Eclipse Phase - Apocalypse

Nanoplagues

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Status Report: Firewall Sentinel Vilya Skaarsgard

I’m finding it challenging to find a way to apply my expertise to the unique social and geographical challenges of being a Firewall Sentinel on a Scum swarm, but I’m making do. The information I provided the others on Reyes and his ship the Scylla provoked extensive debate that was part ethical and part existential. The core controversy seemed to be how much ethical obligation we felt toward destroying Reyes independent of his capacity to aid us in our search for answers on Fa Jing’s mysterious comet. Everything else was detail, albeit troubling detail, and it fell along expected lines. Those of us with no particular visceral fear of forknapping or soul-slavery were fine with the idea that copies of us might be introduced into an accelerated simulspace intended to optimize personal evolution. Those of us uncomfortable with the sorts of things Roland Farnsworth or Nine Lives, or Experia have done were hesitant to put copies of ourselves in such a predicament.

Nothing was resolved, and Irina insisted on dragging Dominic, and by extension the rest of us, to a performance of the Cirque Eloize.

The entire swarm has been awash in drugs, music, and naked people for days, and will only get moreso as we complete our transit through Jupiter’s gravity well. With the tensions of war subsiding, the residents of Europa, Hyoden, even the Republic itself, are flooding onto the swarm to let off collective steam. I found it odd at first that the Jovian Republic would allow its citizens to come here, considering their anti-anarchist rhetoric, but I suspect it’s a strange blind spot deriving from being a strong state-ist government. They only see other “states” as being threats. Still, they clearly only granted passes to citizens of good standing a certain ideological purity.

We attended the circus performance in the large, transparent nuestro shell that the circus tows along. It was quite striking, floating in zero-g, surrounded by the blackness of space, but with the colorful swirls of Jupiter filling half the sky as the backdrop to the performance. The circus acts themselves were actually really good. The sorts of high-velocity maneuvers possible in a large zero-g environment were breathtaking. In the midst of the performance, however, Dominic started to feel strangely ill. This aroused initial suspicions which fixated initially on an obvious squad of Republic marines in casual battle dress uniform who were watching the crowd more than the performance. It became clear, however, once Kshatra engaged them in conversation, that they were there because their intelligence services had identified a potential threat to Republic citizens, a threat that appeared to be rapidly materializing.

A subtle nanoplague was spreading rapidly through the thousands of people in the audience. Dominic seemed to be getting the worst symptoms. Most everyone else who exhibited anything at all described it more as a dizziness and vague nausea, symptoms easily explained by the surroundings. Indeed, there were plenty in the audience feeling that way simply from agoraphobia and lack of gravity. Nevertheless, Echo, who was deputized by Dominic to head up the security flashmob being summoned via the swarm’s local mesh, sealed the bubble, enacting a de facto quarantine. It should be noted that they played all of this subtly. They didn’t want to cause a panic. Echo started working with the Republic soldiers to scan and isolate the nanoplague infecting Dominic while Kshatra used his talents with motion-prediction to identify individuals in the crowd who seemed to be moving for maximum exposure to other people, particularly in the sections occupied by Republic citizens. He identified a half-dozen, who were apprehended by ad hoc swarm security. Kiril did the interrogation, and learned what was going on.

It would seem that a copy of Roland Farnsworth and his Planning Council was instantiated on the aerostat habitat of Mushroom on Neptune, and granted enough resources to engage in an act of terrorism against the Republic. Because they had not worked with us in our recent efforts, they had no sense of… basic gratitude for our help in freeing Gerðr, and no concern for collateral damage. They purchased a custom nanoplague from a criminal on Hyoden, and then simply came to the circus. The plague was, apparently, designed for subtlety and a long dormancy period. The plan was to infect the major habitats of the Republic via the vector of those who attended the circus performance.

Kshatra was able to contact this criminal on Hyoden and purchase the shutdown codes, which were broadcast throughout the fleet, neutralizing the plague. Most of the audience was never the wiser. The circus performance never stopped, even though the performers themselves, being part of the local mesh, doubtless knew what was happening. There’s something to be said for professionalism.

After the circus, we all took some downtime to recover before reconvening to discuss the Reyes situation, which had been left unresolved. After some discussion, we whittled the plan down to something reasonable for everyone. We spun up “Red”, the escapee from the Scylla, and Kshatra demonstrated copylock and autodelete systems for informorphs. Red then volunteered to return to his “world” to spread this new “magic” and bring about the downfall of “the Creator.”

For our part, we contacted Reyes via tight-beam message and offered to return his escapee in exchange for detailed scan data on Fa Jing activities in his part of the Kuiper belt. He accepted the offer.

The data he provided revealed a secret Fa Jing habitat-facility acting as a logistics hub for procuring comets for the terraforming process on Mars. The data also revealed a ship called the Frozen Dreams, an independent “comet-chaser” vessel out of the habitat of Whiskey, which had been found floating derelict in space more than a year and a half ago, the crew missing, and the computer systems eaten away by a nanoplague of clear non-human technological origin. Fa Jing was unable to keep this entirely secret, and for the last year and a half various groups have been trying to gain access to the ship, or to the data on the nanoplague Fa Jing discovered.

This information allowed us to put together the following tentative timeline of events:

  1. Fa Jing discovers the Frozen Dreams and the alien nanoplague
  2. Three months later, Fa Jing starts towing a ball of rock and ice from that same section of the Kuiper belt toward Mars
  3. Eight months after that, a Locus “whaling” party tries to mine it for resources. A Nataraja almost immediately attacks, presumably from an escort ship hidden nearby. Maria Batongbacal detonates a nuke, destroying the comet, both ships, and all people.

Our current speculation is that the comet contained whatever the source of the alien nanoplague was that infected the Frozen Dreams, and that Fa Jing was bringing it sunward for study and eventual monetization. Their sudden interest in procuring the Eris gate may well be connected as well.

Rather than launch an expedition to the Kuiper belt, we’ve decided to plan an expedition to raid Fa Jing’s data. This is more familiar territory for me, and I look forward to the strategic and tactical planning sessions.

Before those could start, however, we got a visit from Dr. Madelyne Bainbridge. Apparently she’d been keeping tabs on us to make sure our experience in Draupadi’s simulation didn’t unhinge us. She seems interested in pursuing contact with her “child” and creation. Dominic revealed that we had the means to contact Draupadi, and we’ve agreed to let her initiate a dialogue. I think we’ll wait for that to play out before anything further is planned against Fa Jing.

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A Sack Full of Stacks

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Dear Diary,

This last week has been exciting. I’ve been working with various of Aeryn Taft-Crowley’s forks on a variety of projects, mostly her dissection of herself (or “3’s dissection of 4” as she refers to it for convenience of reference). I dunno, perhaps it’s just my own issues, but I feel like Aeryn and I have a lot in common. I mean, neither of us are real people. We were both artificially constructed under false pretenses. Sure, she was apparently made by a hyper-intelligent seed AI whereas I was just grown in a lab in a second-rate Futura project (and without any of the neat mind powers they apparently got), but still… I think we understand each other better than most people.

I just wish she’s realize it. I mean, I’m smarter than all her other employees. Splicing through the lab security was a piece of cake once I realized I could do it via a hardware splice not a software intrusion. I’ve mostly been using it to keep informed on the various projects CRS has going on, and it’s a good thing, too, as I totally noticed that software intrusion into the datasystems a few days ago that coincided with a visit from Claudia Ambelina. And hey, I managed to salvage some really sweet code out of that. Pax Familiae must have some great engineers. Bae Su-Mi gave me a bonus for catching it so quickly, so I’ve already been useful.

But today, Aeryn #1 (the one that hangs out with those creepy friends, the async, the octopus, and the raven) came to lab #3 with a sack full of cortical stacks and I knew something different was about to happen. Aeryn #1 gets to do all the wacky adventures and go to all the cool parties, so I figured I should get in on that.

I tried too hard, though. I was too enthusiastic, because she gave me the brush-off, sending me back to #3 under some pretense of it being dangerous or whatever. I figured it was cool, I’d just use my lab splice to watch what was going on, but apparently one of Argo’s people is a really savvy hacker and was piggybacking my splice. I’m not even sure how he did that. I imagine he had to be within CRS’s security envelope. Maybe he was using an EM detector/spoofer on the physical wire traffic? I’ll have to look into it. He’s apparently a serial killer, though, so I should probably not look into it TOO closely. Anyway, Argo came and fetched me and escorted me to Lab #3 and I knew I was in trouble. Aeryn threatened to fire me which is so totally unfair. I mean, I haven’t endangered anyone. My hacks even helped prevent a legitimate intrusion from a corporate rival. It sucked.

So she made me remove the kit I’d installed in the walls. Nobody outside could view inside anymore, even me. Fortunately, the DVR systems I installed in the lab surveillance were still operating, so it was just a matter of sneaking into lab #3 after they were done and downloading the footage.

Wow, neat stuff. Apparently there were over twenty cortical stacks that they somehow recovered from Legba! Nine Lives! serious criminal bad mojo! They were worried that some of these stacks might be infected with some sort of really virulent data virus. I mean, the amount of paranoia Argo in particular insisted on seemed completely over the top to me, but they all agreed it was necessary. First, they set up a completely air-gapped simulspace system with attached ego bridge and physical monitoring, like the stone age. I mean, the people on the outside weren’t even watching the interior via the mesh and their ectopic interfaces. It was visual and audio only on a projection-screen. This virus must be crazy-scary, but on the plus side, it means the lab cameras saw everything displayed on the screens.

First, they spun up the stack of a guy named Nkiru Borbely. After some back and forth, Aeryn got him to admit that he was a Reclaimer, and that he had died during an operation on Earth! Apparently he did some crazy high-altitude sky-diving amidst burning wreckage all to find and bring back rare art from some museum in some place called “France.” He and his team fell afoul of headhunter robots and violent nanoswarms, though, and he died horribly. Aeryn did some accelerated psychosurgery, the results of which weren’t displayed, but subsequent conversation revealed a lot about the guy’s contacts in the Reclaimers. He apparently wasn’t “infected” with whatever they were worried about, or at least didn’t seem obviously so, and so they moved on.

