Posted by: Dread Locke, Firewall Sentinel <Info Msg Rep>
The term “oligarchs” is a useful label for a diverse collection of individuals. Of course, it’s a mistake to treat them as a uniform group. They all have their own individual, unique interests, and they pursue them with the vast resources, enhanced intelligence, long-term strategic planning, and dedicated, ruthless cunning for which they are infamous. Every society that doesn’t correct for equality and opportunity has its royalty, and transhumanity is no different. There’s no denying that the oligarchs have a head start on the rest of us. They had the wealth and privilege to get in on the ground ﬂoor when humanity ﬁrst started augmenting our capabilities and extending lifespans, and again when we started installing cortical stacks, resleeving, and buying customized bods. Most of them have hypercorp connections (if you could call being CEO or chairperson—or having one in your pocket—a connection). Some of them are royalty in the true sense of the word—they’re descendants of actual kings and queens or other nobility from Earth. Some were just really, really lucky and happened to have enough money and sense to recognize the winds of change and take advantage of them.
If I seem bitter, it’s because these over-rich bastards are more than happy to keep resleeving into the latest and greatest morphs, tossing their old ones away like discarded toys, while millions still languish in infomorph hell after the Fall. They’re the last vestiges of conspicuous consumption, relics of a bygone era, better suited to the near-slavery and feudalism of the Jovian Republic. They do not deserve respect, nor should we uphold them as paragons of virtue and leadership; they are parasites that thrive on the exploitation of others.
At the same time, the immense power they wield cannot be denied and there is no doubt that some of them have interests that cross paths with Firewall. As such, this report focuses on a few of the undying rich who could potentially be of some use to sentinels—or even considered friendlies. This is the best I could ﬁnd on these guys. They don’t make themselves easy to track. In a day when information is supposed to be free and transparent, you wouldn’t believe the effort it took to pry some of this out of their systems.
Franko Abramsen had a long and exemplary mercenary career before turning to consulting for Haller-Stromme, a Johannesburg-based security ﬁrm. As transhumanity spread across the solar system, Abramsen demonstrated a knack for predicting uprisings and security needs among the hypercorp-run colonies. Surviving media from the time shows a man consumed by paranoia—but almost always correct in anticipating violence and destruction.
When the Fall came, Abramsen saw his worst fears conﬁrmed. He also somehow acquired signiﬁcant wealth—current speculation is that his company’s troops looted one of his third-world nation-state dictator clients, seizing and taking an entire nation’s money off-world while leaving the despot and his family behind. Abramsen sold off his controlling interest in Haller-Stromme for even more riches and purchased his own O’Neill cylinder, located somewhere between Saturn and Uranus. He has since become a complete recluse. Even though he never leaves, Abramsen continues to purchase derelict habitats and mined-out asteroids for his pet project: New Svalbard.
From what we’ve gathered, Abramsen packs each habitat with seeds and genetic material from Earth species as a safeguard against the total annihilation of transhumanity. There are at least a dozen of these New Svalbard “arks” ﬂoating around the solar system and one in orbit around the exoplanet Luca. They are entirely automated, with security systems programmed to open ﬁre on ships attempting to approach. Though his work seems similar to ours, and the backup faction within Firewall has taken some interest in him, there is evidence that suggests Abramsen might not be so benevolent; our data indicates that the only human stock being archived is Abramsen’s own genetics and backups. Nevertheless, some backups have discussed inﬁltrating these arks to deposit other transhuman genetics and egos.
Stefan Habsburgh claims to be a living decedent of the Hapsburg family, who controlled large swaths of Europe during most of the last millennium. He’s a gregarious playboy, making the most of his wealth and power within the Consortium to live the glitterati lifestyle. XPs of his bedroom exploits—including some forking and sleeving combinations I can only call creative—are some of the hottest media to hit the meshes.
Stefan is also a major investor in more than three-dozen mining and research operations in the outer system. Many of his ventures operate at a net loss. An investigation into some of these habitats and colonies revealed that the mining operations seem to be a cover for a number of unusual construction projects. We’ve ascertained that at least one is creating capsule seedships, another is building data storage, backup, and egocasting equipment—the kind that would be incredibly useful should we need to evacuate large numbers of transhuman egos quickly, as we did during the Fall—and most interestingly, an armory of hardened bots speciﬁcally designed to ﬁght TITAN war machines.
Whether this is good planning, has a larger business purpose, or is simply paranoia on a grand scale is unclear. Habsburgh has never stated any support for any such endeavors publicly, and in fact his media persona seems carefully crafted to convey the image that he is a carefree socialite, unburdened by plans for the future and looking forward only to the next entertainment. There is evidence, however, that suggests that Habsburgh may not be acting alone—or that he may even be a puppet for someone else still operating from behind the scenes.
