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Storyline installments

An installment to the storyline will be added every so often (that is, whenever I have time to write one). From the way it's looking now, the story of Alpha Centauri: Mars Edition will be pretty long and complicated, but a far sight better than the one Firaxis has written.


Index:

Part 1 Global News Corporation report on the launch of the Beagle 2
Part 2 TriNational Consortium board meeting on Mars colony
Part 3 The Ares Foundation
Part 4 Two Worlds/UN Mars colony

Part 1

Location: Earth, United States, Houston

Date: 3/8/2007

Global News Corporation broadcast:

Presenter <Caroline>: Today, perhaps one of the most important events of mankind is going to unfold. As you all undoubtedly know, today is when the Beagle 2 will be launched to Mars, carrying four men and women. We’ve got a reporter on the scene at Houston.

Reporter <Martin>: <extremely large crowd in background, lots of people talking> Hi Caroline. I’m here at Houston, and you can see behind me the incredible amount of people here who have gathered to watch the launch of the Beagle 2. I’d say that this event has to be unprecedented in recent history, if you gauge it from the amount of coverage it’s been receiving.

Presenter: So, exactly who is there at Houston? Is there any predominant group?

Reporter: Well, unsurprisingly, there must be tens of thousands of people here from the Mars Society. I say it’s unsurprising since they made this event possible.

Presenter: Could you give us a brief history of the Mars Society?

Reporter: It’s hard to be brief about it, but I’ll try <grins>. The Mars Society was founded in July of 1998, and had somewhere near one thousand members in a dozen countries at that point. From then on, their numbers of supporters grew rapidly as they increased his public outreach. Their first coup was the construction of their Arctic base in the year 2000 – this base was used to test equipment to be used on Mars and to, in a small degree, simulate conditions. You could say that the Arctic base was the Mars Society’s break – it was a headline project and once it was online, thousands more people joined up. Another notable achievement was the Mars Society’s payload on the ESA Mars Mission in 2003. This payload was entirely sponsored by the Mars Society and conducted several scientifically important experiments. By this time, the Mars Society was seen to be a credible, professional world-wide organisation with a huge amount of lobbying power. When their payload landed, the Mars Society began to lobby governments across the world for a manned mission to Mars, and it’s obvious that they have been extremely successful.

Presenter: Exactly why have so many people joined the Mars Society?

Reporter: It’s been put down to a number of factors. The concept of man on Mars has been fascinating throughout the ages, and the Mars Society gives people a chance to take part in possibly the most important event in history. Through their public outreach arm, hundreds of members of the Mars Society have given talks across the world explaining their aims of exploring and settling Mars – this undoubtedly won a lot of people over.

Presenter: Thanks Martin. Here in the studio we have Robert Zubrin, the founder of the Mars Society. Dr. Zubrin, I’m sure you’ve been asked this question hundreds of times, but what benefits do you see in the settlement of Mars? You’ve lobbied extensively for this, and I’m sure our viewers will be eager to know your reasons.

Zubrin: <Zubrin is now completely bald due to stress, age, and the realisation that it was futile to conceal his remaining hair with hats, etc.> (INSERT QUOTE ABOUT REASONS)

Presenter: I assume then that this mission will not be a one-off.

Zubrin: Certainly not… missions every two years… etc.

Presenter: Thank you Dr. Zubrin. I’m sure you’re eager to get back to Houston in time for the launch. We’ll be having continuous coverage of the launch of the Beagle in two hours time – maybe we’ll see Dr. Zubrin at Houston during the launch.

Zubrin: I’m sure you will.

Presenter: In other matters, talks between Eurisko and the Vaningen conglomerate have begun regarding a possible merger. There has been some fear in both governmental and commercial quarters that the new company would have an effective monopoly in many sectors, and wield enormous influence and capital across the world…


Part 2

Location: Earth, United Kingdom, London, TriNational Consortium European Headquarters

Date: 29/2/2008

TriNational Consortium board meeting

The TriNational Consortium had been formed recently by the merger of Eurisko and the Vaningen conglomerate. The resulting consortium had large amounts of assets in the United Kingdom, the United States of America and China, hence the name. Some said that the TriNational Consortium was now the most powerful commercial organisation on Earth; then again, this wasn’t surprising since many people had it in for them.

