Core Sectors >>>>
Centaurus sector >>>
Harbou system >>
Metropolis is the capital and largest city of Thea, the third planet orbiting the G-type star Harbou (Kappa¹ Ceti) in the Centaurus sector. The Royal Salusian Astrographic Society classifies it as an advanced Class-A megacity, with a sapient population above 75 million, fully-established infrastructure at the Federation's highest regular technology level, and a moderate infiltration of uncommon/exceptional advanced technology. It is one of twelve Class-A megacities in the Centaurus sector and the largest of them not on Earth.
Today, Metropolis is a venerable megacity, in keeping with its status as one of the oldest extrasolar cities. Back in the 21st century, though, hitchhikers who didn't know the score used to be startled by how big and well-developed Metropolis was. At a time when most other First and Second Diaspora Earth colonies were barely out of Stage 1, Metropolis was already fully established, making Thea the most advanced outpost of Earth's civilization anywhere in the galaxy—a position it would hold, unchallenged, until the 2200s. To the mid-21st-century hitchhiker, this seemed like a thoroughly unnatural state of affairs, given that, if it was founded by Earthborn humans, that could not possibly have been done before the turn of the century.
The reason for this was that Metropolis was never founded on Thea at all. The city was founded on Earth, in the Standard Year 1796, more than two centuries before Earth's official First Contact with galactic civilization. Until 2020, it stood as the city of Metropolis, Ohio, in one of the midwestern states of the old Earth nation the United States of America.
In that year, Metropolis was removed from its place on the shore of Lake Erie and transported to the uninhabited class-M planet Kappa¹ Ceti III, 29 light-years from Earth, by Brainiac, the renegade Kryptonian supercomputer turned super-criminal android. (Yeah, that's just as weird as it sounds.) Exactly what was Brainiac's purpose in doing this would never be known; immediately after emplacing the city in its new location, the computer's android body was struck by an unusually intense solar flare elicited by the spatial warping technology used to transport Metropolis to the system. Overwhelmed by the massive surge of charged particles and hard radiation, Brainiac suffered a significant memory fault and forgot why it was messing with the city in the first place. It was also rendered unable to put Metropolis back where it found it, assuming it could have been persuaded to make the attempt.
(This was kind of a recurring theme with Brainiac, which was notorious for its grandiose, overly clever, poorly-thought-through plans that never worked out the way it expected them to, usually with results that were both painful and humiliating. It believed itself to be the most intelligent being in the galaxy, and it might have been, but all evidence suggests that it had no common sense whatsover, nor any real understanding of the law of unintended consequences.)
The scientific authorities of Metropolis experimented for several years with ways of moving the city back to Earth, a task that was (and remains) well beyond the bleeding edge of normally extant spatial manipulation technologies. At one point there was a serious proposal to make the attempt anyway, using a hybridized modification of Cybertronian space bridge technology, but at about the time that funding was being amassed for the project, the Fleet of Fog appeared in Earth's oceans and locked the planet down for 20 years. By the time that crisis had resolved itself, the people of Metropolis had voted to abandon the effort and establish their new planet (named "Thea" by popular vote in 2027) as an independent world.
With Metropolis as its capital, Thea became the first extrasolar Earth-human world with a government and economy fully independent from Earth's. In fact, since it never was dependent on Earth, it is inaccurate to refer to Thea as a colony in the strictly technical sense. This would become important in the late 24th century, when the Earth Alliance was formed and "invited" all the human worlds of the Centaurus sector to join. Most of those worlds, as former colonies, responded readily to pressures both legal and clandestine to join the EA, but the Theans—proud of their never-a-colony history—declined. They would have reason to be glad of that decision in 2406, when the EA abolished the remaining sovereignty of all its territories, on and off the homeworld.
Today, Thea maintains its tradition of standing aloof from the politics of the homeworld, refusing to grant extraterritorial privileges to the EA's military and law-enforcement organizations. Although the EA's propaganda machine dismisses it as a vassal state of the Republic of Zeta Cygni for its continued participation in the Babylon Foundation and the International Police Organization, Thea is officially an independent Federation member state, and so on the same politico-legal level as, for example, Zeta Cygni, the Arcturus Sector Hanseatic League, or—as it happens—the Earth Alliance.
Metropolis stands on a lakeshore in a temperate climate band, very similar to its original location on Earth in terms of climate, landforms, and flora. It is unusual among human-settled cities in that it has virtually no suburbs, remaining fully urbanized all the way to its city limits and then lapsing immediately into rural, primarily agricultural, countryside. While there are "bedroom communities" that resemble the classical stereotype of suburbs, they are located in a sort of "belt" surrounding the landward side of the city at an average of 207 miles from the city center, with farmlands and undeveloped forests in between. These communities are served by aircraft and the city's high-speed rail and superhighway networks, enabling residents to commute daily into Metropolis if need be.
