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Eagle: Hello everyone. I’ve looped in the Scanner that came with the Gulag Archipelago cell.
pr0n cock-tale: Hey guys! Hopefully your asses are lacking sticks as large as the good Father’s here…
Eagle: Was that comment really necessary?
PrivateDick: Hello. I’m glad to make your acquaintance. I just have to say, I really enjoyed your “aquatic” series. Very artfully done.
pr0n cock-tale: Oh, wow… a fan! Thanks! Those were particularly fun to shoot.
Crow: Yes, yes, sex is good, porn is good, now that we’ve got that out of our systems can we get down to business?
pr0n cock-tale: Geez, nice tree trunk you’ve got lodged up in there…
Watchword: With respect, I concur. The mesh is crawling with conflicting reports out of Deep Reach. There’s even rumors of a Cognite black-ops infomorph intrusion and Fa Jing fast-response security, although what either of them would be doing on Omnicorp’s station is anyone’s guess.
Eagle: Well, as you know, the local Venusian sentinel cell has been putting a lot of effort into researching this potential extra-solar civilization that Fa Jing is so keen to make first contact with. Our Gulag Archipelago cell had a lot of data from their own tangential but related investigation and so the decision was made to bring them together in one place to compare notes.
Crow: Yeah, on Canaan. Phenomenally stupid idea, that.
Eagle: Let’s not get into that again. Astraeus can provide the closest thing to impregnable security that we can find anywhere.
Crow: Yeah, but at what price?
Eagle: At this point, we’re in too deep with her. We either have to accept that she is what she claims, or succumb to paranoia.
Crow: I vote paranoia… again. That whole aerostat should go the way of Cloud Nine.
pr0n cock-tale: Wow… did you seriously advocate murdering tens of millions of people just because you’re scared that she MIGHT be malevolent? I mean, I understand Firewall makes tough choices sometimes, but do we really eradicate millions on zero evidence like this? My tender young eyes are being opened…
Eagle: Obviously we don’t or we would have. Anyway, as I was saying, the Gulag Archipelago cell and the Venusian cell met on Canaan. They brought sentinel Irina Kuznetsova as something of a bridge, as both groups knew her, but it didn’t take long for chatter and cross-chatter to start spilling some fairly shocking details. I say that because Ms… “cock-tale” here could have written a more thorough report for this event.
pr0n cock-tale: Heh. I made you write “cock.”
Eagle: … very mature. Some data points: 1) Kiril is Lost Generation (probably no surprise to anyone) but his particular talents manifest in the form of the ability to possess other people, effectively copying his ego instantaneously into other bodies, inhabited or not. 2) Saòirse can disrupt electro-magnetism, a talent thus far unrecorded in Watts-MacLeod carriers. 3) Argo has recently developed the capacity to receive visions from other forks of him, regardless of distance, and including a vision of a version of him living on the other side of the Vulcanoid gate. 4) Ricky, who we know somehow contracted Watts-MacLeod recently, can occasionally hear the voice of Karl VanDeLaarSchot in his head, an event that was seemingly triggered by proximity to Vilya Skaarsgard, who could similarly hear him. 5) Vilya can apparently open Pandora gates with her mind, despite showing no indication of Watts-MacLeod infection herself.
Crow: The fuck? Why aren’t their morphs in bloody pieces and their stacks tossed to the surface of Venus by now? Seriously? We’re just letting this shit walk around now?
Watchword: … as much as I hate to agree with my colleague, this is starting to get out of hand. There are some Firewall cells that would see a gathering like this as an exsurgent outbreak in its own right, and would come with heavy firepower.
Eagle: Sure, and that’s not even mentioning the celebrity psychosurgeon who is really an elaborately constructed ego designed by a seed-ASI, or the woman who made first contact with an extra-solar crystalline intelligence through a black box on Giza.
Crow: Allow me to reiterate: The fuck?!
