Posted By: Voodoo Doll <Info Msg Rep>
There’s a document that’s been making its way around the server for the past couple of days detailing our relationship with outside groups. It’s an interesting read, but there’s more to this story than just Us and Them. There’s Us, Them, The Other Us, Those Two Guys Down The Road, and the Fuckup in the Corner. Firewall may present a nice, united front, but the truth is we’re a bickering and opinionated cluster of people only barely held together by concern over the bright, metallic sword named Extinction that’s hanging over our necks. Which means if you’re on a mission, you want to know who’s standing at your back as much as who you’re dealing with, cause it’ll change the approach you can take. While it’s tempting to think of the various cliques as suborganizations within Firewall, that’s inaccurate. These are more like schools of thoughts, philosophies, or political camps. It’s not like there’s formal rank within the groups.
The ﬁrst thing to remember when it comes to most servers is that, like ours, you’ll ﬁnd a mix of camps. There are a few out there that have opted for the echo chamber of ideological purity, but most are a mix. It’s handy to have other opinions, so long as we can all manage to get along long enough to get the work done. Of course, like any political camp, you’ll ﬁnd plenty of people who are a little of this and a little of that or prefer to not get involved at all. Whoever you’re working with might not agree with any speciﬁc party line.
The First Schism
To really understand Firewall’s factional divisions, you have to look back at how this crazy conspiracy came together. The roots of our internal divisions are buried deep within our complex history. For folks who weren’t around in those early days, Firewall’s origins are best described as convergent evolution. Multiple organizations came together on the same trajectory because we could all agree that no one wanted to see transhumanity exterminated. Simple as that. I trust this material’s been covered in the brieﬁngs or you’ve at least skimmed the backstory on the Eye .
The fact that we had a common goal doesn’t mean that any of us operated the same way or that we even agreed with each others’ methods for our mutually assured survival, of course. Almost from the beginning we had disagreements and major arguments, but there was too much to get done back then for us not to work together, not while we were ﬁghting to survive. After everything settled down and we started planning for the long haul, however, is when we had our ﬁrst problems.
In those early days, the messages, conferences, and face-to-face meetings were coming in fast. When we weren’t sending sentinels out to shoot down the latest threat that popped up to eat us, we were hashing out how to handle things. One of the biggest concerns early on was with our AGI partners. In the prevailing public opinion of the time, anything AI-related was considered incredibly suspect, and a lot of that sentiment reverberated in our ranks. The AGIs in our ranks were undeniably helpful, many of them proving themselves again and again. Still, they raised concerns just by existing in our midst.
Once the suggestion was made to isolate AGIs from our conversations by the bloc that would later become known as the conservatives (something the AGIs have not forgotten since), things became heated. We were effectively discussing banning a class of sapients from our group, and opinions at both ends of the disagreement were strong. The horrors of the Fall were fresh, and many people who would normally side with AGIs were swayed by the “for our safety” arguments. At the same time, another debate was reaching criticality over how to handle technology captured from the TITANs. The faction soon to be known as the pragmatists argued that knowledge was power and some risks are worth taking. The conservatives used their momentum from the anti-AGI cause to win ground, however, pushing to protect ourselves by throwing everything we found from the TITANs into the sun. As the friction escalated between the conservatives and pragmatists, another ﬁght was brewing. A signiﬁcant bloc within Firewall, soon to be known as the backups, were pushing hard to devote Firewall resources to their pet projects. With limited assets available, this initiated major disagreements over resource allocation with those concerned more with rescuing people and resisting the threats against us. So much of transhumanity was still in danger, crying out for rescue, that only those few of us thinking that far ahead could see any beneﬁt in wasting our precious resources on their backup schemes. In the years since, the resistance has eased, but we’ve yet to see any immediate beneﬁts from the backups’ efforts, making this a perennial issue.
The Sweet Dreams Affair
A split within Firewall seemed imminent. Before we hit that breaking point, along came the Sweet Dreams disaster. Sweet Dreams was a small craft launched after the Exodus had mostly petered out—essentially just hard drives attached to a propulsion unit. It was full of uploaded egos that had been rescued by Conductor, an AGI. Their ship experienced a critical control issue with their navigation and fell into a decaying orbit. They asked for help and one of the prominent conservative servers answered the call. Unfortunately, they made some gross assumptions regarding the nature of the satellite and the trustworthiness of Conductor. When another Firewall team picked through the rubble afterwards, not a trace of TITAN inﬂuence was found. A rough estimate of data space at the time suggests upwards of a hundred and twenty thousand egos were in storage on the craft that was destroyed. The situation was further compounded when another server revealed that Conductor had previously worked with the Lifeboat Institute, and there was a signiﬁcant chance that some Lifeboat staff had been on that satellite.
