ENTRY 161: The Gamma Cipher
The Forty-Seconds were a math cult out of a private habitat orbiting Titan. The outer order was a social network, a Rotarian outfit about communal activities to foster connections, cooperation, and friendship, with an emphasis on personal and group improvement, at the same time. Members were rewarded for partnering exercises, unlocking achievements that raised their status and additional benefits of being one of the Forty-Seconds. The inner order was a sex network, both fun-loving and pragmatic, a way for people to experiment, experience, and educate themselves within a group of people they trusted. Team-building exercises gave way to BDSM sessions and orgies, both of the flesh and of the mind, and there were achievements here too, though “partnering” took a different course. Advancing through the higher degrees of the inner order unlocked access to the Three Ciphers, the secret math that underwrote the whole philosophy and structure of the Forty-Seconds, the received wisdom that was supposed to unlock the ultimate in transhuman mental and physical potential—first for the individual, and then for the entire race.
Firewall’s cover was a catastrophic power core failure and faulty vacuum seal; they used an EMP to kill the power then popped the Forty-Seconds’ habitat open to hard vacuum and then sent a team in to kill anyone or anything that managed to survive. Sufficient evidence of infection was found in the inner circle members to confirm an exsurgent cell, though the particular vector of infection was not discovered. The clean-sweep team that went in after removed any evidence of Firewall’s involvement and set up flags in the Mesh to alert them if any follow-up activity occurred.
The Forty-Seconds’ “Three Ciphers” hit cryptography networks starting six weeks after the Titan habitat was deactivated. The codes involved were complex, interrelated, and clever—requiring the decryption of the first document to decrypt the second, and the second to decrypt the third. Presented as a challenge to be done without software aids, Firewall tracked 93 cases of exsurgent infection before it could spike the file from the networks and start tracking the seeders. Even today, the hunt continues and new copies of the Three Ciphers – Alpha, Beta, and Gamma – still pop up today.
The Three Ciphers are a trio of documents encrypted using a pre-quantum cryptography algorithm—in other words, something designed to be used by transhumans, without the need for software. A successful Infosec or Academics: Cryptography Task Action Test is required to decrypt each document (timeframe of 1 week). The encryption is layered, so theoretically each document must be decrypted in turn, though practically, quantum codebreaking can decrypt any of the documents in any order – see Eclipse Phase, p.254.
The Alpha and Beta Ciphers are indoctrination documents; the process of cracking the code encrypting the two documents serves as practical example of the “secret math” that they espouse on unlocking the potential of transhuman mind and body; a user that reads either of the documents suffers a -10 cumulative modifier to their test the next time they are exposed to a basilisk hack. The Gamma Cipher itself is a basilisk hack, a variant of the Watts-Macleod strain; victims always gain the Psi Trait at Level 2 (allowing them to learn Psi-Gamma sleights) but also always gain one or more physical changes similar to those seen in Stage 1 of the Xenomorph virus (Eclipse Phase, p.368), usually involved deformations of the cranium; changes to jaw shape/dentition; weakened or enhanced senses sight, smell, hearing, or taste; development of a vestigial sensory organ from the pineal gland; and increased or decreased sex drive. Firewall has not yet ascertained if these changes continue to develop over time, though there is some indication they might.