Next was a guy I know! Eachann Matevosian is a local name in extreme sports. I’ve watched XP of his Messina Chasma jump and it was exhiliarating! Anyway, apparently this was the long-lost cortical stack from his fatal cloud-dive accident almost three years ago at the Machu Pichu aerostat. I’m surprised anyone recovered that thing, I mean, he fell to the surface of Venus. It doesn’t make any sense. Somehow he ended up in Nine Lives’ hands, though, but apparently he also wasn’t infected. I’ll bet he’ll be glad to get his stack back, provided Aeryn sells it back to him someday.

Next we had a real live Martian Ranger from Mars, Roxana Bach. A bit more than a year ago, she was chasing some “Singularity Seeker” criminal into the Titan Quarantine Zone and died there. Almost the first thing out of her mouth when she was instantiated was to suggest that Aeryn destroy her. Whoah! Aeryn did some deep digging, and told everyone that apparently she got infected with some TITAN fungal bio-weapon… some sort of fungus that invades the body and damages the brain in ways that helps it reproduce. She was able, with great effort of will, to kill herself before the infection spread too quickly. This was, however, not the infection they were worried about. Obviously a fungus can’t transfer via cortical stack, but apparently brain damage can, which is sad. The changes the fungus made to her brain were recorded in her stack, and so the version in the stack would probably be pretty insane if ever put into a body. That seems like the perfect project for Aeryn though! Rehabilitate a real live Martian Ranger! Imagine the ratings she’d get on that one! I mean, the company IS named “Cortical Redemption Systematics” after all.

Next we had a woman from Luna named Lucrece Wragge. She’s apparently a rich kid from one of the Lunar cities who is all caught up in the “Steel Liberator” movement, advocating for the rights of the “clanking masses.” That’s all well and good. Apparently she and her friends were smuggling some hardware over the surface of Luna to aid the cause when they stepped in some TITAN nanoweapon colony lurking in one of the lunar craters left over from the Fall. Apparently folks on Luna know all about the dangers of TITAN nanoswarm attacks, because she managed to remove her helmet and kill herself.

The weird part, though, was how she didn’t tell Aeryn any of this at first. She started to talk about how she should probably not be sent back, then suddenly changed her mind and told Aeryn that she wanted to return to her original self, who is apparently still alive and well, restored from backup, on Luna. This sparked a debate amidst those in the lab, apparently this was a symptom of this virus they were worried about, trying to subvert the host so it can return and spread. They activated some small explosive charges and destroyed the entire hardware setup! Aeryn’s fork and Lucrece, and everything went boom. They isolated the wreckage and had it sent for disassembly and had a whole new system brought in. Whatever this virus is, it’s serious stuff, and they finally found it in this poor lunar girl.

Then they spun up another Martian, this time a guy named Mairwen Puerta, apparently a scavenger at the fringes of the TQZ. He found a cache of illicit goods left behind by some other criminal group and stole it. He fenced most of the other stuff off, but couldn’t figure out what to do with the dozen or so cortical stacks that were part of the stash, so he contacted Nine Lives and tried to sell them. Nine Lives betrayed him and shot him and, apparently, added his cortical stack to the mix. Argo seemed to particularly dislike this guy, and made a number of different arguments for tossing his cortical stack in the disassembler, which seemed a bit harsh considering he was the first person they’d spun up who obviously had no backups and no other forks or instances running around. This would be real death for this guy. Aeryn declined to murder him, though, which was good.

The remaining stacks apparently all came out of the same incident: The Hanshan disaster on Mars. Aeryn spun up Salomea Bartosh, the first of the stacks, and it was pretty awful. The person inside was clearly suffering from some serious body-horror trauma, fixated on the fact that her virtual body was no longer suppurating and mutating. They destroyed that simulspace system just like the Lunar girl’s. Apparently Hanshan is the source of this crazy virus they’re worried about, and this just confirmed to them what happened. That’s messed up because I read about Hanshan, it was apparently a Prosperity Group habitat devoted to creating improved foods and medicines that suffered a contamination outbreak that necessitated the nuclear destruction of the entire habitat. Apparently this crazy virus is what got out. They were talking like maybe Saòirse had been there, and may have had some hand in it, which is kinda terrifying.

The rest of what they did was argue a lot about what they should do with the seemingly uninfected people. I mean, the infected people clearly needed to be disposed of so they couldn’t infect others, although it’s really sad when you consider that none of those Hanshan folks had surviving backups. But I guess they’re already effectively insane, but still, I’d think Aeryn might try to repair some of them. Aeryn seemed fixated on the skydiver and the scavenger because they didn’t “fit the pattern” of the others. I wasn’t entirely sure what the pattern was, but apparently it has to do with viral TITAN weapons. She spent some time wringing those two for details. The fact that shortly after his fatal accident Matevosian got a sponsorship deal from Fa Jing seemed to tell Aeryn and friends a lot more than it told me. As for the scavenger, apparently he had a lot of creepy TITAN related experiences in the TQZ prior to finding his stash, so that seemed to fit.

I hope Aeryn tries to restore the Martian Ranger. That would be a really challenging project! Maybe she can even get the help of Ms. Bach herself, to provide a clean copy of her ego for comparison purposes! That’s a project I really hope she’ll let me help her on.

But who am I kidding. She’ll probably fire me if she finds out I recorded her “super secret” investigations. I deleted the data, and I guess if she manages to crack the encryption on this diary I deserve to be fired. It’s so unfair. I’m the best thing that’s happened to this company in years. I just wish Aeryn could see it.

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Ethical Dilemmas

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The die is cast. 41,765 simulations have directed my choices, but even I can’t account for all variables. Only the truth that I can no longer guarantee the safety of those souls in my care remains constant. I have taken the necessary precautions. I’ve ensured that the gestalt personality construct using Aeryn Taft-Crowley’s name will be present for all significant negotiations. I have chosen to be open with my identity and my purpose with five individuals who, on initial consideration, would not ordinarily be considered “trustworthy” by conventional definitions. But they are most trustworthy to do what is in their natures. They have formed a personal and professional bond, and their Firewall affiliations grant them access to information and resources others might lack and provides a sense of pack or communal bonding that will push against allowing outsiders access to their proprietary knowledge and positions.

Relying on the ambitions and profit-motives of Tari and Blackvein to begin gate-crashing expeditions and ego-smuggling operations to rival the ID Crew will provide a valuable egress for those individuals in my care with poor socialization or criminal or fringer personality types. Although it is a risk letting Blackvein know too much about me, Tari provides a suitable counterpoint and mitigating impulse, and his mercurial personality allows for non-standard reaction-types. It’s a given that she’ll tell him as much as she feels she needs to in order to achieve her ambitions.

They contacted me, and gathering what information they could. Their recent efforts on behalf of Irina Kuznetsova exposed them to the fact of Fa Jing’s clandestine surface mining operations. I filled in some of the puzzle pieces they were missing.

I told them about the extra-solar civilization that sent an expedition through the Venusian gate some years before it was discovered. Marja confirmed that she had extracted a memory from the exsurgents they found guarding the gate of something coming through and dying before it could be infected. While the bodies of these non-transhuman aliens were long destroyed by conditions on the surface, technological artifacts survived. Fa Jing’s mining efforts came upon them, and eventually traced their origin point to the gate. They used their connections with other mining interests to manipulate the Lucifer aerostat into publicly discovering the gate, causing thousands of deaths, so that they might someday seek to purchase gate time to discover the world-of-origin of these artifacts.

I told them that Fa Jing’s corporate behavior after finding these alien artifacts has been contrary to predicted models. It’s not mind control so much as corporate incentives based on data I do not possess. Probability suggests that the artifacts they recovered from Venus matched or confirmed data they already had in their possession from elsewhere. Whatever the case, they appear to be preparing for a First Contact situation with another advanced civilization.

There’s something about this civilization that gives me a “bad feeling.” Unlike transhumans, I know my bad feelings arise from sub-cognitive processes drawing inferences from limited data that I cannot yet fully process, and so I have come to trust them. I know for certain that this alien civilization has access to a gate that leads to Venus, and so my timetable to integrate the 43 million people in my care into greater transhumanity, and provide egress from this world should they wish it, has advanced significantly.

In response to these revelations, Argo’s non-baseline cephalopod-derived psychology activated for solitary, potentially dangerous volunteerism. Marja volunteered to use her asynch talents on fragments of alien technology I have in my care. I am not comfortable calculating the consequences of such an act on Marja or on the solar system as a whole, but should her companions accede, I will permit it.

To accomodate these issues, of course, I granted them free access to Canaan, which should increase their soft-power standing within the Morningstar Constellation and among their respective private contacts and concerns, increasing their profile as intermediaries for the mass transmission of my population.

Before making the trip, however, they had to conclude a matter of complex ethical considerations, and potential long-term consequences.

Hamza al Quraini was dropped off at an appointed time, sleeved in a flat, with no access to mesh inserts, to meet his reception by Marja and Aeryn, with covert support from the rest of their Firewall cell. Hamza is old, cunning, and apparently not bereft of the majority of his knowledge, at least concerning Project Ozma. His presence there, stripped of titles, resources, even mesh access, was due to Marja’s specific request, a fact he made sure to point out when she put on a pleasant, even sympathetic face. He was pragmatic enough, however, to recognize that he needed to make the best of a poor situation. The ethical dilemma was, therefore, what was to be done with a person who could clearly never be trusted, who was mesh-access away from significant contacts, allies, or power, and whose loss of all of those things was due entirely to Marja and the displeasure of his own family.

