Arcadia (Beta Comae Berenices II)


For our children, then, nature will no longer be something they are born into but rather something they program.
- Jeremy Rifkin

Men will not be content to manufacture life: they will want to improve on it.
- John Bernal

The door opened, and beyond was a dark tunnel. Damp, low, apparently dug directly into the earth – the low-tech contrast to the functional subway station behind was immense. From the ceiling roots and vague organic forms hung, sending ancestral shivers up our spines. Suddenly Michail rounded a corner, happily greeting us. Together with him were two creatures, not unlike human-sized moles with hands and wearing backpacks strapped onto their wrinkled skins. As I introduced my friends I could not help to notice the smell; pungent, animal, organic. I couldn’t help it, but I always had trouble adapting at first to the Arcadian lifestyle: the multipods clinging everywhere, living clothes with symbs in them, the worker manservants, the direct physical contact, the smells. But in time you got used to it, and I knew that when I returned to my home in Rembrandt it would look strangely sterile and cold.
- Jonathan Ellis-Khayama, Interstellar Diary



Arcadia was colonised due to a mistake. The observations made over a couple of years had suggested an earthlike planet, but the terrestrial scientist had not realised that it underwent cyclic glaciations with a twenty year cycle - it had only been observed during the warm part. During the warm season life depletes carbon dioxide to the extent that the temperature falls and the planet becomes glaciated. During the glacial period underwater life and forest fires transforms the accumulated biomass into carbon dioxide, leading to an eventual thawing. Most life either exist in two forms, shifting as the climate shifts, hibernate or pod during one season, or create their own environments.

The colonisation effort was among the early multination, multiorganization efforts, mainly sponsored by the EU and Russia but with collaboration world-wide. The expedition was launched in 2030 and arrived in 2148. As the ship arrived Arcadia was in its warm season. The explorers had set up their base when the first messages from Earth arrived, telling them of the approaching winter. There was no way they could build subterranean climate controlled artificial gardens with enough carbon dioxide to last. It was clear that to survive the colony had to adapt. While some suggested that everybody should be frozen, it proved infeasible; this was left as a last resort. Instead one fourth of the colony tried to extend the colony ships into an orbital habitat, and the other began to explore the possibility of exploiting the Hives as a means of survival.

The Hives were mound-like constructions, a kind of symbiotic tunnel system inhabited by several species of animals and fungi. During the winters the different species of "workers" (large, mole-like animals not unlike giant mole rats) dug tunnels and brought back plant material to central fermentation chambers where various species of fungi grew. The fungi became food for the workers and the other allied species. Their excrements were gathered into other chambers where other species of fungi as well as the winter-plants exploited them: winter plants send up leaves to the surface, gathering nutrients, carbon dioxide and water in the Hive system below. In exchange for being tended the winter-plants produce fruits, which form the second main source of nutrients and distribute seeds through the Hive tunnels. As spring arrives the workers produce their summer phenotype, that leaves the Hive and lives as herbivorous pack animals on the surface. The central chambers become covered with vegetation, forming small groves, and the tunnels decay. In the autumn the workers begin producing the winter phenotype, which seeks out or digs Hives. They gather all vegetation they can find, starting the cycle anew.

The Arcadians decided to dig their colony underground, linking it to several Hives in order to gather food from them. As the climate shifted, the humans moved underground, trying to adapt to a Hive existence. The first years were hard, but in time they learned the sound and chemical languages used by the inhabitants. By using their equipment they could extend the tunnels and begin to culture fungi and winter-plants more efficiently. A new form of underground agriculture took form and the Arcadians found that it was easier to control workers than adapt their overground farming machinery. Still, the demands of keeping the Hives and humans supplied were high, and after many debates some genetically modified winter-plants were introduced, first to supply some rare nutrients for the humans, later for increased yields and resistance to some pests. When it was first suggested that modifying the workers might be a good idea the barrier had already been broken, and in a test Hive new breeds were tested. Over the years, the colony grew with the Hives as the modified ecologies flourished.

