Wednesday, April 02, 2014

an outer space thing

So here’s an idea I woke up with this morning.  Writing this thing at the same time as my Cultural Theory homework was really weird.

The Peace of Vann
The Peace of Vann is one of the oddest known interstellar polities.  At the last galactic census it numbered 55 worlds scattered across 6 sectors of the galaxy.  These worlds are not connected by any known FTL routes.  None of the planets in the Peace of Vann can be designated its capital world, a subject of extreme curiosity even on member-worlds of the polity itself.  

The procedure for a world to join the Peace has been the same for the entirety of the present cycle of interstellar civilization: occasionally a seemingly random assortment of worlds will simultaneously receive brief radio transmissions that application for membership may be made at a certain location.  The last such application period, 176 years ago, involved at least 32 planets scattered across four different sectors all receiving the message “The Peace of Vann is now accepting applications for new member worlds.  Please send a delegate to Susarik-4 to apply.”  

Delegations from twenty-seven worlds arrived at Susarik-4, a lifeless asteroid in neutral space with a previously uncharted starbase apparently constructed specifically to receive applicants.  An unprecedented two out of twenty-five applications were accepted (zero or one new member is typical), leading to Reyjar’s World and Monubarra joining the Peace.  The last two delegations to arrive were ignored, as if either an unstated deadline to apply had elapsed or the limit on new applications or admissions had been reached.  

(Three of the remaining 5 planets invited to apply were balkanized worlds that could not agree on who to send as delegates.  One of these worlds, Rimbak-12, escalated the conflict into a full scale atomic-powered planetary war and effectively self-destructed over the issue.  The planet Sessuratamak, ruled by religious separatists, opted not to apply.  Another invited world, Venubajh Minor, has no known intelligent inhabitants.  An automated navigational beacon in orbit around the lifeless iceball planet recorded the invitation, but it was only discovered during routine maintenance several years later.) in the Peace of Vann does not dispel the enigma surrounding the polity, as, beyond the application process, no contact is ever made with Peace officials.  Admitted worlds enjoy two material benefits from membership in the Peace: the protection of the Peace of Vann navy and the use of the Peace of Vann transport network.  Both benefits seem to make use of a single ship each.  The Peace of Vann navy consists of a lone vessel the size of a typical interstellar cruiser of the present era.  It appears whenever the space surrounding a member world is threatened by invasion, pirate activity, orbital bombardment, etc.  This vessel, dubbed the Peacemaker by outside observers (there has never been contact with its crew, if any), has never failed to defeat any threat.  Reports of it sustaining damage in its swift victories are unverified.

The other vessel in the official fleet of the Peace of Vann is known simply as the Transport.  While outclassed by some megafreighters in terms of sheer size, it is the largest commercial vessel known to land on a planet with an atmosphere.  No one has ever met the crew of the Transport or visited a primary section of the ship (engineering, bridge, etc.).  Upon landing, the six cargo pods of the Transport open automatically, allowing unrestricted embarking and disembarking; it is up to local officials to control this activity, if so desired.  New member worlds general require a few visits from the Transport (which generally occur once or twice a year at irregular intervals)  to work out their relationship with the new influx of passengers and/or cargo from far-flung worlds.

The protection of the Peacemaker ensures the absolute security of the member worlds of the Peace of Vann while the Transport enables a minimum amount of cultural and economic exchange between members, but these advantages come with significant economic and political ramifications.  Member worlds in troubled regions of space often become havens for refugees, sanctuaries for interstellar criminal cartels, and banking centers that tend to vacuum capital out of less stable worlds.  The small but steady influx of ideas, technologies and peoples from distant sectors tends to destabilize the economic and ideological status quo of the region.  

Additionally it should be noted that the Peace of Vann regularly invites applications from worlds that are already under the purview of another interstellar government.  Initially, the entry of the world into the Peace of Vann is hailed as a benefit to the entire polity.  But at some point conflict between the member-world and its government leads to a parting of the ways.  Often this comes in the form of the member-world figuring out that it no longer needs to pay taxes.  In one case a government, the Krimchek Dodecalliance, actually moved its capital to the newly admitted member of the Peace.  This policy led to nearly fifty years of prosperity for the Dodecalliance, until it ran afoul of the Peace of Vann’s rules of interstellar conduct.

The enforcers of the Peace do not publish their code of interstellar conduct.  However, it is known that any member world pursuing interstellar wars of aggression will stop receiving visits from either the Transport or the Peacemaker.  Other offenses to the sensibilities of the Peace can also lead to interdiction, as when member-world Uluri Beta began importing slave labor.  In each case the interdiction ended soon after a change in local policy.  Who sets these mostly unknown rules and how worlds are monitored for compliance are just as great a mystery as the other riddles surrounding the Peace of Vann.

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