Forrest Cameranesi: Geek of all Trades

(2x10) Shadow of the Foundation: Part 1, Episode 1

Hundreds of years in the future, a young tour guide named Metis takes some of her fares on a tour of the Xianian city of Xi'an, where in the center of the city lies a memorial to one of the great tragedies of something called the Last World War: the utter destruction of old Xi'an via the only planetary detonation of a gravitic bomb in history. At the prompting of her fares, Metis offers a history lesson in explanation, citing a book titled "The True Story of Long Xian", by pseudonymous author "Lu Dong-bin":

After a century of the Silent War, most of the formerly-communist countries of Earth have collapsed and fallen into subjugation to the major power blocs of the United Nations: America to Columbia, Africa to Europe, and Asia to Auei. (Against this setting, the secret society called the Foundation subtly plants the seeds of future hope, quietly beginning a new society where none had existed before, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, to serve as an inspiration to the rest of the world.) But meanwhile, two large exceptions to the nationalist's slow domination of the world still stand, countries that have adopted enough nationalism themselves to survive when nationalism triumphed: Xiania of Asia, and the Inca of America. And those two ancient nations each, almost simultaneously, experience surprise flukes that force the secretive Foundation to begin intervening less subtly in world history.

In Xiania, government scientists have discovered an edible fungus that they call "xian-gu" growing in the shallows across the South Xiania Sea, the continental shelf north of Indonesia. It is found to have surprising and difficult to explain health benefits, interacting in complicated ways with regions of "junk DNA" to stimulate the body's self-production of all its essential nutrients, giving people perfect nutrition, boosted immunity, cancer resistance, and so forth. This allows the xian-gu to be combined with any cheap source of raw calories to create a completely nutritious diet. Over time, relevant portions of the xian-gu genome are integrated it into a cheap genetically engineered monoculture food staple that is fed to the entire Xianian populace. But as the first generation to grow up living on this staple reach what should be the end of their lives, it is realized that an unexpected side-effect of this miraculous interaction is effective immortality to all those who eat it regularly: all the normal diseases of old age fail to take people when "their time is due". Panicked over this realization, the Xianian government quickly discontinues production of this superfood, lest it lead to an unsustainable population explosion. But their subsequent failure to replace it sufficiently with other food sources in turn leads instead to starvation, riots, and eventually a mysterious explosion thought to be a terrorist bombing that leveled the entire city of Xi'an, prompting a state of martial law, and then a civil war in retaliation for that.

(The Foundation are alarmed by this discovery, inferring that the xian-gu is a mutant strain of something they know as the "food of the gods", given its discovery near their "failed first launch site". The leader of the Foundation, Xio, initially only investigating the xian-gu, begins secretly intervening in the Xianian civil war for the safety of humanity, when it turns out that Xiania has also developed a possibly world-ending superweapon: a gravitic bomb. Operating under the pseudonym "Han Xian-zi", Xio props up a front man to lead the revolution he hopes will restore peace to the country, a figure who styles himself Long Xian, "the Immortal Dragon" and rightful Emperor of Xiania.)

The Xianian civil war begins as several disparate uprisings against the tyrannical government. One of them is a breakaway faction of the Xianian military itself, attempting a coup to restore peace and stability in the country by wresting it from those who have so clearly mismanaged it. They are lead by Li Tie-guai, a seasoned veteran general with a cybernetic leg. The other was a populist uprising by the disenfranchised poor, organizing out of the general food riots into greater and greater structure until they were united under a rebel name Lan Cae-he. Into that fray an unexpected third leg of the rebellion emerged largely in pirate media broadcasts, a man calling himself Long Xian, preaching an inspiring message of Xianian history and tradition and calling for a return to those ancient ways, before this mess that the Xianian communist revolution eventually degenerated into, back to the days of dynasty and empire. In addition to building support for both Li and Lan's branches of the rebellion through this propaganda, Long's organization is also able to funnel dark money to both operations as well, and in this way, both branches of the rebellion are subsumed under the indirect rule of Long's "Imperial" insurgency.

The true power behind Long turns out to be his secret advisors. Foremost but most mysterious of them is Han Xian-zi, who seems to direct the overall strategy of Long's campaign. But behind the money Long wields is Zhang Guo-lao, the ousted heir to Zhang Corp, the megacorporation formerly responsible for producing the superfood that sparked this whole crisis, as well as a major arms manufacturer, and owners of the research facility in Xi'an that was at the epicenter of the terrorist attack that destroyed that city and prompted the declaration of martial law. And behind the propaganda wing of their operation is Zhoung Li-quan, former head of propaganda for the Xianian government itself. Also present in Long's advisory council is his elder brother Cao Guo-Jiu, who brings nothing of particularly strategic value to the table, but is there at Long's insistence as something like his conscience, the moral heart of their operation.

