“Pain and darkness have been our lot since the Fall of Man. But there must be some hope that we can rise to a higher level … that consciousness can evolve to a plane more benevolent than its counterpoint of a universe hardwired to indifference.”
- Dan Simmons, The Fall of Hyperion
Sit down, and grab yourself a fucking drink.
Forget all of that AI-generated intro crap you just read. Here’s the real deal. You’re probably dying to know what you’ve been dragged into. Maybe you’ve been told the party line already: that we’re all that stands between transhumanity and extinction. Or maybe someone whispered to you that we’re a rogue operation that meddles in heavy shit that we have no authority to get involved in and that we sometimes get people killed as a result.
You must be curious. Maybe you’ve got a vigilante streak and you’re looking to spill blood for a good cause. Would it matter to you if the cause was a deluded one? Maybe you’re a conspiracy wingnut and you’re dying to know what secrets Firewall is clutching to its collective chest. What if those secrets shattered the carefully constructed lies that we all tell to ourselves to keep our sanity intact? Everything you’ve heard, good or bad, about Firewall very well may be true. We’re not angels. We lost the sheen on our ideals when the TITANs forcibly uploaded their first human mind. Right now, you should be asking yourself what the fuck you just signed up for. I did.
Truth is, Firewall is lots of things. Most of it is good, but a lot of it so fucking horrible you’ll be thinking about planting a bullet in your stack and resorting to an earlier backup just so you can forget it all. If you have any romantic visions about being a hero, drop them now. You won’t feel like a hero when you airlock some kid because he’s carrying an infectious nanovirus. You won’t feel brave when you run across some alien thing and crap your pants. And you won’t even feel human anymore when you make a call that will cost dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of people their lives, even if you are saving millions more.
So why would anyone be crazy enough to be part of this thing? Because it needs to be done. Our survival depends on it. To some people, it’s altruism, defending transhumanity. But really, it’s about saving your own fucking neck too.
Sure, you could abstain from taking responsibility and let some self-described authority take care of it. But if the anarchists have anything right, it’s that people in power can’t be trusted. As often as not, they’re part of the problem. So Firewall does things the collective way. We’re underground, but we’re an open source operation. We share information and resources towards a common goal. We organize in networked ad-hoc cells, smart-mob style. We don’t let anyone accrue too much power or control. Everyone involved in an op has an equal say. We police ourselves. We come from all sorts of backgrounds and factions, but we face a common enemy—and we fight to win.
There is no alternative. Maybe you’ve heard of the Fermi Paradox? That question asked why, with a galaxy so huge, there were so few signs of other life? Even though we’ve met the Factors and seen evidence of other aliens, our galactic neighborhood should be crawling with intelligence—but it’s not. I’ll tell you why. The universe is not fucking fair. If transhumanity were wiped out, the galaxy wouldn’t even notice. Just look at the Earth. That planet still exists, still supports life, even though we’re far gone. Reality is an uncaring asshole. Forget all that utopian crap about living forever. We’ll be lucky to survive another year.
We’ve developed technologies that put weapons of mass destruction in the hands of everyone, but we’re still an adolescent species that has trouble overcoming petty tribal bullshit. If you’re really looking forward to exploring the universe as a postmortal, you’re going to have to work hard at it. Survival isn’t a right, it’s a privilege.
When you sign up with Firewall, you put yourself on call. Anytime some shit goes down in your neck of the woods or that you might be particularly helpful in dealing with, you’ll get a call. You’ll be expected to drop whatever you’re doing and put everything else on hold as if your life depended on it—it probably does. When you’re in the field, on an op—”going to the doctor,” as we call it—your cell is empowered to act as it sees fit … just keep in mind that you’ll be answering to the rest of us later. You’ll also have the Firewall network to back you up—though resources are often limited, so don’t expect us to always save your ass.
Other sentinels can be called on to pull strings, but every time we do so, it threatens to unveil an agent, create a trail that we need to clean up, and otherwise complicates matters. Self-reliance is key.
One last thing: don’t ever, ever forget that we have enemies. I’m not just talking about the nutjob who wants to nuke a habitat to make a political statement or the neo-luddites who think biowar plagues will teach us all a lesson, I’m talking about the agencies that know Firewall exists and consider it a threat. If they tag you as a sentinel, your days are numbered. Maybe your backups too. So watch yer friggin’ back. So that’s the real deal, as honest as I can give it. Welcome to our secret clubhouse, comrade. Remember: death is just another day on the job.