The Foundation for Practical Knowledge
By D Hebditch
The FPK is synonymous in most peoples minds with the British colony of Wellon on Tirane where the Foundation was formed in 2169. The FPK was formed by a cluster of academics and explorers who wished to keep alive the spirit of the first explorer teams on Wellon. As they believed their work was being devalued by the government's rush towards mass colonisation.
The FPK was remarkably successful, and although Wellon grew rapidly all the official settlements were planned and properly prepared. Enabling the colony to avoid the kinds of disasters that would eventually befall the Argentine colony of Santa Maria.
Although concentrated in the new Universities and research establishments on Wellon the FPK's activities spread with the British colonial efforts along the French Arm. The FPK specialises in initial exploratory studies, and a range of cutting edge scientific studies. On Wellon the FPK conducts much pure academic research, whilst also wielding no little political power in Wellonese affairs.
The FPK often works in a triumvirate with the Royal Society and Royal Geographical Society. The Royal Society brings prestige and finance to the deal, the RGS provides glamour and manpower, whilst the FPK brings its impressive reputation for rigorous scientific investigation and plain speaking.
The roots of the FPK are in the first British expedition to Alpha Centauri in 2153. Whilst a multi-national ESA team had spent 2139 to 2143 exploring the new world, Britain required a much more detailed investigation to pave the way for a possible colonial effort on 'it's' continent Tiralbion in the future.
A motley crew of scientists, researchers, support staff and military were selected and trained whilst Britain's first starship HMS Endeavour was built and equipped. Chosen to lead the British Alpha Centauri Survey was the brilliant but controversial scientist Professor Anne Ashton. At only 30 she had been one of the youngest members of the first ESA expedition, now she was entrusted with running one of the most costly scientific projects ever undertaken by the British.
The expedition reached orbit around Tirane in March of 2153 and landed by the mouth of one of the continents great rivers. The river was soon named after the first of many casualties the expedition would suffer. Lieutenant Commander Cameron 'Cam' McAlister RN, FRGS was one of the 'adventurers' who had become attached to the expedition. He drowned in the river whilst swimming on his first day on the planet.
Working from the 'Cook's Town' base on the bank of the Cam the expedition spread throughout the continent. They mapped and sampled, investigated and researched. They were dedicated both to science and to finding possible settlement sites. Eventually numbering over 1000 they were ruled by the often infuriating Professor Ashton, whose confrontations with the government representatives became legendary. However Ashton's polymath intuition and intellectual rigor inspired great loyalty amongst the expedition members.
In 2160 the British government took the decision along with it's fellow ESA members to prepare for a full scale program of colonisation of Wellon. In consultation with Ashton and other senior members of the BAC Survey the government settled on a pattern of several small, concurrent settlements rather than one large one. Preparations for a preliminary infrastructure development program were laid in place followed by a program of recruitment of potential colonists to insure absolute success for the effort.
However in 2162 just as all the plans of ESA were falling into place the Argentineans sprung one of the most audacious coups of the 22nd Century, fielding armed starships and seizing the first colony set-up ships. ESA responded with armed transports, but was unable to defeat the Argentines and so was forced to accept the Melbourne Accords and colonisation of Tirane by nations who were not ESA members.
For the members of the BAC Survey trapped on Tirane it was an interesting time. Deprived of the Endeavour's regular supply runs the expedition was forced to fend for itself. The site of Cook's Town also had to be abandoned when the worst flooding ever seen by man on the river washed away much of the base. The new site on the rocky promontory of McAlister's Rock jutting into the Cam was named Scott's Town, a reference to the doomed polar explorer of the 20th Century.
Despite the black humour, several deaths from local wildlife and a stand-off with a team of Argentine marines who attempted to place a flag on McAlister's Rock. The expedition survived in fine style and eventually welcomed the freed set-up teams who set about preparing the way for the colonists who would follow.
A change of government in 2165 caused changes in the way the BAC Survey went about its business. The new Conservative government wanted increased rates of colonisation, and it wanted cheaper emigration. Ashton and other senior BAC Survey members fought against this policy and successfully delayed its implementation.
