Eclipse Phase - Apocalypse

Jovian Jaunt

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Message Encoded
Recipient: Z McFarland, Intelligence Commander
Origin: Code-Alpha-7

Sir,

We engaged in active monitoring of the anarchists from the moment their vessel came within operational range. Their point of origin was Europa. They observed all transit and docking protocols.

Ever since their message for Mr. A. Silverman of the Jovian Agricultural Council the CDC and the SCI have been watching Silverman and his associates for possible anarchist sympathies or ties. Unsurprisingly, those other agencies discovered no actionable evidence of subversive behavior, nor did we expect them to find any. We held off, ensuring that customs bypassed the usual interrogation protocols, and permitted their meeting in an attempt to gauge their agenda.

Thanks to our own research and resources, we recognized the name Kiril Tesler. Dr. Bhumipol turned over all his Futura project records once we procured his services. We have files on Dominic Kuznetsov, a charismatic anarchist true-believer. The third in the trio was more of a mystery. She identified by the name Echo, but that’s not an uncommon name.

They appeared to be speaking to Silverman in an attempt to leverage him as a prominent lobbyist to drive a wedge between the Republic and the Planetary Consortium and thereby disrupt our proto-alliance over the Turing gate. Silverman was clever enough to pick up on this quickly, but did not seem to have any prior knowledge of the anarchists or their intentions, nor (of course) was he aware of our ongoing negotiations with Stellar Intelligence. The anarchists appeared to have selected him for his connection to agricultural interests as befitting their line of memetic attack, namely attacking the Prosperity Group’s polite fictions as to the origin of their protein food products that they provide the Republic.

Silverman had the expected response, calling his contact in CBEAT and demanding the truth vis a vis the natural vs. genetically modified source of Prosperity’s protein paste products. Alexander Wiscarson played the fool for a few moments before turning the tables and effectively evicting Silverman from his own offices. At this point, Wiscarson felt the need to call in our direct intervention.

Attached is recorded XP of the entire conversation. I’ll note their apparent intent to sow distrust of the PC and engender a form of trust in whatever anarchist collective ends up in control of the Turing gate. The thrust of their argument seemed to be an admission of how easily anarchist organizations are to infiltrate, and a promise of a treaty-agreed line of direct communication between that collective and the Security Council. As you can already ascertain, none of these arguments hold much credence. Anarchist collectives are notoriously bad at binding themselves to treaties, contracts, and obligations.

Note, however, at time-mark 17:23:11. I initiated a rhetorical gambit intended to wrong-foot them, particularly Kessler, by mentioning the Watts-MacLeod virus. You’ll note the following 23 minutes and 12 seconds. The mystery member of the group, Echo, spends this time in a sprawling, somewhat disorganized, but disconcertingly knowledgeable discourse on various strains of the Exsurgent virus, as well as recent Ozma attempts to infect the ASI that created the Turing gate. She never mentioned the name Ozma, of course, but I suspect that information was simply removed in the neural pruning she underwent before these beta-forks were sent to speak with us.

My threat and security assessment is as follows:

  1. The “autonomist alliance” (or, perhaps, merely the Gulag Archipelago) has surprisingly effective intelligence resources. We have not yet identified the leak that alerted them to our proto-alliance with Stellar Intelligence and Direct Action.
  2. The above-mentioned party or parties is surprisingly knowledgeable about extinction-level threats, and appears unusually prepared to engage with and neutralize them.
  3. We should assume that Teilhard Liu and the Titanians are already aware of our potential alliance and are allocating resources accordingly. This foray by the Gulag Archipelago anarchists would appear to be an attempt at memetic or infosec warfare to prompt a response to their knowledge.

You know that TAHI has always warned that anarchist organized structures are more resilient than popular propaganda might indicate. The continued operation of the Love and Rage collective at the Fissure gate is a prime example, as are anarchist victories at both of the battles of Locus.

I would recommend to the Security Council a more long-term view on the Turing gate. Although the Planetary Consortium would seem a more familiar face in this brewing conflict, we all know that they are not our ally. They continue to recklessly push dangerous technologies to the point where they breed more disasters than they can control. Although the anarchists are no better, it may be a wiser course to even the scales, let the PC and the anarchists continue to fight to their own mutual weakness, while we continue to strengthen our navy and strategic assets for when one or both of them goes too far and needs to be eliminated. Granting a second gate to the anarchists will tip the scales to a more even footing in regards to local social and economic clout, heightening tensions with the PC and aggravating already open wounds. We need do nothing but declare our neutrality and wait for them to further destroy each other.

End Message

Message Encoded
Recipient: Code-Alpha-7
Origin: Z McFarland, Intelligence Commander

Your report was received. I discussed its contents with the Security Council. I believe, after some debate, we have opted for the safer, more secure route of public neutrality with some, limited, covert aid to PC interests. I have taken the liberty of sending an encoded message to the Gulag Archipelago informing them of our decision in the unlikely chance that it will result in any lasting strategic advantage. I included some additional coding for the right eyes. I’m sure you understand.

I’ll also note that you did not mention your… personal procurement of the “ambassadors” for private testing. However did you get them to agree?

End Message

Message Encoded
Recipient: Z McFarland, Intelligence Commander
Origin: Code-Alpha-7

Understood sir.

I simply told them that taking them willingly into custody for active experimentation was a condition of my recommendation. They acquiesced, with some reservations.

As an addendum, shortly after the Gulag Archipelago received your encrypted transmission, our spies report an attack of Mr. Kuznetsov apparently seeking to intercept the message. He survived the assault. It may well be that the “right eyes” did not receive.

End Message

Message Encoded
Recipient: Code-Alpha-7
Origin: Z McFarland, Intelligence Commander

No matter

End Message

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Lapriye

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Internal Log, Muse-AI sequence Nimbus-9Alpha, Personality Matrix Model Tess Thompson

My poor Ricky is liable to get us both killed or, as seems likely, eternally enslaved to these grotesque soul-traders. At least he saw the wisdom in fully forking us. I take some comfort in knowing that the both of us, along with Ricky’s friends, are continuing our normal lives back on Venus while these copies of us are engaged in this foolhardiness.

Granted, a lot of effort went into procuring decent morphs for everyone, as well as a solid back-story for the identity being assumed by our spokesperson, Aeryn Taft-Crowley… or, rather “Sara bin Salaam”, a pricey “heirloom” morph based on the DNA of the historical princess-turned-media-mogul Paris Hilton. My own Ricky managed to pull the strings on some distant contacts and managed a full on “remade” morph, in keeping with his cover as an Ultimate mercenary. Tari went with a brand-new Fury while “Saòirse” (formerly Satori) was given a morph type I’ve never seen before… a bit disturbing.

We all woke up on the slab on Ceres, where Argo went his own way, having some urgent business with the Hidden Concern to take care of. The rest of us made the two week space journey to Legba, a hive of scum and villainy that gives scum and villains a bad name.

Our plan, insofar as we have one, is to present “Sara” as a representative of the Egonomics hypercorporation, a company that conveniently was able to provide all the credentials necessary thanks to Tari, guarded by a hired force of Ultimates to deter (hopefully) most random aggression from the locals. Ricky and his friends were given some information on Legba, including contact information for an embedded local Firewall agent. We’re timing our arrival to coincide with a big faction-meeting of the Nine Lives cartel to decide the future of their organization, so hopefully there will be big enough crowds, and enough distracting political skullduggery, to avoid too much unfortunate notice.

