Kitten Caboodle aka Kit
With Creature at OtherCon, and Carol embracing the lessons he learned from ThinkTank (RIP) to take some vacation sometimes, the rest of the crew settles down to divy up all the paydata from Alice’s lab. After some debate, they decide to split it into some separate tranches rather than try to sell it all as one chunk, figuring it’ll be better overall payout and connections that way. They report in to Annie first, giving her some info on the Death Ships and missing persons cases, closing out a few investigations Tabasco had started back when.
Calling in some favors from Remo, and doing some research of their own, they find out some about Alice’s Death Ship contact, a local fixer named Natalia. Strangely, she’s a member of the Nadja fixer network, who are usually anti-trafficking, but rumors have been circulating that not everyone she helps to smuggle themselves somewhere reaches their destination. They find out that she survived an assassination attempt some years ago, and was kept alive partially with an experimental nanite treatment. They speculate she likely later fell victim to CFD but has kept it under wraps.
They report this in to Tommy Vermont, who has been working with Las Muñecas to crack down on trafficking locally. They decide to set a trap: they will tip off the serial killer Kellan Hunter that Vermont has been investigating about Natalia’s “Monad” nature, and then observe, and plan to take out whoever survives that encounter.The team’s a little iffy on the morals of this whole plan, but since noone even asked them to get involved decide to just wash their hands of it and move on, though Tabasco and Vermont get a little side action going on who they think will win.
As part of their pay from Annie, they get a couple contacts, to pursue other paydays. First, they call up a mid-level Shiawase exec in Tacoma, who Annie had some connections to from a ways back, and offer some valuable info to the corp about the ACHE. She passes it up and the chain (and seems to benefit from bringing it in), and the team gets a meeting with a retired C-Suite exec, Shiawase Daigou, one of the 7 adopted children who ran the corp for quite some time, but who know advises informally from his 5 story penthouse on top of the ACHE.
The team hires an air cab to get up there, and gets a very thorough search from very polite corpsec. Daigou’s grandson ushers them in to the large suite, and they find a huge greenhouse garden, explaining Daigou’s nickname on the streets, “The Gardener.” The grandson brings those who can drink tea, and Tabasco tries to see his condo- the view is incredible from 320 stories above downtown. Daigou eventually wanders over, taking off his work gloves, and begins negotiations. Aradia tries to spot magic, and there is definitely something there, though well-concealed, although he also has a lot of implants. He also has a set of color-coded hardlines to… somewhere on his sparse desk.
The team has a quick debate, and decide to sell this guy Spirit of the City info as well, as he’s a much bigger fish than they expected to be dealing with. Plus, Tabasco knows that Shiawase wants the contract to run the whole ACHE and the reactors below, and would be happy if Free Seattle passes as it will make that whole process easier. So, could be a useful ally! They turn over the info about the Spiders and Weeners infiltrating the ACHE and trying to corrupt the SOTC, and also tell about the Weeners smuggling old secret Deus tech out. They connect Daigou with Jaliyah Angél, their local ASPS connection, to stabilize the SOTC and prevent corruption.
Daigou says he will dispose of the undesirables, and Tabasco gets a little concerned and inquires, and Daigou reveals that they have also been making use of the Death Ships to get rid of problem elements. Tabasco convinces him to stop (after this last shipment, as the team decides Spiders and Weeners are best off getting eaten). He also agrees to provide access to one of Shiawase’s delta clinics to the team to put their payday to best use, and with a donation from Aradia of her chunk of the pay the ASPS helps her craft and bind some foci. Kit gets Daigou to potentially agree to bring Shiawase onto the Shadow Chapters, but he hints that they have been infiltrated or at least influenced by a corp, and he wont agree until that has been resolved, but he won’t say more for now.
The team gets paid, heads out, and agrees to do a job for Daigou as well- he suggests that his security would have spotted an artifact powerful enough to corrupt the SOTC if it had come into the ACHE, even if JTF security had missed it. So there must be someone on the outidie who’s the mastermind of the conspiracy who has yet to be revealed. He suggests starting by looking into the Weeners. He also offers bounty payouts to the team or anyone else who makes the JTF look bad- he will use the info about ganger/cultist infiltration to just such a purpose. But the worst of a public look the JTF has, the easier it will be to get them booted out of the ACHE- which will be especially easy if Free Seattle passes and the UCAS military pulls out in full.
