Jefferson

Surface gravity 9.40 m/s², 0.959 g
Day length 51.6 ks, 14.3 hours
Year length 13.9 Ms, 0.442 Earth years
Month length 206 ks (4 local days) and synchronous rotation (orbital periods are 3 local days and 1 local day, respectively).
Seasonal change Moderate to Severe
Atmosphere 152 kPa, 19 kPa partial pressure O2
Fires burn reluctantly
Climate Moderate
Notable features Tallest mountain in the Verge, two moons.
Population 420 million; Human and Pannova.
Capital city Monersawya
Wormhole terminus Monersawya
Current Governor Ahmed Montgomery

Natural Features

Jefferson orbits a smaller and dimmer sun than Earth, named Scallo, giving its light a slightly yellowish cast and making the sky a darker and less saturated blue. A companion star cirlces on a distant orbit, taking more than 8 gigaseconds (2½ centuries) to complete one revolution. This companion, the Night Lantern, provides some illumination to the landscape when Scallo has set.

Jefferson is circled by two moons, Perda and Luatha. Perda is the inner moon, and rotates synchronously with the planet, seeming to hang in the same spot in the sky. Luatha is farther out in a 3:1 resonance with both the inner moon and the planet's rotation. Both are considerably smaller than Earth's moon, but also closer, so that both subtend over twice the angle as Luna from Earth.

Jefferson has two large land masses, located on opposite sides of the planet. Virsina, the larger of the two, is bisected by an immense mountain range caused by the collision of two crustal tectonic plates. This range culminates in Mount Steeple, the highest point on the planet and the highest elevation measured from sea level of any inhabited planet in the Verge. The gravitational bulge created by this accumulation of crustal mass has thrown the rotation of the planet to bring the mountains onto the equator and has pinned the moon Perda to hover directly over Mount Steeple, providing a navigational beacon over an entire hemisphere. The smaller continent, Coruna, is relatively flat and geologically inactive, resulting in poor soils.

The native autotrophes of Jefferson have yellow-orange photo-pigments, and commonly collect light via "umbrella doilies" – lacy filamentous disks, often on tall stalks, that are tilted toward the sun. They are technically animals, with motile larval stages that disperse and settle down into sessile photosynthesizing adults that retain enough capability of movement to tilt their light collecting disks toward the sun. However, the native life forms now have to compete with Earth plants. The doily trees share their forests with oaks and beeches and chestnuts, towering firs and pines and cedars, with understories of ferns and blackberries alongside thickets of frilly bushes and lace stalks. The savannas host acacias and gum trees scattered between the umbrella trees, scrublands have hawthorn and sagebrush and spurges jostling with thorn frillies and razor curtains, and the vast plains have grass crowding out the native dry puffs.

Much as with the plants, earth animals have also fared well. The skies of Jefferson are filled with birds and bats, deer and panthers and wolves roam the land, fish swim in the seas and rivers, and arthropods such as insects, spiders, and crustaceans can be found everywhere. While many of the native animals have gone extinct in competition with the invaders, others hang on or even thrive. Stinger worms, jaw worms, slime worms, drake-wings, spitters, noodle traps, thread heads, scale slugs and others are part of the native megafauna of Jefferson that has survived the Terran assault. Some of these are dangerous to people, venomous or equipped with sharp tearing teeth and meat-hook claws or caustic slime, large and predatory or just cranky and belligerent, they can trample crops, poison fields, foul springs and wells, and devour livestock and the occasional farmhand, maiden, or questing knight. Many other native animals are small, squirming things sheltering under rocks, in moist ground, or in decaying husks of the doily trees. These, too, are often venomous, and their bites and stings can cause pain or sickness or even death. Creeping slime mats have become pests, causing agricultural losses or invading houses. And eel-like marine worms form rich fisheries, caught in vast numbers during their spawning swarms and river migrations, and whose larger members sometimes pluck fishermen from their boats.

