The Snake Charmer
|The Snake Charmer|
|Mitsuhama Computer Technologies|
|Vip3r||The Snake Charmer|
Betz was the first person Vip3r told about her experience with MCT. She has seen the younger technomancer as a protege ever since, and has spent time teaching her about her abilities and relationship to the Resonance. In A Nest of Vipers, Vip3r asked her to relay any information she could find on Ken and Laura Tanaka to her, and while Betz managed to dig up quite a bit of information on the newly-constructed black site, the amount of details that had been redacted from the materials she found prevented Vip3r and her allies from being able to definitively determine where it was. Knowing that the extraction can't happen without that missing information, Vip3r asks Betz to continue keeping an eye out and notify her about anything that crosses her radar.
Betz keeps her word, and today, her vigilance has paid off. She calls Vip3r to tell her that she's finally found information that can lead her to the missing piece in her plan; the details on the black site can be found in a MCT rogue host that she now knows the address of. Getting there won't be a simple task, however; at rating 11, the host will be extremely difficult to hack into, even if Vip3r and Betz were working together. As such, in order to access it, Vip3r will have to go through a backdoor in a resonant realm known as the Crooked House. While Betz is unable to accompany her, she offers a sprite to assist her in finding the House.
The Task Ahead
As has become her habit in preparation for deep dives, Vip3r alerts those she cares about that she will be taking on a task that may leave her unreachable for a while. She sets up in her secondary apartment in Auburn, pops a loco, then begins to ground herself by wandering the host for Plaguehunter. She roams through the blood-soaked streets of the gloomy Victorian city that serves as the setting for her favorite Matrix game, effortlessly striking down the monsters that leap out at her. The faint trails of resonance in the host lead her to a mausoleum in the city center, which is ordinarily a simple element of the host's sculpting—but when she pushes on its huge, heavy doors, she finds that they creak slowly open, revealing a staircase that leads down far below the game's terrain and into somewhere else entirely. Before too long, she finds herself slithering on the familiar path to the Great Firewall.
She is enveloped by resonant flames. When they fade, they're replaced by a too-familiar feeling of being sealed in a vat, an overwhelming amount of data being forced through her brain far too quickly for her to process. She lashes out in fear and anger, and as a feeling like a red-hot ice pick shoots through her brain, she hears her father's voice, muffled by the glass containing her, telling her to stop and give in; she's only hurting herself. Now even more determined to get out, hoping to prove the observers outside wrong, she wills herself to stop for a moment and take stock of what's around her. As she searches for a weak point, she becomes aware of a huge, serpentine persona coiled around the vat, its attributes in constant flux and impossible to parse. It notices her, turns a massive head to look at her, then unhinges its jaws and swallows her whole.
The Desert Road
Vip3r falls through a void, landing in the middle of a vast and rolling desert with nothing in sight save for Betz's companion sprite and a distant road. She asks the sprite to lead her to the Crooked House, as it was instructed to do, and the pair trek off toward the road together. As they travel, Vip3r notices a snake sprite leaving its burrow in the sand, and, overtaken by curiosity, veers off slightly to follow it (to the mild annoyance of Betz's companion sprite, who is just trying to do its job). The snake leads her to a persona that looks like a snake charmer, seated in front of a small pyramid and playing a flute while other sprites, modeled after various kinds of snakes, begin to congregate around it. Vip3r spends a moment observing, then asks the other technomancer what they're doing here; after all, everyone comes into the Resonance seeking something. The snake charmer answers that he's simply seeking to commune with the sprites that live here, and tells her that the pyramid behind him is a place to rest. In turn, he also asks what she's doing; she says that she's here seeking a backdoor in the Crooked House. When he questions her further, she begins to become suspicious, and that suspicion only grows as he lures in a snake that looks remarkably like her own persona. She thanks the snake charmer for his company, wishes him luck in his travels, and then heads back toward the road, following the sprite's lead.
The Crooked House
Time always passes strangely in the Resonance. Vip3r doesn't know if days or seconds pass, but after a long trek she finally sees a house coming into view in the distance. As she nears it, she recognizes it as the Tanakas' house, then realizes as she gets closer that it looks the way it did after the struggle that resulted from her mother's extraction. She approaches, a little uneasily, and notices another persona walking inside, recognizing them as one of the former Otaku working for Cecelia Cross.
Vip3r enters into the living room, which is a blend of the familiar and the horrific; the furniture is broken and overturned, the carpet is bloodstained, and the walls are full of bullet holes. She quickly realizes that the state of disrepair here isn't the only strange thing in this house—the door to the backyard leads to the upstairs bathroom, and walking back through it on the other side leads her to the kitchen. Quickly determining that the layout is nonsense, Vip3r resolves to keep going through doors and searching for connections elsewhere until she finds what she's looking for. Continuing this method leads her to her parents' bedroom, where she notices Laura's work ID sitting on the dresser. She picks it up and pockets it, and as she's about to go out the door into the next room, she nearly collides with the Otaku, who is coming in from the backyard. The two of them stare at each other in stunned silence for a moment, before Vip3r finally tells him that she recognizes him and asks what he's doing here. He also recognizes Vip3r from her distinctive appearance, and tells her that Cecelia sent him here to find a backdoor to a host that contained some information she wanted. Vip3r manages to intuit that they're after the same thing, and asks him if he'd like to join up with her. He agrees, and introduces himself as Parad0x.
