In which Ca1yps0 is led around by her tail on a Matrix mystery.
The Mystery in Berlin
Ca1yps0 is contacted by Rachael, a formally-Horizon-affiliated e-ghost, and asked to meet with her on the Berlin node of the S-K global grid. Hopping over and looking around for signs of Rachael’s code, she finds some breadcrumbs scattered evenly about the grid and puzzles over it for a short while before using her visualizer to create a representation of it and start to chart the code. While she’s doing so she’s spotted and nearly scanned by an S-K patrol program, managing to hide herself from it and watches as scans one of Rachael’s data trails, noting it as an error but not making a report of it.
Compiling up a data sprite to help her analyze the data, she and her new pal take a look at it and look for patterns; they don’t spot any, but they do spot an unfamiliar regal-looking persona running silent on the grid, sitting on a Matrix bench and feeding the Matrix birds. Examining it closely, she finds a very high rating device, confirms that it’s not a technomancer or an artificial intelligence, and, after threading FAQ, that it has admin-level access permissions on the S-K grid and that it’s rigged to explode unless a very specific set of biometrics are imprinted. Taking a chance, she makes up a simsense file and places it next to the persona - they don’t react, but an agent comes over to examine it and she follows the data trails back to a nearby commlink.
While searching, Ca1 receives a call from one of her contacts, telling her to get out of there and that it’s a trap - concerned, but unwilling to abandon Rachael in her time of need, she continues her search while doing her best to stay hidden from anyone that might be looking for her. Deciding to call up Faulty for assistance, she has her data sprite hide one of Rachael’s data trails to create an obvious break in the grid and occupy the attention of the regal-like persona, which, it becomes clear, is working with the agent to actively search the grid for anomalies. The free sprite arrives, offering its aid to its former compiler, and together the two of them manage to hide themselves with a resonance veil and spot the fact that they’re surrounded by silent icons. Noticing that the icons are some sort of combination of Black and Killer IC, and that they’re surrounding and quarenteening the grid of data trails and following the admin around, Ca1 and Faulty pull back and take an examination of the whole scene, using FAQ to try to get some idea of what’s going on, figuring that they’re just as puzzled as she is; the complex form reveals that the arrangement is too artificial for an e-ghost, and more like what one would expect of an AI.
Back to the Plex
Not sure what’s going on, she returns to Seattle to speak to her contact about what’s going on, learning that Rachael’s data trail, or that of whoever was apparently impersonating her, led into a dissonance pool. Concerned, she heads to M_07’s rogue host for further intel, meeting with two of his associates (M_03 and F_01), who after some questioning tell her that Rachael can be reached through an algorithm contained in her virtual gravesite, and that that’s how M_07 reaches her. Rezzing into the Horizon memorial host, she locates Rachael’s grave and uses editor to insert the algorithm and send her a message; she arrives a few minutes later, seemingly none the worse for wear. The e-ghost says she is not sure what’s going on, but that it may have something to do with the AI hunting her and tells Ca1 that if anyone ever contacts her claiming to be Rachael to come to the grave and call to confirm it’s really her.
Confused and frustrated, the mermaid compiles up a sprite to help her search the grids for Chitin, a dissonant technomancer who she met during the events of Time to Attack and who was evidently working with the xenosapient based on evidence gathered during Seeds of Resistance. While searching, she visits her formally-dissonant dependent to get a bit of insight into how they might be thinking, but leaves frustrated after some of the usual talk about the matrix crazies descends into non-sequiturs. Finding Chitin’s data trails all seem to lead to dead ends (presumably into Dissonance pools), except for one - an R5 host for a costume shop, which seems to have had some work done on its sculpting recently. Curious, she enters the host and heads inside the Foundation to investigate.
