THE COLLECTORS: DECLASSIFIED INTELLIGENCE PRIMER
Required reading: level 1 introductory course CB23 'Current galactic issues'
Popular name: The Collectors
Real name: Possibly "The Collective"
A rather mysterious machine race, rarely encountered outside of their own sectors and Wild Space.
Their popular name comes from their apparent obsession with artifacts and data relating to the Diaspora, including genetic material, examples of technology and even video clips, movies, songs, documents and similar items. They are willing to pay very good money for those items, provided they are not already logged in their vast databases.
Bragulan, Solarian and Imperial intelligence has been attempting to gather additional information on them for some time now, but so far met with little success.
Collectors have no “real” physical bodies. As far as everybody knows, most of them exist as personality programs on central mainframes: they interact with other polities using robot bodies called “Units”. These are roughly humanoid with only minor differences. Some advanced models are equipped with artificial skin and can mimick a full range of emotions: they are mostly used for diplomatic contact.
A Collector can chose to either pilot a Unit remotely, or download itself into a body for operations far away from its mainframe. In that case, should the body be destroyed, a Collector is lost forever: personality backups are prohibited for an unknown reason, and a Unit that’s about to be captured will initiate a data wipe of its computer core, completely destroying all important data – which includes the personality program running it.
It is likely a Unit can take many forms, not all of them humanoid. At least two other types of Units were encountered before: heavily armed and armored Armatures used in support combat roles, and small weasel-like Infiltrators.
Bragulan intelligence has suggested that Collectors have infiltrated other stellar societies with Units posing as sentient uploads, or even actual uploads abducted and overridden with Collector programming, but Solarians dismissed those revelations as paranoid rambling of insane freedom-hating xenoids.
“They’re paranoid ramblings of insane freedom-hating xenoids. They’d have us oppress our own upload populace, the sneaky buggers!”, Robert Space McNamara, Solarian senator
Economy and government:
Little is known about Collector government structures, or the way their decisions are made. Jumbled information recovered from damaged data cores suggests a central decision-making structure called “Skynet” exists, but no information is available as to the details – though evidence exists in ancient Terran documents that suggests malevolence.
“'Skynet'?' You’ve got to be kidding me…'”, Sidney Hank III, after an intelligence briefing.
Collector space is mostly uncharted, but it’s common knowledge they occupy several sectors inside Wild Space. Attempts to enter those sectors are met with challenges far outside any inhabitated systems: traders are permitted to exchange their goods at several designated trade stations ; Intelligence agencies routinely attempt to infiltrate systems onboard these stations, but no important data has been recovered so far by using this method. Agents discovered attempting to hack trade station systems are disappeared by specialized Units, and never seen again. The stations are practically deserted, tended to either by automated drones or select few Units that limit their interactions to the bare minimum.
“Talking to a Collector is like attempting to get a squirrel’s attention. Even if you have any nuts, it will scurry away without a word as soon as it gets its greedy paws on them.”, an unknown Wild Space trader
So far, no Collector has been captured for interrogation. Only a few damaged Units were recovered, and analyzed under utmost secrecy: if Collectors learn of the location of a damaged Unit, they attempt to recover or destroy it. At least one Wild Space colony was wiped out by a Monolith for running experiments on a partially-rebuilt Collector consciousness. In addition, two known attempts were made to kidnap an intact Unit from a trade station. Both teams tasked with this operation disappeared without a trace. No retaliatory measures were taken by the Collectors in these cases, though.
Goods exchanged aboard the trade stations mostly include various technological artifacts and data: while Collectors are most interested in anything related to the human diaspora, they will also pay a fair price for any interesting goods or information that they do not already possess - and, of course, resources they lack. Traders brave enough to attempt it bring all sorts of random goods aboard Collector stations in an attempt to hit it off big and retire early based on the transaction of a lifetime. Rumor has it that genetic material has been of particular interest to the Collectors lately, especially since a Chamaran survey vessel entered one of their sectors. This led to a string of abductions of Chamaran citizens by the less scrupulous merchants, dreaming of a jackpot. Intelligence recovered after the Pendleton Incident seems to indicate that Collectors will buy living specimens from slave traders - the precise purpose of these specimens is unknown. Reports exist that their memories and mind-states are stored within large databases, though the purpose of that is unknown.
"There is no rhyme or reason to their decisions. One day, a trader with a hold full of refined platinum has to wait around for months before these things show any interest. Yet another, they will happily buy every nugget they can find aboard. And worst of all, they refuse to tell us what they'll need. Going to a Collector station is like trying to win the lottery, I tell you.", Jack Turdner, The Ultimate Wild Space trader
Practically no data exists about Collector society. Only glimpses have been allowed by investigating mostly destroyed data cores, and they are inconclusive: all Units initiate a surprisingly destructive data wipe upon being damaged, which completely erases the personality imprint, and only leaves scant information, usually related to absolutely trivial things with no intelligence value.
