Maize slid into the front door of the BlackBoard, walls of glittering carved onyx tall to either side of him. It asked for his passes, but he was an old friend of Dark, so no sweat.
The place was buzzing. Something big was happening.
He slid through the reception area, gliding toward the portal connected to the hottest chat area. There were always people there, people in the know. He entered the arched passageway, and felt the cloak of darkness fall around him.
A familiar sight, tall and female and quicksilver, with long locks of flame. He slid over to Jezebel. "How's doin?"
"Long time no see. Hear the news?"
"Nope. Something's up, though."
"Sure is. Word is that Phoenix Embrace went down this morning. Down hard."
The Phoenix Embrace was a board down south, near Atlanta. Maize knew the guy who ran it; he didn't let his board go offline casually. "Something wierd?"
"Something scary. Word is that Kyodara runners cut the place up."
"Naw, that don't make sense. Corps don't go after boards."
They do now.
Maize turned to see Dark, his simulacrum set to the traditional black tattered cloak, cowled hood hiding shadows that moved. "Dark. You hear something we don't?"
Kyodara hackers went in under Corporate authority. The order carries the name of Maxwell Funishi.
Maize whistled. "You don't get much higher than that."
This does not bode well. I'm organizing the higher level runners that frequent the Black Board. Kyodara can't be allowed to pull this shit on us.
"I'm in," Maize said.
"Hey, I don't know, man," Jez said, her voice hesitant. "Kyodara is big time."
Listen up, Maize. This is dangerous. We're going to cut Kyodara high and hard, and not everyone is going to come back. If you're still interested at 12:00Z, go to the Spire. Password is Redemption.
Dark faded into the blackness.
Maize grinned, even though his Simulacrum couldn't pick up the motion. "Man, this is the shit that goes down in history. Saddle up."
Cyberspace is built on technology designed to override the human perceptive sphere, replacing it with something new. All this and more is discussed in Cyberlink. That's the raw rules.
In Metroplex, the Net is aptly named. It touches everything, draws everything together, forms a domain which lies alongside our own, with its own reflections of everything we are. Everyone deals with it. Some few specialize in its use, but no one lives beyond it.
or A Hacker's Guide to Cutting Code
The Net is a representation of computer architecture. Cyberlink has already told you how it works. The question is, what does a specific system look like? If I want to crack into B.I.G. Corporation's vault, what do I find there?
Computer systems are not designed to be easily ransacked by the common hacker. Contrary to the opinion voiced by newsvids and popular chips, hacking a system does not involve infiltrating and overpowering the OS. The operating system is just something put there for the average scum to use.
The first job of a hacker is to crack through the OS and get at the architecture within. This can be done by skill checks against target numbers based on the security of a system; an easy system might only be rated at -10%, whileas the big boys usually field complex interlaced OS systems which offer skill penalties of -55% or more. The key is to find the sweet spot, the places where the architecture wears thin and it's easier to break through. Often, almost invariably, programmers build back doors into systems they write. If you manage to find one, don't tell anyone, 'cause its easy street.
Once through the architecture, the entire feel of the system changes. Gone are the lovely sculpted luminous backgrounds and neon & chrome decor. The system from inside looks like brilliant scaffolding, glowing green wireframe depictions of what you should be seeing, while all about flows streams of binary information. This is the inside of the system, the place that you're not supposed to be; this is what makes hacking worthwhile.
Finding your way inside the system can be tricky. Usually, if you're hacking a system, you're doing it for a reason, namely to acquire information. Information is stored on hardware peripherals slaved to the central control system of the computer.
All computer systems, including the online interface terminal that you got in through, are connected to Control systems, which are in turn controlled through the CPU. The idea is to pass through the Control level branches, bypassing other online systems, slave ports (computer controlled machines in the real world), terminals (system access devices), and security systems. Any corporation worth its salt will have AIs, and AIs are the best way going to spin killer ice. That means that any computer worth hacking will be a glacier, filled to the brim with nasty-lookin' ice that wants to ruin your day. The Control systems will usually only have passive, simple levels of ice, since many users will be forced to pass through those points on a regular basis. Bad news for the corp if a poor innocent systems analyst gets greased by proactive black ice by accident. Once you start getting into controlled areas, the places that the goodies are stashed, where no one is supposed to be, that's when they slip you the black variety.
