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

Mercator’s Projectionists: Vic Montoya


Victor “the Questioner” Montoya said:
The more case files you audit, the more skeletons you find, the more you start to feel the wool over your eyes.

Cambridge-educated behavioral scientist Vic Montoya is a lecturer at the burgeoning Mokoena University and occasional “consulting investigator” for the Memory of Earth's Ministry of Internal Investigations. Formerly a special agent of the Central Security Bureau, the Second American Civil Wartime emergency troika of the CIA, NSA, and FBI, Montoya was dismissed for “insubordinate negligence and frivolous activities” for personal crusades that he carried all the way to Chiron: allegations that the United States government had been aware of extraterrestrial intelligences since its founding and was actively covering up this reality. According to his superiors, Montoya’s in-depth investigation into the Palmer slayings or the death of Apsara Mongkut were not excessive intellectual exercises due to overtraining, but the obsessions of a deranged and unpatriotic character.

Despite dismissal from the CSB, Montoya was both nominated and accepted by the multinational U.N. Alpha Centauri Mission Committee for his untiring crime-solving acumen. The admittance was seen as but one among several impolitic choices designed by the United Nations to embarrass America, with the intention of shaming the great power into renewing its commitments to the Unity project. Furthermore, because the debadged agent had focused his accusations on his own nation’s government only and not other authorities, he was seen as ideologically compatible with the overall project.

Montoya proved himself to be more than a politically advantageous kook during Planetfall, when he deduced that based on their past track record on Earth (and with the benefit of his own personal biases), the Kellerites did not mean to subvert the mission in the same way the Spartans did. While Unity X.O. d’Almeida thoughtlessly brushed off this analysis, U.N. Marine General Salan did not and indulged in his pet hunch, allowing the opening of dialogue with Kellerite representative Sergeant Landers. This temporary ceasefire allowed the contingent of survivors loyal to the U.N. led by Salan and Pravin Lal to brook no trouble from the Tribals, though no further cooperation developed from this brief interaction.

Montoya would later emerge in the Memory of Earth, drawn to the ideology of Commander Kleisel Mercator and the faction’s preoccupation with extraterrestrial life. Though even his behavior was too much for Observer ministries to officially employ him, he was allowed to share his expertise as a civilian advisor. Beyond his instructional duties, Montoya runs a column on the datalinks, the X-ron Chronicle, correlating near-daily xenological discoveries on Planet to past paranormal incidents from Earth’s past, not to mention tell-tale signs of foreknowledge from the powers-that-be. Though officially frowned upon by faction leadership, it has a modest following among the more ardent Wanters (as in, “I want to know”), exemplifying that theory’s preoccupation with UFOs, alien secrets, and willingness to accuse Old Earth organizations of conspiracy. With its ascension to the Planetary Datalinks, the Chronicle has since become quite popular among Gaian theists, Dreamer parapsychologists, and Monopolist tabloid-readers alike.

While Montoya is a fairly obscure figure beyond readers of the Chronicle, the continuous spate of surprising findings about Planetlife, coupled with mysterious- often violent- incidents during life in the colonies, have led the MII to increasingly call him in to consult on cases they cannot satisfyingly explain. As to what Han Jae-Moon, Mercator, or any others at the top might think of the quixotic questioner, the answer can only be found out there.

Casting

Victor “the Questioner” Montoya is portrayed by David Duchovny as J.P. Prewett in Zoolander.

Notes:

A totalitarian “CIA/NSA/FBI troika” is one of the unfortunate outcomes in Replay by Ken Grimwood.

The Chiron Chronicle was a popular collaborative SMAC fanfiction series from the Apolyton forums at the turn of the century.

Adaptation Notes

Originally I had envisioned the CSB to have directly ruled the U.S. during part of the 2ACW. Now I’m thinking that it was the power behind the throne for one of the hapless presidents during that conflict, but did not overtly declare itself in charge. Afterwards it was broken up into its predecessor agencies.

I’m still not entirely sure when the 2ACW takes place in the RtD timeline (maybe as early as 20-30 years before the mission?). As with many characters, Montoya’s age is really thrown into question. But one of my writing principles on this project is “everything is happening all of the time” so I roll with it anyhow. That’s also why I basically assume every named character, both canon and OC, were somehow all gifted the Longevity Vaccine and still around on ‘present day’ Planet with their original looks.
 
if that's (I don't get it) we in Turkey had a radio programme for years that had a regular guest . An instructor in the Military Academy who wouldn't reveal his name for some reason . He cited the said book by the said author multiple times , essentially claiming the new system being established in my country was creating fake enemies to justify itself and to unite people for its own agenda . None of which seems to do any good for the country .

05-07-2024c.png

your Hobbes is a Korean already , perhaps .
 
