Commander's Journey for Pleasure


King of the Impossible
May 5, 2009
All These Explosions Make a Prologue

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I have no heart, no blood, no flesh. Not anymore. The body my mother gave me is gone, replaced with a solid chassis of physics defying technology. My brain is now quantum computer made some sort of weird crystal that keeps changing shape and emitting all sorts of electromagnetic radiation. I have some sort of throttleable fusion reactor that is pulling subatomic particles out of a wormhole using lasers, then throws the byproduct matter back. I have a very big gun with two settings, kill it quickly, and kill it harder. I have another ‘gun’ that’s hooked up to my fusion reactor and wormhole that can take in matter and spray out nanites and build things.

I am a Commander bot from that video game Planetary Annihilation.

Listening to the hum of the stars, I decide that despite everything I’ve lost the opportunities are more than worth it. I am functionally immortal unless killed, which is good enough until I make myself unkillable. I also have unlimited intelligence and resources.

Besides, it could be worse. Instead of waking as a planet conquering droid on an airless rock orbiting an ugly yellow star, I could have reincarnated as a red shirt wearing pleb in a shitty universe like Naruto or something. Considering there should only be commanders roaming this galaxy I may still count as a pleb, but that’s the effect of raising the minimum standard of living to immortal robot overlords.

I spend a small eternity psyching myself up before getting to work. I start with a metal extractor.

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There is a significant difference between the mechanics of the game and the reality I find myself in.

Glaringly are the time and size scales. In the game, the planets and stars systems are cartoonishly tiny, and everything is constructed super fast. This makes a fast past game that the puny human brain of fatty tissue can handle and enjoy playing. In reality though, planets are absolutely massive.

For perspective, my chassis is fifteen meters tall, which typical for commanders. In the game a typical planet may be less than twenty times that in circumference, and a commander could stomp all the way from pole to pole in just under a minute. The planet I currently stand on has a circumference over three thousand times my height around the equator, making it a tad bigger than Earth.

Planets aren’t smooth like pool balls either. All of them have mountains and deep valleys at the very least, as well as various fissures, cliffs, hills and other geological features. Barren gasless rocks will be pocketed by craters, while those with an atmospheres may instead be graced with ponds, lakes, and oceans of any sort of substances. This is before taking a look at gas giants like Jupiter, which are covered in violent opaque storms that dwarf rocks like Earth and Mars rolling over oceans of exotic liquids.

It would take me months to navigate from pole to pole on this planet.

This changes the scale of the armies I will be fielding; to cover the horizon I’d need billions of robotic minions. This is easily within my capabilities, but would also take me weeks to work up to, even with my exponential growth in manufacturing. Thankfully I have the capability to ignore my own sense of boredom if I really need to concentrate on something.

The size of planets is massively dwarfed by the distance between them. While in the game a player could catapult bots across a star system with a transit time of a couple of minutes, for me to send units to any of the local planets or moons would mean waiting anywhere from weeks to years for anything to reach its destination. Real orbital trajectories are also way more complicated than in the game, not at all simple transits between ellipticals. There are also way more asteroids and moons in most star systems than a typical player would encounter in all but the most modded matches.

It is no wonder a commander would just build a super laser to blast planets apart instead of spending decades waiting for all his bots to land on the various rocks in the ort cloud. What is the cost of a moon against cutting a century off the time it takes to complete galactic conquest?

Unjustly, the logistics of the game is a super dumbed down version of what I actually need to do. In PA, all a player needs is an ephemeral Energy which he can expand by building power plants, and Metal which can expanded by building extractors over top resource nodes. The more of both a player has constructed, the of any unit or structure that player is capable of constructing.

What I have to deal with is making sure I have enough energy of course, but also keeping track of all the various heavy elements I have stockpiles of. I run entirely off nuclear fusion generated heat and electricity, and can created protons and electrons pairs for free from my wormhole. I have unlimited Hydrogen, and a byproduct of generating energy is all of the elements up to Iron.

