Traha/Victoria (Lambda Serpenti III)
| Culture being a pursuit of our total perfection
by means of getting to know, on all the matters which most concern us, the
best which has been thought and said in the world.
- Matthew Arnold, Culture and Anarchy, Preface
The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you are
likely to see.
The buildings of Capital climb above me, rounded towers
with elaborate cut-outs and balconies that were originally built while
the Egyptians were still making mud huts. Planted trees almost bend with
bountiful Kee fruit. Between the towers the Rrnach have tied thin wires,
festooned with glittering metal cards reflecting the sunlight. Together
with the One Thousand Crystals and the shining Ring of Heaven they make
a dazzling spectacle in the blazing sunlight; it is hot and dry, just
the weather to keep most Traha indoors. As I enter the First Wing of the
Imperial Palace ten guards, dressed in ornate ring-robes approach me.
Their leader bows with a chiming sound, making the signs of questioning,
respect and surprise with its hands. I return the bow, signing respectful
urgency, showing them the scroll from the Gathering of Plexar Affairs.
After a delay Nahaum-Trree-Sslen emerges from the labyrinthine interior
of the palace, carrying scrollcases and laptops in all its four hands.
The translator chimes "Greetings, friend Jonathan-Ellis-Khayama-Human.
The trees whisper your name before you, dropping deliciousness in our
hands. I hope your mission was successful and your arrival here auspicious
– do tell the story of your travels."
| The Victoria expedition was another foundation
venture, co-sponsored mainly by British and South American groups but with
people involved from around the world. It was launched in 2039 towards Lambda
Serpenti III. When the colonisation expedition arrived 2127 they were amazed
by the presence of intelligent life. They found the remains of an abandoned
space station in orbit and a thriving civilisation below. After some cautious
investigations they realised that they had already been discovered as radio
transmissions began towards the ship. The colonists contacted the Trahans,
and slowly began to form a relation.
Both species were unprepared for the meeting, and it took some time before they could communicate. Eventually a delegation appeared before the imperial couple and their commission of xenological affairs, and an agreement was made. The Trahans were intrigued by the humans and definitely wanted contact, even if they were wary about human technology, power and ideas. This was solved by making the human colony formally a region of itself, located on a small island not far from the capital. The colonist named the island Victoria (in Trahan it is called Raashtn)
Victoria is an island around 50 kilometres across and 100 long, located 300 kilometres west of the Capital. Most of the surface remains fruit gardens, with the population concentrated along the shores. The humans settled down, built new buildings or adapted Trahan design to their needs. They planted crops (after long and hard diplomacy with some Trahan agricultural organisations to be allowed to remove the trees) and set up a human society. Trahan diplomats, xenologists, scientists and politicians moved in to Victoria to study the humans; the original inhabitants were either resettled elsewhere or for the first decades had to stay in special areas, to their great irritation.
The first decades were dominated by attempts to understand each other; language, culture and biology were different enough to cause major trouble, and several embarrasing or hostile incidents occurred. Overall the contact was a success, as practical human inventions and knowledge diffused into Trahan society, and the humans absorbed the ancient culture. The initial hard restrictions on human-Trahan interaction were removed. Humans are still formally required to live on the island, even if restrictions of travel have been largely removed and some humans spend extended periods outside Victoria.Over time the cultures began to diffuse, creating the weird Creole society on Victoria and in certain parts of Capital. Purists on both sides were not amused, and from time to time attempts were made to keep cultural integrity. But in the end the mixing could not be avoided, with all its consequences.
| Victoria consists of the capital Victoria, which
stretches along almost a third of the coast of the island. It is a mixture
of traditional human architecture intended to showpiece human engineering
and trahan-inspired buildings. The Victoria colony was originally built
to represent human architecture and style to visiting Trahans, but in time
a "xenocreole" style incorporating Trahan elements have emerged.
The central parts of Victoria are still dominated by classical human buildings,
but the rest of the colony is a more or less working mixture. Many Trahan
designers travel to Victoria to get inspiration for their "humanesque"
designs, borrowing wildly from all human historical eras and integrating
it elegantly in Trahan designs. The interior of the island is almost completely
a fruit forest/garden, with small villages and criss-crossing highways.
It is densely populated by humans and trahans, especially xenocreoles. A
major landmark is the Concourse of the Dead-to-be, one of the Trahan death
ledges; it is the place where Victorian burials and suicide festivities
are held. On the northern coast there are smaller fishing and telecommuting
villages, the core of the xenocreole movement. The whole island has become
a hub of tourism and diplomacy, a bit the Monte Carlo of Traha.
