Passagefall: What if Unity was a generation ship?


Dec 25, 2008
I've been playing Colony Ship: A Post-Earth Role Playing Game lately after watching Warlockracy's video, and found the setting to be quite compelling. A hardcore CRPG in the vein of Fallout and Fallout 2, the game takes place in a post-apocalyptic generation ship centuries after leaving Earth, after a mutiny that had split the ship into factions. Generation ship stories is a sci-fi subgenre that spans Heinlein's Orphans of the Sky (which the game claims inspiration from) to Kim Stanley Robinson's recent and questionable Aurora, so I thought it might be interesting to imagine SMAC/X as such a setting. Sid Meier's Unity, anyone?

I've also been playing a ton of Prey (2017) and some Stasis, guess I've got things going wrong in space on my mind. But it also helps me think about how a large interstellar vessel might be organized.


The UNS Unity is launched from a dying, war-torn Earth with 10,000 souls. Its atomic reactor is self-sufficient but the star trek to Alpha Centauri A will take approximately four hundred years. Thus it is an expansive and well-stocked generation ship intended for only the ship's descendants to enjoy the fruits of the original crew's sacrifices.

Of course, they didn't count upon the supreme genius of the Chief Science Officer, who having several decades of endlessly tinkering in space, devises several breakthrough life extension treatments, even anti-aging therapies to induce biological rejuvenation. This produces a social revolution across the ship, as the probability of some, if not all, passengers living to see themselves upon an alien planet becomes non-nil. On the other hand, clinical immortality complicates the delicate governing structure aboard the ship- resource crunches from long-lived crew, the necessity of reproductive planning if not outright controls, and the potential of vampire-like immortal leaders all causes tension throughout the ship.


Forty years into the trip, a micrometeorite strikes the Unity as it travels through the Oort Cloud. In the disorder following the crisis, tensions come to a head, a mutiny is declared, and the captain is killed. (Though the official story is that he was in the compartment that was hit by the object, conspiracy theories ranging from murder by mutineers, treachery from his own officers, sickness, suicide, or even lurid tales involving aliens or robots continue to run wild.)

While the mutiny does not actually result in a full-blown civil war, the damage is done. The previous mission leadership dissolves itself to the muted protests of only a handful of staff members, and each faction goes its own way, consolidating their hold over the structures from which they derived their power. (Note: I'm borrowing ideas from Michael Ely's "Journey to Centauri" novella here.)


Gaia's Orphans
: Chief Botanist Deirdre Skye never got the chance to study the critters of Chiron yet, and has instead spent the last four decades carefully cultivating her vast hydroponic expanses aboard the ship. While soft-spoken and elusive, her gardens were beloved by all aboard the ship as a little patch of old Earth, a necessary part of morale. And then some of her gengineered biostrains were discovered to be crucial components of the miracle life extension drugs, and she became one of the most valorized staff officers, second only to the head of the science team himself.

It was thus a great shock when she cast the deciding tie-breaking vote to dissolve the mission and factionalize. (Ely, Ep. 30) The ship's hydroponics are now the domain of the fierce eco-warriors of the Gaian Orphans, who mourn the passing of their lost planet, preparing to be devoted friends and protectors of the Planet to come. These natural preserves are neutral grounds where all weary travelers are permitted to find shade under a lone pine and even receive food and medical care away from the faction wars in the ship's passages and bulkheads.

A staunch lover of all life, Skye still dutifully sends out food shipments of golden rice and adaptive barley, and medicinal elixirs brewed from priceless clippings of obscure Amazonian herbs. But her faction's firm control over all of these precious plant stores is a veiled threat to any who dares displeasure the Lady.

Ship of State: Executive Officer Sheng-ji Yang was a strange subordinate to Captain Garland. Ruthlessly efficient and ironclad loyal, he nevertheless was one of the most loathed figures aboard. The face of everything from crackdowns on ration card sharing to stringent moderation of discussion forums on the Unity datalinks, he ultimately served as a lightning rod away from the universally-revered captain. Over time, he delegated much of the administration to officers further down the chain, instead playing Javert in his secondary role as Chief of Security.

