The Vegan Confederacy is the second great power of the Old Skies region, the Terran Union being the first. The Union is older and larger than the Confederacy, but the Confederacy is considerably more dynamic and more well-liked. The two polities have never gone to war, and would strenuously avoid such a conflict in the present circumstances, but people have speculated which would win.
Vega is a class A0 star, 8.1 pc (27 ly) from Earth. It has an early planetary system forming around it, with no big gas giants. Given Vega's spectral class, this planetary system is never going to get as old as Earth is now.
Two light-years from Vega is a brown dwarf, Brune, with a life-bearing one-face planet, Nyctis. Vega is the most spectacular object in its sky, being the pole star for the southern hemisphere. The local air pressure and composition are marginally acceptable, but the biosphere runs on a combination of wind-powered pneumosynthesis and sulfur-based chemosynthesis, and is totally incompatible with Terran biology. For a long time, human occupation was limited to research bases.
Near Vega and Nyctis lies Mu Herculis, one of the early Earth colonies. Most traffic to Nyctis came through Herculis, and when Herculis became independent, it took Nyctis as part of its territory. It remained no more than a research base. During a strong economic upturn, Herculis tried planting a subordinate commercial colony on Nyctis. This never took off as a great commercial success in its own right, but it became a center of interstellar trade and, eventually, the capital of the Vegan Confederacy.
Its role as trade center made Nyctis a valuable property. Over history, it has been seized by several different powers, several times by Earth and for the longest time by the Agrian terraforming empire. It acquired independence some centuries back and founded its Confederacy.
The main city on Nyctis is at the south pole, so that Vega is at its zenith. Consequently, it is called "Vega City," and Nyctis is far more identified with Vega than with Brune, which is invisible unless you have infrared vision. Brilliant, blue-white Vega even outstrips Nyctis itself in Nyctan public awareness. This is why it is the Vegan Confederacy, not the Nyctan. The name "Vega" can now mean the star, or Nyctis, or Vega City, or the government of the Vegan Confederacy, or the whole Vegan Confederacy, depending on context.
The symbol of Nyctis is a star in a stylized lyre (Vega being Alpha Lyrae), pale blue on black. The symbol of the Vegan Confederacy is an array of stars in a stylized lyre, gold on black
The Vegan Confederacy is a generally benign organization. It is heavily involved in stimulating economies and discouraging oppression – the first because it is still more heavily dependent on interstellar trade for its domestic prosperity than is usual, and the second because of lessons learned through its own history as a prize.
Nyctis is governed by a popularly-elected president and by a single-chamber parliament that elects a prime minister. It is known for its long list of sapient rights and the wide range of beings it recognizes as sapient.
Confederation members are pledged to mutual defense, extradition, free trade, and free travel and emigration among them. They are not bound by the Nyctis constitution, but worlds are not allowed in unless they have some form of democracy with universal-adulthood sufferange, and freedom of ideology and expression; new members must also be approved by the existing membership.
The membership now includes Nyctis's motherworld Herculis and the homeworlds of four sapient species. The Confederacy and the Terran Union spread off in opposite directions, their capital worlds close to the border between them.
Vega is known for its legendary Zone Agents. Vega divides its own territory, all the Old Skies, and much of the surrounding galaxy into "zones," in terms of diplomatic and military policy. The zone agents, who never appear in public and are never known by name unless they are done being agents forever, are Vega's top-rank espionage and diplomatic operatives in this theater.
Each zone agent is a hypercompetent individual with extensive expertise in patharchy and psychics, along with the various arts of espionage and spacefaring. Each is equipped with a small, very fast ship and an AI partner. This partner is an edited clone of the agent's own neurodynamics and has been repeatedly exposed to induced life-review of the agent's memories by telepathic contact. It is as close to a mental duplicate of the agent as is technically possible, and has the same formidable array of skills. In addition, it brains the ship. Agent and AI have a close, permanent, and highly effective partnership.
Nyctis is a one-face world, tidally locked so that it always presents the same hemisphere to Brune. The outer hemisphere has an ice cap covering part of it, but air circulation moderates temperatures over much of it. The inner hemisphere is habitable but uncomfortably hot. The south pole, being on the border, is in Nyctis's temperate zone.
If you stood at the south pole before the founding of Vega City, you would see a night sky over a prairie. At the zenith burns Vega. To one side, there is a vast semicircle of sky that is forever empty of stars. Over the short year, stars vanish behind it, then reappear. You can feel heat coming from that darkness, which is Brune. Wind blows into the darkness of Brune, the perpetual teminator wind that drives Nyctis's weather. It also drives the ecosystem. The grass of the prairie ripples in the wind, and features feathery tassels. All Nyctisic "plants" have similar tassels; inside them, threads of piezoelectric crystal convert the windpower into metabolic energy. Most of the grass is pale grey, lit here and there by bioluminous "flowers," attracting pollinators in the dark.
Standing in the same place, years later, you might be on a street corner. No grass in the darkness. Instead, the place looks like Las Vegas at Christmas. The most subdued buildings are stark white; others flash and blaze in multicolor patterns. All have crowns of street lamps. Anything to drive back the night. The people follow suit – bright clothes and luminous accessories are the fashion, and always have been, no matter what changes move over that basic rule.
Popular opinion has it that this deliberate brightness bleeds over into Vegan culture. A sort of determined optimism and cheerfulness is the preferred public attitude, variously honored and lampooned everywhere.
Beyond the city, the dark prairie remains. There are other human settlements on Nyctis, all similar to Vega City in basic style, if smaller. Even farms stand under groves of brilliant sunlamps, which both nourish the Terran crops and burn away native growth. They keep native animals at a distance, too.
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Copyright © Earl Wajenberg, 2010