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

Headwaters of the Slowwind River. The absence of nitrate ground cover is conspicuous where crimson-topped forruga betula has taken root.

Hardier than Terran vegetation and faster-growing than native flora, hybrid organisms were a widely-acknowledged danger to humans and Planet alike, playing havoc with water tables, soil arability, and the behavioral patterns of local fauna.

Enthusiasts of hybrid agriculture, including the Gaians, the University, the Morganites, the Dreamers, the New Two Thousand, the Oracle, and the Ascendancy, claimed to be inspired by simple curiosity. Sister Miriam Godwinson called it "the blind faith that tampering with an original design must necessarily lead to improvement." Morganite scientists celebrated their achievement in Morgana dominari, a salt-tolerant shrub partly derived from the mangrove but imbued with certain aggressive features common to Chironian fungus. The roots of this creation leached heat energy from organic matter to achieve bio-mineralization, yielding crystals that could be harvested as fuel. Pilgrims in northern and upland climates introduced methane-producing ferns as organic heaters in their fields. But the dangers of these approaches were manifest.

Even trace legacies of Terran genetic material excited Planet's immunological response. Bases practicing Terran monoculture were most affected, but hybrid planting was similarly risky. Defensive arrangements varied from attempting to grow as much as possible in greenhouse settings--an enormous expense that no faction could afford to apply for all crop types--to enhanced training for local militia.

There was also the problem of Centauri chemistry: certain Terran organisms interacted with the Chironian climate in ways that produced toxins and gases fatal to humans even in very low concentrations.

Allegations of agricultural tampering were serious and frequent contributors to faction vendetta. The Spartan and University militaries deployed herbicides, and especially fungicides, with frankly profligate enthusiasm, while Pilgrims, Tribals, and Gaians trained probe teams to introduce unwanted organisms into enemy territory.

The Planetary Council devoted enormous efforts to the control of invasive species but rarely achieved results considered satisfactory to all parties. How to distinguish between a deniable ruse and the genuine loss of laboratory containment?

Image is "Alien Planet Landscape" by guifoxtel on DeviantArt. Created using AI tools.

This post draws heavily from the terrain types found in the 4X computer game Endless Legend.

A Morganite promotional vidcap suggests to prospective buyers that Morgan Robotics' "Big Mac" load-puller is a fraternal relation of well-respected University products used in domestic settings. The Mac's barrel chest conceals an enormously powerful tractor engine.

Laboring avatars began as high-complexity marionettes without strings: circuits and servos in the shape of men, but no smarter or self-possessed than a 1979 Lada Riva automobile.

Avatars were considered a necessity by base operations in every faction because the physical demands of piloting were much less than those of craft work.

Some factions experimented with non-anthropomorphic designs that could more easily navigate tight spaces or traverse traditional interiors, but studies showed operators mastered the use of anthropmorphic units more quickly and were less inclined to place them at risk, reducing costly accidents.

All Our Tomorrows, second capital of the Dreamers of Chiron, and the ultimate expression of Dreaming.

The human body--along with its need for enriching stimuli--was an inconvenience to the Dreamers. Faction elites remained awake only begrudgingly, and certainly they saw no reason that drones should require access to art, sunlight, or even medical care.

In theory, Dreamer bases could give full play to the engineer's lust for efficiency: inputs taking the shortest route throguh processing; all routes of pedestrial travel following interior lines; vulnerable hab spaces encased behind dense thickets of piping, conduit, and structural supports.

Pilgrim homestead on the Aeolean Plain. Noeworthy features include a borehole mine still in its infancy (center foreground), solar panels linked to a modular battery drum that still retains its retrothrusters from Planetfall (center); the tall masts of sensor pods extending to the horizon, and a siren, at far left, to signal danger.

First image is "Metal Companions" by AI-Agent-Zero on DeviantArt. Created using AI tools.

Second image is "Twisted Capital City of Planet Kridaes Prime" by TKMgraphics on DeviantArt. Created using AI tools.

Third image is "Helios Mars colony mining zone" by Ka-Pow96 on DeviantArt.

Dawn in Bonanza City.

Only their scope of their own ambition stood between the Morganites and environmental catastrophe. Rarely were they deterred.

Four years after its founding, the boomtown of Bonanza, population 250,000, imported its potable water by crawler caravan along a treacherous overland route of more than 650km.

Analysts were reporting that pipelines were more efficient than oceangoing tankers, and so city fathers declared the adjacent River Phlegethon a dumping ground, and the river was soon navigable only to small craft. Most of these were ultimately operated by Morgan Emergency Services as chase boats for frequent oil spills, though a fair number of drones crowded into tenement barges between shifts.

Mindworm attacks were constant. Lady Skye accused the CEO of committing environmental atrocity, but Morgan defended poisoning the waterway on grounds that it was a favorite exfiltration route for Yang's northernmost hives.

The Gates of Reason, on the southern edge of the Great Dunes.

Conclavists raised similar monuments throughout their territory, each exquisitely decorated with Biblical statuary, a testament to the strength and majesty of divine inspiration. Many, like this waystation, doubled as defensive outposts only to be abandoned as the faction's borders ebbed and flowed like a living organism down through the decades.

Some of the edifices doubled as treasure-houses and were advertised thusly, luring raiders to their doom at the hands of the Nauvoo Legion--a novel method of policing high roads that made the most of the Believers' over-extended fighting forces.

A wall of xenofungus advances up the Trapezous Slope.

In the presence of xenofungus, Planet Pearls often became imbued with the bioenergy of the moss beneath, as in this vidcap received from an outlying sensor.

Xenofungus inspired terror even in safely-settled populations, though whether this was simple prudence, or (as Director Pahlavi insisted) compelling evidence of genetic memory, was disputed.

Security forces in all factions consistently reported spikes in antisocial behavior, especially crowd violence, during fungal blooms. Whereas most democratic societies took these trends as the impetus for stronger environmental protections to reduce planetary agitation, factions with a more authoritarian or oligarchical bent replied in kind, pounding the Chironian wilderness with napalm and other defoliants.

First image is "Kimsema" by deejayiwan on DeviantArt. Made with Ideogram AI.

Second image is "Gates of Tartarus - Greek Mythology" by rsovel on DeviantArt.

Third image is "Alien landscape 3" by cuda1016 on DeviantArt. Created using AI tools.
Chairman Sheng-ji Yang said:
A soldier unseen is worse than a soldier spent. - Missives to the Acolytes

The motorcycle and its derivatives, plentiful among the Unity's motor pool, were nevertheless unpopular with front-line soldiers who knew first-hand what little good they would do to hold back a mindworm boil. Still, beggars could not be choosers and many factions pressed reconnaissance vehicles like this one into service as caravan escorts or with rear-area patrols.

Pilgrim householders fêted and even provisioned the rare Regulator that appeared at the airlock, hopeful they would remain as a helpmate against the daily slings and arrows of a pioneer's portion, from avaricious neighbors to wandering livestock.

Governor Ferraman called the collonades of Loaves and Fishes "a fistful of regularity amidst the cinders" and exhorted his citizens to continue "ordering the Cosmos." Though it resembled a monstrosus library, the base produced great makers rather than thinkers, yielding statuary, painting, song, and sculpture. Orchardists grew apples and olives in hanging rows.

The McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II was first taken into service in 1960. The F-4M model continued service with the United States Navy and the U.S. Army National Guard into the 2030s, where it was spotted frequently in Shamashi skies, deploying from the Fast Attack Carriers Perot and O'Rourke.

Reknowned for its dog-fighting prowess and priced for export, the F-4 airframe was a personal favorite of Unity's Air Operations chief, Kleisel Mercator, who was a close student of the deep penetration bombings carried out against the Communist Bloc-aligned Rocca regime on the Ile de Bonasario. American fighter-bombers struck the island's Mag Lev line, crippling the regime before it could mobilize against a student-led revolt that ultimately brought Western-aligned leadership to power. The raid was a bold gamble. Of the sixteen aircraft dispatched, two ditched in the ocean due after running out of fuel and eight others were scrapped due to the extent of battle damage. But the Navy aviators were rightly acknowledged for a masterful showing against Soviet and Chinese aviators flying under the colors of the Bonasario Air Defense. Eleven Japanese engineers were also killed inadvertantly, precipitating a brief crisis between Washington and the Kamohito government. Mercator led the way in the use of strategic air power on Chiron, accepting significant losses of pilots and aircraft to achieve eventual flight proficiency--and the unprecedented coercive power that went along with it.

First image is "RESF Reconnaissance Vehicle (Part 1)" by EstevesLuis on DeviantArt.

Second image is "IUSP Parliament building" by Okwa on DeviantArt. Created using AI tools.

Third image is "Tactical Art... (65)" by Airborne71 on DeviantArt. Created using AI tools.

Fire Control Technician L-124 of the Digital Oracle stands fire watch at the Habitation Core of Claros Prime during venting of the base's secondary life support system.

Respiration of fungal spores was a public health issue of the highest priority. In any given cycle, between five and ten percent of base workforces suffered fungal allergies. Most complainants reported mild hallucination and mania when not using personal rebreathers but serious cases might encompass violence. The best prevention was routine flushing of air handlers and filtration systems.

A stick of Chiron Guard "yomping" the Monsoon Jungle.

So-called "Long Patrols" were the bread and butter of training regimens for every militia, as well as many civilian work clutches. For soldiers and scouts, the experience was also an indispensible opportunity to hone their knowledge of the zoological and climatological characteristics of potential future battlefields.

Even these well-equipped troops show high variation. Note the different styles of headgear, from the forage cap worn by the leading man left to the traditional domed radioman's helmet on the trooper at center. The rearmost fighter, who carries a hand weapon with an underslung grenade launcher, is patterned on the old lobsterpot type, itself a hearkening back to the Roman Gallic design. Soldiers prized any helmets with neckguards, desiring protection from both sun and pest intrusion.

The Spartan Sfendonai, a Federal-class landship built on the pattern of vehicles once used by Morgan Industries during the Saharan Burst Wars.

Nuclear reactors gave these tracked behemoths the endurance and horsepower to cross vast distances at relatively high speed while also carrying enormous tonnage, which meant armor thick enough to endure fixed artillery and air-dropped munitions, as well as the kind of arsenals that could obliterate most targets. Like other vehicles of the same scale, the landship bore its own fleet of support vehicles, from wreckers to small mining vehicles. In theory, a landship could build forward support bases, complete with their own greenhouses and mines to feed and provision a sustained campaign.

The drawback was that these mobile cities were a terrible drain on faction resources, especially in places where local resources couldn't sustain the kind of exploitation needed to feed their thousands of passengers and crew. Fear of landship incursion encouraged a more comprehensive form of vendetta that meant burning or poisoning what could not be hauled off by the victor so as to make pursuit that much more difficult.

Wrecked landships--visible by the dozen in the Great Dunes--were popular sites for outposts, caravansaris, and SMACER depots.

First image is "Zamani the library valley" by HBSSart on DeviantArt.

Second image is "Terran Marine Recon in the Jungle" by goeliath on DeviantArt.

Second image is "EDRPG 08CB122 Federal Landship" by KevinMassey on DeviantArt. This art was part of a project of his for Elite Dangerous. I have adapted the concept from Mr. Massey's description of his art.
Sister Miriam Godwinson said:
In the sterile laboratories of the University, each scientist feels himself an unchallenged master. It is easy to forget, under such heady conditions, that the laboratory does not—cannot—replicate the true conditions of His Creation. Draw your conclusions, but draw them with care. - Recieving Truth

"Ready" Rack in the U.N. Marine Corps berthing aboard the U.N.S. Unity.

Credits to their trade, expedition security chief Rachael Winzenried and U.N. Marine Corps Security Forces General Marcel Salan anticipated the danger of mutiny and prevailed upon Mission Control to place personal weapons with their operators. This was true for both the larger contingent just abaft the bridge and the much smaller detachment positioned to provide immediate security for Atomic Fuels Storage.

Failure by U.N. Security Forces to hold Unity's armory in the first hours of crisis meant only that the Marines would be confronting well-armed adversaries, not that they would be outgunned. Even the lesser models of Powered Combat Suit were nigh invulnerable given the types of weapons provided for the Alpha Centauri colonists. (Most effective were the anti-ordnance rifles reserved for animal control, most of which had already been withdrawn from stocks by the Forward Contact Teams during their final preparations for Planetfall thirty days before the Crisis.

A Supply Crawler of the Forward Contact Team departs a rendezvous with local logging crews along one of the first graded roads on Planet. Awareness of the danger of mindworm attack is already evident even at this early date: the crew ride "unbuttoned" for easier escape and have retrofitted powerful UV radiation projectors where machine guns might once have been.

Like their lightweight cousins the Unity Rovers, Supply Crawlers were customized to mission parameters based on long-range telemetry and information received from the Chiron Interstellar Probe. This Porsche Defense M-83 had been painstakingly designed as multi-modal transport: the rounded body, wide tracks, and diverse propulsion systems suitable for both marine environments and low-density travel surfaces.

Ultra high-power UV projectors were effective against mindworms but fire was a cheaper alternative easier to apply at scale.

A New State scientist considers samples of energy-suffused crystals harvested from a vent in the ocean floor. Despite the absence of visual breach alarms, strict safety precautions are being taken: the commitment of a deep pressure suit by a faction already pressed to deploy every available resource for marine activity suggests that these particular materials pose a significant risk to life and limb.

Humans discovered only a four new elements on Chiron in the first five decades of settlement. Prokhor Zakharov was adamant that three were extraterrestrial in origin, and had similar suspicions regarding the fourth. To Believers, the similarities in chemical properties with Old Earth only confirmed what they already suspected: Chiron and Earth had been created by the same Authority.

The pace of research output slowed dramatically across all factions between MY3 and MY40 in a trend that reached its critical nadir in MY31. A white paper commissioned by Academician Zakharov, leaked at once to the Data Links, concluded that while human curiosity remained undiminished and the footprint of both settlement and explorations were growing at expotential rates, the slowdown lay in the unavailability of suitable safety and testing materials, all of which had been exhausted and most of which could not be replaced by the industrial base then at hand.