Just a couple more design notes on the Muckers. Here’s my more or less canonical (or rather headcanon) explanation for what they’re about.

Besides being inspired by Monolith stalkers, ruiners are ultimately examples of the cosmic horror tropes of driven mad by old-ass ancient artifacts typified by the works of Lovecraft. (Also feels vaguely Indiana Jones, and given how that character was no doubt distantly descended from the swashbuckling tales of the likes of Edgar Rice Burroughs or Robert E. Howard, maybe it’s more accurate to say it’s more of a generally weird fiction / pulp trope.) So naturally, sleeping in a monolith is a bad idea, it exposes one to brain-breaking motif of harmful sensation as nuclear fallout exposes one to radiation. I don’t really know how Progenitor sites/artifacts fit in with Planetmind, but I assume it’s all connected and the underlying mechanism is similar to how mindworms drive people cray-cray. (The fixed- mostly- nature of monoliths also raises the intriguing possibility of Chironian ley lines, which are a feature of another kitchen sink of a setting I am inspired by in my rendition of RtD.) In the end, it’s makes you think twice about sending your damaged units to unexplored monoliths, those ostensible oases of free healing and experience upgrades. The ruiners sort of worship the alien sites (dirt-worshippers, eh) and are generally inscrutable. <Maybe I should’ve said something about relics, too- like ruiners steal alien artifacts back, hence why they target smacers. Actually that could be a good mechanic to make you protect your artifacts, and not hoard too many of them in a single base! I’m going to have to add that to a future segment eventually.>

My headcanon for wreckers is that they are driven mad by Planetmind. First, I think that such an entity is not self-unified but rather a conflux of innumerable thoughts, personalities, intentions, factions?, some of which are more malevolent than others. And the cohesive singular Planetmind as we know it (asking and chiding earthdeirdre) doesn’t fully manifest itself until the lategame. <Far be it for me to speculate, much less explore, what might possibly exist within the Planetmind consciousness, since that would be a layer of complexity that would make all of this even more convoluted.> Maybe, for those who were sealed in bits of the ship upon landing, they were visited by planetdreams that drove them into staying indoors instead of profaning the environment? Perhaps planetentities reached into their memories of the atrocities they had done to Earth, and decided to keep them shut up in metal cages. When exposed to the outside, like ruiners, they kill their own, keeping down the population of invasive humans before they have a chance to wreck the entire ecosphere. (Even passively, simply by denying them access to potentially life-saving goods stored in the Unity wreckage) So in both cases, they serve as human equivalents to mindworms.

However, I maintain that muckers are distinct from the Cult of Planet and other Gaian-like Planet-loving factions. For one thing, those polities are actually not completely insane. So they’re able to communicate with other factions, even participate in relations like the Planetary Council, and behave semi-rationally, even if others might find their ideology insane. Also, I’m emphasizing that both types of muckers aren’t overt Planet idolaters. Ruiners declare the glory of the monoliths and artifacts. Wreckers are trapped in strange nightmares of having to stay in. Assertion and reaction.
 
if that's (I don't get it) we in Turkey had a radio programme for years that had a regular guest . An instructor in the Military Academy who wouldn't reveal his name for some reason . He cited the said book by the said author multiple times , essentially claiming the new system being established in my country was creating fake enemies to justify itself and to unite people for its own agenda . None of which seems to do any good for the country .

View attachment 695602

your Hobbes is a Korean already , perhaps .
So technically the Memory of Earth (the Observers) are @Axis Kast's baby, but I do think there is similarities between that description and this faction. The leader of this faction is West German, though. The Korean character is just an import from Civilization: Beyond Earth for this faction.
 
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Mercator’s Projectionists: Ellie Argus


Eleanor “Ellie” Argus said:
Too many crave validation for their beliefs as if that can save the world, and not their world alone.

Doctor Ellie Argus is the Memory of Earth’s foremost medical examiner, renowned for her post-xenoform attack inquests and studies on mindworm behavior. PanMayo Clinic educated in internal medicine with an undergraduate degree in biophysics from UC Berkeley, Argus originally cut her teeth on a Médecins Sans Frontières post-residency in the war-torn American Midwest. During her service, Ellie determined that the mysterious wasting disease afflicting civil war refugees was not mere malnutrition, but acute cachexia caused by a chemical agent deployed by one of the local hypersurvivalist militias.

Originally the coroner on Chief of Surgery Pravin Lal’s staff, Argus found her way into Zakharov’s camp of engineers and scientists. While her medical expertise was appreciated, her physics background made her an even better fit for the University in formation. Possessing an empirical skepticism, despite clinging on to a Greek Orthodox faith from childhood, made her a natural Academic. On Planet, her abilities made her humanity’s first forensics xenopathologist, explaining deaths claimed by mindworms and ancient Progenitor remains. (Indeed, her field experience and courage during xenoform incursions placed her on the Schreiber Project’s priority poach list.) Though the discipline of xenoarcheology was nascent in the early colonial period, Argus gained a reasonable grasp of the topic.

