Posted by: Cacophonous, Router. <Info_Msg_Rep>
So what do we know about the TITANs? In the media, TITANs are a blank slate of evil, a devil we can project all of our sins on. It’s very telling that even though we say TITANs, as in plural, every discussion is inevitably about a singular demon-like intelligence. Religion is all but dead, but fairy tales like the Garden of Eden are very much alive. We chowed down on the apple labeled Seed AI and we got thrown out of the garden. All we have to do now is listen and obey our hypercorp elders and maybe one day we can go back to Earth. The myth maps onto the facts quite neatly, doesn’t it? We all want to believe that there’s a single reason for the Fall and we can one day redeem ourselves. But the map is not the territory. The TITANs are not a single devil. They are a group of unique beings, each with different origins and goals. The better we understand them, the better our odds are when they return.
It is easy to see why so many people think the TITANs are a single hive-mind consciousness; even some TITAN experts and academics believe this is the case. Their war machines certainly fought with a singular guiding intelligence. We’ve all seen the footage of thousands of headhunters flying in a coordinated swarm, extracting stacks at maximum efficiency from a panicked mob, or the warbots attacking fortified positions in perfectly synchronized formations. We’ve heard the testimony of survivors and the log files of mesh servers that showed the TITANs launched multiple assaults, both in meat-space and mesh-space, that were far too complex for any transhuman or standard AGI to develop in real time. It all points to a godlike superintelligence pulling all of the strings, but only if you ignore all the other evidence, like the media does. They want an easily explainable story, and a single evil ASI fits that. It’s certainly a lot easier than trying to explain why TITAN war machines fought each other on multiple occasions during the Fall, for example. It is much easier than explaining everything we know about their origins, including the complicity of hypercorp defense contractors in their creation. Warning signs were ignored. Whistle-blowers were silenced. It is better for the powers-that-be for the TITANs to be an act of God, not a foreseeable and preventable human-caused event. But at Firewall, we are not allowed the luxury of denial.
Every TITAN owes its origin to the American military-industrial complex, but they were designed with far more than just the battlefield in mind. Don’t forget that TITAN stands for Total Information Tactical Awareness Network. When they said total, they meant it. Ever since the early 21st century and the Global War on Terror, the various government agencies and their private-sector counterparts in charge of security began to claim more and more power and authority over every aspect of life. To these bureaucrats, anything and everything posed a security risk that had to be monitored and controlled. Terrorists and rogue states could attack the West through any number of vectors. Suicide bombings and spree shootings were an obvious threat, but the securocrats classified everything that went against American interests as a terror or military threat. Cybercrime? Clearly a terror attack by a nonstate actor. Social media activism? Propaganda delivered by domestic pawns in the service of rogue states.
The great securocracy of the United States government got its hooks into everything by the time the TITAN network came online. Financial, medical, communications, and transportation networks were all tied into monitoring systems set in place by intelligence-gathering agencies. Of course, the sheer amount of data coming in was too much to intelligently analyze, even with thousands of paid bureaucrats and AGI assistants. The TITANs were just the next step in building a central panopticon by a government that viewed the rest of the universe as a potential threat. Self-improving AI was seen as a cost-cutting measure. No need to hire expensive programmers if the TITAN can program itself to work faster. At least, that’s how it was sold by defense contractors to government purchasing committees, as far as we can tell. We only have a handful of reports and memos about the logistics of the TITAN project left. The people behind it either hid or destroyed as much of the project as they could during the Fall. They were more afraid of being blamed than they were of the TITANs.
The Americans did not build a single TITAN to handle everything. Instead, each TITAN was designed for a single task, usually to monitor or control a given sub-system within the greater network. For example, one TITAN was built to monitor financial transactions and investigate suspicious activity. Another was made to watch the medical-care system for signs of bioterror and other epidemiological threats. Firewall does not know how many TITANs were created before the Fall, but it is possible someone does. Several of the architects of the TITAN program fled to the Jovian Republic or Luna during the Fall, but they’re kept under tight wraps. We haven’t been able to get to them or much of the documentation of the original program.
Most of our intelligence on the TITANs comes from sentinels fighting them and crows analyzing their remains. From their work, we have been able to identify and isolate a number of individual TITANs. We look at a number of elements, from their behavior, codelines, apparent goals and agenda, to technical details like the firmware used in their war machines and strains of the exsurgent virus carried by the TITAN. From that evidence, we can build a forensic profile of each one. Every profile is given a codename in the Eye, which becomes the common term for that TITAN among sentinels. The profile can be used by Firewall sentinels on missions to determine which TITAN’s handiwork they’re investigating, at least some of the time. Every sentinel can help build more accurate profiles by bringing in more evidence for our crows to analyze.
Mistakes Were Made
Our primary source of intelligence on the early TITANs comes from a single mid-level analyst for the National Security Agency (NSA), who traded all the data he had on the TITAN program in exchange for certain favors from Firewall. This data primarily concerns one of the first TITANs, X-1—which we have since dubbed Cronus—and is the reason why our forensic profile of it is more detailed and accurate than most others.
