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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 Phys.org 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 Diseno-Art.com’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.
Vehicle Chassis: Ender Bolt


Nathan Holn said:
Invention shall birth the mother of all battles. - Lost Empire, Datalinks

State of the Art

The emergence of the strategic arms oversight regime did not halt the development of intercontinental nuclear weapons delivery systems. Global satellite surveillance nets had long spotted silos anedwred suspected silos to the extent that such imagery was public and readily available on-line, scrutinized by open intelligence aficionados. Infrared scans could uncover sites stowed away on seabeds or floating on the ocean surface. Asthe Third World and the Fifth Force tightened their respective rival holds upon the IAEA, the passage of the SLCM zero option, allowing for the sneak inspections of submarines in international waters, greatly diminished their value as strategic weapons.

Immense investment poured into alternative, less-than-detectable ways of basing ICBMs. The Force de Frappe’s tracked and rail launchers running across the French countryside. The Fleet Great White North’s array of HLBM-equipped icebreaker hovercraft flitting between - and over the ice floes of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. The Armada Portuguesa’s immense system of river barges and coastal vessels towing atomic assets in hardened containers along 50,000 kilometers (31,000 miles) of Brazilian waterways from the Rio Negro to the Port of Santos. And defense analysts and war toy enthusiasts alike craved the ultimate showdown between the nuclear-armed amphibious flying warships of the United States and the Soviet Union.

Lockheed Martin Sea Sitter, a Sea Control naval dominance plane outfitted with twin 20mm CIWS Gatling guns, a port side 105 mm howitzer, an anti-submarine warfare helicopter, a dozen tactical ballistic missile pods, and four missiles each armed with five nuclear warheads. Equipped with “sea loiter” long endurance operation technologies, the carrier flew from bases to land at open sea locations for randomized durations to avoid enemy detection as a nautical supplement to Operation Chrome Dome

The Lun-class Ekranoplan used ground effect to form a cushion of air between its wing and the surfaces during low-altitude flight, skimming over water for long distances. Considered by the Soviets as more boat than plane, it had six missile tubes designed to fire nuclear-capable P-270 Moskit surface-to-surface supersonic cruise missiles. While some were used as expensive missile boats for coastal defense and others designated as high-speed near-stealth anti-carrier attack vessels, a handful were allocated for top secret ‘Perseus Mandate’ Expeditionary Flotillas for carrying out first strike in the event of an invasion of NATO

Those barred by END II were long suspected of scheming to break into the walled garden of the nuclear country club. The Novus Helvetian Vim Aeris was accused of carrying covertly-built cobalt-thorium bombs aboard its famed armored war airships, dispatched on long-endurance random-move missions to evade Blixen aerial inspections raids. United Nations Intelligence Cell satellites spotted anomalous holes dug upon the beach of the remote volcanic island of Ruang, leading the IAEA to denounce the Indonesian Soviet Republic for constructing sandy silos to conceal buried missiles cobbled together from Australian decommissioned material. (Subsequent inspections revealed the site to be a semi-underground ‘vault’ hotel resort built by a Malayan tourism concern.)

And shortly after the Great Lakes War, U.N. peacekeepers were once again dispatched to the region, chasing rumors of a joint Tanzanian-Ugandan programme to station nuclear weapons on ships upon Lake Victoria. This time, the tip bore fruit, but proved to be an even bigger political embarrassment. The tugs the frogmen-inspectors discovered belonged to the British Empire, having moved ICBMs into international waters in contravention of multiple treaties. London claimed it was for a clandestine missile shield to protect the space elevator in Kenya against reactionary repressive South Africa and the unstable revolutionary regime of Mthwakazi-Mutapa, formerly Rhodesia. The IAEA fined a slap on the wrist to the Security Council permanent member and called it a day.

A Weapon to Surpass

J. Robert Oppenheimer said:
The physicists have known sin; and this is a knowledge which they cannot lose. - Physics in the Contemporary World, Datalinks

Schematics of the mk. 55, the first prototype Ender Bolt

This terminal stage of nuclear proliferation, of cat and mouse games between the established powers and extraterritorial challengers, the IAEA and rogue states, and all legal jurisdictions and transnational terrorists, coincided with the development of the shagokhod, the “walking machine.” As the 21st century continued, usage of armored bipedal (and more-legged) manned weapons platforms expanded, becoming an integral part of many combined arms doctrines alongside the venerable tank and the similarly rising hovercraft. And as states devised new ways to conceal their nuclear weapons arsenals, shagokhods were also considered as a potential atomic harbinger, no more exotic than nuclear-armed dirigibles or trains. They could traverse nearly any terrain, unlike tracked tanks or contemporary hovercraft. They transcended the limitations of water environments including treaty-imposed surprise boarding inspections, unlike submarines. They could be miniaturized to avoid immediate detection, unlike missile-carrier trucks or trains. And they provided all of the accuracy and reliability of ground launchers, unlike ALBMs. A hod-based nuclear weapon had the potential to both escape detection and remain compliant with the END treaties. An atomic loophole.

Ironically, it was again in Tanzania where the wonder weapon of the future first manifested. The American government, still smarting from the Second Civil War, fretted about a “hod gap.” The Soviets, who had given the vehicle its name in the first place; and the pacifist-in-name-only, newly ‘self-sufficient’ Japanese had both reached leaps and bounds ahead in shagokhod technology. Thus did the CIA build Elysian Galzburg, a secret facility far from U.S. soil in Africa, nestled among the battlefield wrecks of recent conflicts. In this secure fortress the Pentagon’s finest weapons scientists created a new type of shagokhod, the Bionic Orbital Launch Terminal. No more than twenty feet high, this would be the most mobile nuclear launcher with the smallest footprint yet. Diesel-electric, it boasted a sealed cockpit to present a fully self-sustaining environment for the lone pilot, protected by a wide array of conventional weapons outstripping that of a typical hod or a tank. Not only was it capable of operating far away from home base, its form factor allowed ambulation over all sorts of terrain- mountains, deserts, swamps, and cities. Plans were even made to make it submersible.

To reflect its arrival in a new era of nuclear control, its name was prepended by Ender. Its creators envisioned that the Ender Bolt would usher a swift finale to the uncertainty created by the treaty regime, smashing MAD doctrine with an undetectable first strike capability- and allow the United States full domination on the thermonuclear geostrategic battlefield.

These hopes were soon dashed.