The backlash was intense. The pragmatists pushed through a referendum that vetted the inclusion of AGIs within Firewall’s ranks. The backups used the calamity to pool sympathy support for Lifeboat projects that Firewall was considering continuing. The conservatives lost major ground. Most importantly, though the balance of power shifted, the organization stayed intact. Opposing viewpoints found cause to stay together. Our judgment as an organization became, thankfully, more nuanced. That almost certainly saved us from compounding one tragedy with another.
The main takeaway here is that the split wasn’t over what to do but how to do it. We had just gotten our teeth kicked in. Some of us wanted to make sure there were redundancies in place for the next time. Some didn’t particularly care what it cost us individually so long as most of us survived. And we had a whole mass of people in the “nuke it from orbit, it’s the only way to be sure” camp. Everyone was scared and hurting, but they stuck together. These three mind-sets continue to duel it out ideologically to this day. While the balance of power often shifts, the pragmatists continue to have the upper hand with setting policy, the backups continue to get a signiﬁcant chunk of our resources, and the conservatives continue to get their way when situations get really bad.
Things got said and there’s people you may run across on missions that still remember that. So try to ﬁgure out who you’re talking to before you go running your mouth on any of this.
Memes: Exploration, Nano-Ecology, Research, Resilient Systems, Survival
The backup clique is all about resilience and redundant systems. These are the folks with contingency plans for everything. In their view, once something like the Fall happens, it’s not a matter of if it’ll happen again, but when. Our job is to keep kicking that can down the road as long as possible. These guys just assume that eventually we’re going to trip and then we’ll need to be able to pick up at the last save point. Their logic can’t really be denied. So long as they don’t eat up too many of our reserves planning for what might happen that we end up missing what is happening, I’m content to let them keep at it. If it turns out they’re right, we’ll be grateful they saved as much as they did.
If you ever get in deep on any of the main backup servers, you’ll notice a lot of names from the old Lifeboat NGO and the Institute for a Transhuman Future. They were some of the top experts when it came to disaster recovery, so post-disaster they stuck with what they knew. They had a number of ongoing projects that Firewall managed to salvage. It’s not all Lifeboat, though, and that’s pretty important to remember. A good slice of the Singularity Foundation was also in this camp, including plenty of their AGIs (and if this is still an issue for you, you should probably get over it). The backups are also heavily populated by argonauts, speciﬁcally environmental, biological, and memetic researchers.
For the most part, backups stay out of the way of the other groups. Frankly, I’m glad for that, as we have enough meddling and inﬁghting as it is between the pragmatists and the conservatives. If you want a good crow for a project, turn to the backups. The majority of their research wing is dedicated to projects that may pay off big in case of a catastrophe. A lot of their members are high-rep or high-cred or both. Research and invention keeps their books in the black, so I’d guess they probably have a sizable dark budget for the projects they’re not sharing with any other servers except when absolutely necessary. Need to impress them? Walk in with research in hand. It’ll at least get you in the door. Even the inner system backups adhere to reputation systems. They care about what you can do and what you’ve done a lot more than they care about how polite you are when you come calling. Be warned, there is a bit of the old academic tenure mindset in play. Expect to have to show a track record and be considerate of the seniority of their members, especially if you’re new to this organization.
As strong as their research wing is, you shouldn’t be surprised when I tell you they have a very strong presence in the outer system, speciﬁcally with the argonauts and Titanians. Surprisingly, they also have strong ties with the ultimates, though in my experience that’s more about sharing in the advances than any philosophical alliance. They like to talk shop.
If you’re going out-of-system, the backups are the faction you want to talk to. They jumped on the interests controlling the Pandora gates early on and still have some of the best contacts in those sectors that I’ve seen. These include anarchist collectives running missions through the Fissure Gate, hypercorps sponsoring ops through the Martian Gate, and various interests involved with Pandora Gateins-and-outs.
Given how many helpful arrangements I’ve seen out of the Vulcanoid Gate, I’m convinced the backups have some serious ties within TerraGenesis workers' councils. If strings need pulling, they get pulled. As interested as the backups are in redundancy, they’re probably a signiﬁcant force behind the TerraGenesis focus on terraforming. The more transhumanity is spread out, the harder we become to kill. Like roaches. When the Vulcanoid Gate was attacked a few years back, that gave me nightmares. I’m still worried that Ozma’s clued in on our connections there or maybe some hypercorp just made a lucky guess. It’s a cold case now, so I doubt we’ll know for sure until whoever it is makes a second attempt.
