Iskra / Nataly
Pran Jai Neelam Ajit Avninder
Frederik Bo Severin Falk
Dulce Lena Moreno
The team, expecting to arrive back in their owned morphs on Parvarti, are surprised to find themselves, 2 days later, in a simulspace of Earth. A Firewall Crow named Pyrrhus tells them that he had them diverted through a series of darknet relays, due to an emergency need for a field team. They will be resleeving on the Ultimate station of Aspis, one of their 2 main bases. Iskra is thrilled. Once on Aspis, they will load up with any gear they need, and use a half-working shuttle that Pyrrhus has secured for them to infiltrate the Nine Lives homebase of Legba, and find out what is going on there.
A Firewall plant in the organization has managed to warn Pyrrhus that 9 Lives has acquired some kind of new, incredibly fast psychosurgery/personality reprogramming tech, which sounds like a potential x-risk, especially if it has TITAN origins. The team agrees with varying degrees of enthusiasm, & he provides them with their false ID’s: dilettante sex tourists for Iskra, Lena, and Anna, and Ultimate bodyguards for Wong, Frank, Fred, and Pran. They gear up, while Iskra once again tries to avoid actually letting the Ultimates run tests on her: as excited as she is about their eugenic platform, she doesn’t know that she’ll fit the mold. The rest of the team is somewhat sketched out by the spartan and militaristic culture of the station, and is happy to be on their way.
They fly to Legba, with Pran handily piloting through the ship graveyard ringing it (and spotting some nasty looking killsats hidden amongst the debris), Wong having barely printed all their needed gear in time. They also get a look at the station exterior: a hollowed out asteroid/beehive, with various attached appendages, a few of which are spun for various amounts of gravity. They manage to bluff their way in using their chosen ruse, and almost immediately get into a gun and knife fight with some waiting, low-level thugs in the Zombi docks. They kill 2 and the others flee: word is it’s prison rules in here: you can keep anything you’re strong enough to keep. Anything else will get taken, including your life and stack (one of the main currencies aboard). They team, aside from Pran, all installed killswitches just in case. They notice some nearby guards around a ship keeping an eye on them, and find that the ship has Extropian registration. Doing a little research, they hear that a turf war has broken out between 9 Lives and ID Crew.
Pran and many of the others make an ass of themselves, lacking low-g proficieny (and increasing the odds that someone may suspect they aren’t what they say). They get a few different messages after they secure the ship (Anna and Frank decide to stay to protect it). One message is from Pyrrhus, giving them the name and rough location of their onboard contact Amaru Timoti- who is to be approached with extreme caution, due to the danger of his position. Pran is also a bit concerned that someone might recognize him, as an ex-member not in good standing. Pyyrhus also has 2 side missions for them: recover (or destroy) the captured ego of a Firewall sentinel, and copy or steal the muse of a Project Ozma IT worker’s muse. 9 Lives is thought to have both somewhere on Legba. They also receive a message from a name they don’t recognize, Katsorou, via a physical printout from a bot, asking to meet while they are on the station, giving his location. And, lastly, they get a call from Omri Melach, aboard the ship with the guards, offering to hire the 4 posing as mercs away from their employers. They decline, for the time, but tell him they’ll be in touch if they finish their business early.
They split up: Iskra and Fred to Timoti, in the Psychopomp district, the rest to the mystery bot-messager. Iskra makes contact, and uses the password- he meets her and Fred in a secure room, and fills them in. 9 Lives has apparently acquired something called AWE that makes people into slavish devotees, with a doglike obedience to whoever is imprinted as their “master.” He’s never seen anything like it. He tells them that he is motivated to take on this insanely dangerous mission by hs faith: he is a true believer in voodoo, and sees the bastardized, heavily modified version practiced on Legba (called Lapriye) as a gross perversion. The strongest believers are the Ghede Nanchon members, the faction controlled by the syndicate leader Roland Nazon. Timoti suspects that Lam Cong Dong, the leader of the Rada Nanchon faction, is behind this new arrival since it started with her return from Venus. He personally helped her resleeve Betrand Theo, the leader of the Petro Nanchon faction, and suspects their is some sort of internal conspiracy or coup attempt in the offing. He asks to be extracted if things really go to shit, but otherwise wants to stay in place if he isn’t made. Timoti gives them a stack with a copy of an ego that has been altered.
The other group links up with Katsorou, in the Peristyle district, who bluffs along with Lena that they know each other, while getting her to hook up to a secure drive he has. He reveals that he is actually Chi Rokuzawa, who sent an illicit alpha fork here after picking up rumors of some advanced new psych-tech. However, she is in waaay over her head and knows it, and wants extraction in exchange for providing intel. She recognized Lena when they arrived, having secreted the bot in the docks to prepare for just such an opportunity. They agree, and she fills them in.