The places you're looking for are data stores, file systems with information stored in them. Sneak into the dragon's den, get the info, and get out. If you're lucky, the system is built badly and you'll be able to jack out once the data is in your deck. If not, and the architecture is built with control overrides, then you have to exit the system to break free.
The dangers involved in all this are profound. Aside from ice every six feet, remember that the system is filled with users, and some of them used to be people like you. 63% of all hackers who survive to age 35 take up Corporate employment thinning the ranks of aspiring young proteges. Your reflexes might be better, but their viral weapons are hotter and they know their systems.
Artificial Intelligence is a touchy subject. I remember some
authorities stating outright that AIs would never exist . . . others said
that they would be so different from us, we might not even recognize them.
I had always suspected they might turn out to be much more like us than we
might have wanted.
- Dr. Toshiro Kanika, Revelations, 2022 Edition
Artificial Intelligences exist in a curious crossroads. Driven by the social crusaders who somehow survive even the social collapse of the twenty first century, lawmakers have ruled that AIs are truly sentient and have certain inalienable rights. Granting them the rights of a true species, however, would endanger their existence; who would sink the money and time into such a project, knowing that the return would be a free entity who could choose to have nothing to do with the parent company? This, backed by the innate human fear of the unknown, has led the laws covering AIs to be more than slightly ambiguous. One thing is certain; no one, but no one, trusts an AI.
AI are incredibly useful. Their understanding of Cyberspace is innate. What they want to do, happens. All the good ICE out there is woven by AIs; they are programs, and know better than any how to block access, cut through defensive programming, and slip viral code through the cracks. If things get extreme, a Corporation can always allow an AI to go proactive, but this is rare; while nothing with a heartbeat can face down an AI in net combat, letting artificial life a measure of self-determination is dangerous; it makes people, particularily authorities, nervous. Stories tell of AIs which break free and slip away into the Net. Perhaps they are nothing but stories, but then again, perhaps not.
AIs can look like anything in the Net. They are the only force known which is able to generate Dark Sectors, which is a sure sign of their presence, and they are also the only thing going which can shift its persona at will and without limitation. Reprogramming one's Simulacrum appearance takes hours, or days, but an AI can do it in times measured with negative tenth powers.
One thing needs to be underlined about AIs: they are unpredictable. AIs aren't human; they're programs, coming from an entirely different place than humanity. An AI might do something for no reason that a human can detect. Their limitations and capabilities stagger the mind.
In a campaign, AIs are fantastic motivators. An AI is easily capable of working beyond their master's designs, drawing PCs into plots as complex and intricate as they are enigmatic and inscrutable; they can also be terrific foes. A database guarded by an AI might as well be on the moon, but who's to say that the Intelligence might not be willing to negotiate? Just remember that whatever it asks will be strange in the extreme, and doubtless will have implications the PCs can only guess at.
A typical AI will have the following stats:
Damage Type: Burn
Associations: Always operates alone
Appearance: As desired.
Special Abilities: AIs can create ICE and Dark Sectors at will. All AIs have electronic viral suicide bombs written into their source code which can be detonated by their parent entity, usually a Corporation, at will.
No one knows precisely how many AIs are out there. Estimates
rank total AI population at anywhere from 300 to one thousand, with roughly
five to ten thousand lesser constructs incapable of true sentience. The
division between a true AI and a Lesser Construct is generally seen to be
that true AIs can create Black ICE and generate Dark Sectors.
Dark looked about at the Cyberspace constructs, rapidly firming into
real paradigms. The ground unfolding about his feet like a giant origami
puzzle was soft, green with grass, and utterly real. Trees with swollen
red apples began to coalesce. The air became clear and blue, with pale
streaks of cloud. It was totally real, and he felt his stomach clench into
a ball of ice.
He heard the sibilant whisper like a breeze past his ear. "Dark, friend, let's chat."
Only one thing could make a Dark Sector . . .
Cyberspace doesn't look truly real. Everything is neon and chrome, autoluminous, like a TV screen in a dark room. Computers, data storage areas, communications lines and more, all strung together in a three-dimensional network, suspended amid the placid ultramarine sky. It seems real, looks and smells and sounds real, but you can tell the difference.
Dark Sectors are more dangerous. In a Dark Sector, Cyberspace looks just like Reality. Usually, a specific kind of Reality; a real place, whether that place exists in fiction or in fact, but something that humans would recognize as being in 'the real world'.