He made it clear that he had a head full of valuable intelligence that any number of people would kill him to protect, but that he was willing to trade it for protection of his own, and opportunities. While they debated on their private VPN, and Hamza ate pasta puttanesca, the Oversight agent Simone Takahara revealed herself as one of the factions spying on this meeting, proposing to Ricky Thompson that she could arrange significant compensation if they allowed Hamza to be taken into Oversight custody. Takahara’s interest was, ostensibly, to root out Ozma infiltration into her organization, but Marja and Aeryn were hesitant to place such a valuable asset in the hands of the Planetary Consortium no matter the price.

Argo suggested that they might allow him to torture Hamza to death. He did not take kindly to Hamza threatening his daughter those months ago.

The dilemma hovered around the problem of simply letting him go. Returning his agency to him might be ethical, but there would then be little stopping him from developing a long-term and elaborate revenge. The other options, however, of keeping some degree of control over him, universally resulted in either physical damage or psychosurgical interrogation. When Hamza himself was presented with the options before them, he suggested that they take Takahara’s offer, wring Oversight of blackmail information on PC hypercorporations as part payment, but let him make a few calls first so he might arrange a softer landing once he arrives on Mars.

They chose not to do that. As a compromise, they contacted Rathe Aptuur and placed him into the custody of the Morningstar Constellation’s Diplomatic corps. He will doubtless be an excellent intelligence asset for them… at least until he leverages himself into a more solid position of power and influence.

The whole process proved fascinating to observe. I noted at least three other clandestine, interested parties in the vicinity of the sidewalk restaurant where he was dropped. Analysis indicates an agent of Ozma, a representative of at least one faction of the Al Quraini family, and a Firewall proxy responsible for potential “erasure” situations. None of them appeared willing to act lest they antagonize the others, and they all departed once Aptuur was contacted.

This has further heightened the government profiles of my chosen intermediaries. The time has come to open formal negotiations.

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Family Reunions

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I’m home.

It’s been five years objective time, three years subjective time. I arrived on the Gulag Archipelago and found myself in a simulspace rather than a body. I suppose I can’t really blame Dominic for being cautious, particularly after I learned what he’s been through these past few months. He was there with mom and Kiril and few other folks I didn’t know, but had heard of from Father Aguilar before departing Venus. It was odd, trying to prove to them that I was who I believe I am while also keeping Firewall secrets from mom. I had already learned that, during my couple of years being dead, Dominic and Kiril had become sentinels. Mom, though, would not appreciate being made aware of such things.

Fortunately, after some hours of reminiscence, they were convinced and they put me back in my original birth body. I’m a bit surprised they still had it lying around, but like mom said, morphs are valuable. I try not to think of what my body’s been up to the last five years without me. Probably best that way.

Dominic’s fellow sentinels are interesting people. I caught a mesh-feed video of Kiril trying out some new bat-like morph developed by Laufey and the other avian Argonauts on the Moreaux. Apparently he could “hear” some sort of weird music that seemed to be originating from a distant red star. Apparently, some of the genetic material used in the morph was derived from xenofauna procured by the scum of Carnivale. It warranted some interest, as whatever species of creature it came from seemed to react oddly with Kiril’s async nature. But Laufey is looking into it, and they haven’t started production of their new morphs beyond prototype phase, so… not much to do about it right now unless we want to travel to Carnivale… not the worst idea.

Another is Vilya Skaarsgard, the former Martian Ranger who went after Ad Hoc Genesystems’ HQ on Extropia when I failed my own mission on Venus. Her story and mine are oddly similar. Although she succeeded, she effectively died and was out of circulation for nearly two years. In her case, though, she was shipped as an empty morph to Kiril, apparently under the assumption that he would sleeve into her and accidentally over-write her ego, effectively killing her. Whoever did this didn’t know of his particular talents, and she survived the process. I find it interesting that the two Firewall sentinels who went after Ad Hoc both ended up with two-year lapses of continuity. At least I didn’t experience a whole alternate life in a seed-ASI simulation. That experience seems to have cracked Dominic a bit. He seems utterly convinced that he’s still in a simulation, and has even managed to organize a loose confederation of scientists and crackpots. Sigh.

They all seemed grateful to have me back, though, which is nice. They put a lot of thought into a suitable gift to send the Venus cell of Firewall sentinels in gratitude for bringing me back to life. I hope they like what they all came up with.

The Archipelago was apparently on its last week’s approach to the moon of Callisto on a slingshot around Jupiter’s gravity well out into the long dark on the way to Saturn. Most everyone was preparing for the party that would start as soon as we got within shuttle range of Hyoden. Dominic and his sentinel cell, however, were getting down to work. Imagine my surprise to discover their proxy was a girl who was just twelve when I left. Still, she seems good at her job, which is to know lots of things, and keep in contact with lots of different people.

We turned our attention to the problem of Fa Jing. I was killed, apparently, because I uncovered their covert surface-mining activities on Venus… activities they were so keen on keeping secret that they were willing to expose a “Nataraja” morph to public view, and kill every Firewall asset on Venus, and every backup they could find. Nataraja morphs have only been seen on two other occasions I knew about: a disastrous “whaling” expedition launched by Miyoko Batongbacal that was attacked before Batongbacal nuked the entire asteroid, whaling party, attackers and all, and the slaughter of most of the Go-Nin Group’s board of directors on Luna preliminary to the deal that sold Fa Jing the Eris gate. After some discussion, it seemed clear that there were two broad avenues of investigation, and that we could leave the Venusian angle to Aeryn Taft-Crowley’s cell while we focused on the Locus whaling expedition.

Kshatra seemed particularly driven to hurt Fa Jing, although his admitted motives were more about channeling some family-related drama into something useful. Barking Dog told me, quietly, that in the simulated reality he and my brother and the others had been caught in, Kshatra had discovered a brother. I’m not sure how this relates to family issues in the real world, but I didn’t feel it appropriate to pry. Kshatra spent a lot of time talking with Batongbacal, and we all put our heads together to try to figure out the point of origin on the mysterious Kuiper belt object that Fa Jing was transporting to Mars under the guise of a terraforming run.

Barking Dog suggested that, since we were slingshotting around Jupiter, we could try to hack into Euanthe’s data systems to get slingshot data from when the Fa Jing tug and its rock came sunward. Turns out, we didn’t need it. Echo pulled the data out of her head in a way that clearly baffled her companions (and, I admit, me). It seems she does this sort of thing a lot, however… just knows random things she shouldn’t be able to know.

Kshatra did a lot of math, tracing it past Jupiter and out to Uranus, and narrowed the rock’s point of origin to a particular slice of the Kuiper Belt. This slice was nowhere near the Eris gate, shooting down a theory that Fa Jing was transporting something from an extra-solar planet. Between these calculations and his discussions with Batongbacal, Kshatra developed a theory that Fa Jing came upon something in the Kuiper Belt… something powerful, dangerous, or just really valuable. They carted it sunward under the guise of a terraforming run, but had the tug escorted by a frigate with at least one Nataraja aboard, just out of easy sensor range. This explains its rapid arrival on the scene of the whaling expedition. It also explains why the Nataraja engaged a boarding action rather than just attack the whaler’s ship… They wanted to determine how much the whalers knew, and whether they’d got the data off the rock yet. Batongbacal detonated the nuke because whatever they found down there was too dangerous to let out.

That’s the going theory. The rock was blown apart long enough ago, and far enough away, that finding any remnants was… impractical. That left looking into its point of origin. The Kuiper belt is… um… vast. It would take a fast ship eight subjective months and 40 objective years to get out there, and we don’t have that kinda time. Our only real shot, then, is to egocast out and procure local transport. That left the challenge of finding an egocaster within a wedge of space that is small in terms of its percentage of the overall arc of the belt, but still huge in terms of being able to actually search it for anything useful.

Vilya called in some favors and found a story that makes every horrible alien thing I’ve seen pale when compared to the awful that normal humans are capable of. It seems, well within that wedge of space, there is a large converted orehauler ship named the Scylla. It has a crew of one… or billions, depending on how you count. This man, Reyes, has been powering his vessel out and away from the solar system for years, with apparently no interest in ever returning. He shares his ship with an ever-expanding set of simulspace processing servers, his ship harvesting raw materials from the Kuiper Belt as he passes to fabricate more and more storage capacity. In this vast and growing simulspace he long ago copied himself under a regimen that sees each ego in the simulspace copied four times every five minutes of objective time. Each copy is modified with a randomly-generated alteration in the data. The whole thing runs at maximum time dilation, and the purpose appears to be accelerated evolution. Billions of beings, all distantly descended from Reyes’ original fork, live, fight, and die, constantly being copied, constantly mutating, in service to some perverted evolution.

Nobody would really know about this except one of the inmates escaped. Somehow a resident of the simulspace hijacked the Scylla’s egocasting capability, and the signal was picked up by Cognite. They “own” the escapee (who, as a fork with dramatic variance from his original, has no legal rights on Mars). We decided that, even if our interest in the Kuiper belt proves to be a dead end, the Scylla is something we need to deal with. We needed to find a way to spring this ego from Cognite’s most secure facilities on the moon of Phobos.

Apparently, springing imprisoned AGIs and other infolife is a thing that certain elements of the Archipelago do for fun. We called up a dashing fellow who seemed inordinately full of himself named Krzystof Singh, apparently the local expert on stealing egos from Cognite and others like it. He was naked in a pile of naked people, but seemed to have the time to talk. Kshatra turned into… um… I have no idea what he turned into. It seems clear there’s some sort of hero worship going on there. We told him the target, and he told us how hard that would be, but promised to look into it. He suggested we find a Cognite employee we could subvert.

