The Let's Play Archive

Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri

by nweismuller

Part 2: 2101-2110: Setting Down Roots

Setting Down Roots

With resources waiting to be claimed and with shortages looming on every side, Morgan ordered out 'Rat Patrol', the rag-tag assemblage of security forces and volunteers that was the Pod 5 colony's first armed force, sending them to salvage the Unity cargo pods identified in the area. What soon became clear is that the nearest 'cargo pod' was nothing of the sort, but a strange complex consisting of a series of low, single-room buildings around a central monolith of an unknown material. As Rat Patrol approached the monolith, they felt a strange clarity of thought penetrate them, helping to scour away fears and uncertainties.

What is more, it soon became apparent that when humans were in the vicinity of the monolith, processes went into play in the buildings in the complex around it. In some buildings, surfaces increased to a terrible heat, which allowed for equipment to be set up for a heat-exchange power plant. In others, small samples of elemental metals periodically appeared in what must have been some sort of receiving station, which could be collected for industrial use. And in the soil in the area around the complex, plants grew healthily, despite the sparse rainfall of the region. The monolith complex swiftly became the center of extractive operations outside of the settlement, helping to make the settlement's resource situation somewhat less precarious.

Monoliths, in addition to their strange effects on military units, change the base resource output of their tile to 2 nutrients, 2 minerals, and 2 energy, although other improvements to the tile cannot be built on monoliths.

Unit morale level indicates how well-trained and disciplined the unit is, and provides a percentage bonus to both attack and defense in combat.

A year after planetfall, a garrison force for the initial settlement was established, some of the stockpiled industrial materials Pod 5 brought with it consumed to ensure that this security force was in place. Not only was the security force armed with newly-manufactured copies of the standard 7.62mm UN assault rifle, they were equipped with heavy body armor with alloy trauma plate inserts intended to stop rifle rounds. Fighting from a prepared position, these troops should be able to hold out against most threats.

Units have their combat strength when attacking determined by their weapon, and their combat strength when defending determined by their armor. It is perhaps a bit strange both forms of equipment don't influence both forms of combat, but there you have it. Small arms, which are all we have, have an attack strength of 1. Units without armor have a defense strength of 1, and synthmetal armor, representing basic armor alloys permitted by an industrial base, has a defense strength of 2.

By 2104, settlers under Lars Torrson had established a second settlement on a river flowing into an inland, freshwater sea south of the primary settlement. Morgan had encouraged a policy of letting settlers buy out Interim Development Corporation assets to establish their own independent ventures, and some people had begun to trade in their stock shares to do exactly that. Torrson and the people following him were the largest single example of this, buying out a large portion of IDC assets to set up their own interim development corporation at the new site, which immediately set to establishing their own garrison force and scout force with their local industry. Meanwhile, Rat Patrol had discovered that yet another of the 'cargo pods' identified was another monolith complex, and turned to seek out the last cargo pod near the primary settlement.

By 2106, the work of researchers in the Pod 5 colony had begun to show progress. A policy of seeking developments with immediately commercially-useful application was balanced with support of pure research that might yield fruit further down the line.

With blind research, the only way to direct research is by choosing general priorities towards Explore, Discover, Build, and Conquer. Our priorities as things stand will be Discover and Build, although the inherent randomness will mean we will also have a chance to acquire Explore and Conquer applications.

The so-called 'Xenofungus' consists of hard, almost stony crimson tubules, growing together in heaped tangles reaching anywhere from 2 to 25 meters in depth. An unprotected human can be slashed apart by the edges of the fungus, if they move incautiously. Either picking over the surface or crushing a path through are painfully slow processes, and the oppressive dread and strange subaudible 'hum' experienced by people near xenofungus makes the procedure even more grueling. With these difficulties, it was only in 2108 that the pod in the fungus near the primary settlement was recovered. What was found in the pod was a thing of horror.

