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

Roshann Cobb, age nineteen, in an ad for Targe Cigarettes.

Calling his musings Seed Theory, Roshann Cobb began at age fifteen to propound the idea that he was a prisoner of coping mechanisms he scarcely understood. "Less than the sum of my traumas," he wrote in a Business Organizer purloined from his father's office.

He smoked opium cigarettes and drank wine without knowing why they appealed to him. Started fights for no better reason than the mood struck him. Found himself placing bets on chess games he already knew he would throw. Confounded by the complexity of his own case, the adolescent Cobb chose an easier study: his father, Tai-Pan Ian Dunross Struan.

There were similar cracks in the allegedly brilliant facade. He was the notoriously jealous master of a multinational conglomerate without ever being able to exert order in his own household. Made and broke eight marriages despite a decades-long and very public infatuation with the same mistress, placing his financial holdings in jeopardy each time. Alienated each of his four legitimate and twelve illegitimate children to the point that several were institutionalized and one attempted to stab him. That last, he shot dead in self-defense.

Ian Dunross Struan, Chairman of Struan's Pacific Trading Company, date unknown.

With this new perspective in hand, Cobb fit his hypothesis to other contexts: industrial accidents brought on by failures of organizational culture, such as the failure of Ice Binder One at the mouth of the Isidis Basin on Mars; public health crises exacerbated by the performative medical obscurantism of well-educated politicians; even the selection process for United Nations Mission to Alpha Centauri prime contractors. The results overwhelming supported the existence of the Collective Unconscious, a mental schema of preferences, phobias, and logical defects common to every member of the human race.

Cobb's great desire was to create a taxonomy of the mind--a master reference to filter the personal from the impersonal. Here is what it means to dream of falling, to obsess over danger, to profess faith in something intangible. Without this work, Cobb predicted that the Unity survivors would merely repeat the mistakes of previous generations.

Factor Roshann Cobb said:
For how can I know you if our common ancestors keep getting in the way? - White Rabbit's Refuge

The role of genetic inheritance and the large size of the data sets necessary to make his proofs caused Cobb to take special interest in the Human Ascendancy and the Children of Chiron. Collaboration with Pahlavi came naturally: both societies were comfortable with slavery and, lacking for alternatives, it was convenient that the two should make common cause. Anhaldt, on the other hand, extended the services of his data-techs only as a victim of extortion.

Earth's population reached a high of 4.9 billion in 1986 only to collapse to 2.2 billion in 2070, slightly less than a century later. "Replacement labor" to sustain the global economy was provided by androids. This Radio-Dispatched Unit (RDU) was sold by the Park Chaebol in various configurations as a general laborer and night watchman. The Unity Robotics Conservancy (RC), so-called because it maintained existing designs rather than inventing new ones, embraced the RDU as an especially serviceable companion for Chironian settlers because of its very low complexity and compatibility with atomic batteries. The large eyes were projections on the plasticized housing that protected the unit's superprocessor.

Cobb devoted about half his shipboard time to cargo selection and the RDUs were early finds. Because the RC couldn't know precisely what kind of mission package would be necessary, it organized the parts in vast lots. Cobb's scrap heaps contained potentially hundreds of unbuilt copies, along with about twenty first put together by D'Almeida's security forces to provide distractions while fighting the Spartans. Each forearm assembly housed a shredder barrel.

Most of Cobb's research was self-contained within base intranets. The faction never developed a Datalinks. Although the Tomorrow Institute is known to have made several failed attempts to obtain Cobb's research notes via Probe Team insertion, it is not even certain the material survived the Factor's capture by Pahlavi after the two leaders fell out.

Better-attested is the passion with which Cobb revisited his earlier thinking after Pahlavi removed him from the Punishment Sphere, a "cure" she claimed had broken the prisoner of his addictions. Cobb was disturbed to find significant differences between the brain activity of first- and latter-generation colonists, a trend broken only among captive Hivemen.

Young Roshann Cobb is "Somebody go tell Andy he is smoking again" by Lidiash on DeviantArt.

Actor Pierce Brosnan is our Ian Dunross Struan, a character from James Clavell's Asian Saga.

RDUs are "Retro Robot Prints" by JubbenRobot on DeviantArt, inspired by Forbidden Planet.

HMS Vanguard, last of a breed, photographed at Port Faud, Israel, in 1977. Laid down at the start of the Second World War in October 1941, she received her commission only in May 1946, but served the Royal Navy for sixty years thereafter.

Many a Prime Minister wanted her struck from the Navy list and broken up for low-background steel but the Foreign Office found it convenient to "send a battleship" wherever appreciation of British prerogatives or the safety of British nationals was in doubt. Vanguard was present for the first half of the Malayan Emergency, the 1956 Suez Crisis, the 1967-70 Biafran Crisis, and the 1982 Falklands War. On campaign in the South Atlantic she was struck twice, aft and amidships, by Exocet missiles, courtesy of Argentine Super Étendards. Both hit above the water line and one was totally defeated by her armor.

Over the course of her very long service life, Vanguard lost three of her four 15" turrets, half her 5.25" turrets, and nearly all her remaining Bofors guns to make provision for Seawolf missiles and Royal Marine Commandos. (When called up for Operation Corporate, Bofors and Oerlikons were hastily cut from museum ships to bulk up her antiaircraft capability.) In 2040, HM Government admitted that Vanguard had sometimes sailed with five-kiloton nuclear artillery shells, although it was categorically denied that any were issued for Corporate. The battleship never fired its big guns in anger again after Malaya. In the Falklands, her role was primarily as an armored decoy and accommodation ship for general staff.

Boiler trouble discovered in March 2001 finally put paid to Vanguard. She was decommissioned in February 2002 and sold for scrap. The breakers took her under tow to India but she foundered coming into the yards and partially sank in rough waters not three miles off the coast. There she remained, a popular target of photographers and gulls, until 2048, when a recovery fleet sent by Morgan Marine re-floated the hulk and shuttled it back across the Arabian Sea to Üroan, an unrecognized secessionist state huddled in the shadow of Puntland. Huge sheds hid the hull from view for more than three years. (In Washington, the British ambassador was obliged to make repeated assurances that there was nothing of special interest left aboard, though it was properly understood that the hull was being stripped for armor to use on another warship.)

An American ballistic missile submarine, Rhode Island, bombarded the island with eight submarine-launched cruise missiles. Pentagon brass were horrified when at least two were shot down by land-based point defenses. Close reconnaissance was impossible, but satellite photography suggested a kill: at least five of the missiles hit their target. It was a decoy.

The life-extension package didn't come near to restoring the ex-battlewagon, now rechristened Surger, to its former glory, but as a poor man's cruiser, it had huge capacity for parasite craft and, because of its tonnage and power plant, was an overmatch for anything short of a capital ship. Morgan Industries used it as a mothership for "anti-piracy" and customs enforcement operations.

Senior Morgan Emergency Services rescue-techs on Honua Station remembered their time aboard Surger well enough to regale Unity trainees with stories about hours spent trying to staunch leaks in the Surger's hull. Apparently, she was never fully watertight again after her long soak off India. Many of the principles the Morganites applied to make the battleship serviceable again were applied aboard Unity, including installation of quadrupally-redundant generators.
[size=18pt]National Profile: French Union[/size]

France is an idea. France is progress. France is stubborn. As Unity left the Sol System, France was still synonymous with political erraticism, fashion, haute cuisine, automation, civilian use of nuclear energy, and, less salubriously, colonial repression.

France spent the twenty-first century attempting to unwind the long diminution of its political, cultural, and economic relevance during the nineteenth and twentieth. This meant bloody attempts to retain the crown jewels of its old colonial empire and refusal on principal to integrate with political and economic initiatives not of its own making.

Results varied. French ambitions exceeded French resources. Until the mid-1960s, France was essentially a pensioner of the United States and a junior partner to Great Britain in ham-fisted attempts to reassert European prerogatives in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Despite some success, this humiliation was too much to bear, and, starting as early as 1958 under the leadership of war hero Charles de Gaulle, France began to chart the independent and often-hypocritical course in world affairs that his many less-talented successors would follow for another hundred and fifty years.

Paratroopers of the 1er Régiment de Parachutistes d'Infanterie de Marine watch their comrades drop in Laos, 1971.

Politically, France succeeded in retaining Algeria, much of Lebanon (divided with Israel), and most of Indochina. A combination of American bombers and gifts of tactical nuclear weapons salvaged major blunders at Điện Biên Phủ, but the wayward colonies remained bleeding ulcers, atrociously expensive to pacify and severely divisive at home. Student riots and labor strikes became a semi-permanent feature of life in continental France, so common they reshaped the work week and dictated train schedules. Workers received automatic time off because employers could not prevent their attendance at demonstrations. White settler populations grew explosively from the mid-twenty-first century as rising sea levels in Europe made emigration to war-torn colonies more attractive, and together with ex-servicemen and local garrisons, formed a power bloc that French presidents crossed only at their mortal peril.

This great inversion of power tempted politicians to use all three subjugated nations in ways they would not have used their own. Southern Algeria and French Polynesia became testing grounds for the French nuclear weapons program. In 2030, the DGSE sabotaged Friendship Station Nam Đinh in North Vietnam, which melted down unexpectedly at the cost of eight hundred thousand lives. Ecological advocate Deirdre Skye explained this cruel dynamic to tens of millions of readers for the first time in 2059:

Deirdre Skye said:
The more they were victimized by the decades of atomic fallout caused by tests and by war, by the countless industrial accidents encouraged through weak regulation, by environmental travesties inflicted through the utter carelessness of their colonial masters, the greater was their dependency on the administrative and logistical powers those same masters refused to let them build for themselves. This was the essence of colonialism. We would beat them until they cried out for us. – The Eden Thesis

After a period of post-war adjustment in the mid-twentieth century, the gross domestic product of France consistently ranked fifth or sixth globally. Led by strong energy, agricultural, recycling, and heavy manufacturing sectors, the French economy was diverse and its workforce highly skilled. Behind the two superpowers, France was third in the sale of defense products. Behind the United States and Japan, French firms vied with those of India for third place in the sale of consumer electronics equipment. French automakers Renault, Peugot, Panhard, and Citroën had a stranglehold on the African and South American markets.

