After-Action Report – Operation Weathered Soil
That went better than I had any right to expect. Not only has the Vittrad singularity been dealt with, but we have an action-plan to exterminate the strain entirely, and the more problematic of our sentinels self-selected out of existence, thus dramatically reducing their threat rating.
There were some initial difficulties at our staging area of Extropia. Unfortunately that chaotic rock can never be relied upon for stability. I pointed our collected Sentinels at the problem of Skinthetic, a problem many of them were already well aware of, especially Vilya Skaarsgard, who failed to destroy all of Ad Hoc Genesystems’ data and exsurgent assets, and Aeryn Taft-Crowley who saw one of their twisted morphs in person, had even developed a plan of action, just never followed through.
It seems they were releasing their newest morph, a design created with exsurgent-altered genetic patterns, which might transfer infection to any ego to sleeve in the morph. They already had over five thousand pre-orders, but fortunately only about a dozen delivered. Kiril Tesler called on his reputation as a body-blogger to score a test model. They confirmed likely exsurgent genetics. Apparently some vested interest on Extropia sent a goon squad after Vilya, who was, after all, a wanted criminal there, but Aeryn bought out the security company after some bloodshed, and paid off Vilya’s fines. After that interruption, they went to work on socially sabotaging Skinthetic’s marketing campaign.
Kiril gave a withering review, and Ricky Thompson utilized his talents for exsurgent-targeted nanoplagues to simulate design errors while Celestin Vermette seeded catchy memetics. This caused Skinthetic’s stock to go into a nosedive and people to cancel orders, but didn’t solve the overall problem. Aeryn secured a tour of their lab facilities where they seeded a time-delayed nanoplague to hit the development labs while Tari seeded a virus to corrupt their data. In that tour, they learned that Skinthetic had procured three viable samples of active exsurgent strains from Regina’s network, stored in a separate lab on the outside surface of the asteroid, unconnected to the city itself. I arranged for a “mishap” on the Direct Action Cruiser Agamemnon which bombarded the facility.
Ordinarily this would have been the end of it, but one of the strains proved unusually resilient, infecting a pair of salvage operators and creating an infection panic on Extropia. This strain was quite peculiar indeed (see file novacrab-infection001) but Clowder accurately determined a way to lure the parasites to one part of the station for neutralization, thus de-escalating the need for tactical nuclear fire in a major polity.
Eventually, our fleet was ready and we departed. The Agamemnon had to stay behind, embroiled now in lawsuits, but Argo secured a fleet of ships from the Hidden Concern on Ceres to augment our own fleet.
The 2.5 week journey was relatively uneventful, aside from Vilya flaying some marines as we got closer to the legba singularity. She was kept under observation and sedated. The Vittrad-infected Dr. Ilya Fero had the sense to be sleeved in a synthmorph and so proved more useful, monitoring the singularity through her connection to it.
We arrived in the vicinity. It was clear that the 6 million-ego-strong Vittrad-gestalt was ready for us. Fortunately, on the journey, Eru called on some belter friends who had concocted a “neutrino bomb”, a device that sent neutrino junk data to clock any neutrino receiver, effectively shutting down their farcaster, preventing them from offloading infected egos. We have no idea how many they offloaded in the months prior, but this would prevent mass exodus should our plan prove successful. Marja DeWinter then realized that her Vittrad fork that had been under observation by the Argonauts for all these months had escaped, and was one of the few remaining sane egos in the singularity, and therefore one of the guiding egos.
We were just beginning to grapple with the idea that we were facing a copy of a mass-murdering sociopath with vast power at her disposal when Legba got their farcaster working again, and made as if to beam a number of egos off the rock. Dr. Fero panicked, moved as if to warn us of something, and then spontaneously shut off. Something was awry. Vilya claimed to have “shut down” Legba’s attempt to get Dr. Fero’s Legba-copy away, and indeed claimed to have somehow isolated the entire rock. Dr. Fero came back online and claimed that Vilya had somehow… ascended to the power level of Karl VanDeLaarSchot, and was now the guiding ego of the entire virus network. The gestalt was too powerful for her to overcome, but the virus everywhere else was hers to command.
This was, of course, a matter of deep concern, but events were moving too quickly for assessment. Vilya claimed to still be working toward our objectives. Argo managed to transfer his consciousness into the body of his legba-copy (because of course there were copies of our Sentinel team present from their last visit…) whereupon he began seeking internal sabotage on the asteroid. Marja used her “cerulean signal” to engage in some sort of psychic battle with her local Vittrad copy, cleansing / overwriting her and removing a guiding ego from the gestalt. At this point, our ship screen of Cerulean-infected individuals was in place, and we began our primary plan.
