"What is nice in life? To put the kettle on, to see a plate of biscuits before you, and to taste the fermentation of the teapot." Collected Sayings of the Teasmen, volume XI.
A beginning is a delicate time, so I'd best not cock this up. Didcot 4, known as Urn, is a temperate planet largely given over to agriculture. It is particularly noted as a centre of production for tea: around 60% of Imperial tea is grown on Urn. As such, it is of considerable importance within the British Space Empire.
The following information is intended as a guide to Empire personnel new to Didcot 4 and whose only previous experience of tea as in a Liptons corner shop. Tea has moved on a tad...
Urn is largely rural. Outside the few large settlements, most developed landscape is devoted to plantation farming by the local settlers, the Teasmen. Tea plantations are often extremely large and owned by farming collectives, who pool funds to purchase equipment for the management and harvest of the farms. Large railways are used to move harvested tea in bulk. Permanent arrangements are in place with the great shipping guilds, which move tea off-world and to the Empire's ever-thirsty citizens.
Settlements are generally quite small. The capital city of Urn, the imaginatively-named Capital City, has a population of around 2 million people, many of whom service the planet's main spaceport. Capital City is a dusty, slightly dull place. Citizens often gather at special cafes, where they take 'High Tea' and, to use the local slang, get sconed. In recent years, a casino and entertainment complex has been added.
Much of the fauna of Urn was exported from Earth. Although farming is fairly mechanised, dogs and horses are not uncommon, many of which have become as reliant on tea as their owners.
The most famous - and lethal - of Urn's natural fauna are the sun dragons. These huge reptiles rarely set foot on the planet, preferring to ride the thermal currents on their enormous wings. They store static electricity, which they can discharge so as to stun prey and disable vehicles. Missile batteries discourage them from the spaceport, although this is a costly endeavour, made additionally difficult by the fact that sun dragons are equipped with a range of natural defenses that make them difficult to target electronically.
The intelligence of sun dragons is not known, although they appear not to be self-aware. The largest captured specimen had a wingspan of 170 feet, although it is thought that much larger specimens exist. Droppings the size of buses have been observed falling from the heavens. Big game hunters are advised to pack rocket launchers and hard hats.
Citizens of Urn are often referred to as Urnies by offworlders. The term is not wholly complimentary, but is infinitely preferable to the downright crude epithet Fast Milkman.
The rural population of Urn - in particular, the farmers - are referred to as Teasmen. Their ancestors were among the first colonists shipped to Urn from Earth, and are known for their tough, self-sufficient outlook and their unusual customs. It is said that one may recognise a Teasman by his brown-stained lips (and, among older Teasmen, shirt front).
The majority of Teasmen have high regard for the mystic art of Tassomancy, the reading of the future from tea leaves. The most rural areas of Urn are effectively governed by the coven of wandering mystics known as Saucerors. Notable Saucerors include Sam O'Varr and Benny Jesuit.
The Teasmen are a proud people, and pass down their heritage through folk music and song. One notable example is to be found here.
Tea is mildly poisonous to Ghasts, who are allergic to Moral Fibre. As a result we and the several million defenceless citizens of Urn can see no reason why these man-eating aliens would want to conquer it.
We are, however, mildly concerned by the recent rise of the Crusadists, a religious sect promising to bring galactic harmony through witch-burning and pointless carnage.
We suggest that an agent is sent to Urn immediately to investigate the cult and drag our current field operative out of the casino.