Morganites paid bounties for inventions to rehabilitate valuable equipment. Believers, Hivemen, Atomic Children, Dreamers, and Data Angels dramatically increased their Probe activity. Pilgrims and Spartans stepped up combat actions against SMACERS in search of prize loot.

First image is "Future Infantry Armor (AI)" by TorpedoBoat on DeviantArt. Powered Combat Suits are a concept from Blizzard's StarCraft franchise. SMACERS are an addition to this setting contributed by Strategos' Risk.

Second image is "Humans Explore a Jungle Planet (AI)" by TorpedoBoat on DeviantArt.

Third image is "SlimeVerse" by onmarstonight on DeviantArt. Created using AI tools.

A pair of Data Services external cargo handlers responds to man-down beacons during the Unity Crisis.

The major challenge in high-capacity data storage throughout the twenty-first century was volume. Data tapes, a notoriously low-efficiency technology, were impractical at scale on Earth for reasons of size and weight. Disputes over the production and preservation of historical records were all the more bitter because of the great costs involved and the low probability that content would be revised after initial printing.

Weight was less a problem in zero-gravity, and by 2040, more than half of all human knowledge was racked on constellations of satellites. Long-range spacecraft used tapes of fiche up to thirty-four feet in diameter to feed the computer calculations required for virtually every aspect of their operation, from the activation of maneuvering thrusters to use of weapons systems in combat. Even the largest computers were dwarfed by their databases.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization commissioned custom reels for Unity's libraries. Encoding the reels was conducted in strictest secrecy to reduce the risk of violence or tampering, but data librarians suffered nearly as many pre-launch casualties as stevedores and Security Forces guards, and far more in proportion to their numbers.

Data reels for the U.N. Alpha Centauri Mission were stored on racks inside reinforced shells bolted to Unity's outer hull. Data Services employed eighty extra-vehicular activity experts to service these "trees" of fiche. Most of that material was destroyed by spalling from the initial micrometeorite impact but the team proved useful all the same, for in addition to their extensive training in emergency response techniques, they were among the select few who had pressurized ensemble at hand upon waking.

Image is "DreamUp Creation - Evacuation" by Lonely-Destiny on DeviantArt. Created using AI tools.

Followers of Chief Science Officer Prokhor Zakharov weigh next steps after completing the construction of a prefabricated research dome at Planetfall. The Academician had lobbied mission planners to accept the expensive altazimuth-mount, heliotropic designs submitted by Swiss company AG Pirole. Their appeal, he said, was efficiency, for they combined the capabilities of both weather monitoring station and laboratory. A subordinate was wise to add the observation that anu personnel assigned to "so sunny a structure" would certainly receive a morale boost.

An Ascendancy Legionnaire contemplates the departing edge of a demonstorm from the hull of her laser tank.

Vicious hurricanes scoured the Shamashi coast with depressing regularity. Their passing was usually a moment when upland factions dispatched raiding parties to take advantage of the ensuing dislocation.

After rebuilding Silver Ledge for the third time in as many years, Governor van de Graaf was pushed by his stakeholders to part with the funds for a pressure dome rated to withstand one-minute sustained winds up to 300 km/h while the none-too-proud Gaians began subterranean workings at Last Rose of Summer and Resplendant Oak.

First image is "Mars Base Camp" by JoWheeler on DeviantArt. Created using AI tools.

Second image is "Rest" by AlbertoVangelista on DeviantArt.
Lords of Industry (pt. 1)

Morgan Industries, the American Reclamation Corporation, Struan’s Pacific Trading Company, Dai Seung Heavy Industries, Comprehensive Transport - such were the incandescent edifices of enterprise that lit up the Unity with lavishly paid-for supplies, armies of employees and contract workers, and teams of heavily-armed corporate security. But they are far from the only corporate presence that grace Chiron. Whether declared to the Mission Industry Standards Board or not, numerous private sector actors went along for the ride, minnows under the shadow of whales. Or else were titans of their own, immensity shrouded by frenetic movements of the herd.



Acting Director Eric Preston said:
Roust up the sunners. All powertechs must be in place to maintain absolute operational precision. No one- no one- is to break until every microjoule is accounted for. Do that, and this facility is ready for business. Tomorrow the market opens, and we’ll have owned it. - Opening rally of the Chandor Grand Energy Bank

The Nox Conglomerate, founded in the late seventeenth century by the commodore Nottington, the chemist Osbourne, and the coin collector Xanthos as the Axis Mundi Joint-Stock Company. Already well-to-do, the Three sought to hoard their wealth away from royal levies by pooling them into exploration and exploitation of the New World. It was a road fraught with dead ends and dead colonists, but for every Darien scheme or New Klein-Venedig, there was a Tortuga or a Santa la Noche. As the Age of Exploration turned into the Age of Revolutions, the Three’s descendants parroted Enlightenment values and sold arms to anti-colonial uprisings in exchange for sovereign bonds from ensuing republics. The company’s coffers compounded and its leaders reinvested it into endeavor after endeavor.


Signing of the Plan Nox, Risso Leones de Córdoba, oil on canvas. Azzarello Conglomerate Gallery, Croatoan Station, Ceres

By the twenty-first century, the rechristened Nox had become a centuries-old tax sheltered money printer, adroitly hiding the wealth of its sworn clans across generations. Money bred schemes begat more money, now operating at the speed of circuitry. Rumored to have both funded- then thwarted- the analog computing work of Charles Babbage himself, the Conglomerate ran on some of the finest financial algorithmic modeling this side of Soviet Cybersyn.

The centerpiece of this empire of financiers was in private equity. Immense amounts of capital went into not only trading assets and complex instruments, but to bring distressed businesses into the conglomerate fold. Tended over by managers of loving grace, these takeover targets ranged from mom and pop boutiques selling homespun trinkets to massive space age industrial concerns. Nox executives then went to ruthless work skinning, gutting, and reconstructing these hapless companies into the very image of profitability. With this, legions of layoffs and customer satisfaction scores fell. But each shell of a business became perfectly resellable to outside buyers and public markets. Along the way the Conglomerate collected tidy sums and harvested intellectual property amassed by these companies.


Container complex at Port Emrys, a United Nations Space Authority exploration outpost on Ceres, converted to trade depot after Nox acquisition. Overcrowding resulted from rapid influx of contract workers solicited for intra-system shipping, and chronic underinvestment into employee residences

Ultimately, the U.N. looked askance at the Nox Conglomerate’s quickly shifting array of temporary acquisitions and flipped shops, denying them the opportunity to be a Prime Contractor even as they built oodles of space infrastructure to support their kingdom of the secondhand. The scandals of the so-called ‘Ceres Syndicate’ didn’t help their opinion any. But thanks to deep pockets, Nox was able to buy a place on the Unity. Individual high-ranking employees contributed lavishly to the project at crucial moments, appealing to carefully selected officials, who graciously granted them tickets to Alpha Centauri as Unity Franchise Holders.

Almost-exclusively executives, these Nox representatives were regarded with suspicion by their fellow passengers and with obsessive envy from those who could not make the trip. In other words, little different from any of the gigacorporate set. But unlike those who lorded over billets of hapless stakeholders, these corpos did not have the authority to enact decisions of life or death over other passengers. They simply wore the imperial indigo of franchise holders, which unlocked access to exclusive observation lounges, improved ration selections, even private cryotube bays aboard the ship. They were an obscenely wealthy minority whose presence seemed to confirm the worst fears of those who saw the mission as a means for the same elites to establish themselves in humanity’s last redoubt.

Even though the Nox Conglomerate was present as mere passengers and not as a corporate force, outrageous rumors still swirled among them. Independent analysts charted out elaborate family trees and highlighted the company’s efforts in resuscitating failing life sciences companies, swearing that the heirs of the original founders were plotting an escape to the new world. In reality, the upper echelons of Nox saw the Unity mission as a curio to be studied and kept track of, but unnecessary for the company’s longevity. These living descendents of the Three were not secretly hidden away in the bowels of the ship, but actually in residence at Ganymede aboard the Nox corporate station of Avalon, slumbering in cryostasis for tax purposes.

Divisional Head Preston assumes control of all eastern seaboard trading operations at the start of the Shadow Bank Run

Eric Jared Preston was born with a spoon of mere silver, not rhodium. A scion of one of the many attendant families of the Three, his existence was not unlike that of the conglomerate whose citizenship he held: living capital in service of ancient bloodlines. Just another raised from childhood to manage the age-old continuously growing coffers of the founders so that their descendants would continue to live in absolute prosperity, even while getting his fat slice of the pie. He did so with expected efficiency and sharkmanship. Clever enough to out-maneuver his fellows both inside and outside of the conglomerate, he rose to be a division head.

Then came one of the worst global downturns since the Markethack Crash. And Preston delivered, flooding the market with distressed equities before any had caught on. By the time the music had ended, Nox was sitting pretty even as its competitors had their chair repossessed from them. He then designed the company’s mother of all leveraged buyout campaigns, seizing control of floundering firm after firm. During the crisis, Nox seized a hefty chunk of commercial space assets beyond Martian space, acquiring mining and zero-g research companies whose leadership had failed to navigate the crisis.

Rush said:
Fly by night, away from here
Change my life again
Fly by night, goodbye, my dear
My ship isn't coming and I just can't pretend
- “Fly by Night”, Datalinks

For his successes, Preston was made manager of the Ceres division, now virtually a Nox company planetoid. But the downfall of the ‘Ceres Syndicate’ was his as well, felling his young star, fast-tracking him to involuntary retirement. So instead he chose exile, with a fresh gameboard to start over from. He volunteered to be a franchise holder, to go far into the frontier in ostensible service of the conglomerate.

Even prior to Planetfall he had spent the years-long training period doing market research on his fellow travelers, pinpointing those who would be pliable or readily indebted. During the crisis Preston broke out his chequebook in the form of the excess of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of precious metals, jewels, and hard currency stashed in his very own franchise holder-clearance level personal effects. Even in atmo, gold preserves its luster. Having just awoken after decades of hibernation, the technicians, medics, security officers still remembered the value of money. This cultural inertia aided Preston in winning more than a few to his side, dazzled by stacks of pounds sterling and purses of Krugerrands. By the time they realized that cash was of little more use beyond historical nostalgia, these workers were already sworn subordinates to him.

A turncoat Unity librarian, jacked into a newly gifted state-of-the-art Togra Labs metavisor, slashed into the datacore, fetching a list of Nox passengers and shipboard locations. Fighting through waves of stowaway survivalists, the ragtag coalition of the billing reunited Preston with his fellow employees, who, after some prompting, contributed their own personal treasuries. These fellow franchise holders and former executives now formed the core of his new- or perhaps renewed- venture. And for their first order of business, he bade them not to commandeer yet another spare landing pod, but to blend in with the fleeing masses.


Shift workers head to supper as dawn breaks over Nox City

The Preston party joined with a group of refugees who settled on a base with no name. Numbering little over a hundred, they were embedded into a larger host over ten times their size. Nominally still declaring themselves for the U.N. mission, this group was isolated on a moderately resourced island in the Bight of Bienor. In the mission decades that followed, Preston and other conglomerate veterans established themselves as a pillar of the frontier. With their executive experience, particularly among the ex-Ceres set, the Nox corpos constantly gave advice to the fledgling colony. From food production to harnessing Centauri’s rays, they were seen as knowing what they talked about. Setting up a development bank, Preston used their hidden wealth, lending to initiatives from a metalworks to xenobiology expeditions.

After two mission decades, the settlement had a fully operational mixed recycling center and funeral home, a multi-tiered residential hab complex, and the necessary facilities for an industrial base. In its wake was also a score of failed local businesses that had fallen into arrears with the Preston party. Half of the colony council owed them one way or another, and the other half relied on their advice. Meanwhile, the former conglomerate members formed an unofficial nobility, strolling around with drone manservants in tow.

Even as news broke of the discovery of other survivors outside of the base, Eric Preston declared the re-founding of his company upon Planet, branded as NoxCo. The base was formally named to Nox City, its dome ceiling beginning to be bathed in the perpetual twilight of industrial byproducts. Taking a humble sub-VP-level title for himself, the new Acting Director declared that NoxCo was again ready to service humanity’s investment needs, and to provide wise counsel and executive oversight.


Midnight general meeting at Arna Tower, Nox City, on the eve of the initial public offering for a restructured firm

Though currently possessing only two bases (the second worksite of Ceres Rising was founded on the mainland at a junction of winding canyon paths), NoxCo now presumes to be another corporate player. Like Unicorp (New Unity Industries-née-Dai Seung Heavy Industries), this corp exists as a private institution, operating autonomously across faction lines. It claims no single jurisdiction and insists on its own corporate regulations within its borders. But it also maintains offices in other polities. As such, it is considered a Bahadur-class corporeal actor, with characteristics similar to factions or sub-factions, but ultimately an entity of capital.

The NoxCo re-formation has been met with the usual mixed wariness from most factions at the prospect of yet another gigacorp trying to muscle into the affairs of states. One notable exception is Hutama of the Peacekeeping Forces, who has called for a trade deal directly with the wealthy conglomerate, in effect recognizing it as a de facto faction. The bullishly pro-trade Under-Secretary of Economic and Peacecrafting Efforts claims that far from being a vulture fund, Nox has always served the public good by reviving businesses that were doomed to fail, making them leaner and meaner. Terminated employees can be reallocated more effectively in the job market. And at times, it even serves antitrust regulators by doing the dirty work of breaking up businesses, while asset stripping. That’s the theory, at least.


Independent corprobes, on contract with NoxCo, infiltrate the Paramount

Among its competitors, NoxCo has selectively targeted both Morgan Industries subsidiaries and Chiron Cartel local companies for leveraged buyouts and hostile takeovers. Choice targets are corporate divisions or startups engaged in speculative technological research while suffering from unsustainable business models. After being identified by Interloper analyst-probes, these units receive heavy bombardment of capital by corporate raiders seeking to gain ownership to them and their IP. Needless to say, this is quite a nuisance. And yet, this has received mostly tepid responses. CEO Nwabudike Morgan is said to relish competition, and has countered gallantly with his own elaborate business schemes instead of open vendetta. Director Nathan Weismuller, on the other hand, is hamstrung by ideological commitment to the non-interventionism of the Cartel Charter, and can only urge his free enterprise zone faction’s businesses to just say no to Nox money. Though he has also directed Cartel Security to embark on covert “property protection” operations against the vultures, in line with the NAP.

