Prospect

Primary M2
Surface gravity 11.0 m/s², 1.12 g
Day length 3.78 Ms, 1050 hours (synchronous rotation)
Year length 3.78 Ms, 0.120 Earth years
Seasonal change None
Atmosphere 91 kPa, 23 kPa partial pressure O2
Fires burn easily
Climate Sweltering to frigid
Notable features Tide-locked, solar flares, dramatic view of Milky Way, blue pompom plants,
Population 3.1 million; Human majority, significant Tweechi and Pirang minorities.
Capital city Gasket Flats
Wormhole terminus Passel Rock
Current Governor Lloyd Cleveland
Prominent businesses Agriculture

Natural Features

Prospect orbits a dim red dwarf sun, named Gyp. Despite the name, the sun does not appear red except in bad weather or when near the horizon – on clear days it casts a yellow light similar to that of an old-style incandescent bulb. Prospect is only habitable because it orbits so close to the sun, making Gyp appear three times larger in the sky than Sol from Earth, and causing Prospect to whip around a complete orbit in just one and a half Earth months. As is typical for a planet so close to its star, Prospect is tidally locked so that Gyp stays in the same place in the sky, never rising or setting. The hemisphere facing away from the sun is covered in icecap, scoured by cold, dry winds, locked in eternal night. A permanent cyclonic storm rages under the sub-stellar point (the location where the sun is directly overhead), with driving winds, stinging rain, and constantly flickering lightning. It is only in-between these extremes that the sapient species of the Verge can find a place to live.

At first glance, it may seem that the weather on Prospect would be fairly boring. The wind always blows from the same direction. The tidally locked planet suffers no seasons. In fact, the sun never rises or sets, barely wobbling from its position in the sky from tidal librations. However, this ignores the weather that comes from Gyp itself. Starspots can creep across the disk like some sort of black rot, dimming the star appreciably for megaseconds at a time and cooling Prospect to the point of frosts and freezing weather. More dramatically, occasionally a flare will rip across Gyp's surface over a few hundred seconds, looking like a growing fracture blazing blue-white from deep within, bathing the planet in its actinic glow, radiant heat, and burning ultraviolet light.

The relatively low amounts of blue light produced by Gyp mean that the sky is dark even on the day side, and has a slight greenish cast in clear air. Other planets in the solar system and some of the brighter stars are visible even when the sun is in the sky. Solar flares deflected by Prospect's strong magnetic fields produce frequent flickering auroras. It is only during a flare that prospect's skies turn bright cerulean blue like those of Earth. From the night side, a treat awaits … Prospect's vantage at the edge of the Milky Way and distant from the galactic plane gives a magnificent view of the galaxy.

Prospect's native autotrophes resemble fuzzy blue moss, often with thread-thickets reaching knee-high to over head-high or stalks rising three to ten meters from the ground. Many varieties have thickets of moss-fuzz sprouting from the tops of the stalks like blue pompoms. When exposed to ultraviolet light, these autotrophes darken within seconds. The animals include legged arthropods, slithering worms (many with multitudinous legs and/or tentacles), flying "delta-darts" (fleshy invertebrates with broad meat-wings), leaf-fish (laterally flattened swimming worms with a leaf-like profile), and odd three-fold symmetric creatures vaguely like a three-armed starfish or octopus. The largest land animals are varieties of the tri-symmetric things equipped with a basket skeleton that allows them to hold themselves erect with their legs. Those animals that spend significant time above ground are usually black-colored for protection from Gyp's flares, although many use structural colors (colors that arise from wavelength-scale patterns in a creature's integument rather than pigments) for display or camouflage.

