Trope-a-Day: Kill and Replace

Kill and Replace: A tactic – and with modern sophotechnology, a lamentably obvious tactic – used by lower-tech and lower-ethics intelligence agencies, for whom fast-growth cloning (or even radical plastic surgery) and programming is the best they can manage – rather than the implantation of overshadowing gnostic overlays used by the technological sophisticates among shady organizations.

The Love of Money is the Root of Reliability

mercenary (n.): A source who is working for us in exchange for money (typically discreetly delivered cryp) and detailed explanations of where all their body parts are likely to be found in the event of a contract default. A pleasure to work with, relatively speaking, because all the cards are on the table.

idealist (n.): A source who is working for us and betraying his putative employers for ideological, religious, patriotic, etc., beliefs. Widely considered unreliable, especially compared to mercenaries, since anyone who’s turned their coat once may do so again if they change their mind. Consequently, the first step in handling an idealist is to secure a firm yet invisible grip on their gonads, or failing that, a half-gram of KL-8 implanted in one of their heart valves.

– excerpted from Rilial’s Informal Dictionary of Intelligence and Security Terminology

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: The Spymaster

The Spymaster: In the Imperial governance, the people who sit on the Imperial Security Executive, the council that runs Imperial State Security, which is composed of the heads of the five directorates, the admirals in charge of the Shadow Fleet, its military intelligence counterpart, and certain others, whose identity is not available anywhere.  It’s also unique on the organization chart in that the Executive reports directly to the Imperial Couple as well as to its nominal superiors in the Ministry of Harmonious Serenity.

Plenty of other organizations, of course, have their own – even before we get into competing governments.

Are You Sapient?

“If there is one thing the universe is not short of, it is ways to measure the multifaceted, multidimensional phenomenon we call ‘intelligence’, or ‘sapience’.

“Perhaps the best known of all of them is the ASIT – the Adjusted Sapience Index Test – as defined these days by the Eupraxic Collegium and the Imperial Grand Survey, simply because that’s one of the few with any legal standing. Unfortunately, it’s not particularly useful for those in the middle of the ‘typical sophont’ range, because it’s designed to determine who’s sapient enough to count as a sophont or a prosophont in the first place, so if you’re working with newly met species, uplift candidates, or – in some variants – the mentally dysfunctional, it’s shiny.  In most other cases, not so much.

“Also generally accepted are the objective measures, various units for raw cognition (defined, in this case, as bit-transformations per second per gram equivalents in the local units), coordination capacity, etc.  The trouble with those, of course, is that while they work great for marketing computronium, even though you can point at a brain and say it’s entirely capable of performing x bT/s/g, that doesn’t really tell you much about whether it’s using those x bT/s/g for anything vaguely useful, sapience-wise, or just sitting around in the organic-cognitive equivalent of an idle loop.

“Meanwhile, all kinds of people have come up with more specific scales to measure various subsets of sapience and its allied traits.  The Intellectual Coherence Quotient, the Linguistic Communication Quotient, the Multidimensional Visualization Test, the Active Rationality Index, the Kinesthesis Scale, the Sociodynamic Coefficients, the Internal Cognitive Freedom Phase-Space Vector, the Individual Neophilia Scan, etc., etc., etc.  It is, by and large, agreed among statisticians, clionomists, psychedesigners, and sophotechnologists that they do each measure that specific aspect that they claim to measure’.

“Which of them might or might not correlate, individually or in combination, and with which weightings, with any sort of ‘general intelligence’ concept is, alas, not at all generally accepted, and is the subject of much bitter academic infighting, with accompanying ink-flecked extranet rantings and claims that one’s opponent must not have scored terribly high on the Ciëlle Memeplex Synthesis Cognitive Test Sequence.  The majority position, such as it is, increasingly tends towards the claim that there’s no such thing as “general intelligence” outside bT/s/g, and that there’s no point in looking for a common underlying factor apart from computative activity to unify these various kinds of specialized intelligences, because there’s nothing there to find.

“…in actually making decisions based on intelligence, most people find it easier to apply the pragmatic well-go-try-it-then test.”

