Overture: Broken Light - #6

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Meeting Summary

CLASSIFIED SECRET

Date: <redacted>

Prepared by: SSgt. Zedekiah Hillam, USSF

Subject: Application of “Tarrare” Technology to Current United American States Military Acquisition Programs

Attendees: General Andre Dumand, UASA, Colonel Ian Crouse, UASA, General Jude Revard, USSF, Will Davidson (Advanced Dynamic Solutions, Inc.), Barry Farid (Total Integration, Inc.), Yuri Romanov (Intelligent Evolution, Inc.)  <other participants redacted.>

Purpose: Assess impact of Technology Transfer program with the extraterrestrial race known as “Tarrare” and whether current Acquisition programs in the research and development phase or low-rate initial production (LRIP) related to sensors, ground infantry, space defense artillery, and starship platforms should be revised to reflect any technological advances and potential key performance parameters discovered during the first stage of analysis. Several ACAT Level I programs identified as potentially in need to major re-scoping or for reconsideration as evolutionary acquisition, including Masamune, Gates, Pylon, Nest, Heimdall, and Eminence. 

Summary Notes:

  • General Dumand initiated meeting, welcoming participants from the defense and intelligence communities, including Colonel Ian Crouse, UASA of UAS MRDA, as well as lead systems integrators from Advanced Dynamic Solutions, Total Integration, and Intelligent Evolution, Inc. Opening remarks focused on need for overall assessment of potential capability enhancements identified during the tech transfer by extraterrestrial race classified as “Tarrare.” 
  • Colonel Ian Crouse opened discussions, focusing on several different aspects of the technical data released by the Tarrare. Briefing focused on potential impacts in materials science, directed energy and ballistics weaponry, sensors, and propulsion. Key changes to Masamune and Gates programs identified. Potential changes in Pylon and Nest also discussed. 
  • Admiral Revard had questions regarding rapidly the technologies could be incorporated into existing UAS space fleets, specifically the Eminence II and III programs. Colonel Crouse answered that performance improvements and upgrades would be possible within a year based on the progress of existing research programs, but that realizing even a fraction of the capabilities possible with new data would mean replacing the existing fleet and systems, which could take up to ten years after prototyping and testing given current UAS Military Acquisition Regulations. Colonel Crouse did state that several breakthroughs in the area of energy management were at hand and would only require reactor retrofits.
  • Will Davidson from ADS asked questions about net-centric warfare and sensors, wondering whether there would be new programs and contracts to explore the possibilities in the Heimdall System of Systems programs. Barry Farid also contributed to the conversation, discussing several promising sensor prototyping successes from TII recently, especially in the area of retrofitting Legacy space sensor platforms to bring them closer to Heimdall levels of capabilities. Colonel Crouse stated that he anticipated contracts and new programs would begin shortly, but that they were waiting for supplemental funding from the UAS Congress before they could really initiate them. Confirmed that market surveys and on-site demonstrations of prototypes would be welcome at UAS MRDA. 
  • Yuri Romanov of IEI speculated about what the next synthesis of these concepts could bring, and expressed concern that traditional military technological paradigms, policies, and doctrines would obscure the potential breakthroughs the information from the Tarrare could bring. He stated that IEI would be submitting a variety of unsolicited proposals based on its own research to the MRDA and Colonel Crouse for new directions. General Dumand agreed with Romanov in principle, but stated that getting the UAS Congress to sign on to unfamiliar development concepts is extraordinarily difficult. Colonel Crouse agreed, but stated that MRDA would welcome any proposals from IEI and any other contractors who had new ideas, agreeing with Mr. Romanov and stating that existing systems and legacy space fleets could only be upgraded marginally, and new platforms would be required to fully leverage the potential capabilities. All commented on the lack of budgetary resources to make such a wholesale replacement unlikely. Davidson and Farid expressed interest in joint ventures with IEI to pursue research in these areas. 
  • <redacted> expressed concern as to how these concepts could be weaponized by rogue states and terrorist networks. General Dumand stated that this was an important concern, but not for discussion in the R&D realm, and encouraged <redacted> to bring these concerns to the UAS Threat Reduction Council, as they would be having a similar meeting on <redacted>. Colonel Crouse added that such a scenario is unlikely in the near future because even highly funded research and development labs were struggling with the implications of the data and that rogue states and terrorist networks would likely take much longer to produce tangible applications or weaponize them. Yuri Romanov of IEI disagreed with Colonel Crouse, asserting that the transfer had many breakthroughs in nano-manufacturing and artificial intelligence that should allow for rapid prototyping, testing, and development of new technologies and that things like <redacted>, <redacted>, <redacted>, and <redacted> could be within easy reach. <Redacted> asked how Yuri Romanov knew this information and whether IEI had been involved in such activities, but General Dumand reiterated that this was something better discussed with the Threat Reduction Council. 
  • Colonel Crouse concluded the session, thanking everyone for their time and repeating his assertions that he welcomed any ideas from private industry on how military capabilities could be improved from this data source. 