If you ﬁnd yourself in their way, don’t let them know that until you’ve found an alternate way home or expect to lose the fork. No one likes getting sliced and diced during a “gate accident,” and that’s assuming you don’t just get “misplaced” along the way. Access to that gate is a resource we want to protect, and they’re easier to work with than most, so please stay on their good side—it makes my job easier.
If you’re going gatecrashing, an easy way to earn favor with the backups is to offer to help one of them out with a side project. They can probably assist you with information and maybe even equipment if you really need it. Just don’t ask too many questions about what’s in the little black box they ask you to bury in a remote location along the way. I know the backups have sent at least a dozen of these black boxes out on gatecrashing missions in the last few months. I haven’t had a chance to really look one over, but I’ve heard they’re inscrutable—locked down tight. Whatever it is, it doesn’t run on much juice. Once buried, they’re hard to pick up on a scan. They seem to be connected to something called Operation KUDZU, but I don’t have the clearance to get anything more than that.
Prominent Backup Servers
Alchemy server is heavily inﬂuenced and populated by argonauts. They are self-funded through their own projects and heavily invested in the preservation of the knowledge and genetics of transhumanity. Their primary endeavor has been to establish a series of genetic and information archive vaults in secure locations. These seed vaults are designed to withstand worst-case scenarios.
Blattella server is not well known outside of backup circles. They try to stay well below the radar of everyone, including most of Firewall. This server is the base of operations for Operation KUDZU. They are well versed in using other backups as a cover for their operations.
Little Greenie server includes some top experts in the ﬁelds of xenobiology, xeno-ecology, and exoplanetary sciences. Their focus is ﬁguring out transhumanity’s best survival strategies for populating extrasolar worlds. This also means they deal with everything from exo-threats and first-contact scenarios to exoplanet survival caches and creating morphs from alien life. They have extensive ties among various gatecrashing projects and run at least one front company—Dakao Extrasolar—through which they sponsor gate ops.
So what’s the deal with all of these priority requests from Alchemy? They keep submitting requests for what adds up to a truly massive amount of processing power. Every time they do, they expect us to drop what we’re doing and answer the call. I don’t know what it is they have over there, but it’s Priority One every time it crosses my feed. Makes me nervous.
EyeWiki: Operation Cuckoo
Classiﬁcation: TOP SECRET / MOLD BROOD EYES ONLY
The cuckoo is a type of bird that leaves its eggs in the nests of other birds. Operation CUCKOO is actively seeking the means to host a transhuman ego in a Factor morph in hopes of quietly securing a foothold for transhumanity in Factor space. The goal behind this project is to insert a cabal of transhuman egos within Factor society, in which it can blend and use as cover, in order to secure a future for transhumanity should the rest of our own species be wiped out. Though this project has been called a chilling judgment of transhuman nature, there is an evolutionary basis for this initiative in the form of brood parasites on Earth, as well as a historical basis given the Factors’ alleged survival of their own singularity event and cautious nature towards x-risk technology.
Operation CUCKOO work is considered far too sensitive to perform close to home. The backups have secured a facility on an exoplanet named Petrus, accessed via the Portal Gate. With the shredded remains of a Factor recovered during a gatecrashing mission, they’ve made some progress in attempting to create a Factor-based morph capable of supporting transhuman life. Unfortunately, the neurology of the creatures remains difficult to decipher without a living example to study in order to model behavior.
Obtaining a live sample would advance the project considerably, though it may risk a direct conﬂict with transhumanity’s closest neighbors.
Memes: Isolationism, Security, Survival
The conservatives are known for their precautionist, security-oriented roots. They don’t really subscribe to the notion of grey areas; if it’s a potential threat, it needs to be down—with prejudice. From their POV, they’re the ones willing to draw the necessary lines, make the grim-faced calls, stamp out the threats, and ensure our safety and future. They think everyone else is reckless, unfocused, softhearted, and likely to get us all killed. To the rest of us, the conservatives are xenophobic, paranoid, and trigger-happy. On the positive side, they keep the rest of us on our toes.
The conservatives have always been a strong inﬂuence within Firewall, and in the early days they held the reins. A lot of their people came from the JASONs and the military and spy people we pulled in, including a number of hackers that previously belonged to three-letter agencies. They were a major force in establishing Firewall’s clandestine cell structure and guerrilla tactics, and quite a few brought their direct experience from countering the TITANs to the table. It should be no surprise that most of the biocons and Jovians we recruit end up siding with this lot, though the conservatives as a rule don’t take issues with resleeving or nanotech.
