Report to the Eye, Stored in Local Memory until Connection Established
Sentinel: Lieke Romijnsen
I'm composing this report in local-memory and not conveying it via QE like my previous reports out of new concerns about the "Promethean" who has thus far been handling all such communication to the Eye back in the Sol system. Although I have no realistic way of knowing that she can't just crack the encryption on my personal systems as if they weren't there, I have to take whatever steps I can for my own peace of mind.
In case you didn't get my previous reports, contact was successfully made with Astraeus (a.k.a. Danielle Astra) on Lassiter station, although that contact came poorly timed with the Ultimates attack on the gate network. Since arriving here, we've been working with her, as well as with a nascent colony of refugees from Sol. My previous report mentioned the fact that the Bastion facility is apparently being safeguarded by Astraeus and is one gate-away from Lassiter. This makes some sense, although is concerning to me considering her tendency to collect and store egos. Indeed, until today, she has given me no reason to question her presentation as a concerned, allied ASI who seeks transhumanity's survival.
And that's the thing, really, she still hasn't… but the circumstantial evidence is piling up that she has agendas and purposes in collecting millions of our egos that aren't purely altruistic.
I'll try for something more chronological. After returning from Bastion: Refuge C, we debriefed with Astraeus. Andy Westingbrooke had understandable concerns. We had brought her and her team as extra firepower, but she began to question who, exactly, was storing all those egos in the refuge and why, and whether we could really say all those people were there with their consent. Melanwy started to give her the elevator-recruitment-pitch for Firewall, which was a pretty solid idea. Andy's reputation is top-notch among Gatecrashers, and at this point she'd seen enough to make for a good potential Sentinel. Before the pitch was completed, though, Lassiter station lost all power and Astraeus went off-line. We immediately split into three teams. I stayed with Andy and her team to guard the gate while Melanwy, Irina Kuznetsova, Alexi Oda, Marco Macek, and Naomi Jensen-Velasquez went to "check on the power" (by which I mean the station-breach looking out over the computational nanofog surrounding the station) and Chloelia Octavia, Cassius, and Carillo Wu actually went to check on the power systems. The mesh was down, so these teams couldn't communicate.
The next thing I know, the gate opens… but it's not like any gate opening I've ever seen. Instead of the black singularity in the gate-cage, the cage itself thinned to almost wire and the singularity became a gaping window, and on the other side was the full horror of a black hole. No sooner had I and Andy and her team grasped the terror of such proximity to ultimate (and theoretically eternal) destruction, we found ourselves pulled into the gate by sudden depressurization of the gate room.
It's hard to adequately describe what it's like to find yourself cast into the void of space without so much as a space suit tumbling slowly toward the event horizon of a supermassive black hole. The only reason I'm still alive is Andy Westingbrooke, who apparently always carries at least three emergency smart-suits for sudden, unexpected depressurization. She slapped one onto herself and a second one on me. The rest of her team (at least the biomorphs) had their own emergency smart-suits. We realized that Penrose Station had opened like some sort of flower and was now a big dish aimed at the black hole with the gate occupying the focal point. A lot of scrambling and zero-g maneuvers got some of us in contact with the dish-shaped station and more scrambling and zero-g maneuvers resulted in all of us eventually getting linked together. About this point, Alexi and Melanwy came through the gate to help out, and we all went back through into Lassiter.
While we were struggling with imminent spaghettification, it seems Chloelia's team learned that some sort of alien "breaker" had tripped in the station rerouting all power into its original functions, bypassing the systems Astraeus had installed. The other teams determined that the potentially limitless energy generated by the Penrose effect was being channelled through Penrose station, through the gate that was being held open in a way never seen before, and all that energy was being poured out into the computational nanofog orbiting Lassiter, which was "powering up". It seems that the copy of Astraeus living in the nanofog struggled for a while against the native systems seeking to purge her, but she was able to defend herself by, essentially, building a wall of transhuman egos between her data and the nanofog. Apparently emulations of our nervous systems, being the messy products of evolution that they are, and being all unique, poses quite a problem for machine-intelligences. Even emulated as software, it's phenomenally difficult for a machine system not familiar with humanity to decipher any logical structures. She essentially used millions of our minds as a firewall.
