Racing the Darkness: A Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri Fan Fiction Photoessay

ı play only Civ III , barely heard about the concepts in this one , posting this as a subscription and having just posted a diatribe on stuff today , ı feel you should have used this one , too , in this quite good looking story of yours about corporate lies on how the operators just loved their tanks !

The Smacer subculture

From the beginning of the settlement of Planet, there were renegades. Warden J.T. Marsh first records of a five-man band of his hunters breaking off from the Forward Contact Team no more than a fortnight after their landing ahead of the Unity. The cause of departure was unknown. Some say their leader’s rejection of technology had disturbed and alienated them sufficiently to head towards the secondary landing zone where the remainder of the ship’s party was to arrive. Others simply assert that these mavericks were no more than treasure hunters seeking to illegally stake their own fortunes outside of the purview of the almighty Mission Charter. Still others claim that wormsong and fungus scent had bewitched these errant hunters, leading them to certain death at the bottom of a boil.

Their fate was unknown, but their story was not. And from the remnants of the FCT to the early post-Planetfall societies, tales abounded of those who had “gone native” not to forge their own breakaway factions, but to simply live off the desolate, uncompromising land of Chiron. Each faction had its own share of the disturbed and the discontent, those who wanted to bail at the first order to dig latrines or prune xenofungus. Not all were able to muster the means and the followings to leave with the makings of a new colony. Many simply had to flee with little more than the suit on their back and the breather mask on their face, some stolen rations, and a shredder pistol or two. Outside of the habitat walls lay the endless wild.


A former Digital Oracle scoutbird pilot abandons his vehicle and cause for a life of the wild

Yet, even after early colonies were established, leaving one’s base was not always a death sentence. Those who absconded with enough supplies- at least weeks, days were utterly insufficient- could perhaps survive to reach an abandoned Cargo Pod, or even better, an automated Landing Pod. Indeed, in the early days, there still remained pods containing vital stores left untouched, and even dozens to hundreds of cryosleep tubes holding crew members still in hibernation. Such unclaimed vehicles made excellent shelters for lone wanderers of the Planetary wastes, and a place to restock both dwindling supplies and numbers. While these pods were tempting targets to be captured by any faction, most retrieval teams simply took the most important loot and left the bare chassis intact, leaving behind metal skeletons littering the still-unterraformed landscape. Thus, they often still remained decent refuges from worms or storms for those who had abandoned their homes. In time, some small-scale communities of no more than a few dozen individuals would gather around abandoned pods, building shantytowns forgotten by the highborn factions.

Free Scouts, Nomads, Amblers, Fungal Rangers, Pink-Striders, Hardboilers, Wandering Kingdoms, Wormfood- there was no end to the nicknames given to the folk who had emancipated themselves from the civilizations of Planet. A magistrate from the Watchers of Chiron, perhaps facetiously, gave the subculture the classification of S.M.A.C.E.R.: Scroungers, Malcontents, Antisocialites, Criminals, Exiles, Rogues. And despite the unwieldy acronym, the name stuck, becoming the general appellation for any who left base society to pursue small-time life on the frontier.


Smacers explore the Upland Wastes shortly after a sandstorm

Socioeconomic profile

As humans discovered the resource-rich, yet ecologically sound, practice of planting Old Earth-origin trees upon Chiron’s nitrate-wealthy soil, forests sprouted across entire continents. These vast and murky expanses too became a destination for the willingly lost. Of course, the woods are dangerous, full of hostile creatures and human interlopers. Though newly-grown, the thick weald of Planet came to resemble the outlaw-haunted forests of Old Europe fairy tales. The socially maladjusted who left the stable comfort of base life were often those the most desperate to survive at all costs, including their own humanity. And amongst the pines of the northern latitudes, or between the newly-introduced cacao, açaí, and cupuaçu groves in the sweltering monsoon rainforests at the equator, dwelled untold numbers of rapacious smacers with allegiance to no faction nor ideology, ready to steal from their fellow man. Banditry remained rife even at the sub-factional scale: not only would small gangs of hardy smacer thugs (“true survivalists”, they sneered at Spartan and Hunter presumptions) often attack trade convoys or understaffed patrols from factions, they had a tendency to prey upon their fellow exiles. That was because the development of smacer culture progressed over time from pure survival to one of the acquisition of alien artifacts.


