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

San Francisco, CA at twilight, September 2070. Golden Gate Park and much of the surface area of the city's eponymous bay have vanished beneath urban sprawl.[/CENTER]

Chiron, too, faced a population boom a hundred years after the first human colonists arrived. The first generation clung timidly to their Landing Pods. Many survivors refused to quarter in pressure tents for fear of catastrophe. Raids were many, and most militias pitifully small and unreliable. To reduce strain on life support systems, the first free-standing structures were cramped. Colonists competed for space with failsafe devices, such as zipper-locked partitions, and the bio-hazard bags used to store their equipment.

In time, perceptions of the planet's habitability changed. Led by ex-spacers among the early colonists and unburdened by memories of easier lifestyles on the near-fictional paradise world of Old Earth, young people carved out private spaces wherever it was possible to do so: in vehicle cockpits, storage containers, and in the old survival shelters rejected by their elders. This boom resembled what had been seen before during every time of plenty and peace from time immemorial. Settlers came up against walls and ignored them, discounting threats that had once made them prisoners behind their own defenses. If Base Operations would not serve them, they ran drop lines to power, network, and oxygen conduits--placing their claims on "the common resources" that Planetary Governor Pravin Lal assured them they could not be rightly denied.

Commander Zorion Lekubarri, a native Basque, in his Spanish naval uniform, an impressively-complicated piece of smart clothing typical of materials issued to Unity bridge officers.[/CENTER]

The topmost element worn on the right breast is a datalinks adapter for personal storage with a capacity of one high-density 25MB tape. The element just below is a dosimeter.

At the left breast, from top, are digital nameplate (color-coded to ship's emergency operations status), personal security credentials, and push-to-talk shipboard radio transceiver.

The large patch on the right arm controlled various medical features of the garment and was designed to be removable. Silver medication ampules, ready for remote injection, are visible at the right upper arm and along the placket.

First image is "San Francisco 2077" by Kxmode on DeviantArt.

Second image is "Chariss Pikeman" by gingerbreadman84 on DeviantArt.

A University hopper wildcats in the Garland Crater, hunting radiologicals. Faction leadership conducted such missions without the review or approval of the Academician, who referred all such matters to his mercenary commanders. Why else, after all, did he pay them? In this instance, a colonel of the Red Leaf Lancers correctly anticipated that any Data Angels threat response would be slowed due to competition within the faction's notoriously fractured officer corps.

Orbiting Uranus, Station Cole, named for the popular two-term American president who retired from public life in 2004, hosted the farthest permanent human presence in the Sol System until 2062. Experiments performed here furnished patterns for many of Unity's key systems, including: laser communications arrays, synthetic aperture radars, radar altimeters, solar greenhouses, water reclamation filters, and spin-gravity medical bays.

The station experienced a minor crisis in 2030 when, after taking aboard the surviving crew of a damaged Indian resupply tug, some of the Cole's supposedly demilitarized crew were discovered to be members of the U.S. Marine Corps.

The clutchrunner evolved to secret its larvae in the muck of Planet's nitrate beds. Scrambling on four legs, adult specimens were approximately as large as a regulation rugby ball. Prominent features included chitinous spinal plating and a four-bulbed heat-sensing organ facing the direction of travel. Clutchrunner metabolism was based entirely on heat absorption. Human settlement swiftly obliterated all known populations, as they gave up breeding to cluster at energy cables and cooling vents where they were swiftly dispatched as pests.

First image is "Landing on a Distant Moon (AI)" by Dolphin Riders on DeviantArt.

Second image is "Space station Uranius" by GabiMedia on DeviantArt.

Monroe "Eagle" Cole, a character in the film "Welcome to Mooseport" (2004) was the last role played by actor Gene Hackman before his retirement.

Third image is "Grand Space Opera: Light Age Artstation Props Challenge" by Chien Jarvis on ArtStation.

The whale preceded the cow, sheep, pig, and chicken to the mess halls and cafeterias of Planet, joining more familiar grain and vegetable staples such as corn, squash, rice, barley, and beans.

Straightforward procedures carried out in the relatively primitive laboratory spaces aboard
Unity landing pods sufficed to edit the genetic material of bowhead whale (Balaena mysticetus) embryos so that the animal might take to Chiron's deep waters.

Within a few short years, fleets of seafoils were harvesting more than 120,000 adult specimens each megacycle. This Hunter mothership departs through the ice gate at Admiralty Bay after a successful sale to University provisioners.

Sanctioned alcohols were served at the New Jerusalem Longhouse, but only to out-factioners.

Fungal beer's distressing odor and notoriously off-putting mouthfeel convinced many colonists to pursue only "the traditional can."

Mombassas, Tsingtaos, American Kings, Ice Choppers, Yompers' Best Bitter, and Titans were hoarded and savored. Beers were a staple of community life in Tribal strongholds, Hunter clutches, and on Pilgrim spreads. Morganite bosses guaranteed a quota of pints for every drone. Drinking alcohols were restricted to upper castes in
L'etat nouvelle, but every ship's captain was expected to provide a supply of spirits for their crew.

Gaians strained "the Strong" over ground xenofungus, yielding the most-potent of Planet's signature beverages. Colonists in every faction pooled expertise, equipment, and time to brew weak mushroom beers that vied for popularity with re-hydrated coffees and teas.

This thirst for the familiar had its darker side. Pilgrim homesteads, considered inviolate even to the Governor, were firmly under "knout and lout." This formulation, popularized in by a nameless Gaian poet, so much reflected the truth that Oscar van de Graaf eventually humbled himself even before Sister Godwinson, pleading that she send spiritual balms to tame the wildness in his people.

Inside the University, heavy drinking was the accepted prelude to any meaningful push for students' rights. Some Data Angels insisted that they did their best coding while inebriated. In the Spartan camp, Holnists threatened mutiny after attempts to regulate their consumption of liquors.

A citizen of the Cybernetic Consciousness has entered the peculiar trance that accompanies a transmission of energy without intelligible information, or... lunch.

The currents of certain hungers could be calmed only by consumption of a new kind of input: electrical energy, drawn from sockets to replenish biomechanical systems. Flavor and texture were irrelevant. Discriminating consumers sought guarantees of heat, voltage, amperage, and load reliability.

First image is from Avatar: The Way of Water (2022).

The first time I heard coffee referred to as "the Strong" was in the Scratch and Burn ditty "Sips from the Strong," a pardoy of Cypress Hill's "Hits from the Bong."

Second image is "Shahbod Hotel-Bar Design" by Gabriel Jiménez on ArtStation.

Third image is AI art, titled "Anime," created by Dmitriy Vilkov on

Zeboin [Zay-bo-inn] (born Aariz Mohiuddin, 2053-MY14) was a mercenary, adventurer, explorer, bodyguard, and courtier retained in the service of Sister Miriam Godwinson. A frequent collaborator of Conclavist expedition leader Major Vinchenson Parke, Zeboin joined Parke on all of his major undertakings and led the successful recovery of Parke's body after the latter's death from a fall while ascending Mount Iapetus in MY12.

The son of IOEZ cargo cultists, Zeboin traveled with his parents to the Shamashi mainland during infancy for a consideration of fishing equipment granted by the Commissioners of Seneref in Khasar. Rather than return with the gift to their clan, Parke's parents instead swore their allegiance to the Commission, signing away communal fishing rights to which they did not have exclusive claim. [1] (An uncle would later stab Zeboin's father to death in retaliation for the betrayal.)

