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Uranus and the Athelan Superstructure

Tilted cryojovian world in the Old Solar system, now encased in a suprashell megastructure

Athelan
Image from Steve Bowers
The Athelan megastructure is suspended 15,000km above the cloudtops of Uranus.
Skolian ice giant in SolSys, a relatively early target for exploitation and mining. Deuterium and He3 mining was easy here because of its relatively low escape velocity, lower than any other gas giant in Solsys. Power could also be extracted from the planet's moderate magnetic field, which is tilted at a significant angle from the rotation pole.

A number of colonies were established on the moons, in orbital habs, and beginning in 260 AT as bubblehabs in the atmosphere.

After the Technocalypse the local economy recovered quite quickly, mostly thanks to He-3 extraction and mining of the planet's several moons and minimal ring system. An influx of refugees from the inner system, most notably ex-Martian colonists who founded the city of New Robinson on Oberon, brought new influences into the Uranian system at this time.

The various Uranian polities reached their own accords with one another and achieved relative peace and prosperity by the close of the Dark Ages and were for the most part reluctant and late members of the First Federation.

During the Early First Federation period, miners disturbed a hidden ahuman AI from beneath the crust of Titania. Casualties were significant before this entity could be made safe (some rumours suggest that the entity was merely rendered inactive by Federation transapients and stored for further study).

Currently the inhabitants are affiliated to a greater or lesser degree with the Solar Organization Since 8000a.t. this planet has been the locattion for the construction of a giant suprashell megastructure, known as Athelan.

The Athelan Suprashell

Introduction

In the Current Era, the Uranian system is dominated by the as-yet complete suprashell of Athelan which hosts 90% of the gas giant's residents. Home to 42 billion physical sophonts and a small, 6 billion strong virtual population, the 80,000km diameter shell has had a turbulent history. Preceded by millennia of politicking just for approval and marred by the Autarkate scandals in its early history the locale has a reputation for radical (even immature) culture by the rest of Solsys. This reputation persists despite the fact Athelan has enjoyed stability this last few centuries.

Structure

The Athelan suprashell is suspended ~15,000km above the upper clouds of Uranus giving it Mars-equivalent surface gravity. Its main layer, known as the scaffold, consists of thousands of dynamic orbital rings evenly arranged into a spherical configuration. The scaffold was completed in 8226a.t and does not completely shroud Uranus, there being many regular gaps between the rings. Upon this sits the outer geodesic layer comprised of 200,000 triangular cells ~480km to a side; in total the shell boasts 40x the surface area of Earth. It is this layer which plays home to the shell's residents. Cells are isolated from each other by boundary walls (often decorated as natural features such as mountains) over ten kilometers in height. This relative isolation allows for a variety of engineered/natural environments. Tunnels within the boundaries can be programmed for neighbouring cells to be as interconnected as they like.

To date only 21% of cells are in use and inhabited. Unused cells remain incomplete with no floor layer, allowing any observer above to see through to the scaffold and beyond. When a cell is opened for use its floor is grown from the boundary walls, a process that takes approximately one month. Atmosphere is pumped in, soil deposited and an ecosystem gestated. Large groups of inhabited, neighbouring cells are termed "Cellular Continents" and are often home to multicellular cultures. The largest continent, Kotchyin, boasts some 11,000 interconnected cells and is home to over half of Athelan's population.

History - Construction

Over the long history of Solsys virtually every kind of megaproject for every major body has been publicly discussed. However the roots of the modern Athelan suprashell reach back to just 6911a.t. Records show that the first suggestion came from Henryets Sangoi from Mars (a senior member of the Arean Expansion Society). The AES was a minor party in the Republic Senate that espoused semi-radical opinions regarding the perceived "lack of Martian living space". They privately sponsored colony missions, Arean terraforming projects and Mars-style hab construction throughout the Terragen sphere, but on Mars itself they had little power or influence. This situation galled the members, particularly the younger ones (less than a century old) that were carriers of patriotic memes and frustrated with the highly regulated and conservative Martian society. In 6911a.t. the AES held a conference in one of the sub-surface levels of Hellas Ocean Arcology. There, in the darkened waters, debates raged on the best way to promote Martian culture. The conference members quickly latched on to the notion that their current efforts were not sufficient and that Solsys itself should be their focus. More orbital bands, A-brains for Double-virch worlds and even artificial planets were all tabled. Nothing was agreed upon until, on the eve of the last night, Henryets uploaded a suprashell design into the localnet. The plan was audacious, surround one of the system's gas giants with a suprashell of sufficient size to have Mars-equivalent gravity, upon which Arean environments could be constructed many times larger than the father world. The idea was very popular and became the flagship policy for the party.