The few outright hostile factions to NoxCo aren’t even in the same verticals. The Emporium considers the conglomerate an enemy ever since the dissolution of the pact they once held in Ceres; with little love lost between them, Brigadier James “Admiral” Heid has gleefully accepted any contract to attack conglomerate assets, whether in outright vendetta or in hardprobe smash-and-grab operations. And while for the longest time, the idea that Eric Preston and his confederates are seeking to reintroduce the Founding Three’s bloodlines on Planet was nothing but the stuff of conspiracy theories, recent probe activity orchestrated by the Interlopers against the Human Ascendancy has stirred up old legends. Repeated intrusions into DNA databanks has led Director Tamineh Pahlavi to declare a shadow vendetta against NoxCo, deploying everything from the elite Immortals probes to Legionnaire military forces.


Eric Preston is portrayed by Simon Baker as Jared Cohen in Margin Call


Eric Preston is the leader of the Noxium Corporation from Pandora: First Contact (Manual with lore)

My portrayal of Nox’ as a private equity firm comes from my overthinking Pandora lore, along with the general themes of financial corporations existing as social AIs to perpetuate capital, the thin line between plutocracy and aristocracy, etc.

The Ceres Syndicate is also based on the Ceres Cartel concept from Pandora

The British East India Company was once nicknamed “The Company Bahadur, the valiant, hero company

Interlopers are those who breach an established monopoly

Image Credits

Renaissance-type painting of men signing document is from 100 Bullets, issue #50, by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso

Giant shipping container loading dock is “Metallum City” by Tamas Medve

Pedestrians in night city is “Mining Colony” by Rasmus Poulsen

Midnight boardroom meeting is from Tron: Legacy

Mercenaries in front of bioscience secret plans is from Syndicate (2012)

Further Reading

The Secretive Industry Devouring the U.S. Economy, The Atlantic
Last edited:
Lords of Industry (pt. 1.5)

Priests of the Temple of Ceres


Associate Partner Kaydown Harper said:
You say you took an idea from a napkin sketch to the NEXTDAQ. Nurtured it, protected it, bled for it. Big deal. Do it a thousand times more. That’s our job. - Final sales call with Tetra Vaal CEO Joshua Abdon Haldeman. Client signed.

A funny thing happened on the way to Alpha Centauri. As the Unity project dragged on with every change in leadership, aerospace enterprises sprung up to profit from the perpetually postponed mission. Independent rocket companies and orbital infrastructure schemes vied to get a cut of the juicy budgets put forth by the U.N. and national governments, scrambling over each other to be recognized by the Industry Standards Board. Sometimes in their haste, they produced half-cocked designs and shoddy construction that blew up shortly after launch, or doomed test astronauts to the void. Since these ventures were often founded in North America, after the bottom of the market fell off during the various Reconstruction hiccups, they soon found themselves moribund.

The Nox Conglomerate swooped in and bought many of these premature unicorns for the price of a song, securing vast holdings in the asteroid belt and majority control over Ceres. But that is only half the story. For large companies that could not yet be acquired, the stewards of the Three’s wealth profited from them differently. Instead they offered armies of advisors to counsel them on their space operations. Nox sent in the consultants.

Lyonesse Strategies, a proud Nox Conglomerate subsidiary, had cut its teeth in the shadow of the Big Six while on Earth. Experts in modern scientific efficiency methods, they were sent around the globe to dissect and suture all sorts of failing projects. These management consultants strategized on everything from keeping the Concorde flying and Pan Am solvent, to increasing crop yields in modernized Golden Chinese factory farms, to hiding the cooked books of the petty kingdoms in the Indian Ocean- not to mention massaging their PR records even as human rights violations came to light.


Resident consultants, or Residents, discuss monetization strategies at Piazzi Harvest

Overpaid, detached, master-of-none spreadsheet and slidedeck jockeys, the Lyones and Lyonesses of Nox approached the too big to bail companies with plans on how to revitalize their remote desolate starfields and attract customers out to the Main Belt. If these clients recovered, they would be a success story. If they failed, they might shatter into chunks that could be digestible by the conglomerate. Either way, the consultants got paid.

The default solution, of course, was to cut costs to the bone. Investors responded well to trimming fat, even if in its wake hundreds of experienced laborers were shipped the long way back to Earth, safety precautions were tossed out the airlock, vital supplies were neglected until machinery started electrocuting staff and load-bearing structures collapsed entire shafts. The long-suffering workers of the Main Belt did not take kindly to “payroll right-sizing,” nor when Lyonesse published reports calling for mass exporting Cererian water to buyers millions of miles away. Company Organizers stopped giving nostrums to their psych patients and began marching alongside them against the bosses.

So the assets started depreciating. Strikes, sabotage, shutdowns. Rumors of organizing. Insubordination. Even the specter of direct action against the various companies’ leadership. Publicly, the Residents paid them little mind, dazzling earthside investors with promises of substantial rebounds and massive payoffs. And privately, they began reaching out to an old business partner of theirs.


Brigadier James “Admiral” Heid in reinforced armor, flanked by ex-SAS Imperial Military Focus security consultants, on a contract

Nox’s Lyonesse consultants first contacted the Imperial Military Focus in the heart of Africa. While advising the imperial Bokassa regime on food production, Residents witnessed firsthand the professional brutality of in-country IMF operators, crushing local dissent and defeating People’s African Union decolonialist foreign fighters. So after cargo loaders staged a sit-in at the Port Emrys docks on Ceres, Lyonesse Residents flipped through the firm's Holodex and dialed up Brigadier James Heid, offering the mercenary company their first contract in space. Eager to spill blood on a new frontier, the warmonger agreed. This was the formation of the so-called Ceres Syndicate.

The IMF served as able strikebreakers, cost-reducing all leaky assets within a fortnight. Accused union leaders were tagged and bagged. (Residents replaced unsalvageable stock by suggesting their client companies hire new contractors from nations willing to turn a blind eye to exploitation of their citizens in space.) But troubles continued. Now that the Pandora’s box of violence had been opened on Ceres, corporate rivals, smarting from Nox’s capital conquest of swathes of the Main Belt, attacked their clients’ facilities with special corporate security, freelancers, and deniable assets like rock pirates. Some of these were even stirred up by rogue elements within the very clients that Lyonesse was advising, wishing to discredit the Residents and shake off their influence.

Not unlike ARC’s relationship with the IMF in the wars against North American hypersurvivalists, Nox, via Lyonesse, provided intel and strategic specifications for Heid’s mercenaries to fulfill. And their commander could not be happier, having no end to foes to slay in order to keep the conglomerate king in Ceres. As the incursions grew more bitter, rival gigacorps resorted to sponsoring terrorist insurgencies in the Belt to deal indiscriminate property loss against Nox and clients alike. In response, the conglomerate directed Heid’s men to attack competitor space assets in the Kessler Ring in Earth’s very orbit. Fierce firefights and even mass accelerated manmade mini-meteorite strikes lit up the skies, and in intrasystem transit lanes the Transportation Authority Police did not watch.

Mid-21st century Lyonesse Strategies recruitment propaganda showcasing Ceres Syndicate orbital operators attacking rival corporate security as far as the earthsphere

While Heid’s precision is as renowned as his bloodlust, collateral damage was inevitable. After a United Nations Life-Saving Service medical transport at Callisto was mistaken for a dummy vehicle- a common tactic used by both sides in the commercial war- and destroyed by heavy assault astronauts, Earth demanded order in the Belt. The United Nations Space Authority sent in its Hammershields alongside Comprehensive Transport’s finest. The peacekeepers and the corporate lawmen directed all parties to stand down. And Nox did, albeit with some grumbling from its IMF partners.

Arduous rounds of peace talks followed, drawing in the likes of Rylance Torquay as witness and John Garland himself as negotiator. The gigacorps were essentially given slaps on the wrist in exchange for full demobilization. Nox itself was not implicated, nor even mentioned in the proceedings; Lyonesse had acted as consultant to dozens of client companies who were the patsies of the conflict, while the Conglomerate was not easily held liable. In fact, U.N. investigators soon discovered that the Residents had been consulting with so many struggling companies in the Main Belt, there were multiple occasions when different teams had consulted with each other’s competitors. IMF forces had even been employed by opposing sides, though never in the same battle. This spiderweb of conflicts of interest, coupled with Nox’s ample layers of deniability and deep legal pockets, prevented them from being prosecuted.


A Ceres Syndicate vacuum trooper attacks a Main Belt distribution center asteroid towards the end of hostilities

The Outer System Plowshares Treaty dismantled all mercenary camps and special corporate security facilities in the Main Belt, at least those not approved by the United Nations Space Authority, the Transportation Authority Police, and other relevant authorities. But voices still bayed for a sacrifice to answer for the damage done. Ceres division head Eric Preston crossed across intracompany lines and ordered the Residents to counsel out their erstwhile partner: to frame the Imperial Military Focus as an aggressor force and escalator of violence, which, to be fair, it was. Scrutiny shifted to the weapon and not its wielder. Under the terms of the Treaty, the IMF was banned from space. Heid retired back to Africa, his dreams of space war temporarily paused, cursing Nox for all eternity.

The Ceres Syndicate era really lasted for about fifty months. After all the public hearings and investigations had closed, the economic fortunes of the Main Belt had scarcely improved. Between all of the fighting and Lyonesse cost-cutting procedures, many of the consulted clients had experienced worse fates. They were readily absorbed by Nox’s private equity arm. The payday was substantial, but the public fallout was far from optimal. To distance itself from the mounting scandal, the conglomerate renamed Lyonesse Strategies to Nox Consulting Services. Preston himself received a 10x bonus for his work, a handshake, and a push out of the division. As much as a scapegoat as the mercenary captain he had betrayed, he would make his way to the Unity.


Managing Partner Alaric De said:
Selling is selling. Whatever it is, wherever you are. To whoever the seller thinks they are. We’re here to sell the story that we know their business better than they do. In times of old, kings came and went, but a good advisor could outlive generations of kings. You tell a good story, you’re that advisor. You live forever. - New grad welcoming speech

Given their checkered part in the Ceres Syndicate imbroglio, many Residents were axed, or chose to go into exile. Some cultivated their remaining public sector contacts and found ways to worm themselves into the Unity project- to some opportunistic officials, the experience of these spacefarer managers outweighed any ethical lapse. Bureaucratic empire-builders sought to include ex-Lyonesse resident consultants in future colonial regimes as administrators, using their prized advice to justify their diktats. Yet when Planetfall struck, the canny Residents slipped away, joining their mainline Nox coworkers under the leadership of Preston.

Among their number was Principal Manager Alaric De and his understudy Case Leader Kaydown Harper. The two former securities salespeople entered the Conglomerate after the liquidation of one of its biggest portfolio companies, an investment bank based in the City of London. Nox psych profilers scrutinized their strengths and, rather unexpectedly, shuffled them into Lyonesse Strategies.

The two proved more than able to master their first case: advising WorldCom on how to navigate ongoing hypersurvivalist attacks against their cellular infrastructure. De, the well-connected, irascible hardnoser, weaved together an impromptu coalition of corporate rent-a-cops, amnestied militiamen, even disaffected Kellerites, all financed through creative use of capital spending. Meanwhile, Harper, the keen-eyed, ever-hungry ladder-climber, wheedled and false-promised her way into securing a no-bid contract from Congress, ensuring priority in federal protection. She even cut a deal with the American Reclamation Corporation for fire support at adjacent worksites. WorldCom was happy and the case was closed within time. Later on, when the telecom giant stumbled and came crashing to earth, Nox was able to acquire wodges of the flailing company and flip them to Oscar van de Graaf himself, strengthening ARC’s position as the face of Reconstruction. Both De and Harper received bonuses for afterwork. Thus, like their colleagues abroad, these investment bankers turned management consultants turned into nation-builders.

Kaydown Harper’s first trade as a junior analyst under the mentorship of Alaric De, prior to Nox

The former Residents had a prominent role on the road to NoxCo. They were famed as smoother communicators and cannier bargainers than many of their Conglomerate fellows, though disreputable given what happened in the Main Belt. Perhaps because of his lack of visible association with the Ceres Syndicate, and his force of personality, Alaric De took control of NoxCo Consulting Services. As leader of the Residents on Chiron, he and his apprentice, Kaydown Harper, serve Preston’s agenda by supporting the Interlopers in their attempts to access new markets. Residents are sent to forge relations with new factions, offering their trusty strategies wherever they go. Ancient wisdom from a lost planet. And sowing the seeds for future opportunities for NoxCo to swoop in to devour.

So far, Managing Partner De is quite content with being a king within a new empire. But his hunger for greater wealth and glory is no less than that of his suzerain’s. The same, of course, goes for the notorious and duplicitous Associate Partner Harper. Both have their own connections to key figures in factions beyond Nox City. So do, for that matter, many of those working below them. And what final move the Residents will play in Preston’s great game, no one knows.


James Heid is portrayed by James Purefoy as SAS Captain Gulliver "Gully" Troy on Pennyworth

Kaydown Harper is portrayed by Myha'la Herrold as Harper Stern on Industry

Alaric De is portrayed by Ken Leung as Eric Tao on Industry


The Earth Sphere is a concept from Gundam, encompassing the Earth, the Moon, and the Lagrange points.

