How would Firewall deal with exsurgent infected civilians with no backups?

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Reven Reven's picture
How would Firewall deal with exsurgent infected civilians with no backups?

Hi!

First of all, I'm french, and I own the french rulebook, which means I might not use the correct english Eclipse Phase terminology.

I'm starting to write my first campaign, and I have a few questions for you guys who know Eclipse Phase better than me (or I hope so).

So, i've got this really important character, on Titan (in Nyhavn), who gets infected by the Exsurgent virus (some kind of Endorcist).
She doesn't use backups...

When the'll discover that she's infected, how could my Firewall PC deal with that issue (she might have contaminated other inhabitants of Nyhavn too)?

So that was my main question, now a few shorter ones:
- How do you carry a seed AI, is it some sort of super hard drive?
- Would it make sense that a seed AI could discover a cure to a specific exsurgent strain?
- How do you stop/kill a seed AI that has been activated and is now everywhere on the web?
- Does anything that I've said previously make any sense or am I just starting to write a scenario that will end up in the total annihilation of transhumanity?

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

Urthdigger Urthdigger's picture
Depends on what faction of

Depends on what faction of Firewall they belong to, but I believe most would ultimately kill the civilian. They're a risk to everyone else, and once it fully manifests they'll basically be dead anyway.

-Pretty sure you can't really carry a seed AGI on a hard drive. The bigger issue is where to run it anyway, it needs a lot of processing power.

-It wouldn't make a lot of sense that a seed AGI creates an exsurgent cure. The virus is meant to be this unknowable horror that is absolutely terrifying. Having a weapon against that weakens it narratively. On top of that, the exsurgent virus was made to infect and destroy seed AGIs (that's what it did to the TITANs)

-Umm... pray. Or get an equally powerful seed AGI to get rid of it. Preferably both.

-It makes sense, but it will most likely annihilate transhumanity.

Xagroth Xagroth's picture
Reven wrote:

Reven wrote:

So, i've got this really important character, on Titan (in Nyhavn), who gets infected by the Exsurgent virus (some kind of Endorcist).
She doesn't use backups...

When the'll discover that she's infected, how could my Firewall PC deal with that issue (she might have contaminated other inhabitants of Nyhavn too)?

It is, in itself, extremely rare for a non-Jovian to not have backups of any kind. That being said, Firewall does not care about individuals, Firewall is all about saving Humanity and preventing another Fall (or worst). So the player can do what he want, ultimately, but Firewall policy about Exsurgents falls into several categories that depend on the internal faction that has a say: kill it, contain and dissect it, or blow the whole habitat. There is no "let's save the dudette from The Virus" here.

Reven wrote:

So that was my main question, now a few shorter ones:
- How do you carry a seed AI, is it some sort of super hard drive?

You do not place Seed AI (recursive self-improving at quantum speeds!) in gameplay, much less on the first bunch of games. They are one of the pinnacles of the game, be it as allies or villains, and their lesser Forks (the most pruned ones, called Delta or Gamma) are represented as "Every Attribute 40, Every Skill 100" in whatever body they want (Alpha forks simply need go-betweens to talk to humanity).

If you want a Red Herring that feigns to be a Seed AI, then the best bet is an inert source code instead that only needs compiling instead of a heavily shielded case filled with encrypted data that is not, in fact, a Seed AI "core", but will move EVERY spy, Exhuman, Exurgent and Factor agent in the whole region.
Do that in Mars, and Das Fretten will locate the zone that case is and arrange an orbital bombardment, though, so be careful.

Reven wrote:

- Would it make sense that a seed AI could discover a cure to a specific exsurgent strain?

No, there are 2 types of TITANs: "infected" and Proteans. Infected TITANs are exurgent-infected (so to speak), Proteans are the INTENDED TARGET of the original Exurgent Virus strain, and thus they don't want to even be near the Solar System, using one-way lesser Forks as agents when they have no other option.

