|ShadowHaven||Mitsuhama Computer Technologies|
|Ascension for Pulse, Submersion for Vip3r|
Vip3r and Pulse are contacted by a past adversary who offers MCT secrets in return for the runners' help in erasing their information from a MCT database. The task requires them to enter the host through its Foundation and then escape through the Resonance Realms.
Vip3r and Pulse have spent months planning and preparing to hit a MCT Zero Zone in Auburn in order to extract Vip3r's adoptive father (a pharmaceutical researcher) and Pulse's little sister (Project T-355, a prototype transhuman technomancer created with data stolen from Project Tarantula).
During Escape From Tomorrowland, Vip3r and Pulse crossed paths with Kaleidoscope, a technomancer and shadowrunner who was in the foundation to remove data that Horizon had on them. Initially seeing Kaleidoscope as a threat, Vip3r and Cricket worked together to kill the hyperthreaded complex form that was buffing their firewall and Pulse sucker punched them to intimidate them, but the conflict ultimately resolved without digital bloodshed.
Kaleidoscope sends a pair of courier sprites to Vip3r and Pulse. The one meant for Pulse is actually delivered properly, but the other one is intercepted by Pixel (Vip3r's bastet kitten), who, much to Vip3r's dismay, chases it into an abandoned host on an inaccessible grid. As she follows Pixel's persona, she gets a comm call from Pulse, who has recognized the sprite and its sender and is worried that this meeting is a trap. At first, Vip3r is agitated and doesn't want to discuss Pulse's problem when her cat is running off into a closed grid where she might get eaten by a xenosapient, but she and Pulse quickly connect the dots and realize that they're being pulled into the same meeting.
Once they're on the abandoned NeoNET grid, they're met by another courier sprite from Kaleidoscope that has a message for them. Pulse discovers that the message is encrypted but not databombed, and he cracks the encryption to reveal an address to a host, a pair of invitations to mark it, and a message of reassurance that "the cat is safe." They're still suspicious, but since Kaleidoscope doesn't seem that determined to kill them, they resolve to enter the host and check it out. Besides, Vip3r needs to get her cat back.
The host is a Matrix nightclub, empty except for Kaleidoscope who immediately notices and greets the runners as Pixel jumps up onto the table in front of them. Having determined they're probably not in any serious danger, Vip3r makes a beeline for the table and picks Pixel up, making sure she's okay and uninjured--and, seeing that she is indeed safe, Vip3r finally relaxes. Kaleidoscope offers them drinks from an expansive simsense menu, which they both accept. They converse for a bit, Pulse recalling how he used to surveil this host and how he always thought it was a birthday party, before they finally begin to discuss business.
Kaleidoscope took over this host a few months back, because it was abandoned and made a perfect Matrix safehouse. They noticed Pulse entering the host around the same time (during NeoNETworking), and as he caught their interest, they decided to look into his reputation and background. They recognized him when they crossed paths in the Virtual Disney foundation, where they took an interest in their other teammates as well, but given what they knew about Pulse and Vip3r's interests and history, they seemed like the best candidates to reach out to for help.
They then proceed to explain that MCT has been compiling information on them, and they want to wipe their files but can't do it alone. There's no legwork necessary; they already know where the files are and have a plan to delete them. All they need is to have someone working on their behalf in the host while they operate in its foundation. In return, they offer admin credentials and passwords that haven't been burned yet and will help Vip3r and Pulse in their infiltration of the Auburn black site.
The two runners take some time to discuss privately, as they're still a little suspicious of Kaleidoscope, but ultimately decide that the potential benefit here is worth the risk and agree to take on the job. After making their preparations, they exit the nightclub host through an "Employees Only" door to go to its foundation and anchor-hop to the foundation of the MCT host.
The MCT Host
Kaleidoscope goes off to do the work they need to do in the MCT foundation as Vip3r and Pulse make a mad dash for the exit, nearly failing to escape and triggering a major variance as a result. They manage to escape on the second try, though, and emerge into the outer edge of the host on a salt flat covered in hexagonal tiles. They then begin their search for the following keywords, which Kaleidoscope gave them prior to leaving the abandoned NeoNET host:
-VK2050-81406 -RS1309-VIC -ICBreaker
The first is a file on a specific virtual kinetic, which Vip3r recognizes quickly based on her own ID code as a MCT research subject. Pulse disarms the databomb and marks the file, and they move on to the second. It leads to a database of resonance signatures, which Vip3r can't resist taking a peek at against Kaleidoscope's wishes; if her own resonance signature is present in the collection, she can't resist the chance to erase it as well.
