Setting Material for Bury’em Deep (and sequel), pt. 2

This one’s a close follow up to last week’s post. Again: rough draft material, only partial, subject to change. This time, I’m diving deeper into the Rhean intelligence apparatus, and what influence it’s had on Rhea and beyond!

Because of their position in the Outer System (and specifically Saturn-local space) as a preferred partner of the Inner System polities, Rhea has a long history of cooperation with Inner System intelligence organizations. Their history of sharing locally gathered intelligence with Inner System powers, and with Protecting the Future for Humanity (PFH) in particular, goes back generations to the original founding of the Rhean mining colony and refueling outpost. What initially served as a remote outpost for the local collation and sharing of reports from Saturn’s Inner System-loyal spacers eventually grew into what is now known as the Department of Rhean Naval Intelligence.

The predecessors to DRNI (or RNI, or Arnie or Arnold depending on who you talk to and how obfuscatory they’re feeling) were founded by the Inner System loyalists who settled Rhea and by various covert PFH (and other polity) reps who helped to train those loyalists. Though few people involved would have looked so far back, the eventual coordination and training regimen that grew into the DRNI’s predecessors bore remarkable similarity to the USA’s Operation Condor, the CIA’s training operations in the School of the Americas, and the USA’s various intelligence sharing, black site, and extralegal torture and interrogation agreements. Though the less legal of those practices were officially left behind and disavowed with the creation of DRNI, few non-Rheans in Saturn-space believe that DRNI has actually stopped its predecessor’s activities.

DRNI certainly still shares large portions of the intelligence it gathers with Inner System organizations, perhaps most notably with PFH. This intelligence assistance comes with a price tag, as PFH is expected to push economic and political support to Rhea in return. So far, PFH has.

DRNI has agents or information gathering networks in place in most other neighboring (Saturn-local) polities, as is de rigueur for any independent polity able to afford such things. DRNI has focused on infiltrating Titan Station in particular, due both to Titan Station’s prevalence in Saturn-local politics and power structures, and to Titan Station’s position as a large scale transshipment and trading hub for Saturn-local space and the Outer System in general. From Titan Station, DRNI has maintained observation of a large number of other stations, and of the general flow of commerce and power throughout Saturn-local space. DRNI’s ability to combine information from Titan Station with their own knowledge of shipping gives them an exceptionally good picture of local force distributions and the state of commercial shipping.

This information also feeds the various privateers (and pirates) who have bought registry from Rhea and are seeking specific prey.

In point of fact, a number of the various ne’er do wells who’ve bought Rhean shipping registration are merely operating undercover for DRNI or PFH. Many of them are merchants engaged in more questionable trade, subsidized by DRNI and/or PFH in exchange for intelligence gathering. But some of them are actually agents of DRNI or PFH who maintain their ships as covert naval vessels against the sudden need for naval forces in Saturn-local space. While these semi-civilian ships obviously cannot operate in the same class as a fully-armed warship, DRNI and PFH both see them (and the ability to suddenly deploy an unexpectedly large irregular fleet in unanticipated locations) as too useful to ignore.

Due to PFH’s fanatical preoccupation with suppressing AI research and development outside of their close supervision in controlled environments, DRNI has had considerable success “swatting” various Saturn-local competitors. Some time after the withdrawal of major Inner System funding and investment, what has since become DRNI expanded its scope of operations in an effort to secure a revenue stream for its independent projects. Using the data they’d collected for decades on the development of AI by illegal Outer System research groups, DRNI became quite skilled at faking evidence of AI development by their local opponents.

After (or while) presenting this evidence to PFH, DRNI would then “handle the problem” and present a bill to PFH. Either the people in power inside the DRNI managed to maintain this charade’s internal consistency without catching PFH’s attention, or PFH was tolerant of this extortion and saw it as a price worth paying in exchange for the Rheans’ continued assistance. This continued revenue stream from PFH allowed DRNI’s predecessors to expand (and in some cases, allowed members to pad their own pockets) rather than suffer or contract to the same extent that the rest of Rhean industry and government did.

It was also during this time that DRNI’s predecessors expanded their network of listening posts in the larger debris fields making up Saturn’s rings.

This did not stop DRNI from effectively blocking a great deal of illegal AI development in Saturn-local space; in fact, they were exceedingly effective at reporting on and/or quashing this research. The one exception to this was anywhere within the influence of Titan Station. Titan Station maintained order effectively within its own space, and refused to permit Rheans from exercising the same degree of control which they had grown accustomed to within their realm of influence. Of course, borders were somewhat shaky and nebulous, not least because of the variable orbits of the different moons involved and the subsequent overlapping claims in various sections of the rings. Rhean and Titan Station forces did occasionally become involved in tense stand offs and jurisdictional disputes, and there were even a few prolonged incidents which might charitably be called low-scale warfare. The two polities did not, however, declare war on each other outright, for fear of drawing others into the conflict and upsetting their balance of power. Perhaps if Titan Station hadn’t made such strong connections with Inner System mercantile interests, Rhea wouldn’t have doubted their chances.

What Rhea did, however, was far more insidious: while reporting on Titan Station AI development to PFH (whether real or imagined), they asked for PFH’s permission to begin limited AI development of their own. This suggested development was presented as a means to keep Titan Station in check, and prevent them from raising AIs against their Outer System neighbors (with the implication that such an escalation would inevitably lead to war with the AI-averse Inner System). PFH reluctantly agreed, sending some of their few trusted AI researchers to Rhean space to oversee the development of a limited AI defense system for deployment against an imminent Titan Station threat.

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