Eclipse Phase - Apocalypse

Rooks and Pawns

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Post-Meeting Reconstructive Analysis
Data Collation Complete
File Copy: Rook to King’s Bishop 3

Reconstructed timeline of events:

  • Nuclear event destroys the Tirion Gate shortly after a team flagged as Cognite researchers, including one neo-octopus test subject, arrives from Tirion. Cognite ID data readily determined to be false. Falsity too obvious not to have been actually provided by Cognite.
  • Celestin Vermette, along with entourage including famous socialite-philanthropist Aeryn Taft-Crowley, Tari, and a neo-octopus operating under a pseudonym spend three days in the spotlight of Martian tabloid journalism in the company of Leandra Maartens as part 2 of her attempt to position herself as the compassionate side of the Oaxaca-Maartens family
  • Tari contacts me, using Blackvein’s name, seeking in-person meeting, dropping hints of useful data.
  • Tari, accompanied by Aeryn, Marja deWinter-Satori Teagan-Saòirse Wednesday, Ricky Thompson, and the neo-Octopus Argo (nearly the entire Venusian Firewall Sentinel Cell) arrive at the meeting. Tari gifts me with Rael Duvalier’s cortical stack

It’s rare nowadays that I’m truly, completely surprised by anything. I’ve been expecting Tari to attempt to contact me for at least a month, and I generally try to be on top of whatever the local Firewall servers are up to. I was marginally surprised that Firewall would bother to launch a full-nuclear assault on Tirion, of all places, but the surprise was more for the scale of the attack. Subsequent analysis reveals old Rael was up to more than was generally advertised.

Being handed his cortical stack on a silver platter, however, was a deep and profoundly pleasant surprise. I made it quite clear to Tari that the value of her gift increased commensurate with its exclusivity. If I were in her place I would try to profit by selling it multiple times, and I could see the battle in her eyes to give up that potential in exchange for increasing her capital with me, but she ultimately agreed. Although I will obviously be deeply disappointed should I discover Rael’s ego floating around in someone else’s hands, I’m reasonably certain she values our newfound relationship highly enough that she’ll keep any copies she may have carefully to herself.

The ego contained in Duvalier’s stack is priceless, of course, even though it apparently managed to escape his demise via emergency farcaster. Someday I’ll have to discover how they recovered the stack notwithstanding the explosive nature of emergency farcasters. I suspect the fact that Aeryn had medically-cauterized stumps instead of hands had something to do with it. The tabloids certainly made a big deal over his injuries. I think the current theory is it’s a fashion or artistic statement. Whoever he’s renting that morph from would be upset if not for the increased visibility. They can claim it’s an art-statement and increase their business revenue.

I can only imagine what a talented psychosurgeon such as Aeryn might have already done to Rael’s ego. I similarly imagine that Tari exacted revenge many-fold for her abuses at Rael’s hands. She as much as confirmed that she has recently been one of his victims. I suspect “Blackvein” made use of her for that purpose precisely because she was created with a Cognite-implanted control system. I’ll have to be wary lest she export some deep-seated resentment from Blackvein to me.

Still, she appears to value the increased status that association with me brings. I imagine she sees herself as a potential mate. We’ll see. Her meteoric rise in influence and apparent capability are certainly attractive enough. I’ll need to exercise due caution lest she end up selling MY cortical stack to someone even richer and more powerful than I am.

I imagine it was Tari’s choice to give me Duvalier’s stack, and so the greatest benefit of my gratitude went to her. Still, she could not have accomplished it without the support of her fellow Firewall sentinels, and so I rewarded them with suitable data.

Aeryn wanted information on Regina and her crew, which I gladly provided. The mere question revealed the reason behind Firewall’s extreme response to Tirion. It would appear old Rael has been tinkering with the exsurgent virus. Again, moderate surprise, but not too much.