Despite those resources and organization, the rebellion was still seriously outmatched by the Xianian government, and Long and his council were almost destroyed in an unforeseen raid on one of their meetings. But the leader of that raid, Lu Dong-bin, was a former student of Zhoung when he "taught" at the academy Lu attended (before Zhoung went on to head propaganda operations for the entire country), and through those connections Zhoung was able to turn Lu to the side of the rebellion, leading him to betray the rest of his forces and aid Long and his advisory council to escape.

Not yet trusting Lu to be genuinely turned and not merely playing some kind of longer game, the rebel forces task him with leading a raid on a small supply depot. Unbeknownst to Lu until the raid is in progress, the depot is commanded by an old friend of his from the academy, Feng-huang, and when Lu cannot convince Feng to surrender and join the rebellion, Lu is forced to kill him or else fail this test of loyalty and be killed himself. Having proven his loyalty, Lu is then assigned to part of an assault on the military base where he was formerly stationed, where he is able to use his knowledge of the base layout and his security codes to help infiltrate the base and open it to a more frontal attack by the rebel army.

With that battle as a distraction, Long and his council retreated to their secret base hidden in the Kun-lin mountains. They are surprised to find Lu still alive and loyal to the cause when he returns with the survivors of that battle to rendezvous with the rest of the rebel army. Lu is likewise surprised when he learns what the rebels are planning here. They have negotiated an alliance with Auei, the foreign power dominating most of the rest of Asia and long opposing the now-failing government of Xiania, who are happy to see it overthrown. Auei have smuggled in a secret army of advanced military automata over the mountains into Xiania from their Indian colonies. With this army of automata, Long plans to defeat the Xianian government and supplant it with his own Xian Dynasty, who will then of course owe a debt of gratitude to Auei for their assistance.

But before the major assault can begin, the robot army must be deployed more tactically to take out the Xianian government's trump card: a superweapon that Zhang Corp has been developing called a gravitic bomb, capable of leveling a city like a nuclear weapon but without the radioactive fallout, and adjustable in principle to any tactical level of destruction: one shot could selectively annihilate any size of military unit with no side-effects. A genuine terrorist attack on the Zhang Corp facility in Xi'an destabilized some of their early research there and caused the explosion that leveled the entire city. Research into the gravitic bomb has been ongoing since then and is still not yet fully complete, but is near enough that the government would likely be willing to deploy it early if pushed into a desperate enough position, something that could not only easily defeat the rebel army but, with its potentially world-ending prospects, could force the rebels to stand down. So before the rebels can proceed, that research and the prototype weapons must be destroyed in a raid on the new Zhang Corp research facility.

When Lu learns what this facility is, however, he begs for help from the rebel leadership, because his wife He works at that facility, not on the gravitic weapons of which he was unaware, but as a genetics researcher. Zhang has heard of her: she is nicknamed He Xian-gu, for her pivotal role in the development of the xian-gu superfood. Lu confirms that that is in fact his wife, yes, and begs to lead a strike team to go in and extract her ahead of time before the automated attack on the facility can proceed. Long and most of his advisory council are strongly against the plan, Han especially emphasizing how unbelievably critical this mission is to the safety of the world, but Cao dissents, stressing the importance of family, and the debt they owe to Lu for his pivotal role in them surviving to be here today. Cao's words persuade Long, and against the wishes of the rest of his council, even against the protests of Han, Long authorizes the mission. Han insists on accompanying it himself to make absolutely sure that this does not jeopardize the strike to follow, and in the field Han shows himself to be an impossibly adept combatant, almost single-handedly carrying the entire mission to success.

As Lu, He, Han, and their associates clear the facility, the automated strike begins, and the automatons prove even more efficient at their job than Han. The researchers are subdued and captured with minimal casualties and detained within the facilities themselves, which are thoroughly ransacked, carefully destroying all prototype gravitic weaponry and any equipment that could be used to build more. The moment that mission is completed, the rest of that automaton forces are deployed across the country, targeting military bases and the political offices of Beijing with extreme prejudice, and then dispersing to patrol the streets as a mostly-nonlethal police force under the direction of Emperor Long Xian, in whose name a new peace is declared, and any counter-counter-revolutionary activities quickly snuffed out by the insurmountable efficiency of Xiania's new robot overlords.

Next: Shadow of the Foundation: Part 1, Episode 2