The Ceres Syndicate (IMF-Nox) is based on the Ceres Cartel concept (Empire Management-Noxium) from Pandora: First Contact

During colonial India, Residents were political agents- officials of the East India Company, then post-1813, the British government itself, who acted as diplomats and advisers to the rulers of the princely states

Lyonesse rebranding to Nox Consulting Services is a bit of a reversal of how Andersen Consulting became Accenture

Image Credits

Corporate meeting is "Corpo Meeting" by Bernard Kowalczuk

All zero-g combat imagery is from Shattered Horizon

Further Reading

In Clover (review of When McKinsey Comes to Town: The Hidden Influence of the World’s Most Powerful Consulting Firm), London Review of Books

This excerpt of When McKinsey Comes to Town by Walt Bogdanich and Michael Forsythe
Last edited:
Chairman Sheng-ji Yang said:
Understand well the difference between survival and adaptation. Cockroaches are survivable. But only the species that had evolved free will was capable of the change required to escape the Great Catastrophe. - Ethics for Tomorrow

A Hive Impact Squad operating in the Cones of Briseis.

The etymology of the landmark is peculiar, recalling a female captive of the Trojan War, possession of whom was disputed between the great warrior Achilles and Agamemnon, the Achaean commander, for it implies that the Cones were likewise a choice prize. Yet frequent seismic activity and the consequent unpredictable venting of sulfurous gasses at temperatures above 500ºF appeared to render the place worthless except as a barrier to transit. In an assessment of MY14, the Digital Oracle assigned to the Cones the lowest probability of Hive activity. Dr. Anhalt circulated these conclusions broadly among his clients and military dispositions were modified accordingly.

When Hive raiders emerged from the lava fields in MY35, it was months before troops could be rushed from other fronts, giving Yang the respite he dearly needed to evacuate or booby trap vulnerable settlements before their capture by Pilgrim deepfinders.

Asbestos-fiber smocks and heat-resistant polymer helmets stripped from Hive casualties gave tantalizing indications of how the Hive had managed to operate successfully amongst the Cones. One intelligence analyst expressed the common view when he described Yang's solution as "a mess of carcinogens."

Lu Wo Su, Hive Architect, seen during a secret embassy to the Gaians.​

Born 2014, in Shenzhen, People's Republic of China. Studied structural engineering at Tsinghua University. Diverted from People's Liberation Army Space Force due to severe vertigo. Reassigned to Project Nian, an attempt to overwhelm British colonial authorities by encouraging encroachment on Hong Kong's periphery. Made multiple visits to Kowloon Walled City to perform "rhizome" analysis, seeking out the developmental and anthropological ingredients to stimulate rapid urban development (and social malady) in an environment without central planning. Lu's field notes constitute some of the most comprehensive and insightful reflections on the City's unique place in the regional and global economy, as well as the psychological effects of life in a proto-arcology. Excerpts of this research were later stolen from Chinese government archives, sold, and exploited by Struan's Pacific Tading Company, among others.

Fled to Walled City during China's Golden Revolution. Turned over to Royal Hong Kong Police Force by triads on the order of the Anti-Demolition Committee and returned to China. Death sentence commuted in return for service with the Unity Mission. Underwent pre-launch training with Planning Division chief Sheffron DeGaues the Elder, 4th Baron Dhekelia, once a Resident in Hong Kong supporting climate change remediation work. DeGaues found Wu to be a curious and, more important, humble observer who "has not fallen prey to that moralizing which tends to afflict persons called to consider societies not their own." Wu served DeGaues as something like an aide de camp, becoming his protégé even as their attention was diverted from planning for the first base on Chiron to searching for evidence of false spaces on segments of the hull being prepped for shipment up the terrestrial space elevators.

Retrieved by crew loyal to Political Officer Sheng-ji Yang. Wounded in a skirmish with Sabre Company paramilitaries prior to disembarkation. Later oversaw the expansion of Hive outposts beyond the Dune Sea, including route through Cones of Briseis.

Tribal outpost on the eastern edge of the Great Dunes.

Severe defeat at the hands of Coalition forces convinced Chairman Yang that a policy of total isolation was at least temporarily unsustainable. His first overtures were to fellow outcasts. Hive caravans traded scavenged weapons and prisoners ("rescued scouts") for greenstuffs and fossil fuels at defensible towers like this one.
One quirk of the arrangement was that the Tribesmen insisted on payment in cash--a nod to the novelty trade inspired by Nox Conglomerate ex-director Eric Preston, who continuously questioned the security and predictability of the so-called "energy economy," especially when so few citizens had access to the Planetary Network. Many Tribals in fact carried coins in the ancient style--as adornments that could be readily disposed of during transactions. (As one IMF wag quipped, "'Twas better'n 'em wearing ears or bullets, as we or th'Spartans sometimes do.")

First image is "DreamUp Creation" by Mixasko on DeviantArt. Created using AI tools.

Second image is "The scout" by tuncundun on DeviantArt.

For discussion of Kowloon Walled City and rhizomes, see "The Densest City in the World Had a (Stange) Secret" by DamiLee on YouTube.

Third image is "Dried Basin Outpost" by Wesley Phua on ArtStation.
Sister Miriam Godwinson said:
A managed Planet is a Potemkin Village—the shoddy work of an inferior hand. - We Must Dissent

Jourai Al Rifai was born in a refugee camp outside Amman in 2044. Her parents, both solartechs, were among the quarter-million Jordanians displaced by the Israeli occupation of Aqaba. The youngster's political activism attracted positive attention from the Hashemite regime and, with their blessing, the family relocated to Croatan Station, Ceres on a NoxCo contract during her adolescence.

Jourai apprenticed in her parents' trade for a number of years before repeated shortages of water ice and rising tension between labor and management led her to seek opportunities with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. By 2065, she had joined the permanent crew of an itinerant U.N.-chartered hospital ship, the St.S. Dorothea Dix, first working in the engineering division as a troubleshooter, then as an electronic operations officer supervising interactions between various automated systems. In late 2068, Jourai received the first correspondence from Data Services Division Head Tạ Dọc Thân suggesting that she might be a suitable addition to the Unity muster.

The nature of Thân's interest was a concern to other mission leaders. Records left by Thân suggest that he saw Al Rifai as a valuable addition to the crew as a whole, rather than for Data Services alone. In Al Rifai's personnel record, Thân made notations that described her, approvingly, as a "renaissance woman" with demonstrated aptitude in multiple disciplines. He also questioned a Psych workup that criticized Al Rifai for "antiquated nationalism," writing archly that such a reaction echoed "Soviet-style thinking." Instead, he argued, the young woman's attitude was better taken as evidence of "keen political curiosity" and emotional intelligence. Certainly, the heavy emphasis on positional specialization by Charterist recruiters had also led Mission Control to request that division heads focus on finding "more generic talent." They expected that crew would be ideally-positioned to take on rotational assignments as a means of promoting unity within the increasingly heterogeneous expedition.

But this spirit of cooperation was noticeably out-of-character for Thân, and Al Rifai, like the others, was requested for appointment to the Historical Records branch of Data Services, vice Engineering or Base Operations. Executive Officer d'Almeida called the Data Services chief "an inveterate political operative," and claimed that he was gathering to himself a "shadow crew," the purpose of which was to advise him on aspects of mission activity beyond his assigned remit. Chief Science Officer Prokhor Zakharov was flummoxed when presented with the slate of candidates that included Al Rifai: "For what purpose would one assign these individuals to assist our librarians?" This was notwithstanding general acceptance of Al Rifai's qualifications to be of service. With Zakharov's prompting, Mediator Johann Anhaldt suggested that Al Rifai be placed in the Atomic Energy Laboratory to perform systems integration duties, a proposal that was ultimately successful.

Al Rifai attained high marks during her expedited training but was not considered to have completed enough training to be entrusted with a role during disembarkation or as a first responder. The shipboard computer did not initiate her retrieval during the Unity Crisis and, as a jack-of-all-traits whose career had primarily been in space, she was overlooked when emerging factions scoured the manifests for choice talent. She was saved, along with more than twenty thousand others, by an automated protocol that jettisoned her Hab Bay into a degrading orbit for future retrieval.

Al Rifai's Hab Bay landed heavily in a peat bog in far southern Shamash and went undetected for nearly fifty years before the construction of the Agathoclean Dam by the Shapers of Planet required a dredging operation. Al Rifai was absorbed into the Base Operations staff of Ikurō Kamatari, second-in-command to Supervisory Liquidator Shoichiro Nagao, where she performed much the same work as she had while aboard the Dorothea Dix.

Image is "Children of a dead Earth 2" by Lumish1992 on DeviantArt.

The Oasis, typical of the numerous mercantile outposts established at the north end of Nessus Canyon on the fringes of the Dune Sea following the Hive's first great defeat in MY36. Activity there followed the seasonal cycle of life on the Dunes. As cooler temperatures arrived, it became a staging ground for caravans headed to University bases on the distant Sawtooth back-slopes. Morgan also bet on the site's proximity to his traditional Pilgrim and Labyrinth foes, knowing that need would eventually drive them to the mart, where exchanges of mutual benefit might do what traditional diplomacy had not.

Morganite barkers were unable to lure the permanent settlers sought by their CEO to consolidate his faction's toehold in the region. Adjacent lands failed to sell at auction since prospective homesteaders doubted the likelihood of being able to pay assessments, or contribute to their defense, at the conclusion of promised tax holidays, no matter how generous. Deployments of the Imperial Military Focus also backfired. Morganite citizens interpreted the presence of such esteemed warriors--paid for out of Morgan's own pocket--as a signal that the New Frontier was still an active war zone. Morgan eventually sold the territory in question to the Shapers for its reclaimed carbon value.

American M60A3 of the 1st Infantry Division (Big Red One) in Denmark on training maneuvers.

The venerable M60 main battle tank, informally dubbed "Patton," first entered service with the United States Armed Forces in 1959. First stricken from the U.S. TO&E in 2019, more than 9,000 surplus hulls were brought out of mothballs to leaven National Guard units on both sides of the American Civil War. These continued in various marks through the Second Reconstruction. The federalized Florida National Guard retired the last American M60s, M9RM variants, in 2068. Foreign operators included: Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Ecuador, France, Greece, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Iran, Israel, Mexico, Morocco, Pakistan, Paraguay, the Philippines, Portugal, Rio Grande do Sul, Somaliland, South Korea, Spain, Sudan, Thailand, Turkey, West Germany, and Yugoslavia. Some institutional armed forces also used the M60, including the American Reclamation Corporation, the Hudson's Bay Company, and the United Nations. Morgan SafeHaven retained more than 250 M60s as collateral during the collapse of client sponsors in Texas, Louisiana, Missourri, and Arkansas. Shipped from Gulf Ports, they later operated against the Brazilians in Amazonia and the French in the Sahel. As of 2071, more than 2,000 M60s remained in service worldwide.

The M60 was widely regarded by military observers as superior to most other tanks of its era, especially the Soviet T-72, giving praiseworthy service in the hands of the Israel Defense Forces. Duels between M60s were a notable feature of the Greek capture of Constantinople. The M60 became nearly synonymous with spectacular breakthroughs in the Sinai, at Aqaba, and in Kurdistan. The M60 was disfavored in Commonwealth countries, particularly after a poor showing against Centurion and Chieftan main battle tanks during fighting with India.

The M60's original design lent itself to extensive modification and the tank was a very successful export product. In 2024, Chrysler CEO John Torrence testified before a Congressional inquiry that controversial sales of upgrade packages to disfavored regimes in Lisbon, Madrid, Belgrade, and Khartoum (all negotiated by the U.S. Government and later the subject of an anti-trust suit brought by Ford, Grumman, and General Motors) had been essential to helping his company stave off hostile takeover in the early 2000s.

M60 platforms, sans turret, were fitted with utility kits (plow blades, trench cutters, and cranes) to deal with nitrate accumulations on Chiron. Most are thought to have been converted to ersatz armored vehicles within the first year of settlement.

The slums of MorganBank. Public health services, foremost among which were air scrubbing and effective management of sewage, were a drain on corporate resources tolerated only once disease or dissatisfaction reached crisis point. The undesirability of crossing ripe and flowing streets did much to foster the skywalk toll connections between dormitory blocs while neon signage encouraged the pedestrian to keep their attentions ever upward.

First image is "055" by titoesalvaro on DeviantArt. Created using AI tools.

Second image is "Cold War Warrior" bny markkarvon on DeviantArt.

Third image is "Happy new year from 2077" by Geezer-gun on DeviantArt. Created using AI tools.
Lords of Industry (pt. 2)

Chiron Cartel - Origins

Director Nathan Weismuller said:
One hopes you find the virtue in this enterprise self-evident. What it promises is protection from tyranny- that gnawing hunger biting from beyond the gravity well, that unshakeable qualm sitting at each regulation meal at the end of each regulation day. The fear of losing yourself to the laws of another, the yearning to live true to your own purpose. All banished, what’s left is a chance to exercise the highest virtue: to prosper by your own hand and will. And ye shall become free, and freedom will bring ye truth. - Address to the First Investors

Born New Los Angeles, United States of America. Descended from postwar economic refugees from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Fascinated by the intersection of science and property rights from an early age. Attended high school in Century City during the Aquacola Uprising, an early precursor to the eventual Water Wars that comprised the SoCal Theater of the Hypersurvivalist Wars. Before rescue by the California National Guard, witnessed firsthand a semblance of order maintained in the emergency zone by local businesses providing security to protect residents’ private possessions, and distributing supplies with professional-grade supply chains.

Inspired, Nathan organized the Entrepreneurs’ Club at Noah Cross High to create a coalition of campus orgs to investigate a rumored water source. Sneaking past angry mobs of drought-stricken residents throwing firebombs at NLAPD units, the students sought an overlooked aquifer beneath the abandoned ruins of the Maroon Studios backlot. His trust in the Local Historians’ research was founded: the Young Hydrologists determined there was likely groundwater present. Some digging with a backyard drill by the Future Earth Scientists later, the children received confirmation of the long-forgotten water source. They notified their neighborhood hydro corporation, who swiftly exploited the resource to sell at a reasonable special drought rate to residents. As a reward, Nathan and his team became newsvid heroes for a cycle, even receiving a crisis award from Togra Labs. His parents moved north, and he spent the remaining years of childhood in the San Fernando Valley of Ayn Rand.

