New America (Beta Virginis IV)


America is not only big and rich, it is mysterious; and its capacity for the humorous or ironical concealment of its interests matches that of the legendary inscrutable Chinese.
- David Riesman, The Lonely Crowd

America has believed that in differentiation, not in uniformity, lies the path of progress. It acted on this belief; it has advanced human happiness, and it has prospered.
- Louis D. Brandeis

Columbia spaceport overlooks Liberty quite nicely. From the lounge you can see the sprawling capital, from the harbour and factories in the south to the suburbs in the north. In between you can clearly make out the dome of the Congress building, the many channels and the great Washington spire. But what really steals the show is the sea. It stretches towards the horizon, dotted with islands, ships and the occasional colourful FC floating home. The importance of the sea, the infinite liquid frontier is never more obvious than here. Despite the ambitions of the technorats to conquer the stars and the attempts of the godlings to ignore the outside the world, the soul of New America is the sea. This is a world of seafarers.
- Jonathan Ellis-Khayama, Interstellar Diary



New America was colonised mainly by the US, the last of the big national colonisation projects. The idea of national interstellar colonies was already on decline, but a vocal opinion insisted on an American colony. As the project developed, a political bias became visible. The strongest support came from the right, and many of the people requesting to participate also had rightward leanings, dreams of a new frontier, manifest destiny or a "true America". As this became known, many supporters began to withdraw, claiming the whole project was a rightwing plan all along. After some serious political controversy New America still went ahead, but it was clear the demographics was strongly biased towards the WASP minority. In 2036 the colony ships were launched, arriving in the system 2136. The fourth planet was habitable as expected and christened New America.

New America turned out to have only one major continent, locked in glaciation, but a large number of sizeable islands. The colony (with the capital Liberty) was set up on the largest island chain in the Temperate Zone. A government was instituted similar to the US, with a president, senate, congress and Supreme Court. Defining states became a problem; at first it was thought that there was no need for states under the federal level, but in time a system was instituted where island chains with sufficient population could become states (at first only the Rockies was a state, the Rock Island State). The large investments made in colonisation technology paid off; within a few years standards of living were terrestrial. The lack of land life made developing farming tricky, but using enhanced mulching technology on native seaweed managed to produce initial soil for planting.

Over the first years the population settled the main island chain, called the Rockies. The first problem was to create enough soil to grow crops; this was achieved by taking sea biomass and treating it chemically and biologically to create various soil-substitutes (ranging from artisoil, little more than a fibrous mat with nutrients, to grade T soil which is nearly indistinguishable from terrestrial soil, complete with the microecosystems). Another big problem was that the local biochemistry produced chemicals that caused slight allergic reactions in adults (this problem has since then vanished due to immune adaptation) but birth defects in children brought to term by women who had lived on the planet for some time. This was solved by the development of the "pregnancy vaccine", a chemical antidote given to all women in fertile age.

More outlying homesteads as well as floating buildings slowly spread. As people began to move out on their own, the population began to differentiate. One group were the pioneers, who moved away as quickly as possible into the frontier. Another group were the godlings, people with strong religious leanings. While they were mixed up with the rest of the population, in time more and more tended to aggregate in Bell Islands. The state became a home for Christian fundamentalism, and various local laws were passed that enforced strict rules of proper behaviour. A third group were the technological elite, who had remained on the project out of personal convictions despite the political troubles. They kept out of politics, instead concentrating on practical matters or research. In time they were called the technocrats, or the technorats. Their main playground were the space facilities in orbit or on ground; while they lacked political finesse from the start, they held their own against other interests by their grip on vital systems. The Congress was dominated by two parties, the Unionists (originally the side that resisted the development of states) and Federalists (pro-states; later the more conservative party).

The discovery of the filigrees sent a shock through the colony. The colonial militia couldn’t deal with the problem. Many of the pioneers felt that they had to protect themselves or that the filigrees were irrelevant. The technocrats were delighted, awed and worried about the possibility of total culture shock. The godlings most openly denounced the filigrees as the spawn of the devil, and advocated attacking them first. Most inhabitants fearfully watched the skies. Over the years New America adapted to the filigree presence. The technocrats struggled to bridge the gap between the rude aliens and the humans (while exploiting it for their increasingly political goals of having orbit declared a state), the pioneers continued their explorations and the godlings were content to propose outrageous bills against them. The rare visiting diplomats neither helped or hurted the situation.