History

The world that would come to be called Jefferson was first detected by a remote sky survey telescope looking for habitable exo-planets. The signal indicated a radius and insolation consistent with Human survival, and spectroscopy showed the presence of oxygen and water vapor in the atmosphere. A survey wormhole was sent, and orbital reconnaissance showed a vibrant living planet ripe for settlement.

The survey wormhole was set down on the planet's surface and enlarged to allow scientists and explorers through. The first colonists arrived soon after. These hardy, patriotic men and women naturally decided to name their new world after Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States. With characteristic lack of originality, they named the site of the wormhole touchdown "Monticello", a name that endured as a station and later town and city sprung up around the wormhole landing site. With plenty of fertile land located in areas of mild climate, Jefferson soon had a thriving population of farmers with tradesmen and infrastructure to serve their needs. Monticello was named the capital city, and Monticello Station was continually expanded to make room for the increased traffic as people and goods passed through on their way farther into the Verge.

The Chinese annexation of the Verge led to an assembly of the Jefferson Militia to repel the invaders. This militia was handily crushed by the numerically and technologically superior Chinese forces. The civilian government was arrested and imprisoned and a new government was set up under a Chinese governor. The following 600 megaseconds (20 years) saw the imposition of harsh security measures, stifling of individual freedoms, and harsh punishments for any real or imagined seditionist activity. The original American colonists became a second class majority as Han Chinese settlers took on the position of a privileged minority.

The American reconquest saw the decisive defeat of Chinese forces on Jefferson. Although the American settlers liked to believe that they helped with active resistance movements, the hard truth is that the Chinese surveillance state on Jefferson was very effective at rooting out dissent and almost all local assistance occurred only after American forces defeated the Chinese garrisons and during the transition period while the Americans were re-installing a civilian government and dealing with prosecuting members of the old Chinese regime.

Reliable records after The Bump in the Night are rare. Jefferson was completely cut off from the rest of the galaxy. Civilization seemed to have completely collapsed within a month of the event. Archaeological evidence points to widespread banditry and lawlessness, as bands of reavers roamed the abandoned cities and terrorized farming communities. In richer areas, it is presumed that the strongest of these reavers set themselves up as warlords and kings, and then set about fighting each other for land and power. In poorer land, the people abandoned all pretense of an organized society and degenerated into hunter-gatherer bands. Technology was lost, and the lack of any semblance of civilization ensured the knowledge of how to rebuild were lost as well. For some while, people were reduced to a near stone-age level of technology as the energy storage solenoids and ammunition slowly ran out and vehicles and computers broke down and could not be repaired. In time, society stabilized into a patchwork of independent kingdoms, ruled by monarchs who usually appealed to the trappings and authority of the old United States for legitimacy and symbolic power. Warfare was endemic, as the various petty kingdoms constantly clashed in fights over the richer farming lands and trade routes. A few places remembered how to forge steel, build with cut stone and mortar and concrete, use flowing water and wind to mill grain, and farmers retained some knowledge of crop rotation and best planting practices. As the gigaseconds wore on, these ideas diffused to neighboring areas until most of the "civilized" kingdoms were operating at an effective medieval level of technology.

A small number of Pannovas were present on Jefferson before The Bump in the Night. Mostly living in their own settlements distant from Human lands, they managed to survive as roving nomads, hunters and gatherers, seafarers and pirates, and pastoralists. Over the gigaseconds of isolation, some groups of Pannovas, particularly those living in the rugged mountains, evolved for larger body size. Some of the largest have reached the size of the gorillas of old Earth.

During recontact, the Republic wormhole touched down at the site of old Monticello, now called Monersawya and the capital of one of the largest and most powerful of Jefferson's kingdoms called Mercia*. The monarch, styling himself "President" and claiming to represent the legitimate line of authority from the USA, was in for a shock when the Republicans arrived with a far more compelling claim, and the mythical technology of old to back them up. The Republic, in turn, was anxious to keep the Squirm from easily invading a fractured and primitive world. A battalion of the Republican Army's special forces quickly captured the palace and forced the President to abdicate.