Perhaps unsurprisingly the AES gained no traction for their proposal, not least due to the opposition of the 10 billion residents of the Uranian system (at least those who even heard of the bizarre proposal by a minor Martian party). For centuries the suprashell idea ebbed and flowed in popularity, barely reaching mainstream attention. The AES continually petitioned the Solar Org for a formal debate on the topic but failed to gain the required support metrics for quorum. In 7.682a.t. the AES disbanded, splitting into a few splinter groups that possessed even less political clout than the original party. The suprashell proposal was officially dead, forgotten beyond local trivia about a mad Martian group. The following three centuries have received intense scrutiny from historians and transapient scholars alike. The object of their study has been to identify how this dead, marginal idea came to be fervently agreed upon by Uranians in 7990a.t. In the last decade of the 8th millennium the denizens of Uranus, its moons and orbital bands held a debate by tribe mind to decide upon a project to mark the coming of the new era. Heavily supplemented by vot labour the discussion lasted a couple of days with most citizens being absent for just a few hours out of the whole. When consensus annealed it revealed the Athelan Suprashell project to be the final decision. The response across Solsys was one of acute shock; no analyst had predicted this outcome. Crash studies revealed subtle signs of pro-megastructure, anti-conservation memes in the Uranian population that were previously missed. Many suspect transapient-level cultural engineering, possibly by an ex AES member (two of which did go onto ascend, though both left Solsys), but none has ever been proven. In the year to follow a second, albeit lesser, surprise came when the Solar Org approved the measure with no Veto. On the first second of Archimedes, 8000a.t., construction began.

Mass for the suprashell came mostly from the moon Titania. The hundred million strong local population gave up the moon in return for priority land claim rights for the first five hundred years of the shell's existence. As they were emigrating significant infrastructure was constructed upon and around the moon using ultratech designs made available by a Solar Organisation technology and development taskforce. Over five years a self propagating network of mining smart matter grew over the surface. Powered by thousands of conversion reactors material was scrapped from the moon layer-by-layer before being boosted from equatorial launch loops into low Uranus orbit. The streams of rock and ice intercepted with a Deep Well Industrial Zone (DWIZ) for bulk transmutation; intricate manipulation by magmatter herders in the accretion disk led to processed materials sling-shotting out of the DWIZ to meet with the growing rings at the exact points they were needed. Over the following two centuries the shell was steadily grown with it's official opening marked by a ceremony that bestowed the suprashell with its name: Athelan. The Titanian smart matter network dismantled itself and, out of respect to its former residents, the DWIZ black hole was re-positioned inside the moon bringing its surface gravity back to its former level, despite having lost ~80% of its mass and half its diameter.

Early Settlement of the Suprashell

The first few decades of Athelan saw the opening of hundreds of cells to immigrants from SolSys and beyond. A majority of Uranian denizens abandoned their habs and moons to come live on the megastructure. By the end of the first century however sociologists and other commenters were worried. Athelan culture was becoming marked with increasing displays of ennui and frustration. Cell growth stalled, cultural trends became unstable and short lived, political discontent was high despite the expanse of living space available. It soon became obvious to anyone with a net connection and a SocioVot that a severe psychosocial backlash was looming due to an overhyping of the suprashell's importance. During its construction it became a quite symbol of the future, of a promised dynamism unheard of in the Terragen cradle system since the Age of Expansion. Yet since its completion life continued the same. Cultural fashions were just revivals or variants of those seen a thousand times before, the political and economic system would be recognisable to any autotopia resident. One study identified a profound undercurrent of embarrassment among the Uranians that they had embarked on an audacious project to achieve nothing of note afterwards. So constant was this theme throughout the 83rd and 84th centuries that it was concluded to be a result of crude memetic engineering. It is widely believed that the unexpected enthusiasm for the project was the result of transapient interference, but that said transapient did not account for the long term effects of such an effort. Some data pointed to an ex-AES ascended living in the MPA as the originator, a hypothesis favoured due to the evidence said transapient was suspected of minor perversion, but why the Solar Organisation allowed it happen is a mystery to this day (if the theory holds).

