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.
Top Bottom