Finally the summer arrived. Despite some misgivings the workers successfully shifted, and the humans could move aboveground. For the younger generation it was a new and unusual experience. The colony was retrofitted for aboveground farming, treatments for agoraphobia instituted and the planet explored further. The original underground tunnels were still in use. As the cold season approached, the colonists had to decide between going underground again or this time try to prepare an aboveground base. The majority voted for the underground solution; a small minority remained overground to build an experimental winter base. The "topsiders" gradually dwindled as it became clear that the reasonable thing to be was beneath the ground or maybe on the orbital habitats.

Over time the Arcadians developed a society not unlike the workers. The colony spawned a number of subcolonies linked by subways, each connected or mixed with a number of Hives. These subcolonies, which were also called Hives, were not unlike kibbutzes: partially self-sufficient, closely knit communities. Biotechnology and ecology became dominant research areas, and modified lifeforms were used instead of mechanical tools in many applications. Instead of robots, modified workers are used. Instead of many construction materials, furniture and building parts various designed plants are used. Arcadian homes are microecologies, with cleaning creatures, living lamps and computers interfaced with the nutrient distribution systems. To outsiders Arcadians commonly appear disturbingly unconcerned about being surrounded by symbiotic creatures, including symbiotes creeping through their living clothing that eats dirt and skin flakes as well as gives comfort to their owners. Overall Arcadian culture has adapted mores suited for living underground in close proximity with other species, a tolerance for personal habits and eccentricities combined with a strong feeling of community.

The Arcadian hives expanded across Elysia and the islands of the equatorial sea. The regular great colds turned out to be less limiting than expected as long as work was done underground or in space. During the warm periods Arcadians often spent much time and built topside, but the real cities remained safely underground.

The development and acceptance of human genetic modifications during the 2180's to 2230's changed the Arcadians even further. At first just adaptations and resistances were introduced, but as taboos against enhancement melted away most parents deliberately tried to get their children the best possible genome. The introduction of pheromone signals in the 2230's amplified the already communal tendences, and the gradual success of aging management in the 2240's as well as the development of leader-traits transformed society even more. Much of the politics of the 2200's dealt with what modifications were reasonable and how society as a whole as well as the Hives would have a say in it. Many feared that the modifications would produce a genetic overclass, but in reality it turned out that having enhanced genes was not a super-advantage; on average the enhanced people did well, but individual skill still counted.

In 2337 a ship arrived from New America. The Arcadians greeted the fellow colonists with enthusiasm (scaring them quite a bit at the first meeting) and immediately wanted to participate in the exploration of the universe. Even as the two colonies worked together, the American reticience of sharing the secrets of FTL was resented by many Arcadians who were used to the conventions of fairness and sharing of the Hives. The leakage of the higgsram technology in 2343 gave them their chance not just to go to the stars themselves, but to share with the other colonies. The consensus on Arcadia is that it is better to share the knowledge of the higgsram with every other colony than try to keep it secret in a futile attempt of getting ahead of others. This has made the Arcadians popular on many colonies that would otherwise find them a bit too eerie, and overall been a great publicity stunt.



A major factor making Arcadians different from other colonists is the widespread genetic modifications of people. The first modifications were mainly disease resistance and enhanced senses, but later on more advanced changes has been made. Modern have an advanced sense of smell, able to understand Hive signals or track through darkness, scent glands in the hands enabling chemical communication. Infrared vision has been achieved by adding sensory pits just beneath the nose (as in vipers) and the visual range has been extended. Many Arcadians also have enhanced hearing or even ultrasound sonar, the ability to internally secrete various drugs or medicines, hibernation or modified metabolism. Around 2220 some Arcadians, calling their project Yeti-Yeti, began to develop modifications to survive on the surface during the winters, gaining the ability to shift over the span of a few months between a normal human form and a "snowman" form with thick fur and other adaptations. At the same time another group, the Aquarians began to explore developing gills and other aquatic adaptations; modern Aquarians are amphibious and can grow insulating fat and flippers as the seas get colder. Arcadian bioengineering tends towards adaptation, an attitude of being ready for everything as well as a certain delight in doing the impossible.

There are a noticeable minority of jumpers who freeze themselves during the colds and only emerge in the warm periods; they have been become known as the summerflies. Another group escaping the climate cycles are the spacers, a minority who spend most of their lives in the extensive space habitats.