Earth plants cannot survive outdoors on Prospect without significant modifications. Some important food crops, such as wheat, maize, potatoes, melons, squash, and cabbages, have been altered to express the native photo-pigments instead of chlorophyll, go dormant and then resume growing during heavy sunspot periods, and produce large amounts of melanin for protection from the flares. Most Earth crops are grown in greenhouses under artificial light mimicking that of Sol. Some Earth animals are found outdoors – ferals such as dogs and cats, or Human commensals such as rats – but usually only close to Human habitation. Animals and autotrophes from Pirang and Tweechi homeworlds, however, generally fare well on Prospect, and many have become invasive and established. Pirang ranchers seed fields with fodder for their livestock, and Tweechi grow crops and raise food animals out under the open sky.

History

Prospect was initially settled by conservative fundamentalist protestants fleeing what they felt was the increasing overbearing liberalism of Earth. Seeking a new life where they could find the freedom to do as God commanded, they left en masse for a newly discovered world of marginal value to create their perfect society. Their first gigasecond or so was difficult. The unpredictable seasons and flares of their host star coupled with the inability to grow plants in fields led to slow growth and periods of starvation and near-collapse. Larger livestock, such as cattle, were ill-adapted to local conditions, and the colonists could not easily afford the grain to keep them fed. The lack of a day-night cycle and lack of blue-spectrum sunlight led to numerous psychological problems among the settlers, most commonly depression, inactivity, and sleep disorders. Their difficulties were not helped by the often dogmatic approach to governance displayed by many of their earlier officials, until the needs of survival drove more pragmatic candidates into office. The colonists came to rely on artificial habitats, with lighting mimicking the spectrum of Sol and a light-dark cycle approximating that of Earth. A roof over one's head also protected from unpredictable cold snaps and sudden flares. Vertical farms with hydroponics, aquaponics, and artificial lighting were capital-intensive methods to grow food, but once set up they required only moderate maintenance while producing high yields. Over time as infrastructure was added, Prospect colony became if not prosperous at least stable and capable of meeting its people's needs.

The Chinese occupation of the Verge went relatively smoothly for Prospect, mainly because few Chinese people wanted to move there. The governor, a maverick who upset the ruling party one too many times, was sent to Prospect simply to get him out of the way. Once there, he felt little loyalty to the Party and mainly let the colonists do what they would as long as they didn't cause problems or get him in trouble with his superiors on Jiàngluò. It was during this time that several crop plants were engineered to grow outdoors on Prospect, an initiative encouraged by the Premier as a project to expand China's dominance into the galaxy, stoke national pride, and show the rest of Earth what China was capable of.

After the American re-capture, Prospect saw a modest amount of growth, particularly during a short lived health craze back on Earth for Prospect's black wheat. After contact with the Gummis, the Specters soon found that their world was ideal habitat for Tweechis and Pirangs. These beings soon began arriving in significant numbers. No longer was Prospect a simple community of culturally homogeneous like-minded folk – they found themselves being overtaken by immigrants who were alien in every way. They were better adapted for the world than the original Specters, and worse, they tended to be rich. Its not like you could segregate them off into their own impoverished communities and turn up your noses at them. They arrived, bought the best land, and the Specters soon found themselves seeing their cherished communities turning into something other, something strange and uncomfortable and new.

Then The Bump in the Night hit. The wormhole to Solace remained open, connecting Prospect to a suddenly much smaller network. Used to living more or less on their own, the Specters managed to weather the initial shock but soon began to suffer as their necessary equipment wore out and could not be replaced. Prospect witnessed a serious famine among the Human population in the first few hundred megaseconds after the collapse, as their hydroponics gave out and a cold snap combined with a reactor failure froze much of their crops. It was during this time that many of Prospect's Humans came to appreciate the cuisine of their Tweechi and Pirang neighbors; combined with emergency relief shipments from elsewhere in the Verge the Specters managed to pull through.

