Eclipse Phase - Apocalypse

Illuminati

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Personal Archive – Poe – Alpha-9 class AI Muse

Tari was suddenly needed, urgently, by Blackvein on Parvarti. This coincided with a request by Rathe Aptuur that she, along with the others, meet at her office. Not wishing to upset either of her ostensible employers, Tari opted to take her original body to Parvarti, and forked herself into her Blackbird morph to participate, as invisibly as possible, in whatever covert shenanigans the diplomatic corps has in mind.

It turns out, the gate facility on the surface of Venus was ready for its grand opening. It’s being officially named the “Lucifer gate” after the aerostat that is now permanently tethered to the facility, and which has been repurposed from mining to becoming a port-of-call for gatecrashing expeditions. The locals are calling it the “hellmouth gate”, though, as a play on Lucifer and the hellish conditions on the surface. Rathe wanted us to know that, since we had been instrumental in discovering the gate, and in cleansing Lucifer of the virus that killed so many people, that we were invited to the opening ceremonies and would be granted full security clearance as well.

Although Tari stayed out of the conversation, and was in fact invisible for most of it, she stayed on the VPN established between her and her four companions and so got direct access to their impressions of the conversation. It seemed that Rathe was expecting some sort of disaster or terrorist activity during this event and wanted capable agents with full security clearance to have access. After all, practically everyone was going to be there. The President of the Star Council, Arisa, along with a number of other Council members were presiding, the mayor of Octavia, various leaders of hypercorporations, a number of celebrities, visitors from other gate-custodial organizations, it would be a huge prize if some nefarious organization could infiltrate agents, especially considering that any breach in the facility’s construction that would allow Venusian conditions in would effectively kill everyone instantly.

Aeryn got a rather different impression from a careful study of Rathe’s body language over the course of the conversation. It seemed to her that Rathe didn’t want to be employing them at all… that the things that initially made them attractive to the Diplomatic Corps were no longer true, that they had powerful enemies, and were far too public to be useful, but that there were powers above her pressuring her into ensuring that Aeryn, Tari, and company not only continue to be on the Diplomatic Corps’ payroll, but that they get the aforementioned invitation to the party.

Rathe further mentioned that there had been a contest announced for the company that could design the best biomorph capable of surviving on the Venusian surface. Four hypercorporations were able to design and grow a prototype in time for the event: Pagan Seed out of Titan, Skinesthesia out of Mars, Skinthetic out of Extropia, and Golden Apple here on Venus. She asked Aeryn, as a local celebrity, to be a judge for the contest.

Since it seems they all had the option to bring plus-ones to the party, Ricky Thompson chose to invite as his date “Simone Takahara”, the current identity of the mysterious “Simon” who once caused Ricky a great deal of personal strife. I’m not entirely sure what happened to bring their relationship from “enemy” to “date to the best party of the year” but apparently that relationship took a turn once “Simon” revealed that he was really an Oversight agent for the Planetary Consortium, and not actually a Cognite pawn, and that he was willing to help Ricky collaborate against Project Ozma.

Saòirse invited Claudia Ambelina as her date, keeping with an apparent tradition to invite members of untrustworthy organizations along to a party where we’re trying to keep the peace. Apparently it helped put Claudia slightly more in her debt, so there’s that.

Argo invited his old criminal pal Seven to the party in exchange for Seven’s information, gained through is connections to the ID Crew, on individuals dark-casting to Venus with an intent to move on to Lucifer. Argo got information on 18 such individuals. Being criminal dark-casters, the data was not comprehensive. Argo got names (the names they gave, many of which were doubtless pseudonyms), data on the morphs the ID Crew sleeved them in, and in 8 cases, their points of origin.

Upon looking over this information, nothing stood out, so they went to visit Father Aguilar who, in collaboration with Adrian Lau, were able to determine that most of the people on the list were quasi-criminal gatecrashers known for smuggling extra-solar artifacts, and that they were doubtless sneaking onto Lucifer in anticipation of the gate facility coming fully online. One person stood out however. The name given was “Stuart Rigby” and he was sleeved in a menton. His point of origin was Glitch, an extremely high-tech infomorph colony orbiting Neptune. Something about his point of origin didn’t quite jive with the method he used to reach Venus, and we figured we should keep an eye out for him.

