Eclipse Phase - Apocalypse

Intersection of Powers

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Personal Log: Keitaro Chavez Entry: 11014

The various Firewall sentinels and proxies aboard the Gulag Archipelago have been applying their cognitive and speculative powers to this problem of the Vittrad-infected Dr. Ilya Fero. Clowder in particular seems to worry that the one sleeved on the station Thought might bootstrap herself to ASI status and, effectively, become another TITAN. Recent updates to the Eye out of Venus coincided with a visit to our fleet from Das Frettchen, who brought with him a copy of Marja DeWinter.

It would seem the Vittrad problem is rather greater than feared. Other data confirms what Vilya suspected, that the asteroid port of Legba in the Main Belt has not only become overrun by the Vittrad infected, but that they have intentionally sacrificed individuals among them so as to propagate the virus among the millions of enslaved egos working the server farms. Reports from various criminal ports of call reveal egocasting from Legba. We can presume they’re spreading their Vittrad-touched pawns throughout the solar system.

Firewall has mobilized on a massive scale to attempt to quarantine Legba, but space is big, and it’s hard to convince criminals who run darkcaster facilities to refuse entry to fellow criminals. I took the liberty of informing Melvin that he shouldn’t receive any egos from that sector of space.

Das Frettchen relayed to all of us the current, tentative plan. It would seem that a third copy of Dr. Fero is in league with Firewall agents on Venus and seeking to discover a cure for her condition. Part and parcel of this cure will involve the destruction of her two other selves on Phobos and Thought. The Venus server has better contacts and experience with Thought, and (so it turns out) we are far better equipped to invade Phobos. Between Das Frettchen’s corporate contacts, Krzystof Singh’s network of AGI-freedom fighters, and Pandora’s own terrorist network which I have been covertly funding and encouraging, we can make a viable effort of assassinating the Director of Research and Executive Vice President of Cognite inside their own headquarters. These will be practice runs to develop methodologies for containment of Legba.

There were, of course, a good many details to iron out, not least of which was how to neutralize Fero’s Vittrad-abilities, and prevent the potential of her spreading to any puppets she may have created. I considered the risk of the latter to be negligible, as evidence thus far seems to indicate that all extant copies of the Vittrad master need to be extinguished before the virus propagates through the system, and we knew of at least one copy who would stay active during these events, but I didn’t wish to quash the scientific spirit of inquiry that gripped my fellows.

This prompted a series of simulspace experiments with forks of Vilya and Marja, seeking to ascertain the limits and capabilities of of the Cerulean Signal on the Vittrad strain. Sadly, as Vilya has never created a puppet through ritual ego-consumption, our efforts to find a way to sever that connection were stymied. When Clowder expands herself to 40 cats from her usual 20, however, her intuitive processes increase dramatically. I found it fascinating to watch the geometric increase in code complexity running on my simulspace. It appears she was designed for associative thinking rather than strict logic, a design feat that is very difficult for even the best AGI-designer to accomplish. My compliments to Dr. Witherspoon.

But I digress. Clowder came to the idea that we should locate a Vittrad-infected who HAD performed such a feat, along with the victim, and import them. Clowder contacted Morgana Taft-Crowley, who we already knew had taken an interest in utilizing her wealth and influence to track Karl’s victims. Sure enough, within four hours of being convinced that we were engaged in science to discover a cure for her daughter’s affliction, the Taft-Crowley matriarch shipped us two egos: Stieg Hanssen, a rural terraforming tech, and a sufi nomad named Usman. According to the dossiers that accompanied the egos, Hanssen was one of Karl’s earliest victims, and one who immediately began reveling in his infection once it took root. Usman was one of his victims, consumed to give him a spy and servant among the nomadic sufi. Echo searched for more intelligence on both of them and succeeded in discovering that Hanssen is very skilled and staying anonymously rural, attracting no attention to himself while Usman, for all the anonymity being a sufi brings, had one incident of seeming incompetence with a terraforming station that bespoke a sudden mental schism.