Paris, France, c. 2040

Influenced by both national chauvinism and socialist deputies, French economic policies were blatantly protectionist. Foreigners paid dearly for access to French markets, and mercantilist policies turned Algeria, Indochina, Lebanon, and later, Quebec, into captive markets for goods and services made in France. In the late 1970s, France developed its own telephonic, videotex intranet service, the Minitel, never fully embracing the World Wide Web.

A Minitel terminal.

The Minitel preceded the Web and, until 2005, offered considerably more functionality to its users for lower cost, including directory services, transportation scheduling, mail-order shopping, library services, games, and chat. To encourage wider adoption of the Minitel, the French government distributed terminals at its own expense in campaigns that reached every corner of the Union. Similar gifts were made to French allies. The scheme was remarkably profitable after factoring in savings from reductions in print services, physical mail delivery, and the use of live operators. The government was deliberate in courting potential opponents of the Minitel, especially newspapers, which received preferential treatment on the service.

Eventually, the Minitel’s capabilities were surpassed by the World Wide Web both in terms of data speeds (served by dedicated lines rather than coterminously with voice traffic) and application variety. Nevertheless, the French government resisted encroachment of “foreign” services and successfully leveraged the monopoly status of the Minitel to charge “extortionate” fees to foreign entities seeking an entree into France’s territoire électronique via the Web, which they required to be done via the Minitel. One legacy of the Minitel is that France was essentially behind a firewall. Thus, the country suffered considerably less than other developed countries during the decade of Global Information Purges beginning in 2017.

Culturally, France was safe in the hands of Élodie, Minister of Culture for three presidents, who organized for France on the Minitel an exhaustive database of language, genealogy, art, literature, music, cuisine, and national mythology that provided the pattern for the subsequent U.N. effort to index the cultural heritage of the Earth. Élodie called her achievement La Note.

France naturally resisted the creation of the European Common Market, both from fear of competition and to discourage the success of another forum in which Britain or West Germany might press their respective national interests. To get a run in on its neighbors, France was a leader in detente, the systematic reduction of tensions with the Soviet Union, and became the major pipeline for passing western technology through the Iron Curtain. In return, the Soviets cancelled, withheld, or reduced their traditional support for insurgencies and client regimes active in French colonies.

In international politics, France quit NATO. Paris refused to contemplate nuclear test bans. France also put itself forth as the patron-of-last-resort for reactionary regimes from Pretoria to Taipei and intervened aggressively in Saharan Africa under the pretext of responsibility for its former colonies. During the Burst Wars of the 2040s, Foreign Legionnaires parachuted down to preserve French-aligned governments in Mali and the Central African Republic in the face of pressure from Morgan SafeHaven. A proposal to reconstitute French Equatorial Africa (ostensibly as a bulwark against corporatism) went nowhere, however.

The Morgan "starscraper" obscures the moon on an otherwise clear night in central N'Djamena.

To complicate attempts at restoration of the status quo, arms dealer Nwabudike Morgan invited Millennarian separatists to settle the Burst Zone. Promises of sweet water were mostly untrue, but his contractors had enough helicopters to give most rebels and ex-government loyalists trouble.

French intervention force deploying to fighting positions in eastern Mali ahead of an expected raid by Morgan-backed militia.

Without success, France attempted repeatedly to assume leadership of the Non-Alignment Movement, which it hoped to bulk up into a counterweight against the United Nations. This courtship was ill-fated: as an inveterate imperial power, France lacked the credibility to speak for nations that themselves were only recently liberated and wanted no part of the kind of neo-colonialism in which France unreflectively trafficked.

French domestic politics was famous for its oscillation between Socialists and Conservatives (Republicans). Socialists predictably opposed automation and favored detente with the Soviets while conservatives took opposing views. The French remained notoriously sensitive about their country’s relevance in global affairs, and proud of the manner in which they have navigated between the Scylla and Charybdis of Cold War alliances while at the same time adapting to the inundation of more than ten percent of European France’s total landmass. (Rising sea levels also claimed large swaths of populous northern Algeria and southern Indochina.) Frenchmen also credit themselves for the continued survival of pariah regimes in South Africa, Israel, Rhodesia, Biafra, and Taiwan.

Traditional Survivalism didn’t get much traction in France even among the colons, who frequently shared the Holnist’s taste for machismo, violence, and the politics racial grievance but preferred to suborn rather than fight the government and its all-important ministries—the best guarantees, they knew, of their precarious livelihoods. Nevertheless, revanchism gripped the French, manifesting in land-grabs on behalf of “oppressed” French-speaking minorities in Wallonia, Switzerland, and Riviera Italy during the chaos of the Floods.

Unsurprisingly, France played a major role in the Second Crisis of Québec Secession, running diplomatic and media interference for the separatists and their excesses. French companies and French intelligence helped get weapons to FLQ fighters. After Quebec gained its negotiated independence, France organized the referendum that resulted in its accession to the shambolic Union as an “independent” member. Quebec Francophones were happy to participate in this arrangement, and France soon nationalized Canadian and international firms resident in the ex-province, which became a cockpit of railroad and aerospace manufacturing. A majority of those who left France as refugees from flooding resettled in Quebec.

The French military was well-respected. The French soldier was tough, innovative, and above all, daring. The French were acknowledged experts in counter-insurgency warfare. France made its military equipment available on liberal terms to virtually any buyer. It did a brisk business with the Portuguese, Israelis, Argentines, and South Africans.

The Force de Frappe, France’s nuclear strike assets, consisted of land-based tracked and rail launchers and submarine-carried nuclear missiles. (France’s three aircraft carriers could arm their strike fighters with nuclear missiles, but were not officially considered part of the Force, which remained a dyad.)

French intelligence had a hair-raising reputation the world over. The DGSE took on the role of extortionist, applying the necessary “incentives” for smaller countries to play within the boundaries set out by the politicians in Paris. French spies were killers, it was said, and could be hired to carry out the dirty work of shahs, board executives, and even the Soviet Politburo.

France’s very active space program was based at Korou in French Guyana and in the Algerian desert, with lesser operations in French Polynesia and leased facilities in the Republic of the Congo (Brazzaville). In 2002, construction commenced on a space elevator in French Guyana that contributed to the construction and fitting out of U.N.S. Unity. Though a founding participant in lunar settlement (a domed French Quarter is among the very few charms of Verne City), France focused mostly on “downward-looking” space applications via satellite operations, including deep ocean mapping.

Verne City, Luna, c. 2051

French support for the U.N. Mission to Alpha Centauri peaked in the 2040s, waxing as American focus was diverted to war at home, but many French politicians still viewed the project as a constant and painful reminder that there were other more potent actors than they on the world stage. France charged the U.N. heavily for access to its space launch infrastructure.

Two French mega-corporations, the Groupe Aéronautique Degére (GADE) and manufacturer of prime movers, Former Ciel, were major sub-contractors on the Unity Project, together employing a workforce of almost 90,000 in Earth and space.

The major French “bequests” to the Mission were a large stock of surplus hand weapons (mostly ex-American) left over from its colonial wars and tens of thousands of older Minitel terminals for connection to Network Nodes.

French paratroopers picture is from a History Channel website article on the Battle of Dien Bien Phu.

Picture of future Paris is by French company Vincent Callebaut Architectures, shown on archdaily in an article by Holly Giermann.

"Starscraper" name and picture are from "Starcraper #1" by miggysmallzXD on DeviantArt.

Desert cathedral is "Arizona Arcology - Earth That War" by nixoninevile on DeviantArt.

Picture of French troops in Mali is by Finbarr O'Reilly for The New York Times.

Verne City picture is from this article by Joshua Hawkins on BGR.

The character of Élodie was created by Strategos' Risk/MysticWind.
Unity Tech: Stims

Stims were mildly narcotic stimulants used as performance-enhancers. They were chemically simple. Primary ingredients included caffeine, Ibuprofen, and epinephrine. Stims were popular among military and space professions.

A stim was injected sub-subcutaneously using a single-use pneumatic auto-injector about the size of an adult thumb. The injection was suitable for delivery through capillaries and could therefore be applied to almost any portion of the body.

The expected primary users of stims among mission staff were emergency and security personnel. Stims were Class 2 equipment, issued personally to all crew for their lock boxes and included in all medical, emergency response, and survival kits.

Stims were habit-forming. Stim addiction was a disqualifying trait for mission personnel recruited by the United Nations. According to the World Health Organization, nearly all users of higher-grade narcotics also abused stims.

Private manufacture of stims was very common, especially by teenagers and spacers. Modification of stims was treated as a serious crime by most judicial systems.

Hallmarks of stim addiction included eye mydriasis, episodic hypertension, insomnia, constipation, and heart arrhythmia. After extended use, side effects included visual, auditory, and tactile exclusion, creating a sharp cliff of diminishing returns.

Because of disparities in the supplies accessible to different factions before Planetfall, med-techs rarely had the medicines necessary to treat the many traumatic injuries afflicting their patients, nor any way to manufacture them. Stims were a popular, albeit minimally effective, treatment for chronic pain.

Factor Roshann Cobb of the Dreamers of Chiron suffered from addiction to stims.

Stims were a part of the culture of many factions. Stims could be obtained from vending boxes at most University bases, though their public use was limited to academics (drones were considered less-responsible). Stims were paid out as an accompaniment to wages by the Dreamer faction, which produced them in bulk. Morganite overseers were trained to dispense stims to any worker that met their daily quotas. They were available on a complimentary basis on the gaming floors of company casinos. Mercenary outfits expected stims before fighting.

