Beta Canum IV
There is a lot to be said about Beta Canum Venaticorum-4. At nearly 100 years of age, its colonies are older than 75 percent of Earth’s other colonies and outposts, and the years have given the colonies of Beta Canum (as the world is usually called) much time to grow and to develop diverse cultures and economies.
- Name: Beta Canum Venaticorum-4
- Distance from Primary: 1.13 au
- Size: 12,000 km
- Core Type: Rocky
- World Type: Garden
- Gravity: 0.94
- Escape Velocity: 10.5 km/s
- Atmospheric Pressure: 0.92 ATM
- Average Temperature: 25 deg C
- Water Presence: 60%
- Atmospheric Composition: N2 77%, O2 19%, Ar 2%, Trace 2%
- Satellites: None
- French Continent (France); Date Established 2205; Population: 18,948,000; Capital: Premiere; Bases: Orbital Terminal, Beanstalk, Heavy Industry, Farming
- New Africa (Britain); 2207; Population: 10, 276,000; Capital: Bayview; Bases: none
- German Continent (Germany): Date Established: 2207; Population: 16,250,000; Capital: Uethen; Bases: Orbital Terminal, Solar Power Satellite, Catapult, Scramjets, Mining, Farming, University
Beta Canum Venaticorum-4 is, as the name indicates, the fourth satellite of the star Beta Canum Venaticorum. It is usually called simply Beta Canum by outsiders, since there is little chance of confusing it with any other planet as it is the only garden world and, indeed, the only planet of any real interest in the system. Natives of the world usually call it “BC” among themselves, a decades-old, ironic reference to the primitive conditions that many of its rural inhabitants have to deal with.
Beta Canum’s orbital distance from its star falls at exactly the optimum distance for that star’s life zone. The planet has a rotational period of 20.4 hours and orbits its star once every 407.9 local days, which translates into 346.8 Terran days, or just under one Terran year. Beta Canum’s gravity is just enough lighter than standard that visitors feel a pleasurable weight loss without any problems of imbalance, exaggerated motion, or the like. Its atmosphere is almost ideally suited for humankind. Beta Canum’s sky is a very clear, royal blue.
Sixty percent of the world’s surface is covered by saltwater oceans. The remainder is divided into four major continents, a handful of vey large islands, and a multitude of smaller ones. Of the four continents, one covers the planet’s southern pole. The other three lie largely within the temperate and torrid zones. Native life abounds on these latter three and within the oceans.
Beta Canum’s axial tilt is just under 19 degrees, causing the planet to have much larger polar regions than Earth, but making seasonal temperature variations less on the planet as a whole. Weather patterns on Beta Canum are much milder than on Earth as well.
Life forms are abundant on Beta Canum, but as on Earth, they vary greatly from continent to continent. The oceans also teem with life, both plant and animal, although only a very small percentage of types has been catalogued to date. Two general statements can be made about Beta Canum life forms: (1) Plant life on the planet is very similar in function to Terran plant life, although form is usually very different, and (2) The dominant pattern for animal life, although warm-blooded and viviparous, is much closer to Terran reptiles than to Terran mammals (the closest Terran parallel would actually be some of the later dinosaurs).
One of the most important differences between Terran life forms and those indigenous to Beta Canum lies in the natural selection of amino acids. All of Beta Canum’s life developed utilizing dextro amino acids (right-handed) versus the terrestrial choice of levo amino acids (left-handed). What this means is that terrestrial life (including humans) can derive no nutrition from the ingestion of any of Beta Canum’s forms, and vice-versa. If either form does ingest some of the other, the body’s enzymes get tied up in the attempt to break down the food, but are unable to. If this continues, the body cannot get the amino acids required and the result is malnutrition (leading to death, if the diet continues). The most insidious aspect of this scenario is that one can die of starvation on a full stomach!
The one exception to this rule involves Beta Canum’s “insects,” which have demonstrated some ability to adapt themselves to Terran ecosystems, given sufficient time (usually a few decades). If handled carefully, they could be a useful tool in adapting Beta Canum to human needs. On the other hand, they could also become a rampant plague upon human agriculture on the planet, as has already happened once during the grain blights of 2268 to 2271.