We spun up Usman. I gave him a nice Martian surrounding to make him feel at home. He immediately fell to prayer to tune out whatever strangeness was happening to him. Everyone tried to convince him that we were there to help, but they only seemed to push him further into his desire to have nothing to do with us. Finally, however, Kiril got through to him with an appeal to charity and community, a need to help us cure him so that we might cure others.

Usman spoke of the power that gripped his mind as a “demon” (although he did recognize that it was also a man) and in our interview confirmed the fact that he was occasionally “possessed” by Hanssen. We told him we would seek to free him of this burden.

The parameters of the experiment were as follows: fork as many copies of Marja as necessary to suppress and control Hanssen, see if she could discover how best to block any propagation to Usman, then kill Hanssen. If the experiment failed and Usman became infected with Vittrad, we could readily destroy him by having multiple Marja’s using the Cerulean Signal.

Fortunately for Usman (and, ultimately, for all of us) the experiment was a success. Certainly, there were some unanticipated complications as Hanssen almost immediately seized unnatural control of the simulspace and started cracking open spines to get at cortical stacks… he even shredded five of Clowder’s cats and nearly ate their still spinning cyberbrains. Kiril and Echo both sought to stop him physically. If not for his penchant for monologuing, our five Marja’s might not have managed to shut him down before he ate someone. No lasting harm was done, however.

The Marja’s suppressed him while Vilya utilized her own connection to Vittrad to help them isolate the tenuous thread binding him to Usman. Once they felt they had it locked down, the Marja’s liquified Hanssen. Usman did not contract Vittrad.

This meant one of two things. Either we had succeeded, or there was another copy of Hanssen out there somewhere. We thought the latter unlikely considering the culture and economy of Martian outback homesteaders, but further experimentation was warranted. We sleeved Usman to see if anything would happen. Nothing did. We put Usman back into the simulspace and re-loaded Hanssen from storage. This time, Marja was quicker to shut him down. Vilya reported no indication that any link remained. Marja then liquified Hanssen again, this time without taking any precaution to protect Usman. Usman continued to be proof against Vittrad. The experiment was complete.

Our current standing hypothesis is this: Although Vittrad displays incredible resilience in propagation across all running copies of an ego, once all running instances are shut down, any persistent links are severed. Thus far, no other Vittrad sufferer has achieved Karl’s ability of uploading himself into the signal itself. If all outstanding copies of an ego are shut down or destroyed WHILE suppressed in the proper way by the Cerulean Signal to prevent propagation through the system, the Vittrad-puppets are freed.

This also suggests an easy way for Dr. Fero to cure herself. She could simply kill all currently operating copies of herself and have herself restored from backup from a backup pre-dating Karl’s demise. This would necessitate the loss of some months of memory, but that is surely not too big a loss for her to bear. But since curing her is not MY operative goal, and killing her as part of a Firewall operation to scale up our use of the Cerulean Signal is, I feel no great compunction to mention it.

As long as we had Marja here, India wanted to know what the Cerulean Signal could tell us about whatever strange crystalline infection she possesses. Results were inconclusive, although our current hypothesis is this: the crystalline intelligence uses the Giza black boxes as bait. The boxes lure in sapients of whatever civilization finds them and, through the boxes, open themselves to “resonance” with the crystalline intelligence. Once the crystalline intelligence resonates with a person, it slowly colonizes that person until they begin to crystallize themselves, becoming absorbed into the overall pan-galactic sentience. Marja had no good advice other than: “when your conversion gets to the point where you don’t recognize yourself anymore, kill yourself and restore from backup. Maybe leave yourself a note? Some XP?”

Our server is now engaged in tactical planning for an infiltration / assault on Phobos. It appears that the copy of Dr. Fero there is engaged in obsessive research on a “side project” in an isolated, system-gapped laboratory space. I’ll leave them to their planning. I’ll need to inform Dr. Eng that his basilisk hack is unlikely to work, considering his target’s neurology has changed radically from the template for which it was designed. Since we’re off to kill her anyway, I hope he’s not too disappointed.