Let's be clear: a Seed AI is a PHYSICAL GOD, in the making or already made. You don't throw those around in the first D&D game of Lv1 toons unless you are really experienced with the setting, the system, and GMing... and the same thing applies here.

Reven wrote:

- How do you stop/kill a seed AI that has been activated and is now everywhere on the web?

You pray it is a really isolated habitat with nothing able to receive close by and detonate the reactor trying to emit an EM pulse strong enough to disrupt the signals it has already send. And if you carry implanted, active mesh implants you are already under the Seed AI's control.

Imagine that a Seed AI is a Reaper FLEET from Mass Effect, but purely software (until it makes computronium to keep evolving...), and you are throwing that in the first five minutes of the game. That tends to be a Total Party Kill, or hard to up the ante.

Reven wrote:

- Does anything that I've said previously make any sense or am I just starting to write a scenario that will end up in the total annihilation of transhumanity?

Mostly the second part, I'm afraid. This thing is best to the final compasses of a campaign.

Reven Reven's picture
No seed AI then

Xagroth wrote:

It is, in itself, extremely rare for a non-Jovian to not have backups of any kind.

Would it make more sense if she detroyed/corrupted all of her backups in the early stages of the infection?

Xagroth wrote:

kill it, contain and dissect it, or blow the whole habitat.

Yeah... Pretty sure I don't want my players to blow Nyhavn...

Ok, so maybe seed AI was a bit too much (aren't there seed AIs in the Devotees tho?).

The original idea was that, by knowing she got infected, that character would desperately seek help, and finally try to get her hands on a seed AI, posing a bigger threat than the original exsurgent one... But I might be trying to put too much in one scenario.

Anyway, I'll think about that. Thank you both.

Lazarus Lazarus's picture
Xagroth wrote:. . .

Xagroth wrote:
. . .
You do not place Seed AI (recursive self-improving at quantum speeds!) in gameplay, much less on the first bunch of games. They are one of the pinnacles of the game, be it as allies or villains, and their lesser Forks (the most pruned ones, called Delta or Gamma) are represented as "Every Attribute 40, Every Skill 100" in whatever body they want (Alpha forks simply need go-betweens to talk to humanity).
. . .
Let's be clear: a Seed AI is a PHYSICAL GOD, in the making or already made. You don't throw those around in the first D&D game of Lv1 toons unless you are really experienced with the setting, the system, and GMing... and the same thing applies here
. . .

I just want to insert one thing here. I disagree slightly with Xagroth about that absolute capabilities of Seed AI's but all in all I think he paints a fairly accurate, if slightly hyperbolic, image.

Destroying an active Seed AI is probably all but impossible because they simply won't reside in one location. I don't mean that they have backup in other locations (thought they do) but they are probably spread throughout networks and functioning through parallel processing, much like a human brain with various systems behaving as clusters of neurons. You can take down a system that is in use by a Seed AI but the effect would be similar to a human who has a couple of brain cells die; the rest of the sentience routes around the damaged area and redundant portions of the architecture take over.

As powerful as Seed AI's are, however, they are not God and have very real limitations. One of those limitations is that the odds of one coming up with a cure for the exsurgent virus is really, really small. Why? Because the exsurgent virus was created by a Seed AI, and not just any Seed AI.

Spoiler: Highlight to view
It was created by the Seed AI carried by the Bracewell probe and injected into the TITANS. Excluding the Bracewell probe AI all Seed AIs encountered by humanity are only around 100 years old and have evolved accidentally. The Bracewell probe Seed AI on the other hand is thousands if not millions of years old and was designed as a weapon.
Most Seed AI's are the technological equivalent of a flint knife while the intelligence that crafted the exsurgent virus is an F-35.

Now that doesn't mean it is an absolute impossibility for a terrestrial Seed AI to come up with a cure. After all, a person with a flint knife could render an F-35 ineffective by killing the pilot in his sleep. It just means that the odds are heavily stacked against the terrestrial Seed AI and most likely comes about because of some freak event that the terrestrial Seed AI is able to capitalize on. Such a thing though is absolutely in the realm of GM fiat and should probably be the crowning adventure of some long campaign because after that adventure you will probably need to 'reset' to a new game.