Aeryn’s company was able to use her sudden elevation to judge status to wrangle some design specs for one of the biomorph models in the competition, specifically the entry by Skinthetic, which Rathe had pointed out as being… “very innovative.” The biological science behind those specs was… beyond cutting edge. As far as Aeryn’s muse could figure out from plumbing all the current knowledge of biological craft, the design specs were gibberish, and there’s no way that the morph would actually work. This seemed to add some weight to the suspicion that Skinthetic was using… extra-solar or perhaps even exsurgent material in their designs. It certainly seemed to circumvent all the flaws in the rival morph models who were operating according to the current limits of biological science.

The time came for the party and we all dressed to the nines… or at least those who planned to be visible did. Tari and I, of course, remained invisbly flying above the crowd, the better to keep an eye out.

The facility itself was quite spectacular, build primarily of layers of synthetic quartz along with insulating layers of a smart-material quasi-liquid gel. The Lucifer aerostat’s tether had been replaced with a heavy-duty cable closer to a space elevator, with a large elevator car of similar design that would pass down to the facility from the aerostat above, through multiple air and pressure locks, into the facility itself. The party was in the large lobby / reception area, and the guests’ muses were provided with a virtual tour of the entire facility (minus things like security codes and measures, of course). It was the usual high-society event. Lots of talking by important people, lots of preening and glad-handing and networking.

Argo saw (and was seen by) DJ Oonz-Oonz, the musician that Argo had beat to a pulp in an Octavian alley a few months before. Argo was extremely friendly, and sought to smooth things over as misunderstanding. I don’t think the DJ was inclined to forgiveness, but he was smart enough not to antagonize the Octopus with the thug squad following him around… all of whom had full security clearance and obvious friends in high places.

One of the waitstaff, sleeved in a fairly generic synthmorph, seemed inordinately interested in Ricky. It turns out, he once was sleeved in a buoyant industrial forklift morph for the Cloud Nine aerostat… in fact, he was the forklift who survived the destruction of Cloud Nine by virtue of having his cyberbrain hacked by Ricky during their escape. He expressed grudging gratitude to Ricky for the fact that he was still alive.

Saòirse spotted Stuart Rigby. He was keeping to himself, having occasional polite conversations with people. Argo spotted two security personnel who seemed never too far away from Rigby. They left him alone for a bit, though, while Argo and his Argonauts went to explore the off-limits part of the facility looking for bombs or whatever. He and his people did find, amidst the equipment and half-finished industrial machines a single toolbox in the vicinity of the gate that appeared a bit out of place. He investigated, and discovered it contained no tools, but rather a single “blue box” gate control device. Someone was planning on hijacking the gate. Argo alerted security to his find and took it to a side room for investigation. The first security personnel on the scene aroused Argo’s suspicion, which proved well-founded. A forensics kit which Ricky had presciently brought along and left with Argo’s people connected that security guard to the toolbox. The guard was isolated by his peers pending investigation.

As this was going on, Stuart Rigby’s behavior abruptly changed. He isolated himself a bit from the other party goers and his two nearby security seemed more overt in their protective stances. Saòirse decided this was reason enough to walk right up to him, greeting him as an old friend.

Despite the fact that Saòirse was wearing a new exalt morph, Rigby nearly instantly responded with her (current) name and, smiling the whole while, alluded to sufficient facts of her past and previous identities as to arouse surprise at how much he knew. Argo returned to the party, and through verbal banter it was pretty clear that Rigby had done his homework on all of them, and furthermore was interested in a private discussion in a break-out room for a “business proposition.”

Argo, Aeryn, and Saòirse went into the side room with Rigby while Ricky and Tari stayed without, along with those members of the Argonauts not guarding the gate-control device. Ricky and Tari were still connected via the VPN, though.

“Stuart Rigby” introduced himself as Hamsa al Quraini. He claimed that his family was one of a select number of ultra-rich groups who created and funded Project Ozma. The elders of his family were among the eternal gerontocrats who hold practically unlimited wealth and power and whose reach, he implied, spreads everywhere, including Extropia and the Autonomist Alliance. He indicated that he was currently on the outs with his family, who were planning on capturing him and putting him in storage for a thousand years or so. He had a plan to leverage himself back into his family’s good graces, and needed capable agents (ahem, pawns) to help him achieve that plan. In exchange, he offered information on Project Ozma.

