Part 13: 2211-2220: The Turning PointThe Turning Point
Over 2211 and 2212, skirmishes around Torrson left two Dominion rover platoons in wreckage, while Dominion special forces succeeded in using a combination of explosives and hardware-scrambling viruses to wreck the command operations center in Torrson. As the threat from New Gaia's probe operations became more apparent, the government dispatched its own counterintelligence probe teams to provide security at the front, even as the assault force prepared for a push over the border to Gaia's Landing.
Meanwhile, in Talon, the swarm of wild worms that had been detected swept in and overwhelmed the two companies of troops serving as a local garrison, although it was almost entirely destroyed in the process. In the end, the personnel of the terraformer teams that had taken shelter in Talon salvaged arms and desperately fought a delaying action against the last remaining worms. Although they were untrained and suffered terrible losses, in the end their heroism saved the settlement from the remaining worms penetrating into the settlement itself and causing mass chaos.
That was very, very close. At least future garrisons in Talon will have the benefit of a command center when they're built, so they'll be able to fight back more effectively against worms.
In 2213, Rat Patrol, two platoons of rovers equipped with impact guns, and a second company of infantry without significant heavy weapons support pushed into Gaian territory, wiping out a Gaian rover platoon and the two companies of infantry protecting Gaia's Landing. With the defenses of Gaia's Landing collapsing, the infantry marched into the settlement, shortly behind a hasty evacuation of the top church and government officials of the Dominion from their capital. Though many buildings were damaged or destroyed in the fighting and a significant fraction of its people either perished or fled during the last portion of building to building fighting, in the end the settlement and the majority of its people were under North Pholan control.
You can launch attacks with less than one move point remaining, but suffer penalties to strength if you do. With the advantage provided by impact weapons and highly-trained rover crews, however, it was worth it to allow the settlement to fall immediately.
With their capital fallen, the Dominion sent a message to the North Pholan government, indicating that they would be willing to consider a peace settlement in exchange for information and equipment from North Pholus to augment their own armaments industry. This ridiculous and insulting offer received all the consideration it deserved.
With the push into Gaian territory, the government took the opportunity to outfit Rat Patrol with the latest heavy weapons. With their combat experience, equipment, and weaponry, they were perhaps the single most formidable fighting force in Pholus proper.
By 2215, the Intelligence Service foil exploring the shores of Hercules discovered the initial landing site of Pod 8, around which a modest settlement now rose, the capital of the United Nations Colony on Chiron, which was administered by an interlocking bureaucracy of agencies whose Commissioners served as a ruling council. The original acting captain of Pod 8, Pravin Lal, the Chief of Medical of the original mission, was now Commissioner of the United Nations Commission on Intercolonial Affairs and Human Rights. Although the UNCC had made some efforts towards democratisation, they suffered from dangerous instability with the first efforts, and had so far remained content with rule by bureaucratic committee. The North Pholan government brokered a deal to provide the UNCC with radio contact information for the Dominion of New Gaia in exchange for stores of thorium and other industrial materials, provided the UNCC with information on the ethical calculus that helped allow for a stable democratic system in North Pholus in exchange for the UNCC's maps, then brokered a permanent mutual recognition of governments that could open the way for commerce between Pholus and Hercules.
The UNCC proves to consist of a spread of poorly-developed settlements over the majority of southern Hercules, with its center of mass and most developed portion resting in a cluster of settlements in the massive Garland Crater, named after the deceased captain of the Unity. Formed long ago by a tremendous nickel-iron meteorite impact with Chiron, Garland Crater still has much of the bulk of the meteorite melted and scattered through the surface, making it incredibly metals-rich.
Every tile in Garland Crater gets +1 minerals from the remnants of the meteorite impact in the crater.