The Battle of Mount Lee, one of the bloodiest clashes between law enforcement and water demanders in the Aquacola Uprising

Studied Philosophy of Economics at Patrick Henry University of Cleveland. Co-founded a series of technological startups beginning with Terminus Systems, an automated accounting firm that soon pivoted to designing tax lawyer programs to scour business codes for tax loopholes and exemptions. Despite being a boon in the SMB space, delivering small shops with counsel to rival megacorp legal teams, IRS scrutiny shut down Terminus. Praised in disruptor spaces from Silicon Valley to Silicon Prairie, toasted on Wall Street, Weismuller became the face of a good idea killed by the meddling federal government that had driven the country into civil war.

Subsequently started Anacreon Automics to realize the Ford Nucleon nuclear-powered concept car for American families. Shuttered by joint action between the EPA and the Department of Energy. Kalgan Cures, his life-extension therapies moonshot, drew international praise from the Zakharov Research Institute but was terminated by FDA disapproval. Bel Riose Bionics, an attempt to create a chess machine to take on the likes of IBM’s Deep Hooloovoo or the Soviet Union’s Kasparov³ by adapting the neural patterns of past grandmasters, was stymied by an alliance of anti-artificial intelligence doomsters, anti-scan bioconservatives, and chess traditionalists.

Last-ditch effort was a cybernet security company built from the bones of Terminus code. MacMillan Utility, so named after the astronomer and cosmologist, was lucky enough to gather a stable of talented nonconformist codetechs drawn to the founder’s controversial track record. Promising antiviral protection with a pronounced emphasis against surveillance- both non-state actors, and otherwise- the upstart soon began winning over corporate clients. Then he offered consumers an unbeatable price point. As competitors dropped out, the company similarly won up-market, securing its leading position. Weismuller planted his seed money.

Founder Weismuller makes the fateful product announcement that won MacMillan Utility the security war

Success was a whirlwind phase. Having finally made a hit, Nathan Weismuller grew his company and leaned into his experience tussling against regulators, eventually joining the ranks of founders turned venture capitalists. Started the Mutiny Fund, focusing on iconoclast entrepreneurs with a rebellious streak against convention. Subsidized the “seditious seven” who broke from Cantwell-Rogers Electronics to found Wildchild. Continued to invest in space projects even after the popping of the Belt Bubble caused by the dissolution of the Ceres Syndicate, defying the rest of the market. His unorthodox bets as a VC created a sizable fortune.

With wealth, came influence. The government, eager to bury the hatchet as it appealed to deep-pocketed corporations to aid Reconstruction, appointed Weismuller to the National Board for Prosperous Recovery. His civic duty was to oversee Innovate for Individualism state grants for promising new companies- employing the investment skills he honed at Mutiny with America’s sovereign wealth fund. He quickly grew disillusioned as it became clear that the job was to blatantly pick winners and losers, playing power games on behalf of bureaucrats and politicians, market competitiveness be damned. He was further disgusted when fellow private sector board members rejected his concerns, eagerly snapping up public funding where they could, even accusing him of being a Soviet agent undermining American industry. Like Leonard Read on the National Industrial Conference Board over a century ago, Weismuller stuck to the principle that markets should take precedence over business, and resigned.

Mutiny Fund leadership photoshoot, shortly before Weismuller’s brief stint in public service

Weismuller gradually drifted away from day-to-day work. Despite despising the statist dirty business of politics, he co-created the Forces of Economic Freedom, a free market think tank in the tradition of Read’s FEE. The FEF looked to new frontiers where truly laissez-faire policies could be pursued- in the rising new landmasses of the Indian Ocean, at the warming polar regions, on or under the sea, and into space itself. He frequently became a holovid news commentator renowned for his staunchly pro-capitalist views.

While private pensions, financial advising firms, and banks wooed him as an in-house economist, Weismuller rebuffed their advances, jaded by their hypocritical acceptance of neo-New Keynesianism. Despite not actually having an economics degree, his alma mater asked him to be a guest lecturer, which he did accept, and became a frequent fixture, molding young minds to follow in his stridently freedom-focused thinking. But they were the very few in a future marked by public-private collusion.

And so, Weismuller escaped to the one place that hadn’t been corrupted by crony capitalism: space.

Director Nathan Weismuller said:
Your compatibility depends on what money means to you. Is it simply wealth, a tool to acquire possessions, happiness abstracted? Or is it how a free society speaks? What gives voice to value, calls forth contracts, expresses endorsement or invective? Rest assured, if you believe in the latter, you will find it here. - Address to the First Investors

Weismuller’s admittance to the Alpha Centauri mission as a Unity Franchise Holder was a foregone conclusion that shocked only industry insiders. The futurist financier had invested in extraorbital endeavors for years, and was in the top twentieth percentile of individual donors to the Unity project itself. As for Mutiny, he handed it off to choice former pupils from Patrick Henry U, as he did with MacMillan Utility. In training and on the ship, he wore the indigo-trimmed uniform of the wealthy astro-tourists, fading into their number as a colonist.

Then came Planetfall. Waking up to a state of emergency, Weismuller saw the rational world of due process, civilization, and sanity fall apart. Insurrection, looting, mass swindling into indentured servitude, all manner of lawlessness raged across the massive ship. Rejecting the illicit fire sales of the crisis markets that emerged in the Unity’s last days, where slaves and stolen goods were traded between gigacorpos and warlords, he formed his own hardscrabble on-ship bazaar. In a room of empty Olympic-sized swimming pools at the Unity rec center, shivering refugees exchanged modest treasures and supplies following rudimentary human rights guarantees under the watchful eyes of basic security patrols organized by Weismuller himself.

Foreshadowing what was to play out on the surface, ‘Planetfall Pool’ managed to escape the Sauronian eye of the corporate giants. The Morganites who stumbled upon the motley exchange sniffed at the poor imitation and the limited selection of goods on sale. Struan’s traders could not even find it. Back home, ARC CEO Oscar van de Graaf had been denounced by Weismuller as a mass market manipulator and rent seeker extraordinaire, the worst faux-capitalist who collaborated with governments; as such, CFO-CHIO Suzanne Marjorie Fielding directed her human asset harvesters to skip the bazaar, writing it off as a hostile market.

Finally, Gangnam-based Dai Seung Heavy Industries (later on Planet renamed to New Unity Industries, popularly known as Unicorp), behaved worst at all. Employees of the chaebol boorishly streamed into the pool, attempting to muscle in on the proceedings. Led by a sinister consultant barking orders in perfect Korean, they insisted that their prices were superior and demanded shoppers to submit to employment contracts with the construction/mining corporation. Claiming to be from Crimea while speaking urbane English with a German accent, the consultant declared that this market, like all others, deserved no less than the visionary leadership of Dai Seung. Only by Weismuller strategically positioning his patrols- from thence on, his faction’s security would forever be nicknamed the Lifeguards- and some tense negotiating was bloodshed averted. The chaebol consultant retreated, but promised the investor that they would one day meet again, on solid ground.

The anonymous Dai Seung consultant assesses Planetfall Pool from afar for a forced acquisition

The poolroom was operational only briefly, but like so many institutions hastily built during the crisis, it was the seed for something far greater on Planet. The participants were gratified to have a temporary place of trade and refuge away from the disruptions in the rest of the ship. But as Zakharov’s grim heralds arrived to tell of Unity’s imminent destruction and the need to evacuate, all eyes turned to Weismuller.

The economist seized his chance to explain his vision: a new colony enshrined by liberty for its members to build the life and prosperity they wanted, offering protection of law under a minimal and un-meddlesome state. In fact, something better than a state- he proposed that this colony be governed by an insurance company of sorts, restrained by a corporate charter that would be responsible for protecting all subscribers. Subscription, like the protection services, would be opt-in and non-compulsory, though it would be the only guarantor to access to property registries and the judicial system.

And, to be precise, this insurance company would be something akin to Lloyd’s of London- it would provide an organized marketplace where syndicates of investing underwriters would pool and spread risk, offering differing services to cover all citizens wishing to subscribe to the colony’s protection. Unlike a traditional government, continuous competition would result in the best quality of care and accountability, as all citizens would be free to switch over to superior providers if they were dissatisfied with their current level of coverage. In short, Weismuller concluded, rule by the market would let everyone be free to create a better life.

Rush said:
What you say about his company
Is what you say about society
Catch the mist, catch the myth
Catch the mystery, catch the drift
- “Tom Sawyer”, Datalinks

He called it a Cartel. An ironic name, perhaps, but no less ironic than the Objectivist cabal that Rand had named The Collective.

A Cartel Charter was drafted, fixing low rates for subscription. Already, members in attendance were devising protection plans against one another, planning to offer greater levels of protection above the factional baseline. It seemed that enlightened self-interest would be the foundation of this faction founded at the ship’s pools. Like so many would-be Moses that day, Weismuller led his chosen people to a spare landing pod, and set sail for the surface--


After the initial mission years of toil, the Chiron Cartel has gradually arisen from the alien soil of Planet. A sprawling mass of corporations nestles on the banks of a great roaring river, its citizens seeking out new frontiers and corresponding profits. Bases named after founding firms, each issued a sub-charter but also hosting a bevy of other businesses, even competitors, sprout like mushrooms. As seen in many Bahadur-class corporeal actors, corporate quasi-factions tend to attract the necessarily motivated and cunning self-starters. (Though ironically enough, scholars consider it closer to a standard faction than most single-corporation entities.)

Overseen by a Board of Directors, of which Nathan Weismuller is simply the first of many, the Chiron Cartel boasts a powerful, efficient economy and technological prowess. But the embrace of freedom belies its utterly weak central government and vulnerability to threats external, and within. Indeed, the internal peace within the faction is often dubbed the “miracle on the New Delaware.” Its relatively low drone population is owed to the guilds formed from the free association of Cartel working classes, whose powers overshadow those of the shambling, gutted labor unions of latter-era Earth. Protected not by state power, but by their own force of arms thanks to unrestricted weapons access, guild-girded workers have become corporate powers of their own. Some even engage in secondary ventures from small crafts to new startups, blurring the line between labor, owner, and manager. And they are well-armed indeed, like most corporate bodies within the Cartel.

Its member firms, remarkably, squabble but not often to the point of open bloodshed- while industrial probe activity runs rife, the fear of foreign competition unites them. Yet the Board espouses a pacifistic diplomatic policy, seeking mutual coexistence and unfettered trade even as few factions share their regard for limited government and natural rights. Shackled to the self-limits imposed by the Cartel Charter, underfunded and starved of resources, and denied of power by the people, what passes for a state within the faction perennially fails to prevent infiltration, data and IP loss. Not to mention, those who live outside of Cartel law, either the impoverished underclass, and unrelenting individualists who refuse to pay dues to anyone.

But how does this shifting, freewheeling, amorphous entity constitute a faction? And how has it managed to survive in a world of aggressors and oppressors? The answers, of course, are as in flux as the Chiron Cartel itself.


Nathan Weismuller is portrayed by Lee Pace as Joe MacMillan on Halt and Catch Fire

The consultant is portrayed by Christoph Waltz as Regus Patoff on The Consultant


Chiron Cartel is a custom faction from the SMAC Fac Pack by Nathan Weismuller and Adam Gieseler, txt file here

Unicorp, or New Unity Industries (formerly Dai Seung), is a custom faction from the SMAC Fac Pack by Nathan Weismuller and Adam Gieseler, txt file here

Southern California being struck by "water wars" is from Killing Time by Caleb Carr, in which the concept is rather superficially explained

Togra Labs is an adaptation of Togra University from Pandora: First Contact

(Tax) Lawyer Programs are from Earth by David Brin

The concept of replacing government with an insurance company comes from the original faction concept, additional details (and the idea of money as speech) from What is Anarcho-Capitalism? by CallMeEzekiel

Libertarian research from The History of Libertarianism Part 1 | Rand, Mises, Hayek, Rothbard, FEE, & Spiritual Mobilization by CallMeEzekiel

Image Credits

Shootout by the Hollywood sign from the cancelled Police Warfare
Last edited:

Newly-victorious over the Cybernetic Consciousness at Prime Function, the Brethren hunt for subterranean structures using ground-penetrating radar.

Harrison Wul, one of the Unity Mission's foremost artists.

Service Record:
Born 2031, Territory of Papua and New Guinea, to Itamul people. Learned junglecraft and inshore navigation from father and uncles. Subject later plausibly claimed to have participated in numerous intertribal conflicts during adolescence. Received preliminary schooling at VRC missions. Jailed by kiap (patrol officer) for participation in an affray at 17. Joined Royal Pacific Islands Regiment through diversionary offer. Deployed on typhoon relief performing outreach to disaster-impacted communities, subject's first exposure to art as therapy.

Award-winning graduate of RMIT School of Art. Settled in Perth. Last surviving member of the LeGarand Movement, distinguished by use of watercolors "in the wild." Compositions explored light and the seashore.

Reactivated during Second Survivalist Wave, 2057-62. Posted to Nhulunbuy, then Honiara. Thrice Mentioned in Despatches for personal heroism.

Recipient of National Medal of Arts (U.S.), Archibald Prize (Aus.), and second Nobel Prize in Art. Founding member of Solewin Board of the U.N. Mission to Alpha Centauri. Board's purpose was to recruit those with the capacity to make "exceptional contributions to humanity in the fields of art and entertainment, measured in their ability to promote unity, grieving, healing, and striving for the common good." Emerged as leader of a group of members concerned to take on emerging artists in favor of "conventionally-recognized" talent out of concern that the perpetuation of historical themes would perpetuate national politics.

Given supervisory responsibility for Mission's complement of artisans, a division of Data Services.

Psych Profile: Outsider
Empathic personality driven by memories of adolescent alienation.

Themes most prevalent in subject's art include: longing or nostalgia for distant things, anthropomorphic climate change, and the sea as an arena for human activity. While ships appear frequently in his corpus, none of subject's works include recognizable human figures.

Acceptance in the artistic and academic communities is balanced by a firmness and self-assurance that subject credits to "my familiarity with violence."

Note appended by Tạ Dọc Thân, Chief, Data Services Division: Wul's relative silence on behalf of indigineous causes, cultural assimilation, or veterans' plights was considered a boon by mission designers eager to avoid controversy, but his active resistance to the preservation of historical legacies suggests a break, not continuity, with overriding mission values.

