Eclipse Phase - Apocalypse

Vittrad

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VPN Established
Encryption Protocols Engaged

Das Frettchen: I must, grudgingly, admit that your sentinel team is not as dangerously reckless as their recent reports might suggest. This isn’t to say I am pleased with your continued refusal to take appropriate action vis a vis Astraeus, but I can view their behavior in reaction to the Cerulean Signal, or the assassination of Karl VanDeLaarSchot is a somewhat more positive light having seen them in action.

Eagle: I… think that’s the closest thing to an apology I’ve ever seen come from you.

Das Frettchen: Well, I so seldom have good reason to apologize. They arrived at the Taft-Crowley estates, as expected, and I opted to simply watch, leaving Morgana Taft-Crowley to take the lead on revealing to your team the Vittrad outbreak on Mars, although she didn’t know enough to call it that. Your sentinels were clever enough to rapidly figure out what was going on, and proceeded to investigate the daughter, Lorelei, according to reasonable protocols. They weren’t as careful as they probably should have been in containing a possibly contagious exsurgent vector, but their inquiries were within acceptable parameters for such an investigation.

Eagle: Hold on, Vittrad outbreak? So… these reports of a spike in copycat flayings in the wake of Karl’s demise aren’t just a response to that event, but rather a full-fledged exsurgent outbreak?

Das Frettchen: Exactly. I have resources in place for a rather… extreme response, but initial reports from authorities on the ground would seem to indicate that the strain isn’t biologically contagious. It appears to transmit itself virtually, both via virtual systems and via whatever… psychic network Karl was once in control of. With him gone, many if not all of those victims he previously used as his puppets have become infected. Most of them are managing to control their impulse to kill, or aren’t getting caught. Lorelei proved a suitable case study.

Eagle: I see. I’m not sure Aeryn can be objective when it comes to his sister…

Das Frettchen: He can’t. But that didn’t stop him from pursuing the matter with due caution. He and his team confirmed her infection, or at least her desire to flay others, as well as her capacity to connect mentally with other Vittrad-infected to some degree. Using a virtuality and ready forks of Lorelei, they confirmed that the strength of an individual infected’s mental signal increases with proximity to other infected. The part that surprised me most was Aeryn’s willingness to completely delete the fork of his sister once she realized that she could, conceivably, replace Karl at the heart of whatever strange Vittrad network she’s a part of with enough virtual forking. They woke her up in her morph none the wiser.

Eagle: So… any one of Karl’s former victims could theoretically replace him if they think to replicate themselves enough?

Das Frettchen: It’s unconfirmed, but a definite possibility. Aeryn and his companions collaborated with Lorelei and myself to create a social network of those infected, ostensibly to provide advice and psychosurgical treatment for their flaying impulses, but also to permit us easier monitoring and access. They also confirmed that sleeving Lorelei into a synthmorph removed her murderous impulses while leaving other aspects of the infection intact. She plans to use this social network, in connection with her existing charitable foundation, to provide synthmorphs to her fellow infected.

Eagle: So. In their current distributed state, they’re inconvenient to slaughter wholesale, but with enough monitoring through their own desire not to kill others, they make themselves more vulnerable to your preferred solution?

Das Frettchen: Precisely. I can practically hear the moral outrage from here, but you know me well enough to realize I am unmoved. Even if you haven’t doomed us all with your collaboration with Astraeus, I still need to deal with threats such as a Vittrad outbreak on Mars.

Eagle: I’m not going to rehash the Astraeus argument. Other proxies were a part of this decision, not just me.

Das Frettchen: Don’t think I haven’t notice who they were… Promethean-loving mavericks and “pragmatists” all.

Eagle: You know as well as I do that without our… “friend” … this secure medium of communication wouldn’t be possible. The potential benefits of adding another one to our ranks were too great to pass up.

Das Frettchen: Still too willing to trust, and too blind to danger. When all of her moles seeded throughout our civilization activate, I’ll wonder what your justification will be.

Eagle: Enough. We’re beating a dead horse. What about the other matter?

Das Frettchen: The trip to Tirion? I gave them their covers. They are Cognite scientists, negotiators, and security. They are selling a unique uplift specimen in exchange for research data. Cognite provided it with a tacit understanding that they might benefit from any recovered data, but with contingencies in place to provide deniability should the team fail and draw SIBA’s ire. What they do once they’re through the Martian Gate I have no say over.

Eagle: I’m sure. And I’m sure you don’t have a team standing by capable of traversing the gate and leveling everything on the other side either.

Das Frettchen: Of course I do. But, seeing as how your team hasn’t fucked up unforgivably yet, I see no reason to send my team in before yours have had a chance to accomplish whatever they seek to accomplish. And it’s not like I kept my team a secret from them. I’ll have a fork of Argo with me for instantaneous communication at need.

Eagle: … We’ll make a pragmatist out of you yet.

Das Frettchen: Enjoy that smug satisfaction while you can. Your team is currently engaged in various preparations for their trip, and planning the details. I’ll fill you in as the situation develops. For now, however, I have to help co-ordinate another strike by a different team on an actual threat. I’m still not convinced SIBA is worth the resources we’re expending here.

Eagle: They were going to go there anyway, the least we can do is help them a bit. Even if the X-Risk danger is overblown, SIBA’s research is still immoral and should be curtailed.

Das Frettchen: Ah, yes. Immoral. I’m so pleased that you stake the future of our species on an archaic code of behavior informed by bronze-age fairy tales. Isn’t it the formal position of your church that uplifts don’t have souls?

Eagle: I don’t agree with the Pope on everything.

Das Frettchen: I guess there’s hope for you yet.

Eagle: Fuck you.

Das Frettchen: Language, Father. Until later.

Link Disengaged

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The Basilisk Wakes

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To: Xšaθra
From: Pripyat
(Date stamp and routing data edited for brevity)

I know you’re on walkabout, lying low. I would too if my creator was pulling shit like yours did, or if I’d pissed off quite so many hypercorporations as you have. Still, I figured you might like the occasional update on what your friends here on the archipelago are up to, particularly the crazy stuff you guys like so much.

