Alpha Centauri IV
One of the first planets contacted by a newly warp-capable Human race, Alpha Centauri IV is home to the Centaurans, the second extraterrestrial species encountered by Humans. Alpha Centauri was one of the five founding worlds of the United Federation of Planets, and is widely acknowledged as the most beautiful of the Federation homeworlds. Alpha Centauri is the fourth planet in the system of the same name, located in the Alpha Centauri Sector (aka Sector 002) of the Beta Quadrant.
Alpha Centauri IV is most commonly known, simply, as Alpha Centauri, but it is also less commonly known as Centaurus, and to the native Centaurans, the traditional name of their homeworld is Velestus. In order to avoid confusion, and perhaps also because of the huge influx of immigrants in the 23rd century, most Centaurans simply call the planet Alpha Centauri.
One of Alpha Centauri's most distinguishing characteristics is a system of rings created from the destruction of a third moon more than ten million years ago. Some scientists believe this supports a theory that the Centaurans are an offshoot of Humans, which was seeded on the planet by an unknown species—possibly Sargon's race, the Sky Spirits, or even the Preservers. In addition to the rings, Alpha Centauri also has two small moons, Nykos and Tharon, which are home to underground mining colonies.
Approximately 65 percent of Alpha Centauri's surface is covered in water. The planet's landmass is divided into eleven continents and hundreds of islands, most of which are mountainous and skirted with dense jungles. The exceptions are the continent Nyria, in the planet's northern hemisphere, which is predominantly desert and steppeland, and Ash'ayn, at the planet's north pole; both continents remain virtually uninhabited, due to their extreme climates.
The Nyrian Desert stretches across most of the interior of Nyria. Ringed by towering cliffs, the interior of the continent consists of flat, barren plains of sand. After its initial discovery, the continent was left uninhabited. In the mid-24th century, archaeologists discovered evidence of an advanced, ancient civilization beneath the desert sands.
Most of the major cities on the planet are found along the coasts, the most famous of which are Torus, Tarola'n, Oreas, and Caladia. This factor of Alpha Centauri's geography led to the Centaurans developing a strong maritime tradition. Torus, the planet's capital city,[Notes 1] is located on the west coast of the largest continent, Bastal. As the capitol, Torus—which is also the largest city on the planet—is home to the Grand Temple, a 300-foot-tall ziggurat-style building where the Elder Council meets. The Plaza of Worlds, located between the Grand Temple, the Federation Embassy, and Starfleet Sector Headquarters, occupies the very heart of the city, and its large fountain is surrounded by the flags of every Federation member world.
Tarola'n is known for its beauty and artistry, and is closed to all private forms of mechanized transport, making it a walking city for many. Built on the gently rising slopes of Mount Fera'an, on the northwestern coast of the continent Ferain, Tarola'n is home ot the Monument of Visions, a vast art museum, which specializes in Centauran hologrpahics.
The city of Oreas, located on the southern coast of the continent Great Oreas where it meets the Shima'van Sea, draws visitors from across the Federation. Originally constructed on a floating platform anchored to a stretch of coastline that was too swampy to support a city on its own, Oreas has a much more planned and regimented layout than cities like Tarola'n. Oreas has always been a nautical city, and residents often decorate their homes with nautical flags and banners. Zefram Cochrane made his home here for a time, and Cochrane House remains a popular public destination. The city is also home to the University of Oreas, the most respected academic institution on the planet.
Caladia sits on a bluff overlooking the Chi'haro Sea on the southwestern coast of Shalaven (sometimes spelled Shalavein).[Notes 2] Renowned for its strong surf and pure blue color, the Chi'haro is considered to be the most beautiful ocean on Alpha Centauri. Athletics have been an important part of the city's history, dating back to an ancient competition held every six years, which allowed three warring city-states—Lamenk, Vehavein, and Shadra—to settle their differences without bloodshed. Over time, the city became a center of trade and, eventually, the capital city of the Shalaven Alliance, which formed between the three powers. The athletic tradition continues, and Caladia now hosts many interstellar sporting events, including the Federation Games.
