As befits its name, Beta is the smaller of the two colonies in the Sheffer System, the larger of the two being known to its inhabitants as Aztlan, but marked on most charts simply as Sheffer IV. Though smaller than Aztlan, by 2253 Beta still boasted a population about half that of the Mars colony, approximately one million in total.
Because of its proximity to Sheffer, much of Beta's surface is uninhabitable, particularly around the scorched equatorial zones. Despite this the planet's abundance of free oxygen and nitrogen for crops makes this world very appealing for settlers. Among the foodstuffs made from Beta colony's home-grown crops is a heavy steamed, if somewhat bland, sweetbread called poksh and a type of coffee with a heavy, pungent flavor that leaves a complex yet inspiring aftertaste.
Since there is no need for pressurised domes, humans are able to walk in the open without either an environmental suit or a breather, and even though humans are restricted to the polar regions there is plenty of room for a colony to thrive. The climate also brings a warm blustery wind across the open prairies that often carries a scent reminiscent of terrestrial ginger.
Beta's gravity is noticeably higher than Earth standard, almost one and a quarter. Those born on the colony or who have spent an extended period there can adapt with little trouble, though off-world visitors accustomed to a lower gravity environment find it hard on the back and knees. Beta Colony travel advisories recommend that off-worlders bathe regularly to reduce the stress on their skeletons and muscles. In addition, Beta's rotational period of 21.5hrs allows for a slightly shorter day cycle than Earth Standard Time.
Beta City is located in one of the habitable polar zones, amidst wide-open tall grass prairie with distant mountain ranges to the south, east and west with the somewhat closer peaks scraping the sky to the north.
Beta City is the capital and the major population center of Beta Colony with almost 670,000 residents, making up approximately two-thirds of the planet's entire population.
One of the first things an off-world visitor might notice is how 'roomy' the city appears with its wide roads and its squat but strong muscular architecture, designed to cope with the higher than Earth standard gravity. As such most buildings are single-story affairs cut out and dressed from the local volcanic rock and topped with pitched metal roofs.
Unlike domed colony cities like those on Mars, the free oxygen atmosphere and warm climate mean that space is not at a premium and living accommodations are relatively cheap. Houses that on Earth would be considered mansions and simply unthinkable on Mars, rate only slightly higher than modest in Beta City.
Settled in the late 22nd Century, Beta Colony was initially very much an Adamist world with many of its colonists emigrating from Earth to get away from elements of human society they viewed as objectionable, telepaths in particular. The colony council went so far as to make it illegal to use commercial telepaths in business dealings. Over time, however, this changed and by the late 2240s/early 2250s a wave of fresh immigration and the increasing influence of a business coalition brought in drastic changes across the colony and led to the colony council voting to allow teeps in to Beta.
Though their influence had diminished, about half of the colony still had Adamist leanings though fear of being dismissed as bigots led many to curb their disapproval, at least in public. Nevertheless, the sweeping changes left many second-generation colonists feeling resentful at how drastically their home had changed within their own lifetime.
In 2253, a string of telepath murders by a serial killer known only as "the Blinder" led Psi Corps to send in senior MetaPol Psi Cop Alfred Bester to investigate. Up until that point the local police investigation, headed up by Captain Stesco, had done little to solve the case and showed very little inclination to do so. A total of seven telepaths were killed, including two Beta City Psi Cops, Ran and Farmer, who had gotten too close to the killer. Beta City's MetaPol station chief, Anne Mallory, was an old co-worker of Bester's and was aware of his reputation for forceful methods including illegal scans and memory alteration. With her force short-handed, Mallory assigned Bester one of their new Corps interns, a young Ms. Lyta Alexander, to act as his assistant.
Lyta was shocked and appalled by Bester's methods: almost immediately scanning Stesco for leads, followed by the same treatment of potential witnesses or suspects, leaving them with memory gaps and headaches.
From Stesco's mind Bester found an unspecified connection between the ritualistic telepath killings and the murder of one Jack Finn, a mundane who had been found stabbed through the heart in a field some twenty kilometers out of town. Though on the surface Finn's murder did not match the MO, further investigation allowed them to track the killer to an Adamite bar in Beta City. Rather than turn him over to Earth Security and reveal that all the evidence against him was obtained illegally, Bester and Mallory took him back to the station house, where his mind was filled with horrific visions, driving him beyond insanity.
For the rest of his life, the Blinder would have to be kept restrained 24/7, otherwise he'd claw his own eyes out and swallow his tongue to make the visions stop. A disgusted and utterly disillusioned Ms. Alexander quickly applied for a transfer out of MetaPol and into Commercial work.
Natives of Beta ColonyEdit
- 'Beta' is a fairly common name for early EA colonies, with a total of fourteen Alliance colony worlds so named. →(See: Beta Colonies)