Zig Dost, having seized the Ender Bolt, launches its very first volley

Elysian Galzburg existed beneath layers of disavowals. The semi-underground installation was guarded by a private military corporation, Ares Arachnids, led by legendary commander Zig Dost. Veteran of mercenary operations around the world and rumored to be a long-running American asset, his forces provided cover to the DoD researchers that worked on the Ender Bolt and the Delta Force skeleton crew that guarded them. But upon near completion, civil disorder abruptly broke out in the vicinity. Local rebels declared a new round of hostilities, rejecting the Joint Signatory Framework that had ended the previous war. Weaponized by a mysterious arms dealer, the Zanzibar Liberation Front directly attacked the base, managing to penetrate its outermost defenses before being repulsed by the Ares Arachnid mercenaries.

Claiming the need to maintain operational security against these jackals of war, Zig Dost and his men took control, imprisoning most of the Delta Force protective force and killing any resistors. What ensued was an extended hostage crisis as Ares Arachnid soldiers forced the scientists to complete the Ender Bolt while battling off ZLF incursions. Fighting fire with fire, the U.S. government attempted to neutralize this deniable asset with more deniable assets, sending in a covert operative. More flies flew to the flame- rival guerrillas affiliated with the People’s African Union decolonial movement, British Imperial intelligence agents operating out of Nairobi, Blixen inspectors sent by the IAEA, and the Tanzanian government itself. All drawn to this mysterious fortress, and the prize that laid within it.


A naturalized American from Portuguese Brazil, Marty Alencar joined the United States Marines out of school, serving in advisory policing actions in Colombia, Spanish Peru, and Egypt before joining a private security firm. Going missing after a contract in an African civil war, became person of interest. Left - While in the field in Tanzania. Right - Interpol file photo

The lone soldier was able to infiltrate the base and bypass the various forces fighting for it. Along the way, he unmasked the leader of the ZLF as former USMC Gunnery Sergeant Marty Alencar, yet another military contractor. Having entered, then commandeered a local separatist group, the mercenary-turned-rebel sought to capture the weapon on behalf of an unknown benefactor. As Alencar escaped, the entire base bore witness to the initial activation of the machine with Zig Dost as its pilot, who fired off a missile that fortunately bore a dummy warhead. Ultimately, the mercenary commander was taken down by the covert soldier and the combined forces that had entered the fortress, which was destroyed in an explosion by the self-denial mechanism contained within the prototype hod.

As the ashes of Elysian Galzburg floated in the wind, the survivors left the blast zone. The powers-that-be paid off the appropriate politicians and covered up the event as the ZLF accidentally setting off a suitcase nuke built from stolen Special Atomic Demolition Munition charges. Some from the “Zanzibar land adventure” would later find their way into the crew of the UNS Unity. And the American military continued its quest to perfect a nuclear launching mobile walker. Despite the costly destruction of the African mission, DARPA determined the invaluable live data from the mk. 55 in action was worthwhile. The shagokhod itself was judged impressive, its chief weakness not in its design but the traditional nuclear blast that announced its presence to the world. Refinements would be made, closer to home.


Design Notes

I actually got the idea for adapting Metal Gear for the RtD universe a year ago, during a playthrough of MGS when I discovered Nastasha Romanenko’s superb codec calls that go deep into the strategic rationale for building a nuclear-armed bipedal walking tank. (In particular, Metal Gear capabilities and Metal Gear development.) Much of those justifications are adapted here. I also used some of her calls about the START-2 and fictional START-3 accords to get a primer on the political context of nuclear disarmament, my own “END” treaties are a nod to them. Finally, I even the Oppenheimer quote is from one of her calls.

Based on those rationales, I thought such a platform would be a good addition to the nuke-happy Earth society of RtD, a characterization which I am admittedly ambivalent towards. (For one thing, it seems if humanity has been using nuclear power for a century, there would be stronger safety protections and improved technologies put into place, even for a species as indifferent to ecological devastation and industrial accidents. Also, with all of the mega-projects they get up to, you’d think RtD humans would be closer to nuclear fusion energy by now, this should not be a timeline with fusion never.) But if one was to embrace the overabundance of nukes in this setting, then bring on the Ender Bolts, as I had already established that mechs (I envision the grounded, realistic-feeling walkers of Battlefield 2142) were in the wars of pre-Mission Earth.

WhileI was doing research I also came across oodles of wacky nuclear weapons ideas, specifically of how to store and secure them. “ICBM Basing Options,” a Department of Defense report published in December 1980, outlines thirty methods from the ‘mundane to the insane’ according to this delightful review episode from the Arms Control Wonk Podcast. Before Metal Gear, real-world Pentagon planners were entertaining potential ways to house the M-X (Peacekeeper) missiles, of which I have borrowed liberally in the above segment. Storing nukes on seabeds or just bobbing on the ocean surface? Pages 24 and 26. Having tugs ferry them around randomly on inland rivers and lakes? Right after. The Sea Sitter? Yep. Hovercraft? They’re called Ground Effect Machines. Sandy Silo? It’s there. And of course, the nuclear-capable dirigible. Can’t have alternate history without airships. Turns out this study is a long-running joke / meme in the (OSINT) strategic arms policy community. Major kudos to this tweet and this tweet from Scott LaFoy of the same podcast for alerting me to this report. If I hadn’t stumbled upon it while searching for references to “Metal Gear submarines,” I would never have found this gem.

Finally, in coming up with a name for a Metal Gear analogue, I wanted something with a similar ring, but also with a banal component. In many (mostly Japanese) mecha series, giant robotic vehicles tend to have mundane-sounding generic names - Mobile Suits, Orbital Frames, Heavy Gears, Arm Slaves, Tactical Armors, Labors, and so on. I chose “Bolt” because I wanted a linking mechanical part, as that is the (retroactive) in-story justification for the “gear” in Metal Gear. I think I chose Ender both to vaguely create a pun (thunder bolts) and maybe as a sort of nod to Zone of the Enders, which was also created by Hideo Kojima. And, retroactively, it fits well with the END treaties. All connected!


Switzerland having cobalt bombs is a loose reference to the Helvetian War from Earth by David Brin.

Perseus is a shoutout to the eponymous plot from Call of Duty: Cold War.

Additional real-world analysis of the titular machines provided by So ... how USEFUL would a Metal Gear be in real life?

The technical, strategic reasoning behind Metal Gears are more important to me for this segment than actually adapting the series’ storyline for RtD. However, I still had to pay homage to the original work, so the genesis of the Ender Bolt ends up being kind of an adaptation of Metal Gear 1 and 2, and also the underrated Metal Gear Solid on Game Boy Color, also known as Metal Gear: Ghost Babel. Hence the inclusion of the ZLF, loosely modeled after the Gindra Liberation Front and here allows the story to relate to the actual Zanzibar and not Central Asia.