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Threat Assessment

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VPN Established
Encryption Protocols Engaged

Eagle: All right people, we have every indication of an Indigo-6 level event. We need to start pulling resources on this right away.

Crow: Is this Astraeus? Has she finally gone TITAN?

Eagle: No, she continues to be helpful, and may prove a valuable resource. This is Legba.

PrivateDick: Shit. I just saw what Aeryn just posted to the Eye. So, the “heads of Nine Lives in Exile” came to beg us to help them get their criminal empire back because it’s become a Vittrad-infested hell-hole.

Eagle: A reasonable summation, but perhaps not sufficiently thorough. As you know, our best guess is that Vittrad spreads through the human desire to dominate and control others. Those infected realize they can symbolically consume the egos of other people and control them. Those tendrils of control last until the infected controller dies, whereupon the infection jumps along those tendrils to every victim. There were an estimated 5,000 lapriye fanatics left behind on Legba with a seed of Karl’s ego inside them, but there were estimated millions of ego slaves running on their server farms. All it would take is a handful of fanatics willing to die and we might be looking at literally millions of Vittrad infected egos on that rock.

Crow: I’ll direct your attention to contingency-56 in the files. That might be adapted to this situation.

Eagle: According to Bertrand Theo, the Nine Lives spokesman who came to Aeryn for help, they tried something like that already. The ship was shot down before it could deliver its payload even though other ships were permitted to dock.

Indigo: If i might float a theory, it may well be that there are some of those aforementioned “puppets” infiltrated into other factions of Nine Lives. The infected on Legba may have known the attack was coming.

Eagle: Once given the relevant details, Astraeus ran some simulations. Aeryn’s sister Lorelei reports Vittrad sufferers on Mars experiencing similar dreams of incense, fire and blood. Based on earlier estimations of the “range” of Vittrad’s signal, Astraeus theorizes somewhere around 4 million infected egos on Legba. With so many infected in proximity, she considers it highly unlikely that there is any sense of sane individuality there anymore. Legba is very likely a voracious gestalt intelligence of incredible power, and it’s likely that they’re seeding puppet egos throughout the system by the hundreds and thousands.

Crow: So… even if we do manage to nuke the rock, the problem merely propagates. Remember when we thought ourselves lucky that Vittrad was so difficult to spread?

Watchword: So… what do we do? I mean… we can’t nuke it, we can’t let it exist, what do we do? This thing will eat us all if we don’t fix it fast.

Crow: All right. With apologies to the good Father, I’m going to take point on this discussion. I’ve just looked over the relevant files. First order of business is resource assessment and mobilization. Second order of business is tapping our crows like Indigo here for viable containment strategies. Third order of business is testing those strategies small-scale on one of the other Vittrad outbreaks. Fourth order of business is scaling those strategies up and applying them to Legba without concern for moral scruple or collateral damage. The objective is total containment and wholesale sterilization.

PrivateDick: That’s… well, all good to SAY, but do we have ANY viable containment strategy? Indigo?

Indigo: Actually… we may… although as Crow points out it is currently entirely untested. We have at our disposal a small number of sentinels attuned to the so-called Cerulean Signal, and it appears that the Ozma agent Cerulean Wave Soft Sunlight is recalling all of their Cerulean resources to aid in this endeavor.

PrivateDick: … shit, Ozma’s coming in as an ally on this one?

SilkRoad: Not an ally, exactly, but certainly a collaborator. News from Saòirse’s forks indicates that she’s made contact with the supposed oligarch financier Noor al’Quraini and secured ostensible Ozma cooperation and resources independent from our Buddhist whale friend. And that’s not all. While I’m piping up here, I should confirm that Dr. Ilya Fero is infected with Vittrad in all her iterations. Tari has been keeping a copy of her in a ghostrider module for months, and this copy has volunteered to aid us in experimenting in ways in which the Cerulean Signal might suppress or cure the infection under the right experimental circumstances.