Leaders in the Ascendancy, New State, Gaians, Hunters, and Conclave inveighed loudly against stims, which they saw as antisocial, though they were popular with Hunter road crews and New State mariners. Colonel Corazón Santiago seized stims when she could and openly punished those who used them. The Human Hive outlawed them altogether.

Security Bots check for stim effects before drones are released from the Entertainment District of Morgan Bank back into GenPop.

First image is "Stim Pack" by karlavaggio on DeviantArt.

Second image is "Future Nightlife District" by ClaudioPilia on DeviantArt.

As Unity's launch date neared, the cost of pretense mounted. Governments and mega-corporations that had been dithering with the United Nations over the terms of their participation now sang a different tune. Between January 1, 2068 and November 1, 2071, a total of 7,800 launches were carried out between the American, European, Soviet, French, South African, Chinese, Scandinavian, Argentine, Japanese, Indian, Iranian, and Israeli space agencies, never less than four a day. High-value personnel and equipment were recalled from as far as Hippocamp, a moon of Neptune.

If the expedition were really leaving, it must be because the United Nations had information that others did not. Was Earth truly beyond salvaging? Best not to be left behind. If unable to join in, what did it hurt to be generous with a final bequest? History dubbed it the Anti-Ozymandias Protocol, a name that would reemerge two hundred years later on Chiron. But that is a story for another day.

Commissioner Pravin Lal said:
Like the stunned womanizer who promises change only after his much-abused lover has at last begun to collect her things, they realized the fullness of their mistake. - What We Left Behind Us

Soviet space habitat Друг рабочего (Worker's Friend) where the first vitamin-replenishment therapies were developed to help combat the debilitating effects of extended weightlessness.

Unity Generation was notoriously sickly. Radiation sickness, sterility, severe osteoporosis, combat and crash injuries complicated the creation and sustainment of viable colonies.

Unity's bridge was an afterthought. Nobody expected it would ever be used in extremis, for if it were, then per force the ship would have to be so compromised that no input from captain or helmsman would be enough to avert disaster. Either damage control would succeed, or it would fail--quite independently of input from the brass hats. Led astray by the probabilities, Mission Control did not contemplate that a disaster might occur within spitting distance of the expedition's destination. Therefore, the crew did not prepare for one. When Jonathan Garland assembled his command for the first time, he that his scopes furnished little in the way of meaningful information about the status of ship's systems. Two precious hours passed as the groggy, frightened leaders groped their way through a user interface that had changed drastically while they were asleep.

First image is "Gone Astray (to the stars) by aerroscape on DeviantArt.

The Anti-Ozymandias Protocol was a faction designed by Cetashwayo for the forum-based mega-game "An Unraveled Tapestry" on SufficientVelocity.

Second image is "FUE Soviet Space Station" by MeckanicalMind on DeviantArt.

Third image is bridge art for the Nostromo from Alien, artist unknown.
[size=18pt]What's different about the Racing the Darkness universe?[/size]​

Sister Miriam Godwinson said:
We did not require to be told the obvious--that once the apple is plucked, it can never be restored to the tree. - On the Nature of Progress

An XB-36H Crusader demonstrates the potential of the Nuclear Aircraft Program during a test flight in February 1957, shortly before its acceptance for general service. Under Operate Chrome Dome, a fraction of the American nuclear arsenal was permanently aloft from from 1960 to 2044, resuming in 2054.[/CENTER]

The atom bomb was used again in anger after the Second World War. Taking advantage of its strategic bomber force, the United States used atomic weapons against the North Koreans and Chinese four times in 1950 and 1951. Central Intelligence Agency pilots of the American Civil Air Transport program dropped a small atom bomb on Viet Minh forces in early spring 1954, inadvertently dooming much of the French Far East Expeditionary Corps to radiation sickness but lifting the siege on the French base at Dien Bien Phu. The Iraqi Republican Guard detonated an atomic device in Khorramshahr in 1980 during Saddam Hussein's unsuccessful invasion of Iran, with ruinous consequences for the Shatt-al-Arab. (The Imperial Iran military easily shouldered aside Saddam's troops, temporarily occupying Baghdad and prizing away Kurdistan for their trouble.) Pakistan and India traded nuclear salvos during the 1991 Kargil Conflict, an exchange that by some estimates eventually cost the lives of a half-billion people and rendered Gujarat, western Rajasthan, and Sindh essentially uninhabitable. What is believed to be a domestic terrorist partially detonated an atomic device in Seattle in 2051 during the Second American Civil War.

Proliferation, though worrisome to the Great Powers, was widespread. In some cases, patrons assisted their clients to a bomb. The British helped its Commonwealth allies Canada and Australia to find their way to the Bomb. The French underwrote much of the Israeli program, and the Israelis, in turn, assisted the South Africans and the Taiwanese. Spurred by Soviet adventurism in other theaters, the United States quietly helped Communist Yugoslavia grope their way into a deterrent much later. Independent regional powers like India, Pakistan, Argentina, and Iran developed atomics as the bluntest sort of insurance against their traditional adversaries.

There was no convention against the militarization of space, a problem unmoderated except by cost. (As of 2071, only the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. are known to have troubled themselves.)

The atomic powers and their dates of accession to the "Club":
  • United States of America (1945), now the Restored United States of America
  • Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (1949)
  • United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (1952)
  • French Fourth Republic (1960)
  • Canada (NLT 1963)
  • Commonwealth of Australia (NLT 1963)
  • People's Republic of China (1964), now Empire of Golden China
  • State of Israel (NLT 1973)
  • Republic of India (1974)
  • Federal Republic of German (1975)
  • Republic of China (Taiwan) (1979)
  • Iraqi Republic (1980) [believed to have been provided by the U.S.S.R.]
  • Portuguese Republic (NLT 1986)
  • Republic of Argentina (NLT 1988)
  • Republic of South Africa (NLT 1989)
  • Imperial State of Iran (NLT 1992)
  • Islamic Republic of Pakistan (1998)
  • Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (2002)
Fission is the primary method by which electrical power is produced worldwide. Most military equipment is powered by nuclear reactors or fission batteries. Most space propulsion is by the nuclear pulse method.

Government trade agencies regularly detonate "commercial-scale" bombs in support of mega-projects around the world, especially in the western United States, Africa, and South America.

Major commercial nuclear and radiation accidents, defined by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as events involving damage to reactor cores and significant radiation release, occurred at an average rate of three per year in the United States and Canada, starting with an explosion at the National Reactor Testing Station in Idaho Falls in 1961 running through 1970. Domestic extremism in the United States prompted a reassessment of power system security around the turn of the millennium and in 2023, the Francisco Act significantly increased the stringency of regulations governing emergency operations and physical security at nuclear stations throughout the United States.

Military accidents are also a global commonplace, although for obvious reasons the details are usually suppressed. A rare New York Times expose of May 1992 reported that U.S. Strategic Air Command was unable to account for at least seven bombs in the American arsenal.

At midnight on 30 June 1997, the New Territories reverted to Chinese control, but Hong Kong and Kowloon remained possessions of the British crown. Her Majesty's government used a combination of skyscrapers and shoreline reclamation to make conditions in the Crown colony more tenable. British administration of the New Territories was resumed under a new 99-year lease arranged with Golden China.[/CENTER]

Powers that pretended to economic and military greatness valued colonies as easy sources of raw and human material, captive markets for noncompetitive goods and services, quiescent proving grounds, and valuable bases from which to project power into distant regions or, if in equatorial latitudes, to put payloads more cheaply into orbit.

Imperial ambition and atomic terror went hand-in-hand with large standing militaries and the budgets to match.

On the ground, colonial populations often policed themselves. British readers were eminently familiar with the exploits of the King's African Rifles (KAR), the Brigade of Gurkhas, the Singapore Rifles, the Burma Rifles, and the Royal Ulster Rifles. The Far East Expeditionary Corps was composed primarily of fighting men from Algeria, Lebanon, and Indochina.

Mercenaries and expatriates were a common element in many militaries. The French and Spanish operated large foreign legions swelled by the exiles of climate change and fallout. The British enrolled South Sudanese in the KAR. The Portuguese inducted Zairian exiles into the colonial armies of Angola and Mozambique. Rhodesia aggressively courted veterans of French colonial and American internal wars. The richer sovereignties in the IOEZ let contracts for service with firms like Rockhalter and R.J. Earlingborne & Sons that sifted the professional cream off the tops of elite Western units.

At sea, cruisers, especially "through-deck" cruisers with the deck space to support helicopter and vertical take-off/landing aircraft, endured as elements of a well-rounded fleet.[/CENTER]

Operating from 1992 to 2050, the Kings Mountain class of American cruisers favored automatic 5" and chemical laser mounts over the temperamental missile armament of other late-century warships and shipped up to six Sea King helicopters in cavernous internal hangars. While highly effective for fleet air defense, the lasers could do almost nothing else, and both the Royal and U.S. Navies found the quick-firing cannon to be even less satisfactory than the TV-guided missiles they were meant to replace.

U.N. Chief of Staff to the General Secretary Pravin Lal described cruisers as "the last bastions of scoundrels," for they possessed enough crew and firepower to conduct essentially independent foreign policy. The theory behind twentieth and twenty-first-century cruiser warfare could be heard echoing on Chiron where military units were at times ungovernable and needed to be given extreme latitude because of basic communications difficulties.

