In the Shadows of Venus

Session 14 -- The Plot Thickens...

Chases, gestalt intelligences, puppets oh my!

Back in Spencer’s room Aleksy and Hunter complete packing up gear. There’s still two minutes left until Spencer’s paralysis wears off. Aleksy takes him over his shoulder and they start heading out. They decide to head for the neighborhood of the failed meeting from earlier. Spencer regains muscle control shortly after and he picks up his share of gear to carry. Along the way we duck into a dark corner and Aleksy and Spencer put on their sneak suits and put their normal clothing back on over them, just in case.

The place is pretty empty as we walk around. We take the elevator back down to the floor we got off at for the meeting. We try to provide the passcode we previously used to get to that location and, fortunately, the passcode works. However at the door to the meeting room it remains locked. Spencer picks the electronic lock. The room is still dark inside. Spencer drops his normal clothing, turns on his sneak suit, drops his multispectral goggles and sneaks inside the room. Aleksy follows. Spencer stealths up to the other door in the room and indicates to Aleksy to cover the door. Spencer waves the door open, which it does while Aleksy covers. The room, and the rest of the place, are clear. With the door closed they stand down and begin sweeping the room for bugs. Additionally Spencer and Hunter run their forensics swarms over the room. Aleksy places monitoring bugs at the end of the hallway to alert against intruders.

The rest of the night passes uneventfully.

Satori, Carlos and IQ show up for breakfast together as normal. However the other three are not present. He sends a short burst to Carlos asking about them, but he also hasn’t seen them. In fact they miss the start of the scheduled event they’re to attend. Satori also can’t locate them via the arcology’s standard tracking infrastructure. Satori continues to search location logging for them. IQ picks up the data drop from the previous day containing a recording of the meeting from Spencer’s perspective, including how to get to the location. Satori goes by in about half an hour and picks it up as well. The recording contains the directions to the meet location. From watching the recording Satori is able to figure out that the meeting was in an area with few people in it, late at night. Additionally as their location monitoring turned off prior to attending to the meeting it looks like they’ve been up to some suspicious activity and likely attracted some negative attention from the establishment.

Satori and IQ sit down somewhere inconspicuous and talk over their conclusions via secure communications. Additionally IQ considers his analysis of the recording he took of the people exchanging lots of burst transmission traffic nearby him from the day before. He finds quite a bit more data is involved than a normal conversation. He also discovers, from the metadata involved, a level of synchronization between the individuals that indicates potentially some kind of gestalt intelligence or a hive mind of some fashion. IQ mentions it to Satori, who reviews the footage and feels that outwardly they’re exhibiting normal behavior.

IQ walks around town trying to locate via facial recognition some of the people that were in the meeting with Spencer, Aleksy and Hunter and comes up empty. Satori looks through the public police blotter and sees no “wanted” posts for them. Security forces also don’t seem to have altered their work as if they’re looking for someone. Satori looks over personnel records and finds about 30 full-time dedicated security officers as opposed to the normal volunteers. All of them looked to have checked in to their rooms at the appropriate times that previous evening. He’s able to figure out to some extent what their shifts are and when based on how their locations stop being listed publically while they’re on-shift. Satori analyzes the available data and tries to look for inconsistencies in their locations in their off-time, trying to find errors or falsehoods. He finds that about 30% of the full-time security personnel (10 or so) have some unusual “holes” in their location tracking that indicate activity when they’re not supposed to be on-shift. He sends that info to IQ for consideration. He figured out clearly that they’re up to activities that someone doesn’t want on the record. He finds that the previous evening includes such instances and provides those security officers’ identities. Satori alerts Carlos that something may be up and to be alert; Carlos indicates he’s always alert.

Spencer, although he’d prefer to lie low for awhile, talks it over with Aleksy and they decide they need to get word to the others as to what’s happened. He does his best to disguise himself and around noon when the streets should be busy heads out for the dead drop. He wears his nanoweave jacket over the sneak suit, concealing his electrolaser as well as some lockpick tools. He makes it there and stops before walking up to it to check out the area and make sure it’s safe. He isn’t able to detect people looking in on him and so he heads to the dead drop. He’s able to leave a recording from the previous night and information about where they’re hiding. Spencer then takes his time going back to ensure he’s not being followed.

Meanwhile IQ and Satori track down one of the security officers from the previous evening, who happens to be at a club. IQ goes clubbing. Meanwhile Satori decides to investigate what he finds odd as the need for security personnel at all in the Arcology. To do so he applies for and is granted access to the external internet outside of the arcology. He’s informed that his use of the internet will not be monitored unless he tries to upload data to their internal network or downloads data over a certain limit. Satori is skeptical of that, of course, expecting they’re looking at it to some extent. Satori is able to locate information about “Personal Autonomy Depravation Syndrome” where people who have lost their autonomy (such as in environments like this one) will periodically lash out as a result. Only about 5% or so experience this and most can be caught, with only a small number slipping through the cracks. In a facility the size of the Arcology maybe 20 individuals would be caught. Satori considers whether memetic penetration would affect those percentages and begins researching. It takes the remainder of the evening to research and analyze and determines the two may be linked somewhat, yielding in an environment the size of the Arcology maybe 30-50 individuals backlashing against their loss of autonomy – some with violence.