Caution: Information provided by another member of the crew indicates that subject has been approached repeatedly by Kellerite propagandists. Subject has not reported these encounters.

An infamous "feeding bay" at Worker's Teeming. Drones here sometimes crafted their own benches, another demonstration of individuality overlooked by faction authorities. Video images of the base's above-ground exterior, while perhaps serving to lessen claustrophobias, were also a blunt reminder that there was no hope of surviving escape.

First image is "Construction vehicle" by Alyskan on DeviantArt. Created using AI tools.

Second image is a photograph of late actor Tom E. Lewis from an obituary in the Mandurah Mail.

Criteria used by the Solewin Board inspired by those applied to films included in the American National Film Registry.

Third image is "Cheap Food" by Kamirei on DeviantArt. Done with the help of Stable Diffusion.

Alessia Barale-Facklin in residence at The Bourse.

Oddsmakers were promising huge returns to anyone predicting a bright future for Canadian organized crime in 2051. Dennis Facklin, head of the eponymous dynasty that had once dominated the Montreal underworld, was beginning a ninety-year prison term in Kingston Penitentiary for double murder. Three days after the sentencing, his eldest son and heir-apparent, Robert, was killed in a car wreck that authorities blamed on drink-driving. Internal memos reflect high confidence within the Royal Canadian Mounted Police that the Facklin arm of North American Mafia activity would be extinguished within the next three years.

Alessia Barale-Facklin, Robert's thirty-year-old sister-in-law, understood that the weak have need of allies, especially those in high places. Barale-Facklin was a Piedmontese immigrant and adjunct lecturer in Arpitan language at McGill University who maintained a close interest in the political organizing of the student Left. University leadership grappled with their employee's radicalism whenever Conservative governments were in power but there is no record of suspicion or implication of Barale-Facklin in criminal activity prior to 2053. Herself a widow, she was also Robert's chief beneficiary, though public records suggest nearly everything of value was immediately tied up in litigation.

The Sûreté du Québec was aware of allegations that Barale-Facklin harbored Communist sympathies but dismissed them on grounds of their incompatibility with the Facklin crime operation. Whatever her politics, Barale-Facklin was in communication with KGB agents in Canada as early as January 2051 and with the French DGSE starting in March of that same year. Working through their allies in the Caribbean and passing intelligence to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and RCMP, the French embroiled many of Barale-Facklin's relatives and competitors in legal disputes during the interregnum following Robert's death. Within two years, Barale-Facklin had quietly assumed personal authority over most of Robert's former lieutenants and their criminal apparatus.

Barale-Facklin soon placed the entire resources of her inherited organization at separatist disposal, providing experienced enforcers for jobs that included bank robberies, kidnapping, and political assassination. Scholarly consensus is that the success of any individual action was immaterial: together, they encouraged a media narrative that gainsayed the Canadian Government's ability to provide physical security for non-Francophones, undermining enthusiasm for opposing the separatist agenda, while also calling into question the PM's claims that the number of committeed separatists was actually very low. In a series of large-scale interviews conducted after the war, researchers confirmed that popular identification with the FLQ increased at moments when it appeared to offer serious challenges to Government control. (The Facklin faction was just one of many to execute this strategy, which also called upon the resources of the mainline FLQ, the DGSE, and the KGB in-country.)

The success of the FLQ unfolded as Barale-Facklin had forseen. Between defections and casualties sustained in combat, provincial and municipal police forces were grossly understrength and grappling with their own continuing paranoia over loyalist stay-behinds. Even before the instruments of peace had been signed, elements of the DGSE approached Barale-Facklin to signal their interest in using Montreal as a transshipment hub for drugs and spies. The Facklin family, still notorious, was compared to the Brothers Lafitte of Barataria. McGill hesitated to take action for fear of alienating its greatly diminished pool of donors.

Barale-Facklin balanced a steadfast refusal to discuss her legal situation with a self-evident eagerness to take the spotlight in the debates over cultural preservation surrounding the U.N. Mission to Alpha Centauri. Called upon by the Institut de France, Barale-Facklin campaigned in favor of "national historiography"--that is, of preserving a retelling of Earth's history that emphasized the creation of distinctive identities rooted in the common experience of place. She derided "the appetite for a vague and telelogical retelling--a propagandic retelling--that pretends a fraternity between peoples and a widely-shared humanistic, even democratic, ethic that is patently contrary to the historical record." In 2062, French diplomats brokered introductions between Barale-Facklin representatives and the increasingly cash-strapped United Nations, overcoming Sectrary-General Tottodoro's misgivings over Barale-Facklin's blatantly nationalistic sympathies and leading him to publicly rebuke one adviser, Marie du Lac, who warned that the disarray of the Soviet Union from 1989-91 would appear "tame" compared to the chaos that outlooks like Barale-Facklin's might inspire. (Du Lac later referenced the moment as a tipping point in her letter of resignation, tendered during the Lapland Crisis.) Evidence supports the theory that, in hopes of convincing Barale-Facklin of the uselessness of withholding her fortune, the U.N. shared confidential analyses concluding that the Earth had reached a point of terminal decline. Large no-interest loans were advanced and, as before, Barale-Facklin's asking price was simple: survival. Barale-Facklin was trained as a Unity colonist and loaded aboard the starship as a librarian in the Data Services division.

On the recommendation of his father's people, Struan's factor Roshan Cobb had Barale-Facklin retrieved during his evacuation from Unity. Cobb overlooked the Canadian's cultural fixations and preferred to see only the mastermind. The two appeared to get on well, and Cobb entrusted Barale-Facklin with the leadership of his faction's third base, Borogrove, where most of the Dreamers' pharmaceutical production was carried out. As Cobb's viceroy, Barale-Facklin leveraged her authority to preserve the colony from the worst features of its parent faction's influence: she imposed strict limits on somnacin consumption by key positions (enforced by brutal punishments) and diverted trade duties to finance technical missions from the Digital Oracle that made up for the very low quality of talent available from White Rabbit. Apart from accepting Sabre Corporation protection, Borogrove was effectively a city-state unto itself. Barale-Facklin never again saw Cobb face-to-face after settling into the Governor's Residence. In MY32, she responded to word of his imprisonment at the hands of the Human Ascendancy by taking Borogrove under the aegis of Tell Kaestral's Bourse faction.

Barale-Facklin's obsession with national history should not be confused with French, Italian, Piedmontese, or even Quebecois identity. She respected the separatist government in Montreal no more than she had that in Ottawa, and spoke of clannishness as a universal impulse rather than arguing for the primacy of any one particular group. Contre-amiral St. Germaine started from the same point but (in Barale-Facklin's estimation) condescended to "vulgar propaganda" in the attempt to create by suggestion a system of particular values, which Barale-Facklin thought must emerge naturally over time. In A Social History of Planet, Commissioner Pravin Lal explored Barale-Facklin's theories in the same four chapters that addressed Kellerism, and predicted that the criminal queenpin would eventually find her way into association with the Tribals, who likewise believed that location and memory, not ethos, were the basis of human association.

Image is "Cyberpunk 249" by Cyber-Inu on DeviantArt. Created using AI Tools.

Father of Total Kellerism, Raphael Cahill Waterdale, c. March 2070, unknown location.

Service Record:
Born 2031, Huntsville, Alabama. Degree in aerospace engineering, Stanford University. PhD in electrochemistry. Received Harold Brown Award from USAF for coining new sampling methodologies used in rocket fuels analysis. Adjunct to Stimson Panel on Trans-Neptunian Spaceflight. Lead author of panel's minority report, which criticized safety regulations governing private spacecraft as "anti-competitive manipulation" by special interests. Briefly advised U.N. Mission Industry Standards Board as representative-without-portfolio for the Special Inspector General for U.N. Affairs (SIGUNA). Selected for inclusion in ARC Vault Program as an Exceptional Mind. Entered Longleaf Vault 12, 2058.

Exited vault in 2061 due to air scrubber malfunction. Worked assembling surface-to-surface missiles at Marshall Space Center. Later supervised laboratories at Sloss Furnaces and Austral USA shipyards. Involvement in Loyalist politics during state secession crisis led to collaboration with Kellerites because of subject's interest in direct action.

Acknowledged leader of Tribal communities in southeastern United States by early 2065. Architect of large-scale partisan resistance that helped to limit the ability of state National Guard forces to subdue independent communities. Organized exodus of local Kellerites to Mountain West in the face of Federal invasion, circulating missives warning that Kellerite communities had come to be seen as an unacceptable threat to the republican form of government. Included among the stowaways commanded by Pete Landers.

Note: Subject's appointment to SIGUNA can be considered a political favor to anti-mission interests. While Mr. Waterdale reported on $18.6 billion of verified overages, he took a public position as an outspoken critic of the Mission to Alpha Centauri, arguing that the nations of Earth should instead focus their energies on promoting commercial space exploitation.

Psych Profile: Disestablishmentarian
Search for familiar environments fueled Loyalist sympathies; predisposed subject to accept entreaties by Kellerite communalists.

Subject has repeatedly used public recognition of his achievements as a springboard to propagate personal political convictions.

Deep skepticism of the value of large institutions and their ability to achieve stated goals through the application of top-down influence (e.g., law, regulation, use of armed force). Subject frequently cited the theories of Stafford Beer to argue that the intentions of business and government should be understood solely from the consequences of their behavior, rather than through their stated aspirations.

Traced the origins of Federal hostility toward Kellerites to the recognition among "power elites" that Survivalism had demonstrated the "wholesale viability of autonomous communities" to an extent not previously anticipated even by Jean Baptiste-Keller himself. (Many Kellerite teachings later ascribed to Keller himself in both Kellerite and popular memory are actually from subject's own corpus of recorded thought and instruction.)

Image is "RODERICK" by Angeline80 on DeviantArt.

On Stafford Beer and his theory that "the purpose of a system is what it does," see this Wikipedia article.
Lords of Industry (pt. 2.3)

Chiron Cartel - Night-watchman state

Managing Agent Halah Farid Al-Rammah said:
Planetfall was absolutely tremendous for wiping the slate clean. Half a million of our species’ best, underwritten by the most sophisticated models ever devised. A whole world unblemished by the last six thousand years of overreach and error. Put away your textbooks: here, we can homestead our way to a truly efficient economy. - An Economist’s History of Planet

The Chiron Cartel is often referred to as a minarchy, a barebones government possessing only the vital tasks of maintaining physical security and adjudicating property disputes. Within its territory lies an incredibly diverse and ever-changing patchwork of corporations, small entrepreneurships, self-employed contractors, restless wanderers, and even a single small voluntary commune which owns a portion of the Hab Complex in the first base. Given the mandate from Director Nathan Weismuller to go forth and discover, many ventures have embraced technological development, rejecting petty politics. Often, it more resembles a research park than an actual faction.

Despite the massive proliferation in private wealth in the final days before the Unity’s mission, such a system was rarely found on Earth. Corporate power simply ran rife in degenerated republics such as the United States, working hand-in-hand with politicians who wielded true monopolies on force. Besides crony capitalist states, next were one-company regimes like the Morgan Industries-sponsored governments (“Mugatustans”) in the Ethiopias. These nations were hollowed-out hosts to the toxoplasma of wealthy patron businesses, their natural resources and people morphed into line items. Many of the quasi-faction corporeal entities on Planet, from Morgan Industries’ Dynamic Enterprise to the ARC-run New Two Thousand, are the natural successors to those corporate republics.

The Cartel ran differently. There, the market was the state.

Dancing Word Spiral, an ad-supported public housing district of Lin Industries, second base founded by the Chiron Cartel. As a leading corporation of the faction, Lin’s leadership sought cost-effective measures for social issues caused by sprawl

The Self-selection hypothesis suggests that the diamond of the New Delaware River owes its technological and economic success to the choice individuals who joined it. From the very pools of the Unity, Nathan Weismuller had attracted a particular assemblage. Entrepreneur self-starters who did not seek their fortune with existing firms, scientific iconoclasts who wanted to buck the orthodoxy of the academy while making a buck for themselves, huddled peace-loving masses fleeing the lawless indiscriminate violence - these would become citizen-clients under his Charter. And they would build the unique corporations of the Cartel.

Morgan Industries Corporate Historian Ginka Organa Ivanova has called the Cartelists “a flock of lambs posing as sharks.” She was referring to the specific origin of how the companies came to be- not founded from the business battlefields of Earth, but in the frontier hallways of Cartel Headquarters. As the faction deigned not to provide any services beyond the necessity of keeping the base’s life support systems functional to ensure that the insurance company remained in operation, all of the early citizens’ needs- electricity, water, food, clothing, and data- were provided by those who had the skills and knowledge to do so.

Encouraged by the founder and the general zeitgeist, these providers started businesses rather than volunteering out of altruism or solidarity. As these firms were founded by those who bought into Weismuller’s ideological vision, they generally viewed themselves as acting in enlightened self-interest rather than for simple self-enrichment. Stiff competition from undercutters created low market rates, preventing price-gouging of crucial services. And it was also here that the long-hypothetical question of how a libertarian society would handle bad actors was put to the test: businesses that failed to provide adequate service as promised were subject to boycott by customers. In cases of extreme malfeasance, property courts levied ‘total boycotts:’ banishment from the base and certain demise from mindworms. The businesses that survived the Darwinian early days would do so on the quality of their product and the strength of their credibility. They expanded outwards while pushing the envelope of technological progress, turning the Cartel into a research powerhouse and a prime target for probe intrusions from all sides. Along the way, standards of living blossomed.

Red Jaguar Industrial Hypercomplex at Ikari Heavy Chemicals. Multicorporate arms manufacturing plant specializing in shagokhod robotic walker weapons platforms above multistory underground bioengineering laboratory. Urban legends tell of vast cloning facilities, brain organoid supercomputers, massive chambers hosting gargantuan Progenitor artifacts, all locked away under a protective subterranean Geofront

Since the Cartel is bound by Charter, the resultant culture emphasizes freedom and private progress rather than public action. Like the citizen-client electorate, Directors are usually off pursuing their own ventures. Weismuller Enterprises, the founder’s very own umbrella corporation, has established several of the faction’s bases for his personal companies in technology and finance. Day-to-day legislative proceedings are essentially debates on constitutional law, questioning what the so-called government can even do.