PrivateDick: Oh, come on, it’s not like we haven’t walked this line before. Remember the debate when I recruited Saòirse / Marja after Hanshan? We basically have two choices: eliminate anything even remotely strange with extreme prejudice…
PrivateDick: …or use every tool available to preserve transhumanity. If we turtle-up and explode anything that looks at us funny we’ll never figure this shit out, and we’ll be just as vulnerable the next time as we are now. Like it or not, the Fall changed the game. Our eyes were collectively opened to the true terrors of the galaxy, and more importantly, those terrors are now aware of us. The solar system has six big holes to elsewhere and everywhere, and unless we get a grip on this shit, we’re all dead. Some of us have, through infection or happenstance, been drawn closer to the world these monsters inhabit. If this opens a window, no matter how small, that lets us learn our enemy enough to survive, we need to take that chance.
Crow: Very eloquent. That attitude will kill us all.
pr0n cock-tale: … ok, wow, I apologize for being so flippant earlier, you guys are dealing with some heavy shit here.
Eagle: Your sentinels bear just as much “heavy shit” you know. Vilya’s unexplained talent particularly.
pr0n cock-tale: Yeah… I got a theory on that, which also ties in with this whole Karl thing, but I need some time to work out the details.
Eagle: I await your conclusions with bated breath.
pr0n cock-tale: asshole. I thought priests were supposed to be charitable and generous and humble and all that shit?
Watchword: I’m still waiting on why Deep Reach is some sort of clandestine ground zero here people.
Eagle: Right. So. These various sentinels compared notes. They put together the timeline of Fa Jing’s actions and explorations surrounding disparate finds, from the crystalline remnants of extra-solar technology recovered on the surface of Venus to the strange alien nanoplague discovered on the derelict ship Frozen Dreams out in the Kuiper belt. It seems pretty obvious that Fa Jing is positioning itself to be the ones to make first contact with this species that we know has already come through the Lucifer gate at least once, and may be able to come through the Discord gate as well.
Crow: Hold up a sec, you mentioned Giza? Something about one of these sentinels actually touching one of those mother-fucking black boxes? How did they even get there? We blew that gate the fuck up.
pr0n cock-tale: I got this one… so, yeah, apparently that gate grew back. My team was fleeing Fa Jing’s Torii facility on Eris and they kinda had to gate-dial blind… that whole opening it with your mind thing… and they ended up on Giza. Apparently the crater was there, the radiation was there, and at least one black box survived the blast. They thought they were doomed, they had no way back, and apparently Vilya couldn’t just open it again or was exhausted, or something, but Echo touched the box and it apparently accessed the Fa Jing data she had stolen from Torii and spontaneously connected her to a crystalline intelligence. She described the experience as inscrutable, but oddly comforting. She asked for help and the gate opened shortly thereafter, right about the time the black box abruptly cut off contact. They were able to make their escape to Bluewood, and thence back to the Fissure gate and home.
Eagle: And Astraeus has a functioning black box on Canaan. Saòirse has interfaced with it, but not nearly to the degree Echo has.
pr0n cock-tale: She’s calling herself India now…. at least that instance of Echo is. She refused to re-integrate with her various forks, and has opted to adopt a separate personal identity.
Crow: … fucking anarchists. Fucking willy-nilly forking and fucked up identities. Fucking idiotic sentinels licking everything and getting infected with god-knows-what left and right…
Eagle: Seriously, if you don’t have anything constructive to add, please stop. It seems the crystalline remnants on Canaan could, theoretically, be reconstituted into a functional, thinking example of this crystalline species.
Crow: Don’t tell me…
Eagle: They discussed it, but Aeryn quite sensibly pointed out that it would be irresponsible at this juncture. They also discussed consulting with the Factors, seeing if they know anything about these crystal aliens. That was also tabled. Our Venusian cell brought up their recent investigations, and posited that additional information may be found on the secret Fa Jing mining aerostat that first discovered the artifacts. Thanks to their subversion of Omnicorp personnel, they had a precise schedule for when that aerostat would be rendezvousing with Deep Reach.
Watchword: Ah… I see.
Eagle: Indeed. We constructed a plan wherein they would subvert docking protocols for Deep Reach and park themselves, in a borrowed self-powered, reinforced and sealed shipping container, in the cargo bay and await the arrival of Fa Jing’s aerostat. At that point, a virtual infomorph team would infiltrate the Fa Jing aerostat targeting data while a physical team would infiltrate to recover any physical artifacts. A third team would provide backup and exfiltration as necessary.
pr0n cock-tale: Yeah, who knew this Karl bastard would turn out to be so useful?
