A large spaceship, carrying 7500 passengers, arrives at Betelgeuse VII Orbital Station. It carries settlers from the Old World: Solar System, Barnard's Star, Sirius, Epsilon Eridani, Vega, CN Leonis, Alpha Centauri and Procyon. After 60 days, their destination is very close. They enter the orbital station, pick their luggage and are token on small ships, towards the surface base.
Then, once they reach the surface, they are further processed. A medical checkout is done to each of them, then they are sent, one by one, to a psychiatric checkout. Finally, each one enters in a room. There, after completing a quiz with 100 questions, a person comes and talks with each one. This way, each newcomer will get to the best place for him or her. Finally, after all this, they receive citizenship, their money are transformed from CC (interstellar credits) into BC (Betelgeuse Credits, the local currency). All this process is exhausting and takes nearly 10 hours. Finally, they get to sleep and their bodies are set to local time. The next day, they are loaded into automated vehicles, to be sent to their new homes.
An automated flying vehicle carries some new settlers to their designed places. The next passenger to depart is a young woman, Eva. The ship lands and a robotic voice advices her to depart. She takes her luggage, her new identity card and the key to her new home. The door opens and she steps out. For the first time, she can see the planet.
As she steps outside, first thing she notices is the fresh air. No pollution. The air is strong, clean, ionized, like something she never breathed before. Immediately, the door closes behind and the vehicle moves further away, to take other settlers to their homes. She doesn't bother to watch the ship going away. She can feel the soft ground, covered with fresh grass, through her boots. It is not hot and not cold. A small wind moves the grass around. She can see little metal poles marking the border of her parcel. In the center, there is a small metal house. That's it! This is her new home.
Beyond the poles, she can see other parcels, some surrounded by fences, trees, buildings and other homes. Many trees have flowers or fruits. Such a lovely place! Birds are singing all around. She can also hear dogs barking and some other animals. "Is this a rural place? I thought I am going to a little town". Further away, she can see hills, covered with forest or pastures. And in one direction, there is a lake, surrounded by hills.
All looks redder then in the Solar System. All nature looks like in the morning or in the evening. But it is not the case. It's noon! Above her head, she can see the sun, Betelgeuse. It is bright red and hot. Eva has seen many suns: The Sun, Sirius, Barnard, UV Ceti, but none of them looks like this. Betelgeuse is not quite spherical. It has brighter and darker spots. Surrounding it, there is some sort of haze, dark-red, like a nebula. On the sky, there are faint lines that change color. Auroras. The clouds appear to be pink, while the sky has a color between dark blue and violet.
Amazed of the landscape, she sits on the grass. She needs to light a cigarette. Her lungs desperately need it. For over a day, she could not see anything beyond the metal walls of the orbital station, of the ships and of the many rooms she went into. She could only see repeating documentaries that were running non-stop in the waiting rooms. She knows that if in 10 days she is unsatisfied, she can return for free. But now, only after seeing the planet with her own eyes and smelling its fresh air, she doesn't want to leave at all.
She goes inside the house. It is a small building, with only one room, with a bed, a closet, a table and a few things. Not much.
"Eva, you have to work and find your way in here", she says to herself.
She moves out of the house, to see more. Now, she can see that in front of the house there is a concrete road. So, she goes there, to see further away, how this town looks like.
"Hi, neighbor!" says someone, with the voice of a man.
"Hi", she answers. "Who are you?"
"My name is Davida", the voice answers.
She can see on the road something that looks like a woman, with a short skirt, with long hair, pantyhose and women shoes.
"Are we neighbors?" asks Eva.
"Yes, I live two homes to left from you".
"Davida?" asks she surprised. "Are you a man or a woman?"
"Well, I am a man. I used to be David before coming here, but now I am Davida".
Eva looks amazed at her new neighbor. She comes closer to him.
"And who are you?" he asks.
"My name is Eva", she says. "I am a real woman".
"Feel welcome, Eva. If you need any help, I will be happy to".