I told Aeryn and Saòirse that their Venus forks will shortly be receiving an important visit. They’ll know soon enough that it’s the heads of Nine Lives-in-exile, Ellegua and Bertand Theo, coming in response to an exsurgent outbreak on Legba that coincides with the Vittrad outbreak here on Mars.

I informed Ricky that his contact within Oversight, Simone Takahara, was engaged in a very dangerous attempt to infiltrate Ozma. I suspect he may try to aid her in that.

I arranged to provide some additional security for Argo’s daughter on Atlantica.

Projections indicate that Firewall will consider the Legba outbreak to be the highest priority, while relegating Regina’s acquisition to a secondary role. I will leverage my own network to have assets in the vicinity.

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The Black Signal

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To: Jerome Dakka, Xue, Titania, Uranus system
From: Roland Abernathy, Thoroughgood, Dione, Saturn system

Yo, dude, what’s up?

Yeah, it’s been six years. I bet you thought I was dead. Turns out I’ve just been kinda out of touch. Hey, maybe we should get together and catch up sometime, shoot the shit, see if there are any other good scores. data corruption detected, signal integrity compromised, correcting

decryption key accepted
Juniper Seven, this is my report, much delayed. Six years, two months, seventeen days ago the pirate expedition I had infiltrated and co-opted was attacked in the lateral-six quadrant of Iapetus’s eastern hemisphere. Exsurgents consistent with the standard Iapetus worker phenotype assaulted our position and collapsed the ice-substrate on me, crushing my morph. Fortunately, the Spare-model morph I had attached to my back downloaded the contents of my cortical stack and was relatively unharmed. Unfortunately, it was buried under thousands of kilograms of ice, and immobile. I powered-down to minimum draw, just enough to run a passive radio monitoring program set to bring me back to full power should I detect transhuman radio signals. This, apparently, took some time.

Ordinarily, I would consider my mission into Iapetus a failure, except that I was found by a covert operations team rather than another band of pirates or scavengers, and they rather surprisingly brought me along, fully awake and conscious, rather than execute me and destroy my stack for OPSEC and INFOSEC purposes. They appear to have fully accepted my cover-personality and seemed more concerned with deterring me from looting earth relics than determining any other ulterior motives for my presence. They seemed to be a very capable team with an exceptionally diverse skill-set. They certainly took down the “trolls” in the tunnel nearby. Their unconcern for OPSEC and INFOSEC surprised me until they revealed they were Scum from the Gulag Archipelago. I guess even Scum need their specops teams, and they probably wouldn’t be as concerned with such things as, say, we are.

They were clearly on a mission of some sort into the heart of Iapetus. They were pretty good at having most private conversations via a local VPN that I couldn’t crack, so I relied on quiet observation to try to piece together their objective, but it remained a mystery to me until we reached a section deep inside the moon (map file attached) that was still fully operational and apparently continually maintained by active nanotechnology. It appeared to be an immense conduit for electromagnetic energies nearly 100 meters across. The swarmanoid/hacker on the team sought to cross the open space which activated the latent systems. Immense power filled the conduit and we were contacted by a… surprisingly human personality construct that called itself Jonathan.

Jonathan, with the full processing power of the Iapetus matrioshka brain behind it, seemed not even to notice pesky things like VPNs. Its conversation with my companions, and with me, was fully interactive, and provide most of the data for the operational portions of this report.

Much of the interactions between Jonathan and the team made little sense to me. I’ve attached the full XP recorded by the Spare morph to this report, but I’ll try to summarize. It would appear that some time after my own failed infiltration, an individual named Karl successfully did so. This “Karl” was… not human in some way I don’t fully understand, but I suspect he was an async of unusual power because he was able to trigger the moon into interacting with him. That interaction took the form of spinning up a personality construct based, apparently, on a real human… this Jonathan. Jonathan claimed that he was chosen from the “billions” of people in storage on Iapetus, egos he rather dismissively referred to as “local copies.” He claimed that his only real memory prior to waking up in the heart of the moon was dying at the hands of a headhunter drone during the Fall. My companions asked why he had, apparently, egocast someone named “Ake” to the Long Array on Dione. He claimed that it was specifically to lure one of them, Vilya Skaarsgard, to Iapetus. Apparently this “Vilya” is infected with the same strain of the exsurgent virus as “Karl,” and Jonathan wanted her to replace “Karl” as a conduit for something Jonathan called the Black Signal.