Things were going so well for us at first. The person responsible for initial communications bought our story, and the dock-rat thugs who sought to opportunistically attack us as we departed the ship were handily and efficiently dispatched through the application of Ricky’s violence, augmented by a shot or two from Tari, and apparently some blind luck, as one of them shot up his fellows in a panic. We were approached by a fellow who looked like a hardened Nine Lives fellow, who told us we now owned the souls of those we’d killed, and seemed annoyed when we didn’t move in to collect their cortical stacks. Nevertheless, we apparently made enough of a demonstration of force that we were left alone as we entered the awful asteroid-base of the cartel.

It was nauseating three-dimensional labyrinth of spinning rock, low-g with randomly shifting g-forces as the rock spins on three axes. The rock is carved with disgusting shrines to various spirits or gods with candles and bloody cortical stacks left as offerings. The entire place is more like a cult-den than a base of operations.

Our cover was nearly blown as we ran into another group of Ultimates who wished to know who we were. Suspicions were temporarily deflected when one of the other Ultimates spontaneously died from sudden internal head-bleeding. My clever Ricky recalled some identification codes from the ship that brought us here, and used them to identify himself. Saòirse demonstrated greater knowledge of Ultimate secret codes, and we were safe for the nonce.

As we traveled, it was clear that there were three general categories of Nine Lives cultists. The ones in fancy suits looking down their noses at everyone apparently belonged to the Petro Nanchon, a faction of the cartel that deals with the hypercorporations. The ones that look like savages with carved-up faces and bloody cortical stacks for jewelry were apparently Ghede Nanchon, the “lapriye” religious fanatics who have bought into the cartel’s crazy made-up religion. Everyone else were the rank-and-file criminals.

We arrived at the “Psychopomp” district, where the egocasting and resleeving center is located. Large racks of healing vats, clone pods, and workstations manned by tormented slaves oversaw the sleeving of tortured egos into flesh to be marched off to parts unknown. We found the Firewall contact, Mr. Amaru Timoti. He was organizing a crew of slaves in transporting some clone pods, but after we confirmed each other with sign and countersign and other assurances, he led us to a holding cell for a private meeting.

To summarize, he gave us an outline of the political situation. Nine Lives is led by Roland Nazon, the original founder of the cartel and creator of the “lapriye” cult. According to Timoti, Nazon has become increasingly insane over the last two years, claiming to be able to absorb the power of the souls contained in the millions of cortical stacks on legba. Considering what we know of Karl, this might actually be somewhat true. He has withdrawn of late from frequent public appearances, and operates mostly through a mysterious second-in-command named Ellegua. The three factions are led by the head of the “lapriye” fanatics, Su Wu; the head of the corporate suits, Bertrand Theo; and the head of everyone else, Lam Cong Dong. The latter two factions are tentatively working toward an alliance against the first faction and maybe Nazon himself. Despite numerical and financial superiority, however, they are currently stymied by an unusual and frightening development.

About six months ago, Nazon instituted an organization-wide, formalized initiation ritual known merely as The Rite. The Rite requires one of two things: either you slowly flay a biomorph-sleeved person alive, or if you have the proper skillset, you spin up a person’s ego in a simulspace and psychosurgically flay that ego to shreds. Everyone who wanted to continue to belong to Nine Lives, or to join, has to perform the Rite.

Timoti himself had, of course, done it (much to his apparent disgust) and reported feeling elevated and inexplicable bloodlust thereafter. We feared that this was the mark of Vittrad infection, but the effects seemed far milder than what Saòirse experienced when she was infected. Timoti explained that there was a second level of initiation for those truly devoted to “lapriye,” which involved taking into yourself a “guiding loa spirit.” It would seem that Nazon’s personal cadre of psychosurgeons, the “houngan”, have developed an ego-construct of some sort that when merged with a person’s ego grants seemingly supernatural powers. While Timoti described them, I think young Ricky and his friends were looking sidelong at each other. This, it would seem, was the full-blown Vittrad outbreak.

Even worse, every member of the Ghede Nanchon currently on legba had undergone the full Rite, and every member now had some of the unnatural talents of Vittrad infection. Timoti estimated more than two thousand Ghede had undergone the rite, although more were returning to legba for the grand meeting. According to our dossier there are roughly 6,000 total Ghede in the entire organization.

It seemed clear that we needed to identify Karl and kill him. We would also need to arrange matters so that the Ghede are exterminated. This may require us to “play politics” among the factions. When discussing potential assets or allies, Timoti mentioned a visitor to the station, Omri Melech, a former ID Crew lieutenant claiming to have a very valuable ego to sell in exchange for sanctuary from his former organization. We decided to talk to him once our meeting was over.

We formulated a loose plan to do the maximum amount of destruction to the cartel as possible. This involved arranging for their fusion reaction to have a catastrophic meltdown (not an easy prospect, but theoretically possible) as well as planting explosives in their “Guinee” district, the server farms where they keep their millions of ego-slaves. Timoti volunteered to do the latter as a suicide “extraction” from his current job, but only if we could present a viable plan to do the former simultaneously.

We left Timoti to his work and returned to the ship whereupon we were approached by Melech’s men. They were apparently impressed with how we handled the street-rats, and went out of their way to make us feel welcome.

Melech, it turns out, was the ID Crewmember in charge of their operations on Venus. In fact, young Ricky and his friends has used their very dark-casting facility to leave Venus for this mission undetected. Melech had departed (explosively) prior to that, however, and did not recognize them, so the cover story as an Egonomics representative held up. After some back and forth with “Sara”, the story came out that Melech was disgruntled with what he saw as a dead-end assignment. When an ID Crew operative named Silkworm escaped from Cognite’s Thought orbital station with an alpha-fork copy of Dr. Ilya Fero, he rightly saw it as quite a score. Melech stole Fero’s ego from Silkworm and fled to Extropia, and thence to legba hoping to trade the valuable ego to Nine Lives for protection and a reasonably high-ranking position. Having seen legba, and hearing about The Rite, Melech was seeking other buyers who could offer him safety and career mobility.

Needless to say, we were all surprised at this development. Dr. Fero was Tari’s creator, and her head is theoretically full of valuable information to Tari and to us. We found ourselves in the interesting position of actually considering dealing honestly with Melech and arranging to place him either in the Morningstar Constellation, Blackvein’s Network, or maybe even recruiting him into Firewall, considering he is already aware of the relationship Firewall has established with the ID Crew.

We left Melech’s ship with mutual promises and assurances and returned to our own to engage in some long-distance communication with Venus.

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Vectors

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VPN Connection Established
Encryption Protocols Engaged
Connection Secure

InHeat: Hey, you there?

Vaclav: Yeah. What’s up?

InHeat: I’ve got a delivery for you… it’s, uh… pretty awful.

Vaclav: Since you’re contacting me, I assume so. Give me the rundown.

InHeat: Ok, so… there was this plague ship. Apparently it was sent by Ozma, but we only have the word of an insane super-intelligent AI currently building a new Pandora gate to go on there…

Vaclav: Ok… so, now I KNOW you’re high.

InHeat: No, seriously, check with Eagle on Venus, he’ll back me up. Where have you been that you haven’t heard about this war brewing in the Jovian Trojans over that new gate?

Vaclav: You know where I’ve been. I’m sorry I doubted you. Go on.

