Tuesday, September 3, 2013

246: The Crypt

ENTRY 246: The Crypt

Any Firewall agent that’s around long enough hears rumors about the Crypt. The secret, secure storage unit where archivists keep the most dangerous and important fragments of Firewall’s ongoing struggle against exsurgent threats. Samples of exsurgent viruses, alien artifacts, a library of confiscated basilisk hacks…some scuttlebutts like to throw in rumors of “lost” technologies, a hidden Pandara Gate, a live TITAN, major religious artifacts from Earth, a zoo of psi-capable transhumans and animals (and one really pissed-off toaster), the only known dracomorph, proof that ghosts exist, the cryogenic chamber hold Adam and Lucy the back-hacked common genetic ancestors of all transhumanity… Legends grow in the telling; some of the archivist queue even spreads them deliberately.

The truth is a little more colloquial: yes, Firewall does contain a secret secure storage facility, codenamed Crypt, which is managed by a queue of archivists. However, most of the material is rather mundane: secure backups of critical files, and a scattering of artifacts, cell samples, exsurgent virus cultures, etc. Nor is there any one single hidden facility hiding beneath a lavafall in the depths of Mars or only accessible if you put in the “Zero Code” on a Pandora Gate (what does happen if you do that is still classified for the next hundred and fifty years, but the last time it almost wiped out Extropia). Instead, the Crypt is maintained pretty much wherever the archivists can find the space, often with secure storage facilities being fitted into the unused spaces between walls and exterior bulkheads in habitats. The archivists prefer a modular honeycomb setup of self-secured cells with a hexagonal cross-section that can be easily stacked and magnetically bond together.

The main security device for such systems is to remain hidden, but each cell also typically contains a shaped charge sufficient to destroy the contents if anyone tries to tamper with them or open one without giving the right answers (selected by a philosophical expert system with several “trap questions”). Archivists also tend to come up with their own security systems, preferring small modular systems like overlapping sensor nets tied to particle beam bolters, spiders that “spin” webs of nanowire in dead spaces, and “radiation leak” false alarms coupled with low-level microwave agonizers to discourage unauthorized personnel.

The downside of this distributed approach is that sometimes a given Crypt is discovered and needs to be relocated quickly and quietly, or one or more items might need to be recovered either because it was stolen or escaped. In these circumstances, archivists are generally given the authority and resources to impress any local Firewall personnel or regular stringers to help them recover the missing material or help see to its safe transfer.

The Crypt system does include a few “megacells” which are essentially prisons for certain transhumans who are too important to destroy but cannot be trusted with their freedom. Such sites are usually located at brinker outposts or within existing prison habitats as special administrative solitary blocks. The most hazardous individuals are restrained (and sedated) at secure private medical facilities, but the cost of such incarceration generally prevents Firewall from overindulging in that option.

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