Eclipse Phase: Clouds of a Morning Star continued from the previous session at Wira Games and Hobbies.
Location: Aphrodite Prime, about 50 km above Venus’ surface.
Active Gamera Security (GamSec) Personnel: DANAI and Wandering Ina (and Wandering Ina-α) the infomorphs, Boris Ivanov Rasputin the Second – a neo-hominid lawyer in the shaper morph, William Cable Jr. – paranoid terrorist in a neotenic pod morph and Hokusai Tarnungshaut – neo-octopus artist in a slitheroid morph.
Inactive Personnel: Badal Jones – Lunar Lagrange Alliance (LLA) envoy.
Mission: To provide security and investigative services to Badal’s superior the LLA’s ambassador during an art show at the Cumulus Hotel, where reclusive posthuman artist Marquis d’Homem-Christos would be showcasing alien sculptures he collected from the extraterrestrial Factors. LLA had intercepted vague communique about a terrorist attack during the event and would like the attack thwarted. Their secondary mission was help Gretchen Ambelina of Pax Familae by covertly disrupting the Marquis’ event which will deal a blow to the terraforming efforts of Venus, something the Solid Ground Initiaive (SGI) was a proponent of, and what Venusian terrorist groups like the Free Fall Network (FFN) were against.
The Flurry of Planning Activities
Badal Jones stayed close to Karamojo Bell his fellow Lunar ally and self-fashioned big game hunter from the Mare Imbrium Credit Union who’d died during the battle with the flexbot combiner at the Ikea-Tata Constructions site. Unfortunately for Badal, Bell now has a new fun hobby: to get infected with tailored extinct diseases, enjoy the suffering and then purge the disease before the end. If he died from the disease, he would just happily resleeve in a new morph.
Elsewhere, Cable was just finishing up in a healing vat in a hospital, the medichines in his body expediting the treatment. Hokusai arrived to visit with some flowers. Unsure what to do with the flowers, he dumped the entire bouquet over the top of Cable’s vat. Boris arrived shortly just in time to see flower petals drift down toward Cable’s face.
Then Cable munched on them.
Back at the airship in his sheldon morph, Ina was preparing to unleash his DDOS attack onto the whole aerostat city’s security systems. When Aphrodite Prime’s systems would be under attack, it was hoped that the FFN’s embedded agent would be flushed out. Meanwhile, out in the skies over Aphrodite Prime, a regatta was underway. Sleek, lighter-than-air racing dirigibles were circling the city’s airspace.
Suddenly, the GamSec mesh network alerted them that the Marquis d’Homem Christos was now farcasting into his body all the way from his asteroid 163693 Atira. Isolated within the Marquis’ resleeving computer in Total Rekall Resleeving Inc., DANAI and Ina-α were ready for action.
The Advent of the Sacre Bleu Button
Qubit by qubit, the Marquis streamed into Total Rekall. The ID scanner confirmed his brain pattern in the buffer at the downlink. Then he was moved into his resleeving module where a virtual box awaited him. It appeared to him that he was now regaining conscious in and control of his custom synthmorph. But instead he had been shunted into the box which Ina built in the resleeving module computer and received streaming data from the morph, which would be driven by DANAI.
Ina was compressed and loaded into the synthmorph’s extra cyberbrain storage space for storage because the morph had no ghostrider module built in.
DANAI planned to emulate whatever the Marquis did or said in the box while driving the morph. However when the mesh OS booted up, not only was it heavily customized fork of Deloitte 6.7 and unfamiliar, but everything was labelled in French. There was also an elaborate audio mixer setup projected as an interface in the morph’s field of vision. Finally there was a large but finely-designed glowing red button marked SACRE BLEU.
Whatever the button was for, DANAI hoped she did not have to activate it.
Meanwhile, Boris and Hokusai helped Cable out of the hospital. Then they split up. Boris and Cable would return to their position at Cumulus Hotel. Hokusai, upon learning the Marquis had farcasted in, would give tactical support to DANAI in case she needed it.
The Attack of the Bollywood Musical Number Flash Mob
DANAI (whose SOM was 5) was having problems (because of rolling 96 – Moxied to 69 – on a Integration check) controlling the morph. She shambled as she walked. Her shoulder slouched and shrugged intermittently. Sometimes her hands trembled, sometimes they spasmed, sometimes they did jazz hands. Her arms would suddenly fling themselves up and down and shimmy left and right. When she egressed the resleeving module, she stumbled while spasming a little jig.