This section is speculation based on fragmentary information gleaned from the interactions between the Gulag Archipelago team and Jonathan. I’m guessing that this “Karl” developed an async ability to psychically link with other people that he had infected with his particular strain, but that he alone didn’t have the capacity to maintain an active psychic network of that breadth and depth. He convinced the decomposing remnants of TITAN technology in Iapetus to meld with him in some capacity. Even in its partly-functional decay, the amount of power Iapetus can generate is staggering. The moon “boosted” this Black Signal enabling Karl to more fully control his psychic network. In exchange, the moon, through its “Jonathan” personality construct, was able to live the lives of thousands of people throughout transhuman space, experiencing their lives as completely as they did. This is how Jonathan knew about Vilya… it has literally been living her life from behind her eyes ever since Karl infected her.

Karl, apparently, was killed or something. Now Jonathan wanted Vilya to follow in Karl’s footsteps, accept the power of Iapetus so she could gain control of Karl’s psychic network. She seemed willing to accept the offer, and even took some steps toward doing so, but one of her companions violently objected to the idea and, apparently, talked her out of it. This left them with the tenuous position of trying to convince a petulant personality construct to let them depart the moon alive.

They then demonstrated that what they lack in traditional operational security they make up for in bullshit skills. They managed, somehow, to convince this intelligence with vast processing power at its disposal that it would be preferable to strip itself down into, effectively, a single transhuman ego than to experience thousands of lives at the same time. Something about “focusing on a single lived experience” as a more intense, pleasurable high. The drug language was pushed particularly strongly by one of them, but it was a tactic supported by the rest, along with Vilya’s refusal to accept the earlier offer, and insistence that even if Jonathan just “killed the rest of them” (i.e. us) she would still refuse, and would actually be upset.

After a lot of whining, Jonathan appeared to vanish. The system powered down. He may well have actually beamed an ego-approximation of himself elsewhere. I’m making this report to you because he stated a desire to go cliff-diving into the Messina Chasma, so he may well have headed your way. Beware. Jonathan is not human.

The team and I extracted via a Titanian science station. I had some concern when the team’s psychosurgeon insisted on checking me out to ensure I was clean of data infection, but I couldn’t very well refuse. It seems like she missed me buried in here because she certainly didn’t say anything when we were done other than clearing me of contamination. I left the reigns in the hands of my cover personality who is, fortunately, a somewhat dense and greedy pirate. They left me behind to return to their fleet.

The key piece of operational data here is this: the billions of transhuman egos stolen by the TITANs during the Fall were, apparently, collected on Iapetus before being sent on to their ultimate destination. The moon, however, still retains “local copies” of all of those people. The moon is also decaying. The window for ego-retrieval is shrinking. We have a decade at the inside, perhaps more, to develop a methodology for inferfacing with the matrioshka brain if we wish to retrieve some or all of the lost human race.

encryption ends

signal strength re-established, message commences

yeah, dude, you wouldn’t believe the shit I’ve seen. But, man, don’t expect me to go back to that fucking haunted ice-ball. I don’t want to spend another six years missing. But at least my investment portfolio did well while I was gone! Man, compound interest is great eh? Anyway, I’ll head on over there to hang out sometime, gotta square away a new morph back home. Catch you later.