Zeboin received the public education guaranteed to all Khasari residents. According to local custom, he was given a mononym at age 7. He chose the name of an obscure king of Judah in a nod to his mother's people, who were St. Thomas Christians. [2] His background made him a favorite target of bullies, and there were frequent fights. In later life, he covered the scar from a knife wound inflicted by a classmate with a prominent facial tattoo.

Disinclined toward formal education, Zeboin worked briefly as a commercial fisherman with the Seneref winter fleet, then as a local pilot guiding anti-piracy patrols. Here, he showed much élan as a member of boarding parties. The Dutch next hired him in West New Guinea for their infamous Veldpolitie, in which capacity he fought Indonesian patrols and, sometimes, the native tribes of the jungle interior. His willingness to "shoot it out" with the Indonesian Navy contrasted with an outspoken distaste for colonial policing. With the consent of his superiors, Zeboin attempted to uphold the self-imposed isolation of the indigenous tribes and did not retaliate automatically in their "internal affairs," which included, at times, traditional headhunting. Zeboin was known to be a generous giver of gifts and comfortable enough to eat the foods offered to him by the natives, including spiders and grasshoppers. [3]

He was regarded a natural leader among his fellow mercenaries, respected for his self-possession, and rapidly earned promotion to sergeant. Later, he came down to Port Moresby to accept Australian dollars for the same work. In a series of reports filed by colonial officers (usually disinclined to be generous toward IOEZ men), all found Zeboin to be indispensable. One commanding officer recorded that he was, "Superlative in courage and skill." Another rated Zeboin as, "Fit in all senses. Firm. Possessing excellent judgement." Zeboin frequently overcame serious calamities on patrol, from bouts of tropical sickness that put all members in mortal jeopardy, to incoming tsunamis.

On the recommendation of his superiors, Zeboin worked two years with the Australian Antarctic Patrol, but found that even skirmishing among the barren ice floes favored professional soldiers with extensive technical training and equipment well beyond the mercenary standard. There was other work for the hired guns: as stretcher-bearers, mountaineers, and pathfinders scouting WARPAC positions and picking out tracks for armored vehicles to follow. After a difficult acculturation to the cold and arid climate, Zeboin took these lessons to heart but declined to renew his contract.

Rumors of fresh opportunity lured Zeboin to Bolivia in 2061. Crossing the Andes the following year, he was among 1,400 mercenaries retained by the Bolivian government to supplement their National Guard during a campaign to prevent foraging raids by Morganite mercenaries from bases in the former Acre state. Zeboin earned legendary status among his comrades when he braved enemy fire to reach a Portuguese fire base so that they and the Bolivians could coordinate a counterattack.

After the Callao Accords, Zeboin found work with American Christians doing mission work in the Amazon Sea, assisting them with boat operations and medical rescue. Though not himself religiously inclined, Zeboin came to admire his customers, many of whom died miserable and far from home in the service of others. By 2068, Zeboin had built an international reputation, and it was then that J.T. Marsh named the IOEZ mercenary to his reserve list.

Incapacitated by smoke inhalation, Zeboin was evacuated from Unity by Conclavists soon after waking. Upon recovery, he was appointed to the Kritarch's personal life guard. Unlike others in her circle, he was outspokenly critical of Miriam's early aggressions even while giving the raiders their basic instruction, a point that seems to have worked in his favor.

While Zeboin accepted that Miriam's faith was what impelled her to do good on behalf of others, he did not feel that such belief would benefit those who were otherwise possessed of a stable philosophy. Throughout his life, Zeboin remained a nonbeliever, though a quiet one. He was careful to describe Godwinson's resurrection (at which he had not been present) as "a medical miracle"--one that, although beyond his explanatory powers, was not necessarily empirically unexplainable. Miriam consulted with Zeboin often as a proxy for the large number of "religiously fallow" persons among her flock.

Zeboin was a close friend and collaborator with famed Antarctic Vinchenson Parke, whom he had never met before landing on Chiron. Zeboin planned for the physical security of Parke's Naming Expeditions and was often an appointed leader when Parke passed through disputed territories. Zeboin lost two toes to frostbite during the same climb that killed Parke. The two were well-known among the Hunters of Chiron, from whom they often successfully solicited friendly assistance in the form of rations, advice, and even transport. (Unbeknownst to both men, Miriam's disregard for political boundaries in ministry and exploration was consistent with Marsh's personal objective of preventing the development of effective barriers to his ranging operations.) Parke's expeditions were so consistent, it was an accepted convention among the Hunters that participants in the Peregrenation were entitled to call upon the Conclavist camps if low on fuel or supplies during their final run back to the High Hide.

Zeboin was mortally wounded during an explosion caused by an Ascendancy Probe Team at the Orchard in MY14. The Kritach's protective detail, trained by him, did evacuate her to safety. Subsequent analysis of the incident by computer systems of the Digital Oracle indicated that she was not the target, however. The Probe Team responsible for Zeboin's death was recorded taking tissue samples from his arm before shooting him in the head.

[1] Such legal fictions were a commonplace in the IOEZ. Unscrupulous actors exploited the lack of strong anthropological knowledge in U.N. and neo-colonial Admiralty Courts to press claims on resources belonging to displaced peoples. This was made easier by the prevalence of "big man" politics within the non-governmental, non-corporate resident population, which often drafted wealthy or otherwise powerful individuals to make binding agreements for the whole community in the expectation that material and other benefits would then be broadly distributed.

[2] Zeboin was the successor to King Amaziah, a leper, ruling for a period of less than one year.

[3] On the Korowai tribe of New Guinea, which practices headhunting to this day, see: Paul Raffaele, "Sleeping with Cannibals," Smithsonian Magazine [online], September 2006,

Image is "Silvaquirrrino like a soldier soldier cat warrior in world war 1, close-up, realistic face, sharp facial features, facial features, black and white, amazing digital art, hyperdetailed, art station, in the style of tony sart" in Lexica Aperture v2 on
Last weekend, inspired by the YouTube channel Useful Charts, I began tracing the relationships between the different RtD characters, with a focus on the major faction leaders. My hope was that the exercise would generate something meaningful to say about each one. While the chart itself is in no condition yet for sharing, some useful insights begin to emerge.

Plotting the relationships between faction leaders is a goal that extends back as far as 2014 when players in a forum-based megagame set in the RtD universe began asking for backstory to help them decide how their respective factions would likely interact after Planetfall.

I put Captain Jonathan Garland, now deceased, at the top of the chart. Later, I realized that some of the political and philosophical leaders like Apsara Mongkut and Jean-Baptiste Keller could be moved into a kind of plot firmament, above even the sainted Garland.

Garland's Executive Officer was Portuguese General Francisco d'Almeida, also lost during the Unity Crisis. All the senior officers reported up to Garland through d'Almeida, who was no fan of his new master.

Unity's Third Officer was future academician Prokhor Zakharov, then a Senior Commander and Chief Science Officer. Zakharov's command encompassed several subordinate divisions. These included: the Atomic Energy Laboratory overseen by Mission Area Director Johann Anhaldt, a Swiss mathematician that had sometimes operated as Zakharov's foil in academic discussions about the role of science in public policy during the 2060s; the Data Services Division, overseen by Lieutenant Commander Tạ Dọc Thân. Once Planetside, Zakharov's governance would quickly alienate two other notable characters: Australian-trained Kä naval commander Master Malakai Ro, who had cut her teeth hunting pirates in the Indian Ocean Exclusion Zone, and Genetic Sciences Division director Tamineh Pahlavi, an Iranian biomedical researcher previously employed by the American Reclamation Corporation. Zakharov's only other noteworthy relationship was with Lieutenant Commander Deirdre Skye, Scottish Director of the mission's Life Sciences Division, whose appointment he had opposed on grounds that her work was "amateurish" and "emotional." Zakharov preferred Pahlavi, whom he had never met, but with whose policy advocacy he sympathized, being himself an outspoken technological instrumentalist.