Zig Dost, the soundalike of Big Boss, is derived from Ziggy Stardust, in line with Kojima’s David Bowie influence. Ares Arachnids follows Diamond Dogs by way of The Spiders from Mars, naturally.

Galzburg is the fictional region in South Africa where Outer Heaven is 200 km north from.

The People’s African Union is from Civilization: Beyond Earth.

Marty Alencar is a playable protagonist, perhaps the most present in the marketing materials, of Far Cry 2.

Special Atomic Demolition Munition are real-world man-portable nuclear charges.

Image Credits

Header image is the box art of Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake

Sea Sitter image and schematics found by Scott Lowther of The Unwanted Blog, covered by same in Aerospace Projects Review volume 5, number 3

Ekranoplan schematics is modified original illustration, along with caption information, from full vehicle profile on Covert Shores by H I Sutton

Initial prototype schematics is the TX-55 Metal Gear from original Metal Gear

Metal Gear Warhead Activate animation is by Mitchell Hammond, aka @BipedalBastard (Patreon)

Animated mech gif is taken from “Obscure Metal Gears: Metal Gear GANDER” by Pliskin, from Metal Gear: Ghost Babel

By 2071, French logistics genius Ives Cernout was one of the wealthiest men on Planet Earth.

Born 1999, Oran, Algeria. Family’s Tlemcen winery lost to 2015 grape phylloxera. Father committed suicide after his son was disenrolled from the London School of Economics over unpaid tuition. Cernout the Younger soon found work as an aide to National Assembly député for Tlemcen Luigi Tagliaferro (Le Parti de l’Algérie française), a longstanding friend of the family.

Cernout was a natural at politics, combining a voracious appetite for work with a keen danger-sense. Tagliaferro used him primarily as a researcher and analyst, completing the education that Cernout had begun to pursue in England. The latter was a senior staffer and ghostwriter behind the influential Fornier Report advocating for a hydroelectric dam to be built at Gibraltar to combat rising sea levels, a feat for which he was made an honorary member of the Atlantropa Institute. Tagliaferro also used Cernout to publish a series of monographs on the critical role of the French military in African "stability operations" as a means to shore up flagging public support for continued investments in colonial defense. One of the report's major contributors was the already-infamous Contre-amirale Raoul André St. Germaine.

Cernout escaped charges in a series of corruption trials that ended Tagliaferro’s career by 2025 but joined his master in exile to found freight-handling company Merauciel the following year. From 2027-2032, then again from 2034-2037, Cernout oversaw Merauciel’s assets in joint enterprise with Soviet Ministry of the Merchant Marine for resupply of Soviet Venutian habitats. Following Tagliaferro's retirement, Cernout was named Chief Executive Officer in 2038. His tenure commenced with aggressive and successful efforts to increase Merauciel’s South American market share at the expense of Morgan Industries. Both companies were censured by the United Nations over their role in supplying a proxy war in the Peruvian Amazon that eventually led to open war between Spanish Peru and Portuguese Brazil. A grateful Portugal engaged Merauciel to convey much of their strategic deterrent on the Amazon, the Limpopo, and the Tagus, and the company staked its reputation (successfully through 2071) on a spotless safety record, periodically announcing the apprehension of Morgan-financed saboteur rings.

Subject’s novel solution for breaking into unfriendly markets was to underwrite humanitarian operations through a front, Aide Mobile. The venture was blacklisted by multiple Western governments that labeled it a blatant money-laundering operation but Mercauciel won numerous concessions from Turkish, Chilean, and Iranian governments impressed with the effectiveness of its seismic mitigations and was one of few international corporations with a positive public image in the Southern Hemisphere. In 2040, the bloodless replacement of Rio Grande do Sul dictator João Soares, a man once called “Nwabudike Morgan’s bought-and-paid-for strongman,” with local Aide mobile executives on a tidal wave of street protest suggested the power of Cernout’s methods.

Merauciel was active as a sub-contractor on the Unity Project. Cernout’s personal remarks on the matter were generally positive, though he challenged the U.N.’s predictions of an imminent mass human extinction event. He was nominated as a member of the French national contingent in 2054 and officially present as an observer on behalf of Merauciel.

Like many corporatists, Cernout first made common cause with Roshann Cobb only to become disillusioned by his mismanagement of the Struan's operation on the ground. It took little encouragement for Cernout to take an active part in the palace coup that brought “Joiner” Banes to power within the Dreamer faction by diverting a significant portion of White Rabbit base militia off-site to escort bogus trade caravans.

Actor Jason Isaacs is Ives Cernout.

Planetcultists arrive for worship at Worm's Lair.

Several features of this im-cap are noteworthy, including the Cult's use of local river-bottom clays as an energy-efficient building material, the lightning conductors that draw static electricity as a supplemental power source, and the murmurations of Locusts of Chiron in the distance at left.

Seneschal Dame Ketziah Stockton presents for questioning by the Kritarchy.

Guilt over the past misdeeds of the faction's "Silver Cross" raiding parties, so-called because of the prominent faith devices worn over their space suits, caused Sister Godwinson to shrink from military operations for more than a decade once the Conclave brought its food situation under control. However, as her hold over the faithful began to slip, Godwinson's concerns for both her personal safety and the continuity of her ministry began to rise, leading to the establishment of the Blood Guard in MY40, a military order separate from the faction militia.

Final workup on Unity's bridge, sometime in January 2071, eleven months before mission launch.

Racks of data reels containing the latest updates to the ship's machine code are still being formatted.

A screen in the background appears to show sonar returns, probably connected to last-minute inventories for false compartments then being conducted by Morgan Metasignals at the behest of the Mission Standards Board.

Notice the wheeled cart behind the robot at center. The computers used aboard
Unity were often older than the technicians who kept them in good repair for the fifty years it took to complete the ship. International Business Machine, better known by its acronym IBM, built entire lines of "mobile" diagnostic machines that it sold exclusively to United Nations contractors for the purpose of communicating with its defunct products.

First image is "Journey Through the Desert of Forgotten Futures" by Clarojoko on DeviantArt. Created using AI tools.

Second image is "Captain Juliette de Sade, Battle of Efate 1108" by zhez4 on DeviantArt. Created using AI tools.

Third image is "The Information Age" by eddie-mendoza on DeviantArt.
Vehicle Chassis: Ender Bolt (cont.)


The United States Navy had long been experimenting with railguns for generating high muzzle velocities through electrically-accelerated conductive projectiles on its battleships, partly to counteract cruise-missile armed ground effect vessels like the Ekranoplan. Propelled into the air on twin charged rails, these rounds had the potential of traveling kilometers per second with kinetic impacts producing immense damage even without explosive warheads. But power-hungry requirements banished them to the darkness of space, deployed on the American Archimedes Array’s anti-ballistic solar satellites.

