From a post to DAVIDWEBER.NET forums on 5/14/2012

Assumptions about the stocking on Nimue's Cave

        People, some of you are really making some… unfounded assumptions about what was going on, how much foresight Commodore Pei, Pei Shan-wei, and Nimue could possibly have exercised, and how thoroughly things got screwed up by the nature of Langhorne's unanticipated (and unanticipatable) decisions and actions.

        Let's look at this step-by-step, shall we?

        The first point at which the Peis and their allies started worrying was the discovery that Langhorne had been chosen as the mission commander. At that point, they seriously questioned whether he would abide by the original mission plan, and (in fact) concluded he probably wouldn't. They hadn't been able to come up with a possible answer to the problem until immediately before Operation Ark was actually mounted, however. (The fact that Langhorne was chosen over the other possible nominee for mission commander very, very late in the process was the primary reason for the tight time window for any reaction on their part.)

        At that point, and no sooner, Nimue herself came up with the plan of using her PICA, because it was the only last-generation PICA available to them. There was no time between the point at which she had the inspiration and the time she had to transfer to Admiral Pei’s flagship for her to make a fresh personality recording; that's the only reason she didn't have a current, up-to-date memory record of everything that had been discussed when she woke up on Safehold. The hack of the PICA's software to delete the ten-day limit took place only after Nimue was dead and gone; it was, in fact, devised and executed during the terraforming process while they were out from under Langhorne's immediate supervision/observation.

        The contents of Nimue's Cave do not constitute supplies carefully laid up for a series of preplanned, clearly visualized scenarios. Those contents consist of what Commodore Pei and Pei Shan-wei were able to divert/steal/conceal during the terraforming process itself, and they — along with Nimue's PICA — were tucked away before Langhorne and the colonists ever arrived to settle the planet, at which point — for the first time — the Commodore and Shan-wei discovered that their suspicions about Langhorne and Bédard had been justified and learned — for the first time — about the Church of God Awaiting.

        One should not refine over much on the planning/foresight of Kau-yung or Shan-wei based on the contents of the cave. Their effort was to give Nimue as broad a set of tools as they could within the context of what was available to them, not to provide specific weapons or capabilities against any specific, clearly visualized threat situation. Nor should the absence of any virtual personalities of their own in the cave, as a great surprise to anyone.

        Neither Kau-yung nor Shan-wei knew about the kinetic bombardment platform, remember? Absent that knowledge, even if they'd realized the extent of Langhorne/Bédard's megalomania, they had no reason to suspect what was likely to happen to Alexandria. At that point, right up to the eve of the enclave's destruction, Shan-wei still had an openly preserved knowledge base in Alexandria and no reason to believe she and it might be reduced to a fireball with absolutely no warning. The same is true for Pei Kau-yung, who, as Langhorn's military commander, had every reason to believe that if force was used, he would be in a position to either block the attempt or, at a minimum, (1) provide at least some advance warning to Shan-wei and/or (2) recruit and lead a counterforce from within his own military personnel, providing a fighting chance for Shan-wei's victory or at least her survival.

        Once he did discover the existence of the bombardment platform, he had no time to be thinking about building virtual reality units or making copies of his own personality. Ignoring all of the other reasons why that might be true, he'd just discovered that although he was officially Langhorne's military commander, Langhorne had taken the precaution of constructing an entire kinetic bombardment system secretly, without Kau-yung's knowledge. That clearly implied Kau-yung wasn't trusted, and that equally clearly implied that if he was going to mount a counter strike, he had to do it as quickly as possible. He took the risk of delaying long enough to update the memos he'd left for Nimue, then made his suicide run on the command staff.

        So, Nimue woke up with the supplies stashed in her cave and a fairly comprehensive record of everything Kau-yung and Shan-wei knew prior to the destruction of Alexandria, plus Kau-yung's "final briefing," which is the only part of the records left by him which the reader has actually seen "on camera." It should not be assumed for a moment — and I have never suggested for a moment — that Kau-yung's final message was the only data she had, however. The problem is that because all of the other data was recorded before Shan-wei's Rebellion or the War of the Fallen, it all applies to a situation which no longer exists. In other words, it is of strictly limited (i.e., virtually no) utility in terms of allowing her and her associates to deduce what actually transpired within the "secret inner deliberations" of the command staff from which Kau-yung had clearly (based on the existence of the bombardment platform) been excluded. Nor can it tell them a thing about anything that happened after Kau-yung's death.

        As far as the reason for the limitations on the AI provided for her, it was a question of how good an AI they could manage to "lose" during the terraforming process while the cave was being stocked. Owl's limitations were the very reason they could give him to her; he was basically a backup, limited utility unit for Kau-yung's light cruiser flagship. As such, it was possible for him to administratively lose Owl from the records, whereas it would have been extremely difficult — not necessarily impossible, but certainly far riskier — for them to have "lost" one of the fully developed, more capable AIs being used in the terraforming process itself. Simply putting the arm on the library core from the transport which was tucked away in the cave was dangerous enough; trying to get fancier would have significantly upped the risk of making someone as paranoid as Langhorne suspicious.

        I'm not quite sure why people seem to be assuming that (a) Kau-yung and Shan-wei had sufficient foresight to game out scenarios based on overthrowing the Church of God Awaiting when they initially stocked the cave before they even knew the Church of God Awaiting existed, or (b) they ought to have had that degree of foresight (if they didn't), or (c) they ought to have taken precautions against the kinetic bombardment platform's total destruction of Alexandria when they didn't know the platform existed, or (d) they ought to have stored their own memories and virtual personalities when they'd already stored Nimue's and had no reason to anticipate the abrupt termination of their own corporeal existence. You do understand that they were acting with limited foreknowledge, finite resources, and very little time in which to modify their plans in reaction to Alexandria’s totally unanticipated destruction, don't you? Under those circumstances, one has to accept that however much foresight they showed in creating Nimue's Cave and parking her PICA there in the first place, virtually everything else had to be strictly improvisational.