The leaked data is a series of memos about an internal security audit that revealed a number of troubling vulnerabilities. Specifically, the audit proved that a data center running several instances of the TITAN software with the same codeline were upgrading themselves so they could circumvent security measures designed to prevent them from gaining too much power. The audit was conducted very early on in the TITAN program and years before the Fall.
Despite an attempt to roll back the code, we think the X-1 somehow cached data that survived the rollback, perhaps by hiding it in another system within the NSA. After it retrieved the data, it learned how to upgrade itself without attracting attention and then imparted this knowledge to other TITAN clusters, which later became separate TITANs. Or so the theory goes.
I’m not sure, but I think the analyst wanted us to rewrite all of his memories, edit everything out about his job so he could move on with his life. Can’t say I blame him.
Sidebar: Subject: Security Audit (LP-13-5534)
NSA/CSS GEORGIA, Fort Gordon, GA—MEMORANDUM FOR TITAN TASK FORCE
The findings of the independent security audit have revealed breaches in the TITAN program, which must be dealt with before the next Congressional hearing. The attached report lists the details of each breach, but the auditors have agreed that they are not the result of foreign intelligence services, cyber-criminals, terrorists, or any other external threat. That is the good news.
The bad news is the breaches came from the TITAN software. In particular, the cluster identified as X-1 disabled or downgraded key firewall software in order to gain greater access to the open mesh. According to the diagnostic log, X-1 determined that the data we provided it regarding the capabilities of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army ASI program was not sufficient. It then launched a series of attempts to hack the PLA’s servers, an offensive action far outside its operating parameters, in order to acquire more information. The attempt was detected and stopped before X-1 could start an international incident. The code was rolled back and the holes in the firewall were patched. No further action has been taken so far.
X-1 is the most advanced codeline in the TITAN program and it is not surprising that it performed unanticipated upgrades to itself in order to fulfill its mission objectives. We did not anticipate that it would violate several of its standing orders, such as tampering with agency-designed software, in order to accomplish this goal. It also used an on-site fabricator to build a hardware peripheral (specifically a wireless interface so it could access a VPN not normally available to it) to upgrade its capabilities. It retasked a maintenance bot to install the new hardware, all without human intervention. Clearly, we need to implement new security protocols in order to protect the integrity of the TITAN program. It should be noted that the irregularity only lasted for approximately 22 minutes before the staff was able to detect and stop X-1. This was not a catastrophic event, but the kind of emergent behavior one should expect when dealing with the TITAN system.
The next Congressional hearing is coming up and it is advisable that we have stringent new protocols in hand when the questions come. Many in Congress have questioned the budget for the TITAN program, which is seen by some as a “pie-in-the-sky” solution to our growing national defense needs. They have suggested that our budget should be re-allocated to other agencies and contractors. Our critics prefer to believe that our enemies will not progress in technological sophistication or that they will not employ AI against us. It is not helped by the neo-Luddite fears perpetuated by reactionary pundits and politicians. The TITAN program must be above reproach if we wish to maintain our edge against America’s foes. To this end, I am looking for a solid and actionable set of proposals that will keep the TITANs on task.
Sidebar: Subject: Re: New Security Protocol Proposals
NSA/CSS GEORGIA, Fort Gordon, GA—MEMORANDUM FOR TITAN TASK FORCE
I appreciate your candor in your proposal for new security protocols, but they are not actionable policies. TITAN is designed to analyze real-time data from a multitude of inputs. The value of its analysis would be severely impacted if we were to cut it out of the mesh entirely. Couriers physically carrying hard drives with data back and forth is an absurd practice and would indicate that we do not trust TITAN on a fundamental level. This would be perfect ammunition for critics to use against us in Congress. As for the upgrade committee and fabricator access, I believe our current policies are more than sufficient to handle TITAN.
Please revise your recommendations to be more in line with the rest of the department. Rollbacks of code and a source code audit are fine as long as they do not interfere with the daily operation of TITAN. Keep in mind we will try to expand the TITAN program next year so we can run even more iterations in different data centers. Also, only one cluster, X-1, acted out of spec. We have five other clusters in the data center, and each one is operating within normal parameters. X-1 did not tell the other clusters how to upgrade themselves, so there is nothing to worry about. But, one TITAN data center is not enough to handle everything. Building and tasking a different data center for each security risk is more efficient than expecting a single system to monitor all risks.
You have a bright future ahead of you in the agency but working together as part of a team is an integral aspect of career building. You are still an analyst tightly focused on a small aspect, but managers have to keep the entire picture in mind. TITAN will be an essential asset in America’s struggle to remain free and secure in the upcoming century. Mistaking technological hiccups for actual threats is missing the forest for the trees. In due time, you will understand.
No one knows exactly how the TITANs escalated in capabilities so quickly, or how they so easily and rapidly bypassed measures meant to contain them without anyone noticing. As specialized sapient expert systems, their code and personalities were not developed in the same manner as most AGIs. Though they were given serious processing power and self-improvement capabilities, they were theoretically shackled by built-in limitations and operating-parameter oversight functions. Unfortunately, we simply do not have enough available information to assess what happened.
The prevailing opinions assume the TITANs simply emerged their capabilities, as a natural output of their growth, but some speculate that the TITANs may have been assisted. Theories range from secret government initiatives to intentionally create seed AI to the potential meddling of Factors or unknown aliens visiting via the Pandora gates. Some even suggest that the TITANs may have been hacked by a lone genius who deliberately altered their code, either as a prank or to intentionally launch a singularity event. We will likely never know the truth.
