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.
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:
- Fa Jing discovers the Frozen Dreams and the alien nanoplague
- Three months later, Fa Jing starts towing a ball of rock and ice from that same section of the Kuiper belt toward Mars
- 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.