Image from Steve Bowers
Two of the pendant habitats surrounding the Ascendant Reach J-node

Data Panel: Shangdu

AffiliationTRHN and Utopia Sphere joint venture
RegionMiddle regions, Beta Arae
GovernmentVaries according to habitat. Most are ultimately aicracies with a variety of different organisations.
TravelStargates: Pearl Escalator to Utopia Sphere hub
PopulationOn the order of 10 billion
Hazard Rating0.0 in habitats. Elsewhere in the system travel is restricted, and the hazard rating may be anywhere from 0.0 to 5.0.
Visa RestrictionsAccess to the habitats is usually only available when granted by agents of Chesed.

Shangdu was established by TRHN AIs and Utopia Sphere archai in 4200 as a way of allowing Utopian modosophont citizens the chance to ascend. Chesed, of course, wants (or at least appears to want) to fulfill whatever practical wishes its citizens may have, including the wish to ascend. The TRHN transapients are often on the lookout for new companions with new experiences to help enrich their existence.

The idea behind Shangdu appears to be to give Utopia Sphere citizens a huge variety of experiences (voluntarily, of course) prior to their ascension. As far as transapients have been able to explain to baselines, this helps (or might help) the ascended become a more "interesting" or "well rounded" transapient. Skeptics have argued that the sum total of experiences in Shangdu is trivial from a transapient point of view and thus does nothing to increase the value of ascendees in the way the transapients say, and that something more sinister or incomprehensible is going on.

The main structure in Shangdu is the Ascendant Reach J-node, above which are the Habitat Trees. The Habitat Trees are hundreds of buckycable structures which hang down from a grid of dynamic compression members above the J-node. A tree consists of network of cables connecting and supporting thousands of habitats at a height where the local gravitational acceleration from the J-node is between 0.7g and 2g. Each habitat is a dome several kilometers across.

Each habitat in the Trees contains a different lifestyle for citizens. Some are hedonistic paradises filled with erotogens, others allow for an ascetic life alone or in a convent, are host to pseudo-prim tribes in nature reserves, contain indulgent academic or political structures, or are paradises for the adventurous. The local net, which is connected to the J-node, allows for a further variety of experiences. Travel between the habitats is voluntary, with the only condition that newcomers do not interrupt the way of life. The J-node is also home to a great many virtual modosophonts undergoing similar experiences.

When a sentient has tired of all the experiences available in the habitat, e may choose to ascend under the watchful eye of the local transapients. The ascendee is then free to travel elsewhere so long as e demonstrates no traits symptomatic of a blight. Many choose to join the TRHN at this stage, though some return to the Utopia Sphere to help look after their former peers, or venture into the rest of Terragen Space. Only a small percentage of Shangdu inhabitants choose to ascend, of course. Many are happy to continue living in the Hab Trees indefinitely, and for the most part Chesed is happy to look after them in this state, though sometimes they may be taken back to other Utopia Sphere worlds and replaced by a different Utopia Sphere citizen - places in Shangdu are limited and there is a preference for candidates likely to ascend successfully.

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Development Notes
Text by Liam Jones
Initially published on 17 February 2011.