Aug. 21, 2006
Living with Tiberium
Mike Verdu, Executive Producer of C&C 3 As we begin to delve into the fiction that underlies C&C 3 we wanted to give you some insight into the state of the world in 2047 and take a close look at Tiberium.
The future contemplated in C&C 3 is a difficult one. The Earth has been permanently transformed by Tiberium as the strange alien mineral slowly consumes the planet. This crystalline substance turns anything it touches into more Tiberium, a process that gives off powerful energy that can be harnessed by a resource-starved human civilization. Tiberium is both a gift and a curse: It is the ultimate resource – but it is also destroying the environment, it has been the focus of two world wars, and it will eventually obliterate all life on the planet.
What is it like to live in a world infested with Tiberium?
It’s a dramatically different place than the Earth we inhabit in 2006. To begin with, about 30% of the planet has been rendered totally uninhabitable. Large swaths of the Earth’s surface have been designated as “Red Zones” – areas that are desolate, swept by storms, and contaminated by vast amounts of Tiberium. Venturing into, over, or even near these wastelands can be extremely dangerous.
If you were to stand in the middle of a Red Zone, you would see a landscape straight out of hell. The ground is a blasted and barren plateau of rock laced with veins of Tiberium that shine through with a malevolent green radiance. On the horizon are massive formations of pure Tiberium that have welled up through the surrounding earth. These frozen crystalline glaciers cast a sickly emerald glow on the surrounding terrain. Tilt your head and you’ll contemplate a cloudy, tortured sky alive with twisting patterns of shimmering light and flickers of lightning. If you wait long enough, you’ll see an Ion Storm begin to form, the lightning overhead intensifying until the entire environment is lit with rapid strobing flashes. Eventually the vast and terrible energy overhead will begin arcing to the ground around you in a terrifying display of destructive force. These fireworks are accompanied by a howling toxic whirlwind that scours the deserted ground and drives shards of Tiberium before it at insane speeds.
Red Zones are like the surface of an alien world. Scientists have speculated that Tiberium is actually a terraforming agent for an alien civilization, slowly transforming our world into an environment suitable for beings that have evolved on a different planet. No definitive conclusions have been reached.
Beyond the Red Zones, Tiberium contamination has caused varying levels of environmental damage in another 50% of the Earth’s populated areas. In the ecologically compromised and war torn Yellow Zones, Tiberium fields are common - growing in the middle of cities, on farmland, and throughout the environment. Tiberium-related climate change has caused an endless cycle of droughts, floods, and severe weather of all types including spectacular Category 6 hurricanes, tornadoes with wind speeds of 500 miles per hour, and exceedingly violent thunderstorms. Especially destructive Ion Storms occasionally rage out of the Red Zones to wreak havoc on cities and towns in the borderlands.
Climate change, melting glacial ice, extreme weather, Tiberium infestation, and decades of war have caused social collapse in several Yellow Zones. Many cities in the most afflicted areas are run by warlords and criminal organizations or have degenerated into anarchy – or they have fallen under the thrall of the sinister Brotherhood of Nod. Existence in the worst-off Yellow Zones is not pleasant at all. Your home is likely to be in a decaying building with no running water. Power comes on for a few hours a day at erratic times. Food is scarce. Doctors are rare. On a few occasions food aid or medical care will be provided by humanitarian workers visiting from the pristine and high tech Blue Zones, but there are often strings attached.
A subsistence living is just the start. Tiberium contamination is a fact of life, and thousands die every year from inhaling microscopic crystals that are carried in smog, clouds of dust, and other airborne particulates. Tiberium may even fall out of the sky suspended in rain drops if the clouds overhead have passed through a Red Zone during or after an Ion Storm. Because of the drought conditions in many Yellow Zones, rain showers are often greeted by the local populations with an odd mix of fear, dread, and joy.
What happens if you’re exposed to Tiberium? Nothing good. If you come into direct contact with Tiberium, the green matter will start to fuse with your skin within about 20 seconds. You’ll feel an intense burning sensation, similar to touching a hot pan or spilling acid on your skin. A full blown infection will manifest if you aren’t treated immediately. Your flesh will begin to take on a glassy-greenish appearance as it begins to crystallize; eventually your internal organs will shut down as Tiberium extends rigid crystalline runners throughout your body. If you breathe in the crystal, then it will become embedded in your lungs. You’ll lose the ability to process oxygen as your lung tissue crystallizes. Eventually you’ll start coughing up blood and will hemorrhage to death.
In some cases – and for unknown reasons – Tiberium infection will trigger cellular mutation. It’s not cancer in that the mutations seem strangely directed; they don’t kill you, but your body will begin to transform. The mechanism for this mutation is not well understood.
In the harsh reality of a Yellow Zone, Tiberium is not the only threat. If Tiberium doesn’t get you, then you are likely to fall victim to a violent crime, get caught in the crossfire between warlords clashing over turf, or become a collateral damage statistic in the global war between the armies of the Global Defense Initiative and the Brotherhood of Nod.
The place to be in 2047 is in a Blue Zone – and only 20% of the Earth’s surface has been designated as such. GDI controls the Blue Zones, areas that suffer from minimal Tiberium infestation and have been relatively untouched by war. The populations of the Blue Zones live in relative comfort, going about their lives in high-tech futuristic cities that sit in forested valleys or nestle in pastoral farmland. They benefit from Tiberium as a resource; their energy-intensive economies are powered by the awesome energies generated by the green crystal – but they suffer none of the side effects that make life in the Yellow Zones a living hell. If you reside in a Blue Zone, Tiberium seems to have more upside than downside – you have almost limitless energy at your disposal and yet your surroundings are relatively pristine. Most of the world’s wealth is concentrated in the Blue Zones. Tiberium is a scientific curiosity, a catalyst to war, an environmental cataclysm, a social plague, and much more. Everything and everyone is defined by their relationship to this substance. Life in the first half of the twenty-first century is all about Tiberium. So… what is Tiberium?
The scientific explanation is a little complicated but describes how Tiberium is able to grow: Tiberium is a dense “dynamic proton lattice” held together by exotic heavy particles. When Tiberium comes into contact with other matter, the heavy particles randomly collide with the nuclei of the target matter, smashing it to pieces (in the case of smaller nuclei) or incrementally knocking off protons or neutrons (in the case of heavier nuclei). Tiberium captures a fraction of the protons that are ejected during this collision process and incorporates them into its own structure, thus transmuting matter into more Tiberium. Whenever one of the heavy particles – a muon or tauon - collides with an atomic nucleus, fission occurs, which results in the production of alpha, beta, and gamma radiation as well as other forms of electromagnetic radiation (like infra-red). During the transmutation process, nuclei that Tiberium has come into contact with may be changed into nuclei with different (usually fewer) numbers of protons or neutrons.
The short story: Tiberium is like nothing we’ve ever seen before in that it can change anything it comes into contact with into more Tiberium. It is an exotic self-replicating substance of extraterrestrial origin.
As we’ve seen, the benefits and burdens associated with Tiberium are not distributed equally. Living with Tiberium can be a nightmare in a Yellow Zone. To the citizen of a Blue Zone, Tiberium provides clean power for flying cars, large homes, and a vast technological infrastructure. Yet the shadow of world war and ecological devastation falls across the entire planet. And the war between GDI and Nod will soon escalate, reaching deep into the Blue Zones and involving the whole human race in a conflict that will decide the fate of the entire planet.