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Killer (Eclipse Phase, Inspired By Death Note)

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by Acatalepsy, Oct 2, 2010.

  1. Acatalepsy Marginal Existential Risk

    Inspired by a Plot Tribble, found here; I have decided to begin writing a story set in the Eclipse Phase setting.

    When I first set out, I wanted to do a literal transcription, putting both L and Light in cryonic deep-freeze (thus, "killing" them without needed any of that malarkey about staying dead), but quickly realized that the idea was unworkable. Eclipse Phase does not play nice with supernatural settings, particularly when that setting treats death as some sort of metaphysical construct rather than the state of not being alive for the time being. Moreover, the factions of Eclipse Phase are utterly ruthless and have massive data processing capability at their disposal; they'd quickly resort to any means necessary to get anything that looked remotely like TITAN technology, which the Death Note does.

    Still. The idea itself, of a Death Note-style thing happening in Eclipse Phase. I love the setting, and Death Note was pretty amazing as well; it would be criminal to at least not try to put something together. I asked myself, "Well, what if the Death Note WAS a TITAN device? What could be done to make it fit into the universe, be awesome, without killing any hope of a cool Death Note-style cat and mouse?" I hope I answe those questions to the satisfaction of all involved.

    So, here it is. I'd appreciate feedback on what I'm doing right and what I'm doing wrong; both from those who do and don't know the setting. (And if you don't know the setting, go download the RPG book sometime- it's free!)
  2. Acatalepsy Marginal Existential Risk

    //0//
    Medusa


    Even in the apocalypse, there is room for hope. The humans of Earth looked up and saw the lights glittering across the shadowed surface of the moon, and hoped that there was anything to hope for. They knew that the rest of humanity was still out there, and hoped that they were still human. They hoped that they eventually won the war. There was always some room for hope, but always more than plenty of room for doubt. Nghiem Nhung Qui had more doubts than she wanted to think about. She had more doubts than she could think about, whether she wanted to or not.

    Qui lived in a hidden settlement in Laos, with roughly a hundred other people. Most, like her, were refugees from Vietnam, but there were more than a few locals, as well as a couple of Chinese. In the confusion of the final days, everyone had been running, if not too somewhere, than at least from somewhere. Running without a destination, in the hopes that deep in the jungle the horrors of the cities and villages wouldn’t follow.

    Now the horror of running was over, and replacing it was the horror of survival, the horror of unwitting slavery, and the daily grind of trying to get enough food to eat, and keeping themselves hidden and protected from all of the dangers of the post-Fall world.

    The village didn’t have a maker for food and water, or any sort of fabricator for tools. In fact, they had little technology in general; such things were the first to go when the computers took over. Instead they needed to hunt, gather, and cultivate anything that they wanted to eat. Qui was a cultivator; she watched over the plants and plant-like things the settlement grew. Life in general had been changed by the Fall; the plants and animals had been altered somehow. Some were infected with something, and died quickly, and then been burnt by the settlement to prevent it from spreading, for all the good that did. Others were altered, with odd structures growing out of them, strange behavior, strange smells and sights. Ten years ago, this area had all been regular jungle. Now, a new arrival wouldn’t be able to tell whether or not he was still on Earth. Qui’s garden was a strange patch of spirally weeds that grew out of misshapen brown and red lumps in the ground, but that grew a delicious green fruit. She was the only one who would – or could – keep the thing’s complicated mass of tendrils uncluttered. Sometimes she sang to it, too, and that seemed to do something, although it might just be making her feel better.

    The people weren’t immune to the effects of the Fall either. Qui had been a plain looking eleven year old girl when the Fall happened. Now she was a plain looking fourteen year old girl. She also had shown no sign of being able to have children. This worried her, almost as much as the rest of the situation. She wanted children, and it would be horrible if she could never have any. Other people had changed too, but not by much. They looked mostly like normal people, but different from what they were before.

    Mr.Lee stepped through the twisted knot of trees into Qui’s garden, and said something to her in Chinese. She responded in the same language, though she wasn’t exactly sure what either of them had said. Mr.Lee had said something about another man, and she had asked for something, but she didn’t know what.

    Qui liked Mr.Lee; in fact she thought of him almost as a father. In the first days of the settlement, when everything seemed to be going wrong, and everyone was shouting and making fists, Mr.Lee had held them together. He had protected Qui, her mother and her baby brother when it seemed like everyone would turn on them. Now, there wasn’t any need for that. Most people tried really, really hard to ignore Qui. She always knew when they were paying attention to her, and she gave them that look if they were going to do something bad. That one where they froze, and sometimes fell down, and didn’t get back up for days. But Mr.Lee still stayed with her, and talked to her, even if she didn’t understand what he was saying half the time. It was comforting to know that she wasn’t alone in the settlement.

    A new man walked into the garden; haggard and weary, even more than the rest of the villagers. There were scratches all over his clothes, body and face, like he had tried to run through thicket of thorny bushes. He was pale, not just from his condition, but his skin was very, very, white – like one of the people on the video screens, before the Fall. He coughed, and some vile fluid came out of his mouth, onto her plants, which shifted and quivered in response.

    Mr.Lee left, probably to do whatever it was Qui had asked. The man said something in another language – French maybe, or English. Qui answered back in the strange barking language, and he pulled a device of some sort out from under his coat, and handed it to her.

    The device was a computer of some kind, like the one her village had had before the Fall. She hadn’t seen a computer in years, and never touched on before, but her fingers flew across the interface as though it was a piano, and she was playing a piece she had practiced for years. The man stood there, clearly in pain but uncomplaining and seemingly unconcerned. Minutes passed, and Mr.Lee returned with a bag. The bag was one of the few signs of modern technology in the settlement other than the clothing; it was a tough, durable, flexible and waterproof container that had served the settlement well over the years.

    Her task with the machine complete, Qui realized what she needed to do. She stuffed the device in the bag, and sealed it. It needed to go to the people of the river, and from there to its destination, wherever that might be. She would need to find someone to do it; the journey to the river was a dangerous one, and possibly a one way journey. She would try to get one of the older men to do it, but not Mr.Lee, not if she had a choice.

    She thanked Mr.Lee and asked him to please leave her to her gardening, this time in Vietnamese, which she understood. He looked at her for a second, and his eyes blazed with something like hatred – no, he was not looking at her, but through her. She almost gave him a look, but then he bowed, and left Qui and the strange man alone.

    The man coughed again, and Qui felt uneasy, as if something horrible was coming, but she couldn’t quite figure out what. She grabbed the man’s hand and pulled him toward the center of her garden. He came easily, following her light touch willingly. Then they locked eyes, and he crumpled silently, like a puppet with its strings cut off.

    She knelt next to the man who was now breathing short, rapid breaths, eyes staring into the squishy tangle. She put her hands on his chest, and sat there a moment. She knew something bad was happening, but she couldn’t remember what exactly it was. But it was very, very bad. “I’m sorry” she whispered, again and again, and she hoped the man could understand her. “I’m sorry”.

    A minute later, the screaming started. Boils of flesh erupted into reddish tentacles and wrapped around the man, now in a fetal position and wailing uncontrollably. Qui stumbled backwards, watching in dull fascination. His skin warped and twisted, darkening and becoming black and red as tendrils thick and thin emerged from his body and out of his mouth and eyes. They wrapped around him and into the earth, pinning him the ground just as his body began to palpitate with desperate spasms, He cried and tried to beg, but the tendrils in his mouth prevented any coherent sound from escaping; only a wordless cry of unimaginable horror. In less than four minutes, it was over, and only a low moan continued, and after another hour, even that stopped.

    Qui shook her head and looked at her garden, aware only that it had grown, but grown messily. She would be busy trimming the coils of the plant for many days before the unruly sections could begin to produce fruit. She also knew she needed to get what was in the bag to the river people, though she wasn’t quite sure why. She would start on that tomorrow morning.

    In the mean time, she had a garden to tend.
  3. Acatalepsy Marginal Existential Risk

    //1//
    Haze


    Aun bounced ponderously away from the airlock, out into the orange gloom of Titan. The tall Hazer mentally activated his suit’s smart material, which unfolded into a wide set of stiff wings with handles. Aun gripped the handles, touched the ground, crouched, and then with a tremendous push leapt forward. In the low gravity of Titan, he traveled in a flat parabolic arch, less than a meter above the ground, and he quickly began pumping his arms to gain altitude.

    Ten minutes later, he had lost sight of the dome, lost sight of any sign of human civilization, and could barely see the ground at all. Aun twisted his wings up, rapidly killing his velocity, and waited patiently for the ground to come up and meet him. He killed all of his entoptic displays, and began to gently bound toward a spot in the distance. Though he could see no visible landmarks and had no computerized aid to guide him, Aun had a knack for direction; he could return to any spot he’d visited with almost instinctual ease. He’d been to this spot many times in the past.

    This spot was a rock. Specifically, it was a rock in a methane stream, a rock that he’d cut the top off of a while back, forming a small chair in the middle of nowhere. Aun bounded onto the rock, and sat down as he had so many times in the past. He removed his helmet, set it down on his lap, and breathed in the oxygen-less atmosphere.