Beta Canum offers several valuable resources to humanity. Its rugged mountain ranges, particularly on the northern half of the eastern continent, hold rich deposits of metal mineral ores. There has even been some tantalum discovered in the eastern continent’s mountains, although deposits have been very small to this point. With its comfortable weather and gravity, together with its scenic beauty, Beta Canum is also a famous vacation spot. Besides the appeal of many of the cities on the mainlands, tourist resorts have been developed on a few of the major islands as well. Greenford, a center of tourism on the large island just off the western arm of the central continent, has enjoyed particular success. But perhaps most importantly, as the vast tracts of sunny land on the eastern and western continents are being adapted to Terran agriculture, Beta Canum is becoming increasingly more important as an exporter of food along the French Arm. It is estimated that by the year 2350, 70 percent of the foodstuffs shipped on the French Arm will originate from Beta Canum. This figure may be somewhat misleading, as many of the other colony worlds in this region of space are agriculturally self-supporting, so nowhere near 70 percent of the food consumed along the French Arm will originate from Beta Canum, but the statistic demonstrates nonetheless that agriculture will be a very important resource for Beta Canum in the foreseeable future.
The Beta Canum Venaticorum system was first visited by human starships in 2181. These were French starships exploring under the auspices of the European Space Agency. From 2182 until 2202, detailed surveys of the system were performed by a research team from Das Astronomischen Rechen-lnstitut. The other seven planets in the system were found to hold too little in the way of needed resources to make further study worth the effort. Most effort was spent on the study of Beta Canum Venaticorum-4, which looked to be a real treasure. They established their base of operations on the northernmost tip of Beta Canum’s southern continent.
Three years later, in 2205, the French began a major colonization effort on the eastern continent, followed two years later by a Bavarian colony on the western continent and a more modest British settlement on the middle continent. The French intended to adapt their land to agriculture; the Bavarians, once they had a viable colony going, intended to process ores; and the British simply wanted to establish themselves as a link in the world’s developing economic chain-they concentrated on service industries such as transportation, and on the export of rare and beautiful plants and animals from the middle continent’s jungles.
Initial ESA personnel assigned to oversee development of Beta Canum Venaticorum-4 had a very business-like turn of mind. No imaginative names were invented for the planets of the system, and the fourth planet’s three major continents were simply divided among the three main members of ESA: France, Britain, and Bavaria. In ESA files, the three colonies were called simply the French, British, and Bavarian colonies, and the continents the French, British, and Bavarian continents. Over the course of the years, these names stuck. The British Continent tried to liven things up, when on the 50th anniversary the colony’s founding it changed its name to New Africa, a name which has struggled to catch on. In 2293, the Bavarian Continent changed to the German Continent as a result of the War of German Reunification.. Names of local cities and regions are, of course, much more imaginative, as they were devised by the colonists themselves.
In 2240, the Bavarians, who had been actively mining since 2211 , discovered small, scattered tantalum deposits. Immigration ballooned in what was subsequently called “the Tantalum Boom.” In the space of just a couple of decades, immigration more than doubled the existing population on Beta Canum. In 2261, the Pentapods, first contacted by humans in 2251 at DM+27 2821, requested to build an enclave on Beta Canum’s western continent’s western shore. That request was quickly approved by all ESA governments, in the desire to establish stronger ties with this strange race of bioengineers.
In 2268, the Beta Grain Blight began. It raged across all three colonized continents in the next few years until it was halted in 2270 by a Pentapod-produced lichen later called “Terraban.” But with the crisis behind them, colonists began taking sides along national lines making all sorts of accusations about the cause of the blight. One rumor has been that one nation or another had the Pentapods create the blight in the first place, only to be called upon to end it later.
The French began work on a beanstalk on their colony in 2272. It was interrupted 10 years later by France’s involvement in the Central Asian War on Earth, and full efforts to finish it were not begun again until 2289. The beanstalk was finally completed in 2291.