Arcadian government consists of a colony council organising all the different colonies, with one representative for each colony and a number of representatives for the global functions such as space systems, ecology, communications and law. Each colony (sometimes called a hive or tribe) is at least in theory run by a local council. In many of the younger colonies the councils are absent or symbolic, all the inhabitants instead meet at big Hive meetings where they discuss the matters at hand. Consensus is the most common for of decision. Ambitious Arcadians often compete in various ways to draw attention to their favourite issues or personal capabilities. This has developed into a kind of system for selecting representatives to the colony council or other positions through various more or less serious competitions where they demonstrate their suitability. The introduction of genetically amplified leadership has further made Arcadian politics obscure to outsiders, as the consensus-reaching process has become heavily dependent on subtle pheromonal hints, non-political social interactions and personality-Hive compatibility. The Arcadians on the other hand are fairly satisfied with their system, it works well and doesn’t get in the way.

Arcadians are noticeably keen on sports, from the playful exercises during the Hour of Scampering to dramatic tests of endurance, teamwork or sheer bravery. Given the availability of genetic modifications, competition sports are fairly rare or have elaborate handicap systems, while team sports (soccer and hockey are very popular) involve selecting the right combination of abilities among the participants to make a great team. One popular challenge is arachnautics: to blow through the air using a "spinchute", a dense fan of long very thin fibres that are extruded from a spinneret on the back. Originally it was used as an alternative parachute inspired by the ability of terrestrial spiders to blow long distances in the wind by extruding a silk strand, but the spinchute was soon put to recreational uses. Arachnauts either jump from air vehicles or allow themselves to be lifted by thermals; the experience is somewhere in between ballooning and parachuting and sufficiently risky to attract many the stags.



The Expansionists are the explorers gathered around Coordinator McCairns on Chloe. They seek to explore and expand into the universe, fulfilling the manifest destiny of mankind as an interstellar creature. While they have much support among the Hives they also have many critics, who claim they are wasting valuable capital on deep exploration which could be used to set up contacts with the other colonies.

The Outreach Program was founded by a group of hives that were worried that Arcadia would be turned into somebody else’s political gamepiece. Their goal is to integrate Arcadia with the interstellar community (and if it doesn’t exist yet, set it up), making it and its views relevant to all other colonies.

Space Life Project is an old and well renowned multi-Hive project in space. The SLP seeks to create life that can survive in the hard vacuum of space. It is currently working on the "martian potato", the nickname for a plant intended to grow on asteroids: extracting water and nutrients from the rock, protecting the tissues by thick inert covering etc. Past successes have been various biomaterials suitable for space use, lichens that could theoretically live on comets and various adaptations to extreme conditions for humans. The SLP is naturally allied with the Expansionists.

The Cladist Alliance believe mankind should adapt themselves rather than their worlds; they oppose terraforming and sometimes even neos. Instead the goal should be humans adapted to their worlds or even adaptable to any situation. A number of hives have formed an Alliance to further these goals, both by investing in genetic design, propaganda towards Penglai and several projects of human adaptation to different environments. Their long-term goal is to create a super-adaptable human genotype, able to adapt to nearly anything. They dislike parts of the space life project, and speak against it at all opportunities - seeding space itself is an irresponsible idea. On the other hand, they support the Expansionists with the proviso of no terraforming.

The Nat Tribe consists of Arcadians who have turned their backs on biotechnology and genetic modifications. They refrain from planning their children, and avoid using most neos. Being largely socially handicapped in Arcadian society they have retreated to their own communities on the island chain Acanthus near the equator.

Freedomtech is a small group who resents the influence and control of the ecologists; they want to develop neos and technologies in an independent fashion like the Atlanteans. They are mostly political, but there are persistent rumours about illegal neo release and trickery.

Gaia Bioware is a biotech company making mainly biocomputers and neural controllers. They are the largest manufacturer of cortextures, and promote the use of neurons rather than electronics in many technological applications, as well as the design of frankens; in this area they work together with the Forestpath Alliance.