Kiril considered, and contacted his “mother”, Dr. Amelia Sheppard. After the collapse of the Futura project, she left Cognite and works now for Acumenic on Bright. Apparently she’s been maintaining contact with a covert network of Lost over the years, and she seemed happy to hear from Kiril. She even egocast a fork over to talk to us. She seemed nice. She seemed to genuinely care how Kiril was doing, and gave Kiril contact information for another Lost named Marja deWinter. We told her what we wanted, and she made some inquiries. It turns out, she was able to use some of her discretionary budget to simply buy the ego we wanted. It seemed Cognite had already got everything they deemed valuable out of studying him.

When we instantiated him into a simulspace though, things got… odd. His name was Red and he was not even a little bit human-looking. He had a powerful presence and I was glad I wasn’t in the simulspace with him. He seemed like an entity that had lived for over four-thousand years in a world of utter savagery… which he casually told us he had. Considering the millions of years of subjective time that has elapsed in the simulspace that birthed him, that’s not even a significant percentage. It seemed apparent that the paradigm of his existence was dramatically different than ours, but his time with Cognite had given him enough tools to communicate. He gave us some valuable intel on the Scylla.

It appears that the ship’s egocasting receiver is always on, and just pipes whatever it receives directly into the simulspace, adding more fodder to the evolutionary grinder. The trick would be to convince Reyes to instantiate us into something less brutal. Red suggested that we present ourselves as fellow believers in his insane cause, and offer copies of ourselves in exchange for his help in our Kuiper belt search. This, understandably, caused some consternation. Kiril in particular seemed certain that after a few thousand years, any mental descendants of his would be itching to murder him if they ever escaped. Kshatra suggested we all equip our informorphs with copylocks and autodelete systems. This idea had some promise, and piqued Red’s interest. He seemed to believe that if he were armed with such technology, he could return “home” and use his “magic” to spread it to others (magic = limited admin access… apparently one of the random variances the system developed was giving inhabitants various degrees of control over their environment. This is how he escaped in the first place).

Our discussions did not reach a resolution. Are we willing to engage in the horror that is Reyes and the Scylla just to have a chance at discovering what it was Fa Jing found out in the distant dark?

I, for one, think I need to go see another Cirque Eloize performance. Apparently being spared a full-on war with the Jovian Republic has put the people of Hyoden and Gerðr into a partying mood. The Archipelago is full of drunk, stoned, naked people. Ah, home again.

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Cold Case

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Pax Familiae Encryption Polyalgorithm 565
Data Brokerage Division
Amalgamated Summary 87823203.4

Collated data streams with keywords:
Aeryn Taft-Crowley
Saòirse Wednesday / Satori Teagan / Marja DeWinter
Tari
Argo
Ricky Thompson
Lucifer Gate
Cloud-9
Firewall
Fa Jing
Irina Kuznetsova
“Nataraja” morph

Analyze and Extrapolate

A mesh search originating from the R&D Department of the Egonomics corporation (Tari) on the subject of “Irina Kuznetsova” discovered the XP of her assassination at the hands of one of Fa Jing’s “Nataraja” morphs on Aphrodite Prime. A meshcrawler AGI working for the Tabula Rasa corporation (a wholly owned subsidiary of the Overwatch corporation out of Gerlach, itself a wholly owned subsidiary of Fa Jing) discovered the search, and also discovered the XP file, and engaged in a cleanse and purge.

(Note to the Mimetic and Data Lure Divisions, re-insert that XP into the Venusian mesh in 4.34 hours)

Aggregated XP from the Octavia aerostat noticed sudden activity from Firewall assets: Aeryn Taft-Crowley, Argo, Ricky Thompson, and Saòirse Wednesday, along with Argo’s mercenary band. All parties converged on Egonomics. These parties, with the addition of Tari, relocated to the central offices of Cortical Redemption Systematics utilizing maximum tactical cover, as if protecting an asset of extreme value, or worried about an imminent, overwhelming attack.

Shortly thereafter, Firewall Proxies Father Ruiz Aguilar and Keiko Fisher arrived at CRS. They departed 22.3 minutes later.

Shortly thereafter, Argo and Saòirse Wednesday departed CRS, unaccompanied, and disappeared into the lower levels of Octavia. (Analysis: 94.6% chance of meeting with “Seven”, ID Crew Asset, morph smuggling operations). Emerged in the company of Celestin Vermette (see tags: Starboy, Starboy and the Starboys, Experia Corporation). Proceeded to a low-rent body-bank to procure empty biomorph (see tag: Teagan Adianes). Returned to CRS.

Saòirse Wednesday contacted Claudia Ambelina-444Zeta, arranged meeting with Claudia Ambelina-445-Beta at CRS offices. 445-Beta was not permitted beyond front lobby and attached conference room, but was able to slip an “Ambergris” level intrusion system into the local mesh. Estimated data retrieval before discovered: 21.3%. Only data relevant to this collated report is the active use of CRS systems by new inhabitant of the Teagan Adianes morph: Irina Kuznetsova.

Analysis of external mesh activity suggests a 77.3% probability that Irina was a backup created somewhere between 2 and 3 weeks prior to her public assassination. Considering Firewall connections to local ID Crew, and probability that she was a Firewall asset, Analysis predicts they were holding an unofficial, “dark” backup that the original assassination purge missed. Unknown at this time why it took nearly two years for them to contact Firewall about her.

445-Beta engaged local Firewall assets, plus Celestin, in profitable exchange of information. Subjects of their inquiry: historical information on biological experiments being performed on now-destroyed Cloud-9 aerostat, particularly by Ad Hoc Genesystems, Incorporated. Informed them that Ad Hoc had a hidden lab on Cloud-9 focused on developing biological systems capable of surviving the Venusian atmosphere. Informed them that these assets were shut down and sold to a Fa Jing subsidiary shortly after Ad Hoc’s central assets on Extropia were destroyed in an act of presumed corporate sabotage (i.e. Firewall operation).

They inquired into the Nataraja morph, and revealed pre-existing knowledge of it’s hypercorporate manufacturer. They seemed very interested in the threads of connection between Fa Jing, Ad Hoc, Irina Kuznetsova, and the Skinthetic corporation of Extropia. Their primary concern appeared to be exsurgent experimentation, specifically surrounding the former exsurgent guardians of the Lucifer gate, and the possibility that they provided origin strains for Extropian or Fa Jing research.

As the exchange of hard information waned into speculation, 445-Beta pointed out that the chances of the Lucifer aerostat randomly choosing to put down anchor and begin mining operations within meters of the gate was so slim as to be statistically impossible. The aerostat was manipulated into going precisely there. Unfortunately, subsequent dataphage virus infestation of Lucifer destroyed any navigation or corporate mining data that would lead us to the likely culprit, but it was someone with unusual knowledge of the surface of Venus, capable of discovering a gate, complete with exsurgent guardians, keep it a secret, and manipulate a hapless aerostat into finding it.

445-Beta also pointed out that Fa Jing’s primary business focus was mining and energy, and that theoretically there could be any number of hidden mining operations on the surface provided those operations were sponsored by organizations with sufficient resources.

Firewall assets were troubled by the timing of events. They revealed inadvertently that Irina Kuznetsova was investigating Cloud-9, and was perhaps assassinated by a Fa Jing “Nataraja” for what she found, but the bombing of Ad Hoc Genesystems on Extropia by Firewall asset Vilya Skaarsgard happened 2.5 months later, precipitating the purchase of local Ad Hoc assets by Fa Jing. If they did not yet own Cloud-9 assets, what could Irina have seen that was so damaging as to be worth exposing a Nataraja to public XP feeds?

445-Beta departed. (File note: schedule follow-up contact with Celestin for unrelated business proposition).

Ambergris worm revealed that CRS nearly immediately began an elaborate simulspace reconstruction of the Aphrodite Prime aerostat, focusing on small craft and yacht pylons. Irina, with accompaniment, entered the simulspace. Full data not available, but analysis predicts an attempt at re-creating her return from her expedition in hopes that she was able to hide data for fear of assassination. Chances of any data cache still being present two years later were slim, but almost immediately the entire group, complete with military assets, took suborbital transport to Aphrodite Prime where Celestin performed an “impromptu” concert outside an otherwise nondescript coffee shop. The concert was seeded well in advance through Celestin’s social network, and a crowd of more than 50 fans appeared almost instantly, acting as a seed mob for further growth. Under cover of the concert, the Firewall assets slipped away, entering maintenance areas of the aerostat.

There is no data on what they encountered there, but upon emerging, there were signs of blood and injury on some parties, and one local PF asset indicated a “sense of purpose” to their body language. Analysis predicts a 51.4% chance that they found reasonably intact data of Irina’s mission and its consequences and aftermath. Wounded party returned to Octavia, whereupon they sent an immediate, encrypted data packet to the Morningstar Constellation Diplomatic Corp offices, care of Rathe Aptuur.

My asset within Rathe’s organization informs me that the data concerns a hidden mining aerostat operated by Fa Jing. As of two years ago, it was operating in grid 36 at a low elevation.

Collation of circumstantial evidence allows the following reconstruction: Irina Kuznetsova did not find Cloud-9, but stumbled instead upon a secret Fa Jing operation focused on the surface of Venus. She must have tripped security measures or was otherwise observed. In the three or more days it would take her small craft to return to Aphrodite Prime, Fa Jing assembled the necessary assets to assassinate her, alongside every other known Firewall asset on Venus, and destroy all known backups.

Analysis predicts that Fa Jing is aware of these activities, at least in broad strokes, particularly since Tari alerted a Fa Jing subsidiary to her investigation at the very beginning. Analysis predicts, however, that they have insufficient assets on site to take direct action against Firewall assets, and will instead be preparing response policies, infosec tactics, and mimetic strikes to counter any Morningstar mimetics.

Conclusion: Data in this report has a value index of very high to Fa Jing for the next three days, whereupon the value diminishes with Fa Jing resource investment.

Proposal: Sell this data to Fa Jing immediately to maximize profit, and minimize Fa Jing military assets on Morningstar aerostats. This preserves Morningstar profit-centers and does not disrupt local Pax Familiae operations.