Nevertheless, the TriNational Consortium, even if it wasn’t the most powerful organisation, certainly had the largest amounts of capital flowing about in banks. Certainly enough to attempt what it was trying to do now.

"So, that concludes all the pressing business of the day. As you can see, the next item on the agenda is a short presentation by Michael Arran, our head of space operations."

Michael Arran had been a major figure in Eurisko before the merger – he had co-ordinated the construction of the first extraterrestrial hotel on the Moon. While many companies had produced plans for such a hotel in the 1990’s, none of them had seriously considered actually building one. When Michael Arran joined Eurisko in 1999, he came with a fully worked up proposal for a Moonbase hotel which would use the next generation of spaceplanes to ferry passengers back and forth to the Moon. It has to be said that Michael was a long-term thinker. He knew very well a Moonbase wasn’t commercially viable until the late 2000’s, but still he also knew that for it to work, Eurisko had to start soon.

"Thank you, Alex. You’ve all got a booklet on my Marsbase proposal in your folders, could you please take them out? Thanks. I believe that the next step for the TriNational Consortium to take is the formation of a commercial base on Mars."

For the Moonbase to work, Eurisko had to test the technology – they couldn’t just go ahead and build it. So what they did was to buy up a company that was beginning to run sub-orbital hops for tourists using first-generation spaceplanes. This proved to be a magnificent moneyspinner as thousands of millionaires handed over the cash to go on the latest, most exciting experience. It also let Eurisko test out their space operations. In 2008, the space-tourism business was going along quite well, and prices were gradually falling. There was talk of an orbital hotel, and some other space-tourism businesses had started up. The concept of a holiday in space was now firmly embedded in the society, and it was the perfect time start up a Moonbase.

"We’ve already shown through our space-tourism business, and our Moonbase which opened last year, that the commercial exploitation of space is not only feasible, but profitable. We can take the next step, and go from tourism to utilisation of resources. Now, I’m sure many of you wonder why we can’t do this on the Moon, why we can’t make some kind of colony there. The simple reason is that the Moon lacks vital resources which we need to grow plants with, and without them, it’d be inordinately expensive to maintain a colony."

The Moonbase had, to be fair, started off relatively well. Yes, it had had the occasional hiccup, but it was the first hotel in space. And there were plenty of people willing to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to stay on the Moon. Plenty.

All this had served to put Eurisko right at the forefront of the commercial exploitation of space.

"On Mars, however, there’s enough resources there for anything you want. More than enough, in fact. There’s nothing stopping us from setting up a self-sufficient colony there. No company on Earth has the resources, the power, or the expertise to set up a colony on Mars. Except for us. I don’t think Eurisko could have attempted it, but I know the TriNational Consortium can."

A member of the board raised his hand.

"Yes?" asked Michael.

"I’m sure your proposal is technically sound, and you have all the details worked out, but how does this Martian colony benefit us? The space-tourism business and the Moonbase made money from tourists, but I don’t suppose you’ll have any tourists on Mars."

"I don’t expect any short-term benefits. But establishing a Martian colony will make our position there undisputed. We will be in total command of the economy on Mars – mining, infrastructure, power generation, housing, space-travel, everything. And believe me, when the colonisation of Mars begins, which will be soon, we will have a huge market on Mars. By setting up this colony, we’ll be encouraging others to come. Not to say of the possible scientific research we can carry out there."

"What scientific research? How on Earth can it be cheaper, or better, to conduct scientific research on Mars?" demanded another board member.

"How about biological research? Or more specifically, the genetic engineering of microbes which could be used for toxic waste clearance, or to cure cancer? Or maybe even nanotechnology? They’re not science-fiction, you know. Research could be done on Mars," shot back Michael.

The board fell silent. It wasn’t that genetic engineering, or nanotechnology, was outlawed on Earth, per se. It was just that any company pursuing those lines of research came up with incredible opposition from the government and the eco-friendly. It was too difficult to hide any research from prying eyes. But on Mars… Each person sat there, pondering the implications of what Michael had said. Maybe on Mars they could test out genetic engineering and nanotech. Then they could show the public that it worked, and sell it to Earth. There was a lot of money in genetic engineering – imagine something that could just eat up oil spills, or plants that could grow plastics. Nanotech as well – it had a long way to go before it could actually do anything, but the rewards would be enormous if it worked. No-one would know what they were doing on Mars – no reporters, no inspectors. Never mind the Martian civilisation Michael was going on about – there was serious money to be had here.