A year later, Dreamland Games issued a major announcement- their continued refinement of manufacturing processes for VR equipment and their development of a server base in Bushnell Center had reached a critical point, and they now were offering their VR hardware to consumers for free, making their money entirely on cash-shop transactions by users to add extra 'goodies' to games. Now people everywhere in North Pholus could use equipment in their own habs to log in and experience any of a variety of convincing VR worlds and interact with other users, while Bushnell Center's powerful servers and the optical network of the nation shouldered the massive processing and transfer load this entailed. This allowed for a golden age of art and entertainment across the whole of North Pholus.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sJlPr2KHSFo As always, I didn't record the video, but it's worth watching. As ever, spoiler warning for related links.
While Dreamland announced the long-awaited completion of the Bushnell Project, the Gaians had assembled a new assault force against Torrson, launching a failed attack against the settlement from the cover of the fungus to the west while two platoons of rovers and a company of infantry moved in to attempt to support the assault. North Pholan forces moved out to engage the Dominion forces, crushing them handily, while a swarm of wild worms that had emerged from the fungus southwest of Tellus was eradicated by the local garrison.
A year later, in 2217, another assault, this time against Gaia's Landing further south, was launched, with the North Pholan attack forces hunting down and wiping out Gaian military forces, special operations teams, and, for some unknown reason, a civilian terraforming team which had been ordered over the border.
In 2218, Morgan Industries researchers had developed a cost-effective process to modify certain anaerobic subterranean organisms found in Chiron's soil to break down nitrates in sealed tanks and expel hydrocarbons as waste material. Suddenly, with oil and natural gas once again available on a large scale, whole fields of applications once common on Earth became practical on Chiron. Plastics manufacture, fuel for personal vehicles, gas heating, and rockets suddenly became practical applications, and Ares Arms immediately began a crash project to develop manufacturing facilities and designs for missiles and missile launchers. Oil-based fungicides proved extremely useful, and, although the manufacturing volume was still low, Morgan Industries added these fungicides to their product lineup.
We get more units using missiles, and sea-based variants of fungicidal terraformers, of course, but I figure by this point you get the general idea. We still need to prototype missile weapons before they become more cost-effective to manufacture.
Meanwhile, the forests planted near Bushnell Center began to expand on their own into uncultivated ground. Terran trees proved to be adapting quite well to Chironic conditions, well enough to thrive even without active cultivation on the part of humans.
I won't show future forest spread messages, but periodically forest will indeed spread on its own into ground not otherwise developed.
After some additional scouting, the Intelligence Service foil had returned to UN Headquarters, dropping its crew off to establish covert intelligence channels and taps on UNCC data feeds to monitor the current situation in the UNCC, while Torrson finally succeeded in re-establishing the command center that had been destroyed by Gaian covert action.
Two years later, Gaian covert operations attempted to penetrate security at Gaia's Landing, but Intelligence Service operatives there raised the alarm and attempted to stop the intrusion. Although the Intelligence Service team ended up outmaneuvered and assassinated by the Gaian spies, the alarm raised bought the time for military forces in Gaia's Landing to hunt the spies down and wipe them out.
Even if you lose a Probe Team on defensive duty, the time spent wiping out your defending Probe Team will tend to leave the enemy Probes sitting ducks for the regular garrison.
As the Intelligence Service reviewed information from the UNCC, they realised that the UNCC was in contact with- and at war with- the colony that had grown from Pod 4. Diplomatic negotiations with the UNCC led to another deal brokered to help the UNCC contact the Spartan Federation, while information on how to produce optical computing devices was exchanged for access to Pod 4. Although Commissioner Lal attempted to assert the continued authority of the UN Charter for the Unity mission, the North Pholan government rejected this position as ridiculous- the UN Charter held no binding force over the Republic of North Pholus.
As the Pod 4 colony, or the 'Planetary University Free State', was contacted, it became clear that Prokhor Zakharov, the old Chief of Sciences for the Unity, still ruled the small colony like his own personal kingdom. Zakharov first attempted to recruit North Pholus onto his side of the war with the UNCC, then agreed to share his cartographic files in exchange for information on the ethical calculus. When the North Pholan government attempted to broker a peace between the UNCC and the Planetary University Free State, Zakharov made it clear that he was willing to agree to a cease-fire, but that any such agreement would be conditional on the UNCC giving up its aggression against the Free State.