In 2167 the first British settlement was begun, with the area around Scott's Town being the first to be settled. The new town was called New Camelot, a romantic title that thoroughly disgusted many members of the expedition. Teething problems were rife, but the prior planning and infrastructure work seemed to have paid off, and the first harvest was successfully gathered.
With the news the New Camelot was a success and with three further settlements at Dartmoor, New Birmingham and Victoria about to be initiated the government declared the project a success. Damaged by inner city riots in 2168 and the cost of the project it also announced a move towards both unrestricted emigration and deportation of 'undesirables' under the then Home Secretary's 'Three strikes and you are Off' policy.
The government also announced the down-sizing of the BAC Survey, declaring it had completed its mission and could be reduced in size. Ashton and most of the rest of the senior staff found themselves out of a job. Professor Ashton was awarded a knighthood, and honour the fervently republican Ashton deemed a deliberate insult and sent back accompanied by a flurry of angry letters to The Times.
Although many redundant members of the survey were soon head-hunted to work in other nations colonial efforts on Tirane, the key members remained around New Camelot. Many working in the newly established New Camelot Technical College teaching vital lessons to the new colonists. They continued to lobby against the unrestricted emigration policy the government was soon to introduce.
Eventually Professor Ashton, now 60 was persuaded to end the self imposed retirement she had entered into and front a new movement against the emigration policy. At a meeting in the Scott's Town Municipal Hall the Foundation for Practical Knowledge was formed, composed of virtually all the intellectuals and thinkers in the colony. It also had a substantial numbers of members of the local garrison who had undertaken many exploratory missions over the years.
Using this new mandate, all of her remaining moral authority and much popular support amongst the initial colonists, Ashton took on the government once more. At one stage she threatened a strike to close down any further movement of colonists. However before things could come to a head, the unpopular government fell in a general election.
The incoming government threw out the proposals for forced emigration of petty criminals. A new policy of enhanced infrastructure building leading to faster colonisation was agreed with the FPK and led to the rapid but balanced expansion of Wellon that has given rise to the prosperous, stable state of today.
The death of Anne Ashton in 2185 was a key moment in the foundation's history. A defining, indeed dominating figure of the FPK and the colony since its creation. Ashton was buried in a private ceremony, but mourned very publicly at New Camelot's St. George's Cathedral. The educational facility building on the banks of the Cam near the original site of Cook's Town was named Ashton University (a move which most admitted would have flattered her towering intellectual vanity) and would later become one of the most prestigious Universities of the English speaking worlds.
The FPK at this time undertook to widen its activities from concentrating solely on Tiranean projects and contribute off-world. Within a year FPK teams were involved in projects at Queen Alice's Star and Clarksstar. The FPK has maintained a wide spread of interests throughout the 23rd Century on many worlds, only some of which are mentioned in this chapter.
At Clarksstar the FPK were involved in scientific investigation of that complex system. In addition they also acted as an unofficial link between the British government and American- Australian survey teams based at the station investigating what would become the American Arm. Relative newcomers to the colonial race the American-Australian teams lacked some of the cutting edge techniques then being employed by the ESA nations. Using the FPK to transfer some of this knowledge allowed the British to aid these once closely allied nations without sparking political fallout on either side.
In 2214 the FPK concluded a deal with the Manchurian government to open a research base on Syuhlahm in the Zeta Tucanae system to study that world strange lifeforms. The FPK succeeded in gaining access to the system where other foundations, most notably the NARL, failed because of its low key approach and burgeoning scientific reputation. The original research station still exists and has formed the foundations for the thriving settlement of New Liverpool.
One of the FPK's main extra-Tirane projects is based on Crater in the Henry's Star system. That world takes its name from the crater left behind after a major 'dinosaur killer' asteroid impact that devastated that world's ecology. The remnants of that ecology, in fossilised form, are still present and represent a scientific treasure trove. The FPK has its Headquarters in the city of Rimview and a forward base beyond the edge of the colony. The project on Crater has some 100 staff in total assigned too it.