Roland Abernathy

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Singer Institute for Biological Anomalies

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VPN Established
Encryption Protocols Engaged
Upload to The Eye Commencing

After-Action Report: SIBA Infiltration Operation
Das Frettchen

A Sentinel cell from the Venusian server run by router code-named “Eagle” solicited my aid in an operation through the Martian gate to the exoplanet of Tirion, owned and operated by Dr. Rael Duvalier via his company, the Singer Institute for Biological Anomalies (SIBA). The stated goals were vague, and there was no evidence of an X-Risk. This appeared to be a private vendetta on the part of two of the Sentinels involved. Nevertheless, they had been of some help to me in investigating the recent vittrad outbreak here on Mars and so I pulled some strings to provide them with cover identities as Cognite researchers and negotiators seeking to sell an aberrant uplift specimen (the neo-octopus Sentinel himself) in exchange for research data. I also mobilized an eraser squad on the off-chance that their vague allegations of Watts-MacLeod research proved to be something more dangerous. It would appear that my foresight in doing so was warranted.

This particular cell does not have a reputation for caution or careful execution of operations, but in this circumstance they made an exception. Their operation took a little over one standard week to complete, dragging out the commercial negotiations to provide ongoing cover for their investigation of the company and the facility. While Aeryn Taft-Crowley and Saòirse Wednesday engaged in those negotiations, the other members of the team utilized a combination of social engineering, stealth, and electronic systems subversion to compromise the local security systems and learn what they could of SIBA’s research agenda.

SIBA’s ultimate goal appears to be human uplift… essentially perfecting the uplift process currently used on animals to bootstrap human intelligence to a far greater degree. In this, they appeared to have made some significant strides. Data recovered from their systems would be of exceptional value to Cognite and other hypercorporations in addition, of course, to our Crows and Argonaut allies. It would appear, however, that Duvalier was not content with the limits of mere human science. The team discovered a hot-lab containing five active exsurgent strains in addition to Watts-MacLeod. It would appear that SIBA was using Watts-MacLeod as a “control group” for A/B testing of other exsurgent strains with the ultimate aim of synthesizing the exsurgent virus’s capacity to alter neural systems in inhuman ways.

Needless to say, the entire SIBA facility on Tirion needed to be destroyed. Sentinel Ricky Thompson developed a particular nanovirus intended to kill anyone who ingests it after a delay period of 24 hours while Tari reprogrammed the facilities food and beverage fabbers to include the virus in every meal or drink they fabricated. At this point, Saòirse and Steven killed and replaced Dr. Antonio Pascal in order to gain the team access to Dr. Duvalier’s office. They sought to capture Duvalier, but he escaped using an emergency farcaster that beamed him to a relay on Tirion’s surface aimed at the exoplanet Krypton, which is about one light-month away. Krypton is connected to the Martian gate, and so I imagine he may return just in time to reintegrate with whatever backup is reinstantiated once his death is confirmed.

One of Sentinel team’s operatives initiated a “jailbreak” of the aberrant uplift inmates while others infiltrated the gate-dome and detonated explosives severing the umbilical connecting the facility to the gate. They then waited out the remaining inhabitants of SIBA who succumbed to the nanoplague. The team emerged having collected the cortical stacks of all present, including the test subjects. I had been in communication with them via the “Cerulean Signal” through a local fork of Argo and had my team standing ready with a nuclear device for delivery through the gate.

The Tirion gate has been destroyed, along with the remains of the SIBA facility, and hopefully the strains of the exsurgent virus therein.

Of particular note, it would seem that Duvalier procured his exsurgent strains through the services of someone named “Regina.” She and her crew specialize in the procurement and transportation of strains of the exsurgent virus collected from all known locations where such things may be found. It would be well worth our while to track this Regina down and procure from her whatever knowledge she possesses on the storage and handling of such things. Such data may provide insight on effective quarantine measures. Also, removing her from business would stop a potential vector of infection.

Relevant data files are attached to this report.