Zakharov was an inconsistent manager, leaving the flashy Than to conduct his own affairs while intervening often in Anhaldt's optimizing of the ship's reactors, a topic on which he was eminently qualified to make himself a royal nuisance.

Other direct reports to d'Almeida included French Contre-amiral Raoul André St. Germaine, Chief of the Aquatic Operations Section; [French-]Canadian loyalist General Marcel Salan of the United Nations Marine Corps; and Chief of the Air Operations Section, the West German commander, Kleisel Mercator.

D'Almeida's other "directs" included Chief Medical Officer Commander Pravin Lal and the expedition's Master-at-Arms and head of security, Commander Rachael Winzenreid, another product of Switzerland. Winzenreid pleased no one. Her background in civilian law enforcement (she was a former Commandant of the Swiss Federal Office of Police) elicited no confidence from military man d'Almeida, while a pronounced pessimism alienated her from Garland, well-known for his diplomatic approach to conflict resolution.

Winzenreid had supervisory authority over a number of important operations, including those of Indian Brigadier Sardul Singh's Corrections Services unit and Head Game Warden Jeremy Tanner Marsh's Forward Contact Team. Winzenreid was also the responsible officer for political affairs: Sub-commander Sheng-ji Yang and other political officers foisted on the mission by authoritarian regimes answered to Brigadier Singh. Somewhere deep down in Winzenreid's organization chart lurked a Sergeant, Corazón Santiago, respected for her calm professionalism.

Lal had his own supervisory pyramid. Pahlavi, Skye, the mission's Director of Psych Services Sister Miriam Godwinson, and Dr. Aleigha Cohen, Anglo-Burmese Chief of Neurosurgery. Both were warrant officers. Lal had a positive working relationship with all four, dealing primarily with Godwinson, Pahlavi, and Cohen as related to the problems of patient management during cold sleep. His interaction with Skye was more limited due to her involvement in matters outside his field of expertise.

Santiago knew none of the other leaders, but she did have first-hand experience fighting both against and alongside the private military contractors of the American Reclamation Corporation, once led by Proprieter Oscar van de Graaf. Van de Graaf incidentally blamed the world's richest man, CEO Nwabudike Morgan, for many of his misfortunes prior to entering government. Morgan had also had working knowledge of Marsh's past: both had run guns for the Biafran cause around the same time.

Van de Graaf had also previously employed Pahlavi and, on occasion, provided armed escort for Godwinson's embassies to secessionist leadership. Van de Graaf was mortally opposed to another stowaway, Pete Landers.

More to come. I started with my own creations, mostly, because of familiarity, but I'll eventually map the full range of characters associated with RtD.

Pholus looms at perigee, providing the light by which this Pilgrim get will sink a mine shaft in search of radiologicals. It was customary for the faction’s larger property owners to contribute machinery like this drilling rig and its service tug to such endeavors, even when performed by the smallest freeholders—both for a share of the output, and to promote general expansion and good feeling. Never were neighbors more in need than among the settlers of Chiron.

Scenes such as this one belie the limitations imposed by the faction’s overriding values. Pilgrims resented central planning, and the benefits of large-scale organization therefore often eluded them.

[size=16pt]Social Engineering[/size]
An additional option for factions with the Industrial Automation and Chironian Landshaping techs and Mercantalistic, Planned, Command, or Post-Scarcity economics.

A specialist in the strategic deployment and effective use of heavy assets--Formers, Crawlers, and Rigs—for terraformation and resource collection. This profession, housed within Base Operations, combines the skills of agricultural and industrial engineer, forester, mining geologist, hydrologist, climatologist, foreman, fleet coordinator, and project planner. Sometimes called “industrial choreographers,” Controllers are the next step beyond the Road Crews of the Forward Contact Teams that served the First Generations: they decide where, how, and under what circumstances land will be worked, and with what resources. For the cost of +2 POLLUTION within a base’s radius, 2 Energy, and 1 Water per season, a Controller will increase the movement allowance of all supported ‘Formers, Crawlers, and Rigs by 1 and improve the yield of each square by 150%, rounding up.

A History of Fleet Control
Though unfamiliar with local conditions, the original mission survivors were well-positioned to eek out more than a mean existence. On average, crew members possessed nine years of advanced education and mission training. Cooperation-era mainline colonists (those recruited prior to the global Holnist Crisis) had seven. For Charterists, that number jumped to sixteen. Members of operations divisions had worked together in simulators for tens of thousands of hours each. Even the least-fortunate among the largest factions possessed dozens of city block-sized earthmovers and the benefit of support from J.T. Marsh’s 750-strong battalion of pioneers.

This expertise was difficult to reproduce on Chiron. Although native-borns found it far easier than Old Earthers to adhere to the routine inconveniences and basic physiological demands of life on an oxygen-deficient, high-gravity world, they had to be taught skills without the benefit of an educational and technological infrastructure equal to the task. A premium of clean spaces, precision tools, reagent, and large laboratories slowed the preparation of scientists and technicians who could provide meaningful insights about the physical world at their fingertips. Work in the field or in support of land use had to be balanced against work on base fundamentals: water sampling, sewage analysis, and air monitoring had higher priorities than mineral assays. The intensive survival training required for Road Crew replacements was also prized by faction militias; promising candidates were frequently hazarded on both assignments.

Then too, fleets were small. The ambitions of Chironian terraforming were Herculean, but some First Generation supervisors had experience in post-atomic environments directing the movements of millions of workers with tens or even hundreds of thousands of individual vehicles. Few factions recovered simulators, and most burned out quickly from hard use. The new generation could not train as their forefathers had. Nor were they often allowed. Fearful of losing their much smaller quantities of equipment to training accidents and lacking the industrial base to immediately replace out-of-service units, many factions kept the proven pilots from their original field crews at work past the age of eighty, reposing more faith in longevity treatments than apprenticeships. Factions flush with population responded to the shortage of trained crews by sending drones to dig alongside power shovels.

Interlink education had been well-respected on Old Earth, but few factions struck a good balance of investment between performing the work of today and preparing for the work of tomorrow. A student in the classroom or observing from a copilot’s couch contributed nothing immediately valuable to her society—less than did the drone unfouling treads five stories below.

Controllers were an innovation of the Chironian Renaissance, part of the flowering of the second mission century made possible by inter-factional exchanges of ideas, technology, and resources as well as the guarantee of safety delivered by increasingly competent militaries and achieved through clarity of borders. A Controller represented a huge investment of time, energy, and trust in interdisciplinary education and the promise of central planning.

Controllers also differed from Road Crews in a crucial way: they moved decision-making from the cockpit to the control tower. The Controller was a mathematical type. Road Crews—usually long-dead by the Controller’s time—would have reviled him as a Poindexter whose education had made him arrogant without making him wise. But the Road Crews were not of the same system: their billet was crafted with the idea of supporting a tailor-made economy in a complete wilderness setting. They were one part roughneck, two parts ranger, working to a five-year plan. Road Crews adapted after the Unity Crisis, of course, but filled a niche that was profoundly tactical. They could see a task, or a particular work group, through trouble. Controllers were vested with much greater responsibility and from the onset of their role faced an expectation to demonstrate strategic vision beyond what was set by the U.N. mission planners. By the Controller’s day, danger arose more from misuse than misadventure.

First image is “Space Work” by iamrudja, created using AI tools, found on DeviantArt.

