The Colonies of Beyond Sector: Elizabeth

The colonists who arrived at Elizabeth had a near miss. Had they arrived slightly earlier (geologically speaking), they would have found their world an uninhabitable volcanic hellhole. As it is, they instead stepped off the colony ship and into a veritable paradise. Blessed with an abundance of rich volcanic soil and a temperate climate, Elizabeth was destined to become an agricultural powerhouse.

Governance of the colony was vested in the imaginatively named Land Council. The head of each household was permitted to attend and vote, provided they owned the requisite amount of land. Ownership of land was determined by the area that one group could work and keep productive, and it was felt that only those who were truly invested in the world could be trusted to govern it properly. Initially, this qualification was modest enough that almost every family attended the Land Council. As the population increased the threshold was gradually increased to maintain the Council at a workable size. This lead to several family groups amalgamating to form single large families, and hence meet the threshold for attendance at the council. Now, the requirement is set at 65 million hectares per family.

Once contact was established with the other worlds of Beyond Sector, Elizabeth quickly became the breadbasket of the sector. While most worlds were self-sufficient in food as a matter of necessity, Elizabeth was able to produce food in such quantities that even after shipping costs they could compete with domestic production. Some worlds embraced this new supply while others imposed tariffs to protect their domestic producers, but almost everyone bought food from Elizabeth.

The creation of gene-modding technology revolutionised agriculture on Elizabeth. Previously, the limiting factor in the productivity of estates on Elizabeth had been manpower. The overwhelming cultural importance of owning productive agricultural land had stunted the development of any local industry, and so automated machinery was expensive and imported from off world. Unable to manufacture enough gene-mods to keep up with demand, Helen’s World opted to sell templates for certain patterns of gene-mod and allow the customer to produce from that template. In a landmark ruling, the Land Council ruled that the creation of gene-mods was agriculture, just like raising cattle, and hence families were able to dedicate land to their production without risking their political and social standing. Within a decade, gene-mod labourers outnumbered the citizen population by a ratio of 1000:1. It was this employment of gene-mods which would lead to an attempted invasion by Matisse (repelled with Kentai assistance), and the creation of the Elizabeth Militia Fleet from converted grain transports.

During the Reunification War, the Imperial Navy ordered Rear Admiral Hiram Burrows to assume command of a small task force of battlecruisers and light cruisers and conduct raids against shipping in Beyond Sector. The loss of numerous freighters loaded with grain caused food shortages on several worlds and threatened to collapse the economy of Elizabeth entirely. The Elizabeth Militia Fleet proved ineffective against hardened warships and was incapable of preventing the Imperial 86th Assault Army from making planetfall. Surface resistance was desultory, with the Land Council agreeing to surrender once the Imperial forces had occupied the main space elevators.

Since Reunification, Elizabeth has thrived. The New Beyonder worlds of Yang 3 and Jasmine are utterly dependent on Elizabethan food supplies, and the core sectors of the Empire are a bottomless market for any surplus Elizabeth can produce. The Imperial Navy keeps the trade routes mostly free from piracy, and the Militia has been allowed to degrade to a mostly ceremonial force.

There are essentially three social castes on Elizabeth. The first is the enfranchised heads of families and their immediate kin. They own the land, can vote in the Land Council, and generally reap the benefits of Elizabeth’s prosperity. Social seniority is determined firstly by the length of time a given family has sat on the Land Council, and secondly by the amount of land farmed. The second is the gene-mod labourers making up the vast bulk of the population. With no independent will or emotions, they cause no problems directly. However, certain worlds in Beyond Sector are violently opposed to the technology and have repeatedly petitioned the Governor to declare it illegal.

The third group is the most troublesome, and that is the fully human population of Elizabeth who are not entitled to sit on the Land Council. They work as gene-mod supervisors, in the small service sector, or as skilled workers such as doctors, lawyers, and brokers. While they generally live comfortable and moderately prosperous lives, they have no political power and are nowhere near as wealthy as the landowners. After joining the Empire and gaining access to a bottomless market for its produce, Elizabeth has undergone a second rapid expansion, and for the first time in history a generation of Elizabethans has grown up knowing that all of Elizabeth is now farmed and there is no new land to claim. This effectively eliminates any chance of this disenfranchised group joining the Land Council. At present, discontent is limited to graffiti and other youthful bad behaviour, but some elements of the Land Council are pressing for action to address the issue.