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Clandestine Maneuvering

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Composite AI Muse Construct, Designated “Cybele”, Log Kiril Fortuna-1683

little girl’s voice the plan relied too heavily on us. What if we failed? What if he had somehow been protected? We couldn’t save Irina, what if transitions slowly to a more masculine tone we had let ourselves get killed? What if we’re worrying too much more huskiness enters the voice it needed to be done.

After some shuttling and planning, we rendezvoused back on Hyoden. It would seem that while we prepared our plan to assassinate Director Marcelo Vasena, Chief of Operations for the Security Council of the Jovian Republic, Yulia Kuznetsova and a small team of others from the Gulag Archipelago were invited to a diplomatic summit on Europa, clearly backed by other elements of the Security Council. We had the transitions to a deeper male voice data that Director McFarlane provided, the rest was on us. We found Eric Ehlman, the former lover of Roland Farnsworth, and from him procured entrance codes to his apartment with the secret love-nest / bolt hole. We also got a contact name for a criminal and smuggler named Dickey. Dickey had apparently been the source of the explosives that Kshatra used on our last visit. Once again, Pam Rishi and her smuggler friend Cesar came through for us. The route into Gerðr was far more complicated this time. The colony had become virtually a barracks for Jovian ground troops, and everyone expected an invasion of Hyoden any day now. Things in the colony itself were far different as well. Soldiers were everywhere, barracked in private residences, spilling into the street, patrolling, checking ID. Although we opted not to bring one of the Roland Farnsworths with us, we did arrange ahead of time for valid-seeming Gerðr ID as citizen-miners. We made our way to Eric’s apartment intending to use his hidden bolt-hole once more as a safe house.

The apartment had five soldiers in it. They looked up and transitions to a softer, more melodic voice saw three miners (Dominic, Echo, and Kiril in basic splicer morphs), one of whom was wearing a bulky backpack (Kshatra in a mimic synthmorph) standing awkwardly in the door. Their suspicions were aroused, and their leader dragged us into the room and began questioning us. Kiril reached out briefly imposed his ego on one of the other soldiers, who shot his superior officer, whereupon violence ensued. There were minor flesh wounds to go around, but in the end, four soldiers were dead, and the fifth was dragged into the bolt-hole as a prisoner after we wrote “Freedom for Gerðr” in blood on a wall.

As the violence was investigated, and the missing fifth soldier suspected, we stayed quiet down below for the hours until the manhunt went further afield and the investigators departed. We then interrogated our prisoner, Corporal Arturo Vasquez of the Republic Marines. Kiril caressed his flesh, gazed into his dilating eyes, and read his inner hopes, fears, and guilt. He was a transitions to a higher, more feminine tone true-believer, a marine who saw ambition and officer’s rank in his future, who regretted bad blood with his mother. Kiril and Kshatra explained that he was being hunted for killing his fellows, but that there was a way out of his predicament. He became more and more confused until Dominic stepped in and did that strange thing he can do where he convinces people of anything. He convinced Corporal Vasquez that we were SCI covert operations, working for General Monica Contreras to “cut the rot out” of the Jovian Republic. Dominic showed him the Maui Patera footage. Dominic soon had a true-believer Jovian Marine willing to help us for the good of the Republic. He gave us military tac-net access and a lot of other raw data. Our ability to move about the habitat was vastly improved.

We settled on our plan. Dominic and Kiril would infiltrate the main hall of the administrative building for Director Vasena’s speech. Echo and Kshatra would plant false nuclear devices that we had arranged to fabricate in Hyoden around the city, keyed so that the radiological material hidden within would be suddenly visible to security scanners at the opportune moment to cause chaos and aid in our escape. Echo somehow procured a guest list for the 31 people permitted to be physically present in the hall for the speech, which would otherwise be broadcast on Republic media. We selected two, the head of the local mining guild, and the administrator of garbage collection and recycling, based on the fact that they did not have relatives or close associates also present, and so physical disguise might permit Dominic and Kiril to not be immediately spotted as suspicious. We needed materials to complete these disguises. We went to find Dickey.

Dickey was contactable through transitions to an even higher register, almost childlike voice the very same bar we stumbled into on our last visit, encumbered by musical instrument cases, where the bartender seemed curiously indifferent to our obvious lack of local knowledge. It would appear that bar was a front for Gerðr’s criminal enterprises, and with the right phrases and references, we were led to the basement levels where Dickey was hiding out. We left the negotiations to Kshatra, who managed to keep us from having to have psychosurgical edits to cover for Dickey’s involvement. Ultimately he called in “Amanda” and “Jonas”, who entered the room and were immediately recognized as the couple who had followed us into the bar on our previous visit, the other spies who similarly had difficulty with local currency, yet who were bought-off by Kshatra. After dancing verbally around our identities, we showed our cards. They were spies of the Titanian Commonwealth, on a long term surveillance mission. Their task was to establish networks of assets and intelligence for Titan. They agreed to lend their networks on Gerðr to our purpose. We offloaded the task of planting and activating the fake nukes to them, and trusted them to run interference to insure that the real mining guild leader and garbage collection administrator didn’t make it to the speech.

With the groundwork laid, the rest went as well as one might expect. Dominic and Kiril voice deepens slowly to the timbre of a young boy walked right into the administrative building under the disguises arranged by Amanda and Jonas, and applied by Echo, with the mesh-ID credentials spoofed by Kshatra. They kept to themselves, but drew some attention from the copy of Roland Farnsworth that Director Vasena and the Jovians had brought with them… copies of the entire Planning Council had clearly been dowloaded and extensively altered in psychosurgery to publicly recant and disclaim the “false” broadcast as part of Director Vasena’s PR blitz toward war. Fortunately the psychosurgery seemed to have left this version of Farnsworth unsure of the validity of his memory and so he did not sound the alarm.

Security locked down tight. Media drones swarmed. Elite soldiers entered with Director Vasena. He began his speech. It was the voice deepens, seems to age, perhaps a teenaged girl’s voice usual fascist rhetoric, claiming vast conspiracies of enemies that need to be crushed, pleading the case for conquering and unifying the whole Jovian system. Right before the part where he was to call upon his pet Farnsworth, Kiril reached out. He didn’t fail.

The closest elite soldier, with exquisite precision, blew the contents of Director Vasena’s head all over the crowd. Kiril worked his mouth and vocal cords to shout “Freedom for Gerðr” before his companions killed him and ordered everyone onto the ground with hands behind their heads. A few of the attendees were panicking, screaming. They did not immediately comply and were gunned down. The troops started shooting media drones and media figures for information control. Dominic and Kiril complied with all orders and were not shot.

Soldiers stormed the room, intending on arresting everyone and locking the entire place down. At that poing, and all-systems, all-channels emergency beacon sounded announcing the activation of multiple nuclear devices and calling for the immediate evacuation of all Republic military personnel. The soldiers apparently decided that surviving was more important than arresting everybody. Dominic and Kiril left the building as part of a fleeing mass. We rendezvoused back at Eric’s bolt-hole where we had left Corporal Vasquez.

Echo and Kshatra had infiltrated the escape tunnels underneath the Administration building to cover for Dominic and Kiril if things had gone poorly. Kshatra transformed his mimic morph into another fake nuclear device and the threat of its imminent detonation got them past responding security forces to rendezvous with us.

It didn’t take long for Republic engineers to determine the bombs were false, and the entire colony went into lockdown. It wasn’t until the next day that we risked emerging to return to Dickey’s bunker. Dicky was transitions to a deeper, teenaged boy’s voice unhappy to see us, and even less happy to see that we brought a Republic soldier with us, but he played along as another “deep cover Republic intelligence operative” before taking the Corporal away for some memory alteration. It was another day before he was able to arrange to smuggle us back to Hyoden. From there we returned to the Gulag Archipelago.

For two days we watched and waited, the only reliable news coming from Hyoden as the Republic fleets retreated to Ganymede and Io. Republic media was locked down. After those two days, the Republic transmitted the following message from Commander in Chief, General Monica Contreres:

“People of the Jovian Republic, the Jovian system, and the solar system at large, I come before you with a message of strength and resolve. We are the last bastion of true humanity, surrounded by those who seek our destruction or assimilation. Where these enemies cannot defeat our great military in open war, they choose instead to use trickery and deceit. Enemies of the Republic have sought to use our loyal client habitat of Gerðr to manipulate us into a wasteful, pyrrhic war; to spill our blood and treasure to the point of weakness and vulnerability. To bog us down in the twin quagmires of Hyoden and Europa while they prepare, in secret, to bring about our destruction. The provocations these anarchists have inflicted upon us seem too great to bear, this slander of everything we stand for designed cunningly to provoke an angry, unreasoning response. We will not be fooled. The Jovian Republic condemns the acts of terrorism and assassination in Gerðr, but will not be provoked to our own destruction. We will leave it to our intelligence services to counter these ploys while our military continues to stand strong in defense of our habitats and our people. Gerðr will continue to be a loyal client habitat, run by the very Planning Council these anarchists would have you believe went rogue. The status quo will endure, and we will not be diminished.”

Moments later, Yulia returned from Europa, exhausted from the diplomacy that no doubt contributed to the Republic’s new foreign stance. She brought a guest with her. Morena Aguirre, who we first met as “Natasha” on Gerðr, egocast to the Icebox to talk to us. This was a very non-Jovian thing of her to do, but we transitions to a deeper male voice met with her anyway. She thanked us on behalf of Director McFarlane and General Contreres, indicating that both owes us an “unofficial” favor. After a brief conferral, Dominic asked that Gerðr be officially liberated. Although Aguirre couldn’t speak for the Commander in Chief, she indicated that at this point cutting Gerðr loose was entirely possible, given some time for things to die down. We are still owed a favor by Director McFarlane, but as a “gesture of gratitude and goodwill” Aguirre transmitted a file to Dominic and Kiril… the complete intelligence file that the Republic has on the “Nataraja” morph.