Second image is General Carlist Rieekan from The Empire Strikes Back.

The ironically-named Data Flows, a Peacekeeper base built over the Pools of Polyxo.

Ex-ruler of Gath, Vesper Abaddon, spent the final years of his life convalescing in this location while organizing the faction's archives. This unusual intranet, Lal called "my curative to the carelessness of Sathieu Metrion," whose approach to the telling the story of Old Earth's diplomatic history was simply to "dump" the files without any attempt at providing context.

It was too much for the Commissioner, who feared that release of the previously-classified revelations "untempered by robust liberal arts education" would ignite old national enmities and thwart, thereby, the project of mission reunification. Not for the first time, the Annunciator branded Lal a hypocrite, but heeded a MY51 directive from the Planetary Council to reserve the tranche of documents pending further deliberations.

A Believer hot jumper, the leads of his parachute still attached, prepares with his laser pistol to defend a salvage claim.

Both the collection, and therefore also the defense, of wreckage were important--sometimes critical--activities for the First Generations. Failed settlements and battlefield detritus were valuable sources of nutrients, water, equipment, medicines, minerals, and information or even slaves.

Many factions embodied special forces to carry out this most dangerous work. Standard tactical thinking called for rapid insertion of light infantry to hold valuable ground until relief could arrive. Ideally, this was to be accomplished by drop pod or jetpack if possible, but most factions made do with hoppers reworked as gunships and retrorocket-equipped parachutes. Casualty rates were atrocious.

Conclavists and Spartans prided themselves in that their salvage teams were all-volunteer, but the reasons seemed obvious to Santiago, who remarked on this in her Battle Manual: courage comes easier on an empty stomach.

The best target is one that inspires no sympathy. On an ill-fated raid, Dreamer infantry, armed only with hand weapons, are pinned by counter-attacking squads of Hive Security. Worse, the defenders have the high ground.

Poor results hardly deterred the Factor. Hives were unusually appealing to the Dreamers: Yang's people were many but had no reputation as fighters; there was very low risk of defection by the attackers themselves since the nerve staple would greet any surrender; and the unsentimental Chairman was always quick to overlook past abuse in the interest of future cooperation.

First image is "Other world (49)" by ElneReel, created using AI tools, found on DeviantArt.

Second image is "The Last Breathing Create on the Planet" by iamrudja, found on DeviantArt.

Third image is "5-A" by IvanKhomenko on DeviantArt. This piece is marked as "Concept for Outrise project."

Persephone, the City Borrowed, where Morganite ambitions clashed with ecoimmunilogical fern growth. When analysis at the University confirmed evidence of Terran gene lines in "those incorrigible weeds," the CEO immediately renewed vendetta against the old Gaian enemy.

A Hunter Cargo Foil of the Scalawag Lodge risks all to attempt trade contact with vigilant Tribal reefers. Anthropomorphic climate change ignited a revolution in sustainable settlement that echoed loud on Planet: rig construction, storm resilience, and micro-economies were all robustly familiar to the children of Earth--to the point that even the Kellerites got their hands on technicians skilled in those fields.

What began as an attempt at self-isolation gradually became a justification for renewed interest in the world beyond. Suddenly, the Kellerites found they had a significant stake in problems such as dumping, over-fishing, and planetary warming.

Humans continued to build fires even without any identifiable physical requirement for doing so. The Uranium Flats were well known to be free of Mindworm activity, but the psychological allure of the flames has tempted these Believers to gather around the light of vestigial flames.

First image is "The Neon Jungle" by iamrudha on DeviantArt. Created using AI tools.

Second image is "Outpost" by Chains-of-Villany on DeviantArt.

Third image is "Camping On the Moon" by Stulti on DeviantArt.
Datalinks said:
A Hive without pollen is no place for bees. - Saying of the Free Drones

All factions were prone to what Chinese Communist teaching had called "splittism"--countervailing modes of thought that resulted in defections, resistance, and general malcontent. The threat was most pronounced among Drones, the least-skilled, and least-valued valued, members of each society. Loyalty was preferable, subordination essential.

One obvious mechanism to achieve the latter was main force. The real purpose of Safe Haven and the Sabre Corporation were plain. Fear of physical retaliation flavored every discussion of serious political opposition even among the Peacekeeping Forces. Purist leaders were certain that Dr. Lal's decision to convert rather than punish the faction's Spartan prisoners--guilty of "plain murder" against their fellow crew--was taken only after they had pledged to act against his enemies.

Another option was discrimination. As late as 2040, the household of King Silas Benjamin of Shiloh included twenty-six servants who accepted chemical sterilization as the price of physical access to the person of the ruler and his immediate family. Silas believed the practice added to the majesty of his court as a lurid expression of his raw power over fate. He was also known to be deeply suspicious of competition from other political dynasties of comparable standing. Sterile servants were considered less likely to form independent familial attachments and lacked the cultural prerequisites to govern themselves.

Shakalo, an usher of the Surn Palace and a chemical eunuch, property belonging to the House of Benjamin.

Fear of competition from superior specimens wasn't confined to archaic monarchies. On seven separate occasions throguhout the twenty-first century, the United States Supreme Court repeatedly upheld executive orders barring cybernetic augments from filling sensitive positions in government on grounds that they were open to exploitation through phreaking (the hijacking of the phone lines delivering Internet service). Unity colonists carried popular prejudice against cyborgs to Chiron. Hivemen executed captured cyborgs as potential security risks rather than hold them as slaves. The Ascendancy carefully screened potential donors of genetic material for evidence of mechanical modification. Attitudes were warmer among factions most interested in the use of computers or the study of the mind. Cyborgs were a commonplace in the University, among the Dreamers, and with the Oracle and the Tomorrow Initiative.

Cyborgs lived under constant threat of tampering. Many factions introduced compulsory changes to code as a consequence for "misperformances" ranging from technical failures in the performance of assigned tasks to the expression of disfavored opinions. Commissioner Pravin Lal devoted much of his second term as Planetary Governor to outlawing a practice he recognized as "pure thought control," attracting strident support from a rehabilitated Corazón Santiago and Sister Miriam Godwinson, a position for which she paid dearly among her own people.

A University Overseer prepares corrective tape to modify the behavior of a cyborg that is thought to be "misordered."

Roshann Cobb promoted Somnacin and Stim abuse among his followers and exploited resulting addictions to preserve his vulnerable leadership. Sheng-ji Yang taught disciples to manipulate the nutrient value of rations as a corrective to brewing trouble: a weakened resistance would soon collapse. Morganite and Pilgrim proprietors dispensed heavy rations of fungal beer to dull the political instincts of their largely servile workforces.

Obedience was the default option on a world where survival often meant access to opportunities and resources held in a common trust and doled out according to the whims of a capricious ruling class chosen on the basis of political conformity. Assignment of defective equipment or high-risk jobs was as good as a death sentence.

First image is "One Security Committee Member" by Floriane Tiam on ArtStation.

Second image is from Space: 1999.

Third image is "SPICE MINER" by Keith Christensen on ArtStation.

Lazarus Beds like this one in Tamineh Pahlavi's private residence at the Tower of Tithonus were required to administer the second half of the treatment colloquially known as Longevity Vaccine: comprehensive blood purification to correct for abnormalities caused by unpredictable gene activation. The necessity to receive monthly treatments from one of two unreliable sources--Pahlavi or Cohen--dramatically altered the strategic landscape of Chiron, allowing both factions to antagonize their neighbors far beyond the limits that might otherwise be tolerated.

