In which Pulse networks with the Ex-NeoNET SINless and revisits his home corp's old global grid to uncover a lost secret.
Pulse used to be part of a clandestine NeoNET project (Project Tarantula) to create the ultimate security spider, being raised from childhood with the matrix under the tutelage of a figure he knew only as "Instructor X". When the Lockdown began, he fled Boston for Seattle, however he was not the only one - many ex-NeoNET SINners have ended up in the shadows as well, and a group of them have come together to try and survive as SINless. One of them happens to be Pulse's old instructor, who is seeking out old members of the project; his efforts have been noticed by one Cecelia Cross, who has followed his data trails through the Resonance and managed to find Pulse.
A Duel in the Emerald City
Pulse is hanging out in AR playing with his new dogs Exception and Framework while he trolls around on the matrix. His efforts at sabotaging the reputation of Taco Temple have garnered him a bit of overwatch, and as he's wandering the Emerald City grid he notices a street samurai-like persona glance at him and put their hand on their sword. Taking it as a challenge, Pulse drops into VR and attempts to mark his foe, getting his hack-on-the-fly attempt bounced back - the nearby personas make space as the two proceed to engage in dramatic cybercombat, each slinging mark attempts and data spikes at the other. Pulse gets the upper hand and land a blow which forces his opponent off the grid, however he is so focused on his victory (and his baby monitor tracking his mounting overwatch score) that he fails to notice Cecelia's sprite in the crowd of personas, which manages to place a pair of marks on him and traces his location just as he jacks out.
Switching off his deck and giving his dogs some pets, he swaps devices to his commlink and soon notices some strange AR sparkles which coalesce into a pixie persona as the sprite sends him a message, inviting him to come to E-Vue and meet with it's compiler. Noticing the odd persona and putting his neuro-retention amplifier to use, Pulse delves deep into his memory and recalls his old instructor telling him about Resonance phenomena and letting him identify the courier sprite in front of him for what it is. Curious, he takes the sprite up on its offer, leaving some food for the dogs and heading out in his cocotaxi.
Clubbing, Plus Shenanigans
On the way to the club, Pulse decides to stop off at Stuffer Shack and get himself a purple slurpie - having recently learned (see: I've Been Followed) that they're owned by the same corp as Taco Temple, who have evidently been engaging in some blood magic (he had a bit of a sheltered childhood), the hacker accesses the store's host and starts fragging around; he attracts some attention from a local script kiddie, hurling a flurry of popups to distract him as he sabotages the nacho cheese machine before making his escape from the un-watchful eye of the clerk, who has entirely failed to notice the commotion.
Making his way to E-Vue, Pulse (who is not at all outfitted for a corp kid club, having come dressed in an armor jacket and jeans) immediately heads to the front of the line and demands entry from the long-suffering bouncer, earning stares of derision from the other club-goers. The bouncer prepares to proclaim him "not on the list", but is stopped by Cecelia's personal assistant, who grants him entry and bids him to follow (which he does, after avoiding having a drink thrown at him). Inside, Pulse is briefly side-tracked by free drinks and drugs from Alexander-James Brodrick Johnson III, getting high off his hoop on red mescaline before stumbling upstairs to meet with Cecelia in a private booth. He immediately, and unwisely, asks if she's a technomancer, earning himself a resonance spike as her persona briefly becomes visible in AR - oblivious, he proceeds to ask again, and nearly gets fried for his trouble.
Cecelia composes herself and tells him why she's asked him to the meeting: she's become aware of the group of ex-NeoNET SINless and wishes for him to reach out to them in order to get them to provide him with backdoor access to the old NeoNetwork global grid (which has been decommissioned by GOD and cut off from the rest of the matrix after the AAA's fall from grace). Intrigued, Pulse asks what's in it for him, and Cecelia tells him that aside from information on the project which he was part of, she can offer him the opportunity to upgrade his cyberdeck to something more fitting of his skills. Eager for the chance to get his hands on some high grade hardware, he accepts.
No Seriously, What the Frag are Protosapients?!
Cecelia provides Pulse with the location of a commune in Redmond where the ex-NeoNET SINless live, and he heads towards the district boarder. There he draws suspicion from the KE officer manning the security scanner (probably because he's so obviously high, or maybe just because he's riding in a silly auto-rickshaw - truly a riddle for the ages) and gets pulled aside for "additional questioning", where he just barely manages to talk his way out of the situation and avoid having his SIN burned. Oh his way through Touristville, Pulse kills some time browsing the grids and manages to spot out something strange - an oddly distorted persona which resembles a be-suited humanoid which seems to be in the process of corrupting a bit of data. He examines it more closely and notices an unfamiliar program running, managing to trace its location back to the device it's running off of; unfortunately the creature takes notice of him in the process, attacking his vehicle's icon in an attempt to munge the autopilot program.
For some reason Pulse doesn't take kindly to this, especially when it seems to frag his deck in the process, so he tosses off a furious data spike which de-rezzes it before speeding off towards the nearby device (an MCT Blue Defender commlink worn by a chiphead who came to Tourstville for a good time and never left). Finding the owner in an ally passed out on a beetle, Pulse takes the link and calls up Giovanni Montalban for more information, confirming that the strange persona was most likely a protosapient and likening it to a rabid animal. Concerned, he takes the link and crushes it, replacing it with one of his burners, before heading to his nearby safehouse to spend a few hours repairing the damage Cecelia did to his deck (absentmindedly tossing the busted Blue Defender into his scrap parts bin in the process - this will almost certainly come back to bite him in the ass later).