Dark Sectors can be fatal. Any combat Hackers take part in counts as real combat, using their real stats and real combat abilities. Weapons may or may not translate into the matrix. Damage suffered comes off of Hit Points directly. Run out, and you flatline. Dead in the real world.
Dark Sectors are extremely uncommon. No one knows exactly how many there are, or necessarily where they might be, as they can shift about, being created and falling apart. It is generally believed that only AIs can create Dark Sectors; how they do it is not known.
Dark Sectors in a campaign can take on a variety of forms and purposes. Passing into a Dark Sector can serve to remind the players of just how deep into it they are; depending on the nature of the relationship between PCs and AI, the sudden formation of a Dark Sector can be a dramatic way of heralding reinforcements in the nick of time, or the arrival of Imminent Doom. Dark Sectors also can be used to put a unique twist on the netrunning experience; if a goal is nestled amid a Dark Sector, the hackers are going to have to fall back on their actual, physical, attributes and combat abilities. The hottest icebreaker in the plex won't help one drop in a Dark Sector.
Get this through your head. There are no such thing as the CyberAware.
They're a legend, an urban myth, something hackers frighten each other with
when they're bored and tired and silly. There's no such thing.
- Slick Dickie, Hacker
Sometimes, the world changes, and you just have to run and try to keep up. The CyberAware didn't exist five years ago. No one knows how it happened, or where they came from; most people don't believe in them at all. Those that do say that CyberAware are rarer than AIs.
Legends tell that the CyberAware are mystics of cyberspace, able to work with the Net on a level that most people can't imagine. They say they're at home in Dark Sectors; they say that, to them, the Net is just one big system, to be used like any other computer. Some say that they're the work of something that is growing in the Net like a tumor.
Others laugh, and say that there is no such thing, that the Net is new and big and reality-bending, and so of course people will make up strange stories and whisper them with fear-filled eyes. It's easier than dealing with what's really out there.
Hackers are those who have learned the skills, scrounged the hardware, and
summoned up the nerve to jack in. Hacking can only be learned on the streets,
from others in the biz, learned by doing. There aren't any published statistics
on the fatality rates of neophytes but they're probably in the stratosphere
somewhere; hacking is dangerous, and learning how to fight ice and sleaze
corporate systems is Not Condusive to a Long and Healthy Life.
Whatever the risks, they keep on going, drawing on an inner core of
strength and determination. They, after all, are those who dare to snub the
noses of the mighty and powerful. They waltz through systems others would
fear to tread. They are hackers.
Attribute Requirements: ME 12. Hacking requires nerve.
Computer Operation (+35%)
Computer Programming (+35%)
Computer Hacking (old-style) (+15%)
CyberHacking (see Cyberlink)
Basic Electronics (+20%)
Cyberlink Electronics (+10%)
Criminal Electronics (+15%)
3 WP's of choice
Upgrade HTH Basic to Expert for 2 Related skills
O.C.C. Related Skills:
Select 6 other skills, plus one additional at levels three, six, nine, and twelve.
Communications: any (+5%)
Medical: First Aid only (+15%)
Pilot Related: any
Technical: languages only
Weapon Proficiencies: any
Secondary Skills: Select four additional skills from the above in the usual manner.
Standard Equipment: Pistol and SMG of choice, knife, Type III Deck (GM's discretion on providing higher or lower tech; VS 16, VP 15, VE 16, VDC 38). Programs: Attack II, Armour II, Dodge or Rage (Choose one), One Sensory program of choice.
Money: As a street level character, Hackers aren't exactly rolling in da creds. CR500 to start.
Cybernetics: Cyberlink. Select one Weapon and one Sensory implant.
Hackers are those who have learned the skills, scrounged the hardware, and summoned up the nerve to jack in. Hacking can only be learned on the streets, from others in the biz, learned by doing. There aren't any published statistics on the fatality rates of neophytes but they're probably in the stratosphere somewhere; hacking is dangerous, and learning how to fight ice and sleaze corporate systems is Not Condusive to a Long and Healthy Life.
Whatever the risks, they keep on going, drawing on an inner core of strength and determination. They, after all, are those who dare to snub the noses of the mighty and powerful. They waltz through systems others would fear to tread. They are hackers.
Attribute Requirements: ME 12. Hacking requires nerve.