Racing the Darkness: A Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri Fan Fiction Photo Essay and Megagame Setup

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Overview
This is a fictional account of the United Nations Expedition to Alpha Centauri featured in Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri, a 1999 computer game.

I am presenting this material in the form of a photo essay. In 2014, an earlier version of this content was the basis for a megagame, known as a Story Debate, on a now-defunct web forum called The Frontier. In 2020, it fueled a Quest (think a community-driven story) on another forum, Sufficient Velocity.

Introduction
This is the story of an expedition into the unknown. It was an act of desperation, undertaken not in optimism or from a place of pride, but because our species, and the civilization it created, had run out of time. And so we fled the world we had seemingly destroyed for one that might yet destroy us.


Sid Meier, et al. Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri. Firaxis Games. 1999.

Source Material
The primary source material for this work is, quite naturally, the 1999 AAA title Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri and its expansion pack, Alien Crossfire, designed by Brian Reynolds and Tim Train, respectively.

I have been inspired by a huge number of creators working in diverse mediums. You will doubtless see additional traces of, and head nods to, the works of the late authors Michael Crichton (Jurassic Park) and James Clavell (The Asian Saga); Walt Disney; David Brinn (Postman); futurist Syd Mead; the recent TNT television series The Last Ship; the short-lived 2009 NBC series Kings; Ridley Scott's Blade Runner; the book Cold War Hot (ed. Peter G. Tsouras); Jon F. Zeigler's GURPS Alpha Centauri book; the 1998 Blizzard Software computer game StarCraft and its many companion works; the Fallout series of computer games; Christopher Nolen's 2010 movie Inception; and many other inspirations, including an 1803 oil-on-canvas painting of New Orleans by Boqueto De Woiserie.

This fiction is also spiced quite heavily by my personal interest in alternate history, and especially colonial and military history.

I would also be remiss if I didn't give special thanks to some key contributors. The Tribe faction, along with the characters of Pete Landers and John Baptist Keller (here, Jean-Baptiste Keller) are the original creations of an individual with the screen name "Thorn" on a now-defunct web forum called The Frontier. The Shapers faction, including its leader Shoichiro Nagao, come from user "Iron Talon" on the same forum, with additional contributions here from another party, SyntheticGod8 on reddit. MysticWind on the AlphaCentauri2 forums has been instrumental in refining many of the concepts presented here, especially with respect to the Hunters of Chiron.

This project is a creative, not-for-profit endeavor and is not affiliated with Firaxis Games, Inc., Electronic Arts, or the current holders of any rights to the Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri franchise.Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri, all names and pictures of Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri characters, factions, any other related items are registered trademarks and/or copyrights of their respective trademark and copyright holder.

Visit Our Sister Datalinks!
This story has been in various stages of the telling for some time. Here's a link to the full photo essay since March 2022.

If interest picks up, some of the information presented in this location will be different.

Join the Planetary Network!
The Discord community for this fiction can be found here.

Contribute to the Ongoing Story!
Feel free to contribute your own ideas. This is an exercise in worldbuilding, mostly. Letting the imagination soar.

Two ways to engage. First, peruse our GoogleDoc. You can review flavor quotations, the much-expanded tech tree, citizen types, and faction analytics. Second, post your questions and ideas to the thread below.
 

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Academician Prokhor Zakharov said:
The essence of science is transgression. Dare to defy the orthodoxy. Demand to see the proofs. Rigorously test the ideas of others. Allow no presumption of today to keep you from asking: how could it be tomorrow? Here I have a medicine. Must it be injected? Might I ingest it as a pill? Enjoy it as a meal? Breathe it as a gas? Absorb it passively through the skin? Might I even live it, as an experience? - Address to the Faculty

latest

Service Record:

Born in Vladivostok, Soviet Far East. Educated Moscow State University. Appointed to editorial board of Physics Letters A while an undergraduate. Thesis questioned mechanical reliability of nuclear pulse propulsion. Received 2072 Nobel Prize for 2015 calculations leading to first sustainable fusion reaction in a laboratory setting. Served universal military obligation as head of Reactor Laboratory Division aboard aircraft carrier Ulyanovsk.

Deputy Administrator of Experimental Design Bureau (OKB)-1, largest and most prestigious of design bureaus in Soviet space program. Presided over second-generation Tifon spaceplane program. During subject's tenure, OKB-1 experienced a dramatic increase in cosmonaut deaths yet was credited with underwriting successful establishment of Soviet presence in Venusian orbit.

Active contributor to Pravda. Consistent critic of popular resistance to mass vaccination and genetically modified food crops. Declaimed “feudal crutch of religion” as “the foremost barrier to the social progress of our species.”

Recruited by Soviet Institute for Problems of Cryobiology and Cryomedicine. Team credited with major advances in anti-aging therapies, enabling “Long Politburo” of 2041-2065 and laying theoretical groundwork for Wespe-Quinn-Vagner Method of cryogenic stasis. Head of Soviet delegation to U.N. Alpha Centauri Mission from 2052. Awarded Hero of the Soviet Union. Recommended unconditionally by Security Council for Chief Science Officer. Responsible for safe and efficient function of ship’s fusion stardrive and associated sub-systems.

NOTE: Selection proceedings security-locked until 2120.

Psych Profile: Technologist

Cognitive ability at genius level. Believes universe is inherently knowable through empirical observation. Accumulation of knowledge is highest human calling. Worldview driven almost exclusively by instrumentalism. Believes own opinions reflect the undiluted application of logic.

Authorization of work using Gulag prisoners suggests poor ethical judgment and inability to weigh emotional factors. Strong tendency toward self-aggrandizement. Frequent, sustained accusations of misogyny from peers and subordinates. Highly effective manager based on non-human performance measures, but marked inability to function well as part of a team led by others.

Narrative Notes:

Soviet physicist Prokhor Zakharov, celebrated designer of the Unity stardrive. The second-eldest of the nearly half-million passengers, Zakharov was 77 years old at mission launch and in declining physical health. United Nations medical staff estimated his odds of surviving cold sleep at only 62%.

Brusque and arrogant, the physicist was widely disliked by his peers on the ship's command crew. During the Unity Crisis, Captain Jonathan Garland found that Zakharov was unwilling to place the best interests of the survivors and their mission ahead of his personal ambitions. Hunted by the Spartans, frustrated by Kellerite interlopers, and working at cross-purposes to the general evacuation ordered by Executive Officer Francisco d'Almeida from his tomb in Damage Control, Zakharov's engineers proved unable to save the ship.

Their doomed attempt poisoned hundreds of engineers. The burden of providing lifelong care for so many casualties, often permanently incapacitated and sterile, had dramatic implications for the community that would eventually become The University of Planet: robotic servitors of Zakharov's own design outnumbered living colonists by an order of five-to-one as many as three decades after Planetfall.

Sources:
Ricardo Montalbán from Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan is our Zakharov.
 

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Ken Burns' Planet: A History said:
We keep talking about a project. But that very term implies a discipline we never really achieved. It was many minor miracles held together with string. Zakharov and his star drive. Mongkut’s unbelievable political gymnastics. The staggering corruption of Morgan Industries, the Saladon Futures Corporation, and Cornet Marine. Incredible failures of security by the United Nations. When she was disconnected from the space elevator for the first time, Unity was cheered. Not because the people of Earth were excited to see her off, but because they were finally relieved of the burden of having to sacrifice for the sake of this expensive folly that did nothing to quench the fires burning all around them. - Commissioner Pravin Lal

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Unity power plant under construction in Moscow, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, 2021.​

The United Nations Mission to Alpha Centauri was, in generous terms, an unmitigated disaster. First conceived as the American Ares III intra-solar foundry, Unity's derelict skeleton had been a fixture in the nighttime sky above North America for more than a half-century before it was purchased by the U.N.'s Janović Commission for conversion. The ship then finished another forty-three years in geosynchronous orbit, followed by six of trials that took it only as far as Pluto. By both length and volume, it was the largest object ever built by man. Knowing that technological progress would outpace them before completion, her shipwrights opted for dated but proven systems and modular design, hoping to install the engines, reactor, and computer mainframe last, while swapping out secondary systems if and when necessary.

