The long strange trip
Human Major Race (Homo sapiens zhdotlas) inhabiting the Zhodani Consulate, a region far spinward of the Imperium. The Zhodani Consulate rules a sphere approximately 70 parsecs in diameter immediately to corespinward of the Imperium, believed to include in excess of 80% of all racial Zhodani. Much of the remainder inhabits the Zhodani client states, although other sub-species of humaniti are also to be found in the client states and the consulate.
The Zhodani are a discrete, though interfertile, sub-species of Humaniti, independently descended from human stock transplanted by the Ancients. In general, they tend to be taller than Solomani or Vilani, and lithe of build. Averaging 2.0 meters in height and massing upwards of 90 kilograms, they tend to be swarthy in complexion and dark-haired. Their most important difference is the acceptance and use of Psionics. Zhodani nobles often wear a turban-like headdress which serves to accentuate their height.
Zhodani society is divided into three hereditary groups:
■ Nobles are the enfranchised ruling class. They perform all high governmental functions, and receive extensive psionic training from childhood.
■ Intendants are the managers and administrators of society. They comprise most business executives, military officers below the ranks of admiral or general, and fill most non-elective governmental positions. Intendants are rewarded for great diligence, service to the state, or victory in the psionic games through the granting of noble titles.
■ Proles (or proletarians) constitute the masses, are forbidden the use of psionics, and do not receive training. Proles include all members of the military below officer grade, most merchants and scouts, supervisory and junior management personnel, technicians, craftsmen, and laborers.
There is no upward mobility for proles unless psionic powers are detected in them as children, in which case they will be inducted into the intendant class. Intendants who perform well in their positions can be elevated into the ranks of the nobility. In this way, proles can have some hopes for an improved lot for their children; Intendants are encouraged to strive hard, and there is a constant infusion of new blood into the nobility. Extensive psionic ability among the ruling classes permits the Zhodani government to weed out subversives early in life, and re-educate them as useful members of society. With rare exceptions, Zhodani are extremely patriotic. Zhodani citizens possess a high degree of personal honesty. Indeed, the Zhodani feel uncomfortable in most places outside the Consulate, where “liars and thieves are allowed to wander around loose.” Privacy of thought is highly respected among the Zhodani upper classes, although proles have no such right. Nobles have almost complete personal privacy rights, and intendants nearly as much. Rights of foreign nationals vary with whatever treaty is in effect between the Consulate and the foreign power. The treaty with the Imperium is unclear in its protections. Most visitors have no protections for mental privacy, but diplomatic personnel and some selected commercial representatives are provided visas which allow psionic shields to be worn.
The presence of psionics in the hands of those in power means that many aspects of society work at high efficiency. Psychology, behavioral science, communications science, and education are more refined and exact than in other societies. Educational methods are finely tuned, and capable of teaching concepts rapidly and accurately. Mental deviance or criminal tendencies can be detected early and corrected easily. Zhodani society is generally a happy one. Individuals are members of a functioning whole, with each making a contribution to its success. The relative lack of upward mobility for the proles is offset by the possibility for their children to move upwards if they have the proper potential. The burden of responsibility imposed on the intendants is lightened by the ever-present possibility of reward through elevation to the noble classes. The nobles themselves temper their burden of authority with comfort derived from their station in life.
The Zhodani have a general distaste for other human races that do not practice psionics. Effective indoctrination and the ever-present possibility that one’s mind is being read have removed dishonesty and deviance as commonly seen. Disagreements still occur, competition thrives, passions flare – but all takes place in an atmosphere of honesty and truth. Individuals can express their feelings openly and problems are dealt with. In non-psionic societies, much is kept secret within the mind. A Zhodani visiting the Imperium would be appalled by the deviousness and dishonesty that pervades society.
Imperial distaste for the Zhodani is based on two facts. First, the Zhodani practice psionics, and an Imperial cannot be sure at any time that a Zhodani is not invading his mental privacy. Imperials feel exposed and uncomfortable in the presence of Zhodani. Second, because of their psionic abilities, the Zhodani have the most effective authoritarian rule in history. Imperial citizens, used to a great degree of local autonomy, fear Zhodani conquest because of the loss of freedom it would entail.
Crime and Enforcement
Typically, Zhodani society does not expect violence or dishonesty, and most of its enforcement apparatus is devoted to annual check-ups of individual attitudes. Each prole has a caseworker who maintains a file and performs an annual check-up for correct attitudes, as well as feeling for any problems or situations in need of assistance. Enforcers within the community enforce traffic regulations, arbitrate disputes, and watch for disturbances. These enforcers are similar to police, but can detect problem situations in the course of their patrols.
Within the Zhodani Consulate, crime takes on a different guise than it has in other human societies. Willful crime by proles is easily detected and dealt with, and as a result, occurs only infrequently, Any burglar broadcasts his intentions before the fact, and can be detected after the fact as well. Enforcement agents find it relatively easy to apprehend criminals, and they are reeducated to more honest values. Because of the enforcers’ psionic talents, it is possible to detect intentions of a criminal nature, and even intent is considered criminal. Those crimes which do occur are more often crimes of passion, or derangement. For example, two merchants may honestly disagree on some point of commerce, and it is possible that in their frustration, they may come to blows. This is a crime of passion, not premeditated, and easily resolved by an arbitrator. Or an individual may feel for some reason oppressed by the tasks or responsibilities expected of him, and crack under the strain. Suddenly and unpredictably, he becomes violent and must be restrained by the enforcers.
The Thought Police: One aspect of Zhodani government is the Tavrchedle’, translated as the Morality Guardians or the Thought Police. This organization is staffed by intendants and nobles, and is charged with maintaining correct thought within the population. They are constantly on the alert for aberrant thought. When detected, they home in on its source, apprehend the individual, and take him to a re-education center. There, psionics is used to monitor the progress of reeducation and the individual remains in custody until corrected. To an Imperial it would be easy to look upon the Thought Police as a sort of secret police oppressing the masses. To the Zhodani, this is not the case. They are instead a respected community service. Even its clients feel relieved after being located and assisted back to normalcy. That, of course, is how they are supposed to feel.
Security: Because of the basic openness and honesty of the Zhodani, the arrangements for security are minimal. Locks on doors are simple if present at all. Walls and structures are built for protection against the elements rather than against criminal penetration. Even re-education centers (there are no prisons to speak of) have only loose security arrangements.
The Zhodani Consulate is a participatory democracy in which only nobles are allowed to vote. Executive and judicial functions are performed by a series of councils of varying sizes depending upon the nature of their duties and the size of the area they govern. Each council elects one of its number as chief executive officer, and a number of its members as delegates to the next higher council. A city council will elect a number of its members as representatives to a planetary council, and so on up the line through subsector and sector to the Grand Council of the Zhodani. Nominally, each member of a council serves for one Olympiad (three Zhodani years), but in practice, each councilor serves until his replacement arrives and replaces him officially, or until word of his re-election to another term is received. Often times, the district from which a councilor is elected will have only his relatives as voters, and his re-election is virtually assured. Standard practice (when possible) calls for Zhodani councils to submit important questions to a plebiscite of those affected. The principle can be suspended where immediate action is required, but the official ordering the action stands responsible to the voters and must justify his actions as soon as possible.
Supreme executive power is vested in three consuls, one elected each year for a term of one olympiad by and from the members of the Grand Council. No consul may be elected twice in succession, and retired consuls become life members of the Grand Council.