The Red Star

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The Red Star
Date2082-01-13
GMAsmodeus
LocationThe Foundation of the Matrix
Status Threat Level: High
Factions Involved
ShadowHaven
Rachael aka. "Caretaker"
The Foundation
Ca1yps0
Gh0st
Master Morty
Sp4rks
Xenosapient AI
Variance
Gh0st burned a point of edge to survive and exit the Foundation. RVP was increased by 1.1x due to run length.


Summary

In which the runners go on a quest in a foreign land in order to help an e-ghost liberate itself from self-imposed confinement.

Background

During the events of What? Not Butter! Ca1yps0 and Sp4rks infiltrated a Horizon-owned host for a facility called "Hotel California" and managed to avoid detection. At least they thought they did, until the J from that job - M_07 - posted on the Haven that their data trails were evidently followed back to him by an e-ghost called Rachael, and that she apparently now wants them to return. Calling for backup, they enlist Gh0st and Master Morty for assistance and go to meet with M_07.

The Meet

The team rezzes into the host belonging to M_07's friends, The Walking People, finding the sculpting is all fragged up and full of glitches, and that he has no idea what's going on or how to stop it - he admits that he's terrified and just wants them to make all this stop. Leading them to a familiar-looking black hole, he explains that it's some sort of agent or semi-autonomous program, and that it wants to give "the hackers" MARKs to return to Rachael's abode. The two who were on the previous job walk the newcomers through the situation, and they agree to help investigate and provide a bit of digital muscle in the event that things go badly.

Following the data trails back to the Hotel California host, the team request access and are granted it, appearing inside to be greeted by Rachael. Ca1yps0, being the only one with any sort of social skills, takes the lead on asking questions, trying to figure out how she knew about them and what she wants. Rachael - who, upon questioning, says she prefers the name "Caretaker" - explains that she noticed them unseal the portal to the Foundation, and that she wants their help: something lurks inside the Foundation that she is afraid of, and she needs their help to confront it. She wants to reach the archive and remove files that Horizon has on her so that the corp, and the horror she will not name, can't keep her a prisoner of her own device any longer.

Everyone agrees that they want to help - especially Master Morty, who is fascinated by e-ghosts and wants to know the secret of their creation so that he can transcend the physical world and live forever in the Matrix. However no one aside from Ca1yps0 has ever been inside a Foundation before, and none are prepared for such an undertaking, so they ask if there is time to prepare. The Caretaker says that time has little meaning to her and that they may do as they wish. Ca1yps0 asks about the paradigm and receives some old retro-converted trideo files from a decades-old media property (BIONICLE, which none of them recognize), which Caretaker explains form the basis for the Foundation, drawn as they are from the collective unconscious memory of metahumanity as recorded in the Resonance. After a few more questions about her origins and the threat they face - both of which she remains cryptic about - the team jack out and make their preparations for a dive into the dark underbelly of the Matrix.

The Plan

Ca1yps0 calls up Night Claws(Contact), who she met on her previous job, and requests a Decker Den(TM) and babysitting services for a Foundation dive. NC agrees to arrange this for a "donation" to his techno-school, and 4000 nuyen later the team have a safe, secure place to do their hacking as well as some medical support if they start to flatline. After the team binge watches some BIONICLE and plays through a poorly-emulated low-rez Flash game, she explains to the deckers the basics of the Foundation (i.e. what a paradigm is, the layout of the nodes and data trails, how to avoid triggering variance based on the information they have). Having confirmed with Caretaker that there is time dilation working in their favor (i.e. a "year inside, hour outside" situation), the team take their respective drug cocktails (with Sp4rks becoming addicted to trance after a failed attempt to edge his way out of it) and jack back into hot-sim. Meeting with Rachael, they go over the final details and arrange a code-word (the conspicuous use of the word "Caretaker", so that they can identify each-other in the event that they're separated initially) before diving into the portal and entering.

The Run

Once they're inside, everyone wakes up separated from one-another on a beach near a strangely alien metal pod which seems to have crash-landed. Taking stock of themselves, the team realize that they've taken the form of masked bio-mechanical constructs with abilities and thematic origins based on their colour and markings, which indicates general patterns of behavior and and place in their people's caste system. After becoming acquainted with the situation, they notice eachother's presence and make contact, confirming their identities with the use of the codeword, and notice a 5th set of tracks in the sand which leads them to another figure that they manage to determine is the Caretaker. She takes them to a nearby magi-tech telescope and observes something through it - Master Morty, wanting to learn more of the e-ghost's secrets, looks through it but is paralyzed with anxiety by what he sees, taking minor biofeedback damage. Gh0st renders first aid while Ca1yps0 chances a look, managing to steel her mind and look upon a red comet in the sky - an ominous portent of doom for the world they currently inhabit - along with visions which provide a bit of context and clues about the identities of the nodes.