Two smacers of unidentified tendency in a forest near Academgorodok

Smacer lifestyle typically revolved around extractive modes of production. The earliest proto-smacer exiles hunted for supply pods and gathered the scraps of abandoned bases, burned-out rovers from worm attacks, planetpearls missed by scout patrols. Over time, smacers would attempt unsanctioned mining, hazardous folk study of mindworms and other xenoforms, poaching of said rare species, distilling or synthesizing fungal intoxicants, logging (punishable by hard labor in a ‘Former workgang by the Shapers, and outright execution by the rarely-vengeful Gaians), battlefield salvage, psi-divining (usually staged), land surveying, and acting as guides and field medical providers to basers for exorbitant fees. And depending on the region or former faction of origin, running gambling halls and other pleasure houses, or selling “wildland” arts and crafts at high markup.

None of these cottage industries could match the vast wealth involved in plundering the enigmatic alien archeological sites that littered Planet. The Ruins might be the greatest collection of such specimens of Chiron, but there are significantly more monoliths, temples, towers, and mounds scattered across the globe. And endless more alien artifacts that can be found at more mundane landscapes in the wilds, sometimes helpfully at the landing zones of automated Unity pods drawn to these locations of interest. These artifacts were not of only immense research curiosity- they were worth considerable amounts of energy credits up to hundreds if not thousands of ¤. Multiple factions ordered their scouts to prioritize such relics over pods or even damaged field units. To Zakharov, it was one thing to lose yet another group of hapless doctoral candidates and mere bachelors-holding University Enforcement in the field- quite another to allow an irreplaceable artifact from some unknown progenitor race to be destroyed by mindworms, or worse yet, stolen by another faction who knew not what to do with it. And thus, acquiring, fencing, and reselling alien artifacts became the major economic activity of smacers. Many factions gladly contracted out artifact gathering to these feral frontier folk, despite their reputation.


An alien “observatory”-type ruin. Such sites were prized for the presence of artifacts that scientific-focused factions believed could be used for levitation or even flight

Political-Ideological analysis

Alongside alien ruins with questionable means of structural support and of dubious origin, disavowed and adventurous scions of the basekind, there were Gaian extremists, Conclave apostates, Labyrinth escapees, Spartan deserters, Monopolist layoffs, Peacekeeper renouncers, University dropouts, Ascendancy undesirables, Watcher incorrigibles, Dreamer freethinkers, Legacy rogue scholars, Oracle anti-Singularitarians, Pilgrim claim jumpers, Tribal iconoclasts, Shaper deep ecologists, Hunter fung-addicts, Memory skeptics, Restoration Kurtzes, Pirate landlubbers, New State knights-errant, Holnist petty warlords, Cartel scam artists, Emporium free companies, Kavithan cultists, roving sellshredder bands, treasure hunters, independent scientists, wildcatters, freed drones, and black marketeers servicing all of the above; in short, the entirely undefined, disintegrating mass, thrown hither and yon, which the factions call smacers.

The smacer subculture is a mishmash of the expelled and the escaped, the very misfits of colonial base society. And of course, this heterogeneous mess boasted endless amounts of tendencies. Despite popular misconception, not all smacers were simply antisocial loners seeking artifacts, though by far this tendency- the default choice of becoming a frontiersmen- was a substantial motivation. It would be more accurate to say that smacers often embodied anti-ideologies. As those who abandoned their factions, they had a tendency to dismiss the motivations and the social agendas of their former homes. Or alternatively, embrace the minor ideologies too extremist and widely detested for forming viable new factions.


Recon footage of Holnist warband raiding abandoned ‘forming site. Few of the original stowaways escaped Planetfall, or remained free of Spartan conscription and Peacekeeper detention- most persisted as common bandits

The Schreiber Project, an Outpost-class sub-faction of breakaway University researchers led by former Togra Labs employees, have had extensive dealings with smacers in their efforts to amass alien artifacts. Schreiber polisoc scientists have determined the common characteristic of smacers, economic mode aside, is the rejection of major factional ideologies, finding them hypocritical, unworkable, or otherwise too constraining for their lifestyle. For instance, the all-encompassing environmentalism of the Stepdaughters of Gaia is denounced as detached nature fetishism, decoupled from the difficult lived-in experience of actually facing the day-to-day rigors of Planet’s ravenous, conquering ecosystem. According to Schreiber interviews, while smacers of ecological-motivated tendencies find Lady Skye to be a fellow traveler, they consider her view of Planet as a quaint, cute garden safely walled by barricades, autoguns, and flamers. Quite a far cry from waking up in blood-red forests enveloped by fungus, only to find that the darker hue is not from a seasonal blooming, but a crimson mindworm swarm encroaching.