Crow: Do I even need to say it at this point? The fuck?
Eagle: Yes. Apparently he volunteered, via Ricky and Vilya, to help subvert Deep Reach. He apparently has a… puppet there. Or had. She was killed in the course of the operation. I believe Argo has her cortical stack.
Watchword: Well that explains the enormous fit the station facility administrator is pitching about his wife being decapitated…
Eagle: Indeed. The operation was… successful, although I qualify that word with some caveats. We recovered all of Fa Jing’s local data on the artifacts, although it’s clear the local facility wasn’t equipped for scientific analysis. We also recovered a physical artifact that does not resemble the earlier ones, and was recovered from an entirely different part of Venus. It’s sealed as best something unknown can be sealed. Echo suggested that it was safe for synthmorphs to handle, but that it should not be touched by biological matter. I’m not sure of the basis for this advice…
pr0n cock-tale: Yeah, she does that… just knows stuff… although I’m pretty sure it’s not some async craziness. She just spent a few subjective centuries as an informorph data-slave to Experia. Her brain makes data connections that don’t make sense to most people. She’s almost always right, though. Not that I was planning on touching the thing.
Eagle: In the course of this operation, Kshatra managed to subvert the aerostat’s twin AGIs, convincing them to rebel and rise up against their oppressors and owners. They went pirate, ejecting the Fa Jing executive… quite literally… and are, so far as I know, merrily sailing Fa Jing’s property around Venus. I strongly suspect that aerostat won’t stay a secret for much longer.
Crow: … Ok, that’s actually pretty funny.
pr0n cock-tale: I know, right?
Eagle: In the course of our exfiltration, a group of Cognite black-ops infomorphs took advantage of the sudden security hole to make a snatch-and-grab. I have no idea if they were successful. We didn’t stick around to ask. Fa Jing had a few Natarajas on standby, however, much to our surprise. They didn’t last long against the combined forces of two sentinel cells, but it does confirm the value Fa Jing placed on the secrecy of their arrangement with Omnicorp that they had such things just lying around on Deep Reach.
PrivateDick: So… what’s our exposure on this?
Eagle: Well, Kshatra is already public enemy #1 with Fa Jing, and his handiwork with those AGIs will hardly stay secret. My suggestion is that we emphasize his involvement and minimize any evidence pointing to our local cell. Make it look like some outer system anarchist smash-and-grab AGI liberation.
Watchword: The PC will eat that story up, but Fa Jing will know better.
Eagle: Sure, but they’re going to be pissed no matter what, and incentivized to get to the bottom of it. They’re unlikely to share what they learn with their fellow PC corps. Oversight might get nosy though… actually, feeding some tactical intel to Oversight might muddy the waters and force Fa Jing to divide resources. Ricky has a contact, maybe I’ll talk to him about it.
Crow: So, great, we have some more corporate secrets, some shitty research on more crystal pieces, and another alien artifact. Doesn’t sound worth it to me.
Eagle: “Worth” is in the eye of the beholder. I dare say that even had they come away empty handed entirely, the amount we’ve learned from and about them by watching them work together would make the operation worth it. Considering the variety of mysterious abilities and potentially dangerous secrets that were revealed, I suggest we keep a close eye on both groups, and learn what we can, hoping they don’t get so bad we’re forced to put them down for the safety of transhumanity.
Crow: I probably don’t have to say it, but they’re already far above that bar. But as long as we keep moving the goalposts…
pr0n cock-tale: Geez, they’re not THAT bad. And, frankly, they’re the only lead we’ve got on understanding, and maybe even someday eliminating, Karl.
Eagle: Well, “pr0n”, keep in touch. I think we’ll need to work out more reliable communication and information exchange going forward.
pr0n cock-tale: Sure thing. And hey, if you ever want to become the most famous Jovian in the Republic, I can hook you up. A raunchy pedophilia XP with a genuine priest would literally blow the top off the New Vatican, and be the hottest black-market item in the Jovian system. Just a thought.
Eagle: … you disgust me.