Saturday, January 28, 2017

Le Monde

"We are the world. The world will be ours."

A: I'm getting some weird hits on my searches lately. Can you redpill me on what "Le Monde" is?
A: Besides French.
B: Yeah, okay. Let's get some basic stuff. You tell me if you need more.
A: Sure.
B: So, Le Monde appeared a couple years back on Venus in some iconography and deep mesh stuff. We tied them to a couple of acts of corporate terrorism, some kiddie-tier meme stuff and a few exclusive events.
A: Just that? 
B: Yeah - see, as far as we know Le Monde is an exclusive organization of the rich and powerful who have decided to settle on Venus. They have organized into a covert structure and are attempting to directly influence policy in the Morningstar Confederacy and push that to wider influence in the solar system. 
A: So that sounds like it could be bad news.
B: Well, it still isn't great news, but here's the kicker. As far as we know, despite being a resource rich conspiracy with solid connections - they don't seem to have any detailed intel on other X-Risk or covert organizations, and no advanced or deep knowledge on our key target issues.
A: Wait, so they're an Illuminati-type organization, who doesn't know about other secret conspiracies?
B: And they think they're the first people to have this idea. 
A: Ugh, I can feel a headache coming on now. Do we have anything concrete?
B: Not much. They are good at secrecy, but nobody has scanned up any data that they pose any serious risk so we also haven't taken any concern to try real hard to penetrate their organization.
B: I'll send you the report GLASS LICH has collected link
A: Thanks. I'll look over it and see if I need to dig any deeper, maybe put a Sentinel unit on it.

Le Monde is a bit of an outlier, and quite frankly, an enigma. While their effectiveness and resourcefulness may be limited, secrecy is something they are decent at. The term "Le Monde" or any variations on the translation of "The World" started appearing a few years back, 8-12 months after the formation of the Morningstar Confederacy. Mostly these appear in government or hypercorp officials or the rich and famous corresponding with each other - asking obvious questions like "what is Le Monde?". These communications were not as secure as their providers would probably have liked, which enabled Firewall to track them down later. The first real contact this organization had with them were a couple of connected incidents. Several anti-Consortium bombings occurred in a couple of habitats, mostly focused on protest of indentured rights or other such lines. While suicide forks were used, Firewall was able to access and skim copies of the original terrorist's Ego, which involved some mentions of Le Monde as the triggering organization. Focus for stronger Venusian independence and "nationalism" flared in Octavia and Aphrodite Prime briefly, using a slogan now associated with Le Monde; "We are the world. The world is ours." This fervor quickly died off after it failed to find a real direction to move in.

After that, hits of Le Monde died down, but occasionally flare up - usually in deep mesh connections, observations of private functions or elements of their ethos showing up in viral marketing or memetic warfare campaigns. Based on fairly in-depth analysis by Firewall, we have come to some conclusions:

  1.  "Le Monde" is a conspiracy, for lack of a better term, made up by members of the highly placed or influential in the Morningstar Confederacy. Founding membership appear to have been oligarch interests who sided with Venusian independance.
  2. Their goals are vague, but seem focused on strengthening Venus and consolidating them as a more powerful influence on the Solar System, with Le Monde obviously being the "behind the scenes" aspect. 
  3. Their operations and organizational structure are not directly known, secrecy is their priority and they seem to be willing to work long term but are prone to opportunistic "attacks" which could be seen as rash. Their efforts and methodology are callous and any respect for actual virtues appears to be feigned for greater political power. 
  4. As far as can be known, Le Monde has no deeper knowledge of The Fall or X-Risks than the public. They have no knowledge of Project OZMA, Firewall or the efforts of certain other intelligence agencies. They do not know about the Exsurgent Virus, they have no known connections to the Factors, are not connected to any Pandora gates or exoplanet operations and in generally operate like some "illuminati" out of a pulp novel, unaware of the broader scope of things.
This means that while Le Monde is technically dangerous, what they can actually accomplish seems very limited. They act like they are incredibly powerful, far-reaching and knowledgeable but they also lack critical intel which would make them a real System-scale threat. Firewall has yet to task any servers or Sentinel teams to investigate the group, but does regularly keep efforts to track them and identify their operations. 