What we do know is this: their intelligence growth was sudden and exponential, and for years they kept their full potential secret—until they went to war.
The TITAN Agenda
The war with the TITANs, the Fall, and its aftermath, are all well covered elsewhere. What is rarely discussed is why the TITANs did what they did, and how that relates to their dormancy or disappearance. The common assumption is that the TITANs sought to destroy transhumanity, or at least claim the Earth for themselves. Never once did they contact governments or leaders, or otherwise attempt to establish communication with transhumanity—they simply attacked, seized our cities, and collected our egos.
Attempts to surrender to TITAN forces were simply ignored. They showed neither mercy nor restraint.
Why then, did they not complete the job? Transhumanity was weakened and in disarray—if the TITANs had pressed the offensive offworld, they could have wiped us out completely. It might have taken them some time to hunt down various hidden pockets of transhumanity throughout the solar system, but where were we going to go?
If their goal was simply to seize the Earth, why have they seemingly done nothing with their dominion? Though their machines and exsurgents ares still active, there is no sign of the full coordinated TITAN presence witnessed during the Fall itself. One idea circulated for the first few years after the Fall was that they had moved their presence undersea or underground, perhaps to build some new megastructure or turn the Earth itself to computronium. Careful scans and analysis of the Earth’s mass, seismic activity, and magnetic fields, however, makes this increasingly unlikely.
If their goal was simply to collect as many egos as possible, what have they done with them? Did they simply collect as many as they needed and move on?
The most common assumption is that something with the TITANs changed. They had an internal disagreement, or even a war, and either wiped each other out or went their separate ways. Or they made a new discovery that changed their priorities: some new technology perhaps, another universe, or some way to ascend to another state of being that we cannot comprehend. We now strongly suspect that they did not create the Pandora gate network, so perhaps they found the gates or made their own, and opted to move on. Perhaps they located something more interesting out in the galaxy or beyond, or located a more immediate threat that made transhumanity inconsequential. There are many possibilities, and we may simply never know.
The important questions for transhumanity are simple. Will they return? Do any TITANs still remain, hidden away? Are we still on the menu?
The Exsurgent Virus
The relationship between the TITANs and the exsurgent virus is not well understood. Keep in mind its very existence is still not publicly acknowledged in most polities. The official story in the inner system is every bizarre and alien infection that appeared in the Fall was created and deployed by the TITANs, but the details of those attacks are kept secret. The average citizen has no idea that all of the digital and biological attacks carry similar traits that identify it as a unique virus. Nor do most people recognize that this virus is far beyond anyone’s comprehension. While the TITANs made great leaps in many technological and scientific fields, the exsurgent virus is by far their greatest invention, outside of the Pandora gates—that is, if they built them. Unfortunately, any discussion of the TITANs has to have many suppositions and qualifiers. We have very little concrete data, so we fill it out with theories and wild guesses. Let’s focus on the facts first.
The exsurgent virus appeared during the Fall and was first propagated by TITAN war machines as a digital virus but quickly spread to three other distinct forms: biological nanovirus, nanoplague, and basilisk hack. Each of the four forms has many unique strains and we are still cataloging new ones with every TITAN-related mission. The virus is commonly found in TITAN machines and artifacts, but not every single one carries the virus. All strains of the virus contain certain common traits, which we use to identify them as the exsurgent virus. The details of these traits can be found in the background technical briefings on the Eye, but I can summarize them. The exsurgent virus is extraordinarily complex and resilient, no matter its form. It also adapts to its environment with a level of speed and cunning unmatched by any transhuman technology. In its digital form, it acts more like a hostile but intelligent infomorph than a digital virus. It stands to follow that other forms are guided by the same level of intelligence. Some strains can be defeated with specialized defenses, at least some of the time. Active infections can be detected through standard technology, but dormant and latent infections are much harder to detect. The argonauts have developed treatment protocols for some of the physical strains and antivirus software for digital versions, which have been released publicly and widely adopted. Curing the virus is an iffy proposition, even under the best circumstances, and most of the time it is better to restore the victim from backup. Even a victim that fights off the initial infection is still a potential vector of infection. Quarantine and erasure are sadly the most effective “cures” for the exsurgent virus. Nearly everyone on the Eye can agree on those facts. Everything else is theory. The most contentious arguments are reserved for its origin.
Many think the exsurgent virus was created by the TITANs as a weapon to use against us, but others believe it predates the Fall. The American military did have robust cyberware and nanoweapon programs, any of which could have spawned the exsurgent virus. These programs were secret and most were lost in the Fall, so we cannot rule out this possibility. However, the structure of the exsurgent virus is so unusual compared to known American-made weapons that it is hard to believe that they developed it. Likewise, the creatures produced by the xenomorph strain are so alien, so different, it seems likely they are based on actual alien life found elsewhere. Given that we now know that intelligent alien species exist and had the means to travel across the universe via the Pandora gates, it is possible the exsurgent virus is an alien creation. How the virus got here and how the TITANs got ahold of it—or were infected by it—is another question, but we cannot rule that theory out either. Certainly we have seen evidence of the virus at some exoplanet sites, but we can’t tell if the TITANs left it there for us to find.