Unity's development was a case study in design flaws, self-destructive behavior, and the perils of consensus-based project management. Amidst countless arguments, industrial accidents, and incidents of terrorism and sabotage, entire sections were started, gutted, and started again as political will and available resources waxed and waned.

A revolving door of visionaries, sponsors, and builders produced a "Frankenstein's Ark" of obsolete and incompatible systems. Political imperatives often spoke louder than practical science. When the Western powers temporarily suspended their participation in the Project from 2014 to 2050, the U.N.'s new Chinese and Warsaw Pact partners dismantled and stole entire modules for closer study Earthside. During one of countless breakdowns in contract re-negotiations, Morgan Aerodynamics sealed over dozens of cargo bays previously installed by competitors, including Serrol-Merowe, Fairchild-Grumman, and the American Reclamation Corporation, then charged the U.N. to rebuild and restock similar bays on the ship's opposite side. To a U.N. Board of Inquiry completed just hours before his departure for the lunar cradle, Unity's captain, Jonathan Garland, observed wryly that there was not a single integrated or accurate schematic--let alone a proper inventory--of the whole ship anywhere in existence.

Providing a crew for the ship presented a separate brace of problems. Tens of thousands of crew members perished in training, while many more died at the hands of mobs and terrorists incensed at the idea of being left behind. During times of extremity, the U.N. made a habit of accepting donations from corporations, private individuals, and even criminal enterprises. Earth's best and brightest shared their one-way trip with exiles, outcasts, and stowaways of every conceivable stripe. Pursuant to a mission charter further amended beyond recognition after most were placed in cold sleep, led by a multi-national crew on the verge of dissolution since the day it had formed, they were destined for a world where contact with a smaller, earlier mission launched in better times, the Pathfinder Probe, had been lost for reasons still unknown.

Unity took forty years to travel the distance between its point of origin, the Lunar Cradle, and Alpha Centauri, the closest star system to our own.

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U.N.S. Unity crosses the interstellar medium. Forward hab and hydroponics bays are visible radiating from the ship's spine.

More than 450,000 colonists and crew were entombed in Unity's seventeen-mile-long hull for the silent crossing to Chiron. The selection process was a monument to bureaucratic rationalism.

In the early years, each recruit was first nominated by a national commission, then processed by a panel of experts operating under the auspices of the U.N. Security Council. Virtually no trade or calling was excluded. Our species's future was to be secured not only by astronauts and botanists, physicists and physicians, but judges and civil servants, poets and preachers, lawyers and musicians. Most had advanced degrees prior to selection. A very high number were nationally or even internationally renowned. There were Olympic gold medalists, Fields Medalists, and Nobel laureates by the carload lot.

Just under a third of all recruits received at least three additional years of mission-specific education and training, half of it in classrooms and the rest at a network of habitats on Luna and Mars. The curricula were designed by Morgan Adaptive Learning Associates in cooperation with the University of Tokyo and the Indian Institute of Technology.

Senior command staff were appointed directly by the Security Council. Ship's crew were seconded from the uniformed services of various donor nations and corporations. As expected, space agency alumni predominated, but some countries also used the project as a way to sideline politically unreliable military personnel.

The quality of the more than 80,000 charter colonists varied even more widely: while American industrialist Oscar van de Graaf's hand-picked franchise holders were almost all luminaries, Struan's Pacific Trading Company provided their representative, pharmaceutical scion and former MI5 man Roshann Cobb, with less salubrious characters. Against Garland's dire warnings, Charterists were even permitted to board their own private military service providers for future defense.

Selection protocols relaxed substantially over time. The U.N. made numerous high-level political appointments to senior staff in exchange for funding and access to required infrastructure such as space elevators, orbital factories, and space construction vehicles. Inclusion of re-socialized prisoners, a Warsaw Pact innovation, represented the most controversial change, and prompted the Security Council to grudgingly furnish Garland and his officers with a complement of marines to ensure their safety. Robotic servitors were introduced in the 2050s after spectrographic analysis of Chiron indicated that planetary conditions would be considerably more hostile than initially projected.

Because of the very large number of personnel moving through the program, the first “sleepers” were placed in suspended animation in October 2061, and the last immediately before departure in February 2071. After March 2065, cryogenic stasis was performed only according to the Wespe-Quinn-Vagner Process, selected for its comparatively high rate of patient survival.

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One of the expedition's several thousand physicians, Dr. Elizabeth Shaw, seen in suspended animation.

The U.N. settled on Wespe-Quinn-Vagner after a thorough investigation of more than two dozen alternatives. On this, the mission's ranking medical personnel achieved a rare full consensus. Chief Medical Officer Pravin Lal's official memorandum of recommendation to the United Nations Medical College, now housed in the archives of his alma mater, The Aga Khan University, is counter-signed by Unity's Director of Neurosurgery, Dr. Aleigha Cohen; its director of Genetic Medicine, Dr. Tamineh Pahlavi; and Psych-Chaplain Miriam Godwinson, who attended to the ethical implications associated with artificially extending human life. Himself a recognized expert in geriatric therapies, Chief Engineer Prokhor Zakharov took the unusual step of appending an amicus note.

Sources:
First picture is Midgar from Final Fantasy VII.

American Reclamation Corporation is from Beyond Earth.

Struan's Pacific Trading Company is from The Asian Saga by James Clavell, who passed in 1984.

Picture of U.N.S. Unity is from this webpage. Artist unknown.

Picture of Dr. Elizabeth Shaw is from Ridley Scott's Prometheus (2012).
 

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General Ôrad of Utár Wawesh said:
It is the things we do not abandon that define who we are. - Datalinks

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For every three happy hearts set to work on the so-called Ark of Humanity, there was one turned bitterly against. Ôrad of Utár Wawesh was one of these.

Utár Wawesh was a constituent commandery of the County of Toltan, one of the three thousand "sandbox" nations dredged up by the likes of Eos Planetary Renewal in the Southern and Pacific Oceans in the 1990s to relieve South American overcrowding and provide a landing place for refugees of nuclear accidents becoming steadily more common as the technology cleared the hurdle of broad commercial adoption.

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Engineering protocol called for reclaimed nations to be ringed in barrier peaks to protect against the ravages of typhoon waters. Corazón Santiago's refugees would follow this well-worn principle on hurricane-prone Chiron when they became first to found a maritime base at Anchorage on the Nessus Sea.

Descended from original settler stock (the same who bequeathed Chironians a term they later used for themselves, "newlander"), Ôrad set aside his childhood interest in music to become a soldier so that his family would not lose valuable rights to land, pearl beds, and shares in whaling fleets under Toltan's merit-based inheritance laws.

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The waters of the southern Pacific were garbage-choked to the point of ecological disaster but schools of toxin-resistant fish thrived in the artificial reefs formed around the skeletons of dormant tidal generators stopped up by the floatsam. This trawler uses digital fiber to catch crosswinds for easy maneuvers. The sails, which were embedded with conductive monofilament, could be furled near-instantaneously when the weather turned foul and deployed just as quickly when it passed.

The Cold War was heating up in the Southern Hemisphere in the first decade of the new millennium when Ôrad found himself a fresh-faced cadet at West Point Military Academy, one of sixty International Cadets. Domestic woes had begun to sap America's ability to play its traditional role of global policeman. Soviet agents stepped eagerly into the void. Their promises stoked the emergence of an increasingly violent liberation consciousness among the destitute, dispossessed, and colonially subject. Ôrad returned home by Concorde supersonic jet to spend school holidays in the uniform of a special policeman brawling with fishermen and algae tenders that ate just two meals a day on the U.N. dole.