Most animal species on Chiron encountered so far were small, relatively inoffensive creatures living amongst the photosynthetic plants that grew away from the xenofungus. A writhing mass of 10 cm worms with sharp teeth, far different from these harmless creatures, had nested in the pod, ruining the delicate laboratory equipment inside. They bore down on Rat Patrol, and as they approached, the formless dread experienced in the xenofungus was multiplied into vivid and horrifying hallucinations of torture, terror, and death. Much of Rat Patrol was utterly paralysed in horror, while others inflicted losses on their own comrades as they opened fire on nonexistent threats. Only a few retained a grasp on reality, forming a firing line that shredded many of the worms as they bored into the skulls of their helpless victims. When the battle was over, the worms had been destroyed, every worm still burrowed into a human skull dispatched by knife or close-range fire. The few survivors of Rat Patrol salvaged what equipment they could from their fellows, staggering back to the settlement to rest, recover, and be reinforced with new recruits, and to submit a recommendation for making incendiaries for easier dispatch of the worms if they were to be encountered again.

Mind worms attack via psi combat, which ignores weapon and armor strength, instead giving the attacker an effective 'weapon' strength of 3 and the defender an 'armor' strength of 2. Morale effects still apply, so discipline and training is vital to psi combat. Defending against psi combat in xenofungus is even more difficult, as the xenofungus amplifies psi attacks.

In 2109, the Pod 5 colony made major breakthroughs in understanding of their new environment. A variety of small and inoffensive land, air, and water animals live on Chiron, remarkable in little except for the amazing symbiosis they display with the photosynthetic flora of the planet. The organic-rich soil with dense nitrates has led to a remarkable array of subterranean life adapted to the anoxic environment, recycling organic mass and 'breathing' nitrate. As a side-effect of this subterranean life, development of fossil fuels on Chiron has been severely retarded, with only very limited fossil fuel formation over its history. The crust, at least, is relatively rich in thorium, as was Earth's, and a combination of thorium extraction from sands combined with high-altitude solar facilities in the regions of highest illumination from Alpha Centauri should be able to handle the energy needs of the colony. Measures to adapt soil chemistry to Terran plants should allow for higher-efficiency farms, geological survey can help identify mining sites, and, remarkably, a mix of trees which should be able to thrive on their own and spread across the land has been identified. Xenofungus, although a formidable obstacle, can be crushed, blasted, and cleared to allow for exploitation of the land beneath.

One of the biggest irritations of SMAC was the idea that solar power would be primary in a civilisation that clearly retains fission power, but solar collectors, the structure to collect energy on tiles, remain altitude-dependent for output. Given the output of solar power, the fact that Chiron isn't supposed to have greater luminosity recieved from its system primary than Earth, and the energy manufacturing cost of solar collection apparatus, it strains my credibility to the breaking point to have solar as the primary power source. Having solar to supplement a thorium-based energy economy, however, is more reasonable.

Designs for huge engineering and construction vehicles to establish needed improvements outside of the settlements are finalised. These 'terraformers' will help develop Chiron into a more suitable home for humanity.

Formers allow for the construction of tile improvements, and are vital to building thriving settlements.

That same year, scouts sent out from Torrson's settlement encounter workers in a terraforming team from Pod 1. With contact established, radio communications are set up between Morgan's provisional HQ and Deidre Skye's own command center staffed by her inner circle of biologists and geologists.

Although Skye is mistrustful of the Pod 5 settlers, she is willing to consider establishing an agreement to respect the Pod 5 colony's borders and permit civilian traffic for the purposes of trade over the borders. With this business concluded, the scouting party from Torrson's settlement turns back, heading back over the borders in compliance with the treaty.

A treaty of friendship requires you to respect the borders of the faction you have treatied with, and allows basic commerce between your settlements- not that we have bases large enough to generate any commerce revenue yet. It essentially is an agreement of nonaggression and trade.

With travellers able to visit the Pod 1 colony, some idea of the differences between the societies of the two colonies can be observed. While the Pod 5 colony has a (admittedly still rudimentary) cash economy and has been slowly developing internal markets, resources in the Pod 1 colony are strictly rationed. The living space developed for Pod 5 settlers seems positively palatial next to the living quarters built for the Pod 1 colony. Skye's leadership has encouraged careful consideration of the native life, and, despite their terraforming efforts, disruption to native species has been minimised. Their strong staff of biologists and geologists has allowed them an early start on understanding of the conditions of the planet and terraform to adapt it to human needs, and a program of universal mandatory recycling helps them minimise waste. Skye and her cabal of leadership treat military duty as a punishment detail, and motivation and loyalty amongst the Pod 1 security forces is very poor.