Arcadians tend towards the discreet and functional. However, clothing and lifestyle has been deeply affected by their culture. Clothing is either grown (tends to look like leather or rough fabrics) or alive. Living clothing is usual animal and furry, although during the warm periods some Arcadians like to have plant clothes. Living clothes can repair damage, adapt to the situation, clean and comfort the owner as long as it is treated with regular nutrient baths. No Arcadian is ever found without at least some companion animals, ranging from scavenger multipods over pet lumps to augmented workers that act as servants. Having good control over one’s animals is a sign of style.

Arcadian Hives look like a few buildings on the surface, quite often a loose collection of white ceramic towers called turres and sturdy domes. Underneath kilometres of tunnels, chambers and subways extend. During the warm periods temporary buildings are erected over exits, while during the winter only some of the towers extend over the snow.



Somebody believing himself to be above the hive or outside the social network.


Augmented animal, especially one with increased

intelligence. Also used as a friendly nickname for augmented humans.


"lifeguard", organism or implant to alert rescuers if something happens to the owner.


The view that people should not adopt planets to suit themselves, but instead adapt to the planet. The Arcadians have a certain distaste for the Penglaiese terraforming projects.


One of the cold 20-year periods of Arcadia.


Animals or people in one’s own ecosystem, sharing one’s resources. Often used to denote spouses.


Biocomputer, usually used in adjunct with ordinary computers.


Something hidden, surprising. Arcadian aesthetics delight in cryps: tools with unexpected extra uses, creatures with surprising abilities or just plain jokes.


Somebody deodorised, slightly derogatory term for offworlders.


Common curse.


Genetic modifications of adults (as opposed to eugenics, improving the genes of embryos). Tricky to achieve through gene therapy, but some Arcadians have euthenic enhancements that allow them to gain new genetic modifications as adults. These enhancements unfortunately have to be put in while planning.


Followers of Robert McCairns’ ideas about human expansion into the universe.


A "frankencreature" built from scratch by cultured muscles, neurons and tissues. Still highly experimental, but shows great industrial potential.


A genetic engineer. Gengineers are involved in more technical genetic engineering, genetic designers deal with the more "artistic" side (although they overlap heavily).


Small, mountain-dwelling piglike animal. Regarded as extremely delicious.

The Hour of Scampering

An afternoon lighthearted exercise for the whole hive. Originally instituted to prevent muscle weakness among the initial colonists as they holed up in the hives, today it is a tradition a bit like British tea-time in many hives to play .


A bivalve living on walls in the Hives that has been genetically enhanced to produce light. It also eats certain pests and metasites. Lichtmuschel is also used as an epithet for a clever but asocial person, usually a gentle reminder to come and join the fun ("Don’t be a lichtmuschel, go to the party!").


Short for Interlingua, the creole language of Nova.


An undesirable species in an ecosystem, not necessarily parasitical.


A "natural", unmodified person.


People who want to modify Arcadian organisms rather than introduce new terrestrial ones; opposed by the Terrestrialists who want to base things more on Earth stock.

Neogene (or neo)

A modified organism.


A social network within a Hive (or between several) sharing the same values and goals. Tribal politics have begun to play an increasingly big role.


Either somebody wanting to live permanently underground or overground, or use an adaptation like aquarianism all the time.


The planning done by parents and genetic designers before a child is conceived.


People with leadership enhancements to their brain. Stags tend to be very charismatic, ambitious and social people, even if they also can be a bit competitive against each other.


Street, a major tunnel.




People who want to modify and introduce more terrestrial organisms on Arcadia; opposed by the Naturalists who want to base things more on Arcadian stock.


One of the warm 20-year periods.


Somebody's odour presence ("You have an angry whiff, Pjotr, should I stay away?")


1,638,158 people. Life expectancy at birth: 520 Earth-years (estimated).


The old Euro is used, although many transactions are barters, gifts or potlatchs.


The day is 22 Earth hours and 16 minutes long. The "new" system simply divides the day into 20 hours (1h6.8m), each with 10 decians (around 6 minutes). Dates follow earth standard and drift relative to the seasons (one Arcadian year is 423.12 days). An informal uptime/downtime dating is used: "Year 5 of warmth 3" means the fifth year of the third warm period since the colony was founded.