It’s a mistake to pigeon-hole the conservatives as one-dimensional. A number of precautionist argonauts inhabit their forums, and there’s also a particularly vocal segment of former Singularity Foundation programmers with a we-are-terriﬁed-of-what-we-created-and-will-create-again perspective.
Mix them all together and throw in a solid number of reclaimers and folks who simply lost one person too many during the Fall or witnessed things they can’t unsee, and you’ve got the doomsday-is-nigh, all-bets-are-off mindset that is central to conservative ideology. Conservatives fill proxy roles across the spectrum, but are particularly weighted towards router, eraser, register, and ﬁlter roles. Inner system types are more heavily represented, of course—quite a few conservatives don’t gel very well with autonomist outlooks.
The conservative-pragmatist ﬁght may well be the longest-running argument in Firewall, with no signs of easing up. I put even odds on it being the driving force that will eventually split Firewall apart. So far the conservatives have lost the vote on a slew of major issues—in particular whether or not to treat AGIs, asyncs, the Pandora gates, and the Factors as serious x-risks. To their credit, they’ve stuck with the group decision and played along (minus a few rogue servers). I like to think the wiser heads realize the importance of maintaining a united front. It can’t be denied that the conservatives still wield a heavy inﬂuence on Firewall policy. They make sure that even when we decide to gamble on risks, we’re still prepared and protected. If that means having an antimatter warhead ready to go, so be it.
The conservatives also have a major tiff going with the structuralists. They are very much opposed to the idea of going public. They dislike the idea of losing the edge that spycraft gives us among the traditional economies and hypercorps of the inner system, not to mention the loss of power that goes along with being legit. I think it’s fair to say that they also fear the creation of another secret society or the growth of Ozma if Firewall loses its extralegal ecological niche.
Resource-wise, the conservatives have the best ties to various corporate, government, and military outﬁts throughout the system. They’re certainly the most free to operate within Jovian space. There’s occasional tension between the inner system conservatives and their Jovian compatriots, but for the most part the Jovians don’t drink the Junta’s special ﬂavor of punch. The conservatives also have the most in-roads with arms dealers and weapon research projects—partly to keep an eye on them, partly to keep Firewall well supplied.
Prominent Conservative Servers
The Arrow of Paris server is one of the conservatives’ main research projects. Staffed by robotocists, engineers, nano-programmers, medical doctors, and weapons designers, they seek out the best way to destroy, subvert, kill, and otherwise disable exsurgents and TITAN machines. Their investigations have pinpointed valuable vulnerabilities in TITAN designs. Many of their discoveries are covertly seeded to outside groups, under the philosophy that all of transhumanity should be using the best weapons at our disposal. There’s a good chance they’re keeping a few exploits back, just in case things really get hairy.
Crematoria server is tasked with monitoring Earth and the ongoing interdiction. They try and keep track of everything going in and out, including mapping the interdiction network’s capabilities. They’ve been instrumental in helping to contain a few outbreaks as well as scrappers trying to sell some things they shouldn’t be touching. Though they’re very strict about parceling out info, they can be a crucial resource for any Firewall team that needs to get to Earth.
Ozymandias server handles the big nightmare apocalypse picture. They run simulations on TITAN attacks, alien invasions, and other top-level threats, then put contingency plans in place to stop them. Part of me doesn’t want to think about what kind of hardware they’re stealing, designing, and stockpiling—I just hope it works if we ever need to use it.
Memes: Research, Survival, Techno-Progressivism
Pragmatists are the biggest camp in Firewall. In my experience, many of them feel justiﬁed in taking the risk (and paying the price) of using anything we have on hand against the threats we face. In order to ﬁght a superior enemy, they argue, we have to do what we can to even the odds. Not everyone agrees with this assessment. Though the pragmatists claim to only take carefully measured and reasonable risks, the cost-beneﬁt ratios at stake are open to dispute. So far, pragmatist policies are netting us a distinctly positive gain, but something is bound to backﬁre eventually.
The pragmatists formed early on as a counterpoint to the conservatives. Their positions tended to be grounded in scientiﬁc consensus and rational, boolean-logic-based risk assessment—something at which human brains are admittedly quite poor. Rationality and fear have been going at it for centuries, however, and rationality usually loses. The pragmatists managed to pull the credibility they gained with the early dispute over AGIs in Firewall into signiﬁcant policy leverage, and they’ve managed to maintain it—sometimes just barely—ever since. It helps that they actually listen to the conservatives’ concerns and take appropriate precautions (though usually not as stringently as the conservatives would like) and also divert enough resources to keep the backups occupied (if not entirely grumble-free). The string of bodies and near misses that sometimes accompany their operations, however, raises red ﬂags for the more wary. If you’ve ever been face-to-face with an exsurgent, the urge to treat a pragmatist as if they were nearly as dangerous is understandable.