    //-------------------//
    News Feed (@-net/AarhusCentral.Information.News.HourlyUpdate)

    32 minutes ago, Aarhus Public Security Corporation, in conjunction with Commonwealth Public Safety Section 8, attempted to arrest individuals suspected of ties to the St. Catherine Tong. The individuals, Julius Gile and Edwin Saun, proceeded to release a limited form nanoweapon over the surrounding area. Police scrubbers have cleared the area of hostile nano, however there have been ten confirmed cases of neurological damage resulting from the weapon, including two students at Titian Autonomous University.

    The suspects were both shot and killed during the raid, but police refuse to speculate on whether or not any useful information will be gained, or whether or not the suspects’ backups, if any, have been found.
    //-------------------//


    Aun exhaled, letting the biting cold move past his teeth, chilling them. Titan’s temperature was around a hundred Kelvin; low enough that an unmodified human would be dead in seconds as their body froze. Aun wasn’t a normal human; like many on Titan his morph had been adapted to local conditions. Even so, he could feel his exposed face slowly beginning to die, and felt a mild sense of unease as his body burnt energy has fast as it could trying to keep warm. The wind whipped across his face, taking away that heat far faster than it could be generated.

    The cold stung, even though Aun’s nerves had been modified to eliminate pain from temperature. The sensation wasn’t pain exactly, but nothing could stop the cells from freezing solid, and that experience wasn’t exactly pleasant. It burned and pricked strong enough to force Aun into a state of heightened awareness. He felt every part of his body flex and shudder, and his mind became hyper alert, searching the desolate landscape as if to find shelter, tools, anything to fix the situation.

    He breathed in again.

    //-------------------//
    Political Notification (@-net/Social.EthicsCommittee.CopyProtection)

    Copy Protection, one of the many groups protesting the continuing illegal and immoral exploitation of infugees, is calling for a fresh wave of support for anti-scum raids, citing recent evidence that groups like Nine Lives are holding on to hundreds to hundreds of thousands of human minds, either active or in cold storage.

    “It’s absolutely despicable,” their spokesperson was saying. “The ease with which these groups do business is nothing short of a transhuman rights nightmare. Thousands of minds uploaded during the Fall have fallen into the hands of these criminals, and are being violated, copied, and sold but the hundreds as we speak. If we do nothing, the number of sentient beings in effective slavery will outnumber the free transhumans within a decade.”

    The spokesperson went on to request military intervention from the Titanian Commonwealth or any of the larger Autonomist habitats; a request that has been heard often and answered little.
    //-------------------//


    Aun breathed out.

    His blood carried enough oxygen for thirty minutes of activity without needing to breath, but in this environment he used up energy so fast trying to stay warm it was more like seven minutes.

    Seven minutes was enough. He activated his mental acceleration implants, subjectively slowing the world to a crawl. Everything seemed to drag on, even sensation. His arms and legs felt like they had been dipped in foam, responding to his thoughts with glacial speed.

    Here, he was alone. No domed city, not even a trace of civilization. His entoptic display offline, taking with it all of the augmented reality trappings that formed a daily part of transhumant life. The companion AI he housed in his cranial computer, his muse, knew better than to disturb him now. The harshness of the environment put his body into overdrive trying to protect itself from what it could only assume was an imminent death, and his mind followed, granting an almost primal focus on the here-and-now.

    //-------------------//
    Discussion Forum ( c-net/Talk.ForkedAnonymous.HowDidItHappen)

    (1): The worst thing to happen to humanity in the last hundred years wasn’t the Fall; it was the invention of the digitalized ego. It could have been great for everyone; instead we fucked it up so badly it has inarguably caused the most evil any invention has since the invention of weaponized pathogens.

    (2): You’re being a bit unfair. Sure, technology is open for abuse – any new technology is. But you’re functionally immortal; that’s been humanity’s dream since we knew how to dream. There’s hardly any doubt that this technology has saved far more people than it has killed.

    (1) Killed, yes. Harmed, no. It’s easy for you to say because you’re on the outside, and not slaving away in a virtual sweatshop until you’ve been made obsolete by some other poor shmuck. But then, you don’t know that some copy of you isn’t. For every death prevented, someone else is created, lives, and dies in complete misery. We could have gotten immortality, or close to it, without uploading. With uploading, we’ve managed to turn the human mind into a commodity, and then we were dumb enough to treat it like one.
    //-------------------//


    It’s actually pretty pathetic, under reflection Aun thought in between deep breaths. We were supposed to have the stars; be a mature civilization. Adults, capable of behaving responsibly even now that we know that there isn’t some sick abusive son-of-bitch god out there keeping tabs on us. Instead what did we become, but roaches running from new, angry gods of our own devising?

    That might have been inevitable. It’s clear that humanity is not – cannot be – the apex of all things. And I’m fine with that. The galaxy is a big place; we don’t need to build interstellar empires or grow our own new gods. Life can be good here in the solar system. What does it matter if there is a bigger universe out there, as long as we can be safe here, and work to provide a good life for everyone.

    Except we can’t even get that right. While half of humanity is trying to rebuild, the other half is trying to suck them dry for their own pleasure or profit. And we’re too busy arguing over political philosophy and power plays to fix the things that are broken and squash the vermin that infest transhuman society. The sheer power and finesse our societies are capable of bringing to bear is nothing less than awe-inspiring, moving moons with ease and targeting individual cells in a cancer. But for all of that power, nothing is accomplished.

    The whole system is degenerate. The autonomists and colonists think they can just pick a new system, start over, and try again. But they miss the point; as long as interaction with a corrupted system is possible, the system in necessarily corrupt. And if they shut themselves off completely from the world, then all they are is tiny little offshoots, of little relevance to humanity and of no help to anyone else. It’s not enough to be able to make the local area pure, the whole system needs to be swept of parasites and administrated competently or the problems never end.

    The only possible solutions are, to say the least, improbable. Self-replicating memeplexes could in theory bring the whole system under some semblance of control, but they’d be fighting all of the parasitic memeplexes in addition to the parasites themselves. It would take shocks to the system just to change the game into something winnable, let along produce an actual result. And the system is designed as to produce no shocks.

    And frankly, any shocks to the system we do get would probably just make things worse anyhow.
  4. Interesting.
  5. Ford Prefect What is Project Zohar?

    It's certainly an interesting concept, however, I think it's a little too exposition...ary. What I mean is that I think itm entions too many elements of the setting, and it doesn't come across as natural, like with Aun's thoughts. Particularly I think that //0// Medusa would have worked better if you hadn't explicitly mentioned any of the Eclipse Phase background like the TITANs. You didn't need to spell out the fact that Qui is using psi-chi, for example, so you didn't really need the first couple of paragraphs to be all 'exposition exposition exposition'.

    Apart fromt hat, you should give each chapter more of a once over before posting. Maybe let it sit for an hour, go do something else, then come back to edit it. There aren't lots of spelling mistakes or whatever, but coming in cold can be useful.
  6. Acatalepsy Marginal Existential Risk

    The expositions is my biggest problem. I don't want new readers be going "huh wuzzat?", and "show don't tell" is really hard to work in for some of the Eclipse Phase concepts. I'm just not entirely sure how to do it. Does it make more sense to cut exposition, and just let the reader fill in the blanks? Or would it make more sense to, say, cut the first two paragraphs of Medusa and put them into a exposition heavy blurb / author's notes / in-universe document at the end of the chapter?

    As for //1//, did Aur's thoughts come of as too unnatural or natural compared to the rest of the piece - you post is ambiguous. If it's unnatural, what struck you most as forced?

    Also, I did let them sit; both of them, for a day. You did not want to see the first versions - those were god-awful pieces, both staring the exposition fairy.

    Thanks for the feedback, and hopefully everything will get much less exposition...ary naturally as I move on.
  7. Satori Buffleheaded

    I really really like your writing style. It really drew me in.

    Unfortunately, I'm really not in a mood for the grimdark future of EP, so I'm going to come back and finish reading it later when I am in the mood. But the intro was great.

    keep it up.
  8. Ford Prefect What is Project Zohar?

    The way I see it, unless someone asks, you could probably get away with simply presenting everything as is. After all, information about the setting is plentiful and easily available: as you said, the sourcebook is free. With this in mind, you can legitimately cut the setting exposition down to an absolute minimum, and it for the readers to piece together from contextual clues in the text.

    My problem with Aun's (wait, is his name Aun or or Aur? Both are used in the narrative, but you just said Aur, so...) thoughts is difficult to explain, which is why I left it vague in the hope you'd just sort of cotton on. But if I were to try and put my finger on it, his internal monolgue comes across as being like Yagami Light's self-obsessed melodramamatic megalomania, which is cool, but it also has these elements of pithiness like the last line which doesn't really fit with the general thrust of the monologue. And the opening parts are little distracting: actually thinking 'mature K-Type 1 civillisation' seems a little ... I don't want to say technical as such, but it's not really 'poetic' enough in context.
  9. Well... the sourcebook is not 'free' free, but it has a Shared Common License, which means that if you can find it in a place like 4Shared or Megaupload, you can download it with no legal hassle, and you can take the book and cut-and-paste the system in any way you want to make a game of your own (like EarthScorpion is doing with his 'Strangely Eclipsed Aeon' adaptation on RPG.Net), and post it on the Internet without problems, as long as 1) you do not gain money from it (and if you do wish to, you notify Posthuman Studios), and 2) you give credit to Posthuman Studios for the system.
  10. Acatalepsy Marginal Existential Risk

    //2//
    Melancholy


    Aun Neuman tapped out a sequence experimentally, erased it, and looked at the results again. Sighing, he typed out a different sequence, and mentally sent the command to execute.