The Rekall technicians rushed to help her, but she persuaded them that the Marquis was just moving his body according to a popular new style. (Success on a Deception check.) So the dumbfounded technicians made way as the Marquis’ morph shimmied its way out of the resleeving facility, signing an acceptance release as it did.
In his box, still believing he was in his morph, the real Marquis was yelling in French, “Why is everyone trying to help me? All is well! I am fine!”
Out in the streets, social media data, messages and e-mails started to flood his senses. DANAI reestablished contact with Gamera Security mesh VPN and isolated it from the feed back to the real Marquis. She noted that Hokusai was standing by in the shadows along the same street. Then she emailed the Ina-α.zip file back to their airship to be reintegrated with Ina.
Boris saw DANAI’s mesh feed and egged him to press the SACRE BLEU button.
As she hopped, skipped, swayed and shambled toward the Cumulus Hotel, passers-by started to recognise and notice the famed but reclusive artist Marquis d’Homem Christos. At first they only took pictures and short videos to upload to their social media network of choice. Most were amused and befuddled by the Marquis’ gait. Some started following him while emulating his gait. Soon videos of this was being uploaded to social media networks. People started to come to see the rare appearance of the Marquis. More people started to follow the mob trailing the artist.
When the Marquis’ morph wobbled to the left, everyone wobbled to the left. When its hips gyrated uncontrollably, everyone’s hips did the same. When DANAI couldn’t stop the morph’s right arm from pointing upward with its left hand on its hip, everyone struck a pose! (Every time DANAI had to roll SOMx3 to walk straight, the mob would follow him in a Thriller! dance as he shambled and lurched toward the hotel.)
If Hokusai had a jaw, it would have been slacked. But he did not. So it did not. He just facepalmed.
The Unutterable Attempt at an Abominable Autograph
A fan wearing an androgynous pod morph approached the DANAI-driven Marquis body, excited to be meeting him. The man handed DANAI a laser scalpel, unbuttoned his shirt and said, “Please! Sign your autograph across my chest.”
Realising that DANAI had a lethal instrument over someone’s chest with a SOM of 5 led her player Darren to laugh – nervously – for some time at the game table. He had to roll SOM x3 to successfully autograph on the pod morph’s chest. If he rolled below 15 with the percentile dice, DANAI’s control over her commandeered morph’s hands might slip and slice off the pod’s nipples or sever an artery. Everyone on the table was on the edge of their seat for the dice roll.
Sensing DANAI’s distress over the GamSec VPN, Boris pleaded with her to hit the SACRE BLEU button.
Then Darren rolled…
… and got 14 out of 15, causing the entire table to roar with applause.
The terrified DANAI managed to burn an autograph without any slip-ups. The fan departed happily with his mutilated chest.
The Reappearance of the Sepulchral Spectral Terrorist
At the bar of the Cumulus, Cable was visited by the virtual FFN agent Saladin Pelita once more. Cable sent a message to Boris – who was typing on his typewriter at the far end of the bar – to stand by, but to keep his distance. Saladin informed him that their operation at the Aviary was discovered by the authorities. Cable said he knew nothing about the Aviary. Saladin said that they would be changing their tactics and if Cable had associates, he should remove them from the Cumulus Hotel before the Marquis’ event began that evening. Cable eyed him as Saladin left the bar. He strode behind a thin pillar and disappeared. He had been, once more, an AR sprite that only existed in Cable’s vision through the hotel’s AR mesh projection system.
The Aberrant Appearance of the Arachnid Anathema
Meanwhile, a message marked Important was calling for DANAI’s attention. Taking his cue from the real Marquis’ action in the box, DANAI opened the message. It was from one of the Marquis’ associates on Aphrodite Prime, a Geisha Banker named Maiko Clarimonda. She had been scheduled for a meeting with the Marquis at the hotel.
Geisha Bankers accepted deposits and allowed withdrawals in terms of cash, assets, data and pleasures of the flesh. Clarimonda wore a peculiar synthmorph which resembles a robot geisha that appeared to move around without walking. There were rapid clicking sounds, like from many sharp objects under her voluminous kimono. DANAI (rolling a 60 out of 60 for Protocol) accepted Maiko’s offer in showing him the asset the Marquis had deposited with her, using the boxed Marquis’ responses to guide DANAI’s own replies.
