So it seems the company is growing impatient. Shaking my head, I told them just have them scan before they land. It's no wonder such little progress has been made. With so few candidates, and even less worthy, we need to get as many feet on as many planets as possible. Apparently, the thought never crossed their minds, so busy with their popcorn in their cozy offices.
But alas, here I am, first day on the job, and they're already slamming me through simulations. "Get into engineering" they said. "It'll be challenging and rewarding" they said.... It's funny how they don't talk much about the biters BEFORE you sign the contract. Where I come from, the biggest insect make's a delicious snack. "The Company" has been advertising for anyone with "good planning ability" and "a considerable fortitude" for a few years now. From what I've read, this is no game. Seems with the last wave of developments, extreme modifications were necessary just to survive. I opted for the works, of course, but they said it was too expensive. I can only hope that the latest toys and tech restructure makes up the difference.
Okay then, enough with formalities. I have been given a directive straight from the guy who write's vonNeumann's check. Beginning immediately, all new personnel must provide scans of prospective planets before embarking. That being said, I have been given three potential scans for the next available associates. I, however, am still in training, and am not authorized to proceed... yet. Although the existing team, newly dubbed "Alpha team" is still in progress on the latest scanned planet, updating just yesterday, it is time to assemble teams BRAVO, GAMMA, and CHARLIE. Just like ALPHA, all team members must brief the next member on a newly scouted planet before landing, and should associate logs to the team names. As for me, I should be out of training soon and hope to join a team as soon as I finish my training and a new scan is ready.
Charlie seemed interesting so I loaded it up and ran round till I started bumping into biters. There's a total of 559,000 coal inside that area. Oil is farily sparse but it never runs out completely so that's fine.
I've run factories on wood before (toxic forest for example) and that's the one thing making me think twice about this. Hand cutting enough wood to get to solar and electric furnaces is soul destroying (not to mention the wrist damage). Using AAI-miner would make it bearable. Or maybe bobs greenhouse for automatic wood. A charcoal mod would be bad, simply circumventing the challenge completely. What's your take on mod usage then?
Well, apparently there were concerns with the current scans and operating constraints. To be clear, I am just a messenger. Corporate has asked me to clarify: scan descriptions are only a small observation, actual conditions may vary. Also, modded equipment is allowed, but at a cost. Anyone reporting progress through modifications will have their pay deducted and be shamed to an appropriate level.
This is the most recent one from NotABiter.
Everything is so expensive. Any science i research is going to cost me so much i need to focus and prioritize as i go. I have red and green science up.
//Satellite image uploaded http://imgur.com/nSVHdXE
Oil was a priority and i just got it up and running to fill some tanks of liquids for when i'm ready to use the fluids. I want to do so much with my research but it is so dang expensive.
//Satellite image uploaded http://imgur.com/cLS4QRv
I finally got some laser turrets and went and cleared the nearby bitters. After a bit i got some solar panels up and decided to use radars to have a good look at the nearby area. There are biters across the water to the east and they can definitely smell my factory, however I think they are unable to find a path to me. I have grey and blue science running but only two assemblers each.
//Satellite image uploaded http://imgur.com/M7lfSaM
I noticed that there were recent posts by the handle theEngineer... He must be from another corporation trying to undermine the current efforts of our corporation and its assets. If he was part of our corporation surely he would have been aware through training the expectations of our corporation.
(@theEngineer please do not post map strings unless you have completed a map string and post evidence of having done so. Please read the first post of this thread to see what is expected. If you want to just post to exchange maps there are other threads for that.)
//Begin final mission log
I have completed this world and it was not as bad as i had initially though. After clearing the full nearby area i found two defensible positions to clear the biters back to and make a wall to keep them out. Then it was a matter of letting my base process the raw goodies i claimed. Image database of satellite images can be found below.
Final image of completion: http://imgur.com/Dn3Lz4W
Image database: http://imgur.com/a/4pwue
//End mission log
New String is a rail world with 2x tech cost:
So I managed to stay alive once through this and my work wasn't exactly voluntary so I figured I'd give it a try one more time, this time on purpose. Well, kind of on purpose. The new colonists seem to be rather snobbish, anyway. So I haven't showered in over year and I still wear the power suit all the time. So sue me if I'm a little paranoid about biters.
the hazard pay was great, got this planet all setup and colonists arrive. I finally go to one party and I actually take the suit off and they got all upset!? Granted I took it off AT the party and I didn't shower beforehand... I would have showered.... eventually. Anyway, one little social mis-step with these stick-up-the-arse colonists and what's the repayment? Ban me from the colony?! Pffft. I'd rather take my chances on a new planet and sleep with the bugs then spend another night with them anyway. I just wish they let me take back my power armor. But as they were carrying me to the ship, I think I saw them throw it into the incinerator. Well, the standard hazard suit it is since they stuffed me in a new one to cover the smell. Ah well, let's enjoy the ride. I hope they picked a nice new planet for me.