The pragmatists pull their support from all over Firewall’s base. They have a particularly strong contingent of ex-JASON and argonauts who felt their warnings leading up to the events of the Fall had been ignored. They’ve managed to draw several former conservatives over—the pragmatist focus on results can be liberating for those frustrated by previous restrictions. You’ll ﬁnd pragmatists throughout the system, but their more active resources are rimward. Given their support to AGI and async causes, both are well represented in their ranks, alongside a heavy dose of autonomists and argonauts.
Pragmatists have some of the most extensive scanner networks throughout the system. They’ve brought discreet observation to a ﬁne art, nearly precognitive. It fits with their strategy: the best way to avoid a problem is to stop it before it ever develops into one. Of course, that also means they’re able to get to—and lay claim to—advanced, alien, or TITAN technology before anyone else can. There are rumors—unsubstantiated, of course—that they keep secret caches of unknown technology. That’s always made me a little nervous; it seems like a cycle that could feed on itself. An ongoing concern held by others is that the pragmatists may push us into relying on something we don’t fully understand. Who’s to say the pragmatists aren’t doing this in secret already? They certainly have the budget to be running black labs, out of the sight of the rest of Firewall. I can only hope they’re smart enough to isolate their more experimental projects from the rest of us and that they have plans for how to sterilize the labs if something goes wrong.
To their credit, the pragmatists do seem to take risk mitigation seriously. Even they draw the line at some things and will have fail-safe plans ready if things go wrong. While asyncs might be nominally accepted within Firewall due to the pragmatists' inﬂuence, for example, you can be damn sure there are measures in place to keep an eye on them and deal with them should they all turn out to be some sort of exsurgent sleeper infestation. The same is hopefully true of research into xenotech, TITAN relics, and so on. It’s only rational, after all.
Prominent Pragmatist Servers
BT-33 server is a new server operating under a temporary designation. If they don’t pick a formal name soon, I’m pretty sure they’re going to get dubbed “the Bee-Tees.” BT-33 is almost entirely composed of pragmatists recently booted from other servers after political struggles with the conservatives. A few of them have (at least based on the rumors I’ve heard) async talents, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they have more unorthodox talent on tap. Their i-rep is in the tank at the moment but they seem like they want to do good, so BT-33 will take on just about any job they can to get back in good graces.
Lima-Advance server is a spin-off of the much larger Lima Server. They focus their attention on aftermath reports, both their own and any reports sent to them by other servers for analysis. They promise a full root-cause analysis of what went wrong on any particular mission along with a graded selection of solutions to detected problems. If you can trust them to keep your dirty laundry safe, they’ll tell you how to clean it. Sage server is one of the better known scanner-focused servers. Most of their work seems to be focused sunward, in particular the political manipulations of the Consortium and the hypercorps. Occasionally they will pick up on a trend elsewhere, if only because they seem to be able to tap into the resources of the groups they’re watching to construct a larger pattern. If Sage throws an alert, it’s always worth looking into. Toy Soldiers server is a fun server to work with. They’re closely tied with the Toybox, so they get the fun and, frankly, dangerous goodies to work with. They’re aware of the risks and so regularly rotate their proxies around to minimize exposure to dangerous inﬂuences. Even if you don’t particularly like playing with dangerous objects, a stint with Toy Soldiers can be very good training in how to handle dangerous objects with the longest pair of tongs possible.
Many pragmatists embrace the ethos called rizq. Rizq (RREE-zukh) means “sustenance,” “livelihood,” or even “blessing” in Arabic, but it’s also the root of the French “risqué”, whence the English “risk.” Among pragmatists, rizq refers to risky exploration for the advancement of knowledge. Discussion of rizq on a mission or operation encompasses several factors: risk to the team, risk to Firewall, threat to the rest of transhumanity, and value of the knowledge to be gained. Several sub-forums on the Eye are dedicated to philosophizing about, modeling, and practically applying rizq to decision-making.
# Start Æther Jabber #
# Active Members: 2 #
< Well, the pragmatists seem to have been right again with this [REDACTED] situation. I’m not sure how they pulled it off. I thought for sure their decision was going to backﬁre. I had my popcorn ready.