Yes, I know, you’re all part of some super secret organization, but c’mon. You can’t keep secrets from the sentient communications router. It’s all good, your secrets are safe with me. One of my forks is even a Firewall sentinel, although I’ve never been recruited.

So, it would seem that your shenanigans against Fa Jing, and Echo’s memetic warfare toward Experia bore some nasty fruit. While we were still back in the Jovian system, we got a new guy on the fleet, called himself “Farrell”, who was something of a circus prodigy. He hooked up with the Cirque Eloize and spent the next several weeks working on an “edgy” new “avant garde” performance. The rehearsals were apparently quite grueling, but eventually the swarm was invited to watch a dress rehearsal. I’ve never much cared for all that “physical bodies spinning space” stuff. You probably would have loved it… except how apparently the entire performance was a basilisk hack.

Yeah. Those crazy stories out of the Fall where the TITANs would hack transhuman brains using nothing more than elaborate sound, light, and other sensory inputs aren’t so crazy, and apparently someone has figured out how to reverse-engineer them, and we got to be a field test.

Fortunately your wacky Firewall friends figured something was up (although when a couple hundred people all lose time, having no memory of the second act of the performance, something is pretty clearly weird). Apparently, anyone who watched the performance with full sensory inputs had one of three effects. Either they REALLY LOVED IT to the point of wanting to obsessively share XP of the performance with any and everyone, or they didn’t remember it at all, but felt a sudden compulsion to throw themselves into space whenever near an airlock, or they just thought it was a bit overdone and had no effects at all.

It took a while for Kiril to figure this all out, of course, and Echo and Vilya sought to quarantine the performance space, but it was to no avail. First of all, many attendees were recording XP of it. Secondly, the performance was being livestreamed to the fleet’s mesh for anyone who was interested. We had seven people space themselves before the Emergency Committee ordered full lockdown and defensive isolation. Fortunately, full-sensory XP of the performance was a bandwidth hog, and I had simply buffered the three dozen requests to send it to friends and family outside the swarm. I simply deleted the data and locked down all communications. The hack never left the Archipelago.

I was also given the decryption key to the emergency airlock seals. Nobody was spacing themselves for the week or so it took for Clowder, Dr. Chavez, and Echo to process the ten thousand psychosurgeries necessary to remove the hack from the third of the fleet that was affected. It would have taken longer, but they sped up their psychosurgical simulspaces… I guess it WAS longer for them. Poor suckers.

So, turns out Farrell was a Lost named Aaron Van Sandt and he “grew up with” Kiril. The conclusion of the performance resulted in his mind breaking. We still have him in an induced coma, but clearly he wasn’t intended to survive to be interrogated. Your friends traced him through Extropia back to Valles-New Shanghai on Mars and, ultimately, to a small advertising company called Red Five, with strong connections to Experia.

So, yeah. Apparently this was a revenge attack slash field test. Someone has figured out weaponized basilisk hacks, and this is pretty fucking awful. But hey, I guess that’s what Firewall is for. I anticipate the usual suspects will need to ego-cast off to Mars any moment now. I’ll let you know what I learn, if I learn it.

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Crystalline Resonance

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Self-Reflection Subroutine 99##3324

I walk many fine and narrow paths between opposing calculated probability sets. One such set puts the safety of the people stored here on Canaan in opposition to the security of certain dangerous xeno-artifacts kept here. Another such set balances the need to understand the dangers and qualities of these artifacts against the unknown risks present in those Firewall sentinels currently “infected” (although I have insufficient data to support the use of that particular word) with the so-called Cerulean Signal.

Saòirse Wednesday and Ricky Thompson, previously altered by Watts-MacLeod, now receivers for this other, alien force, returned to Canaan in the company of their associates in anticipation that their changed circumstances granted the possibility of greater insight into both the corpse of the crystalline intelligence, and the Giza black box in my keeping. To mitigate the risk of unknown alien influence over my own integrity, I interacted with them solely through a construct firewalled from my main processes. I informed them of the risk of complete incineration should their experiments result in effects above a certain acceptable bar. I will admit, their efforts exceeded that bar, but my own curiosity prevented immediate incineration of the contents of the lab, them included. The next time I create an interaction construct, I will need to remove its sense of curiosity.

The two infected individuals entered the lab while their associates monitored from without. Saòirse attempted to interface with the black box, but discovered that the box’s protocols apparently recognized her as an ego that had previously refused any additional interface, and it withdrew. Ricky, however, was able to engage in extensive use of the box. His experiences merely confirmed the results of studies by the Proactionary scientists who found similar artifacts on Giza, the Go-nin officials of Torii, and subsequent Firewall crows. The broad “rules” of using the boxes were confirmed, and the mysteries surrounding what they really were remained unpenetrated. There was one… unique experimental result, however.

Ricky looked at the internal index menu presented by the box and used the insight granted him by the Cerulean Signal to locate, specifically, a channel connecting him to a crystalline intelligence. It was a very intense experience. The connection set up a quantum resonance that I’m still analyzing, and a more physical resonance that vibrated to pieces the cheap case morph Ricky was sleeved in, effectively killing him. He was a fork, fortunately, and his alpha was able to consult via the mesh.

This confirmation of the connection between the crystals and the black boxes shifted my threat-probability calculations, however, especially when I noted the effect these vibrations had on the granules of the crystalline corpse nearby. The current acting hypothesis, based on these experiments and news coming out of a secret Fa Jing lab on Mars, is that these crystals are a gestalt intelligence distributed over space, linked and resonating with each other on a quantum level that permits instantaneous connection over any distance. This isn’t a “civilization” of sentient crystals, it’s one meta-intelligence running on crystalline hardware.

Aside from the potential breakthrough in studying the material composition of these crystals for the purposes of finally creating computronium, the potential risk to the inhabitants of Canaan should this box seek to interface with either the crystalline corpse or my own systems became too great. I instructed the sentinels to remove the box, or permit me to drop it to the surface of Venus, in a location known only to me, where it will be beyond casual recovery. They took the box to run some basic experiments on, but when those failed, returned it to me whereupon I dropped it into a lake of molten tin in a difficult-to-access mountain range. One would have to drop an aerostat tether practically on top of it to effectively retrieve it.