"I just arrived here. A few minutes ago".
"Don't worry", says Davida. "I came two years ago. At first, this place can be disorienting, but you will learn your way around. Don't worry, everyone is friendly here".
"I heard this is a place for transgender people and sexual minorities", she says. "Are you gay?"
"No, I am not. I am just a cross-dresser. Are you a lesbian?"
"Then, what brings you here?"
"I am a sfenist".
Hearing that, Davida looks at her. Eva is dressed like a pretty but dangerous girl, with a metal-texture dress, thigh boots and long gloves, so that the only part of her body visible is her face.
"I am sorry", he says.
"Don't worry. I guess I am not the only sfenist on this planet".
"No, by far not", he says. "It is for rare sexual minorities that Betelgeuse VII was made. I know a few sfenists living around".
Eva lights another cigarette and offers one to Davida.
"Do you want one?"
"Yes, thanks", he answers.
"I thought I will find many LGBT people here", she says. "Those people who understood me better are gay".
"No, this is not the place for such people", he answers. "This is what I thought first, too. There are some, of course, but not too many. They prefer to go to IGPP or Planeta Lesbiana instead. Also, I didn't find many BDSM people here, too".
"You know, sadismic and masochists are something a sfenist will never accept or understand".
"I think so, Eva. I am not a sfenist, but I talked with some".
"So, what kind of people live here?"
"I think the best way to learn is to go downtown. You will see there".
They both follow the concrete road, a straight line between parcels. All roads are the same, in straight lines and divide the town in squares with four parcels each... and each parcel is a square 50 meters wide. But what is a sfenist? A sexual minority. Sfenists are victims of a sexual abuse (usually a rape), that could never recover completely. They usually hide this to other people, because people most often make fun of this. Sfenists are psychological impotents. They find hard or even impossible to have sex and if they do, it is all pain, not pleasure. Pain does not come from their bodies, but from their dramas, from their wounded souls. Most sfenists avoid being touched in certain areas or things related somehow to their experiences. For example, one might not support naked people (like on the beach if they were naked when they were abused).
"Hi, Bob", says Davida to something that appears like a man. "This is Eva, our new neighbor".
"Hi Davida! Eva, nice to meet you!" says Bob with a female voice.
"Hi", says Eva, amazed.
"Bob is a woman", says Davida. "She is a transgender too. And a virtualophil".
"A what?" asks Eva.
"A virtualophil. A person who doesn't love a human being, but a virtual character".
"You mean a computer avatar?"
"Yes, Eva. Exactly that".
"I never thought virtualophils exist".
"Neither did I, until I came here".
Eva lights another cigarette and says:
"I heard about transgender people that they go to surgery, body implants and hormones".
"Yes, some do. But not here. You know, Eva, many transgender guys love women, only that they also want to look like a woman. Also, I know many transgender women who dress-up like men, but they have boyfriends. Being a transgender does not mean that you are gay. And if you talk about body transformations, there are a few who went to surgery and implants, but the vast majority prefer only cross-dressing".
"This is amazing", says Eva, blowing a cloud of smoke in the air.
"I know. This is the amazing fact about Betelgeuse VII. Sexy, not porn. Tolerant, but not erotic".
"I thought that sexual minorities are only LGBT and BDSM people, but now... I don't know what to say".
"But you are a sfenist, which is a sexual minority. And there are many other minorities that you will find here".
"What?" asks Davida laughing.
"I mean, people that make sex with animals. In the Old World, there are many demonstrations against them".
"Eva, you use a generic term, like asexuals define many sexual minorities, including sfenists. Yes, there are people who have sex with animals, but those animals are artificially made for sex. Well, they are accepted as long as they use only such animals and they treat those animals well. But more often you see furries, which are people that dress-up like animals. Well, both categories are very rare here. I only know two families of furries in our town".
"And the asexuals?"
"Well, perfect asexuals have no attraction for sex at all, even if their body is perfect. There are however many asexuals unable to have sex because of a disease. And also, there are onanists, people who love themselves. They are not into sex, but masturbation. They are attracted by their own bodies".