~Das Frettchen

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Family

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Encryption Key ID: Nadifa Samakab Geeddi – Accepted
Encryption Key ID: Jens Møller – Accepted
Sender: Daven Skaarsgard

Justice Minister Geeddi,
Minister of Defense Møller,

I have secured the ego received by the Long Array of Dione from the depths of Iapetus. I was, as you know, hesitant to accept the idea that my estranged nephew, lost in the Martian TQZ during the Fall, would somehow find himself egocast from a mostly-dead TITAN project ten years later, but initial data seem to tentatively confirm that he is, in fact, Ake Skaarsgard.

Unsurprisingly, our Argonaut partners in the Thoroughgood project couldn’t resist instantiating the ego notwithstanding its origins. They appear to have been reasonably careful, using an isolated system and deleting any of their own forks sent into the simulspace for investigatory purposes. That said, they learned little at first aside from the fact that Ake appeared entirely brain-dead, doing nothing but sitting perfectly still and staring straight ahead. I read the initial Argonaut reports indicating that there appeared to be some sort of data corruption in his fundamental brain functions but they didn’t know what it was.

As I prepared to travel to Dione, I received a message from my niece, Ake’s younger sister Vilya, currently residing on the scum swarm “Gulag Archipelago.” It was cursory, and I responded cursorily. This prompted her to reveal more information. She had learned through her own sources of Ake’s retrieval, notwithstanding my efforts to censor his identity in the Dione data feeds. She wanted to meet with me.

As both of you know, I have something of a strained relationship with the Martian branch of our family, and Vilya specifically has been making something of a splash these last two years. I took no chances in my meeting with the former Martian Ranger turned terrorist and her companions, but it turns out I needn’t have worried. The conflicting and somewhat confusing public accounts of her recent behavior can mostly be attributed to her involvement with Firewall.

I am well aware of Fleet’s and the CDI’s official stance on Firewall, but Thoroughgood is technically an independent polity and I saw an opportunity to utilize Firewall’s resources for our own investigation. I struck a deal with my niece, standing aside while she and her specialists sought to learn what they could from Ake’s ego in exchange for her support in securing that ego from the Argonauts when she was done. She agreed, and was as good as her word.

She and her companions were also much more successful at unlocking the mystery of Ake. I’ve reviewed the recordings of what happened when they sent their forks into the simulspace. I’ve attached that recording here. I trust that it will remain classified for a variety of reasons, including the indications of async capability in Vilya and multiple of her companions that could somehow function while virtual, and some rather embarrassing family revelations.

It would appear that Ake was living in the dome-habitat of Kartika on Mars when the TITANs struck. Kartika was infected with a gene-engineered biological weapon modeled off the cordyceps fungal family. The fungus parasitized the population, corrupting brain function toward spreading itself. The “data corruption” noticed by the Argonauts wasn’t corruption at all, it was the simulspace’s inability to effectively emulate or model the brain damage caused by this fungal infection. As you can see in the recording, Vilya’s companion Eru seems to receive some sort of empathic vision where she experienced what it felt like to be corrupted by a fungal parasite. This seems to have given Vilya the necessary information to somehow jumpstart Ake to consciousness.

I’ve attached a file with Argonaut speculation. They analyzed the simulspace once the Firewall agents were done trying to figure out how Vilya brought Ake to consciousness. Their best guess is that she somehow manipulated the active processes of the simulspace to copy emulated brain processes from her companion Irina Kuznetsova, overwriting the flawed simulation code underpinning Ake’s higher functions. This permitted his emulated neurology to function at a foundational level permitting higher brain function to access his sensorium and motor functions.

Even though he was now conscious, it was clear that the corruption of his mind caused by the fungus on Mars has been saved and transmitted along with his ego. He continued to feel the impulses of the fungus as something akin to a powerful drug addiction. Vilya and her companions were able to calm him enough for conversation, but very little of strategic use was gleaned other than eliciting personal information that strongly supports the hypothesis that this is, in fact, a copy of Ake Skaarsgard somehow recovered from the TQZ on Mars and transmitted to Dione via Iapetus.