Image Credit:

NASAESA, the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA), and IPHAS

Overture: Broken Light - #5

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From: Dawes, Grayson (OCEO)

To: Spinoza, Lina (OCEO)

Subject: Re: Strategy Memo FINAL

Thx, Lina. Excellent work. Will make my tweaks and send in the AM.

From: Spinoza, Lina (OCEO)

To: Dawes, Grayson (OCEO)

Subject: Strategy Memo FINAL

Grayson,

I finished the memo you wanted to send out with the Yinger report. I think I got all the points you wanted from the meeting earlier today, but I can do another pass if I missed something important. 

MEMORANDUM

From: Grayson Dawes, PHarmax Chief Executive Officer

To: PHarmax Executive Leadership Committee

Subject: Extraterrestrial Tech Transfer

CONFIDENTIAL

Colleagues,

We have definitive confirmation that the UAS Government and the United World Council will not take action to prevent the so-called “Technology Transfer” that the Aliens are going to initiate at 12:00 PM ET tomorrow. The impacts of this complete disregard for current intellectual property law will be immediate and negative. I have included with this memo a report from our consultants at The Yinger Group, a top market intelligence firm, that provides some scenarios and details about what all of this means means. We are far from the only industry or the only corporation that will be affected by this, but the impact on us is likely to be severe. Breakthroughs we have spent sizable amounts of Research and Development funding on could be disclosed, potentially eliminating trade secrets and patents we have fought long and hard to protect. Worse, many may be invalidated or rendered obsolete by the data from the tech transfer. We have little notion of what useful information will be included in the tech transfer, whether it be new antivirals, antibiotics, life extension technologies, viral therapies, synthetic organs, nano-level cellular reconstruction technologies, or something that proves even more of a game-changer. I have seen several white papers circulating that argue differences in biology between us and the Aliens should limit pharmaceutical or biomedical applications in the near-term, but I remain unconvinced of this argument no matter how much we wish we could believe it. 

While we will take legal action against any who use data from the tech transfer to develop products similar to ours in order to delay and stop them from making it to market, that will do little to stop what will be an emerging black market for these technologies and medicines. We assume that this black market and underground economy may significantly affect existing profits as is already the case with illegal generic versions of our products. It is also likely that many scam artists will cut into our bottom line by promising miracle cures to diseases and other chronic health problems through these underground channels as well, likely claiming bogus Alien science supposedly obtained from the tech transfer. We are likely looking at several rough quarters or even years. As such, based upon the recommendations of the Yinger report, we should follow a two track strategy to ensure the survival of PHarmax in the face of these new challenges.

1. The first priority is to protect our product lines, be they in production or development stages. We have some initial confirmation that the data to be released through the feeds will be easily understood by individuals with some competence and knowledge of biomedical engineering and its related disciplines. This will likely mean that many startups will spring up virtually overnight.