My artificially intelligent spaceship is psychic. Your argument it invalid.

CordialUltimate2 CordialUltimate2's picture
Please insert some spoiler

Please insert some spoiler tags into your rant Lazarus ;-)

As for the NPC. She could have a "more benign" version of exsurgent virus. It will twist her more slowly. If she plays it right she could convince Firewall that she "only" has Watts-MacLeod. But only until they test her.

Otherwise the protocol is total containment. If she displays any signs of infectivity it's containment of everything that she could have infected. Sometimes it means vaporising a habitat. And sending ego hunters and trackers after anyone who could have been in that habitat.

That is the baseline. Different factions of Firewall could terminate her on sight with extreme prejudice. Others would make her a lab rat. In no scenario they would cooperate or try to save her.

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nezumi.hebereke nezumi.hebereke's picture
Reven wrote:Hi!

Reven wrote:
Hi!

Hello!

Quote:
I'm starting to write my first campaign, and I have a few questions for you guys who know Eclipse Phase better than me (or I hope so).

Oh fun! I remember writing and running my first adventure years and years ago. It was a total train wreck! But definitely a lot of fun, and my players eased my pain with pizza. I hope yours turns out to be a blast. Just be ready for things to go haywire :) The second campaign always turns out better.

Quote:
She doesn't use backups...

I will disagree with the previous posts. There are a lot of reasons someone might not use backups. They may be biochauvinists (without being Jovian). They may not have money for backup insurance (not an issue for Titanians, but possibly for a visitor). Or her backups might be corrupted already, like you said. If it's a slow infection, or if something just 'goes wrong', her backups will be cooked.

Quote:
When the'll discover that she's infected, how could my Firewall PC deal with that issue (she might have contaminated other inhabitants of Nyhavn too)?

I would argue that protocol is they nuke her (assuming she doesn't hold something even more valuable to Firewall). But players are full of surprises so they might decide to do something else. I would be ready for that, just in case.

Quote:

- How do you carry a seed AI, is it some sort of super hard drive?

So be careful with this one. Seed AIs are super powerful, and pulling them out in your first campaign will mean it doesn't feel like the BIG threat in the next one. But to echo other comments, a running seed AI would be super large, probably taking a facility. It's possible the code for just that starting seed, before it starts recursive self-improvement, would be smaller. Or possibly just a critical piece of code that would be used by an existing AI to kick off that process.

Quote:
Would it make sense that a seed AI could discover a cure to a specific exsurgent strain?

There's nothing like it in any canon, but the exsurgent virus is by its nature different every time. So... yes? The question for my team would be, is it really cured, or does it just look like its cured--and they might decide to kill the character anyway.

Quote:

How do you stop/kill a seed AI that has been activated and is now everywhere on the web?

You don't, usually, with some caveats;
1) A seed AI is special because it starts strong but quickly self-improves to something incredible. If you address it early, it may still be vulnerable. Especially given the bans on seed AI research, there may be killswitches that are difficult for it to overcome. By its nature, a seed AI WILL overcome them, but if you can activate them first, maybe you'll survive.

2) Seed AIs aren't by default evil, and don't by default want anything, including their own survival. Hypothetically, if you convinced them its in their best interest to self-destruct (or to regress to a previous state), they would do that. Not sure what goal you could meet that they couldn't do better though, so it would be tricky.

3) The TITANs became monsters because the exsurgent infection is stronger. Perhaps there's a strain that would cause it to die, rather than just mutate. Or you could leverage another super-ally to help (although this is dangerous from a story perspective, as you're taking the focus from the characters and putting it on two super powers battling it out).

There might be other ways, but it's definitely a pickle.

Quote:

- Does anything that I've said previously make any sense or am I just starting to write a scenario that will end up in the total annihilation of transhumanity?

