Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Libria gazetteer: Libria II

Like Libria I, Libria II is tidally locked with its neighbour so that each day lasts ten earth days. The planet consists of hot desert plains towards the equator with rocky tundra towards the poles. Ice exists in some of the sunless valleys in the polar regions, but the planet is otherwise relentlessly hot with little water in its atmosphere. Plant life is restricted to scrubland bushes and grasses in the temperate regions, with algae colonising the native iron rich rocks, giving the planet a banded green hue at 60 degrees north and south.

Similar in size to earth the planets equatorial regions are a source of great mineral wealth, and the planet's 40 million inhabitants are chiefly there to extract the various ores from the dusty surface. While the temperate zones are mountainous, the majority of the planet is dominated by shifting sands. There were mountains here once, but the heating of regions directly under the sun for days at a time creates enormous heat lows. Cold air rushes in from the higher latitudes creating dust storms which scour everything in their path with winds up to 300mph. The weak coriolis force shapes these storms into vast slowly rotating monsters which over the course of a few days cross the entire day side of the planet. Lightning is common as the dust is swept into the high atmosphere, and the light from the Librian star is obscured completely. Water clouds form over the centre of the low, but rain never reaches the surface.
Once the storm reaches its peak, the dust and cloud cuts off its own energy source, and the storm finally blows itself out.

The day side of the planet can reach nearly 80 degrees, while the night size can plunge below freezing, thanks to the poor insulating quality of Libria II's atmosphere. This temperature difference causes dense fog to form as the sun goes down, and this is the only way water is delivered to the surface of much of the planet. Much of the polar region is constantly shrouded in fog, which over millenia has created ice caps through frost deposition.

Life on Libria II is hard. The main cities are widely spread, nestling in the protective shelter of mountains in the mid-latitudes. The capital, Whittaker, nestles into an extinct volcano, with much of the city dug into the mountainsides. What buildings protrude are built with strong but gently sloped sides to accomodate the severe winds which often blow into the capital. The city's space port resembles a many branched tree from above, with sloped tunnels converging into one ridgeline of the mountain, which serves as the conduit from the port to the city of eight million souls. At the end of each branch is an oval hangar with a domed roof. Shuttles and loaders land in these hangers which can be totally enclosed should a storm strike.

Whittaker itself is built into the volcano, with the mountain having been shaped to meet the needs of the populace. Several tiers have been cut into the mountain, which have been enclosed in plexiglas, creating sunlit boulevards and gardens for the richer inhabitants. These too are shuttered off when storms strike. However the majority of the population live in hab blocks dug into the mountain and live under the artificial day-night cycle regulated inside the city. Life is far from unpleasant, but the work for the majority of the population means long trips away from home on massive landcrawlers into the deserts and tough, dangerous hard labour.

The culture of Libria II is much like the rest of the Librian system, dominated by the veneration of Law. Specific attractions include the tradition of bazaars, which are held outside the cities' sealed walls in great tents on the first and fifth days of the rotation cycle. This is close to sunrise and sunset in the planet's period of rotation, when the weather is generally warm and pleasant and the dust in the atmosphere protects people from the star's damaging radiation, since the binary system of Libria I and II has little in the way of the magnetosphere. Fortunately the Librian star, being a K0V main sequence, emits far less UV radiation when compared to the Terran sun.

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