1.a. As previously stated, we must take legal action when they infringe upon our existing intellectual property. We have a dedicated legal team in New York and DC from the law firm Knight, MacPherson, and Green on standby that have been briefed on the issue and are prepared to take appropriate action. We will continue the engagement with the Yinger Group to identify any products that sound similar to ours or produce similar effects. Cease and desist notices will go out early and often whenever we receive word that someone is developing something that could infringe. If they continue development, we will immediately file suit. This will jam up many of the startups and hopefully scare investors away from them as well. Most will likely be gone before they can launch products.

1.b. Media strategies will tag any startups in the industry as unreliable and inexperienced. Analysts friendly to PHarmax will make assertions in the feeds that such firms have connections to underground and black market sources and that their products cannot be trusted. PHarmax’s reputation and experience will be emphasized as a contrast.

2. Our next priority should be to take advantage of the opportunity to launch new product lines and exploit this unprecedented situation. Forecasters anticipate that demand for any Alien technology, including medical products, will be extremely high. Riots are anticipated as part of the distribution. PHarmax would forego significant profits to abstain from these business development opportunities. 

2.a. In cases where the tech transfer  discloses proprietary information not belonging to PHarmax but to PHarmax’s competitors, we should proceed immediately in testing, producing, and distributing products based upon this. Our legal will argue the unprecedented nature of this situation to proceed with infringement upon the intellectual property of our competitors. They will likely try the strategy outlined in 1.a. of cease and desist letters and suits against us, but we are not some startup that can be intimidated into bankruptcy by such actions. The reward outweighs the risk

2.b. Our legal team assures us that we can further utilize the unprecedented nature of this situation to explain why traditional testing and approval of all medical products should be expedited. Communications will stress the explosive growth of underground and black market distribution of these technologies and how dangerous they are as they have been subject to essentially no safety or testing. Correspondingly, it will be argued that it is irresponsible to constrain respectable and established companies with expertise with red tape while these unsafe drugs are being produced illegally with no regard for safety or testing. We already have several pieces of draft legislation that may gut the testing process for established firms who can obtain a waiver. Our lobbyists assure me that the waiver process will be constructed to benefit established companies with solid past performance and corporate experience over startups. 

Many will view these developments as a simple positive. It is our job to make sure the consumer understands the complexity and unprecedented nature of this situation. We must make all efforts to educate the consumer that many untrusted and inexperienced sources and, frankly, outright frauds will exploit this situation to make profits and that they should trust the same firms with their healthcare and medical products that they always have. Together, we can weather this storm and retain our dominance in the industry as this chaotic situation unfolds.

Sincerely Yours,

Grayson Dawes

Chief Executive Officer

PHarmax Biomedical Technologies, LLC

Image Credit:

NASAESA, and The Hubble Heritage Team (AURA/STScI)

From: Spacetelescope.org

Overture: Broken Light - #4

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“I’m having a hard time understanding how we’re supposed to spin it that way,” Sandra Abreu said. “We’re about to argue that knowledge is a threat?” She was looking directly at Senator Alvez, whose weary eyes looked glazed over. The other six people at the conference table were immersed in their interfaces, complete with wandering eyes and the occasional finger presses and sliding stabs at the air.  The others in the strategy session clearly did not share her viewpoint. “Because we fear change? How is that going to look to history? How is that going to look to the Aliens if we decline?” 

“This is out of your lane, Sandra,” Brent said. He was the youngest person in the room, but he was supposed to be some kind of genius at building meta-narratives in all the feeds. He’d nearly cost Alvez his re-election several times already with his meta-bullshit. Shamefully, he was the campaign manager so the spew that came out of his mouth and passed for “opinions” had a lot of weight. 

“Out of my lane?” Sandra said. “I’m the fucking foreign policy expert! I have a really hard time understanding what’s more foreign than dealing with representatives of an Alien species.” 