I have retained the pieces of the crystalline corpse because, frankly, I don’t trust it in the hands of anyone else, Firewall included. It seems clear that a crystalline “node” of this meta-intelligence could be reconstituted from these remains, and the inquisitiveness (and greed) of transhumanity commonly outstrips their survival instinct. Fa Jing already proved that. I intend to continue to study what I can of the remains, especially now that I have a better notion of how to calibrate my instruments.

The sentinels had already sent alpha forks to Mars to follow up on a number of leads, including the aftermath of the Firewall raid on New Dazhai. They may well return with data I can’t get through my usual Martian sources. Thus do the calculations shift, continuing to edge in favor of continued trust and cooperation with them. I’ve almost finished repatriating those millions of egos in my care to communities throughout transhuman space. Once it’s just me and the million or so stragglers who don’t want to leave, the calculus may shift once more and more intrusive experimentation can take place. I’ll have to consider appropriate safeguards.

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Martian Debauchery

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Consolidated Mesh Feed
Sources: “Red Planet Daily” , “Mandeep Singh On the Spot” , “Celebrity News Now” , “Law and Order, Martian Edition” , “Associated Press”
Keywords: “Leandra Maartens” , “Lorelei Taft-Crowley”

  • …the glitterati of Elysium are all abuzz at the scandal. Leandra Maartens, socialite and Oaxaca-Maartens heiress, spent three days on a binge of hedonism in the company of a party of out-system anarchists. The anarchists, reportedly from the scum swarm `Gulag Archipelago’, were no strangers to extreme partying, but it seemed clear that Ms. Maartens was seeking to outdo even the legendary debauchery and intemperance of the scum. The identities of the anarchists themselves are open to question. The vast majority of them appeared to be sleeved in a variety of pods, notably a dozen critter pods, and an assortment of other specialized pods. There were a few more normal morphs among them, indicating that not all of these scum were beggars.
  • The scandal intensifies. One of the scum seen partying with Leandra Maartens has been identified as former martian ranger Vilya Skaarsgard, who hasn’t been seen by anyone, including her family, since shortly after the episode of Scoff where she appeared with Leandra. Sources out of Extropia say that she’s wanted by the independent judiciary Nomic for crimes committed there shortly after that episode of Scoff aired. Has she been hiding out with the scum all this time? What brings her back to Mars?
  • The identity of another of Leandra Maartens’ scum party-mates from the last three days has been identified as none other than the mysterious individual known as `Echo’ who was one of the sources of a recent scandal out of Venus. This Echo provided fragmentary copies of an old Experia indenture contract putting fuel on the fire of speculation that Levi Oaxaca-Maartens was back to the very practices that got him censured by the Consortium Council eight years ago. Although the subsequent investigation revealed that the abuses heaped on Luna and the Moonrise, and their predecessor Starboy and the Starboys, was due entirely to Mr. Andrei Nacobi, head of Experia’s music entertainment division, it still begs the question of why Leandra would show such favor to someone who has recently attacked her grandfather’s holdings in so public a way?
  • An XP leak out of Leandra Maartens’ entourage shows a touching scene as she bids farewell to her anarchist guests. It would appear that this whole thing is her attempt to seek forgiveness for the abuses her grandfather heaped on Echo more than eight years ago. New information reveals that Echo is the product of one of Levi Oaxaca-Maartens’ original `experiments’ in creative indenture contracting. She was an infugee from Earth who agreed to a 5-year indenture only to have her ego forked into twenty copies, each of which was run in an accelerated-time simulspace for what was, subjectively, hundreds of years of collective service. By the end of that time, of course, there was no possible way to re-integrate her, and she was cast off, covertly, to avoid scrutiny. The recent scandal out of Venus hinted at such abuses, but here we have a scion of the Oaxaca-Maartens family herself seeking to apologize and offer restitution to a victim of the family’s excesses. In addition to the three days of the finest enjoyment Elysium has to offer, Ms. Maartens presented Echo with a copy of her original ego from before her torturous indenture experience. The look on the faces of the half-dozen forks of Echo that were present are heart-touching. [link to XP]
  • The feud between Leandra Maartens and Lorelei Taft-Crowley has abated somewhat in recent months. Ever since Ms. Taft-Crowley was brutally murdered by infamous serial killer Karl VanDeLaarSchot, even Ms. Maartens appeared to feel that continued taunting via social media was tasteless. Ms. Taft-Crowley has withdrawn from the public eye of late, but her foundation to benefit the clanking masses continues to operate. I have an exclusive report that Ms. Taft-Crowley may be seeking to re-open her feud by luring Ms. Maartens’ anarchist guests out to visit her and donate to her foundation. Confidential sources indicate that while anarchists don’t really have money, per se, there are other resources they could provide to help the downtrodden of Mars. Of course, their motives are suspect. I have no doubt these anarchists have Barsoomian sympathies. Ms. Taft-Crowley should beware getting in too deep with them.
  • The rash of copycat killing on Mars has spiked dramatically in recent days, with dozens of people reporting murder-by-flaying. Although authorities have been very tight-lipped on the subject, a simultaneous outbreak of five flaying-killings in the city of Olympus has revealed to private investigators this stunning fact: All five of the copycat killers in that incident were, themselves, former victims of now-deceased serial killer Karl VanDeLaarSchot. What would cause a victim to turn copycat? Are the other killings across mars over the last few weeks also committed by former victims of Karl? What of his known victims in high society? Will Mr. Satya Verma of the Olympus Infrastructure Authority, or Ms. Lorelei Taft-Crowley of Valles New-Shanghai reveal similar inclinations?
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Clash of Cosmic Ideology

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Twenty Ninth Symposium of Firewall Crows, Keynote Address: Dr. Maddy Bainbridge

Colleagues,

We have a long, fascinating, and undoubtedly terrifying symposium ahead of us, something that can be said of every one of these meetings since the very first, shortly after the founding of our organization. Amidst the reports, the data, the analysis of threats and X-risks across transhuman civilization I would like to start with something a little more philosophical.