When the government once again contacted the UNCC, Pravin Lal, in his position as Commissioner for Intercolonial Affairs and Human Rights, attempted to gain the support of the North Pholan government in the war. When it was instead suggested that he broker a peace with the Planetary University Free State, he was willing to agree, and shortly thereafter a formal treaty of friendship was established between the UNCC and the Free State.
Shortly thereafter, the government contacted the newly-reorganised Federation government, which now fell under the absolute authority of Colonel Santiago as dictator. She was sold information allowing her to contact the Planetary University Free State, and agreed to provide refinements to military doctrine, tactics, and training she had developed in the Spartan military during her tenure in exchange for the materials science needed to manufacture plasma steel. Developments in the Spartan Federation were ominous, but the RSP government considered her refinements to doctrine to be too valuable to pass up.
Rigorous training and the unyielding loyalty of the army has allowed Santiago to effectively enforce a police state in the Spartan Federation, with exceedingly broad and arbitrary authority over the populace and an effective system for diverting more resources to the military. The lack of legal predictability and the even further decreased security in property and affairs has been ruinous for the Federation's economy, however.
A Police State gives +2 POLICE, allowing greater control over the populace by force, and +2 SUPPORT, allowing cheaper support of military units. It gives -2 EFFICIENCY, however, reducing energy income, particularly far from headquarters.
The Republic of North Pholus as of 2220
Talon has been linked to the rest of North Pholus by highway and rail, and the North Pholan rail network links with the South Pholan rail network between Torrson and Gaia's Landing. The xenofungal forests in North Pholus are getting slowly cleared away, removing hiding spots for worms and removing the oppressive presence of the fungus on human minds. The Gaian project to copy the Bushnell Project has entirely collapsed, with computer hardware for the project being field-repurposed to help equip Gaian covert ops teams seeking to sabotage North Pholan operations.
The massive mineral overflow they had from the project loses some extra production to waste, but nonetheless they STILL haven't plowed through the backlog yet, which has meant they've been spitting out probe teams once a year since our completion of the Virtual World. A big reason our offensive has bogged down, given the risk of Gaian probe action.
Sparta Command has been built up into a literal fortress, with pre-planned firing arcs out of the settlement, razor wire, vehicle traps, and land mines ready for deployment on short notice, and small bunkers and strongpoints covering strategic approaches. Their own copy of the Bushnell Project has proved to be a pale imitation, a small-scale local VR entertainment and training system inferior to the consumer-grade VR in North Pholus. Sparta Command and Fort Liberty are the only remaining economic centers of any importance in the Federation, as lack of economic freedom has wasted activity elsewhere in malinvestment and malaise.
With Police State Politics and Planned Economics, EFFICIENCY reaches -4, which causes all energy income in any settlement without a Children's Creche to be wasted. The +2 EFFICIENCY from a Children's Creche allows for some income to be distributed amongst economy, labs, and psych in the settlement the Creche is in, at least.
Hercules is largely dominated by the UNCC, none of whose settlements individually are as productive as Sparta Command or Fort Liberty. All contribute at least a little to the overall economy, however, and the UNCC economy is larger in aggregate than the Federation economy. The Planetary University Free State, despite the fertile territory it occupies in northwestern Hercules, has struggled to survive against hostile native life and against the military force of the UNCC, and so it has not spread effectively beyond its first settlement. Northeast of University Base a vast territory with widespread uranium deposits dominates the north of Hercules, although the Free State has yet to be able to take advantage of the riches there.
The Uranium Flats provide +1 energy in every tile in their area, as might be anticipated.