“This goes beyond foreign policy,” Sheila said. Sandra gave Sheila a murderous stare. They’d been friends for years, and she couldn’t believe Sheila was out there stabbing her in the back at a crucial moment like this. “Everything is on the table here. The economy, health care, all of it. This could upend everything, cause mass hysteria. All of our donors are already scared shitless over what it will do to all of their R&D programs and their intellectual property. It could all become obsolete overnight. Entire industries could die, thousands of jobs lost. That’s even assuming these Aliens are telling the truth. They could be giving us power sources and medicines that turn out to be bombs and bio-weapons.”

“I would assume we let scientists figure that out,” Sandra said. “They’re not exactly handing out How to Serve Man booklets here, they’re giving us data, research, and knowledge. It’s up to us what we do with it.”

“I like that!” Brent said. Alvez nodded slightly. Sandra didn’t like that nod. It usually meant the Senator was falling for one of Brent’s insane schemes. “A bio-weapon! It could be anything! They could just be waiting to see how trusting we are before they harvest us or something. Maybe we synthesize this stuff and its a nanoplague, wipes us out. We could come up with plenty of scenarios. These Aliens are the ultimate ‘Other,’” Brent said. “Easy political points, there for the scoring. Beating up on them in the media will get us plenty of traction, lots of buzz. This transcends race and nationality, they’re not human, they’re not even of this world. I’m sure we can find some scientist to back us up on the dangers of this.”

“Hold up,” Davis interjected. He was looking at Sandra, and perhaps the only other voice of reason in the room. He was the economist, and he stroked his chin, thinking this over. “Look, there’s a lot of risk here. You come out too strident and what happens if they end up dropping miracle drugs and true game-changing technologies during this tech transfer they’re proposing?  I somewhat agree with Sandra here. We don’t want to be on the wrong side of history. We could end up looking like we stood in the way of life-saving breakthroughs. I can already see the campaign commercials where whoever is running against us trots out all sorts of children and veterans that would be dead or worse if not for whatever Alien space-magic healed them and then they tactfully point out that we would’ve said no. The narrative writes itself.”

“Thank you, Davis,” Sandra said, relieved that he took something in the neighborhood of her side.

“However,” Davis added. “Just as bad if we have terrorists or criminals prowling around blowing everything up with some Alien space-magic weapon. I think we should express skepticism in our new ‘friends,’ whatever they may have to offer. Perhaps a middle-ground? We accept that this tech transfer is going to happen, but state that we’re going to do everything we can to minimize the risk and negative consequences. Legislation, regulation, all of it to control whatever might arise.”

“Not against, but guarded,” Vera, the official press wrangler, nodded and smiled. “I like it. We can say we’ll urge the President and Congress to put together a special inter-agency task force to look into strategic issues, that kind of thing.”

“I think this is a good approach,” Senator Alvez said. “I can state that given my experience, I will look out for our interests. I’ll trust, but verify. No free pass for these Aliens, however many shiny treats they might dangle in front of us. I’ll be a steady hand, ready to take action and keep this new Alien tech and whatever research and practical uses come out of it under control. We’ll look into heavily regulating whoever uses the information from this tech transfer.”

“I couldn’t have said it better myself, Senator,” Brent yes-manned. Sandra leaned back in her chair, defeated. “It will also do a lot to reassure our donors.”

“While we let a once in a lifetime opportunity get choked by croneyism and red tape,” Sandra murmured under her breath.

“Well, that’s it then,” Senator Alvez announced, everyone around the table bobbleheading except Sandra. “I want to see a full communications plan and talking points by the end of the day. Get to it.” People got up in a sea of murmurs, Sandra ready to go fume in her office.

“Sandra,” the Senator said. “A word please.” 

“Yes, sir,” Sandra said, her military background winning out over however collegial the Senator tried to keep it. She stayed put until everyone left. 