The Spookiest Place on the Matrix
Appearing inside the Foundation as a notably-more-spooky version of herself (a partially skeletal mermaid with long talons and a missing jaw), Ca1 looks around the Halloween-town like area she’s found herself in. Looking around, she spots a familiar-looking Resonance signature belonging to Cricket, who she worked with during Seeds of Resistance, and follows it to a banshee’s house, a creepy church, a zombie cabin and a spooky crypt (the last of which she confirms to be the Null Node, and which Cricket’s signature evidently goes inside). Speaking to a few of the Foundation denizens (and getting a slice of eyeball pie for her trouble), she asks about her buggy associates and is pointed towards the sewers, where “the infestation” apparently has their own enclave.
In the sewers, the mermaid looks around for a bit and finds a nest of crickets, but is unable to locate her fellow techno or signs of her resonance signature. Returning to the surface, she goes to the center of town and interacts with the master control node to obtain a map of the Foundation, following it to a mad scientist’s lair (the portal node) but finding no sign of familiar signatures there. Stealing herself, she prepares to enter the Null Node in search of answers, calling her pal Faulty to stand guard outside; entering the crypt, she falls and falls and falls, before emerging out of the crypt in a duplicate of the Halloween Town, with no Faulty in sight. What she does find is a persona calling itself “Gatekeeper”, who offers her a gift - recognizing it as a packet, she politely refuses, and the Gatekeeper just shrugs and tosses it aside.
Asking where she is, the Gatekeeper tells her that she’s in a sort of “under-Foundation” inside the Null Node - in exchange for offering packets to everyone who arrives, the entities in the well are content to ignore their presence, and they are exempt from some of the usual terms for maintaining the paradigm and drawing the ire of Variance - thus able to speak slightly more freely, he identifies himself as a former member of the Starscreamers, newly christened as the Cyberscreamers by Chitin. He tells her that Chitin is not currently around, but that she can leave a message for her, and even drop an anchor in the Foundation to return at her leisure.
The Imposter Revealed
Without much else to go on, Ca1 returns to Rachael’s virtual grave on the Horizon grid to speak with her and update her on the situation. The persona that appears when she goes through the handshake process looks like the familiar e-ghost, and Ca1 proceeds to tell her about what she’s learned, but upon closer inspection she sees that the persona is actually someone else cleverly impersonating them; calling them on this, the mermaid is told “this is your last warning” and to not look into the matter further. As she prepares to attack, the persona vanishes and leaves her occupied with some IC while it slips into the digital shadows; when the dust is cleared they are nowhere to be found, and out on the grid a nasty surprise is waiting.
Finding that a bounty has been put out on her, Ca1 calls the tip line from a burner number only to have it traced and a drone subsequently shows up at her location. A quick data spike reveals that it was hijacked remotely, and a few more test runs give the same results - attempts to call lead to armed drones being sent to the location to attack whoever tried to contact the number. Frustrated and more than slightly concerned, she returns to the Cyberscreamers and finds Chitin there, proceeding to demand answers about what’s going on. The buggy techno tells her that what she ran into was a Null, and that the xenosapient entity that she has encountered several times in relation to Rachael (see: The Red Star and Seeds of Resistance) is in reality a rogue Null which the others are attempting to hunt down and destroy.
Using a bit of techno-wizardry, and by entering the Null Node in order to appease the Dox, Ca1 is able to get the price on her head removed and reparations paid out for her trouble; however she is aware that she’s on Their radar now, and dives into the Resonance Realms to better learn how to combat artificial intelligences and Matrix entities.
10,000 Nuyen as reparations for falsified bounty (5 RVP) 26 Karma Submersion Grade 6 Discount Optional Contact: Chitin, 4/1 Dissonant Technomancer (4 RVP)
Player After Action Reports (AARs)
Holy shit. Holy shit. What the frag… I’m still trying to process all that. Shit. SHIT. Okay. Everything’s fine…
That was way too close. Goddamnit. I need to be more careful. That thing’s still out there and They know who I am now… I need to work on figuring out how to fight these things on their own terms if I’m going to be able to deal with this problem permanently.