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"U.N. Standard Care" provided between 2,000 and 4,000 calories of food per person per day based on assessed nutritional need, most non-habit-forming medications, seasonally appropriate natural clothing, all-weather survival tents, and one datalinks terminal per family unit that could be used for education, entertainment, and professional activities. Most factions followed the same model in the Era of Planetfall, adding hostile environment survival equipment and air supplies. Similar arrangements continued to be made available to struggling citizens in some factions for decades longer, among them the Believers, the New State, and the University. Humanitarian services were more comprehensive among both the Peacekeepers and the Tribe.

From the first, Ôrad sought opportunities to reach the acme of his profession, earning jump wings at Camp Hero, New York before spending six months with the 27th Armored Division during a deployment to wide swing through Atlanta to bring the Christian States to heel. In 2045, Ôrad received instruction as part of the Central Intelligence Agency's short-lived Great Neck Project, designed to groom the officers of allied governments in the fundamentals of national security and derided as "coup school" by its detractors. Ôrad put what he learned to good use, participating in the bloodless overthrow of his country's democratically-elected government two years later for failing to ratify accession to the SEPTO.

In return for his services to the new ruling junta, Ôrad was made Viceroy of Asidaph, a strategically significant atoll that, at the time of his appointment, had become a haven for pirates under an ex-American naval officer, Cyril Banes, who punctuated his depredations with ostentatious gifts to the burgeoning IOEZ and Pacifica drone population and claimed the mantle of "environmental activist." Using his newfound authority, Ôrad commandeered a tramp freighter impounded by the Toltan Water Watch and, with a scratch crew of reservists, sank the pirate mothership at anchor in a daring night raid.

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The S.S. Arkannen's masts were removed to make room for the turret of an M60E7 Patton tank bought from a Brazilian intermediary.

Ôrad's career drew to a close just as Toltan began an aggressive courtship of the U.N., then casting about for almost any assistance to replace inconstant sponsors in the Global West. Ôrad counted himself a skeptic. Good people owed their lives to the U.N.'s relief programs, but they had not, in the end, provided a viable blueprint for regional development--only a crude existence that corroded the human spirit and stoked friction between social classes that, sharing the same space, ought to have worked together. Local critics accused Ôrad of reading Jean-Baptiste Keller. Ôrad had them jailed and returned to brokering fishing quotas with the Philippine government.

Retired for more than a decade by 2059, Ôrad buried his wife, their daughter, and two sons in that year, the saddest, he said, of his entire life. They were victims of crop blight, too weak to fight off the Red Flu season. Toltan, like many third-world nations, purchased rights-controlled rice seed. The varietal was engineered by Zerant Technologies (ZtN) to manifest biological defects, including botulism, after a set period of time if the purchaser did not obtain genetically-modified insects capable of restoring its viability. Toltan could afford neither the high asking price of the designer insects nor the price asked by Struan's for its life-saving defoliant. Flu inoculation at clinics in Chile proved useless: the headwinds against the preventative had been too strong, producing conditions in which the virus easily mutated to resist the latest drugs.

For weeks, Ôrad contemplated suicide. Then, word came that Carmel had fallen into a second bout of civil war. Toltan stood by its traditional ally. Ôrad returned to uniform and led the Pacifica Battalion, an all-volunteer force that joined the desperate fighting along the Küv-Dan Line. Ôrad's forces took hundreds of prisoners for which the Gathis were unprepared.

Ôrad's solution was to offer the Shilohne captives to the U.N. as replacements for the colonists they were no longer enrolling through their original talent lottery. Nearly all the prisoners accepted this offer, reasoning that they were otherwise facing certain starvation. The U.N., strained otherwise to the breaking point, ignored the protests of the disgraced Benjamin government in Gilboa. After once drinking such sweet wine, the U.N. developed a taste for it. Soon, it became accepted practice for governments to give convicts, no-pats, and others the choice of exile.

As for himself, Ôrad refused to be lured away from the false archipelago for which he had done so much. Instead, he used his newfound fame as a platform from which to question the ethical and practical basis for the U.N. Mission to Alpha Centauri.

General Ôrad of Utár Wawesh said:
We, who can make nations from the sea and pitch ourselves forty-four light years through nothingness, despair of the simple project of saving ourselves. It is not apocalypse we are outrunning, but the shame of failure. - Datalinks

Ôrad released an autobiography shortly before Mission Launch. The datatape was an obscure one, but it made it as far as the personal effects of Roshann Cobb, recovered from White Rabbit's Refuge, and the voluminous libraries of Liquidator Shoichiro Nagao, who returned often to the islander's accusations, which he told subordinates were true, however upsetting.

Sources:
First picture is a still from the NBC series Kings (2009).

Second picture is "Craters of Lyra 9" by Artur Rosa on ArtStation.

Third picture is by Simon Stålenhag, found on Radical Ocean Futures.

Fourth picture is "Fishing Village" by jpeabody on DeviantArt.

"U.N. Standard Care" inspired by "Basic Assistance" in The Expanse.

S.S. Arkannen is "Tramp Freighter" by LordSopping1885 on DeviantArt.
 

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Vice President Eret Ingollsman said:
We have already discovered immortality in the form of generational wealth. Long after my name is forgotten, the decisions I make in this life will have shaped a comfortable future for my children's children's children. - Datalinks

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The view from Base Operations. Massive mainframe computers housed in the bowels of Unity's Landing Pods monitored the air pressure of every compartment, performed radiolocation for every vehicle, tracked ambient temperature and humidity in every hydroponics dome.

Automation was the accepted solution for very low population counts and very high rates of death from accumulated injuries or post-landing accidents, or simple misadventure. Given the correct stack of diskettes and fail-safes, a single duty tech could easily oversee a base of 15,000 residents.


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Baptismo Wells, a corruption on the original Greek for "ceremonial washing," was an early example of the preservationist instinct in Believer architecture, which later trended toward monumental Egyptian Middle Kingdom and Polynesian Hale styles.

The Wells originated as a shrine to martyr Jarvis Findlay, shot dead and mutilated by Holnists during a period of self-imposed isolation in MY2. Within a year, the draw of his example, along with the area's splendid beauty and abundant waters, gave rise to permanent settlement.

The structures appeared to rise up from the roaring River Tethys but were actually built on massive stone peers. On the orders of the Kritarchy, huge flood gates were installed to dam up the river--a method of ensuring the Conclave would retain strong advantage if ever it were forced to cede its interest in the valley below.


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Academician Prokhor Zakharov said:
Imagine the entire contents of the planetary datalinks, the sum total of human knowledge, blasted into the Planetmind’s fragile neural network with the full power of every reactor on the planet. Thousands of years of civilization compressed into a single searing burst of revelation. That is our last-ditch attempt to win humanity a reprieve from extinction at the hands of an awakening alien god. - Planet Speaks

Centauri Computing built on understandings of the xenofungus as analogous to a nervous system at planetary scale. The same mind-machine interface between humans and computers, still dangerously imperfect, was attempted with Planet itself.

Alexandria's Elegy, built and operated by the Tomorrow Initiative, thought the exchange was a one-way street: its librarians drew energy from the fibral network of xenofungus to speed indexing and retrieval from the Unity Data Core surrendered by the Restoration under orders from the Planetary Council. Without the speed enhancements of optical computing, this was a brute-force action, and the residual heat required that the base by placed directly at the sub-zero headwaters of the Tartarus Frost Range. Circuits burned so quickly that Morganite liquidators were in permanent residence. Planet attempted to crush the pyramidal stacks from without: they were built from plasma steel to warp with the attempt.