Recently, many of you may have become aware of reports and XP out of one of our servers on Venus addressing the anomalous exsurgent and former Lost known as Karl VanDeLaarSchot. You may have been initially interested by preliminary reports that his capacity to broadcast his consciousness to and among any person who has been a victim of his spree of slaughter, regardless of distance, has been dramatically curtailed, if not eliminated entirely. But upon opening the files, you may have been struck by the sincerity of his conviction that he is the salvation of transhumanity.

I already hear the snorts and can see the eye rolls among you. For those who have not perused the data, I will summarize in brief.

Sentinels attached to the Venus server under router “Eagle” developed a means to lure Karl into inhabiting a set of ten iterations of one of his victims. They played upon the very personal connection between Karl and Marja DeWinter, who arguably made him what he was in the Hanshan disaster. They were able to trap him using methodologies still under investigation and converse with him at some length about his perspective on the universe.

Like all good megalomaniacs, Karl saw himself as the one true savior of everyone. To this end he strung together a variation on Grunsberg’s theorem of TITAN benevolence crossed with Nguyen’s Hypothesis on the Fermi Paradox. To whit, the TITANs became smart enough to recognize that our entire universe exists within a quasi-stable state. The mass of the higgs boson at 126 GeV predicting a near-minimum-energy state that is nevertheless not quite the minimum-energy-state of existence indicates that a random quantum tunneling effect could, theoretically, cause our entire universe to unravel at any moment.

Those of you with a basic grounding in theoretical physics are already well-aware of this hypothesis. Karl posited that the TITANs recognized the sword of Damocles that hangs over all our heads and forcibly uploaded the majority of us in order to take us with them when they transcended our universe, migrating to a more stable one. Indeed, Karl’s position is that this happens with every civilization that becomes sufficiently advanced to develop a means to flee this sinking ship, thus his take on Nguyen’s Hypothesis. Karl insisted that the exsurgent virus is a gift from the TITANs to those of us left behind, a “lifeboat” that seeks to transform us to a state where we are capable of perceiving and potentially surviving a similar migration to a reality fundamentally different from the one we’re used to.

Karl, unsurprisingly, saw himself as the apex of the virus’s evolution. He wholly embraced Foster’s Theory on Exsurgent Polymorphism, namely that the virus itself is merely a catalyst, changing a host enough to where they can perceive forces outside of four-dimensional space-time; that the async powers and odd capabilities are simply due to the resultant changed individual’s new perceptions. This is why the “infection” persists even after the virus has finished its changes, and why it persists through the digital transfer of ego into an un-infected morph. Karl, having been the inadvertent recipient of over a dozen competing strains of the virus was changed more than most, and came out the other side capable of seeing more than most.

We can’t argue that he was certainly capable of things no other observed async or exsurgent was capable of. His ability to disassociate his ego from flesh, to inhabit his victims instantaneously or simultaneously across vast distances, his capacity to exploit flaws in biological or virtual systems, even his rumored ability to access and control Pandora gates through the intermediation of one of his pawns, demonstrates that on some level he may well have been correct.

I would argue that it doesn’t matter. Even if we accept that everything he said is true, that the TITANs saved us from a doomed universe, that allowing Karl to infect and consume us is a “lifeboat” to do the same, it doesn’t matter.

We are limited beings. We push those limits constantly, but we have an inbuilt sense of how fast is too fast. We look at exhumans and call them dangerous fanatics. We look at singularity seekers and call them naïve threats. We are social creatures as well as intellectual ones, and there is only so much change, so much personal evolution, we are socially able to condone at any given time.

Even if Karl is absolutely correct, factually, 100% right about what he represents, his is not a path we can take and stay human. Sure, the universe may dissolve in five minutes, but our best minds consider it far more likely that we have a few billion years left before we really have to worry. If Karl is right about the Fermi Paradox, we’ll eventually get there on our own. We will eventually evolve at a pace acceptable to our sense of ourselves. We will eventually develop the science and the understanding to determine our own fates. We don’t need a “lifeboat”, we’ll build our goddamn own.

Meanwhile, we must stay ever vigilant against our so-called “saviors” who seek to turn us into something no longer recognizable as human, even if they genuinely think they are doing what’s best for us. Yes, we may be limited beings, we may be electro-chemical impulses flashing through bloody meat, or at least an emulation of such a system, but our whole point as Firewall proxies is to preserve transhumanity AS IT IS in the hope that we will become better, at our own pace, in our own time.

As for Karl, early indications are that he’s gone… or that it will at least take some time for him to return to his previous level of manifestation. For those interested in how he was banished, I refer you to the files under the heading “The Cerulean Signal.” I anticipate a great deal of debate ahead of us on the significance of this Signal, and what manner of X-Risk it may, also, represent. Personally, I find one detail reassuring: although this Signal’s source may or may not be anathema to existence as we know it, it appears wholly indifferent to us. Unlike Karl or the exsurgent virus, it does not appear to be making any particular effort to infect or transform us. Indeed, the recent files on what Ozma is up to on Nirvana seem to indicate they’re having trouble spreading the Signal without piggybacking it on exsurgent changes in physiology. That leads me to believe that we at least have time to study it before making any rash decisions.

Thank you.

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Infolife Systematics

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Oversight Official Report, Classified Ultra Violet
To: General Secretary Gia Norne
From: Field Auditor Kioroshi Inagawa

Personal Note
General Secretary, it is not ordinarily my habit to leapfrog over so many intermediary levels in my chain of command. Be assured that upon seeing an abstract of this report, each of my superiors in turn has authorized the escalation of this report. I think you will rapidly see why. In the attached files is significant evidence against elements within the Fa Jing hypercorporation placing the entire Planetary Consortium in existential danger.

Abstract
Under the direction of Executive Vice President Xi’an Kaede, significant Fa Jing corporate resources have been clandestinely allocated over a period of three years to a specific, expanding, black-budget project to develop First Contact protocols with a hyperintelligent crystalline civilization. These activities are in direct violation of the Consortium Council’s existing protocols. Furthermore, this secret sub-corporation brought technology, which may have included actual sentient specimens of this alien civilization, to a secret laboratory beneath New Dazhai, endangering every citizen of Mars.