AWE is a stolen Cognite program, brought to the syndicate by their Venusian head, Lam Cong Dong. The scientists in Nazon’s private Houngan, some there willingly, some not, have all been hard at work figuring out how to improve its abilities and optimize its use. They have managed to add 9 Lives bosses to the imprint procedure to make people loyal to them, but they still have to pretend to be connected to Cognite to get AWE, a heavily limited task AI, to follow their commands. They also have not yet been able to copy it. However, it gets faster and stronger the more egos that they feed to it, so they are calling it progress, and have another batch going in the next day. Chi desperately wants to get off station before the big all-Nanchon meeting coming up in 2 days, worried that this AI might gain enough power to achieve TITAN levels of intelligence. Lena takes personal responsibility for making this happen. Chi also tells them that Nazon has driven himself completely insane through repeated Ascension Merging, a bridge too far even for Chi. However, Chi believes that someone else is pulling Nazon’s strings as he somehow still makes coherent public appearances. His private hab is at the end of the corridor past the Houngans, and looks to be under heavy guard.
The team decides this is enough to report back to Pyrrhus via their secure QE comm, get further instruction, and figure out what to do next. They call it in, and are told to stay on task. As a bonus, Pyrrhus has found more funds to cover their morph rentals, as well as some useful intel: Melach apparently has a bounty out for him, posted by his old syndicate, the ID Crew- so it is very curious that he is on Legba. They are told that the priority is to destroy AWE, or present its spread as much as possible if destruction is not an option. Anna starts acting really odd after hearing that this is a Cognite project, but claims she’s just having trouble with the low-g, and will watch the ship. Fred and Wong stick with her, wanting to make sure they have an escape option, while Frank swaps out to help Pran provide security for Lena and Iskra.
They decide to check out all the locations they haven’t visited yet. They see a horrifying pitfight in the Samedi torus, controlled by the Ghede Nanchon, under Su Wu. This is the most rundown area they’ve seen, and also the harshest: any faction member can challenge another to a deathmatch, and will assume their position (and own their stack) if they win. Lapriye fetishes and tokens are everywhere. However, the gang seems to be watching insane combat morphs right now, behaving in the way that Timoti described. Aside from Frank, they are universally horrified and stressed out by the sight. Iskra bets but loses. Frank notices an odd time in the early morning the next day on the fight schedule where there is a long gap between fights and a large maintenance project is assigned elsewhere in the torus. They decide to return and check it out.
They head to the Marinette area to sleeve the ego Timoti gave them and interrogate it, as a pod brothel called Margo’s. They overhear some gossip on the way suggesting that Dong may be plotting a move against Nazon, and although some Rada members seem enthused at this prospect, others feel that Nazon must surely know, believing him a near-god. There are Lapriye fetishes and shrines everywhere, but less true believers amongst the gangers here seemingly. They reach the brothel, sleeve the ego, and Iskra deep scans it while Frank interrogates. However, it is as terrifying as they heard: AWE has stripped out all emotional & sensory context for her former memories/personality, and replaced them with pleasue center-stimulating fragmented memories ensuring her loyalty to Cognite, specifically and exec named Lindsey. Iskra poses as Lindsey, and is able to issue commands which are immediately followed, but the ego doesn’t know anything & seems largely ruined. They get the stack back, and leave, all agreeing that this threat must be destroyed.
They check out the Guinee servers, but find that access seems to be external only, as it is built on the outside of the asteroid for help shedding heat. Frank, with enhanced vision, is able to see that it is a massive server farm, with one large server missing. There are some skeletal case morphs inside manipulating stack readers, and presumably loading egos. They head to battleship bolted onto the asteroid: the Fetish Markets. Frank manages to track down what he thinks is the missing Firewall Sentinel’s stack, and purchases it with 2 others (as far as he could narrow it down). They also hear that there is a run on Cognite egos, so apparently the Houngan hasn’t broken the programming on AWE yet, just as Chi said. They head back to Psychopomp, the resleeving & medical area, and notice that there is another heavily guarded seperate module out at the far end, which Pran id’s as the comms array. He deduces that it is hard-wired both to the resleeving tech in Pyshcopomp, and likely to the Guinee servers, and realizes that he could maybe arrange a “prison break” of sorts if he can get Wong and Fred to hack them both.
They also check out the reactor, which seems fully shielded from surveillance (and radiation). However, it is under extremely (Frank thinks excessive) bot security, with some serious scanners at the one internal entrance. Frank thinks this may be where that missing server went. He also spots a sign over the door which says Nana Buluku. They head back to the ship, and call Melach. They arrange for Fred and Wong to guard his ship for some bonus cash, until his secretive meeting the next day. All he will tell them is that he is selling a very valuable ego, to set himself up for life. They rest, but fail to make any surveillance plans, and are surprised to suddenly lose comms with Wong and Fred, and hear a white-noise cloud approaching. Dong herself approaches with a half dozen well-armed guards, and enters Melach’s ship. They wait a few minutes to see what happens, but she emerges shortly, signals her guards, and leaves. Melach sends the 2 sentinels back, and his guards begin preparing for takeoff. But what did she buy? Luckily Wong and Fred tag-teamed some impromptu surveillance, and found out: the ego of a Cognite exec named Nibedita Nath. This would presumably give significant power over the Devoted egos to whoever controlled Nath.
