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by Pete Grey

Ektron was one of the original Darrian cluster worlds settled by the pre-Maghiz Darrians. It is conveniently located near the end of one spur of the Spinward Main, and within close proximity to the homeworld. This proximity nearly spelled the world's doom, when the EMP wave from Tanis swept through a few years after the Maghiz. Most of the colonists were living in domed cities whose electronics and systems were vulnerable to EM disruption, and about a quarter of the population perished when those systems failed.

The stranded survivors eked out an existence on their harsh world. The previous bureaucratic government was supplanted by a coalition of agricultural oligarchs whose monopoly on power was assured by the difficulty of growing food on Ektron. Under these landlords, the population lived in a miserable existence of semi-slavery, as agriculture on the world was extremely labor-intensive. The population began to go into further decline due to overwork, brutality and starvation, and by the time that Mire recontacted them, the population numbered less than fifteen percent of the pre-Maghiz level.

The new Confederation government outlawed slavery, emancipating the local population. New colonists were settled on the world to prevent recidivism, but an alternate form of income was necessary to preserve the status quo and support the world. The conversion from subsistence farming to profitable plantation cultures were complicated by Ektron's dry, thin air, preventing the use of offworld crops. Botanists and planters scoured the backcountry for suitable native plants instead. A number of crops were developed, but the salvation of the world came from an unlikely source, a plant called Ektron or Effervescent Tea.

Ektron Tea is an unassuming shade-loving shrub with one unusual feature: the leaves, in addition to yielding a powerful and tasty caffienated beverage, naturally store CO2. When the leaves are carefully processed and packaged, this CO2 can remain until it is released by immersion in hot or cold water, creating a wonderful carbonated drink. (No doubt the Brits are recoiling while they read this. But there's no accounting for taste in the far future.)

Most Ektron Tea was sold to the local Darrian market, where it was an enjoyable counterpoint to the usual serious diet of the average citizenry. The Third Imperium was slow in discovering this delicacy, until Makhiduran began importing it into the rest of the Marches after the Third Frontier War. The drink has developed a significant reputation in the Confederation, often being used as a homeopathic cure for colds, allergies and hangovers. Since the 1150s the drink has become affordable enough, thanks to expanded cultivation, for average Regency citizens to purchase and enjoy. The drink is marketed by several beverage companies under various distinctive brand names, including Vesuvius ("Vulcan Tea"), Akiracha ("ChaCha Brew") and Shumikkir-Makhiduran ("Effervesia", which comes in flavors like lemon and strawberry).

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