Across the Line

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Across the Line
Date2082-08-18
Location
Redmond, Seattle Metroplex
Status Threat Level: High
Factions Involved
ShadowHaven
Cecelia Cross
Mitsuhama Computer Technologies
Basilisk
Bland
Pulse
Triple Trouble
Vip3r
Bodyguard
Courier Sprite
Dr. Tatsuda Shinji


Summary

In which the runners are hired to extract a “specialist on virtual kinetic neurophysiology” from MCT, and replace them with a doppleganger.

Background

Cecelia Cross has been very interested in some old NeoNET files she was given by Pulse in NeoNETworking on something called “Project Tarantula” (a program to train security spiders from birth, which Pulse was a part of), as well as a “Subject T-355” (a prototype transhuman technomancer, created and trained with the accumulated knowledge of Project Tarantula and currently in the hands of MCT after the fall of NeoNET); believing that this information will be of great use to her, and very much desiring to get Subject T-355 into her care, she has been working for several months towards this end.

In The Snake Charmer, Vip3r assisted one of Cecelia’s former otaku lackeys with acquiring more detailed intel on the project, as well as the location of the MCT facility where Subject T-355 is (along with Vip3r’s father, who was taken there after the events of A Nest of Vipers). The black site is a zero zone however, and preparation is required for the planned infiltration - Cecelia has identified a target (one Dr. Tatsuda Shinji) who works at the facility but who does not live on-site, who will be extracted and replaced with a body double, then act as a man on the inside for the eventual hit on the site. She has other, more sinister intentions as well, a fact which the runners become aware of over the course of the job.

The Meet

Basilisk and Bland are contacted by their respective fixers and told to meet with Cecelia Cross at E-Vue; each manages to get there without too much trouble, and politely wait in line, earning Vee-Jay’s respect. Meanwhile, Vip3r is contacted by Cecelia directly and asked to meet with her privately upstairs before the meet; during the short chat she asks Vip3r to make sure that things go smoothly on this job, as it relates to their shared goal of extracting her father from MCT custody. Turning on the charm, Cecelia skinlinks with Vip3r briefly, using this opportunity to have a registered sprite attach itself to her to monitor her performance.

Downstairs, while Brody J gets up to shenanigans in the background, the runners meet with Cecelia in her private booth to talk business. Bland takes the lead in facing duties, and Cecelia is forthcoming with what she requires of them, presenting a dossier on their target as well as a pre-selected list of subcontractors who she will pay for their services should the team require them; she also has Pulse on standby, performing another task for her but ready to jump in to help if they need backup Matrix support. After explaining what she wants from them, Cecelia offers the runners 20,000 nuyen each for their services; Bland manages to skillfully negotiate this up to 24,000 each.

When Vip3r looks at the dossier on their target, she recalls something she’s very much tried to push out of her memories - Dr. Shinji, in addition to probably being a war criminal who did Bad Things™ in CalFree during General Saito’s regime, is one of the MCT scientists who experimented on her to discover the secrets of her weird techno-brain. Stunned into silence at this, and very unsure of why Cecelia would choose this particular person, she says very little for the rest of the meet and instead sits in a pensive silence contemplating what sort of situation she’s gotten herself (and her loved ones) into.

The Plan

After getting all the information from Cecelia and a number to contact her at when they’re ready for her bodysnatcher to take their target’s place, the team leave E-Vue to plan their crimes. Examining the intel they’ve been given, they see that Dr. Shinji spends about 16 hours a day at work completely cut off from the wider Matrix - the rest of his ~5 hours of free time a day are spent either at home (a condo in a AA zone), or at a number of nearby bars, restaurants, and tea houses. An exceedingly fastidious man, he keeps a detailed day planner, though his schedule frequently changes and Cecelia only has past ones, meaning that his commlink will have to be hacked once it shows up on the grids.

While they wait, Vip3r calls up Betz and asks her if she can find any more information on Dr. Shinji might help with their task; eager to work against MCT, Betz readily agrees, taking a few hours to get back to her. While they wait, the team split up to do their own thing, and after a while Betz returns with some gossip on the “good” doctor - in addition to a steady girlfriend, he has a number of escorts he visits on occasion, the most regular of which is a monthly appointment at a “geisha parlor” called the House of the Pink Lotus in Auburn. The woman he visits, a Ms. Maniwa Hatsuyo, is rather exclusive and takes clients weeks in advance, but it’s at least an opening for them to potentially exploit; Vip3r does a quick search on Hatsuyo and finds that she’s a shorter-than-average half-Japanese elf, and tries not to be too creeped out by this.