Since then, the Republic has administered the kingdom of Mercia as a colony, trying to build up local infrastructure, improve sanitation and health care among the impoverished populace, increase incomes that wallow well below the poverty line in squalor and near-starvation, and deal with a restive populace which lack any recent tradition of representative government, rule of law, and civic responsibility.

* Historically, there was an Anglo-Saxon kingdom named Mercia in the central British Isles. The Mercia of Jefferson does not appear to bear any relationship to this ancient kingdom. Instead, the name appears to be etymologically related to the word "America".

Government

Jefferson is divided into hundreds of sovereign kingdoms, mostly located in the fertile plains surrounding the Central Mountains. Kingdoms are typically separated by geographic barriers, such as mountain spurs or rivers, that provide defenses against marauding enemy armies. In size, kingdoms can range from expansive empires whose armies swept over rich plains to seize huge geographic expanses to tiny enclaves occupying a small but easily defended valley. The kingdoms are typically hereditary monarchies, with authority delegated to landed nobility. Nobles are considered superior to commoners, and enjoy special legal privileges. Commoners may be freemen, who work as tradesmen or tenant-farm small plots of land, while serfs are legally tied to the land they work. Slavery is widespread, if not always common, composed of people captured on raids or who are enslaved due to debt or criminal activity.

In the more sparsely settled lands away from the Central Mountains, government is entirely lacking as people live in small bands or tribes without laws or authority. What organization exists comes from ties of kinship and favor debts. Where the land has a higher carrying capacity, bands may come together into chiefdoms, whose leaders tend to be men or women who gain authority by giving gifts and arranging favors and thus incurring a web of obligations.

The spread of grass over the prairies has led to the rise of pastoralist horse nomads. A large number of these nomad bands are made up of Pannovas. Driving herds of horses and cattle, riding tough and rugged ponies, these barbarians of the wild plains have become a thorn in the side of the established kingdoms as they raid and pillage their neighbors.

The Republican colony of Mercia is attempting to establish itself as a representative democracy, but is hampered by the severe imbalance in population between the colonizers and the colonized. The Verge republic is desperate to achieve authority over the diverse peoples of Jefferson in order to quash any Squirm outbreak before it can gain a significant foothold. However, the population of the one world of Jefferson is larger than that of the rest of the Verge put together (a consequence of the effects of relativistic time dilation taken for wormhole reconnection, allowing the Jeffersonians much more time to reproduce, grow, and expand). While the Republic has vastly superior technology and military power, it would be unable to effectively govern so large a population base comprised of uneducated primitives with no loyalty to the Republic or tradition of civic living.

A consequence of this is that, despite their good intentions, the Republicans have become a separate caste from the native Jeffersonians, holding themselves above the Mercians in a position of privilege and power. They have, in effect, replaced the old nobility which they swept aside and attempted to eliminate rather than supplant. Due to the Republican's reservations, the Mercians have not yet been enfranchised at the national level, but the Republicans have mandated that local officials are to be chosen by popular ballot. The rampant voter fraud, ballot buying and stuffing, bullying and intimidation at the ballot box, and corruption among elected offices means that full enfranchisement of the natives will probably be long in coming.

Economy

Jeffersonians have adopted gold as a standard medium of exchange. Gold is highly valued for its appearance, rarity, and incorruptability. This choice of currency is, of course, brazenly exploited by the Republicans to whom gold is as cheap as lead. The only thing keeping the Republicans from flooding the market with cheap gold and collapsing the economy is that there is really nothing the Jeffersonains produce that the Republicans want.

Timekeeping

Without accurate clocks, most Jeffersonians live by the simple cycle of days and months and seasons and years. Planting to planting, harvest to harvest. They typically have a long sleep throughout the night every other night, and a short sleep (similar to the Spanish siesta) on the following night. Daytime is for working, generally from sunup to sundown.