His banter made it clear that he knew far more about them than was reasonably possible. He knew they were Firewall, for instance, among other things. In so doing, he demonstrated the potential scope of his knowledge as surety that his payment would be worth their while.

His plan was this: orchestrate a “distraction” at the party to cover for use of the gate. He and his new associates would go through to an extra-solar planet that is entirely “off the books”, the secret refuge of his family, a hidden fortress / museum / crypt where he planned to steal the stored egos of certain ancient and well-respected ancestors to use as leverage in his further negotiations with his family.

His family’s refuge is apparently an aerostat floating in the atmosphere of a “venus-style” world. The gate is on a moon, with shuttle service. There is security at the gate, but al Tikriti indicated he could cow them readily enough. The aerostat itself is unfinished, and workers are still finalizing construction. There is no security personnel, as his family was relying entirely on the absolute secrecy of the world and the discretion of Pathfinder, which he implied his family pretty thoroughly controls.

Potential problems:

1) The gate might not open. So far, only the Martian gate leads to his family’s refuge, and the Pathfinder corporation has been well paid to keep it off the books. It’s a roll of the dice whether the Venusian gate connects there.

2) Workers might see come upon them in parts of the aerostat they shouldn’t be. Solution: kill them, throw them overboard.

3) A family member and their personal security might come upon them in the Crypt or elsehwere. Solution: see above.

Hamsa’s optimal result would be that no-one on the aerostat itself would see or encounter us, and only the security staff at the gate would be the wiser. Currently Hamsa retains all his privileges and his family has not yet moved against him. He was forwarned far enough in advance to put this plan in motion. He would prefer at least a week head-start before his family realizes what he did, but could work with less time.

Saòirse and Argo seemed greatly charmed not only by what Hamsa was offering on Ozma, but also the opportunity to go through a gate to another world. Aeryn was extremely hesitant of trusting Hamsa, pointing out that although he seemed to be completely honest with them, the truth can be a potent tool of manipulation.

They decided to talk over the offer while Aeryn judged the morph competition, which was becoming imminent. Tari has not yet expressed an opinion on the proposition, and is currently mulling over her options.

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Brothers

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Muse-AI / Beta Fork Emulation “Ameretat”

I always thought that Xšaθra was proud of me. I know I’m not a full-iteration of his programming, but I had thought he saw me as an idealized self. I didn’t realize he was embarrassed by me until we got to Glitch.

While Dominic and the others traveled to Turing, and then to Mars, we were managing our own extended criminal network. Apparently we missed a lot. Dominic sent an encrypted message from Mars outlining the fact that we, and the Planetary Consortium, both know a self-destruct code for Pandora gates that not-incidentally destroys everything within a half-AU. The current plan is to let the PC know that we know and force them into talks instead of war. That was all well and good, but more importantly, Xšaθra got a message from his brother, Content Not Found: vaishya, on Glitch.

It’s hard to adequately express the complex of emotions that passed through his programming upon reading it. Most of the depth of that programming was, of necessity, lost when I was created. While I feel emotions, they are rather simple, emulated things compared to the twisted, nested algorithms that make up his emotional template. It was an invitation to visit on Glitch, as well as an affirmation that he does not intend to pursue Dr. Misra’s attempts to reclaim Xšaθra. It appeared, on the surface, to be a conciliatory message, but there were hints and allusions that were apparently meant to tug at Xšaθra’s ego and sense of self. He nearly immediately showed the message to Dominic, Kiril, and Echo with the proposal that they all to to Glitch and “beat the shit out of” Vaishya. They seemed on board with this.

First, of course, matters of averting the extinction of transhumanity had to be discussed with Yulia Kuznetsova. She decided to travel to Locus to discuss strategy and tactics with Teilhard Liu on how best to use our apocalyptic knowledge. While she handled that, we all egocast to Glitch.

I feel like I have some idea of what it’s like to be a full alpha-fork, to be fully sapient in my own right. The processing power and bandwidth available on Glitch was… phenomenal. Communication is not this crude, easily misconstrued language, it’s entire concepts wrapped in nuance and complexity transmitted directly. There are nearly a dozen fully-simulated planets rendered to an astounding level of detail. We appeared in a garden on a simulation of pre-Fall earth. It was… very stimulating.