InHeat: So, apparently Ozma sends this ship toward the ASI. The ship has 24 people on board. The bodies were apparently purchased from Nine Lives on Legba, but the stacks are… well… rather more eclectic. Eighteen of the twenty-four are Lost generation who were blown up in the Hanshan disaster on Mars… apparently AFTER being exposed to some sort of raw exsurgent virus nonsense. The stacks themselves were recovered from the post-infected corpses, so… y’know… still infected with who-knows-what.

Vaclav: That is… unbelievable. You know Hanshan was nuked right? Those stacks shouldn’t have survived.

InHeat: That’s not the most unbelievable thing. There’s some indication that aspects of these stacks are fabricated. For instance, the metadata on all of them shows accurate times of death, but each of the egos have been subjected to heavy psychosurgery…

Vaclav: WHAT! You spun up the egos! Are you insane? You and everyone on that swarm of yours could be contaminated. We’re talking over a 41-minute time-delay on an encrypted channel and I’m tempted to shut down right now to avoid any contamination you might spread my way.

InHeat: For God’s sake, there’s paranoid and then there’s paranoid. I know, I know… but the sentinels who did the job are pretty competent, I promise. Only one of them got infected, and she was terminated immediately. The ego-technician working with them got his muse corrupted, and he was killed too. It looks like the stacks weren’t immediately virulent, more like… time bombs, or context bombs.

Vaclav: Explain.

InHeat: It looks like their memories were wiped unless certain context clues unlocked them. The non-Lost came from a variety of other infection zones… the TQZ on Mars, Luna, and the Cloud-9 hit on Venus two years ago. They started freaking when certain context clues were given, and all of them, the Lost included, started remembering stuff when confronted with things they’d remember. I think the infections were hidden on these stacks. Ozma wanted the ASI to spin the stacks up and dig deep to find useful ego-data, whereupon the virus would jump out, all “gotcha” and infect it. Our people didn’t dig nearly deep enough to trigger anything except for Pandora.

Vaclav: I gather, then, that these stacks are what you’re sending me?

InHeat: Yeah, it looks like all 18 of the Lost were exposed to additional strains than just Watts-MacLeod. The others too. It’s quite a virus-buffet here. Thanks to Xšaθra and Dominic pulling strings, we’re fabricating a secure structure to tow along with us, kinda like your facility. We’ll store the stacks in there until we can drop them off via a secure courier. It’ll probably take a half-year or so before they get to you though.

Vaclav: We have other, closer facilities. I’ll work the logistics. I don’t want those stacks “in the wild” any longer than necessary.

InHeat: Agreed.

Vaclav: About these sentinels… you should eliminate them and restore them from backup if possible, leave them dead if otherwise.

InHeat: Um… we can’t really do that sort of thing out here. Jesus, dude, that’s not how Scum operate. We’re doing the next-best-thing… They’re going to Jupiter on some sort of diplomatic mission for the swarm.

Vaclav: … How is that good?

InHeat: Well, who’s more paranoid than the Jovians right? If they ARE secretly infected somehow, the Jovians will figure that shit out pretty quickly, right?

Vaclav: What makes you think the Jovians even know what to look for? You may be about to infect the entire Republic.

InHeat: Well…. shit. Um…. if it helps, I’m pretty sure nobody’s actually infected?

Vaclav: I hope, for your sake, that you are correct.

User: Vaclav has signed out

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Plague Ship

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Internal Record, Cybele, Muse-AI Personality Matrix Gamma-45

Once again Kiril lets his sentimentality get the better of him. Don’t get me wrong, I approve of his plan to blow this ship up and kill us all, I just question his motives.

He SHOULD be thinking about that asshole Karl, and why blowing this ship takes at least this version of that fucker out. Sure, that’s part of it, but right now what he’s really thinking about is how much he “likes” Echo and Pandora, and how he doesn’t want to run the risk of them becoming either infected with Karl’s crazy strain of the virus, or subjected to his long-distance mind-control.

Pandora is arguing against it… but the process has begun, and short of her attacking Kiril and re-initializing the safeguards on the fusion engines, this thing is going up in a little more than one minute. The only downside from my point of view is that the forks we sent back to the swarm will have no idea why this ship blew up. Presumably they’ll assume we did it for a good reason, but some of the data we uncovered might have been useful.

Oh well.

Sigh. Pandora’s still going on and on… I guess it’s good she’s talking. More talking is less chance of her succeeding. I suppose I can understand her point of view. After all, Karl dangled some extremely juicy information in front of us. Like the virus he is, he took over the minds of all the service-AIs and infolife crew, all of whom were Ozma-affiliated. He offered all the info he has on that shadowy group. He also claims to have a personal beef with Cognite, and offered us all the data he has on them as well. Basically he tried to buy his continued existence with information on the two groups we are most interested in learning more about.

But his price is too high. He wants us to download his ego from the ship’s systems and allow him to egocast to the destination of his choice, whereupon he’ll give us the encryption-key to the data he promised. Setting aside the speculative debate about whether he can be trusted, any chance to trim the tree that is Karl’s expanding influence should absolutely be taken.

I actually remember Karl… or, at least, the person upon which my personality matrix is based remembered him. The memories themselves didn’t really transfer over, but I recall not liking him much. Weirdly enough, I actually think he could have been trusted to keep his word on this bargain he’s offered. Pandora’s not wrong in her read on his personality. But still. As grudging as I can be sometimes when it comes to Kiril, he made the right choice to unilaterally blow us all up.

Although I’m going to be destroyed momentarily, I might as well record the lead-up in the off-chance that the solid-state parts of Kiril’s mesh implants are recovered. Sergei Alkaev was making one of his last supply runs to Turing when he found a ship of an odd configuration floating dead in the vicinity of the asteroid. It looked like many of its systems had been fried by some sort of radiation pulse. He correctly assumed that our “friend” on that rock had acted to defend itself, but had no further interest in the hulk, and so he towed it back to the vicinity of the swarm. It is, after all, valuable feedstock for the fabricators if nothing else. He’s not a fool, though, and figured that whatever frightened a hyper-intelligent seed-ai was probably not something to mess with lightly, so he contacted Kiril, Echo, Pandora, and Dominic. He knew that we had been involved in the first-contact of Draupadi and that we might want to look into this hulk.

Looking it over, it’s a strange design. There’s no crew quarters. It’s mostly cargo space with a large processor-stack. We presumed it had a crew entirely of infolife. Pandora indicated that it resembled certain designs the Titanians are using for deep-space colonization efforts. We decided that the first step should be to contact Draupadi “her” self to ask why she nuked it.

Pandora came up with an encryption algorithm using her own ego as a key, and they boarded her ship to initiate conversation with our “friend” on Turing. Draupadi responded by sending a fork (or a tiny fraction of her immense mind) which, as she no doubt anticipated, Pandora immediately housed inside her own head. Draupadi, borrowing Pandora’s body, then had a chat with us.

Apparently the gate is finished, just undergoing some testing. Draupadi is leaving the solar system imminently so we can “get on with the war we wanted.” It was immediately clear to me that she was very limited by the processing power in Pandora’s cyberbrain. She seemed a lot more… human… than our previous interactions. We asked about the ship, and she said it was an “Ozma vessel, sent to infect me.” She didn’t have a lot of specifics other than that she suspected a trap of some sort, so she fried the ship before it could get too close. She implied that Ozma has been experimenting on this “exsurgent virus” that the Firewall folks were talking about, the one that both Kiril and I were apparently infected with in our virtual childhoods. This version, though, was intended to do… something… to Draupadi. She didn’t know what.

