Fata Morgana II

McKendree Cylinder pair in the New Brooklyn system, an Athenaeid Clan Home

Interior of Fata Morgana II Cylinder
Image from Steve Bowers
Inside Cylinder One, with the central light pipe visible 100km overhead

Fata Morgana II (unrelated to the older system Fata Morgana) is a modified Tar Vara class McKendree cylinder pair in the New Brooklyn system, located at the New Brooklyn-Bronx L4 point. The complete design of the habitat, from rivets to the Perfect Art landscaping to ecosystems, was as an educational exercise for a young Athenaeid named Morgan Veneva of the Veneva Athenaeid clan. Transapient watchers uphold Fata Morgana II as a typical example of an Athenaeid "clan home." Fata Morgana II is also somewhat known among modosophonts because of the "Disaster at L4" virch game, which is produced by the Veneva Athenaeid clan.

The habitat is not a novel design. The cylinders are each 2400 kilometers long and 200 kilometers in diameter, with generous strength margins in their double-walled hulls of carbon nanotubes. The cylinders maintain one end aimed toward New Brooklyn with large solar parabolic collectors on the sunward end feeding interior light pipes. The collectors also shade the hulls to aid radiators. Both ends of the cylinders are joined together by "dog bone" trusses, which space the cylinders apart by 200 kilometers and contain the spin-despin electric drives, spaceship hangars, industrial facilities, power plants, and displacement drive engines of the habitat. The interior of the cylinders are illuminated with central light pipes that can selectively direct lighting across the interior for weather control purposes.

Unlike a classic Tar Vara habitat, the terrain is not underlain with dozens of continuous urban floors. Rather, only a single hollow deck (dubbed "the Underworld") 100 meters thick serves as a maintenance space under the terrain. This holds transportation networks, cooling systems, and anti-erosion "mucking tunnels" for the terrain's hydrological features. Higher terrain features, like mesas and mountains, are also hollow and are extensions of the Underworld. The majority of Fata Morgana II's key systems (including internal illumination and cooling) are designed for passive, unmonitored operation and minimal maintenance, even when simpler or more expedient solutions were available.

The interior of both cylinders features a large amount of water coverage, nearly 50% of the interior, which is fragmented into numerous lakes by hilly coasts designed as slosh-control features. The cylinders share similar terrain: temperate terrain near the endcaps blending to warmer tropical and desert lands toward the centers of the cylinders. The majority of the land area is rich, rolling grassland and hilly forests carefully sculpted to drive a hydrological cycle through topography and solar heating. However, almost all terrestrial terrain types may be found at least once in the cylinders. For example, the endcaps feature mountains of some kilometers' height with vertical ecological bands: deciduous forest, cloud forest, alpine forest, alpine meadows, and then snow caps and bare rocks. Above the mountains, the bare hull material of the endcaps are covered in active murals.


The habitat was named by its designer, Morgan Veneva, who was an adolescent at the time. The design project had been assigned as an educational task by eir parents and came with numerous parentally-imposed requirements ranging from technological restrictions (e.g., 'no magmatter') to socioeconomic criteria ('engenerate an initial population of humans [per the Genen 32b5c9001y template] with an economic-government system of Kucharsky-Bluestone type 3e8, 5d, 2a7.') Unexpected causal relationships between variables as disparate as terrain sculpting, morale, and logistics stymied completion of the design and led Morgan to become frustrated and analogize the project with a mirage.

The habitat's virch design was eventually sufficiently intriguing for the Veneva clan to arrange its construction in the New Brooklyn system where it serves a multitude of functions ranging from tourism to transapient education. A steady flow of New Brooklyn's modosophonts settle in Fata Morgana II's urban districts because the McKendree cylinders possess large, unbroken stretches of terrestrial land that is unique in this star system. For similar reasons, modosophont tourists visit the cylinders to relax in their varied terrains, while tourists from outside New Brooklyn visit the inspiration of the "Disaster at L4" virch game.

The "dog bones" at the ends of the cylinders house powerful plasma processor clusters used exclusively by the Veneva clan. These processors are among several examples of higher toposophic technology which have been provided by ascended Athenaeids, who apparently maintain a keen interest in Clan Athenaeid habitats such as Fata Morgana II. At least one S3 high transapient Athenaeid is present in this database, and interacts with the Known Net through several commgauge wormholes that orbit the L4 point.


Fata Morgana II has an average population of 20 million humans, though this fluctuates from 10 to 40 million century to century. The majority live in 4 cities ringing the endcaps of the cylinders where the terrain climbs from warm grasslands into the picturesque endcap mountains. A small percentage lives in the "wilds" between the endcaps.

