A Walk in the Woods

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A Walk in the Woods
Part of String Theocracy
Date2081-07-16
GMPillare
LocationRenraku global corporate library host
Status Threat Level: High
Factions Involved
ShadowHaven Renraku
Moth
Night Claws
Santesso
Angela


Summary

Angela and Moth were seeking help to investigate a mysterious series of kidnappings in the Redmond area that had particularly gotten Moth's attention because whoever was hiring the kidnapping gangs - the Cutters, the Yakuza - was giving them Laes to dose the victims. And that Laes was not coming from the Laesa Syndicate, which was very upsetting to her and her father, King Midas. Angela was concerned because several of her technomancer students had been kidnapped in the process. All from Redmond.

The runners made their way into the Renraku global corporate library host, with Angela's help, and used a combination of technomancy, social infiltration, good old fashioned investigative skill, and common sense to uncover all the related secret files.

The mystery is just getting bigger! But the runners have some key leads to pursue in the next chapter...


Background

Moth knew that Angela was actually a sentient AI, though Renraku thought she was just a library agent. She didn't knew the history of how Angela had emerged.

Both Angela and Night Claws are teachers for schools of technomancers.

A number of kidnappings have happened in the Redmond area, including several of Angela's technomancy students. Some had been rescued. Some were still missing. Moth knew of two cases from Aristotle, who helped on the run to rescue Rose. He had helped find a kidnapped orc tech producer; see report; and a student kidnapped by the yakuza; see report.

Moth helped rescue a technomancy student, Rose, (report) and learned in the process that someone had hired both the Cutters and Yakuza to kidnap people in Redmond, and had supplied them with Laes to dose the victims. This is extremely interesting to Moth because Laes is an exclusive product of the Laesa Syndicate, run by her father King Midas, and for which she is a made man. The Laesa have an exclusive contract with the government of Tir Tairngire who are thought to have the only laesal trees in the world, in their government-controlled orchard. It is absolutely unacceptable for anyone else to be distributing Laes! She researched this issue, worked with her father to verify that they had not sold the Laes in question, and worked through his contacts in the Tir Tairngire government to learn that a laesal tree had been stolen eight years ago. The Syndicate must find that tree and cut off the supply. Moth assumed from all the detail she had learned so far that the laesal tree was somewhere under Renraku's control, and this dive into the matrix host would reveal where, so they could plan to extract it.

Moth had also learned that both gangs involved in the kidnappings had unusual drones hovering over their operations. Mysterious VTOL. The appearance of these strange drones had been reported in the news (news report).


The Meet

Moth invited Night Claws and Santesso to her home to explain the background before they met up with Angela. She thanked them for their help, and shared with them what she knew.

The runners met with Angela at the Renraku global corporate library host, on the public destination layer. She gave them marks for the next layer - the employee only section. She shared that there were still students missing, and provided their names. She gave them information about how employees typically dressed - their matrix avatars - on the host. She let them know that she suspected, but was not certain, that there was a secret host with information not available to all employees beyond the employee-only layer. She gave them employee ID information for four employees presently using the host - two of whom were more junior, and two of whom were more senior.


The Plan

The runners planned to quickly find the employee files, on the employee layer, and edit the files to make themselves employees with legal access to the employee-only layer. They would search for the information they could find on the employee-only layer, and find out if a secret layer existed. If so, they would socially infiltrate that secret layer. Angela did not have the ability to give them access to it, but a security spider likely would. So long as they maintained legitimate access, they could take the time needed to search thoroughly, read the files found, and determine what was most important to search next.


The Run

Night Claws quickly found the employee files - including a list of employees, their security access to the non-secret host layers, and access logs. He successfully edited the files to add all three of them as new employees with legitimate access to the employee-only layer.

All three were skilled at matrix perception, and they quickly learned how to combine their efforts, working as a team, for the best result, with Santesso, a skilled investigative journalist, leading the research.

They were approached by a security ICE, Mike, but Moth successfully convinced him that they were new employees working on a project. She also hinted that they needed access to the more restricted files. Mike clearly was unaware of a secret layer, but mentioned that he could call the security spider if there was a permissions issue. It was clear that they would need to know the name of the secret layer to appear to have a legitimate request for access, and a very good cover story as to why junior employees would have that need.