Thus it came as quite a surprise when the mutiny broke out in the aftermath of the collision and resulting reactor meltdown scare. Parapolitical theorists, of course, believe that Yang was well-aware of such dissident groups and allowed them to do their thing, even encouraging them. The resulting events seem to bolster such claims: the entire security force essentially mutinied at both ends - while many joined the firebrand Colonel, at least another third sided with their steadfast commander, following Yang's emergency edicts even when the rest of Garland's successor council protested at their iron-fisted brutality. In the end, the highest-ranking officer of the Unity voted to shut down his own mission. (Ely, Ep. 30)

While the mutineers conquered many of the armories, Yang's loyalists secured the security stations that dotted the vessel, hardened offices stocked with small-arms shredder pistols, nonlethal riot gear, access to remote turrets, and control over the ubiquitous CCTV cameras and sensors within the ship. Their faction's headquarters is the auxiliary bridge, the secondary nerve center of the ship dubbed "the Hive." From there, Yang wages his crusade: the old mission failed to internal weakness, an unwillingness to exercise firm leadership to prevent dissension and chaos. A new law must be erected over the ship, bringing forth a true state that is both flexible enough to deal with any new challenge, and unyielding against the forces that challenge it. While the mutineers model themselves after the warriors and good soldiers of yesteryear, the Statesmen of the Hive identify with history's secret police- the Frumentarii, the brocade guard of the Jǐnyīwèi, the Cheka, and the Mukhabarat. The ship must be secured against all those who question Yang Law, all enemy agents rooted out, and absolute security maintained. Meanwhile, those who are not of the State Security toil away in closet foundries and machine shops, building industrial supplies.
The University Triumphant: Chief Science Officer Prokhor Zakharov was broadly the most popular figure on the Unity prior to Passagefall. His discovery of anti-aging technologies made him a modern day Merlin, even if it furthered the contradictions in the ship society. His calm, calculating, and confident leadership in preventing the ship's reactor from boiling over secured him a place in the history books as a hero. Despite his infamously crotchety, borderline misanthropic lack of social niceties, his contributions gained him many admirers among fierce lovers of science. So much so that when the question came up of what to do now that Garland had fallen, he was the first to propose that the mission end and each officer go his or her way. (Ely, Ep. 30)

Securing control over most of the ship's supply of scientists and engineering teams, as well as laboratories of every kind except for life sciences, Zakharov has created a technocratic society dedicated to the infinite pursuit of knowledge. He and his supporters controls the ship data core, meaning they have administer the Unity datalinks (albeit fairly loosely). They also make their headquarters in the ship's reactor, meaning they hold nearly the entire ship's electrical supply beyond its solar panels and portable power sources.

Zakharov claims he only wants to be left alone like a modern day Mendel. But the science-boosters of the University has engaged in erratic actions at times, raiding other factions for precious scientific equipment and technical hardware, sending educational promoters to euphorically enlighten non-Unis with their own intelligence, and making war against groups deemed "dangerously irrational." Indeed, Zakharov has argued that his faction would be the natural leaders of the expedition once they reach Alpha Centauri, because of their scientific superiority and competence.

The Morgan Marketplace: Stowaway CEO Nwabudike Morgan blended into the ship's masses at first, posing as an ordinary crew member with his own forged identity and personal area network card. But within months he had set up a vast invisible network of surplus sundries, supply shortages, owed favors, and actionable gossip. In short, he was at the founding of the Unity grey-to-black market, creating a shadow economy for crew members to purchase goods they had no access to, receive services they could not provide, and vend both as amusement in the humdrum existence of flying through a sealed submarine in space. With his effortless charisma and charm, Morgan injected a vitality to the rigid routine-filled life in the alien ant farm, providing his free market as a platform that all passengers could participate in. Not only did this make him rich in terms of goods, but rich in friends. By the time the captain had finally discovered who was behind the grey-to-black market, Morgan had already bribed multiple security team investigators who had been dispatched to ID him, granting them platinum status at the Morgan Midships Casino & Galleria.