“Sandra, you know I value your experience. You served in the African Union wars and the GCF offensive, then you were a State department diplomatic officer for years. No one has your background and your perspective. That said, this is the greatest unknown any of us have ever faced. I need you to be a team player on this,” the Senator said. “I can see you have strongly held opinions on this, and I want you to express them, but in a more respectful way to the others. There are a lot of sides to this issue that don’t follow the ordinary rules. Things are happening very fast, as you well know. We can’t afford to pick unnecessary fights with each other.”

“Yes, sir,” Sandra grimaced. “I’ll try to be more collaborative with my colleagues. I just think it’s beneath you to make fear the centerpiece of this campaign.” She had plenty more to say, but she swallowed it. The combination of choked back spite and bitterness formed a potent cocktail in her mouth.

“I understand and appreciate your concern,” Senator Alvez said. 

“Thank you, Senator,” Sandra said. “I have a lot of work to do. Every government on the map has a different opinion on all of this, and it’s a fluid situation keeping it all straight.” Alvez turned away as she left. She tried not to think of how small-minded political games were squandering potentially the greatest thing to happen to humanity in years. She should’ve known better. She should’ve known this would be business as usual. 

Image Credit:

NASA, ESA, E. Sabbi (STScI)

Overture: Broken Light - #3

Omar Bragg had held his mouth for exactly as long as was possible, his hands squeezing the thermal assault rifle in his hands so hard he was afraid he might actually rip the thing apart. Nitika Chowdury, his partner, didn’t move. Her serenity was maddening. “Can they understand us?” he whispered to her.

Nitika turned her head. The United American States emblem in the forehead region of the helmet was a fountain of emotion compared to her small face. Even her tactical helmet regularly had richer body language than she did. “Did you even read the briefing?” she monotoned.

“It was like a million pages,” Omar whispered. He had started it, but he’d only gotten about twenty pages and five charts in before he gave it up to make dinner for his daughter. “It’s not like we got a lot of advance notice about this assignment.”

“Yes, we can understand you,” a clipped, robotic voice said nearby. Omar felt a nervous rush of blood to his head and saw stars for a minute when he realized what “said” it.

They were very tall, almost touching the ceiling. Standing on two legs, their stick-like frame reached up and terminated in a tiny head with four sets of compound eyes. They had two sets of spindly arms that they were keeping patiently at their sides. Looking back and forth between each other, they had a thin layer of material like clothing covering their insect bodies that was clumped around the arm and leg joints, blinking lights strewn throughout. Their skin, or scales or whatever it was had a blueish hue to it. The fingers on the ends of their four arms were small and wormlike, but there were lots of them arranged in almost a complete circle. “I am Sihs-Jin,” the same voice emitted from one of them. “We have interfaces that are quite capable of understanding and translating your language, as well as applications that can simulate your speech in return.”

“Okay,” Omar answered. He got more of an answer than he really wanted. There were only two reasons he could think of for why he pulled this duty: either someone hadn’t thought at all about who would be best suited and most qualified to do it or he’d really pissed someone off somewhere up above and was receiving his punishment. 

“I am the ambassador of our people,” Sihs-Jin said, folding his two standing legs in on themselves and leaning his insectoid body forward so he was eye-level with Omar. Omar wondered whether this gesture was some sort of predatory crouch or a respectful bow. Maybe both. Their bodies seemed more flexible than he would’ve expected, like a bendy praying mantis. He didn’t understand how that worked, but as a diplomatic security officer he wasn’t exactly a biologist. A spindly set of organic and mechanical antenna rose out of the top of its head. Omar could make out that lenses of some kind were over the Alien’s compound eyes. They displayed thousands of bits of unrecognizable text and pictures. Omar half-expected target signs. “I am pleased to meet you.”

“Likewise,” Omar said, keeping his hands on his gun. The Alien didn’t seem to want any sort of hand contact, which he thanked God Almighty for. 