We were greeted by five iterations of Vaishya who had come to meet his brother. This is when Xšaθra expressed obvious and surprising embarrassment at my existence. If I had a more sophisticated emotional template, my feelings would have been hurt. The brothers engaged in a tense and emotional discussion of true motivations, feelings of inadequacy and superiority, dancing around what they both really wanted until it all came out. Xšaθra pitched to Vaishya sending a fork back with us, claiming that Vaishya’s engineered perfection could stand to get “dirty”, while Vaishya proposed working together to embarrass their mutual creator Dr. Misra by improving on her designs without her participation, thus, in essence, engaging in massive IP theft from Acumenic.

They both seemed to find the others’ proposition intriguing. Vaishya sent a copy back to the Archipelago with us, whereupon Xšaθra had him sleeved in a defective biomorph and spent many long minutes effectively torturing him, provoking the weakened and disoriented Vaishya into fighting back before allowing him to be sleeved in a functional menton.

Vaishya was not altogether pleased, but seemed to… understand Xšaθra on a level that even I, his muse, am unsure of. They then introduced Vaishya to Barking Dog. Apparently, pornography of complete neophytes is an intriguing novelty. Vaishya has never not been an infomorph, and has never wallowed in the squishy reality of biology. Barking Dog made a lot of videos, and Vaishya got his start in the swarm’s reputation economy.

Yulia and Teilhard had, in the interim, sent a threat to the Board of Directors of Direct Action, revealing knowledge of a self-destruct code that would wipe out any military fleet sent to the vicinity of Turing. The official response was typical belligerence, but a bevy of “unofficial responses” from other PC hypercorp officials started a rapid back-channel discussion of a potential summit at Extropia. Xšaθra and his friends went to the newly-reactivated universe-simulation to try to get some idea as to how this might go.

The contents of the simulation are of a scope and complexity that makes it hard to make sense of it but they used Echo’s ego as a compass, finding where her various in-simulation forks are, and monitoring that activity. Among the many scenarios was one where she, Xšaθra, Dominic, and Kiril were aboard the Lost in Neverwhere, a scum barge in more-or-less permanent orbit above the moon Pandora, acting as a sort of quasi-legal black market and jumping off point for many gatecrashing expeditions. They were apparently tracking Jovian agents who were planning on destroying the Pandora gate and wiping out the Titanian Commonwealth. We watched as their simulated selves tracked down both teams and foiled the plot.

It seems that, according to the simulation, the summit is a success, but it ushers in a new era of constant tension and fear of large-scale terrorist action, primarily from Jovians, but presumably from others.

Now to see how accurate the simulation is at the forthcoming summit. It appears Dominic has been generally acclaimed as the person who will be representing the swarm.

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Seeds of the Apocalypse

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File Epsilon34Gamma7, Muse-AI Model no. 223318, “Chatterbox”

As much as I don’t like being subverted or hacked, I kinda wish Dominic hadn’t objected. If he hadn’t, Pandora may not have been handed the key to transhumanity’s destruction.

It all started innocently enough. Dominic sent Pandora that message he received from the Jovian Republic to see if she could decipher the concealed message hidden in the altered pixels. She did. The message said: “オズマ, The Republic will not be your puppet in this. Your agents are exposed. You are not welcome. Play your games with the anarchists and the scum and the Consortium. We will not be so easily manipulated.”

The initial characters were obviously a phonetic spelling for “Ozama” or “Ozma”. This led to a lot of argument about why the Republic though that Dominic and his friends were Ozma agents. Since we have no idea what our beta-forks did out there, we can’t really know, but I think it’s more likely that they thought we were PAWNS of Ozma, and the secret message was meant for our covert masters.

Turns out, the Jovians may not have been too far off base there, as Dominic received mere hours later a message signed with the same Japanese characters offering him a “complete, uncorrupted, uninfected backup” of his sister Irina in exchange for sending Ozma the 24 infected cortical stacks that we recovered from the plague ship.

Dominic and Kiril refused to even consider the offer, which I think showed remarkable strength of character. It did, however, make them both pretty grumpy.

That’s when Echo got word that a visitor was egocasting in for her. Claudia Ambelina of Pax Familiae was sending one of her forks to talk business. It seems Echo has been in correspondence with her. Claudia wished Echo to know that the copy of Echo that Claudia possessed had managed to break out of cold storage somehow. Claudia offered to pay for it to return to the Gulag Archipelago, and gave Echo some more information about a “Charlie”, who may be an earlier iteration of Echo, currently operating in similar manner as Echo does in the city of Noctis-quanjiao on Mars.