Michael watched the board carefully, knowing precisely what was going through their minds. He smiled inwardly. He’d have no problem raising the capital for a feasibility study and preliminary funds for the base. The talk of genetics and nanotech was merely the bait – all he wanted to do was get to Mars. There were far more important issues at stake here.

The chairman sat up abruptly, and announced, "Well, I think Mr. Arran has made a very convincing proposal. Of course, we will give it due consideration, but I expect that there will be no serious objections."

The meeting went on, and some board members made a few token objections, but by the end it was assumed by all there that the TriNational Consortium would be setting up a Martian colony very soon.


Part 3

Location: Earth, Canada, Vancouver

Date: 4/7/2010

Mars Society Canada Chapter co-ordination building

"Did you hear the news? TriNational is actually going ahead with it’s Mars colony! And they’re going to start recruiting people in a few months time!" Eleanor Holdon had just burst into the room, half-shouting.

"Yes, I did. Good, isn’t it?" replied Alastair in very tired tones. Alastair had been scribbling something on a polymer-based flat screen on his desk while chewing on a jam sandwich.

"Good? How can you say it’s good? Only last week you were going on about how the commercial exploitation of Mars would be the worst thing since exercise was invented, or some such similar nonsense," cried Eleanor.

Alastair placed his pen down with deliberate slowness, then turned to face Eleanor. He sighed. "It’s good, because it gives us a free ticket to Mars. You say they’re recruiting people for the colony? Well, I’m sure members of the Mars Society will be at the top of the list, due to their excellent knowledge of Mars and scientific backgrounds. They’ll want young people as well, who can withstand the journey and be flexible enough to cope with the conditions there. Let me see, do I know anyone who can fulfil that role? Why, blow me down, there’s one right in front of me," he replied condescendingly.

Eleanor had long since grown used to Alastair’s customary irony that he frequently used, and so paid it no attention. Alastair had a very colourful reputation in the Society, and students often regaled themselves with tales of his daring acts and fondness of only two types of food. A legend in the making, she thought.

"You want me to go?" she asked.

"Don’t flatter yourself. They’ll need a fair few people for this colony, a few dozen at least, maybe even a hundred. I think quite a few of them will be from the Mars Society, and a few of those will, let’s say, sympathise with us."

She knew what he meant. Alastair was of the opinion that Mars should have as little to do with Earth as possible, and many people agreed with him. He didn’t make it into a public issue, for obvious reasons, since no-one was going to spend money on settling Mars if it just went and declared independence. It was true that the Mars Society was lobbying hard for the establishment of settlements on Mars through the newly formed Two Worlds political party, but there was disagreement as to how close Mars would be linked to Earth.

The Two Worlds party (motto: Duo orbes terrarum, una gens, or Two Worlds, One People) had been created by some members of the Mars Society a year ago. Its main purpose was to see the settlement of Mars, but also to ensure that Mars would have extremely close links with Earth – hence the Two Worlds, One People motto.

This went straight against Alastair’s ideals, and he quietly assembled an invisible following who were dedicated to the creation of an independent Martian government. Some called it the Ares Foundation, in memory of Asimov’s famous series, since Alastair seemed to have worked out a complete plan in advance. But the TriNational Consortium on Mars would only result in Mars being inextricably tied to Earth.

"Still, it’d bad news that TriNational is going, right? I suppose it was inevitable. I hear that Two Worlds is doing pretty well in convincing the UN that a Martian settlement would be a Good Thing. Things aren’t looking too good for us." From the sound of Eleanor’s voice, you could see the capitals in what she said, and also her apparent disgust at TriNational and Two Worlds.

Eleanor believed fervently that people could create a new utopia on Mars, free of all the past rivalries and prejudices that dogged Earth continuously. Eleanor, among others, would do anything to create this utopia. Alastair was more cynical; maybe it came with his age. But he wanted to give people the chance to start a new civilisation, separate from Earth. It didn’t matter what they did with it, as long as they had the chance. And they were going to have the chance, if Alastair had anything to do with it.

