable because it, in combination with deuterium, was fuel for fusion plants. Once the ³He industry was established, various other forms of mining, then manufacture, started, and the planetary economies began to develop.
Now, millennia later, both worlds have patches of terraforming. Some craters are filled with domes over domes over domes. These form many small, gleaming green spots on the Moon. On Mars, some of the canyons are roofed over and filled with air, water, and life. More recently, terraformers have established areas under impalpable diffusion barriers.
In the distant past, both Luna and Mars have sometimes been independent of Earth, but both have been Earth territories for many centuries, now, with no prospect and little thought of any change. Both are represented in Earth's parliament as any other part of Earth would be.
Venus, the asteroids Ceres and Vesta, and the Jovian moons have representation in the Earth parliament, just as places like Britain or Iceland do. Outposts elsewhere are privately owned or government installations, without political status.
See also Venus.
The Terran Union is a group of star systems allied with Earth and thereby with one another. There is free trade between members, extradition, and mutual military aid. There is no requirement for free travel between members, though in fact citizens of the Solar System move freely within the Union, as do citizens of other "first magnitude stars," as they are colloquially called. There is no requirement for specific forms of government or lists of rights, either; the only requirement is the approval of the Earth parliament. Earth could bring in or kick out members without general approval, theoretically, but the resulting upheaval might well bring down the Union.
"Second magnitude stars" are the second-string powers within the Union. They follow the lead of the first magnitudes. The classification is hazy — and perjorative; you can get in bar-fights on some planets by referring to them as "second magnitude." However, any planet where the military is routinely and substantially assisted by a more powerful neighbor, or where off-world trade has a larger than average share in the economy, is usually called "second magnitude" by third parties.
"Third magnitude stars" are colonies of Earth or other Union members. They do not control their own militaries or foreign policies. Earth's have their own parliaments, on the pattern of the Earth parliament, or colonial governors.
The Terran Union is three times the size of its neighbor, the Vegan Confederacy, but much less cohesive. The first magnitude stars and many of the second magnitude spend considerable effort preventing it from falling apart.
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Modern Terran history begins with the end of the 14th Intermediate Period, with the re-unification and organization of the Solar System under the Solar Ministries. Little planetary-level political structure remains from earlier times, except for the Acrotects, whose founding marked the end of the 11th Intermediate Period.
The Persean Ideologues were a schism of Ideolatry, marked by a rigidly specific morality, cleanliness code, and liturgy. Their missionaries entered Solar space soon after the Ministries came to power. As their numbers in Solar space grew, they began fomenting dissent. This eventually erupted into full-scale religious civil war, Perseans attempting to overthrow the Ministries in favor of a Persean theocracy.
The Perseans were defeated by a cadre of hypercompetent warriors calling themselves the "Solar Champions" — ancient people working in close psychic cooperation and each capable of being a top-level general, spy, or field warrior. Working in a careful combination of secrecy and cultivated reputation, with methods ranging from battle and assassination to connotation control, they ended the civil war.
The Solar Champions did not stop at military victory. There remained many Persean converts in the Solar System and the surrounding Old Skies. Fortunately, there were three sub-sects of them. Working subtly, the Solar Champions exacerbated the conflicts between them, reduced their social power still further, and molded them into moderated schools of Ideolatry that were absorbed by the Ideolatrous mainstream.
After the Persean conflict was settled, the Solar Champions continued to gain political influence. Eventually, it became traditional to elect the Ministerial Secretary from among the Champions. When this was made law, the Eighth Solar Empire was established. Soon thereafter, the title "Ministerial Secretary" was changed to "Imperator," making public acknowledgment of the change. The Solar Champions changed their name to "Imperial Champions."
The Imperator, emperor or empress, was elected at regular intervals from among the Imperial Champions. This Imperator was the prime executive of the Empire, but was only "first among equals" among the Champions, and acted within a constitutional framework created by the Champions. They recruited new members into the Imperial Champions as new individuals achieved adequate (very broad, very high) levels of competence.
Under the Champions, the Eighth Solar Empire expanded peacefully until it hit internal economic limits.
The Imperial Champions responded to the economic stagnation by reorganizing the Eighth Solar Empire into the more loosely (and cheaply) structured Twelfth Solar Federation, then retiring.
The Solar Federation expanded peacefully, as a trade and treaty alliance. It reached its greatest extent under its last, longest-lasting, and most famous administration, the Sapphire Mechanarchs. But the Mechanarchs could not prevent the breakup.
The breakup took the form of the Alshain-Delphinus War. Alshain and Delphinus were two neighboring sovereignties within the Solar Federation. Alshain accused Delphinus, which was undoubtedly corrupt, of backing piracy, smuggling, hacking, reckless temporal trafficking, and psych-outs, all to the injury of Alshain. Alshian then retaliated by backing coup attempts by dissident groups within Delphinus.
Delphinus declared war and attacked. Soon, the outer reaches of the Solar Federation dissolved in war as various member states took sides. The Sapphire Mechanarchs stepped aside. The Imperial Champions, once more the Solar Champions, came out of retirement to lead the defense of Earth and its closest, oldest possessions. Alshain was left devastated and Delphinus was partitioned into East Equuleus and Venator.
Vega took the occasion of the civil war to secede from the Federation without overt conflict with Earth. Other member states followed, leaving a much shrunken Federation. Vega established its own system of Zone Agents, modeling them directly on the Solar Champions.
Shortly after the civil war, the Solar Federation was attacked with time-tricks by the Perdeants, a rare and exotic race of neo-humans. The Federation defend with its own time-tricks and their own instantly-produced neo-humans, the Sruvanvas. The Institute of Time intervened, limiting action on both sides
In reaction to a series of religious panics caused by the Sagittarian Chiliasts (an apocalyptic movement of Ideolatry), the Federation entered the restrained Templarch Period, featuring:
The Templarch Period ended when Emperor Sanir II vetoed a drive to disenfranchize non-Templars and publicly called for intervention by the Institutes of Wisdom and Justice.
During the reformations orchestrated by the Institutes, several systems seceded from the Solar Federation, and Earth was militarily helpless to prevent it. Instead, Earth established the Terran Union. Its more relaxed terms of membership ended the secession drive and won back some of the seceders. As part of the terms for returning, the former seceders required that Ideolatry cease to be the state religion, marking the official end of Templarch influence.
Shortly after the founding of the Terran Union, the Antarean Reach, including the tliggo homeworld Scorpiana, seceded from Terran Union after a short war, and joined Vegan Confederacy.
The Terran Union, hemmed in militarily and economically in the Old Skies, sought new allies and founded new colonies outward, toward Gemini. Some of the new colonies are being developed with modernized terraforming method. The Gemini expansion is currently going on.
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Copyright © Earl Wajenberg, 2010