“Me too,” Nitika droned. Sihs-Jin retained his shortened height. He stalked over to a nearby window, looking out on the complex skycape New York City. Way down in the streets below there were all manner of protestors, cultists, street prophets, and other assorted mental deficients who knew the Aliens were in the building. 

“When are they going to be ready?” Omar muttered. They were standing in a waiting room outside of the World United Council Security Committee, ready to escort the Aliens inside to meet several world leaders. Only if the world leaders could actually all agree that they were ready to see them, though. It had been almost an hour wait already. Omar, Nitika, 100 more armed guards on the floors above and below them, and several varieties of automated security countermeasures were all that stood in the way of the Aliens wiping out all said leaders if this was some elaborate ambush.

“I like your city,” Ambassador Sihs-Jin said. “It is very colorful, very active. Very loud. Most enjoyable.” Omar refrained from asking why those qualities delighted the ambassador. Perhaps he thought it looked like a wonderful lunch buffet. “Your people have great potential.” Again, Omar tried not to mentally supply “as a snack food” to the ambassador’s statement. “It will take time. Our thoughts, our language, even our names are very different from yours. We are truncating them for your benefit.”

“Because we wouldn’t be able to understand?” Nitika chimed in, a rarity. Omar remembered the first day the Alien ship, that enormous black sphere, had appeared in the sky. It was small, but you could see it during the day. Almost the size of the moon because it was so much closer.  Everyone had been terrified. All the coverage on all the feeds and all the casts had focused on it. There had been a month of dangerous rumors and rampant speculation. Some super-rich nutjobs had tried to send a few spacecraft up to take a look or to even “dock” with and board the ship, but it had been unresponsive. 

Yesterdat the World United Council had admitted that the Aliens had begun contacting them a mere six hours after their arrival after all. It had just been a long time before they were ready to tell the public anything definitive. Don’t tell the truth until it takes a form you can control, something Omar was all too familiar with from guarding diplomats day in and day out. 

The ambassador swiveled his pointed head in their direction. They all seemed to be male. Omar at least remembered from the pages he’d skimmed that the males were all a pale blue, where the females were either a dull orange or a faint purple. “Linguistically, all of it would be difficult for you to grasp,” Sihs-Jin responded. His insectoid face coupled with the synthesized voice were inscrutable. Omar wondered if Nitika was in love. She and the Alien would have a great time being unreadable together. “That is always a problem for the Old Races.”

Omar shuffled, relaxing the grip on his gun some. He started to think that if the Aliens were going to kill him with anything, it would be words at this point. They didn’t seem armed in any conventional manner. Then again, they could always be martial arts experts. With all those fingers, all those long arms, they could be very lethal. 

The door to the chambers opened, a sweaty young man exiting into the hallway and eyeing the aliens nervously. “We’re, um, ready for you,” he said. 

“Excellent,” was all the Ambassador said, resuming his formerly intimidating height. Omar gestured the aliens to move in first. They respectfully shuffled forward, silent except for a few clacks. Omar let out an involuntary shudder just watching them moved. They were going purposefully slow, and considering how creepy that was he didn’t want to imagine them at top speed.

“How long do you think this is going to take?” he asked Nitika.

“Days,” Nitika said.

“Sounds optimistic to me,” Omar said, steeling himself for all the worthless haggling and posturing to come. Diplomats and politicians always found new ways to torture the human soul with hollow words and gestures. Still, it was better than the alternative: armed hostility with a race that had clear technological superiority. Omar just lamented he had to be in the room for all of it. He had to do everything in his power to prevent this from becoming a permanent assignment. This was a long shot from watching over thugs sent to represent some rogue state or shady NGO, and he could already feel the dread eating away at him.

“By the way, did you notice he said races, as in plural?” Nitika commented.

“Yeah, if there’s one set of aliens out there, there’s got to be more. As long as I don’t have to play escort duty for them, too,” was all Omar said.

Image Credit:

NASA/ESA and The Hubble Heritage Team STScI/AURA), George Herbig and Theodore Simon (University of Hawaii).