The Let's Play Archive

Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri

by nweismuller

Part 6: 2141-2150: The Market Unchained

The Market Unchained

As Rat Patrol explored further north along the Great Pholus Ridge, they encountered another Unity cargo pod's signal- but this one was lodged within a fissure in the heights. As they pinged the cargo pod with their own radio transmissions, robotic equipment in the pod attempted to activate, inadvertantly triggering a long-overdue earthquake that caused a major upheaval of the land.

Earthquakes triggered by pods are possibly the strangest result you can get from a pod, and one I don't much like because of how strange it is. The 'earthquake' causes an immediate major increase in elevation for the tile holding the pod and its immediately surrounding tiles, possibly altering rainfall patterns due to new barriers to the prevailing winds. On Chiron, the prevailing winds are always presumed to blow west to east, picking up moisture as they pass over water and depositing it as they cross land. Raised terrain in the way of the wind will tend to make the wind deposit rain on the western side of the barrier, while leaving the eastern side dry.

A year later, in 2143, the Morgan Settlement Interim Development Corporation formally dissolved, with the Torrson and Tellus IDCs shortly following suit. By this time, the economic environment of North Pholus was a vibrant collection of different corporations, closely-held companies, and self-employed workers, who were operating in an environment of remarkable economic freedom. Although Morgan Industries, which had widely-diversified investments across multiple sectors, remained the single largest corporation in North Pholus, and the one conducting the greatest volume of trade beyond the borders of North Pholus, it still accounted for only about 9% of North Pholus economic activity, with the remainder accounted for by a huge array of different firms not under Morgan's ownership. The Settlement Authorities which remained in the wake of the dissolution of the IDCs had fairly limited powers, primarily over security and foreign affairs, and could not even begin to hope to muster the strength to exert authority over an unwilling populace.

Still, the populace as a whole was not unwilling. Productivity and innovation exploded, and personal consumption in North Pholus reached unprecedented levels. Consumer electronics, entertainment media, clothing, furniture, medicines, and more were now available in qualities and quantities previously beyond the economy of Chiron, providing a welcome relief from the stress and drudgery of survival on a hostile world. Wide segments of the population enjoyed wealth previously only available to the richest of corporate leaders in the colony, and many took the opportunity to develop valuable skills to further supplement their incomes.

With the new surge in human activity, the health of the xenofungus nearest North Pholus settlements seemed to suffer, and, as it suffered, people exposed to the fungus reported an intensification of the sense of dread and unease now known to be caused by the radio waves emitted by fungal masts interacting with xenofungus spore concentrations in the human brain. The xenofungus, like the mindworm, incorporated thorium as a power source, and xenofungal spores thoroughly saturated the soil all across Pholus. There was no way to avoid spore exposure, and so every human on Pholus was unavoidably exposed to this contamination. When exposed to radio bursts such as those emitted by the xenofungus or x-ray radiation such as that used in mindworm attacks, the spores in the human brain responded, triggering activation of the fear centers of the brain, along with secondary, less well-understood, effects.

With Free Market in place and our Psych spending up, we are now generating Talents. Each population unit in a settlement will be a Worker, a Talent, or a Drone, by default. At Librarian difficulty, the first three population units will start as Workers, and those thereafter start as Drones. Workers represent basic skilled labor, or at least unskilled labor remaining docile under the threat of force- perhaps overworked and overstressed on such a hostile world as Chiron, but essentially productive and law-abiding. Talents are highly skilled, highly motivated, and economically successful members of the population, providing a highly productive 'upper crust'. Drones, on the other hand, represent barely-productive and dissatisfied members of the population, a threat to civic order and a drain on local resources. Based on the overall condition of a settlement's workforce, it can be in one of three states- Golden Age, normal operations, or Drone Riots. If at least half the population is Talents and there are no Drones in a settlement, and the settlement is at least size three, it enters a Golden Age, gaining a +1 ECONOMY and +2 GROWTH- I'll discuss the specific effects of that in our context later. If the settlement is not in a Golden Age, but there are at least as many Talents as Drones, the productivity of the Talents makes up for the Drones, and normal base operations continue. If Drones outnumber Talents at any time, Drone Riots begin, and the productivity of a settlement essentially stops. If Drone Riots continue for long enough, the base may suffer damage as the settlement falls into chaos, and it may potentially rebel and defect to a rival faction.