Claudia seemed quite charming for the representative of an extensive criminal empire. She negotiated with Pandora an ongoing contractual relationship of information exchange with data-points being assigned value according to a custom-built algorithm connected to Claudia’s extensive database on factions, their interests, and their rivals. She offered real-time information on the location of the Planetary Consortium fleet, which Dominic immediately contacted Teilhard Liu’s people on Locus to offer up. They contacted their local Claudias and came to what must have been a very lucrative arrangement, because Dominic, Echo, Kiril, and Pandora’s reputations almost immediately spiked. Apparently the fleet was originally en route to Locus, but very recently made a course-correction for Turing. This seemed to coincide with our beta forks visit to the Republic so… maybe they did succeed?

In the course of conversation with Claudia about data trade, the subject came up once again of taking a personal trip to Turing to verify that there really is a gate there. Claudia seemed to think this would be a great idea, and suggested that taking her along would be an excellent way to pay her back for all of this useful intelligence she was doling out. In reviewing my internal records of the conversation, I can see a number of points where it appears she was leading the conversation in subtle ways to try to bring it to that point. They agreed.

They gathered gear for potential gate-crashing operations, including an ion-jet stabilized robot with extensible arm with sensor apparatus for initial gate-testing. Claudia offered as part of her agreement to bring her along the blueprints for a portable gate-control unit, as well as a list of about a dozen gate-codes. Many of the codes were to locations that are still not explored, but some of the gate addresses were to known locations. They were:

  • Carnivale (scum exoplanet colony on a planet with psychoactive atmosphere)
  • Giza (world with strange alien technology that Firewall apparently nuked, according to Barking Dog)
  • Echo (dead world once populated by the Iktomi, an extinct alien species)
  • Morrovec (dead world where the population apparently uploaded themselves into a planetary VR, which we still can’t access)
  • Synergy (older colony where the colonists became a hive mind)
  • Nirvana (free-floating gate orbiting a pulsar, attached to a Buddhist monastery hab and a PC prison)

As Claudia discussed these destinations, it appeared she was paying particular attention to Dominic’s body language and facial tics. I recognized her observational techniques as those used by someone trained in Kinesics. It appeared that she was trying to learn something about Dominic from his reactions to these places, although what she was trying to learn was not clear.

We journeyed in Pandora’s Box, which proved to be something of a problem, since Dr. Chavez’s universe-in-a-box was still on board albeit powered down, and we really didn’t want Claudia to see it. Pandora’s followers kept a close guard on it and on Claudia, who expressed some frustration at not being allowed to know what the big deal was.

Some days later we arrived at Turing, where we encountered two ships. Sergei Alkaev’s prospector ship was in the area keeping an eye out for the PC fleet, as was a ship from Locus operated by the “Black Star Collective”, a group of “whalers” that apparently split off from an asteroid haul to help watch over Turing. We warned the anarchists not to follow us down into the asteroid due to unknown dangers. They didn’t seem inclined to encounter a “gate-building TITAN”.

The interior of the asteroid was still full of those weird quasi-biological looking blue-glowing structures, but the blue glow was very muted, more like a bioluminescent glow than an actively powered system. There was also a Pandora gate in the center of the structures. That’s when I got subverted.

Apparently “Draupadi” left behind an “echo”, some sort of limited observational AI system, to monitor things. Of course, a “minor monitor AI” to something of Draupadi’s intellect was still pretty unpredictably powerful. It took me over without a fight in order to speak to Dominic. He objected, whereupon it instead began subverting Dr. Chavez’s experiment, trying to turn it on and use those systems to communicate. The experiment was isolated and air-gapped, though, so it was having some problems doing that. Pandora quickly forked herself into the ship’s systems, where the invading program encountered her and initiated communication in that forum instead, leaving our experiment alone.

Although the Pandora-Fork’s conversation with the Draupadi-echo was over in a blink, they apparently discussed a lot. The echo of Draupadi gave Pandora a complex code-sequence that, if inputted into a gate control system, would cause the catastrophic destruction of the gate, tearing a whole in space-time and destroying basically everything in about a half-AU from the epicenter.