During Passagefall, the proprietor of the underground economy made his advisory services freely available to the officer staff, who were too scared and bewildered to chase him away. As such, he ingratiated himself with many a lower officer and ambitious crewman whom he enticed to his cause, which he advanced after voting to end the mission he was technically not even a member of (Ely, Ep. 30). For too long, he suggested, the fine passengers had been languishing in spartan- or worse- quarters. The creative entrepreneurial energies needed to be unleashed to rapidly improve living conditions. All were entitled to a life of luxury bounded by the sweat of their brow, the cunning of their craft, and their raw animal spirits within the market.

Headquartered in the Morgan Grand Market, a giant bazaar in the Unity primary cargo hold, the Marketplace aims to be a fairly neutral faction where all can unleash their productive energies into a meritocratic rat race. All manner of trader and merchant patronize it, bringing forth homespun textiles from boutique quarters in the aft, secret hydroponics gardens, all the way to cloned animals from illicit labs. As on Earth, mercenary services can be hired and offered under the Morgan label. But the proprietor's seeming friendliness belies his desire to expand: already, the Marketplace has established satellite franchises in multiple crossroads and chokepoints throughout the ship. All are welcome to shop at Morgan's- but woe to those who would challenge the invisible fist of the free market.
I read Orphans of the Sky by Robert Heinlein, which is a good yarn but rather too Golden Age of Sci-Fi for Passagefall, I think. Though I would imagine that in this setting, like in Heinlein's story (and unlike in Colony Ship), there would be an emphasis in knives and bladed weapons over ballistics weapons that could potentially cause hull breaches and rapid depressurization. On the other hand, as per "Journey to Centauri", Unity does carry its share of futuristic small arms including shredder pistols, psych-whips, and something called a sonic hammer.

Brotherhood of Sparta: Self-proclaimed Colonel Corazon Santiago was but a mid-ranking officer in the ship's security force. Indeed, despite her unbreakable will and extensive capacity to command, promotion eluded her for decades regardless of how many green cadets she molded into elite operators for the trials of Chiron. The truth is, the game was rigged from the start: mission planners, having sussed out her potential for violence from psych evaluations, capped her ceiling before the ship had even left the ship, determining that her volatility necessitated a firm guiding hand.

Subordination had suited Lieutenant Santiago just fine- for in her capacity as a mere trainer on the security force, she was able to hone the X.O.'s security force into an efficient machine, above and beyond its original intention as a means to mediate domestic disturbances on the ship. Under her influence, they became war-ready, a paramilitary that, thanks to anti-aging treatments, may one day conquer the planet from whatever alien presence that stalked its soil.

Her curriculum, which in addition to all manner of combat, included survival skills for a multitude of different biomes and climates, was taken from no less but the covert codes of the Spartan Coalition. The radical survivalist movement had secretly seeded the crew with fifty of its most capable agents, led by Santiago herself, to take the true will to survive to the stars. The Spartan survivalists, despite its lurid connections to secessionist forces in the American northwest, were not merely composed of the constitutionalist gun-grasper insurrectionaries involved in the various Pax Decay wars. It was an international movement that included warriors from every conflict, from the Crimson Succession to the Crusader Wars. Nor was it only made up of rebels, resistors, or terrorists- uniformed veterans of multiple global defense initiatives, peacekeepers serving in (supposedly) protection of liberty coalitions, and borderless soldiers of fortune all subscribed to the ideals of the Spartans. In a world that was quickly fallen apart, only those who could best survive were fit to lead. And more often than not, they were those who fought.

So in the heady hours that stretched into days following the impact in space, when no one was certain what was the fate of the captain ("Schrödinger's Garland," the Chief Science Officer had scoffed) as parts of the ship fell apart, crucial supply chains were disrupted, and the possibility that the very reactor might explode, Santiago made her move. The members of the Coalition, having spent decades training the soldiers of tomorrow and secretly recruiting from both the security force and the rest of the ship, appeared before the provisional council, declaring their desire to secede, along with a reasonable share of the ship's supplies. Any attempts to infringe upon their liberties, namely the natural right to arm themselves, was to be met with utmost force.