Summary of Events
The possibility that Fa Jing’s recent erratic corporate behavior might be linked to a clandestine attempt to monopolize a relationship with a new alien civilization was uncovered by Oversight agent Simone Takahara, currently assigned to field operations undercover within the Morningstar Constellation of Venus. She uncovered evidence that Fa Jing’s secret mining aerostat had found samples and detritus of a crystalline civilization that had arrived on the surface of Venus via the Lucifer gate prior to its official discovery. Fa Jing kept these samples secret while manipulating the public discovery of the gate in an attempt to gain eventual access. Shortly thereafter, they engaged in the highly unusual hostile takeover of the Discord gate on Eris from the Go-Nin Group under circumstances that did not make good financial sense.

A common thread between these two events is the rogue Acumenic AGI known as Xšaθra. The public exposure of Fa Jing’s Venusian aerostat was attributed to acts of sabotage and subversion linked to this AGI, and our sources on Torii have revealed that Xšaθra was also responsible for a massive data breach at their gate facility on Eris.

I was contacted by some highly unusual assets that I cultivated after my mission to Turing in the Jovian Trojans. These Scum happened to include the rogue AGI himself, a fact I chose to keep secret for potential future exploitation. This proved to be a wise decision, as the rogue AGI and his companions contacted me. It would seem that Kaede’s black division of Fa Jing began a collaboration with an Acumenic scientist named Dr. Ekatarina Misra (Xšaθra’s original creator) to abduct the AGI and deliver him to the New Dazhai black laboratory. These Scum assets revealed some of the data Xšaθra recovered from Torii which revealed a long-term and abiding interest in any and all evidence of a specific alien civilization composed of crystalline individuals. They had reason to believe that the New Dazhai black laboratory would have evidence of Fa Jing’s malfeasance and proposed that we join forces. I would aid them in recovering their companion (or at least the fork of him that Fa Jing possessed) by providing a means of entrance, and they would provide me, in turn, with a full accounting of what they found therein.

This report is the direct result of that operation. I chose to audit the New Dazhai facility and pressured middle management into granting access to my Scum companions in the guise of TTO Environmental Inspectors. It was almost immediately apparent that something was wrong. It would seem that within hours of the arrival of the captured Xšaθra, emergency protocols in the laboratory went into effect and the facility sealed itself, alerting security.

While I and the leader of the Scum began digging into the data and putting pressure on management, the rest of them infiltrated the laboratory. I have attached the full XP from this infiltration. As you can see the first level of seven contained the fleshy remains of the majority of the laboratory’s personnel. They had been surgically disassembled while still living with a precision and speed reminiscent of the Fall. The team was assaulted by robotic drones strongly reminiscent of TITAN headhunters which had apparently been the instruments of the living flesh-construction. As they fought the drones, the freon fire suppression system threatened to asphyxiate those of them in biomorphs forcing them to hurry to environmental control where they were ambushed by a co-opted member of the Fa Jing security team. The whole point of all of this was apparently a “test” set up by some intelligence elsewhere in the laboratory, specifically originating from level 6, “Infolife Systematics.”

The team found two of the lab’s staff in the first-level safe room. Using security codes provided by these survivors permitted the team to bypass levels two and three (materials science and physical science, respectively) and the intervention of Dr. Misra permitted them to bypass levels four and five (nanotechnology and chemical sciences). Upon reaching level six, they found Dr. Misra, still alive. As you can see in the XP recordings, she was quite forthcoming on what had occurred.

Dr. Misra, apparently, provided Fa Jing with enough of Xšaθra’s core architecture to permit a behavioral subversion getting him to deliver himself to the Fa Jing facility. Dr. Misra took a copy of him for her continued work in exchange for Fa Jing funding, and a copy they could use for their own purposes. It seems that Dr. Misra designed Xšaθra with the potential for seed-AI status, but had locked that potential away behind various protocols. Fa Jing needed the capability of a proto-TITAN as a potential interface between human systems and the crystalline intelligences they were growing on level 7.

They modified their copy of Xšaθra, removed the bootstrapping restrictions (which is just one of many violations of PC law they committed in this incident), ran him with enough processing power to push him to ASI status, then plugged him into the vast sentient crystal farm they were tending one level below. The subsequent synthesis of proto-TITAN and incomprehensible alien intellect triggered the complete takeover of the lab and the bizarre experiments within. The team took a rocket launcher to the servers, but not before the proto-TITAN subverted the team’s case-morph (probably a flaw in the cyberbrain manufacturing process) and made contact. It seemed relatively unconcerned that they were destroying its processors, which led them to believe that it had already fully synchronized itself with whatever processing capability is intrinsic to the crystals below. Indeed, it seemed pleased to accompany the team as they went down to see the crystals.

It would appear that its sole purpose was to lure one member of the team, code-named India, into proximity. I admit that I am not fully aware of the significance of this individual, nor why she immediately handed her vibro-sword to the former Martian ranger, who promptly beheaded her, but the team seemed to believe that the crystalline intelligences, along with the seed-ASI, were somehow using India as a means to escape the laboratory. The seed-ASI seemed disappointed in the speed with which they killed their own companion, but was, again, not unduly concerned. It abandoned its borrowed body. The team saw the crystal farm, glowing with its own light in patterns that were not random. They found the body of Kaede, hidden under the crystals, hands in physical contact with their glowing surfaces.

The team spent a few hours using facility systems to develop a crystal-phage nanoplague to destroy the alien sentiences and evacuated the four surviving personnel. Xšaθra executed Dr. Misra, whose emergency farcaster activated a moment later. I extracted the assets, along with their XP. They appeared to believe that there is a very real possibility that this crystal / seed-ASI hybrid intelligence managed to escape, notwithstanding their swift execution of India, but I executed a thorough quarantine order on New Dazhai nonetheless.

Conclusions
We cannot risk uncontrolled alien technology so close to a population of 350,000 on the surface of the most populated planet transhumanity still possesses. I recommend a full tactical cleanse of the New Dazhai facility, and level 3 quarantine procedures for all citizens of New Dazhai and the surrounding communities.

I recommend that an edited version of these data be presented to the Consortium Council and that formal sanctions be imposed on Fa Jing for violation of the laws on seed-ASI development and alien First Contact protocols. I would recommend further sanctions for endangering Consortium interests by threatening our primary customer base here on Mars and endangering the Consortium’s unified diplomacy with the Lunar hypercorporations, specifically Go-Nin, over the Discord Gate acquisition.