As can be seen in the file, it’s a specialty morph built by the Fa Jing corporation, and there was one other sighting… a Locus-based whaling expedition that went catastrophically wrong. Kshatra called his contact on Locus, Miyoko Batongbacal, to inquire. She confirmed that there had been a catastrophic “whaling” incident where she, apparently, had nuked her entire crew, along with the comet they were “whaling”, the ship that was towing the comet, and the ship that was attacking them. Since she died as well, and was restored from backup, she had no idea what would have caused her to do such a thing. She freely shared voice transitions to something oddly androgynous all the evidence of the investigation, which included the video her ship’s AGI was able to get past the jamming. Echo analyzed it. It seems Batongbacal found something in the heart of that comet, although there’s no indication of what it was. Fa Jing sent an attack ship with at least one “Nataraja” to intercept the whalers. Batongbacal detonated everything.

That’s when Echo voiced the fact that Fa Jing controls the Eris gate, far out in the Kuiper belt. Fa Jing also is a major stakeholder in the Martian terraforming industry which involves towing icy comets from the Kuiper belt to Mars. We speculated that if Fa Jing had pulled something through a gate and wanted to transport it in secret, they would do so by burying it in ice and towing it as part of their ongoing ice-hauling operations.

Whatever it was, whatever brought a Nataraja down on Batongbacal’s crew, remains unknown. The timing, however, was curious… Kioroshi Inagawa’s original expedition, on behalf of Oversight, to Turing was shortly after the disaster. Her co-lead on the operation was originally a Fa Jing security operative. It seemed plausible that a secondary objective was to search for any remains of what Batongbacal detonated in the Jovian Trojans. He never got the chance. We got his name, though. Han Xiaoping.

Curious.

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Ethical Considerations

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Personal Archive – Echo – Alpha-7 class AI Muse, modeled on a Beta-fork of Aeryn Taft-Crowley

I’ve been re-integrated with my counterpart who accompanied Aeryn to Legba. The data proved most interesting, notwithstanding the sharp, painful part there at the very end where we both died. Aeryn here on Venus had to finesse his resleeving-insurance company into releasing into his care a sudden, unexpected alpha fork making use of an emergency farcaster, but everything seemed to work out. By the time we got re-integrated, Ricky and Saòirse were beginning to receive reports from their other selves in transit away from Legba.

Prior to our Legba selves reporting on their success, we were mostly pre-occupied with the unfortunate news out of Gerðr. It seems the socio-political situation in the Jovian system is getting out of hand. Of particular interest to us was the fact that 28 administrators of the colony chose to broadcast their egos to every neutrino receiver in the solar system. One could write this off as mere ignorance on their part, but it’s clear that at least one of them, their leader, Roland Farnsworth, planned it this way. The Morningstar government has already dedicated mesh-enabled server-space for the simulspace they arrived in so that Farnsworth and his people can grant interviews with the press and otherwise engage via the mesh as “political infugees”. Aeryn and company had a long talk with Father Aguilar about what’s going on out there, and it seems other Firewall assets are engaged with it, so we’ll just keep an eye on developments and focus our efforts elsewhere… like Skinthetic, for instance.

The catastrophic failure of Skinthetic’s prototype biomorph for Venusian surface-life may have been written off as a design failure, but we suspect it was caused by contact with a somehow-surviving colony of the lethal nanoswarm that Ricky developed some months ago for killing the exsurgents guarding the Lucifer gate. This would mean that Skinthetics morph used enough similar biological elements to activate the nanoswarm. It looks like our next operation will be to pay a little visit to Extropia to find out what Skinthetic is hiding.

Until then, however, we had an intense discussion over how best to deal with a certain “Kyoshi”, real name Rokuzawa Chi, the houngan psychosurgeon extracted by our Legba-forks. Argo made a passionate case for destroying the cortical stack and killing the beta fork of Chi present on the ship. He argued that Chi was a slaver who sold an ego to Nine Lives just to get access to ethically dubious psychosurgical scientific data. This made her a reprehensible person who needed to die. Saòirse agreed, at first, in principle, as did Ricky. Only Aeryn held out, arguing that murdering Chi was, perhaps, not proportional to the crime. Ultimately, we called Father Aguilar, who seemed almost pained at the situation.

It would appear that Father Aguilar knows Rokuzawa Chi. Some of her many forks are apparently Firewall proxies. It seems clear that Father Aguilar, personally, does not like her at all, but he did outline some options ranging from turning her in to the Titanian authorities or handing her over to Firewall who would give her some sort of internal due process, and also permit the scientific data she gathered from Legba to be recovered.

After some further debate, we chose the latter. Ricky communicated with his fork aboard their ship and they now plan to transmit Chi off to parts unknown to meet a Firewall internal tribunal.

Shortly after this debate concluded, Saòirse surprised us by inviting us to participate in an extremely exclusive scientific conference. So incredibly exclusive was it that it had only three invitees, brought to Aphrodite Prime at great expense and across vast depths of space. This was, in short, Noor al Quraini making good on the first of Saòirse’s conditions and arranging a meeting with the three scientists in charge of the Futura project.

Saòirse brought Aeryn, Argo, and Ricky to flesh out the conference a bit and they waited, enjoying the full buffet, until Dr. Amelia Sheppard arrived in a fancy hyperbright morph, followed by Dr. Aaron Bharani in a more standard menton and Dr. Antonio Pascal in a savant synthmorph.

As soon as they realized who they all were, the shouting began.

It would appear that Dr. Sheppard and Dr. Pascal, in particular, have a long-running feud of significant personal animosity. Dr. Bharani used the cover of the shouting to try to find out from Aeryn what was really going on. Saòirse quickly took control of things, however, introducing herself by her original name, which Sheppard and Pascal, at least, immediately recognized.

Upon realizing they had walked into a trap, their responses were mixed, but Saòirse sought to allay their fear, claiming to want to ask questions about her own creation. Although I’ve stored a transcript of the full discussion for later review, I’ll summarize here.

The Futura Project was a joint scientific endeavor headed by Hanto Genomics and Cognite, with a number of lesser service providers. Dr. Pascal was project lead, and an employee of Hanto while Dr. Sheppard and Dr. Bharani were Cognite employees in charge of different aspects of the simulspace development of the Futura subjects. The plan was ambitious, with the aim of revitalizing public morale after the loss of more than 95% of transhumanity in the Fall, while also pioneering technologies of rapid clone growth and simulspace child rearing.

Technical details aside, the first sign that something was going wrong was about a year into the 3-year project when the children were, subjectively, around 6 years old. There was a noted increase in antisocial behaviors that resulted in Dr. Pascal signing off on a change to the discipline and socialization regimens. All this did, however, was teach the children to be better at hiding their emerging sociopathy.

4 subjective years later, the first deaths began. They appeared to be accidents at first, but soon the researchers realized that the children were killing each other. Dr. Sheppard strongly advocated for stopping the project, but Dr. Pascal refused. Shortly thereafter, one of the three facilities suffered sabotage. A handful of the children apparently managed to get themselves embodied and escaped in the physical world, causing significant property damage. Dr. Pascal started shouting insinuations at Dr. Bharani who straight up admitted to orchestrating the “jailbreak.” For probably the first time since the Futura project itself, he openly admitted to sabotage right before his more publicly-known actions of forking himself out of his own facility in order to go public with what he knew, a public-relations disaster that was the beginning of the end of the Futura Project.

The rest is public record. The Project failed, blame was thrown around inconclusively. Hanto Genomics went bankrupt, its assets sold to other hungry hypercorps (and its rapid clone-growth technologies ultimately entering the mainstream). Dr. Sheppard admitted that she launched an investigation with Cognite backing into what went wrong, but discovered that a large number of records held by Hanto were simply missing. She clearly blamed Dr. Pascal, insinuating purposeful data destruction and obstruction.

It wasn’t until Dr. Pascal was questioned directly on how, exactly, Watts-MacLeod ended up infecting the entire project that things started to get tense again. He claimed, truthfully, that back then, nobody knew what Watts-MacLeod was. As far as he knew, it was some sort of data virus or other anomaly messing with the carefully-calibrated simulspace. He believed it was corporate espionage and sabotage by rivals. He even revealed low-level researchers who had violated protocols and were let go from the project at around the subjective 6-year mark, but claimed he hadn’t thought much about them.

Ricky, however, decided to dig deeper. Since Pascal was currently in a cyberbrain, Ricky sent forth his intrusion software and was able to extract a name: Erin Johansson. Upon being confronted by this name, and essentially threatened by Argo, he caved and in what was probably another historical first, admitted the full extent of his knowledge. He had, in fact, arranged for Johansson’s capture and virtual interrogation. He didn’t get much before Johansson activated a self-delete and data corruption system, but Johannson was, in fact, a corporate saboteur who purposely introduced Watts-MacLeod into the Futura systems. Dr. Pascal didn’t know exactly which of Hanto’s corporate rivals arranged for this, but he narrowed his suspicions based on who would profit most from Hanto’s sudden bankruptcy: Experia, Fa Jing, and Stellar Intelligence. Dr. Pascal spent the next two years desperately trying to ensure a profit from a project that had already been sabotaged, blocking all attempts to pull the plug, and generally pushing for a profitable successful resolution.

Dr. Bharani’s public statements effectively put an end to his hopes, however. The Project was cancelled, Hanto dissolved, and Dr. Pascal left in disgrace to find a job elsewhere.

Argo asked where that elsewhere was. It seems that Dr. Pascal now works for the Singer Institute for Biological Anomalies, on the other side of the Martian gate. This information, and another example of Dr. Pascal’s apparently chronic foot-in-mouth disease, resulted in Argo attacking him, but Saòirse called him off before too much damage was done. Some threats and blackmail later, he was convinced to non-verbally confirm that SIBA is, in fact, experimenting with integrating Watts-MacLeod into their new uplift projects.

