Beacon was ordered, clean, and populous. It was a giant city world or a world city, depending on your view. Platforms, highways and bridges laced the oceans. Every few blocks a public area was given over to grass and trees, meticulously cared for, a concrete jungle’s redeeming feature, and likewise space was allocated on the oceans, the breathing room like dark swimming pools. Beacon was regimented, formal and strictly governed, and births were by dispensation of the state. The planet had the largest law-enforcement agency in the universe and the most expert and specialised waste-disposal systems.
Millennia back Beacon laid claim to a sister world in its solar system, a world that became a hungry nation’s breadbasket. Known as Beacon Farm, it was sparsely populated, as available land was relinquished to farming. Farmers rotated through the system and permitted no casual emigration from Beacon to Farm. Still, produce from Farm was insufficient and imports were of paramount importance.
It seemed to work; Beacon was a clean, well-governed world with no poor and hungry. But there was a dark side.
Manufacturing was done under license on other, less congested worlds, with no qualms about pollutants and no compassion for those exploited. Beacon’s powerful business cartels strip-mined, denuded forests, and quarried with no thought for the future. They paid high prices, yes, but left nothing but sterility and poverty behind, and moved on to the next proposition. Beacon was hated by other worlds.
Spacefaring for eons, they were also arrogant and superior. What was once regarded as a survival necessity, those pathfinders to other worlds, transformed into greedy business practice. The might of the cartels respected only two other human worlds; Valaris, for limiting Beacon to normal, healthy trade, and Xen III, for denying them access to long dormant minerals and ores after the domes were brought down.
Despite the alien aspect of billions of closely packed buildings, some towering fearsomely into the sky, Beacon was still beautiful. It was not the grey, sooty, dirty and polluted horror one would expect from a crowded city, but colourful, lyrical in cleanliness, and the crowds were ordered, polite, if distant and distrustful of strangers.
Transport over greater distances was via air-shuttle, while a network of sky-trains serviced shorter hops. Goods great and small were ferried along subterraneous routes. Beacon worked for Beaconites, a gigantic metropolis once foreseen by antiquated science fiction writers.
Naturally there was internal dissent, for without it a world was stagnant, declining by degrees often so infinitesimal that the crunch came when it was already too late to alter the momentum.
Dissenters kept a government alert, and free thought was the backbone of a healthy civilisation.