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Captain Shizen Ito of the New State submarine Burr enjoys the suns. She has developed a personal style distinguished by the use of leather, outlawed everywhere on Earth after 2021. Her jacket might be a rare heirloom, but given the flawless condition is almost assuredly a harmless reproduction. The sentiment behind her appearance--the idea that giving and receiving offense is a critical aspect of healthy society--reflects the fundamental hypocrisy at the heart of L'État nouvel, where the often hidebound population demanded the Admiralty protect them from the emotional consequences of their own prejudice.

Sources:
First quote is paraphrasing the character of Donald Whitfield, played by Timothy Hutton, in 1923, produced by Taylor Sheridan.

First picture is "Stargate Research Base" by Nevena-Jevtic on DeviantArt.

Second picture is "Watercity After Storm" by the same author on DeviantArt.

Third picture is "Alien World 2" by the same author on DeviantArt.

Fourth picture is "Xiang Lavigne" by CodexBorderlining on DeviantArt.
 

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Renewer Ikurō Kamatari said:
It was easy to love the Earth. Standing barefoot in the sunshine, we swallowed cold lungfuls of juniper-tinged air and plucked apples from the trees. What use to us is this other place that we cannot even taste? - I Reject

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At Folger's Tear, the waters of the broad River Lethe completed an important milestone on their their long journey to the sea. Flat, fertile plains beckoned irresistibly to human settlers. Pilgrims made the place their home in MY4 using materials found at nearby crash sites. Hungry for familiar foods, they exterminated the local fungus and began Terraculture. Within a decade, aggressive cancers had claimed fully half the recent arrivals, defeating the rudimentary chemotherapies still at hand. Hunter hydrologists soon discovered why. A chemical tank had impacted just twelve kilometers away and forty-four million gallons of ethylene glycol had soaked into the water table.

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Morganite cities embraced the Second Empire style. In the eyes of the Families, giving form to one's megalomania was evidence of their fitness to rule.

Drones were rarely inclined to surrender the energy credit required for entry into any such domicile of the elite. Instead they sought the "Liberté, égalité, [et] fraternité" of the open market stall and the salvaged cargo container.

Morgan outlawed the dangerous phrase. Corporate "Specials," deputized by the powers-that-be, made regular runs through the Commons, ostensibly looking to enforce the vice laws that forced the less-fortunate to take whatever solace they could in the gambling halls.


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Telbi Acharya first spoke on behalf of the Conclave in MY51 during Sister Miriam Godwinson's Second Convalescence. Her appearance, and the strident warning she offered to her Ascendancy interlocutors, were a radical departure from the scrupulous humility and extreme agreeableness of the Believer diplomatic corps.

Records indicate that Acharya was a resocialized victim of Post-Nuclear Madness, a disease she contracted during childhood in Kashmir. Before withdrawing from the region, a Chinese "relief mission" attempted to "cure" her by implanting a Memory Cassette loaded with the eighty books of the Conclave Bible, which Acharya could thereafter quote at will.

Acharya perceived herself the perfect accompaniment to Miriam's honeyed leadership style, for she was willing to do what the Blessed Sister was not. Like Pravin Lal, Godwinson gambled on a team of rivals to balance her natural inclinations.

Serious misgivings about Acharya's judgement did not prevent Godwinson from ceding authority over the Nauvoo Legion, which she felt unable to use to best advantage during a time when enemy encroachments were reaching intolerable levels.


Sources:
First picture is "Crater" by NeotericEvolution on DeviantArt.

Second picture is "Bridges" by AndreeeWallin on DeviantArt.

Third picture is "Zaide Sayadova" by CodexBorderlining on DeviantArt.
 

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Lady Deirdre Skye said:
Like the teeth of some ravening monster, the hard angles and false promise of mechanical ingenuity have come again to reduce us all to drones. - We Must Dissent

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"The Stacks" are an area of volcanic badlands in far northwestern Agammen bounded by the Odyssean Sea to the north, the Iapetian Piers to the south and west, and lava flows to the east. The nearest permanent settlement is Watch Station LR-4, maintained by the Memory of Earth.

Ambient winter temperatures bottomed out at 114°F. The boiling water that churned from its geysers had a pH of zero. Caustic burns were a constant concern: local conditions visibly corroded most materials after just one standard hour.


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On a world where the land fought back with ferocity and skill, a base's first significant expansion was apt to be skyward.

As time went on, the humans of Chiron, already fractured by ideology, divided again along the fault lines of their affinities toward technology and ecology. In cities like Electroville, people who had never seen Planet Earth cocooned themselves in glass and steel to gain a better understanding of their ancestors.


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F-26M Polecat Interceptors of the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force prepare to meet a Soviet Tu-210 Bashplate over the Sea of Okhotsk during the Confusion in Heilongjiang.

The tenterhooks of nationalism had loose claim on most mission survivors, and no leader with any significant following proposed forming colonies around national or ethnic ascription. In the chaos of the escape from Unity, there had been no time for such a sorting. Yet the political bequests of our divided homeworld were obvious.

As a shining success from a brutal system, Academician Zakharov retreated from students' calls to act decisively against such things as hazing and provide greater insight into faction governance. In public, he denigrated the ability of the "lesser-educated" to "apply the necessary discernment" around what to study or where to allocate scarce resources. Privately, he lamented the presumptuousness of the student body and rarely expanded his circle of close confidants, always men, frequently fellow products of similar authoritarian regimes.

Many factions tolerated the continuing use of national symbols like the Red Star or the Union Jack as a means of either fostering collective memory or rejecting the continuing authority of the United Nations, which had instructed they be painted over.

One-time U.S. presidential hopeful and ex-Cabinet member Oscar van de Graaf went furthest in exploiting the memetic qualities of national identity--Pilgrims waved the American flag--but his vision of the future was essentially a fantasist's riff on concepts of self-reliance and fair dealing popularized more by the likes of Walt Disney than the Founding Fathers. Van de Graaf saw no requirement for equitable courts, much less an independent legislature jealous of its own prerogatives. Besides that, his colony had a distinctly international mien since he'd hired without much consideration of national allegiance. To whom would his workforce write home?

Other key leaders spent much of their lives abroad from the countries of their birth: Deirdre Skye, J.T. Marsh, Roshann Cobb, and Aleigha Cohen were as much victims of British imperialism as loyal citizens of Empire or Commonwealth. Nwabudike Morgan was a political renegade that had tried more often to unmake governments than to serve them. Tamineh Pahlavi was an expatriate by circumstances outside her control. A short stint in the service of the American Reclamation Corporation had hardly inclined her toward national consciousness. Johann Anhaldt was of more use to the French government than the Swiss, but left his homeworld embittered. St. Germaine and d'Almeida both cultivated national cadres, and the Executive Officer was reckoned a hero by his country's elite, but the Contre-amirale was too much a believer in the correctness of his own wisdom to have loved France better, while d'Almeida was too much a realist to attempt the resurrection of a thing bound to another time and place.


Sources:
First picture is "Sci-Fi_character practice." by TylerThullCreations on DeviantArt.

Second picture is "Sunshower" by JonasDeRo on DeviantArt.

Third picture is a screen capture from Patlabor 2: The Movie (1993).
 

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Colonel Corazón Santiago said:
The moods of history, like the laws of energy, suggest that, for every advantage gained by some, there must be a disadvantage inflicted on another. Let it not be you. - Armed, Forewarned

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Writing in the 1920s, German architect Herman Sörgel proposed that his country's expansionist ambitions could be fulfilled by draining the Mediterranean Sea.