The ensuing conflicts and intrigues tore apart any authority on the ship and led the remaining council to vote itself out of existence. Yet while the Colonel is infamous for being the first mover (well, besides the micrometeorite) behind the mission's demise, her resolution and capacity to survive attracted to her cause no shortage of camp followers, even if many of the would-be lackeys ended up on checkpoint duty and shining her army boots.

The Spartans are based in the ship's recreation center, which they have turned into a massive training camp they call the Citadel, but which the rest of the Unity has dubbed "Citadel Gymnasium" or "the Gym," perhaps to make them appear a little less fearsome. The former athletic and entertainment sectors of the rec center have been completely transformed- indoor soccer fields into drill grounds, plastic archery ranges into live fire shooting galleries, pickleball courts into military tribunals. Virtual worlds intended for relaxation and morale were used in VR training of next generation soldiers. iFrame art galleries were used to hang patriotic propaganda art. Only the wrestling rings remain the same.

Beyond Citadel Gymnasium, the Brotherhood holds a myriad armories, supply closets, machine shops for fabricating ammunition and weaponry. But despite their intimidating force projection capabilities, Colonel Santiago has refrained from conquest thus far, remaining content to hole up in her makeshift bunkers and play drill sergeant. She has made good on her promise of isolated preparation for survival. Brushfire vendettas and border conflicts do occur with other factions, in the inevitable struggle for resources. Even so, the behavior of the faction remains erratic to outsiders, rather than outright hostile. Even if others consider them to be the mutineers who broke up the mission- and some claim, broke the captain's heart (leading to his demise)- the Brotherhood has remained semi-open to such an extent that they have repeatedly hosted the ship-wide Unity Space Olympics, showcasing the grandeur and machine-like discipline of the Sparta Legion in the opening ceremonies held at the Cynisca Stadium, formerly the ship's basketball court.


This ended up being much longer than I expected, so I'll end it here. Again, I'm basing some events and interpretations on "Journey to Centauri," even though I used to dislike the idea that the Spartans existed as a conspiracy / terrorist militia on Earth, and really didn't like the idea that the Spartans kicked off a militia that wrecked the mission.

In time, I've come to appreciate that interpretation even if I think it's optional and when you get down to it, there's not real lore in SMAC given that a ton of the material contradicts each other, and it's a 4X game where every playthrough is different, after all. (The GURPS Alpha Centauri sourcebook sort of tries to harmonize the different material, but it doesn't do such a great job imo and the graphic design is lackluster so I don't take it too seriously.)

For example, the in-game datalinks have Santiago as the Chief of Security, contradicting the faction profile on the old Firaxis SMAC site. I really like those profiles so here I kept the characterization of the powers-that-be trying to keep Santiago down. But I kept the datalinks' description of Yang as Executive Officer and the site profile's description of him as Chief of Security. In "Journey to Centauri," Yang is X.O. but doesn't seem to have any sort of working relationship with Garland at all, though to be fair he's kidnapped by Spartans for most of the story.

I do like the idea of Yang being Santiago's superior during the voyage. I didn't explore it here but there could be an interesting dynamic. He would both approve of her discipline and perhaps be amused by her unenlightened attempts at survival, like a wolf child. She would learn everything about command from him and then plot a way to best him at his own game. When they both become faction leaders would Yang seek to bring her to heel, as a warlord for the Hive? Or would Santiago view him as the worst of tyrants, worse than the U.N.'s bureaucratic busybodies, a nightmarish all-encompassing authority that must be torn down to protect her right to self-defense? How do the missions/ideologies of perfect internal security within society, conflict with absolute survival against external elements? Lots to think about.
A new U.N.

While as in the sacred timeline, the majority of the senior officers left in the wake of the captain's absence voted to dissolve the mission and go their separate ways, two held true to his memory and saw that they must dissent. And so, the remnant of the provisional successor council, still derisively labelled "Provis" by some in the other factions (mostly the Spartan mutineers), reformed itself as a continuation government to Garland's leadership.