As New America grew, new social forms developed. The old conservative/nationalistic system appeared antiquated to many of the younger generations, who moved out to floating homesteads in the tropical seas. The floating schools became home for alternative lifestyles, to the great chagrin for the conservatives in the mainlands. The combination of the laid-back small-scale nomadic schools and the insular pioneers made an unusual mix; both groups developed their self-sufficiently further and further. The next logical step was the airships, and in the middle 2200’s floating cities had begun to appear.

Another tension was the more radical fringe of the technorat fraction. While most of the technorats were busy industrialising space and building ever more ambitious habitats one group began to demand independence. This group, the technarchs, sought not just to make Orbit a state but to make each habitat an independent political entity - to them, nationalism was anathema to the "technarchy of space". In 2286 several technarch cells infiltrated and attempted to take over a newly built habitat, the Elk River. They proclaimed it a new "technarchic system" but were condemned as hi-jackers everywhere else, even by the technorats. The president sent in the space marines, who succeeded in breaking into the habitat and disabling the technarcs with only the loss of five lives (three technarchs and two marines, most of which were killed when an improvised bomb detonated at the wrong moment). The action was the first use of an armed space assault ever and proved that the New America space navy was indeed able to handle real combat. After the Elk River disaster the remaining technarchs split, the moderates largely became a political movement, while some true radicals became the feared Vacuum Brigade, a space based terrorist group that committed over 20 bombings over the next decade until finally (?) being defeated in 2399.

In 2308 President Gertrud Jess, voted into power by the Bell federalists, attempted to bring the equatorial schools into line. One major reason seems to be that she considered them an equal threat as the technarchs, and after the defeat of the Vacuum Brigade she believed the equatorials could be handled too. She tried to enforce education and behaviour laws against them, based on their citizenship in New America. As several schools simply declared themselves independent she sent the militia against them as illegal aliens. As a response the remaining schools in a surprise move (likely instigated by some of their pioneer allies) instead declared themselves a state, "Floating California", sent their newly elected representatives to Liberty and demanded places in the senate and Congress. Jess stalled, but the opposition supported the new people, and together with them began to force an impeachment process. Jess backed down, and a new president was elected. Since then Floating California has played a rather diffuse role in politics; the state ignores the federal government to a large extent, and its representatives are seldom predictable. Many of the "temperate" groups think that it would be better to simply declare FC an independent state to get rid of it. But the equatorials (or the "weirdo party" as others call them) has become a noticeable factor.

In 2328 a filigree diplomat unexpectedly suggested a trade: a method for interstellar flight in exchange for a permanent net connection between New America and their moon. After a long and heated debate in the house New America agreed to the trade, not without trepidation. The information turned out to be quite understandable, and in June 2329 an unmanned probe demonstrated the higgsram jump. Equipping an old freight ship with the ram, the NASA (New America Space Agency) succeeded in an interstellar journey to a neighbouring star in 2334. An expedition was sent to the nearest known colony, Arcadia, and in 2337 the first interstellar colonial contact occurred. The Arcadians were delighted, and several joint expeditions went out to the other colonies and Sol. But when NASA in 2343 apparently gave them the information about how to build the ram they began to build their own starships. This caused a major political crisis on New America, forcing the retirement of the NASA Coordinator McCairns and creating a lasting mistrust and revanchism among many Americans of the Arcadians. It also fuelled the vision of making New America the centre of a new interstellar community.



Most of New America is rural. People live in small communities on different islands, travelling between them with boat or sub. They commute to the main islands or use telecommuting (which is very common). The only real urban areas are Liberty and the technorat orbitals.

Technology and science on NA has developed in a very practical manner, directed mainly towards solving the problems of space habitats, ecology and transport. While theoretical science and biotechnology have developed, none have had any significant effects for various political, economical and social reasons. A theory of space-time structure developed by Elias E. Jordan and Irene Abott in 2267 mimics the Abdela theory on Atlantis, but it lacked practical applications. Much work has been directed towards the creation of super-dense materials based on supersymmetric particles, but so far none has been discovered.