Talis Sørensen, seen here in the uniform of a Gathi Federal Air Force ensign, became aide-de-camp to Kleisel Mercator. In her diary, Sørensen described her superior as one for whom lying had become the acceptable price of leadership. "Each time," she wrote, "appears to be easier than the last." There is no evidence Sørensen assessed her own part in Mercator's exploitation of his followers' anxieties. As a Major in MY21, her service code was tied to the deletion of hundreds of faction datalinks BBS posts describing encounters with unidentified flying objects.

Political leadership on Chiron was concentrated in the hands of elders. This dynamic could be explained partly by survivors' respect for the original chain of command, but it also reflected the enduring effects of celebrity. Soviet citizens of the later twenty-first century had been taught to venerate Dr. Prokhor Zakharov as the national hero who had preserved their international relevance. Westerners knew him as the arch-villain of the Space Race. Nwabudike Morgan was rich and self-important enough to have involved himself in the wars of two hemispheres, trying and failing to unmake a superpower. Newspapers presented him as the man pulling the strings of governors and potentates themselves responsible for profound historic tragedy--including detonation of nuclear weapons on their own soil. In a ten-year retrospective on the Second American Civil War, The New York Times could not help observing that "The price for accepting Morgan's backing had been a stark choice between suicide and lethal injection. When his gamble failed, he recalled those Praetorians he did not abandon, and left his many clients to their fates." Another iconoclast, Aleigha Cohen, was at the center of classroom debates on scientific ethics and criminal justice. The theories of government put forth by futurist mathematician Johann Anhaldt were so controversial that mobs in Paris, Lyon, and Marseille had killed to reject them. Before awarding him a medal, Japanese Prime Minister Watanaka Obi praised Shoichiro Nagao as the man most-suited to preserving Terrestrial life elsewhere in the universe--an assessment that galled the ardent partisans of Lady Deirdre Skye, whose remit aboard Unity was just that.

Commander Dilyéhé Etsiddy, was chief of industrial safety. Etisddy had been a longtime resident of the sovereign lunar territory granted to the Navajo Nation by the United States Government in 2050 in recognition of the tribe's support against the Arizona and New Mexico secessionist movements and was recommended to the United Nations by the Chief Executive Officer of Comprehensive Transport himself.

Industrial Safety personnel were issued Soviet-manufactured space suits constructed from hardier materials than mission-standard since it was believed that their normal course of duty might occasion short space walks and encounters with fire or corrosives. The machinery seen on Etsiddy's torso includes a camera (right top lens), Geiger counter (left top lens), and chemistry analyzer (bottom port).

Etsiddy oversaw loading operations at the Lunar Cradle and had first-hand knowledge of Unity's structural weaknesses. From this perspective, she provided some of the most impactful information used by Executive Officer Francisco d'Almeida to make immediate decisions about where to dispatch damage control teams.

She was sought after unsuccessfully by ARC "intervention teams," who shot several of her subordinates in their pursuit before losing her in the vast cargo bays amidships, where she hid in one of the redundant spaces she had identified prior to launch. Etsiddy eventually cast her lot with Shoichiro Nagao, becoming a leader of his road crews.

First image is "space Lazareth#04" by illbein on DeviantArt. Created using AI tools. The name of the device is also inspired by the title of the work.

Second image is "Naval officer" by Abbylikestopaint on DeviantArt.

Third image is "a beautiful female astronaut inside an cyclopean horrifying alien spacecraft in the style of Vermeer," by Ian Clarke on

Helium-3 storage site in Nyala, Darfur. Stations like these linked the breakaway province to an interstellar economy but only further complicated the centuries-old conflict between the region's settled farmers and itinerant herders.
After fifty years of humiliating failures, the United Nations contracted local security to Sunlumo, a subsidiary of Morgan Metallurgy Worldwide, in 2038. A media blitz made Darfur's independence the cause célèbre of the 2040s, and organizers sent from N'Djamina helped local Fur whip votes in favor of home rule, rather than bitter subordination to incompetent juntas in faraway Juba or Khartoum. Soon after, Morganite survey teams began to tap the region's first viable helium-3 deposits.
Tempted by avarice, the Sudanese Republic attempted two failed invasions in the 2050s. Both times the pro-American government in Khartoum collapsed, calling into question the value of Washington's friendship, especially by comparison with the Soviet Union, which was successfully assisting neighboring Ethiopia to subjugate its own restive peripheries. In 2061, a failed palace coup in Juba prompted clients of Morgan Industries to flee across South Sudan's shared border with Darfur. The South Sudanese Army followed, and with justice as its pretext, advanced as far as Al Fashir before Soviet diplomats could broker a stand-down.

Most Sudanese who went with Unity were involved in what Sudanist Martin de Johng called "the Three Miseries:" helium-3 extraction and transportation, humanitarian services, and arid agriculture. Respect for the potent reputation of Soviet learning drew many ex-Sudanese into the faculty of the University. Sheng-ji Yang kidnapped dozens of Sudanese farmers and hydrologists from Arean Tromp's Agriculture Division as a prelude to his landing among the Great Dunes.

General Gu Umkeda of the Neo-Spartan Nuclei in protest regalia worn at the Seventh Planetary Council. Spartan delegates won strong sympathy for their willingness to point out the manner in which attempts at conciliatory diplomacy papered over serious breaches of ethical performance.[/CENTER]

Umkeda was born on January 1, 1999. By his fortieth birthday, he was effectively stateless, joining the four percent of the global population living under what the French called "Gouvernement des Brigades," or government by criminal syndicates. The problem was most acute in the Mediterranean Basin, especially in Italy, Greece, Corsica, and Cyprus, where criminal gangs supplanted weak civil governments in patronage arrangements that had all the hallmarks of feudalism. Similar arrangements were obserable in West Africa, Ecuador, and, periodically, Siberia, and wartime North America.

The pipeline from victim to collaborator to perpetrator was well-tread. After failing as a pickpocket, Umkeda was compelled to learn something about computers. At the age of twenty, he was part of a network of operatives diverting surplus U.N. materials away from the Unity project. It was in this connection that he encountered the first standard bearers of the Spartan philosophy--tailor-made for Left-Behinds who had little else but the solemn pride of the survivor.

Umkeda was a junior leader of one of the first Spartan expeditions to depart Xerxion in the earliest days of the faction's losing struggle against the Human Tribe. His influence later proved the deciding factor behind Santiago's post-defeat recovery.

Commercial passenger service on the Aral Sea.[/CENTER]

Soviet investment in ground-effect technology paid large dividends as sea levels rose. The legacy of scientists like Rostislav Alexeyev and Robert Bartini lived on in the design of Unity Foils, equally well-suited for travel over ocean and marsh.

First image is "Forsaken Terraforming Stations on Bad Sector" by CodexBoderlining on DeviantArt. Created using AI Tools.

Reference to helium-3 inspired by "The Coldest War" a grand strategy game developed by harribo.

Second image is a piece of AI art found on Lexica generated by the prompt "Portait of a black cyberpunk male samurai with a blad head in a futuristic city in 2057."

Third image is "Bartini Ground Effect Aircraft Carrier" by AircraftFan32849 on DeviantArt.
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CEO Nwabudike Morgan leads his Council of War through a drill concerning the use of atomics.

Rich data and ultra-realistic simulations could not compensate for a fatal lack of political will. Substitutes, mercenaries, and penal battalions thought more fondly of survival than of victory. Generous bounties had perverse incentives: the dead couldn't spend money. Morganite investors, safe behind the cherished anonymity promised them by the Faction Articles, angled for maximum profit from the sale of prototypes and munitions, and were widely suspected of riding out vendettas in luxury in neutral bases like New Jerusalem. Benign toleration for "informal" economic arrangements meant that the brigades were stronger in Morganite territory than almost anywhere else, and true to type, they did even more trade during wartime than while at peace.

