Ceiling Probe Is Watching You

Originally published at: Ceiling Probe Is Watching You | The Associated Worlds

The outer surface of your light-cone is a monument to all your sins.Ebirax 0x8002626D, Clairvoyance-class far horizon probe

How would the Empire deal with the Gravemind?

The Flood is basically a hegemonizing swarm with a biotech substrate, rather than the more common nanotech or infotech. In fact, it is quite inefficient at dealing with infotech countermeasures — it had to seduce Mendicant Bias into switching sides. And AFAICT it has no means of infecting silicon-based lifeforms. I am sure the Empire has plans for dealing with heggie swarms, though likely not for one with the precise parameters of the Flood.

My guess? Start with blockade and quarantine, which is much easier for a stargate plexus than for slipstream. That’s only a delaying tactic, but it’s more than enough breathing room to build a sterilization fleet with galari crew, drone waldoes, and extensors for the Transcend. The Empire’s not going to send a single military AI to do a distributed archai’s work.

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At the risk of turning this into a conphysics pissing contest, I beg to differ that the Flood is terrible with dealing with infotech countermeasures. The Flood logic plague (an aspect of the Flood which attacks AIs, as happened with Mendicant Bias) is given at least as much weight as its physical corruptive form at least in the Greg Bear books where it receives the most treatment. It’s bad enough that even reinstantiations of sophonts (as performed by the Composer) inherit the logic plague corruption (this comes from Halo 4), as if the Flood is some sort of ontological corruption that can attack the very logos of the sophont, regardless of the substrate it’s housed in. A fully developed Flood outbreak also achieves full mastery of ontotech (see: star roads, manipulating the Domain, etc. ; this assumes that Halo’s conphysics can somehow coexist with the Eldraeverse’s), which is currently beyond the Empire’s capabilities.

Which is to say that although I trust the Empire to not pull a Forerunner and mismanage the crisis through sheer hubris, I’m not sure their usual methods of quarantine, study, weaponise, and fight back would work well against a heggie swarm that can literally rewrite the rules of the universe away from under their feet.

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Shoot it. A lot.

(It’s a classic.)


Just realised the answer to my own response to doctorcatfish basically amounts to “DON’T LET IT GET THAT BIG!”

And it’s nice to see that the Chief and the Imperial Navy are in agreement on this point.

Well, now.

My knowledge of Halo lore is relatively recent, but I would take a moment to note that the Flood/Precursors there don’t have full mastery of ontotech, because full mastery of ontotech is a magic “I win” button.

That of course assumes the Flood want to win as quickly as possible.

From all indications thus far in my reading, the “conquer and assimilate all life” part seems to be merely an inconvenient prologue to their terminal goal of “turn the entire universe into an endless parade of vengeful atrocities because the Forerunners were dicks”.

catches up on Halo lore

Well, I stand corrected: the Gravemind instances in the modern era weren’t able to fully develop their infotech capabilities. The philosophical-style memetic assaults on Cortana and Mendicant Bias were just part of the full arsenal.

Nonetheless, this sort of Outside Context Problem — a heggie swarm with the potential for Transcendence — is precisely what the Emergency Reality Enforcement Facility is designed to counter. And according to the lorepedia I accessed, one of the effects of the Halo Arrays was indeed to reassert base reality, with the side effect of destroying all ontotech-dependent Precursor relics in the Milky Way. I’m sure the Transcend will do its utmost to avoid the, um, other effects of the Array.

Forerunners or Precursors? I can’t tell because most of the two species’ surviving members seem to be in a geologic-timescale “G.O.A.T. Asshole of the Universe” contest.

In my headcanon the Precursors get a little bit of a pass because by all accounts they’re not quite all there anymore. By which I mean that Bear sort of hints that Precursors have more or less ascended beyond the brane we live in, to the point where their reaction to the Forerunners massacring their physical bodies upon not qualifying to their entirely arbitrary requirements for inheriting the Mantle (okay, that may be on them) was a sort of detached fascination, like “oh wow I didn’t know they could actually do that”. Their subsequent failed reinstantiation as the Flood smacks more of “oops I left the universal assemblers out of the fridge too long” instead of an active, malicious, “We’ll take you down with us because you destroyed us.”

