Volatility Management

<< A Blackjamb Transmission Vector

Lawrance: “A rule of thumb for virtually any institutionalized peacekeeping force – military, emergency services, private protection firm, anybody. For every hour spent in the field, a minimum of three hours will be spent with meetings and documentation to deal with the specifics of that fieldwork. Actually, that statement needs amending. You’ll see that rule of thumb anywhere you find a successful organization – those that show significantly different numbers tend to collapse right under their founders. It’s a weird limbo of bureaucracy, where decreased efficiency means increased longevity… up to a point.”

Lawrance: “Because my chain of command’s fieldwork is about as competent as you can get and still have fallible non-deity staff, there’s a terrifyingly large proportion of work hours devoted to stuff unsuited for typical narrative substance. Explaining how a fleeing suspect gets apprehended usually takes detail; explaining how a drug bust’s social impact gets calculated usually amounts to ‘add numbers and compare’ or some variation. To my mixed pride and annoyance, ‘add numbers and compare’ is my specialty.”

Lawrance: “That’s a long-winded way of saying tedious things needed doing when I returned from the field to the Tower, and I was in the middle of most of it. Organizing and isolating the testimony and actions of all agents on premises. Consulting with other auditors investigating similar cases. We have a lot of research and general Monolith traffic in our profession, and that means a lot of work with eidolons – put out a request on the network for many people to provide us with assistance, ask for the eidolons with the salient experience, and commission them for a day or a month or a nanosecond. I’ve got more network browsing utilities than any except two of my more remote direct colleagues, but it’s no match for literally existing in the Monolith’s nodes, so yes – I’m relatively well-known among eidolon communities for providing regular work.”

Lawrance: “Unfortunately, a more junior auditor working on the Foughen case at the time happened to be assisting me with ordering eidolon-provided data correlation results that afternoon, and… Don’t misunderstand. She was doing her job, with laudable care and motivation. However, this colleague who shall remain nameless here found a reference to the permanent record of one of the hooligans, and the man in question – a Mr. Byland – had a history of abusing all sorts of chemicals. He’d never been interrupted, despite ingesting more than three times his own body mass in solvent over the course of his employment with the warehouse. She also drew attention to how Byland had been using entheogenic substances for most of his life. For those of you who’ve never sniffed acetone nor sought to get closer to the overmind or your deity of choice through the medium of mushroom, this presents a bit of a conundrum in Rhaagm. Specifically, this city’s population includes various types of entities who can and will seize the chance to puppet the mind of a thinking creature, and many of them find that easier when their victim’s in an altered state of mind. A problem, yes. It has special applicability to times like ours, though, because it casts agency into doubt. Legal responsibility starts getting very muddy when possession comes into the mix. If your dæmon cluster gets deployed for performing violence, then off with your head. When you yourself are just an appendage for some creature to work its will indirectly – and specifically, if we have reason to suspect that’s the case early on – investigation into your crimes gets thoroughly kneecapped.”

Lawrance: “If there’s the slightest legitimate chance your brain has been coopted, it’s automatically characterized as a Very Serious Matter. Violations of agency in that sort of personal manner live in a particularly high echelon of ‘bad’ – that’s one of the reasons that the class of crimes we call ‘big brother attacks’ are also worthy of a death sentence. No change, really, for dæmon cluster related investigations – and to be honest, cluster activity almost always requires some degree of verification that the perpetrator is in their right mind. When you find a person doing something they don’t normally do, getting to the bottom of ‘why’ is important, and by its very nature the offensive deployment of a dæmon cluster is supremely abnormal. Timing is the key, however. In fact, we periodically consult with various branches of the College of Prophecy purely for the slim chance of accurate indicators of misdemeanors involving potential domination. If we get any of those indicators, then a LOT of bodies get reassigned. Uncover reason to think a person’s being puppeteered late in an investigation, and we’ll have all sorts of permissions by that time. Getting solid supporting evidence is easy. Near the beginning of an investigation? Well, well, well. We need to dig up your life, but we suddenly have all sorts of rights of yours that need respecting. Doors get locked, files are sealed, hands become tied, and until you’re cleared as being under your own control we go from jogging to crawling. I don’t like crawling. I don’t like respecting your rights. I like getting you linked to damning evidence if you’re guilty, and getting you provided an alibi if you’re innocent. I like not having colleagues digging up the wrong sort of evidence at the wrong time.”

Lawrance: “It’s a real Beast trying to get a person a clean bill of mental health when you need to confirm or deny the presence of mental and psychological pushes. One problem of discerning whether your choices were forced rears its head when asking whether this person carried out a type of autohypnosis. In this case, by ‘autohypnosis’ I mean anything that lets somebody change the structure of their own thought process or basis of opinion. More than just subliminal message management, but not including effects like emotional alteration and run-of-the-mill psychological stabilizers. Mechanisms exist aplenty, both magical and traditional, for letting Old You reach out and shape Current You across the gulf of time – and for some instances the difference between those two Yous actually makes them legally distinct people. I spent a full day just coming up with testing schemes to help take that possibility off the table. It didn’t help that we had an obligation to examine both the fellow that my junior colleague identified and his coworkers who had regular close contact. Do multiple personae reside in their brain-analogue hardware? What about revivification related auditing – are the individual’s gestalt data shown as getting regular or continuous updates, and is there evidence of their recorded information getting modified… either by the people who work in a relifing clinic, or the individual themselves after body death? Does the person have dedicated sections in their brain or hardware for hosting outside intelligences, like a region for letting eidolons and digital personalities execute? These aren’t easy things to answer when you’re prohibited from using your full toolbox.”

