A Storm is Coming
|A Storm is Coming|
The Johnson had an important data file related to some Ares project. Very heavily encrypted. He had identified a menu of 12 geniuses who might be able to crack it. He needed us to set out a safehouse for the encryption to be done, and to recruit at least one genius to work on it.
The runners established a safehouse in a downtown Seattle penthouse. They added a great deal to its security, taking advantage of a generous expense account for the job.
The runners recruited four of the code-cracking geniuses, convincing them that they were becoming part of a Horizon reality trid show, with hackers competing for a cash prize while living in a posh penthouse.
The runners investigated Ares' projects and discovered seven vessels related to seven code-named projects. At least two of which seemed to be about making monsters.
All the information obtained, and the details of the reality trid con were conveyed to the Johnson, and the team was paid for a job well done.
Another run had led to the discovery of Project Fusion. An Ares project involving trying to fuse the infected with bug spirits.
In the course of that run, a heavily encrypted data file was recovered for the johnson.
The same johnson set up this run. He disguised himself as a drug dealer/user, and took the runners to his car to discuss the details. He provided the assignment, dossiers on the 12 geniuses, and his contact information. He wouldn't relent on the payment in nuyen, but he did relent to covering all run-related expenses, including the cost of the safehouse and bribes to the code-crackers.
- The Safehouse*
Mission Control identified the perfect safehouse at a downtown penthouse. He used all his skills with security to make it even more safe. Chop Shop researched the recruitment candidates on the matrix, and helped with cyber security. Moth worked through her contacts to provide a person to run security on-site, and a magician to provide magical wards.
- The Recruits*
The team conceived a con that would work to recruit a strong team of hackers. They selected four priority targets to recruit, given the limited time. They established a cover story for a winning con. Moth would be a reality trid producer from Horizon. She was recruiting candidates for a reality trid show 'Safehouse' where hackers would work (disguised by environment suits) to be the first to break a difficult code.
- An Eye on Ares*
Chop Shop did a deep matrix drive for other information about Ares' projects, related to Project Fusion. They discovered that the vessel related to Project Fusion was one of seven vessels transporting monsters of different kinds. And all are sailing towards Ares' headquarters.
The safehouse is in place, as designed. Whether it holds up remains to be seen, but the johnson was pleased by the effort.
The con took some selling, but ultimately they were successful in recruiting all four desired targets. They had motivated geniuses hard at work, and protected by their false belief that it was all just a trid show.
The information discovered about Ares' projects was of great interest to the johnson.
Paid, the runners met up at Moth's house for an afterparty.
Time would tell what happened to the geniuses at the safehouse, after all their preparations.
>22,000 nuyen (Mission Control and Chop Shop)
>14,000 nuyen (Moth)
Player After Action Reports (AARs)
Moth here. This is the tale of my seventh run, and it was quite the adventure!
I had the pleasure of working with two amazing runners.
Chop Shop. We’d worked together before. Mission Control. This was my first chance to work with him. This was an interesting job. It was a follow-up to something others had done.
The johnson had us meet him in a coffee shop downtown. I dressed appropriately in my most adorable hipster chic turtleneck, skirt, tights, and glasses. Classic art student. I took the chance to get a soy frap. I could afford a real one, but art students generally couldn’t. I fit right in.
That could not be said for the next member of our team to arrive, Chop Shop. He was wearing a business suit. He looked like he was ex-military. Or current military. That stiff bearing. As he got closer to the counter, there was a group of scruffy long haired college kids likely from the art school not far. They were chatting about peace and protest. Total anti-war types. One of the boys gave Chop Shop a hard time, suggesting he didn’t belong here. Chop Shop ignored him, until the kid put his hand on his shoulder. Then…
Chop Shop moved so fast I almost missed it. Suddenly he had the kid’s hand and he was just crushing it. Staring at the kid with dead eyes as bones shattered. I raced over.