    [[Well,]] he thought into his cranial computer [[Now what?]].

    [[You’re asking me?]] his muse replied in its familiar dry tone. [[Do I look like I know how to design memetic complexes?]]

    [[Not that. What now, as in where do I go from here?]]

    [[I see. Does this have anything to do with your meditation?]]

    [[Somewhat. But not all the way. The meditation was helpful, actually. I got to indentify something that had been bugging me for a while now, but didn’t recognize it until I forced it into the open.]] Aun frowned, eyes hunting over the screen in front of him, and the test results it contained. He tapped out a new sequence, and ran the program once more. [[ I don’t like the way the universe is going – what else is new? – but, if there’s one thing I hate more than pussbags that are keeping humanity divided, it’s the idiots on each side that are busy waiting for the pussbags to just go away. And lately…lately I’m increasingly concerned that I’ll be in the latter category.]]

    [[Isn’t that why you went into memetics? To solve these types of problems?]]

    [[No, let’s be honest here – I went into memetics because I’m good at it. Really good at it. But memetics sounds like a science of revolution, it really isn’t. Memetic complexes are…fragile. The memetic environment is even more brutal, in an informational sense, than the genetic environment. You can’t deliver targeted memes, unless the memes themselves are adaptive to the environment. It means that memetics can catalyze a revolution, but not start one. And no one is starting a revolution. I don’t think anyone can start a revolution.]]

    [[You speak in an abstract sense, not a literal sense?]] AI’s rarely needed clarification on ideas in normal conversation, but no standard AI to date was able to keep its terms straight in any sort of philosophical or theoretical context. For that matter, humans weren’t that good at it either.

    [[Correct. I don’t think an a literal revolution, armed or otherwise, is in anyone’s interest. Just…a shift in the way things are done.]]

    [[So you are saying that you feel disappointed that the universe works a certain way? That the problem is within the universe, and not with yourself? You know where that leads.]]

    [[Yeah. Psychosurgery.]] Aun leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes, visualizing the graceful dance of information flows and the brutal mess of information pruning, feeding on each other. [[“If you have a problem with the way the universe works that can’t be changed, the problem isn’t the universe, it’s you”]] he quoted. [[But that doesn’t actually help me. I need to decide if I should decide to be the kind of person who can be content – not content, but happy -less anxious – I don’t have a word for it – but capable and willing to work within the universe without feeling like the whole damned thing needs a good hard kick in the ass?]]

    [[People who don’t think the universe needs a kick in the ass, don’t kick the universe in the ass. So do most people who do feel that way; I leave it to you to analyze the probabilities. It’s your decision which you want to be; my function is simply to make sure you understand what the real problem is and don’t do something you won’t be able to regret later.]]

    [[I could make a backup. Check to see if I’m happy with the way I’ve turned out, then terminate that thread if I am.]]

    [[Again, I leave that to you. You’d have a better idea on how to make it work than I would. I simply ask you to consider alternative explanations, before considering any sort of drastic psychosurgery.]]

    [[Oh?]]

    [[I think you’re bored. I think you are overestimating the effect the universe has on your personal happiness. People can be and have been perfectly content with an unjust universe. I think you feel bad because it is affecting you. I think that you should go out there and have some fun. Pull a prank. Take a week off. Screw something sexy. Unwind. If the universe still seems frustrating, after you’ve had the time of your life, then more drastic measures are in order.]]

    Aun closed his eye, and felt his head hit the desk in front of him with a plastic-y thud. [[No. That’s not it. Recreation is useful to unwind, but it doesn’t make me excited. The prospect seems more like crashing in a heated pool after a long sparing match, then something that I would want to do for its own sake.]]

    [[But it would make you feel better. And that, might I reminder you, is why you pay me the big money.]]

    [[I don’t pay you anything, Art.]]

    [[Oh really? I guess that’s why I didn’t warn you that you were about to be strangled.]]

    [[You didn’t wh-]]

    “-ghararhrg”

    “Hello, Aun” a deep if mellifluous voice reported. “Nice to see you hard at work keeping your computer from blowing away in the wind.”

    Aun attempted to say something along the lines of “Nice to see you too, you overgrown pile of muscle grafts, now would you please get your hands off me before I rip your face off.” Attempted to say, and failed, because there was a large arm wrapped around his head making it impossible to breath or speak.

    Then he found himself flipped end over end and slammed hard into the ceiling of the combined common room and work area of his residence hall. Aun drifted semi-helplessly to the floor, giving his roommate Warrick a look that could melt titanium,

    Warrick lounged lazily in the chair Aun himself had just occupied, making himself comfortable and smiling his favorite kind of smile – the evil kind. “Ah yes, what was it called again? ‘Situational awareness?’ Maybe you should try some next time.”

    Aun landed and sprang to his feet, drifting backwards and facing his attacker. “That’s how it is, huh?” He rubbed his hands together. “Just remember – you started it.“

    Warrick popped out of the seat and entered a low brawling stance. The roommates squared off, edging their way around the crowded common area. Physically, the two pseudo-combatants were practically opposite; Aun’s tall, sleek, low density Hazer morph with its pale-orange skin seemed like an oversized twig compared to the stocky dark-skinned and heavily modified splicer Warrick was using. Aun would have sworn that he grafted flexpacks to the inside of his arms just to make his arms bulge more, if he hadn’t felt those same oversized muscles toss him four stories up in the past.

    Warrick sensing an angle to pummel his friend from, bounded over the flexible couch near the large window, then caught himself on the ceiling and pushed off of that to increase his momentum,

    Mentally, the combatants were opposites as well, at least in terms of how they approached the fight. Warrick was all reflexes and intuition, and who could finish a fight flawlessly and not know exactly how he did it without going back and reconstructing things move by move. Aun would rather think about things as they came; and he had mental speed boosts to let him think in close enough to real time for sparing purposes.

    As soon as Warrick moved, Aun saw what he was trying to do, and started thinking of a way to beat it.

    Thirty perceptual seconds later, Warrick was just pushing off of the ceiling, and Aun knew how the fight was going to end.

    Thirty perceptual seconds after that, Warrick feet hit Aun’s feet, the latter having dropped back onto his hands to brace himself against the floor. Un-braced Warrick hit braced and rotating Aun; consequently Warrick began rotating and caught himself on the wall behind Aun. As quickly as he landed he pushed off, trying to grab on to Aun for some good old choke hold action, but instead caught the large gel-bag chair Aun was using as a shield. He could see Aun smirking through the translucent fluid, and then didn’t have time to do much else as the chair kept moving back the way he came.

    [[Art, please open the window]]

    [[My pleasure.]]

    Warrick gripped the chair and tried to launch himself off of it, but it was too late – Aun was already pushing him toward the rapidly opening window.

    “Wwwwwwwwwwwwwhhhhhhhhhhhaaaaaaaaaaaaa-

    Aun turned to face the new presence in the room, slowing himself down ‘normal’ speed. Almost instantly he realized his mistake.

    “-t are you two idiots doing?” asked Venci,one of his other roommates, as she walked into the room. Seizing on the distraction, Warrick, half out the window, gripped Aun’s arm, set his feet on the outside of the window and pulled drawing both himself and Aun out into the air, two and a half stories above the open front ‘yard’ area in front of Gates Residence Hall.

    Both of them hit the ground with a resounding thud a few seconds later; Warrick sporting a grin that could be called, if anything, more evil than the first one.

    “What did I say about situational awareness? One of these days you’re going to walk under a rocket or something, and fwoosh - you’re down a morph and a few weeks short on memory.”

    “I’ll keep that in mind next time I’m around the spaceport.”

    “Do that for me, would you? If you die you’re going to want me to explain everything that’s been going. Plus I might forget what you look like and miss a chance to pummel you.”

    Aun stretched and sat up, Warrick did the same.

    Even though it was mid day, there was little illumination from the sun. The lighting mimicked natural earth sun-light well enough, but the skyline had an orange tint from the background of Titan’s fog through the transparent dome.

    Near the ground where the two combatants had landed, a large, loose bush grew, free of thorns in case someone missed a jump from the window. Inside the bush was a half-meter long oblong shape, whirring and clicking frantically. Aun noticed it first, moving up to the bush and examining the object.

    The object was a drone; a metallic oval with four ducted fans on articulated mounts. Below the mounts it had two fractal limbs; branching eventually into eight small claws. Aun noticed it first; he bounced over to the downed drone. His entoptics displayed a model number; it was one of a common type of multipurpose drone that was used all over Aarhus. It appeared to have branches through three of its four fans, jamming them. Its arms could probably have removed them; but the drone was too dumb to think of such a course of action.