Charts of Chiron as a whole are beginning to become more complete, although the continent of Chiron Minor has yet to be visited by North Pholan explorers. North Pholan influence over early trade with both the Planetary University Free State and the UNCC has led to the adoption of the thorium standard as the international money of account for trade, although the basis of local currencies varies. Only North Pholus itself uses the North Pholus thorium credit internally.
The North Pholan economy has continued to grow over the past decade. Morgan Industries and Kusisitiza Datametrics have both made heavy investment into robotics technology recently, with hopes to develop profitable applications for automation in the future.
Our next technology lined up is a Build technology, of which there is only one currently available. It is easy to guess what is coming next, for me.
Water xenofungus near Morgan has begun to be cleared by work boats, while forest has grow closer to the settlement from near Bushnell Center. Quality of life and productivity here is excellent, with very high per capita incomes. Commerce with Hercules has begun to bring benefits to Morgan and other settlements in North Pholus as profits are reinvested. Apollo Meditech has started work on a major research hopsital in Morgan, hoping to investigate new treatments for disease, provide a venue for genetic study, and improve the general health of the settlement.
With the front at Torrson stable and the people of the settlement able to carry on despite the war nearby, life has grown better here over the past decade. Work has begun to expand local reactor capacity and develop effective storage for large quantities of thorium, which is expected to help with local industrial capacity when the project is complete.
Tellus nearly matches Morgan for economic power and per capita income, although its heavy industry is less developed. The Chiron Minor Exploration Consortium, a group assembled by various investors, has nearly finished building an exploration vessel and assembling a security force to protect the vessel in its planned voyage across the Sea of Chiron to Chiron Minor.
The government has funded the construction of a local military command center in Bushnell Center, which is nearly completed. Although quality of life and productivity here is high, it still trails per capita incomes in the core territories of the west. The Bushnell Project has fueled a huge improvement in quality of life across the nation, and is a massive accomplishment worthy of worldwide admiration.
All approaches to Talon have been cleared of xenofungus, and two companies of local troops have been raised to replace the soldiers who were lost in battle against the worms earlier in the decade. A new platoon of rovers is being assembled here, although the still-experimental nature of missile weapons on Chiron has made progress slow. Quality of life here, as in Bushnell Center, is high but not as overwhelmingly so as in the heartland.
The wolframite deposits outside of Xochimilco are now being exploited by a major permanent mining platform, while Terran kelp beds have been planted about the area, providing nourishment for fish that can be harvested, as well as capable of being harvested directly and converted into food. Network cable is being laid across the seafloor to help link the settlement into the North Pholus Internet. Xochimilco remains the smallest of the settlements of North Pholus, but its prosperity continues to grow.
The groves previously used as social and recreation areas in Gaia's Landing were the site of the last stand of the settlement's defenders, and the local organic reprocessing plants were sabotaged by loyalist saboteurs before the government fled the settlement. The population's reaction to the occupation is mixed- although the new development and luxuries available under the Republic's economic system have improved the life of many, many people still resent North Pholus and the occupying forces have rules of engagement that make it difficult to deal with continuing resistance and strikes from local malcontents. The Intelligence Service is scrambling to once again set up an effective counterintelligence team in Gaia's Landing to replace the team that was lost earlier in the year.
The Dominion of New Gaia remains under its theocratic leadership, although administration has grown more difficult with Lady Deidre now on the move up and down the eastern coast. Relations are strained between New Gaia and the UNCC, although a 'permanent' treaty of peace exists between New Gaia and the Spartan Federation. Stockpiles of strategic materials, although still deep, have dwindled over the past decade, and Gaian military strength is faltering as they struggle to recruit replacements for combat losses.
The Federation's President has stepped down in favor of direct rule by Colonel Santiago, who has implemented drastic measures to maintain control over the population. Checkpoints, internal passports, surveillance, and the arbitrary authority of military police is omnipresent in Federation society, and no economic power centers outside of the government exist. The already weak economy has weakened further, and the prestige project of VR entertainment in the capital overwhelms the budget beyond its capacity to bear. The economy's resources are being steadily depleted. It seems likely that if Santiago hopes to maintain the current system, she has little choice but to turn to conquest to infuse new wealth into her empire.