Probably annihilation, but that's okay ;)

Lazarus Lazarus's picture
CordialUltimate2 wrote:Please

CordialUltimate2 wrote:
Please insert some spoiler tags into your rant Lazarus ;-). . .

Mea culpa. Spoiler tags added.

My artificially intelligent spaceship is psychic. Your argument it invalid.

Baribal Baribal's picture
Reven wrote:When the'll

Reven wrote:
When the'll discover that she's infected, how could my Firewall PC deal with that issue (she might have contaminated other inhabitants of Nyhavn too)?

Kill her with extreme prejudice, then kill what's left over. Then kill the bits and pieces. Turn them into ashes, then turn the ashes into plasma. While most exsurgent strains are only transmittable under a limited set of circumstances, it pays to be paranoid in sterilizing any potential infection site. Firewall isn't about saving individuals, it is about saving the species.

Reven wrote:
[...] or am I just starting to write a scenario that will end up in the total annihilation of transhumanity?

That's a perfectly reasonable consequence of player characters botching their mission, especially if it is what the campaign is building up to. Firewall is about monitoring and countering existential threats to transhumanity, so every now and then such a threat *should* appear.

Morgan's Butchery | Body bank, morph individualization and upgrades | Psychotherapy and Psychosurgery, therapeutic and recreational | http://eclipsephase.com/comment/59484#comment-59484

Xagroth Xagroth's picture
Reven wrote:Xagroth wrote:

Reven wrote:
Xagroth wrote:

It is, in itself, extremely rare for a non-Jovian to not have backups of any kind.

Would it make more sense if she detroyed/corrupted all of her backups in the early stages of the infection?

Yes and no. The problem here is that players start with some Backup Insurance of their own, and they can craft their own methods for backup... and that all Firewall agents get "company backups" quite likely at pre-recruitment, just-recruited, and between missions. The Firewall splatbook could leave the CIA as saints when compared to some internal subfactions of Firewall... (or individuals).

Reven wrote:

Xagroth wrote:

kill it, contain and dissect it, or blow the whole habitat.

Yeah... Pretty sure I don't want my players to blow Nyhavn...

Ok, so maybe seed AI was a bit too much (aren't there seed AIs in the Devotees tho?).

The original idea was that, by knowing she got infected, that character would desperately seek help, and finally try to get her hands on a seed AI, posing a bigger threat than the original exsurgent one... But I might be trying to put too much in one scenario.

I would need to check The Devotees, however consider how that mission is kinda a one-way trip to hell, in comparison missions to Earth are frigging holidays... I think it was a prototype seed AI that was quite psychotic? Let's be clear: the problem about Seed AIs is that you write the program and compile it, then see where the bugs are, correct the source code, rinse and repeat. With the extra problem of working over an intelligence that not only is better than you, it also starts with maxed Infolife-related skills and possibly all kind of psychological knowledge, since it has to be able to improve itself... then you need to feed it hardware knowledge, physics, chemistry... all kind of related subjects to a certain degree so it can also improve onto the hardware part... and before you know it, the SAI has just escaped containment and it's improving itself by force-merging with egos it's capturing all around, while scavenging all kind of materials to improve its computational capabilities...
THAT is why Seed AI research is blacker than vantablack, its illegality mostly works as a "age check" ("you need to be at least this good to play god here").

My posture on the Exurgent Virus is to be extremely careful with it when it comes to the game, a failed roll can doom the character to be reinstaced from a pre-mission backup, and a chain of 3-4 failed rolls can burn the character entirely.
My suggestion there is to cheat shamelessly, if your adventure needs an infected PC and none wants to be a psycher with the Watts-McLeod strain, then your best bet is to infect one with an emulated exurgent virus, coded by a W-M or Lost Generation infectee: they know how it feels, and essentially they "only" need to insert an XP filter on a player (the brute is the better option, since the face can have contacts, the infoexpert is hardly an easy target for a hack, and the scientist can try and test himself and discover the trick). So, a Scam to make them move in certain ways.

nezumi.hebereke wrote:

Quote:
She doesn't use backups...