Railguns returned to Earth in an environment nearly as frigid. Cape Prophet’s Shroud, on formerly depopulated Chirikof Island of Alaska, became the site of a subterranean naval research station devoted to further experimentation with railgun (and more speculative coilgun) weaponry. Separated from the rest of the remote island by a glacial expanse, the cape was completely isolated from all trespassers, or so ONI thought.

Breaching the perimeter of Naval Weapons Station Prophet’s Shroud

One moonless Halloween, the railgun test facility was captured by an armed band. After slaughtering the DEVGRU garrison, the terrorists’ leader identified themselves as patriots of the Revolutionary Republic of Kenai and Kodiak, one of many short-lived secessionist movements that had sprouted in the Hypersurvivalist Wars. General Hummer demanded that the U.S. recognize the RROKK, reinstate its government-in-exile, and immediately redirect all reconstruction funding from the tyrannical regime in Juneau to the sovereign state as foreign aid. If refused, they would have no resort but to seize the expensive toys the Navy had built while the children of Soldotna starved, selling all to the highest bidder.

Coast Guard Base Kodiak scrambled a Maritime Security Response Team to Chirikof Island. Mysteriously, they too were wiped out by what should have been no more than a rabble of survivalist holdovers. Its hand forced again, the Pentagon released the lone soldier-agent they had incarcerated after the Elysian Galzburg Event for yet another infiltration and weapons scientist rescue mission. And so he sneaked, discovering that the RROKK secessionists were not Holnist historical reenactors but, to a man, had abilities on par with any operator of the commands under SOCOM or the homeland services. Their armaments were not battlefield salvage from the Pax Decay wars but cutting-edge, including resonance edges and free electron carbines. Furthermore, the rebels were augmented with Soviet advisors- namely spetsnaz- who provided extra muscle for the operation.


Mattias Nilsson's combat aptitude won him entrance into the Swedish Coastal Artillery of the Unified Norden Navy at a young age, and his chaotic belligerence lost him the honor of being an Arctic Ranger after a career of suicidal daring. A destructive stint in the Brödraskapet Wolfpack (“Wolfpack Brotherhood”) motorcycle gang later, he was arrested before escaping the Unified Norden Realm, becoming an international- then interstellar- soldier of fortune

As the endless night dragged on, intruders entered the fray. While a Japanese cruiser, the JS Atsushi, sat in international waters and surveyed the situation, a midget submarine launched from the mothership. It delivered a JMSSDF Special Boarding Unit team to the underground docks beneath the base. Meanwhile, mountain operations troops from the Royal Canadian Army Advanced Warfare Centre performed a HAHO jump (high altitude high open) in the skies above. Landing atop a glacier, alpine warfare soldiers climbed down to the station. Both squads confronted the secessionists and their allies at Prophet’s Shroud.

The American-sent operative crept past the crossfire before an explosion rocked the cape. Ex-Arctic Ranger Mattias Nilsson made his entrance, shooting at terrorist and counter-terrorist forces alike with no regard to stealth. The one-man Norden army rampaged through the base, but his lack of subtlety allowed the lone operative to ambush and interrogate him. Unlike many others, Nilsson spoke not in riddles. He chased rumors of more than mere counter-ICBM satellite weaponry. Deep below, according to intel, the American military was building no less than an Ender Bolt. All were in a race to steal its secrets, and to secure it for their own cause.


The Kargil Strike, live-fire demonstration of the Ender Bolt LEO

Disbelieving, the operative left the mercenary demolitions expert tied up and tranquilized in a locker and descended into the depths of the base. With every new battle, reality slowly dawned. He discovered stockpiled nuclear material and a vast chamber that had been used for covert underground tests. He found schematics for a stealth re-entry vehicle designed for precision fire. A rescued weapons scientist revealed that the United States had indeed restarted the Ender Bolt project. Leveraging next-generation technology, the new shagokhod was nearly fifty feet tall, equipped with two railguns that could launch nuclear payloads without chemical propellants. Not only would this be undetectable by rocket emissions-tracking ballistic detection systems, it abrogated no treaty- projectiles fired in this manner did not even qualify as missiles! All it required was a surface-piercing warhead to penetrate hardened underground bases. With this machine, the U.S. would be king of the nuclear jungle. They called it LEO.

The hunt was on for the launch codes of the Ender Bolt. As the soldier-agent fought towards the hangar, the spiders’ webs materialized under the rising sun. The Russians were members of Novaya Svoboda, “New Freedom,” a breakaway faction of the Soviet Army. Also committed to ending MAD, these hardliners sought to launch an act of nuclear terrorism on American soil, provoking a world war terminus which they believed communism would win. They assisted the RROKK secessionists, promising to spare the Kenai Peninsula and Kodiak Island in exchange for a time-share of the nuclear launcher. Arriving at the central silo, the operative realized he was too late. Ender Bolt LEO was fully operational. It raised a giant railgun into the dark sky, and fired.

Contrary to their threats, the secessionists did not launch their opening salvo at Edge Knot City in the western United States. The target was Kargil district, the heavily radiation-poisoned, desolate ground zero of the Six-Minute War. Instead of forcing the superpowers into a deathmatch, he paid homage to where two great powers had ended each other decades earlier. This was to be a warning shot, proof that their weapon was functional and that their will was steel. The Revolutionary Republicans then turned their guns on the Russian patriots.

Unit patch of the RROKK secessionists. Latin motto is “I am not led, I lead”

They declared that their original demands were no lie, that it was all for freedom. General Hummer revealed that they were not the former hypersurvivalists who had made war against the federal government, but were once counterinsurgency special forces genetically enhanced and cybernetically upgraded to combat the same. Originally earmarked for foreign adventures against People’s African Union decolonizers in the Great Lakes War and Red Cuban holdouts in the Caribbean, they were brought home to fight their fellow Americans. Whether Kellerite, Holnist, Never-Treader, or just plain neutral, all became targets to eliminate under their sword. In the end, brother-on-brother bloodshed was too much, even for them. Forsaking their mandate to uphold misery, in Alaska the enhanced rejected their mission, joining the very people they once fought. In return, the federal government engaged a killswitch. Process Balnibarbi Sphereland halted the supply of immuno-suppressants, causing the enhanced grievous side effects from experimental treatments.

But now they could demand vital medication from the government- lest their dirty deeds be made public- and guarantee a homeland for all sick of fighting under false flags. The U.S. needed only to grant them liberty and life, and it would never have to fear their Ender Bolt.