"Takeoff in 20... 19..."
Wha, wait a minute! Where's my tech repository?!
... Oh Crap. This will not be fun. Again. Maybe I can stop the liftoff and get a new one.
"Abort sequence has been disabled by von Neumann. 4...3..."
(gathers the pieces and buckles in)
"Damn you Von Neumaaaaaaaaaaaaannnnnnn.....!!"
"Stasis pod activated. Have a nice trip"
"I swear I'm going to get that guy if I... ever..... "
(alarm ringing) "Emergency Wake cycle initiated"
Wha, what's going on?
"Warning, asteroid collision imminent. Landing sequence not possible. Rerouting course to avoid collision"
Ah, well looks like i'll just be getting a nice round trip then. Those poor suckers will have to endure my stench again. Hah ha!
"Emergency Course reroute will consume too much fuel to jeopardize mission. Escape pod launch coordinates calculated. Thank you for traveling with von Neumann, incorporated"
I can't even get a decent landing. I hate escape pod entries...
i i i i i tth th think i i iii b-b-b-bit my t-t-tongue offf!
0:00:00 - Man, what a rush. And by rush I mean the same rush you get when a gang of thugs gives you a 1-on-1 meeting with a few baseball bats.
i managed to hold my surveyor by the escape pod port window and got a fair reading of the surrounding area.
landing.png (54.83 KiB) Viewed 3842 times
Not too bad. I'll need to be breaking in the boots of this new biohazard suit a bit to get to the resources, but i've seen worse areas.
Supplies? Hrmph, I swear they make these escape pods intentionally to break apart into what's needed to start working. a few sheets of iron, a drill and furnace. Hmm, I see a few components here that may interface with the tech repository. Speaking of, Let's check out this tech repository that was so expertly crunched by my boot earlier. (fiddles with the pieces)
Hmm, back to square one. Again! Let's see if I can interface with those components I found:
light enhancement interface for my suit (afraidofthe dark)
Some guy named Bob has a few items here (logistics, mining, power)
00:34:00 - I managed to break in my biosuit boots quite well, getting the basics going of iron, copper, stone and now power, finally. Aside from the boiler configuration changing requiring a different layout than I was used to last time, not much has changed so far. I've started my basic research going. My expertly placed boot on my tech repository has done something with the input, causing data loss on input of new information so I've had to configure the research labs to add additional recovery data to the tune of an extra 100% data for recovery before I could get one new item into the thing. Ugh. double the materials for tech? Well, it could be worse, I suppose.
Rough layout of the base so far:
04:04:00 - I've automated red and green sciences quite well and have 24 research labs going constantly. I've also spent some time getting some defense research and construction going, just in case the biters get frisky. I've seen a few blips on the radar a little too close to comfort. From the last round, I know they tend to not like pollution and get all uppity like the colonists did when I released my year-old "aged" body odor. I keep running out of iron though so have doubled the production of that. The local iron deposit is going to run out quickly at this rate as I'm going through iron like a hot knife through butter. Butter oh how I miss thee! Speaking of butter, I wonder if biters give milk so I can make some. I doubt they'd take kindly to me fondling their undersides looking for utters though. However, I see a few nests a bit too close for comfort, especially with how the pollution is travelling so took a score of turrets down to see if I can thn them out. The outlying bases were easy enough, however there's a big knot of them due south. Those big-assed worms that spit some crap nastier than my body odor did a number on me and my turrets so I backed off. I need to up the research and maybe get some of that Bob guy's sniper turrets going. That should help crack that base.
Closer view of base
With how things are going and how large the cluster of biters tend to be, I'm going to have to automate my defensive line a bit more. They seem to be relatively sedate, but I wouldn't call them peaceful. They're not up for spreading too much which is good as I fear I'll be needing to start up some rail systems soon and having a bunch of biters destroying my tracks would be quite annoying.