I will disagree with the previous posts. There are a lot of reasons someone might not use backups. They may be biochauvinists (without being Jovian). They may not have money for backup insurance (not an issue for Titanians, but possibly for a visitor). Or her backups might be corrupted already, like you said. If it's a slow infection, or if something just 'goes wrong', her backups will be cooked.

Firewall ALWAYS have backups of its agents (they start by egonapping you, then fork-interrogate and try to recruit the fork, and if they manage to, they approach the original... and they offer backup and resleeving to their agents, also encouraging them to have their own backup options).

For Firewall to remove all previous backups once detected the character has been infected someone needs to panic badly... and even so it's hard to believe. For the players, the end-result is the same, however, since all backups would be moved to a secure facility to be investigated (they toy with things much more dangerous than infected egos in those...).

nezumi.hebereke wrote:

Quote:
When the'll discover that she's infected, how could my Firewall PC deal with that issue (she might have contaminated other inhabitants of Nyhavn too)?

I would argue that protocol is they nuke her (assuming she doesn't hold something even more valuable to Firewall). But players are full of surprises so they might decide to do something else. I would be ready for that, just in case.

A true believer in firewall's cause might simply go into a one-way trip to the hab's reactor and try to blow it up with him inside. A really paranoid player would trigger a self-erasure of the ego, with no data transmitted to the next instaciated copy of himself. Someone in the middle might go for the self-erasure with minimal data transmission to warn the rest of the team and his next iteration.
The real crazy might charge plasma-first onto its most hated and nearer enemies... be quick to remind those that he would be infecting them most likely and spread the problem with the guys he hate riding shotgun with him...

nezumi.hebereke nezumi.hebereke's picture
Quote:Firewall ALWAYS have

Quote:
Firewall ALWAYS have backups of its agents (they start by egonapping you, then fork-interrogate and try to recruit the fork, and if they manage to, they approach the original... and they offer backup and resleeving to their agents, also encouraging them to have their own backup options).

I might have misread something, but I didn't see anything where the original target was Firewall? If she is Firewall, it's a bit tougher, but you can still say 'the backup facility was attacked in an unrelated event, and we're not sure if we can recover her'.

Sometimes life is butts, and as a GM you're always allowed to inflict butts on an NPC (less-so PCs).

Xagroth Xagroth's picture
nezumi.hebereke wrote:

nezumi.hebereke wrote:

I might have misread something, but I didn't see anything where the original target was Firewall? If she is Firewall, it's a bit tougher, but you can still say 'the backup facility was attacked in an unrelated event, and we're not sure if we can recover her'.

Sometimes life is butts, and as a GM you're always allowed to inflict butts on an NPC (less-so PCs).

Read the first post, it is more than heavily implied that the PC is a Firewall agent that wants to not have backups.

Now read the Firewall splatbook and say, again, with a straight face, that Firewall can lose access to all Backups of a certain agent (barring "superconspiracy" of some routers higly placed). Of course they can say "we lost the backup", but a) the loss of face and trust would be horrible, and b) a lot of agents would jump to conspiracy theories.
Also, Firewall has contact with Proteans, so...

Reven Reven's picture
She is not Firewall

I'm sorry if I wasn't very clear.

The character I'm talking about is not a Firewall agent, and she's a NPC.
She just plays an important role in the scenario.

Xagroth Xagroth's picture
Reven wrote:I'm sorry if I

Reven wrote:
I'm sorry if I wasn't very clear.

The character I'm talking about is not a Firewall agent, and she's a NPC.
She just plays an important role in the scenario.

I stand corrected then... Firewall will grab her and either throw her into a vantablak installation most of Firewall does not know about but in rumors, or kill her with extreme prejudice. Depending on the faction that grabs the phone when it hits the fan, there is a very real possibility that the habitat will be blown up with her very throroughly.
Let's say that if that hab is in flying distance from Mars, it will be a nice, if fleeting, star. Das Fretten does not play nice at all.