The Filigrees

In 2193 it was discovered that one of the moons around Franklin, Simpleton (Beta Virginis X-9), was artificial. Its unusual smoothness and low density had been noted some years earlier, but more pressing colony matters were taking all the time. Eventually the colony was finished and parts of the space fleet were free for exploration, and an expedition was sent to investigate. The surface turned out to only look like a natural cratered surface, closer examination revealed it to be artificial (if rather worn by over a billion years of micrometeorites). They discovered an opening into the moon through one of the "craters". The inside was a vast labyrinth of diamondoid filigree, extending for thousands of kilometres in all directions; a fractal foam of chambers (some several hundred kilometres across) and branching pillars. An explorer drone was sent inside, trying to discover its meaning. During their investigations they awakened a number of apparently dormant structures; the structures immediately seized the exploration drone and transmission ended.

The expedition retreated, but no response came. When another drone was sent into the moon it could not discover any moving structures despite a long search. Suddenly the transmissions from the expedition itself ceased; telescope images suggested that something had engulfed the ship and temporary base at the surface at an extreme speed.

A state of planetary alert was instated, and everybody prepared for the worst. It never came. The moon remained passive, and nothing emerged. After a week the alert was stepped down. Over the next year several signals and remote scans were undertaken, but nothing came of it. A robot drone was sent, but vanished.

Ten years later the filigrees appeared in orbit around New America, a thin web of diamond fibres and thorns. After an initial scare, they initiated a halting radio contact with the humans. They asked a series of questions, and answered a few of the return questions. The fate of the original expedition was never clearly explained (it was mentioned as having communicated with them). The filigrees asked permission to visit the humans and study them, which was reluctantly granted.

Humans regard filigrees as secretive, subtly threatening, unpredictable and territorial. They seem to dislike having humans pry into their affairs, but at the same time try to learn what the humans are doing. They refuse to divulge information, but sometimes leak obscure data. Recently they might have begun to understand humans slightly better, they seem to have begun selling information in exchange for other information, but the price is steep.

No two filigrees look the same, but the overall structure consists of a complex fractal branching body made of diamondoids and light metals a few meters across (but only weighing a few kilograms). They have been described as deadly art objects, quite able to slice through a spacesuit, disassemble soft materials or move with astonishing speed. Their colours vary, from jet-black to sparkling crystal to rainbow hues; often complex diffraction patterns shift across their limbs.

Visits to planets are hard due to their reactive nature; small "ambassador" filigrees can be brought down, flat structures similar in shape to the main filigrees and likely in contact with them, but unreactive and fairly inactive. Ambassadors are stubborn in the extreme, and almost behave like little spoiled children. They ask questions or give orders, repeating them until obeyed.

The filigrees are bizarre entities. They appear to be true group intelligences, individuals seamlessly merging as they touch. Most likely all filigrees inside the moon are linked together into a superorganism. This means they have little regard for individuals; killing an individual (human or filigree) is no problem unless it jeopardises the larger plans.



NASA, the New America Space Agency, is responsible for the interstellar ships. It was explicitly formed to deal with interstellar travel rather than in-system space activities. It is divided into three sections, the Engineering Division (building and maintenance of starships), Exploration (the use of them) and Research, as well as an extensive networked administration. It has been plagued by internal quarrels, mainly between the hard-line technorats in Engineering and mainstreamers in the administration; the wound caused by the fall of Coordinator McCairns has still not healed. At the same time, the huge investments done by the government in the Columbus Program keeps many of the fractions too busy to quarrel. Many sub-sections are actually semi-independent companies or contractors; the border between NASA proper and the technorat space engineering networks is blurred.

Adams Helium Consortium is the major producent of He3 in the system. They operate a base on Reagan, one of the moons of Adams, where they build floater devices they drop into the Adams atmosphere. The floaters are solar-powered balloons carrying helium extraction equipment, accumulating the valuable isotope. When a floater is full, it launches the canister towards a rendezvous with a gatherer spaceplane which returns it to Reagan. The operation has been a quite successful project, involving several technorat companies and ideas.

NADS-X, the Xenological section of the New America Department of Security. NADS roughly corresponds to the CIA, although (up until now) without any foreign policy to worry about – except the Filigree. NADS-X was formed as a response to the Filigree presence, and is directed towards understanding them and finding a way of handling their presence. It has not been very successful in the later aspect, but it has managed to come up with plausible theories and some predictions that have held. Their interaction with the regular xenological establishment and the New America Xenodiplomatic Emergency Comittee (NAXEC) is one of mutual distrust but shared interest.