Making matters considerable worse, the CEO insisted that his junior executives must have experience with security matters, and fulfillment of this expectation was a prerequisite for professional advancement. Their participation should have lent better coherence to strategy-making, for their knowledge of faction moods and means was both broad and deep, but this was not to be so.

Morgan was no stranger to military officers. In his experience, when they were not blatantly incompetent appointees of a brother, uncle, or other family relation, they were otherwise unimaginative men no less estranged from the world than intellectuals. To that second group, wars were about fighting rather than the fulfillment of broader objectives--like a brawler who thinks the very point of the bout is to demonstrate skill or endurance. Mercenary leaders were even more to be doubted: they were failures by definition, having failed to learn the rules of a profession as straightforward as it was ancient. And so Morgan reverted to the same behavior he had shown during the Second American Civil War, countermanding "his" commanders. Other executives took their CEO's example as license to do the same.

Defectors spoke acidly of the Morganite way of war. The general consensus was that the councils were too large to be effective, and Morgan himself too haughty to recognize good advice. At least a half-dozen different mercenary commanders--at times, that number rose to as many as fourteen--worried that excessive battlefield losses would ruin them--either by destroying their bargaining positions with Morgan himself, or leaving them vulnerable to future palace coups. Faction security leaders fretted that any diversion of resources way from social control missions would invite drone riots. Jealous paymasters complained of financial ruin. Executives struggled to balance the imperatives of the conflict with their iron quotas. Counselors furnished by the faction's various "allies" offered schemes that often far exceeded the tenuous organization and skills of the forces at the Morganites' disposal.

Neapolitan brigadier Giacomo Peri bore the "wide smile" of the veteran knife-fighter.

Organized efforts to cheat and infiltrate the Unity Mission created cracks that others could exploit in more sporadic fashion. The many decisions of unscrupulous subcontractors that left sixteen percent of its internal volume uncommitted were used to conceal stowaways, contraband, and contingency supplies. General Salan laid in heavier weapons for his Marines, girding for a future conflict with Charterist muscle. Ex-Nine Eyes operatives used false bulkheads to conceal the fact that they had taken dozens of political prisoners aboard--a startlingly cynical approach to restorative justice that defied every principle of the charter they allegedly served. Spartans and Tribals installed hab bays that spoke to decades of forward thinking--and enormous means, proving that neither movement was down for the count. Nwabudike Morgan and his 250 retainers traveled in a space with more redundancies than were enjoyed by the actual passengers and crew. Decades after the ship was lost, Pravin Lal's negotiators were astonished to read Oscarn van de Graaf's detailed accounting of the additional cargos, including more than a thousand people, he had hoarded from them in secret. Working with contacts in French intelligence and the Marseilles underworld, fellow monarchists embarked colonists and machinery that Raoul André St. Germaine would liken to the Holy Grail. The ! Movement followed behind Morganite data-tunnelers to place their own agents into position. These would go on to shock Chironians of all stripes with their disclosure of sensitive United Nations materials, leading to the temporary loss of the planetary governorship by Dr. Pravin Lal to one-time Unity Network Administrator Sinder Roze.

Not all attempts at circumvention were successful. Struan's Pacific Trading Company was dismissed from participation in crew selection after it was found that more than 1,200 selections had been manipulated to its advantage (although the recruits themselves were allowed to continue training and eventually joined the general population). Private security selections were more relaxed, and became a popular way to launder "undesirables" from disfavored regimes that had been denied participation in broader crew selection. There were also cast-offs from the infamous Batalĉaro Enterprises responsible for so much misery on the Paraguayan Sea; secreted tranches of Comprehensive Transport men who, like most of the Struan's people, thought only of getting back to Earth; and even radicals affiliated with the Earthdawn Movement, so extreme they were rejected by the Lady Skye.

First image is "" by Javier-Lluesma on DeviantArt. Created using AI tools.

Second image is ""EOC - Tobias Sarjevo" by Estookin on DeviantArt.
President Tymant Harka said:
By Mission Year 100, only the most-naive of his acolytes could still believe that Chairman Yang would ever find an acceptable successor. Shorn of his decrepit body--reduced to a brain in a jar--he lived on as a series of ideas. He communicated through the microchips implanted at the base of every Hivemans' skull and in the stanzas of his poetry, which accumulate on the Datalinks to this very day. - Generations of Planet

There were no true monuments to the semi-departed despot--only the solemnity of the disused atrium where his mortal remains lingered long enough for techs to remove the stuff that Roshann Cobb would later claim was the Chairman's true essence.

Nwabudike Morgan, ever the wit, promised a fantastic prize of energy for the one who could deliver proof that the inscrutable philosophies appearing each morning on the electronic bulletin boards were actually products of that same, once-well-ordered mind.

Two infantrymen of the Russian Airborne Forces approach the Soviet Embassy to search for survivors during the Battle of Baghdad (2037). At the time of this vid capture by the BBC World Service, the city had been burning continuously for more than sixty days: the Shah had responded to Iraqi chemical warfare outside Basra by exercising his nuclear option.

Unity Mission planners paid close attention to the century-old lessons of pentomic warfare and deep-sea habitation as they tried to anticipate the needs of future colonists in hostile environments--first, the icy-cold nothingness of space, and later, the un-breathable atmosphere of Chiron.

The problems were much of the same: how to receive continuous oxygen while on the move, how to conserve energy while encumbered, how to withstand temperature extremes, how to see from inside--much less mount a medical intervention through--one's awkward but life-saving cocoon.

Some solutions lay in adaptable fabrics that changed chemical properties based on certain leading indicators: overpressure, light exposure, or changes in heart rhythm. Other innovations were more intrusive. Recruits were fitted with trans-cutaneous ports and sub-cutaneous micro-bladders via which to receive medicine at the discretion of microcomputers installed in the wrist--all according to parameters approved by the Chief Medical Officer. External cybernetics enhanced carrying capacity and reduced mechanical loading on the joints but required the user to adopt the same entirely new repertoire of movement already familiar to soldiers and divers.

And it was not enough to simply receive access to these wonders: the colonist was not properly prepared until they could understand and respond to the biomedical and environmental sensory data collected by their wearable laboratory. This training, difficult enough to organize on Earth, was rare indeed amongst the Second Generation on Chiron, which struggled with the effective use and maintenance of their wonderful inheritance.

University Colony Pod of the Pyotr Anjou class. Distinctive features included the very tall conning tower, boat-like hull, and thick passive armor. This successful prototype was Zakharov's solution to three problems: the unreliable wildcat surveys and limited mobility that had previously led to poor siting of early bases like Bashiv's Dredge, and the lack in secondary colonies of a sturdy redoubt comparable to the Landing Pods of the First Bases.

First image is "Earthbound - Kira's Lab" by nickstath on DeviantArt.

Second picture is "The Delivery" by ShamanX on DeviantArt.

Third picture is "Amphibious Armored Vehicle" by AiCouncil on DevaintArt. Created using AI tools.
The bloody agonies of botched transitions in Palestine and India, exploited to wicked effect by the conservative press, provided His Majesty's Government with adequate pretext to delay similar arrangements elsewhere. Though colonial obligations arguably impoverished more Britons than they enriched, sentimentality was reason enough to hang on, especially once France emerged as senior partner in the European project. It was political suicide for a Tory leader even to speak of local self-government, much less a managed road to independence.