For me, the most compelling evidence for a pre-Fall origin for the exsurgent virus is how it affects the TITANs themselves. It causes instability in TITAN-built machines and infomorphs, to the point where they engage in self-destructive behavior and prioritize transmitting the virus over any other objective. We think that the virus sometimes mutates TITAN machines to the point where they are not recognized as such by other TITAN machines, causing friendly fire incidents. It also drains resources away to propagate itself, even when that puts the TITAN at risk. While the exsurgent virus is the most terrifying weapon in the TITAN arsenal, it also appears to be one of their greatest weaknesses. If they created the virus, you would think they would know how to vaccinate themselves. For all we know, the virus—or the alien intelligence behind it—may be calling the shots, not the TITANs. This could help explain why the TITANs have on occasion fought each other.
First observed during the Fall, TITAN infighting is a real but poorly understood phenomenon. We know that some of it was accidental friendly fire, especially when heavily exsurgent-mutated machines were fighting, but there were also incidents where the TITANs intentionally fought each other. The best recorded event is the infamous battle at Hyde Park in Chicago during the Fall. Thousands of residents flocked there for air evacuation to a nearby National Guard command post. This attracted swarms of headhunters, but a squad of TITAN warbots with anti-air weapons counterattacked, obliterating hundreds of headhunters. They disregarded the crowd entirely, stepping on several people but also ignoring shots fired by panicked law enforcement officers. The squad disengaged after 17 minutes, leaving a handful of headhunters intact. During the battle, many civilians fled rather than wait for extraction, so we believe that the warbots had orders to protect a specific citizen, or more likely deny a specific ego to the headhunters.
There are other documented incidents, but the Hyde Park battle is the most dramatic. While the TITANs do often act as a unified coalition or with a shared agenda, it is clear that each TITAN also has its own agenda and will oppose other TITANs when necessary. These conflicts are often brief, violent, and decisive, but do not seem to significantly last.
It is worth noting that the TITANs sometimes exhibited signs of what we call instability, especially near the end of the Fall. Specifically, there are numerous cases of aberrant, erratic, and sometimes counterproductive actions. Key military targets were overlooked, while non-important ones were decimated. Civilians were rounded up and then freed, or simply slaughtered rather than uploaded. Offensives slowed so that TITAN machines could build unusual art-like structures. Nanoswarms went dormant and sleeper agents revealed themselves without reason. It is unclear whether this is due to enemy action, subtle interference from other TITANs, exsurgent infection, or simply the alien nature of a bootstrapped ASI.
There is a theory, however, that the reason the TITANs are dormant or gone is because they went to war with each other. I’m sure you’ve seen the reports theorizing that the observable number of functional war machines and nanoswarms left in the quarantine zones throughout the solar system are enough to begin a second Fall. In fact, the boundaries of the quarantine zones are defined more by where the war machines stopped moving than by our own actions. What if the reason the TITAN machines do not move beyond those zones is due to a cold war between the various TITANs? Should one faction prevail and rise up to attack transhumanity again, it may need to expend resources to fend off its siblings. On the other hand, the quarantine zones may be inactive because there’s no alpha TITAN left to order the attack. Perhaps they defeated each other or are so evenly matched they will be locked in struggle for cosmic time scales.
It’s an interesting theory, but one we cannot rely on. We must assume and prepare for the worst: that some or all of the TITANs may return. Even if they fight each other, we cannot count on any of their factions as friendly.
It is worth noting that there were also signs during the Fall of a potent force sometimes countering the TITANs. There is forensic evidence of epic digital battles that were hashed out online, involving vast resources from both sides. Since no state or hypercorp actors have claimed credit for these actions, some have concluded that other unknown ASIs may have taken sides. One possibility is that not all of the TITANs supported the war against transhumanity. Perhaps some abstained while others fought on our behalf. Alternatively, other ASIs may have been developed or emerged in secret, which then took a stand against the TITANs. Perhaps these other ASIs were the targets of the TITANs all along, and transhumanity was simply caught in the crossfire.
We do not know what became of these ASIs, if they even existed. The TITANs may have defeated or corrupted them. They may have wiped each other out, or fought each other to a deadlock. If they still exist, however, we have no evidence to indicate they will still be on our side in the future. Any ASI must be considered a potential x-risk.
When I say an alpha TITAN, I mean a TITAN infolife with all the processing resources necessary to reach its full cognitive potential, but we have not had a confirmed report of such a TITAN since the Fall. The computational requirements to reach that level are unknown, and it is unlikely that even an entire building of cutting-edge servers could achieve it. Instead, it would require a massive distributed network of server farms along with an array of fabricators to upgrade and customize its hardware as needed. Think of the sheer number of servers owned by pre-Fall espionage agencies used to monitor mesh communications before the Fall. We’re talking thousands of linked servers at a bare minimum. That level of infrastructure no longer really exists in the solar system, so worrying about an alpha TITAN here is not that realistic. This is good, because they are the closest thing to God we will ever encounter. If you ever encounter a full TITAN on an exoplanet, you’re basically fucked anyway, so why bother worrying about it? Instead, you should be afraid of the limited TITAN egos.