For as long as humans have lived with the Earth, we have attempted to change it, usually for commercial reasons. The dam and the ditch have been our preferred tools. Egyptian pharaohs ordered canals to be dug between the Nile River and the Red Sea. Governors used them to make New York City into a hub of industry and turn the Great Lakes of North America into vast highways of maritime trade. Soviet leaders attempted to drain the Aral Sea for irrigation water. Huge dams harnessed old waters to bring electricity--modernity--to burgeoning cities in the American West, Central China, and the Amazon Basin. The European Economic Community dammed up Homer's Wine-dark Sea beginning in 1982, with sub-projects extending south, deep into Central Africa. This work resulted in one barrier across the Dardanelles, a second across the Strait of Sicily, a third at the Bosporus, a fourth on the River Congo. Lake Chad swelled to reach Faya-Largeau.

From the 1950s, the great powers did much of their digging with what they dubbed "Atoms for Peace." Nuclear charges blew the tops off mountains and scoured deep trenches in the Earth's crust. This practice was especially appealing to developing nations and imperial powers in possession of large, sparsely-populated or politically-subjugated territories. Leading the way were the Americans, Soviets, French, Indians, Portuguese, and South Africans. Las Vegas became the City the Bomb Built. Atomic engineering was used again on the Moon and Mars to excavate sub-surface habitation, and as a motive force to move small asteroids into accessible orbits for scientific investigation and subsequent strip-mining.

Rising sea levels spurred strong interest in the creation of artificial reefs and island chains. Three distinct habitation zones emerged: a storm barrage along the North American Atlantic Littoral, including in the Gulf of Mexico; in the Indian Ocean in the Bay of Bengal but later extending to the waters due west of Perth, for purposes of refugee resettlement; and in the Southern Pacific Ocean, largely tied to resource extraction.

Use of atomics for purposes other than killing had become so frequent on Earth that the United Nations thought little of supplying Chiron Interstellar Probe and Unity Mission colonists with a full range of warhead sizes. Early settlers used them immediately for terraforming as well as flattening mountain ranges to alter the paths of rivers or patterns of precipitation and water retention.

Performance against fungus was notably unsatisfactory. Different from the lesser wounds inflicted by fire and conventional explosives, the radiological output of nuclear weapons appeared to stimulate planetary aggression and the re-population of fungal mass. Secondary ignition of nitrate beds was problem: wildfires rarely burned hot or long because of Chiron's low oxygen levels--just 41% that of Earth--but fine dust kicked up through atomic activity choked atmospheric filters and produced deadly and destructive arc flashes.

The question of just whose interests were served through these radical reconstructive surgeries of the living Earth was never explored in full, and each megaproject inspired passionate, sometimes violent, resistance. Agribusiness, cultural chauvinists, the non-patriated, and inland city-dwellers were at the forefront of pushing schemes like the creation of "Atlantropa." Politicians sweetened the offer by promising cheap land and lifelong work for those who had neither. The perspectives of coastal populations, logistics firms, and transhumant people were cooler even after assurances were given of priority relocation and huge tax breaks for impacted businesses. Environmental liberationists struck hard and often. As the impacts were disproportionately inflicted on populations and interest groups with the least political voice, critics reckoned sea level change a form of cultural genocide.

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Magnets played a feature role in combating the very high rates of cancer experienced by the First Generation. Unity survivors received an extra lifetime radiation dose of between 15 and 1700 rem, asbestos exposure far exceeding the maximum tolerable safe level of .1 fibers per cubic centimeter every 30 minutes, and post-hibernation disorders of the memory and nervous system collectively referred to as Cold Disease.

Led by the University of Planet's Xisho Center for Cancer Eradication, researchers used magnets to create steerable drug payloads and trigger amalgamation of defective and cancerous cells for easy obliteration.

What was used to heal could also be exploited to do harm. At Hive infirmaries, workers received generic "inoculation" with magnetic nanoparticles that allowed Overseers to trigger fatal clotting at the push of a button.


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Sale of subscription billets through the charter colony scheme led to a 40% increase in Unity passenger capacity. Project managers turned to museums and private collectors to obtain serviceable equipment. Soviet space suits were favored for their ruggedness, while American styles incorporated better safety features in case of a breach.


Sources:
For more about Atlantropa, see this article on allthatsinteresting.com.

"Fantastic Voyage" diagram is from Sylvain Martel, "Magnetic Microbots to Fight Cancer," IEEE Spectrum, Robotics, 25 September 2012, https://spectrum.ieee.org/magnetic-microbots-to-fight-cancer (accessed: 5 March 2023).

Clumping magnets are described here on howstuffworks.com.

Rem exposure chart from Idaho National Labs.

Third picture is from the Apple+ show For All Mankind.
 

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Sholt Plumb Martin said:
If you've ever wondered what true despair looks like, ask a prize-winning author to help you dig a latrine. - Life, Barely

Specialization of labor is both the first sign of a wealthy society and the very means by which it can become that much wealthier. Tests of faction leadership on Chiron were often about creating opportunities for some of Earth's best-educated people to do what they were good at.

Mission planners had tried to mitigate that very problem through painstaking selection. At first, consideration for inclusion in the mission was limited to candidates who fell within narrow parameters of age and physical fitness. The rule was clear: prefer the well-rounded 'jack over the narrowly-focused master. Once accepted, prospective colonists began two or three years of intense practical training in any of two Colony Occupational Specialties. Mathematicians became journeyman welders and elite rescue swimmers. Surgeons tried their hands at welding. Then came the time in classrooms. Theologians fluent in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew were taught machine language. Poets studied criminal justice and project management fundamentals.

Standards relaxed, then vanished. About a third of Unity passengers graduated the full program. Another quarter completed some training through the U.N., usually the physical component, with a focus on life-safety. Approximately the same number of colonists and crew undertook "equivalencies" with their national governments or qualifying corporations, some in addition to their U.N. commitment, some in lieu of it. Jonathan Garland believed such replacement education was suspect, amounting to political indoctrination, and he turned over document verification to Rachael Winzenried's Security Forces for three months before higher-ups in New York overruled him. Anyone not participating in U.N. or national training was awarded between two years and one month of credits to participate in InterLink correspondence courses--just enough, remembered Aayla Cantwell, to begin to confront all the things one didn't know. Crew members called it being "scared straight."

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U.N. Security Forces recruits participate in room-clearing drills on the orders of Unity Security Chief Rachael Winzenried.

Once on the ground, natural hierarchies arose. They followed a familiar pattern. Leaders and their coteries gained and retained status by assigning posts and dispensing favors. Absent coercion, techs of any kind were next-closest to the top of the heap since anyone who could keep a body or machine going in adverse conditions was nearly guaranteed to receive supervisory duties and the perquisites that went with them. (Subordinates were to learn through proximity and observation.) The next layer belonged to professional soldiers and safety responders, first in the way of harm. Weapons were useful and scarce, therefore valuable. Morgan, Santiago, Cobb, and van de Graaf incentivized their combatants with the promise of plunder. On the third rung were those who filled out the common labor pool, digging and hauling. Below these was anyone who could do no more than watch a gauge or check the seals of a spacesuit.

Within each layer, more granular divisions emerged. Medical professionals were early celebrities. Among paramilitary types, national service usually trumped.

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Pilots learned that they were mechanics first, drivers second.

In time, adjustments were made. Morgan and Van de Graaf linked political power with property rights so that one's occupation mattered less. The University made distinction between those who only worked at a job and those who could instruct others in its performance or otherwise contribute to their "economy of ideas." Factions that employed overseers--the Morganites, Spartans, Dreamers, Hive, and Ascendancy--initially ranked them alongside or just below soldiers, but all learned quickly to carefully circumscribe their authority and limit their access to weapons lest they become an internal fifth column.