Frank, Pran, Lena, and Iskra head back to Samedi to check out this suspicious “repair” that is scheduled. However, still sick from the day before at what they saw there, Pran and Lena are unable to make themselves enter, and decide to merely watch the entrance. Iskra sneaks in with her ghost morph, and Frank tries to follow, but is fairly obvious. However, the maintenance seems legit, although there are way more people there than need to be. Pran & Lena spot a neotenic sneakily approaching Samedi, and warn the others that he is coming. Pran id’s him as Ellegua, Nazon’s 2nd in command/manservant. Frank tries to distract him, to help Iskra follow him, but he casually dispatches Frank with relative ease- Frank is shocked at how fast he is. Pran steels himself and rushes in to grab Frank’s body before other gangers strip it, as he still is barely clinging to life.
Iskra continues to follow Ellegua, and sees him enter a holding cell area near the fighting pits. She tries to sneak in, sees Ellegua talking with Su Wu, and overhears a snippet of their convo- seemingly they have plans to betray Dong at the Nanchon meeting the next day. Pran is also able to tell from the footage that Ellegua uses Nazon’s distinct speech patterns, and is likely a fork of the leader (or is being puppetsocked). However, Iskra is noticed, and Su Wu quickly chases her down and ko’s her with a sword. She activates the killswitch, rather than let them capture her ego intact. The team abandons Iskra, and Wong and Fred frantically provide hacking cover to try to shut down cameras and sensors for them to retreat back to the docks. Pran may have gotten spotted by the various fighting pit cam drones when he went to rescue Frank, though.
They decide that they ought to approach Dong or Theo, and try to get to the bottom of who is plotting what against whom. Presumably they will also be meeting today, as the nanchon debate is first thing tomorrow. They also decide to try to crawl around outside a bit, and see if they can gain access to either (or both) the reactor chamber and the Guinee servers. After healing up a bit, they find out that Pran was spotted, and has been ID’d as an ex-member in bad standing (the only kind, really). Luckily, he wasn’t tracked to the ship. But it will be dangerous for him to be out and about. Fred does some investigating of power usage records, and determines that the missing server (likely conatining AWE) is located in the reactor chamber. They meet up and make a deal with Theo, the most pragmatic leader, to provide explosives for Pran to use to get in and destroy the server. They also agree to throw the team’s weight behind the Petro Nanchon if the meeting turns bloody.
Theo also fills them in on Dong’s plan- she is going to use the Nath ego copy to gain access to Cognite’s massive array of server farms and digital facilities, and begin infecting them, giving her access to all of their secrets and at least temporary control over a sizable portion of the corp in a very short projected amount of time. He has agreed to back her, but would rather that “something happen” to AWE before she gets a chance to use it, as it will help maintain a the power balance if she suceeds in the coup but loses her largest weapon. He thinks he can steer them back to business as usual, and a bit further from a psychotic Lapriye cult.
They tell Timoti and Rokuzawa to get to the shuttle during the Nanchon meeting if they need extraction, and then check all their gear and head out. Anna fails to convince everyone that they should try to hold onto a copy of AWE for Firewall, but they do manage to retrieve an aplha fork of her that she manages to connive to send through the AWE process, so they have some evidence at least. They head to the meeting while Pran waits for the explosives to get delivered. The nanchons all present their platforms (Theo argues for studying AWE more before using it, Dong presents her plan), and the Ghede go last. Wu says that instead of meddling about with hackers and server farms, they should send raiding parties to assault Cognite’s physical facilites, using Nath’s access codes, to ensure that none escape. This plan seems popular with the rank and file.
Nazon tries to sell the idea that Dong stole his plan to present as her own (as part of her coup attempt), and says that the Rada need to be taught a lesson. The team gets a panicked message from Timoti, saying that he will need extraction as he had to break cover to contact them, but that there are 2 dozen newly sleeved combat morphs about to arrive at the meeting, all imprinted to Nazon- they used up all the morphs in stock. The fighting begins as the wave of combat morphs crashes into the back ranks of the Ghede and Wu rushes into the Petro with his bodyguards. Theo and Dong pull back, and Nazon and Ellegua scamper off.
Meanwhile, Pran fianlly gets a delivery, and heads out through the eerily empty halls of Legba. He reaches Uptown, and exits through an airlock that Theo provided access to. He makes his way to the reactor and blows it open. He gets blasted off by the out-rushing atmo, but manages to snag himself on something and make his way back without getting kill-satted. He enters and floats down, finds the (obvious) server, and destroys it. He heads back to the ship, but the airlock he used is locked, so he makes his way over the exterior of the asteroid to the Zombi docks.
The team decides to go after Wu and try to cause some confusion in the Ghede ranks. They manage to take him and his guards down, but are heavily injured in the process, and decide to retreat, hide in the ship, hope Theo and Dong carry the day, and then hope that Theo follows through on his promise to allow them to leave. They make it safely, although the fighting has sprawled out from the Fetish Market into almost all of the station. After a stressful and lengthy wait (and the arrival of their 2 passengers), they get an all clear and finally escape this wretched place to return to Aspis. Pyyrhus rewards them as best he can in exchange for their help, and they egocast back to Parvarti.