Right now I've setup a rudimentary setup for creating turrets and ammo, but still needs to be hand-fed. I've read about others using a "main belt" system of supplying the standard components and it seems to work well, however I'm going to need to beef it up for increased material flow. Right now I have one line of red belts for each which is already nearing it's max throughput.
05:25:51 - Not much base enhancement other than expanding copper a bit as green circuits were consuming more and replacing boiler MK2's with Mk3's. I checked the radar map and noticed pollution was getting quite close to biter masses so figured I'd clean them out. It took the better part of an hour as I had to blow up a crap-load of trees in order to get to them, allowing the pollution to go further. I think i finally have a fairly good buffer now, hopefully, but we'll see what the tree removal does.
5:51:00 - some of the locals got a bit uppity and decided to munch on some of my outlying miners. As i was hoping I cleared them out far enough, I didn't plan on them coming to visit. After checking the map again, I see the wind must have shifted enough to where more area is impacted. Time for little jaunt around the neighborhood in the dune buggy again! I've also reworked both copper and iron a bit more, making the main bus two red belt lanes now each which really seems to have helped supply. I'm about halfway through automating AP ammo, but need to build up my steel production to accommodate.
9:10:00 - The local fauna came by to visit again a few more times in the last few hours, but luckily i had a few turret nests setup right where they came to say hello. I've automated military science fully, got a few chests placed around to catch some excess components (gears, iron/copper plates, green circuits, etc) as well as am doing the same with the science packs. Iron is being used so fast I can't keep up with 54 steel furnaces running full time. I've put it off long enough so am now working on oil production to get plastics, blue science, bots and my beloved power armor.
I've managed to upload a high res map and you can find it here:
10:40:00 I finally depleted the local iron. Luckily there was another large patch close by but with oil derivatives using a lot of iron as well, i'm going to need more which means... TRAINS. I'll be starting to play with those in order to reach the further deposits. It looks like moving South East may be the way to go, based on the size of the various deposits. I've had to clear out a few more nests which took more time and i've been struggling with fleshing out the oil production line/blue science which is always a pain in the biter-bite. Not much of a change, but here's another updated map.
21:00:00 (snaps awake) ugh, i fell asleep and had the weirdest dream. I had a family and a job that kept me so busy I couldn't do much else for several days and then I.... eh, the memory is gone now. Such is the way of dreams.
I really need to get more sleep as I neglected to submit logs a few times. Anyway, One of the technologies that was in that chip was FARL and playing with that is interesting and can definitely prove useful once distances get further. However, it can leave the train signals a mess and required quite a bit of troubleshooting to find the signal that was misplaced. I did use it and now have two train lines running, one to a close-ish iron and one for more oil as the closer oil deposit was outputting less than I consume.
I still have not automated red or blue circuit boards sufficiently and am doing the final hand-crafting of bots, although i do have several score of each now along with my precious power armor it makes local building tasks much simpler along with blueprints.
otherwise, I've cleared out several rather large and nasty nests that wanted to vandalize my iron mining, and upgraded a few items here and there. My next goal is a total rework of the factory, however, which will be tedious but desperately needed. Bots and blueprints will help immensely with this thankfully. I hope to have oil products, red and blue circuits, and all non-rocket sciences automated by next report-out.
I have no idea how they get on or off the planet, but I've had a couple of visitors (i.e. kids) off and on throughout this ordeal who insisted on "helping". Such helpful activities included but are not limited to:
using blueprint removal in key locations of the base
turning trains to manual and driving them around and then not turning back to automatic
throwing grenades all over the place
angering a rather LARGE collection of natives and running back to the base so they can wreak havoc.
You know. Helpful stuff. I have my very own disaster mode! I also had a save-game issue where some of my key mods no longer worked. I had to go back a good many hours to a previous save before they started functioning again.
So a quick synopsis:
The Good - Got Yellow and Purple science packs automated. Wow that was an "interesting" change from that last time. I don't know if that Bob guy's technology made it more complex but there are a LOT of pieces to speed modules. I also have researched Rocket silo so am nearing completion!
The Bad - A few points
Iron. Oh my precious iron, where art thou? I seem to be running into many small iron spots making me run train tracks all over like someone dumping a mound of spaghetti on the map. No sooner do i set up an outpost than it's tapped dry not much later.