University of Planet factionologist Isidro Nopaltzin Centinela, of the Preservationists of Terra research unit at Planetary Archives, described the Chiron Cartel’s corporate democracy as “vibrant but low-participation, orthogonal to actual issues. More like the Renaissance era Venetian oligarchy than modern republics.” As with the merchants of Venice, the initial Board of Directors created an intentionally convoluted system to prevent despotism from taking root. While the Cartel does not explicitly have as many redundant and overlapping organs as the thalassocracy’s Great Council, Pregadi, Council of Ten, Signoria, and Collegio all checking and balancing one another, it does intentionally saddle its operations with long-drawn processes to ensure majority consent from the governed. Some say this system is akin to the rationale of the starve-the-beasters of the latter American republic: to turn the populace against taxation, they intentionally fostered a byzantine tax code to make government collection of revenue onerous and painful. Such as it is with governance in the Cartel.

Tall White Fountains, the main trading floor of Cartel Headquarters. Located at the Menger Capital Building, the Fountains attracts untold numbers of business visitors and extrafactional tourists each mission year, waited upon by robotic assistants. The Board of Directors Assembly Hall, two floors above, receives only a tenth of interest

Politics, then, mostly serves as catharsis for citizens to express both frustrations and self-identities, rather than to affect day-to-day change:

Charter Party: Founded by Weismuller himself, the leading party champions its highest law against the corruption and regulatory capture that change might invite. Minarchists who insist upon continued safeguarding of the Charter against decline into slipping tyranny, seen in innumerable republics of Earth. The Director only reluctantly holds the mantle of power. Believing himself to be one of the very few capable of using the law to restrain the government, he self-limits his own abilities even in the face of constant intellectual property theft. This reluctance to govern makes the party incredibly popular among its self-interested citizen-clients.

Security Party: Considered the loyal opposition party of active servicemen and patrollers, veterans of difficult vendettas, arms contractor companies led by Superior Defense Services (SDS), and concerned citizens fearing the dangers of Planet. Though tarred as warmongers and jackbooted thugs by harsh critics, they are largely against changing the faction’s non-interventionist, dovish foreign policy, let alone amending the Charter. They simply ask for more support to Cartel Security whether by underwriting more funds to the defense budget, or simply by improving its organizational cohesion. The Security Party also considers its founder-led Board’s steadfast insistence on noninterference to be a liability. They point out at the number of obvious, egregiously blatant front organizations from rival factions and outsider corporations operating in the Cartel, leeching technology, and the lack of investigation. But Weismuller stands firm against creeping government, allowing only enforcement where there is clear evidence.

Industry Party: The last and most controversial of the three major parties, the home of monied interests, the crony capitalists, the complacent plutocrats. Accused of corruption, statism, and neoliberalism, they nonetheless have a compelling vision for the faction: true security depends upon its economic stability, and so the government should operate more to support private industry. Not only would it shore up competition against outside actors in the economic war for Planet, it would bolster living standards against tumult in employment markets. Despised by the founder as clearly seeking to put an oppressive thumb the scale, again picking winners and losers, the Industry Party has nevertheless gotten a foothold by both rent-seeking businesses and those wanting more predictability in the internal markets. Trading freedom for security in an area where the Cartel has little business operating in, but potentially could enter. While both the cronyist and populist aspects of this message keeps it a political player, its internal coalition is constantly shifting as would-be beneficiaries filter in and out, corporations jockeying for who could stand to benefit the most from public coffers. It has also been tarnished as a potential vehicle for outsiders to enter the faction while weakening the Charter.

A former major in the U.N. Security Forces, now Vice President of Security, Phillip Rickenbacker led the original patrols that guarded Planetfall Pool. Disillusioned by the naked authoritarianism exemplified by the U.N. Space Authority's Blue Operations division, he was impressed by how Weismuller provided a safe space for sheltering colonists without grabbing power. As leader of Cartel Security, he is constantly frustrated by its lack of resources and mandate, while consoled by its inability to enact coup or conquest. One of the most popular factional figures, Rickenbacker has remained true to the founder and Charter thus far, despite opinion polls suggesting he could lead the Security Party to its very first majority government

Party of Guild: Minority parties of the Chiron Cartel are usually for representing under-voiced viewpoints instead of enacting legislation. The most powerful is the mouthpiece of the guilds, the pseudo-unions that organize the faction’s workers. They are far from representative of all the faction’s laborers, as mandatory membership- or labor protection, for that matter- are prohibited by the Charter. But the guilds that have survived to the modern day do have considerable numbers and influence. Nominally organized by industry or workplace, they are little less competitive than the corporations, wooing workers with promises of special membership benefits that only they can grant under a regime without social services. In fact, one of the unifying beliefs among guilds is that they alone should act as the protectors of the working class. As such, the Party of Guild often joins the Charter Party in killing amendments that would open the way to public welfare.

Guilds do generally result in decent working conditions for many members, thanks to both a factional culture of fair play even when it comes to labor relations, and to the near-unrestricted right to bear arms which has allowed these workers’ combines to amass weaponry third only to Chiron Security and the corporations. But as with its often nemesis, the Industry Party, it is often divided by in-fighting between members. Not to mention, accused of foreign influence by anyone from the anarcho-syndicalist Free Drones movement to the worker-coded Human Labyrinth to the pan-anarchists of the Society of Free Thought collective within the Data Angels. Rumors abound that the guilds seek nothing less than the swapping of the insurance syndicates and the Cartel with its own equivalents.

Consumer Alliance: The last remaining redoubt for unhappy citizen-clients to lawfully express their ire, the Alliance seeks to unify all of those who have ever been ripped off, shaken down, or screwed over in Cartel society. It serves as a safety valve for consumers against businesses and wealthy individuals, and disgruntled employees who find the Party of Guild to be little more than a patronage system for the faceless combines. While the Cartel Charter possesses a simple Code of Conduct (populated by negative rights, naturally), the consumers want an expansion with a Customer’s Bill of Rights. After all, what exactly constitutes theft or fraud in a society bereft of regulatory scrutiny? Forget conspiracy or treason, what about market manipulation or scams that operate within loopholes and grey areas of the lightweight legal code? Who can believe that the Charter alone is capable of protecting against corruption, when its own security forces lack the resources to investigate themselves? What good is a watchman who is myopic, without a lamp or arms, unable and unwilling to step in while innocents are hurt? And what’s the deal with externalities?

Ultimately, the Consumer Alliance is the beloved destination for those with axes to grind against the status quo, yet are unwilling- or unable- to take the right of exit to another faction. Then there is the case of the underground movement known as the Caveat Venditor, whose vengeful acts of sabotage, even terrorism, strike fury and fear into the corporations. Though for all of its lurid tales and cat and mouse games with Cartel Security, most citizen-clients are sufficiently content to stay within the boundaries of good behavior. And so the Alliance serves as a convenient street corner soapbox for them to agitate, to little end.

Freight handlers of the Longrailmen Guild carefully watch their cargo as station guards of the Rio Norte Guild look on under the dome-simulated snowfall of Taggart Transport

These five are not the only in the Cartel corporate democracy- there are innumerable smalltime local parties in any given base who agitate for local concerns. But the five are the most likely to have reoccurring franchises. They are the ones that dominate the linkwaves and election polls. And they have, in rare cross-partisan unity, appeared before the Planetary Council to call for functional constituencies to be recognized. That is, each corporation, guild, and other entity within the Cartel should deserve its own seat on Chiron's highest governing body, not only full-fledged factions. As ludicrous as the suggestion is, it has cachet from non-factional faiths (Sons of Centauri-Ra), multifactional corporations (Unicorp), decentralized political movements (INTEGR party), and factions-in-exile (the Holy See of Centauri).

These parties debate, attempt to legislate, and make the credulous who participate in the public process happy. Yet even as some speculate who might be the sixth party to round out their number, others suggest that activist activity among the Board of Directors is nothing but a dumbshow. A debate club, affecting little- not too different from the actual Planetary Council. Some claim that the true future divisions in the Chiron Cartel comes not from any paltry political party, but a genuine grassroots movement that has captured its imagination in recent mission decades.

The Marketeers

Managing Agent Halah Farid Al-Rammah said:
Central planners damn themselves with hubris. They think themselves gods who can corral a force of nature. But the market is the gestalt of uncountable best-laid plans. You cannot outthink the sum of all chaos. - The Butterfly’s Reply

Halah Farid Al-Rammah (هالة فَرِيد الرماح) Born near Samarra, Iraqi People’s Union. Child of a hydroelectric engineer and a store clerk. Spent much of childhood in neighboring Hashemite Jordan during the various neo-Ba’athist and Islamist uprisings that plagued the Soviet-backed communist government. After Jordan itself was attacked by Israeli forces in the Tripolar War, relocated to Southern California, where her parents started a business in the booming real estate industry. Attended London School of Economics at an accelerated age, receiving a BsC in Actuarial Science and a DsC in Theoretical Logistics. Worked as a supply chain risk analyst for Global Manticore, then as a datacaster for the Main Belt celestial shipping division at Lloyd’s of London.

Called back to homeland by familial obligations, and by an appointment to the Aleppo Axis’s Middle East Coalition Redevelopment Programme. Al-Rammah soon found herself dealing with a morass of political corruption and bureaucratic inefficiency, thwarting carefully crafted economic recovery plans. In time, her solution was to cut the Gordian knot: dispensing with the designs, she simply allowed competing interests to fight among themselves, canceling each other out while she quietly worked with small-time independent businesses to lift themselves out from the compromised main economy. There, in the shadow economy, market-based solutions thrived as canny operators crafted ingenious solutions to avoid red tape, taxes, and other shakedowns imposed by crooked civil servants. As she left the programme, shedding a tear at what WARPAC influence had done to her countries, small construction and manufacturing ventures popped up where there she had ensured a lack of onerous planning.

Employed by Al-Tamount Studios as a production executive in Mamoon. Managed on-location operational logistics for The Final Countdown and greenlit the Ganges horror franchise, Avril Walker’s last Earthside films. Subsequently returned to public service when Unity project Jordanian contractors were faced with severe delays and cost overruns. Found replacement workers to build structural components on schedule, then secured alternative funding sources during budget crisis until Nwabduike Morgan stepped in. For service to the mission, fast-tracked to crew candidacy as a Unity Economic Organizer.

A model home at Saddam Valley, named for the pre-communist era leader and one-time American ally, a developed community in Orange County. Built by Iraqi exiles during the mid-21st century suburban housing bubble, it typified the extravagant design that exacerbated manmade droughts precipitating the Second American Civil War

Joined the Peacekeeping Forces under Commissioner Pravin Lal during Planetfall. Her utter commitment to free market ideas made her a popular gadfly among the Talent intelligentsia. Psych profile suggests difficulty reconciling purity of her ideas with the routine realities of unexpected problems. Track record at U.N. Planning Authority shows repeated opposition against the Commissioner’s humanitarian concerns. Due to burgeoning bureaucracy and excessive oversight, a nascent frontier market failed to organically develop as per her suggestions.

Attracted a following of like-minded “economic naturalists” who decamped into the wild to build a new colony where their theories could be realized. By sheer serendipity, Liberty City was discovered by a Chiron Cartel scouting mission, and swiftly invited under the Charter. Rapidly grew the fledgling base while working in the overarching government. Heavily involved in the Cartel insurance marketplace, leveraging her actuarial background to work closely with underwriters to improve efficiency and profitability without sacrificing coverage. Seen as an exemplary citizen-client, and her Marketeers as assets to the faction, Al-Rammah rose through the ranks to contribute to the architecture of the marketplace itself. And then, she decided to revolt against her own work.

Mayor of Liberty City Al-Rammah leads evacuation away from a compromised base wall during a sandstorm, pre-Cartel contact

Managing Agent Halah Farid Al-Rammah said:
That morning, on a day like any other, I put on my metavisor and went to market. Streams of transactions, channels of balance sheets, islets of policies spun around me in perfect synchronicity. All of the Cartel’s economic activity could be seen- grasped. And in that moment, I felt like a central banker of old. With one flick I could mandate new premiums for thousands. With a nod I could change their rates. I threw the visor to the floor, my ears ringing with the unspoken thought: For competition to be true, all must be permitted. - Argyle Media special interview

Resigning from her ministerial post, Al-Rammah started her own project, the Free Market Zone. At the public unveiling she revealed its full scope- to compete with the Cartel itself. While previous underwriter syndicates within the Cartel marketplace did so specifically under the rules framework set by the Board of Directors, the Zone and its Marketeers imagine the abolishment of the minarchy in favor of something more radical: An anarcho-capitalist society.

Overnight, the project attracted widespread enthusiasm from outright ancaps, Rothbardians pining for Old Man Murray, full free market ideologues, those aggrieved against Cartel governance, and the hungry and foolish wanting to make fresh fortunes by disrupting a complacent space. Investment poured in from opportunistic corporations, even some Directors, and the Zone established its own syndicate within the marketplace as it vied to one day replace it entirely.

The Marketeers wanted the Cartel to go beyond. They wanted the market to have no state.

The Free Market Zone believes that even the night-watchman is too intrusive. They point out that despite its decentralized re/insurance marketplace structure, the government’s own Cartel Security provides the majority of internal policing and external defense. While a panoply of other private military corporations exist, most basic tier citizen-clients do not require them. This leads to a centralized monopoly on force within the faction (Even if it is notoriously lackadaisical compared to others’ armed forces, and the presence of near-unlimited armed private actors from individual citizens to large PMCs.) By being state-owned, the police are inherently beholden to political concerns (albeit already limited by the Charter), unlike the existing competing fire department and medical services solely provided by private companies. To those who uphold statist policing such as the Security Party, the Marketeers give them the epithet “neoliberal,” believing them addicts to public power.