Several factors, including the planet's location, make Alpha Centauri's climate somewhat warmer than Earth's. The planet's high density also generates higher background radiation, frequent earthquakes (due also in part to the twin moons, Nykos and Tharon), and more internal heat than most Class M worlds. Alpha Centauri also has a relatively shallow axial tilt, so the difference between its winter and summer seasons is less pronounced. The unpredictable solar radiation storms generated by the system's twin suns are largely countered by weather control systems designed to protect the planet's surface by augmenting its natural barriers.
Active volcanoes can be found in a region known as the Ring of Shima'van, where the continents of Tedimah'k, Great Oreas, Shalaven, Kesta'al, and Knu'fyr[Notes 2] encircle the Shima'van Sea. The planet's tectonic stresses are relieved by a network of sensors linked to artificial, volcano-like vents, as well as deliberately-created zones of tectonic instability, which remain uninhabited. Releasing tectonic pressure under controlled conditions allows the Centaurans to reduce or even eliminate the effects of many earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. These "artificial volcanoes" are also a popular tourist attraction.
Prior to the nineteenth century on Earth, Centauran history was a turbulent time, marked by frequent warfare. Many of these conflicts were fueled by a desire to unify the Centauran people under a single, all-encompassing empire, but more often, the motives for war were less lofty (i.e., land, tribute, or honor). The earliest rulers of the various Centauran nations were tribal shamans who mediated between the gods and mortals.
The construction of Caladia marked the first step toward Centauran unity. The warring city-states of Lamenk, Vehavein, and Shadra set aside their differences in order to build a city where the three powers could meet and compete in athletic events to settle their disagreements, rather than continued warfare. The three city-states eventually merged, forming the Shalaven Alliance. The neighboring city-states soon sought admission, and eventually the alliance controlled the entire continent. Before long, other city-states banded together to form their own alliances.
The roots of what would come to be known as the Plague Years[Notes 3] lay in a conflict between two of these alliances over mining rights. Following a worldwide ban on nuclear weapons, many of these nations began to experiment with biological weapons. A genetically engineered retrovirus was released in Shalaven—whether by accident or by design was never determined—and it quickly mutated into several deadly strains, spreading across the planet. Hundreds of millions died soon after. Centauran cities became desolate as they were depopulated by disease. Only by combining their resources were the Centaurans able to find a cure, but it took more than a decade. By the time a cure was found, more than a billion Centauran lives had been lost.
During that dark decade, governments looked for scapegoats when searches for cures failed, and plague carriers were rounded up and confined to internment camps. Later generations looked back with shame at the rights abuses that occurred, and vowed never to allow such injustices to happen again. Eventually, old animosities were forgotten, and the world's governments pooled their resources to combat the virus. Alpha Centauri's best doctors and scientists gathered into an Emergency Medical Council, ultimately developing a vaccine in the Earth year 1871.
Five years after the Plague Years had finally ended, the governments of Alpha Centauri united under a single banner, hoping to prevent a recurrence of such a catastrophic event. The Elder Council was formed, based upon the Emergency Medical Council that had saved the Centaurans from the disease. By a unanimous vote, Dr. Kulei Asephas was named the Council's first president. Despite her reservations, Dr. Asephas accepted; her government outlawed biological weapons and laid the foundations for a lasting peace.[Notes 4]
After discovering warp drive in 2063, one of the first places that Humans visited was the Alpha Centauri system. The first Centauran astronauts had landed on Kolmyri (Alpha Centauri III)[Notes 5] only a century earlier, and warp drives still eluded Centauran scientists. When Earth made first contact in 2066, Centaurans embraced Humans as brethren, and religious leaders declared the beginning of a new age, in which lost tribes had reunited. Strong ties quickly developed between the two worlds, and Earth traded warp drives for the terraforming technology that would help repair the damage wrought by World War III. Warp drive sparked an explosion of Centauran exploration: colonies were established on distant planets, and contact with the Vulcans followed soon after meeting Humans.