This changed in 2026 when Parliament voted the funds for construction of a space elevator in Kenya. Colonial Office sympathies remained firmly with the white minority, but it was suddenly clear to everyone that the colony's future value would have little enough to do with tea and coffee. Overtures were therefore extended to black leaders and plans put in hand for political liberalisation to discourage "liberation types." Money flowed into the colony like water, and for once, care was taken to see it disbursed with something that approached equity. Nairobi burgeoned in size as British aerospace firms threw up skyscrapers and relocated tens of thousands of yard workers, draftspeople, and managerial staff from "good old Blighty." Technical institutions cropped up everywhere. Ground had not yet been broken before Kenya's Human Development Index score began to take off.

The elevator was not the colony's only contribution to the Unity Mission. Trencher-Marley Kenya (T-MK, founded 2028) was tasked by mission planners to take on a top-secret assignment as urgent as it was disturbing: construction of a reusable tender for the mothership's redundant populsion systems--yet another contingency in case the solar sail became fouled before Unity entered intersteller space.

The tender's spheroid thorax contained collapsible recovery waldoes and an immense winding rack for just such an eventuality, while nearer its engine cone were four large storage tanks rated for Helium-3, which would be siphoned from Uranius and Neptune. As an expedience (although there was no better option given the tender's unique design), T-MK was granted a contract to furnish and train its crew.

Unity's sail operated correctly and the tender therefore remained docked until the Spartan mutiny. The central computer did attempt to wake the T-MK's crew as soon as the general damage alarms sounded but the directive was countermanded from Central Damage Control when just ten of the sixty-five were awake. Knowledge of the tender's existence was security-locked. Spartans took defensive positions in the unmarked launch bay vestebules without realizing they were near a worthy prize, and were cut down in turn by armed members of the Aquatic Operations Section who moved over their corpses without thinking to depart the main corridor. The tender was therefore seized by Data Services: Supervisory Archivist Sathieu Metrion thought to check the blueprints before evacuating.

Still proudly decorated with a Union Jack, the T-MK tender, forward jaws removed, is lowered into a recessed hangar for post-flight diagnostics at Central Cache.

Ex-Royal Air Force Warrant Officer Sternleigh Harrison, crew commander of the T-MK, was practically a poster child for a certain set of reactionary Britons who counted past grievances to explain present misfortunes. Among the last products of a shrinking middle class, Harrison felt himself an outsider in Nairobi, too "patriotic" for the white proles, the corporate set, or the Kenyans; too vulgar for the settler elite. Like many others who did not collect it, Harrison contrasted himself favorably with those who accepted National Care--the state dole that guaranteed modest discretionary income and social services for all Britons.

Harrison liked what he heard from the American factor, van de Graaf, whose bluff style and talk of satisfaction in self-reliance spoke to his own self-image, and agreed to join the Pilgrims as a stakeholder. He was unaware that van de Graaf's people had sought him out with just such an end in mind.

First image is "This again." by Paul-Lloyd on DeviantArt.

Second image is "I'm 4" by Ake on, using the prompt, "Man of the Future, by AKE."

1972. Royal Air Force Phantoms demonstrate against the threat of Guatemalan invasion of Belize. Though the Guatemalans backed down, these “lesser crises”—in the words of Conservative back-bench MP Margaret Thatcher—reminded Britons that they were vulnerable.

Disappointment stalked the British Empire assiduously in the twentieth century. Without the money to enforce its ambitions or the political will to be magnanimous in disappointment, His Majesty’s Government lurched from crisis to crisis. Communal violence in Mandatory Palestine and the partitioned Raj was scarcely out of mind before the humiliation of British diplomacy in the Suez and Iran. More inter-communal violence attended the independence of Nigeria and Sudan. The decision to “keep on” in Burma was contested by a vigorous and popular independence movement funded lavishly by the Communist Chinese and underwritten almost entirely by American loans. Discarding any pretense of learning from past experience, the British “corrected” by favoring non-Burmese—Europeans, Shan, Karens, and Indians primarily.

The contrast with France was especially sharp, and often strained British friendship with the United States. The British press never forgot Eisenhower’s refusal to stand by his principle ally in 1956, and frequently complained that American outlays for Indochina were larger by several orders of magnitude than those for Burma, though British counter-insurgency strategy was more effective, and both were at risk from “Red plots.”

Cost considerations and the long shadow of colonialism continued to dog the British throughout the twenty-first century, contributing to a transformation of national character that was palpable to foreign observers. A handful of islands in the IOEZ and survey stations on Antarctica picked up along the way did little for British pocketbooks or prestige. Lack of money sharply limited the extent to which the British were helpful in Pakistan, India, and the wider Indian Ocean littoral after the Six Minute War. The more than four million Indians allowed into Burma—another acknowledged humanitarian disaster—entered despite British policy, not because of it. Artists presented the British as a people weighed down by their glorious past—one so alluring in memory that it drove them into a listlessness from which recovery seemed impossible. Pulitzer prize-winning Canadian novelist Thomas “Torch” Nicholas’s line from the 2052 bestseller Bowden’s Cross was often quoted by Americans: “Britons have taken to bed, never again to alight.” Quebec independence was another terrible shock. Though it had been agreed that the British would tend the Continent while their American cousins shouldered most of the burden in Canada, the whole ordeal was blunt evidence to Britons that their once-great nation was irretrievably weak.

The British space programme—like that of France, mostly in hock to the country’s nuclear deterrent—reflected the Empire’s flagging energies. Its first successful satellite launch, using the domestic Black Arrow rocket, was not until 1971. The other landmark achievement, launch of the signals intelligence platform called Zircon in 1990, was marred by disclosure and delay. The British National Space Center’s greatest achievements focused on the Mercury Slingshot, where British aeronauts worked to prepare an infrastructure of solar mirrors, space elevators, and automated mining equipment that could feed passing starships on a predictable timetable.

British Government involvement in the Unity Mission was hesitant—a reaction often attributed by historians, probably correctly, to the strength of French enthusiasm, but certainly also to do with a lack of money. Great Britain was very badly afflicted by rising sea levels after 2050. Nevertheless, British aerospace, defence, automotive, and shipbuilding firms did a great deal of contract work for the United Nations, and the program spurred an industrial revival that made it highly popular with the average laborer.

Prominent Britons appointed to the Unity crew included its Logistics Officer, Royal Navy Post Captain Sir Antony Banastre Sprat, an Ulsterman whose prior posting was as commandant of the Royal Navy Logistics School.

Like Garland, Post Captain Sprat was politically acceptable to the United Nations. The consummate desk officer, Sprat was renowned for his managerial competence but had served very little time at sea, instead overseeing repair and replenishment operations at the huge naval bases of Hong Kong, Singapore, and Royal Naval Dockyard, Bermuda. During a period of secondment to Customs and Excise, he was scrupulous. In line with the traditions of his service, he avoided politics but was believed by the U.N. Intelligence Cell to be in favor of parliamentary democracy over reassertion of monarchial privilege (an approach favored by conservatives who feared Soviet influence over the Labour movement).

The Logistics Officer was responsible for coordinating the loading and preservation of ship’s stores. In connection with this duty, Sprat became deeply concerned with the number of spaces condemned by U.N. project managers, as well as the laying in of redundant supplies by charter expeditions when cost reductions had already forced elimination of equipment once considered essential for the main mission. Prior to launch, Sprat’s was one of the loudest voices calling for comprehensive, independent audits of contractor operations. Psych records confirmed that Jonathan Garland, Unity’s commanding officer, considered Sprat one of his most-able and trustworthy subordinates. The two men often worked together to plan for the orderly disgorging of cargo and personnel, which Garland saw as the essential precursor to establishing effective government.