The Republican colonisers keep track of time using metric time for periods less than a day, with a "Jefferson diurnal" for their day-night cycle corresponding to two Jefferson days.

People

Name

To the rest of the Verge, Jeffersonians. Among themselves, whatever particular kingdom or tribe or splinter group or religious affiliation they happen to belong to. The people of Jefferson do not have a planet-wide identity. Those in the Verge Republic colony of Mercia are Mercians.

Attitudes

The ideal Jeffersonian varies from culture to culture. In Mercia and much of the surrounding civilized regions men are expected to be brave, bold, hard-working, lead their household, provide for their family by farming or a career, and see to the continuation of their family line. Women take care of domestic chores, and are generally expected to be quiet and demure, obey their husbands, and produce strong children. Both sexes should fear and love God, attend church regularly, and observe holidays and their prescribed religious duties. A commoner should show deference to the nobility and obedience to his lord; a noble should show courage and leadership, and should suffer no insult from his peers or inferiors. A king (or "president") is chosen by God and is the embodiment of the land; his success or failure reflects God's favor in the ruler. Marriage is not for love, but more of a business affair or alliance between two families.

The arrival of the Republicans has thrown much of Jefferson into uncertainty. The newcomers clearly have the advanced technology of the Americans of old, beings of revered legends from a distant and better past. To the educated and the scholars, it is clear that they preserve the institutions and attitudes of the old Americans more faithfully than any local prince or duke. Yet their coming brings the wind of change, the threat of chaos and the upsetting of the established social order. To the commoners, it may merely be replacing one set of aristocrats by another, if odder, set. For the nobles, it is far more terrifying – a threat to end all of their hereditary privileges, a threat to be brought down to the level of mere commoners.

Non-Human sapients are commonly thought to be demons, feared and hated. Mankind was made in the image of God, who knows what devil made these monsters in its own likeness. Pannovas the Mercians know well, as savage monsters of the wild, fierce and brutal raiders that plunder civilized lands and leave destruction in their wake. Robots and computers are believed to be constructs animated by bound demons or the conjured souls of the deceased, or, rarely, by the blessings of God sending one of his angels to do his work in the form of a mechanical being. Those who employ technology are seen as wizards and sorcerers, making deals with unseen spirits to perform wonders.

Architecture

The nobility of Jefferson live in castles or palaces protected by thick walls. These are generally constructed of fitted and mortared stone, with wooden joists, beams, and fittings. Outer walls will have narrow windows to allow archers to fire on attackers from behind cover. The tops of defensive walls and towers will have crennelations for the same reason. Entrances will be protected with thick doors and gates, portcullises and draw-bridges, and under overlapping fields of fire. Moats and palisades often provide an outer level of protection, and the fortifications are often built in easily defensible places such as the tops of hills. Castles are usually uncomfortable, drafty, and chill; suffered for their protective benefits. Palaces can be more comfortable, built for rulers who are far from any likely fighting.

Commoners usually build simple houses out of timber, roofed with thatch. Most farmhouses have but one room, which is often shared with livestock. Tradesmen often have a workshop and storefront separate from their living quarters.

Nomads and tribesmen usually live in tents that can be quickly put up or taken down, and transported by horse. They range in design from tipi to yurt. Common gathering areas or places used for longer periods of time may have permanent buildings made of adobe, bark, or timber.