Just as Pulse successfully disarms the second databomb, the host's Black IC takes notice of the two hackers. Many things begin to happen at once. The host's sky unfolds into a colorful fractal pattern as one of Kaleidoscope's sprites suppresses the other IC in the host. Pulse hits two of the IC with a forked dataspike, which ticks up his overwatch score enough to trigger host convergence, but his deck has Cry Wolf loaded. The undamaged IC takes aim at Vip3r, and she steels herself for the blast as she flashes back to the last time she was converged on, but its digital death ray flies right past her head and hits a security spider who had previously been hidden and was holding a gun to her head. Vip3r snaps out of her initial shock just fast enough to dataspike the spider and one of the two IC, blasting the spider out of the host but failing to hurt the undamaged IC. She then notices a weak point in the damaged one, and slithers up its long, spindly leg to wrench its singular eye out of its socket with her snake jaws, killing it and extracting its source code.
The two runners hide and begin heading toward the domed building in the center of the host. They find a way inside through a back door and sneak through the halls, finding their way to where the final file is stored. They remain mostly unnoticed, until a panel in the floor opens up and another spider climbs out, joined by a massive, imposing cobra fault sprite that Vip3r recognizes from her last foray into this host. Pulse immediately springs into action, smacking down to disarm the databomb and then flinging it at the spider like it's a grenade. The snake sprite, enraged to see Vip3r in its host again, targets her with a nasty electron storm, but she holds firm through it and fires off a blast of complex forms that erode its firewall enough to expose a weak spot. She sinks her fangs into it in a vicious dataspike, and Pulse uses the opening to go in for the kill.
The fractal pattern in the sky folds up again as the sprite's suppression ends, and Vip3r and Pulse know that they need to act fast. Pulse forks an edit file action to two of the files with nuke from orbit loaded up, and Vip3r bootlegs the program from his deck to delete the third one with Editor. A portal to the Foundation opens up in the same instant, and they immediately dive into it.
Kaleidoscope is on the other side, fighting off the foundation's denizens with a file in hand. Upon seeing Vip3r and Pulse arrive, they quickly change the portal's destination and tell them to get in. They do so immediately, and are faced with the Great Firewall on the other side.
A vision of their future infiltration into the Zero Zone plays out like a cutscene from an old two-dimensional fifth world video game. Their companions fall along the way, and at the end, only Vip3r and Pulse remain. Vip3r is left watching through a window into a white room, completely empty except for Cecelia Cross's persona and another persona who they both recognize as Tess. She demands that Pulse sign Tess over to her, as he doesn't have the ability or resources to care for her. A dialogue box pops up, prompting him with the choice, and he hesitates for a moment before grabbing the box and using it as a shield as Cecelia brings a flaming sword down on him. He grabs Tess and runs for the door on the room's north wall as the scene is consumed by flames.
The flames clear, and the room changes-- it's the same stark white, but it's now occupied by a single hospital bed in which Absolute Zero lays, regaining consciousness after their venture into the black site. Vip3r rushes to her side and greets her with the code phrase they established to ensure the other hasn't been replaced by an impostor. Not only does this vision of Zero fail to give the established response, but she speaks with the combined voices of many people who Vip3r used to know. Unsure what to do, Vip3r stares at her, frozen, then runs out the same door on the north wall. She finds herself in the same room andagain runs for the door, but this time it opens up into a void. She turns around to talk to Not-Zero, and the scene replays. Vip3r, in a panic and not knowing what to do to fix the fact that her girlfriend has been bodysnatched, tells her that she's not who she's supposed to be, and Not-Zero echoes it in Vip3r's own voice. Seeing no other way out or through this, Vip3r runs again for the door and leaps out into the void, falling through it into the Resonance Realms.
The Resonance Realms
The trio washes up on a beach, which the two technomancers immediately recognize to be part of the Resonance Realms from the feeling the place has. They take some time to regroup, and then begin a trek into the bordering desert, following a path that Vip3r has taken before. As they travel, Vip3r asks Pulse what being in the Resonance feels like to him, and it leads into a deeper discussion about their experiences-- with the Matrix, with meatspace, with labs, with the Resonance.
They arrive at the Crooked House, the same way that Vip3r did before. From the outside, it still resembles the Tanakas' home in Tacoma, but this time the inside is different; it's become a blend of familiar scenes from the travelers' pasts, all bleeding into each other. One features Kaleidoscope leaving a museum in Downtown and looking back as a massive explosion destroys one of its walls--which Vip3r connects to a past run that Black Samurai told her about. A second scene features a young teenage Vip3r in a dilapidated Barrens apartment, half-paying attention to a newscast playing on a small trid projector while she tinkers with the guts of a broken commlink. The reporter on the trid cast talks about how Hong Kong is in chaos as police search for a number of escaped cyberterrorists, calling themselves technomancers-- and as the young Vip3r hears the word for the first time, the spark of resonance inside her flares to life, causing all the electronics in the room to surge and then die, leaving the apartment in near darkness save for distant streetlights. A third scene centers on Pulse as a young child, being given his first cyberdeck. He's told by X to change the permissions on it to truly make it his, but as he attempts to do so, a databomb blows up in his face.