NADS-I is the the interstellar arm of NADS. It is the newest and largest part of the agency, and it has plenty to do. Bureau 1 handles overall administration and information dissemination to other agencies. Bureau 2 deals with the security of spaceflight and advanced technology; it was founded to prevent more disasters such as the leakage of higgsram technology to the Arcadians. It generally deals with technological espionage. Bureau 3 deals with gathering political, economic and cultural information from the other planets. Bureau 4 does threat evaluation, compiling the data and suggesting actions. Bureau 5 handles military, terrorist or other threats to New America. Bureau 6 is the most secret, and implements plans from the other agencies (which themselves have agents; B6 agents are generalists with no information about the purpose of their missions).

Armstrong University is the major orbital university. It is well renowned for its space engineering and project management degrees, even if it is also a hotbed of technorat ideologues. It is also a leading centre for Filigree studies, managing the datalink together with the NAXEC.

Monroe Cylinder is a major habitat in a polar orbit around NA. A bit of a retirement resort, slightly "out of the way" in interplanetary traffic but an important meeting place for the owners of the major corporations, high society and the political networks. Regarded as awfully passé by most young people and FC.

The School of Schools is in some sense the centre of the FC. It is a regular meeting in the Salwowski Atoll of the floating and flying cities and schools. The entire atoll is filled with boats, greenzeps and temphomes. It is a mixture between a festival, a market, huge party and a political meeting, although the last component is weaker than the others. It is here the representatives to congress are elected, as well as deals for new vessels and travel plans made.

The Laputa (or Aircity) project is a major project founded by ETA Foundation and the Aerodyne Corporation. They plan to build a floating city in the atmosphere of NA, hopefully the first in a series of mobile cities that would circulate the planet. There are even plans for a floating base in the atmosphere of Adams.



The differences between the different groups are noticeable. The fundamentalists are comparatively conservative and have not changed style much since the early days, still preferring rugged "frontier" clothing (like the remaining Pioneers of the south seas) or conservative business suits. The Mainstream has shifted over time, but for the last decades it has gravitated towards frosted clothes: transparent plastic clothing with a diffracting frosting. Floating California tends towards loose, colourful and holographic clothing. The technorats have adapted functional, somewhat drab clothing as the "serious" style, but normally wear anything they like – they tend towards the functional but radical.

Currently suncoloring is in again among almost everybody but the fundies: by eating special chemical supplements and exposing the skin to sunlight, the skin can be coloured in muted pastel hues. By covering it with patches and taking several supplements complex patterns can be created.

Almost everybody owns some kind of boat or submarine. Many people live on house-boats more than on land, even if having a villa somewhere is common (and it’s location can affect taxation; recently a lot of people have formally moved to FC for the lack of taxes).

Something that has caught the interest mainly of the Mainstream and technorats is the development of "acoustical environments" or sound-holo: extremely high resolution sound artworks, tuned to various brain rhythms, associations and musical styles. Inside the environment sounds appear in different places, suggesting shapes and movements. Together with synesthetia training this has turned into a popular form of entertainment or art.



FC term for something that is utterly absurd, baroque and wasted, but still for some reason likeable. The term has spread into the mainstream over time.


Derogatory term for people from Bell Islands.

The Deal

The trade of net access for FTL with the filigrees. Still hotly debated.


Mainstream term for FCs.


Portable greenhouse producing food to make a zep or ship self-sufficient.


Floating California and the remaining Pioneers.


Floating California


The party wanting to create new states. In general conservative and dominated by the fundies, but often supported in certain questions by the Technorats and FC.


Term used by the inhabitants of Floating California for each other.


Floating city, zeps or houseboats moving together for a celebration, cooperative fishing, education or just for fun. Among the mainstream the term has connotations of sin and excitement.


Christian conservatives and fundamentalists. Used even among themselves, the pejorative meaning it had in pre-colonial times has vanished.


Abandoned island, mostly in the South Sea. Ghost islands previously owned by Pioneers can be dangerous due to boobytraps and defences left behind.




Disparaging term for the fundies.


Zeppelin with a double transparent membrane, pumping an algae solution in the interstitial space. The algae grow in the sunlight, producing protein and methane that can be used to fuel the zep.


Affectionate term for one’s boat.