So when a Chiron Guard artifact extraction team captured her scout expedition at the Hippotion Gorge, the duty officer recognized Ellie as a prominent researcher. Rather than consigned to the prisoner exchange process, she was offered a role with the Observers. Believing in the probability of distinguishing herself in their number and intrigued by their focus on Planetlife, Argus accepted.

The doctor finds the Memory of Earth to be professional yet overly credulous. Upon becoming one of Mercator’s heralded defectors, and a veteran field investigator, Argus has also become an outspoken proponent of the Skeptic theory. Subscribing to the observable reality that sentient life had disappeared from Planet for untold millennia, Ellie is a popular critic of supposed sightings of alien intelligence. Wielding both biophysics and medical knowledge, she debunked the infamous Bullock sighting, determining the “ghost lights” to be no more than gas arising from marshy swamps reflecting light from Hercules. She has testified before the Observer Diet and even on pop infotainment datalink programmes about the proliferation of supposed “experts” peddling fraudulent claims about the nature of the universe, and urging factional policy be based on verifiable evidence, not myth and legend. Though Argus has collaborated with colleagues from other theories- most notoriously during the MY 2118 Curien case, with a particular datalinks-famous Wanter- her convictions remain unshaken.

Skeptic theories

The Skeptics are an audible minority within the Memory of Earth, their views conflicting with the commander’s worldview. However, as with many theories, Skepticism carries the potential for crossover. Skeptic-Defenders advocate for global coordinated defense, believing in the possibility of fixing the mistakes of NATO and past petty regional alliances to bridge humanity for the challenge of space colonization. But they also claim that fears of alien attack are unsubstantiated and superfluous, a distraction at best and dangerous misinformation at worst. Similarly, Skeptic-Unifiers believe that the Memory of Earth must bring about the unification of the Unity diaspora to avoid repeating the endless conflicts of the species’ past. To fixate on an external enemy is to craft a false scapegoat, rejecting true fraternity on the base of false fears.

Despite the moniker, not all Skeptics are as scientifically-inclined as Ellie Argus. Few in number but abundant in fringe groups, the Alt-Skeptics break with establishment with their own pseudoscientific myths. Famed needlejet squadron leader Norman “Wild Bill” Hastings came out as a controversial Skeptic by spreading the doctrine that monuments of Chiron are not ancient alien constructs but rather the works of Satan. Dissenting from Sister Miriam Godwinson’s proclamation of Planet as a promised land, the former United States Air Force captain from Colorado Springs claimed that Alpha Centauri was a purgatory of sorts filled with dangerous, leviathans, ziz, and demons. Thus the purpose of the Memory of Earth is to shepherd the stranded flock through this dire valley of darkness. Artifacts must be carefully gathered, ritually cleansed, and destroyed. A subsequent inquiry by Aurora Flight officials cleared Hastings of any treason, though the growing popularity of this heresy gives his superiors great consternation.

More clandestinely, within the Ministry of Internal Investigations dwells a cabal of ex-CSB federal agents loyal to the reconstituted Church of Latter-Earth Saints. The g-men consider the Progenitors to be not some sort of hokey science-fictional elder race birthed by the blind chance of evolution, but fellow brothers and sisters heretofore created by Elohim. They view the scientific marvels of the monoliths as clearly the work of denizens of Kolob, maybe even spirit children of the heavenly parents. Calling themselves New Nephites, as Lehi and his progeny once similarly crossed a great distance to a new world, these agents seek to use the resources of the Observers to closely understand Chiron and grow closer to Heavenly Father, perhaps to find His celestial kingdom beyond the next manifold.

Finally, a small group of SIGINT analysts within the Ministry of External Intelligence, rallying around a former Research and Analysis Wing bureau chief descended from Kargil survivors, suggest that the creators of the Chironian artifacts are no less than Earthmen from the age of Treta-yuga who, skilled in the Vedic sciences, built the vimana flying chariots and came to Planet. Interpreting alleged xenoanthropological phenomena through the lens of the Sanskrit epics, they have decided that the Progenitors were their own ancestors. After the wars with Pakistan, the rise of the Kavithan heresy, and the cataclysm of the Six-Minute War, these embittered survivors believe the only way to restore Akhand Bharat would be to use the vimana to return home and smash the mlecchas. (They have opened a covert channel to the Restorationists, who are understandably perturbed by their notions and enthusiasm.)