Vulcans impressed the Centaurans even more than Humans had. Vulcan culture and philosophy became extremely popular, and many Centaurans embraced logic. The Centaurans' dedication to peace and their unified government gave them more in common with Vulcan than with Earth, which had just emerged from a devastating world war less than two decades earlier. The national divisions on Earth were still extreme enough to cause conflict, prompting Zefram Cochrane to relocate to Alpha Centauri, fearing another war would break out on his homeworld.
Not long after, in 2203, catastrophe struck. Researchers lost containment on a virus that resembled Anchilles Fever, which would later strike other Federation worlds. The disease reached the general population through a series of handling mishaps, and the Great Plague was born. Over the next two decades, the pandemic that followed would kill 80 percent of the population, devastating the Centauran civilization.
Soon after the chaos of the Great Plague, the Centaurans were forced to reevaluate their Human allies when violence erupted between two Earth vessels in orbit over the planet. The Centauran government demanded that Earth form a unified government, or trade relations would cease. Vulcan followed suit, and the United Earth Republic was formed in 2130.
Centauran President Jasmyne Ray was one of the strongest advocates of a United Federation of Planets. Despite the setbacks surrounding the formation of the Coalition of Planets in 2155, and the implosion of the Coalition during the Romulan War, the Articles of Federation were adopted in 2161. Federation Day is the most extravagant holiday of the year on Alpha Centauri.
Every city-state and alliance on Alpha Centauri retains its own government, and those run the gamut from hereditary monarchies to democracies. Each city-state also appoints a representative to the Elder Council, sometimes known more descriptively as the Centauran Parliament, which holds the ultimate authority in Centauran government.[Notes 4] The Council appoints one of its own to serve as president, and chooses representatives to the Federation Council. Many aspects of the Centauran government served as a model for the Federation system.
The Council oversees a large bureaucracy, which is divided into a number of departments, each with a council that makes decisions for that department and reports directly to the president. The most influential of these include the Environmental Council, the Defense Council, the Trade Council, and the Diplomatic Council.
Alpha Centauri is a major hub for communication and trade. It is the largest producer of terraforming technology and equipment in the Federation. Alpha Centauri mainly imports raw materials that the Centaurans refuse to mine in order to avoid damage to their environment.
By the end of the 24th century, Alpha Centauri had become a thoroughly cosmopolitan world, full of newcomers and established immigrants from across the Federation. The Great Plague had reduced the population dramatically, and many of the Federation immigrants who helped to repopulate the planet segregated themselves by species. This is particularly apparent in Torus, which is home to communities like Terraville, New Vulcan, and the Betazed Quarter. Following the end of the Dominion War, Cardassians were invited to immigrate as well, and the few who did formed a highly-visible community in Torus.
A small, but vocal, minority of Centaurans opposes the presence of off-worlders on Alpha Centauri. These fanatics constantly change the organizational identities under which they operate, so identification has been problematic. Although their actions have been largely restricted to acts of vandalism, they have also claimed responsibility for assassinations and acts of sabotage.
A "return to the homeworld" movement also began to take hold in the late 24th century. The Centauran government, seeking to minimize environmental impact, keeps the planet's population stabilized at around 2 billion. All Centauran colonists, however, are also considered to be citizens of the homeworld; there are no laws in place to prevent them from returning home, and any attempts to pass such laws would be loudly opposed, despite the concerns of the environmentalists.
Several starbases lie within the Alpha Centauri system, and it is home to Starfleet's Fifth Fleet. The U.S.S. Asimov, a retired Constitution class vessel, orbits Alpha Centauri; the last remaining functional ship of its class in Federation space, it is open to limited, restricted tours. In the event that Earth must ever be evacuated, Alpha Centauri has been designated as an alternate capitol, and the system's defense is prioritized below only that of Earth and Vulcan. In case of an actual emergency, Starfleet often stages wargames and simulations in the system.