Kit posts a warning about “Marry Me…” on Jackpoint and elsewhere, and reports start coming in from some other teams who have encountered similar labs in different Barrens-esque places around the world. It seems like spirit, drone, and Dissonant sprite security is the norm, but the other labs seemed long abandoned by regular visitors, so the team likely disrupted Alice getting a full new one up and running before she skipped town. Comparing dates of these other lab raids to various Marry Me outages and glitches, matrix sleuths confirm that most of the game beyond the base is likely being run by these technomancer meat-brain networks, which is deeply upsetting. The team gets some hate from some diehard Marry Me stans who suggest they are plants from an opposing game company, but most posters seem to believe the evidence, and thank the team for sharing it free of charge.
The team then calls in more Remo favors to dig into the Shadow Chapters further. They compile some info and compare it, trying to get as big of a sample size as possible from the dozen-ish cities where the Shadow Chaps have set up. What they find is a bit disturbing: Horizon and SK most often benefit from runs through the SC, and Horizon gets hits least often- both by a significant enough margin to not be random. This implies that the corp that Daigou hinted might be behind the Shadow Chaps (or have infiltrated them) is likely Horizon, which means probably the Dawkins Group. It seems like the reprogramming of uncooperative types is not a situation unique to Seattle- the team likely didn’t encounter it in Chicago since everyone had a common enemy and they were deeply involved in setting it up there.
Worried about what this might mean locally, Kit sets up a meeting with Ms Snow and Eddie Wei to use this as blackmail leverage to make themselves a third equal partner in the leadership. The rest of the team comes along as backup, but unfortunately are not paranoid enough, as Ms Snow quick draws and shoots Kit in the chest as soon as they present the info about Horizons/Dawkins infiltration.The team manages to KO Snow and corner Wei, but not before Wei puts out and APB to all Shadow Chaps members that the team has attacked the leadership.
They manage to convince Wei to a brief ceasefire by sending him the intel they found, and get him to tell the SC members who showed up to reinforce to stay outside (for now). Wei suggests they all back off a bit while he reviews the info. Kit stabilizes Snow before they leave. Aradia calls in a favor from Arthur Vogel to get an ARES AIMAD of their own, having seen that Alice had a modded one she was using to reprogram people for the SC (and others). Wei eventually agrees to the team’s proposal- Wei, Kit and Snow (if she can be deprogrammed) will all 3 run the local SC for now, and they’ll try deporgramming with the AIMAD first off on Snow before trying to round up all the other reprogrammed members at once and trying to clear them.
The team heads back in, and Aradia uses mind probe in concert with some drugs to soften the still unconscious Snow up for the AIMAD. Kit does a spectacular job, aided by their nanites, and manages to break the core reprogramming down on Snow (which seems much higher level than what Alice was doing- uh-oh!), as well as shove all the evidence of Horizon/Dawkins infiltration into her brain. They luckily also manage to magically and medically keep her alive as they fight the reprogramming which tries to kill her as a last ditch effort. She wakes up with an awful hangover but agrees to their terms of the deal and plan, and says that she guesses she’s thankful?
With this info in hand, Kit returns to all the skeptics around town (Tauren, Takashi, Daigou) and gets them to help all the uncorrupted local SC members round up the list that Wei and Snow have of reprogrammed locals. They plan to attempt the same protocol that Kit and Aradia established, and save as many as they can. Daigou keeps one for Shiawase to study, saying that this will not be how he usually operates in relation to the SC, but that they need to see how their adversaries work. He says Shiawase’s inhouse spies (the MFID) will be able to deprogram just fine once they’re done studying, and return the captured runner back to the streets. Kit and team reluctantly agree, not really having a choice.
Finally, they make contact with a one-use number Annie got them for the powerful socialite and matrix safety campaigner, Danielle de la Mar. She agrees to meet them for lunch at the Embassytown cafe on Council Island. The team review their SINs and ditches all their illegal gear and heads over. Tabasco gets some additional scans, but all his visible ‘ware is legal, and Aradia seductively distracts the guard from looking closer. They get to the meeting and find that DDLM has impressive magical, tech and physical security, all onhand but low profile. She explains that she will be jamming their meeting and that her mage will be using illusions to keep anyone from lip-reading or listening in. The team explains Alice’s diabolical plan, mentions the K-Code and Jormungandr, and brings up the Null Sect.