The Ugly - Train Signals - I'll get the hang of these, one year.... Ran several monstrous train runs to some new iron deposits and the dreaded "no path" when trying to get the trains automated kept showing up. That took me a lot of time just to find the signal and then quite a while to figure out what was wrong. Or at least to stumble onto a working solution, is more descriptive of a solution.
The natives have been pretty tame although they have MASSIVE nests which requires extensive cleanout operations. Laser Rifle + Power Armor Mk4 + energy shield makes for some fun cleanup though so hasn't been too terrible
i.e. i died only 3 or 4 times and had to reload a savegame
Map overview data has been uploaded
Even with my "disaster mode" visitors, I finally managed to launch a rocket and get off this rock. I had to stop myself from trying to improve the base and build the rocket. blue circuits were the final bottleneck. i'll need to up my green circuit production as most items chew through them like biters through an undefended base.
VN_Finish.png (2.93 MiB) Viewed 3189 times
I think I'm going to stay here and see if I can improve this base instead of going back to that last ungrateful colony. Anyway, the satellite picked up several potential planets and sent it back to headquarters, wherever that is. I wonder who will be the next unfortunate "volunteers"...
I was an experienced miner and techie, and I was ready for a new gig. Mining and construction had taken its toll, and I wasn't 20 anymore. There was word around the mining corps of new assembly machines that could take the drudgery out of fabrication on an alien planet, of big electric mining drills that could drill faster and deeper than any human with a pickaxe or even an excavator. It seemed to me about time that space colonization was as high-tech as space exploration, about time we'd stopped breaking our backs with manual labor. Colleagues of mine had come back from off-planet colo-miner jobs telling of how quickly a fellow could get up and running on a foreign world with the new machines.
I was due for a lucrative off-world gig, and my boss, Harry, had said he had something special in mind for me. I wasn't sure how to interpret that.
"This is to be a full-automation test."
That what I'd thought I heard. "Right, HQ, a full-automation test. What precisely does that mean?"
"We'll send you the full description of the job shortly. But basically, we want to find out just how much can be automated when we colonize a new world. We want you to build absolutely nothing by hand if you can avoid it."
This still didn't quite make sense. What colonizer-miner ever did hand-tool more than he had to? "Copy, HQ. Automate everything. Uh...listen, HQ, sorry if this sounds like a stupid question, but I kind of thought...well, isn't that what we already do?"
There was a pause, giving me time to wonder if it was an even stupider question than I thought. Then the comms came back on. "Listen, Lem, it's Harry. Let me lay it out for you. You know how your typical colo-miner will make himself a pickaxe, do some digging in the dirt for ore, then spend several days hand-tooling a set of burner mining drills to get working on local ores? Yeah, we don't want you to do that."
"Any of that."
"OK, Harry...and what should I do instead?"
"Lem, we want you to automate everything."
Everything? "Uh...the drills?"
"Use an assembly machine."
"OK...transport belts? Inserter arms?"
"I assume you won't mind if I hand-tool myself a pickaxe or two to get started."
Pause. "Lem, we haven't really laid out any strict parameters around this. It's kind of an experiment. We want you to hand-tool as little as you can. You know you've got a set of tools in your landing pod. Make do with those until you have an assembly machine or two set up. This'll help us figure out how to get future colonizer-miners up and running as quickly as possible. Automate everything, Lem."
"Copy, Harry. Frankly, it sounds like it'll be a painful beginning, and then not leave me much to do after I get a decent start."
"Oh, you'd be surprised, Lem. You'd be surprised." His casual voice was replaced by the brisk, businesslike tones of the anonymous HQ comms monitor. "Any more questions, sir? Your orbit is starting to decay, and we'd like to have you touch down soon if you're ready. We have a decent spot picked out for you. Scans revealed a good variety of ore fields. We think it's enough to get you going."
Then Harry cut in. "Oh, ah, Lem, one more thing."
"We've picked up life on the planet. We think...well, we hope they're friendly. Or docile, at least. But we're including some blueprints for defensive weapons. In case we're wrong."
Where I landed
I landed and found myself on a wide plain. There was a small lake nearby, and off in the distance I could see a body of water too large to see the other side. I had the standard-issue burner miner and stone furnace which, they claim, are all the large machines that can fit in a ship. So many decades after the first space programs, and it's still all about the weight.