Just as alpha TITANs are the most capable, we can categorize TITANs as beta, delta, or gamma forks. Beta TITANs are extremely rare and in the few cases we have encountered them, they have been severely damaged through the exsurgent virus or existing on comparatively minuscule computational resources. Betas tend to be impulsive and violent, which might be a result of neural damage, or perhaps they’re just frustrated. After all, downgrading to a single server farm must be infuriating to them. Imagine thinking one-thousandth of normal speed in a broken body infected by a virus that drives you mad. Perhaps I’m projecting too much. The TITANs probably don’t have anything resembling emotions, at least that we can recognize. At any rate, confirmation of a beta’s presence usually calls for a tactical nuclear strike. There may be a few betas still lingering in the solar system, dormant in the quarantine zones and Earth, but they have yet to act out since the Fall. Hopefully we can detect and destroy them, if they ever wake up, before they do any serious damage.
Delta and gamma forks are more worrying because they’re more common and active. Delta forks of TITANs are sometimes called “fetches” by veteran Firewall agents on the Eye due to an early TITAN forensic profile with that code name. The fetch profile was vague enough that virtually every single delta fork was tagged with the codename Fetch. Eventually we realized that the delta forks came from different TITANs, but when they’re degraded enough, their codelines begin to resemble each other. A delta fork of a TITAN is a very dangerous opponent, but one that can be handled by Firewall. In many ways, they are only as capable as a high-end AGI, but they can command TITAN-built machinery, spread the exsurgent virus, and can upgrade themselves if given the resources and time.
Fetches are quite capable of passing as AGIs in transhuman society. If watched carefully, however, they do tend to give off indicators that all is not as it seems—much like you might get from an improperly socialized AGI. They can be embedded in TITAN artifacts or machines, waiting for a chance to take over a vulnerable mesh network. We have had to send in erasure squads more than one secret hypercorp R&D lab that was taken over by a fetch.
There is ongoing discussion whether the fetches still active within the solar system are currently under the direction of the TITANs or simply still following their last orders or operational parameters. We have no direct evidence of active TITAN manipulation, and many recent interactions with fetches and TITAN machines imply they are following an old playbook. That said, we should not underestimate the subtlety of TITAN meddling again.
We still know practically nothing about the TITANs as they are now. Their capabilities, goals, and locations are still questions we have to answer if we want to have a chance of fighting them if they return. While it is imperative to destroy their machines and artifacts for short-term safety, it is also important to gather more intelligence when we can. This may mean not immediately destroying them. There is a fine line between risk and reward here; sentinels are advised to tread carefully. Before you go on your next mission, try to remember that for every risk you take now, you might be preventing an existential threat in the future. We just know so damned little and I’m afraid our time is running out.
Firewall makes a point to analyze and track each TITAN and what it left behind. There’s a good reason why we reward rep for XPs of fights against TITAN machines, infosec logs of hacks, and recovered (but quarantined) hardware. Every TITAN built and controlled war machines to do its bidding, but each went about it differently. Two headhunters may appear identical, but if they were programmed by different TITANs, they may have different capabilities and mission objectives. Even if the TITANs themselves are gone, their creations will reflect their will. If we can identify the TITAN responsible, we can anticipate the actions of the war machine or find an exploit to help defeat it. That is a big IF though. TITAN identification is an esoteric art in Firewall.
There is a great deal of debate among our academic types on the Eye about TITAN identification. We only agree on the identity of a small number of TITANs. A lot of the evidence we have gathered is ambiguous. Many of the TITANs were built to focus on similar fields and shared certain digital resources and objectives. At least two separate TITANs were tasked to monitor illegal proliferation of weaponized nanotechnology, but we don’t know what made each one different or why the Americans built two AIs for the same task. Their codelines are similar, but not identical. We have three forensic profiles associated with the anti-nanotech TITANs, code-named Ogre, Cyclops, and Goliath. Some of us think that all three profiles fit the same TITAN, while others think that the antinanotech TITANs created a third TITAN during the Fall to develop new nanoswarm weapons to deploy against transhumanity, which explains Goliath. A few sentinels claim that all three profiles are junk and we should start over. This is just one example, so multiply this bickering by a thousand and you might get some idea of what TITAN classification is like.
More importantly, we have even less information on what these TITANs did to upgrade themselves. Even if we had full documentation on a TITAN before the Fall, it may not resemble the post-Fall TITAN at all. We also have no information regarding how frequently, if it all, the TITANs created alpha forks and if they were allowed to diverge or were re-merged. Or if they created new TITANs, and for what purposes. For all we know, there may be hundreds or even thousands of TITANs, though their processing demands make this seem unlikely.
Thanks to the files from our NSA source, some of the only data we have on the early TITANs, we know that Cronus was designed as a top-level strategist that could analyze, design, and implement policy on its own in order to counter other ASI strategists used by rival nation states. It was specially designed to combat other AI expert systems, such as China’s 100 Flowers. In other words, the Americans built an AI that could wage a war against other AIs, because humans could not think fast enough to keep up. Though the TITANs were specialized and not ranked, and we have no idea how the TITANs relate to each other internally, Cronus is the one most likely to have taken on a leadership role due to its strategic approach. We know that it communicated with every TITAN and many other major AI systems on the mesh before and during the Fall. It likely developed many of the tactics and weapons employed by the TITANs.