Each faction gets a unique set of advantages and disadvantages, reflecting their general cultural bent, so that even with the same 'social engineering' reflecting societal choices, their society will take on a different flavor. Both of our factions have Frontier politics, a Simple economy, and Survival values, reflecting a struggling frontier society without terribly developed institutions. When possible, Skye's followers will take Green economics, where Morgan's will take Free Market economics. Choices conflicting with a faction's particular agenda can and will cause diplomatic tension.

Morgan Industries is always somewhat more market-oriented than the default of its Social Engineering would indicate, and gains +1 to its ECONOMY rating, producing more raw energy income, as well as a bonus to commerce income. They allow their citizens a greater share of wealth for consumption by default, and so their settlements are limited to size 4 rather than the default size 7 without investment into expanded habitation facilities and the support businesses to supply them, and their SUPPORT rating, indicating how easy it is to support military units out of a military budget, is reduced. They start with 100 extra energy credits and the Industrial Base technology, reflecting their supplies of industrial materials and the expertise Morgan and his closest followers bring.

The Gaians, as Skye's followers eventually become known as, have a stringent dedication to ecology and recycling, increasing their PLANET and EFFICIENCY ratings by 2, and increasing the base nutrients of fungus tiles by 1. PLANET influences interactions with the native life in various ways, and EFFICIENCY reduces losses to lopsided energy allocation or settlements far from the headquarters. Skye has a very poor respect for her military, and the Gaians suffer -1 MORALE and -1 POLICE. MORALE influences the morale ratings of your military units, and POLICE measures how effectively the military can be used to enforce order. The Gaians, due to their biological and geological expertise, start with the Centauri Ecology technology.

The Social Engineering screen also is where one determines the allocation of energy between Economy, Labs, and Psych. If the percentage going to Economy and Labs is too lopsided, the energy allocation will suffer efficiency losses, although high EFFICIENCY can mitigate this.

The Pod 5 Colony as of 2110

Morgan's settlement and Torrson's settlement control the northwestern shores of the Freshwater Sea, while the Pod 1 colony controls lands along the southern shores of the Freshwater Sea. A monolith complex near Torrson's settlement began to dissolve the fungus around it when it activated, although the rest of the countryside of the colony is still poorly-developed. Exploiting the monolith complexes has helped allow a more stable supply of resources, and the dominance of the Interim Development Corporations over the economy is slowly dissipating as settlers buy out their own ventures and develop internal markets. Most of the original stockpiles of industrial materials remain for disposal, and should help accelerate development in the future. Health problems from overpressure, environmental toxins, and stress due to xenofungus exposure remain endemic in the colony.

Morgan's settlement has grown significantly over the past ten years, and is nearly ready to dispatch another group of settlers to establish a new settlement. Investors in the new venture are being sought, seeking new opportunity elsewhere. The first monolith discovered near the settlement remains the center of activity for workers beyond the settlement, providing raw materials and energy for processing in factories and fueling human activity. Rat Patrol has arrived and is being reconstituted as a coherent unit, having suffered severe losses in the field.

Torrson's settlement, with fewer monoliths to take advantage of, has begun work on the first terraforming vehicle in the Pod 5 colony. Its own monolith remains a hive of activity. The costs of maintaining both a garrison force and a scout force weigh on the settlement's economy, stressing the relatively limited military budgets.

Units supported from a settlement beyond the limit allowed by the factional SUPPORT rating- currently, our SUPPORT of -1 allows one free unit per settlement- cost 1 mineral each in upkeep cost.

Although the monoliths have helped make existence somewhat less precarious in the Pod 5 colony, resources still remain very short. The minimal populations of both the Pod 5 and Pod 1 colonies limit commerce between the colonies to an insignificant trickle. Survival is precarious, and the discovery of the 'mind worm' leads to dire questions about the threats of life on Chiron. The new colony mission soon to be dispatched from Morgan's settlement yet awaits a leader and CEO for its own Interim Development Corporation, and the continent of Pholus still remains largely unexplored.