The Windy Leaf

The mid 84th century saw a turnaround for Athelan. A spiritualist organisation known as the Windy Leaf formed on Oberon that sought to quell the social woes of Athelan. Espousing guided cognitive modification and group mind meditation their movement broadcast throughout the local Net, gaining millions of followers in short order. The central teachings of not fighting one's situation but working together to conform to reality were a hit with the otherwise frustrated socities of the megastructure. After just fifteen years over two thirds of Athelanites identified as Windy Leaf followers. Political and social groups were reworked by the movement. Members were organised into "Nests", groups that ranged in size up to the effective cognitive social limit of the member clades (for Baseline humans Nests could be as big as 200 allowing everyone to maintain a relationship with everyone else). Each nest was headed by a small number of Branch-Gurus, mentors that would provide pastoral support and guide the group as needed. As time went on Athelan gained a reputation for being a minimalist, spiritual place. Its population grew to some thirteen billion and spread throughout new cells. It became increasingly common for urban areas to be few and far between, each inhabited by a handful of nests. The rest of SolSys considered Athelan to be an odd place but ultimately harmless. That all changed with the Minor Exodus.

In the 8400's a.t. political tensions on Mars were rising again. New groups had formed in the Senate, many of them reformed AES splinters, that chaffed against what they saw as the stagnancy and conservatism of Martian culture. They held up Sangoi (long since having left SolSys for parts unknown) as their ideological mother, creating aggressive Simms of her to project from their banners. They advocated dynamic reform of Martian society and petitioned for Mars to embark on its own megastructure project for more living space (despite the ample amount of empty land on the planet and the thick orbital bands above). Like their predecessors in the AES this Reform Alliance gained little traction or power however unlike the AES they held a disproportionately loud voice in the political scene. Increasingly they were described as disruptive troublemakers, insulting to the grand institution of the Senate (the few RA Senators scorning protocol as often as they could get away with). Finally their actions prompted a response. A bill was passed in 8420 explicitly banning any large scale terraforming, megastructure or otherwise expansionist projects on Mars for ten thousand years. The bill was largely ceremonial, an order to the angelnet that could be countermanded at any time by a senate vote, but it sent a message loud and clear that Mars was not for hot-headed Reformists. Disgusted and enraged with the result the RA nearly tore itself apart through infighting (several prominent leaders challenging each other to duels in the Labyrinthium) but was saved due to one Sogoi Simm. Anywhere it would be heard it began to chant on the RA-net: "Athelan". The Simm was later showed to be defective, a result of poor ideological tinkering, but the idea struck a chord. The RA had largely ignored the Uranian suprashell despite it being a proposal inherited from their hero. It wasn't Mars and its society was timid and strange. However sentiment grew, if they couldn't revitalise their home world they would enlighten the "windpots" (as one member called them) squatting in their predecessors ambition. In the course of two years 97 million RA members (almost the entire roster) emigrated to the outer system, an event that became known as the Minor Exodus.