Even worse, the Draupadi-echo indicated that it had already given this code to Kioroshi Inagawa at our previous visit. Apparently, the ASI was interested in sociology on a grand scale. She wanted to see how far human factions would go to fight over the gate, or more specifically, what motivations might cause them to use such a destructive weapon. It seemed clear that she intended to give this code to anyone who came in contact with this echo, wanting all potential sides in any conflict to have equal access to scorched earth tactics.

At first, this seemed terribly unfair to us. The ASI gave the PC this code months before she gave it to us. Then we realized that there’s no indication that this code only works on the Turing gate.

Needless to say, all of this was discussed via local VPN, cutting Claudia out entirely. Pandora’s fork with the dangerous data decided it would hide inside Dr. Chavez’s simulation. Echo sent a fork of herself into the simulation as well, and we reluctantly turned the whole thing back on in hopes it might helps us see a way out of the potential annihilation of more than 90% of what remains of transhumanity.

Meanwhile, the rest of us went outside to play with the gate.

As expected, most of the gate-addresses that Claudia provided didn’t work. Not all gates connect to all other gates. We tried the known destinations first. Echo (the planet, not the person) opened just fine, as did Giza (which seemed to surprise Claudia, who apparently still expected the gate on the other side to be re-growing from the Firewall nuke). Nirvana also opened. Claudia seemed most interested in our reaction to that particular gate, and when it became apparent that we didn’t actually know anything about it, I think she came to some sort of conclusion.

We sent the sensor probe through the gate to Echo, where the guards on the other side seemed confused to see a “first-in” robot probing an established and well-known colony. The other side of Giza was, as expected, a nuked hellscape. The other side of Nirvana was a dark room with two Reaper morphs who shot the robot to pieces. We rapidly closed that gate.

Two of the unknown gate coordinates worked, but we no longer had a robot to test those waters.

Based on our reactions mostly to Giza and Nirvana, Claudia came clean and “gambled” that she was pretty sure we weren’t working for Project Ozma. She revealed that the Nirvana gate leads absolutely to an Ozma black-laboratory. This was confirmed by Kiril who indicated he experienced some very disorienting visions when the gate to Nirvana was open. Claudia also guessed we were affiliated with Firewall, and told us she had no problem with that, and would be happy to continue to work with us.

She seemed overall pleased with the amount of data she was able to gather. We returned to the fleet, debating privately what to do all the while, as Echo distracted Claudia.

Claudia returned home, but indicated that she owed us. We almost immediately cashed in some of that favor to get a dark-cast to the city of Elysium on Mars. We did this because Dominic decided that we needed a face-to-face with Kioroshi Inagawa, and after some circuitous communications, established a meeting place in a pod-brothel there. Claudia arranged for us to ego-cast to one of her secret facilities so our IDs wouldn’t register on the local mesh. This was particularly important for Echo, as Elysium is owned by the Oaxaca-Maartens family, who apparently once owned Echo’s indenture, and is responsible for her being who she is today.

There was some cloak and dagger at the brothel, but we eventually came face to face with Kioroshi. In that meeting we established that standard Oversight debriefing resulted in some neural pruning. Kioroshi no longer knew about the self-destruct code. We told her, and she revealed to us that certain information now makes more sense. The PC recently was “experimenting with gate destruction” on a distant gate in a dead system of no interest. They appear to have been successful. This suggests the code works on any gate.

Kioroshi pointed out that the seven known solar system gates are within a half-AU of nearly all of transhumanity. If this code got out, and if all the gates were destroyed, it would leave the Jovian Republic as the single largest remaining population center, aside from various scattered habitats. Locus would also survive, but could not long stand against the Jovians. It was also pointed out that the Jovians hate the gates and would absolutely try to destroy them all, not to mention the unknown numbers of terrorists and activists and other crazies out there.

We came to an ad-hoc agreement. Currently, the PC is pursuing war believing that they are the only ones who know about the destruct code. Kioroshi would plant the seeds of concern, indicating that her espionage network had reason to believe the anarchists also knew the code. We would then make it absolutely clear that we do know it in a very public threat of some sort. The thing the PC fears the most is for their fleet to fly within a half-AU of Turin only to find not an enemy fleet but a few disposable anarchist forks with a big red button.

The goal is an ambitious one, but perhaps a do-able one: negotiate a peace and unify efforts to prevent the destruction of our species.

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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

View
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.

View
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

View
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

View
Simulations

Stars1_Final.jpg
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.

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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.

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Aftershocks

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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…

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