On the ground
[attachment=5]Me at the start.png[/attachment]
I found a nearby patch of coal, set up my burner miner on it, and chopped a few trees with the feeble axe in the ship. Low weight is not necessarily a good trait for an axe; I had to hack away a lot longer than I was used to back on Earth. I was reminded of what some friends had said years ago of life back in Eastern Europe: "Everything takes longer than it takes."
I fed some wood into the burner miner, and then wondered what I was going to catch the coal in. It would make sense to fabricate a box for that, just a simple wooden crate or something. But they'd been pretty clear: Automate everything. Clearly this was going to take some ingenuity.
But I still had that stone furnace. Who said I had to smelt something in it straightaway? I parked it next to the miner's output chute, so the coal would feed straight into the furnace's fuel chamber. It worked like a charm; I could hear chunks of coal dropping into the furnace. Apparently instead of wasting time hand-tooling a bunch of burner mining drills, HQ wanted me to waste time waiting on a single burner mining drill. Well, hey, it paid the same.
If it is stupid and it works then it is not stupid
After gathering about a hundred kilos of coal, I dismantled the drill and furnace. Even that took longer than I'd anticipated. With a standard pickaxe, you can pop up the ground anchors pretty quickly, and with a steel pickaxe, you're done in no time. With the lousy tools I found on the ship, I had to rock the anchors back and forth and prise them out inch by inch. I carted the drill and furnace over to an iron ore patch I'd spotted. At least hammering the anchors back in over there didn't take long.
While I wanted for the iron to smelt, I set to work on a boulder I saw nearby. I figured I ought to be able to break it up and get some good chunks of rock to make more furnaces or burners with.
The sun eased its way behind the horizon while I worked on that boulder, and I had to prop up my flashlight on a few chunks of coal so I could see to work. I'd thought those anchors were bad; this was a nightmare. I had a laser cutter on the ship that I thought would be perfect for this kind of work. So in theory it wasn't back-breaking manual labor. But I'd never realized just how long it takes a laser cutter to go through solid rock. As the rock would heat up, little chips would break off, too small to be of use. Holding my hand steady enough to get clean cuts was absurdly difficult. It was well past the middle of the night by the time I finally got that rock hacked into small enough pieces to be useful. Whatever I was going to build with those oddly-shaped chunks of rock, I wasn't likely to send a photo of my work to my mining corps buddies.
I let my miner-furnace combo churn away for a while, smelting iron into plates. The boulder notwithstanding, I supposed this wasn't going so badly. I could feed the iron plates into an assembly machine to get started in earnest. Make a pump, get some hydroelectric power going. I grabbed a stack of plates from the furnace and headed for the ship to cart out the assembly machine. After a few puzzling moments, I reached for the comms.
"HQ, this is Lem, over."
"We read you, Lem."
"HQ, could you double-check the manifest for my ship? I'm not finding an assembly machine on board, and I'm not finding it on the manifest either."
HQ said they'd get back to me, and after a couple of minutes, Harry came on line again. "Hey, Lem. You're right, there's no assembly machine. Those suckers weigh a ton, and we had to get you off-planet."
"Listen, Harry...I know you said no hand-tooling, but how am I going to avoid it with no assembly machine?"
He chuckled. "Lem, I believe I said to avoid the hand-tooling. There's a blueprint for a basic assembly machine in the ship's computers. You'll have to hand-tool a few parts to set it up. But once you've got it set up, use it. We're working on more advanced versions, but we're not there yet. But we expect to improve on this design during your stay. Do as much as you can with the basic machine, and we'll transmit blueprints for a better version when we've got 'em."
In the end, I had to rig several things by hand just to make that first assembly machine: A few gears, some circuitry, and a few iron plates to cover the outside and keep out the dust. I cannibalized the ship for circuit boards I could repurpose, but in the end I had to solder a few by hand. And the assembly machines run on electricity, so I had to fashion a water pump, boiler, and steam engine to eke out enough current to make the assembly machine run.
Finally, the assembly machine was ready. Time to crank out a few burner mining drills and get this show on the road. Or so I thought until I looked at it more closely. Odd how I hadn't paid more attention while assembling it, but I suppose I thought I'd see what I was missing once it was completely put together.
"Lem to HQ."
"This is HQ, go ahead." The comms are too crackly to let tone of voice through, and they sounded pretty neutral. Why did I feel like they already knew why I was calling?
"I managed to fabricate an assembly machine according to the plans in the ship."