Governor Oscar van de Graaf said:
Have just been told I am at war with Sparta and Ascendancy. Leaders, unknown. Their crimes, very bad. Locations, unclear. Reasons for hostilities, unclear. Friendly casualties, very high. -Personal Diary

France insisted on the AZERTY keyboard, complicating the lives of datatechs for more than a century afterward.[/CENTER]

Global telecommunications were hamstrung by long-standing international animosities, extreme weather, and regime obsession with domestic stability even in the traditional democracies. Electronic data storage limits were low, retrieval speed even lower, and the power draw of supercomputers capable of industrially relevant calculation was extreme. Rudimentary national intranets created a phenomenon called the Splinternet, meaning that information exchange had a variable rate of speed, proceeding speedily within the same language bloc but slowly between blocs. Scientific and cultural experience became fragmented. A Soviet scientist knew of theories and techniques his American counterparts did not, and vice versa.

NB-36H picture is a 1955 image from the U.S. Department of Defense (U.S. Air Force) labeled DF-SC-83-09332.

For more on nuclear escalation during the Korean War, see this article in Smithsonian Magazine.

"Neo Hong-Kong Sunset" by is by JJcanvas on DeviantArt.

Cruiser CA-847 is "Advanced Gun Cruiser beautyshot" by kaasjager.

"Splinternet" concept introduced to me by MisterP on
[size=18pt]Tell me more about what's different about the Racing the Darkness universe.[/size]​

What's up in Africa?
  • Western tolerance for independent settler states was almost limitless, reflecting anti-Communist hysteria (worse since the Americans themselves had used the Bomb), the political impossibility of critiquing colonialist practices in which Europe was still heavily involved, and the need to "outsource" leadership on the continent during the apogee of Hypersurvivalism in the North Atlantic world.
  • The successes of the Union Minière du Haut-Katanga in the 1960s and Morgan Industries in the 2020s convinced other companies that nation-building could be a profitable endeavor.

What's up in South America?
  • Early points of divergence for the alternate history. In Brazil, the colonizers held on tight. In Peru, they returned shortly after independence. (Spain reconquered Peru in stages beginning with the Chincha Islands War.)
  • In return for stabilizing its faltering economy, Spain gifted the Peruvian Amazon to Nwabudike Morgan as virtually a private fiefdom.
  • A Bolivian junta stood for self-determination on the continent but was in fact dependent upon American defense assistance to pursue simultaneous wars of territorial aggrandizement against three of its five neighbors.

Gas diffusion towers have their roots in the subterranean mining complex below the silver mountain that is Bolivian Potosí.​

Is the level of technological advancement any different?
Yes. Computer guidance systems were still rudimentary in 2071. For this reason, the precision of missile weapons was quite low. Missiles could only be used successfully when very large (read: atomic) payloads compensated for this drawback, but in tactical applications, wire and CCTV guidance was still the norm.

Lasers were viable in combat because of the prevalence of fission batteries, but bulky. Most designs were vehicle-mounted.

Robotics evolved with a heavy emphasis on human control. The performance of a robotic companion had to be closely monitored for acceptability and their behavior adjusted through frequent input by an experienced programmer.

Technologies required to tame and explore the world's oceans, and the wider solar system, were considerably further along than in OTL. However, this work was extremely labor-intensive.

The sending rig for Sea Base Alpha above the Mata Nui Ocean Habitat. Shown here at center, the hydrolator descends more than three miles, a journey of six hours for humans or other "pressure-sensitive" cargo.

Sending rigs were small cities in their own right--home to thousands of tradespeople responsible for maintaining the complicated machinery necessary for the denizens of Base Alpha to communicate, trade with, and return to the wider world.​

In what ways is culture different?
Supersonic passenger flight was a commonplace. Most wealthy people could afford terminals that connected them to the World Wide Web and its hundreds of unmoderated newsgroups. By 2071, their emerging technocratic uni-culture placed strong emphasis on STEM education in preference to the "crass" and "political" humanities (tainted by the perception that they were easily deployed to excuse political violence); government service over corporate or independent employment (the former was "padded slavery," the latter a road to sure penury; guilt-free use of consumer robotics; acceptance of designer medicine, especially to confer disease-resistance and manage the effects of aging; and class consciousness.

The idea of the "drone" emerged--one who traded non-supervisory craft labor to a corporation for subsistence living according to a contact and was therefore without the traditional political protections derived from Natural Law and previously supplied by a government irrespective of one's employment status.​

"Drone" was derogatory, emphasizing the perceived loss of human value inflicted upon the subject, who was usually assumed to have entered into the arrangement foolishly and with both eyes open, implying guilt. The work assigned to drones was stereotypically dirty and dangerous--to be avoided if it could be helped. Drones were acutely vulnerable because there were so many of them. Failure to satisfy the overseers meant loss of access to food, shelter, and physical security as well as the meager creature comforts that low-paying work could accumulate.

Picture of future Potosi appears to be an AI (Midjourney)-generated image. Found in El Comercio.

Sending Rig is "Colony Mining facility" by PeteAshford on DeviantArt. Sea Base Alpha and Hydrolator names are homages to the Living Seas attraction at Disney's EPCOT. Mata Nui is an island in the story behind the LEGO Bionicle toy line.

Final picture is "Starcraft 2 SCV" by ArtofRagnar on DeviantArt.
Global Warming heralded the return of two great preoccupations of the human species: religious millenarianism and seaborne piracy.

The 2060 decennial review of The International Journal of Maritime Crime and Security explained this renaissance of free-booting as a simple maths equation. Vulnerable populations were up, state capacity was down. Sailors, divers, shallow- and deep-water engineers: from necessity, coastal nations were minting new entrants to these professions at breakneck pace. Once released into the wild, it was inevitable that some would be diverted to illegitimate ventures.

Jurisdictional clarity hit a four hundred-year low. Not since the Thirty Years' War ruined Germany had it been so difficult to "know one's prince." Islands came and went with each new storm. Even on those rare occasions that governments were certain of what was theirs' and had the wherewithal to enforce such convictions, they might find good reasons to do otherwise. Kickbacks farmed from pirate gangs underwrote municipal government for the Baratarian Commonwealth, successor to the State of Louisiana, and the same was true in Santiago de Cuba, Dakar, Constanţa, and Maracaibo. Speaking as a cabinet member, Oscar van de Graaf admitted that ARC police were sometimes stood down from interdiction runs in New York Harbor as a political pressure tactic in the federal government's bitter war with private capital. And anyway, one man's pirate was another man's freedom fighter. Vermont pirates made a patriotic virtue of raiding Quebecois river traffic, returning home to receive the approbation of local authorities.

ARC Administrator Oscar van de Graaf said:
Citizenship is a compact. If a commercial enterprise isn't going to keep their end of the bargain, why should we keep ours? Taxpayers expect more wisdom of us than that. - Testimony to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, U.S. Senate

Large battlewagons were the accepted answer to both piracy and the intransigence of the "new islanders." It hardly required to be said that they were fully capable of obliterating the very platforms and populations they protected. Pirates of course had no hope against them.

Tyral Collins ashore in the Florida Keys in the disguise of a Christian States Crusader.

One of the most successful of the American pirates, Tyral Collins, claimed to have raised the Black Flag after the drowning of his native Boston. As a member of the United States Coast Guard, Collins bore personal witness to the city's failed evacuation, a disaster that cost him a mother and four younger brothers.

At the urging of his own crewmates, Collins led a successful mutiny against the officers of his own ship, the cutter Merrimack. Their strategy was simple: avoid the feeding grounds of more successful predators. Respect for the United States Navy and the New York Naval Militia sent them scudding due south. The Caribbean was a violent sea, but like-sized challengers were fewer and farther between.

Collins came ashore in the Northern Floridas and, despite moonlighting with the Prohibition Patrols, learned to disdain the Christian States cause, which he felt dealt with esoteric problems not relevant to its own population. But if Bible study appealed little, he nonetheless consumed enough Genesis to think deeply on the situation of the Patriarch, Adam. He also explored the literary output of the New Environmentalists. Collins drew strong parallels between the two sources.

Master Tyral Collins said:
Adam couldn't keep the Lord's Garden, and was expelled. We had better keep His Pond. - Racing the Rain

Collins reported to Unity as a nominee of the Cuban government, which first issued Merrimack a Letter of Marque in 2051. With Tonkin Vraal, Collins was the chief theorist behind the emerging Harmonist creed of the Nautilus Pirates--lipstick on the more atavistic violence perpetrated by faction leader Ulrik Svensgaard.

Battleship is "Marshal Zhukov Class Modern Battleship - Studio Renders" by Jamison Cunningham on ArtStation.

Tyral Collins is Travis Fimmel in Raised by Wolves.
Expedition Leader John Moraine said:
Rest is for the Lord, not His creations. - Chronicles

Name: John Moraine
Rank: Warrant Officer
Position: Xenohydrologist
Assignment: Aquatic Operations Divison
Country of Origin: Mobile Experimental Deep Foraging Object 4 (MEDFOR)
DOB: 02-17-2028
Height: 181.9 cm
Weight: 80.4 kg

Service Record:
Vault-born. (Released, age two.) Child of American parents, both seismologists affiliated with Dr. Emyr Flinting Oceanographic Laboratory. Raised aboard a roving research platform operating on the ocean floor. Early education by Interlink Correspondence.

Raised as a First Conversant. Taught that mankind has a positive obligation, documented in the Book of Genesis, to find and study all God's creations, animal, vegetable, and mineral, and the cosmic rules (physical laws) that govern them. Followers of this sect chose professions that fitted them to participate in oceanic and space exploration, leading to over-representation among crew of U.N.S. Unity.

Graduated U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, MD. Posted to research submarine U.S.S. Lantern Fish as diving superintendent. Accumulated significant experience with very-deep sea dive rescue and ship's husbandry. Participated in Ballingwrath Expedition to study mud volcano located in Puerto Rico Trench. Recommended against construction of the Sea Base Echo habitat near same location. Testified before Congress when habitat dome cracked from structural overloading. Afterward, regarded as protégé of Congressman Jabez O'Comry.

Organized collection of ice cores from above Arctic Circle while Lantern Fish provided ship-to-shore power for City of Anchorage from 2060-62. Reassigned to U.N. Mission to Alpha Centauri by American National Selection Commission in 2065 on O'Comry's recommendation. Assisted in final review and approval of mission emergency management protocols.