Wetland smacers search for rumored artifacts in a bog

The Spartan Federation was also a frequent target of ridicule among the smacers. Many were escaped helots or departed legionnaires who bristled against the iron discipline of Sparta. All found Santiago's exhortations of the will to power and ultimate survival to be little more than playacting- if the Colonel had truly wanted to embrace a life of hardship and grim survivalism, then what was she doing having her followers hold up in impregnable fortress cities protected by layers upon layers of ultra-advanced military technology? Safe in their steel walls, their bodies and minds safe from the beasts of the earth and air, their main challenge was only other humans with crafty weapons. And so it really was all contrived games of skill, waging war for the sake of ceremony; not even proving who had the biggest brawn or cunning, but simply the biggest guns.

Nor were the Hunters of Chiron immune from smacer derision. While many of the wilders admired the Warden’s abilities, those who had originated from the faction found him to be yet another tyrant, simply a hardier one. They considered his bloviating about the nature of man to be hoary and essentialist. They saw a Hunter’s duty as full of aimless wandering and toil, when the whole point of facing the rigors of Planet should really be for one’s profit- and pleasure. (More than one deserter has been lashed for illicitly brewing or consuming fungal spirits.) Ex-Hunter dissenters also found wilderness democracy to be easily stacked by senior veterans of the Forward Landing Teams, whose judgments often became law as they had the trust and favor of the warden. Thus, the self-centered nature of smacer subculture denounced both sedentary Spartans and nomadic Hunters.


A smacer pauses amongst the dunes of Nessus Canyon

Ultimately, to be a smacer is to be negation- to reject base life and factional society. Factions like the Hunters of Chiron, rogue outposts like the Darwin Raiders, and former sub-factional breakaways like Inquisitor Jean Fox's Ecological Malcontents have all adopted nomadic lifestyles. But the smacer subculture exists outside of this framework of polities and proto-polities. They are the unrecognized of Planet, lacking true diplomatic status or sovereignty. And it is a status they embrace for themselves. What is sovereignty but the creation of yet another faction, rule by another charismatic gasbag, imposition of yet another bunch of pretty words? Smacer tendencies come in all shapes, from strictly hierarchical local despotates to flat organizations by anarchic collectives. But they have a tendency to cap out at Dunbar’s number, owing to both their limited socioeconomic development and the high attrition rates of their lifestyle.

Civilization disregards smacers in turn. From indifference to hostility, the established factions saw their freewheeling experience as an irritant to their respective social projects. Van de Graaf and Yang found rare agreement when each demanded smacers be dragged off, psi-whipped, and thrown into punishment spheres. Each saw them as the worst kind of cattle rustler inimical to his own vision for civilizing Planet. Perhaps ol’ Jean-Baptiste would have taken an eccentric likening to their self-organizing close-knit social structures, but Landers’ Human Tribe immediately saw them as hypersurvivalists reborn, intent on taking the work of good honest folk- and that wasn’t even counting the remaining Holnists among them.


A smacer guards the rear entrance to the deserted University Elektrichestvokupol. Hive aerial reconnaissance determined that the former power plant was often occupied by passing bands of smacer scavengers. Hivemen sentinels dispatched to eliminate the interlopers faced fierce but futile resistance

While Lal’s Peacekeeper emissaries introduced a working paper at the Planetary Council entitled “Developing a Schema for Recognizing Non-Factional Actors”, it was quickly tabled indefinitely in committee, and the faction soon found itself working with former Watcher colleagues to instead develop anti-smacer crime initiatives against rising bandit activity and the alien artifact black market. The Centauri Monopoly and similar profit-driven entities like the Schreiber Project entreat with smacers for various wilderness contract work, but still regard them as a capricious and mistrusted presence on the Planetary frontier. Minor but invasive, they remain a social pressure valve to be rid of societal liabilities, an opportunity to do xenoform research without risking one’s own citizens, and an ambiguous threat to expeditions.