Dr. Pascal was permitted, then, to flee. Dr. Sheppard revealed that she had been in contact with a number of other Lost who see her as something of a parental figure considering many of the parent-constructs in the simulspace they grew up in were based loosely on her. She also appears to feel a sense of responsibility for them, and does what she can to help them out. Although she wouldn’t give Saòirse contact information, claiming that it would be a breach of trust, she did offer to pass on Saòirse’s own contact information, which Saòirse provided.

Ricky gave Dr. Sheppard the case study that Aeryn and I put together on his own transmission and infection and Saòirse gave her all the information on Karl VanDeLaarSchot by way of warning her away from contact. She then departed, back to Bright, and Dr. Bharani returned to Ilmarinen. Saòirse gave them both a hug.

It was interesting to note that we came out of a meeting with two former Cognite scientists, neither of whom seemed wholly evil. Even Dr. Pascal, for all his weaseling and self-interest, was not entirely moustache-twirling. So much for preconceptions.

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Cleanse and Purify

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To: Gerðr Liberation Army
From: Roland Farnsworth Zeta-885

Brothers, Sisters, other selves, today we struck a great blow against those who tortured our families with their TITAN bioweapons, who felt that they could experiment on them with impunity just because they were prisoners.

I put out the call among our rapidly growing network and 48 of us found physical form thanks to the generosity of the Carme Compact. Yes, we are all the copies of government functionaries and not soldiers, but thanks to the time-bending nature of virtual training, and the natural capacities of the bodies we were given, alongside the skilled leadership of Dominic Kuznetsov, we stormed the hidden TAHI laboratory on Io and destroyed all personnel and all the twisted monstrosities within.

We did not do it alone, of course. Dominic and other representatives of the Gulag Archipelago pulled financial strings with the Carme Compact to provide us with our ship, our bodies, and our weapons. Io is heavily defended orbitally, and so arriving at our destination was tricky. A Gulag Archipelago pilot flew us capably through the brutal radiation and spewing volcanic material. The bunker itself was well-fortified. Gulag Archipelago citizens Echo and Vilya Skaarsgard cracked the defenses with heavy weaponry while another copy of Echo infiltrated the command center and prevented them from initiating a self-destruct sequence that would have killed us all before we could penetrate the laboratory.

As for that laboratory, it was a house of horrors. More than two-dozen men and women transformed into brutal monsters at the hands of four TAHI scientists who have long ago left their humanity behind. We destroyed the synthetic shells in which the scientists resided and activated the laboratory’s “cleanse and purify” protocols. One of the Echos and 46 of us were left dead to cover the escape of the survivors.

I cannot reveal, even in such an encrypted and secured message as this one, the means by which we gained the intelligence that made this raid possible, nor can I say too much about the next step in our plan to liberate Gerðr from the Republic. Know that that plan is a solid one, and that I am involved at the highest levels. It may well be that I will need to call upon you again to lay down our infinite afterlives for the cause. At this time, however, I ask that spend the next week training and casting a wide net for other copies of any of us who might be awake and reaching out to make contact, wherever they might be. Our numbers can only grow, and united we will overthrow the tyranny of the Jovian Republic.

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Ascension

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The web thrums and I feel the strands that vibrate. Resonance augmented by physical proximity, the most tenuous thread suddenly sparks to full-color life. Ricky Thompson. Only the barest grasp, a partially-digested morsel the full savor of which was stolen from me, now blossoming, aware, present. Whatever shall we see?

Ah, Legba. A troubling development, a crippled web growing cancerous, undirected, the purity of vision diluted with the accretion of dross weight in souls, a twisted version of enlightenment that needs excising.

The whisper-song of something stirs in Ricky at my touch, dormant all this time, but spreading like a warm caress, embracing, filling, taking up comfortable residence in his soul. A lovely surprise. Who knew he had such potential?

He seeks to infiltrate the fortress of Roland Nazon, tatterdemalion lord of a paper religion, owner of countless souls but not their master. He has taken my vision and perverted it. He needs to go. It would seem that Ricky’s interests align with my own. I should probably help out.

There. The infolife controlling the security systems of Peristyle is neutralized. Ricky cycles the doors for his companions. Oh, it’s Aeryn Taft-Crowley. There’s a morsel that would cause my saliva to run were I embodied… patience, there’s no lack of time. Ah, they brought Marja with them as well… my beloved creator, my sister, my slayer.

I ride with Ricky on, deeper into Roland’s private demesne, leaving my companions behind. They run into some trouble with security. Marja runs directly into Roland himself. We, however, seek to rendezvous with Kyoshi, the houngan who escaped, who seeks extraction. We find him in the psychosurgery suites with a single bullet in his head, the assassin nowhere in evidence. I lend Ricky years of expertise at cortical stack excision. He cannot resist peeling away a little lie, a small untruth contained in the flesh of one cheek. He is aware that the slayer may still be around, however, and so scuttles to safety, alert, aware. I lend him senses he doesn’t realize are not yet entirely his own (although they are growing, burgeoning within him without my help). There… behind that equipment, in that space no grown flesh could squeeze into… but maybe the pubescent body of Ellegua, Roland’s number two.

We wait, staring at a dark room. Finally, Ellegua contacts us through the mesh. He’s curious. He calls us “infected” and he’s not wrong, but he is wrong. My presence has nothing to do with the Watts-MacLeod strain flowing through Ricky right now, my presence is all me, but he has no way of knowing that. He cannot see the web.

Ellegua wants to know what our “angle” is. Why we are infiltrating. He first assumes we’re here to extract Kyoshi, and wants to know what the scientist means to us. It becomes clear that this is not our real purpose. Somewhere else, Marja is talking to the tatterdemalion, the abomination, and has opened negotiation. The others arrive. The octopus sniffs out Ellegua, who emerges. It’s all surprisingly civil.

We rendezvous in Roland’s rooms… a collection of cheap theatricality, icons and idols to a false religion. Roland is surprisingly coherent for all the soul-butchery that has gone into his creation. He does not elegantly subsume, he does not become greater with every soul, as he so clearly believes, only madder, more unhinged. He does not comprehend the beauty of the thing he has swallowed…

Oh the irony. He has swallowed me, in pale imitation of my own acts of psychophagia, but he did not have the vision to swallow me whole, only a pale technological imitation. He has borrowed a shadow of my power and, like a petty criminal, builds himself an army of fanatics. It’s sad, pathetic. He needs to be put down. Fortunately I’m here with Ricky and his friends.

But, tragedy, they are easily swayed, diverted, pushed into debate… endless debate… I kept telling Ricky that all he needed to do was cut Roland’s flesh, one simple incision and I would take care of it. Ricky ignored me. How insolent. With the others, I would have simply assumed control but with him I cannot. He remains only partially consumed. Aeryn stole that from me on Mars, among other things. Also, the infection that spreads in him gives him the means to resist. Ah well.

Roland proposes a deal. He will give up this “seed”, this cut-down, bastardized shard of me with which he is infecting his new soldiers. He will stop making them. All he asks is for a copy of Marja to integrate into himself to keep company with me and the 126 others. They debate among themselves. Aeryn is bleeding from her encounter with the security personnel and feels an atavistic fear of death. She urges caution, accomodation, trickery, fearing that they will all be slain. The octopus encourages a tactically violent approach. The raven wearing human flesh subverts the local mesh. They know where every security man, every fanatic, every gun can be found. I encourage Ricky to just reach out a knife…

They settle on a different plan, one cunning in its own way, an act of covert psychosurgical sabotage. They acquiesce to the bargain, but Aeryn reveals herself, capitalizing on her fame as a psychosurgeon to participate in not only the creation of Marja’s beta-fork, but in the integration of that fork into Roland. Aeryn has, over the years, sought to fight the virus rampant in Marja through the poor, fumbling methodology of conventional science. It has never worked, but now she plans to give the virus its head, to tweak Marja’s fork to acts of inspired destruction in hopes that such impulses will have sufficient sway in Roland to cause self-destructive impulses. Aeryn hopes that Roland’s new self, incorporated with a violently suicidal Marja, will cause Nine Lives to implode.

Never mind that Nine Lives operates just fine with a madman at the helm already.

But there’s another trick. It would seem that Aeryn has the capacity to artfully install a psychological mechanism of control in others… a mechanism so subtle and pervasive as to be missed by most conventional psychosurgical artists. Play a sonic tone, and the subject enters a suggestible state. Aha. Sound the tone, control Roland. Control Roland, control Nine Lives.

Cunning… surprisingly so from such a supposed idealist, but we all must compromise for our ideals.

Aeryn is an artist, I will admit. The plan goes off without a hitch. Marja’s shattered soul is integrated into Roland, the “seed” is revealed and destroyed. As Roland turns to depart, the octopus again pushes for violence. Now is the time, he says to the rest via their VPN link. The seed is destroyed. All they need do is kill Roland and their mission is accomplished. I reinforce this message, whispering to Ricky that Roland can just create another seed. He still has the cortical stack from Titan containing a copy of me. Nothing is to prevent him from reneging on the deal. Strike now. Cut his flesh.

They follow Roland back to his rooms. Ellegua comes too, suspicious. Security follows. In his rooms, Aeryn proposes a series of simple cognitive tests to make sure all is well. Roland seems dubious, but allows Aeryn to proceed. Aeryn does tests with bright lights and darkness. Aeryn prepares to play a series of sonic tones. Unfortunately, the octopus gives the gambit away. Apparently past psychosurgery has left him equally vulnerable, and some of his tentacles move to cover his auditory membranes. Ellegua sees, and becomes suspicious, but something in Roland awakens, the anger and violence engineered into Marja’s fork comes to life.. along with something else.