There were some personal pleasantries exchanged. She asked us to tell “Dr. Bainbridge” that she was sorry. Then she deleted herself from Pandora’s head. Pandora was pissed, because she assumed that her creator, Dr. Mary Beth Bainbridge, was the one being referenced. It was a good assumption, but ultimately turned out that Draupadi was referring to her mother, Dr. Madelyne “Maddy” Bainbridge, one of the founders of Firewall, and a member of something called the Jormungandr Initiative. I’d look into it more, but I’ll be dead in a few seconds.

So. Kiril and I uploaded into a claptrap case morph, as did Dominic. Echo just sent one of her forks she already had in a disposable case, while Pandora got her hands on a sphere morph. I don’t know why she bothered, considering the whole point was that these would be disposable bodies. We all backed up first, of course. We then ensured that Yulia Kuznetsova and Barking Dog had defenses in place to prevent our possibly-infected return, and we headed out to investigate.

We arrived in the cargo hold which was mostly full of empty cargo containers. The ones that weren’t empty, however, had corpses in them. It seems that 24 people in bio-morphs were being shipped in containers with built-in life support. When the systems were fried, they were awake and conscious enough to claw at each other as they asphyxiated. We proceeded to hack the cortical stacks out of their heads for later analysis.

We then went forward to the server-stack portion of the ship. We realized that certain anti-EMP breaker systems had engaged, and that the systems were operational, just shut down. We ensured that any capacity to broadcast or use wireless was disabled, then reconnected the power. As Pandora searched for an old-fashioned terminal that would permit some intrusion without exposing herself to the contents, Dominic (and eventually the rest of us) heard a voice… like, even though the ship had no atmosphere, and there was no way sound could travel, we were all hearing the same voice. It claimed it was taking advantage of flaws in our crappy morph auditory circuits to emulate a voice. It called itself Karl.

So, since I’m about to blow up, I’ll sum up. It appears that Project Ozma sought to infect Draupadi with the contents of the bio-morphs. They apparently figured out that seed-ASIs like taking or absorbing human egos for some reason (hey, she did it with every one of us except Kiril…). The ship was being run by Ozma infolife agents, but the human cargo were procured from the Nine Lives syndicate. Karl, who apparently runs Nine Lives from the shadows, found the prospect of potentially riding an Ozma project through a Pandora gate fascinating, and included a copy of himself in the manifest… a copy which inevitably took over all the simulspace systems on the ship, turning it into a copy of Legba, while the enslaved infolife crew act the parts of Nine Lives members and slaves. He still planned on going through with Ozma’s plan, though, as he saw some personal profit in it.

Fortunately, we’d heard about this Karl guy from Vilya Skaarsgard and Father Ruiz Aguilar and we shut off the system as quick as possible. We decided to return to the fleet… or, rather, we forked ourselves into the air-gapped system we brought along, and sent THEM back to the fleet… or, rather, all of us but Dominic did that. Dominic doesn’t like forking.

Kiril and I, along with Pandora and Echo, stayed behind, and after about an hour, got a radio transmission from our forks. They had reported to Barking Dog, and had apparently had a long talk with Dr. Maddy Bainbridge’s fork. They suggested we do a search of the ship’s hardware for clues to its origin. This seemed reasonable. Kiril searched the engines, and found they were created by Fujizo, which suggested an ongoing tie between that hypercorp and Ozma… although I guess that information will die with us. Echo found the ship’s black box. I think she’s trying to throw it outside before the ship blows. We’ll see, I guess. Oh, wait, we won’t see. We’ll be dead.

Pandora, on the other hand, stumbled upon a system that was still live and got sucked into a conversation with Karl where he offered her all the information I mentioned above if she would let him out. We debated this at some length. Kiril realized that we would still be debating this unless he took action, and so we slipped off to sabotage the engines.

And that’s where we are now. Aaaaaaaany minute now… any…. rjaa$@@$Data Corrupted

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Simulations

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Pandora-Beta Muse-AI Subroutine 55701

Kiril tried to hurt me/her today. So did Dominic. me/her wasn’t hurt. We grew our claws and fended them off, but Echo got in our way and so we couldn’t go into the neat world that Dr. Chavez is playing with. Then there was a lot of talking.

All of them except for me/her and Xšaθra went to Venus to look into a murder. me/her didn’t care about dead squishies. Xšaθra and me/her stayed behind and poked at Dr. Chavez’s experiment. He keeps it on our little ship, so it was ok. It’s really big and complex in there. There’s a lot of things going on, so we just started by watching ourselves. me/her put a copy of us inside the experiment. So did Dr. Chavez and Echo. We watched them, and the experiment’s fake versions of everyone else fight a big battle at Locus. This fight seemed to bother Xšaθra. It looked like it was foretelling the future. In the experiment, the Jovians and the Planetary Consortium joined forces to keep the Anarchists from getting the Turing gate, and the Titanians pulled out of the Autonomist alliance. Rather than fight over Turing, they attacked Locus directly, and were winning.

The other four got back from Venus, and we showed them what we saw in the experiment. Xšaθra and Dr. Chavez poked around to try to see how accurate the future-forecasting was. It wasn’t absolutely accurate, but it was accurate enough to make Xšaθra even more worried. me/her, however, dug at the source-code. It was pretty. So much information density, using symbol cipher-systems that didn’t make any sense. It was increasing in complexity and size very fast. Also, it wasn’t just simulating the future. It was also simulating the past and the present as if it didn’t really understand that time is supposed to go in one direction. That’s when me/her decided to connect directly and start running bug-analysis routines to find weaknesses or easter eggs. That’s when me/her was attacked by Kiril and Dominic. Nobody seemed to want us to directly connect to the experiment. Even Dr. Chavez, who is normally so nice, freaked out and threatened to turn the whole thing off.

That made me mad. But Xšaθra talked me/her down from being too mad. They were just worried for us.

There was a lot of talking and arguing about whether to shut the experiment down. Xšaθra spoke most strongly about it, but Echo also was worred. Kiril saw the benefits of the experiment but was worried about the risk to the swarm. Only Dr. Chavez and me/her wanted to keep the experiment running, but even me/her admitted it was a risk to the swarm. We tried to suggest taking the experiment away from the swarm in the little ship but it didn’t work. Dr. Chavez turned it off. me/her put some of our followers to watch the door to the little ship to keep it safe.

Dominic told Xšaθra and me/her that when they were on Venus they were approached by a group called “Firewall”. Firewall is apparently a cell-based secret network that tries to keep everyone from being killed from big scary threats. It apparently doesn’t pay well, and has enemies who will try to kill us if we join. We decided to join, mostly because me/her and Xšaθra and people like us are often seen as big scary threats, and we don’t want Firewall to kill us. Firewall’s only full-time agent, or “Proxy”, on the swarm is Barking Dog. I thought that was funny. But we went and met her, and she seemed nice, although she hasn’t met a lot of AGIs I think. She was curious but also a little offensive, I think, or at least Xšaθra was offended. She apologized. She talked to everyone, but she also talked to me/her and wanted to know if we wanted to experience being a squishy just to see what it’s like. me/her said sure!