There's no indication that it actually hurt any of them… but we only have her word on that.
Naomi and Irina were able to establish communication with the computational nanofog about the time Marco managed to get Astraeus and the normal systems back online. What ensued was a fascinating yet horrifying conversation about Penrose and Lassiter stations, who built them, and why.
The station systems were apparently built by a long-extinct species as a weapon aimed at a very specific target: Olaf. According to the computer system, some tens of millions of years ago, our universe was invaded by entities from outside of space-time, who apparently live "between the gates" in some aspect of reality where space, time, and matter as we understand it don't exist. They claimed to be on a mission of exploration, but inadvertently caused the destruction of dozens of civilizations by casually disassembling stars and entire solar systems looking for the sentient inhabitants they first detected traveling through the gates. Apparently, not being able to understand what "matter" is, or "time", made it hard to understand that the blobs of moving matter aimed unidirectionally in time WERE the sentient inhabitants they were looking for.
Eventually they recognized their mistake, and recognized the problems in developing a common frame of reference. So they built Olaf, a boggling mechanism with the purpose of "unifying" quantum uncertainty in our universe (or at least our galaxy) and opening a stable rift between it and theirs. According to the Lassiter computer system, this would have effectively destroyed the galaxy, and so its builders constructed it as a weapon to destroy Olaf before it could be completed. The weapon was only partially successful, effectively banishing the invading species, but unfortunately they had constructed their own computational "species", the yellow crystalline intelligence, here in our universe to help them built the sphere. This species went "TITAN" on their creators out of a sense of self-preservation, and also saving our universe (or at least our galaxy) from negation, but wished to claim the Olaf sphere for its own purposes. It was able to resist the weapon and shut it down.
It was powering up again after 53 million years because its systems detected that at least one, and as many as a half-dozen of the extra-dimensional aliens who threatened space-time were once more in our galaxy, specifically on Olaf. It was smart enough to recognize that it failed back when it was at full operational capacity, and so its chances now were somewhat lessened. We, with Astraeus' help, were able to negotiate a deal with it. It would power back down and therefore allow us to use the Lassiter gate for 1 solar year, whereupon we could engage in our own investigation of Olaf. If we learn anything of use, we'll bring it back and share it with the weapon. Our end of the deal was that Astraeus would allow the copy of her living in the computational nanofog to be subsumed. She was able to communicate with her other self and transfer some data before this happened, but we presume the millions of transhuman ego copies she carried with her into the cloud were also subsumed.
This forms the basis of my renewed concerns about Astraeus. She has been a great boon to our organization in multiple ways, has repatriated millions of people thought killed in the Fall… but when you strip away all the seeming charity work, she's acting exactly like a TITAN, collecting egos for unknowable purposes. The only real difference is, she's still here while they don't appear to be.
Who knows, maybe she AND the TITANS don't actually want us all dead… but that's one hell of a risk to take. I mean, we don't really have any choice in the matter, but still. The impression was pretty clear that she'd be sending a synthmorph with us to Olaf containing an infinitesimal fragment of her ego. It will be interesting to see what she's like "dumbed down" to the limits of a standard cyberbrain.
So, now we're preparing an expedition to Olaf via the Pangaea connection. Maybe some of the Olaf traders will have some rumors before we go. Astraeus will provide vehicles, supplies, backup synthmorphs, and whatever else we'll need. The current theory is these aliens were awakened by one of the science teams on Olaf. Our first suspicion was that it was "Gunderson", a scientist that apparently "went native" on Olaf and is in league with the crystals, but a second though cast that into doubt. If the crystals rebelled against their creators, it seems unlikely they'd bring them back.
Anyway, anything further is speculation at this point. You may never even receive this, and if you do, it may never be seen. The Eye is, itself, run by a Promethean, of my sources and speculations are correct. Who knows if or how it edits what we share with one another, manipulating our entire organization toward some inscrutable goal.
Ok, maybe I'm getting paranoid… As Melanwy says, it's literally my job.