A few convincing words about PTSD and fussing over the kid, while I splinted his hand with first aid and made flirty meet-cute eyes at him, seemed to smooth the matter over. I mean he was hurt. He needed to see a doctor. He and the other kids took off.
I looked at Chop Shop like are you kidding me? Hell of a start.
Happily it was all uphill from here!
Mission Control arrived at that point.
We were then approached by a red-eyed junkie. “Hey man…” But the Host pinged him as our johnson, so I followed him out the back door into an alley as he requested. We all did. Once in the alley, he whipped off the disguise, and proved to be another square jawed buzz cut military guy. He ushered us into his car to talk privately. It was a nice car. A black GMC Sidewinder.
Time for the details of the job! In short, his people had some very good intel. A file on an Ares Project. Super well encrypted. He had a list of genius-types he thought could actually crack it. Our job was to put together a safe house where the encryption work could be done, recruit at least one of the geniuses to work on it, and see if we could learn anything about Ares’ work along the way.
It was clear that the code breakers recruited would be in danger. First from Ares, and then – the way this guy talked – if they knew too much they might be considered disposable.
I didn’t love that part, but I figured we’d give our recruits the best chance of living if we ran a con so fantastic that they didn’t realize what they were doing, or why.
He passed us a dossier on twelve potential recruitment assets. Just names and occupations.
- Xiuyin Yong Yeung – computer engineering
- Jie Chao Wong – computer engineering
- Desiree Royle – matrix design
- Brady Maurice Rey – matrix security
- Davena Tucker Joiner – matrix security
- Slave Yakov Pavlovsky – penetration tester
- Vitya Makar Vinogradov – penetration tester
- Mario Rapallino – foundation/matrix theory
- Donatello Febe Accursio – resonance theory
- Nikos Iordanou – computer science
- Silke Reis – nanotechnology
- Gottfried Lucia Messer – developmental program design
He did warn us that they would not be easy to recruit, and might particularly object if the safehouse was not posh.
Now the job was on a tight clock. We needed the safehouse ready and the geniuses at work within three days. And an expectation that they would crack the code within the next five. Our job was done when they were in place working. At least one.
He offered us 16,000 nuyen each. I tried to negotiate him up on price, but he was firm. But then the boys had the best idea ever! Clearly this man represented a serious payroll, facing up against Ares. Some kind of agency man. Could he simply agree to foot the expenses? The safehouse itself, any bribes, usual operating expenses? Well, he went for it! So, we had the absolute pleasure of an expense account. And boy did we use it!
We got his contact information to stay in touch. (Like a bag of burner commlinks. Use once and destroy.)
We moved to a hotel room for planning purposes, and got to work.
Chop Shop started with a full matrix search on the first name on the list. Xiuyin. But then, as we broke down the timeline, we realized that we just did not have time to go deep like that on 12 people. We needed to make some choices.
Chop Shop did a lighter matrix search – what can you learn in 15 minutes – on each of them. So we could make some choices.
Meanwhile, Mission Control and I got to work on the safehouse.
I thought I had a great set of choices, being a Laesa smuggler and all. I knew of a not currently in use Laesa safehouse warehouse on the dock. Nothing posh, but a solid choice with some defensive already built in.
But Mission Control had an even better idea. He was aware of a safehouse that could be rented in downtown Seattle. The penthouse floor of a highrise. Completely posh. Defensible, but we could make it ever so much more.
An easy choice with an expense account. We rented the penthouse and got to work.
This was really 90% Mission Control who knows a tremendous amount about security design and set-up. I mostly got my bodyguard Heavy Metal, who is a bit of a security expert himself, to come on-site and be our physical ops security lead. And I helped with shopping. I like to shop.
There was fab paint for the walls. Cameras and a sensory suite – x-ray motion, ultrasound, Geiger, atmospheric, cyberware… We build up specific fully interior rooms – mostly bathrooms – as declared saferooms. Set them up so they could seal airtight when the ‘oh shit’ protocol was enacted. The windows were blocked and outfitted with breaking sensors. There were blight and frag grenades all over, but tagged to be safe for our geniuses and security handler. Monowire traps. Locks and code locks on all the entrance doors. There were smart firing platforms with krime happiness.