The Foundation also has a presence on the other British colonies of Alicia and New Africa. The mission on Alicia, for so long led by the Duchess of Edinburgh that it became synonymous with her, specialised in marine biology and tectonics. Whilst on New Africa, alongside a variety of other teams, the FPK has delved gleefully into the task of categorising the huge array of wildlife found in the colony's rain forests.
The FPK has also played a major part through the years in Canada's colonisation programme. They aided the Canadians efforts to contribute to the colonisation of Chengdu, using the links built up with the Manchurians through the Syuhlahm project. Alongside the Life Foundation they are major contributors to that world's University of Epsilon Indi. In recent years much of the spade work for Canada's New Champlain colony was undertaken by the FPK. It should also be noted that FPK members made up a scientific team attached to Canadian troops fighting the Slaver War against the Sung.
Whilst gaining an increasing reputation for its work away from Tirane the FPK never neglected the domestic front. It led the way in founding such cities as Livingstone and Knightsbridge, whilst steering the development of places like New Cleckheaton. The FPK took special interest in the effect of introducing Terran flora and fauna into the native environment. The trial projects to introduce endangered Pachyderms and Cetaceans to Tirane have been under the close eye of the Foundation.
The slow colonisation of the British colony of New Cornwall on 61 Ursae Majoris has been something of a phyrric victory for the FPK. The Foundation desired a more structure approach to colonisation after the somewhat haphazard efforts at Crater and New Africa, and lobbied successfully for this alongside other agencies. However the encouraging initially stages has long stalled through political interference and the once promising project is now badly off track. The British government is now on the verge of doing away with the careful prior planning and throwing the colony open to colonisation.
The FPK's long term roots in Wellon have been concentrated in the wide academic community in the colony. Most faculty members aspire to become Fellows of the FPK and almost all hold Membership, student membership is also widespread. Most of Wellon's universities are self-governing institutions funded predominantly by government. However most have some facilities provided by the FPK as well as access to the FPK's Data Net.
The Ashton University based in New Camelot is the institution most often associated with the FPK, and it's reputation has mostly been gained through the additional funding provided by the FPK. Additionally the University's Ashton Hall provides the setting for most of the FPK's ceremonial and annual meetings.
Other universities with strong links to the FPK include most notably the University of Victoria, Aston University (North Albion Campus) and the collegiate University of Cameron.
Further mention should be made of the Wellon University. The WU is a non-centralised learning resource based on the FPK Data Net. Through this a vast array of courses are available for very little cost. Established some 60 years ago by consolidating several regional institutions the WU is a source of pride to most Wellonese, some 60% of whom are studying for some qualification with it at any given time. The WU is also open to citizens from other Tiranean nations and colonies, who make up some 20% of the student body.
Due to the size of Wellon the residential boarding school remains a major part of the schooling system. The FPK runs some 30 of these establishments across Wellon, most of which are open to under-privileged children on scholarships and make up a major part of the FPK's charitable program. The rest of the students are generally the children of FPK employees and members on duty off-world. All schools in Wellon have access to the FPK Data Net.
Lastly the FPK is also largely responsible for setting educational standards within Wellon. A job it took on virtually as soon as it was established in the absence of governmental supervision. It is also responsible for the setting of most exams taken in the under-18 schooling process. The Wellon Educational Certificate (similar to the French Baccalaureate) is both set and certified by the FPK.
The FPK has long had a hand in the development of Wellon. In particular the sitting of settlements to have the minimum environmental impact whilst maximising the standard of living for the people who will eventually live there. The city of Livingstone, and the development of the Livingstone Peninsular is seen as the crowning achievement of the FPK's work on Wellon.
The FPK still conducts exploratory and scientific expeditions within Wellon and in other parts of Tirane. These are often conducted alongside the Royal Geographical Society and are concentrated in the Blight, the New Albion Rain Forest and in the Arctic Territories. Other, more prosaic missions are conducted throughout Wellon normally under university auspices looking into things like the impact of non-native fauna and flora to give but one example.