In 2293, due to the War of German Reunification on Earth, Beta Canum’s Bavarian colonists found themselves no longer members of the ESA. Tensions between French and Bavarian-now-German-colonists escalated, especially when German employees of the Bavarian firm that designed the beanstalk were laid off. Later, when a number of beanstalk capsules came loose and fell to their destruction, the French claimed it was the work of German saboteurs; the Germans claimed it was French incompetence.
Over the last six years from 2294 until 2300, tensions have continued to escalate. Beta Canum’s French colonists have grown more ethnocentric and its German colonists have grown more belligerent. The fact that the Kafer War has been raging further out along the French Arm has done nothing to soothe Beta Canum’s troubled waters.
Major spots to see when visiting Beta Canum are the beanstalk (especially its space facility), the Pentapod enclave, the French Continent’s capital city of Premiere, the British colony’s tourist city of Greenford (on the northern island between the French and British continents), the German Continent’s capital city of Uethen and its Handschuheim University, and the ESA city of Adrian on the southern continent,-a tribute to mankind’s finest achievements in art and science.
The French Continent
The majority of the French Continent may be viewed as very similar to the American Midwest. The rich soil and regular, gentle rainfall combined with the moderate temperatures year-round make it ideal for farming, once the land has been cleared for Terran crops.
France lost some prestige and power on Earth after the Central Asian War, but her prestige remained high on Beta Canum as she returned to the ambitious project of constructing a beanstalk on that world, with the direction of an engineering firm from her ally Bavaria. Beta Canum.would soon be able to compete in a market area with a radius extending almost all.of the way back to .Earth, giving the French a near-monopoly on food products in the French Arm.
The beanstalk was completed and began operation in 2291. Use of the catapults and scramjet fields declined to such an extent that the French and British shut theirs down; the Bavarians kept theirs open only because of the catapult’s usefulness in sending inorganic materials such as semi-processed ores into orbit.
The British Continent
When Britain began her colony on Beta Canum in 2207, she accepted the smallest and most difficult to tame of the three habitable continents. She did not put much official effort into colonization, but instead relied on those British citizens on Earth who had a strong desire to tame a wilderness.
The British Continent is the third largest of Beta Canum’s land masses, and the smallest of the three which are colonized. With its vast regions of forest and rain forest and its broad areas of veldt, the British Continent bears many similarities to Africa, with the addition of a rugged, storm-battered northern coast. And as in Africa, the warm, humid climate fosters a multitude of exotic, colorful plants and animals. These similarities have gave rise to the term “New Africa’’ among the colonists, and they picture themselves as repeating the efforts of their ancestors on Earth, who explored the original Africa.
From the very beginning, Britain did not aim to compete with the French or the Bavarians. Instead, she had two goals in accepting the smallest and least farmable of the three inhabitable continents on Beta Canum. Her primary goal was to gain some leverage in obtaining a better area on future worlds-by diplomatically accepting the least impressive of the choices on Beta Canum, she could legitimately claim that she ought to be compensated by getting first pick from other worlds which might be discovered in the French Arm. Britain also realized that while France and Bavaria were pouring their resources into the development of their new colonies, she could preserve her resources for the quick development of future colonies.
Britain’s secondary goal was that if her colony could not be a leading force on Beta Canum, it could at least be made indispensable to the others. For this reason, she spent some of the resources she would have liked to save in creating a transportation system which would carry the French Continent’s crop surpluses to the Bavarians and the Bavarian Continent’s ores to the French. The first goal was realized just 10 years after the British colony on Beta Canum began. Britain got the opportunity to establish a new colony at Henry’s Star. The second goal took a few years longer. In 2222, the British Colony officially opened a transcontinental airfilm train line.
The German Continent
At the time that Beta Canum was first colonized, Bavaria was an ally of France and a member of ESA . For 86 years, the majority of Beta Canum’s history, the third continent was known as the Bavarian Continent, and interaction between the French and the Bavarian colonies was friendly. Each colony produced commodities that the other needed, and trade was the order of the day. Earth’s War of German Reunification changed all of that. Bavaria became a part of Germany, and the Bavarian Continent became the German Continent. At the same time, the French became more nationalistic (paranoically so in the estimation of the Bavarian colonists).