Drawing out a map in the sand, the team put their heads together and are able (with Caretaker's assistance) to put together a rough layout of the island and approximate the location of the nodes - the large mountain in the center serves as a landmark, and is the obvious site of the master control node. They determine that the alien pod near where they arrived is actually the scaffolding node, returning to it and confirming their suspicions; briefly considering trying to secure the portal node, they determine from Caretaker that the route is through a dangerous jungle from which they might not be able to return. Instead, they search for a passage built by Morty's people which can take them to the foothills of the mountain, where they can "beseech the great god Mata Nui for aid as the philosophized heroes of destiny" (i.e. employ the use of the master control node to alter the paradigm and empower themselves.)

After a relatively short and uneventful trip, the team reach the master control node and begin their prayers and rituals of supplication. After managing 8 net hits to create a complete map of the nodes (and receiving a vision of doom and a strange mask near the portal node), Morty and Ca1yps0 are able to make their checks to alter the paradigm and empower themselves as Toa, but Sp4rks and Gh0st trigger variance checks and hear sharp cries of predatory monsters in the distance - they quickly prey to Mata Nui and manage to make their calm the beast rolls avoid having the entire dream world turn against them, then employ edge to pull off their rolls to empower themselves as well. Now with the ability to use actual "magic" according to the rules of the paradigm, they set out on their quest to reach the archive; before they leave, Ca1yps0 "calls for aid from the local tribes-people" (i.e. compiles a crack sprite and asks it to watch over the master control node), receiving a hunting horn with which to give it commands.

Setting out, the group journey north to a village at the edge of a vast desert, encountering a peddler of goods en route. Asking him for news of travelers on the road, they learn that a group of crab-mounted warriors are heading to their destination in order to speak with the chief about a threat to the village; figuring that they might be able to obtain rides to cross the desert with if they help out with their new powers, the team set out on their trope-mandated sidequest. Arriving, they speak to the warriors and offer their aid before going to speak to the chief and learn what they're up against - a corruption has taken over the local wildlife, turning them into ravenous monsters. Setting out, they come to a series of caves containing broken alters - Morty uses his new superpowers to see inside with pseudo-x-ray vision, catching sight of their quarry, and he and Sp4rks sneak inside to draw the creature out so that Ca1yps0 and Gh0st can use their massive strength scores to dispatch it. After luring it out, the team work together to pry off its masks and destroy it before restoring what it desecrated and ending the threat to the village.

En route back, Ca1yps0 reveals to Morty that when she discerned the locations of the nodes, the null node's location was given to her in the form of a cursed token - she has not activated it (having warned the team against going to the null node, telling them it serves no purpose and could be dangerous), but she tells him in veiled terms (so as to not cause variance) that it might have the knowledge he asked the Caretaker for regarding how she became an e-ghost. He accepts it Having secured (and individually named) their crab mounts, the team plus Caretaker scuttles across the desert at a breakneck pace, reaching the archive node (a ghost-town, seemingly abandoned with all its occupants missing) in no time at all. Caretaker leads them to a hidden elevator into an abandoned mine, where they find a glowing golden mask that seems to contain all the knowledge of their people. After getting a bit of in-in-character information out of Caretaker, the team tag-team their attempts to recover the files they need for Caretaker to be able to disappear from Horizon's watchful eyes, and to identify the menace which lurks in her host so that it can't follow her; with the power of unity and friendship, their combined dice pools manage to find and fetch the trio of files they need without triggering variance. In the process, they also fetch the information that Horizon has on M_07 from his visit to the clinic that caused his memory problems, finding that they seem to be highly-fragmented copies of his memory engrams that could theoretically be used in an attempt to create a digital copy of his consciousnesses.

With their data in hand, and having learned that they face a xenosapient AI in the form of the mask they glimpsed that waits at the portal node, the group make their way out of the archive and journey back to the master control node, managing to get there without incident. Morty, endowed with knowledge of the data trail leading to the null node, makes the journey in the span of a few seconds and successfully manages to skim the dox, being presented with a packet containing the secrets of transformation into an e-ghost. He reaches out to take it - and then hesitates, worrying about the consequences, and after a few moments of intense introspection he decides not to take it after all, denying the forbidden knowledge and avoiding being doxed in the process. Returning to the group humbled but enlightened in a different way than he expected, they head out with the sprite watching the node just in case they need the beast calmed.