The population of Victoria is descended from South American people. The Victoria Foundation recruited people from the entire continent (in the 2030's a well integrated economic union). The local language is a mixture of Spanish and Portugese with English as a formal language. Today many speak or at least understand some Trahan, and some words have become part of daily usage.
The Trahan outlook of integration, non-contradiction, ceremony and careful design has tempered the colonists somewhat; to outsiders they appear to be rather elaborate and evasive. On the other hand, human curiosity and questioning of limits has influenced some Trahans, and a "humanist movement" has emerged that wants to change Trahan society along more human lines with democracy instead of imperial rule, develop more advanced technology and overall play down the role of tradition. This is starting to cause trouble in certain regions of the Empire.
Trahan customs slowly percolate into human society, and the social rules also change. While the classic large latin extended family dissolved during the rise of South America as an information age society in the early 21st century, other forms of social networks have emerged on Victoria, mimicking the Trahan branches. Beside the many informal social networks and groups, people seek community in religious groups and fraternal orders.
Due to the pervasive presence of certain biochemicals in the Traha environment, some humans develop a sensitivity that expresses itself as headaches, nausea and tiredness; the long term effects involve an increased cancer risk and possibly some nerve damage. Today treatments are commonplace, but once upon a time children grew up in "earthdomes" with pure Earth-like air.
The Permanent Xenological Commission was originally a task force, but is now an important sub-department within the Department of Diplomacy and Social Engineering. It deals with inter-species contacts, and especially making sure the contact benefits the Empire in the long term. They study human technology, culture and suggestions to estimate their consequences, sometimes banning certain things to preserve the empire (such as violent 20th century movies and cryonics). Every new deal has to go through the Commission, sometimes requiring lengthy evaluations to check that proposed trade, technology or information doesn't upset the Empire. The Department of Further Technological Development is also involved, acting as technological expertise and a link with the Circle of Trade-Related Organisations; often the Commission, composed mainly of academic nobility with massive philosophical education, has trouble accepting the more radical views of the Department.
The Gathering of Plexar Affairs is a kind of philosophical supreme court combined with R&D. The Gathering acts as mediators, judges and advisors in matters of basic philosophy, both theoretical and applied to law, commerce, diplomacy, politics or technology. They try to find ways of reconciling opposing views and philosophies into stronger wholes.
The Three Departments of Impropriety deal with corruption. Corruption has always been a pet worry among the various dynasties, especially the more centralist ones. The current system of keeping the empire honest is based on three independent but overlapping departments monitoring what is going on and investigating suspicious events. The departments are deliberately based on totally different approaches and philosophies. The First Department is closest to the current imperial philosophy, and mainly looks for waste and inefficiency. The Second Department is more rooted in the last dynasty, and watches for improper social relationships and their consequences. The Third Department follows an axiomatic, very rigid, logic of law which it applies to everything. Most of the time they work together perfectly, even if they all monitor each other too. Their rare conflicts are usually sent to the Gathering of Plexar Affairs to evaluation.
The Department of Economics is obsolete; it was a major force in the last dynasty, controlling much of the economy and politics, but when the 89th dynasty ascended it was disbanded. The family network running it was discredited and forced out of administration; some resentment still lingers among certain branches. Instead the empire organized the Circle of Trade-Related Organisations, including some new departments such as the Department of Further Technological Development, the Department of Planetary Trade and the Department of Imperial Finances, and major organisations such as the Raashash Network (a "megacorporation" in the energy/transport business closely allied to the Imperial Administration) and the Capital University Economics Departement Applications Group. The Circle is exceptionally complicated and confusing even by Trahan measures, but is more important for the internal imperial financing than for independent trade.
The Purists are the people of both species that dislike seeing their cultures mix. There are several kinds, ranging from academics worried about culture clashes (many involved in the elaborate diplomatic dance between the Empire and Victoria) to direct xenophobes. To some Trahans, humans are insane, rude carnivores that are not merely strange but actively dangerous; they need to be contained and their ideas stopped. In the same way, there are humans that consider Trahans deceptively unassuming schemers who might overwhelm all of human space through sheer numbers. The Trahan Purists are constantly lobbying the Xenological Commission, Imperial Diplomatic Service and other institutions to limit or cut off human-Trahan contacts. They are naturally anatagonistic against the Humanists, who they consider deluded fools or even traitors.
The Humanists are the Trahans that like humans, human culture and like to imitate them (there are similar Trahanists among the humans, but they are few). The classic humanist badge is wearing a "baseball cap", a version of the human cap tied with a small ribbon or wire to their necks; this was the result of seeing a group of humans with baseball caps during the very first public films of humans – they are purely symbolic. Humanists do their best to learn more about humans and imitate their alien and exciting ways. They want to open up more contact between humans and Trahans, getting rid of the unnecessarily conservative and restrictive diplomats.