The Matrix Stuff

Eventually, after Shinji exits his Faraday-caged workplace, his commlink comes on the Matrix and is able to be spotted out by Vip3r, who easily places a mark onto it before slipping inside the rather spartan homeroom; looking around, she finds his day planner file, as well as a hidden icon - a snake-like sprite, wrapped around a type of file she’s never encountered before (a cookie, tracking activity on Shinji’s commlink and placed there by the Snake Charmer, an MCT technospider Vip3r has previously encountered). She recognizes the resonance signature and resolves to stay hidden from the sprite and not use any of her resonance abilities, since MCT also knows what her signature looks like and will detect her involvement if she does so. Gearing up to crack the data bomb, Vip3r experiences some truly terrible luck which even the power of edge can’t save her from; Cecelia’s sprite attempts to assist her, but once that proves to not be enough it uses Sacrifice to tank the damage so that Vip3r’s brain isn’t blown up. She sees the sparkles this effect leaves on her aura, but is more concerned with the failed attempt - thankfully the file remains present, however the sprite is alerted to her presence. As the sprite sacrifices itself, Cecelia receives word that Vip3r needs help and dispatches Pulse to assist.

Pulse kicks in the virtual door of the commlink just in time to see the courier sprite strike at Vip3r, leaving a strange hidden file attached to her persona, before rezzing out - Vip3r doesn’t notice this, as she’s too busy copying the file and attempting to place a null-password data bomb on it so that Shinji will not notice it was compromised. Her luck continues to fail her in this, however this time Pulse is on hand to lend assistance, and together the two of them cover up the slightly-sloppy hack and jack out. Pulse lets Vip3r know about the cookie on her, and she manages to delete it, however she is concerned that the rival techno knows she was there.

The Moral Complications

Once the hack is complete and the team has Shinji’s complete schedule for the next few days (including the exact day/time of his visit to Ms. Hatsuyo), the runners meetup at a no-tell motel in Auburn to discuss their findings and what to do next. As Pulse is leaving E-Vue, he notices Cecelia talking with X, the man who trained him (and subjected him to unethical metahuman experimentation) and who she was introduced to after the events of NeoNETworking; he is understandably unnerved by this, especially after seeing that he and Cecelia are looking at readings of what looks like EEG data from a technomancer’s brain, and leaves with a look.

Vip3r is not happy to learn Cecelia was watching her, nor that she has potentially-nefarious plans for Dr. Shinji’s knowledge - the revelation from Pulse that she is working with an actual mad scientist and evidently planning some sort of experiments on the technomancers in her employ casts doubt on most of their previous interactions, and Vip3r valiantly fails to hold her composure together as she starts to have an incipient mental breakdown. A few kind words from the other runners (especially Bland, who really puts his empathy skills to work) are enough to calm her down, and eventually they decide that the only choice is to go forward with the job - not delivering Dr. Shinji will compromise her relationship with Cecelia and styme her efforts to rescue her father from MCT custody. With that, the team steel themselves for what’s ahead.

The Run

The next day, the runners kit up and prepare for Shinji’s visit to the House of the Pink Lotus, calling Cecelia to make sure that her body snatcher is ready to seamlessly take his place when they subdue him. Knowing they’ll need someone to take Ms. Hatsuyo’s place, they decide to call in Triple Trouble for assistance; not wanting to have to kidnap a woman just for doing her job, they decide to have Bland call her up and arrange for a meeting, offering a thousand nuyen just to meet for dinner and talk and a good deal more for her services. He persuades her to meet at a nearby restaurant, and subsequently offers 20,000 nuyen (4k from each runner) for her to take the night off while TT takes her place, and that no one will ever know she wasn’t there. She balks at initial the offer, stating that she makes a lot of money from clients like Shinji and that her reputation is on the line, but is eventually persuaded to go with it for the promise of 30,000.

Later, at the House of the Pink Lotus, Triple Trouble (now disguised as Hatsuyo) makes her way inside while Basilisk sneaks around back (barely avoiding being caught by another worker on their smoke break) and into the window to hide under the bed. Shinji and his bodyguard/driver arrive, with the latter staying out in the car while the former does his thing, and Bland keeps a close eye on him while Pulse and Vip3r handle Matrix concerns. Once inside, Triple Trouble locates the lynchpin for the ward around the building, managing to get into a supply closet where there’s a small shrine and disturb the idol so the ward is taken down; thankfully it’s a standard security job and the contractor won’t notice until the next day that something’s amiss.