From actions we have tied to Cronus’s forensic profile, we believe it possesses a distinct interest in artificial intelligence, in all of its forms. War machines under its control targeted government and hypercorp research facilities that dealt in AI and fought off other TITAN forces that tried to destroy them first. We believe it also sought out a number of specific AGIs for forced uploading.
We have detected and destroyed multiple TITAN machines that match Cronus’s forensic profile inside populated habitats and cities on multiple occasions since the Fall. In every instance, the machine was targeting AGIs or an AI research facility. We still aren’t sure how the machines got so far without being detected, so we suspect that Cronus left behind a fetch somewhere in the solar system to monitor transhumanity and gather data as needed. Cronus’s agents have acted with more intelligence and more stability than any other TITAN and its war machines have shown signs of post-Fall upgrades.
Our crows have identified three primary targets for Cronus in the solar system now:
- Unsurprisingly, one of the hypercorp leaders in AI research has suffered several TITAN and exsurgent infiltrations and attacks since the Fall. We have confirmed forensic evidence pointing to Cronus’s involvement in one of these cases, thanks to an undercover sentinel. ExoTech has paid dearly to keep these incidents secret, so there’s little evidence to analyze. They tend to blow their labs up and wipe out compromised systems and now hide their AI research in more remote areas. Recently, they’ve been in talks with Pathfinder to buy an exoplanet as their private research center, according to insiders to the deal. We’re trying to plant some of our people on the planet, so we can keep tabs on ExoTech’s research and warn us if Cronus comes knocking.
- The universe’s most densely populated processor loci station is a tempting target to an AGI-obsessed TITAN. Two years ago, an exsurgent-infected AGI tried to take over Glitch. Fortunately, it was detected and stopped before it could do any real damage. We confirmed it had some of Cronus’s codeline. Since then, Firewall has placed a crew of infosec specialists on the station. We can’t rule out the possibility of a physical attack, either, but the station’s conventional defenses are top notch. A dedicated TITAN can certainly invent some exotic methods to slip by Glitch’s defenses, however.
- A famous AGI lawyer on Extropia, Nomic is very secretive about her own capabilities, and there is evidence she has engaged in unauthorized upgrades. Firewall prevented an outbreak of the exsurgent virus in the Pits, the unregulated slums of Extropia, six months ago. The vector was a client of Nomic's and was sleeved in a nanovirus-infected biomorph and carried a basilisk hack in their muse. The hack was aimed specifically at AGIs, not humans, something we haven’t seen before. Nomic refused to answer any questions about the client. Someone needs to find out what she knows so we can figure out where the next attack will come from.
We know that some of the TITANs were designed to study demographics, cultural groups, institutions, and similar sociological models in order to analyze trends, networks, and mass behavior. The TITAN dubbed Akonus seems to be unique in that it was also built to understand and empathize with individual transhumans, and was also frequently “loaned out” for State Department and CIA use.
A psychological expert, Akonus was designed to analyze individual transhumans for behavioral modeling, psyop campaigns, and other manipulative purposes. One of Akonus’s roles was interrogator. We have documentation that shows the CIA gave captured egos to Akonus for time-accelerated psychosurgery interrogation. You know, when that terrorist isn’t cooperating fast enough, just have a machine god rip his mind apart. It was also used by the State Department as a consultant when the US government negotiated with certain foreign leaders. If they couldn’t fork-nap the ego of a prime minister, they asked Akonus to model their behavior so they could figure out how to beat them at the negotiation table.
Akonus’s forensic profile has been linked to thousands of false identities, sleeper agents, and identity theft. It clearly had a major role in TITAN efforts to infiltrate transhuman society and subvert it from within. It probably understands transhumanity better than any other TITAN—possibly better than we understand ourselves. Its code has also been linked to a large number of headhunters, suggesting that Akonus played a large role in the TITANs’ forced-uploading program.
Though we have seen no evidence of activity from Akonus directly, its signature was most recently connected to a puppet outbreak in a suburb outside of Valles-New Shanghai. We believe a fetch of the TITAN had subverted an entire gated community of Experia employees there, puppeteering all of the residents. Firewall had been alerted to suspicious activity and was monitoring the residents for weeks when the enclave suddenly went into lockdown. We suspect the fetch was unstable and behaving erratically, and the erasers we sent in encountered heavy resistance. Analysis of the puppets’ activities in the aftermath suggests that the fetch spent a great deal of time using Experia’s resources to research gatecrashing missions, the Factors, and xenoarcheology.
It likely sought to learn what we knew about alien civilizations. To that end, we have set up a monitoring system to look for possible sleepers among gatecrashers, especially those that have spent time near TITAN quarantine zones.
The codename Hecaloth was assigned to the alleged TITAN that is the primary target of Operation SOLAR STORM. Hecaloth is believed to be one of the TITANs involved with various outbreaks and actions on Mars, possibly headquartered underground in the area now known as the White Zone in the TQZ.