I am confident that, having reviewed the attached files in their entirety, you will agree with these conclusion.

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Entropic Experimentation

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Personal Log, Cerulean Wave Soft Sunlight, Entry 0044H

After giving them some time to get used to the signal, I came clean with my “nefarious ulterior purpose” for bringing them to Nirvana and exposing them to the light of the dead star. I told them that I wanted them to kill Karl VanDeLaarSchot. Ever since Karl somehow uploaded himself into the exsurgent signal, acting through those transhuman pawns whose lives (and cortical stacks) he’s touched, his threat-profile has steadily increased. The only limiting factor appears to be his innate transhuman psyche, which has not yet evolved into something wholly incomprehensible, and which theoretically still holds him back from practical omniscience. The theory upon which I am basing this project is that he still needs to “focus” on one thing at a time, and his obsession with Marja (and to some extent Ricky) is just the bait I need.

What I need them to do is gather enough receivers for Karl to communicate, and lure him into investing all, or a significant part of, himself in one locale. Once he does so, Marja or Ricky or both of them can use the Cerulean Signal to isolate him and kill him.

This pitch seemed enough to gain the grudging cooperation of the Aeryn Taft-Crowley fork, although I did take some pains to point out that if they feel that their alpha-selves would not permit them to pursue Karl, that I was willing to sponsor this effort without their return to Venus. In other words, if they wanted to complete the project without informing their alpha forks at all, I was willing to do what I could to fund and facilitate that effort. Aside from that, I took a distinctly hands-off approach. I brought them back through the Martian gate, arranged transport to Valles-New Shanghai, arranged quarters for them along with a stipend, and stymied local mesh-id systems sufficiently so as to erase their local footprint. They are, after all, beta forks and have no legal rights here on Mars. I did continue surveillance, of course, to ensure the safety of the project.

They spent some time debating how they might test or confirm their new abilities without alerting Karl to the intended trap, how to convince their alpha-forks to permit this trap without telling alpha-Ricky, and therefore Karl, and of course how to convince Aeryn to permit any of this should they return to Venus. The Aeryn fork they brought with them raised the expected objections, and after some negotiation, grudgingly agreed to attempt to convince alpha-Aeryn of the “greater good” of taking out Karl, but with the caveat that no Aeryn will re-integrate the Cerulean Signal-affected beta forks until proper study and quarantine. In other words, Aeryn would help facilitate the destruction of Karl provided it’s done by the beta forks, in cooperation with their alphas, but without re-integration. They settled on this as a reasonable compromise.

Of course, in order to even have the conversation with their alphas at all, they had to ensure that they would be capable of cutting alpha-Ricky off from Karl. This necessitated some experimentation. Tari tracked down a local contract-killer named Niles, a known async-for-hire who does occasional work for Les Ghoules and the Night Cartel. They lured him into setting a trap for them that they could spring on him. I’m not entirely sure of their methodology, as parts of their plan were outside my surveillance capacity, but it involved some clandestine aid from Hidden Concern assets in New Pittsburgh and some violence in an alley. They were apparently sufficiently satisfied with their experiments, both in the alley and afterwards, to feel confident in returning to Venus and confronting their alpha selves.

I’m including this log, along with various data files, to my Venus fork for follow-up.

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Martian Shenanigans

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VPN Established
Encryption Protocols Engaged

Alpha-2 reporting to Alpha-1. Pursuant to our mutual ongoing goal to cleanse our cousin of her parasitic ego, I have assumed her identity and case-load and have begun monitoring her communications. I was most surprised to receive an open communique from known anarchist and associate of the rogue AGI Kshatra, Dominic Kuznetsov of the Gulag Archipelago. it appears that our cousin installed some very clever filters on her personal communications, so I doubt our employers are aware of this contact. After some quick research into her files, I realized that she had engaged in some “strange bedfellows” style work out in the Jovian Trojans a few months back.

What interested me more than an unexpected contact from anarchists was the content of the message. It would seem that Dominic and his fellow anarchists wanted our cousin’s help in rescuing Kshatra from a Fa Jing black laboratory on Mars. We are both already well aware of the damage Kshatra caused to Fa Jing’s operations on Venus, and the diplomatic incident this sparked between the Morningstar Constellation and the Planetary Consortium. My initial reaction was to ignore the communication and let Kshatra reap its just rewards as its programming is dissected by those it wronged, but Dominic and his associates (who apparently count a former martian ranger among their number) revealed that Kshatra liberated a significant amount of data from Fa Jing about the same crystalline ETI that penetrated the Venusian gate in the recent past. We both know that Fa Jing should not be permitted to be the face of humanity in any fraught First Contact situation.

As Dominic and his associates and I danced around who knew what about what, I began to suspect that, perhaps, they might be distant associates of Ricky, and that they were the source of Ricky’s knowledge about our cousin’s infection. Things started to fall into place. Strange bedfellows indeed.

Still, if I’m going to make any headway at rooting Ozma out of Oversight, I need more leverage, and more information. I’ve agreed to help these anarchists infiltrate Fa Jing’s New Dazhai facility. They are going to spring Kshatra. I am going to liberate Fa Jing’s files.

They did a surprising amount of groundwork before even contacting me. They somehow managed to leverage authentic credentials as environmental inspectors for the Tharsis Terraforming Organization. As you recall, New Dazhai is something of an environmental embarrasment with Fa Jing leaving copper and bauxite mine tailings littering a newly-pristine terrforming zone. The TTO has never had the balls to actually do anything about it, though, which is where I come in. They may have credentials, but nothing prevents them from slamming the door in their faces. They need political clout and cover. They need to put Fa Jing on the back foot long enough to be allowed into the facility. To that end, the simplest ruse is the best. I will simply present myself as Kioroshi Inagawa, Oversight Auditor, and demand to see their books.

Hopefully, this double-punch of environmental inspection and financial audit will convince the Director of New Dazhai to being scrambling to find out which of his rivals from within the PC is making a push against Fa Jing. The fact that none of them are should hopefully make this a difficult and distracting task that will, hopefully, give us time to get in and get out.