Nearly half of the continent lies within Beta Canum’s Northern Frigid Zone. The southern half of the continent lies within the Northern Temperate Zone and the Torrid Zone. The German colony also claims the two large islands which occupy the Southern Temperate Zone. Weather on the northern half of the continent is almost constantly windy and cold, particularly north of the mountain chain where snowfall is an almost daily occurrence. The southern half of the continent is quite a bit more inviting. As with the French Continent, the altitude here is uniformly high enough to prevent excessive rainfall; if anything, the southern half of the German Continent is even drier than the central French
Colonization of the German Continent began with a Bavarian colony in 2207, the same year in which the British began their colony. From the beginning, the emphasis of the colony was on mining the Ludwigberge Mountains. A catapult was built at Uethen, the colony’s capitol, for the purpose of sending partly processed ores into orbit, where interstellar freighters could pick them up. Within four years, a steady flow of ores was moving to other worlds on the French Arm. This flow increased in 2240 when tantalum was discovered at the northwest end of the mountain chain. The flow of immigrants to Beta Canum, and particularly to the Bavarian colony, increased markedly, and small prospecting companies flocked to the Ludwigberges in hopes of finding a vein of the precious metal for themselves. But mining was not all that the Bavarian colony did; some emphasis had been placed upon farming the fertile basin which surrounded Jurgenburg and upon raising livestock (mainly beef) in paddocks of imported Terran grass around the capitol city of Uethen.
The Southern Continent
Although the greater part of the Southern Continent is not habitable, the continent has nonetheless been useful to certain groups. As Beta Canum is the gateway to the frontier of the French Arm, it has been helpful to locate branch offices of several international organizations there. By placing these offices on the Southern Continent, a neutral ground was created in which these corporations could avoid the appearance of ties to any particular nation. That neutral ground also serves as a natural spot for diplomats from various nations to meet.
All of the continent but the very tip of its northward-reaching peninsula lies within Beta Canum’s Southern Frigid Zone, and as a consequence, is uninhabitable. The peninsula’s northern tip, however, is warmed somewhat by an ocean current which sweeps south and west from off the southern coast of the British Continent. The weather which results is uniformly cool but mild.
In 2182, when das Astronomischen Rechen-lnstitut came to map the Beta Canum Venaticorum system, it set up its main ground base on the northern tip of the Southern Continent’s peninsula. The French had already staked a claim to the largest of the habitable continents, and the lnstitut knew that other nations would soon be following. As the directors of the lnstitut wanted to remain free from political ties, the Southern Continent seemed to be a perfect location for the establishment of their offices. A site was found on the eastern coast where a large natural harbor lay nestled within a semicircle of low, weathered mountains. Here the lnstitut set up a fusion plant for their power needs and built their offices and other facilities. The head of the lnstitut named the location “Adrian,” in honor of Jean Adrian, the commander of the French exploratory squadron which had visited the system under the authority of ESA.
Over the next several decades, ESA devoted much time and effort towards making Adrian a truly international city, a center of art and learning which would naturally become the capital of the entire world of Beta Canum. accomplishing these goals. The most advanced architectural procedures were used in the building of public buildings, and Adrian soon boasted the most beautiful offices, the best theaters, libraries, schools, and hospitals, and the most prestigious university within the French Arm. This naturally attracted the very rich; consequently, Adrian also soon contained the most beautiful homes as well. Drawn by this dedication to excellence, other corporations soon set up offices at Adrian. A partial list of those offices includes Rebco, Zapamoga, The Life Foundation, and Consulates from most nations on Earth.
Then came Earth’s War of German Reunification and France’s beanstalk. Beta Canum was no longer a world of allies united by a common cause. Premiere began to compete with Adrian for the attentions of visitors to Beta Canum. Adrian was still an excellent location for organizations to whom an international status was important, but to others, Adrian was losing her glamor. Adrian still boasts beautiful offices and homes, but many of them are empty now, and her plans to become the capital of a world have fallen to dust.