The most serious threat to Prospect colony's survival occurred between 5G 830 Ms CNT and 5G 890 Ms CNT. A full-fledged Squirm invasion swept across the colony. A rapid assault from a bridging wormhole caught the colony by surprise. Unlike most Squirm incursions of the Verge, this was not a stealthy probe or reconnaissance infestation preparing for a multi-planet invasion, but rather a direct attempt to wipe the colony out. The Verge quickly mobilized to meet this threat, and was aided by volunteer armies from Gummi space. The resulting conflict lasted 60 megaseconds (2 years), causing the destruction of much of the colony's infrastructure and the death of approximately ¼th of the civilian population. Most Specters over the age of a gigasecond (30 years) remember the terror and hardship, and personally know at least one family member who was killed.

Government

Prospect is a full member of the Verge Republic. Prospecters vote for the president, and send two senators and their allotted (if small) number of representatives to Žemyna. Senators and representatives are chosen by popular vote. For senate positions the vote is planet-wide, representatives are elected by smaller precincts.

Prospect has a republic government, with a popularly elected governor, a unicameral legislature, and an independent judiciary. Informally, much of Specter life is bound by custom and tradition. Ideas such as freedom of religion, freedom of speech, or freedom from unreasonable search and seizure may sound great on paper, but in practice it mostly means the freedom to say things that do not offend people, the freedom to worship like your neighbors, and freedom from search and seizure if no one thinks you are a criminal. Citizens are emphatically allowed to voice opinions on and criticize government policy – something that Specters do with enthusiasm and impassioned debate. Civic pride prompts many Specters to voice their views in public forums. Corruption among public officials is not unknown, but a robust police force and citizen oversight helps to keep it in check.

The Pirang and Tweechi immigrants are full citizens, but often suffer from unofficial discrimination and can find justice against Humans hard to come by. A consequence is that many live in their own communities, where their own city councils can pass less restrictive local ordinances, the police force is staffed by their own kind, and inconvenient Human laws can often simply be ignored.

Timekeeping

Although they originally tried to use Earth-based time-keeping, modern Specters count time according to CNT, with the diurnal as the sleep-wake cycle and customary cycle for businesses, schools, and government offices. Diurnals are grouped in periods of seven, named after the days of the old Earth week. Saturday is a diurnal of rest for most people, and Sunday is the diurnal of worship.

People

Name

Prospecters, often shortened to Specters. This leads to informal names such as "ghosties" or "spooks".

Demographics

Majority human, with significant Tweechi and Pirang populations. Due to Prospect's proximity to Solace, a fair number of Pannovas can be found, mixed in with the Humans.

Attitudes

Specters value family, community, and tradition; although sometimes it seems that some value the concept of family, community and tradition more than the concrete implementations of such things in their lives. Men and women should marry out of love, then raise a family. The Man should be the breadwinner, while the woman is expected to nurture the children and see to domestic chores. In practice, it is not uncommon (but far from universal) for a woman to have a job on the side to bring in some extra income. This is generally acceptable as long as her family is well cared for and she does not spend too long away from home. Divorce is seen as a failure, and shameful. Sex outside of marriage is considered horribly sinful (but of course it happens), and marriage is only between one man and one woman.

A Specter is expected to participate in his or her community, giving to charities, volunteering with community groups, serving on juries, and debating public policy. He or she should get to know the neighbors and people who live nearby, ideally on friendly terms. Most especially, a Specter should be active in the church, participating in church activities and at a minimum showing up every seventh diurnal for worship.

The Tweechis and Pirangs of Prospect come from many different cultural backgrounds. First generation immigrants tend to be adventurous folk looking to strike out for themselves and make a new life on an exciting and alien world. Their descendants grow up as typical members of their species, although often distrustful of Human authority.

Architecture

Specter homes follow the usual Human construction patterns. It is common for sidewalks, porches, and gardens, and sometimes entire yards to be roofed over with transparent carboplast coated to absorb or reflect away ultraviolet light. Community meeting places, civil centers, and markets are often large indoor malls, with fountains, gardens, skylights, and well-manicured paths and lawns protected from Prospect's temperamental sun by walls, UV-reflecting windows, and climate control.