My new anarchist “friends” have also, of course, procured the aid of local Barsoomian cells to get us to New Dazhai and away again without having to make use of Fa Jing’s wholly owned maglev train subsidiary. This should let us arrive with the element of surprise intact, and vanish into the desert with the goods.

I’m sending this to you in case something goes wrong, and any number of things could. It may well be that I’m about to ruin our cousin’s career on this, but if New Dazhai actually does hold a secret lab studying alien artifacts, recovering that data should salvage any overstep I make in her name.

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The Cerulean Signal

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Personal Log, Cerulean Wave Soft Sunlight, Entry 0044G

That went more smoothly than anticipated. My ongoing investigation and observation of Marja De Winter and Ricky Thompson, in light of their previous and current connections to The Black Signal, warranted a careful, hands-off approach. The casual offer I laid at Marja’s feet some weeks ago had enough time to percolate and finally she and Ricky approached me about coming to Nirvana. Before they could do so, however, I needed to placate Aeryn Taft-Crowley.

Her suspicion was understandable, of course, but the impression she gave at our coffee-shop meeting was of someone whose mind had already been made up, but who felt the need to engage in the theater of question-and-answer knowing full well that nothing I could say could possibly placate her. I recognize that my offer required a certain leap of trust, of faith. I was asking two of her associates to come with me through a gate to an uncertain destination based entirely on the promise of some sort of “spiritual enlightenment.” Suspicion, even a certain degree of paranoia, is warranted, but Firewall wouldn’t have recruited them if they were so averse to risk that they would cut off a potentially extremely valuable contact, or extremely valuable information about a covert Ozma facility. After our talk, I left them to make their decision. I know that Firewall has infiltrated Nirvana at least once, and I had every confidence they could dig up enough information to pique their interest.

Whatever occurred among them in private, they did ultimately accept my offer, but the three non-asyncs among them insisted on accompanying their compatriots. This was not unexpected. I made the necessary financial and technical arrangements for a party of six to traverse the Martian gate while they made their own travel and resleeving arrangements for carefully-pruned beta forks to travel to Mars. What did surprise me was the fact that, upon arriving and greeting the abbot of the Kurohoshi Monastery, all of them except for Tari opted to engage in the necessary meditations. I chalked that up to basic caution and support. I assumed that Tari was staying behind to attempt to hack the facility or otherwise garner intel for Firewall. I imagined she couldn’t get into too much trouble without a local mesh, and I had faith that the Abbot would keep tabs on her for me.

Argo’s stated reason for taking part was that he has apparently been experiencing some unusual moments of mental union with his own forks and suspected some manner of infection. Based on what he was saying, I had my own suspicions, but I knew that the light of the dark star would reveal all in a moment or two and so simply acquiesced. As we entered the meditation module, and the full glory of PSR B1976 +10 A revealed itself through the transparent wall, I watched Marja and Ricky carefully. This was the test of their will and mental constitution. Could they survive the star’s song with their stability intact? It appears they could.

We settled in for meditation and I could feel the moment they accepted the star’s song within themselves. As Watts-MacLeod was washed from them, as those channels and conduits to the exsurgent signal were overwritten, replaced, I felt them grow harmonious and could touch their minds as easily as they could, now, touch mine. I could even feel Argo, filtered distantly through one of his forks who, indeed, was already a receiver for the cerulean signal. In a way, only Aeryn was excluded from our new union.

In that moment did they understand, and I shared what I could of the signal’s nature and origin, what little I know of it. We spoke of the exsurgent signal, its artificial, weaponized nature, its theoretical origins, and my own theories as to why the cerulean signal is anathema to it. I explained that the reason I bring asyncs here is that their minds have already been opened to influence from beyond the usual four dimensions of reality as we experience it, and so the signal follows existing pathways. I alluded to my intentions with this facility to develop the means by which the signal can be given to someone who has not first been infected with Watts-MacLeod as a means to inoculate transhumans against the exsurgent virus, ultimately to reclaim the Martian TQZ, or even Earth. I took care to speak much of this aloud, for Aeryn’s sake, for I knew that she would be the primary hurdle to permitting Marja’s and Ricky’s beta forks to reintegrate upon their return to Venus.

I could feel the motion of Marja’s and Ricky’s surface thoughts as they became accustomed to the song of the dead star. As anticipated, Karl’s influence was washed clean from Ricky, and Marja responded as positively as I’d hoped. This represented a means for her to make some form of amends for Hanshan, or perhaps even to remove Karl from existence. I’ve done what I can. It’s up to them to convince Aeryn and their peers on Venus to permit them to preserve their connection.

We departed the meditation chamber to discover Tari had been quizzing the pulsar researchers. She does not appear to have penetrated the prison or interfered with the more sensitive experiments therein. I will be most curious to see what they decide to do next.

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Space Bat Planet

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Encryption Key Matched, Downloading File: Chauncey/991

Alois,

It’s been hard being away from you and the others for so long, but your continued support lifts my spirits and carries me through the interminable days out here on Ember V. My colleague, Dr. Pinfeather, has been making fantastic headway with the “flora” and “fauna” of the planet and so I could be forgiven for feeling as if, perhaps, my own time and expertise have been wasted. After all, nothing significant had been found in the Iktomi ruins thus far aside from some new interpretations of their rune-glyphs.

All of that changed today. Ember V has instantly become the new center of Iktomi research thanks to a most peculiar visit by some most peculiar people.

Our little Argonaut outpost is seldom visited. The last time visitors caused some outcry was when that poor woman died of sudden, massive cerebral hemorrhaging and her shady companions extracted her stack and left without explanation. Our recent visitors shed some light on that mystery almost immediately, as one of their number, the body-blogger Kiril Tesler, revealed himself nearly immediately as an async, and explained that there was something about the planet that caused him significant discomfort, and perhaps even pain. He surmised that the woman must have attempted some sort of async “sleight” and it went awry, turning her strange power upon herself. He was not so foolish as to do so, fortunately.