By defying the Mercator consensus, despite substituting in their own clearly non-scientific mythos, all of the above groups can be considered Skeptics.

Dr. Argus, for her own part, has some sympathy for the cultural superstitions of these Alt-Skeptics, but bears no patience for their attempts on influencing factional decisions. Her public persona as a Skeptic thus draws suspicion and hostility both from them, and from those who support Mercator’s theories such as the Wanters. While the Observers are supposedly a professional and objective lot, ideological zeal strikes them as fervently as in any other faction. Thus, even as Ellie speaks out against the forces of irrationality, some of the same forces might conspire to push back.

Casting

Eleanor “Ellie” Argus is portrayed by Gillian Anderson as Dana Scully in The X Files: I Want to Believe.

Notes:

Eleanor “Ellie” Arroway is the protagonist of Contact by Carl Sagan, who becomes the director of Project Argus, a radiotelescope array in New Mexico dedicated to the SETI project.

The PanMayo Clinic is a bit of deep SMAC cut content- this beta version(?) of Lal’s biography on the official site archived by DataPacRat had the commissioner educated there.

Just as the factions in canon might have a tinge of influence from their leaders’ origins, here I have the Memory of Earth’s legislature be a German-style diet.

The idea that Hindu texts describe the ancients building flying machines (and committing nuclear war) is a psuedoarcheological conspiracy theory. See “Ancient India had aeroplanes, nuclear weapons, says chief of India's premier history body”, India Today. Also for some reason in Escape Velocity Nova there’s the sub-faction Vell-os founded by an Indian prince who telepathically went to outer space in the first millennium AD.

Aurora Flight is my name for the Observer atmospheric corps / air force, referring to the rumored SR-91 Aurora.
 
once a week though ı forgot which one of the seven days , early in the morning like clockwork . ı have no doubts that Hollywood does not doubt stuff . Involving planes .

surely Mulder is around the corner ?
 
Mercator’s Projectionists: Jerry Wobegon and Dharma Vetter


Jerome “Jerry” Wobegon and Donald “Dharma” Vetter said:
Jerry: Hey little buddy. T-minus two hours to kickoff. Got any news for me?

Dharma: So there’s a thing about your slogan. Justice and Guard Relations, um, have an issue with “MPI: We’re Watching for You.”

Jerry: Why? Tested great in focus groups. Tells the viewers what they’re watching is what we’re watching- MPI feeds ’em the latest intel.

Dharma: Yeah, that’s great, it’s just- uh, after the Constant Dragnet scandal, the Office of the Commander is extremely leery of reminding citizens their government’s protective proactive surveillance progra-

Jerry: Aw, fung, that’s right! Now the slogan sounds like we’re snooping. Those funging Guard glowworms, this toxifies the whole rebrand. Hot damn!

Dharma: Justice suggested, “We’re looking out for you.”

Jerry: That’s not any better! That’s the same thing in different words!

Dharma: “We’ve got our eye on you?”

Jerry: Even worse!

Dharma: What if we, uh, play up the UAP angle- “We’ve got our eyes on the skies?”

Jerry: Now hold on, Dharma. You’re onto something. That does sound on brand. But how do we lower the character count? Signage space adds up.

Dharma: We- we make a pun out of it. Spell eye with the letter- “MPI: We have our I on the sky?”

Jerry: Our I- that’s gibberish! What does that mean?

Dharma: “Your I in the skies!”

Jerry: Okay, that is better. “MPI: Your I in the skies.” So it’s like “We’re, like, your proxy out there, guy, we keep an eye out so you don’t have to. We’re your eye.”

Dharma: Plus the pun.

Jerry: Plus the pun- keeps it light. No scary M.I.B.s here! Except the ones we tell you about.

Dharma: It’s good, because it’s like, it’s not clear exactly what the hell it means, so, lots of wiggle-room.

Jerry: Yes. “Your I in the skies.”

Dharma: “Your I in the skies.”

- off-the-record conversation at the Ruppelt Building, Memory of Earth Ministry of Public Information headquarters, GOLD JULY BOOJUM routine autolog

For over half a century, the multimedia news conglomerates of the United States stirred up the worst passions of the raucous republic. But after the hypersurvivalist Holnist memetic plagues and the Second American Civil War, the federal government had had enough. The newly-inaugurated Department of Public Sanity, with support from the reconstructed Congress, enacted executive fiats restricting the news from hyperpartisan coverage, establishing strict editorial guidelines with violations punishable by severe civil forfeiture.