Chairman Sheng-ji Yang said:
Practice economy by match reward with need. Recognize the veteran and the drone with food and rest. Tomorrow, they will fight and work all the harder. Send the doctor to the datalinks and he will educate himself in a finer technique. Give the parent a primer and she will use her time to better her child. - Institutes of Leadership

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CEO Nwabudike Morgan said:
Happiness is a menu with many options. - The Centauri Monopoly

Sources:
Joseph Plumb Martin was a Continental soldier and diarist who, after the war, left behind an autobiography titled, A Narrative of a Revolutionary Soldier: Some of the Adventures, Dangers and Sufferings of Joseph Plumb Martin.

First picture is from "Mech Constructor" by Slava Zhuravlev on Bēhance.

Second picture is "training-0217" by Jay Li on Art Station.

Third picture is "Netspectre - Cyberpunk Hacking Roguelike - Hummus bistro" by Joseph Surý on Art Station.
 

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Traditional said:
I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God's gift to man. - Ecclesiastes 3:12-13

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A Hive labor unit distributes the standard ration. Civic Dieticians worked day and night to enhance the gruel's nutritional value but the Chairman insisted that it be rendered flavorless. Longing for joy in food was an "anchor sign," he said.

In Talents, deviation from the Chairman's Tenets could be punished with demotion or added work, but in drones it was overlooked with tolerance bordering on affection. Favorite meal accompaniments were simple: rock salt, green onion, and mushrooms grown in the patches where pipes leaked.


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Fourteen percent of Unity's cargo by volume was shelf-stable food and potable water. It was stored in radiation-shielded, climate-controlled vaults together with the mission's seed stock, blood banks, and temperature-sensitive medicines.

Bulk medicines were sourced from the International Red Cross and broken down for distribution with individual meals. The U.S. Federal Disaster Agency contributed water purification chemicals drawn from post-war storage. Morganite loadmasters blunted the desired public relations effect of the donation by repainting the livery.

Shipboard radiation levels remained so high for so long that the original storage measures failed to prevent widespread radiation poisoning. Knowing full well the dangers of introducing alien crops to a new biome, all factions preferred to recover Supply Pods deployed ahead of the disaster, but they also raced to grow fresh food in Planet's willing soil.

At first, spoiled rations couldn't be entirely avoided. Democratic societies arranged schemes to keep dose rates equitable, factoring age, weight, and other health factors. Crawlers like this one shuttled supplies between bases where Base Operations oversaw distribution. Some leaders had other ideas. Spartans fought duels over the small number of clean meals. In the Ascendancy, Pahlavi ensured that the older and sicker residents received the worst rations. As intended, they died in droves, relieving her of the duty for their care.

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Submarine crews of L'État nouvel received special allowances to supplement their rations with food purchased at the faction's Exchanges. They prized selections particular to the land, especially wheat-based and milk products.

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Tribal meals were near-celebratory occasions. Neighbors pooled resources to organize meals cooked with a wider range of ingredients than were available to any single household. Tribals, like most Purists, insisted on real meat and beer. They brewed the latter from corn.

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Subrids were bread for their flesh, which most colonists found appetizing. Colonists usually combined their fresh food with accompaniments drawn from their survival meals. Hot sauces retained the same cult following they'd enjoyed back on Earth.

Fire-starters, seen here in the bottom right quadrant of the open tin, often failed to ignite but were valuable precisely because of how difficult it was to make fire without them.


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Resurrection of extinct megafauna fueled a popular resurgence in sport hunting among a certain type of wealthy traveler on Earth. For a time, Warden J.T. Marsh had made his living leading safaris of this type. Hunter Lodges took pride in organizing "hungry" expeditions that left their bases without survival packs and undertook to eat only what they snared or shot while on-scout.


Sources:
First image is from The Expanse.

Second image is "Where you want 'em?" by Marrekie on DeviantArt.

Third image is from the film Alien.

Fourth image is from the TV show Firefly.

Fifth image is "Pocket-Sized Star Wars Emergency Ration Kit" by Chrononaut on Autodesk Instructable.

Sixth image is from The Lost World.
 

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Tạ Dọc Thân said:
Whether they knew it or not, Holnists were confronting a timeless problem. It is impossible to tell an audience what has happened without also influencing how they feel about it. – Media and Modern War

Notwithstanding the near-catastrophe of 1973, Israel and Iran more or less ran the Middle East table from the late twentieth century forward, acting in concert themselves, or with the United States, to blunt the ambitions of neighboring states.

In early 1979, the Shah was dying of aggressive cancer, and Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein thought he saw an opportunity to meddle in the succession. But Iraq’s Intelligence Service was inferior to SAVAK in every way, and attempts to stir up pro-Communist sentiment failed, triggering an Iranian ground invasion that quickly gained the northern third of Iraq as a Kurdish homeland.

The U.N. spoke airily of experiments in national reconciliation, but retaliatory pogroms gripped the new Kurdistan Republic and two hundred thousand Iraqi Arabs fled its new capital of Mosul hot on the heels of the retreating Republican Guard. Among them was the extraordinary Essa family.

Awad Essa had been a conservator of manuscripts with the University of Mosul, but a vehicle wreck during the escape to Baghdad left him unable to work. Second son, Boualem, joined the army where he earned assignment to an air defense unit and trained under Soviet advisers sent to rebuild the Iraqi armed forces. Radar operators trained for three months in the Soviet Union, where Boualem saw his first computer, an Agat-7 micro-terminal.

Through black market trades, Boualem acquired an RCA Cosmo personal computer and a word processing program in the form of a ROM cartridge. Boualem’s son, Gulzar, built and rebuilt the machine for the year it took to buy writable memory, at which point the real work began: digitizing the text of centuries-old documents their family patriarch had taken with him into exile.

Patriotic feeling had run dry among Gulzar’s generation, and an uneventful conscription did not tempt him to make soldiering his career, but as a typist he made it onto a colonel’s staff. That colonel ran interference with the United Nations on behalf of his political masters, and from those diplomats of the Mongkut School, Gulzar learned of the opportunities available to the descendants of war refugees like himself.

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Gulzar Essa at training in France. Data Services personnel abandoned the standard togs of other mission branches in favor of uniform blouses and berets.

To grasp hold of the future, Gulzar first had to cut ties with the past. Enormous bribes and genuine transit papers provided by one of Boualem’s former commanders took Gulzar northwest across the border into Mandatory Syria, then on a passenger flight to Marseilles, home of the United Nations Interlink.

Data services were the fiefdom of a Tạ Dọc Thân, a notorious martinet who used paramilitary language and stylings whenever his superiors were looking the other way. To Gulzar’s surprise, he was taught less about the fundamentals of database management or electronics repair than the politics of popular memory. Thân, he noticed, had a taste for length. No documentary was too long, no memo too detailed. He delighted in knowing things that other people did not and once explained to a packed classroom that Data Services existed not to determine what should be stored in Unity’s computer systems, but to know where to find what was.

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A Data Services technician completes production of one of the 973 million hard disks that will deliver instructions to the Stasis and Fidelity Emergency Control System, the “brain” for all shipboard hibernation functions. With these instructions, colonists experiencing medical emergencies would receive a lengthy menu of automatic interventions based on declining vital signs.

Thân’s leadership aboard Unity was decisive. He knew his purpose: defense of the Data Core, and abdicated other duties in its favor. For terrified subordinates like Essa, it was the obvious choice: a leader committing to remain with his people when he was most needed. They would not attempt to respond to what was happening shipwide, Thân explained, and would instead fall back to tending the only machine that really mattered. Whoever was left, they would surely perish without the fund of knowledge held fast in the Data Core.

