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.
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