And lo, the RoyStar Weiguo news and entertainment empire, that venerable symbol of yellow journalism, did go full tabloid, pivoting to sensationalism on apolitical topics in the spaces beyond the reach of DoPS censors and accuracy ombudsmen. It turned its armies of shock jock pundits and bottom-feeder muckrakers, hidden camera gotcha journos and dashboard-datalinked angry ranters away from political points-scoring and towards celebrity gossip, sports news, business drama, true crime, and a grand revival of the News of the Weird. RoyStar rolled out half a dozen multimedia networks covering the strange and bizarre: speculative cybernetics, discoveries in metaphysics, missing link simian sightings, modern witch cults, mysterious murders, and alien appearances.

Thus when the ancient founder of RoyStar deigned to buy his way aboard the Unity, opting instead to continue his interminable search on Earth for a successor to his empire, it was Vice President of Fortean Hypermedia Jerome “Jerry” Wobegon who became the hapless executive dispatched in his stead. Like so many other robber barons, the RoyStar founder intended to continue his gigacorporation in space, owning the media sector on Alpha Centauri even before the colonies had an economy. By spearheading Operation Succession, Jerry would be the Johnny Newspaperseed who would found RoyStar’s first media outlet on an alien land, conditioning audiences for the distant future when it would be feasible for the company to launch its own mission. Some said the old man himself was undergoing experimental cryo-treatments to live to the far day of that speculative voyage, when he himself had settled the question of chairmanship on Earth, so he could report the news on Chiron free of tedious political fishmongers and their pesky laws.

Jerry, the time-and-again disgraced exec who had risen swiftly, yet precariously, thanks to a strategic corporate marriage, had accepted the white elephant mission not out of regret of perhaps eternal exile, but rather a short-sighted, sweaty, frantic leap at a shaky rung on the media giant’s infinite career ladder.

Part of the small RoyStar contingent was young Donald “Dharma” Vetter, his aide-de-camp of an executive assistant, a distant relation to the founder, and a minor titled noble thanks to his own calculated courtship. Becoming adrift on the homeworld after attaining a moderate level of hyper-wealth and success, and increasingly browbeaten by Wobegon into continuing their relationship into space, Dharma found himself also undergoing months of hard training just so he could run a satellite office on a dangerous frontier colony.

The pair experienced Planetfall with a predictable amount of screaming and running around like decapitated fowl. But as masters of cleaning symbiosis, both eventually found their way into usefulness for larger, better-armed bodies: Jerry briefly became one of d’Almeida’s message-masseuses during the crisis, crafting the executive officer’s missives to reassure the loyal crew under the stressful circumstances. Despite effort and panic, their attempts at reconciliation with the mutineers, of would you kindly surrender in exchange for maybe reduced sentences, were lost on Spartan, Holnist, and Kellerite alike. Meanwhile, Dharma found an easier time working with the much less scary and shouty Garland, whose well-meaning communiques also had little impact during Planetfall.

Somehow, the duo found their way into the Memory of Earth. The commander, no stranger to the movers and shakers of ufology, was quick to identify persons of interest for his faction in formation. An Observer undercover agent approached Wobegon at U.N. Great Refuge with a job offer, upon which the discombobulated exec was exfiltrated by cargo rover to Mercator himself. The job, it turned out, was to be the very head of the Observer’s public relations and communications ministry, the official media organ of a new state. Faced with an offer he could not refuse, Jerry allowed himself to fall upwards once more and accepted, becoming the faction’s Minister of Public Information. With one or two stipulations. A snatch and grab probe team mission later, a bewildered Dharma was likewise taken from Gaia’s Landing.

The two quickly discovered that creating a media empire on a new planet, even a successor petty kingdom, was no easy task. But they were blessed with a faction with no shortage of military public affairs personnel, war correspondents, counterintelligence officers, and political warfare specialists. In some ways, it was easier than their original mission of building RoyStar Centauri on their own: they had a much larger talent pool of experienced consent-manufacturers. And they found the messaging to be fairly simple. Cover all news through the lens of Mercator’s mission statement, and the viewers will come.

The Ministry of Public Information’s framing of Planetary goings-on is straightforward: Appeal to the [curiosity|fear|anxiety] of the extrasolar unknown, and uphold joint military defense, preparation, unification. Given their years of work at RoyStar, both Jerry and Dharma are seasoned veterans of datalinks memetic breeding and crosspollination. Knowing all of the classic newsmen’s tricks that the most sensationalistic multimedia outlets of late stage America had to offer, their work has made MPI a highly rated source of news and entertainment both in-faction and out, on the Planetary Datalinks. Offering an array of programmes from the matter-of-fact (“Observer’s Eye on Planet”) to the in-depth and serious (“End of Line Reports”, “Follies of Earth: Cold War Edition”) to the partisan and polemical (“Live Fire: Destroying Lotus Eaters with Reason and Data”) to the frivolous and vapid (“Prehistoric Progenitors”, “Psi-X Investigators”, “Can You Survive Chiron for 18 Hours?”), MPI is seen as one of the most professional- in operation, if not in content- multimedia organizations of Planet.