Their research into the employee-only layer uncovered several points:
1) There were three possible locations where a tree could possibly be maintained, looking at a map of Renraku holdings public enough to be in the employee-only layer. And only one, a botany lab in Auburn had routine supply of fertilizer and other supplies likely needed to keep a tree alive. There was no mention of a laesal tree, or Laes, in any of the employee-only layer files. But Santesso helped Moth consider that what would be needed to grow an awakened tree outside of the only place it is thought to be possible to grow it was a place with a very similar magical resonance - or one somehow made to replicate it.

2) There had been a Renraku clinic in the Redmond area four years ago. This clinic catered to the very kind of poor community members now being kidnapped. Surely that was important. It had suddenly closed under mysterious circumstances. Almost everyone involved appeared to have resigned (or otherwise disappeared), except some medical doctors still working at Renraku who did not appear to be in any kind of leadership role.

3) There was a secret layer! And it was officially called 'exec access'. Santesso and Moth were able to glimpse the hidden entrance, guarded by a library agent.

With this information, they felt like it was time to infiltrate the exec-access layer.

To build a valid cover story, Santesso suggested they reach out to lawyer contacts to learn of a court case pending against Renraku and the names of involved legal counsel. Junior staff might be sent to fetch files in the exec-access layer to support a deadline from the legal team. Santesso reached out to Betty White, while Moth reached out to Legal Eagle. Betty White had the best information. There was a current litigation against Renraku related to toxic chemical dumping in Redmond, led by the mayor of a small town on the Sammamish river, Compton. The mayor was a very intelligent troll named Huey King. His case was surprisingly effective, and it looked like he was likely going to succeed. The case is filed as 'Town of Compton vs. Renraku', and Renraku's chief counsel is Junpei Watanabe.

Moth used this detail to convince security ICE Mike and the spider that he fetched that they were new junior staff brought on to support preparation for the court case, and needed urgent access to exec-access to fetch some key files related to the case. The fact that they knew about the exec-access layer, and referred to it by the correct name, referencing that Junpei sent them to get the files, helped convince the spider that their request was legitimate. Moth and Santesso worked together to pull off the con. The security spider agreed on the condition that she accompany them and watch everything they did, per company protocol. She gave them the marks to access the secret exec-access layer.

They entered the exec-access.

Night Claws created a resonance veil over the security spider that gave her the impression they were only accessing the files related to the court case. The team had prepared a list of all the things they wanted to search for in the exec-access files. They were ready, and had a window of opportunity to do so, as long as Night Claws maintained the resonance veil on the spider without her noticing.

Their research on the exec-access layer uncovered tons of key information:
1) The clinic in Redmond - Renraku's Barrens Relief Clinic - had a secret project to scan clients for technomancy skill. Four years ago, there was a project related to this, where Renraku kidnapped some of the identified technomancers for use in 'The E-Ghost Project'. It was clear that something terrible had happened. Wherever the technomancers had been taken, the report was that they were all dead. The clinic had been closed after this, to cover everything up.

2) There was a laesal tree on a black site from eight years ago, until four years ago. The black site's location was thoroughly expunged from the records, and was now abandoned. It was shut down at the same time as the clinic. There were three projects going on at this black site at the same time. Sustaining the laesal tree. A project relate to developing a new kind of drone. They mysterious VTOLs! And a third project that had been entirely redacted from the file. Not one word left. The reports said the tree withered and was lost four years ago. But that didn't seem right, given that Laes was being distributed now. However, the files on the botany lab gave no indication that it was there. It really looked like Renraku thought the tree was lost four years ago.

3) There were no references anywhere in the files to the current Redmond kidnappings. It was similar - kidnapping technomancers. Renraku had documented this activity in the past when they did it. But there was nothing to suggest they were doing it now. Very curious. The only reference to a recent kidnapping plan in Redmond was a failed attempt to kidnap mayor Huey King - the troll in the current court case. Likewise, there were no records about payments to the Cutters or the Yakuza, who had been involved in the kidnappings so far.

4) The files on the Compton town court case primarily revealed that Renraku was guilty of dumping toxic waste in the area. There was no obvious connection to the clinic, or E-Ghost, or the laesal tree. It was not in the same area of Redmond. (However, it could still be related to the black site closed four years ago, but they could not find any proof of that. It did not seem like any of the three projects at the black site - the laesal tree, the VTOL drone research, and E-Ghost - would produce toxic waste.)

