Trope-a-Day: The Ark

The Ark: One of the projects of the Emergency Management Authority/Fifth Directorate are the “Civilization-Backup Ships”, ark vessels hidden in deep space with as close to a complete backup of civilization as can be managed – the notion being that in the event of an extant existential threat large enough to threaten the survival of civilization entire (what’s called in the jargon a hard civilization kill event), they’ll come online under CASE NIGHTFALL ASUNDER, get the hell out of Dodge, and reboot it somewhere else.

The Conscience of Monsters




Proceed (+/-)? +


Warning: This document is classified MOST SECRET DREAMING MALIGNITY. If you do not have codeword clearance DREAMING MALIGNITY, you are enjoined to stop reading and report immediately, along with any instrumentalities representing, containing, storing, or processing this document, to Knowledge Control, under penalty of the most severe censure.

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Congratulations, agent fork, on your selection to OPERATION DREAMING MALIGNITY, alternatively designated the Operational Ethics Working Group.

DREAMING MALIGNITY serves as the conscience of the Fifth Directorate, as DREAMING SINISTER serves as that of the ISS in general. As the left hand of the Throne’s own left hand, we are permitted a certain degree of legal and ethical immunity in the execution of our duties, and for the good of the Empire. Or, since we are DREAMING MALIGNITY and it is our task to think clearly about such affairs: by the ethical standards it is our business to defend, we are monsters, albeit necessary monsters, damnable and damned.

It is the function of DREAMING MALIGNITY to compute, with mathematical exactitude, the precise degree of damnation which we may permit ourselves in the course of operations and potential catastrophe response contingencies. This is done in both the theoretical mode, in which we issue position and discussion papers on the calculus of ethical derogation and its practical application, and in the applied mode, in which we perform both forward-preemptive and backward-retrospective analyses on Fifth Directorate operations.

Your tour of duty with DREAMING MALIGNITY begins as of your reassignment date and will last no more than six years, during which period operational regulations specifically prohibit you from making use of memory redaction or a large number of other available noetic technologies. The function of DREAMING MALIGNITY is not to assess implementation capacity, success probability, utility, safety, or effectiveness. The Directorate is replete with computer models and ICE BLUESHIFT units more than adequate for that purpose.

The function of DREAMING MALIGNITY is to pass judgement on acceptable necessities, which requires a functioning ability to quantify the greater and lesser Darknesses of the universe and compare them, in order that by inflicting the latter the net total may be minimized. It also requires knowledge of those Darknesses, for which reason you have been granted a general MOST SECRET ULTRAVIOLET clearance by the discretion of the Executive, permitting access to the complete and unredacted data of ongoing Directorate operations. You have been selected for this duty by the current and outgoing members of DREAMING MALIGNITY in the belief that your primary possesses the mental capacity and, frankly, stability to perform it well. In an exception to normal Service practice, it is not permissible to decline the assignment.

You may consider this a compliment of sorts.

For security reasons, no communication with primary or other selves or any other party outside the simulation spaces allocated to DREAMING MALIGNITY, except as required by associated duties, is permitted during the six year tour of duty for agent forks assigned to DREAMING MALIGNITY. Additionally, after the tour of duty is complete, all participating forks have their run-time terminated and all mind-state and persona data associated with them wiped. This period has been selected since previous consensus of DREAMING MALIGNITY held unanimously that longer tours of duty constituted, in themselves, an unacceptable ethics violation, as demonstrated by high attrition rates. Cleared personal possessions and all arrears of pay are inherited by surviving primaries according to standard procedures.

Your sacrifice is appreciated.


Trope-a-Day: Suspiciously Specific Denial

Suspiciously Specific Denial: There is no Fifth Directorate, they aren’t a secret agency designed to fight existential threats and handle other excessionary issues, they don’t edit themselves out of the memory of anyone who claims otherwise, and they certainly aren’t standing right behind you with a stunner and a noetic redaction machine…

Trope-a-Day: State Sec

State Sec: Despite the name, Imperial State Security averts this completely; they’re just an intelligence/security organization, and a much more constrained (even the Fifth Directorate), non-autonomous one.  The only military is, well, the Imperial Military Service under a different ministry entirely, the regime protection forces are three entirely separate and relatively small organizations (the Imperial Guard, the Hand of Justice, and the Guardians of the Senate), and that’s about it.


Trope-a-Day: Sociopathic Hero

Sociopathic Hero: The Fifth Directorate has special tools (ICE BLUESHIFT) to induce the capacity for this sort of behavior – albeit very high-functioning ones, who genuinely don’t have any desire for cruelty [1] – under special circumstances, because in the existential threats business, sometimes necessity really does mandate, and so forth.  (They are also responsible for performing the various feats of mental editing necessary to let the operatives in question not go crazy when their empathy and conscience get switched back on.)

[1] Because that requires empathy, don’ch’know. There’s no point in hurting someone if their pain would be as essentially irrelevant to you as everything else.

Trope-a-Day: Resignations Not Accepted

Resignations Not Accepted: Averted – in a manner of speaking – for the Fifth Directorate.  You can resign any time you like; but the conditions of employment with the Fifth are that to resign, you get to have your memories of everything you ever did for them redacted and replaced with a plausible alternative life story (that happens to explain everything that you are on record as doing that couldn’t be otherwise… elided.).

Trope-a-Day: Recruiting the Criminal

Recruiting the Criminal: There are those who wonder about the existence of crime (actual crime, not merely the assortment of smugglers and people like the Eldinimieuthunimis who no-one locally would consider to be engaged in real crime) in Imperial and near-Imperial space.  Surely the Transcend should be able to stamp that sort of thing out completely, not just near-completely?  (Well, no, for reasons which among other things, involve showing some respect for free will.)  Other people also point to the influence of one of the more morally gray of the eikones, Éadínah, the Princess of Shadows, eikone of night, darkness, subtlety, deeply-laid plans, and some would indeed say organized crime, or with a roll of the eyes point out the way in which all too many Imperials will look at the Gentleman Thief or the Classy Cat Burglar and permit their respect for talent, skill and sheer awesomeness to outweigh, albeit not overpower, their sense of moral outrage.

And, while those are most of the reasons, there is also the fact that various agencies – from the Fifth Directorate through more well-known parts of ISS, certain private agencies and even, indeed, some parts of official law enforcement – find having people like Mass Effect‘s Kasumi Goto, the Leverage team, etc., around to call on for those skills that they don’t teach in academia extremely useful.

(Nor, indeed, are they particularly shy about occasionally recruiting out of the justice system, when they can, with the promise of challenging work, an excellent benefits package, and the opportunity to keep any unconsidered trifles one might pick up along the way…)