The Martians were welcomed into Athelan society readily. The Branch-Gurus had slowly been given greater powers by their Nestlings; whilst the suprashell was technically a consensus cyberdemocracy protocols had been altered so that only Gurus could propose and pass policy with the general public retaining just a majority veto (records show this was never used). Knowing this a private group within the (now disbanded) RA called the Enlighteners sought to join the cabal. Rather than forming their own Nests or joining others Enlighteners travelled from place to place, observing and learning from the different Gurus they met. Outwardly they appeared sincere itinerant scholars, even in group mind meditation sessions no one observed anything less. In fact Enlightener agents were using their exoselves to suppress their true goal by hiding behind a shell personality. For much of the time they wouldn't even know themselves they were an agent but unconsciously they were working to put political power into their group's hands. Due to their covert nature information about the Enlighteners, who they were and their activities, is thin. Also practicing obfuscation techniques historians are still unclear as to what data about them is true or false. What is strongly suspected is that the first Martian Branch-Guru, Ellie Timmons Holon, was a member of the group. Once a member she formed her own nests comprised of Athelan natives and rather than stick with one would travel between them all. An odd but accepted practice, many other Gurus praised her for fusing together Windy Leaf doctrine with itinerant practice. In each nest she began to plant the seeds of an idea in the minds of her followers, ideas that would flow to other nests and other gurus through meditation. This memetic approach was not uncommon and was indeed a standard tool of the Windy Leaf, but Ellie was a master (more speculative theories claim she was a transavant, gifted with abilities by former AES transapients). Over decades she wove firmer ideals of authority, submission and hierarchy among the Athelan population. Branch-Gurus should not be seen as mentors, but parents. Subjects who protect and should be obeyed. By the end of the century many more Martians had joined the Branch-Guru ranks and whilst analyst across the system began to warn of a de-facto coup few on Athelan paid any heed. The first reform bill of the 86th century seemed minor, merely outlining a formal procedure for seniority to take precedence in cases where two Branch-Gurus disagree as to the cultural direction of a Nest. More bills followed in its wake and bit by bit Athelan culture changed from ascetic spiritualists to an authoritarian cultural dictatorship.

The Autarkate

This period, from 8550 onwards, is known as the Autarkate. The basic social organisation of Athelan was the same: nests of a few score/hundred members headed by a Branch-Guru. However -Branch-Gurus were subservient to a Pith-Guru who, along with overseeing their own nests, would direct the activities of tens of thousands of Branches. Above the Piths in the heirachy was the Root, an individual who held dominion over all Athelan through thousands of Pith subjects. Mental bindings were engineered into the minds of all citizens of the Autarkate. These bindings enforced obedience to those above, ostensibly to allow the teachings of the Windy Leaf to be more effectively absorbed by its members. Upon being given a command by one's immediate superior an Athelanite would feel a strong sense of love, duty and urgency to follow said directive; an undercurrent of fear, anxiety and meekness provided a further incentive. In the event of a Guru at any level losing their status the network of bindings would reorganise, distributing their subjects amongst the other Gurus at their level. The strength of a binding was proportional to the number of bindings a Guru had; the more subjects to manage the weaker each binding became, allowing for looser interpretations of one's instructions. The economic system also retained a fundamental basis with credit for the autonomous commons evenly distributed amongst the population. Levy obligations existed creating an upward transfer of wealth. This socioeconomic system was widely regarded in Solsys to be a travesty, however intervention was blocked by the Solar Organisation on account of no real violation of Sophont Rights. The Autarkate had formed voluntarily and so long as no gross abuses occured no intervention could be permitted. A tempering factor was the perceived instability of the system. Gurus at all levels would seek to advance their position either through diplomacy, violence or financial manipulation. Whatever approach taken would require greater amounts of credit and the only way to get credit was to grow ones nests. However the larger population of nest members and Guru subjects any individual had the weaker their binding oaths would be, creating a greater risk that their own subjects would be able to wrestle power from them.

Life in the Autarkate was one of frequent change. Gurus formed long-lived rivalries and worked to undermine each other at every turn, both at their own level and above. Armed conflict occured but was kept limited in order to avoid Solar Organisation ire. Mostly intense competition of all kinds; financial, sporting and various esoteric forms existed between Gurus. Formal challenges were the prefered way of deposing of a rival, once enough political maneuverings had taken place to secure enough resources and strategic alliances. Back-stabbing was also common. Despite being regarded as a scandal, even an atrocity, the Autarkate was designed in such a way to prevent a permanent autocracy. The balancing of binding strength and wealth prevented any ossified command structure. Even the various Root-Gurus to be careful; whilst they had no rivals at their level the Athelan angelnet was tweaked to randomly alter the megastructure in ways large and small. A Root-Guru who maintained tight control over a few subjects could not accrue sufficient wealth to reverse these changes, leading to a more unsafe environment eventually culminating in the Root's death. This most famously occured to Root-Guru Shadia II who could not levy enough credit from her hundred Pith-Gurus (themselves unstable in their position due to overly large Branch subject numbers) to halt the growing hole in her cell floor. Whilst retreating to another cell the tunnel collapsed crushing her and her entourage. Her backup was later recovered but the system of bindings had already reorganised and after brief but heavy fighting one Pith had risen to become the new Root. The only constant in Autarkate life was the trend for Martian historevivalism. Gurus would frequently preach about the merits of various parts of Martian history and reorganise the environments and social institutions of their cells to reflect this. Phobobian hedonist courts, middle-Tharsis and Labyrinthium combat sports were amongst the most commonly revived practices.