The city itself is primarily rendered in an architectural idiom dubbed Art Deco Futura by the 22nd-century Salusian architecture critic Hanno Nortan, blending classical early-20th-century Art Deco elements with something akin to the Salusian Moderne style—an idiom summarized by Nortan in his 2116 book Metropolis: City of Tomorrow as "what Earth's humans in the 1920s thought the 2250s would look like." The result is instantly recognizable as a city primarily designed and built by Earth-descended humans, but with a cosmopolitan galactic edge that most of Earth's own cities never developed.
This aesthetic, and the technological preferentialism underlying it (e.g.: subways, elevated maglev rail, and dirigibles over street-level mass transit, broadcast or underground power and data to keep the streets clear of cables, very tall rather than broadly based major buildings) gives Metropolis a distinctively ultramodern skyline, and its sharply defined urban boundary makes it seem more compact than it really is when viewed from a distance that blurs scale references. One Corporate Sector-based observer likened it to a slice of the Orron IV ecumenopolis dropped unceremoniously into the grain fields of its neighboring farm planet, Orron III, though this comparison implies a discontinuity of aspect that the greater Metropolis area cannot be accused of possessing by anyone whose sensibilities have not been warped by a lifetime in the Corporate Sector.
The "Metropolis aesthetic" has informed the development of a number of other, younger cities; for instance, the city of New Avalon in Zeta Cygni is, while not a direct copy of any one predecessor, unashamedly similar to Metropolis in many respects.
Technologically, Metropolis is a highly advanced city, home to a number of corporate and not-for-profit research and development laboratories operating at the far frontiers of electronics, cybernetics, biotechnology, and civil infrastructure. Some of the farthest-advanced Thean technologies approach the level of Zetan "overtechnology" (though often with rather less stable and/or predictable results).
The most famous building in Metropolis, particularly to people from outside the Harbou system, is the Perry White Building, headquarters of the city's largest news outlet, the Daily Planet. The Daily Planet was originally and remains a broadsheet newspaper, but also operates an infofeed site, several print and online magazines, and a number of other media enterprises. It is readily recognizable in postcards of the city skyline by the giant bronze-plated sculpture of a ringed planet (originally a stylized representation of Sol VI, Saturn) on the roof.
Nearly as recognizable as the White Building, and rather more prominent given that it's the largest building on the planet, is the Lexcorp Tower, which is the home base of the corporation of the same name. A highly diversified technology and consumer products megacorporation, Lexcorp produces virtually anything you can think of, though it's best known in export markets outside Thea for its consumer electronics and mass transit vehicle systems.
Also worthy of note is the STAR Laboratories Building, home of the city's most advanced semi-corporate science and technology research. Although STAR Labs is a privately owned corporation, it does not produce goods itself, instead licensing its developments to manufacturers and offering various technical, scientific, and medical services to the open market. Its building is easily spotted in skyline photographs by the large illuminated star on the roof (iconic roof sculptures being something of a theme in Metropolitan architecture).
Until recently, the obvious first choice for any run-down of the movers and shakers of Metropolis was Superman, the city's long-established superhero. Active from 1938 (yes, you read that right) to 2405 (yes, you also read that right), he was Earth's first superhero and one of the first to move offworld, albeit not strictly by choice in the latter case.
Although he also had a civilian identity in human society (I'm not going to get into that here; it's an open secret in Metropolis these days and you can find out easily enough if you really want to, but it's the custom in town to respect the man's privacy), Superman was always up-front that he was a Kryptonian expatriate named Kal-El, son of the late Science Councilors Jor-El and Lara Lor-Van. Kal-El was sent to Earth in 1913, as an infant, in a desperate attempt to save his life from what Jor-El believed to be the imminent explosion of Krypton. (Somewhat to Jor-El's embarrassment, Krypton went on to not explode until 2005.)
He never revealed the identities of his adoptive parents on Earth, but whoever they were must have raised him right, because he started using his innate Kryptonian superpowers to do good shortly after he finished college, quickly earning the nicknames "Superman" and "the Man of Steel" in the pre-Contact Earth's press. The former, in particular, stuck, and it was under that name that Kal-El of Krypton served the people of Metropolis, Thea, and occasionally the whole galaxy for more than 470 highly adventurous years.