Chop Shop of course was busy wiring everything up – doing the decker part of the equation.
This place was the safest of safe houses. We made sure of it.
Meanwhile, we were starting to work on our recruitment strategy.
We got a bit more information about the other eleven so we could prioritize. We only needed one. We were definitely going to try Xiuyin because we knew we would soon be getting a deep dive of information on him. But we figured we could do dives like that on three more max. So we needed to select our targets based on just a little more information about each person.
Here’s what we knew with the quick searching.
- Xiuyin was a competitive video gamer.
- Desiree liked to model in her off-time. A voluptuous figure.
- Brady was a jock who was also a nerd. He played baseball and wrestled,
- Davena secretly tried to grow deep weed in her dorm room
- Slava and Vitya were twin russian sisters who often do penetration testing of matrix systems for smaller companies
- Jie was a computer engineer that specilized in hard drives and conversion of data from physical to cloud and vice versa.
- Mario was an Ares corp kid who went to lots of corp functions
- Donatello was VERY proficient with the matrix yet had low hours on his school deck. Probable technomancer.
- Nikos worked on the theoretical, quantum probability and quantum computing and was completely antisocial
- Silke is developing her masters in trying to cure CFD
- Gottfried is working on an invasive hacking program that subsumes control almost silently
Easy decisions first. Mario was a hard No.
After that, we had to kind of go on gut instinct. A mix of professional skillsets gave the best chance of cracking the code. Then, instinctively, who might be easiest to recruit.
We were already committed on Xiuyin.
We decided that the best blend of skillsets would include Donatello (technomancer) and Gottfried (AI hacking expert). And we liked Davena’s drug craving. That might be an easy recruitment angle.
But we also needed a pitch that would be consistent. And take advantage of anything else we learned.
So, time to look at the deep dive for Xiuyin, use that to perfect the pitch, go recruit him if possible, and then get the data on the others and keep building the con to match.
Happily a vision began to form!
Xiuyin wasn’t just a competitive gamer. He was a popular gaming-sports persona. JadeEmperor was his handle.
I could see right away he’d be motivated by a competition. Maybe he’s racing the other geniuses? (Or thinks he is?) Winner gets a cash prize? And by exposure. He was building a brand.
And that’s when it hit us. We had a posh penthouse. We were going to lock four people in it to compete to be the first one to crack a code. This sounded a lot like a reality trid show.
We named it Safehouse, of course.
I’d just done a run for Horizon talent scouts. I knew their routines. What their contracts looked like. We set up the con. I was going to be a Horizon trid show producer. We were looking for contestants. A week in a posh penthouse while cracking a code.
A ‘masked singer’ style show where their identities aren’t revealed until the end, because they are wearing haz mat suits in bright colors identifying the person. (And keeping our little geniuses safe.)
We rented a limo.
I happen to have a contact Bob Sanders who is – in fact – an expert in fake reality show trid videos. He himself has mastered the art for the ‘do you want to be in my porno’ approach, but he was the perfect person to get a fake Horizon sim and all the related camera equipment and other paraphenelia. We were set!
We parked the limo outside Xiuyin’s dorm where he could see it. I called him. Made my pitch. Come down to the limo for more information. Cameras rolling! To edit in post. I told him I was a big fan and had personally put him on the recruitment list. JadeEmperor. A green suit, of course. Less than a week of his time. Competing to show that he was the best – and that competitive gamers as a group – were formidable. It would be a huge win to get more streaming fans.
He signed right up! I am rather persuasive… Did I imply that he might get to know me better if he won? Yes, I did.
We dropped him at the safehouse to get to work. Drone cameras following him around in his haz mat suit and that was just all what he expected!