Image Credits

Pilot in front of waterfall is from Oblivion (2013)

Desert wanderers is Destiny fan art by ario117

Two forest men is “Forest Men (S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Cosplay)” by DrJorus

Alien observatory is from Pandora: First Contact

Bandit raiders is from S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl

Swamp searchers is “Stalker: Artifact” by alexspline

Desert watcher is from Destiny

Gunman in front of power plant is from S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl
Datalinks: The END


J. Robert Oppenheimer said:
If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst at once into the sky, that would be like the splendor of the mighty one. - quoted from the Bhagavad-Gita, Datalinks

Geopolitical Context

By the middle of the twenty-first century, global dynamics approached an unstable multipolarity. The decades preceding the Unity mission saw the further eclipsing of American power in the wake of its Second Civil War and similar trembling in the cousins’ British Empire. Over at the opposing bloc, economic shocks and environmental devastation shook the once self-assured Soviet Union. In this growing void, the Third World from Hargeisa to Bandung banded in armed camps, vying to liberate the wretched of the earth with messianic movements, non-aligned. The French, sniffing at the squabble, sought a Fourth Way that was precariously balanced between East and West- and inevitably depended on both. Newer regional powers sought other means to displace tottering old hegemons, cloaking rising strength as liberal-democratic internationalism. In the shadows, a thousand separatist, extremist, and terrorist non-state actors bid their time under the watchful gaze of the giga-corporations.

They all met at the United Nations. Having just celebrated its centennial, the institution miraculously managed not only to remain relevant, retaining its preeminence as the forum for the last argument of kings. Moreover, by mid-Blackjack, the U.N. had in fact increased its powers, growing both at the expense of the weakening great powers and as a giant fig leaf for the ambitions of the new ones. Even as they gladly took arms from Moscow, independent-minded leaders of states like Yugoslavia and struggles like the People’s African Union denounced the revisionist chauvinism of the nomenklatura before the General Assembly. Mirroring them were revitalized regimes such as “Novus Helvetia” Switzerland, “Self-Sufficient” Japan, “Novo Brasil” Portuguese Brazil, and the Unified Norden Realm, who broke neutrality or vassalage by taking upon the rich man’s burden of peacekeeping. As NAM hurled accusations of neo-neocolonialism, this self-proclaimed “Fifth Force” sent their children to become Hammershield janissaries for the successors of Dag Hammarskjöld, deployed in dozens of humanitarian stability operations in nationally-strategic hotspots across the world. Meanwhile France, friend to all and friend to none, danced in Geneva.

The Americans and Soviets took a pause from imploding to notice the rise in tension. More players meant more relations, more complications, greater danger. With the Six-Minute War within living memory, they decided these new powers should be deprived of access to the atom. Even if the genie could not be put back into the bottle, at the very least it should be restricted to three wishes. END, so named both euphemistically and oxymoronically as Enforcing Nuclear Deterrence, became the capstone treaty to limit development of weapons of mass destruction within the gates of the nuclear country club. First, they had to set an example to the masses.

IAEA Rapid Response inspectors in various levels of NBC (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical) protective gear. Popularly known as Blixens, they raided suspected treaty-breaking sites and secured clean up crews for nuclear accidents

END I caused a historic shock as the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. (with France as signatory observer) pledged to modestly scale back their arsenals and update their safety to forestall armageddon; in actuality, phasing out obsolete weapons that should have been mothballed decades ago anyway, and modernizing systems for greater reliability and higher killcounts. END II managed to garner a majority of the extant nuclear powers. No limits were set on nuclear proliferation for those within the treaty, other than to update stocks under improved disposal standards. Strict measures were put on those without, to be enforced through the International Atomic Energy Agency and its new “Blixen” rapid response force. Inspection squads were primarily composed of Fifth Force personnel. As a sop to the NAM, excess fissile material collected by the modernization process was earmarked for promoting peaceful nuclear power in the Third World. France, of course, graciously offered to be the main reactor constructor in development efforts. Behind the scenes, the END treaties ironically led to never-before heights of black market nuclear trafficking, with street-level to c-suite participants.