Calling themselves the Unity Nominate, with a Charter heavily inspired by the Earth original and including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, these loyalists insist that the dissolution vote was illegitimate and that their authority must be restored. To this seemingly hopeless mission the U.N. has expended both honey and vinegar, carrots and sticks, against not only the factions but all of the disparate communities and wayward crew members who have left their rule. As time goes on, the Unity Nominate has itself strained, its co-leaders drifting apart from one another. Perhaps further factionalization is inevitable-

Unity Nominate Faithful: Psych Chaplain Miriam Godwinson was always a believer in the mission. As much as it pained her to tear herself away from the suffering and confusion on Earth, she found the interstellar Noah's Ark to be a blessed concept, a way to be fruitful and multiply in a new patrimony. Of course, she would join the mission and take her talents to salve the spirits and save the souls of those in need during the long dark tea-time of the ship. And once they arrived on the planet, who knows? Perhaps her descendents would preach to any intelligible locals.

So when the mutineers had taken arms against and the schemers had stabbed the back of the mission, Godwinson held true to her vows. The powers that be are ordained of God, and all that. Thus she stood with only one other officer against the forces of disobedience. As co-mission leader of the U.N. (to the people, the two are known by sibling titles, and she is the Sister), Godwinson took up residence in the Unity chapel. Known as "the Tabernacle," the facility has expanded greatly to serve as both psych health medical complex and as interfaith dialogue center. Beyond the humble, simple central altar at its heart there is also a basilica, a synagogue, a mosque, temples, shrines, a reading room, and all manner of religious places, each housed in former storage closets or storage compartments. All worshippers may pray under the patient tolerance of the Sister, whose mission binds them together.

The preacher's daughter who was sent to space by the preacher father so that the Christian States of America could regain some of the glory of its wayward predecessor - she had flown to the Unity orbital construction docks from the freshly rebuilt, renamed, and re-consecrated launch facilities at Cape Calvary - convinced millions of her suspicious fellow citizen-congregants that this new world order was on the side of the angels. She alone had single-handedly exorcized a century of conspiracies and false prophecies against the United Nations. And here beyond the Solar System, she deepened the believers' faith in the mission through her, expanding it beyond the evangelicals of her own flock. The U.N. Faithful include adherents of every type of creed rescued from the imminent flooding of Earth, and not a few that were invented during the journey.

As with her sibling co-mission leader, Godwinson preaches the humanistic care that the U.N. excels at providing, and the peace it protects. The aid relief she prefers to give are for the mind and spirit, and she hesitates far less when picking up the sword to keep the peace, but otherwise her personality and convictions are not far from the other half. That is, up until the present.

While the years stretched on, and few of the treacherous dogs had come crawling back on their bellies, Godwinson has slowly grown to question her own faith in the Unity Nominate- or rather, its current path. Even as conflicts continue to rage between knife-throwing faction partisans, roving bandits, and those simply trying to get by in their crew quarters block villages, the Sister begins to despair. While she cannot doubt God, her own faith in His fallen creatures has tumbled as they continue to reveal their inhumanity.

Presently she has come to her own theory. The Longevity Vaccine was a mistake. Defiance against divinely-ordained order. By eliminating death, granting freedom that was only Christ's to give, the passengers of the UNS Unity had twice-fallen. Life extension created an aspect of nature separate from ordinary living. They were creatures that should not exist by natural law. The honorable, pious thing would be to deny life-extension. Stop prolonging. Walk hand in hand into sleep. One last day, brothers and sisters entering the afterlife instead of unnatural life.

Yet, despite all of her misgivings, foregoing the medical treatment that was life extension was something that not even Godwinson could resist. Not solely out of a fear of death nor desire to live - but the theological particularities of willingly refusing life seemed like a Faustian bargain, too. Would it simply be another form of suicide? That was a sin she lacked inclination towards, nor would she subject the Faithful to.

And so, Godwinson has turned her ire to the next closest thing: that of the inventor of the Longevity Vaccine itself. The former Chief Science Officer, now the false idol of the mocking University. Here was the very serpent who had brought a new temptation to the once-innocent Garden that was Unity. A new forbidden fruit that had undone the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. One that had defeated death and in doing so, created rebellious dissension, haughty pride, shameful lust, unfettered greed, and endless wrath among the ship. The ark had been divided against each itself. Now only the U.N. Faithful could put it back together. Those who had shattered the moral order with blasphemous sorceries, with science too dangerous for the public to stomach, must be brought to holy justice. And thus the Sister would use the better angels of our nature to hunt them all down.