Cuisine

The staple of most of the civilized people of Jefferson is wheat, barley, lentils, maize, and potatoes. These can be boiled, roasted, or ground into flour to make bread, flatcakes, or pasta. In the summer, fresh vegetables such as squash, peppers, carrots, tomatoes, melons, berries, beans, peas, lettuce, turnips, and the various kinds of cabbages and coles form much of the diet. Root crops are stored in root cellars for dietary variety for the rest of the year, while other vegetables can be salted or pickled for storage. Orchards provide plums, apples, pears, cherries, walnuts, and almonds. The nuts can be stored for later, fruit is usually eaten fresh-picked or dried and stored. Cattle and goats provide milk, which can in turn be used to make cheese and butter; chickens provide eggs. Meat is a luxury for most, but common in the diets of the nobility. A slaughtered animal is likely to have most of its meat salted or smoked and dried so that it will keep for some time without spoiling. Those living near the sea or rivers with significant runs of anadromous or catadromous fish or eel-worms will include them as a dietary staple, seasonal runs of fish and eel-worms will be stored by pickling, salting, or smoking. Most food is rather bland, although herbs such as parsley, dill, thyme, rosemary, and coriander are used to add a bit of variety. The most popular drinks are milk and beer.

The horse nomads eat considerably more meat than their civilized neighbors, and fewer vegetables. The Human horse nomads also have diets rich in dairy (Pannovas are lactose intolerant, and do not produce or consume dairy products). The distant tribesmen fish and hunt wild game; but except in particularly productive areas (such as those with seasonal fish or eel-worm runs) the bulk of their dietary calories are from digging for roots and gathering mushrooms, berries, wild grains, nuts, and shoots.

Dress

In civilized lands cloth is made from wool or linen. This is fashioned into tunics and trousers for the men, and dresses for the women. Monks commonly dress in simple robes, while the nobility clothe themselves in robes that are far more colorful and elaborate. Shawls and hooded capes are used in bad weather.

The wealthy will adorn themselves with jewelry and gemstones, and wear fine quality clothes often embroidered or tassled; commoners must make due with simple cloth and basic patterns such as monotone, striped, or plaid. Women of all classes try to beautify themselves with cosmetics and perfumes.

Languages

Many gigaseconds ago, the people of Jefferson spoke English. In the time that passed between The Bump in the Night and recontact, the spoken tongue has drifted and fragmented in hundreds of different ways. Jefferson is now covered with a myriad of different languages and dialects, as different from each other as French, Italian, and Spanish, and as different from English as any of the former are from classical Latin. In the Republic colony of Mercia, the language is called Mercian. It is nigh incomprehensible to an English speaker who has not learned the language.

English is still used as a language of scholarship, and a universal tongue of learning and international relations. Most records, histories, and scholarly works are written in English, as are holy texts. Common folk rarely speak English, but all priests and monks learn the language, as do some of the nobility and anyone who wants to become educated and is wealthy enough to afford it. To the English speakers of the Verge, Jefferson English sounds overly stilted and formal, and many words are oddly pronounced.

Religions

Most Jeffersonians follow some branch of Christianity. In the time of their isolation, the Christian sects of Jefferson have diverged from those of the rest of the Verge to the point that many are nearly unrecognisable. Syncretic mergings of the Christian faith with ancestor worship or animism or polytheistic gods of various realms and places is common; elsewhere the Catholic saints may be elevated to the status of individual gods, or dualistic cosmologies may be prevalent, or the physical world may be believed to be flawed and impure with only divine salvation capable of lifting people from their suffering.

The Central Mountains, and Mount Steeple in particular, are imbued with religious significance. Local people often believe that Jesus lives on top of Mount Steeple, or that the high Central Mountains are the location of Heaven.

In most civilized places, one particular branch of religion will be granted official recognition, becoming the religion of that kingdom. Other religions may be tolerated or suppressed, at the whim of the monarch. Members of religious orders can be hugely influential, because in addition to promising salvation to the worthy and claiming to call down the blessings of God, they are often the only people who are literate. The priestly class often serve as scribes or record keepers in addition to their religious duties.

The people of Jefferson take their religion seriously. Significant undertakings, such as a trade expedition or the construction of a house, are never started without first securing a priestly blessing, and thanks are given to God or his agents upon its completion. Superstition is common in Jefferson. Astrologers and wizards ply their trades, interpreting omens, identifying auspicious times to start endeavours, and casting blessings and curses. Those suspected of performing evil magic – witches and sorcerers – are usually executed as a community event.

Back to Vergeworlds Main Page