The United Worlds of Earth
Capital world: Earth.
Size: 1203 worlds, both Earth colonies and alien worlds which have joined theUnion.
Years spacefaring: 1110
Leader: President Derwent DeWinters
Appearance: Human and… other.
When Earth developed the warp drive over 1000 years ago, it lost no time in exploring space for planets to colonise. Earth’s resources were under huge strain and the desire to expand to fresh worlds was urgent. The Colonial Age, as it is known, is rich in romance and adventure in the popular imagination.
There were many political and national factions on Earth at the time and many colonies were founded by special interest and national groups, which still inform the culture of those worlds to this day. Humans also made first contact with alien civilisations who had ventured into their own local space but did not have warp drive capabilities, and on a few occasions with ‘primitive’ planets which had not made it into space (contact with such worlds is now banned in most circumstances). Most first contact situations were peaceful.
The United Worlds of Earth was founded 800 years ago, and the standard calendar reset at year 0 to create a way of measuring time that would be meaningful to all worlds and peoples of the Union.
Humans appeared to be expanding into a galaxy where they were the superior technical race until, 300 years ago, they encountered the Taysans on one side of Union space and the Darians on the other. The Darians waged immediate war and there were skirmishes with the Taysan Empire as well.
The War looked likely to destroy the Union. The Union had superior firepower and resources to the Darians, but the Darians were ruthlessly determined and were devastating the economy and inflicting huge casualties. The Taysan Empress Methalia would not ally with Earth against the Darians, but was prepared to help sue for peace in the Empire’s own interests. Peace talks were held on a specially constructed station orbiting a dead world in neutral territory, called Station One. The Station One Agreement, informally known as the Triple Pact or the Triple Peace, was signed – its principal tenet being that if any one signatory breached any of the conditions, the other two would ally against them.
The Station One Agreement is nearly 100 years old, and the War has almost slipped from living memory. Peace has become the normal state of galactic affairs – for now.
Each world of the Union has its own devolved administration which can take decisions at a local planetary level, but overall power in centralised on Earth with the Government of the United Worlds of Earth. The President is overall commander, with a Vice President and an Executive Council appointed by the President.
The Parliament of the United Worlds of Earth, to give the body its full title, comprises two representatives from each world of the Union, taking the title Planetary Representative (PR). Parliament debates and votes on laws and other issues. There are various parties vying to be heard, but the three most powerful are the right-wing Patriotic Party, the left-wing Unionist Party, and the Colonial Party, which historically represented the interests of Earth’s colonies.
The seat of government is Atlantis, built on an artificial island in the middle of the Atlantic.
General elections, for President and for Planetary Representatives, are held every five years.
The United Worlds encompasses wide cultural diversity across its 1203 planets. Earth is a liberal democracy and this philosophy is largely prevalent, but due to the unique history of many colony planets, and considering that many of the worlds are ‘alien’ to begin with, there are all kinds of diverse and unusual societies within the Union.
Planets have to meet certain conditions to join or remain part of the Union– for example, they must have some form of democratic local government and recognise basic human rights.
Many different local languages are spoken throughout the Union, but the official language is English – often called Earther by non-native speakers – which derives from the ancient Earth language of the same name. Children on all worlds are taught English at school, even if it is not the local language.
Many different religions observed throughout the Union, and tolerance of diverse faiths is theoretically encouraged. There is no state religion as a matter of policy.
The Union has a sophisticated monetary economy based on trade between worlds, and to some extent on trade with the Taysan Empire and the Republic of Daros. Most transactions are electronic, though a physical currency exists in the form of small thin rectangles of metal – these ‘chips’ are issued by the United Worlds of Earth Central Bank in denominations of between 1/2 to 500 credits. They are also minted under licence on various worlds.
The Taysan Empire
Capital world: Taysar, a cold planet with a single habitable continent, one subcontinent and a string of islands. There is only one other major continent on the world, which is too cold to live on.
Size: 161 worlds, 32 protectorates. All worlds of the Empire are Taysan colonies, the protectorates are individual spacefaring civilisations within or near the borders.
Years spacefaring: 3320
Leader: Empress Thalia
Government: Absolute monarchy
Appearance: Humanoid with silver skin and blue eyes, although a minority who originate from the warmer subcontinent of Parmua have golden skin and dark eyes.
Oldest of the spacefaring races, Taysan civilisation with all its rigidities and rituals reaches back well before its people first ventured into the ‘sea-beyond-the-sky’. It is said that the first Empress to unite the kingdoms of the world was Arathea the Lightbringer, around 6000 years ago, and the Imperial Caste claims direct descent from her through the female line.
The early days of colonisation and expansion were hampered by an ongoing war with Taysar’s very near neighbours, the Monoom. This was ended by the extinction of the Monoom in a devastating plague. Because of this, and for cultural reasons that make the population slow to expand, the Taysan Empire is small compared to the other two Galactic powers.
The Empress rules Taysar and all its colonies as an absolute monarch, hereditary through the female line.
She is supported by the Council of Twelve, whose members hold their place by right of birth, and by six Royal Advisors, who are appointees chosen by the Empress from amongst the Royal and Noble Castes. It is sometimes suggested that the real work of government is done by the Royal Advisors, since they are chosen for their ability rather than by accident of birth. Members of the Council and the Royal Advisors have special rights to address the Empress.
The Empress issues decrees around once every three months, when Taysar’s three moons are in conjunction with each other, and all laws are made in this way.
Society is stratified by degree and caste, with castes further divided into clans. Everyone is born into a particular caste, which determines what occupation an individual must follow for life. There is no flexibility or possibility of moving to another profession, although rare individual exceptions exist.