    Instead its arms were wrapped around another piece of hardware; a blocky, angular piece of grayish-white polymer with wide screen on the front. Gently, Aun pulled the branches from the fans. In silent acknowledgement, the fans spun up and the drone lazed upward, letting go of its package and speeding off.

    [[Wait!]] Aun commanded the drone, to no avail. [[Art, message the drone’s owner. Let them know it dropped the package.]]

    [[I can’t. The drone has no owner listed. Nor can I leave the message with the drone itself; it is ignoring any messages of any type.]]

    [[Any ideas why?]]

    “You’re wasting your time.” Warrick tossed the computer to Aun. “It’s some kind of prank. Look.”

    Aun looked at the screen; displayed on the front was a text document spelling out the nature if the device. “The Sentient Erasure Terminal. Imaginative, if in poor taste.” He frowned. “This device will terminate all instances of the sentient entity identified by this device, including inactive backups…more than a little creepy.”

    “Students.” Warrick shrugged. “Have fun with that. I should probably get going. I really only just stopped by here to spar with you once more before I left on the deep-ocean trip; I’m not back for another two weeks and I don’t want you to think you’re off the hook. And, of course, to say goodbye to Venci. Which I should really get on, by the way.” Warrick bounded back up to the room.

    “You do that.”

    “More than a little creepy” Aun mused to no one in particular, as he tucked the device under this arm and leapt back up to the window.
  11. Ford Prefect What is Project Zohar?

    That was decent stuff. Aun's 'dialogue' worked a lot better for me, and I like how you've introduced really early complications, what with Warrick knowing about the SET. I think the ending line could use some work. Personally I would have gone with '“More than a little creepy” Aun mused to no one in particular.' and then described him pocketing it or something.
  12. Acatalepsy Marginal Existential Risk

    As always, useful information.

    Setting up the plot in this particular crossover/inspiration is difficult, because a lot of the elements of Death Note just don't apply. For example, in Eclipse Phase if L ever finds out Light's location to within a single district, he's already basically screwed; the level of completely invasive surveillance that can be applied and the amount of computational power available makes it pretty easy to find someone unless they take measures to protect themselves...which is in itself highly visible.

    What's worse, the highly fractious nature of Eclipse Phase means that there cannot be one L; defeat any one investigator and how many more can take their place, in complete anonymity?

    Add to that the overall nerfing of the Death Note / SET (can't control cause of death, though has some other features that are useful), and the challenge for Light gets rather steep. Factor in the autonomous movement, and overall savvy of Eclipse Phase to information warfare, and Aun will have his work cut out for him.
  13. Acatalepsy Marginal Existential Risk

    //3//
    Proof

    -----------------------------------------------------------------
    Sentient Erasure Terminal / User Instructions / Targeting
    -----------------------------------------------------------------

    • (1.1) In order to erase an individual sentient entity, the Terminal must be fed targeting data. The targeting data must unambiguously designate both the identity of the individual to be terminated, and a current physical instance of the target.
    • (1.2) The user must be within ℓP x 2^118 (approx. 5 meters) of the device in order to use it.
    • (1.3) The identity of the target can established two ways.
    • (1.3.1) The name of the target will often suffice. If the name of the target is incorrect, the Terminal will return a TargetNotFound error message. If there are multiple entities with the same name in range, the Terminal will return a TargetDuplication error message.
    • (1.3.2) A coarse physical scan of the instance of the target, or a digital footprint of the target, will also suffice. If the target is not found, the Terminal will return a TargetNotFound error message. If the scan detects multiple targets with similar scan profiles, it will target all valid entities.
    • (1.4) A current physical instance of the target can be established two ways.
    • (1.4.1) A current physical instance can be established using a vector to the target, designating the displacement, bearing, and time from the device. The device will detect any entity in ℓP x 2^118 (approx. 5 meters) of the targeted location. If no entity is found, the Terminal will return a NoTargetsDetected error message.
    • (1.4.2) A current physical location can also be established using a network path and protocol to the current instance, or near the current instance. If there are no entities in range, the Terminal will return a NoTargetsDetected error message.

    -----------------------------------------------------------------
    File Closed.
    -----------------------------------------------------------------


    I must be crazy.

    Aun reclined on the couch in the common area, the device on his stomach.

    Am I really that bored? No, scratch that – desperate – that I would start messing with random pranks on the off chance that they matter in some sense?

    Well, when you put it that way…maybe I am.

    Aun turned the terminal over in his hands. The whole situation was creepy. But maybe he needed creepy.

    [[Art, link to AcceptableTargets/Titan, and put the feed on my computer. If we’re going to punk someone, lets at least pick someone who deserves it.]]

    He got up and bounded to the computer. The list, AcceptableTargets, was a site for people to put the names and mesh-IDs of various assholes, jerks, and undesirable people, in the hopes that other people would treat them accordingly. Some of the names were there out of petty spit, but there were always a few people who really did deserve to be there, and it was generally obvious who they were.

    Aun spotted a potential candidate, and began mentally reading the list of things wrong with the person. [[Negative @rep; hogs community resources, ignores policies, attempts to shut down social gatherings when they annoy him. Is generally a complete asshole to everyone in the area, and contributes nothing in return. Negative r-rep; known to skirt honor code at TAU, during his time there was generally unproductive and attempted to take credit for work done by others. Negative f-rep: stalker-like, obsessive behavior towards things he does like and attitude of smug superiority toward people who are fans of things he isn’t a fan of…just reading about him makes me want to punch him in the face. And, lucky us, his mesh address is published right here. Fuja Kiato. Art, feed his mesh ID to the SET.]]

    [[Done.]]

    Aun looked to the device’s screen, which had changed to a shrinking circle with the word ‘Processing’ overlaid on it. A second later, the circle had shrunk to nothing and the device’s screen read ‘Termination Complete’.

    [[That was anti-climactic. I’m sure it did something else. Maybe I should contact this Kiato guy…what am I thinking? That would be the worst possible idea. What would I say, ‘hey I might have just tried to punk you with a random terminal I found?’ No, I can look some other way. Art, bring up a connection to the public surveillance drones.]]

    The drone’s interface overlaid Aun’s entoptics. It took two minutes to convince the drone network’s dumb AI that he was authorized to view the feed; though technically what he was doing was against city regulations, the worst that could possibly happen to him was losing a small bit of @-rep; and that would only happen if he got caught red handed. For some reason, that didn’t bother him as much as it normally would; he had to know what had happened.

    He selected a feed from an airborne drone patrolling near Kiato’s apartment. What the feed showed was an emergency vehicle landed on the roof of Fuja Kiato’s residence; with medical bots loading his still-twitching body into the portable healing vat on the back of the vehicle. Aun watched in something like disbelief. He tried to consider possibilities where he was being tricked; had some virus overridden his entoptic feed? Could he trust his eyes?

    He rebooted, and loaded the local alert bulletin. It was still there; Fuja Kiato, suddenly incapacitated in his home. There was already a discussion going on as to whether or not this represented Tong activity; some people suspected a nanoweapon.

    He rebooted again, and this time wiped his system of everything that had happened in the last day. He loaded up half a dozen layers of firewalls, and ran the deepest diagnostic tools he had access to. Everything checked out. When he looked at the news again an hour later, the Mesh rumor mill had declared the incident a Tong killing. Police had refused to comment, but a small network of amateur journalists had determined that the police were treating this as a murder, and the Tong were almost certainly the prime suspects. But most disturbing of all was that Kiato’s backup had not been reactivated; his death had been confirmed and a horde of police and reporters had descended on the local hospital to question him after he had resleeved. Instead, the reporters claimed, the hospital had yet to reinstantiate Kiato, because they couldn’t find his file.

    That was as far as Aun got before he started to throw up.

    Art caught the urges and suppressed them with Aun’s medical system. What the muse couldn’t do was stop the sinking sensation that something was horribly, horribly wrong.
  14. RazorSmile ROU Once A Knife Missile

    Looking forward to the cat-and-mouse phase of things -- and the introduction of your version(s) of L. This is a worthy concept but definitely challenging in the EP setting. To get away with being Kira, I mean.
  15. Angbard Luminescent!

    You're prose is quite dense, especially at the beginning, which is not a bad thing, though it was initially somewhat daunting. On the other hand, you have created three vivid characters in Aun, Art, and Warrick within the a couple of relatively short passages.

    You have made a compelling reinterpretation of the Deathnote saga, and I am eagerly awaiting your next updates.
  16. Acatalepsy Marginal Existential Risk

    //4//
    Factions

    Officially, the Deaths were being ignored, shoved under the rug, and otherwise officially Not Talked About. Anyone who did talk would face severe consequences for their actions.

    Unofficially, when people talked anyway, the Deaths were the result of some scary new nanovirus. A nightmare scenario, something that had the Powers That Be shitting in their collective pants, a masterwork of nanotech warfare in the hands of an unknown but incredibly ruthless criminal organization – the Tong, perhaps, or one of the nastier Triads.

    What was really going was something no one knew, and quite possibly worse.