Within Solsys the Autarkate was viewed as a scandalous travesty, something that had no place in the otherwise staid and prosperous system. Overt intervention by political actors, large and small, was forbidden by the Solar Organisation on the grounds that it would not be legal. However public sentiment that something must be done grew. Various private initiatives had been thwarted over the years as higher topsophic beings in the Organisation identified the planned military activity and halted it. But the activists remained and in 8920 a Martian superturing circulated a plan. E called upon those in the system to join em in collapsing the Autarkate. Not through violence, political sanction or commercial meddling. Es plan was kept strictly secret but was shared with security transapients within the Solar Organisation who stated that it violated no treaties. Few in the Autarkate took notice, claiming it to be the usual xenophobia from the hypocrits of the system. Afterall did not every sophont live in an autocracy under the archai, they argued (ignoring the common criticism that the Autarkate was a modosophont dictatorship that had insidiously ensnared the Athelan population). The Lumberjack plan, as it came to be known, relied upon discretion to succeed. To ensure it no sophont could actually read the plan and remember it, rather upon downloading it to their exoself they had to choose to take part or not. In either case the memory of it would be suppressed, only to be released once the go word was given. Excitement grew as more and more people downloaded the plan. No one remembered what it was, or even if they agreed to take part, but there was a palpable feeling that something would finally be done.

On the 2nd of Darwin, 8922a.t. Lumberjack was a go. The message blared throughout the known net and everyone who agreed to take part not only remembered what to do but became compelled to do so. In less than ten minutes over 11 billion sophonts from throughout the terragen sphere migrated to Athelan. The Autarkate infrastructure was nearly overwhelmed producing so many temporary bodies for the flood of migrants downloading. The threat was obvious to the Gurus, the stability of their system was a delicate balance of population numbers. Their population was about to grow by over 60%, the effect of which would cause the formation of millions of new Nests. A cascade would follow with Piths being unable to manage so many Branches. In short order they'd fragment into more Piths, more direct subjects for the Root. There the instability would have nowhere to go. Thousands of new Pith-Gurus would form completely eroding the Root's power. The reigning Root-Guru, Nikal II tried desperately to levy enough funds to change the immigration policy, but by the time he did (ironically aided by the swelling population) the damage was already done. For three days the Autarkate reeled; Gurus rose and fell, nests split and reformed, a thousand armed conflicts broke out. The power of the Root was so weak that it changed nine times until finally a member of Operation Lumberjack seized power and wealth for long enough to dissolve the Autarkate. Instantly the bindings were released and the angelnet rebooted to a default governing system.

The recovery from the collapse took a while. Athelan society was in shock. Dozens of factions attempted to direct the formation of a new government but this time the Solar Organisation did step in to provide an interim Aivisor. New cell growth in the superstructure accelerated over the following decade as many groups attempted to set up smaller communities far from the sites of the Autarkate. Gradually the wounds healed, society stabilized and Athelan returned to a governing system closer to the original Uranian cyberdemocracy.

Uranus and Miranda
Image from Steve Bowers
Uranus and Miranda before the construction of Athelan

Post-Autarkate culture and society

The period of history following the dissolution to the present has seen Athelan become vibrant and multicultural. Whilst the majority of Operation Lumberjack volunteers returned home a short time after the dissolution several hundred million chose to stay long term. This diverse cast of migrants helped shape the new culture of the megastructure as the native people struggled with their identity and past after their mental bindings were lifted. A mini-diaspora occurred in the last century of the 9th millennium with many new disperse cellular continents fabricated across the suprashell. In contrast to the far distributed/low population nests of the autarkate Athelanites now desired an even greater separation between relatively high population centres. Each new continent drifted for a time leading to a short period of political Balkanisation; sociological commentators remarked that this was to be expected while the hostile and rivalrous effects of the Autarkate dissipated. During this time the Solar Org Aivisor to Athelan (an S2 entity calling itself "Central") oversaw the day to day running of the infrastructure and the governing systems. Politics was kept local by Athelanite choice.