It was not to be. The operative wavered only slightly as he completed his mission. After a difficult duel involving CQC, Hummer was slain by his hand. As the RROKK fell to in-fighting with the Russians, the surviving DEVGRU Navy SEALs took the chance to exact revenge upon the Spetsnaz GRU who had killed their comrades. The remaining foreign fighters helped the operative mop up the secessionists. As the final fight waged, an explosion once again roared through the silo. Ender Bolt LEO, already greatly damaged, was ripped apart by the blast. Out of the smoke stepped Mattias Nilsson, detonator in tow. Revealing himself to be on contract with the IAEA, the Swedish mercenary told the operative that his mission was accomplished, and disappeared on a hijacked Canadian ground earth machine.


Following security breaches, the Department of Energy was made guardian of all U.S. atomic hod projects, specifically its Full-Spectrum Protective Force, known as “closers” (as in closing Pandora’s Box)

Following the Night of Prophet’s Shroud, the legend of the Ender Bolt permeated across the globe. Despite destruction of both the prototype and the initial version, the idea of a fully-mobile, self-sustaining, treaty-compliant railgun-armed shagokhod capable of delivering an untraceable nuke became a dream to both nation-states and non-governmental entities alike. As blueprints of the LEO and its stealth warhead were somehow leaked onto the black market, governments, gigacorps, and gun-shakers began constructing their own variants. Less than five years after the events under Chirikof Island, the junta in Bolivia won the race to build a successor super-hod, albeit without a working nuclear device. As many critics feared, the coming of the Ender Bolt promised to irrevocably disrupt the nuclear balance, weakening previous counter-measures and treaties. As anger grew at the United States for letting the Kargil Strike happen under its watch, the possibility of further agreements diminished, and as of the UNS Unity launch in 2071 there was still no sign of an END III.

Not long after, a second was rumored to be kept in an Imperial Military Focus facility hosted by Mthwakazi-Mutapa, stolen from a joint Anglo-French project by Brigadier Heid’s ruthless private operators. Nwabudike Morgan, returning to his origins as an arms dealer, formed Morgan Tactical Special Action Reconnaissance Services from the cream of his industrial espionage crop and sent them into El Gauad to secure the prize for himself. Instead, his agents discovered a half-finished shell that IMF squaddies were using for target practice, its railgun and useful components already stripped. The Mogul wrote off the venture as a successful product demo, marketing Morgan T.S.A.R.S. as “Purveyors of the best intel your money can buy.” So useful were the T.S.A.R.S. units, he would one day recreate the organization on Chiron as the probe department of the Centauri Monopoly.

Khalkotauroi artillery gani of the Digital Oracle was the precursor chassis to the faction’s very own Ender Bolt. Due to Planet’s greater gravitational field, the stability of multi-legged ganis were favored over bipedal hods for firing high-powered weaponry

The Unity diaspora reinvented Ender Bolts only after the realization of Greater Gauss Guns and the mainstreaming of Chironian hods. But those were only two members of the triad that defined the war machine. The third, nuclear weapons, was fairly scarce on Planet. Between the Muntz Report limiting the mission’s stockpile and the abundance in thorium leading to widespread use of breeder reactors that produced low-weaponization potential uranium-233, there were fewer sources for reliable fissile material. The U.N. Charter forbade the use of the a-bomb as a weapon of mass destruction, and while some factions attempted to develop their own atomic arsenals, it was not particularly popular as offensive weaponry. Regardless, the mighty mechanical platforms were still prized for their ability to deliver swift strikes with minimal thermal signature, essentially mobile mass drivers. As with the LEO and its offspring on Earth, these pseudo-Ender Bolts were far more armored and armed than conventional hods or gani, able to go toe-to-toe with a highship or even landship.


The Coeus, the first Ender Bolt constructed on Planet, and perhaps the only built by humanity in at least three centuries

Only with the advent of the planet buster did the Ender Bolt fully regain its fearsome reputation. These nightmarish quasi-nuclear plasma explosives, each with the starting blast yield of nearly three hundred gigaton of TNT (over sixty times that of the Tsar Bomba), truly brought back the prospect of MAD that haunted latter-day Earth. As factions began planet buster crash programs, so did the arms race to build the best method to house and deliver doomsday.

Once again, Ender Bolts became the most fearsome herald of particle obliteration. The completion of such a Secret Project was a momentous event, and factions were often unable to resist announcing their new wonder weapon to the world. As many were sheathed in the most advanced defenses known to science, they were even rumored to be indestructible by planet busters. At the very least, discovering- and then destroying- a modern Ender Bolt through conventional means required dedicated military resources. And so, like on Earth, these war machines became the focus of tactical espionage action. Massive shadow vendettas waged as factions shifted to covert means to disable, dismantle, or deprive rivals’ Ender Bolts. This siphoned off open conflict, making these doomsday devices the province of probe teams, just as it served as an outer heaven for deniable mercenaries, terrorist groups, and rogue special forces during the Cold War. Ironically, in the age of the planet buster, Ender Bolts finally lived up to their name, enforcing deterrence.

Design Notes

Funnily enough, the final picture I used is of a mech unit from the design workshop of Pandora: First Contact, and one of the original inspirations for this concept to begin with.

In my initial notes, I simply wrote that an Ender Bolt was built in Alaska, and another by the Bolivian junta. This ended up being a full loose adaptation of the original Metal Gear Solid with generous references to other materials. Memetic mutations- I imagined the terrorists to have been Alaskan separatists of some sort, so I borrowed their name via the Temporary Republic of Kenai and Kodiak from Snow Crash. As in that novel, I had these all-American rebels unexpectedly aided by Soviet Russian fanatics, though of a different sort- the off-screen nuclear terrorists from A Beautiful Mind rather than Russian Pentacostal “Orthos.” I also made the twist be that they were former American special forces, with the RROKK becoming an unplanned pun- unpunned?- for The Rock, which was most likely one of Kojima’s many action film influences for his game. And them being augmented super-soldiers? Both a Metal Gear trope and ties this all back to The Postman by David Brin with a nod to the Holnists, who are already present in the RtD setting.

The technical specifics and justification of the rail-gun launched stealth nuclear weapon are from Metal Gear Solid code conversations with Otacon, namely The perfect nuke, REX's rail gun

Additional real-world analysis of the titular machines provided by thread So ... how USEFUL would a Metal Gear be in real life?


Chirikof Island is a real-world location, the site of a probably mythical tsarist Russian penal colony, two thousand feral cattle, and placed on the list of potential nuclear weapons test sites in the 1960s under Project Rufus and Project Larkspur. I found it simply by scrolling around Alaska on Google Maps until I saw a suitably remote island and had no idea of its strangely resonant history. Though I suppose it’s natural for its remoteness to have led to it being considered for such atomic testing schemes. Cape Prophet’s Shroud is an obvious reference to Shadow Moses Island.