The next step, obviously, is to send another expedition into that haunted moon. Fortunately, Vilya and her Firewall cell volunteered and promised to keep me in the loop on anything they find. I recommend putting together a team of our own people anyway, obviously, in case Vilya’s team fails or they neglect to share full data with us, but I see no harm in allowing them to be the tip of the spear. I ask that the necessary officials be put in contact with her for authorization to travel to our science station there.

Cordially,
Daven Skaarsgard
Technosocialist Interplanetary Facilitator

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Red Five

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To: Dr. Keitaro Chavez
From: Dr. Keitaro Chavez, a.k.a. “Mikhail Eng”
Re: Calling Card

Dr. Chavez,

As divergent as we have become these intervening years, I had hoped that you would recognize my handiwork in the basilisk hack I arranged to deliver to the Gulag Archipelago, as well as recognize the difficulty in not only creating such an instrument, but in arranging the delivery in the first place. As you may have guessed, it would have been impossible if I hadn’t had a member of the Lost generation available. Their async talents for pattern recognition as well as their uniquely malleable cognitive structures are the only method currently available for delivering the sort of training necessary to deliver a basilisk hack through a live performance. It would have been far easier to send it via multi-media recording, of course, but I had hoped you would appreciate the artistry, as well as the subtext I couldn’t permit my corporate overlords to notice, namely that I meant you and your companions no lasting harm.

When your associate Echo eschewed my current name and asked after “Dr. Chavez” at the front door to the Advanced Heuristics Laboratory for Red Five, I knew my message had hit its mark, and therefore I hope you’ll forgive the temerity of this direct communication.

By now, your associates will doubtless have informed you of my motives and reasons, but I’ve never been one to rely on secondary sources when a primary source is available.

I have been watching you and your friends for some time now. Ever since Fa Jing put Kshatra on their most-wanted list for acts of corporate espionage and sabotage stretching from Venus to Eris I’ve put together dossiers on all of your fellow fleet members. I’m sure they all have their reasons, but I couldn’t help but project some of my own thirst for vengeance against Cognite onto you, and presume that your subtle hand was behind at least some of their anti-corporate behavior of late. Don’t think it escaped my notice that while Pandora herself became more and more scarce, her network continued to grow. Don’t think it escaped my notice that in her few public speaking occasions she bore certain… hallmarks… of being artificially generated. I don’t know what you’ve done with the original Pandora, but you have my congratulations for successfully co-opting her terrorist organization.

Although Experia directed Red Five to use the Gulag Archipelago as a test-run for my technologies, I had a great deal of leeway in how this revenge was executed. I opted more for “subtle job interview” as opposed to something truly destructive. It made the point Experia wanted made so they were happy. It was a successful proof of concept so it made Red Five happy. It lured Kiril Tesler and others of your associates to my office which made me happy.

I offered him, and you, all my research on basilisk hacks as well as prophylactic conditioning to inoculate someone against being affected. I offered him, and you, the destruction of my facility, and my own death in order to satisfy your Firewall backers. All I ask is that you put your ongoing anti-corporatist efforts at my disposal, hitting a target of my choosing, namely Dr. Ilya Fero. I trust I needn’t elaborate on why.

All I need your friends to do is deliver a data package into the systems of Cognite’s Phobos facility and Cognite’s Thought station in orbit over Venus. Whatever else they get up to is up to them.

I do hope that they, and you, will accept my offer. They have put Red Five’s Advanced Heuristics Laboratory out of business with my compliments. I eagerly await proceeding to the next step.

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Vittrad

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VPN Established
Encryption Protocols Engaged

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eagle: Fuck you.

Das Frettchen: Language, Father. Until later.

Link Disengaged

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The Basilisk Wakes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Crystalline Resonance

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Self-Reflection Subroutine 99##3324

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Martian Debauchery

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

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

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

Colleagues,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you.

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