Strategic Overview

Since its inception in the 1940s, atomic power has fueled endless innovation of nuclear weapons. The slow half-steps towards regulation over a century later did not cool this enthusiasm. Even as the major powers blanched from use of the bomb, up-and-coming nations and mad revolutionaries alike coveted its power. Corporations involved in ‘atomic plowshare’ peacetime construction sought to diversify from their earthwork divisions towards nuclear swords. The introduction of the END times merely meant a greater shift of nuclear weapons development away from what could be detected by military satellites and IAEA monitors.

Incident Ignominious Duty, declassified Soviet nuclear disaster when GRU mutineers fired a Yermak Timofeyevich-class atomic rocket launcher in Tajik S.S.R.

In the face of international agreements, nuclear weapons returned to the Frankenstein’s skunkworks of its first generation. The venerable Davy Crockett Weapon System was imitated by multiple governments, then swiftly retired once it was determined that a man-portable nuclear gun’s tactical advantage was limited, its accuracy unreliable, and its portability made it an attractive target for nuclear smugglers and terrorist groups. (The U.S.S.R. pushed for outright ban of such weapons at END II shortly after the Tselinogorki event, but the clause was left on the negotiation floor.)

At the Pentagon, END-pecked planners revived plans for an even smaller device from their forefathers: the hafnium hand grenade. In the late TwenCen, weapons physicists had hoped to create isomer weapons of immense potential yield. By stimulating atomic nuclei by bombarding them with X-rays, they would theoretically cause an enormous amount of gamma ray emissions. Such a destructive weapon would still be keeping in line with treaty commitments, as such a non-fission, non-fusion explosion would not be considered of nuclear origin! “Five pounds for two kilotons” was the slogan. And in the 2050s, the American Reclamation Corporation secured a DARPA contract to reinvestigate, beginning a decade-long effort that resulted in no more results than it had half a century earlier.

The inspection regime’s nuclear waste mandates paradoxically promoted plutonium-239 reuse, allowing for the creation of even more munitions with impure fuel. While ostensibly assigned to Atoms for Peace successor programs, much of the materiel and newly-minted weapons made from spent nuclear fuel found their way into the hands of less peaceful parties. More mundanely, the increase in spent nuclear fuel generated by dismantled stockpiles created mountains’ worth of depleted uranium bullets and shells. Used for armor-piercing antitank rounds, the high-density ammunition had been popularized by the various Iraqi-Iranian conflicts, as notorious for its toxic properties as its deadly efficiency. Known as “Shah’s kisses,” rounds made from the enriched fuel of the Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant were instrumental in turning back the Iraqi Republican Guard in Khuzestan. The term for depleted uranium quickly gained purchase internationally, and the Unity armory brought Shah’s kisses to the stars.


Hammarskjöld is Swedish for “hammer’s shield.”

Blixen is a reference to Hans Blix.

The Davy Crockett nuclear rocket launcher is real: “The story of the ‘Davy Crockett,’ a nuclear recoilless rifle once fielded by the US Army,” Task and Purpose.

The Hafnium hand grenade is a real-world defense spending boondoggle- Wikipedia
Covered by investigative journalist Sharon Weinberger in Imaginary Weapons: A Journey Through the Pentagon’s Scientific Underworld -
NYT review
interview with Tim Ventura of Predict
Physics Today review
narrative by Peter D. Zimmerman (chief scientific advisor of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency)

Image Credits

Blurry diplomats is the Wisemen's Committee from Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater

Commandoes in bodysuits is the Genome Soldiers from Metal Gear Solid

Davy Crockett rocket launched by Soviets footage is the conclusion of Operation Virtuous Mission from Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
J.R.R. Tolkien said:
Of the fate of Ungoliant no tale tells. Yet some have said that she ended long ago, when in her uttermost famine she devoured herself at last. - The Silmarillion, Datalinks

Dyed and under magnification, juvenile xenofungus was an ecosystem most similar to a coral reef. This diversity was gradually lost as the stalks became conjoined through aging.

Xenofungus was a situationally popular fuel source first discovered by road crews of Unity's Forward Contact Teams ahead of Planetfall and later used on a large scale by some factions from M.Y. 25.

The findings of the Parke and Planitzer Expeditions--undertaken by the Conclave and the Peacekeeping Forces, respectively--were quickly formalized into the rudiments of what became Centauri Chemistry through the separate work of Gaian plant biologist Syler Haufiku and University of Planet analytical chemist Arkwright Cramer. Monographs by both researchers were some of the first academic material broadcast on the Planetary Datalinks. Librarians of the Tomorrow Institute married the insights from both to create an enormously popular and influential Common Learning Module in M.Y. 21 that was still being taught as a standard in the University a century later.

