In the Shadows of Venus

Session 3: We've Almost Got Him

Now we just have to prove it!

Tuesday continues. Now that Steve has been interrogated the next on the list are the remote employees who have been called in. Spencer, Hunter and Aleksy are the ones who interview them with Satori attending remotely.

Amina Russom is the first to go. She’s a “generally attractive” human female. She starts by asking what she can do for us. She’s one of the three memeticists who works with Calliope on campaigns, market research and such. Her focus is memetic analysis as opposed to creation. She worked with Calliope less than the other two employees due to her role in doing background research. She did, however, have daily interaction with Calliope. Amina stated that she also considers Calliope a friend although not in a human sense as Calliope is an AI and not a “person”.

Amina stated that she did engage in after-hours activities with Calliiope on occasions. Hunter asks whether Calliope had closer relationships with any individuals over others. She indicated that Calliope worked more closely with Guy, one of the main memetic engineers. She was surprised at being asked about whether that relationship with closer than that with Steve, who was just a technician and not one of the memeticists. She went on to state that Steve was involved heavily in stupid online games where people lead others to their deaths.

Spencer asks when she first discovered Calliope went missing, which was about three days ago. He asked about the projects that started about six months ago. She indicated that Calliope’s skill at the memes produced in the last six months was exceptional. Amina stated that Calliope had done work of that kind previously but that she’d gotten very good at it over the past six months, more so than previously.

Meanwhile Satori contacts Linus who indicates that he’ll speak to Steven about granting us access to the backup tapes that contain records of the infectious weblife.

We decide this is enough information to act upon. Aleksy, Spencer and Carlos take off to go break into Steven’s home to look for evidence. Meanwhile Hunter stays behind to continue the interviews and make sure that Steve doesn’t go anywhere.

Soon after Satori receives notice that he now has access to the backup tapes that he wants to review, which he begins doing.

Hunter begins interviewing Hannah “Liar Pants” Gray who looks like Pink in a retro-punk kind of way. She states she knows Calliope well, as friends. They do things together sometimes outside of work (on several occasions) usually to “live vicariously” via teleoperating her VII while Hannah engages in other activities. We quickly determine that Hannah is a bitch who answers using the minimum amount of words and details every time.

Hunter presses Hannah for details. Hannah indicates that what she does while Calliope is watching is to go to bars a couple times a week and tries to pick up people. She’s been doing so for the last year or so. During these events Calliope stays with her via VII the entire time. She’s not aware of anyone else who Calliope does this with.

Hunter asks Hannah what she did with her recent vacation time. Hannah indicated that she partied frequently and went out on a number of dates. Hunter asks and Hannah indicated that during vacation she did not allow Calliope to come along on her adventures; she did not want a “third party” along for the activities. Hannah indicated she stayed in Montreal during the vacation, sleeping around.

Via Hunter Spencer asks whether Calliope and Hannah discussed these ride-along after the fact; Hannah indicated she did and it was more informational questions she was after. We ask her to elaborate on what aspects of the relationship were but Hunter is a prude and will not ask. Satori wants to know when the last time they talked was, which was before her vacation. Hannah indicates that Calliope was after advice regarding a person she was romantically interested in. Hunter tries to narrow down who it was. Hannah didn’t think it was one of the guys she picked up at a bar but instead thought it was someone Calliope had been spending time getting to know someone. Hunter asks and Hannah indicates that this person could be anyone, anywhere given that Calliope has full access to the internet. He asked her what reason Calliope has to stick around at the company. Hannah indicates that Calliope is owned by the company and programmed to want to stick around; she also hadn’t expressed discontent.

Satori asks through Hunter whether Calliope had another close friend/confidant that she might have been in contact with. Hannah indicated that she and Calliope were fairly close but that she had never mentioned to Hannah the identity of this romantic interest. However she didn’t think that any of the men at the company would be likely suitors. She felt that Linus doesn’t like AI’s in a romantic way (“trust me, I know”, “He’s just not.”). Same with Guy. Hannah indicated that Steve is “just a dork” and a tech-y, IT guy who works late and spends a lot of time playing online games. Hunter asked and upon thinking she realized that Calliope had spent time playing the games with Steve and, upon further thought, the descriptions that Calliope provided of her interactions with this romantic interest sounded like part of an online medieval game. These meetings happened somewhat frequently over the past four months. Hunter makes a poignant, snarky comment and the interview concludes.

Back to Aleksy, Spencer and Carlos who are dropped off about five minutes from the destination. With Aleksy’s help we identify the security cameras to help dodge them. Spencer identifies the net connection for the house and analyzes the data feed. Unfortunately the keepalive between the house and its monitoring software can’t safely be interrupted to make it look like the house’s internet connection can be interrupted. Meanwhile Aleksy carefully observes the house’s security arrangements, putting together a clear picture of the equipment’s layout. He identifies a section of wall that they can access without good camera coverage. Via the wall a window is accessible. Aleksy knows that the window likely has an alarm included that will go off if the window is broken or otherwise messed with.