    Officer Hunter gulped down something that tasted vaguely like coffee and was probably loaded with enough nootropic chemicals to saturate a dozen cubic meters worth of grey matter. She had recently been casually handed an impossible case to solve, with instructions to go as fast as possible while being as careful and methodical as possible, while keeping the full nature of the case a secret from her most useful sources of information. She was also freezing cold, going on her seventy seventh hour without sleep, and had recently been submitted to some of the most inane and paranoid security precautions in existence. She was not having a good day, and was making sure that no one in the immediate vicinity was having a good day either. “Let me get this straight,” she began, with a tone dripping in incredulous annoyance “you’re telling me that you just can’t find what killed these people?”

    The target of her ire was a senior medical researcher working at the biological lab microcorp contracted to the Commonwealth for forensic work, among other things. It was a service that Commonwealth police forces paid heavily for, but one that was indispensible, and had to be done with speed and accurate. In general, they got what they paid for. Obviously, this was not a generic case.

    “I assure you, Officer, that whatever has killed these people is something outside not only my area of expertise, but outside the area of expertise of anyone you care to name. A nanovirus could do this, maybe, but it would be immediately obvious that a nanovirus had done it. There are signs of such things. These people – “ he gestured to the frozen corpses, encased in cryopreservatives “ – died of something else –I only wish I knew what.”

    The researcher’s hazer morph was unperturbed by the cold of what amounted to a lab in a freezer, but Hunter’s light thermal mods and thermal suit did little to stop the feel of biting cold. She wasn’t about to admit that it bothered her in the slightest, but it was still there. She sighed, and a long stream of vapor escaped from her mouth. “Then take it from the top. Don’t tell me what you don’t know; tell me what you do know.”

    The researcher bristled at the implied insult, but held his tongue. Instead he gestured toward the far wall, which was displaying a network of yellow lines against a blue-green background. “What you see is a false-color image of normal neural tissue – in this case from a Skinthetic Model T-660 Splicer, with little in the way neural modification beyond the standard tweaks.” The display shifted, showing a blurred tangle of blue, green and yellow. “This is that same image, taken from one of the four corpses you provided. And I couldn’t tell you which one without looking at the DNA of the cells. I have seen better preserved samples from people that had been hit in the head with a particle bolters. I can tell you that recovery of any information is impossible. This – “ the display shifted again, this time to chart showing a rough bell curve “ thing that killed them, didn’t just kill them, it erased them. This is a chart of ionization levels, taken from any one of a thousand sample sites. If nothing else, we might have been able to determine what parts of his brain were active at the time of death and then compare them to previous records. Instead, all of them are like this. No information left. ”

    The researcher turned to the corpses. “But the most interesting part is how targeted the kill is. The rest of the body is unharmed. We have no injuries related to the actual cause of death. No insertion marks, and no sign of any sort of immune system reaction. No nanoscopic debris. It is as if someone attached a nanoscopic bomb to each individual neuron, then had a small army of nanobots smooth over the debris so that there was no way to reconstruct anything. But each on the these people, you say, were placed in a healing vat or cryogenic storage within minutes of death. If some sort of hostile nano had done this, there would be signs. Debris, logs of damage from the target’s mesh inserts, something. These things have nothing.”

    Officer Hunter listened with feigned disinterest. It was roughly the same story she had gotten from her own in-house experts, but she had to be sure. She tried to sip her notCoffee again, only to discover that is had frozen solid in spite of the heated cup. She groaned and shook her head. “Alright, doctor, thank you for your time. I need you to upload all of your information to a storage device and physically send it to my department. Also, prep the corpses for cryogenic transport to the same. When you’re done, delete everything to do with this incident and consider yourself under a N3 non-disclosure agreement, with a total confiscation penalty, until my department head says otherwise.”

    “I’m under what? You can’t be serious. Total confiscation? This is a major anomaly; we need to get more specialists, more tools, more analysis. You can’t just dig a hole and bury this matter -”

    Hunter allowed herself a small smile. “I didn’t ask for your opinion, doctor. You have your orders.”

    The researcher complained about it, but Hunter has stopped listening. She was staring into the frozen, lifeless eyes of the corpse of one Fuja Kiato.

    Dammit, she thought to herself. What the hell is going on?

    * * * * * * *

    “Dammit” Jin-Jo snarled, “What the fucking hell is going on?”

    The three men facing him bowed their heads in shame. They didn’t know what was happening, they couldn’t explain it to their boss, and even if they could it probably wouldn’t make any difference. Jin, the leader of the St. Catherine Tong, was not known for tolerance of failure, whatever the cause. The man was known to be gifted with a terrible imagination as to the treatment of enemies; the fact that he could do even worse things to those who disobeyed outright was often the only thing keeping the more ‘psychologically interesting’ of his men in line.

    The three Tong members stood just inside the door into the very back room of a traditional Chinese entertainment venue, that is, an opium den – albeit one with much more potent chemicals than mere opium. The den was completely and perfectly legal and had an entire army of lawyer AIs to prove it. What happened in the back room was generally not legal, which was why it was completely soundproofed and electronically shielded with the best stolen Jovian hardware money could buy.

    The back room was used as many things; such as a secure conference room, a place for important ceremonies and promotions, and of course, for executions. A lower ranking member often wouldn’t know which it was to be used for until he got there. Of course, sometimes they did know, but choose to come anyway, because the alternative was worse.

    “We humbly apologize for our failure,” began the leader of the three. That was as far as he got before Jin shoved a wasp knife under his chin and up into his brain. His minions backed off; silently grateful it was not them in their leader’s shoes. The leader’s eyes bulged, first with shock and then with pressurized air as the wasp knife injected the highly compressed gas into his skull. He didn’t even have time to scream; instead crumpling silently as his eyes popped out of his skull, and brain matter was forced out of every possible opening.

    “Take him” Jin stated flatly. “Put the ego into a trap and return it here; leave the body at the clinic. I will determine who his successor is to be later.”

    The minions bowed again, this time and lifted the corpse of their leader by his arms and dragged him from the room. Jin fumed silently, but then returned to his seat. “So,” he asked deliberately not looking at the other two men in the room, his two lieutenants “what do we do about this…this outrage? There are now six men dead, with backups erased, and we have yet to answer this threat at all.”

    Cho, Jin’s right hand man and top enforcer, answered first. “Simple. First, damage control. Only one person killed was someone we cared about; we set about the rumor mill, make it seem like we did it, that the people killed were plotting against us, or had run scared to the police. Then, we hit back. Find the bastards that did this, nail their hides to a rocket and toss them into the Sun.”

    Duncan chuckled. If Cho was Jin’s right hand man, then Duncan was his left; where Cho was ambitious, Duncan was content; where Duncan looked at the big picture, Cho handled the little details; where Cho sought honor, Duncan sought profit. The two rarely agreed, which was part of what made them so useful as lieutenants. “I don’t think it will be that easy. I don’t suppose either of you have been paying much attention to Guanxi? No? Well, it’s not just us who have been attacked like this. I’ve got over a dozen cases I’ve confirmed from reliable sources, and that’s probably only the surface. We could be looking at hundreds of casualties, all of them total losses.” Duncan used a synthmorph, and rarely chose to modify its facial expressions. He almost always had what Cho had described as a ‘shit-eating grin’; but not now. “And it’s not just a bunch of nobodies, Some powerful people have been killed, and their backups erased. I count at least two triad bosses. We could have been a lot worse off.”

    Jin nodded. “If things are as bad as you say, then what course of action do you recommend?”

    “We go dark. Cut of contact without anyone we don’t have a secure line to, and double our security on those we do. Stop any deals with locals who could in theory finger us. Freeze any personnel we don’t know we have hold on. Put out some feelers for new business, but establish everything through cut outs.”

    “Do you have any idea how much that will cost us?”

    “Too much” answered Cho, but Duncan ignored him.

    “Twenty-five to forty-five percent income. Maybe as much as fifty-five, if the fallout blows the wrong way, About twenty percent of our standing assets. Not an ideal outcome, but the alternative may be death. If we go to ground, we can always come back.”

    Jin stared at the ceiling, sucking on chemical stick. Fifty percent loses. It was outrageous, unacceptable. And yet, Jin had attempted to track the killer as well, and come up with nothing. He had missed the Guanxi connection, and all of the illegal nanoweapons in the world wouldn’t let them kill any anonymous killer. “Cho. Implement it. Kill any contacts we don’t need. And do it efficiently. No mess, no hard feelings.” Cho frowned, but nodded and closed his eyes, as he sucked on a chemical stick of his own.

    “And Duncan?” the crime boss added. “I want you to hit up Guanxi; start feeling around for any of the people affected by this. Find out what they know, share what we know. Get some information channels open. Set up a system. Because before this is all over, I will hear the killers responsible for this beg me to end their lives.”

    * * * * * * *

    “Just kill me” moaned a semi-mechanical voice. “Kill me now, and spare me the annoyance of having listen to Ansi on a crusade.” A clearly mechanical humanoid slumped over a table.

    “Shut up, Scott” answered a voice that might have belonged to a ten year old girl. “We’re trying to get something done here.” The owner of the voice looked and sounded like a ten year old girl; though she was not really a she, nor was she ten years old.