Postscript: So the interesting thing about "Journey to Centauri" is that it actually depicts Miriam as mellow and mild, and Zakharov as the militant ideologue. And she sides with Lal, against breaking up the mission! Here I've preserved that characterization, so often forgotten. Which isn't to say she isn't Aggressive, nor is she not Fundamentalist. It's more that she possesses a specific zealotry with a specific target, rather than being a generic Salem witch trials Puritan fanatic, which is how she's often depicted by fans. Here she is not against all science, but she has seen the effects of one particular society-breaking (in her opinion) tech. In between "Miriam with the reasonable quotes questioning research" and "Miriam the inquisitor."
Unity Nominate Keepers: Chief of Surgery Pravin Lal never wanted to be a power-that-be. Yet in the decades prior to the mutiny he found himself increasingly called upon by the captain to minister not to the sick or genebroken of the generation ship, but day-to-day administration. This, of course, had been an inevitability calculated by the mission's planners. While the hero healer of the Twelve Minute War and the India Border Conflict was regarded both for his medical expertise and humanitarian heart, they knew that his secret asset was the ability to navigate the sprawling bureaucracy of the sprawling healthcare-philanthropic complex, and the organs of the U.N. itself. So, when Garland needed an auditor to double-check grain yields from hydroponics, an impartial strike mediator between the custodial service division and the officers, or an observer to oversee local hab block elections, he called Lal.

And in that fateful time of division, the surgeon general served as captain's adjunct, acting X.O., emergency relief coordinator. And peace envoy, second in that role only to the Psych Chaplain. Yet both failed at the job, with the mutineers remaining apart, and the mission ending with the Chief Botanist's final vote. Regrouping with the meager loyalists they could muster, the two declared the Unity Nominate as legal successor to the previous authority. Thus Lal became the face of the minority opposition against the particularist mania that not only factionalized the former leadership, but turned every block into an independent fiefdom.

Now based at the Jaime Reyes Central Medical Clinic, the Keepers uphold their solemn oath to restore the mission that had been abandoned by so many fellow crewmen. At the Tabernacle the Faithful polish their spiritual swords, make their mindful prayers, and use both to bring peace to the apostates. But in the U.N. Sick Bay, the work is split between healing the injured in vast medical bays, feeding the displaced at the overstuffed canteen, and most of all administering the ever-expanding bureaucracy in the remaining spaces of the clinic. Even if the Nominate rules perhaps only an eighth of the Unity's population, it is keen to maintain its legitimacy. Brother Lal has rubber-stamped the creation of dozens of departments, pumping out metric tons of paperwork affirming that the U.N. is actively engaged in representing all of its citizens, even those who reject its very existence.

A Farewell to Arms

Between delivering humanitarian aid, sending out nervous census-takers with minimal protection into a hostile ship, and endless records-keeping, the new U.N. is not unlike its namesake during its powerless period in the late twentieth century. The Keepers' security force is a fraction of a fraction of a fraction that remained true to the mission rather than being seduced by the mutineers or by their utopian hardliner commander. [In some of my settings I have actually militarized blue helmet peacekeepers as part of the ship's compartment. No such luck for Lal here.]

While professional and well-equipped, Brother Lal's order-keepers suffer from low numbers and intensely low morale, especially when contrasted with the heavenly hosts of the U.N. Faithful. Disjointed, almost like a mob of irregular outfits, Sister Godwinson's angels of justice include militant orders from a wide variety of sects and cults under her command, including the Society of Urban VIII, Builders of the Fourth Temple, Students of the Void Imam, the Khalsa of Iron, Lord Ravana's Vimana Riders, the Army of Compassion, Star Org (Mapother Rite), and not least of all, her very own fellow Evangelical Fire-Eaters from her native Georgia. While these disparate traditions may clash in theology, all are militarily and politically united under her preternaturally charismatic leadership.