Once alone with Shinji, Triple Trouble goes through the geisha routine before retiring to their private chambers, where Basilisk waits to nerve strike the doc into paralysis. Binding and gagging him, Triple Trouble makes him invisible and levitates him outside while the doppleganger takes his place, and Basilisk exits the way that she came. Pulse and Vip3r are able to spot out and subvert the bodyguard’s ultrasound sensor, letting the switch take place undetected, and the body double seamlessly takes Shinji’s place while the team cart him away.

Aftermath

Heading to a no-tell motel to lay low, the team decides to give Vip3r five minutes alone with Dr. Shinji for some personal satisfaction. Afterwords, they arrange to meet up with Cecelia at a warehouse in Everett, and there is much tension in the air as the runners turn over Dr. Shinji. Vip3r and Pulse manage to not give anything away, though the former notices some oddness to Cecelia’s resonance signature, and she pays the team and sends them on their way.

On the way out, Triple Trouble assenses Cecelia, though they do not discover her secret; the attempt is noticed by her aware bodyguard however, and she asks TT to stay behind so that she can “complement their acting skills”; eager to leave, Pulse and Vip3r take their exit, followed quickly by Bland, though Basilisk waits around outside just in case. From inside the warehouse the snerson (snake person) hears the loud slap as Cecelia strikes TT across the face, telling them that if they ever tell anyone what they saw, or attempt to use it for ritual magic or body snatching shenanigans, that she’ll have them killed in their sleep, before telling them to get out.

Rewards

  • 24k nuyen
  • 4 karma
  • 2 CDP

For everyone but TT:

  • Optional Contact: Cecelia Cross (C5/L2 CatCo Princess) for 6 RVP or 12 CDP
  • +3 Cross Applied Technologies rep

For Basilisk:

  • Optional Quality: Catlike @ chargen price (out of run RVP)
  • Optional Contact: Cedric Lupei (C1/L1 Corp Kid) for 1 RVP or 2 CDP
  • Optional Contact: Vee-Jay (C2/L2 Bouncer) for 3 RVP or 6 CDP

For Bland:

  • Optional Quality: Empathetic Listener @ chargen price (out of run RVP)
  • Optional Contact: Vee-Jay (C2/L2 Bouncer) for 3 RVP or 6 CDP

For Pulse:

  • Optional Quality: Go Big or Go Home @ chargen price (out of run RVP)

For Vip3r:

  • Optional Quality: I C U @ chargen price (out of run RVP)

For TT:

  • Optional Quality: Perceptive @ chargen price (out of run RVP)
  • +1 Notoriety, as well as Cecelia Cross' eternal enmity
  • -5 Cross Applied Technologies rep

Game Quotes

Player After Action Reports (AARs)

Bland

"Usually I am pleased when a run goes as smoothly as this one went. The reaction by Vip3r to the target, and the potential opportunities gained by the Johnson, have me worried. I can't really say I understand the whole "technomancer" debate, and the lengths the big corps will go to to control them, but from my point of view, they are just normal people with a particularly useful gift. Best to let them be them; no need to control them anymore than anyone else. Of course, the big corps will never let that happen. I can only hope that what we did here today does not come back and hammer us later. Or anyone else for that matter."

Vip3r

That was... frag.

Frag. Uh... I can't shake the feeling that I'm doing something absolutely, utterly terrible. A lot of subjects in that study died, a lot of them didn't make it out, and I'm lucky that what happened to me was reversible--albeit with extensive surgery, but still. I don't know what Cecelia plans to do with Shinji going forward, and if she employs people like X then how do I know she won't have them both butchering other technomancers in the future??? And if that happens, it's my fault, and my parents are still going to be involved in it, and, hell, maybe one day if Cecelia thinks I'm suddenly not useful anymore I'll end up back on that table.

But I think I have a way to fix this. Maybe. It'll require me to keep Mom and Dad off MCT's radar for a while, and there's going to be a steep price involved that I don't know if I'll ever pay off, but it'll be better than letting myself continue to be an accessory to whatever the hell is going on here. I just really hope it works.

Pulse

This seemed hard on Vip3r.

I don't like working with X, and knowing that Ms. Cross is working with him, and apparently has employed him, makes me less than happy that she knows about Tess and wants to get her hands on my little sister. MCT is bad, we know this. Especially in regards to Technos and whatever data they got from Tarantula, but is Cross really any better? I don't think so, not with X around to be sure. I won't let Tess get used for the same things that I was, she deserves to be a normal person. I think Vip3r is there for it too, but we have to be careful for everything.