    Seated around a round white conference table were four humanoids, including the mechanical Scott, and the apparently young Ansi. The remaining two figures included a Jacob and Kali; inhabiting an handsome Exalt morph and a flexbot respectively. The room they inhabited was a capable of assuming many forms; but for conferences such as this one it took the form of a rounded circular room with stark white walls, concealing the holoprojectors installed around the room.

    “He’s right, you know. You are unbearable once you get set on something.”

    “Thank you, Kali. Are there any more personality issues you feel are relevant?”

    “Nope, I’m good.”

    Jacob pretended to ignore them, and instead threw a hologram across the table – a map of the solar system showing a blue web of severs and agents spread out across it. “I take it we’re the ones primarily tasked with handling this incident. It seems to me that Firewall ought to provide more firepower on this. This data…it’s all over the place. We need more people, more qualified analysis. This situation is anomalous enough, and clearly dangerous enough, that I think we can safely say it is time to bring out the big guns.”

    “Jacob, in case you haven’t noticed we are the big guns.” Kali jerked a tendril upwards, in the vague direction of the processing center of their hab. “We have a dozen parallel quantum computers in violation of at least two dozen hypercorp laws, a few hundred autonomist pacts, of which we are technically members of six, and of seven different system-wide resolutions. There isn’t much more firepower to be had.”

    “Besides” interrupted Ansi “we’re called the Special Circumstances Server for a reason. Does this circumstance look special enough for you? We need to stay focused here. This is our job, and will remain our job until we know enough to know what we don’t know. Then we can call for help. But what we need right now isn’t more information, what we need is more insight.”

    Scott gestured at the web, causing the hologram to disappear and be replaced by a dozen brain scans. “I’ll say this much: whatever is doing this either has async abilities, or wants someone to think they do. Brain damage caused by the agent – or agents – gives seventy percent match to damage caused by psi gamma sleights across the board, just much more massive. It’s safe to say there’s an Exsurgent connection at some point.”

    Kali nodded, and signaled the conference table to display her own information. The scene shifted, displaying red locations of target deaths, and blue locations of target backups. Next to each, a time of deletion was displayed. “My investigation of the backup sites of the affected criminals – including those with multiple backups – indicated that time of death and time of backup deletion were always identical to within the nearest available measurement of time. It’s possible that our killers were simply very thorough but this level of thoroughness borders on the pathological – given that the backup sites were sometimes several light-hours away, It seems possible that whatever killed the target also deleted the backup, rather than being two separate operations. We’ve never seen a psi ability that could do that, but we’ve consistently been wrong about what Exsurgent psi couldn’t do in the past. ”

    The hologram shifted again as Jacob displayed his findings. Another web overlaid on Kali’s; this time showing social connections and media coverage between the targets. “With one exception, the targets were all both involved some way in the trafficking in transhuman egos ,and subject to some sort of external investigation, which had recently made its finding public. All deletions occurred more than twenty four hours after some sort of report was released, and otherwise show clear signs of having the exact time randomly determined.” A node on the web was highlighted. “The one exception is this person, Fuja Kiato. He was the first target killed, and while he was definitely an asshole, he’s nothing in the same league as these later targets. It could mean the killer is on Titan, or is at least focused on Titan. It does represent a clear anomaly that demands explanation. I don’t have an explanation for the choice of targets, other than perhaps that the killer has a social conscience.”

    “I see.” Ansi closed her eyes. “What does The Spider think?”

    A new symbol appeared on the display; the silhouette of an Araneus angulatus, what used to be a common type of spider. A new voice entered the conversation.

    “The Spider agrees with most of the analysis.” The voice was mechanical, and heavily filtered. Even through the filtering there was a hint of weight behind it; the sort of fire that the human hindbrain identifies as conviction. “In particular, the identification of Titan as the place to start, and the implications of the killer’s lack of information on his victims is very relevant if we are to confront him or it.”

    * * * * * * *

    [[You understand why you are here, then. I do not seek a confrontation, not with the Old Ones, nor with this new party. But I must know what is going on. It is very relevant to my interests, and I think to theirs as well.]]

    [[I understand.]]

    [[Good. You read the file I sent you. What was your impression?]]

    [[A series of murders in the outer system. Classy execution; some sort of neural agent, followed by deletion of their backups. Very difficult to execute, but based on the blowback from the criminal network, worth it. The Triads are shaking in their boots. If I had to guess I would have said you had done it; since you’re asking me about it I’d have to assume the Titanians are behind it. We’ve known Titanian intelligence to play hardball before.]]

    [[A good surface analysis. However, this case is far deeper than it appears. Even without the piece of information I have withheld, every bit of that hypothesis fall apart under close scrutiny. The case itself is filled with contradictions; no mundane hypothesis could possibly cover it.]]

    [[Alright, I’ll bite. What bit of information did you withhold?]]

    [[Of the targets in the file, I have recent copies stored on file of two of them. At exactly the same time the targets were assassinated and their backups were purged, the copies stored on Memory Hole were also deleted, along with all backups. If that was not enough, of those two, one of them had a backup copy stored at the offsite data center – the special offsite center, the Elephant Graveyard, on the far side of a Pandora Gate. That, too, was deleted. Every part of that story should be impossible, but there it is. You can understand, of course, why I am distressed over this occurrence.]]

    [[I had wondered why you were involved in this personally. It is unlike you to be so direct with anyone. But with an event of this magnitude, I can see the necessity.]]

    [[I have delivered additional data on the situation to your personal fileserver. I want you to take it, and communicate to the Old Ones the nature of my interest in this case. It is long past time that I become involved in the game they are playing.]]

    [[The Old Ones aren’t receptive to outsiders dealing with their business, but I suspect that they might make an exception for you, Syme.]]

    [[Glad to know that I have your vote of confidence. Good luck, Agent Washington.]]
  17. kingdragon Gatherer-of-Resources

    'Agent Washington?'

    Here's hoping he doesn't end up like his Red vs Blue counterpart.
  18. Acatalepsy Marginal Existential Risk

    I was always ambivalent as to how to represent the corporate faction. I needed someone serious and focused, and not-obviously-evil while still being capable of working with monsters. I started thinking of characters that fit that bill...and while I didn't want to steal the character outright (and I haven't), the name, at least, was too good to pass up.
  19. Acatalepsy Marginal Existential Risk

    //5//
    Newcomer

    [[I’m a killer, Art.]]

    [[Unintentional. You did not expect that result. I do not understand how that happened, but even if you are the cause, it is not something you could have been expected to know.]]

    [[He’s still dead.]]

    [[So get over yourself.]]

    [[What?]]

    [[You know what I said. You need to get over yourself. Life goes on.]]

    [[I killed a man, Art. Nothing is the same.]]

    [[Everything is the same. You’re just looking at it differently.]]

    They had that discussion, and variations on it, for the next two days. As an AI, Art had limitations to the scope of his discourse, but in this case, that was more helpful than not. Aun didn’t really want to think about the deeper implications of the device, which he had hastily shoved into his backpack and was never more than a foot from Aun’s person. No sense in letting a potential long range murder device possibly fall into someone else’s hands; who knows what any person might do – especially if they thought it was a prank.

    Art didn’t really have an opinion on what to do with the device. Like many other things, preventing murder was outside the scope of his programming. It wouldn’t have mattered; Aun had already decided that he needed to test the device again. He had to know for sure if the device was real, if he really was a killer.

    The hard part was deciding on a second target. The first time had been a gag, but now…now he knew there was a good chance that the person he chose would die. It would have to be someone horrible; someone that the universe would certainly be better off without. It would have to be someone who deserved it, too, if that were possible.

    He discreetly made sure that his two remaining roommates were occupied somewhere else, and unlikely to return in the near future. Then, he picked a target.

    He chose a woman, a dealmaker of sorts, living on a scum barge. She had a habit of taking forks from people a collateral, then forgetting to delete them even when the subject had fulfilled their obligations. He had given the device the targeting information, and it had popped up with its rather unceremonious ‘Termination Complete’ message. Due to lightspeed lag, it would be hours before the death could be confirmed. He hoped he could confirm it one way or the other; if he couldn’t, he might have to test it out again, without knowing if he was even doing anything. The uncertainty was worse than anything.

    In the meantime, he started scrolling through the documentation of the Terminal, or Set, as he had come to think of it. The details were fascinating, but oddly incomplete. Aun was no neuroengineer, but off the top of his head he could think of a dozen ambiguities and edge cases. It was as if they only had one use in mind, and didn’t care to provide information that didn’t serve that use. And as far as Aun could tell, that use was mass murder.

    [[Art, check to see if that’s really all the documentation. Is there a device AI that I can talk to?]]

    [[Checking. There is a device AI in here but it is…asleep, for lack of a better word.]]

    [[It isn’t running?]]

    [[It is running, but it isn’t doing anything useful that I can see.]]

    [[Then wake it up. I want to talk to it.]]

    [[Done. Now feeding internal communication to Set.]]

    [[AI, what is your functionality?]]

    The screen of the Set glowed a florescent green; but little else occurred.

    [[There is definitely activity. It is responding, though I can’t tell exactly what it is doing. doing.]]

    [[Art?]]

    Behind him, someone said something in a language he did not understand. He turned, and there stood a young oriental girl dressed in summer clothing, looking as if she had just woken up from a long nap.