The modosophonts of Fata Morgana II appear to be partly present as part of Veneva clan educational programs for Athenaeid youths, particularly for translogic exercises in anthropology, sociology, economics, and politics. The humans are in no way duped or directly controlled by Athenaeids, which is part of the challenge for the youths. Compounding the challenge is that the humans suspect (or are even paranoid about) being manipulated by any Athenaeid they see and, depending on the era, react in ways ranging from hostility to excessive cooperation.

Inhabitants asked to give examples of Athenaeid educational exercises would probably cite the Cookie Wars. In popular modosophont retellings, the Cookie Wars (which occurred in 9307-9308AT) was supposedly a 1-year exercise when an especially large class (15) of Athenaeid children was tasked with profitably selling cookies under numerous, tight restrictions applying to uniforms, cookie ingredients, advertising, and temporary currencies. The winner, it was said, would be granted a vacation at the Girl Scouts Headquarters on Earth, one of the few human works GAIA preserved. Memetic campaigns, guerilla advertising, ingredient cornering, and eventually open gang warfare marked "the Cookie Wars" as rival Athenaeid children attempted to sell the most cookies to the human population and demonstrate mastery of assorted social sciences. The human population was only able to breathe a sigh of relief when the exercise concluded and cookie sales abruptly halted.

Other observers note that the Cookie Wars might not have been an Athenaeid educational exercise. Instead, there is substantial evidence it was part of a game played out by a group of Athenaeid youths for 17 years, though the part of the game involving public cookie sales did only last 372 days. (A quick Known Net search easily reveals that there is not a Girl Scout Headquarters surviving on Earth, not of any of the various children's wilderness skill organizations that existed in the millennia prior to the Great Expulsion.) What the youths did for the other 16 years of the game is not known, but the game is suspected to involve the collapse of real estate value on Venus's Ishtar Terra continent (9315AT) and the creation of the Minervan clade (9304AT). The tenacity of modosophont claims that the Cookie Wars were an Athenaeid class exercise in the face of contradicting evidence is unexplained.


This disaster-survival virch series is popular in the NoCoZo and other polities that do not object to modosophonts questioning the wisdom of their transapient superiors. The Veneva clan developed and marketed the virch game shortly after a disastrous simulated demonstration of Fata Morgana II.

When Fata Morgana II existed only as an educational design project, its creator was required to deliver an interim design review to eir clan seniors. The interim design review revealed a number of non-conservative design assumptions in the structure, modosophont social order, and terrain of the virtual Fata Morgana II that culminated in the destruction of the habit and the virtual deaths of the senior Veneva observers. Morgan Veneva's technical grade did not suffer from the awkward incident because the observers were supposedly bemused by the experience. But they did convert the simulation into an enormously popular virch game, which may have been a rebuke that cost Morgan social status. It certainly spread awareness of Morgan's design errors.

The game offers play for modosophonts from multiple perspectives. The best-known perspective is that of a bystander who must escape the habitat before rebels of the economically-disadvantaged Swamp Clan detonate an improvised conversion device and destroy the insufficiently-durable McKendree cylinders. (The final, rel Fata Morgana II design has a more robust hull consisting of double pressure hulls, each 10 meters thick.) More challenging, longer-playing perspectives involve diplomatic roleplaying to soothe and defuse social tensions between the Swamp, Mesa, and River Clans, with subplots entailing espionage, romance, and warfare. There are plot-deficient perspectives where players may take the role of a Clan enforcer who must shoot their way through increasingly difficult foes (culminating in a nanoborg warmachine "Clan chief") to defuse the conversion device, with subplots involving the seduction of attractive members of the three warring clans.

The plot and gameplay of Disaster at L4 are not unique or exceptional. Rather, the virch seems popular because it is based on real world errors of a transapient, something rarely seen by most modosophonts. (And they're not truly seeing a transapient's mistakes in Disaster at L4 because Morgan Veneva had not ascended at the time e designed Fata Morgana.)

Transapients mostly dismiss Disaster at L4 as "trivially easy to solve" and "deficient of lasting value," but lower officials of the Terragen Federation and Solar Dominion have complained to the Veneva clan that their S1 administrators have been caught wasting computronium processing time on the virch game. Transapient levels of play apparently include easy-to-use tools for altering the scenarios, societies, and terrain of the virtual Fata Morgana II that are entertaining to the point of being mildly addictive (if "entertaining" and "mildly addictive" may be applied to transapients). One member of the Darwin clade explained, "It allows anyone [of S1 topsophy] to be the Perfect Artists of their own Tar Vara habitat and Mesa-River-Swamp Clans socioeconomic cluster [on a lunch break]."

Today, Morgan Veneva reportedly will not touch profits from Disaster at L4 and avoids discussing the virch, but this is probably posturing to titillate modosophonts with the appearance of additional transapient fallibilities.

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Development Notes
Text by Mike Miller
Initially published on 01 July 2014.