Mattias Nilsson, voiced by Peter Stormare, is a playable protagonist, perhaps the most present in the marketing materials, of Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction and Mercenaries 2: World in Flames. (Biography according to sequel)

New Freedom is from A Beautiful Mind - full ideology described in the film’s script on page 36.

Edge Knot City is a fictional location from Death Stranding.

Kargil in Kashmir was chosen for its real-world site of the Kargil War, an Indo-Pakistani conflict in 1998 that sparked fears of a regional nuclear war.

“El Gauad” is an anagram for Galuade from Metal Gear: Ghost Babel.

Gani, がに, is Japanese for crab.

Image Credits

Space-based defense railgun is Department of Defense art, 1984.

Orbital railgun schematic shared from Aerospace Projects Review Blog by Scott Lowther

Assault on snow base is from Spriggan (1998)

Animated mech gif is taken from “Obscure Metal Gears: Metal Gear GANDER” by Pliskin, from Metal Gear: Ghost Babel

Brothers of Tomorrow’s Fires insignia is from The Righteous Gemstones

Department of Engineering combat squad is the Protection Technology Inc. Special Response Team, posted to Los Alamos Labs

Walking mobile artillery cannons are the Multipodal Battery from GODZILLA: Planet of the Monsters

Blue four-legged mech is a rails-armed Titan mech unit from Pandora: First Contact
gah , ı was so sure that was Lance Henriksen and Eric Roberts in some movie in that US Feds picture . But then it is probably 1980s in there .
quite fond of that Bishop character in Aliens , happy he wasn't dressed up in that Mega Force type suits !

by the way ı looked for that MX basing concepts pdf . Like it is freely available , links and all but ı haven't updated my tablet in ages , Chrome decides every site wants to steal my passwords , so blocks them , using a proxy is denied by the linked site and a repeat attempt (without proxy) sees Chrome declaring the US Goverment might steal my stuff . As if one would ever notice ! Any possibility of linking it here ?
Person of Interest: Flora Guillen


Service Record:
Born 2032, Matanzas, Cuba, in the final days of communist rule. As the Esperanza de Libertad movement swept the country, her father, a major in the Cuban Revolutionary Army, left with exodus of loyalist dead-enders. Her mother, a former Portuguese colonial subject from Angola, remained. Grew up on tales of the family’s military exploits dating back to over half a century. Despite the abolishment of compulsory service, entered the Career Officers School at age sixteen.

Excelled in military drills with an élan incongruous with the imminent dismantling of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias. Accepted overseas posting to OEA peacekeeping group deployed to the Caribbean in search of Red Cuban anti-counterrevolutionaries. Demonstrated excellent marksmanship, sniping the commander of a training camp in Isla de Providencia and downing several guards before the alarm was raised. At the end of her tour, admitted into the School of the Americas - Grenada campus where she specialized in jungle warfare and counter-ideology.

Participated in “dual-mouse” operations in Centroamerica, infiltrating the Red Cuban exile community of Guatemala City, Managua, and San Salvador by day and raiding militant camps in the rural interior with gathered intelligence by night. Assisted in the destruction of at least five different red reconquista cells. Promoted to lieutenant. Meteoric rise abruptly cut short when the location of her joint task force was disclosed before a raid in the highlands of Quetzaltenango. After artillery fire from Centroamerican batteries ripped through three companies worth of OEA filibusters, DEA advisors attached to the op discovered that it was Guillen who had leaked the information, unmasking her as a deep cover Red Cubana. But she had already escaped into the night.

Joining her father’s former comrades, she embarked on a career of “red revanchismo.” Implicated in the San Antonio de los Baños Airfield and Base Especial Isla de la Juventud bombings. Trained by the Val Verde Veterans. Marked for death by the United Fruit Company after her cadre halted Chiquita’s expansion into Cuba. Designated a Tier 1 priority FastPass target by Walt Disney Company Global Intelligence and Threat Analysis. Ultimately left the region after disagreement with local leadership, mistrust over her role as former double-agent.


Arrived in Portuguese West Africa in 2055, joining the Red Cuban exile network in Lubango during the attempted third war of independence. Initial noncombat duties in MPLAN territory sporadically interrupted by attacks from Portuguese incursions and French-backed UNITNAM insurgents. Ably held her own, successfully rallying junior FAR officers and MPLAN rebels to the barricades. Accepted commission with the Forças Armadas Angolanas, staging multiple guerrilla attacks against Estado Novo expeditionaries. Foiled plot by Cabinda separatists on the Moçâmedes Railway.

Stayed in-country alongside hundreds of Red Cuban volunteers after WARPAC forces withdrew following Belgian entrance into war. Seriously wounded in Gran Leste offensive against Franco-Belgian-Katangese coalition forces, promoted to captain. Struggled through rehabilitation, but by the time she was deemed fit for active duty, the revolutionary leadership had broken down and accepted disarmament for amnesty in 2065. Following in her father’s footsteps, she had failed to liberate Angola.

Though officially retired, U.N. Intelligence Cell concludes Guillen immediately began taking training contracts with various ideologically-compatible non-state actors in Françafrique, Portuguese East Africa, and elsewhere on the continent. Implicated in half a dozen attacks against space elevators and aerospace complexes, including the 2062 Stanleyville Bombings. Most recently spotted in the Ethiopias training the Habesha People’s Democratic Republic movement and the Eritrean United Front against Morgan Industries-sponsored franchise governments (“Mugatustans”).

U.N.I.C. determines there is a high probability of mission infiltration via the Stellar Lifeboat Project. Strong likelihood subject is incognito among the international refugees and internally displaced persons given new lease on life as Unity colonists by the UNHCR program. Potential motivation ranges from continued personal vendetta against imperial enemies, desire to spread ideological struggle to the stars, or even fulfillment of monetary contract on behalf of unknown benefactors. High degree of certainty that subject is in contact with various revolutionary leftist and national liberation movements covertly represented aboard the ship.


Psych Profile: Global Seditionary
Born and bred revolutionary. Linked to multiple communist, decolonial, and anti-imperialist movements throughout Africa as well as the revolutionary fringe of Red Cuban exile movement. Willing to commit sabotage and terrorism to further goals.

Ideological zeal tempered by military discipline. Strong paternal influence on early upbringing, encouragement of military pursuits prior to abandonment of family. Ambiguous home life dynamics. Unknown if subject ever reunited with father in the field.