However, in addition to mundane information, most Collector data cores captured during their operations in and around Wild Space also contained libraries of photographs. While recovery of complete pictures after a data wipe is initiated is extremely difficult, partial rebuilds show lush natural landscapes, carefully tended gardens and other images of earth-like natural habitats, which is puzzling to both Solarian and Bragulan intelligence officers, who are mostly of the opinion that mysterious machine races should draw satisfaction from more ominous vistas. Lack of tortured sentients and massive planet-spanning industrial centres threatens the budgets of intelligence departments dealing with the Collectors, so the pictures mostly go into deep archives never to be seen again.
According to recently obtained intelligence, at least one organic being, <name redacted> has been know to have willfully integrated into a Monolith's systems. Currently, the fate of said person remains unknown.
“So pretty…”, unknown Solarian analyst, upon seeing data from a cracked Collector core
If acquiring information on Collector society is difficult, their military capabilities remain even more of a mystery. Based on extrapolations from other machine races encountered throughout the galaxy, Bragulan intelligence used to estimate their capabilities as about on par with galactic standard.
That was before the first Monolith showed up in Wild Space.
"The fools pretty much all crapped their pants'. Idiots.", Rhee-Ahn Shepard , intelligence analyst of the Shepistani Republic, speaking from a comfortable distance away.
Monoliths are the most iconic Collector vessel. At nearly 10 kilometres long, they appear as smooth, rectangular, black-walled constructs. Only a few openings are usually visible in their hulls, typically emitting a sickly green light – though these openings have a habit of appearing in different spots at different times, probably relating to auxiliary equipment being used at a particular time, or perhaps being a feature of particular Monoliths (in the latter case, observed variations would put the number of existing monoliths at around twenty distinct ships). Other than that, no engine ports, sensor pods or other normal starship features can be discerned.
“We call them the ‘Things With No Face’. And yes, it sounds stupid in your stupid language. 'That'’s because you cultural midgets can’'t properly express complicated concepts.” – unknown Bragulan commander, in an in'terview with an 'Imperium author, speaking about Monoliths.
These powerful ships show up on rare occasions throughout Wild Space, following whatever objectives they are tasked with – which seem, mostly, positively mundane for vessels of such immense power.
Catalogued encounters are rare, and universally puzzling. On one occasion, a Monolith entered orbit around an inhabitated world in Wild Space, completed several orbits and left before Solarian ships could arrive. On another, it swallowed an entire Spacer station and took it away from its orbit. The station, along with all inhabitants, was later found orbiting a world on the outer fringes of the solar system it was taken from, the inhabitants having no memories of their stay aboard the monolith.
The most well-known encounter, however, was the complete destruction of the Wild Space colony of Elysium. The colony has managed to capture a partially intact Collector Unit, and restore parts of its consciousness to functionality. It began running experiments on it, including cyber-warfare tests.
Through means unknown, the Collectors must’ve learned of the Unit’s capture, and a single Monolith showed up in orbit of the colony. Elysium was not a particularly well-developed world, though it did possess a not-insignificant defence fleet. Upon arrival, The Collectors delivered an ultimatum: the Unit was to be handed over, and all the research destroyed. Elysium’s government refused and called for Solarian help, hoping to stall the negotiations long enough for reaction forces to arrive.
No reliable accounts of what happened afterwards remain. Some evidence exists that the Collectors attacked immediately after issuing the ultimatum, while the Elysian Council was still deliberating their possible course of action. Other accounts indicate the Monolith was attacked by the defence fleet, and only retaliated afterwards.
What is known is that the entire colony, along with its defence fleet and all population centres was wiped out. The research post where the captured Unit was stored was subject to an especially throughout bombardment, leaving a gaping hole almost half a kilometer deep. The Monolith left afterwards. After Solarian forces, led by the USS [i]Murderous[/i] arrived, all they found were smoldering ruins, and an Adeptus Mechanicus cruiser dropping teams of Techpriests to scour the surface of the planet for tiniest bits of Collector technology they could gather. The resulting standoff became a thing of legends.
Small-scale engagements against Monoliths almost universally met with failure. Only on two occasions, Bragulan forces have forced a Monolith to retreat after engaging it in significant numbers, though Solarian sources indicate the cowardly alien scum are embellishing and couldn’t possibly have had the stones to even try something like that, much less succeed – and there is no indication if the overgrown apes even managed to inflict significant damage, anyway. Bah.
“What these idiots are claiming has no bearing on reality. Everybody knows 'Bragulans are cowards: they’d never try to mess with a Monolith on a mission. Only the USS fleet could ever do anything so crazy and hope to 'live to tell about it. Bah!'”, Brigadier F. Stalin, in an interview for the National Times
A recent incident in the Shinn-Hokkaido system involved two Monoliths and a sizeable escort fleet, which faced down a large international armada. Data from this encounter, which was resolved amicably, is still being analyzed.
Despite the Monolith being the iconic example of Collector power, glimpses and rare sightings of other small craft have been collected over the years and processed. A cruiser-type hull was encountered around Trading Station Epsilon Zeta by a Solarian Stealthstar, which managed to transmit telemetry before being shot down. Dubbed the [i]Viper[/i], the ship was similar in size to other contemporary vessels of the galaxy, and seemed to have been performing a patrol mission. The name comes from the hull's organic, animal-like design, far removed from the cold geometrical shape of the Monoliths.
