The twin planets of Harmony are named for an ideal, and the reality strikes many foreign visitors as ironic. Harmony is a vibrant, dynamic and often chaotic world. “Balance is the key” may be the motto of the biplanetary government, a loose alliance of many small states, but in Harmonian culture it is a balance of many opposing forces that has lead to centuries of peaceful development. It is a harmony of many distinct voices that governs the people of the Fulcrum system, who value individuality,personal freedom and argument highly.
Balance if the key
Easy transport between two garden worlds
Harmony is not one planet, but two. The worlds orbit a common centre of gravity as they circle Fulcrum, their sun. They are separate astronomical entities but close enough to make space travel between the planets economically viable, even in periods when the technology of spaceflight was relatively primitive. The atmospheres of the planets are separate, but asteroid impacts and freak meteorological events are believed to have transferred primitive life between the planets, resulting in related (though distinct) non-Terre ecosystems on each. Existing in parallel with these alien ecosystems is an imported Terre ecosystem which includes “bridging organisms” almost certainly created by the original Terre colonists. These organisms – mostly bacterial – break down native biochemicals into chemicals compatible with Terre-derived life, and vice-versa.
The mass and basic composition of the Twin Planets is virtually identical, but chance differences have lead to the evolution of very different landscapes. On Harl, shallow seas, quasicoral reefs and small islands dominate the world, while on Jag the terrain is shaped by a land-dwelling coral-like organism that has created vast and eerily-twisted mountain ranges, many of which cover the planet’s natural oceans. Differences in the ecologies of the planets have given rise to a warmer, wetter climate on Jag, and monsoon weather patters regularly sweep over the whole world. Harl experiences more active volcanism, with new islands forming every century or so and land masses sometimes sinking into the oceans. Harl-Harmonians mostly live aboard fleets of large sea vessels, but there are several notable and highly urbanised islands in the more stable regions.
The natural environments of both Jag and Harl offer an extremely hospitable environment to humans. The worlds are mineral-rich and are abundant with native life that can be easily processed into food. Gravity and temperature range are thought to approximate that of ancient Terra. Several of the local life-forms are useful for other purposes too, such as the architectural corals of Jag.
Harmony was the first world reached by the New Wave that set out from what is now called the Consensus System many thousand years ago. The slip-ships that arrived at the twin planets were extremely primitive by modern Consensan standards and did not use the organic drive technology that is the key to efficient slipstream navigation, and their drives were so badly degraded by their jumps that any travel between the systems was effectively a one-way journey. Pre-Consensan settlers therefore mingled with Harmonian natives, who welcomed the newcomers with open arms. The settlers helped the Harmonian natives of both worlds develop air- and spacecraft that allowed travel between the twin planets and brought the disparate cultures into contact for the first time since the Cycle began anew. With the settlers’ mediation, this contact was entirely peaceful, and the various nations of both planets developed over the next five centuries along distinct but interconnecting paths.
For reasons unknown this first technological culture declined about 2,000 years before contact with the modern Consensus. There was no biplanetary trauma: no signs of war, plague or other such crisis have ever been discovered, and from what records remain of that time it seems that the people of the Twin Planets simply abandoned most of their highest technology. Communication between the planets continued but travel declined and eventually ceased. Computers and the electronic records of the culture were either lost, or destroyed. The Harmonian Way was, by that time, the dominant religious/philosophical system across the Twin Planets and some believe that the Harmonians decided that certain technologies were not conducive to a harmonious, balanced life.
A technological renaissance occurred approximately 300 years ago and almost 100 years before contact with the modern Consensus, which had been observing the culture covertly for some time. Harmony has redeveloped many important technologies independThently of Consensus, notably those of space travel and information technology. The biplanetary information network of Harmony is the most advanced system of its kind beyond Consensus, and maintaining the network is one of the most important functions of the supranational government.
The Present Day
Modern-day Harmony is an alliance of small states – the Fleets of Harl and the City-States of Jag – and a biplanetary network of individuals. State power and importance has declined over the last century and many Harmonians describe their civilisation as “post-national”. This continuing social development was enabled by the establishment of a sophisticated computer network and the introduction of mubiquitous computing technology: Harmonians today are likely to have networked computers built into their eyeglasses, clothing or hand tools. Personal weapons, vehicles and other potentially dangerous technology are not regulated by law so much as monitored by the whole community via built-in processors and memory nodes.
Harmonians distrust power and are highly individualistic. They are a co-operative people, but their love of argument and the cultural necessity of allowing every voice to be heard can slow the process of decision-making quite dramatically. States and corporations face a constant battle to win and maintain the trust of the citizens, and are regularly torn down in peaceful revolutions. The most popular form of collective enterprise are the “syndicates of citizens”, usually shortened to “syndics” in local argot, but even syndics established by the most respected groups do not last long in the turbulent socio-economic enviroment of Harmony.
The Harmonious Confederacy of Jag-Harl is the official name of the Harmonian government, though its full form is almost never invoked by Harmonians and is seen only on official documents. The Confederacy maintains a small military force based around aerospace carries capable of rapidly moving forces between the twin worlds. The constitutional role of the military is to protect the Twin Planets from foreign aggression, to keep the peace between the states and to provide a rapid response force in the event of disaster. In the current era, the military is often required to intercept immigrant and refugee vessels.
The Harmonian Way
The Way is a popular system of spiritual philosophy that has exerted a strong influence on Harmonian life for over two millennia. The Way emphasises co-operation, the search for diversity and the peaceful resolution of differences, while discouraging the “silencing of the other’s voice”. Communication in all forms is an expression of the Way, which has lead some outsiders to accuse the Harmonians of believing they have a God-given right to talk too much.
The old orthodoxy also includes a belief in an individual mortal soul and a God whose existence is supervenient upon the “human song”. Modern versions of the belief system are more diverse, and some dispense with one or both of these elements. Many modern Harmonians are not religious or even remotely spiritual (and many experiment with existential, nihilistic or alien philosophies before returning to the Way), but as diversity is seen by adherents of the Way as strengthening God this apostasy is not usually perceived as threatening.
The Network and the reputation economy
The Network is a single virtual society that connects all Harmonians. It is maintained by a supranational government