The Harmony Police is a kind of memetic secret service, maintaining the philosophical security of the Empire by finding and dealing with threatening ideas. They work directly for the Imperial Couple, maintaining their Nasstschsch through many subtle ways. They are extremely non-violent, preferring manipulation, debate, infiltration and acting through intermediaries to defuse dangerous ideas and thinkers. For example, passion cults are often disrupted by internal quarrels and radical writers may suddenly get a chance to fulfil their personal dreams which incidentally keeps them from writing. The Harmony Police is widely feared among radical groups, especially since they recognise that most of its power comes from the paranoia it induces.
Xenocreoles mix human and Trahan culture into something new. They are not an organised movement, although they are ahead of most human purists in networking and exploit the advanced technology allowed on Victoria to keep in touch in ways ordinary Trahans cannot. Most xenocreoles simply do not understand the purist views, and find it natural for humans and trahans to live and work together. Many practical problems of course have to be solved, but the xenocreole households (often consisting of an extended human and an extended trahan family living together with some small businesses) on northern Victoria have been a great success both financially and socially.
The Rising Net is a vocal technological-political branch promoting the development of a worldwide knowledge net like the ones on Nova, Atlantis and New America. They believe this will amplify Trahan civilisation to new heights; it also has subtle philosophical implications that clearly puts them in opposition to the current philosophy, which they try to integrate with their arguments in order to gain more support. The group has gained much support from the Humanists and many of the more technophiliac Trahans, but still it is an uphill struggle against the sceptics.
The New Tree, Arbol Nuevo, is a network among the xenocreoles aimed at representing and furthering their culture. It is heavily involved in trade, and has sent out "seeds" and "shots" to the other colonies to set up human-Trahan trade and cultural exchange. The aim is to exploit the initiative advantage of the xenocreoles over the Empire. At the same time they are aware that the Empire is doing its best to keep them under control; the Harmony police is watching them.
Schrr-Taass Ss is a kind of "loyal opposition movement" left from the last dynasty. Essentially they seek to keep the caste system of the Good Old Days, but at the same time have bought into the current doctrines (requiring some baroque rationalisations by Trahan standards). The result is a clannish, conservative network of families and branches that remain strong in local politics and certain aspects of industry (especially low order electronics and dense shell recycling), but lack overall political power. Its views on humans are complex, but overall it seems to view the purists as a potential political ladder to gain more influence.
Nemm Taassraht Na, The Independents of Na, is a radical movement demanding a restructuring of the administrative system so that the Tree of Election will be geographically divided on most levels; this is resisted fiercely by most other political parties. The Independents are not actually interested in Na (that is just a traditional symbol), but the removal of certain privileged substructures and taxation classes. They are slowly gaining in power, and allying heavily with humanists and xenocreoles.
The Hydrostructure Forests are artificial islands floating on the sea, home to fishers, ocean farmers, OTEC maintenance personnel and Trahans feeling the need to escape the heights of the cities for the flatness of the sea. They are widely regarded as somewhat unrefined, primitive places where practicalities of maintenance and survival are more important than insight, but at the same time they are viewed as homes of Nalsstreeschsch, "the philosophical void which promotes radical insight": ambitious Trahan philosophers attempting to boldly develop new aspects of politics or philosophy (and people wanting to look like them plus of course tourists) make pilgrimages here to test their mettle. It is mainly a formal or ceremonial way of signifying the will of the thinker rather than a serious attempt at insight, and the custom is not taken as seriously as it once was. The exception is the Imperial labour: the imperial couple has to work at some lowly jobs at the hydrostructures (imitating the prestation of the first Online Emperor) before proclaiming major shifts in policy.
The Interstellar Diplomatic Council is a gathering of the leading diplomats from the human worlds present, organised by the Xenodiplomatic Cluster of Capital. The Trahan sees it as an opportunity to deal with humanity as a whole, and work hard on making the Council something equivalent to the old UN; the human diplomats take somewhat different views (especially New America is trying hard to create something similar at home and don't want competition).
The Marzenia Society is the most influential social club on Victoria. It is a conservative association, where members meet at a monthly basis to listen to lectures and cook dinners. This network has strong ties with the colonial administration, Victorian finance and other influential groups. The agenda is fairly conservative-purist.
The Tautological Theater is a philosophical society of some note on Victoria. It consists of both humans and trahans exploring one of the less mainstream schools of philosophy, the Tautological Tradition. The tautologists explore the implications of tautological statements, which they claim contain pure truth. The Theater has close ties to both the Xenocreoles and the Marzenia society, acting as a mediator.