Collector Scythe gunboats, Mantis fighters and Wasp Patrol Craft (Solarian designations given, real names unknown) are a much more common sight, being charged with protection of their borders and making traders behave themselves. They do not seem unusual for spacecraft of their type, though covert scans reveal surprisingly large radiation emissions of their drive systems, suggesting disproportinately large power outputs.
Of course, they're damn dirty Xenos who need to be exterminated to ensure continued survival of humanity...but if only I could get my hands on one of their ships first...", Techmagos Xavier Velarius, Adeptus Mechanicus official, in an unofficial interview
Military (ground): Ground forces of Collector society are an even rarer sight than a Monolith. These are usually small units of extremely deadly troops, used to secure an objective only Collectors themselves know the worth of. Most encounters between galactic sentients and Collector combat Units are learned about from half-coherent babbling of lone survivors, obviously out of their minds. In the few rare cases when the survivors were able to say anything but incomprehensible references to DEATH INCARNATE, they're dismissed as crazy anyway.
Even seasoned soldiers who managed to survive an encounter with hostile Collectors on remote worlds (the number of such encounters in all known space can be counted on one hand) can't make heads or tails of their capabilities, save for colorful descriptions like "The motherfuckers fucked us like a cheap whore and slit our throat afterwards!"
What is known is that Collectors utilize specialized Units in combat, often in many vastly different forms: for example, heavy four-legged Armatures seem to be the equivalent of infantry-support armor. There are larger and smaller Units filling all roles.
Collectors seem heavily dependent on electronic warfare during their operations, covering their approach with extremely sophisticated jamming, counter-jamming, combat hacking and ELINT. Most of the time, they tend to avoid a fight: by the time the garrison commanders sort out their communications and figure out they're under Collector attack, the ground force is long gone. All direct engagements were attempts of recovering items or damaged Units from the hands of Bragulan, Solarian or Imperial troops that captured them and refused to give them up.
"Collectors? No, not really.", Lt. John Baylor, unusually concise after being asked if he'd like to fight the Collectors one day.
What is the most puzzling ,however, is that soldiers were sometimes found with their wounds dressed and condition stabilized by unknown means. They never have any memory of the action, and sometimes even the events leading up to it, and interrogating them has proved futile so far (though ESP experiments are yielding slight but satisfying results, reliable intelligence is still quite some time away).
Despite the secrecy and limited information available on Collector society, several distinct Units have been identified and catalogued.
Known only by its intelligence designation, it was first encountered at the colony of Elysium, where it delivered Collector demands in person. Since then, sightings of that particular collector have been the only regular sighting of a particular Unit: the fact it sometimes travels to the Altacar homeworld seems to indicate Unit 7 is a particularly high-ranking diplomat of the Collector state, especially since it is equipped with a humanoid body capable of displaying a full range of emontions.
"We are not interested in excuses", said to the Elysian Council
A decision-making structure referred to in fragmentarized data recovered from captured Units. Appears to manage the entire Collector state. Perplexing references seem to indicate Skynet is actually a composite being, rather than a single AI.
Possibly the only known Collector routinely active in charted space: although we only have his word on his origins. Legion is most definitely an upload, very good with various weaponry and operating a small flotilla of drone starships, hiring himself out to the highest bidder. On numerous occasions, he claimed to be an exiled Collector: however, no particular weapons or technology in his posession confirms his story: even his bodies are galstandard upload frames (even if they are of military quality). He is being constantly harrassed by various intelligence agencies nonetheless, but has refused to provide any information on Collector society, and managed to liquidate at least one snatch team sent out to capture him. Ironically, this feat made everybody even more interested in him.
Legion's flotilla typically operates in Wild Space, helping "solve" disputes between illegal colonies that can't count on support from any of the major powers, or powerful corporations such as Sintek or Shromkorp willing to take advantage of Wild Space's lax law enforcement to get rid of rivals, engage in corporate sabotage and recover debt, though he's recently been implicated by a series of high-profile sabotage operations within Solarian space itself.
Unfounded rumors claim Sidney Leon Hank III is also a regular customer.
"When the going gets tough, the tough call for close air support"
A Collector consciousness managing the day-to-day affairs of Trade Station Perseus Zeta. Reports from Wild Space traders indicate the intelligence has no clear chosen identity, interacting with visitors to the station using a wide array of bodies, mixing and matching its physical form, manneurisms and even vocal tone and expressions.
"I think it just likes messing with our heads. Most people I know certainly try to avoid Perseus Zeta whenever possible. Or maybe Gamma just hates its job?" - Jack Turdner
Encountered recently, during the Shinn-Hokkaido crisis, Unit 5 seems to be another Collector diplomat. Reports about this particular Unit are vague, however: it appears to possess a body similar to Unit 7 in construction, though it takes on the identity of a human female for negotiations.
Further information is not available. Sidney Hank is the only human to have met Unit 5 to date.