Le Monde does at least appear to exercise basic tradecraft. They meet in secret using cutouts and middlemen backed by ungodly amounts of cash which trumps the Venusian enthusiasm for transparency. They have obtained darknet connections to network in secret, utilize physical media to transmit intel and orders and avoid permanent electronic communication. They try and use code names or phrases to allude to things without explicitly saying them. Agents who engage in "closed fist" tactics tend to utilize suicide forks with original operatives not knowing details. Their "open fist" tactics into social engineering are subtle and often involve public elements who are unaware of their true nature. Even if Morningstar had a decent intelligence apparatus there is no way they could get anything actionable on the organization - legally anyway. 

Firewall, not being bound by petty concepts of local ordinance and legal codes, has found a few actionable things and managed to get some starter leads and hooks into the organization. As noted above, they have two kinds of operations. "Closed" means hard operations, usually with body counts, property damage and shock value. "Open" means a soft operation, something with multiple levels of cover which is intended to have low key, long-term effects. A "gloved" operation means the use of a middleman, third-party or other external asset. A "ungloved" operation means one of their agents acts directly, and these appear to be rare. What their operations actually entail is fairly varied. Terrorism, blackmail, assassination and theft are not unknown to them - but they also orchestrate elaborate charity events, fund political campaigns, found or buy out companies, etc. All generally seems to lead in their direction though, of growing Le Monde's influence on Venus and helping the Morningstar Confederacy shore up and grow in influence in wider system politics. 

They've attacked Consortium-backed hypercorps, undermined pro-Consortium politicians and tried to promote attitudes which run in parallel to the politics of the Consortium. They also stir up opposition to the attitudes of other major polities - playing up their differences with other groups - the Bioconservatism and discrimination of the Jovian Republic and LLA, alternate terraforming and plan for infugees from Martian or Barsoomian groups, and their generally non-socialist or enforced participation from the Commonwealth. They also tend to make more divides against the AA - often staging their efforts to look like Autonomist radicals or outer system influences to get a double-header on their operations. Exact long-term goals are unknown, but presumably Le Monde won't be satisfied until Morningstar is the premier power in the Solar System, with they as their shadowy backers. Concerns they may turn to dangerous methods in their operations persist though there is yet to be evidence of it, and Firewall is poised to act should it become clear they are gathering such resources.

Internal organization appears to mostly be vague and deliberately mutable. Some people who work for Le Monde have no idea the organization exists. Other operatives are fanatics who think they are vital to the conspiracy - but are really just small local friendlies who allow other operations to exist. In classic cell-like fashion, most agents only know of their individual cells or operations, and of a handler. Handlers themselves may be small time agents who are in turn handled, or they may be high ranking directors. However, other than dividing knowledge Le Monde advocates itself as a organization of "equals" even if this is not the case, and there appears to be no formal ranking system. Firewall has, however, managed to sketch out the top of their pyramid scheme of leadership; Le Monde is headed by an executive council of some sort. How exactly they formed or determine membership is unknown, but each holder of a seat on this council is their highest ranking operative on a particular Aerostat or hab, who knows all aspects of the operation and is well hidden and highly influential. Firewall has determined that there are nine seats on the council currently, though not all councilors have been identified. The council meet regularly to discuss operations, though their schedule is erratic to avoid patterns. 