Lawrance: “One good bit of news for us is our current day and age has a truly enormous amount of information locked in most Rhaagmini heads. When I was a mere lad, I had a cerv-mesh inserted… and ever since I’ve been using it to help record my life’s essential details. That’s how it goes for nearly everybody. You use the tool inserted on the back of your neck to slowly build a comprehensive tapestry of what’s happening across social media and professional schedules and friendly chats, and – with enough people all chipping in and putting different evidence into the public domain – give us some nice prybars for peeling open other avenues of inquiry. It’s great when you have family members expressing vocal concern about your life in view of such-and-such-a-development, because it gives us cause for our investigative resources to put your life under the microscope. Complications ensue when we try to marry those investigative resources to our cluster-related case’s needs, but it’s something.”

Lawrance: “In some cases we can manufacture workarounds, even fill gaps in a scene’s history by capturing information from outside the light cone, but usually that hope ends up forlorn. Ignore your mystery-and-intrigue entertainers; we don’t have a hocus-pocus verification spyglass at our disposal, and organizing a short-notice collection of visuals at a distance will cost you the sort of favors it’s best not to owe. No, I’m not bitter.”

Lawrance: “On that note, the finale on the self-control checklist is whether a potential external mental dominator either left clear fingerprints on the individual or had a clear incident of contact with them. That can run the range from profiling the social habits of your region’s shamanic beings to seeing how the subject reacts to getting put in a sealed room with a cursed doll. I spent a while turning Byland’s profile to every angle, throwing ideas at each other to see if something emerged from the noise, but it’s the sort of thing you need more than really in-depth analysis of the subject’s state to be sure about. It means pulling extensive monitoring recordings. It means cross-indexing opportunity for a person to run into a malevolent divinity or spiritually-dwelling denizen or garden-variety psychic entity with the rites and rituals for seeking communion. It means special interrogations to ensure a bad actor isn’t interfering with your truth-finding by puppeteering the subject during your interviews. It means trying to prove something is broken and good rather than bad and working. It means that delightful anathema, ‘evidence of an absence.’ I think you get the picture – it means gray hairs for any human that undergoes natural aging. Crippled False. Excuse me… it’s a subject I find incomparably frustrating.”

Lawrance: “The type of ‘frustrating’ for which an auditor can find no comparison is that of dealing with damaging infection. Infection of the mind, infection of action, infection of fundamental perspective. Infection is the best description for why that warehouse altercation started out something like reasonable, and ended with not one but a whole posse of idiots jumping off a bridge. Infection is the antithesis of what I strive to accomplish: the perpetuation of civility in what usually takes shape as the status quo. It is taking what used to be benign and turning it against itself. It is the application of a structural zero property, transforming the ordered chaos of something living into the chaotic order of sterility.”

Lawrance: “You might call me a doctor… and I HATE infection.”

Lawrance: “In short, I found it a huge relief that I got taken off assessment-of-agency duty after a day and change, and pushed into doing independent confirmation for the data from another of our analysts. It didn’t last long, because that was also when it became apparent that somebody had peeled open the analyst’s brain and altered the definition of ‘thorough’ to mean ‘abundantly redundantly meticulous unto the point of causing pain to the beholder.’ If I actually carried a physical firearm I might have pistol-whipped them, but instead I recommended them for promotion. That was a series of reports that drove part of me to tears. The part of me that loves utter completeness in a job was driven to tears for a different reason, and that analyst still has a spectacular future in bureaucracy ahead of them. I thank the Maker and all the other Olds that I’ve got integrated tools for dispensing and simulating stimulants.”

Lawrance: “Once the first round of assessments got internally published, the data proved abnormally accurate and the superiors were very happy about it. I was… well, not happy, but quite willing to forgive nagging annoyances in quality. Even the management for the warehouse and its clientele liked how quickly things got through our section of the due process monster, though they found themselves in very high dudgeon when we had to confiscate a bunch of shipments from Bhushalt Fabricants and Design for inspection. Their happiness returned when the shipments got sent back absent any signs of contamination.”

Lawrance: “It’s times like this that our nanny state gets a chance to shine. Rhaagm, Bequast, and Yrdky lie pretty equidistant from each other in terms of cultural and legislative differences. The stereotype of Rhaagm and Rhaagmini as possessing a fetish for licenses and other forms of contractual ties is a stereotype with plenty of meat on it. It’s our partial answer to the immortal problem of maintaining civil order, in a city where a magically-gifted schoolchild with a cluster can in theory create a small black hole within half an hour. With enough bureaucracy, you can keep gods and un-gods from fighting. It also helps with stuff like throwing the brakes on the spread of easily transmissible material.”

Lawrance: “Fortunately for Bhushalt, when Byland and cohorts did their cooking-up on off hours, they kept their goods carefully cordoned off from the rest of the warehouse’s stock. If they hadn’t, and some trace hyphae transferred to a package – or even a package container – we or the more local authorities almost certainly would have caught them in the act far earlier. I’m not sure if that would have worked out better or worse for everybody involved.”

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