MPI programs under Jerry Wobegon’s tenure blended news updates with dramatic, visceral imagery and a heavy dose of mission-oriented statements, appealing to the average Observer citizen and to curious outsiders alike

Both Jerry and Dharma can be classified as adherents of the Hoaxer theory. Like many Observers who are apolitical and convictionless, they are apatheist towards the existence of aliens- or at least, some grand shadow war involving them- and care little for ideology. As in any faction, most citizens are simply getting by, doing a job- or in the case of drones, perhaps none. But what makes Hoaxers a theory is simply their job perpetuating the Memory of Earth’s mission statement. By spreading rumors of intelligent aliens, proliferating the UFO narrative, and making up stories where there were none, both self-consciously hoax the public, even when their personal beliefs do not align with the mission.

It is hard to say how many Hoaxers exist within the Memory of Earth. Outside of dramatic actions such as running, or just working for, the very media ministry that upholds the mission, there are plenty of lesser examples such as Defenders or Unifiers who readily parrot Mercator’s musings even if they secretly care more about strategic planning or collective security than they do about xenomachy. And so many theories are in their own way, Hoaxer to some extent.

The MPI, for its part, is ecumenical in its loud blaring content. It has indeed offered many a Skeptic, including the good Doctor Argus herself, appearances on its networks. MythosBreakers is an entire datalinks channel dedicated to Skeptic views, seen as subversive to mainstream Observers and rather tiresomely faux-edgy by the actual government.

Since Jerry and Dharma’s work have been such an unexpected hit, they’ve caught the eye of rival operations among the likes of Morgan Entertainment and Restoration InfoCom. In fact, both men secretly harbor ambitions for ascendancy at rival networks, if not for the fact that the Chiron Guard remains a terrifying adversary. Wobegon considers more outlets he could head and Vetter has an unspecified legal case against the Stepdaughter’s of Gaia. Both could profit from opportunity at other factions, if not for the fact they would quickly rise up on Mercator’s priority probe lists. So while at present they are securely ensconced into the Observer faction at its top echelons, RoyStar’s own mission looms large in the background, at the backs of their minds. For even though there is no news yet from Earth, the old man is out there.

Casting

Jerome “Jerry” Wobegon is portrayed by Matthew Macfadyen as Thomas “Tom” Wambsgans on Succession.

Donald “Dharma” Vetter" is portrayed by Nicholas Braun as Gregory John “Greg” Hirsch on Succession.

Notes:

Opening quote is a pastiche of this exchange-


SECRET GOLD JULY BOOJUM is from “A Colder War” by Charles Stross

Weiguo is the transliteration of several popular patriotic Chinese given names.

Vetter is German for “cousin.”

Image Credits

Alien news update is from Starship Troopers
 
Mercator’s Projectionists: Gennaro da Gama

Gennaro da Gama said:
Humanity seems predestined to fail against the forces of distrust and discord. How many warring armies did Unity ship to Chiron? As history illustrates, further balkanization is imminent without intentional intervention. How many more factions will tomorrow bring? How much longer must we remain divided? -A House Crumbled: Geopolitics of Planet

Gennaro da Gama was Brazil’s most celebrated librarian, until he gave it all away on account of conscience. Born in 2010, Recife. Father was a WTO representative with a heart of gold, mother was the best network security specialist in all of the Portuguese Empire's academies. Studied library sciences and the psychological analysis of history, becoming an early datalinks tech pioneer.

Instead of joining industry like so many of his fellows, da Gama entered public service, becoming an unlikely symbol of patriotic strength during the Novo Brasil era. His datalinks innovations to digitize and store the entire collection of the Biblioteca Nacional do Brasil was heralded as a sign of the colony’s immortal spirit and contribution to humanity. Da Gama would go on to become the steward of multiple grand projects preserving cultural heritage across all of Latin America and the Lusophone world. Even beyond Earth: as reward for compiling the database of the solar sailer Tiradentes, he was appointed master librarian of the Museu da Vida, a would-be Noah’s Ark meets Library of Alexandria in geostationary orbit.

But less than a decade later, da Gama left his honor post aboard Portuguese Brazil’s soft power spacecraft. Amidst accusations of treasonous whistleblowing, he decamped for the countryside to teach poor indigenous youth. No one is entirely sure who leaked warehouses’ worth of data on the Brazilian Space Corps’ weaponization plans, but the carefully curated evidence- defly organized for reporters and future historians alike- and his opportune role aboard the Tiradentes made him the key suspect in the court of public opinion. Scorned after scandal, he went to aid the forgotten of Novo Brasil.