"We can’t stop everything from going to Mars, you know. People will have to go there. Don’t worry about it. There are always contingencies, Eleanor. We have contingencies upon contingencies. You don’t need to worry about it," said Alastair reassuringly.


Part 4

Location: Earth, United States, Washington

Date: 12/10/2010

Maglev Interstate 6

Phillipe Estalière drummed his fingers anxiously across his desk. What to do, what to do? he wondered.

Phillipe was currently travelling on one of the new Maglev trains that criss-crossed the United States. The phasing in of the maglev transportation network five years ago, to replace the ageing interstate highways and rail network was perhaps one of America’s best decisions. While it did have some setbacks, the maglev network was completed on schedule, and also on budget. The falling prices of medium-high temperature superconducters had seen to that. What it had resulted in was a radical improvement of travel times across the country and the interstate highways were noticeably freer of traffic these days. Most people were happy. Car manufacturers were not. Phillipe, however, wasn’t thinking about the decline of the automobile industry at that point.

He was wondering about the United Nations Mars colony. Only a few hours ago had he received news that the United Nations General Assembly, after consulting with the Committee of Martian affairs, had given the go-ahead to the establishment of a United Nations Martian colony.

It sounded so simple – a committee went and interviewed various scientists, created various feasibility studies and cost-benefit analyses and then wrote a several-hundred page document detailing why, or why not, the UN should consider building a colony on Mars. Of course, that’s what the public knew, and all they deserved to know, fools that they were, thought Phillipe bitterly.

Convincing the committee to approve construction was a painful and drawn-out task. But Phillipe had succeeded, at least in part. His earpiece speaker beeped, and Phillipe mumbled ‘Answer.’

"Monsieur Estalière?" asked a person. Phillipe watched as his notepad scrolled up the details of his caller: name, age, address, interests, occupation, location, and so on.

"Yes?" he replied.

"Ah, it’s you. Congratulations on the Martian colony, Phillipe. You deserve them. The Society is proud to have you as a member," enthused Chris Leber (34, 16 Ridge Lane, York, United Kingdom, 90’s music, computing, Mars Society, aerospace engineer… displayed his computer, silently)

"Yes. Congratulations," said Phillipe flatly.

"Okay, don’t tell me you’re still in a bad mood. How can what you’ve just done possibly be anything short of wonderful?" asked Chris.

"Okay," imitated Phillipe, "I’ll tell you why I’m in a bad mood. I’m in a bad mood because it turns out that the committee recommended that TriNational should be contracted to provide, co-ordinate and build the infrastructure and main base of the UN Martian colony."

"What! You’re not serious? I tell you, this is just…" Phillipe turned down the volume on his reciever, wincing slightly at the unbroken flow of expletives.

"…what are you going to do? I mean, the entire point of the UN colony was that it’d balance out TriNational – we don’t want them to get a stranglehold on Mars. Of course, Two Worlds would be in charge of the colony, naturally, but now they’ll probably get some TriNational suit to take charge."

"That’s not entirely true. I’ve been told that I’m strongly in the running to lead the colony, but that I’ll also have a TriNational advisor," spat Phillipe.

"Don’t they even understand Two Worlds at the UN? Have not realised that we should go to Mars for the benefit of humanity as a whole, not just for some company? There’s enormous potential on Mars – potential for a new world that could revitalise Earth. It shouldn’t be wasted on TriNational."

Too true, thought Phillipe glumly. He himself had said those words many times before to the UN committee. Why the hell did they think Two Worlds made their motto 'Duos orbes terrarum, Una gens'? Two Worlds, One People? They were all fools. Grudgingly, he did have to admit that the committee made sense, in some ways at least.

"You do understand us, Dr Estalière? A Martian colony is a massive undertaking for anyone, and as you know, UN members are wont to contribute any more money than they absolutely have to. So we have to keep costs down to a minimum, but we also have to construct a first-class colony. TriNational, with their experience on the Moon and their plans for their own Mars colony would naturally be the first choice as contractors," they had explained to him.

Even so, it didn’t feel right. At this rate, TriNational would be Mars.

If TriNational think they can just take over Mars for their own pockets, they’re sorely mistaken, thought Estalière with a grimace. Phillipe Estalière still had considerable influence and power, and wasn’t a person to give up his principles lightly. For the first time in hours, Phillipe began to smile.


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