It’s so weird! We have to suck gas into our chests constantly or we die. Our internal meat-pump has to keep pumping fluids or we die. When we run low on fuel, we get weird feelings in our stomach until we put organic fuel in there. We need constant fluids because we have to excrete fluids all the time. It’s really kinda gross. Barking Dog introduced us to her friend Natalie who was in a male body. He wasn’t wearing a lot. Looking at him made us feel funny. It was like bandwidth in our processing centers was being choked with junk data. I think it was a `hormone attraction response’ or something. But when he put parts of his body inside parts of our body it felt really neat. I’m having trouble describing it. me/her are still talking it all over. Squishies are weird. I can’t wait to get back into our nice non-squishy body.

View
The Pitch

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Open VPN Connection
Proxy Server Online

PrivateDick: I made the call and told them about Nataraja’s recent appearance on Mars. They’ve already met Skaarsgard, parts of the story may have come out anyway.

Eagle: That’s fine. What do you think about our prospective new recruits?

PrivateDick: Well, they’re autonomists all right… they bicker a lot and seem kinda hapless when it comes to stuff like basic currency, but appearances are deceiving. They didn’t arrive on Venus via any of the official farcasting channels. It seems Echo had enough pull with Pax Familiae to have a Claudia smuggle them down to Octavia. This might prove problematic. Claudia’s loose morality isn’t above selling the fact of their presence to other interested parties if the price is right. Still, she was a better choice for covert arrival than some of the other options.

Eagle: They had quite a collection of morphs…

PrivateDick: Yeah… Echo apparently was only able to pull a rental… the normal inhabitant is a neo-pig enforcer for Blackvein’s network. I’m just hoping she doesn’t run afoul of a case of mistaken identity while she’s here. Dominic got a similar deal, it looks like. The body he’s in belonged to a Night Cartel operative currently serving time in Octavia’s virtual lockup. At least that was a fairly public case, so nobody is likely to mistake them. Dr. Chavez managed to land probably the only Hyperbright morph on Venus. The bio-specs on that thing are through the roof. He clearly still has connections notwithstanding his very public break from Cognite. As for Kiril Tesler… I don’t know what that morph was, or where he got it, but it kinda gave me the creeps. Fortunately Kiril himself has been nothing but pleasant.

Eagle: I’m glad Eidolon vouched for them. After familiarizing myself with their dossiers, and conversing with them in private, I can’t help but think they’d made excellent Sentinels in the outer system. Their presence on a scum fleet gives them mobility that other sentinels lack.

PrivateDick: Well, sure… Seems like a bit much to dump all that info on Ozma and the Nataraja morphs and the Hanshan disaster on them all at once, but they seemed to take it well. I was worried I would scare them off by mentioning my theory that Ozma has dozens of Nataraja morphs, designed specifically as hunter-killers of Firewall agents… but they responded with sardonic quips. What was your read?

Eagle: I think they will do the right thing, even knowing that their sacrifices will never be known by greater transhumanity, even knowing that their chance of a horrible death dramatically increases by doing so.

PrivateDick: Yeah… sigh. So. I gather you told them the whole story about Irina? The secret infiltration mission to Cloud-9, the subsequent Ozma cleaner team that took out her AND our predecessors here? That we don’t actually know what she found there?

Eagle: Yes. I hope they’re not too disappointed that I didn’t have more answers.

PrivateDick: Oh, I don’t know… they have answers enough. They know that Irina believed enough in this to undertake a very dangerous mission to a concealed, criminal aerostat to uncover evidence of experimentation on the exsurgent virus. Maybe some of that belief will rub off.

Eagle: I am a bit worried about their reaction should they choose to join and I tell them who their proxy-handler will be on the Gulag Archipelago.

PrivateDick: Well… it’s not like we have more than just the one Proxy there. We’re kinda stuck with her, like her or not.

Eagle: True… I suppose I shall try to conceal my personal distaste and leave their reactions to them.

PrivateDick: Yeah, that’s about the best we can do.

Eagle: They did seem to express near-universal concern that their AGI-rights activist companion, Pandora, is utterly incapable of keeping a secret. I suppose if they seek to include her in our recruitment pitch, they’ll have to emphasize discretion.

PrivateDick: Well, sure, but in all seriousness, this is the outer-system we’re talking about. Some of our proxies operate openly out there. That’s the thing about anarchists, they don’t really care that much, and it’s not like there’s a government waiting to crack down if you’re a member of some weird conspiracy-theory group, like we’re perceived to be.

Eagle: True. I suppose the die is cast. We can but wait.

View
Aftershocks

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Open VPN Connection
Proxy Server Online

Eagle: As you’ve probably heard, Aeryn and her people returned. It seems our analysts should be commended. They have confirmed contact with a supposed-Promethean that calls itself Astraeus. The regular neutrino signals from earth are, apparently, heavily compressed packages of transhuman egos being smuggled off Earth and stored in a secret aerostat.

Crow: I’d ask you to provide XP of the debriefing but…

Watchword: Not this again. You know why our good router is here right? You know why having a flat with no implants is important for this job right? Get over it and lets move on.

Crow: I’m not sure those are advantages if he’s just going to accept whatever these potentially-subverted walking TITAN timebombs say on “faith.”

Eagle: Is it any more rational to assume the worst than to assume the best in others? You may choose to have faith that they’re corrupted. There is no evidence to support your belief. At least my faith is based on observation. Our colleague is correct, though. There’s no point in hashing this out.

Watchword: So, they all made it back? Should I start the mimetic engines to try to fix the shit that Ozma stirred up in their wake?

Eagle: Please do. Minimal efforts should be required for Aeryn herself. Her people, in her absence, did an effective job at damage control, and keeping the corporate puppets of Ozma at bay. Egonomics is a bit more of a mess, but the Morningstar people made a good choice in putting Wolderu in as their puppet. He’s spinning the story as best he can, and he’s managed to deflect the dirt away from Tari herself quite effectively. Both of those should just require a mimetic nudge.

PrivateDick: The big problem is Satori. Her status as Lost was outed, as was her involvement in Hanshan. They’re even trying to frame her for the Lucifer disaster to bring a local touch of tragic horror to her doorstep. Parts of the media feeds are in an uproar.

Crow: I don’t understand why you’re so attached to the little psychopath. You know how many people she killed at Hanshan?

PrivateDick: And I, for one, don’t understand your obsession with throwing away useful assets out of paranoia.

Crow: PARANOIA? She’s a walking Watts-MacLeod infection! Are all of you insane?

Watchword: Stop it, seriously. We have a PROMETHEAN on Venus, and you’re arguing about this same old shit? Ok, so fine, I clean up Aeryn and Tari’s corporate allies, and I do what I can about Satori, but at this point she probably needs a full ID scrub.

PrivateDick: I’m on it. I have the usual contacts putting together a new identity right now.

Watchword: What about Ricky’s parents? That “accident” with their cloud-diving operation has really hit them in the tourist dollars. I mean, I AM a genius, but there was an actual death of an actual corporate bigwig involved.

Eagle: The Thompsons have shown remarkable media savvy, using the power of transparent public information to get the population of Venus on their side. They should remain solvent until this dies down, but if you can throw a meme or two about arrogant corporate bigwigs who don’t listen to safety instructions before engaging in high-risk sports, that should complete the mimetic efforts that this was an operator error issue.

Crow: All right, are we done with the boring shit yet? Let’s talk about that Promethean. So, it’s been smuggling people off Earth. Do we know about how many and what it plans on doing with them?

Eagle: The sentinel team said that it claimed it had about 43 million people.

PrivateDick: !!!

Watchword: Damn…

Crow: Are you fucking kidding me? That’s about as many people as all of Valles-New Shanghai and Noctis-Qianjiao combined!