DDLM seems familiar with all of these, other than Alice’s “crash the global currency and take over” plot. She thanks the team for their info on that, and says she will update the robustness of the Matrix 3.1 launch she is preparing, as well an the new SIN and Nuyen registries, to counter that threat. She doesn’t seem as worried about the K-Code, suggesting it is more of a matrix bogeyman/vaporware, but is interested in knowing more regardless. The Null Sect however, she has a lot to say about. After conferring obliquely about safety protocols and level of knowledge, and establishing that her and the team are on the same page, she launches in.
She explains that the Null Sect’s ultimate goal, as far as she can tell, is to sever Resonance energy from tech energy, and be able to fully control what they consider the “real world”: the digital side of meatspace. The NS view Resonance (and e-life forms and digital sapients/AI’s) as threats to this, which is why they especially want to eliminate them. DDLM explains that based on some recent Seelie Court discoveries about the connected nature of magic and Resonance, and her dealings with the NS, she believes that Resonance has other similarities to magic as well: it grows in power with more use and belief in it, and if it gets too powerful, some kind of “digital Horror” will arrive to smack everything back down, much as happened to magic at the end of the 4th World. She believes the NS are seeking to hasten the arrival of this entity or entities, which she has codenamed “Blackout.” She isn;t sure what this Blackout will do, or even what form(s) it might take upon it’s arrival, but she thinks the NS might be something like the Invae or Shedim: early signals of the coming of something worse.
She also believes the NS have recruited some human allies to manipulate, pay, etc into doing their bidding in meatspace: the Freedom Network, and the Turing Army. Their various political proclivities make them easy to use, and they both are arrogant enough as orgs to likely assume that they are in control of the partnership (they are not). They are also working with global networks of Dissonant TM’s, who also hate Resonance. More worrying, according to DDLM, is that she believes the NS have struck some sort of deal with the Euro Vampiric cabal known as the Ordo Maximus, which could prove very troublesome indeed. Regardless, she explains that the real reason she is launching matrix 3.1 (as well as enhanced safety protocols) is because the Foundation has become to dangerous and she wants to get the vast majority of metahumanity further from the NS, to buy some time. She explains that she made a devil’s bargain of sorts with the NS: in exchange for abandoning the Foundation to their control, they won’t expand beyond it, and will limit their attacks to those e-life forms they find especially abhorrent.
She doesn’t trust them at all of course, but thinks this will at least give metahumanity some maneuvering room. She also explains that the CFD/Monad explosion out into the world was of course because of the experiments being done on AI/e-life, but also because something worse was chasing them, so the NS are also partially to blame for that. The team, all sitting back in their seats with their minds blown wide open, agree to potentially look into some of this stuff more, and not spread any of this info wide outside their networks. DDLM offers them significant additional pay for more details about any of this stuff, and suggest they come to her first in the future, as they now have a working relationship, and who knows who else you can really trust?
Shiawase Daigou calls back to share some info: Horizon is likely triggering their sleeper agents and sending subliminal commands through otherwise innocuous concealed programming in popular music they release. So they don’t have to specifically target any one agent or even know where they are, so long as they’re somewhat connected to pop cultural norms. This matches with Alice/Null Sect’s fucked up use of stolen Dawkins Group tech at the Iron Jungle, that Tabasco had previously ID’ed. They also call in their final Remo favor, and get some more K-Code info: it does seem like more of a rumor than a fact at this point, BUT there are multiple instances of air-gapped offline private code labs getting massacred, and every time the data drives are missing afterwards.
Looking further into the coders killed in these incidents, from what they team can piece together (it seems like lots of payouts and NDA’s have prevented much outcry publicly), they are all specialists in AI, economics, market forecasting, and the like, so it seems like Alice might be onto something with this K-Code biz after all…. yet another problem for another day! The team celebrates their big paydays with some implants and chillin’, closes out a lot of the investigations on their lists, and figures out what to do next.