As you may recall, the plan involved surrounding Legba with Cerulean-infected to create a shield to prevent the virus from propagating throughout the solar system when we destroyed the Vittrad singularity. It would seem that our Cerulean team trusted Vilya enough to prevent escape and so they focused their energies on destruction. There was, apparently, quite the psychic battle that had no visible effect to those of us not … perceptive in that way.
Steven and Argo, working together, managed to open Legba’s systems to ECM, whereupon Clowder downloaded herself into the local simulspaces and began mass exponential forking. It would seem her fears of iterating to ASI status were insufficient to overcome her desire to defeat the singularity by robbing it of its processing power. It seems most of the 6 million egos were virtual, and soon the entire network was clogging with copies of cats. Aeryn, fortunately, recognized the danger of allowing a TITAN to rise in the aftermath of a Vittrad infection and began working on countermeasures, which sadly included contacting Astraeus on Venus.
A few of our ships started taking fire. It would seem that Legba had built a number of mass-driver cannon small enough to launch cortical stacks indiscriminately into space. Thousands of them were being fired into the void, presumably to ensure the survival of the infected egos. Echo assumed control of the sensor stations on the Direct Action Cruiser Cyrus and did the complex math necessary to track every one of them. I’ll be tasking Firewall assets to intercept each of these projectiles at various points in the solar system over the coming months.
Between our Cerulean shield net and Clowder’s electronic incursion, the Vittrad signal weakened dramatically. The singularity was snuffed out, and the expected propagation successfully contained. In the last moments of the psychic battle, however, every single member of our Cerulean network spontaneously died. Their eyeballs froze into solid blue orbs. I am given to believe that a single copy of each individual survived, but that the Cerulean Signal was no longer present. Our theorists believe that focusing that much entropic power in one place resulted in a quantum event that effectively uploaded all of them outside the known universe. Good riddance, I say.
Argo appeared to be the only one linked to the Signal still active, probably because he’s a node, not a receiver himself. He was able, however, to drain the power from Legba’s main reactor, robbing Clowder of her exponential runaway singularity event. This permitted Astraeus to talk her down from infinite iteration. Astraeus claimed a desire to help usher Clowder into the ranks of the “friendly ASIs” that claim to be helpful. Whatever. She’s Father Ruiz Aguilar‘s problem now. I’ll reiterate that these “Prometheans” are the biggest outstanding X-Risk to transhumanity.
With the Vittrad singularity destroyed, and the runaway ASI event contained, we turned to cleanup, and the necessary discussion of what to do about Vilya, or “Karl 2.0”. While Aeryn and others began recovery operations on the thousands of cortical stacks and now-cleansed egos on the asteroid, and Tari and Dr. Fero completed their experiment. With all extant copies of Fero dead, our current copy destroyed herself. Tari restored her from a pre-infection backup, and we confirmed she was free of infection.
Kiril attempted to use his unusual Watts-MacLeod talents to “piggyback” into Vilya’s mind, ostensibly to ensure she wouldn’t go mad with Karl-like power. This seemed to enrage India who spontaneously generated an Indigo 6 level alien incursion event. Glowing yellow seed-crystals burst from her flesh, seeming to kill her, but directing significant energy in support of Kiril’s attempt to claim for himself enough control of Vilya’s power. This seemed to result in a stalemate. I brought the Venusian sentinels up to speed on Iapetus and its role in strengthening the Vittrad signal. It appears that the personality construct the Gulag sentinels encountered on that TITAN relic has covertly infested Vilya’s mesh inserts and was the reason for her sudden surge of power.
Tari revealed a disturbing degree of knowledge about our Sigma 7 Vault, especially the Cerulean Cube contained therein, and proposed using it to create more Cerulean infected, which would, in cooperation with Vilya/Kiril, round up all remaining Vittrad infected and destroy/cleanse them. Vilya seemed resistant, but Kiril’s influence seemed enough to prevail.
This is our action plan once cleanup at Legba is concluded. As much as I object to the any use of the Cerulean Cube, I object even further to the possibility of Vittrad ever again threatening our species.
So, to conclude:
- Vittrad Singularity = destroyed
- Clowder ASI threat = contained (for now)
- Cerulean Receivers = culled
- Iapetus-connected focus = tentatively contained
- Crystalline-infected seed = contained (see Red Vault 5)
- Marja DeWinter = destroyed/contained
- Interception of cortical-stack singularities
- Containment of remaining scattered Vittrad carriers
I’ll want proxy-support for handling the Cerulean Cube and ensuring the minimum necessary personnel are exposed. So long as Vilya/Kiril remains cooperative, I have tentative hope for success in the elimination of Vittrad, at least until a previously unknown infected cortical stack appears somewhere.
As much as I begrudge it, I didn’t need to resort to any of my contingency measures. Perhaps I’m getting soft in my old age, but maybe they’ll make a pragmatist out of me yet.