For most of that time, particularly after Metropolis's relocation to Thea, Superman could be a hitchhiker's best friend or worst enemy, depending entirely on the hitchhiker's behavior. If you kept your nose clean and didn't cause problems, he would go to the wall for you. If you got out of line, he would come down on you like a ton of [Ed. Note something you don't want a ton of]. Oh, you'd live, he has a code against killing—in fact, generally speaking, he's just about the nicest guy in the world, wouldn't say boo to a goose—but even a mild-mannered Kryptonian punching you in the face is really something you don't want, even if you're also a Kryptonian.
Much to the dismay of most of the citizens of Metropolis, Superman disappeared while on a mission to deep space in 2405. He told a few of his acquaintances that he was bound for the Rim to investigate a matter there, but what that matter was he seems to have kept to himself. Few Metropolitans believe he's dead, because, well, Superman, but all the same, there has been no sign of him since.
Metropolis's second citizen, Alexander Luthor, Sr., is the founder, president, CEO, chairman, and general all-around undisputed master of Lexcorp. Since Lexcorp is the city's largest and most powerful corporation and its biggest employer, that more or less makes him the boss of the town, although he has never sought elected office and seems more or less content to let the city's civil government attend to its responsibilities unmolested. Oh yeah, he's also nearly 500 years old but looks about 40, presumably because he's an ultra-rich tech baron.
His unexplained longevity notwithstanding, Luthor is an oddity, hard to figure in many ways. He was one of the only prominent citizens of Metropolis never to warm to Superman, maintaining at best a cool cordiality in his relations with the city's hero. Though widely respected and admired in Metropolis for his intellect, his business acumen, his extravagant philanthropy, and his commitment to the city's well-being, he is not personally well-liked; his personality is too cold, remote, and arrogant for most people to like him, and anyway, he doesn't seem to care whether they do. In this, he is often compared to another well-known individual with a similar position in life, the late Maximilien Largo, long-time Master of GENOM Corporation.
As it happens, this is a comparison Luthor vehemently resents, because he and Largo were known to dislike each other intensely during the latter's lifetime. GENOM has virtually no presence on Thea, and that is largely because Lex Luthor spent Largo's entire lifetime expending an inordinate amount of time, effort, energy, and capital to keep it that way. In a rare interview, given to the legendary Daily Planet correspondent Clark Kent shortly after Largo's death in 2388, Luthor denied that this was because he feared for his company's ability to compete with a galactic juggernaut like GENOM.
"There are lines that even I, with my well-earned reputation for ruthlessness and cunning, will not cross, Mr. Kent," Luthor said in that interview. "You are well aware of this, as should be many of your readers. Largo made it his life's work to cross those lines, again and again, whenever it pleased him to do so—even on occasions when it was not in his or his company's interest to do so—simply because he could. That is why I despised him, and that is why I defied him." Then, in a rare flash of wry humor, he added, "It may be the only thing your friend Superman and I have ever agreed about."
Since Superman's disappearance, Luthor has withdrawn somewhat from public life, though he continues to run his company and pursue his philanthropic agenda. Somewhat to many people's surprise, given the famous coolness of his relationship with the hero, he recently established a new charitable foundation in Superman's name, primarily geared toward financing the sort of public works and disaster relief projects to which the Man of Steel used to devote much of his own efforts.
Hitchhikers, do yourselves a favor and don't mess with anything that has this guy's name on it while you're in town. Just don't.
Not really. I mean, there's a mayor and a city council and stuff, but they don't really matter for purposes of the Guide.
Overall, Metropolis is a good place for a hitchhiker, if you're willing to play by the rules. It's clean, well-lit, has a happening night life and a vibrant street food scene; it's one of the most cosmopolitan Earth-rooted cities; it's a very safe city, even with its most prominent superhero MIA. It's got great museums, good bands, and one of the Centaurus sector's outstanding public libraries. The cops there take a dim view of vagrancy, but lodgings are not hard to find or expensive, and the civil services will help an honest traveler out of many a jam—as will most of the citizens.
Get out of line, though, start stealing stuff and/or hurting people, and even with Superman gone, Metropolis will make you wish you'd chosen anywhere else. The infamous criminal Jack Napier once said of Gotham City on Kane's World, "Decent people shouldn't live here; they'd be happier someplace else." Metropolis is the kind of someplace else he had in mind. So if you're of a criminal or anarchic bent, hitchhiker, do the rest of us a favor and don't screw it up for us. Go to Gotham instead! There are folks there who'll look after you.
This Guide entry was written by Ciri Kent, ace reporter for the Metropolis North High School Telegraph, who makes no apology for referring to her great-great-great-grandfather Clark as legendary. Let's go Spartans!