Taken from cold sleep during Unity Crisis on the orders of Psych Chaplain Miriam Godwinson. Assisted her entourage to make safe progress from hab bays to landing pods. Tactical leader during skirmishing with charter colonists from CNR Corporation, a subsidiary of Struan's Pacific Training Company. Persuaded Godwinson to include watercraft among the faction's take of expedition supplies. Singled out for special recognition by Godwinson at Great Convocation to acknowledge his "coolness under pressure," but forced into exile the following year by faction elders who accused subject of poor judgement (the boats were taken in lieu of additional seed, fertilizer, or foodstuffs).

At subject's own request, dispatched on long-range overland reconnaissance. (Elders had lobbied for subject to be placed in command of raids on neighboring settlements, which were expected to suffer very high casualty rates.)

In a hollow chamber below Chip Rock Pass, John Moraine observes a planet pearl governed by physical forces unknown to human science.

First Conversants were often compared to Hunters of Chiron. The former's "spinner" colonies were made up of those who wished to conduct geological and archaeological inquiry at Sunny Mesa. It was a violent existence: Hivemen were constantly tunnel through the interiors the rock formations to destabilize the Believers' habitats and pursuing anyone who came down to ground level.

The bridge structures were mosaics of innovation, from turbines placed to harness the canyons' wind tunnel effects to the sloped roofs that prevented accumulation of standing rainwater and siphons that diverted it to cliffside gardens.

First Conversants had much in common with the University of Planet. Moraine shared Academician Zakharov's belief that knowledge was the toolbox in which the solution to every one of Mankind's problems could be found. Yet if Zakharov wanted to engage in what Miriam called "petty creation" of his own, Moraine stopped short of that. Adam was not to add robots to the litany of fish and birds, cattle and wild animals. And as the University cloistered itself away from the physical world of contaminants and turned over ever more of its problems to machine intelligence, First Conversants learned by moving through Creation physically and experiencing its wonders firsthand.

Psych Profile: Adventurer
Classified as "soft" believer by Federal Bureau of Investigation--one whose convictions do not have immediate political implications for duly-constituted government or authority. U.S. Navy personnel record contains no contraindications.

Parents selected for participation in Vault Program by U.S. Army as part of Project: Aftermath, an attempt to cache millions of carefully-vetted soldiers and civilians who could reemerge from hibernation to rebuild the United States following a nuclear winter. Vault was re-opened early due to mechanical problems.

Very high physical fitness and mental resilience; .91 score on Atherholt Trauma Function Test. Long exposure to vault and submarine environments makes it highly likely that subject will thrive in high-density living conditions.

Veteran of numerous actual emergencies aboard MEDFOUR. Close attention to detail and safety matters.

Apparent aversion to violence except in clear cases of self-defense.

Moraine is Robert Patrick from Last Resort.

The concept behind First Conversants is from David Brin's Earth. Credit to MysticWind for bringing it to my attention.

Vault Program is from Fallout universe lore.

Picture of the planet pearl is "The Black Pearl" by ATArts on DeviantArt.

"Spinner" colony picture is "Wind Turbine Bridge Colony" by ATArts on DeviantArt.
Chairman Sheng-ji Yang said:
The architect has much to teach the overseer, for what is more ruthless than a human colony? - Centauri Reflections

The Castle Spires were impervious to the best tricks of the Shapers of Chiron. Bitter losses had taught the Believers to site all new settlements well above maximum flood levels. That these two factions--Conclave and Shapers--should become such bitter enemies was not an obvious consequence of their respective politics. Psych Chaplain and Terraformer were just three years apart in age, both ascetic, both prone to fits of melancholy. In Planet they shared a mutual adversary, wanting nothing but that it should cease to be an encumbrance to them. Guilt was second-nature to them--the kind that only a survivor can experience. What caused them to quarrel was more elemental than any idea. It was water, cool and clear.

Barnacle cities were studies in economy. Miriam's used ground source heat pumps to moderate temperatures in a land of extremes. Vanes in the base superstructure harvested the abundant static electricity.

Desperate lieutenants suggested that the Lady Skye should take instruction from the subrid, which carried its home on its back. Cracks and fissures within the creatures' shells, which on a large specimen might be five meters across, were known to host miniature ecosystems similar to bottle gardens when plugged with organic matter.

Skye called them blasphemers and refused to build an industrial base capable of construction on the scales required to flatter such notions.

A simple tower--height--could mean the difference between the life and death for an isolated settlement. This Pilgrim roundhouse is twice blessed.

The tall tree standing beside the water tower is a carniverous Bildant. Hollows within the trunk lure nesting prey, which in turn are overcome by digestive chemicals secreted from the phloem. Also harmful to humans, the trees were tolerated and even cultivated because their greedy root systems created hostile conditions for the spread of xenofungus.

First image is "Hidden Desert Cities on Alien World" by lestrium on DeviantArt.

Second image is "Arcology Walker" by theNo7er on DeviantArt.

Third image is "The Farm" by Abiogenisis on DeviantArt.
Lady Deirdre Skye said:
Living systems cannot be fully described in mathematical terms. Successful examples have a value greater than the sum of their individual parts. - A Comparative Biology of Planet

Morley Towers, like this example in the Memorialist base of Neu Union, were early engines for mass conversion. They were named not for their inventor, a forever-anonymous Shaper engineer, but for a brand of British cigarette.

The noise was deafening. The waste output, highly carcinogenic. Ominous thunderheads formed above any productive stack, from which violent electrical storms always followed. Mindworms were never far behind. Yet for factions that lacked access to resources of a higher grade, Morleys were a favorite addiction.

University engineers cannibalized and refashioned larger terraforming machinery into multiple smaller vehicles, sacrificing speed and efficiency at a single task to be able to colonize with greater scope and depth.

University programmers developed the computer code for Autonomous Herd Intelligence through trial and error with groups like the one formed by these surveyor rigs.

Aleigha Cohen said:
On the frontiers of science, we should wish for audacity more than for brilliance. - A World Upside Down

Destruction being a coarser art, the code behind the Vulcan Vivonics Brawny Man sentry was a study in eloquence--just 77,000,000 lines on a spool approximately half the size of a Frigidaire.[/CENTER]

First image is "Terraforming Station" by Matthew Burke on ArtStation.

Morley cigarettes are a prop brand used in movies and television. They were the preferred choice of the Cigarette Smoking Man on X-Files.

Second image is "Snow scape robotic machines" by AIFLOWART on DeviantArt.

Third image is "Concept art AI generated" by AIFLOWART on DeviantArt.
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Director Tamineh Pahlavi said:
The most virulent disease is failure. - Homo Sapien Superior

I offer a draft map of the world in November 2071 as U.N.S. Unity set out for the Alpha Centauri star system.

Flooding affected every continent, so we shall focus our discussion on the other eccentricities.

The new island clusters are artificial. The largest of these, Shamash, can be found in the Southern Indian Ocean, roughly equidistant between Australia and Madagascar. That name, Hebrew for "servant," was used again on Chiron.

In North America, Quebec gained independence in the mid-twenty-first century. A determined Francophone separatist movement timed their terror campaign to coincide with hypersurvivalist revolts in both the United States and Canada and catastrophic flooding in the U.K. Both the Soviets and the French provided material assistance, to include combat advisers, while the United Nations ran diplomatic interference. NATO dared not deplete local forces in Europe. Canada was reduced to accepting military assistance from the likes of the Southern African Treaty Organization. Hawaii is independent, probably a fluke of presidential politics.

In South America, traditional regional hegemons--Colombia, Portuguese Brazil, Argentina--were laid low by flooding. Bolivia used the opportunity to expand at the expense of traditional enemies Paraguay and (Spanish) Peru. Madrid underwrote its colonial war effort by outsourcing defense of the Viceroyalty to Morgan Industries. Their asking price: practical control over a tract of resource-rich territory larger than Uruguay. Note the Republic of Rio Grande Del Sol, a remnant of the Triple Alliance War and Paraguayan hegemony during the late nineteenth century. Argentina continued to seek continental greatness after its defeat in the Falklands in 1983, falling in with the French while the Americans chose Bolivia and the Chileans leaned into a British alliance.

Europe's borders were more changed by water than by man. Sweden and Finland came together in self-defense during the protracted violence of the Russian Revolution. Acting from similar motivations, Norway joined them in 1951. Greece managed to achieve much of the Megáli Idéa in the 1920s, opening a bitter feud with Turkey that spiraled into violence several times thereafter. France held onto Algeria and Lebanon as colonial dependencies. Along with Israel and Turkey, these enjoyed an honorary status as members of the European community.

The Soviets occupied a remnant of North Korea in 1951 and Afghanistan from the 1970s, propping up an unpopular regime opposed by neighbors Iran and Pakistan. In 2017, Soviet tanks rumbled forth into Xinjiang.

African independence remained an elusive dream as of 2071. White settlers still ruled in Algiers, Nairobi, Luanda, Lourenço Marques, Salisbury, and Pretoria. A decade after their shared centennial, Katanga and South Kivu were kept afloat by Belgian mining interests. The Soviets made inroads in humiliated Nigeria and embattled Ethiopia. Sudan hewed to the Americans, South Sudan and Biafra to the Israelis. Morgan Industries toppled Chad and made a muddle of the Sahara during the Burst Wars of the mid-twenty-second century. Rwanda fed happily off the carcass of Congo, too big to succeed. U.N. interventions there and in Darfur and Somalia achieved semi-permanence around 2050.

In the Middle East, Israel won a series of wars beginning with the conquest of Sinai in 1956, later going on to smash the Hashemites and the Syrians in Lebanon. Iran runs the table to the west.

India and Pakistan committed mutual suicide. Their populations moved north into Kashmir and the Himalayan foothills or south into the Indian Ocean Exclusion Zone.

