“I don’t know but I’ve been told,
Deirdre’s got a Network Node.
Likes to press the on-off switch,
Dig that crazy Gaian witch!”
— Spartan Barracks March
The first time the player builds a Network Node, he’s treated to an audio clip of what are supposedly soldiers on Planet during a marching drill. The Sergeant calls out each line above and then the squad echoes it back. It still makes me chuckle, even though I’ve heard it a million times.
Through this lighthearted interlude, we learn several more things about the world of SMAC. First, and probably most noteworthy, Col. Santiago and her Spartans have a sophomoric sense of humor to go along with their espirit de corps. In the future, the Spartans are still soldiers of the kind we’d recognize today. Judging from this, in a lot of ways they’d probably be recognizable to any professional warrior from the past couple thousand years.
Second, the Spartans don’t seem to like the Gaians very much. That they’re making fun of a foreign faction leader implies there’s tensions between the two factions even at this early date. Yet, at the same time, the stereotype being reflected here is that Deirdre’s crazy, not that she’s evil. Chances are that there’s possibly some skirmishing going on over prime colony sites or the like, but it’s pretty unlikely that they’d be calling this out during a war of extermination.
Third, it’s interesting that they refer to Lady Deirdre, pejoratively, as a witch. That might have been put down to simple poetic license or as a PG-13 choice of epithet, if it were not for a few other indications elsewhere. Given the Gaians’ New Age, mystic inclinations, allegations of witchcraft (in the Wiccan sense) are probably a fair cop.
Finally, from a gameplay perspective, it’s intriguing that the Spartans are making fun of the Gaians for building an infrastructure-oriented base facility. In the game, a Network Node multiplies the energy allocated to labs in the base by 50%. But to hear the Spartans tell it, all Deirdre does with it is to flip the switch on and off for fun.
This is interesting because of the relative faction strengths of the Spartans. Because they have an exceptional military and an industry penalty, they’re usually better off building more units and fewer facilities, so that they can then go on to conquer a neighbor and take their carefully constructed bases away from them. As the name has come to imply in English, they need to live a spartan existence on Planet in order to pull that off.
Therefore, this silly little marching chant implies that knowledge of this strategy is filtering down to the common soldiers. Just as Yang makes sure to instruct his followers through re-education and small group study sessions to share with the workers the wisdom of the Chairman’s teachings, so too do the Spartans instruct even their grunts in certain tenets of High Command strategy. Just as Napoleon said of his army, each man has a marshal’s baton in his knapsack: among the Spartans, talent is expected and encouraged to rise to the top.