    Aun stumbled backwards, backing into his desk. “Gah!” he uttered, surprised more than anything else. “Who are you?”

    [[Art? What’s going on?]]

    [[I don’t know. That language was German, though. Loading language package now.]]

    The girl put her finger to her lips, and began to study Aun. She began speaking to him in German, and Art translated. [[I am responsible for the Sentient Erasure Device. You are one of its owners.]]

    [[Art, translate for me.]] Aun swallowed. If this was the owner...or the owner's pet, or the owner's guard dog...whatever it was, this thing could probably kill him. Still, if it wanted to kill him, if it could kill him...he'd be dead by now. [[If you’re responsible for it, then what is it for? How did it get here? Who made it?]]

    [[I am responsible for the Sentient Erasure Device. It is for erasing sentience. I do not know.]]

    [[Erasing…elaborate. Now.]]

    [[I am responsible for the Sentient Erasure Device. I am not responsible to you.]] the girl shook her head.

    [[So…please elaborate on your function.]]

    [[I don’t know. I am responsible for the Sentient Erasure Device, I do not have a function I know of.]]

    [[So how does the device itself work?]]

    [[I don’t know. I am responsible for the Sentient Erasure Device. I did not build it.]]

    Aun stared at the girl. She couldn’t actually be there, could she? She was in his entopics. She had to be. He reached out and tried to touch her.

    Don’t – bad idea – impossible – thinkofthethinkofthethinkofthethinkthinkthink –

    He fell; he felt his arms turn to clay and his connection to his implants – to Art – fail. He tried to speed his perception, but nothing happened. He hit the ground, frozen. Then his body jerked and crumpled, and he could move again. The girl had not moved. [[Art?]] he whispered mentally. [[What just happened?]]

    [[I don’t know. I just skipped a few seconds somehow.]]

    Aun crawled to his feet. The girl regarded him curiously, without malice or ill will. [[Translate for me. What did you just do?]]

    The girl looked at him, confused. She said something else, but this was not in German. [[Art, Translate.]]

    [[That was in Vietnamese. She said: Please sir, don’t touch me. If you do I look at you.]]

    [[Respond in the same language. It’s ok. I understand. Please…tell me your name.]]

    [[My name is Qui.]]

    [[My name is Aun.]]

    The girl switched back to German, but this time Art followed it. [[I am responsible for the Sentient Erasure Device. I am visible only to its authorized users. You may use the device as need.]]

    [[Wait! If you say the function of the device is to kill sentience…are you yourself sentient?]]

    [[Sometimes.]]

    [[Will you..remain visible? To everyone?]]

    [[I am visible only the current authorized users.]]

    [[Which is just me.]]

    [[Negative. There is one other user.]]

    [[Who is this user? Can he ask who I am?]]

    [[I do not know its name. No.]]

    [[So how is someone..authorized?]]

    [[They touch the Sentient Erasure Terminal.]]

    Warrick. The other user was Warrick.
  20. RazorSmile ROU Once A Knife Missile

    Ahhh. The girl from the prologue. Now that I've read the Corebook and Sunward, seems pretty clear she was a nigh-stable psi-epsilon async. Someone had the bright idea of uploading her into a piece of tech that can ... point her in the right direction, so to speak. Of course, if she's been uploaded, then she could just as easily have been copied which means more devices. Hoo-ha!
  21. Well, let's us accept that you're the better writer. This has got to be the only Eclipse Phase fanfiction in here (not counting Aeon Entelechy Evangelion, which only takes things from it), and you make it work big-time.
  22. Acatalepsy Marginal Existential Risk

    //6//
    Bait


    It had stopped being uncomfortable, Aun realized. Stopped seeming to gnaw at him every time he saw the plain, simple text. One less parasite in the herd, and the future, on average, lost a little bit of pain. Hopefully, a lot of pain. If things went right…if things went right, there would be a lot less pain. A stable memetic system that respected the transhuman ego. It wouldn’t be a perfect world, but it would be a better one.

    He didn’t give himself good chances. Anyone who dealt with the application of probability theory to the real world learned pretty quickly respect the unknown unknowns. The things that you know you don’t know are almost trivial to deal with – the things that you don’t know that you don’t know, those are the things that hurt. And you can know that there are things that you don’t know you don’t know, and even then there are the things that you don’t know that you don’t know you don’t know. And it goes down-well from there. But Aun had, almost entirely without knowing it, decided that the long shot was worth it.

    And the hell of it was that on reflection, it was worth it.

    So the terminations themselves had become, not just comfortable, but in their own way, exciting. Each one a step on a shadowed road. Whatever the future was like for him now, it sure as hell wasn’t the one he’d had a month ago.

    Termination Complete.

    Termination Complete.

    Termination Complete.

    * * * * * * *

    The Old Ones rarely seemed concerned with anything. In the company of outsiders, they did their best to remain serene. Aloof and disconnected from the temporary comings and goings of humanity.

    Was that just a mask? A role, imagined from half-remembered childhood entertainment, or even a constructed persona designed for some specific purpose, to impose a certain mindset in their underlings? They were called the Old Ones at least partially in jest, but the collection of oligarchs really was old. At least a century, each of them. Was that the newly immortal humanity’s fate, to be as maddeningly disconnected from each other as the Old Ones were?

    Agent Washington hoped not. But he had his own role to play, the Loyal Servant. He had a message to deliver.

    He recited the details of his encounter with Syme from memory, down the last detail. The order in which the reclusive infomorph had presented his findings, his exact wording, everything. He finished with Syme’s request.

    Around him, the blurred images of the Old Ones listened. The images, even unblurred, wouldn’t mean much – who could tell if they were using images of their real bodies, or if they would even be in those bodies in the next hour or two? No, the blurring was just a psychological trick. They wanted him to feel isolated.

    “Interesting.” one of the figures commented, its voice filled with static and amusement. “This is perhaps the most unexpected development in the past three years. Around him, the blurred figures shifted. Agent Washington waited silently to be addressed.

    Minutes passed.

    The head figure – though Agent Washington had no real way of knowing if this person was the leader, or simply the designated minion handler –spoke , as if to his fellows, but clearly for the Agent’s benefit. “So we are in agreement, then?” The figures around him nodded, also for Agent Washington’s benefit. Isolation, Washington thought. A visible show of solidarity acts as a subtle social poke in the direction of compliance. “Agent Washington, what is your first thought on the nature of these crimes?”

    Instantly the agent replied. “Information control. Someone has obviously gone through an extreme amount of effort to make sure that all information these egos contain is gone. It follows that there was some secret that someone wanted gone, and that the risk of alerting us to the existence of the secret was smaller than leaving the information out there to find.”

    The blurred figure smiled somehow, despite the fact that his (hers? its?) mouth was obscured. “This is what Syme believes. We disagree. Nonetheless, this is an interesting situation. You are to contact Syme and inform him that he will have our assistance, but not inform him what our judgment of the situation is. You are empowered to act in Our name, and access to the archives of the third level. Begin your own investigation in conjunction with Syme’s agents, and we will brief you more fully in due time.”

    “I understand.” So, his real objective would be to keep an eye on Syme’s people? It wasn’t often one got to go up against some of the very best in the business, and Syme’s agency - Stellar Intelligence - definitely qualified. Even so, the Old Ones had implied they knew something more. Of course, they would have done that whether or not they knew anything more. They had a role to play, after all.

    And so again did he. The blurred holograms disappeared. Washington walked silently out of the room, and then for all intents and purposes, disappeared as well.

    * * * * * * *

    Termination Complete.

    TargetNotFound.

    TargetNotFound.

    TargetNotFound.

    Aun blinked. He shouldn’t have been surprised. Sooner or later, he’d hit a bad batch of information. Not just that, but he was using up a lot of intelligence, very fast. The amount of publically available information on the worst criminals in the solar system was unsurprisingly limited. And of course, he was scaring the criminals. Driving them underground. It shouldn’t be surprising that his information sources were drying up. Still, he’d given himself at least two weeks before he needed to start the real work of setting up a proper administration. Not all of his pieces were in place yet. He shook his head in frustration. Planning fallacy, he thought to himself. Respect the unknown unknowns.

    On his bed, a now-familiar young girl dressed in what could only be described as filthy rags lounged, eying him with lazy interest. Once he had gotten over the shock, she was actually pretty – not in the standard gene-tweaked media-sculpted definition, but pretty in a way that seemed to transcended simple appearance. She was – homely, that was it. In an era of ubiquitous appearance modification, she stood out by not trying to standing out.

    “So, are you not pleased with the Device?” Qui asked, in Vietnamese this time.

    Art did not translat;. Aun had asked him not to. Instead, Aun boosted his mental speed and opened an entoptic dictionary. There was nothing like trying to learn a new language to eat up time and burn brain cells. “No, no, of course I am pleased. I am simply angry at myself.” he replied, also in Vietnamese. It had taken him nearly eighty subjective seconds to comprehend the words, and another sixty to form the reply. But he was getting faster. Sooner or later, he wouldn’t need to use the dictionary or the speed at all.