Parad0x then asks Vip3r if she knows this place at all. She tells him that if he means the House, then no—the pathways through it are nonsense, and this is her first time here—but if he means the way it appears here, then yes, it was somewhere she knew very well. He suggests that she look for a location where something was hidden that had meaning to her.
The next door leads to her bedroom, nearly unchanged from when she was last in it seven years ago aside from a thin layer of dust. Vip3r realizes that locations where something was hidden could conceivably be anywhere in this room, given the amount of things she kept secret or stashed while she lived here. As she looks at the window on the opposite wall, however, she realizes that the greatest secret hidden here wasn't a thing, but a habit; the window led out to an overhanging section of roof, where she would sit at night and smoke until one of the neighbors finally caught her. She walks toward the window and opens it, revealing a sprawling cityscape outside. This was the backdoor, she tells Parad0x, and motions him to come out onto the roof with her. Once outside, she sees that it slopes all the way down to the ground, and the two of them begin their descent.
The slope of the roof leads down into a thick, oppressive darkness, through which Vip3r loses sight of Parad0x. From her experience with Foundation dives, she determines she's in this Foundation's Null Node-- and there's an uncomfortable presence in here with her. Eager to get out, she searches for walls to walk along or any point of reference by which to orient herself, until she finds a glowing data packet in front of her. The white light it disseminates is reminiscent of Master Morty's persona's eyes, brought on by Deus's corruption. She acknowledges the danger, but seeing this as a means to an end, she grabs it and manages to escape the Null Node.
From here, she travels to the Portal Node. Many people dressed as scientists and researchers are gathered here, and there are many anchors on the portal in the form of scientific equipment. Vip3r finds Parad0x waiting for her, then drops an anchor in the form of a small observation camera and exits into the connected host.
The Rogue Host
Vip3r emerges into her destination as her snake persona, periscoping up from a recycling bin in a corner of what appears to be a sterile office building. She slithers out of the bin and through the host's hallways, with Parad0x following behind. After searching for some time, she manages to find where the file she seeks is being kept. As she tells Parad0x to keep an eye out for her while she works on disarming its databomb and weakening its encryption, she notices him trying to sneakily copy the file for himself. She stops mid-explanation, asks him why he's doing that, and tells him she would be happy to simply offer him a copy of the file if he stuck with her and watched her back. A bit stunned by the offer, the other hacker agrees, and stands guard while Vip3r works her Matrix magic.
But just when she has the encryption broken and the databomb disarmed, a powerful fault sprite that appears as a massive cobra slithers into the doorway. Spotting the Snake Charmer's resonance signature on the sprite, Vip3r tells Parad0x to help her fight it off while she finishes copying the file, and commands Betz's sprite to guard her. The companion sprite is destroyed as it takes a hit for her, but Vip3r copies the file in time and tells Parad0x that she will send it to him once they're out of the host.
The two technomancers jack out. Vip3r keeps her word, making a copy and sending it to Parad0x on the condition that he tells Cecelia that she helped him to achieve his goal. She makes a second copy for Betz, before cracking into the file herself.
Like the other files on the project, it contains both redacted and unredacted information. However, this file contains all of the stolen information from NeoNET's Project Tarantula consolidated into one place, as well as plenty of data on MCT's Project T-355; she's a prototype transhuman who was grown in a vat and who later emerged, making her an incredibly valuable asset and subject for study. Ken Tanaka's name is clearly mentioned in conjunction with the project. Most importantly, this file contains information on where the black site is located; it's in Auburn, only a short distance from Vip3r's newly-acquired safehouse.
+1 chip on Cecelia Cross
May increase Betz' loyalty to 5
Anchor in the Foundation of a R10 MCT data host
Info on MCT's PTT program + location of black site where Vip3r's father now works.
Player After Action Reports (AARs)
Finally, I have the missing info I've needed to prepare for the hit we're planning on the Zero Zone--and it's exciting and terrifying all at once. It's weird, in a... really uncomfortable way, that it's so close to my place in Auburn, and how I drove past it a couple of times on my way to buy furniture without even realizing something was up.
I'm worried about what that job is going to look like. I remember how I panicked about my resonance signature being left on the Tacoma grid after the extraction, and clearly this snake charmer I ran into in the Resonance is an MCT techno who knows who I am, knows what my signature looks like, and I think he knows now that I'm planning a hit on MCT.
That's going to make things a lot harder.
I would say that it would've been a good idea for me to have told Cecelia about the data I was going after, but the fact that she sent Parad0x into the Resonance makes it pretty clear that she's dedicated to this too, and, not gonna lie, his presence there was pretty helpful. I'm also really glad I brushed up on my knowledge of the Foundation recently; knowing how to navigate it while searching for the backdoor into that host was clutch.
Frag. I'm nervous about this. I hope it's going to be okay.