The Eruditorium is a Catholic order formed as a response to the Trahan cultural power. The Eruditorium seeks to understand and adapt Trahan philosophy to human ends, finding out how it works and how to avoid just getting swamped in it. The order has developed into an important but very discreet factor in Victoria society, advising politicians, executives and academics. It is secretive and often hiding behind religious references; some people think this is to make it harder to understand for Trahans. Others claim it is a human harmony police. However, most citizens who know about it regards it just as a harmless group of priest-scholars.
The Victorians have adapted some of the Trahan clothing styles such as
draped toga- or mantle-like clothing (useful in the equatorial regions
where Victoria is located), often with wearables hidden inside the ornaments
(an idea the Trahans have almost devoured; Trahan designed computer clothing
is much well-fitting and elegant than human, and human-designed computers
are spreading quickly through Trahan society. The togas are usually pastel
coloured, decorated with various human and Trahan patterns. The fruit
pouch used by Trahans has become popular even among many of the most conservative
Humans: 1,655,267 Trahans: 7.1 billion. Life expectancy at birth: 101.4 Earth-years (humans) 72.5 (Trahans).
Victoria uses the Dinero or the Trahan Tatal; the Tatal is gaining ground since it can be used in the rest of the empire. The Tatal is divisible down to a 1/1728 Tatal, a Tatal-Tschtatal.
The day is 27 Earth-hours and 3 Earth-minutes long. The Trahan system is used, with the day divided into 12 "periods" (2.25h) divided into 12 "quarters" (11.25 m) divided into 12 "minutes" (56 seconds). The year is similarly divided into 12 months of 12 weeks each, in turn divided into 12 days. The Trahan year does not correspond to the solar year (one Traha calendar year is 1.3 Earth years), but one solar year is nearly 5 months. Several other forms of dating are in use, including dating based on dynastic origin, the formal calendar based on Sinarr-Ress (days since approximately 1518 BC) and the botanical calendar (based on the various fruit seasons).
Victoria: two overlapping circles, one with a traditional Trahan weave pattern, one with a human mosaic against a blue background. The Trahan empire has no particular symbol, but the imperial couple has a musical theme that is often used.
| There are 9 planets other than Traha, named
Sana, Mattlam, Ssla, Sska, Ssnarham, Nara, Trass, Nana, Mamalasa; old names
dating back to the earliest times. Sana and Mattlam are hothouse worlds
inside Traha. Ssla and Sska form a double planet, with each planet orbiting
so close that they nearly touch each other and share their thin carbon-dioxide
atmosphere. Ssnarham is a major gas giant, while Nara, Trass and Nana are
small iceballs. Mamalasa is another gas giant, with an extensive moon system.
Traha has one moon, Nah (632 km) and a ring system, the Arc of Heaven. The ring was the result of the break-up of a moon, causing a mass extinction that gave room for the Trahans to evolve. Inside the ring there are several larger fragment with historical names, but mostly dust which makes most satellites break down quickly.
Traha orbits Lambda Serpenti at 1.25 AU, making one orbit every 1.3 years (or 421 days). It has a diameter of 12,213 kilometres, 0.9 earth density and 0.825 gravity. The day is 27 hours long, necessitating a siesta for humans. The axial tilt is only 3 degrees, making seasons unnoticeable except for the slow wandering of the shadow of the Arc of Heaven.
Trahan biology is relatively Earth-like, but lacks many essential nutrients for humans. The plants either tend to have fractally branching leaves or needles, or drooping shells of foliage. Many plants are very aromatic by human tastes. Animals of all kinds existed, but many species have gone extinct over Trahan history. Today the most common groups are the Ranrr, spiderlike creatures filling an insect-like niche, the Ssenrart, flying relatives of the Trahans, and the ground-dwelling and essential Arnarr, centipedelike animals playing an important role in keeping the forest floor and roots healthy. Human geneticists are attempting to reintroduce several extinct species. The Ssenrart-Ras are bred for their singing, which is considered beautiful by trahans.
Throughout history, the Trahans have changed the surface of the planet. The old forests vanished during the First Disaster (around 8742 years ago, 6300 BC) but have been re-planted since then. Coastlines have been diked, channels dug, mountains levelled. Today most of Traha’s surface is covered with a gardened forest, in places wild but mostly desirable fruit trees and plants bred for the pleasure of the Trahans. Cities are dotted everywhere, often filled with ancient architecture covered with carefully tended ruin gardens. Many of the newer cities are built in the specially cultivated city trees.