By now, we had the file on the 2nd person. AI guy. Gottfried.
Same con. But, of course, his angle was that Horizon really has been a proponent of AI rights. They wanted a competitor that was really a team with his AI. Viewers would find the story appealing. See that the AI deserved full rights.
Of course by the time we had him in the limo, it all became even more clear. His AI looked just like Mary Jane from the old Spiderman comics. And she was jealous as could be of my come on. So I backed off, perfectly respectful and mentioned how nice it would be for both of them if AIs had more rights…
You could tell she wanted to marry him!
His tag on the show would be Spiderman. Of course. Red suit. That brought us to Davena. At first we only knew she liked deepweed, but the deep search really worked out on her. She was also an adult film star, on the sly. So we knew she was going to like the publicity angle. The camera time. And so very plausibly the person to include on a show like this.
A female hacker! Beautiful! Not afraid of sex on camera! I was starting to think we could actually sell this pilot to Horizon for reals.
Of course, the one thing Davena had that the others didn’t was a lot of social wherewithal. She would make a killer Face.
I don’t think she saw through the con per se. She believed the offer was legit. But she could see I wanted her to sign a lot. Like classic Face negotiation moment. She could tell she could ask for whatever she wanted. Enjoying the power of that moment. And who can blame her? I love that moment too when I’m negotiating.
I offered more money but she was not having it. I had inadvertently sold her on another prize. Me! I can’t help it. I’m adorable.
So the seduction game was on.
I worked out that she probably needed to win to sign. And that a professional trid producer wasn’t going to go down easy. But might need to go down on her. So to speak. Literally.
But you start with kissing.
Hey, we had a limo. Rolling cameras.
We’ll call it an ‘on screen’ audition.
I made Davena very very happy. So that video exists. I assume Chop Shop and Mission Control have it.
You do what you have to do to get the job done, but honestly I’m not sure folks realize that I like men and women both, so this was not exactly a hardship.
One more signed! We gave her a pink suit.
Now the last one was the technomancer. Donatello. That wasn’t much of a lead, so we were glad for the deep dive on him. But it proved interesting too. This guy was not afraid to hack. But he was hacking banks. Paying off poor people’s loans. This guy was a regular Robin Hood. Well, that was obviously going to be his handle on the show. But would a guy like that do a show?
We had three. We were just running up our score at this point, but that’s how we roll.
But ‘the nice guy’ is a classic niche on shows like this. The social justice sweetheart. And, I pitched him that he could use the celebrity (though remaining anonymous – just the newly created media sensation identity of Robin Hood) to collect anonymous donations from fans for charitable causes. And to advocate for better policies. Start a movement.
He saw the light and signed. He’s getting a yellow suit.
Four for four!
Soon enough we had them all suited up and hard at work. Cameras rolling.
They each have a bedroom assigned. And a personal saferoom.
Davena has the master bedroom. Naturally a reality trid show would see that she needed the best bedroom for filming purposes. Being an adult film star. Would she romance the other contestants? My bodyguard? Only the camera footage would tell.
Jade Emperor and Spiderman have the medium sized bedrooms.
Robin Hood has the slightly smaller one, but I figured he was least materially motivated and least likely to complain.
And that was that!
We’d made them as safe as we could with the ridiculous safe room security.
But I honestly thought their best armor was the con itself. We told the johnson the details. They would absolutely believe that anything they found with their hacking was shlock made up trid drama information. Nothing real. No need to kill them.
With the time remaining before the meet, we had one last task. Could we learn anything else Ares was up to? We’d played it smooth with the con. Ares hadn’t noticed. So we didn’t have anything to report from their interference.
But Chop Shop was just the guy to find something with the deepest of dives.
And boy did we!
We found Ares ships, all being recalled to the headquarters harbor.
- Valiwostok Sea
- Indian Ocean
- South China Sea
- Atlantic Ocean
- North Sea
- Mediterranean Sea
And we found a list of project names, probably corresponding to the vessels.