That evening IQ finds the data drop from earlier in the day and reviews it. He contacts Satori about a late night snack and provides him the data from the drop. After they briefly discuss IQ goes clubbing to find the security guy who went MIA the previous night. IQ is easily able to locate the guy by himself at the bar. Luke Godfrey is nursing a drink. IQ is able to tell that he seems to have received some kind of medical attention to his head recently. IQ locates a random woman by herself in the club and asks her to dance. He’s able to make a passable show of dancing. Eventually he offers to get her a drink; she accepts and asks for a beer. IQ makes his way to the bar next to Mr. Godfrey. He looks to have already downed several shots. IQ tries to engage him in some casual conversation about his drinking and a bad day. Luke acknowledges a rough night last night on the job. IQ asks what happened and Luke indicates that he got in a fight. IQ makes a comment about him at least giving worse than he got. From Luke’s body language and from what IQ can tell from his voice it sounds like he’s unsure of what exactly happened to him. IQ buys him a drink and Luke makes some offhand comment about her being “fun” despite her average looks. IQ dances with her for a bit, sits down to chat. He messages Satori that the two of them should meet up when they’re free.

During the day Aleksy and Spencer go out in disguise with sneak suits on underneath. They head to the construction area and are stopped by some password-protected doors monitored by openly-displayed cameras. We quickly decide to leave to avoid detection. While walking about the Arcology and seeing no public effort to locate us Spencer begins to doubt that there is an official Arcology effort going on to locate them based on the lack of large-scale presence.

As a test Spencer connected to the network to perform a facial recognition search for “Joshua”. Resolution of the query took 1-2 minutes. At the :00:75 mark, 10 people in the vicinity were puppet-controlled, zeroing in on Spencer’s location. Spencer attempted to distract (Fast Talk) the nearby groups of people by claiming that someone was brandishing a gun. Three people were taken in by this misdirection. Spencer then tried to stealth away but failed his check, while his opposition rolled well to follow him. A chase then took place.

Switch to present tense! It starts out looking dicey for our protagonists. For the first minute the puppets remain close on Spencer’s heels, although Aleksy races to catch up to the crowd. The next thirty seconds bring no respite; Spencer remains clearly in the sights of the pack. Aleksy meanwhile manages to grab hold of the back of one’s shirt and flip her into the puppet running next to her, knocking him down while the tossee keeps her feet. This angers the two who immediately jump at Aleksy. One manages to get a grip, but proves no match for Aleksy’s newly augmented muscles. He wrenches free and runs off with both hot on his tail. This game of mobile grappling continues as Aleksy proves unable to easily shake them and they fail to find a way to latch on. Enough is enough, our burly Russian turns to engage his pursuers directly, but misses his first punch at the nearest face. A furious batch of grab, parry, miss, grab, parry and judo throw them together ensues. Aleksy’s fist then connects with the man’s cheek, delivering an audible crack and an enforced nap to the unfortunate soul. Emotionlessly, the woman ducks out of the way of his next punch headed right at her stomach. But she can’t avoid the followup blow straight to the chest which knocks her off her feet. Still on the ground, but beginning to struggle to her feet, she doesn’t see Aleksys’s foot come down and end her chase for the day. With nobody left to hinder him, Aleksy sneaks off to safety.

While this is happening, five continue charging after Spencer. For a few minutes the stalemate continues. But then the five begin to coordinate with the surveillance AIs and close the distance on him. Five grabs later Spencer remains free, but can’t put any more distance behind him. He isn’t so lucky on the next round; one latches on. He twists himself free and tries to run on. Frustrated and unable to shake the group, Spencer grabs his electrolaser out of its hidden holster and tries to end it the hard way. He fires nearly blindly behind him as he continues to run, but can’t hit anyone. Realizing he can’t take down five people with just one pistol, he turns the corner and starts running full out again. No luck! A man grabs Spencer as he makes the turn, and a quick parry attempt with the zap glove fails. Spencer can’t break free, but the man doesn’t manage to take him to the ground either. One more puppet finds a hold and grabs onto Spencer’s legs. Combined, they manage to drag him to the ground. Almost helpless on the ground, Spencer can’t avoid the third person jumping on the pile. They unsuccessfully try to pin him immediately. A wild swing with the zap glove misses all three. This continues for a few rounds until Spencer manages to connect with the zap glove on one of them. She goes down, hard. Another swing, another hit and the next one goes down hard. The remaining two join the grapple. Spencer gloves one more down. Then the remaining two finally get him pinned. While one keeps him pinned, the other begins to choke him. Fifteen seconds later, blackness descends over Spencer’s eyes…