> Indeed, they have an uncanny ability, practically inconceivable, to pull victory from the event horizon of defeat.
< If I believed in deities …
> What about artiﬁcial ones?
< What are you saying?
> I’ve been thinking about their luck for … well, let’s just say a long time. Remember back in the early days? The incident with Conductor and Sweet Dreams? How it threw everything into disarray and gave the pragmatists the edge they needed to pull ahead? Well, looking back, I can’t help but think of how neat it all was. A nice little incident, perfectly packaged, got both the pragmatists and the backups what they wanted. < You’re saying it was staged? Do you have evidence?
> Of course not. They’re too smart for that. Consider this idle speculation. But give it some thought, and think about how some of the other conﬂicts have played out over the past decade. It’s almost as if the pragmatists have a guardian angel. Or several.
< You’re talking about the ones we’ve talked about before. The ones who might have gotten away. We never found anything conclusive.
> Yes, but the signs were there. The bandwidth records. The way the TITANs were ﬂat out foiled in some of their assaults on the orbitals—and not by us. The way some of their own machines turned against them. The events in Barcelona. The way some of our own people seemed to have inside knowledge of some of these affairs, that they weren’t sharing.
< OK, I can see what you’re thinking. But what’s the backup angle? Why did they beneﬁt from the Sweet Dreams affair?
> Well, if you were on the losing side of a war, you’d need to go to ground, yes? Hide out. Lay low. And you’d need processing capability. Bandwidth. Redundant connections. Well, what did the backups walk away with?
< Shit. Resources. That actually makes sense.
> It does. And it worries me.
The Second Schism
Now that you’re up to speed on the three cliques that formed immediately post-Fall, there are two more you need to know about. Around AF 6, when we really started making some traction on our work as a whole, there was a recruitment push. We picked up a lot of good talent, but faster than we probably should have. We just weren’t ready for the change that came with it. When you’re there from the beginning with an organization, it’s a very different thing than if you’re brought in later. It’s unintentional, but the urge to yell at all the kids on your lawn is there. A lot of the newcomers bristled at the bureaucracy and orthodox ways the old guard was setting down as law.
Around this time, there was a mission to Saturn’s moon Hyperion trying to track down an anomalous signal picked up by the Sage server. The mission went bad—details are still sketchy. None of our sentinels made use of their emergency farcasters before their deaths so we don’t have nearly enough information to know exactly what happened. What our second team was able to ﬁnd, though, pointed towards an abusive proxy and some pretty blatant memory editing. The political fallout aggravated a problem we didn’t know we had, like it was custom built to blow us apart. That’s always struck me as odd, but I’ve not been able to convince anyone to dig into it deeper. It’s just too sore a subject.
I know we’re all pretty sensitive to consolidations of power and hierarchical structures. I get that. The reason I post as openly as I do on this forum is because I want you to know that I will tell you as much as I can without risking our missions. I hope I’ve earned your trust—because trust is what the second split was about, in my opinion. The ﬁrst generation of Firewall didn’t trust the younger crowd to know how to do the job. And the younger didn’t trust us to treat them as anything but expendable.
A lot of the newer recruits began challenging the way we did things, even going so far as to question some of Firewall’s foundational roots. A not-insigniﬁcant portion of the old guard also jumped in on the criticism session, airing various grievances that they’d been harboring for years. The conservatives used the situation to ﬂing mud at the pragmatists and undermine their dominance. For months, arguments ﬂared, the Eye seethed, and Firewall wrestled more with internal drama than x-threats.
The Death Leopard Affair
Right as another split seemed imminent, a new but prominent server called Death Leopard was outed as being an Ozma operation. Though relatively new, the server was composed of old-guard proxies from the established cliques as well as newer generation proxies—all of whom had played key roles in instigating divisive ideological arguments. The revelation shocked Firewall to its core and brought the ﬁery rhetoric to a standstill. Though the conspiracy had outed inﬁltrators before, this was the deepest and most invasive penetration so far. With clear evidence that Ozma had been fueling the inﬁghting with inﬁltrators in both the new recruits and old guard, all of the parties involved took the opportunity to step back and self-reﬂect.
When the dust settled, the arguments continued, but in a more constructive and respectful manner. The backups, conservatives, and pragmatists all loosened up a bit and even modified some of Firewall’s methods and SOPs. Two new factions formed as well, championing new takes on the Firewall agenda.
Memes: Iconoclasm, Individualism, Nihilism
The mavericks are less of an organized faction and more a motley collection of malcontents. They are known as cowboys, rule-breakers, and dissidents, bucking Firewall’s usual methods and collective style and taking a more individualistic—and often risky—approach to their missions.