Beyond his doctor-bureaucrats and her cleric-warriors, the U.N. claims membership from hab blocks beyond the territories held by the Sick Bay and the Tabernacle. These "free villages" lay in far off hallways and decks, ruled by jumped-up headmen and mayors presuming to be sovereign leaders. They contribute a pittance in dues and reap in all of the benefits of commerce, not to mention votes within the Unity Nominate General Assembly. As modest as these communities are, they are viewed as strategic hamlets allowing the U.N. to lay its stake in far flung regions, slowly reclaiming its legitimacy.

At least, that's the plan. In reality, the shipwide perception is that U.N. membership is a sign of either weakness or opportunism. Those who must hide behind Keeper shredders or wish to live off the largesse of its trade. Even the Morgan Marketplace claims to adhere to U.N. authority, its duly-stakeholder elected officials paying lip service to the U.N. Charter. Yet Lal and Godwinson have been reluctant to induct them as an actual member of the Nominate, knowing that its titular CEO would be ever so happy to use his influence to turn the government into yet another tool of industry. And so the actual players of note end up meeting in the Passenger Council, the true multilateral meeting place within the ship, and the actual body that has any teeth across factions. Within it, the U.N. is just like any other, as equal to the Marketplace as it is to the Orphans.

Despite the ignominy of being relegated to play-acting as stewards of the captaincy (Lal would never, ever, lay claim to that actual seat, at least not without majority consent), the U.N. still plots to unite the Unity. In sleepless nights big Brother pours over plans to convince the others. Morgan could be convinced to integrate as a public-private partnership benefit corp, if promised the chairmanship of a hypothetical Interblock Trade Organization. Zakharov might be content with given funding and a free hand over investigating the ethical allegations in his labs. Granting Skye full control over her orchards and agreeing to clamp down on the wet markets at the Morgan Bazaar - a doable offer. Could Yang be persuaded to return to the side of the angels if made the head of a Ship's Court- no, how about a Unipol? Would Santiago lay down her arms at any price? And what of the emerging powers? Burning the midnight oil, Lal slips into fitful sleep, continuing his waking dreams. He is comforted by his beloved Pria by his side, his son Jahn on the advisory council, and his grandchildren borne by daughter-in-law Sophia who run daily from the creche to play in his doctor's office. Even if the family of mankind might bicker and break apart, this man is lucky to have his own intact.

Sibling Rivalries

Of course, not all is well within the U.N. family. The two heads of the Nominate may call each other kin, but both lay claim to the title of elder. The Faithful have zeal, force, and faster growing numbers thanks to pro-natalist proclamations from the Tabernacle. Their religious-infused tone increasingly annoys the non-sectarians (Lal found the term 'secularist' too divisive-sounding) of the Keepers, who are given to hurl the insult of "Masadan" at their would-be brethren with their strange vendetta against longevity enhancements.

Yet, the Sister is all peace and reconciliation, willing to play ball with the non-sectarians' procedural obsessions. Already the Nominate has stalled or canceled half a dozen research projects due to Faithful moral concerns, all escalated through the proper channels, paperwork carefully filled and filed by bookish clergy. Privately, Lal is alarmed by the prospect of a U.N. numerically and culturally dominated by the Faithful, adhering to the letter of Keeper regulations, but with a spirit alien to the pluralism, and often, agnosticism, of the non-sectarians. On the other hand, while Godwinson has never openly spoken ill of the Brother, many in her circling camps whisper that he is setting up a political dynasty of legalistic paper-pushers, lording over a glorified debate club.

All of us against the stranger

In the end, the U.N. hangs together because the co-leaders recognize that rather than hanging separately it is better to hang others. Of course, in an abundance of external threats, prioritization has been a challenge. Sister Godwinson, of course, has marked Zakharov for crimes against human nature, lobbying for the Unity Nominate to put a research injunction upon the triumphalist University once and for all.