What my metal extractors actually do is use nanites to dig down and pull up all the heavier elements that my fusion reactors do not produce because of efficiency protocols. I can override the protocols and produce heavier elements, but would have to feed the reactors excessive amounts of power to do so. Cheaper and faster to mine the stuff up.

Good news is that just like in the game I don’t have to setup any logistics system more complicated than powerplants, extractors, and storage mediums. Every robot and building I created is connected by a wormhole. Through manipulation the wormholes using various lasers, all of the electricity, and various elements flow in a tightly controlled but efficient manner to which ever unit or structure needs it. No need for a messy fuss of logistical transportation vehicles or resupply building.

The wormholes can even be used to dump unneeded matter outside out of the universe, though thankfully there are protocols in place to prevent excessive and subsequent dumping of heavy elements.

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I have a small base setup when I have my first encounter; another commander’s dox. I open up a communication channel hopping for at least a polite conversation if not a new friend. Instead I get the nearly incoherent screeching of homicidal (robocidal?) mania followed by plasma bullets.

“So this is happening,” I mentally sigh before shutting down the coms and letting my turrets blammo the thing. I also let my turrets blast apart the follow up force of doxies. And then next wave, and the next. It isn’t long before a tide of various killing machines comes pouring over the horizon, but by that point I have a decent army of my own and many artillery pieces to hold it off.

In the game this would have happened over the course of a minute or two, but for me this happened over several days. I had the run of a decently large valley by now, and was able to funnel the enemy ground units into kill zones between certain cliffs and hills. The attack force is a disorganized mob, but I quickly notice some severe changes in tactics I must employ from what I would have done in the game. Instead of blobbing my units, formation and tactical position is imperative, even with my strategic advantage. Certain hard counters in the game aren’t as absolute in the real world it turns out.

I let the assault continue while I expand my base in the opposite direction and send off fireflies and hummingbirds to scout the planet. It isn’t long before I have another valley fortified and producing more resources and units. By this point the assaulting air units have petered out, and I’ve found the source of the non-stop river of walking and rolling kill bots, a set of teleporters. I also notice some fabber bots have started setting up air factories.

“Yeah, I’m not having that,” I declare to myself before sending out waves of bumblebees. They thankfully get there before my opponent produces too many hummingbirds for my own to shoot down.

I’m about to have the bombers go after the teleporters, but instead have them harass the units heading for my base. I keep losing the planes, but keep producing more and more to replace my loses. It is enough for me to push the front line back from my base, allowing me to expand my base towards the teleporters.

I start up a set of tech two factories and orbital launchers at this point, and quickly have umbrellas and anti-nuke dotting the areas I control. I soon have an orbital radar, showing no enemy activity in the sky at all. The deep space radar that comes online soon after (and nearly eats up all my power generation) show a flurry of activity among the moons of the three huge gas giants. Each planet has a single moon with a teleporter, while all of the moons are covered in bots and buildings. The moons without teleporters are using unit cannons to send bots to the nearby moons with the teleporters, the whole system being source of this endless tide of bots. I also quickly spot the enemy commander.

I open up the coms again before shutting them right back off. I don't think the other commander is sane.

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Eventually, I manage to bring my defences right up against the teleporters, shooting enemy bots as they roll or walk through the portals. In the weeks it has taken me to pull this off, I have yet to see the enemy forces change the ratio of units he sends, let alone overall strategy. I’ve already build unit canons and sent off fabbers and other bots out to other celestial bodies in the star system.

I've also had fabrication vehicles near the teleporters cleaning up the mess of destroyed enemy units. While I can't reclaim an active enemy unit, the husks of destroyed vehicles and bots still has a lot of useful materials. Waste not want not, after all.

I periodically try talking to the other commander, but if I leave my coms open for more than a few minutes my anti-virus protocols start bugging me.