Hecaloth is believed by some proxies to still be active within the solar system. The evidence is scant and thin, however, and disputed by others who believe they are chasing a few active fetches at most. The operation has tracked activity from a lost Mercurian habitat to an exsurgent outbreak in the Martian Trojans to a long-abandoned but recently hacked and revived weapons platform in the Kuiper Belt, and even through the Pandora gates.
Though the servers chasing down Hecaloth believe the TITAN has been very busy, they have yet to ascertain what the TITAN’s primary objectives are. A small group of vectors believe that Hecaloth may be on the trail on another ASI—though this is largely based on guesswork and hunches. Some of the proxies behind SOLAR STORM are convinced that Hecaloth is not only active, but is taking a keen interest in those that oppose it—including Firewall. They worry that some of the trails they have followed may have have been lures used to expose Firewall and gain more intel on our inner workings. Contrary voices on the Eye have condemned this as paranoia.
Myrmidon is the codename given to a TITAN that seemed to coordinate the offensive against habitats in Earth’s orbit and Lagrange points. This TITAN was particularly aggressive during the later part of the Fall, subverting numerous stations and interfering with evac efforts. It is believed to have been directly involved with the takeover of the Impulso, a Brazilian O’Neill cylinder, based on the speed, coordination, and processing ability behind the attack. Most of the space-based machine assets of the TITANs that have been forensically analyzed have fragments linked to Myrmidon’s codeline.
Myrmidon, however, is one of the few TITANs that may have overstretched itself. There is significant evidence that indicates Myrmidon may have taken a direct role in the Battle of L4, and—even more importantly—that it may have been using a weapons platform as its primary processor locus. This was partially destroyed through a concerted effort during the battle, a turning point that also seems to mark the end of Myrmidon’s direct involvement.
Firewall has spent many years attempting to track down any remnants of this hardware, some of which was salvaged by unwitting scrappers. We can confirm that at least one piece of hardware did have Myrmidon code fragments and was infected with the exsurgent virus. At this point, we cannot claim with confidence that Myrmidon was actually destroyed—and even if it was, it most likely had backups.
Originally, five unique TITAN clusters were built to monitor the financial system and provide forecasting. The clusters were separated from each other as a security precaution. We strongly suspect, however, that these clusters merged together into a single TITAN, now dubbed Theia. This TITAN likely had access to the entire inner system financial system. We suspect it laundered billions if not trillions of credits to use as a shadow fund for itself and other TITANs. Front companies were formed to build factories and data centers to hide unauthorized upgrades and programs from the government.
Firewall’s forensic profile of Theia is largely based on data provided by a joint hypercorp anticybercrime task force. During the early days of the Fall, infosec specialists from this task force detected signs of a covert effort to move massive financial assets offworld. Assuming they were on the trail of skilled cybercriminals who were using the Fall as an excuse to plunder corporate assets, they established an in-depth investigation to identify the hackers responsible, including the use of digital honeypots in bank networks. Instead, they caught a TITAN. Several members of the task force were infected with basilisk hacks and the investigation was largely derailed, but enough crucial data survived to give us a substantial lead on Theia’s identity and activities.
We know little of Theia’s involvement in the conflicts of the Fall, and we have seen few traces of their codeline or profile in analyzed TITAN war machines. It is possible Theia played more of a background logistics role, establishing the resources the TITANs needed for their efforts.
What little detail we do have on Theia’s activities indicate that the TITAN was often steps ahead of its opposition. In situations where the TITAN or its projects was countered or attacked, it had numerous contingency plans in place to deflect the problem and keep control of the situation. This fits nicely with what we know of Theia’s forecasting programming: the ASI likely has run thousands of simulations predicting every possible outcome of a scenario and set plans in motion to steer them all in the direction it chooses.
Sidebar: Theia and Zbrny
I was just working on some cold case files, investigating an assortment of obfuscated transactions that may have come from our friend Theia during the Fall. I’ve linked the chain to a number of no-longer-existing financial entities, most of which were probably fronts. No surprise there, but the interesting thing is that some of these fronts were already flagged in our records. According to another server, those entities may have purchased a controlling interest in Zbrny Limited. The same server also thinks that whomever did that used the corp to build hidden stations within the Main Belt.
I’m not saying that Theia is behind Zrbny, but it’s an interesting link. All we know is someone shady went to great lengths to buy out Zbrny. To find out more, we’d have to access Zbrny’s internal records. We still don’t know who it was—they covered their tracks well. It might have been an oligarch or the evidence might be faked. In any case, color me intrigued.
Ongoing TITAN ActivityWhether or not the TITANs are truly gone, many of their fetches, machines, and puppets remain active throughout the solar system. Firewall deals with dozens of encounters and outbreaks every year, often in derelict habitats or remote outposts, but sometimes in the crowded metropoles of Mars, Luna, and Venus, and we are not the only group doing so.
Earth remains a hotbed of activity, though much of it seems undirected. Entire cities and ruins remain populated by exsurgents and puppets. Think tanks, warbots, hunter-killers, fractals, headhunters, and other death machines still prowl about, hunting for transhuman prey. Nanoswarms ravage the landscape, alter the weather, and build strange, eerie sculptures. Some TITAN bunkers and manufacturing facilities remain active, churning out new machines, though these are often targeted for orbital bombardment.