In 2145, researchers in South Pholus reported that, through the integration of their psychological data on humans with biological data on brain structure, they had developed a solid understanding of how human consciousness arises from a physical substrate. This discovery was inspiring to the South Pholus scientific community, and the wave of optimism and inventiveness that followed allowed them to rapidly confirm further theories. South Pholus medical researchers began work into sequencing the human genome, but were well behind the North Pholus project.

The first faction to discover any 'Secrets' technology gets a free bonus technology immediately thereafter. Unfortunately, we were beaten there, but such is the luck of the draw with blind research.

In that same year, the settlement of Bushnell Center was founded on the eastern borders of North Pholus. Backed primarily by Lovelace Computing Machines and Dreamland Games, with the assistance of a number of other supporting companies helping to ensure the smooth functioning of the settlement, Bushnell Center was intended from the beginning to eventually become host to a powerful server and mainframe infrastructure tying into the North Pholus networks, thereby providing the power needed for true VR entertainment across the whole colony.

As Rat Patrol explored further along the Great Pholus ridge, it found more evidence of the 'Precursor' aliens- first another of the strange monolith complexes they had left scattered across Pholus, and next a strange, unidentifiable piece of machinery weighing approximately two tons. It did, however, have a lower surface of a strange, nearly frictionless material, which allowed it to be pushed over the ground by several soldiers at very nearly a human walking pace with minimal difficulties. With this valuable prize in tow, Rat Patrol turned back, headed for the Morgan Industries headquarters to see if the researchers there could make any sense of this find.

Alien artifacts are slow and fragile, but if you can get them safely home, they are very valuable...

In 2150, various medical companies and data analysis firms completed the complete sequencing of the human genome, and worked to translate the most complete understanding of human genetics and health in the known world into high-quality medical treatments. With the knowledge and expertise developed over the project, treatments for a large number of genetic disorders were developed, and the quality of anti-agathic treatments in North Pholus was dramatically increased. The Morgan Industries settlement became a major center of medical tourism, with even a few prominent members of South Pholus society crossing the border to undergo better anti-agathic treatments. With this advance in medical science, aging could be held off essentially indefinitely- at least for those with the wealth for expensive rejuvenation treatments. The availability of excellent medicine across North Pholus helped increase the quality of life for a significant segment of the population. I strongly advise you watch this video, but be warned the related links may be spoilery. This video was NOT recorded by me. All Secret Projects in SMAC have a video that plays with a quote from some faction leader when you successfully complete them, and I will be linking the appropriate videos as the time comes.

With its well-educated, highly skilled, and highly satisfied population, the Morgan Industries settlement became a vigorous center of activity, even beyond the other settlements of North Pholus. Commercial activity flourished, while new neighborhoods sprang up before the boundless energy of its inhabitants. With the human genome already sequenced north of the border and their work rendered redundant, South Pholus researchers turned their efforts to a comprehensive study of the Pholus ecosystem and geology, working to combine practical terraforming techniques with Gaian doctrine.

You can immediately switch all production on a Secret Project to another with no loss- any other change of production past the first row of progress will cause a loss of 50% of the excess production past the first row. This can be useful if somebody else beats you to a Project.

The North Pholus Colony as of 2150

The Talon Security Solutions reconnaissance team is exploring the new eastern frontiers of the North Pholus colony near Bushnell Center, while Rat Patrol has begun the long trek back to home territory. Terraformers have slowly been developing the land around the Morgan Industries and Tellus Cooperative settlements, while South Pholus terraformer activity has been noted near the border.