The original seal has been abandoned for a simple flag consisting of a white and a green triangle (representing the cold and warm periods). Many Hives have their own symbols, ranging from simple signs to elaborate crests.


Arcadia orbits 1.06 AU from Beta Comae Berenices (sometimes called Berenice, but usually just Sun).

Arcadia is very light, just half of the Earth’s density and fairly lacking in most metals. It has a diameter of 18,072 kilometres, a surface gravity of 0.710 g and a mean temperature shifting between 22 degrees in the warm periods and –5 in the cold periods. 50% of the surface is water. The day is just 22 hours long, the axial tilt 17 degrees.

Arcadia has one moon, Chloe, a captured asteroid 700 kilometres in diameter in an eccentric orbit. There are some orbital factories and docks there, as well as the Arcadian space biotech program attempting to develop hardy species to live in direct space.

The innermost planet, Daphnis, is a semi-molten rockball. Outside Arcadia nine other planets orbit: the small worlds Dryas, Crocus, Smilax, a pair of gas giants named Adonis and Diana, a failed core named Cynthia, the gas giant Pan and two failed cores called Doris and Galatea.

The continent Elysia, with broad plains and occasional mountain ranges cover most of the Northern Hemisphere. Two major mountain ranges, the Olympus Mountains and the Europa Mountains encircle the Polar Plateau. In the south two major subcontinents reach out, the hospitable Thessalia and the dry and mountainous Thrakia (known for the Croton Desert with the landlocked and extremely salted Hyacintus Sea inside). The Equatorial Sea is home to several major islands, called Flora, Narcissus, Echo, Zephyr and Chiron. The southern ocean sports many archipelagos and atolls, with names picked from Greek mythology and jokes among the first colonists. The old colony was located on the shores of Elysia close to Flora, but today there exists Hives on all the main islands and Elysia as well as on the atolls. Flora is a hospitable subtropical island during the warm periods, with a thin isthmus connecting it to Elysia.

During the warm periods, the planet is terrestrial. The mean temperature is highest at the start of the warmth, slowly dropping off until taking a plunge to the cold state. At the beginning of the warmth land plants quickly colonise the land, many sprouting from buried seeds or the tunnels of the Hives. As the warmth goes on the greenery thickens, until large parts of the surface is dense thickets or forests. Eventually the cold begins, often set off by massive forest fires in the summer. The ash makes the climate colder, and increased snowfall in the winter shifts the balance further. Over the span of a few months global temperatures plunge, and in the cold "ash winter" following the plunge fires ravage the dried plains of northern Elysia. The cold lasts until carbon dioxide levels reach a critical level and something offsets the albedo of ice enough: a volcanic eruption, a storm breaking up the ice over part of the ocean, a forest fire. A positive feedback begins, and the ice melts (often resulting in flooding and landslides). This cycle has a period of approximately 20 years, and has been going on for at least 54 million years.

Arcadian plants tend to be long-stemmed, often sporting huge leaves or streamers. They tend to move in the wind, and parts ripped away tend to re-root themselves wherever they can. A common large plant is the rush-tree, which can grow to 20 meters height in less than a year in order to take the advantage of the early Warm. As the Warm progresses different species become dominant in an ecological succession. Many plants (and animals) also exist in different forms adapted to the different climates. On the tropical islands many unusual adaptations and co-evolutionary species exist; the most famous is likely the Singing Fruits of Chylos. The singing fruits are coconut-like fruits which attract a species of fruit-eaters that spread the seeds by emitting a high-pitched whistle: as the interior matures, it fills with a gas, which leaves through a tiny opening and produces the whistle. Different species have different tones and attract different fruitivores.

Arcadian animal life is rather rich and strange; few animals look like anything on Earth. There are six major forms recurring: rolling/slithering/swimming "lumps" (monopods), multilegged endoskeletal creatures (multipods or "thingies"), the two-limbed jumpers (dipods), four-legged animals filling both mammal-like and insect-like niches (tetrapods) and eight-finned aquatic animals sometimes found on land (octofishes). The workers belong to the tetrapeds, but most of the inhabitants of the Hives are multipods or lumps.