Returning to the beach where their journey began (classic hero's journey stuff here), the team reflect on how far they've come before journeying into the jungle full of corrupted feral wildlife. Sneaking through it with the power of enhanced agility (the nerds really take advantage of their street-sam level physicality) and techno bullshit (with resonance veil covering them with an invisibility spell), the group are able to make their way to a village which should contain the portal node. What they find however is another ghost-town, only this time Gh0st and Sp4rks manage to locate a huge nest of corrupted wasp-like creatures - they can't seem to find the node however, so Ca1yps0 has her sprite alter the paradigm by beseeching Mata Nui to reveal it to them. This works, revealing that it's inside the hive, however the sprite vanishes as a buzzing sound starts up. Steeling themselves, the team head inside ready for a fight, and encounter the AI in the form of a masked horror fighting against the chief of the village; It cuts their ally and begins to change him with malicious code, forcing the team to fight them both if they wish to pass.

While Gh0st and Sp4rks draw their attention, Morty and Ca1yps0 (along with Caretaker) begin the search for the portal node while the tense fighting ends up triggering several major variance checks and drawing the all corrupted wildlife to their location. With time running short, the team finally manage to locate the portal and urge Caretaker to leave first and seek out her newfound freedom - she manages to slip out after wishing them luck, vanishing and showing up who-knows-where on the grids. Sp4rks puts down the corrupted chief while Gh0st, pulling a "you shall not pass" move with the xenosapient, goes down to a brutal swing of the axe, burning edge to survive and briefly flatlining in meatspace before Night Claws manages to stabilize him and keep him online. He and Sp4rks quickly teamwork their exit and get out, leaving Morty and Ca1yps0 to face the wasps and the rampaging AI. Morty fails in his roll to exit the Foundation and spends his last point of edge in the attempt, so Ca1yps0 calls upon her sprites (which have taken the form of bio-mechanical tools) to use their powers to protect them, shielding them long enough to escape (however they are unable to anchor the paradigm and keep the xenosapient occupied long enough to ensure its demise by variance, so the threat remains out there).

Aftermath

Waking up in their real bodies, the team see NC frantically resuscitating Gh0st with a medkit and count themselves lucky to be alive (especially Gh0st, who saw the light at the end of the tunnel and ended up with a deck full of corrupted code and a new lease on life); with their paydata in hand and Caretaker freed, they celebrate their snatching of victory from the jaws of defeat and look over their files. Unfortunately they are partially corrupted and can only be opened once before kludging completely, forcing them to chose between learning the secrets they nearly died for or selling them to interested parties (and thereby potentially putting the AI and Horizon onto Caretaker's trail). They unanimously elect to read the files without attempting to save copies, learning the capitol-T Truth and getting a whole bunch more questions in the process about the e-ghost's origins and the AI's intentions.

After recuperating, the team receive MARK invitations to an empty host on the local grid, where the codes for a money transfer are waiting for them - it isn't much, but it's what the e-ghost could scrounge up from various accounts before vanishing into the digital shadows without a trace (hopefully for her at least). They also let M_07 know that they removed the memory engrams that Horizon took of him when he visited their clinic, ensuring he won't have a digital ghost copy of him out there. Curious for more answers, Ca1yps0 calls up her ex-Dawkins Group fixer, The Weekender, who demands that she perform some unsavory work on the side in order to part with any information on the matter; she reluctantly agrees, and learns that Horizon is aware of the AI in the host's foundation and are avoiding it as best they can, but that even she isn't aware of its intentions. Deciding to let the matter drop for now, she shares what she learned with the rest of the group from "anonymous sources", and they go to the Horizon memorial host where "Rachael's" grave is to leave a token of their affection for the e-ghost, hoping that she ended up somewhere safe.