With the ethical calculus available, the UNCC has succeeded in fully democratising their government, electing Raoul Batiste as the first Colonial Governor of the UNCC. Pravin Lal is nearly universally well-regarded in the UNCC, and his position as Commissioner for Intercolonial Affairs and Human Rights seems likely to be secure for the forseeable future. The UNCC has various guarantees of human rights and a strong opposition to humanitarian atrocities, but its commitment to free speech and press organs lags behind the North Pholus Republic. Its economy is quasicapitalist, with a mixture of private firms and state economic activity in various fields such as medicine, education, and others, although even private firms have much of their activity dictated by centralised panels on wage levels, output levels, employment, and so on. The poorer regions of UNCC settlements tend to sprawl in warrens of state-built habs around the more prosperous settlement cores. Bureaucracy is intrusive and omnipresent. The culture is more individualistic than that found in New Gaia or the Spartan Federation, but with a higher degree of social cohesion than that in North Pholus or the University Free State. This has resulted in a significant fraction of the population who both have developed exceptional ability and education and who are willing to apply it even with minimal material or status-based reward.
The resources sunk into charity habs in the UNCC increase its population caps by 2, and the unique marriage of free thought and idealism in the UNCC converts one population unit from a Worker to a Talent for every four population units or fraction thereof. A tendency to burdensome bureaucracy and red tape gives a -1 EFFICIENCY, however. The UNCC also counts its population double for 'Planetary Council' votes- I'll discuss that in more detail later. Lal's medical expertise lets them start with the Biogenetics technology.
The University Free State is, in many ways, functionally a classical caste-based society with the usual caste ordering. A 'priestly' caste- in this case, the Planetary University proper- rules with the support of a warrior caste, with labor and merchant castes serving for the benefit of the priesthood and warriors. The University proper is a remarkably small organisation with members admitted from the general population based on exceptional scientific or technical ability, with University Security in the University's service to protect University members and enforce order. The economy is directly administered by University social scientists, who dictate quotas and agendas that must be fulfilled. The bulk of resources are swallowed by the University proper, supporting expensive experiments and lives of leisurely research for the University elite, who share publications but are insulated from any economic considerations in their own lives. From the perspective of the vast bulk of the society, it is as if most of the fruit of their labor disappears beyond the event horizon of the University proper for purposes incomprehensible to them, with only the dictates of the University's demands and the occasional University engineer descending from on high to introduce new machines or production methods. Network security within the University proper is extremely poor, with the emphasis on swift publication of essentially everything to everyone in the University, and security forces outside the University proper fail to maintain any detailed watch on the general population. The University does not deign to explain itself to the ordinary citizens of the Free State. Zakharov, as the head of the University, is also functionally the head of the entire Free State.
The University has an inherent +2 RESEARCH, giving a 20% bonus to all Labs spending in the faction, reflecting the brilliant work of its scientists freed from any outside pressures, and the reservation of the best materials for the University's elite allows them to gain a free Network Node in every settlement. Very poor internal security and rapid information flows give it a -2 PROBE, making it very vulnerable to enemy covert action, and the naked, callous elitism of the University converts one extra population unit into a Drone for every full four population in a settlement. The University starts with Information Networks and one other random technology available at the start of the game.
The Lord's Alliance remains a massive population still little-understood by North Pholans. It seems likely that they must control much of Chiron Minor, as there is no room for their society in what remains unknown of Pholus or Hercules, and the smaller islands of Chiron likewise could hardly support them. Their hostility with North Pholus continues unabated.
New Colony Executive elections approach, and the Republic of North Pholus steels itself to end the war with New Gaia, while the ominous presence of the Spartan Federation and Lord's Alliance loom over events on Chiron. Still, it seems likely that North Pholus will enjoy prosperity into the future.