The mavericks include a lot of agents who were burned on previous missions or by rival factions. They still believe in Firewall’s purpose, but they hold deep and lasting grudges against certain proxies, cliques, and/or the way Firewall handles things. This faction is also populated by people who can only be described as nihilists. These tend to thoroughly believe that Firewall is fucked and transhumanity is doomed, but they at least hope to take as many of our opponents as they can down with us. The other signiﬁcant population of mavericks are individuals who feel marginalized and without a voice. These include mercurials, poorly socialized AGIs, people with religious beliefs, a few bioconservatives, singularity seekers, and ultimates, and a few others that are simply weird and don’t ﬁt in.
As expected, quite a few mavericks simply don’t play well with others. These have either formed their own chaotic servers or operate on the fringe of existing servers. Most mavericks tend to at least provide lip service to Firewall’s procedures, settling uncomfortably into servers where they provide oppositional viewpoints and occasionally or frequently buck the system. Naturally, mavericks tend to rub other Firewall agents the wrong way. They’re too anti-authoritarian for the inner-system types and too individualistic for autonomist sensibilities. They most commonly take on vector, ﬁlter, and eraser roles, though the majority prefer to stay on the outskirts and work as sentinels. Extropians, ultimates, scum, mercurials, and even a few hyperelite socialites are well represented in their ranks.
Despite the trouble they cause, the mavericks are valuable to Firewall. They shake the foundations and keep the organization from becoming too sedimentary and stuck in its ways. They bring fresh insights, think outside the box, invent, and improvise. They break deadlocks, lead the charge, and provide us with some worthwhile martyrs. Though often infuriating to work with, they can be just as entertaining with their grandiose rants and drop-the-mic stunts.
Prominent Maverick Servers
Arioch server is the most noteworthy ongoing and steady maverick server. Founded by a group of scum, this server operates as the crew of the ship Don’t Feed the Wormhole. The focus of this server is best described as: whatever the fuck they currently feel like. They’ve ranged far and wide across the solar system, effectively pursuing their own random agenda, which so far has included smoking out an exhuman cell in the Neptunian Trojans, blowing the whistle on a hypercorp nanoplague project in Venusian orbit, and tracking down a stolen alien artifact on Luna.
The Four Horsemen are a mini-server of erasers that operate in the Saturnian system. They make themselves available to other servers in the region as needed. They are known for bringing an excessive amount of ﬁrepower corresponding with an equal lack of discretion to the situation, so caution is urged when calling them in.
Ghost server is a disparate server of mercurial-minded AGIs, most of them uplifted from emergent software systems. They work as deep research scanners, delving into massive and arcane data sets and uncovering exquisite gems of knowledge.
Memes: Hierarchy, Legitimacy, Stability
The structuralist camp represents two distinct positions within Firewall. The ﬁrst encourages Firewall to develop a stronger, more centralized internal structure. In large part this is a reaction to Firewall’s heavy autonomist inﬂuence, which is viewed as too disorganized and chaotic. The structuralists see hierarchy as a stepping stone to efﬁciency and a better model for protecting against inﬁltration and external subversion. The second position advocated by structuralists is to take Firewall public, to seek out status as a legitimate, above-ground organization. They argue that Firewall cannot be truly effective so long as it remains illegal and underground, with limited resources. The issue of how exactly Firewall would legitimize itself and which governments it would work with remains an open and disputed question.
Structuralist positions are quite controversial, and the faction remains relatively small. The clique counts many inner system, hypercorp, hyperelite, ultimate, and Jovian agents as members. Surprisingly, the Titanians are also well represented, as they see a distinct opportunity to connect Firewall with some of their existing government agencies. Structuralists lean towards register, ﬁlter, and router positions. The primary resources they wield as a faction are ties to various hypercorps and microcorps.
The structuralists clash with the mavericks even more than they do with the conservatives and pragmatists. Though both cliques were born out of the same disputes, they could not be more opposite in their agendas. There is some concern among other factions that some structuralists may go rogue and blow the whistle on Firewall, effectively outing the organization. For this reason the most vocal go-public structuralists are kept under close watch. More than one forum poster has idly speculated that the structuralists would be a perfect front for Ozma, designed to drive a wedge into Firewall and force it into the open, leaving Ozma in a much better position to maneuver. This kind of talk enrages the structuralists, of course—no one likes being called a traitor.