There are three degrees – Noble, Honourable and Worker. Marriage between degrees is not permitted, and although it was legalised a century ago, there is still a lingering taboo about inter-caste unions.
Each caste has numerous clans, a network of families related by kinship. It is acceptable and commonplace to change clan via marriage.
It is possible to be rendered ‘outcaste’ as a punishment for crimes against society. Many outcaste simply starve to death, as they cannot work for sustenance.
Each caste speaks its own dialect of the ancient Taysan language, and while mutually comprehensible, these linguistic caste distinctions are complex and variable.
One striking feature of Taysan is that personal pronouns and verb modifications change according to the caste and degree of the person being addressed, as well as the speaker himself.
Taysan is written using syllabric characters.
Religion is a very important part of Taysan culture and everyday life, and the Priest Caste is numerous and influential.
The arrival of the Prophet Lonn around 5000 years ago is regarded as the dawn of true civilisation – before that time, Taysans were split into many warring religious factions, and according to legend materialism and decadence was widespread. Lonn claims to have looked into the true Face of God, and wrote about his insights in the Testament of Lonn. Born a Scribe, but elevated to Prophet status by his gifts, Lonn greatly impressed the Empress of the time, Aratha. After Lonn mysteriously disappeared, Empress Aratha issued a decree that the Empire would henceforth follow his teachings and outlawed all other religions.
Lonn’s teachings include a recognition of the creative power of God, the importance of love and the acknowledgement of the divine in all natural objects. Some of Lonn’s followers today believe that he did not die when he disappeared, but moved into another plane of existence and will return at the hour of the Empire’s greatest need.
The Taysans believe that some people are born with the gift of prophecy, and if this manifests itself in a child, they are brought to Court and are initiated into the Prophet Caste. They are however forbidden from marrying. This is the only acknowledged way in which a Taysan can move from one caste to another.
Taysans are given what they need at any time, according to their degree, by their immediate ‘master’ – or mistress, but the word in Taysan can mean either. Everyone has a master, except the Empress herself, and most people are responsible for others beneath them.
Taysans have a very finely balanced sense of what they are entitled to and it is the height of bad manners to acquire more than this. Taysar has therefore never developed a system of electronic currency. There is however physical coinage used for everyday transactions, called chakra.
The Empire also trades with the Union and to some extent with the Republic of Daros, largely via barter. The Trader Caste takes care of these and other internal resource negotiations.
The People's Republic of Daros
Capital world: Daros
Size: 467 worlds, a mix of Darian colonies and alien worlds that were ‘normalised’.
Years spacefaring: 600
Leader: Citizen One
Government: Totalitarian regime
Appearance: Humanoid, pale skin, black hair, black eyes, physically impressive and sleek
Darian society was decadent and chaotic, with rival factions and races locked in constant warfare, until the glorious rebel leader Pelea joined forces with the genius scientist Revan to bring genetic and sociological conformity to all the peoples of Daros. After the revolution now known as the Enlightenment, technological development proceeded apace and led to the discovery of the warp drive.
Once capable of interstellar travel, the People’s Republic of Daros set out on a mission to colonise as many planets as possible, and along the way to bring other, more primitive peoples of the Galaxy the advantages of genetic conformity. When encountering alien worlds with sentient species, their people were normalised to the Darian phenotype and now live in harmony within the Republic.
Around 300 years ago the Darians encountered another warp-capable civilisation, the United Worlds of Earth. All attempts at normalisation of this new species were greviously defeated by the Union’s massive firepower. Despite valiant attempts to defeat the deviant empire, the People’s Council eventually decided to sue for a false peace while biding its time to develop a plan to bring enlightenment to these worlds – and those of the Taysan Empire, which the Republic became aware of through contact with the Earthers.
The Committee of the People rules on Daros, appointed by the Assignment Board as to any other profession. Its edicts affect citizens on all world of the Republic equally.
Citizen One, Chair of the Committee, is appointed for life. His or her successor, appointed by the Board, serves as Citizen Two while Citizen One is alive, and succeeds after his or her death.
Marriage, relationships and families do not exist. Sexual intercourse is forbidden. Children are produced by artificial insemination according to the needs of society, and removed from mothers at birth to be brought up in nursery compounds. The concept of parenthood is offensive to right-thinking Darians, as is the concept of sexual relationships.
At the age of twelve, following a thorough assessment, children are assigned a profession in life and begin training for it. These callings are as diverse as cleaning operative or member of the Committee of the People. Assignment is based purely on ability, and reassignment – while possible – is not common.
All Darians wear an identical black uniform, with minor variations to indicate status and profession.
Everyday vigilance is encouraged, and citizens are required to report even the suspicion of ‘deviancy’ in others. Deviancy includes improper relationships with the opposite sex, voicing any kind of criticism of the Administration, or expressing an interest in one’s own offspring.
All planets in the Republic are run along identical lines, there is no cultural diversity. The Darians tend to turn whole planets over to specific functions, and have no interest in maintaining the ecosystem of a planet if a practical advantage can be gained from destroying it.
The Darians are masters of genetic manipulation.
The Darian language is standard and universal across the Republic. No variations are tolerated. Speaking any other language is deviancy and punishable.
Darian is written in a blocky phonetic script.
Atheism is mandated by law and any form of religious observance or curiosity is regarded as serious deviancy.
There is no money. Citizens are provided with what they need, according to their rank. Every citizen carries a ration chip. Rations are assigned according to rank and can be docked for misbehaviour.
The Republic engages in a limited degree of trade with the Union and the Taysan Empire. In particular, the Republic no longer has a native source of garrium – the crystal needed to power warp drives – and relies on trade to supply it.