The entrance to buildings will generally have a gun safe, so guests and family members can drop off their longarms when coming inside, or pick them up when exiting. The safe is usually run by an AI, allowing it to open for authorized users and recognized guests, while preventing access by minors or anyone forbidden by court order from carrying a firearm.

Cuisine

The Human food of Prospect is not known for being overly complex or delicate. It has a hearty solidness, filling, and is often criticized for being overly greasy or sweet. Much of it is fried in oil or fat, but grilling and baking are also common – usually after being slathered in sauce. Due to the difficulty of keeping large Earth livestock, steak or mutton is rare; rather, Specters often dine on aquacultured fish or shellfish, domestic insects, chicken, turkey, or cavy (although Tweechi schwera and luduni and the go omphi, nobbhu and vwerru of the Pirangs are also eaten). Potatoes, bread, or pasta often add filling starch, with vegetables, salad, or fruit as a side dish. Cakes and pies are popular for dessert.

Dress

The Humans of Prospect tend to dress conservatively, modestly, and traditionally. They favor simple clothes that, while they may or may not be elegant and stylish, are rarely ostentatious or overly elaborate. Showing too much skin, or noticeable makeup, is looked down upon.

Specters almost always carry an umbrella with them when they go outdoors, as protection in the event of a solar flare. Similarly, even those who don't have sensor glasses will carry a pair of UV-protection sunglasses with them.

    He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one."
      Luke 22:36
With the recent Squirm invasion still fresh in their mind, a weapon has become a standard part of any Specter's outfit once past the age of majority. Everyone is expected to go armed, in case they are suddenly called upon to defend their colony. Longarms can be stashed near the door when entering a building, but sidearms are worn whenever dressed. The exception are those who have been barred by a court from using weapons, for violent crime or mental instability. Not carrying a weapon has thus become a badge of shame among the people of Prospect.

Languages

English, although Tweechis and Pirangs often speak Sequential.

Religions

Prospect is known for its austere branch of Christianity, with fiery preachers and rigid codes of morality, forming the social bedrock on which their society is based. There is no overarching authority uniting a tight organization of churches; rather each church follows a set of beliefs passed down through tradition, social expectations, and study at the seminary. Church leaders are called pastors or preachers, who tend to the spiritual needs of their congregation and take the lead in many community projects and charitable works. Differences in doctrine or practices are handled via discussion or, failing that, by the choice of the people in deciding which congregation to participate in.

Despite these variances in emphasis and belief, a common thread runs through Specter religious belief. It teaches that Specters are expected to live and act modestly, abstain from excesses, be generous to others, be truthful and honest and honorable, and love God above all. There are strict moral guidelines - dancing, swearing, coffee and tea, revealing outfits, and distilled spirits are all considered sinful and thus forbidden. Un-distilled alcohol (such as beer and wine) is acceptable in moderation (it is hard to argue with Jesus turning water into wine, or drinking wine at the last supper); drunkenness, however, is definitely off-limits. For a woman to be alone with a man who is not her husband or immediate family is considered scandalous – even if no hanky-panky is going on, even if they are out in the public eye but in a group of just the two of them.

Pastors traditionally wear black, and carry a copy of the bible with them at all times. They are allotted a revered status on Prospect, but tradition maintains that they may hold no secular public office.

A small minority of believers give Prospect a bad name, belonging to extremist Christian organizations that cross the line to terrorism. The Church of Seekers of the Throne began on Prospect, has its base of operations on the planet, and recruits heavily from the planet. They are not alone in their ultra-radical, extremist views and Prospect has been associated, for better or worse, with wild-eyed bomb throwing terrorists in the eyes of much of the Verge.

The non-Human immigrants to Prospect have brought with them their own religion. The most common is Uumuuluu, the Gummi teachings of oneness, but the Tweechi in particular tend to syncretise this with their traditional tribal gods.

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