Before entering Aleksy thinks this over and discusses with Spencer. We decide that entering the house would not be a good idea without some kind of proof or other reason to break in. The reason is that any intrusive measures will certainly be detected right away by the house’s security measures and our presence would be recorded. The three of them decide to learn what the can externally, including Carlos doing a walk-around and trying to determine some kind of a layout of the home from looking into windows from over the wall. Spencer also orders via Amazon overnight delivery a crawler surveillance cyberswarm with solar batteries.

Meanwhile Satori examines Calliope’s backups and doesn’t at all buy the story of a weblife virus. He determines she definitely was in a fugue state but he’s convinced (despite it not at all being obvious) that he’s found evidence that a virus was planted in her code. The virus creates this fugue state on command and lasts up to about 30 minutes. This would affect her ability to monitor security systems. Inserting this virus requires high-level access to her code. Steve would normally be the one to “fix” her in these instances. Satori tries to cross-reference the instances where Steve was logged in to the system while one of these fugue states occurred but cannot locate any instances. He is unable to identify any at all. Satori feels this is quite suspicious and questions whether the logs were edited. He checks to determine whether the log files were edited. Thanks to some brilliant analysis of the available intelligence he locates evidence that the logfiles were in fact altered.

Guy is also interviewed by Hunter. In summary Guy is not a dick and gives no answers of overt interest. He confirms the other interviewees’ statements, including sometimes participating with Steve in his online game. He observed that Steve was quite awkward with other employees at Aletheia so they tried unsuccessfully to bring him out of his shell. He doesn’t have any notable recollection of interactions between Steve and Calliope, at least nothing more than friendly chatting typical of coworkers. Based on the content of the conversation we also get confirmation that Hunter is a dick.

Satori gathers the group via VR chat and presents his information. After discussing the matter we task IQ to sign into Calliope/Steve’s online games to try to locate and interview people who they might have played with to try and learn more. Spencer asks his assistant Silvie to check the dossiers of the Aletheia personnel for anyone with computer training and/or experience besides Steve. We also task IQ to use his Techspider to shadow Steve home, which it is able to do successfully without being detected as following him. Steve goes home, goes inside, and heads into a room that shows up as being temperature-shielded on IR. The techspider continues its nefarious vigil outside his home, silently wondering in its electronic brain what evil activity goes on within Spencer’s home.

The next day we get the subpoena for the cab company. Murphy is able to verify what was previously known on how the cab was hired and paid for. He actually does some further work and backtracks to the cybershell rental company, pulling up a name for the person who rented and teleoperated the cybershell who took the cab ride and broke into Alethia. It was from a person named Mannan Chatterjee who teleoperated the cybershell, performed the crime and then dropped the bot off in the middle of downtown. We gather video camera footage from that area and the bot, after getting out of the cab, walks into an area of poor camera footage and disappears. We try and prevail on Murphy to do some further police work and pick up this Chatterjee for questioning but his laziness gets the better of him and he declines, providing us his address.

We do our homework on Chatterjee, who is also an online gaming participant. His online profile indicates that he is an “artist” who we determine is “Facebook friends” with Steve Torvalds. We find that he’s a self-employed web artist. The next morning we have the Techspider, Spencer and Carlos keep an eye on Steve, who is still at home. Meanwhile everyone else visits Mannan’s home. A deadpan-voiced AI answers that Mannan is on vacation in Hawaii and is not home. Hunter’s IR goggles seem to confirm, as does Mannan’s online social profile which confirms Mannan has actually been in Hawaii for the last two weeks. This is at odds with the remote codes being used to teleoperate the cybershell from the theft, which originated from his home.

Satori calls Mannan and introduces himself. Indicating he’s investigating criminal activity that may involve his residence. He asks and Mannan indicates he didn’t receive any unauthorized or authorized access requests and that he has no housesitters. Satori asks if anyone else has keys to his home. However Satori’s efforts to be diplomatic come out sounding like a Nazi drill sergeant with a case of the shits. Mannan impatiently replies that he doesn’t want to be bothered until he returns from his vacation. Satori tries again and lays out the situation. Mannan flatly indicates he doesn’t care, doesn’t know why we’re around his home, and wants to know who’s employing him. Satori provides simple details that they’re investigating a theft/kidnapping and directs Satori to talk to his lawyer, whom he forwards contact info for after hanging up.
Satori realized after the fact that due to the time difference he called Mannan at 5am local time when he would not be interested in talking.

Meanwhile Steve leaves his house and boards mass transit, bound downtown. Spencer, Carlos and the techspider begin shadowing him. He gets off transit and walks into the First National Chicago Bank.

Thoughts for next time: Depending on where the rest of the group are, have them hit Steve’s house and, depending on what’s found in there, Spencer and Carlos can stop him before he skips town.

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