The new level of development and economic structure of the North Pholus colony has been very good for industrial development and scientific research. Innovation has been greatly sped, while accumulation of capital materials and financial resources for future investment is dramatically higher than a decade ago.

The Morgan Industries settlement is the largest in North Pholus, and the most successful settlement in the known world. The bulk of its population is now highly-motivated, skilled, and contented, and the high productivity of the settlement makes it the marvel of the known world, as well as a center of medical tourism. Growing trade volumes have slowly led to more regular traffic of goods from the Spartan Federation and from South Pholus, largely purchased with foreign exchange from trade by Morgan Industries itself. As North Pholus prepares for potential threats from the Spartan Federation or from South Pholus, a program to train and equip an elite team of spies and hackers for information-gathering and potential subversion has been started.

Until we gain certain future techs, the resource output of tiles not containing a unique resource or the settlement tile itself is limited to 2 of any given resource, which reduces the energy gain from our monoliths. The +2 GROWTH from our Golden Age reduces the length of the rows of the Nutrients store from 10 to 8, speeding population growth, while the +1 ECONOMY gives 2 bonus energy in the settlement tile and boosts its commerce rate. With its increased energy and commerce rate, we now have sufficient energy production in Morgan Industries to be making profits off commerce from our neighbors. Commerce works by pairing your highest-energy settlement with the other faction's highest-energy settlement, your second-highest energy settlement with theirs, and so on. For each pair, the energy is summed and then divided according to a fairly complicated formula- although a full alliance, a 'Pact of Brotherhood', is notable in that it doubles the commerce rate between factions as trade barriers are removed. As both our neighbors still have quite low energy income, and populations remain low, commerce income is still limited, but it can eventually be a MASSIVE revenue source for Morgan. Also worth noting is the difference between Talent and Worker population icons. As you can see, Talent population icons, under the settlement name, are largely blue, while Worker icons are yellow.

The Torrson Ventures settlement trails the Morgan Industries settlement in size, but is swiftly growing, and is expected to experience a major economic boom within two years. A surge of investment into biological reprocessing plants in the settlement should help ensure a valuable supplement to its existing resources within a year. The population in general is prospering, with the general economic boom North Pholus is experiencing.

The Tellus Cooperative settlement shares in the general prosperity of the North Pholus colony, with developed farms and thorium sifters on either side of the settlement feeding materials in for the settlement to process. Work is underway to increase the network bandwidth between the settlement and the other settlements of North Pholus, along with development of local server farms and cable infrastructure to improve the connectivity of the habs and businesses of the settlement. Plans to begin to begin exploitation of of the nearby uranium deposits in earnest are only a few years from fruition.

Bushnell Center is still finding its feet, with a security force mustered and work on organic reprocessing plants run some of the various small support companies in the settlement started. The settlement supports a major fishing industry run by Applied Maritime Solutions in the Freshwater Sea, providing it with an extremely steady food source. With its food supply largely secured by rich fishing, it is anticipated that mining operations in the bluffs south of the city can start soon.

Relations remain stable with South Pholus, whose social and economic system has remained largely stable since the development of the Stepdaughters of Gaia. The South Pholus colony continues under the original council established by Doctor Skye, with small-scale economic operations under rationing by orders of the council to ensure minimal ecological disruption.

The Spartan Federation, on the other hand, has undergone a notable economic shift in the past decade. A series of critical industries are under direct control of the Federation government, which tolerates small-scale private enterprise in services and light industry. Although this system is wasteful and prone to malinvestment, it does at least ensure a steady flow of critical materials to the military and to favored construction projects, and has allowed for the Federation to institute direct incentives to large families to serve in the factories and armies of the Federation. The Federation government has exhibited a cold attitude towards North Pholus in recent years, raising concerns about their long-term plans.

Planned Economics provide +2 GROWTH, +1 INDUSTRY (INDUSTRY influences the length of production rows in much the same way GROWTH influences the length of the population growth rows), and -2 EFFICIENCY.

Despite any diplomatic concerns, life in the North Pholus colony is better than ever before, and the colony has a sense of optimism for the future.