Here are the identified members:
  • The Hierophant. Seat: Octavia. Their true identity is unknown, but Firewall has tracked this alias to Octavia and believes they are one of the original founders of Le Monde and may be the original conspirator behind the entire organization. They are regarded as the most senior member of their council, and often looked to for guidance or direction on operations. It is currently theorized they must be part of some oligarch dynasty who settled on Venus and pushed for independence.
  • Oceane Comtois. Seat: Etemenanki. Alias "Siren", Comtois is Le Monde's mole in the Planetary Consortium. Her holdings remain with the PC and she has significant influence on the PC politicians and corps who work with Venus. Not even her family knows her proper allegiance. It is thought she was personally recruited and mentored by the Hierophant - but her youth and inexperience mean she's one of the easiest seats to track. 
  • Mercy. Seat: Parvarti. Mercy has been physically ID'd several times, but utilizes forks or disposable morphs for meetings, meaning her true identity and appearance have not yet been found. Mercy is known to be a significant holder in the council who operates Parvarti, who provides cover and privacy for many meetings and operations, gathers intel and blackmail material from that aerostat and also seems to provide disposable bodies for the group's operations.
  • David Stringer. Seat: Gerlach. Alias "Proletariat", Stringer is a forged identity, apparently assumed by a backer of the organization. His original ID is not known, but in his capacity as Stringer, he is a radical who pushes for stronger Venusian independance and forceful expulsion of the Consortium - playing to Autonomist sympathies on Gerlach. Stringer often provides skilled labor for the group, arranging actions with anarchist guerrillas or terrorists to get what Le Monde wants. 
  • Helel. Seat: Lucifer. Helel is more cautious than most of the directorate. They only appear via hologram or AR avatar - in an obviously fictional guise as some kind of angelic being. It is probable they are in some position which would be difficult to leave to meet physically, or otherwise would harm their cover. Helel is Le Monde's contact with indentures and heavy industry on Venus. They frequently report on productivity of surface mines, and several of their operations have involved charity toward indentures or former indentures - believed to be an effort to promote Venus as an ideal place to be re-instantiated. 
Plot Hooks and Options:
  • The Hierophant is actually an advanced AGI or even ASI (such as a TITAN or Sibyl) which has settled on Venus and built Le Monde to ensure it has a safe place to exist and operate. It's super-intelligence allows it to stay secret and gather many resources, but it's lack of understanding into human nature is why operations are fairly erratic
  • Le Monde is actually a front for Project OZMA, who will build them up then expose them in order to bring Venus back into the fold of the Planetary Consortium
  • Le Monde is a cover for some sect of the Factors, exploiting one of the newest and weakest factions of Transhumanity to gain a foothold for unknown purposes. 
  • Oceane is a proper double-agent, she reports to a group like Project OZMA, Oversight or an individual hypercorp as well, waiting to exploit Le Monde for their own purposes. 
  • Le Monde is exactly as it seems - an organization of arrogant oligarchs who assume they are the true power in the Solar System and unaware of the depth of Existential Threats out there. How will they react if they stumble into a wider world?
Using Le Monde:
Le Monde is an interesting case for a GM. They are styled as a classic "illuminati" or "new world order" organization in a government where they could easily fit in without being swept up into one of the larger organizations already detailed in the setting. But Eclipse Phase is a transhuman game of conspiracy and horror - not a some 20th century thriller or early cyberpunk work. Characterizing yourself in such an old-fashioned way puts you behind the curve of operations like Ozma, Firewall and many intelligence agencies. The fact that Venus lacks their own such organization is all that keeps Le Monde alive. That and their incredibly vast amount of wealth and contacts. The GM can play with these tropes and concepts. Le Monde might be a real threat, a covert organization who through their actions can spread insidious influence on Venus and destabilize other polities. Or maybe they are an unwitting cover for an actual conspiracy with real X-Risk teeth Firewall has to take care of. Or their arrogant incompetence is so great, they can endanger the fragile balance of power between MC and PC and might cause conflicts which would greatly destabilize Transhumanity as a whole. In a non-Firewall game, Le Monde might even act as a good villain, a potent conspiracy subverting values of democracy and transparency to create their own worldview on Venus and the wider system, perfect for a game focused on crime or politics on Venus. Or, player characters could even be agents of Le Monde who accidentally bumble into this wider world of X-Risks and the real dangers they pose to everyone, not just the backyard conspiracy on Venus. 

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