– Handbook of Cognitive Quantification, 33rd ed.,
University of Almeä Press

You’re Not Cleared For This

adjustment: just about any op that doesn’t fit into any more specific category.  Anything from spiking planetary water supplies to curing a pet’s sniffles.

black house: a safe house or other facility so far out-system you can’t find your primary without a gravigraph.

cauterize: to clean up evidence or problems with extreme thoroughness when you’re out of time and options.  Usually involves ambiplasma, hence the term.

collateral budget: how non-surgical your op is allowed to get; alternatively, how much splash you’re permitted to make before Questions are Asked in the Senate, and your career becomes distinctly impaired.

defaulted: an agent, source, or other asset that’s now proven not merely unuseful but opposed; heading for the most severe censure or about to be cauterized.

deniability, minor: they can know we’re looking, as long as they can’t prove it.

deniability, major: they can know someone’s looking, but they can’t know that it’s us.

deniability, complete: they can’t know anyone’s looking, so hope they’re not paying attention.

deniability, perfect: if you know you’re looking, you’re doing it wrong.

the Executive: the shadowy council of the heads of the Directorates and INI that coordinates the Empire’s intelligence and security operations.  So far as you’re concerned, see fuliginous.

friendly silence: the well-concealed self-destruct mechanism given to you to use in the event of rigorous interrogation.

from Heaven: information that’s come down from far above – where, you don’t need to and aren’t cleared to know – and which should be believed absolutely, even where it concerns future events.

fuliginous: blacker than black, i.e., so far above your clearance level you aren’t even cleared to know what its actual clearance level is.  Anything the Fifth Directorate does.

the Game: what the people in it call the intelligence/security business.  It is, but it’s one where lives, wealth, the balance of power, and occasionally major civilizations are the stakes.  Try to play well.  No pressure.

the Ghetto: Nepscia (Galith Waste), the hellhole favored for rough intelligence games because it’s so easy for people to disappear there.  Unfortunately, people also tend to disappear there for reasons that have nothing to do with whatever op they were on.

heliums: those people with that implant, the one that suppresses anything resembling sympathy or conscience, letting them do anything that needs to and shouldn’t be done.  Occasionally useful; always a sign that your op just went prompt critical.

Mother’s garden: any of the major cities on Eilan (Eilish Expanse), whose centrality and neutrality makes it the place everyone prefers to play their friendly intelligence away games.

overwatch: the member of the proxy adhoc in charge for the current op; who you take orders from, who you report to, and who will be dissecting your performance in detail at the back-briefing.

proxy adhoc: the adhocracy beneath the Executive that ops and other directives originate from; your immediate supervisors.  See also overwatch.

[redacted for reasons of state security]: standard you-are-not-cleared-for-this message.  Also, the motto of the Fifth Directorate.  Possibly.

reduce for extraction: to make it easier to extract an agent (who should be prepared for this possibility) or a source (who somehow rarely are) from hostile territory by reducing them to a vector stack/cogence core, and disposing of the body.  Or, if vector stack technology is not in use, locally, by simply decapitating them.

quieting: removal, sometimes by assassination, or by framing, discrediting, or any other reliable means.

serious censure: killing someone reinstantiably by way of sending them a strongly worded message.

(most) serious censure: killing someone non-reinstantiably by way of sending someone else a strongly worded message.

shadow source: a non-dominant personality or agent imprinted into a hostile mind, acting as a source without the conscious awareness of its host.

sniffers: sigint ships hanging around in other people’s systems, listening to passing traffic and trying not to draw attention.  Worst job in the Shadow Fleet.

source-on-a-disk: a ripped copy of an unwilling source’s mind-state.  A clean source-on-a-disk is one where the source doesn’t know that you have it.

static: an op with no purpose but to draw attention to itself, and away from anything else.

the Antique Store: the Conclave Drift, where collateral budgets are always zero, where every fifth person who passes you on the street is in the Game, and where any mistakes will be maximally embarrassing.  But you have to play there, because everyone else does.

– excerpted from Rilial’s Informal Dictionary of Intelligence and Security Terminology

A Random Thought on the Fermi Paradox

Perhaps, if it turns out transhumanism (or, rather, its polyspecific analog, transsophontism) is the development path all species end up taking once they have the ability to do so, the problem is that once they’ve spent much time and effort on engineering themselves into ever-more brilliant and beautiful forms, they rest of the universe becomes simply too unbearably stupid and ugly to interact with…

And so they don’t.

And they become pretty damn good at hiding from SETI searches, too, because the last thing they want is any of these ugly morons turning up on their doorstep.

Simply revolting, sweetie.