Harry came on the line almost right away. "Hey, Lem, let me guess. It doesn't have enough slots to hold ingredients for a burner mining drill."
I was glad I wasn't going to have to explain the problem, but I was exasperated too. Hadn't they known? I carefully kept my voice light and even. "What's the plan, Harry?"
"Lem, just keep using your burner mining drill while we work on those plans. We'll have 'em over to you as quick as we can."
At least I could finally make a wooden box or two. That is, program the machine to make a wooden box or two.
It's a weird process. This fancy assembly machine can make anything, but it only has a couple of ingredient slots, so I can't make things that are too complex.
And it turns out that some things take multiple steps. The machine has inputs and outputs, but it can't feed back into itself. So I can't dump in raw logs and get wooden boxes. I have to program it to saw and plane the wood, and then once I get the wood out, I can reprogram the machine for wooden boxes, dump the wood back in, and it dumps my wooden boxes on the ground one by one.
With my wooden box, mining became slightly less of a hassle, though I still had only one burner miner. I was able to leverage that single assembly machine to make a "burner inserter." It's like the electrical inserters I've heard other miner corpsmen talk about, but it can burn fuel directly. Not having to include the electrical circuits let me simplify the design, so this feeble two-input assembly machine could build it. I can burn fuel directly to make it run, so I've been feeding it either coal or scraps of wood I have lying around. Luckily it doesn't use a lot of fuel; pretty much only when it moves.
These stone furnaces can only hold up to a hundred metal plates, so the burner inserter allowed me to pull out finished plates and deposit them in my trusty wooden box, which can hold a lot more than a hundred. That kept the furnace and miner from backing up when the furnace's plate storage got full. After stocking both full of coal, I was able to leave the miner plunking iron ore into the furnace, the furnace smelting it into plates, and the burner inserter transferring those plates into my box. For now, that's as much automation as I can achieve.
And with all that set up, I gained some time to think. I felt like from here on out I could probably achieve what they were asking. I needed a better assembly machine, no question, and I doubted my current feeble assembly machine would be able to construct it. I was also eventually going to need to tap into the oil reserves here, and I wasn't yet sure how I was going to do that. I'd already spotted a couple of oil fields nearby, but I was going to need some kind of transport to reach them. I could probably finagle blueprints for some kind of vehicle out of the ship's computer, but the idea of manually shuttling oil barrels back and forth wasn't very appealing.
It was getting dark. I got out my flashlight to keep from tripping over rocks and roots on my way between the iron ore patch and my rudimentary electrical setup. On this planet, it got really dark really quickly. There wasn't so much as a a single tiny moon, so when the sun went down, that was it until morning. The flashlight was solar-charging, and HQ did spring for a good supply of backup rechargeable batteries for it. It would probably last longer on this planet than I would.
That was kind of a morbid thought, wasn't it? I'd seen plants, from desert scrub to stunted trees, but no sign of animal life thus far. While waiting on my miner, I'd had time to notice a few bitten-off parts of plants. Probably whatever creatures were on this planet were in roaming herds, so they'd been through here, eaten the vegetation down to the quick, and moved on. Hopefully they were herbivores, not omnivores, and wouldn't take much interest in me. Though even herbivores could damage equipment if they were big enough. I really needed to look into those defensive weapons. I had a small handgun, but it wasn't going to hold back more than one or two of anything.
I hadn't talked with HQ for a while, and to be honest, I didn't want to. I couldn't believe they'd sent me in orbit around this planet before explaining completely what I was in for. They can monitor my vital signs remotely, so they knew I wasn't dead. And I was always something of a loner anyway, like most of the miner corps, so it wasn't unusual for me not to chatter on the comms.
They hadn't sent their improved assembly machine yet, but I was beginning to think I might not need it. I found blueprints for an AI-controlled laboratory in the ship computer. Supposedly I could just set it up, prime it with some existing system I wanted it to improve on, and let it churn away. I'd never been a fan of AI, and the whole thing sounded hand-wavy to me, but then, it wasn't like the AI could turn sentient and start taking over. It was just a lab. The mechanisms inside had no way to exit, and it was self-contained; I couldn't go in there even if I wanted to. The lab would deliver new blueprints to the ship's computer. So I went ahead and set it up, figuring I had plenty of time to kill.
