Wong bows out of the Firewall job, saying he is going to make some armaments for their new Barsoomian friends. Iskra (resleeved from backup) tries to get him to push her custom “fashion armor” on them a bit, which he gently brushes off. Lena also bows out, once reawoken in an infostate- she wants to work on some psychotherapy, with the aim of merging with her gamma fork, hopefully retaining some of her experiences from the missing time. She suceeds, with the assistance of Chi Rokuzawa, a Titanian professor who specializes in merging ego’s/forks/etc, especially post-trauma (a skill gained after much self-experimentation, based on his somewhat sketchy rep). Lena published the results of this experiment, gaining a small boost to her personal career, although that article comes off a little more fashion-y than scientific.
Anna, meanwhile, has been investigating her former U of Mars colleagues while in infostate. They were involved in pre-Fall research to develop high level AI’s to predict and simulate economic models based on transhuman behavior, rather than theories of “rational actors” or some such. Anna can’t find any earlier mention of her name, so this seems like the place to begin. 2 of the 3 researchers died around the time of the Fall and have not been resleeved in the post-Fall years. The one remaining, Pio Clautier, has taken a cushy corp gig for the Planetary Consortium, and left the academic life behind. She calls him, and moves her infostate up to Progress, on Deimos, where he is apparently now based. He responds a while later and seems enthusiastic for a meeting, even offering her the use of a temporary bouncer sleeve. She agrees, and they meet. They reminesce a bit about the old days, with Anna trying to dance (ha! a pun for you Carlos) around the fact that she barely remembers anything from that time (a fact of which he seems aware). He requests that she dance for him, as they all used to enjoy it so much, but she refuses (which she later regrets). She eventually manages to get him to agree to a trade without, she feels, giving away too much: she will provide him with edited info on her activities of the last few years and he will fill her in on the missing info about her past.
They head to a room where they can share a secure linked simulspace, but Anna quickly finds herself outmatched, as her muse Penny grants access to Clautier to all of Anna’s memories and data. He also provides her with the files she wants, however, and apologizes for the intrusion, as does Penny- she says that although she would like to obey Anna’s instructions, Clautier has override authority. After quickly reviewing the files, Anna comes to a disturbing discovery: as part of Clautier’s old team’s research into AI (pre-Fall), they developed some very human-like simulated personas. Most were lost to Fall-era paranoia, but they managed to save one: codenamed “ANNA.” They took a vote, and the two other members won, wiping Anna’s memory of those years and setting her free under an identity unknown to any of them, to pursue her life as she saw fit. They saw this as the only way to protect their creation. They applied some limit’s to Anna’s potential growth in order to keep her to human-level standards, so as to not raise alarms. Apprently both later had qualms as more info and paranoia about AI’s involvement in the Fall seeped in, and Clautier had them both quietly eliminated to ensure Anna’s continued safety, and has been looking for her since.
So, although he gained much more from her than she wished, she got a lot more than she expected- so much that she immeditately entered a state of denial/avoidance, wherein she is nearly unable to confront these new truths. She agrees to keep in touch with Clautier now that they are on the same page, and makes a hasty exit to rejoin the team. She gets Frederik to close Penny’s backdoors, leaving her as sole admin, but doesn’t tell them anything else (though she seems a bit on edge). She decides to sit out the job and go dancing.
The rest of the team heads to Olympus, the city at the base of the space elevator atop Olympus Mons. Firewall has intel that a former Mars Ranger named Abha Sharma has recently turned up, which is disturbing, as she seems to be in the same morph she was using when she was reported as being abducted by TITAN warbots during the Fall. She has made contact with her former squad commander Talbot Inneship, who is now a tactial and fieldcraft trainer for Olympus’ IRT/SWAT squads (tasked with defending the elevator from both TITAN Quarantine Zone threats and transhuman saboteurs of all stripes). The elevator is an essential link between Mars, transhumanity’s largest remaining settlement, and the rest of the system, so any potential infiltration of its primary guards is exceptionally worrying. They acquire a safehouse in a barren zone on the outskirts of town, stash their weapons and armor, and head in to investigate.
Frank tracks down Inneship in a cop bar, and busies him with banter and bargames, while they loosely insult each other as “Loonies” and “Rednecks”. Meanwhile, Frederik, via spime feeds, finds that Sharma seems to have arrived 3 days back and not left Inneship’s apartment, in the 2nd innermost ring of the city- so they head inward. He hacks building security easily, and lets Iskra in the front, while he scales the side of the building, before helping Pran up. Iskra tries to distract Sharma at the apartment door, while Frederik jams outgoing signals and shuts down alarms, and Pran scouts the apartment for weapons and suspicious stuff from the balcony.
Sharma is armed and seems ready to throw down with Iskra, but moves very silently and doesn’t respond until Iskra tells her that she is surrounded and convinces her that they have come unarmed and just want to talk. She allows Iskra in, but keeps the gun levelled. Iskra convinces Sharma to let her read her mind, and confirms that Sharma believes the truth of her story, even in her subconscious: she and Inneship, along with 4 other Rangers, were escorting a Magistrate (a roving back-country judge) back to Olympus. He had been on his usual patrols when the shit started around the Fall, and being some sort of hypercop bigwig’s kid, someone had pulled some strings to get him a prioritized escort back to town. They met up, and were close to the city when they got attacked by warmachines. A very short firefight later, 2 rangers were dead and their stacks disassembled, Inneship and 2 others were falling back, and she and the magistrate were being hauled off by TITANS.
She was in and out of consciousness for the rest. They found themselves in some sort of huge cavern, possibly deep underground. No comms, little light. The machines would come in and haul people (or sometimes just heads) off to god knows where. This went on for a time and then stopped. There was some sort of poison or drug in the air keeping everyone incapacitated. Then she woke up and found herself alone. Unsure where she was and what happened, she made her back to Olympus using dead reckoning, and tracked down Inneship (the only one of her former squad with a public listing). She still seems shocked that it’s been ten years. Iskra tells her that to clear her from suspicion, they will need to arrange for some tests. Sharma says she will run it by Inneship.
They exit, before Fred clears their digital traces and ends his hack. Pran forgets he doesn’t have a winged morph and leaps from the balcony, managing to slightly break his fall by smashing some neighbors planter. He flees as they berate him. They arrange with Firewall to scan Sharma at a secure one-use safehouse, and contact her- she agrees, on the condition that her and Inneship can come armed. The team agrees, and they meet. Frank doesn’t participate, not wanting to put Inneship’s guard further up. Although everyone is tense, she comes up clean- she’s lost a lot of time in a way that doesn’t make sense, but she bears no signs of infection, and the therpaist AI can’t find any unexpected mental issues. The team helps her get a new ID (of which they also alert Firewall, to keep an eye on her), in order to prevent her getting in more trouble.
Calling it a job well done, they all trade their morphs back in (or return them to the rental place), and prepare to ’cast back to Venus.