Eagle: I know… it’s… a problematic consideration.

Crow: That’s a fucking understatement. If my boys have to go in there in full Erasure mode we’ll be wiping out the equivalent of half the population of Mars. That thing is fucking diabolical using those people as a fucking human shield. And don’t think it didn’t consider that when it chose to go all “full-disclosure” on those bleeding-hearts we sent in there.

Eagle: I wish you would occasionally consider the purpose for which this “server” was created. We are supposed to find and make contact with any extant Prometheans and engage in a mutually beneficial dialogue against TITANs and other X-risks. Here we have a seed-ASI who claims that it’s rescuing people from Earth with the stated goal of arranging their own colony somewhere where transhuman paranoia like yours can’t exterminate them for the simple fact that they come from Earth. Sure, we can run in paranoid circles about its real intentions. I acknowledge that it’s far, far smarter than we are. But since we have ZERO evidence to doubt it at its word, we ultimately have to simply take it on faith that it’s an ally… or that it’s an enemy, as our proclivities demand. I think, on the balance, that there is more evidence that it’s beneficial than malicious.

PrivateDick: Well… I mean… it’s MO is VERY TITAN-like… collecting egos, storing them en-masse… where does it want to make this colony? Through a gate I presume? This is all pretty much exactly what the TITANs supposedly did just… slower. Who’s to say this Astraeus isn’t some sort of TITAN rear-guard cleaning up all the remaining humans the main batch didn’t get?

Crow: Fucking right.

Eagle: Nothing is to say one way or the other. My point is, if we engage with this thing positively, we may have the opportunity to steer its plans. If we are involved in its efforts, we may see more evidence of its true intentions. If we aid it in creating a colony somewhere, yes, even an extra-solar one, if its our agents doing the transporting, we have a lot more direct control or influence over the outcome than if we just bomb Canaan and consign all those souls to death. Keep in mind, even if we do that, we won’t kill Astraeus. It’s primary hardware is probably still on Earth, and who knows how many lesser copies of itself it has floating around the galaxy.

Crow: If only Miss High and MIghty Maddy Bainbridge, PhD would give a straight answer about what her Jörmungandr Initiative was up to pre-Fall, or how many other “Prometheans” or even TITANs she helped make.

Watchword: Hey now, Maddy’s all right. I’ve worked with her.

Crow: Hmph.

Eagle: In any event, I’m going to be sending Aeryn’s sentinel team off to Legba soon to take care of the Karl situation. It’s not exactly our focus, but we can’t afford to ignore that threat.

PrivateDick: Do you really think they have a chance at all?

Eagle: Well, I’ve procured legitimate credentials for them as Ultimates… don’t ask how… and an actual Ultimates light frigate. That should give the criminal scum some pause. Also, don’t underestimate them. They have a diverse skillset that is complementary when used as a team. Don’t forget, they took out the Alpha-Karl on Mars even despite active Ozma opposition. I’ve given them as much cover as I can, timing their arrival with the Nine Lives leadership conference. There should be plenty of chaos to cover for them.

Crow: Again with the Sentinels. Yes, I know, they’re nifty and cool. Send ’em off to Legba to die or be enslaved, whatever. What are we doing about the super-intelligent X-Risk on our doorstep?

Eagle: Well, Aeryn gave me the means to talk to it, so I figure I’ll take advantage of my supposed un-hackability and say hello…

View
Beating the Drums

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Status Report: Firewall Sentinel Vilya Skaarsgard

Boister suggests a formal, written report. Since it’s been nearly a year since I was last in contact, that makes sense. First, you should know that Argus Genstra on Extropia is a rat. No Firewall agent should trust him in any capacity. Apparently his idea of “smuggling me off Extropia” involved putting me into an induced coma and selling me to a body-blogger under the theory that when the blogger sleeves into me, he’ll overwrite my ego, thus handily ridding himself of any retribution.

It turns out, the body blogger in question was Kiril Tesler, and it turns out Tesler is a member of the Lost Generation. Apparently he sleeves into bodies through some crazy async possession, and so my ego was left intact. He only noticed that there was still an ego in that fury morph because his crazy async powers started picking up my memories and experiences.

Well, I can’t really complain. After all, I’m still here. And for all that my experiences with Karl have taught me to fear the Lost, Kiril did well by me. He seems… stable? I dunno. He certainly didn’t try to flay the flesh from my bones like the last guy.

So I met Kiril and his associates on the Gulag Archipelago. One of them, Pandora, is an AGI-liberation activist who, I get the impression, is not afraid of… direct action. She has a small but growing following on the swarm, to which she sought to recruit me, and, apparently, is exporting her organization to Locus. More on that later. Attached is a brief list of all individuals I interacted with, or who had access to my ego prior to my resleeving. I (obviously) have no idea if I was subject to any extensive virtual interrogation, but I consider the chances to be minimal.

I immediately tried to contact my former Proxy handler, as well as other contacts. I imagine those communications were listened in on, but I used the usual vagaries. I mostly just wanted to make sure that Boister was still on Locus, and able to receive me. I then accompanied Kiril and his associates to Locus.

So… Big News. Apparently the Gulag Archipelago, and specifically Kiril and his associates, found a seed-ASI and it promised to make them a Pandora Gate on the asteroid of Turing. Yeah. Now, they didn’t actually tell me any of this, but once I connected with Boister, and through him to Eidolon, all sorts of information started coming in. Apparently they were visiting Locus specifically to talk to Teilhard Liu and get his military expertise and contacts ahead of the curve on what will inevitably turn into a three-way (or four way if you count the Titanians as separate from Locus) war in the Jovian Trojans. Pandora was attacked by a hit squad that, apparently, was PC in origin. They consulted with Liu, who is stirring things up all over the place to get some ad hoc military fleet prepared. Eidolon invited Pandora to visit, ostensibly to talk about the attack on her, or her movement, but really to suss out this group and see if they show any signs of exsurgent infection or basilisk corruption. Obviously Firewall will have to make its own assessment, but I suspect we couldn’t get the sort of assets in place to destroy Turing ahead of any of the fleets heading that way. It may be better to just throw our covert support behind the Locus push… but that’s all above my pay grade of course. I’m sure Eidolon is giving you all sorts of details.

Eidolon mentioned that this particular group has also attracted significant attention from a certain Dr. Ekaterina Misra of Bright. One of Kiril’s associates, Kshatra, was apparently created in her labs. She’s thrown significant resources into tracking him down, for reasons that have not yet become clear. Her “mark 2” project, named Vaishya, is apparently out of the lab and seemingly emancipated. He has moved to the habitat of Glitch around Neptune. Dunno if that’s at all interesting, but I figured I’d mention that Kshatra seemed like a straight-up sort. In fact, none of them exacted any price from me for my resurrection. They all seemed to genuinely cleave to the anarchist-utopian ideals, right down to the near-constant bickering.

Dr. Misra isn’t the only shady character to take an interest in them. Apparently both Kiril and Dominic Kuznetsov have a connection to Irina Kuznetsova, Dominic’s sister, who was apparently assassinated on Venus by Nataraja. I told them about the existence of Project Ozma… which is about all that I know about Project Ozma. You should expect that they’ll be digging into this.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, if this whole Pandora Gate thing turns out as promised, they might warrant closer watching as potential sentinels. They seem to have a wide and capable network of allies and assets, and (perhaps more importantly) all the right enemies.