The FPK's Point Sterling Oceanographic Institute and New Kelvinside Hydrological Centre are also amongst the world leaders in exploring and categorising Tirane's oceans, seas and aquatic life forms. They have taken a leading role in monitoring the effects of the controversial cetacean introduction projects.
Although it has largely eclipsed it from the very beginning of its existence, the FPK maintains cordial relations with the British Alpha Centauri Survey. The BAC Survey continues with much valuable work, but is best known today for it's excellent mapping of the continent.
As mentioned above much has often been made of the FPK's political clout. However, aside from the rigorous scientific methodology espoused by the Foundation, the FPK's membership contains the whole diverse spectrum of political opinion and the foundation as a whole rarely wields the full potential of its power on any given issue.
The exception to this rule is the Political Impact Forum hosted by the Ashton University. The PIF consists of a key membership of Fellows of the FPK and most of the FPK executives. It is supported by the full resources of the Ashton University Politics, History and Sociology Departments. It exists to attempt to steer the political development of Wellon.
As such the PIF has been a key force behind the timing and content of the key legislation during the evolution of Wellon. The PIF has many allies in the Wellon and British Parliaments, although the Conservative Party has often been an implacable political enemy. Detractors of the PIF home and abroad have often said that with Home Rule Wellon gave up being run by the British and was now in the hands of the FPK. This is an oversimplification of the actual situation but is often damaging to the cause of the Foundation.
The FPK has several sources of income, but most of its funding comes from bequests made by former members. As a result the FPK has a wide portfolio and no little financial clout.
One of the Foundation's key assets is the Reynard Trust, which together with various Earth based concerns controls the large Albion/Sunrise Media Group. The A/SMG controls several of Wellon's newspapers including the Mercury, Victorian, and Guardian of New Scotland which exist in print and electronic formats and cover numerous political viewpoints.
The A/SMG also controls magazines and broadcasting media outlets. These include radio stations in most cities, the North Albion Broadcasting Service, and Sunrise Films. Through the Reynard Trust the FPK attempts to stay out of the day-to-day running of the A/SMG, although it aims to maintain A/SMG at the high quality end of the marketplace.
One of the commercial ventures developed by FPK itself is the commercial arm of its Data Net. Whilst educational establishments have free reign of the Data Net, commercial concerns have pay for access to the FPK's huge databases and network backbone. The Data Net is a massive and widespread resource, which the FPK recently admitted it did not actually know the full extent of.
The Foundation has shares in several key corporations that have been donated by members who often established these bodies in the first place. The FPK has a valuable 10% stake in Black Arrow Systems a key information systems contractor for the RSN and other British militaries. The Foundation also has smaller stakes in the ship-building field including British Ludlum, Rolls Royce Alpha Centauri and the Infinity Design Group.
The FPK works closely alongside the Royal Space Navy's Astrographic Service in undertaking initial exploration missions. In recent years FPK personnel have been involved in preliminary missions in the Wolf Cluster as well as along the American arm. These expeditions are carried on-board the RSN's dedicated exploration vessels. They represent the most glamorous duties available in the FPK.
More detailed scientific expeditions are also a part of the FPK's mandate, but these are often conducted alongside the Royal Society. These range from detailed, long term work on newly discovered worlds to deep space theoretical science.
In the last decade the FPK has financed the construction of two purpose built starships. The Ashton and the De Lancey are state of the art designs and have been deployed on prestigious missions for the FPK. Elements within the FPK are debating the worth of sinking so much money into ships however.
The FPK also finances expeditions in the already discovered systems and colonies to further the knowledge about these areas. A key project in preparation in recent years has been a project to investigate the alien ruins on Beowulf's inhospitable first moon. The project has been preparing drones and specially modified combat walkers for the attempt.
The FPK has few commercial dealings outside of Alpha Centauri. However they have holdings in the New African and Crater Data Nets, and have recently gained a key contract to construct and operate (through a subsidiary) the New Cornwall Data Net. The Foundation's media arm also has holdings on a variety of worlds, including Doris, Syuhlahm, Nous Voila as well as the main British colonies.