"Wow! So, here nobody will laugh that I am a sfenist".
"Sure no, Eva", answers Davida, with strict and clear voice. "And there are many other sexual minorities around. Panophils are in love with objects: a tree, a stone, a road, a statue, even a wall. Eterophils are in love with love itself and not with anything material. Nugalophils are in love with toys, I mean sex toys, even sex dolls. Also, you will see fetishophils, people who are not attracted by a person, but by objects worn by someone: hair, shoes, laundry and so on. In many other worlds, such people would be considered sick or mentally degraded, but not here. On Betelgeuse VII, they all have equal rights. Even more interesting, you can find families, made by people from different sexual minorities. What amazes me is that all this comes in such a natural way, that, when I first came here, it shocked me".
They reach the center. It is a large concrete square, with shops around and a fountain in the middle. The town is small and everybody knows everybody. The two take a sit on a bench, watching the landscape. Betelgeuse shines on the sky, big and red, giving to everything the colors of an evening.
"This is where you need to go if you want to buy something", says Davida. "Also, here you can find out about jobs and opportunities. There is plenty to do in our town. You have been allocated here because you know to do something that is needed here".
"I worked in textile industry", says Eva.
Then, Eva decides to buy a few things. Then, she returns home. Davida comes with her back to the parcel border, then goes back to his home.
Later in evening, Eva decides to go back on a walk through the town. Davida told her that many people use to hangout near the lake. Well, if the roads are all in straight lines, it should be easy to get there. After walking 2 km, she manages to get there. The road ends with a small platform for boats. The landscape is really amazing. This lake is surrounded by hills, by forest and pastures along all its shores. A stream flows from the lake, then, after two short waterfalls, it flows into another lake, which actually is a reservoir. Eva crosses the river on a concrete bridge and finds herself like in wonderland.
She sees trees that have both flowers and fruits. Everything is green. She walks on a path, through the forest. "This is normal in monoclime", she says to herself. "Without seasons, plants blush and grow fruits all year around". She experienced this type of climate on planets that are tidal locked, where there is an eternal day on one side and an eternal night on the other. Also, planets that don't have their orbit tilted experience the same type of climate. But there is something different with Betelgeuse. Because the star is variable, one week might be hot and one week might be cold. Plants are exposed to various temperatures within 20 days. Sometimes it gets cold and plants think it is spring... and flowers start to grow. "Only a red supergiant can support this", thinks Eva. "No other star changes brightness so fast".
She sees all insects flying around. There is a lizard hiding in the grass. Not far, a few birds are flying. It doesn't take much and she sees a squirrel. As she continues walking, she finds large stones, covered with lichens. "This is a clear sign that the air is very clean", she says to herself again. "I never seen lichens on Mars or Venus".
She finds a small stream and walks along it. Not far, she sees a lake, about 40 meters long and probably deep enough to swim in it. Fishes are swimming inside. What a clear, transparent water! She drinks water from a spring. It tastes so different then bottle water she used to drink for all her life. "Is this how clean water tastes like?" she whispers. Without following any trail, she gets deeper inside the forest, until she sees an animal. Could it be dangerous? She has never seen a wild pig before and has no idea what this creature might be. Well, she decides to return, not knowing what to do, when the animal moves away.
While walking in the forest, she slips on wet grass and falls with one foot into a pond. Water gets inside her boot. But, this is different, unlike the dirty and polluted water she was used to see on most rivers. So, she goes to the lake and stops on a stone near the shore. The water is clean, with some fish. She can clearly see the bottom of the lake, with sand and small stones. So, she takes her boots out and touches the water with her pantyhosed feet.
Sfenists usually avoid to expose their skin, but here, she feels perfectly safe. With all these sexual minorities around, nobody will bother her. The water is a bit cold, but so relaxing for her feet. She lights a cigarette and enjoys the smoke. Then, she puts her thigh boots back and returns to the shore, where she can see more people.