Indigo: Oh… fascinating. I’ll want to see the results of any experiments she runs.

PrivateDick: So, hold on, isn’t Ilya sleeved in the orbital station of Thought?

SilkRoad: Yeah. The copy of her in orbit above our heads is apparently going crazy trying to cure herself. Our local version of her and Saòirse worry that she’ll start connecting up all that spare processor capacity on the station to bootstrap her intelligence in ever more desperate attempts to understand her infection.

Crow: All right, add a Gray-5 threat to the mix. When it rains it pours.

SilkRoad: Yeah, but that’s the thing. We have a cooperative copy of the good doctor willing to help with that “scaling up” you mentioned. The current plan is to fork Saòirse and Ricky and other Cerulean types and see if their power scales up anything like Vittrad does on increasing scales of forks of Ilya until we have an actionable plan to do a dry-run on Thought before scaling up further for Legba.

Crow: All right. Everyone knows I don’t trust the Cerulean Signal, and right now my brain is full of alarm bells about dramatically increasing the numbers of them that exist, and I’m reminded that our current problem stems directly from the unanticipated results of killing Karl using them, but frankly I don’t see any other viable plan.

Eagle: Astraeus has also volunteered to contact some of the millions of people she has repatriated to habitats in the main belt. We have potential resources, ships, manpower.

Das Frettchen: Hello. I just joined this little chat a moment ago at the invitation of my old friend Crow here. I’ll be working with local Martian forks of Saòirse on similar experiments using the various Vittrad sufferers monitored and corralled by Ms. Lorelei Taft-Crowley. I should also make you all aware that a certain Dr. Mikhail Eng has engaged the services of the Gulag Archipelago server to upload a sophisticated basilisk hack into the mind of Dr. Fero’s copies on Thought and Phobos. They were also recently informed by our own SilkRoad of Ilya’s potential infection and are therefore inclined to accept. We may be able to co-ordinate the Venus server’s actions against Thought with this other group’s actions on Phobos. It also happens that they have a native Cerulean Signal receiver among their number who might prove useful in this endeavor.

Eagle: Now we’re using basilisk hacks as weapons? I’d almost be more comfortable if she was simply assassinated.

Das Frettchen: Ah, but then, good Father, she wouldn’t be motivated to kill all of her other forks before committing suicide.

Eagle: I… am not sure that’s necessary. But at this point, I don’t feel like I’m in any position to raise moral qualms.

Das Frettchen: Excellent. In that case, I will reach out to our fellow proxies on the scum swarm and we’ll begin co-ordinating resources and plans.

Crow: All right. While Eagle and Das Frettchen arrange our Cerulean Signal experiments, I’ll be point of contact for logistical resources. All ships, all manpower, all weaponry, all equipment and materiel that we might be able to muster, send the details to me and I’ll start working up a containment and action plan. First order of business is we’ll need a base of operations in the main belt close enough to Legba for physical assault and access. Last time we used Ceres because it worked with our team’s cover as Ultimates mercenaries and one of the sentinels had contacts with the Hidden Concern. There’s no way a mobilization of this size could operate out of Ceres without being obvious. I’m going to recommend we use Extropia. Enough ships come and go every day from that port that an uptick in traffic will have a better chance at remaining undetected until we’re ready to move. This should make up for the increased distance to Legba compared to Ceres. There are also sufficient body-bank resources available for sleeving of personnel, and no appreciable regulations surrounding weapons and other materials that we might wish to procure locally. This will all be enormously expensive, of course, so everyone contact your Factors and start pulling funds.

PrivateDick: I’ll connect with pr0n on the Archipelago to coordinate our intel gathering in light of our mobilization.