Official insignias of the Brazilian Space Corps

This act of kindness was punished as the Amazon became a warzone when the eco-sovereigntist Smoke Jaguars and their Salvadores da Terra allies battled against the Brazilian government and its Portuguese patrons, setting the jungle ablaze. The ensuing hostage crisis, with its bloody resolution delivered by the vicious Amazonian BOPE, shook da Gama to his core and drove him to early retirement. Only years later, with the advent of Unity’s launch finally in reach, did he accept the United Nations’ request for him to join as a cultural archivist for its Data Sciences team.

Da Gama’s work on the new datacube storage format was his main impact during the leadup. Having cordial but curt relations with Lt. Cmdr. Tạ Dọc Thân, the archivist preserved supplementary records. Thanks to his own government’s nudging, he was ostracized, restricted from interfacing with the Data Core itself. That much of Portuguese Brazil’s actual contributions to the Core, intended to be part of humanity’s collective knowledge, were derived from his previous preservation projects, was an irony that was not lost to Da Gama.

This unkind act proved to be his saving grace during Planetfall, as he was not part of the team of data technicians and librarians lost when the Data Core was mysteriously jettisoned. Awakening towards the tail end of the crisis, the archivist gamely shuffled off on a refugee pod belonging to the Peacekeepers, and became the head of Lal’s attempt to rebuild the United Nations Digital Services Agency on Planet. Tasked with reassembling supplementary data fragments held by the faction, Da Gama slipped back into the depressive moods that had consumed him during his service in the BSC. Expeditions to salvage the Data Core were thwarted by bandit smacers, wreckers, and hostile factions alike. UNDSA was chronically underfunded as resources were funneled towards to both critical infrastructure and to Terrance LaCroix’s weaponized Signals Intelligence probe operations. Each Mission Year brought news of broken Treaties of Friendship and hastily forged Pacts in response to new Vendetta.

image.jpeg
After U.N. Digital Services was reassigned to defense duty by Major Bruce King’s Operation: Plowshare, da Gama again found himself enmeshed in a military project against his will

Gennaro gradually realized that for all of Lal’s ideals, the Peacekeeping Forces did not have the wherewithal to ensure that humanity’s knowledge was properly preserved. Moreover, the safekeeping of wisdom would be pointless if the Unity diaspora was lost to humanity’s insisted self-destruction.

So then, who to join? While the librarian had the ideal background for the Legacy Initiative, he decided Metrion’s search was ultimately looking in the wrong direction. By focusing all of their energies on the past, the Initiative gazed at what could not be changed, rather than trying to study the future. Without a tomorrow to look towards, records of the past would inevitably be as useless to mankind as the dusty ruins of Planet were to the long-gone Progenitors.

Other knowledge-based factions, da Gama believed, were consumed by their own obsessions. The Digital Oracle did have the potential to unite the Planet behind artificial intelligence, but inevitable pushback from anti-technologists and those skeptical of living under computer rule would only lead to fiercer ideological wars, according to Gennaro’s psychohistorical models. Zakharov’s University was not a universal one, but one that only operated within the narrow confines of the provost’s positivist worldview. The Ascendancy were eugenicists. The Dreamers were torturers. So many others were simply mercantilists, dilettantes, or warlords.

As unlikely as it was, the Memory of Earth became the natural choice for defection. While the commander’s preoccupations were eccentric in their orbits, da Gama decided his professional citizens and pro-unification mission made them the most likely to prevent imminent destruction of all human civilization on Planet. So he snuck aboard a diplomatic rover heading home from the Observer embassy at Warm Welcome, taking with him zettabytes of datacubes including ufological libraries of records, footage, and analysis.

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da Gama gifted Mercator high quality imagery of the Cidade Sorriso entity, one of his homeland’s most famous UFO sightings

The Brazilian librarian became yet another one of the commander’s unlikely collaborators. Finding da Gama’s ideals sound, if rather overly pessimistic, and delighted by the ample stores of extraterrestrial evidence he delivered, Mercator welcomed him into the ranks of the Observers. He was allowed to preach his testimony on the need for interfactional unity in the face of imminent obliteration upon MPI networks, paraded around by Wobegon’s media consultants and the Chiron Guard’s PR talking heads as evidence of the Memory’s righteous cause.

(Back at U.N. Headquarters, the loss of such an upstanding talent proved to be an embarrassment to the commissioner’s administration. Publicly, Lal made statements about the openness of the Peacekeeping Forces’ commitment to an “open society with free movement and association for all”, and regretted the “baffling sudden departure of a passionate, if flighty, specialist.” Privately, LaCroix and King were given carte blanche to repatriate da Gama in the future- or at least the data stores he hoarded.)