Gulzar Essa killed his first man for Tạ Dọc Thân in the sixth hour of the Disaster. A Holnist broke into one of two electrical closets abutting Memory Hall ψ. From concealment, Essa shot the man in the side of the head and recovered his rifle. In the finest traditions of the Data Services Division, he organized the defense of his position under heavy duress until the enemy’s resolve flagged.

Brevet promotion followed, and once Planetside, Essa looked to reunite with the mentor he had come to idolize. Only then did he learn the terrible truth: the great man was dead and the Data Core lost—fallen, perhaps, into unfriendly hands. In Thân’s place was a lieutenant, Sathieu Metrion, with a problematical interest in second-guessing his dead master’s decisions.

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The Tomorrow Institute divided its energies between two objectives: accumulation of the inputs necessary to operate the largest computer system on Planet and recovery of the information to be stored within. “Forklifts and bullets” was Sathieu Metrion’s clear and unhesitant answer to that infamous first question broadcast to the Planetary Network by Nwabudike Morgan: “What do you want today?”

Tạ Dọc Thân said:
A librarian is a field guide, not a creator, and certainly not a curator. There is no decision about what to take, only the most precise attention to where it will go. – Ancient Architecture

Sources:
Gulzar Essa is represented by Seth, a character from the first entry in the long-running Command & Conquer series from Westwood Studios.

Computer image is from IBM, included in this Business Insider article from 2016.

Forklifts picture is “research” by Darnok9 on DeviantArt.
 

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Vyacheslav Kolchaiev said:
Our job is to do for thinking what Henry Ford did for the production of the automobile. - Fragments from the Society of Free Thought

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Information Socialists posited that, once disclosed through shared or recorded, an idea was the shared property of all people. Hackers, like Holnists, made a window-dressing of this philosophy, though most data piracy in the Hopkirk Era was for personal entertainment or partisan political purposes well divorced from clear altruism.

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University of Adelaide Wellmand Chair of Computer Science Kyle Porters became an enduring New York Times bestseller and a talk-media staple for his argument that information fit the classic criteria of a monopoly good. Only government intervention, he wrote in 2023's Creative Alcatraz, could ensure the full exploitation of this classically undervalued resource.

Soviet and Chinese Communist propagandists amplified Porters's message whenever they stood accused of industrial espionage, which was often.

The Blue Devil Holnist Cell abducted Porters from Victoria Square-Tarntanyangga and shot him dead three days later. They produced a watch-vid of the assassination, which they put behind a paywall. It became one of the most-accessed vids of all time, earning 17.9 billion views in twelve months.


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Building on Porters's ideas, zap theorist Starling Dade suggested that the real benefit of public ownership of intellectual property was to press comparative advantage, as the Datalinks Revolution had already begun to demonstrate. What if an idea in Hokkaido was just waiting for an architect in Zaragosa? And how better to achieve frictionless exchange than via a hive mind?

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Ex-Soviet Airborne General Vyacheslav Kolchaiev (left) gradually warmed to the conclusion that a hive mind was the only viable solution to the Developmental Leap, a theorized planetological singularity that humanity needed to cross to overcome an extinction-level event on Planet.

To find himself one of the Unity colonists was a disgrace for Kolchaiev, a decorated combat commander whose only "crime" was believing deeply in the correctness of Communist political doctrine at a time of political rapprochement with the West. To keep Kolchaiev from making common cause with more militant hardliners, the KGB allowed his emigration to Sudan.

Mercenarism being the highest form of fascist corporatism in his estimation, Kolchaiev kept himself fed by taking contract work with United Nations anthropologists attempting to preserve the cultures of crisis-afflicted populations. In 2068, Kolchaiev was recalled to the U.S.S.R. on the occasion of his son's death and handed his fate.

Kolchaiev's name is known to have appeared on several manifests used by faction leaders as divergent as Chief Engineer Prokhor Zakharov and Chief Medical Officer Pravin Lal to sort out the choicest conscripts for their causes. In fact, he was made a Forward Controller by Executive Officer Francisco d'Almeida and oversaw the defense of Unity's reserve reaction mass. (The Holnist rampage was so beyond reason that one body of Santiago's people tried to dump the compartment and thereby throw the ship off-course, thereby to consign all its passengers to starvation or strangulation--whichever came first.)

Hard on the heels of the Survivalists, Roshann Cobb's people came looking for Kolchaiev. Proximity to an exploding grenade cost Kolchaiev one ear, one thumb, and, temporarily, his wits. When he woke, Kolchaiev found that the attending physician was none other than Dr. Aleigha Cohen.

Years passed. Too valuable to be wasted on a work gang, too dangerous to be traded carelessly away, Kolchaiev studied his captors and the technologies that enthralled them. Never partaking himself of lucid dreaming, Kolchaiev nevertheless joined the culture it spawned.

Members of the Society of Free Thinkers communicated with one another by accessing a sequestered terminal in a storm-damaged agricultural research bay. "Aspirants," as they called themselves, agreed that perceptions and emotions as well as ideas and data should be shared as part of an intellectual commons. The purpose of Dreaming should not be the individual enlightenment supposedly sought by Cobb, much less personal amusement. The truest form of public service was participation in a mental collective that, once large enough, must outpace the University's innovation, predict market shifts more accurately than Morganite polysoftware, and even regulate the baser emotions of its own participants.

Sources:
Information Socialism, also called Nanosocialism, along with its fictional originator Kyle Porters, were introduced in Jan F. Zeigler's Transhuman Space: Fifth Wave, a sourcebook for the GURPS role-playing game system.

First image is "Hardcoding: Redshift Study" by Zaki on ArtStation.

Santiago Cabrera as Cristóbal Rios is our Kyle Porters.

Starling Dad is "Cyberpung girl portrait" shared by paisacrypto on reddit (r/midjourney).
 

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Sarah Williams said:
I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night - Datalinks

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"Raid by two-stage Hopper" appears as the final entry for 391 individual colony sites in the Great Register of Planet, a crowdsourced history that began at Mission Launch and remained active in the Planetary Datalinks until the First Destruction.

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Survival suits were never completely stowed, vigilance never completely relaxed. At the close of each cycle in the Hive, Chairman Yang's voice crackled through wall-mounted consoles from which citizens practiced unspooling individual breathing hoses. The warning was always the same: "Move to air. Move to air. Move to air."

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No more worshipful hands ever did touch Unity than those of Joralemon Hardacre's drones, who removed every gainful thing. Founded as Rundun's Yard, the towering salvage facility was renamed to Brent's Barrage. Full companies of Impact troops were garrisoned permanently in the sprawling mine fields and defensive emplacements that kept jealous neighbors at arm's length.

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Watchkeeper Militia race around the perimeter of Super Station Σπύρος, a steam plant devised by University scientists in service to the Shapers of Chiron. Its purpose was to boil away the permafrost and melt the glacial ice that shrouded Chiron's fourth continent, Aaru.


Sources:
First picture is "Lomonosov Venus Lander" by Mark Maxwell (1986) from David Hardy's Visions of Space (1989) on the Tumblr 70s Sci-Fi Art.

Second picture is "Mining colony apartment" by JamesCombridge on DeviantArt.

Third picture is "The Outer terrorities-Shipyard" by PeteAshford on DeviantArt.

Fourth picture is "north" by polosatkin on DeviantArt.
 

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Commissioner Pravin Lal said:
As our ambitions elevate above petty survival, we ask ourselves: what sacred thing remains to spoil? How long before the water cannot be drunk, nor the earth tilled? - A Social History of Planet

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By volume, more than one half of all Unity's cargo and equipment was affixed to the exterior of the hull for independent deployment by retrograde rocket. This made it impossible to access from the ship's interior.

Here, a Multi-Directional Salvage Unit of the Conclave Flight Pillar makes contact with the High-Altitude Sensing Module (HASMO) on Unity's "east" mission arm in preparation for removal.