The British held on in Burma and Singapore, and the French in Indochina but for North Vietnam. The Dutch held West New Guinea, dividing the island with the Australians.

China reunited under the Golden Emperor, but the British used the moment to renegotiate their lease on Hong Kong.

On Shamash, Shiloh is presented in tangerine, Gathi in periwinkle. By 2071, they were united in federation. Nod, always independent, is seen in honeydew.

Map is based on a template I found on The Frontier, a website that went defunct in 2017. Original artist unknown. Global warming impacts are sketched from "Q-BAM Base Map Sea Level Rise 100m" by Metallist-99 on DeviantArt.

This version of Quebec separatism is based on that found in Cold War Hot, Peter G. Tsouras, ed.

For more on Greece and the Megáli Idéa, see this article on the Avalanche Press website.
Chairman Sheng-ji Yang said:
Planet is a machine, like a tractor or a human body. More complicated, yes, than the examples with which we are generally familiar, but equally as predictable once disassembled. - Essays on Mind and Matter

Hive engineers supervise the work of a radio-controlled parasite excavator as they break ground on a new Hab Warren. Once the new stem tunnel is braced, the excavator will be sent back "up-dig" to its parent rig and subsequent work will continue by hand.

Mid-century budget pressures compelled the U.N. to radically rethink its plans for the Unity mission. Transit fees from the Earth to the Unity hull came to account for 80% of cost-per-unit of cargo delivered, squeezing out considerations of quality control, performance, and interoperability in the acquisition process. U.N. logistics operations competed for payload with millions of emigrants fleeing steep declines in the quality of life on Earth, military satellite launches, and cargoes destined for lucrative commercial operations elsewhere in the solar system (all made possible by simultaneous technical improvements in the nuclear-pulse propulsion method). National governments fortunate enough to possess space elevators knew the U.N.'s desperation to bring the Unity Mission to fruition and charged accordingly.

This product of the Minsk Wheeled Tractor Plant started life as a ballistic missile transporter. In 2061, the Minoboron (Soviet Ministry of Defense) sold a lot of 1,200 vehicles to Frost-Wellerman Combat Products, which added mission packages at the Naval Weapons Industrial Reserve Site, Atlantic City, New Jersey. Morgan Efficiencies auditors certified the final products good, but representatives of Oscar van de Graaf were considerably more skeptical, documenting a range of issues that included excessive engine wear, leaky hydraulics, inoperable stabilizers (an issue affecting an estimated 52% of the fleet), removal of the armored shutters, and insufficient noise baffling for the tillerman/operator's cabin. As a condition of the mogul's charter, a Van de Graaf front company, Mount Ascutney Enterprises, financed many improvements recommended by van de Graaf's consultants.

This example, plundered by the Spartans and captured the Human Tribe at Xerxion, carried an ultra-high wattage laser, and was doubtless partly responsible for the construction of that mighty fortress.

An American M1A5 Mattis Main Battle Tank of the re-actived 40th Armored Division (California Army National Guard) shepherds a mobile gantry vehicle during evacuation of the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard in the San Francisco Bay Area. The towers and booms carried by these vehicles assisted with routine yard work.

At first a rarity on Planet, mobile gantries enjoyed temporary popularity whenever factions disassembled
Unity wreckage. In M.Y. 30, Hive Security used one such rig to exfiltrate from a tunnel dug beneath the University desert botanical testing station at Ferghana Wells, capturing the base and its prized greenhouses just ahead of the fall harvest.

"Pickers" were another unpopular "consolation prize" of late access to Unity equipment stocks. In an act of creative accounting, the U.N. transferred hundreds to Unity from the Indus Valley Radiological Exclusion Zone (IVREZ) where they had worked salvage recovery missions, as seen here. Note the much smaller parasite hauler at bottom left. A member of the ground crew is preparing charging umbilicals from the mothership. According to U.N. sources, it was expected that the Pickers would be disassembled for parts, which is the probable fate of most of the examples recovered from Unity or its Supply Pods.

The distinctive features of a U.N.-supplied Picker included very high ground clearance; very high engine torque; thick environmental shielding, including total nuclear, biological, and radiological protection; and armor plate capable of defeating mines, projectiles of less than 20mm, and rocket-propelled grenades--a necessity to overcome trouble from raiders active in the IVREZ.

To the extent that they were retained in their original configuration by the
Unity settlers rather than being stripped for their armor and other components, "pickers" performed as effective minesweepers, equipment recovery vehicles, and rescue platforms, both for classical emergencies and during mindworm encounters. At Terra Nova, the Pilgrims converted one of their pickers to respond to emergencies at outlying settlements. Ironically, that vehicle did double-duty as both fire (water) pumper and flamethrower tractor. The Spartans, who fielded a relatively large number of combat rovers, used three as mobile workshops assigned to a reserve column.

As lesser-valued vehicles, Pickers were sometimes converted to combat roles when there were no better options. Thus the Human Tribe exploited a Picker to smash through the cargo-box perimeter wall of Cibola 7, a Pilgrim mining base, for which it deployed its articulated grasping arm. The responsible commander, a Captain Harcourt Cahill, gave a favorable report to faction stakeholders; the Picker had demonstrated "total imperviousness" to the defenders' arsenal, which had included various anti-material weapons.

First image is "Moon mining AI concept art version 2 of 3" by AIFLOWART on DeviantArt.

Second image is "Superheavy Transport Concept" by MikeDoscher on DeviantArt.

Third image is "The Last Holdouts" by MikeDoscher on DeviantArt.

Desert botanical testing stations were a feature of the Imperial occupation of the desert planet Arrakis in Frank Herbert's Dune.

Fourth image is "Salvage Operation" by MikeDoscher on DeviantArt.

Popular artist Frank Tinsley painted this archetypal nuclear-powered airship in 1955 as the United States government explored civilian and commercial applications for its premier wartime technology.

The strongest argument for civilian nuclear energy was its abundance. Range would become a function of maintenance, not fuel capacity. Power-to-weigh ratios would become quickly meaningless. The RAND Corporation drew up concept papers calling for mobile fortresses with guns and armor enough to secure the republic on land, at sea, and in the air, but still amazingly fast.

Nuclear power was also synonymous with cleanliness and efficiency. Nuclear reactors did not belch forth smoke or fly ash. Spent fuel could simply be recycled.

Battleship U.S.S. Missouri hosted the formal surrender of the Japanese Empire in Tokyo Bay. Converted to a commando carrier in 1982 based on the British experience in the Falklands, Missouri was attached to the Fifth Fleet, covering the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean Exclusion Zone.

Though not herself nuclear-powered--she carried only small-scale atomic batteries for point-defense laser emitters--
Missouri suffered from the misapprehensions of a generation of American naval leadership taught to believe in the near-invincibility of large fighting platforms.

Fearsome pedigree and vestigial 16" turrets aside, post-conversion
Missouri was no longer intended to fill the role of combatant. Instead, its complement of helicopters and landing ships would ferry U.S. Marines ashore to stiffen the spines of allied militaries facing down Soviet-backed insurgencies.

The proud ship, an icon of the United States Navy, ended life as a burning hulk after being recalled to home waters during the last hard fighting of the Second American Civil War, a mission kill for land-based missiles fired by the Tennessee State Guard units defending Memphis. (A post-war inquiry by the Navy suggested that state forces lacked the sophistication to fuse their missile warheads for the very short ranges of riverine combat, leading to speculation that Morgan Tactical Services hatched and enabled the battle plan.)

Escorts avenged themselves promptly upon the city but left the wreck of
Missouri behind when they steamed upriver toward St. Louis.

[Political scientists coined the term "consequence stratification" to describe the strong bifurcation of civilian attitudes regarding nuclear power. The United States government actively suppressed information about the effects of radiological contamination until 1962 while a string of Supreme Court cases provided broad indemnities to companies operating in partnership with the Atoms for Peace Program. French and Soviet leaders went as far as assassination to protect their preferred power source.

Proponents of the "Nuclear Future" included the large atomic bureaucracies; academia (which derived huge prestige and funding from playing its indispensable part in the safe implementation of the new power source); corporations active in the nuclear energy marketplace, especially defense manufacturers, power utilities, and mining companies; the wealthy consumers of nuclear-powered products; and, of course, militaries. Later, these were joined by the computer industry, which proposed their machines as the ultimate guarantees of nuclear safety.

Use of nuclear power for rapid air and space travel complicated attempts to back off the technology once safety issues took hold in the public consciousness, even after the sharp spike in accidents worldwide beginning in the 1980s.

Macabre results of this new Nuclear Age included government-run vaults where tens of thousands of persons with degenerative nuclear sickness were placed in indefinite cryogenic hibernation pending the discovery of effective medicines to reverse or halt their disease.

"Atoms for Peace" airship image can be accessed from Google Arts & Culture.

Missourri conversion is "Iowa Commando Ship Conversion" by Tzoli on DeviantArt.

For nuclear-powered plane, see Dark Roasted Blend.

Vault programs are a central concept in the Fallout universe of computer games conceived and published by a string of companies including Interplay Entertainment, Black Isle Studios, Bethesda Game Studios, and Obsidian Entertainment.
A short note about what's next for this space.

I plan to continue updating this space with new content into the foreseeable future. It's a source of great satisfaction and accomplishment for me. I especially enjoy hearing from readers.

This project could benefit from a concordance that corrects the record on inconsistencies both large and small, but I judge that it is yet of lesser importance compared to new storytelling.

Sharing the rough map of Earth circa 2071 was a significant project milestone. I hope it brought to everyone a better understanding of the nature of civilization on Earth at the time of Unity's departure.

Many readers understandably wish to see a map of Chiron with settlements and territories described. Some version of that is possible using the same tools that I applied to make the map of Earth, but it is hard to emphasize just how much time map-making takes with my very basic skills.