An Unexpected Reunion
After fixing up his deck, Pulse drives over to the Ex-NeoNET commune and introduces himself to a guard as "Nate", saying that he heard about the place from a friend and asking if it's a safe place to stay. The guard he speaks to is suspicious at first, but Pulse is able to ingratiate himself by talking about escaping Boston before the Lockdown; he is invited inside to get a hot meal and speak to Cadence, the woman in charge, who has a conversation with him and asks about his life since leaving Bean Town. He is (mostly) truthful, telling her about the secret project that he was a part of and the black site that he escaped from, and she says that he should speak to their matrix security expert about lending a hand. He agrees, heading to a small shack with a satellite link on top of it where he is shocked to encounter his old instructor, having a tense conversation about their shared history and his time in Project Tarantula.
After breaking the ice a bit, Pulse asks X what he's been up to, and he shows the young hacker what he's managed to find regarding the old Project Tarantula files - what catches Pulse's attention is one on a subject named T-355, evidently the product of extensive research, who seems to be a vat-grown prototype transhuman who was being educated using methods refined from the data gathered from Pulse's cohort. Most of the data is redacted, but X tells Pulse that there is a more complete version on the old NeoNET global grid, the NeoNetwork, which was shut down and isolated from the rest of the matrix after the AAA's demise. Pulse manages to convince X that he'd be useful in retrieving this information (and gets him to hand over his gun in the process so that he's not shot in the head while in VR).
Networking With Neo
Plugging into the console, Pulse drops into virtual reality and explores the digital workspace a bit, locating a spyglass which he identifies as a utility program. Heading out onto the public grid, he makes use of it and stares up into the sky where the icons for the global grids are, peering behind the SpinGlobal logo to locate a faint ten-pointed star which has been deliberately obscured - the program serves as a backdoor to the NeoNetwork, and before making use of it Pulse subtly makes a copy for himself to give to Cecelia Cross.
Hopping over to the NeoNetwork, Pulse encounters a desolate cityscape which has fallen into anarchy and disrepair; while he seems at first to be alone on the grid, he can spot digital shadows out of the corner of his eye and feel other presences lurking just out of sight. Sufficiently creeper out, he takes a look around and runs into a blast from the past in the form of Neo, the Clippy-like agent which grid subscribers had access to. Neo has seen better days however, having been munged upon by protosapients who have moved into the ruins of the grid, and Pulse has a twinge of sadness for the little guy (who was basically his only friend growing up). Putting all his coding skills to use, Pulse whips up bug fixes for Neo's code and manages to get it into working order, offering the agent a program slot in his deck.
What Is This, Some Kind of Horror Trid?
With his virtual buddy as company, Pulse explores the grid and eventually manages to find the old host for the black site where he grew up - steeling himself, he gets a mark and silently makes his way inside the dilapidated host, finding a broken-down series of laboratories and testing rooms full of scattered and redacted files which seem to have been corrupted in some fashion. Exploring around for the data on T-355, he makes his way into the administrator's office and finds the terminal there, as well as something else lurking in the shadows. As Pulse finds the information he's after, a frobnitz leaps from its hiding place and attempts to munge Neo, drawing him into cybercombat - the protosapient puts up a good fight, but Pulse manages to save Neo and derezz the creature before disarming the databomb and breaking the encryption on the file he's after. His OS ticks up however, and once he leaves the unmaintained host and goes back onto the grid GOD begins to take notice - thankfully Pulse is quick to notice this as well, and jacks out before he can be converged upon.
Waking up back at the Ex-NeoNET compound with Neo safe and sound on his deck, Pulse quickly makes a copy of the data on T-355 before handing it over to X and taking his leave after another brief conversation with Cadence. Returning to E-Vue, he has a conversation with Cecelia about her intentions with the information; while she remains tight-lipped, Cecelia reveals that T-355 was extracted by MCT
- Deck upgrade to CatCo Domination (Destiny Blade analog) @ gear rewards prices
- Backdoor code to the now-defunct NeoNetwork grid
- Rating 6 agent
- Cecelia Cross (C4/L1 CatCo Employee) as a contact
- 2 karma
- 2 CDP
- +1 Ex-NeoNET rep
Player After Action Reports (AARs)
Honestly, frag I still don't know if this was a thing that happened or a real bad trip. That red mesc doesn't frag around.
So this rich woman from a Corp that fell apart tells me to go find a bunch of people from another Corp that fell apart. Easy enough. 'Cept that I have to go talk to them in in person rather than the 'Trix. It's a little awkward, but it was a bit cool being able to talk about Boston again. (Frag I wish the Red Sox have a good season this year.) Of course there's a drekhead who I hate is doing their tech support. Apparently I have to dive into a run-down host to grab data for everybody, but its of interest to me so I go along with it.
Plus side: I found my buddy NEO! He's great, and now acts as an Agent program for me. Downside: the place is overrun with protosapients, something my esteemed "instructor" never bothered to teach me about. But I'm the best decker that ever lived, and I've learned from some of the best in the shadows through their posts around here, so I manage to derezz the creepy things, grab the data and get out.
Now I just hope that Tess can hold on until Cross keeps her word.