Super-hurricanes that persist for a long time, circling the planet. The original term denoted supersonic hurricanes; such phenomena do not exist on NA at present, but fossil records suggest that they have and likely will occur in the future during the rare warm periods, a kind of anti-ice ages that occur once every million years.

Jess Debacle

The failed attempt by President Jess to force FC into the fold. Has become a term for ill-advised projects that get the opposite result from the intended.


Liberty, the capital.


New America.


Orbital habitats or space stations.

Racoon's tushy

Mainstream slang for something truly cool.


FC term for Americans not in FC.


Someone from the Rockies, suggesting a boring mainstream person.

Salt breath

Lung disease, making the throat and lungs dry and "salty". Easily treated.


Group of Friends moving together.




The people of the orbitals and hi-tech business, a distinct social group.


The Mainstream, Technorats and Fundies, as opposed to Floating California.

The Traitor

Robert McCairns-Kendell, the NASA ex-coordinator who was blamed for leaking the higgsram design to the Arcadians.


Personal four-seat submarine.


The "liberal" party trying to keep the number of states down. After the emergence of FC it has lost much power, and the real show is going on within the Federalists.

Yurg Popular energetic and erotic dance of New California origin.


Nickname for the space marines.


Population: 2,068,728. Life expectancy at birth: 120.1 Earth-years.






The day is 25 hours 23 minutes long. This is solved by an extra hour on the clock and 23 "leap minutes". The year is counted in the terrestrial way regardless of the seasons (one New America solar year is 2.623 Earth years or 919 days).



The old US flag, with a single star (originally it was intended to be 53 stars to represent the other states, but after the realisation that the US had ceased to be a political entity they were dropped).



In the system there are ten other planets. Three are inside the orbit of New America: Lincoln, Jefferson and Washington. All three shine brightly in the sky similar to the morning star of Earth. Outside six other planets orbit, named Adams, Greene, Revere, Paine, Hale and Franklin. The sun is sometimes called Alaraph, but usually just the sun or rarely, Beta. New America orbits 2.39 AU from the sun; one orbit takes 2.623 Earth years or 919 days.

The planet has a single large moon at a distance of 700,000 kilometres, Hawaii, a 2942 kilometre desert world with a thin carbon dioxide atmosphere. The tides are often fairly significant.

New America is just 9,294 kilometres in diameter but has 1.3 times the Earth’s density. The surface gravity is 0.93 g. The axial tilt is 10 degrees. Almost 96% of the surface is sea, with the single small glaciated continent Revere at the North Pole (Aspen is the only city on Revere, a major resort boasting maglev rails to many great ski-, snowboard- and snowsurf-slopes as well as other forms of recreation). The day is 25 hours long, close to earthlike. Most people can adapt to it quite well.

The planet is fairly geologically active, and cyclones are a common problem in the subtropical regions; during the hurricane season it is not unusual with semi-permanent storms that make habitation in the zone hard. Secondary storms pass up through the temperate areas.


Life on New America is fairly simple, roughly corresponding to the Cambrian period. The oceans are filled with seaweeds and small creatures living on them, as well as armoured predators not unlike sea scorpions. The most commonly found water animals are the polys, shelled filter-feeders that look like regular polyhedrons. Their shells are commonly found on beaches, and widely used for decorations. The polys are in turn preyed upon by the handfishes, swimming armoured predators with jointed mandibles at the front looking not unlike hands or claws. Using the "hand" they crush polys and eat the contents. A related group of species have lost their swimming tails and crawl around on the mandibles; the early colonists named them "things" in honour of some classic television drama. Some of the larger handfishes, as well as the open sea ribbonshrimps are quite tasty for humans.

Land life consists just of some moss-like plants or biofilms covered with a resilient glass-like protective layer. The islands are bare and rocky, and the storms often wash over them. The colonists have to manufacture soil for planting (today this is mainly done in orbit, in huge "soileries").

The interaction between New America and terrestrial life has been tricky. There has been some problems with micro-organisms affecting the other ecosystem, but they have been fairly limited. On land there is little problem with competition, but in the seas terrestrial and American life compete. Terrestrial fishes and algae have a disadvantage in adapting to the peculiarities of the planet, but locally in lagoons or bays they can instead out-compete the American life. This has resulted in a few worrying crashes, and the government is trying to regulate the introduction of new species.