The Let's Play Archive

Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri

by nweismuller

Part 1: Planetfall


In 2060, the United Nations Starship Unity was launched from Earth, which had been increasingly gripped by violence, economic disruptions, and social collapse over the past decades. The collapse of the United States of America as a functional superpower led to an increase in piracy and small-scale wars worldwide, and at least one minor nuclear exchange had cost millions of lives in the years leading up to the construction of the Unity.

The Unity's construction was originally undertaken by the Russian Federation, but the complete collapse of the Russian economy led to their efforts being abandoned before the ship was even a quarter finished. With the Russians unable to finish construction, the remainder of the task was taken up by Morgan Industries, the personal company of Nwabudike Morgan, a self-made industrialist originally from Namibia. With the dangers of the Earth growing more and more apparent, Nwabudike Morgan used his role in the construction of the Unity to ensure that he had a place amongst the colonists headed for a new world around Alpha Centauri. Long-range observation had confirmed a world that almost certainly had its own biosphere within the 'sweet spot' allowing liquid water around Alpha Centauri, and the Unity's mission was to establish a new colony under a United Nations charter on the new world.

As the Unity approached Alpha Centauri and the new planet, Chiron, disaster struck the Unity mission repeatedly. Micrometeorite impact breached Cryopod 3 and the main reactor, killing all the colonists on Cryopod 3 and threatening to prevent the Unity from completing its deceleration burn to make orbit around Chiron. Only heroic effort by the ship's engineering staff, led by the mission's Chief of Sciences, Prokhor Zakharov, was able to restore enough functionality to the Unity to allow it to reach Chiron at all. Shortly thereafter, it became clear that a band of paramilitary survivalists secretly led by the ship's Chief of Security, Corazon Santiago, had infiltrated into the crew, and engaged in forceful action to attempt to seize one of the cryopods for re-entry, along with a portion of the stores and supplies intended for the formation of the new colony. Growing tensions between the other ship's officers and Corazon's followers led to the early awakening of the colonists, and the crowding and hardships on the Unity as it made its final approach to Chiron were nearly intolerable.

The original leader of the mission, Captain Garland, was hard-pressed to keep peace between his own officers. When he was assassinated, the last hope for the Unity mission to exist as a unified mission was lost. The remaining high mission officers, along with Morgan himself, reached a decision wherein each would take the position of acting captain of one of the remaining cryopods, which had also been designed as re-entry vehicles, splitting what resources of the Unity could be salvaged according to a negotiated settlement. Cryopod 5 was given over to Morgan and those who chose to follow him and his promises to work to build a society with wealth and comfort for all. According to the settlement, Cryopod 5 received the largest share of machine tools and industrial equipment of any of the pods, and Morgan's followers made planetfall in 2101 with the resources to build a functional, if simple, industrial base. Each settler on Crypod 5 has been granted shares of ownership in the resources salvaged from the Unity in the 'Crypod 5 Interim Development Corporation', until a functional society has been built and independent ventures have been formed from assets cashed out from the Interim Development Corporation.

As Cryopod 5 makes planetfall and the prefab shelters for the settlement around the cryopod are set up, the challenges of life on Chiron become apparent. Although Chiron has an oxygen-rich atmosphere, the atmospheric pressure is significantly higher than on Earth, and the greater pressure of nitrogen can induce rapid nitrogen narcosis in humans or animals outside of pressurised shelters and without pressurised breath masks. Environmental toxins in the local plant life make for significant health issues with humans, and local vegetation is totally unusable to support human life. At least Earth crops can survive in Chiron's soil and atmosphere. The thorium generator providing power to the settlement struggles with fuel supplies, and development of local mineral resources is difficult without effective geological surveys. Rolling brownouts grip the settlement, interrupting industrial and scientific work. Thick, nearly-impassible tubules of crimson 'xenofungus' choke off the land to the north and west, providing a barrier to work and exploitation- and people approaching the xenofungus report a strange, irrational sense of oppressive dread in its proximity.

There are critical shortages of nearly every strategic material and foodstuff, and the settlement teeters on the edge of viability. At least the landing site appears to be near the radio beacons of several cargo pods jettisoned to the surface by the Unity in the desperate final hours aboard the dying ship, which may be able to be salvaged for desperately-needed materials.

Xenofungus, visible as a reddish growth northwest of the settlement and as submerged shapes under the water, is extremely difficult to pass and prevents us from making use of the resources of the tile under it. The three pods scattered around us are cargo pods from the Unity, and may contain valuable resources for us.

The initial settlement is on the coast of the southernmost of Chiron's three major continents, Pholus. Although no detailed survey was possible before planetfall, the continents of Pholus, Hercules, and Chiron Minor were identified and named. Although a series of rocky ridges rich in metals has been identified south of the settlement, the critical need for food has instead led to much of the workforce to be diverted into working crude farms southeast of the settlement. Enough 7.62mm assault rifles were salvaged from the Unity's armory to outfit a small security force which could patrol and explore the region, and work has begun on manufacturing new rifles and body armor for a more formidable security force to secure the settlement against the potential hazards of native life or other human groups. Enough basic equipment to set up another settlement is still unused, and a significant number of settlers are in favor of setting out in the hopes of finding more hopeful lands.

The three major resources in SMAC are nutrients, minerals, and energy. Nutrients are needed to support existing population and grow new population, minerals are used to build new items in settlements, and energy is split between 'Economy', 'Labs', and 'Psych'. Economy is used to support infrastructure and to stockpile as industrial materials to accelerate production, Labs is used to develop new technology, and Psych represents luxuries and personal consumption that makes life easier and more pleasant for the population. Each unit of population in a settlement can work one tile around the settlement, providing its resources to the settlement, along with the base output of the settlement tile itself. Base nutrients output is based on rainfall, which can be seen by how much green is in a tile- 'arid' tiles with no green have no base nutrient output, 'moist' tiles with some green have 1 base nutrient, and 'rainy' tiles with all green have 2 base nutrients. Minerals output is based on rockiness, with 'flat' tiles with no visible rocks producing no base mineral output and 'rolling' and 'rocky' tiles producing 1 base mineral. The blue outcroppings south of our settlement are rich mineral resources, adding 2 to the base mineral output of the tile. Energy, at the moment, is only produced in the settlement tile itself and along rivers. We have one unit of very basic scout infantry and a colony pod to establish a new settlement, and 111 'energy credits' representing stockpiled industrial materials and currency that can be used in industrial projects.

The current emergency state of the colony leaves broad discretion to Morgan as acting captain of Pod 5 and as CEO of the Interim Development Corporation, but he hopes to see a more robust society with wider-based institutions develop as we address the challenges of Chiron. No formal voting process yet exists, but he nonetheless encourages citizens of the colony to contribute their ideas so we can step forth and build a new society on this new world.