Sprat disappeared from his office aboard Unity ten months before mission launch, in an area of the ship where security cameras were not yet operational. U.N. Security Forces investigators concluded that Sprat was unlikely to have been removed from the ship before it got underway but made no headway in finding him and had no credible leads. Master-at-Arms Rachael Winzenried suspected that Sprat had been assassinated by either Holnists or Charterists to prevent his disruption of schemes to smuggle aboard contraband.

British-made Foden Trucks R7 emergency tenders, 30’ tall at the cab top, are dwarfed by their charge, a Conclave ‘Former in the Valley of Peleus. British heavy equipment had a good reputation with U.N. buyers.

Miriam’s search for minerals in the Peleus gave way to despair in MY3. The R7s met the same fate as other auxiliary equipment on hand: sold to other factions in return for bulk food and medicine. These decisions placed Conclavists in great peril: their safety margins slipped to become the worst among the settled factions, exceeding even those of the Hive and the Dreamers, where drone laborers were deliberately under-supplied.

First image is “Phantoms, British Style” by rOEN911 on DeviantArt.

For ideas on the future of Mercury, see this conversation on Stack Exchange.

Sprat’s image is “Naval officer” by The Zreator on NightCafe.

Final image is “Mining Facility 01” by iamrudja on DeviantArt.

Field Chemist Belika Aleixandrov applied for and was granted refuge in Keller City after quitting the Main Force Patrol during Marsh's vendetta with Oscar van de Graaf and his New Two Thousand. Alexiandrov's Ivory Waters lodge had been first to offer the Hunters' standard menu of services to the prickly stowaways.

As the memory of Old Earth faded in the second and third generations, so too did the reflexive suspicion of societies descended from the twenty-first century Survivalist movement.

Merchants temporarily resident in Tribal settlements remarked with considerable frequency on the similarities between Kellerite attitudes toward Planet's emerging digital society and those of the Old Believers. In his A Social History of Planet, Pravin Lal ventured the hypothesis that complementary perspectives about the role of the community in personal development best explained the emergence of trade between Gaians and Kellerites after MY4, not the common experience of alienation from their neighbors as was commonly understood based on the sources previously used for sociological analysis of both groups: intelligence assessments.

Dedicated reconnaissance platforms like this Embrear GP-421 heralded a new phase in warfare on Chiron as conflict moved from the impulsive and haphazard to the orchestrated and intentional.

The GP-421 was a Brazilian take on the "tac-jumper"--a utility spacecraft used to set Trojan objects on new trajectories for commercial and navigation purposes. The Spartans found two in a Supply Pod and rigged both to take look-down radar and powerful encrypted communications suites.

Early Morganite ad copy for Euphonica, a product marketed as "Catnip for Robot." Designers usually took pains to dampen the learning potential of their creations out of fear that they would be turning over powerful learning engines to small-time competitors--those only capable of standing on the shoulders of giants. But the general absence of prohibitions on such experimentation, a commonplace in other societies, encouraged the feckless to make claims that could not easily be tested--and which led, in time, to the realization that a robot's problem-solving abilities might be a clear expression of unique personality verging on sentience.

First image is "Tmpglac23uk-0000" by AngelsParadise on DeviantArt.

Second image is "The landing" by SecondsPast12 on DeviantArt. Created using AI tools.

Third image is "Robotix58" Trihexagonal on DeviantArt. Created using AI tools.

Dallas, Texas by moonlight, c. 2035.

Income inequality was already a growing problem in the West by the end of the twentieth century. It soon reached epidemic proportions.

Deirdre Skye, a prominent environmental activist in Scotland, decried "the growing privatization of what once was public," including access to clean air, potable water, and green space. There were two Earths, she said, one real and one imagined. Elites lived in a curated, but ultimately unsustainable, facsimile of what once was.

World Church luminary Miriam Godwinson spoke out against the same problem, urging wealthy followers not to constructed "personal Edens that make it easier to consign your brethren to a shared Hell." American Reclamation Corporation CEO Oscar van de Graaf exploited powerful sectional jealousies to do exactly that, building a short-lived political movement around the idea that the negative externalities of national reconstruction, civil defense, and climate change mitigation be passed off from loyal states to disloyal territories still under military occupation. One unhappy opponent, Congressman Gerhart Harrington of St. Louis, characterized the national mood accurately in 2062: "Pump stations for Old New York; prisons for Missouri."

Roland Quinton Center for Biocomputing, Admiralty Bay, University of Planet, MY90

Some on the Planetary Council called the process "criminal," but it could not be denied that the processing power of living computers--more precisely, lab-grown brain organoids patterned from pluripotent human stem cells--exceeded anything possible with machines alone.

Students who claimed to have experience with the terminals sometimes leaked stories to the Planetary Datalinks that suggested unique problems affecting this form of biocomputing. In heavily-redacted reports, University computer scientists described "improbable but definite patterns in the errors performed by the devices in question that suggest intentionality." Mediator Johann Anhaldt told his colleagues that they were looking at "definitive proof of emerging sentience," though he cautioned against the idea that it should be called Machine Intelligence. Rather, Zakharov had made "a being in a jar, equivalent to a savant with locked-in syndrome."

First image is "A futuristic apartment" by rtxrkibi on DeviantArt.

Second image is "Alien Plant Lab" by Jano1705 on DeviantArt. Created using AI tools.

On brain organoids, see this article by Noah Fromson from the website Neuroscience News.
Lady Deirdre Skye said:
The Slowmoss is the petty criminal of horticulture, signaling the start of a rapid decline for other resident species until the Grand Season returns. If the xenofungus has not yet taken hold, the delicate Slowmoss will die off and the originally-resident species will return to the land, but it is a rare thing when the xenofungus is slow to follow where its herald first goes. - A Comparative Biology of Planet

Gaian biologists described the Slowmoss as an imperfectly-adapted organism because the same metabolic process by which it fed generated nearly enough heat to cause itself fatal heat stress.

The idea that anthropomorphic climate change might be a viable solution to the xenofungal "scourge" proved useful fodder for men like Shoichiro Nagao and Nwabudike Morgan who saw no compelling reason to leave Chiron as they had found it.

Sguam leaves reminded some of torn kites; others of a dragonfly's wings. Whatever they evoked, their sudden spread was evidence that the plant was soon to bear its edible tart fruit.

When roasted, sguam might make a pleasant accompaniment to starchy grains. Dried sguam rind was an accepted alternative to the multivitamins found in ration packs.

Though she regretted the necessity of it, Lady Skye used her Gaian Rangers to enforce a faction monopoly on sguam cultivation. In MY20, the faction's carefully-hoarded scratch squadron of Needlejets--and twenty-four irreplaceable pilots--were sacrificed wholesale to destroy a Morganite test grove in an operation Skye deemed successful because it sustained demand for one of the few products the Gaians themselves could afford to part with.

Gaian ingenuity made possible the first self-sustaining desert communities on Planet. Local clays were the primary construction material for prominent cooling towers and sturdy domed habitats that resisted heating because of high thermal mass. Drones tended communal gardens day and night, dispatching laborers to make the frequent interventions that would keep gardens alive in the notoriously hostile climate.

First image is from Stable Diffusion, Seed 3630214515 using prompt: "A strange redwood biome and on an alien science-fiction planet, beautiful matte painting, Moebius, frank frazetta, sid mead, james gurney, thomas kinkade, rodney mathews, trending on artstation".

Second image is "Swampscene 1" by ahaas on DeviantArt.

Third image is "The Dream" by d3cline on DeviantArt. Created using AI tools.
I've only tried to find other folks' stuff. Never made anything myself.
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