Four perspectives emerged on the essential purpose of returning to space: salvage, war, study, and commerce.

Despite backing from as unlikely an ally as the Human Labyrinth, the U.N. Office for Outer Space Affairs was unable to secure support for its proposal that the orbiting remnants of
Unity be made neutral ground, subject to recovery by a multi-faction arbitrator empowered to award salvage rights based on proven need. Projecting bravado he didn't have the guns to enforce, Academician Prokhor Zakharov challenged that such an arrangement "reflects only the best interests of the pigs who have not prepared their homes. They would have everyone live in straw and call it fairness."

All factions wanted something from within the stricken hull. Meeting at High Atomica, Dr. Johann Anhaldt and Conservator Sathieu Metrion agreed that retrieval of computer systems should take priority. Cobb, Van de Graaf, and Lal each left numerous diary entries pointing to remembered friends and colleagues who might still be aboard in suspended animation.

Spartans and Memorialists raced to put weapons platforms aloft before scientific or commercial payloads. Santiago experimented with Chiron-facing ortillery (a portmanteau for "orbital artillery") in the form of kinetic re-entry vehicles. Mercator put a pair of solar-powered chemical lasers in geosynchronous orbit above the poles awaiting an external threat.

University astronomers and materials scientists hoped to intercept and redirect a transient comet in MY412.

To please its hard-charging board, Morgan Aerospace took on significant debt during the race to survey the Nessus moon. Successive failures of the company's proprietary
Theseus launch packs forced executives to admit that they couldn't meet financial obligations, a condition for which the faction had no established response. Bourse proxies launched a successful takeover on the Planetary Energy Exchange. Other Morganite power-brokers, led by T.M. Morgan-Reilly, would not back the CEO's proposal to close the markets.

Some factions disdained rocketry. Neither the Gaians nor the Dreamers turned their attentions skyward. Factor Roshann Cobb scoffed at his peers' failure to perceive the importance of delving "the true frontier" of the human psyche.


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Though he did not advertise it, even Nwabudike Morgan strained harmful pollutants from his faction's water supplies.

As crowding on the Atrean landmass reached a crisis point around the third mission century, factions necessarily began diverting resources from extraction to recovery activities.

Environmental liquidators whose skills had been formerly weaponized to eradicate xenofungus were asked to reapply their original craft by tending the mess that had resulted. At the Planetary Council's behest, the Hunters of Chiron began a decade-long ecological inventory of Planet.


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Gaians pursue loggers felling timber and veg within their sovereign borders.

Walkers were an indispensable workhorse of Gaian security organization. The chassis had several features ideal to local conditions: a high stance that kept it well above high water levels, zero turn radius for negotiating dense terrain, and, in the deft hands of a careful pilot, the option to push toadstools aside in deference to destroying them.

Weight management was more a problem than with tanks, but thickly-forested conditions mitigated the obvious liabilities of a walker's hulking profile and limited the kinds of weapons adversaries could use in opposition. The ball turret design used organic superlubricant to speed adjustments when targeting the vehicle's four-barreled laser cannon mount. Note the subtle evidence of biovoltaic paneling on the roof. The vehicle drew energy from the waste heat of the toadstools themselves.


Sources:
First picture is "Space" by cyberkite on DeviantArt.

Second picture is "Turbine" by cyberkite on DeviantArt.

Third picture is "Into the woods" by Rajanandepu on DeviantArt.
 

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Sister Miriam Godwinson said:
Children and adolescents are a paradox for our mission. They offer the great danger of distraction while providing that which is indispensable: a promise of continuity. - Speech to the 76th World Congress of the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child

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Ten years passed before the population replacement rate turned positive. Most losses were delayed fatalities caused by injuries sustained during the Unity Crisis.

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Population replacement was an urgent problem for the Unity survivors, and would have been even had the settlement process unfolded as planned. Passengers under the age of twenty, including Kellerite stowaways and Charterist dependents, represented less than half of one percent of the original ship's complement.

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Warden J.T. Marsh said:
Young, healthy, and fearless is a sometimes-fatal combination, but one to be savor. - The Lost World

Some missions required the finesse of a trained Probe Team. For the rest of the dirty work, there was always another ReSoc retread.

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Rites of passage in Sparta culminated with the construction of a rover using parts stolen from the faction motorbay. Prospective warriors then went looking for a fight. They usually got it. Most of these tear-offs ended honorably in death by combat.

Governor Oscar van de Graaf said:
If you ever think, 'I'm not tough enough for this,' just remember: you're still here. You've been tough enough every day until today. Why shouldn't you be tough enough tomorrow? - Manifesting Destinies

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Gaians knew better than to resurrect the institution of marriage, which Skye called "a question of property, not of commitment." Lovers loved until they loved no more. Their children were raised in common, sometimes none the wiser as to who their parents were until they became old enough to access the Datalinks. When a member of the faction died, their property was reclaimed and any organic remains composted.

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Leaders already comfortable impoverishing others from afar were quick to argue for the re-institution of slavery by another name. Why convert a prisoner when you could work him instead? A Spartan lieutenant (middle) has an apparently healthy Tribesman for sale (right).

Spartan couples married in the Old Way, speaking vows before a Psych Chaplain and witnesses from their barracks block.

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Most factions encouraged procreation with preferential treatment for those with children. In L'État nouvel, membership in a child-rearing family unit became a prerequisite for achieving both full citizenship and flag rank.

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Tribals married in public ceremonies marked by weeks of celebration. The betrothed were given away by relatives and neighbors who gave long testimony to their "marriagable" qualities.

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Stadtholder approval was required for new marriages among the New Two Thousand. Both pledges required certifications of land ownership and evidence of readiness to occupy and hold ground at the edge of faction territory, for which they accumulated retainers who lived under less formal arrangements.



Sources:
First image is "Cyber Frankenstein" by Vladimir Manyukhin, discovcered on Instagram under the "Evil Design" account.

Second image is "Carefree," by Seven-teenth on DeviantArt.

Third image is "Sandy Road" by Seven-teenth on DeviantArt.

Fourth image is "They told me I was gone" by Seven-teenth on DeviantArt.

Fifth image is "Big Big Tree" by MCfrog on DeviantArt.

Sixth image is a still from Kevin Costner's The Postman (1997).

Seventh image is a still from Lost in Space (Netflix version).

Eighth image is a still from the MMORPG Ashfall found here.

Ninth image is "Details for wild west sci-fi colony 03" from a Tweet by Francis Goeltner.

Resocialization ("ReSoc") was the process by which Marines were made in StarCraft.
 

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Datalinks said:
God is on the side of the big cannons. - Napoleon Bonaparte, Apocryphal

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Given the tools and knowledge predominant among the survivors, direct-fire energy weapons were easier to produce than conventional artillery tubes.

Unity crawlers were excellent gun tractors: rated for extremely heavy loads, designed around redundant systems, fitted to operate in NBC environments, and heavily armored to defeat hostile environments.

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Mining vehicles like the Mjolnir stood in for "proper" cannons. Accuracy was wanting: the cannon's original nuclear payloads demanded little precision of its designers. To mitigate this impediment, the vehicle's primary operators--Hunters and Shapers--experimented with gas and splintering munitions.

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Cheap to build, easy to repair, lightweight motor trikes operating on biofuels furnished the Human Labyrinth with the larger part of its mobile strike arm. Other third-rate or merely resource-poor militias took the lesson eagerly in hand. Both the Nauvoo Legion and Kellerite Minutemen operated garages turning out similar platforms.

Sources:
First image is "X-Ray Tank" by Anton Tenitsky on ArtStation.

Second image is "Mjolnir" by KaranaK on DeviantArt.

Third image is "Troika" by jflaxman on DeviantArt. Biofuel idea is theirs.
 
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