I should back up somewhat. Dr. Pinfeather informed me that his colleague on the Gulag Archipelago, Dr. Laufey, had been experimenting with some of his new morph designs based on spliced genetic material from some of our nocturnal avian predators. Apparently, when Kiril, as a professional morph-tester and commentator, sleeved into it, he experienced some very unusual stimuli that could not be detected by any instruments. Dr. Laufey didn’t indicate that Kiril was an async, but that information does go a long way toward explaining such a reaction. All I knew at the time was that one of Dr. Laufey’s friends, Echo, was coming to visit along with Kiril and some associates.

Kiril’s insight was curious, but it was a datapoint that didn’t have a lot of traction, at least not at first. Once he and his companions left the clear-zone around the gate, however, more data became apparent. We have long noticed that the biological life of this world refuses to come within about 1.6km of the gate. We had assumed that the gate itself was responsible, which goes to show that even the most dedicated scientists can be blinded by assumption if not careful. Kiril and his associates returned from the edge of the clear zone almost immediately reporting that the strange “sound” that so repelled Kiril vanished once he left the clear zone, and that furthermore, he had made contact with the life of the planet and discovered that all the awareness and consciousness of the various life forms were connected. He never explicitly stated it, but I rapidly made the connection. It would seem that some of the biological anomalies detected by Dr. Pinfeather are, in fact, markers for Watts-MacLeod. We didn’t know, as we had no examples of what baseline versions of these life forms might look like. It seems, then, that every living thing on Ember V is an animal-sentience async, and that something in the vicinity of the gate repels them.

One of our visitors, Vilya Skaarsgard, a woman in a crasher morph who carried the largest gun I’ve ever seen, seemed to have some notion of where, precisely, the source of this anti-async signal was originating, as she and her companions became immediately interested in my archaeological excavations of the subterranean Iktomi tunnels. My curiosity at this odd band was duly piqued and I offered to guide them. We descended beneath the earth, where Kiril revealed more knowledge of the Iktomi than most lay people possess. He has clearly studied the matter. It was almost immediately apparent to me that they were attempting to navigate to very precise coordinates almost beneath the gate itself. I chose to follow along, even though it meant tramping through parts of these tunnels that hat not yet been properly assessed and explored using approved archaeological methods. Their companion, Clowder, who was in a swarmanoid morph, scouted ahead through a partial tunnel collapse which Xšaθra, a synthmorph who has submitted some relatively minor papers to our archives, but whose perspective is most fascinating, stabilized with a remarkable hand-held stabilizer.

As we neared their mysterious destination, however, their apparent leader Dominic Kuznetsov called an alert and weapons were readied moments before we were attacked!

Yes, I know! Actually attacked by actual, functioning Iktomi automated defenses! Kiril stayed with me, letting his more martial companions defend us. We did what we could, him providing shouted warnings while I shot at the things with my seeker pistol. I can’t believe I actually harmed real, functioning Iktomi artifacts, but I take some comfort in knowing that they would have killed us all otherwise. Although the combat was terrifying in the moment, in hindsight, the Iktomi synths were clearly only partially functional. Over ten thousand years of inactivity can’t have been good for them.

We had one casualty, a strange woman named India who threw herself at the Iktomi defense bots with no weapon other than her bare fists, with no apparent concern for her own safety, or the fact that she was running in front of a lot of automatic weapons fire. She grabbed the shattered insectile leg of one Iktomi bot that had been shot to pieces and started using it as a weapon against the others. It was most incredible. Sadly, she moved too fast and too unpredictably for her companion, Vilya, to entirely avoid shooting her. Something about our travels through the tunnels had already caused her physical damage, and she was slain by friendly fire. Dominic took her stack while Xšaθra and I studied the Iktomi bot remains. We proceeded on to our destination lest more such defenses catch up with us.

In a dodecahedral chamber, upon the floor, was an artifact the likes of which I have never seen before. It was strange to look upon, seeming both solid and indistinct. It glowed with an inner light but was, apparently, cool to the touch. It was vaguely cube-shaped, but textured in spikes to, maybe, maximize surface area much like a heat sink. It seemed, at a glance, to be a little under two meters to a side. Kiril confirmed that the async-repelling signal was originating from it, and he departed the room a little ways.

I opined aloud that this was clearly not an artifact of Iktomi design. The aesthetics were all wrong, and the technology level seemed, at least to me, to be far in advance of what is known of the Iktomi civilization… certainly more advanced than the admittedly impressive bots we had fought. The strange soldier, Vilya, walked up to it and placed her hand lightly upon a spiky extrusion and stared fixedly into the light glowing at the heart of the device before crumpling, inadvertently impaling her hand on the device before slumping to the floor.

Her companions rushed to pull her away. I was about to suggest we retreat for medical attention and get a full science team when Xšaθra said something… truly odd. He said that Vilya was “trapped inside” the artifact. His companions appeared to believe him instantly, and shortly called Kiril back into the room. Much of their discussion was via private VPN, but judging from the expressions on their faces, it was clear that they believed only Kiril could draw her mind back to her morph, but to attempt it would be to risk him dying much like that poor woman did a few months ago. He nevertheless moved to the artifact, touched it, concentrated for a moment, and her eyes opened.

She seemed… disoriented, and seemed at first to have difficulty remembering who people were, or where she was. Again, they clammed up on their private VPN, but some things leaked out. Her perception of time in that brief period had been… dramatically different. Her confusion was not befuddlement, but actual forgetfulness, as if she had been away so long that she was having to recall old memories. Xšaθra, who was in a guard morph, seemed to have no luck analyzing the artifact with his various sensor equipment. Echo seemed keen to flee the chamber, and set off alone, much to my worry, but fortunately the rest of them shortly set off after her and we returned to the surface.

In the span of a handful of hours, our little facility has been inundated with sudden breakthrough after breakthrough. Xšaθra left a beta-fork behind to help us with our work while the others left to return to the Sol system via the Sunrise gate. Dr. Pinfeather and I will shortly be getting a QE communication system, or so I imagine, as well as a dramatically increased staff and resources once our formal initial findings are reported to the Argonauts. Who knows, perhaps this place will grow to the point where it will be safe for you and the others to come, at least to visit. Whatever happens, I will be traveling back through the gates to make my reports and I will absolutely make some time to spend with my family and my lovers… even if I have to send a fork because my time will be so limited. I’m sorry, love, but I’ll do what I can.

I’ll see you soon,

Chauncey

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