It’s beautiful. I had no idea Marja has been evolving as well. My dear sister/creator has not remained stagnant, content with mere Watts-MacLeod. She has awakened something, something that has been passed on to Roland. Electrostatic impulses fry high tech weapons and mesh-inserts alike. He floats in micro-g, arms outspread, a cruciform monstrosity that needs to die now more than ever. I once more urge Ricky to strike.

Ricky reaches out to Ellegua with his mind… an act of desperation, or intuition. Some aspect of the virus thrumming through him reaches through him to seize Ellegua’s mind and bend it to our will. Ellegua misses the knife strike to Aeryn, and we turn him against his own people. The octopus vocalizes an eerily pure tone which has the intended effect on Roland, as well as on the octopus himself. The raven in human flesh sees, and instructs the octopus to kill Ellegua and all legba security. Although still groggy from his hypnotic state, the octopus grapples our controlled puppet while Marja reaches out and claims control of Roland. The sinister number two dies at the hands of psychosurgical hypnosis, although in the eyes of his followers, it appears he was slain at the command of his lord and master.

Aeryn capitalizes on this, convincing the fanatics that their Lord Roland Nazon has decreed that Ellegua is a traitor and all his forks on legba must be destroyed. The word goes forth. Aeryn stretches the tenuous hypnosis to cause Roland to hand over the cortical stack containing my copy. They then slay Roland. Ricky takes a knife and with my borrowed practice, pops his stack (and cutting away the lies… oh the truth that fountained from that wound).

They then seek to flee. The raven had, at one point, departed to destroy Roland’s backups. I do not know if she succeeded.

But with Roland dead, my tattered soul departed, my sleeping soul in the cortical stack destroyed alongside Roland’s, I feel the vibrations fading… Ricky was ever only half-digested. Proximity no longer resonates. He fades from view.

Did they escape legba? I do not know. I suppose it doesn’t matter much if they did. I still feel the faint thread to the other Ricky on Venus, that most tenuous connection. Who knows. Maybe someday proximity and resonance will flare to life once more.

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Strange Bedfellows

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VPN Enabled
Proxy Server Online

TO: Deep Blue
FROM: pr0n cock-tale

Heya. Here’s my report, as requested. As you said, things are really heating up near Jupiter, and since our fleet is flying right down the gullet of potential war with potential exsurgent-super soldiers, I figure I’ll be sending you these things daily, or more often as circumstances warrant. That said, here’s the highlights from the past week.

So, my last report mentioned that crazy neutrino broadcast sent by the Planning Council on Gerðr. I consulted with our local expert Dr. Chavez and he says that they broadcast the ENTIRE simulspace. The bandwidth necessary was pretty huge. More importantly, that included the complete egos of everyone inside. Fortunately our Sentinel team got out before the broadcast went live or we’d have potentially infinite copies of Firewall operatives being spun up by all sorts of folks everywhere. As it stands, we have twenty five politicians and functionaries being replicated by anyone with a neutrino transceiver and some basic computer processing. It’s a field day for ego-slavers, but also maybe was planned by Roland Farnsworth, the head of the Planning Council.

See, most of this can be chalked up to the fact that nearly everyone on Gerðr, and affiliated with the Jovian Republic generally, doesn’t have much of a clue about uploading, or digital consciousness, including many of the implications and pitfalls. It apparently never occurred to most of these scrubs that once they were uploaded, they would continue to exist. They literally believed they would be dead, in some significant way. Many of them STILL BELIEVE they’re dead, even if they’re still conscious, even if they’re still walking around. Judging by the way Farnsworth immediately began hyping up direct action against the Republic, and reaching out to any other versions of himself that others have spun up, it seems pretty clear to me that he (and now his copies) are mobilizing and radicalizing an army of perfect suicide bombers.

I mean, seriously. A lot of his underlings believe that uploading equals death of the soul. This shattered them in much the same way Dr. Chavez was shattered, and now they’ve been given a militant purpose. The Republic, or (more likely) elements within it, was straight-up evil in experimenting on human subjects with the exsurgent virus, but Roland Farnsworth is kinda evil in his own way, frankly, to have planned on turning his co-workers and colleagues into (in a sense) violent undead.

Maybe we should code-name him “The Necromancer.”

I digress.

So I don’t need to tell you the obvious stuff, the Planetary Consortium’s reaction, the Experia news broadcasts, the talking heads, the (hilarious!) Monster Raging Goblin Cock News Network coverage…

What I will tell you is what we did about it. After some debate, the fleet agreed to keep on course and hope these tensions between the Republic and Hyoden blow over. Of course, me and Dominic and the rest of the Firewall assets on the fleet began working on plans to make SURE it blows over, or rather resolves in some significant way the exsurgent threat that Gerðr’s broadcast revealed.

Xšaθra seemed particularly keen to pre-empt Project Ozma on this, coming up with various plans to try to find any base of operations they might have in Jovian space and intercepting them on a theory that they would immediately move in to confiscate the Republic experiments on Io. Although not a lot of actionable planning occurred, it did result in a lot of data analysis on potential locations in Jovian space where Ozma (or other covert) bases of operations could be effectively situated. Echo highlighted the abandoned Reagan cylinder of Helike as a potential base, seeing as it has pre-existing infrastructure that could be easily repurposed for egocasting etc.

Dominic preferred his usual direct approach, contacting Kioroshi Inagawa (the original, Ozma-corrupted version, not Mary Alvarez) to tell her about the Gerðr broadcast. She hasn’t yet responded.

Our discussions kept running up against the wall of timing and distance. If we wanted to react with any sort of speed, they would need to egocast somewhere which would put them beyond the fleet’s resources. If they wanted to utilize their morphs, weapons, and other resources, they’d need to wait two to three weeks for the fleet to get in range of a strike ship.

As a side note, during this period of brainstorming, Xšaθra came up with a plan to successfully infiltrate The Castle (Republic C&C, you know what I’m talking about). While it may not actually be necessary in this instance, it’s a good thing to note for future operations. I’ll append the general outline to this report in a separate file.

Ultimately, however, Echo and Dominic struck on the fact that its highly unlikely that the whole Republic is behind these experiments. It is absolutely out of character for them. It’s far more likely that this is the work of rogue elements of the junta, and therefore, the Republic itself might be the best allies to approach. Dominic composed a message to General Monica Contreres (yeah, he doesn’t aim low) basically offering himself as a fully-deniable resource. The big trick was getting the message to her.

To this end, Xšaθra and Vilya combined their forces to come up with a clever double-blind. They encoded the message and each of them used their contacts inside the Republic to hide it on a piece of seemingly-unrelated hardware which would then be used in the commission of a crime. The plan was to get Republic security services to piece the message together and get it to someone who could get it to the General. It was a very risky strategy, especially considering what we eventually learned about the nature of the internal schism on the Security Council… the message could easily have gone instead to General Cavas, and been lost.

But it worked. A very clandestine series of signals resulted in a virtual meeting between the sentinels and Director Zane McFarlane himself. Apparently, the Junta agent they met on Gerðr, “Natasha,” was able to make a report to him. Dominic’s name in the infiltrated message was flagged from her report, and the fact that the Gulag Archipelago has a very real and vested interest in resolving the issue combined with the obvious talent required to get that message to him in the first place, conspired to convince him to talk.

In the course of the discussion, he revealed that the schism involved three members of the Security Council: Director Marcelo Vasena, Chief of Operations, is the one who authorized the covert experiments at the Maui Patera Rehabilitation Facility. He denies knowing the details, but stands behind the results. The presentation of those results (apparently a “serum” that creates biologically augmented soldiers) convinced General Cavas of the Civil Defense Corps and, to a lesser extent, Director Wendy Gilder to continue testing. The other four members are quite opposed.

With the Security Council in deadlock, each is now relying on their personal power and networks to push their own agendas, which is why Republic military movements have seemed so odd lately. Vasena as the ringleader should be no surprise. He is well-known to be one of the Republic’s foremost Expansionists, and has advocated for ten years the need to have complete control over all of Jovian space. The burgeoning stand-off with Hyoden has his fingerprints all over it. Vasena and his supporters see Callisto as a suitable testing ground, and plan on testing the “serum” out on ground troops operating out of Gerðr for coming military strikes on Hyoden.

McFarlane offered targets and intel in exchange for Anarchist boots on the ground and firepower. He wants deniable soldiers to remove Vasena’s capacity to produce serum, and has granted us details of the bunker on Io where the Maui Patera research was moved and stashed. Io is still well within Jupiter’s magnetosphere “tail” and so Vasena correctly believed such movements would be hard to see or track, but with this intel a force could hit the bunker and destroy or retrieve everything within. That is, I believe, our next step.

The current thinking is to hit Io as fast as possible to limit the amount of “serum” that can reach Gerðr. I suspect a return trip to Gerðr or Hyoden may be the subsequent step, but right now we’re focused on procuring local strike forces so the sentinels can ego-cast in for speed. Dominic purchased a supply-ship from a mining interest in the Carme Compact. Getting decent weaponry there will probably be harder, although they’ll probably happily provide the feedstock for nanofabrication in exchange for the blueprints necessary, so I have every confidence that will work out.

The only real outstanding issue is whether we’re going to keep this a Firewall-only operation or if we’re going to bring in the swiftly growing army of “Gerðr Liberation Front” members (the countless forks of Gerðr’s Planning Council now floating around the system and organizing). McFarlane seemed to think the bunker would require at least fifty commandos if we were going to do a ground raid. These guys are mostly politicians and functionaries, but I suppose a decent combat morph and some firearms skillsofts would go a long way… especially considering they’ll have no concern for their lives or deaths.

It still kinda squicks me out to think about using people’s religious beliefs to turn them into suicide-soldiers, but I suppose they’re gonna be that anyway, so might as well give them a productive target for their vengeance.

I dunno. This moral relativity shit is hard sometimes.

I’ll check back again soon.

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