Then again, they created the Forerunners in their image.

That’s sort of what I meant by surviving Precursors. Normally I would have said still corporeal, but given that apparently they had a Hactar Protocol to reassemble from a cloud of dust particles, that’s not a very precise term.

Yeah, any Precursors who chose dimensional transcension are not part of my ethical calculus, since I have no data on them.

Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent. Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, Proposition 7

I have no idea if they were arbitrary requirements or not, but AFAICT neither were the Forerunners. Or anyone else.

What I do know is that the Precursor policy of genocide upon “unworthy” candidate species is directly contrary to the whole concept of the Mantle as usually described, and the Imperials would be even less impressed by Precursor uplift policies than they are by their own aman uplifters/designers.

The Forerunners seem to be surprised, too. Frontal assaults on active Powers… should not work under normal circumstances. Unfortunately, we only get a sort of Rashomon semi-consistent viewpoint set frames by the agendas of those who created the remaining records/memories/servitors.

I wish I could agree, but the Primordial — who apparently either caused the corruption of the reinstantiation, or comandeered it by imprinting himself onto the developing Gravemind — shows every sign of active malice.

There are fragments of less entropically oriented Precursors remaining on the mundane ‘brane, so I won’t say the species were collectively d!cks. But the Primordial most definitely was a d!ck.

Did they? Or is that was the Forerunners decided ex post facto?

Which brings me back around to the topic of the Imperial / Eldraic Transcend reactions to the Flood…

What legends do the eldrae tell cognate to our stories of zombies? They must exist; violation of person, identity, and volition are three of their greatest stimuli to provoke horror, and zombies tick all three boxes. And I’m not referring to the relatively mundane horror of a sophont’s ‘shell being converted into a Combat Form, or even the deeper horror of corrupted mind-states by memetic hackery. The ‘vengeance’ faction of the Precursors, as embodied by the Primordial, took the fragmentary remnants of dead and/or ascended transsophonts and reassembled and reanimated them into this shambling, half-Transcendent blight that is simultaneously a heggie-swarm and an ontotech version of an Instrument of Regrettable Necessity.

In short, it’s a zombified Power. This is way beyond ripping stargate kernels out of a corpse; it’s even past the risks taken by god-botherers. The Imperials are way better equipped to deal with the Flood than the hidebound Forerunners, the deceptive meme-tyranny of the Covenant, or any of the Erde-Tyrenne civilizations. But they’ll still have to take it very seriously indeed.

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You may, however, not want to let the Fifth Directorate and ONI compare notes.

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Absolutely-letting two organizations that are the dictionary definition of unfettered compare operational archives is something that I would prefer to avoid in 99.9% of all circumstances.

At the risk of turning this into a conphysics pissing contest, I beg to differ that the Flood is terrible with dealing with infotech countermeasures. The Flood logic plague (an aspect of the Flood which attacks AIs, as happened with Mendicant Bias) is given at least as much weight as its physical corruptive form at least in the Greg Bear books where it receives the most treatment.

Another side of this, it occurs to me, where the logic plague is concerned, is that all the AIs in the Halo 'verse, human smart AIs, Forerunner ancillas, and all, seem to be made one way or another from scanned biosapient mind-states. That doesn’t say much at all about how it would affect an infomorph born.


As I recall the story, both, but in this particular case, probably mostly the Precursors. Something like:

  • The Precursors decide that the Forerunners aren’t worthy inheritors of the Mantle, so disinherit them and wipe them out (as a mistake)
  • The Forerunners hear of this, and attack the Precursors first and wipe them out first
  • The Precursors (either before or after their Coming Back Wrong) overreact spectacularly to this betrayal of their betrayal, and conclude that they’re going to turn all other life into obedient zombies so they can’t be betrayed again, and also torture it for the rest of ever because, hey, their life sucks now and so should everyone else’s

Not really the sort of chaps who should be given the Mantle of Responsibility for the Morning Coffee, either one, if you ask me.

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Zombies are not the meme.

The meme is possession .

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