This project could benefit from both somebody who is more scientifically literate than myself and from an illustrator who wants to tackle map- and icon-making.

Complementary side projects now at varying stages of completion include: faction leader profiles designed in the original style of the Firaxis website, a library of icons in the style of the original game for technologies, facilities, and doctrines; and a treatment for a forum-based megagame in this setting. The first two activities are geared toward making the fan fiction more immersive. A few people have asked for faction and leader profiles since the start of this thread.

I welcome everyone to take a gander at the quotations, technologies, and other information captured on the GoogleDoc for this project. You should see the (very preliminary) concordance as well as a tab called "Faction Analysis" that will let you get some insight into the way I envision that the factions of this continuity would translate into a follow-on iteration of the computer game.

I am scheduled to attend GenCon 2023. I hope to find a good deal of inspiration there as I take in the creative output of others and play in some live megagames for the first time.

Thanks for being involved!

Old Number Seven tilled fields in the Horai Valley for eight long years, more than twice the standard lifetime for a 'Former on Chiron. Overwork and spoiling attacks by other factions led to constant breakdowns.

Between modification and repair, the individual 'Former was a gradually remade into a temperamental work of art uniquely suited for its particular service territory.

The Brethren responsible for "Old Number Seven" added supernumerary tyres to better distribute weight and mitigate the risk of roll-over. An armored skirt sealed lower levels against infiltrators. (Authorized crew boarded from a gantry.) Provided ground conditions were favorable, spine-mounted blowers would wreath Number Seven in dust whenever enemy spotting rounds fell too near. Once shrouded, work would continue using the spotting lamps rigged to the castle.

SPAR Security Devices Defensive Pistol, engineered to United Nations Security Forces specifications. The most common firearm aboard Unity. This low-velocity handgun was issued to supervisors as part of their personal kit, to be retained in the lock-boxes at the foot of their cryobeds and worn holstered at the hip.

Various noteworthy design features are apparent in this image, including: (A) molded comfort grip; (B) low-profile, pressure-sensitive trigger plate (highly prone to malfunction), (C) charging plunger (to be depressed whenever a new cap was loaded into the rear port), and (D) muzzle break.

To Psych Chaplain Miriam Godwinson, the shredder pistol was a "terror device borne straight from somebody's nightmare--an insult to us all." Chief of Security Rachael Winzenried defended them as a "last resort" in case of mutiny. Furious higher-ups demanded to know why she had not accepted SPAR's suggestions of stun, gas, or sonic loads only to be told (correctly) that flechette rounds were more reliable.

Winzenried felt the deterrent power of such a munition would be her officers' best guarantee for the safety of themselves and others since they could not rely on numbers. Privately, U.N. higher-ups agreed. In the end, they compromised: Winzenried was allowed to take the pistols aboard with just one reload apiece, but mission security personnel received no training on the weapon. Winzenried's signature invalidated the draft Standard Operating Procedure that described how they would be used.

"Safety over water," one of the better-known axioms of Planet. Storms were preferable to mind worms and Spartans. The Nautilus Pirates were glad to protect sea bases from New State retaliation provided accounts were not in arrears.

The number of inhabitants of such places always exceeded the number of available jobs in maritime industries, and anyone not so gainfully employed could earn credits processing code on the Planetary Datalinks.

Bad code--millions of lines worth--was introduced to the
Unity Datacore during Planetfall, either by hostile actors connecting through slaved terminals or the many competing "defenders" of system integrity mobilized by Data Services Section Chief Sathieu Metrion. The Tomorrow Institute democratized the repair work in one of the first Special Projects shared between factions.

"Old Number Seven" is "Harvester" by Pieere-E. FIESCHI on ArtStation.

Shredder pistols are Phased Plasma Guns ("PPGs") from Babylon 5. The image I used was found on a Pinterest post by Mark Martinez.

Third picture is "Cliguari's Drop" by sleepcircle on DeviantArt.
Let's talk about our impressions of some of the standout personalities behind the distinctive ideologues of the Alpha Centauri setting. We'll begin with three of my favorites.

Zakharov is always first in my mind when I get to thinking about this game. His great flaw is certitude. Outsized self-confidence has led him into authoritarianism. And it's been a comfortable ride. He needs (and heeds) no counsel. Rules are for lesser intellects. I can easily imagine that all the bureaucracy built into the University's academic life is really just intended to make it next to impossible to disturb the great leader himself.

Does Zakharov's intensely logical mind eventually drive him to discard all emotional consideration so that he becomes as dispassionate as Chairman Yang? Would Zakharov ever order the execution of the medical hard cases in his care? If he did, would he feel any remorse? We know he has a history of sacrificing others on the altar of Soviet material progress--or, more cynically, career advancement. Zakharov's opportunities for human interaction are already severely limited--and not only because he is anti-social. Most of Zakharov's colony is convalescent. Androids abound. It is easy to think that Zakharov would begin to draw comparisons between the two populations--perhaps with an unfavorable slant toward the sick and dying.

Despite believing that anti-science attitudes doomed the Earth, I can't imagine those misgivings being very meaningful within the University camp. Vaccination, genetically-modified crops, and public education are probably the only options--but very satisfying ones. I don't see the foundations for any kind of supremacist crusade. (We'll leave that to Pahlavi.)

If Zakharov fears anything, it's his own mortality. His mind and body are slowing with age. He placed the entire expedition in jeopardy, committing mutiny, just for the opportunity to extend his own life. (Garland at first wanted only to perform damage control, whereas Zakharov insisted on repairs so that the ship wouldn't have to perform a decades-long slingshot maneuver. Garland's initial proposal would have sacrificed those already awake--a few thousand for the sake of a half-million. More than Zakharov could bear.)

Were this a Paradox game, the University player would be hindered by maluses during any interaction with a leader that could plausibly threaten Zakharov's self-image, particularly Tamineh Pahlavi, Deirdre Skye, Johann Anhaldt, and Aleigha Cohen. (One iteration of the Ascendancy had it that they were exiles from the University due to their obsessive focus on human cloning.) Zakharov is more comfortable in the presence of other powerful men whose achievements are in fields he sees as frivolous--money men, military men, and "hobbyists" like J.T. Marsh.

"My" Deirdre Skye is sometimes a hero, sometimes a poignant case study in what happens when somebody gets too close to the event horizon of human contradiction.

As a minor aristocrat, Skye harbors vestiges of noblesse oblige, a feeling that something is owed by her, and by people like her, to anyone who did not receive the same preferments in life. Perhaps she has recognized the contradictions inherent to such an attitude; perhaps not. (How can Skye claim to "owe" someone the benefits of leadership without first deigning them subordinate to herself?)

As an iconoclast, she has done more than her fair share of barrier-breaking--in her profession, in the environmental resistance movement, in Pakistan, and in the Unity Hydroponics Bay, where her leadership was the decisive factor in buying time to evacuate the seeds that later fed a whole world.

She's a bomb that ticks. For a time, she obeys Garland from a place of seemingly deep trust. She endures Zakharov's paternalism out of misplaced respect for his accomplishments. But when Garland sends her to Hydroponics, she exceeds her own authority to commandeer some of D'Almeida's security officers and joins in the firefight herself.

Skye respects Chief Medical Officer (later Commissioner) Pravin Lal, whose values she admires (and to whom she and her people owe their salvation). (Unlike, say, van de Graaf or Mercator, Skye's personal interests were never affected by some of the U.N.'s less admirable maneuvers, so she has no reason to doubt Lal's judgement.)

But Skye, an optimist at heart, has suffered badly from the banality of evil. She has never forgiven herself for the murders of the local support staff she recruited in the North-West Frontier Province. To her, the patriarchy is baffling. Women aren't a threat to men. Oppression is destructive to the oppressor as well as to the oppressed. But the very authorities that should have protected the vulnerable instead demonstrated astonishing cynicism. What is the purpose of all that power, if not to protect? Who does it serve to rationalize those attacks? Were the police opposed to equality in principle, or merely ashamed that a terrible crime had occurred on their watch? Either way, their exasperation and uselessness have haunted Skye ever since. Why was she so offensive to them?

To this day, Skye spends long hours wandering the perimeter of Gaia's High Garden, reliving her worst memories.

The story so far implies that the Gaians are a hunted people, forced into fungal swamps where other factions cannot follow. They remain there for decades in a posture of arrested development thanks to a general blockade maintained by hostile neighbors and a philosophy that prevents development of a modern industrial base.

Commander Kleisel Mercator is actually closest in outlook to a sober Factor Roshann Cobb: he has become convinced that the human species will destroy itself. But if Cobb wants to lobotomize the patient, Mercator wants to distract him instead.

Mercator's first problem is that he is trying to form a society made up of people who have been (and probably must continue to be) socialized in ways that are antithetical to it. His military officers are playing house, which is a civilian's game. "You can't handle the truth!" might as well be a faction catchphrase, but it works in more than just the one way. Kleisel's people are professional killers. That's how they interact with the world.

Mercator's second problem is that he is terrified of Planet. Zakharov and Metrion ultimately resolve to kill what they do not understand, but the Memory of Earth are cowed by it, demonstrating a respect on par with the Hunters--not as self-negating as the Gaians, but still heavy enough that they are never quite at ease. Mercator is at the forefront of leaders clamoring to leave Chiron.

The faction's starting pieces, which include veteran militia and a Hopper, will tempt the player into an aggressive posture, so let us assume that Mercator is as egotistical in his own way as a Zakharov or a Morgan. Not sneering, but impatient. If you don't share his concern that inter-factional warfare will doom us all, he's happy to lock you in the brig and impose martial law on your bases until you come to your senses and accept vassalage.

Drawings of Zakharov and Skye are by Feivelyn on DeviantArt.

Portait of Brent Spiner by Rory Lewis.