Despite his fervor for the Memory of Earth mission, da Gama quickly wore out his welcome through doomsaying. As attention-grabbing as his initial warnings were, Observers became less enthused by his harping on the dire need for diplomacy, or the way he cited reams of past records to make his point. So da Gama was shuffled off with a commission with the Ministry of Special Political Operations. Taking great pains to assure him that all of his work would be civilian in nature, in perpetuity, his new superiors tasked da Gama to collate, organize, and archive mountains of statistical data, interpret endless hours of faction leader recordings for behavioral trends, and generate new sweeping psychohistorical models. These massive amounts of macrodata refinement was no less than the beginning of a Secret Project: the Cassandra Almanac, the Observer attempt at creating a computerized social model of Planet. By crafting the most sophisticated simulation of human power relations this side of the Digital Oracle’s algorithms, the project’s initiators- whether Mercator or Han or someone else entirely- intend on forging the optimal path to unification.

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Observer librarians, formerly staff of the NATO Communications and Information Systems Services Agency, incorporate current events into the Almanac’s model under the direction of Special PoliOps Minister da Gama

Bedouin proverb said:
Me against my brother. My brother and I against my cousin. All of us against the stranger.

There are Unifiers in every faction. It is not simply a theory but a pathos, a feeling, a vibe: to bring all of humanity together under one roof and one ideology. Some, such as the Peacekeepers, may not call for much ideological rigor to join the club. Some, like the Centauri Monopoly, view their economic system as one without alternative. The Memory of Earth believes in unification as not an end but a means: to ensure the victory of mankind over the monsters who lurk in the inky ether.

Closely related to the Defenders’ vision of mutual military defense and planetwide crisis planning, Unifier theorists are perhaps of a less confrontational temperament. They believe that the Observers must lead the way to reaching a species-wide understanding. Only then can a proper global defense initiative be created- anything prior to that is just forging more regional and ideological pacts, no different from the failed treaties of the Cold War. As one of the most staunch supporters of this theory, Gennaro da Gama touts it not simply as a means- he has little interest in hypothetical alien civilizations and often finds the need to pander to the commander’s beliefs to be maddening- but as an end of its own, a necessary prerequisite for man to reach his full potential. Whether that be building one true military, or creating records of memory even longer-lasting than the relics and ruins of Planet, it does not matter to Unifiers like him- we must stand together, or kneel apart.

Notes:

Gennaro da Gama is from my Second Ship project. (see synopsis for design notes). He was originally called Gennaro Almeida (as early as in 2005!), until RtD produced a namespace collision via its Executive Officer's name.

Terrance LaCroix, Bruce King, and Warm Welcome are all Peacekeeper elements from the Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri: Iterations story quest, by the same author of RtD.

Image Credits

Cyberpunk machinist is “The Fixer” by Josan Gonzalez

Starry eagle in space symbol is the logo of the Titans from Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam, specifically from this fan translation of the RX-80PR-4 PALE RIDER DII

Holographic display analyst and powersuit investigators is from Cthulhutech Vade Mecum, page 4, by Kunrong Yap

UFO seen through Stinger missile sights is from Metal Gear Solid: VR Missions, level 11

Holographic news analysts suspended in air is from Cthulhutech Mortal Remains, page 12, by Darren Yeow
 
You can kind of see how my writing style in Racing the Darkness really came to fruition with the Mercator's Projectionists. Han Jae-Moon was my first import of a Civilization: Beyond Earth sponsor leader (I imported three and a half of my Second Ship characters even before the Gennaro da Gama profile lol). Montoya and Argus were me really embracing conceputal crossovers and allusions to other series. Wobegon and Vetter was me cribbing from prestige drama and going full multimedia, baby.

Observer "theories" was also my first time coming up with RPG gameline-style "splats" for this setting. I didn't just want to add a ton of full-fledged factions to collide with @Axis Kast's additions, so I figured these sub-factional cliques would make sense to explore ideological (and other) internal divisions within one of his factions. And a good way to populate them with characters.

(As a tangent, the splats concept is something that's I've always found amusing about White Wolf's dark universe. The idea that these conspiracies, as ancient and powerful as they have, might support so many internal ideologies despite being their low raw population numbers is rather odd to me. How can you have fully-formed mini-societies within larger societies if each of them might have fewer than a hundred beings? Let alone get into huge vendettas with one another? Anyway there's definitely an analogy there to RtD's maximalist take on Alpha Centauri. Ultimately it's all very fun.)

I think just like with canon SMAC, each character is a vessel for ideology, quotes, and the history of doomed future Earth. So that's why I write up so many of them.

Institutions work similarly in RtD. The Observers really didn't get many besides the Chiron Guard, so I invented all of these ministries.
 
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