The very high energy content (calorific value) of xenofungual tubers was no secret to anyone who had ever used a flamegun to protect a perimeter, but laboratory study also found that, in their most-mature state, the tubers had very low moisture content, a moderate ignition temperature, and very little non-combustible content. Yet there were two critical factors inhibiting commercial exploitation:
  1. Burning xenofungus released intensely halucinogenic compounds against which standard rebreathers did not offer adequate protection.
  2. Harvesting xenofungus stimulated retalatory mindworm activity.

At Galeos, in the dusty bowl of what was once an ocean, sat Station Integra, a Chrionian biofuels processing plant owned by Morgan Industries and operated under contract by the Shapers of Chiron.
Integra was the centerpiece of a Shaper campaign to erradicate xenofungus entirely from arable land in the Kymopoleia Divide. It was, in simple words, a fungal furnace, built to take last advantage of the amputated xenofungal matter cut by faction Liquidators. Three units produced a net output of 102,000 GWh in a Chironian year--enough that the Digital Oracle dedicated a precious 3% of total computing power to speculating on Coordinator Nagao's possible intentions for such an output.

Integra operated just two years at Galeos before it was belted by a green veil of Terran vegetation and was redirected to more crimson pastures.

First image is from the article "Fungal wearables and devices: Biomaterials pave the way toward science fiction future" by Universitat Oberta de Catalunya on the website, credited to CC0 Public Domain.

Fuels facts lifted from a Gokaraju Rangaraju Institute of Engineering and Technology text on energy sources.

Second image is from the gallery "Sci-Fi Powerplant" by Lemuel Calpito on ArtStation.

Third image is from Jeff Rubenstone's article "Dream Projects: City-on-Treads Goes Wherever It Wants" on Engineering News-Record from November 11, 2014. It is credited to Manuel Dominguez.

Daniela Bazán, MD, MPH (2 September 2045 - 1 December M.Y. 20), was a Hunter physician and public health official who developed and promoted the standard practice of medicine in the Chironian care context. After her death, Bazán's field notes became an important historical record of the survivors of the Chiron Probe, with whom she became close during epidemiological studies of that population.

Cuba had transitioned to a democratic republic just five years before Bazán's birth. Her mother, Estrela, was a lecturer in organic chemistry at the Universidad de la Habana, where Daniela herself was later educated. Her father, Luis, was a senior accountant for the Walt Disney Company, which had purchased and restored the Hotel Nacional de Cuba in 2043. That same year, Grumman Aerospace began using the San Antonio de los Baños Airfield just outside Havana for space launch and recovery, whereafter the city's hospitals participated over many decades in casualty-clearing for disasters in orbit, giving local medical students like Bazán important practical exposure to the impact of variable gravity on wound management.

Bazán was chosen for the U.N. Alpha Centauri mission in late 2069 at the suggestion of the U.N. Office of Astronautical Hygiene (UNOAH), which was impressed by her master's thesis, a comparative analysis of disease epidemiology in Lunar, Martian, and Jovian habitats. UNOAH immediately arranged for Bazán to review medical histories transmitted by the Chiron Probe and she consulted briefly with the Unity Mission's Chief Science Officer, Prokhor Zakharov, to identify diagnostic equipment that she wished included on the ship's manifest. Bazán also rated a secondary specialty in emergency medical response and was posted to Mobile Surgical Hospital Λ-4 of the Forward Contact Team as a supervisory technician.

Bazán remained loyal to Game Warden J.T. Marsh after learning Unity's fate and was an inductee of the Slow Mountain Lodge, which she joined on regular patrols, including into territory governed by Chiron Probe commander Joralemon Hardacre. At Bazán's urging, Hardacre arranged for his people--all survivors of epidemic flu--to be enrolled in a long-term medical surveillance program. To execute this venture, which covered some four thousand people, Bazán recruited heavily not just from among the medical professionals active in the Hunter alliance but also within the notoriously-reclusive Stepdaughters of Gaia. Bazán enjoyed full privledges at the Gaian Institute.