What better can be said of Corazón Santiago than that she is hopelessly naive? Was it not inevitable that the Holnists would defy her control, those miscreants infamous for fragging their own leaders? The Holnist was a parasite unable to resist killing his host. Canny Statist commanders operating in tandem with Holnist irregulars soon learned to post guards whenever they occupied any territory they intended on keeping, lest the militias perpetrate casual atrocities on the people recently liberated. But Santiago was not the first to pay them court in hopes they would excel themselves given a worthy cause. Still smarting over the fate of her sisters, she could not conceive that a person could love only themselves.

Santiago is also, of course, a remarkable figure. Out of consideration for her childhood traumas, we might forgive the alienation from authority that made her a fertile convert to the Survivalist cause. It is surely to her credit that she should have acquired an education in spite of her poverty and rootlessness. Her leadership qualities, including a knack for compromise, are well enough attested by enemies, let alone by her friends. And who else is a more legitimate voice for the miserable Left-Behinds? Unity had a long way to fall--from humanity's greatest expression of itself to a grotesque indictment of liberal internationalism. Is this what the visionaries of the 2010s had in mind? That the ship's berths should be filled with billionaires and their future servants?

Yet something critical is missing from the Spartan equation on Chiron. Santiago's Earthside exploits were performed in the alleged interest of marginalized peoples who could not or would not fight for themselves, and there is no reason to presume her intentions false. But on Chiron, there are no peaceful or indisputably victimized civilians whose part the Spartans can take. And so the Colonel is a fish out of water, and her true believers, an army without a nation, play-acting as soldiers. She yearns for something more noble.

The Tribe has always been one of my favorite factions. The beauty of Kellerites is that they're such effective Boogeymen. Oscar van de Graaf has to assume they're gunning for him. Santiago, too. Nobody is very sure what goes on behind those high walls. To Zakharov, the Kellerites are death cultists that have turned their backs in ignorance on the science that could save them. Pravin Lal can't overlook the fact that the Kellerites contributed to the destruction of Unity. Miriam will have a hard time convincing her followers that the Kellerites are not Satanists.

The Kellerites are explicitly insular. Their leader, Pete Landers, has no particular interest in the other factions except as objects for the taking of vengeance. Nobody weened on exaggerations of Kellerite deviance would be likely to give his emissaries the time of day, even were he inclined to send some. And Landers speaks through the barrel of a gun, not the mouth of a diplomat.

Landers's conversion to the Kellerite cause was an honest one. For an impressionable youth, the kindness of the Tribals was a profound lure, a debt he attempts to repay with the only coin he has to give: the tactical genius that made him a fast sergeant in the U.S. Army. The Kellerites' running feud with the other factions is fueled by a sour combination of offensive realism and simmering resentment.

The Tribals are the smallest faction by population size--just a few hundred people. They took almost no captives and attracted almost no hangers-on during their sweep toward the exits. Befitting their homogeneity, they have exceptional cohesion--after all, each one was hand-picked by Keller and his lieutenants because they could offer something as a stowaway.

Kellerites are fierce fighters, especially on the defensive, but they're constitutionally wedded to inefficiency as ardent individualists whose horizons extend only as far as the stockade walls. On top of that, they are Purists, and quite possibly human cultists (to borrow from Saw Guerrera). The Ascendancy rejects androids because biological organisms are supposedly superior where it counts. The Hunters avoid them so as not to become addicted to easy living. But the Tribals don't like robots because they are unfamiliar objects usually created by corporations, the same relentless entities that hunted them nearly to extinction.

I think Landers must be too self-conscious for his own good. Keller had the vision and the following. Landers was at first dependent upon his tolerance, and his leadership role is derived in no small part from Keller's personal favor. A string of military defeats would invalidate the case for his leadership role with the faction.

Miriam probably found it difficult to return to ground after her experience being cast as a messianic figure. Did she believe it herself?

Can we call her an angel of mercy? The good Sister is one of the few sympathetic figures in the retelling of the Unity Crisis. Though she soon regretted the oversight, there was little thought spared for contesting whatever the other factions were claiming as their own.

Miriam and most of her followers stop short of body modification, which they believe approaches the boundary of sacrilege. The Book of Maronicus admonishes, "Thou shalt not disfigure the soul," which members of the Conclave take to mean crossing the mind-machine barrier.

Miriam begins our story with a great deal of forbearance toward those not similarly-sentimented. Over time, the perversity of the factions toward one another and the constant stressors of survival push a minority of survivors toward a hard interpretation of Scripture that promises punishment for the Believers' enemies. It is even possible that the Believers might come to regard even fundamental violations of the U.N. Charter as a function of God's anger.

To compensate for their military weakness, the Conclave adheres to a firm neutrality. It will attempt to clothe and feed everyone it can. Conclave med-techs honor their Hippocratic oath to a fault. Conclave bases are the "Rick's Cafés Américains" of Planet, welcoming traders and spies who must escape harsher controls.

Miriam is less spymaster than trapeze artist, clumsily using whatever her counter-intelligence bureau can glean to help navigate a "middle way" through the vendettas being pursued all around her. In time, the act is too much, and she must cede more ground to a more bloody-minded set to help her rule.

Santiago is Halo: Reach concept art: Female UNSC Army Soldier from

Gerard Butler in Angel Has Fallen is our Pete Landers.

Tilda Swanson takes a turn here at Miriam Godwinson.

"Thou shalt not disfigure the soul" is a quote from Dune by Frank Herbert.
Johann Anhaldt said:
The scientist is servant, not a leader. Old Believers understand this fundamentally. God is the greatest scientist of them all. The complex systems at work in our universe reflect His labor. And so it is with Artificial Intelligence. God created Adam, and we created AI. The ability of AI to defy human control is no more real than the power of sinners to escape God's Judgement. - Adam, His Atoms

Johann Anhaldt is interesting to me in that he represents, I feel, a perspective that was not embodied by any single faction leader in the original game. The dangers of a society managed by Artificial Intelligence are instead addressed in the flavor quotes that accompany tech progression. Any society can fall prey to it.

Were somebody to write a literary critique of this fan fiction, they might position Johann Anhaldt's earliest origins in the 2014 forum-based megagame that preceded this work. A large number of the player-designed factions in that game were looking to absorb humans into a mechanized hive mind. But I think Anhaldt doesn't really take full form except in light of David Brin's The Postman. My first thought for him was as the harried administrator of a fragment of the Unity computer core that his faction used to make all its decisions. These were going to be people so doubtful of their own capacity that they wanted to be told what to do. Except that people weren't to be trusted, so they were turning over every important decision to the great calculator. To make matters worse, only Anhaldt knew that the computer was inoperable, like Cyclops of Corvallis.

Gradually, I hung some new concepts on this same peg. I came up with a neat-sounding name, the Children of the Atom, and decided that they would have an unusual affinity for nuclear power, although it didn't fit with any other aspect of their identity. This was OK. I thought the Nautilus Pirates of the Crossfire expansion committed a worse sin, having a neat gimmick without a coherent ideology to go along with it, however good or bad a fit.

Digging down to a deeper layer of detail, it's possible that Anhaldt thinks nuclear power is a game-changer on par with AI. Could he believe we are outrunning both an energy and a problem-solving choke point in our world-historical development, necessitating that we embrace both advances immediately?

Anhaldt is a deliberate mirror to Zakharov, insisting that traditional social values should be placed ahead of technocratic ones. In Zakharov's view, society should "follow the science" to a self-evidently better tomorrow, while in Anhaldt's, science should be led by the needs and preferences of its human masters. Zakharov is in the vanguard; Anhaldt is a servant.

To be sure, both men worked hard to "sell" their science to a skeptical populace. Anhaldt was much better at it, mostly because he finds it less necessary to belittle others.

In his first appearance in this essay, Anhaldt is given the appellation Mediator, whereas I later experimented with Programmer. His title is currently Plotter, indicating that he is a mere functionary of whatever machine is generating output in his capital, Colonia Secundus, today.

The Children sell their services as a latter-day oracle, harnessing the unprecedented computing power at their disposal to solve complex problems on behalf of other factions. We can assume these problems relate to the mapping of the prediction of the weather, mindworm activity, and diplomatic or combat results.

Anhaldt has ties to the American Reclamation Corporation as well as Comprehensive Transport, an American mega-corporation that holds the franchise on supply runs to the Outer Planets. In his faction leader profile, I detail a history of serving as an advocate for atomic energy that gives him perhaps too much the same flavor as Zakharov.

I've never fully fleshed out Anhaldt's value system, so let's try to do that right here.

What is the fundamental truth of the universe? Humanity finally produced an intellect superior to itself. It would be an act of mass suicide were we to try to organize our affairs without it.

Why did civilization on Earth fail? Our civilization generated problems that humans themselves could no longer solve.

What is needed for the survival of our species on Chiron? To harness the full potential of artificial intelligence.

These answers are accurate, but it becomes difficult to part Anhaldt from Zakharov. That could be inevitable as one makes more factions.

Maybe Anhaldt feels that scientists like Zakharov misled humanity. Whereas Zakharov lays the blame for Earth's misery on popular resistance to science, Anhaldt might throw that back in his face: experts tried too hard to deny "regular people" the right to make their own choices. This is rich, of course, coming from someone who earned the reputation of paid shill for the Axis Atomical Corporation, but it's true to the kind of person we known Zakharov is. With the slight change of Anhaldt's answer to question #2, "People were asked to follow science rather than to guide it," his answer to #3 takes on a new light. Would Anhaldt say he is still the master of his own fate because he chooses to trust in machines, whereas Zakharov is the blind follower?

I feel as if there has always been this idea in the story that the computer outran Anhaldt, but there could be some value to creating a character that is constitutionally unable to arrive at that conclusion. Someone who thinks the child, though he can perhaps be of very great service to the father in his great age, could never exceed him.

James Cromwell is Dr. Johann Anhaldt. The still is from Succession.
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