She brought him through an airlock into a hermetically-sealed secure part of the hotel. A storage container awaited them. There was a security keypad at the door. DANAI duplicated what the real Marquis was doing, attempting to push the buttons in sequence. At first DANAI failed, but on her second attempt the door was unlocked and swung open. (First a 53 out of 60 Kinesics roll to see what buttons were pressed, then a successful 10 our of 15 SOMx3 roll to repeat it on the tiny keypad.)
Lights came on, revealing the Factors’ art piece, the alien sculpture that he traded by them. Not just DANAI, but even the other GamSec members were overwhelmed by a rapturous feeling of bliss from the twisted piece of unknown extrasolar material, even through the encrypted VPN video feed.
Boris said, “It looks like an alien turd though.” The real Marquis, seeing the piece, expressed that he was pleased and ordered it to be packed up for the show tonight. DANAI repeated his words to Clarimonda.
Upon leaving the secured hotel vault, the real Marquis told Clarimonda via DANAI that he wanted to make a withdrawal. The retreated to the Marquis’ opulently prepared suite. DANAI suddenly realised that “making a withdrawal” was an euphemism. Being synthmorphs with cyberbrain that has a digital limbic system, they would pleasure each other in software. However, a physical connection would result in DANAI’s cover being blown and the real Marquis realising that he had been boxed.
Clarimonda handed a cable with a cyberjack to DANAI. DANAI took it and attempted to plug it into the port at the back of the Marquis’ metal head. Clarimonda hovered closer, clickings underneath grew slower but louder. After several attempts, the cyberjack connected.
The last thing DANAI saw was Clarimonda eclipsing the rest of the suite with her extreme proximity. Then, darkness overwhelmed DANAI.
The Sanctuary of the Sordid Seditionist Saboteur
Meanwhile Boris had decided to investigate (rolling 40 for Research) and discovered that a new cybersecurity personnel had been hired by the hotel since the announcement of the Marquis’ event: Shelby the Cobra. Shelby was on shift at the moment, and coincidentally would be pulling extra work hours so he would be working during the art showing. A quick sousveillance check revealed Shelby’s particulars and his home address. Boris, Cable and Hokusai decided to investigate his apartment at Matsu-Musha Heights Residencies.
As they left a cadre of cosplayers called the Legion of Lurchers wearing morphs made up to resemble the Marquis began to show up, lurching and dancing in the hotel lobby. A meme had been born. The trio ignored the meme.
En route, Cable briefed their patron Kage Musha on new developments and requested they be allowed to highest access into Aphrodite’s security network. (Protocol fail at 79!) Kage told them he did not have the authority and the reach to allow that to happen.
At Matsu-Musha, they decided that Shelby would have alarms in the public surveillance systems. If they were to break into his house, the system might have been programmed to send the video feed directly to Shelby’s mesh view. So, at first Hokusai went up to Shelby’s apartment floor then slithered his way coolly (Successful Infiltration roll of 29 out of 60) as his X-ray emitters scanned the interior of Shelby’s house. It was empty, but there was a suspicious-looking metal case in the bedroom.
Boris broke into the house directly above Shelby’s. He burned a hole through the floor with scrapper gel. Hokusai dropped one of his specks into the living room beneath. The tiny insectoid drone flew directly to the suspicious case. A quick remote hacking unlocked the case. WIthin the case is a laser communicator, a direct line-of-sight communication method which would be difficult to tap.
They decided to leave the speck behind to see if it would be used today. Cable found a place outside the building to hide a radio booster that would amplify the signal from the speck. Before they left Matsu-Musha, they tested the video feed from the radio booster and found it satisfactory.
Heading back to the hotel they discovered something wrong. The mesh feed from DANAI was dark.
Boris muttered sadly, “He should have hit the Sacre Bleu button when he had the chance.”
Entanglement in the Epilogue
DANAI regained consciousness and found Clarimonda smiling and standing over her, metallic spider legs rearing her up from beneath her kimono. Cable strands extended out from her hands and had wrapped themselves around the neck of the Marquis’ morph.
Helpless and immobilised, DANAI hoped this was not the end.
To be continued in the next exciting session of Eclipse Phase: Clouds of a Morning Star.
Crossposted on Hishgraphics blog.