- Project Icefang (Valiwostok Sea)
- Project Kali (Indian Ocean)
- Project Jorogumo (South China Sea)
- Project Reaver (Atlantic Ocean)
- Project Jorumgandr (North Sea)
- Project Scylla/Charbydis (Mediterranean Sea)
- Project Fusion.
Six seas. Seven projects. Only Mission Control and Chop Shop knew about Project Fusion and the vessel related to it. (Which had been in a sea not on the list.) That was about fusing infected to bugs. A monster making project.
And we worked out that Project IceFang was the vessel in the Valiwostok Sea. And we got camera footage. An aircraft carrier with room for only two cargo crates on its vast deck. Huge huge huge crates. And there were air holes. Eyes looking out. Evidence of refrigeration tech. Some kind of monsters, for sure.
We could only conclude every project related to one of the vessels and was carrying another kind of experimental monster.
We figured our johnson would be pleased for this information as well.
Job done! We got paid.
After party at my house. Of course.
Look just gonna say up front, you're not getting the video.
This job seemed pretty straight forward on the face. Locate and secure a safe house, and then recruit a team of deckers to crack some file the Johnson had gotten his hands on. Too easy. Never run with Mission Control before, little bit of the egghead type, but he seemed to have some past experience with the J and knew what he was talking about. Moth I've run with a few times, solid enough face, little squeamish around the dirty work but I guess that's not for everyone. We decided to start with the Safehouse. Moth and Mission Control took the lead on that while I started working through the list of hacker recruits the Johnson had given us, starting to compile dossiers we can use in our recruitment approach. They settled on a penthouse downtown, which seemed safe enough. Whatever team tried to hit it would have to do it quiet like with it being right in the middle of downtown or have to deal with our defenses and cops. It also had plenty of rooms inside that we could set up as saferooms while simultaneously being nice enough to use as a draw in our recruitment approach.
With the safe house choosen, we let Mission Control take over most of the defense preparation, spitting some ideas into the middle of his mad scientist shopping list since the J was footing the bill, meanwhile Moth and I turned our focus on recruitment. One of our targets was an Ares corp kid and since the file we were cracking was an Ares file we zero'd him out right away, not worth the risk to approach and tip off the target. The others looked a little more promising, a hacker with an AI companion, a professional VR gamer, a cam girl that moonlights as a security researcher, and technomancer with a hard on to hit back at the rich. Solid choices but a diverse range of motivations.
Kicking ideas around for a bit we settled on pitching them as contestants in the pilot for a new Horizon trid show. We'd put them up in a penthouse, put them in fancy armor, and have them compete to see who could hack the best. The Gamer would get to play to his competitive streak, the AI lover would get an in for having his companion recognized by a Corp, the Cam Girl would get all the attention she could take, and our robin hood would get a platform to get his message out on. Perfect.
Our first target, the gamer was easy enough. We had Moth dress up and play the producer while I tagged along as the security goon. We rented a limo and it was off to the races. It barely took a flash of cleavage to get the kid on board with the plan, and we quickly had our Jade Emperor ready to report for duty.
Next up was the AI Lover. Moth's previous ploy of flashing skin quickly ran into a digital roadblock as it became clear that lover was more apt than we anticipated. Be that as it may it took very little finagling to get the kid on board, though mostly it was by pandering to the AI who was made up like some old Comic.
Third on the list was Davena. That was an interesting and enthusiastic approach to say the least. There are some perks to being on this job.
Last was the pretentious technomancer. This one also didn't really go for the show, but was more than eager for a little bit of camera time to spout his message. While he put up more of a fight than the other three, we didn't have to resort to anything drastic to get him on board.
So with our four brilliant fools in tow we had our job complete. The J had his hackers, and I'm pretty sure I saw Mission Control loading spools of Monowire and crates of heavy machineguns into the penthouse so that should do for the security aspect. All said zero expenses paid and a paycheck at the end, it's a good life.