What I didn't reckon with was how hungry it was. Experiments require raw materials. It sent me alerts on what it needed: Basically a steady diet of gears and copper plates, and I had to package them up and mark them somehow so the lab would recognize them. It was simple enough to crank out gears with the assembly machine, and then I had to reconfigure it to make the bundles, dumping the copper plates and gears in there. They came out red for some reason. Color-coding didn't seem like a very sophisticated recognition mechanism, but who was I to complain if it worked?
Bundles of science
So I set up another burner arm to feed those red bundles into the lab, and pretty soon it had fed the ship's computer a blueprint for...a filter inserter. It was kind of like a standard electrical inserter, but it could recognize items and only pick up the ones I programmed it for. Which was great, I guess, but not really what I was looking for, especially given that I couldn't even make one yet; at least not without violating HQ's bizarre conditions of employment.
It was starting to get dark again, and I wandered around a bit and explored. Still no sign of life, but this time I did walk far enough to see some stars. It began to occur to me that maybe it didn't need to be quite that dark at night, and that maybe the reason it was, was because I was causing it.
I walked back toward my steam engine, shining my flashlight all around, especially in the sky, and as I got closer, I could see the haze. HQ had assured me that these designs were "green and clean." Well, maybe on Earth they worked that way, but something about the kind of coal on this planet must have had a bad effect on them, because there was an oily-looking haze rising up from the boiler in all directions. Maybe I should set the lab to work on that, but I couldn't find a way to set it to "cleaner." The only setting seemed to be toward technological innovation, without much thought about the environment. But then all the technology these days has never made mining less of a dirty business.
For days I kept mining coal, mining iron, mining copper, and feeding that lab its little bundles of raw materials. It hadn't spit out anything since that filter inserter, and I was starting to get tired of feeding it. It was like a puppy that wouldn't do anything but lie around. I supposed, come to think of it, that made it a cat, just sitting there primly and eating and refusing to acknowledge my presence.
Just as I was starting to take seriously the idea of pulling the plug, I got a notification on my wrist computer. "Assembly machine 2." I wasn't optimistic, but I headed for the ship's computer and pulled up this new blueprint. To my surprise, it seemed to be just what I'd been looking for. Four input slots, not just two, and it looked like the lab had found a way to juice up the performance as well.
All I needed to build it was some gears, circuits, iron plates, and...my original assembly machine? I looked closer. It seemed like it was just a matter of rearranging and adding circuits, a few more gears in the right spots, and those plates seemed to be for making sure the components stayed separated until assembly. I was hesitant to do this, though, because if it didn't work, I'd destroyed my original assembly machine and I'd have to start over.
Rob assembly machine 1 to pay assembly machine 2
But then the hem-and-haw types don't end up as colo-miners. I spent some time reconfiguring the machine, following the blueprints closely. And then I flipped it on, and...it worked. I suppose the computer must have run virtual tests on the design, but I've always believed in the maxim that no battle plan survives contact with the enemy. This new assembly machine had a more solid design, the promised four inputs, and a wide array of settings.
What really surprised me is that it could make copies of itself. My old assembly machine definitely couldn't do that. That changed everything. I still hadn't been sure whether I could carry out this "automate everything" directive. But if an assembly machine can make another assembly machine, then I suppose I can make as many of these as I need, each one cranking out one item, inserters feeding that to another machine...
I even got started on that, setting my new assembly machine to fabricate some copper wire, then some circuits, when I facepalmed. Fabrication requires raw materials. What had I been hurting for all this time? Not assembly machines. Miners!
I was out of iron plates, and nearly out of coal, so I had to spend some time watching the miner dig up coal, and then watching it and the furnace smelt out plates. Finally I got enough plates to make a few more burner miners. I knew from the corps that electrical miners were more effective, covering more ground and working faster too, but at this point I didn't care; I just wanted more than one miner of any variety so I could quit running back and forth quite so much. I fed the plates, leftover gears, and some stone furnaces into the machine, and in short order I'd ballooned from one burner miner to eleven. I felt like a wealthy man.
I kept feeding bundles into the lab, and it kept producing for me. Not everything turned out to be as complex as the improved assembly machine. In short order it spit out blueprints for an automated turret, some stone walls to keep out any critters that might wander by, and lamps so I could finally put down the flashlight at night.
I'd also managed to produce a few more assembly machines, and I found that I could set them up in a sort of grid to pull plates from one wooden box and then swap ingredients around to produce more inserters or even more assembly machines. Inserters and assembly machines used the same parts, I found; but assembly machines used a lot more of them.