As the 10th millennium progressed the scars from Autarkate faded as predicted. In 9272a.t., on the 350th anniversary of Operation Lumberjack, Central outlined er plans for retirement. Over the next decade more and more angelnet controls were handed over to the Athelan global governing system. Consequently the various cellular continents drew together culturally once more. The political system of Athelan harked back to its founding routes and matured into a Consensus Direct Representative CyberDemocracy. Each citizen was entitled to utilise govware (usually directly installed in one's exoself) that would maintain a virtual political intelligent agent. These digital representatives exist within a virchworld optimised for policy development and debate. Any representative can propose a bill which is then read by forks of every other representative (providing it is well reviewed). It can be debated with other representatives free to propose variants on the policy, including proposals that counter the original bill. If multiple bills are proposed at the same time that are identified by the angelnet as conflicting (i.e. if both were to pass the angelnet has low confidence it could achieve both goals at once, perhaps because they contradict each other) they are automatically folded into the same debate as variants. A vote occurs once 5% of representatives register approval. Bills and any variants are voted on according to preference voting, i.e. representatives rank variants in the order they think would best suit the interests of their owner. If no bill achieves >50% of 1st preference votes then the variant that achieved the lowest number of 1st votes is discarded and its 2nd preference votes distributed. This process continues until one variant has a majority or the "Nay" option does (an option that rejects all variants). In this way if a bill passes it can be assured to have the highest possible level of support amongst the population. As with all cyberdemocratic systems Athelanites must regularly synchronise beliefs and values with their representative, as well as absorb debate summaries their representative has been involved in. The majority of Athelanites perform this process every month or so, spending up to twenty hours in a deep sleep.

The economic system of the suprashell is likewise familiar to many autotopia residents. The influence of a group of NoCoZo denizens that settled after Operation Lumberjack led to the adoption of an autonomous market model for post-scarcity economic organisation. Athelan operates a market capitalist system with thousands of autonomous, artificially intelligent corporations hardcoded to raise money for their shareholders by competing on quality and price across a range of goods and services. New corporations are formed frequently as corps merge and split according to market forces. Each corporation in the market must be majority owned by a legal organisation known as the Trust. The trust, by law, is equally owned by the residents of Athelan. Thus money cycles through the system into the hands of the residents in the form of dividends that they can spend in the market driving innovation and commerce.

Notable locations

With 48 billion sophonts spread over 4 billion square kilometres, Athelan is home to a wealth of environments. Multicellular societies often remove interior barriers between their cells allowing for homogenous environments that can be home to radically different biospheres to their neighbouring multicells. The list below is a brief overview of some of the most famous and culturally significant multicells on the suprashell.

Torlush: Founded by a mixed group of Hobo Sapiens and arachnoid vecs the multicellular society of Torlush spans 888 cells arranged in a network-like pattern. Unusually for cellular continents the residents programmed their environment to not include a solid floor. Instead vast webs of cables span from the perimeter of each cell. Overall cable density is low but in many places it becomes intensely thick with linker cables binding between the larger ones to create dense three dimensional nets. Within the web buildings and infrastructure are enmeshed but can be moved about as needed by gliding along the main transport lines. Visitors to Torlush are advised to seek modification to remove any vertigo response and install safety ainsticts for climbing. Safety is noted to be lax in this continent and there's always a risk that a faller wont be caught in time by orbiting drones.

Reena: Also known as the Circle Sea the cellular continent of Reena spans the entire equator of the suprashell. It is the only continent to do so, possessing 5250 cells arranged in five adjacent bands. Primarily an aquatic environment Reena has steadily grown over the past three centuries by a growing population of biopolity enthusiasts. The sea of the continent spans two hundred meters above the cell floor, however at the same time sailors of the ocean would notice it to be very shallow. This is due to a single superorganism that inhabits the entire cellular continent: The Megacoral. Based off of a breed found in a distant system of the Sophic League the megacoral is a large, spongy mycelial life form. The coral grows from the sea floor to near the surface, breaking through in many places to form small islands. The structure is far from solid however with arches, tunnels, caverns and other gaps in abundance, all hosting a dizzying array of marine life. Needless to say the majority of sophonts living in Reena are aquatic adapted.