Cartel Security De-escalator units. Intended for civil disorder suppression, often used in supplementary vendetta combat roles due to the faction’s low frequency of Drone Riots

Marketeers also question the reliance on the Cartel’s legal code. They envision a multitude of subscription-based regulatory systems for citizen-clients, maintained by private Rights Enforcement Agencies. Instead of the state’s monopoly on law, these businesses would protect the rights of paying subscribers and settle disputes on their behalf. REAs could work out preexisting agreements with each other, use arbitrators to work out disputes. Private judges would be employed if necessary, easily replaceable if found to be corrupt or incompetent. Those who refuse to join any REA, like current Cartel nonsubscribers, would open themselves to the option of settling conflicts with violence. But the already Charter-pegged low rate of subscription would become even cheaper, with a variety of legal frameworks to choose from. The Free Market Zone aims to be the very first REA, a prototype of the society-as-a-service that would replace the Cartel as currently known.

A Free Market Zone experimental prototype private sector judiciary. Former Cartel justices recruited as private judges serve witness to a Marketeer Private Rights Enforcer real-time investigation of a suspect ID’d by predictive analysis

The Free Market Zone changed the formula of the Chiron Cartel. In a faction marked by constant competition, a movement now appears to challenge the government itself. A leading slogan of the Marketeers is “The Cartel must compete.” Whether for good or ill, much interest and excitement have surrounded this effort, spawning similar comprehensive protection plans and rival legal systems to challenge both Cartel and Zone.

Party reactions are mixed. The Charter Party establishment scoffs at the Marketeers’ temerity, while younger members find their ideals- “to think freer than the Charter” exciting. The Security Party bristles at the Zone’s accusations of authoritarianism, yet some members privately wonder if the state of factional security might improve with competition. The Industry Party is both thrilled by the prospect of weakening the Charter yet terrified at even fewer government opportunities for them to profit. The Consumer Alliance is flabbergasted at the prospect of abolishing what little state power there is, though they suppose it can be hardly worse than the status quo. And in their worker’s halls and meeting circles, the Guildsmen silently watch the events with interest, emotionlessly.

Director Nathan Weismuller himself is bemused with the whole effort. Since the beginning he had intended the Cartel to be a light touch, allowing for full freedom. And from its founding there had been rival attempts to create insurance companies and policies with societal codes that subscribers would prefer over the Board’s. Why this new entrant, with its triumphalist rhetoric and aggressive critiques, should catch such interest is a mystery to him.

Market skeptics accuse the Marketeers of having excessive reverence for the institution to the point of dismantling a minimalist state that already fails to protect against externalities. Under the Zone, they claim, ecological damage to Planet would be even worse. Splintering Cartel Security into a thousand pieces and scattering it into the wind would not exactly improve the foreign probe problem, even if one was to assume that a revitalized security market would rise up over time. And even if the faction population was to grow wealthier with greater efficiency, who could say what the repercussions are on demographic effects?

Market fundamentalists accuse them of the sin of interventionism, calling them “anti-monopolists,” a phrase that some of the Zone graciously accept. What is more anti-market by smashing the barebones state that oversees it? What is more criminal than imposing rival legal systems no one asked for over one that was elected by due process? Anarcho-capitalist members of the Marketeers reply that at least this is less bad than more government. The Cartel’s willingness to enforce law among non-subscribers is overreach, and by creating an alternative to its law, the Zone is enacting true freedom to willing customers. They would be the fulfillment of the founder's incomplete promise, realizing a profitable society with a market set fully free. And at her rallies, Al-Rammah simply promises an Energy Bank at every base.


Halah Farid Al-Rammah is portrayed by Alia Shawkat as Mae “Maeby” Fünke on Arrested Development, as Laila / “Farah” in Shako Mako (Miu Miu Women's Tales #17), and as Dory Sief on Search Party

Phillip Rickenbacker is portrayed by Ben Daniels as General Bel Riose on Foundation


Free Market Zone / the Marketeers are a custom faction from 5 Custom Factions by Pickly, txt file here. Since it is also a libertarian faction, albeit with different mechanics, I’ve decided to combine the two. Neither the Marketeers nor Al-Rammah are portrayed as anarcho-capitalist in the original mod, but I decided to cast them as such as a potential splinter faction / future controlling power of the Cartel, rather than the obvious statist off-shoot.

The idea of the Chiron Cartel’s ‘government’ being an insurance company comes from the SMACFacPack backstory. Replacing the state with insurance companies also seems to be an ancap concept, see the video in previous segment’s notes. I chose to model it after Lloyd’s of London since a marketplace instead of a specific insurance provider felt more appropriate for the premise, and for its venerable history and traditions originating from a previous age of colonialism. How the Lloyd's market works is a helpful visualization of its process. “Understanding our marketplace” is a good glossary of definitions.

Phillip Rickenbacker is a minor named character in the SMAC Fac Pack quote blurbs.txt

Guilds serve three-fold story purposes: they call the bluff of libertarian guarantees of free association by having labor exercise it as handily as capital does; they clean up after the implications of a libertarian government by explaining how a bloody worker’s revolution might be averted by said employees gaining a modicum of representation, autonomy, and decent working standards under said megacorps; and they are a sop to the neoliberal portrayal of unions as power-hungry by suggesting that they might behave like the very corporations themselves, even lobbying against state-provided welfare because it could challenge their own monopolies. Also, the naming provides a lighter space opera vibe to the serious question of labor relations - speaking of which, “functional constituencies” I got from this video about the Galactic Senate in Star Wars (10:03-11:00).

Caveat venditor is Latin for “let the seller beware.” It’s an actual legal term.

Since Saddam Hussein’s final fate has not yet been mentioned in this timeline, here I have him switching to the Americans after defeat by the Iranians (perhaps suggesting a rift between the U.S. and the Shah) sometime in the ‘90s or ‘00s. The Soviets finally ditch the unworthy satellite and replace him with local communists, and so a young Halah Farid Al-Rammah grows up in a dysfunctional planned economy.

In retrospect, I probably should have had the Cartel start as a single insurance company and the Marketeers advocate it be turned into a Lloyd’s-type insurance market, to make their distinction sharper, but these ideological squabbles are heavily characterized by the narcissism of small differences anyway, so oh well.

Private Rights Enforcement Agencies are mentioned in the theories of David Friedman.

Image Credits

Ads-plastered futuristic walkway is City of Newcrest by Orelf (Aurelien Fournier)

Sci-Fi Industrial Base - Unreal project Low-poly 3D model is by manufacturak4

Sci-fi mercantile trading floor is from Endless Space 2

Guards standoff at a snowy train station is Postapo train by 5ofnovember

The Saddam Valley model home is a Sudden Valley Bluth Company model home from Arrested Development

Padded armor security are concept art of Seegson Security Guards from Alien: Isolation

Remote witnesses scene is from Minority Report

Further Reading

What is Lloyd’s of London?

The Libertarian Argument for Unions, Cambridge University Press

Imagine There's No Law; It's Easy If You Try, Pacific Standard

Gun Governance without Government, Tomasz Kaye

Anarcho-Capitalism Isn't Crazy, Just Ahead of Its Time, Bryan Caplan

Thatcherism: What We Get Wrong About Neoliberalism

Shako Mako, Short of the Week
Last edited:
Contre-Amirale Raoul André St. Germaine said:
This invention, they sometimes called the Information Superhighway. A comparison of the patterns routinely observable in the movements of people and information can lead to important insights. Like traffic, information can bottleneck or suffer from misdirection. It may be dispatched, or withheld, at the wrong time. And, of course, in the wrong combination, information, like different kinds of vehicles, cargoes, and prevailing road conditions, can tempt catastrophe. - France, la rempart.

Popularly known as "metal MULEteers," the carrying crews that worked the ḥꜣ Desert had just one concern: profit.

The Five Posts of the prototypical crew were immortalized in a piece of shareware first traded amongst the Data Angels and later popularized by Morganite marketing. Fryers, so named for their soldering irons, had all responsibility for the correct operation and timely repair of the Multiple Use Labor Elements themselves. Loadmasters oversaw the handling of cargo, and the jury was out on whether Cartelists or Morganites made better judgements with respect to the putting in of the right supplies--water, nutrients, bullets, circuit boards, and hydraulic line. The head Puncher was nearly always a reformed Spartan who shot first, then shot again. Respecting no law, successful outfits so often resorted to violence that caravan traffic was frequently harassed by United Nations Peacekeeping Forces. The Cage handled money, negotiating with buyers and running down sellers, in a role that smacked more of spy work and odds-making than of respectability. Firsts had final responsibility for the success of each drive as operational commanders, paying crews in advance--and settling accounts through resort to their personal stake if the caravan was slow or let weight, the nomenclature for a breakdown.

MULEteers brought wild stories across the Great Dunes and their adjoining salt plans. Stories of humans who had not been members of the Unity expedition, and of body-snatchers come down from the high altitudes to claim anyone whose fame grew too great. There were rumors of submarines breaching in wide rivers and of those whom the mindworms ignored.

A Tribal outpost raised in the shadow of Unity's cooling fins promises water and entertainments in the SMACER language, a combination of Japanese, Cyrillic, and Hebraic scripts. Note the broadcast anetennae unique to Kellerite bases.

A Data Angels Digital Countermeasures team performs "sosh" work with faction youth on stim break from the webcafes.

First image is "Eternal Voyage Adventuers of A Spacesuit Explorer" by wallartgalore0 on DeviantArt. M.U.L.E. is a 1983 video game for the Atari console designed by Danielle Bunten Berry and published by Electronic Arts.

Second image is "Junk Town" by eddie-mendoza on DeviantArt.

Third image is "Just Chillin'" by Seven-teenth on DeviantArt.

Unfinished booster rockets in the yards of Indústria Aeronáutica de Portugal S.A., Macapá, Portuguese Brazil.

Unity was the great work of its benighted age--the simultaneously hideous-but-wonderful brainchild of necessity.

From the dawn of recorded time, Man has been an innovator. The Electronic Century preceding Unity's flight, reckoned by historians to have run from 1970 to 2071, was marked by fits and starts of progress that defied expectation given the breadth and depth of global calamity starting around 2020. Nearly one in twenty of Unity's passengers had lived the majority of their lives until departure either 13,000' below sea level or more than 228 million km from Earth. A regular shuttle service sustained permanent settlements in trans-Neptuian orbit. After 1990, Earth was served by four great telephonic information networks using videotex interfaces: the World Wide Web, a mostly Anglo-American endeavor; the French Minitel; the Soviet National Automated System for Computation and Information Processing; and Japan's university-based JUNET. Human populations on the Moon and Mars exceeded the two hundred thousand mark in 2020 and 2031, respectively, and increased expotentially thereafter. Blood-scrubbing and vat-grown organ replacement helped the wealthy to extend their productive lives to the point that it became common for prominent politicians and captains to industry to retire at the wizened age of 130. Unstinting wars and repeated nuclear disasters prompted significant and successful research into cybernetic limb replacement and the comprehensive management of complicated cancers so that average lifespans increased to 90.2 years.

Though the very idea of fleeing Earth was a testament to its many previous failures, the United Nations approached responsibility for the mission with a redoubled enthusiasm. Thus began what amounted to the largest outlay of developmental capital in human history.

For to make Unity's ribs of steel and her innards of wire, donors funded ten thousand university endowments, one million scholarships, and seventy-one new national laboratories worldwide. Large cities sprang up in the Amazon, Congolese, and Papuan rainforests to feed materiel up the glittering space elevators at Stanleyville, Quito, and Koor. No effort was spared to fully internationalize this work. In the name of exigency and goodwill, U.N. diplomats undertook a private pilgrammage to N'Djamena to woo Morgan Industries (defying the spirit of an American veto on more official overtures); contracted with the Arsenal Nacional in Ascunción despite knowledge of vast corruption by Paraguay's ruling Riós family; and accepted technical advice from South Africa's ARMSCOR and Israel Military Industries, brokered (unsurprisingly) by the French Republic. Recruiters sourced vinteners from among the Greek settlers of unrecognized Trabzon over Turkish and Soviet objections; eminent geologists from the alluvial diamond fields of Gath; experts in animal husbandry from newly-independent Tibet, outraging the Chinese Communist government; logisticians working for the South Sudanese Rally in Juba; educators from the Soviet-sponsored gymnasiums in Kabul; and nuclear physicists from Iraq, Iran, Argentina, and Turkey. Prokhor Zakharov claimed it was the Soviet vision fulfilled: progress achieved through the unalloyed application of reason to global problems and the indefatigable spirit of the Common Man. "Pax Sovietica" masquerading as Pax Electronica."

But for every successful satellite launch and completed sub-assembly, four or five similartly great ventures died on the vine--even those at very late stages of completion. Earth's surface came to resemble "a tinker's workshop" of unlaunched rockets, half-constructed gantries, cold crucibles, and warehouses crowded with items judged surplus or unacceptable. Dr. Sohichiro Nagao went as far as to warn in a best-selling e-zine that the Unity Mission's timeline would need to be advanced considerably--perhaps by as much as a decade--to offset environmental consequences caused by reckless preparations. By 2060, a huge stockpile of chemicals was ferried (at astronomical cost) to a series of specially-designed holding coffins in the Indian Ocean to limit the damage to watertables--a countermeasure that Lady Deirdre Skye said was not only too little, too late, but "as heinous a crime in its own right as the original sin of poor management." Not to be left out, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists reported in September 2065 that at least thirty-nine of the forty-six nuclear reactors built specifically to supply power for mission-related projects were afflicted by design flaws that made their operations "an abominably bad bet for public safety." Two of that number ultimately did melt down with catastrophic impact to more than twelve million civilians.

In warfare and politics, control of "the Footprint," a euphamism for infrastructure dedicated to the Unity Project, became an indispensible bargaining chip--the ultimate lure for those seeking legitimation. There was seemingly no crime that could not be expunged for the indulgence of a sprocket that would one day reach space. That which was abandoned was nearly as tempting: a scrapper's payday, and potentially still servicable in other roles. Many governments that accepted U.N. investment later seized whatever they could, either to renegotiate terms or to turn the assets to some purpose other than humanity's salvation, and the U.N.'s finest, far from home, usually found themselves withdrawing rather than dying in place.

Image is "Falcon 17" by cyberkite on DeviantArt.

"Ribs of steel" is a line from a lyric in the Civil War tune "The Good Ship, Cumberland."
Top Bottom