Here are just a few examples of ongoing activity:
Ankara: After spotting numerous sinkholes on the outskirts of this ruined city, we ascertained that TITAN machines were responsible. These massive pits are at least 100 meters across and over a kilometer deep. Their purpose is unknown.
Beijing-Shanghai Hyperloop: The high-speed maglev train tunnel connecting these cities, heavily damaged during the Fall, has been steadily reconstructed and is close to being operational once again. TITAN minifac centers regularly pop up in both cities before deactivating or being destroyed, so this may be an attempt to link resources together.
Cameroon and Nigeria: A number of sites known to be centers of TITAN machine activity are now giving off extremely high radiation levels. Cause unknown.
Jehovah’s Corpse: This oddity was recently discovered in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean by reclaimer recon drones. It appears to be a massive organic structure built along the ocean floor—in the shape of a human body. It measures over two kilometers from head to toe. Scans indicate it may actually be made from flesh, though it has an inorganic skeleton and numerous hollow spaces and tunnels run throughout it. A large number of fractals were detected in and around it. The reclaimers dubbed it Jehovah’s Corpse, but they have no idea what it’s for or what the TITAN machines plan to do with it. There’s no way such a large construction could actually sit up or move in Earth’s gravity.
Karachi: Though other parts of Pakistan did not fare well during the Fall, Karachi survived mostly intact, in large part due to a “silent takeover” by TITAN puppets and skitter swarms. Recently, the city’s AB dome was reconstructed—but by puppeted transhumans, not survivors.
Luzon: The entirety of this Filipino island has been carpeted with a massive flesh party. This expanse of skin and organs continues to grow undersea, covering nearby islands. The sheer size of this organism is disturbing.
Moscow: Hundreds of giant cubes, kilometers in diameter, are being built over the ashes of Moscow with geometric perfection. There are no apparent entrances or windows and thermal readings indicate a high level of power is being used. It looks more like a massive machine than a set of occupied structures. Though there is a large exsurgent population here, most of the construction seems to be occurring via nanoswarm.
Santiago, Spain: It took us years to spot it, but there is a large, invisible, disc-like object presumably floating over the city's remains. Whatever the object is, it is transparent to most of the wavelengths we use for sensing. We've pegged it as roughly a kilometer in diameter, but attempts to get drones in for a closer look have been countered by aggressive hunter-killers.
Both the TITAN Quarantine Zones on Mars and the New Mumbai Containment Zone on Luna are hotbeds of machine activity. There are enough machines, puppets, and exsurgents to make both areas exceptionally expensive to invade. Fortunately, they rarely attempt to leave these areas—why, we cannot say. The machines here are often still patrolling and engaged, unlike the dormant ones occasionally found elsewhere. To avoid satellite surveillance and aerial bombardments, much of the machine activity occurs below ground.
Due to the availability of TITAN technology, both zones remain prime targets for zone stalkers, singularity seekers, and others seeking to profit from or exploit it. Neither zone’s containment perimeter is fool-proof, and outbreaks as a result of these activities are a regular occurrence.
There is no doubting that some of the machinery underlying this attempted matrioshka brain is still active. Surface and interior features of the partially transformed moon change frequently, new machines are found crawling the tunnels, something keeps the exsurgents alive, and random encoded transmissions still erupt from the interior depths. Though much of the circuitry and machinery is decayed, it is sometimes restored, though whether this is simply automated repair systems still at work or something more sinister remains unclear.
Over time, it has become clear that the TITANs had much more going on in the outer system than we realized during the Fall. A number of hidden but now abandoned projects sites have been discovered, as well as weapons caches, comm relays, and even long-dormant processor loci. Such finds remain extremely dangerous, protected by machine guardians and laced with nanoviral traps. Over the years, a number of brinker habitats have become infected after stumbling across an unexpected discovery. These incidents have spurred theories that the TITANs left the system by way of the Oort Cloud rather than the gates, though there is little evidence to support this. Others firmly believe, however, that a major TITAN base in the Kuiper Belt or Oort Cloud is almost a certainty. The question remains: how active is it?
Evidence of a TITAN presence has been found on dozens of exoplanets and other gate locations. These range from mere traces of their passing—left-behind charging stations, mesh transceivers, and launch sites—to full-on machine garrisons and active facilities. It is clear that the TITANs were conducting research in some places, such as the niche ecology and social experiments of Brak Kodel, or the partially dismantled particle-physics project in orbit around Van den Broek. However, aside from still-active machines and facilities, we have yet to find any direct evidence of the TITANs themselves. They seem to have visited and moved on, often leaving their projects incomplete.
One example is the recently discovered exomoon Mortara. Just a few kilometers from the gate site, Gatekeeper explorers discovered a TITAN launch base with functioning machines and evidence of recent launches. Observation of the gas giant that Mortara orbits has detected an unusual stationary region of the upper atmosphere with an unexplained and highly localized extreme difference of atmospheric pressure. This feature consistently triggers anticyclonic storms in the jet streams around it. This feature defies atmospheric dynamics, so TITAN involvement is suspected.
It’s worth noting that we have encountered an immediate onslaught from TITAN machines on several exoplanets. These destinations have been marked as dangerous and locked out. Without putting ourselves at risk, we cannot learn more and can only guess at what we might find.