Olo'ls: Despite its small size of just fifty cells Olo'ls is notable for its 200 million strong To'ul'hs population. Unlike the vast majority of cells in Athelan Olo'ls is worldhoused in order to maintain the extremely high pressure of the To'ul'hs environment. The biosphere inside the cells is mostly standard for a To'ul'hs habitat however modifications to most plants and animal species were required to aid their survival in the weaker gravity environment. Of the residents it is estimated that only one in thirty was born a To'ul'hs (a few thousand from the homeworld itself) with the rest being enthusiastic converts to the clade. The local phenotype is subtly different to the To'ul'hs baseline with elongated upper limbs creating a larger wing surface area. In combination with some tweaks to muscle type and distribution the Athelanite To'ul'hs are capable of extended periods of flight, far more than would be possible for a baseline even in the lower gravity environment. Visitors often go to see the dirigible towns that are a quant feature of the continent.

Evergreen Reach: Across two thousand cells Evergreen Reach is home to a vast array of forest biomes. Unlike most multicellular societies Evergreen has kept many of its internal barriers between cells to aid the maintenance of significantly different adjacent environments. The founders of the Reach were inhabitants of a small Dyson tree habitat that had been in orbit of Uranus since before the construction of the suprashell. The growing influence of the biopolity migrants in Reena led to move Dyson trees being grown in orbit. The space based community rejoiced in the biological diversity of their small cluster with each tree possessing a radically different genetic basis. In 9552a.t. The cluster sponsored the formation of a forest park cell on the surface of Athelan. The park became very popular and attracted high levels of investment from many leisure corporations. Within a century two hundred more cells had been opened, each cultivating a slightly different ecosystem drawn from across the terragen sphere. To this day Evergreen Reach is a popular tourist resort. The strict regulations against significant infrastructure (including transportation) making it a camping hotspot. It is not uncommon for travellers to deliberately get lost in the woods for years at a time, enjoying the peace, beauty and isolation.

Aurora City: Constructed for the bimillennial anniversary of Athelan Aurora city is a small four cell urban environment located in line with the Uranus north pole. Home to 900 million sophonts it is the most densely populated region by far and is often considered the unofficial capital of the suprashell. Its design philosophy is one of a meandering network of canals flanked by buildings and interspaced with meticulously maintained gardenland. The name of the city comes from the intense aurora that light up the sky continually. Despite popular myth the aurora are an entirely artificial phenomenon, created by specialised boostbeam facilities in the inner system streaming charged particles into the magnetosphere of Uranus. Megascale electromagnets in the cell boundaries and careful atmospheric control guide the formation of auroras in the sky above. Whilst other continents make use of worldhouse roofs, mirrors and orbiting artificial stars to create a day-night cycle the city is in a constant state of auroral twilight, the passage of time marked by the hue, intensity and pattern of the sky.

Kotchyn: The largest multicellular continent with nearly two billion square kilometres of land. Residents of Kotchyn famously remark that if what you're looking for can't be found on the continent it doesn't exist. The vast single nation contains many interior boundaries separating not only different ecosystems but regions of differing laws, regulations and technology levels. Intended to be home to any stranger the continent boasts a high diversity of clades with the largest group (a form of hive-mind wasp provolve) making up just 18% of the population by biomass. Perhaps harking back to the very first roots of the Athelan suprashell project Kotchyn is also home to a wide range of Martian and Martian-inspired environments which cover over a hundred and eighty million square kilometres of its territory. Currently the Martian portions of Kotchyn are undergoing a long term redevelopment to replicate the entire surface of the Red Planet within the continent, a feat that has progressed slowly so as to not raise fears of a second Martian coup on the world. The capital of Kotchyn is a sprawling public leisure complex crossing sixty cells. Whilst practically unnecessary it is somewhat of a local tradition for residents of the cellular continent to visit the complex when planning on synchronising with their representative. It is said that the aqua parks, spa islands and party scene is a just reward the most politically active of sophonts.
 
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Development Notes
Text by Ryan B
expanded from the earlier article by Steve Bowers and Stephen Inniss
Initially published on 19 January 2012.

 
 
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