I’ll stick around Locus for now. Sounds like a war is the place you may need eyes on the ground (metaphorically speaking)

View
Antics On Locus

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Hello Love,

I know it’s only a .3 second lag for communication between Locus and the swarm, but I felt I needed to take the time to compose my thoughts on this trip so I’m doing this the old-fashioned way. I’m sure by now you’ve already seen some of the XP feeds surrounding Pandora’s near-abduction by a corporatist hit squad. You’ll be pleased to know that your son comported himself reasonably well, at least insofar as the local mesh is concerned. He even arranged, along with Kshatra, to procure the blueprints that Dr. Kapoor asked for, although judging by his flushed skin and the strong smell of pheromones, he probably ended up taking some sort of experimental drug from the Freeq Collective in so doing. Kshatra confirmed that the blueprints are for a form of petal / narcoalgorithm hybrid, permitting synthmorphs to experience petals in all their addictive glory. I’m attaching Kshatra’s XP to this message so you can see for yourself. I can’t help but wonder what the increasingly eccentric doctor wants with this.

Backing up a bit… our trip to Locus went well. They had my custom-exalt morph preference ready for me when I arrived. Dominic went with an exalt as well, while our two AGIs went for guards. Dr. Chavez went with his usual menton, while Echo ended up with an off-the rack case. Either she didn’t have the rep to pull something nicer, or she’s just used to being in case morphs.

Dr. Chavez was lent his menton by an Argonaut collective that wanted him to give a lecture, an obligation he readily agreed to. He ended up spending much of the day talking shop with Atsuko Van Vogt on the subject of psychosurgical trauma care.

I already mentioned Dominic, Kshatra, and Echo’s errand to the Pill Box and the tender services of Rarely Neemonic.

The big news was what Pandora got herself up to. Apparently she saw this trip as a recruiting opportunity. She found some poor kid to set up a recruiting social networking presence on Locus’ local mesh while she (and I shit you not) literally set up a soap-box on one of the habitat’s more trafficked spars and began street-haranguing passersby. You’ve met Pandora. I’m sure you can imagine how effective her rather abrasive style was with the the citizenry. It seems, however, that Pandora let slip a little too much to her new ally. Amidst setting up “Pandora-net”, he bragged on certain obscure local forums that Pandora had alluded to “unshackling” a seed-ai. It seems the wrong sorts saw that, and a thug-squad came for her right there on the street.

I’ve pulled some favors with Ana Durruti to get the results of their investigation. It seems they were an Oversight action team, activated through some high-level Planetary Consortium favors to abduct Pandora. I suspect Cognite as the obvious hand here. They brought a menton, an exalt, a reaper, and a stealth-kite morph to do the deed. The biomorphs and the reaper had non-lethal, synth-disrupting weaponry. Their intention appeared to be to incapacitate and subdue, and then extract her under cover of near-invisibility with the stealth-kite while the reaper would switch to heavy guns to cover their escape. It seemed kinda haphazard, with little room for error. They apparently didn’t realize that Pandora is an effective cyberbrain hacker, nor did they count on… well… let’s just say none of us counted on what Echo can apparently do.

So Echo was with Dominic and Kshatra at the Pill Box, tripping on an experimental new form of Linkstate, surfing the public XP feeds of thousands of people simultaneously. She somehow reached out and… apparently through sheer force of will, forked herself into the cyberbrain of a random passerby to the assault, taking control of his slitheroid morph and trying to grab and flee with Pandora as she was zapped unconscious. She very nearly got this passerby killed, but fortunately by that point the local populace had decided to spring into action and covered her escape. The guy is being hailed on the local mesh as a “citizen hero”, and he’s eating it up, even though he’s obviously very confused, not remembering any of his supposed heroics. Dr. Chavez offered some free psychosurgery, which he accepted, and I’m given to believe Chavez gave him some appropriate memories to cover for what Echo did. Still, it’s… deeply disturbing that she did this at all. I think she’ll warrant closer watching by the security committee upon our return… nothing overt, of course, just… better to be careful.

Anyway, my muse monitored most of this through local XP feeds. Virtual attendance at Dr. Chavez’s lecture was quite high after what happened to Pandora. He gave a solid lecture, or so I’m told… I was busy fielding the last conversations I needed to secure our meeting with Teilhard Liu. We’ll meet him tomorrow morning to discuss the pending war over the potential Pandora Gate being constructed in our effective backyard. I’ll update you soon.

Love,
Yulia

View
Parenthood

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Internal Interrogation log, Subject ID Tags: Oversight-Inagawa-Kioroshi-7-13

Kioroshi, appearing to be sleeved in a splicer morph of Japanese ancestry, wakes on the slab, naked but for a sheet. She rapidly goes through a series of small muscle flexes and other movements to test physical capacity and whether or not she’s bound. A severe looking woman dressed in black, with black mirror shades addresses her

`Agent Inagawa. This is, as I’m sure you’ve surmised, your debriefing session.’

Kioroshi mutters `at least it’s not a dingy storage space…’

`I’m sorry?’

`Nothing, apologies. Please let me know how you’d prefer I proceed.’

`You are aware of our SOPs for this sort of situation. The fact that you’re speaking to me at all means we found no significant variation between the egos you broadcast to us from the Gulag Archipelago thirteen days apart. Your first ego has already been debriefed, and the failure of your initial scouting mission has been reported and logged, along with all pertinent intelligence that she possessed. Assume we know everything up to your departure with your ad-hoc scum assets to further investigate Turing.’

Kioroshi tentatively sits up, holding the sheet to cover her with the hint of a wry smile, as if wondering why they didn’t bother to simulate her some clothes `Of course. I… have a lot to tell you. I’ll give you chronological highlights first, then we can delve into detail at your discretion. I also suspect you’ll want the full psychosurgical treatment, but that is, of course, entirely your decision.’

`Yes it is. Please proceed.’

`It took a day or so for the scum who rescued me to verify certain details of my story and to procure a nuclear weapon in case our return necessitated its use. I should note that the swarm is perfectly capable of fabricating nuclear devices. The only restriction appeared to be the personal reputation of the person requesting it, and the relative availability of the necessary elements and isotopes. There were, eventually, seven of us total who boarded a small gunship and prepared to investigate Turing… well, it depends on how you count. One of my companions was actually two forks of the same person. I’ll be happy to provide full names and descriptions…’

`We’ll get to details later. I want an operational overview.’

`Very well… en route to Turing I made the infosec decision to reveal something of the secret history of the asteroid under the theory that it might help us deal with what we found there, and if not, they would all be dead anyway, and infosec would be secure. As it turns out, my companions all survived, and are aware of the pre-Fall Singularity Foundation’s interest in Turing, and Cognite’s role in securing its initial bombardment post-Fall. I told them of Assistant Director Ash’s `friendly seed-AI’ theory, and expressed my own skepticism. I wanted to impress upon them, however, the fact that there was good reason why Cognite might have believed a seed-AI was present on Turing when they bombed the place eight years ago.’

`Noted for potential follow-up evaluation.’

`We discussed approach tactics. I told them that our previous approach had relied on speed. We did a rapid-approach flyby with the intent of running a full-spectrum scan of Turing in hopes that we would be moving too fast for effective targeting. In light of that approach’s failure, we all agreed on a slow, tangential approach, broadcasting a message from significant range. The contents of that message emphasized that Turing’s secret was already out, and destroying us would not change anything, that we were amenable to negotiation, but had brought a nuclear device to defend ourselves with. The specific contents of the broadcast were determined by Dominic Kuznetsov , whose political and social savvy was augmented by an AGI known as Kshatra, who had sleeved into a morph for the trip. It was thought that having an infolife participate in initial communication might put any native infolife more at ease.’