Slow Mountain teams worked the active lumber camps of the wartorn Slowwind Delta where Bazán and her crew treated thousands of puncture, crush, and laceration injuries. Bazán recorded her lab notes and field journals to the Planetary Datalinks without redaction--one of the first to take such a step. She was eventually voted responsible for organizing health codes to be taken up by all Hunter lodges. Danger eventually caught up to Bazán: after several close calls, she was one of eight killed in a Tribal impact bombardment of a Pilgrim laydown yard where her ambulance had set up as a screening clinic.

Bazán's death shocked contemporary opinion. Multiple faction leaders suspended vendettas to attend her public funeral at High Hide. Tribal Selectman Pete Landers braodcast an unprecedented statement of regret on open channels. Monuments honoring Bazán's contributions to the general welfare of all mission survivors were built in the University's Razvitia-Progress Base, Morgan Medical Complex, and at U.N. High Commission. Bazán was one of the few Chironian personalities that Hive acolytes were required to study: the Chairman held her up as an exemplar of intellectual rigor and selfless service.

Image is "Girl Spacesuit Cinematic" by FireFelix 1976 on DeviantArt. Created using AI tools.

Concept artist's sketch of the Vietnam-era Convair Model 49 Advance Aerial Fire Support System.

At P/E ratios of 1.31 and 1.74 respectively, the higher gravity and air pressure of Planet called for aircraft to have much greater lift potential. The U.N. recruited Embry-Riddle University to tender a range of designs for civil purposes, which led, in turn, to conversations with American aerospace manufacturers including Convair. The latter returned with the exhumed corpse of a project previously abandoned in the 1960s: the Model 49 Advance Aerial Fire Support System, a variable-geometry aircraft consisting of a cockpit hinged to an annular wing that also served as the turbofan housing. Powerful, fast, compact, and futuristic, the nontraditional air-frame was immediately appealing.

Model 49s had seen limited wartime service with the French Far East Expeditionary Corps Armée de l’Air in Indochina, where they proved highly vulnerable to the Viet Minh’s Soviet-supplied anti-aircraft batteries, but went on to contribute mightily to French success in Algeria against another guerilla enemy with far less means and on terrain where air support had virtually free reign.

The Convair “Rattler,” so named because the craft resembled a poised snake in hover-fire mode, performed low-altitude reconnaissance on Chiron. An atomic battery power pack solved known problems with fuel economy. U.N. mechanics installed cameras in the empty gun pods. The Rattler was maintenance-intensive and, without a second engine, dangerous, but nobody could dispute that it was airworthy.

Few factions possessed the armament to bring one down in flight, and it was an easy choice to rearm the vehicle for combat, a practice that appears to have begun with the Hunters of Chiron, which began by installing a 30mm chain gun taken up from salvage. Fed with incendiary rounds, it became a legendary mainstay of the faction’s “’fung-busting” program.

A Rutherford-Blackett Plant in the Achatës Desert. These Shaper facilities used alpha particle bombardment to force the ejection of independent oxygen atoms from nitrogen gas. Free oxygen was then returned to Chiron’s atmosphere.

Part of the appeal of the Rutherford-Blackett Process was that it avoided the creation of byproduct carbon, an input more useful to native life systems than oxygen.

Industrial processes such as these were similar in scope and technique to the reactions used by the International Space Program during the terraforming of Mars, an undertaking in which tens of thousands of First Generation colonists had participated. However, there was a critical difference between the two contexts in that, on Chiron, the introduction of excess oxygen favored the proliferation of Terran flora.

At the invitation of the New 2000, Shaper barges dumped oxygen-secreting algal compounds in the Slowwind Delta with the intention of fostering an environment conducive for Terran aquaculture.

First image is from an article by Garrett Ettinger on SlashGear. Learn more at’s article on the Convair Model 49.

Second image is “Spaceport-13” by Coristo4 on DeviantArt.

On Ernest Rutherford’s work, and the role of Kevin Blackett, see both this article from the University of Manchester and this one from the LENR Reference Site.

On Chironian chemistry, see the contributions of user Snow Fire to this 1999 conversation on the Alpha Centauri Forums. These appear to be based on the original notes of Del Cotter, a fan consultant responsible for the planetology of Chiron.

Third image is “bottom of the Aquaria’a sea” by tshael on DeviantArt.
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