Memetic analysis suggests common thread of beliefs surrounding struggle against the multinational oldline entities preying upon the colonies, whether political, economic, or spiritual. Testimony from former MPLAN comrades suggests that subject viewed U.N. Alpha Centauri initiative as “Earth’s final pillaging by kings.” Repeatedly voiced concerns that imperial powers were using interstellar colonization project to hide massive wealth transfers from the planet’s working classes, accelerate resource exploitation of the subjugated. Vowed that such plundering could not continue to the next world.


Flora Guillen is a non-playable supporting character from Far Cry 2. Extended biography here.

In the original thread I had adapted her as “Rosa Carlota” (probably named for the eponymous military operation), before I decided these mercenary characters are versatile enough to crossover into this setting more directly.

Originially I had intended her to be a Phoenix Nation lieutenant on Planet. She still might be- for a time- but I see her as more freewheeling, like the rest of the mercs.

OEA is the non-English acronym for the Organization of American States.

Base Espacial Isla de la Juventud is a reference to Isle of Pines Spaceport from the 20th century history of Cuba in the massive Tripartite Alliance Earth timeline by Randy McDonald

Double-agent twist vaguely inspired by The Sympathizer - go watch it, right now

The Walt Disney Company’s Global Intelligence and Threat Analysis department is a real thing popularized by this 2021 tweet. It’s a real rabbit hole. And check out these other coins.

Not sure what I was going for with the ahistorical future names of Angolan rebels. I guess the MPLAN would be the Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola Novo but I forgot what UNITAM was supposed to end in.

Further Reading

Chiquita Held Liable for Deaths During Colombian Civil War”, New York Times, June 2024

Mickey Mouse Hearts Spies”, WIRED
Muckers: the Ruiner


Khagan Robin Huxley said:
He who dwells in the outback should take heed that the outback dwells in him. - Masters of the Boundless Steppe

Even exiles have their own outcasts. Ever since the first warren expelled the first artificer - a fraud hawking counterfeit artifacts - smacer society has freely banished its own irredeemables to fates of uncertain doom. Thrown into the wild, lone unfortunates who rejected the siren call of the long crawl back to their bases of origin (an unthinkable choice to most) took shelter wherever they could. While their alienated kin resided in ramshackle podtowns beside supply vehicles and cargo containers or in bush encampments nestled in oxygenated forests, double-exiles went to live where the rule-abiders feared to tread: in the eldritch edifices of alien ruins.

While ancient sites were vital to the smacer way of life, they were not seen as fit for long-term habitation. Certainly, the political economy of the scavengers depended on the alien artifact trade. Chironian relics held their value not only from intrinsic worth but from the dangers involved in acquisition. Alien ruins were surrounded by mindworms seemingly drawn to their unearthly energies and filled with strange physics-defying anomalies, potential booby-traps, even bizarre “guardian” entities. Tales abounded of those who fell into “dimensional gates,” thrown hundreds of kilometers away into uncharted territory. Or entered the wrong chamber in an alien temple and were duplicated by a “dimensional rift,” prompting complex questions of identity and property. Or sucked into “time bubbles,” developing reverse-progeria and progressively becoming younger and younger, reverting to infancy.

Schreiber Project field work Schliemann scouts in plasma steel-augmented Togra Labs all-action survey suits approach a rare ‘Wedding Cake’ xenomonolith in the Hosanna Hills

Smacers generally avoided ruins beyond venturing for artifacts, viewing the baser practice of living near them as foolhardy. Even the most innocuous and widespread form of alien ruin- the common four-sided monolith, renowned for unexplained salutary properties and proximity to abundant natural resources- were not sought for long-term settlement. A common smacer rule of thumb when it came to the obelisks was to not waste too much of a good thing. Indeed, it was observed that when visited too often, monoliths would disappear like mirages, taking away the benefits with which they had blessed the land.

There is always another edge. Even the periphery has peripheries. Double-exiles were driven into the frontiers of smacer existence. While warren atamans dispatched hunting parties to chase out squatters during relic collections, a peculiar “ruiner” subculture grew in their smacer shadow. They drank the juice of strange native fruits that grew in the xenofungus that surrounded- but mysteriously never encroached upon- the ruins. They ate the meat of the Macko lizards, an invasive species gengineered and accidentally released by Shapers of Chiron attempting to resculpt Earth fauna for Planet’s ecosystem. They slept in the dark stony passageways of the monoliths, underneath strange star charts and between antediluvian pillars bearing indecipherable carvings that hummed with unearthly tones. And dreamt.

The Woven Ones, a ruiner pack that emerged from the Foggy Granary, xenoarcheological site of silo-shaped rotundas and windmill-like structures. Razed several hutches of ex-Gaian ultra-pacifist families before defeat at True-to-Keller, a warren of Human Tribe Free-Fraternizers and Spartan Redeemers

Several mission decades later, the ‘monolith men’ returned to smacer settlements. And death followed them. At first there were simple raids. Warrens and hutches were accustomed to combat- clan wars, artifact robberies, subsistence violence- and they deployed their best defenders. What they experienced was a ferocity of deceptive shrewdness and suicidal disregard for safety. Expelled artificers, kin-killers, rebasers, and other criminals appeared at the head of packs that somehow exceeded the number of original double-exiles. Their weaponry and armor were archaic, ship era, but glinted in the suns with the characteristic sheen of having “seen the obelisk.” The mettle of these marauders was as monolith-touched as their battle gear. No matter how many were killed, their lines never broke, they never fell back. Even baseborn far wilderness scouts from the likes of the Hunters, the Raiders, or the Emporium, long accustomed to dealing with hostile smacers, observed that ruiners shrugged off higher-powered fire from impact guns. Breaking into the road habs, they killed indiscriminately, dragging away screaming unfortunates to slavery unknown.

For all of their barbarity, the most terrifying aspect of the ruiners was their tendency to attack with the mindworms. During the early era of colonization, an unwritten taboo forbade harassing victims after a mindworm attack. This rule was adhered to by even the smacers themselves, at least among one another. (Basers were usually spared, save in the more vicious frontier vendettas.) Only the most cruel or desperate of bandits would raid the pitiful remnants of a convoy, still reeling from crawling nightmares and clutching their lost. That these ruiners lacked the compunction to do so made them hated by the smacers from the start. Then, survivors of the obliteration of Little Lake and New Srinagar spoke stories of stride-chariot ruiners riding through a boil, the masses of worms “parting like the Red Sea” to admit the murderers through. Such reports were dismissed as post-traumatic mindmares until aerial scouts of the Phoenix-dissident Raven Flight captured precise Live-D footage of the attack on Monopolist spin-off warren Magón Geomatics: Ruiner mamluk skirmishers and coils of worms advancing towards laboratory tents side-by-side. Ruiner Adamia sharpshooters tactically picking off flamer crews to protect the boil. And, when the company surplus Morganguard M-200 combot rollers had surrounded several unlucky ruiners, a dive of Locusts of Chiron swooped in from the sky, smashing the machines and saving the monsters. Accounts like these terrified smacers, who gave the ruiners the epithet of Harakternik, “battle mage,” and vowed to put them down for good.