The next door they go through leads out of the house, and into the entryway of the Endless Archive: a massive library which is very familiar to Vip3r by this point. As Kaleidoscope requests a file from a sprite in hushed tones, Vip3r remembers the wonder she felt when she first arrived here and excitedly tells Pulse all about what the Archive is and how it works, how it contains all the information that's ever existed on the Matrix and ever will exist, from guarded corporate secrets to simple Stuffer Shack receipts. He can request any piece of information he'd like, as long as he offers something novel in return. He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a note, telling Vip3r and one of the librarian sprites that whenever the Red Sox won a game, X would bring the kids hot dogs that he made from his own recipe-- which he managed to steal from him one day, and it's written on the note that he unfolds and hands to the sprite. Pulse then declares that he would like to know Richard Villiers's address. As the sprite leads him off to find what he requested, Vip3r produces a piece of paper from her own pocket, on which she writes her test subject ID code, and finds another librarian sprite to hand it to, asking for information on the project in which she was involved. The sprite waits expectantly for her to offer something in exchange, and she takes out a folder full of animated models of mice and lizards and moths that she's created with her visualizer for Pixel's amusement, showing them off to the sprite proudly. It accepts the trade, and leads her through vast stores of data until it finds the file that she's looking for in the form of a cloth-bound scientific journal volume.
Nearby is a reading area, and Kaleidoscope and Pulse are already there with the files they requested. Kaleidoscope keeps theirs hidden, while Pulse reads his openly and discusses Richard Villiers's many residences. Vip3r, amused, takes a corner of the reading room for herself and begins to read through the file. Links to her subject designation, old SIN, and biometric data are broken as a result of having all her remaining information burned months ago, but the rest of the information is intact. Notably, she learns that the venture was called Project Yari, and learns that part of its focus was on creating hunter-killer IC that specifically targeted technomancers and used specialized biofeedback to punch through their firewalls and target the more vulnerable parts of their brains--which explains the degree of neurological damage she suffered and why her firewall has been so weak--and also discovers notes on how Project Yari's findings were integrated with the information taken from the Project Tarantula data in order to avoid redundant experimentation on Subject T-355.
She looks up from reading to find that Kaleidoscope and Pulse seem eager to go, so she closes the book, tucks it under her arm, and leaves with them.
The walk back through the desert is quiet and somber, all three travelers seeming deep in thought. Vip3r, who has been debating whether to keep the file she found or destroy it, asks her companions if they've ever encountered anything on the Matrix that they'd rather not have exist and if so, would they delete it? Kaleidoscope seems able to tell that Vip3r is really asking for advice rather than making conversation, and tells her that they think she already knows the answer to her own question. But Vip3r is still unsure; though she's seen plenty of things on past runs she'd rather forget, and chose instead to hold onto them for motivation, this is information that has hurt her and others like her, and it might be better to destroy it. Finally, she wonders if Project Yari is still ongoing or if it's come to an end. She flips to the end of the book to see that new text is beginning to populate the final pages, closes it again, and shoves it back into her pocket.
When they return to the NeoNET host, Vip3r sees that four days have passed since they entered the Resonance Realms. Kaleidoscope shares drinks with them and pays them as promised, also offering to recommend them for membership in the Helix if they'd like. To Vip3r, they offer instruction in learning new complex forms and tricks to rebuild her damaged firewall. For Pulse, they offer a more tangible gift: a set of keys that they pull from their pocket, which represent admin permissions for this host. Kaleidoscope leaves after exchanging their contact information with the two of them. Vip3r discusses Pulse's plans for the host with him as they finish their drinks, and finally, they both rezz out.
Vip3r greets Zero with their code phrase. They're each relieved to see that the other is okay.
Pulse awakens in a cuddle pile with his dogs, Exception and Framework, and notices that they both have a Matrix presence now.
- Ascension rewards (5 RVP)
- 10k nuyen (5 RVP)
- 5 karma (5 RVP)
- 2 CDP
- 1 SC (1 RVP)
- Optional Quality: Analytical Mind @ chargen price
- Optional Quality: Home Ground (Digital Turf) @ chargen price
- Optional Quality: Reverberant @ chargen price
- SG6 discount
- 10k nuyen (5 RVP)
- 5 karma (5 RVP)
- 12 CDP (5 RVP)
- 1 SC (1 RVP)
- Optional Quality: Better on the Net (Any) @ chargen price
- Optional Quality: Natural Hacker (Any) @ chargen price
- Optional Quality: Prime Datahaven Membership (The Helix) @ chargen price