More than once she has had her militant orders trade in their vestments for baby blue uniforms and rebrand themselves as U.N. Bioethics Regulator Troops, dispatching them on smash-and-burn operations against suspected Zakharovian black science laboratories. Known as Old Faithful science units, their purifying creed is notorious, smashing irreplaceable data nodules, needlessly breaking priceless lab equipment, even deploying homemade flamethrowers to set entire rooms ablaze. Even more egregious is the accusation that Old Faithful units hypocritically steal the research even while depriving the University of them.

While the Keepers have spoken sharply against them, even passing nonbinding censures in the General Assembly, U.N. BERT continues to be a visible sign of the Faithful's willingness to obey, but not comply. From a strategic level, Lal is perplexed by the idea of attacking the very man whose research granted them all (theoretical) eternal life. From an optics standpoint alone, the former Chief Science Officer's immense popularity has made him a difficult target for the U.N. to rally against, let alone the Passenger Council. Not to mention, their commitment to the free flow of information is something he finds invaluable and worthy.

For his part, Brother Lal would rather go against the mutineers who had doomed the mission in the first place. These gun-totting outlaws represent everything the Keepers stand against. Never mind their less-than-conquering isolationism- the Spartan is not to be trusted, for she is never at peace, but is in wait. Their craven opportunism at the ship's direst hour irrevocably damaged mission integrity, leading to factionalization. As the first mover of their troubles, the Keepers argue, they should be brought to heel lest they further harm the people of the Charter.

A special Unity Nominate elite formation has been created to deal with the Brotherhood of Sparta's recent expansion. The mutineers send small groups of troops into lightly-occupied regions of the ship, scavenging for supplies and setting up bunkers barricaded by crates and furniture. Over time, these outposts have become long-term settlements with noncombat personnel brought in to tend to food and energy sources. Disputing the legality of this, the U.N. Keepers deploys the "Black Helicopter" brigade to harry the Brotherhood. So-called for their tendency to hover around outposts undetected, the Black Helicopters' m.o. is to cut the local lightgrid when the Spartans are distracted by either sports or sleep. Swooping in under the cover of darkness, the elite Keepers use barrages of nonlethal weapons ranging from knockout gas to sonic blasters to confuse their prey. Then, as swiftly as they appeared, the Black Helicopters disappear into darkness, absconding with all of the outpost's weapons.

Through these valorous acts of duplicity, multiple mutineer camps have been successfully demilitarized, to the fury of the Spartan Colonel. (That most of her men are left alive in these incursions is a true insult upon injury.) Still, the bravado of this elite brigade has rankled even the Passenger Council in general- reports abound of Black Helicopters indulging in excessive property damage, including attacking outpost food supplies by mutilating their livestock.

Godwinson does not share this animosity with the Spartans. While she agrees that they did a very bad thing by stirring up insurrection against a divinely, or at least democratically, appointed authority, she does not find them irredeemable. She believes that there are still wayward sheep in Santiago's flock, who with the proper preaching, may return to the legitimate fold. After all, many believe that their rights to arm themselves as God-given, meaning that they at least entrust in a higher power, and may one day humble themselves to His chosen leaders.

So in the end, the Unity Nominate is united by its opposition against the Ship of State of the former Executive Officer. Between the Hive's state-mandated atheism (the Faithful spread lurid tales of 'materialist reinforcement' sessions led by psych-whip) and its police state (the Keepers have dumped untold gridhours airing watchvid interviews with purported defectors, describing the human rights horrors of Yang's utopia), both halves of the U.N. have found its clear heel to rage against. Even as the Statesmen continue their aggressive push to unleash a great revolution of clear thinking, all of the citizens of the Nominate stand ready for a future fight to decide the fate of the entire ship.


The GURPS SMAC sourcebook sez:

In theory, the Morganites recognize U.N. authority and have their own elected officials to administer the colony charter. In practice, most decisions of any importance take place in corporate boardrooms.

That little detail about Morgan Industries is weird to me. Why would any faction except for the Peacekeepers care about the U.N. anymore (other than the Charter when it comes to blatant human rights violations), least of all the Morganites, with their laissez-faire attitude towards life? So I incorporated that into my story and tried to make it make sense somehow.
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