The Horned Heathens pack goes into post-victory trance at the Nonaccredited University warren of Galileo Falls

In the end, smacer victory was inevitable thanks to their capacity to self-organize, the meager fortification of their hutches and warrens, and their numbers. The horrors and depravity of the Harakterniks only unified the vulnerable populations of the frontier. Atamans devised keen strategies employing rusted supply pod shells and Unity cargo containers to herd the attackers into dead-end valleys where flame guns awaited them. With brutal efficiency, they treated the ruiner packs like the worms they accompanied, as a wound to be cauterized with overwhelming fire.

Full-scale hordes of ruiner invaders have periodically battered the smacer frontier. Even the abolition of banishment and preemptive counter-invasions have not curtailed this threat. Double-exiles were a constant problem for the self-selectively breakaway smacer culture, occasionally generating new ruiner packs. And stories abounded of a smacer artifacting crew gone for a fortnight, reappearing at their hutch to burn their own homes and kidnap their own kin. Frustrated beyond measure, the smacers of Far Vegas razed half a dozen monolith sites along the Sweetbarrel Mountains, believing them to be the origin of the local ruiners. This prompted the first punitive action from the Peacekeeping Forces’ UNESCO agency based at U.N. Social Council, who scrambled UN-61 Homing Pigeon needlejets to bomb the warren’s Formers.

One-Planeters rescue their ex-Restorationist brethren from a ruiner den

Ironically, ruiners have likely strengthened smacer society for the long-term. As packs destroyed hutches and warrens, survivors from different origins huddled together to build new settlements. While none were truly numerous or stable enough to form genuine post-smacer polities, many of these cross-factional societies were at least able to keep the packs at bay, and to coordinate with one another when a horde formed on the horizon like a demon boil. Some of these unusual groupings include the Emerald Yabaolu (Gaian back-to-nature communalists and Monopoly eco-tourism investors), Pacembellum (Peacekeeper “new U.N.” reconstructionists and Spartan rōnin), and the Great Joining (Hive nü-Mohists, Conclave transcendentalists, and University parapsychologists).

For the most part, the based factions listened to reports from their far range scouts with mild interest, deciding that this was a means to limit the population of debased renegades. Dismissing tales of xenomonolithic influence and mindworm immunity as frontier superstition, basers referred to ruiners variously as “savage smacers” (The New Two Thousand, Centauri Monopoly, Hunters of Chiron), Skraelings (Nautilus Pirates, the Emporium, the New State), and gusanos (Spartan Federation, Phoenix Nation, Dreamers of Chiron). As to the origin of this menace, most of basekind decided it was not worthy of serious study, believing rampant violence as innate to the frontier. When bases in remote regions came under attack by figures in dark homespun armor, headquarters tended to regard them as local smacers acting up, Holnist remnants, or Darwin Raiders. But there was more afoot than dreamt in base philosophy, and eventually the factions came to reckon with their own barbarians.

Design Notes

The original idea of smacers came from randomly realizing that the hostile environment of Planet is not dissimilar to that found in games like S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl, or post-apocalyptic wasteland wanderer settings in general. (There should be a snappy title for this subgenre. Noddian?) You could imagine that life for your early game SMAC Scouts would be sort of like those games, especially when it comes to monolith-raiding. And so I imagined what a factionless society based on scraping by on the frontier. I didn’t go into it in the “The Smacer subculture” segment, but the idea is that smacers are sort of a stand-in for various societies living in the margins of civilization throughout human history. They have an air of indigenity or aboriginality, even though they totally aren’t, which is perhaps why I’ve added a touch of Cossack influence to their culture with this segment. Ultimately in Sid Meier’s Civilization terms, smacers are like minor city-states that factions can trade with, fight with, or absorb. (They’re also meant to be a reflection of how Chiron is a battleground of ideologies, and the frontier is where failed memes go to die.) If regular smacers are Civ city-states, then Muckers are meant to be the barbarians. More on that in the next segment.

Good amount of influence here from the Monolith cult faction from S.T.A.L.K.E.R.

Warrens and hutches are from the background lore accompanying the Constitution of the Tharsis Montes Commonwealth, written in 1987 by Paul Burgess. Aside from being a thoughtful hypothetical charter for a Martian colony, it does some great capsule world-building too, now retrofuturistic.

Appendix on Demographics said:
Tharsis City, administrative center of the commonwealth, was at this time by far the largest Mars settlement (holding almost half the total human population of Mars), and in fact the largest human settlement outside the Earth-Luna system. It was a rough, raw frontier settlement, becoming increasingly difficult to police and control. The outlying Tharsis Montes settlements, like other human settlements on Mars, were divided rather arbitrarily into "warrens" (enclosed communities of from several dozen to several hundred members), "hutches" (permanent habitations holding only two or three families) and mobile encampments operating out of Mars surface vehicles, mostly though not entirely for prospecting or commercial projects.

Both are good descriptors for human settlements that are smaller than a SMAC base, so having less than a thousand colonists. Here I’m using it specifically for smacers but other factions could have warrens and hutches too.


Time bubbles are a nod to Hyperion. Modding in an in-SMAC event that causes a unit to lose experience would be amusing, if annoying and easily side-stepped by disbanding it.

Schreiber Project and Togra Labs are both adaptations of Togra University from Pandora: First Contact

Macko lizards are a resource found in FreeMars, an open source Sid Meier’s Colonization clone that takes place on a semi-terraformed Martian surface. (Informative post)

Centauri Monopoly is an alternate name for Morgan Industries, even though the Monopoly pretty much is Morgan’s company in my reckoning, with most competition either getting bought out or squeezed out. Hive and Labyrinth are interchangeable. Ditto for Believer and Conclave.

Harakternik is the Zaporozhian Cossack equivalent to a ‘sorcerer, healer, and teacher,’ which I learned from “The Russian state spends $10,000,000 to make the worst RPG of 2024” by Warlockracy.

Image Credits

Header image is “S.T.A.L.K.E.R - Monolith” by SmallMaple

Two spacemen in front of monolith is art for Pandora: First Contact

Pack of armed raiders is concept art for Oblivion (2013)

Kneeling soldiers in burning ruins is Monolith prayers from the S.M.R.T.E.R. Pripyat mod for S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat

Armed soldiers rescuing captives from a cultist is “Hostages” by Sergey Spoyalov (possibly as promotional art for Metro 2033)
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