Intelligence on Rook is frustratingly sparse. We know that this entity is well funded and has more than a passing interest in the TITANs, Factors, Earth, the Pandora gates, and various other things that are also of interest to Firewall. We also know that Rook is aware of Firewall, ever since their agents captured and mind-probed several sentinels a few years back. Rook has even offered assistance to Firewall on several occasions, going so far as to intervene in our favor, unasked. On one of these incidents, Rook’s agent suggested that their employer was in full support of Firewall’s goals. However, the number of times our sentinels have found themselves at cross-purposes to Rook’s interests—or have at least come out holding the short end of the stick—imply that we cannot trust Rook’s motivations. We suspect Rook has links to Stellar Intelligence, several singularity seeker crews, and prominent members of the X-Club—though these may all be pawns or alliances of opportunity. In a similar vein, we know that Rook seems to have enemies—likely other oligarchs maneuvering their pieces in a similar way. Until we know more, sentinels are advised to treat Rook with caution and as potentially hostile.
Zarah is the daughter of a powerful Iranian family that proﬁted greatly from Western development in the Middle East in the early 21st century. She took over her father’s business when she was only twenty-ﬁve and spearheaded development into many of the early technologies (the Masdar project, for example) that would become the cornerstones of transhumanity’s spread to the stars. She holds several advanced degrees in physics, engineering, and biology, and helped design several kinds of habitats.
Rostami considers herself a kind of an artist, and operates several habitats scattered throughout the main asteroid belt strictly as biological curiosities for the wealthy and lucky. One of her most popular is a low-gravity ocean where tourists can sleeve into uplifted dolphin morphs.
The reason Rostami appears on Firewall’s radar is her active and ongoing interest in the Pandora gates. Rostami is believed to be ﬁnancing a private research initiative into gate functions, with the intention of cracking the code on how they work to bring the gate network more fully under transhumanity’s (or perhaps Rostami’s) control. As she has also stated, better control of the gates means that we can protect ourselves more readily against any intrusions by returning TITANs or other alien threats. While there are numerous efforts sponsored by other factions—and even other oligarchs—for this purpose, Rostami’s is notable due to her success at poaching some of the top gate experts from rivals. There are also strong indications that they have achieved a recent breakthrough, allowing for a more nuanced understanding of gate addresses.
Nuan Zhang was one of the ﬁrst Chinese colonists on Luna, having bought herself a seat there using her family’s industrialist wealth. As one of the key decision makers in charge of labor and mining practices in the early days of colonization, Zhang amassed a vast personal and political fortune. When the Fall came, she quickly egocast away for a bolthole on Titan, where she has resided ever since.
Zhang was recruited by the argonauts, and acts as one of their chief representatives in the Commonwealth. Her knowledge of mineral exploitation, especially Luna’s Hydrogen-3 mines, give her a strong background in geology and mining practices. She seems to have experienced a change of heart since the Fall, devoting most of her resources to the argonauts’ cause—which she has referred to publicly as “philanthropy.” The argonauts seem only too happy to work with her; she’s a legitimizing element for their organization.
Zhang has personally spearheaded many of the argonauts’ exploration missions to the Kuiper belt and Oort cloud, including the probes traveling to Tyche. She has advocated for the establishment of an inhabited research station on Sedna (and the removal of its current inhabitants, the Dead Eye Society) to take advantage of the dwarf planet’s extreme orbit.
A Word of Caution
Posted by: Cacophonous, Firewall Router <Info Msg Rep>
Any sentinels interacting with oligarchs should take special care. The foresight and cunning exhibited by oligarchs makes them formidable opponents—and treacherous allies. It should be expected that they have contingencies in place for almost all conceivable scenarios. Though a few them can be considered philanthropic or invested in transhumanity’s future, most are likely classiﬁed as intensely self-interested. When dealing with someone who is always a step or ﬁve ahead of you, spontaneity and unpredictability are your best allies. Likewise, they are unlikely to engage in any relationship which does not reap them long-term beneﬁts, so keep in mind that they may simply be using us as means towards a larger goal. That said, their resources are vast, so take advantage of them when offered.
One other thing: the psychological effects of advanced longevity are still unknown. Most oligarchs are not willing to submit to psychological evaluations, and those that do have not opted to make their data widely available to researchers. The boredom and ennui that characterize many oligarchs may have a biological component. The human mind did not evolve to live for hundreds of years, and the challenges that extended, collected memories pose—especially considering the “perfect” recall that cortical stacks allow—are a new and unexpected obstacle. While so-called Methuselah syndrome is not yet a recognized psychological afﬂiction, it seems likely that the impact of perfect recall and memories that compile for decades beyond what the human mind evolved to handle does have an effect on the long-lived. Expression often seems to mimic certain symptoms of depression and anxiety, but may also manifest as lethargy, paranoia, recklessness, and other dissociative behaviors. In short: the mental states of long-lived oligarchs should be considered signiﬁcantly different from transhuman norms and, as such, unpredictable.