(This worldbuilding article is a companion piece to my new serial, Bird’s Eye View. Episode 1 is Here)
In the early days on Savar (so the stories all begin), Tarse was nothing special. Founded on the smallest continent, surrounded by a web of islands all too tiny to hold or sustain anything bigger than a village and holding only a million people. Its crystalline water and vaguely green forests were nothing to the gold, the diamonds and the hidden wealth of alloys buried just out of reach beneath the others.
The stories conveniently omit two facts: first, the “hidden wealth” was mentioned nowhere in the Planetary Suitability Analysis. Second, Tarse was founded by scientists and Earther military personnel. While the other factions poured funding into futile mining in toxic wastelands and stinking fungal heaths, Tarse built. While the Upper Commonwealth made its disastrous attempt to found a deepwater exploitation colony (ravenous fish ate everyone and that ended that), Tarse researched. While the Federated Trust collapsed into anarchy over rumors that its leadership was hoarding gold, Tarse grew, and fortified, and chiseled fortress cities inside mountains.
AI armies and long-range railcannon batteries sprang up within years at key chokepoints along the border. Rather than disassembling their colony ship to build mining rigs, Tarse landed it in one of Savar’s countless rift valleys. When the collapse happened, however it happened, they alone retained Earth’s full knowledge. Over the course of centuries they thickened the vessel’s hull armor, linked new guns to its reactors, and used its internal factories to churn out construction bots, aircraft and structural components.
When the rest of Savar decided it was time to drag Tarse down to its level, things went about as well as a sane person would expect. Railcannon fire from deep in the Tarsian heartland smashed most landing ships before they even reached coastal water, and those troops who reached the shore were immediately mowed down by roving squadrons of AI tanks. Tarsian cyborg infantry mopped up the remainder and collected mementos from prominent enemy commanders, like the cigarette lighter of “Capper” Hannigan, a Defed boss known for cutting men’s legs off through the kneecap. A few apocryphal stories claim he was locked in some form of prison, often a virtual purgatory in which his legs are sawed off and regrown for eternity.
The truth is that the Tarsians, ever practical, shot him in the forehead and left him for the wildlife. His skull, complete with some of Savar’s flesh-eating bacteria grown to visible size, now sits in a side exhibit of Tarse’s Military Archival Museum. Children are politely discouraged from viewing it without parental permission.
After the war (or the first war, rather), Tarse expanded further and began crossing some rather odd boundaries without much concern for their implications. Three quarters of the modern Tarsian population are what the Upper Commonwealth calls “Scrambles,” test-tube babies grown from a random assortment of good “parent” genes and raised by sapient androids. Most Tarsians have cyborg enhancements, even if it’s just for memory, and absolutely all of them are genetically engineered. The term “ubermensch” makes the history-aware Tarsians very uncomfortable, but they can’t deny the parallels.
Tarse’s largest ethnic group is Hispanic in descent at thirty percent, with roughly equal distributions of the rest. In practical terms all Tarsians are too mixed to qualify as one ethnicity or other by 21st Century standards. Tarsian culture is cosmopolitan almost to the point of having no identity, which leads most people on Savar to fixate on their technological quirks.
The average Tarsian spends up to nine hours a day using a neural interface (linked directly to the brain) to chat, coordinate and work with others. The device even allows an (un)lucky few to work while sleeping, which is decidedly unfair to the workers and their competition alike. Otherwise, they have been known to “do sports,” although it’s mainly military service members and field scientists who play the games. The rest of the population doesn’t have the time to spend on exercise and practice for any kind of skill, except where E-sports are concerned.
To this day Tarse primarily builds new settlements within the land itself. If they need to expand, they prefer to build down rather than out or up. Over time, however, different densities in rock and sudden mineral windfalls turn most Tarsian complexes into sprawling warrens. A ramp to connect Level 4 with Level 9 where that an iron vein ran further up than expected, a concealed elevator from the surface to the submarine pens on Level 12, and so on. A few particularly ambitious projects have bottom levels overlooking pools of magma. The Tarsians may or may not have access to Bond films, so it’s difficult to say if they realize this faux pas.
Tarse has cures for all known forms of cancer, most degenerative neurological conditions, and the common cold. A modern Tarsian neural interface outdoes a stadium-sized supercomputer from half a century prior. The only thing they don’t do well is compromise. Too aware of her superiority and less than humble about it, Tarse makes a point of sending spec ops teams to punish everything from snide remarks on DeFed broadcasts to lover’s spats between Tarsian ambassadors and their paramours. Most of the time this doesn’t involve actually shooting people. The Tarsians are strangely perplexed that no one appreciates having a door broken in at three in the morning to be menaced with guns, then beaten black and blue. Intelligent people can be remarkably unintelligent when their hackles are up.
No one is allowed into Tarse without citizenship or special exemption (*ahem*desirablegenes*ahem*). Since it’s mysterious and off-limits, Savar has developed a self-sustaining cadre of gabbling time-wasters who do nothing but “theorize” as to what Tarse is doing behind her walls. Some say they actually have contact with Earth and the rest of Savar is being used as some kind of experiment in human psychology, or that Tarse is just screwing them for the hell of it. Tarse actually runs the Zukkerman field which disables any ship leaving Savar’s exosphere. Tarse is an alien race in human form, Tarse is an alternate reality, Tarse is a hologram, Tarse is a collective hallucination by the rest of Savar which represents the prosperity their ancestors were deceived in looking for. Most guesses are dumber than these.
One thing is for certain: Tarse has the final say, always.