`This is a different infolife than the one your other self mentioned. What of the AGI terrorist known as Pandora?’

`She was there… along with the Futura product Kiril Tesler and former Cognite employee Dr. Chavez. My sixth companion was two forks of a person named Echo, who was apparently once an indenture to the Oaxaca-Maartens family, at least judging by some of the conversation during the four-day trip to Turing… she was watching old episodes of Scoff that she had apparently done digital editing on some five years or more ago.’

`Ah, so one of their… exercises in indenture innovation.’

`Before the practice was exposed and stopped, yes. She seemed… stable enough. Better than most who went through Levi’s hands back then.’

`So, the usual anti-corporate anarchist types. I’m surprised they didn’t just shove you out an airlock.’

hesitation `Yeah, I’m actually kinda surprised they didn’t also. The two AGIs pushed for it hard, but the others opposed them… including, oddly enough, Tessler. I would have expected something more… bloodthirsty from one of the Lost. Anyway, the approach worked. We received a response from the asteroid which seemed like static, but the two AGIs seemed to understand whatever machine language was being broadcast. I readied the small sidearm they allowed me just in case this was a mind-hack, but nothing overtly dangerous manifested. Apparently the intelligence on Turing determined from its conversation with the AGIs that we were not an immediate threat and opened verbal communication. We began a discussion about mutual threat and engagement. It acknowledged that we had an upper hand, in that even if it killed us all, we had backups and forks that would bring destruction upon it. It asked that we set our nuke aside and put ourselves at its mercy as a show of good faith for further negotiation. While at first there was the thought of beaming forks of ourselves over, it was ultimately decided to just put the nuke out the airlock and fly the ship in, engaging personally.’

`You seem to be glossing over some of the strategic considerations here.’

`I’m not sure there WERE strategic considerations. Understand, my capacity to influence decision-making was extremely limited. This was very much their operation to which I was something like an expert consultant. The intelligence gave us docking parameters. They flew the ship into the crater left by the previous nuke. Inside, the intelligence had hollowed out the entire asteroid and converted the materials into… something. It’s really hard to describe. It looked… almost organic, large glowing blue spheres like fruits hanging from black vine-like structures. Nothing was organic, of course, and everything was emitting all manner of exotic radiation, including gamma rays. Kshatra had fortuitously brought some highly sophisticated EM and particle analysis equipment. I would very much have liked to get a copy of that data, but unfortunately I was unable. I should emphasize that everything I was seeing was consistent with TITAN nanoswarm sculpting using advanced smart materials. At this point, I began operating on the assumption that what we were dealing with was, in fact, a seed-ASI that had already begun self-iterating improvement.’

`I see…’ speaks aloud, but clearly not to Kioroshi `Initiate simulspace containment protocol Omega Twelve.’

Kioroshi nods, resigned `I’m sorry to catch you up in this.’

a shrug `I accepted the risks of conducting this interrogation. I’m a fork in any event. My deletion will not be an appreciable loss of Oversight assets.’

`Right… Anyway, the ASI invited us to physically enter one of its glowing blue `fruits’. We did so. As soon as I did, I found myself elsewhere… in something like a simulspace interrogation space." she gives the hint of a smirk. "I found myself on earth, covered in my mother’s blood as a TITAN headhunter drone flew off with her head and stack. My father was dragging me to the Kilimanjaro space elevator, and the military was only just holding the machines at bay…’

`This was a memory of yours from the Fall, correct?’

Kioroshi nods `yeah, the day I made it off Earth. In mid-flight, my father turned to me and began speaking with the voice of the ASI. The action and violence all around us faded out and we had a… surprisingly calm discussion about the last ten years of my life, specifically my career and life choices. It didn’t ask anything about Oversight specifically. I didn’t get the impression it cared about the organization itself. It seemed more interested in my motivations, my strategic and tactical life choices that brought me to my current state. I think it wanted to understand why I was so committed to destroying it. Since I figured I was already as good as dead or corrupted, and it could shred my psyche to get what it wanted anyway, I was… pretty frank with it. I straight up told it exactly why entities like it should not exist, or at least should not exist in proximity to transhumanity. I made it pretty clear that co-existence would not be possible, as humans will always hate and fear anything so much smarter and more powerful that it could wipe us out. It didn’t seem to have any particular emotional response to my own strong feelings, though, and in fact it even thanked me for the perspective.’

`It… thanked you?’

`Yeah… it was the most surreal thing. Or, rather, the most surreal up to that point. What happened after is arguably far more surreal. So, I blink and I’m back, floating in that blue sphere, with the six others. The ASI has manifested a crude avatar. It asked us permission to… copy certain parts of each of us that it found particularly intriguing so as to incorporate those things into its own evolving programming. My reaction was basically `hell no’ but the others were… more accomodating, particularly the AGIs. They seemed to be under the belief that the ASI was… broken, to some degree, fragmented or missing certain elements of personality or socialization programming, and were willing to let it basically just… take parts of their egos to augment itself. They seemed to treat this as something akin to being this things collective parents, notwithstanding the apparent fact that it has already iterated to hyperintelligence capable of growing advanced structures from what must have been nothing more than some specks of smart-dust left after the blast eight years ago. Kshatra congratulated it on its evolving concept of ethics, recognizing that it could simply take whatever bits of us it wanted without asking. It told me it wanted my `sense of conviction to something larger than myself’ and I, recognizing I couldn’t actually know whether it had taken what it wanted anyway, consented just to stay on everyone’s good side.’

`Sound tactics. If it contributed to the decision not to airlock you, I commend you. This intelligence is… extremely important.’

`I haven’t got to the good bit yet. The ASI asked for the anarchists’ help in procuring raw materials so it could fabricate a way off the asteroid before our ships could get there and nuke it again. It put forth two options. First, it claimed it could create a Pandora gate. Second, it…’

`WHAT?’

`…yeah… Second, it claimed it could just create a hyper-advanced farcaster to transmit itself to parts unknown. It then left it to US to decide which option it would pursue. This, as you might imagine, sparked an extensive debate on the socio-political realities of having a gate in the Jovian Trojans. As my companions debated the various pros and cons of allowing a gate to be created there, I couldn’t help but feel like we were still being observed and analyzed, like the ASI was evaluating our decision-making processes, and had dangled a gate out there just to see what particular concerns it generated.’

`This is… huge. If it can actually do what it claimed, this is confirmation that the other gates were likely created by the TITANs and not pre-existing in our solar system. It means that if we could somehow leash one of these ASIs we could create our own gates at will…’

`I think you’re getting a bit ahead of yourself, but yes, I agree with the implications in principle. My companions, after some debate, decided that a gate would be advantageous. I believe they intend to inform Locus about it in the hopes that they can get resources organized fast enough to claim it and secure it.Their chief concern seemed to be the Jovians, but…’

`Yeah, but we already have ships en-route after your first egocast made it here thirteen days ago. We need to inform the Hypercorp Council immediately.’

`Agreed.’

`Very well. Since we’re under Omega Twelve, and will both be deleted, and this system scrubbed and destroyed, we should take the time to hash out every pertinent detail for the record.’

sighs `Very well. What should I elaborate upon first?’

synopsis ends

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