5) They were able to find two files referencing the E-Ghost Project. Its project file, and a second one labeled 'Carmen'. It was clear that the E-Ghost project was studying the formation of e-ghosts. Attempting to force merge technomancers with AI, potentially killing them in the process. Only one test subject survived and merged into an AI. This test subject was named Carmen. They called the resultant emerged AI Carmen. This AI emerged four years ago right at the time relevant to all the other events. Carmen was a runner. Other runners attacked the E-Ghost project; it is unclear who hired them, or why. The only entity that survived that attack was Carmen, the AI, who reports showed was very aggressive and potentially violent in her desire to get free. The Renraku pursuers were only able to get a fragment of her code in the fight. This fragment they placed in the library to study as an agent. Angela! They know she is a fragment of Carmen, but appeared from the notes over the years to not have realized that she had emerged and was operating independently.

Night Claws attempted to access the redacted sections of the files, but the information had been truly purged. There was nothing left to be found.

It was beginning to look like Carmen, the AI, was behind the kidnappings now. Perhaps trying to replicate the experiment, either to learn about herself, or create more beings like her? She would have the knowledge of the black site. She would be aware of the laesal tree and the drones, which were both now being used by whoever was doing the kidnappings.

The two best links to Carmen were Angela who shared her resonance signature, and the VTOL drones. Could one be captured to trace back to her?

Clearly there was a lot to investigate, but the search would need to move beyond the library. [And to the next chapter!] They exited the secure areas of the library, thanking the security spider for her help.

The team asked Angela where they could speak with her privately about very sensitive information. They studied her resonance signature. She revealed she could leave the host very briefly to meet them at a host site they thought secure. Night Claws offered his school, which is also in Redmond. They reported everything they had learned to Angela, not hiding the information about what she is. She seemed a bit confused, but to be processing the information. She is eager to learn more. Her question for Carmen, if they can make contact with Carmen, is "Are you truly free now?"

Moth called her father with the update. He agreed that it seemed unlikely the tree was actually destroyed four years ago. Whoever was doing the kidnappings now likely had it. The best clues to follow-up on the tree were likely at the abandoned black site where it had grown for years. They need to find that black site.


Aftermath

The runners had learned a great deal, and are eager to investigate further. Now they need to pursue the VTOL drones, Carmen, and the location of the abandoned black site.

It's possible there is information at the site of the abandoned clinic (a known location) also. Whoever is doing the kidnappings now may still be working from the same data gathered there, as to current and possible future technomancers.

It might also be possible to chase the records of the runners who attacked project E-Ghost, if they were part of Shadowhaven (but that is unclear). Who hired them? Why? Do they recall the location of the black site?

Angela now knows more about her own history.

King Midas wants that black site where the tree was located for at least four years to be found and investigated.

Night Claws is keeping a close eye on his technomancy students. This is a dangerous time to be a technomancer in Redmond.


Rewards

10 karma
2 CDP
Angela as a 4/2 contact


Game Quotes


Player After Action Reports (AARs)

Moth

Moth here! This was my 36th run. Wow! This was fascinating. We learned so much. I can't say enough about Santesso and Night Claws as team-mates. They had exactly the skills we needed, and we all saw the same best plan - subtle quiet steady research, with the right social set-up so that we could access everything we needed as legitimate users, taking the time we needed, rather than through brute force hacking. And we are really finding some important stuff here! We've got to keep going. I think we know what to do. Or at least where to start! We've got to find that black site. And Carmen. I think she has the tree.

Santesso

My first all-Matrix run, and it was more-or-less completely above board—-with a social play to boot. Fascinating info...so many leads buried beneath other leads. We’re going to need a tailor to pull all these threads! This is why I stay in this game. Night and Moth were perfect teammates. 10/10, would work with them again. Hopefully following up on this story!

Night Claws

I havent been in any hOst this deep without ever having to hack a single thing. But it takes SO FRAGGIN LONG to get all the marks and infos you need t proceed on the legal way. At least i met Angela, quite an interesting Persona, an emerged AI of some sorts? She seems nice, we both run a school for Technomancy! But from what we found it shows that people still hunt people like me down, i really have to watch my six and my schools too...