The team locate the computer system in the office section of the warehouse, which is raised above the warehouse floor by about 5m and is reached by a set of metal stairs. It’s a jury-rigged bundle of digital machinery that seems to have been cobbled together from a hundred different sources, and hastily expanded many times. Old fans and air-conditioning units try hard to keep the giant pile of circuit boards, cables and junction boxes cool, with mixed success. The whole thing is such a jumble it’s amazing it works at all, but the hum and flashing lights suggest it is. Whiskey still hasn’t located the wireless no, but finds a standard optical jack on the front of one of the many clusters of equipment, so connects that way instead, in AR rather than VR to be safe.
Suddenly, Whiskey starts getting hundreds of spam messages on his commlink, which alerts him that something has broken into his personal commlink and posted his contact details on some marketing boards. He has the best security out of everyone, but something has got through, he’s not sure what. As a precaution, everyone else turns off their commlinks – Whiskey has to keep his on to work, but he disables his email for the moment, not knowing what other damage the intruder might be doing.
What he finds when connecting to the jury-rigged computer is that the system is a giant cluster of computers running some kind of custom operating system, all collaborating with a central node that must be buried in the middle of the pile somewhere. It’s running what appears to be hundreds of agent processes called things like ‘rabbit2958’ and ‘bear1832’, and basically nothing else. So it seems that this machine is generating the furry animal agents that are present in the VR system, like the rabbit that Whiskey followed, although it’s not running the VR system itself.
The team code that turning the system off is worth a try, although they’re not sure what will happen. Mouse has located a switch box downstairs. There are no people in the computer room, so they all decide to stay there (except Mouse), with weapons drawn as it’s powered down. When Mouse turns it off, there is a loud hum/whine from deep inside the pile of equipment and a female voice says “Warning: emergency power system online, vacate the area immediately”. It seems that someone has appropriated a small nuclear power source to act as backup, in a clearly incredibly unsafe manner. The team reacts quickly and Mouse turns the power back on, but all the PCs in the computer room are exposed to a burst of radiation. Whiskey and Lightning both suffer minor burns, but Tor receives major burns to his back which result in recurring sores (-1 to all rolls unless kept freshly bandaged), and Faceman’s system is rendered permanently weakened (low pain tolerance). The power comes back on and the backup system shuts down – the burst itself seems relatively short range, luckily for others in the building.
Once the system has cooled down, Lightning decides to try to disconnect the backup power source. He has to crawl through the stacks of equipment, into a hot and stuffy warren of tech until he locates the power source, which seems to be a military system of some sort which has been cut out of wherever it should be (probably buried in concrete or lead). Scary. He manages to disconnect all the cables, meaning the system should not be activated if they try that again.
Whiskey meanwhile is suddenly played a video, one he didn’t ask for and appears to be originating within his own commlink. It is a highland scene with a woman in plate mail on a promontory, an angelic cherub floating around her head and whispering to her. It’s a propaganda video, which explains how the Matrix crash of 2060 was the mega corps fault, how they destroyed lives with their meddling, and how they a doing it again. It’s a call to arms for all people wanting to be free (particularly in the Matrix), that Tina of Arc is the champion of the people, and that we should all join her in her valiant quest against evil.
Whiskey identifies the connection of the intruder in his commlink and traces it. Although he has a handle on it, it doesn’t appear to be hosted on any computer, it seems to be a free-floating node of its own of an unusual structure. Whiskey enters his own commlink and arrives (in VR) in his home node, which looks like a military control room. Sitting in one of the swivel chairs is a small figure, looking a bit like a manga character with white spiky hair and a mischievous grin.
Through a discussion Whiskey identifies that this creature is Taske, a free sprite who seems to have been formed during the second crash. He discovers that Tina was actually a primary school VR teacher who became a technomancer during the crash, but the children she was teaching at the time were kill. Taske doesn’t seem to really understand exactly why this upsets her so much, but he realises he doesn’t really understand the ‘meat world’, and why ‘quarter size meat people’ should be so valuable to her. Taske doesn’t seem uncaring, he genuinely doesn’t get it – he just likes Tina (despite the fact that she’s encumbered by a meat body, sorry about that) and they formed an agreement, because Taske doesn’t like how the mega corps are expanding their efforts on security and generally building up too much power over the matrix again. They’ve formed a partnership where Tina organises the ‘meat world’ and Taske handles the ‘real world’ (Matrix), with the intention of scuppering any corp who they think is endangering the future of the Matrix and its inhabitants.
Before Whiskey disconnects Taske offers to redecorate his home node, which is far too boring (Tina’s is full of bright colours, fluffy things and rainbows, which Taske thinks is much more interesting), but Whiskey declines and after logging off, shuts down his commlink.