Venus has always been Earth's. The initial terraforming was by bombardment with fourteen ammonia-rich comets. This kicked up dust to cool the planet enough to introduce gene-tooled autolithotrophic extremophile bacteria (ALTX, pronounced "alt-ex").
The hydrogen in the comets' ammonia combined with the oxygen in the carbon dioxide to create some water (along with the water ice in the comets), and the nitrogen in the ammonia supplied a little atmospheric nitrogen.
The ALTX bacteria combined the oxygen in the carbon dioxide with the native rock, producing silicon and aluminum dioxide sands and converting the carbon into beds of coal and graphite.
Venus today has a breathable atmosphere, but very dense, still enormously hot and dry. The planet has no open water. It is a world of pale golden deserts (SiO2 and AlO2 sands tinted with the sulfur left over from the original atmosphere), with occasional patches of black sands (graphite and coal), and bare mountains and plateaux.
Over this landscape hangs a blue sky, pale from dust and the thickness of the atmosphere, criss-crossed with seventeen white arcs – rings left over from the original fourteen comets, plus three more added later. These act to shade Venus somewhat; the Sun, noticably larger than when seen from Earth, spends a large fraction of the day behind one ring or another; it appears to burn straight through, but intensity is in fact reduced a fraction. (Because of the rings, Venus actually shines brighter in Earth's sky than before terraforming.)
The rings cross each other at somewhat haphazard angles, and vary in width. This is because of the variation in size and angle of the incoming comets used to form them. The result is that the rings look like a natural feature, though that is only half true.
Faintly visible beyond the rings, at night, is an evenly spaced row of dim specks. These are the hydrogen streamers – simple, solar-powered devices that use magnetic fields to scoop hydrogen from the solar wind and fire it into Venus's atmosphere, where it interacts with the atmospheric oxygen, slowly but cheaply increasing the amount of water vapor in the air.
The Sun takes 58.4 days to cross the sky, followed by a night of equal duration. During that night, stars rise on the horizon where the Sun set, and the sky is lit by the seventeen rings, each arc now broken by the shadow of Venus lying across it, the cluster of gaps slowly crossing the sky and setting as the Sun rises again. The positions of the shadows in relation to the criss-crossing rings change steadily through the nine-month Venusian year.
At night, most Venusian animals life comes out of estivation and becomes active. Even animals that do not truly estivate become more active, having spent the daylight season in relative torpor. Venusian life is almost entirely derived from Terran organisms. Well-known examples include:
Venusians themselves are somewhat adapted to the climate. Those who do not have naturally dark skins usually take cosmetic mutations for them, and sun-blocking skin bacteria in various colors are common features in the history of Venusian fashion. Many have subtler adaptations for the heat and dryness.
Venusian clocks run on Gresh-time, the ancient Earth-standard clock used throughout the Solar System, but the Venusians themselves adapt to the long days and nights by juggling their circadian rhythms, either by gene-therapy or pharmaceuticals, so that they sleep and wake by convenience rather than by a steady rhythm. They must take some care that sleep deficit does not creep up on them.
Venusians have their own calendar, running in parallel to the Earthly one. It divides the Venusian day (called a "solar" to distinguish it from 24-hour days) into four "months": Matins, Sext, Vespers, and Compline. Each month is 29 days long, except for Matins, which is sometimes 30 days long when a leap-day is required to keep the solar calendar in step with the actual Venusian solar. The months start at dawn, noon, sunset, and midnight for the longitude of Cytherean, the capital. In on-world correspondence, Venusians often add the solar date after the Earthly date, e.g. "January 21st, Matins 8th." Using only the solar date ("Matins 8th") indicates a degree of informality or that this is Venusians-only business. Individual solars are not numbered.
Venusian fashions in clothing are, of course, very similar to Earthly, but briefer and looser. Whatever the current Earthly fashions, a common Venusian costume is a loose robe and a wide-brimmed hat, often with a personal cooler tucked in somewhere.
The oldest settlements are orbital stations and aerostat cities. Since Venus's long day means it has no useful geosynchronous orbit, the orbital stations do not cluster so heavily on the celestial equator and move freely relative to one another, many having polar orbits. Many of the aerostat cities also move freely over regular routes, rather than having fixed locations.
Ground settlements are usually around constructed oases, in which loads of cometary ice are regularly dumped, dampening and cooling the oasis cities and slowly humidifying the planet. Most settlements are near the poles, in the highlands of Ishtar Terra (north) and Lada Terra (south), where the weather is significantly cooler than on the equator, now that the original atmosphere is gone. But even there, the cities shelter under great, gauzy, silvery shade-tents, organized for passive ventilation and cooling.
The capital of Venus, on the northern reaches of Ishtar Terra near the pole, is Cytherean. Roughly antipodal to it are the twin cities of Sitapur and Lakshmi, together the largest population center on Venus. The two poles are kept in easy contact by the three orbital cities, Iris, Luciphine, and Nephret, which swing close to one or the other pole every few hours, orbiting well below the rings. The aeriel cities of Fatimabad and Aerostadt Freya approach the poles every few weeks.
Venus has representation in Earth's parliament, but is more than usually dominated by the Acrotects; cities are occasionally founded on their orders, and the wilderness areas are guarded by their creatures, the drakes. The ongoing terraforming of the planet, including irrigation by cometary ice, is all under Acrotect control.
Venus' own government is a parliamentary system with a prime minister and a popularly elected president
The best-known Venusian export is gemstones; there are some kinds that are mined out on Earth and some kinds that are unique to Venusian geology. It also exports biological products from the lifeforms adapted to its hot, dry climate, and supports a chemical and nanotech industry based on the plentiful, high-purity graphite and coal-sand deposits.
Venusian cultural stereotypes and "running gags" include the ideas that Venusians are very romantic and passionate (an obvious reference to the classical goddess) and that their "lucky number" is 29 (a reference to the atomic weight of copper, the metal of Venus in ancient astrology and alchemy). Venus is something of an art and fashion center in the Terran Union.
The Venusian flag bears an astronomical Venus symbol in yellow on a light blue ground:
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Copyright © Earl Wajenberg, 2010