Prominent Structuralist Servers
Executive server operates system-wide, but with a strong focus sunward. They primarily investigate hypercorp and oligarch conﬂicts, seeking to deter anything that could spill out into a system-wide ﬁght and keeping an eye out for anything indicative of illicit research or other x-risks. They have also adopted a hierarchical internal structure, though theirs is based on a corporate board. There are some concerns that this server has become a pawn in an ongoing oligarch dispute.
Rishi server operates on Luna and in Earth orbit with a very rigid internal structure, led by a duo of elected routers. Their particular specialty is rooting out both dormant and active exsurgent pockets in their region.
While the backups, conservatives, mavericks, pragmatists, and structuralists represent the ﬁve largest ideological blocs within Firewall, there are many smaller ones that wield varying amounts of inﬂuence. Most of these represent the extremist fringe of the main cliques, but others bring new—and usually, esoteric—ideas to the table.
Given the strong autonomist inﬂuence within Firewall, it should come as no surprise that radical anti-capitalist views are widespread. This faction argues that hypercapitalism itself, particularly as exercised by the Planetary Consortium and inner system polities (and also the Jovians), is an x-threat. They argue that capitalism’s reliance on perpetual growth and inherent inequalities and oppressiveness will only lead to war and future disaster. They point to capitalism’s lack of response to the climate crisis on Earth as a historical example, and also point to the immense power and inﬂuence wielded by oligarchs without any sort of democratic oversight. Though small, this faction is vocal and gaining support. So far they constrain themselves to monitoring the hypercapitalists for signs of military aggression and keep quiet tabs on oligarch dealings. According to rumors, some anti-capitalist proxies are providing material support to CRAM, the Barsoomians, and other autonomist subversives within the inner system.
A vocal contingent of reclaimers within Firewall contends that the best defense is a good offense—especially if that offense is an antimatter bomb. They argue for nothing less than wiping out all known TITAN/exsurgent pockets with devastating strikes, including those on Earth, and then launching an all-out assault to reclaim our homeworld. Such a campaign would require collaboration with existing military and governmental powers, and the reclaimers have had a measure of success recently in getting structuralists to nominally support this plan. They do not restrict their aggression to TITAN targets, either—they believe exhuman outposts and other threats should be eliminated whenever they are discovered with precision strikes.
The capsulists are a fringe wing of the backups that argue that the current epoch is simply too dangerous for transhumanity. They theorize that the best way to survive is to load as many egos as we can into processor loci and hide them away into numerous out-of-the-way locations. They speculate that such hidden, low-signature hideouts could escape the notice of the TITANs and other threats for millennia. Meanwhile, our infomorph societies could run at accelerated speeds, progressively and incrementally raise our intelligence and capabilities, and eventually emerge much smarter and more prepared to handle any threats. So far they have managed to get several active processor loci installed in some of the vaults established with Operation FORCED RETIREMENT.
This faction, populated by several cast-offs from the old Singularity Foundation and Machine Intelligence Directorate, believe that the only way to contend with a super-intelligent threat is with an equal or greater super-intelligence. To that end, they argue that continuing the old SF and MIND projects to create friendly ASI is key to our survival as species. In effect, they wish to create a group of benevolent god-like minds that can watch over and direct transhumanity’s future, guiding us and protecting us from extinction. Not everyone is keen on the idea of robot overlords, however, no matter how friendly they are.
Though this faction’s name is derived from a pun, their intentions are serious. They advocate the destruction (or at least the quarantine, if this fails) of all known Pandora gates. In their view, the gates present an unparalleled risk, providing an invasion vector into numerous areas of our home system by the TITANs or a not-yet-known alien menace. They encourage extrasolar exploration at sublight speeds, which would give us the time to increase our technological base before we expand and encounter other existing threats.
# Start Æther Jabber #
# Active Members: 2 #
< Person A: Any luck so far?
> Person B: Depends on what you mean. We’ve kept a core segment of negatists under tight scrutiny for over a month now. So far, there has been no indication they intend to break ranks, nor anything that signals an intention for them to work with outsiders. I don’t think we can keep this level of surveillance up for long. A few of them are already getting suspicious.
< Person A: Interesting. And nothing connecting them to that incident at the Vulcanoid Gate?
> Person B: We went in depth into their histories, as much as we could reconstruct them. We found nothing suspicious.
< Person A: So either they’re good or we’re being too paranoid.
> Person B: In this game, there’s no such thing as too paranoid.
< Person A: OK. Pull back, but pick two of them to continue to monitor—go for the most radical. Watch them for another month before we decide to ease off to a more passive overwatch.
> Person B: On it.