Finally fed up with it, I produce a sizeable army and try to push through the teleporter. Which immediately shut down. When I move my army away, the teleporters reactivate and the enemy starts attacking again. "That there is some strategic brilliance, genius." I drawl sarcastically.

Frustrated, I sit back wait, busying myself with completely fortifying my planet and maxing out my economy.

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In the end I went for a laser snipe.

It took months for orbital fabricators and space fighters to make it to that moon, then another hour to build the laser cannons, but a few minutes after the SXX's come online, I have then float over above the enemy commader and blast him away. And just like in the video game, all of the enemy units and structures quickly self destruct one after the other in a quickly expanding radius centered on the commander's burnt out husk.

Turns out this isn't due so much to a design feature as it is a side effect a commander's wormhole network collapsing without an implemented safety feature. Each computer core in every bot, vehicle or building is controls modular lasers to manage the wormholes. When a building or bot is sufficiently damaged, the wormhole collapses and expels a bunch of energy which is more than enough to destroy any usable tech a bot may or may not have. However, the commander's wormhole is directly connect to a pocket universe that is used to store a base amount of matter and energy. When the commander is destroyed, the pocket universe collapses and the energy used to create it attempts to escape through the wormhole as exotic radiation. This is why commanders explode so spectacularly. However, as the commander's wormhole also collapses near instantly, the exotic energy fails to escape and goes rushing towards the other wormholes in the network, which causes them to collapses, starting with the nearest ones. Eventually all the wormholes in a network collapses, and the destroyed pocket universe becomes a moot point.

So now what do I do? Probably need a small eternity to think about it, going over everything I thought I knew and what I know for sure now.

But first, complete colonization!

From what I understand from my own protocols, after a commander complete a campaign and conquers a star system, it is supposed to send a signal to the home base, then decommission all units and structures and go into hibernation mode until retrieval. I don't have a home base, and really, dismantling everything you could use to fight off a follow up attack is utterly moronic. Not that I expect to have to fight off anyone else, but if I was leading an intergalactic empire I wouldn't have any of my planets undefended.

Since I did fight off another commander I am going to assume that I am in some variation the universe the game is set in. Which means that if I travel to another star system I will probably encounter other commanders, and that could result in a fight. From what I can remember from the lore of the game, I don't want to join any of the factions per say, though I wouldn't be averse to interacting with the science focused faction, or any of the moderate members of any faction.

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One of my goals is becoming unkillable. As a step to achieve that, I've decided to upgrade myself from potential K-1 entity in a pocket, to a K-2 entity.

The Kardashev Scale is a theoretical method of measuring the total power of a civilization. It is based on the wattage that society, or in my case entity, can harness. The scale stars at 0 for non-intelligent life, then assigns a 1 to anything that can harness and store all the energy that hits their home planet from their parent star. A 2 is assigned to those can harness all the energy being output by their home star, while a K-3 civilization has performed the same feat with every star (and possibly also the back holes) in their galaxy.

I can easily generate the quadrillions of watts to declare myself a K-1 entity by just spamming power plants everywhere, but going to K-2 takes a huge amount of engineering.

Despite their size, planets are terrible energy collectors. Solid sphere's have the lowest ratio of surface to volume, and energy collection requires lots of surface area. I need to make a dyson sphere, which contrary to popular belief isn't a solid shell sitting around a star, but is instead a swarm of structures that surrounds a star in a spherical shape, orbiting in an elaborate system that maximises exposure to the star's energy without allowing collisions. It completely obscures the star too. Neat, but in no way useful.

Going by my manufacturing capabilities, to fill up the habitable zone around the star with solar collectors powering fusion transmutation reactors to build more of themselves, the whole process would take me… three years? That's not long. I would have to disassemble all the planets, moon, and other things all the way out to the ort cloud to keep gravitational waves or collisions from threatening to break up the dyson swarm, but that's no difficult. I'll cover the planets in fabricator bots have them use the reclaim mode when I don't need them anymore.