Watchword: I’ll watch the mesh and social media with some pre-prepared memes on hand to provide social support for movements in and around Extropia, and to squash any legitimate news of our activities there.

Crow: All right. We have a plan of action. Let’s start working. We’ll check in again in 12 hours.

Link Disengaged

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Subtle Psyches

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Personal Notes on Experimental Regimen Stoneflesh-223
Dr. Keitaro Chavez

My Firewall associates pinged my muse over and over again until I was finally forced to see what was so very important that they had to interrupt my 223rd deconstruction of the “King in Yellow” basilisk hack data provided by my long-estranged alpha fork Dr. Mikhail Eng. I’m retroactively pleased at their persistence.

It would appear that Clowder and Echo were going over the aggregated data from the thousands of psychosurgeries the three of us performed in the aftermath of the basilisk hack’s deployment and noticed some subtle irregularities. I have to commend them. The subtleties were obvious once pointed out, but neither me nor my muse caught them. I’d like to think it was because we were focused so intently on the hack-data itself that was recovered from Mars but I would not wish to do my fellows a disservice.

The irregularities they noticed were specifically a part of the egos of the three members of the fleet who were repatriated from the Canaan aerostat governed by the ASI known as Astraeus… random neurological junk-code that would have been overlooked had it not been the SAME junk code in all three. When Clowder and Echo brought one of these individuals, Mr. Bodhi Kapoor, nephew to Dr. Nanda Kapoor, back to my psychosurgery suite they poked around at it a bit. As they started unraveling the associative implications of this aberrant neurology, the depth and complexity of it became clear enough to trigger my equipment’s simulation override protocols which dumped Clowder and Echo into a sequence of Mr. Kapoor’s memories that appeared to post-date the Fall itself, seeming to follow him into the years of struggle on Earth after the interdiction. The conclusion of these memories culminated in a very pure and distinct chime that was, in actuality, a shockingly complex single-note basilisk hack that immediately started working on Clowder and Echo to change their sensorium in a panoply of subtle ways.

They deleted those forks, of course, whereupon they neglected to immediately inform me of the situation, choosing instead to travel to Venus to inquire of Astraeus herself. It would seem that Astraeus solicited volunteers among her 43 million odd rescued egos for… augmentation. They were modified in ways intended to make them resistant to basilisk hacks, as well as… deeper alterations designed to make them “poisonous” to whatever schemes the TITANs required transhuman egos for, just in case they should return and resume the harvest.

That’s what she claimed, of course, and we’re not in any particular position to determine otherwise. Nevertheless, once they returned and finally told me of these events, I took a copy of the chime from my simulspace records. Analysis does confirm that it’s a sophisticated basilisk hack that appears to change a person’s sensorium in subtle ways rendering other basilisk hacks less likely to work. A hack to block a hack. Quite clever, really.

That was certainly enough to accelerate my work considerably, but apparently while on Venus they met with a Firewall “vector” named Silkworm who has been monitoring Cognite’s orbital facility Thought. He noticed some sudden changes in personnel and research direction. It would seem that Thought was once host to a copy of Karl VanDeLaarSchot who may well have infected the station-mind, Dr. Ilya Fero. Karl’s death appears to have sparked full-on Vittrad outbreaks in everyone touched by him, so there is some concern that Dr. Fero might be infected. This was certainly welcome news as now it motivates Firewall agents to commit to the murder-contract Dr. Eng presented to them. Rather than simply being anti-Cognite assassins, they have a rationale to justify their deeds. It’s a weak rationale considering they permit a known Vittrad async to operate alongside them, but it’s not my job to balance their senses of personal morality.

There was some concern that maybe the purported billions of decaying egos in Iapetus may also be infected, but I don’t believe there’s any empyrical evidence to support such a conclusion. For now, though, they have accepted Eng’s contract and are preparing to infect multiple copies of Dr. Fero’s ego with a custom-designed basilisk hack. I wish them luck.

For now, I must get back to work.

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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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