It is getting dark. The sky gets dark red, a bloody color, which the Sun could not produce in the Solar System. Betelgeuse is vanishing behind the hills, behind the town. The sky is filled with auroras, large and bright. It by far not a dark night. Betelgeuse, like any red supergiant, produces a huge solar wind, which impacts any planet's magnetosphere, producing giant auroras. What a view! There is not so much light even in the largest city. Huge bright lines move, twist, break apart and are reunited, changing color. They are white, then green, blue or red, then pink.
Eva decides to go back home. She puts on her thigh boots and walks. She sees two men walking hand by hand. One might think they are gay, but they are not. One has a male voice, the other a female voice. Then, she encounters two women, talking and sitting on a bench in front of a house... but they are both men, if you think about their voice. What is more amazing then everything, is the fact that all this happens so natural. They all behave like this, as this is how things should be.
Finally, she returns home. This small metal building, with a single room, is what she got as a home. She closes the door, then takes off her long gloves, her thigh boots and her dress. She gets in her bed, but her eyes are looking at the window, at the lights in the sky and at the trees and hills she cannot see clearly. She lights another cigarette, thinking about what an amazing place she found.
The next day, Eva goes to the center, trying to find something to work and she immediately finds something, at a nearby factory. She will be doing purses. In the Old World, industrial megacorporations employ almost all working force, but on Betelgeuse VII, things are different. Because of the huge distance and transport costs, almost everything has to be produced here. So, small factories are everywhere. Also, many people are employed in agriculture, producing natural food.
After a few days, she meets Davida again.
"How are you?" he asks.
"I am fine".
"Do you like it here?"
"Yes, it is an amazing place, neighbor. I never imagined such a world can exist".
"Everyone will be polite to you", says Davida. "And everyone will understand you as you are. Nobody will abuse you or force you in any way. Believe me, before coming here, I went to many other places".
"I never imagined that there will be a place in this world where people will understand me".
"I loved cross-dressing since I was a child. I always dreamed of a place where I could be dressed like a woman, without everyone looking at me like if I am crazy and without people thinking that I am gay".
"You found that place, Davida".
"I visited IGPP, not because I were gay, but because I wanted to find a place to be tolerated. What I've seen there, is gay people, sometimes dirty, sometimes stinky and many times obscene. I never liked that planet. Then, I went to EZ Aquarii IV, where transgender people are welcome... but it was too porn. I don't look for sex. All I wanted is to be a man in women's clothes. On EZ Aquarii IV, I found many orgies, like public masturbation places. And don't ask me about Deepthroat, where people have sex on the streets in public, in the bus or even in churches. There are many worlds like those".
"You know that if I don't like Betelgeuse VII within 10 days, I can return", says Eva. "But I won't. There is no place like here. No guy tried to seduce me and everyone accepted me as I am. I found a job so fast that it left me without words. And there is something else. The nature. Believe me, wherever I've been, nature is not like this".
"Welcome to paradise, Eva".
The 10 trial days passed. An automated flying vehicle came, to ask Eva if she wants to remain or leave. She clearly said "I will remain here until I die".
Eva made many new friends. All of them are strange people for those outside Betelgeuse VII, but here, they are all normal. Then, after a few days, on a nearby parcel, an automated vehicle brought a new metal house. The next day, a newcomer was left there. Eva went to him and said:
"Welcome to paradise!"
With every day, at least one ship with 7500 new settlers arrive to Betelgeuse VII. Population is growing with nearly 3 millions each Earth year. The economy is booming, as people are enjoying a happy life in one of the less corrupted states in the galaxy. They know that their star is a red supergiant and one day will go supernova, but they think it will be hundreds of thousands years in the future.
But is it so? Caligula, the one who sponsored terraforming for this planet, knew that the star will only last thousands of years. He bribed the experts who measured what is going on inside the star and they made false measurements. Even his own data were not correct. The clock is ticking and nobody has any idea about this.
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