Rewards

  • 6,000 nuyen
  • 14 karma
  • 2 CDP
  • Optional Quality @ Chargen Price (for Gh0st): Lucky (for surviving certain death by flatlining inside the Foundation)
  • Optional Quality @ Chargen Price (for everyone else): Photographic Memory (for memorizing obscure BIONICLE trivia)
  • Optional Contact: Night Claws(Contact) - C4/L2 Techno Teacher for 5 RVP or 10 CDP

Game Quotes

Player After Action Reports (AARs)

Ca1yps0

My first Foundation dive in far too long, and despite all the chips I do I still had to get used to the feeling of having legs. It was even better than I remembered - I was a lot stronger in there than the last time, and had finer control over my threading. I suppose I should probably start working out and work on this muscle atrophy. Of course I'd be the water elemental too - suppose it worked out for me though, it was pretty easy to stay in character. Frag did things ever get hairy in there though, I was the only one on the job who'd gone on a deep dive before so I had to walk them through it - credit to the Haven's deckers, everyone did fantastic right up to the end, especially for such an out-there paradigm (thankfully we had time to binge watch some old content and get up to speed). I'll honestly never understand how the Foundation decides these things, but I guess that's what happens when you hook a hundred technomancer brains together just to see what happens. Thanks de la Mar, really appreciate the opportunity to catch up on my obscure Fifth World media while I plumbed the depths of your crime against the Resonance.

Despite the brush with death I find myself eager to take another dive with a crew from this host - it was nice to work with hackers who can handle themselves. Sp4rks was even more capable than last time, Gh0st had a novahot Fairlight and knew how to use it (poor fragger is lucky to be alive after taking that bad code from the xenosapient though), and Master Morty might be misguided in his whole "transcend the flesh to live forever in the matrix" thing but he's got a good head on his shoulders. I've never met any changling who got cursed by genetics as bad as him, and I feel a little bad about sending him into the Null knowing what might happen, but I felt like it would show him what he needed to see, and I guess it did - hope he finds what he's looking for someday.

Master Morty

An E-ghost! A real E-ghost! of course I'm going to go, wherever, whenever, to learn more. But into a Foundation? Who knew things were going to be so... different. I was locked into a body, kind of like a mech, and trapped into a set deck set that I couldn't quick switch. Panicked a bit, I must admit, but quickly made the best of the situation. Anyway turns out the E-ghost Caretaker is enslaved to some form of consciousness that is dominating this Foundation, corrupting it even. It's our job to escort Caretaker to the Archive, where she can get the information she needs to free herself from, get this, the xenosapient... It's a great trip, full of action and adventure, I fry my brain a bit, learn to teleport, smack a giant robo-scorpion in the face, and face the edge of oblivion with the chance of acquiring the information I have dreamed about more than anything in the world; the path to becoming an E-ghost. But the price... The price is to high, as I will be pursued by beings beyond description, enslaved to creatures beyond belief, and lost as the intellect I know myself as being. The price is to high. But I will find the answer to becoming at some point the God that I envision, on my terms; it exists somewhere I know this. One day it will be mine. Barely escaped the Foundation, thanks to some kind of intervention created by Ca1yps0, the paladin-esque intervention of Gh0st, and the amazing skills of Sp4rks. Wouldn't be here today if it weren't for the team. Thanks folks, you make metahumanity seem just a tiny bit better.

Gh0st

That was the first time I have ever entered the foundation, and I think I want it to stay that way for now. It was exciting and thrilling I don't really know what it was modeling itself around but the detail it went into was unreal, on top of that being able to feel the data trails like that I don't think I'll ever be that close to it again. However there is something dark down there... and it killed me, I died, I died and have no clue how I'm still standing here. All I know is that next time, I won't lose.

Sp4rks

I sure am glad i did not dive with Ca1yps0 on the initial run, because this foundation... i wouldn't have made it with only the two of us. The Caretaker went to get us to my surprise, and she asked us to go to the foundation with her. I likely wouldn't have gone if it wasn't for Ca1, i knwo she can take care of herself but it's just better to be numerous, and it was also my first real opportunity to go down.

I have to admit the paradigm was really weird, we had masks and specific abilities, it was like a video game but we could actually die. The team operated wonderfully however, and most of the way was peacefull, the paradigm used metaphors for the nodes but luckily we mapped them all early.. or at least, we thought.

Once at the Archive we dealt with the worst, this host was very good at keeping us out of there, but luckily we managed to get all of the info we needed, for Rachael AND MO_7. our way back was peacefull, except for the portal node, for a reason it was not where we saw it initially,we tracked it down in a dangerous place, a hive full of monsters twice our size.

There a weird Avatar waited for us, fighting against an avatar of the paradigm. this creature, it was not understandable. it was a walking variance, and apparently for us too as the fucker caused a variance for everyone of us. I helped the team escape by telekinating the monster against a wall, but Gh0st stayed behind to ensure we would get out. He sadly got hit, hard, and we managed to Derezz collectively.

Also during this run, Morty took the opportunity to visit the land of the dox, Ca1 told us it was very dangerous, and i respect him immensely for having stared at the abyss, even if to return empty handed. I sure am not that strong willed.