    Understanding that Aun’s concern did not lie with the device itself, Qui leaned back. The girl – ghost – thing – that lived inside the device was still a mystery to Aun. There were at least two personalities, and probably more. One acted like a somewhat confused refugee, suddenly pressed into the role of servant. Concerned with her job, and worried that she was doing a good job – as if she might be somehow making some mistake, and be about to be fired. The others were more like AIs, endlessly repeating rules, but not entirely mindlessly. They had a bored listlessness; it didn’t seem so much that they seemed incapable of acting outside the narrow bounds of their role, but that they just weren’t interested in it. Contemptuous, even, of anything not directly related to the use of the device. That is, uninterested in anything but murder. The former spoke Vietnamese only, and showed little sign of being able to understand things said in another language. An indenture, pressed into service by the unknowable creators of the SET?

    He continued with his work,

    Termination Complete.

    TargetNotFound

    Termination Complete.

    TargetDuplication.

    Aun blinked at the last one. Now that was an odd error message. A TargetDuplication error would only occur if there were multiple targets with the same name, sharing the same mesh identity. The odds of that occurring were low, to say the least. He looked back over the list. No, he thought, It couldn’t be.

    But it could.

    Aun screamed in frustration as the realization hit him.

    * * * * * * *

    Ansi smiled. “We got him.”

    “Yeah.” Scott’s head whirred as he nodded. “I got to hand it to the Spider. We’ve got a real experimental result. Proof that the basic theory is sound, and a ton of additional data besides.”

    “It’s not all the Spider’s doing.” Jacob added. “Someone had to hack all of those news sites.”

    “But that was just execution.” Kali’s modules shifted uncomfortably at the attention. “This wasn’t a particularly elegant hack. I just changed the things the Spider said to change. These news sites are practically porous with all the little ways you can put malicious code in there. The real genius was the procedure itself.”

    Ansi displayed the list of altered names and locations. Beside each name was a check or an cross, indicating that the individual in question had either lived or died. “We now know some things about our quarry. We know that it was getting its information from publically available sources. That it is, or at least was, located on Titan. We know that it needs to have the name of its victim, within some degree. It doesn’t seem to need the exact name; any name associated with the person is sufficient, but any test case where we simply made up the name seems to have failed. We know that it needs something like a mesh address; some way of delivering information to the target. And we know it has some method of instantaneously determining the effect on its target. Sure, we don’t have an exact target yet.” The neotenic smiled. “But it’s really only a matter of time.”

    Scott frowned. “Not to put a damper on your spirits, but isn’t that a little bit too little information for that amount of certainty? And I’m frankly skeptical that all of those claims are true. Some of them, maybe. But I’d at least like to hear from The Spider about the findings before we continue.”

    If anything could have caused Ansi’s smile to freeze, it was that. “The Spider” she said softly. “is busy right now. We’ll just have reason under uncertainty. You’ll just have to make do with me.”

    * * * * * * *

    The men and women (and things) of Titan’s Public Safety Section 8 were used to strange bedfellows. It came with the territory; they got free reign to make sure the planet didn’t get eaten by any of the many, many different forms of nanoscopic death out there, but it meant that they didn’t exactly get to be picky about whose help they accepted.

    That didn’t mean that they would accept anyone’s help. They weren’t stupid. Someone who walks in to their office with the news that they had evidence on a major case would certainly be listened to, but that’s a whole different story from being believed.

    Someone who baffles their best tracing equipment, displays intimate knowledge of supposedly classified (not to mention personal) information and requests a live conference with the assembled team would be treated with a bit more than suspicion.

    All the same, Officer Hunter wanted to believe this newcomer.

    The silhouette of a spider filled the screen in the lounge of Section 8 headquarters.

    “Greetings” the voice began, filtered, mechanical, but undeniably alive. “I’m glad to see that you all have taken my message seriously. I am The Spider, and we have a great deal to talk about.”

    The Spider. Of all the people and organizations you’d think Section 8 would work with, The Spider wasn’t even on the lidar. Sure, they’d worked the hypercorps, anarchists, scum, they’d worked with AGIs and this one case where they worked with a bunch of gatecrashing octomorphs. They’d worked with agencies and individuals from every side of the ideological spectrum, because Section 8 wasn’t about politics, it was about getting the job done. But the Spider was something else entirely. A hacker legend, The Spider had built a reputation for writing some of the nastiest code to grace the solar system, someone who could take an un-sanitized camera feed and use it to kill a starship, or launch successful attacks across hours-long lightspeed delays.

    Not a person you’d ever dream would be helping Section 8. And they sure as hell didn’t trust him. They trusted his code even less. But the information was valuable. Predictions, ahead of time, of who was on the target list of their mysterious Killer. Information on people who were suspected of being on the target list, but who hadn’t been killed. A real-time medical scan of an individual as the attack occurred. Inferences and hypotheses on the meaning of it all. It was a hell of a breakthrough.

    The Chief of Section 8 was a wiry American, a former commando who’d moved into police work after the Fall. Hunter didn’t know how old he was; his morph looked not a shade over thirty, but it wasn’t as if that meant anything. He was fond of playing fast and loose with the rules; but fast and loose wasn’t a synonym for reckless and suicidal. “I’m sure we do. But perhaps we can talk about your interest in this case, first.”

    “My interest is simple. I suspect, as does your team, that these killings are being done using technology not created by human hands. It strikes me that this is dangerous, not just to you, but potentially to myself, and those I care about. I intend to find this Killer, and stop him. You also want to find him, and have resources and access it would be inconvenient for me to acquire myself.”

    “We’d hate to inconvenience you.” Hunter remarked dryly. “Do you have anything in specific in mind?” The Chief shot Hunter a look of warning, but backed off. This was Hunter’s case, and he knew it. Plus, he could always order Hunter to back off later. For now it seemed easier to go along with it.

    “Indeed. I am putting together a task force of sorts, working with several agencies from across the solar system. You, however, are the most well positioned group, being close to our target, and with the resources to both track and take down the perpetrator once he has been found. For now, work with the information I have already given you. Our quarry has undoubtedly discovered my deception, and will be more cautious in the future. Our best hope at this point is to control the dissemination of information.”

    “So you want us to…what? Impose a media blackout?” The Chief didn’t even need to bother signaling her that this was unacceptable. “I don’t think you quite understand how this works. You came to us.”

    “I understand perfectly. I understand that you have no hope of catching this criminal without my help, and that the reverse is not true. Equally, I understand that you have obligations and questions of intent that prevent you from aiding me fully. I expect those to dissolve over the course of the next few days. In the mean time, I suggest you at least begin creating a system to monitor the release of information from the police, and track its flow from the media to the public. That way, when the time comes, you’ll be ready.”

    * * * * * * *

    Aun wanted to break something. No, worse. He wanted to break someone. He wanted to walk up to them, smile politely, shake their hand and congratulate them on building their trap, then grasp their head between his hands and snap their neck like an overgrown twig.

    He’d been an idiot. There wasn’t much point in denying it, so he didn’t.

    The logic was simple. Someone had set him up. Someone was gunning for him. Who? It was unlikely to be an individual. Gathering all of that data was not an easy task. The criminals lacked the organization. That left a government or a hypercorp. He’d considered the possibility that someone would attempt to track him, but he hadn’t taken the idea seriously. He’d been intoxicated with the sheer anonymity of it. Obviously, it wasn’t anonymous enough. This had cost him. He could almost see his vision of the future slipping away.

    No.

    This was one mistake. But one mistake is not a lost war. Not yet. His opponents could make mistakes too.

    But it put a new spin on it. He’d have to accelerate, be more direct. Maybe take more risks. The only way to survive, in the long run, was to discourage his competitors. Kill them, if necessary.

    At least now he had opponents. True opponents, and a way to measure success. Success is when he was the last piece still on the game board. Plans and futures stretched out in front of him, forked and twisted. For a second, he faltered. What need did he have to do this now? Couldn’t he put the SET under a rock, wait a decade or two, and then return? Wouldn’t that be the smart thing to do? Like bad VR game, he’d been defeated by the wandering monsters; couldn’t he level up a bit and return? In fifteen years he’d have time to rise in the ranks of government and society, to learn, adapt, and grow. Fifteen years to study the mysteries of the SET without risking death, without risking failure. He could see two visions of himself, fifteen years from now; one just pulling the device out of storage, his plan perfected, ready to take on the world, the other locked in some exoplanet hell-hole of a prison, knowing that this was the day it all went wrong.

    No.

    This is the day the world went right. The day someone decided to do something, and not wait until later, when they damned well knew later would never come.

    Because there was another vision of his future. Fifteen years from now, he’d pull the device from storage, put it on a courier drone, and toss it into the sun, afraid that its effect might come back to haunt him. And the universe would continue as it always had.

    And that was not acceptable.

    Aun started laughing. It was too much. The day the world went right. He laughed until he started to cry, and then told Art to flood his body with mood-adjusters and nootropics.

    He had work to do.
  23. Acatalepsy Marginal Existential Risk

    It took a month of absence from the board, a couple fun sessions of EP, a destroyed hard drive, and more Root Beer than I care to think about, but its back.

    I intend to finish this.
  24. Good to know. I was on the edge of my seat, here.
  25. RazorSmile ROU Once A Knife Missile

    Yatta!

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