May 29, 2019 at 6:02 pm #19328
“OK, I’ll go get the best respirator that I can find and a load of replacement filters. And survival stuff. Ugh, I hate needing to travel somewhat light.”
On the way home, while doing the usual changing of cabs and cutting through public places and so forth, Preston made time to call up contacts to start talking about how good of an ID he could get quickly, and how long a really water-tight one would take.
* Oleg: It is a crying shame that a criminal can’t even enjoy the freedom of being outside the system. Spending a fortune to pretend I was born on the right side of a fence feels like drawing a noose around my own neck.
* Coleman: I’m more apt to end up in a noose for not having the right ID
* Gamma: If I did have a legitimate SIN, I’d be spending my time trying to hide that fact and any linkage back to it.May 30, 2019 at 4:31 am #19335
Getting the survival gear was easy: Plenty of that as military surplus was going around and all the team’s contacts had quite a lot of it on offer. The R6 SIN turned out to be a bigger problem: One to two months was the vague reply – and that was with being bled through the nose – both literally and metaphorically.
But on day two after the event (Sunday), Becky received a message: <<We congratulate you to being accepted to our next round of apptitute testing. The tests will take two days and are scheduled for the next weekend or alternatively the weekend after. No need for luggage, everything you need for an overnight stay will be provided.>>
The address was the same as the rented office space. To take up this offer meant to wait another five days.Spoiler:May 30, 2019 at 4:59 pm #19365
“Well, that’s it then,” Al said. “If the job’s ta git Veljanov back safe, we can’t wait that long, not knowin’ how he is…or even fer certain where he is. Gaz is loaded. Reckon I’m fer south.”May 31, 2019 at 12:46 am #19376
The travel across the waste got off to a great start: Rain had started to fall in a miserable drizzle that cut down visibility and made every surface either slick or muddy, cutting down speed considerable and making the camping experience less than pleasant.June 2, 2019 at 10:27 pm #19425
Preston dutifully stocks up … Tent, sleeping bag, camp stove, dried food, 100 litres of water, water filters, hunting rifle with telescopic sight, and topographical map download for a stretch of what used to be western Montana.
* Coleman: without time or expertise to disguise the purchases by spreading them around, disguising by mis-direction will have to do.
He did buy the month worth of respirator filters separately however, as they would not fit in with the implied destination of Montana.June 3, 2019 at 1:20 am #19430
Rebbeca agrees with Al, and helps with the shopping for camping gear, and then to navigate the Gaz through the rough terrain.
(let’s just buy 4 hits on teamwork).June 3, 2019 at 7:49 am #19434
The ash wastes around Mt. St. Helens were very similar to Hell’s Kitchen, so both Al and his modified truck were already fairly acclimated. That said, finding the best ways through Puyallup had initially taken Al over month, and here they were working off second-hand data. Moreover, Puyallup had at least had roads at one time, whereas this area here had been mostly just forested mountainside. Not to mention that they needed to keep a low profile as they approached the area. Like rally driving, it was really a two-man job, and Al was glad to have Becky riding shotgun.
They camped in a well-screened vale with a tall ridge between them and the target site. It was a no frills arrangement – the Gaz did not have anything like the amenities of the Gov, but then the Gov would never have made the trip. Another bonus the Gaz offered was that it had space in the back for Al’s Yamaha Growler, which now sat unloaded and camouflaged near the campsite. It was too noisy for a stealth job, and obviously wouldn’t carry more than two people, but the thing could go anywhere, and it never hurt to have extra mobility options at hand.
The trip had taken a couple of days from Seattle, and it was dark by the time they’d finally set up. They quickly figured out that eating inside the Gaz’s cab was the best way to keep the ubiquitous dust out of their food and drink and mouths. They wore respirators outside for the most part. You would be just fine without for short periods, but it didn’t take long before the gray muck started to clog anywhere that air tried to pass through, and it was incredibly irritating to soft tissue.
Tired from the drive though they were, they didn’t have time to waste the dark. “Reckon I’d best go fer a look-see at the site. Ain’t much chance o’ bein’ spotted this side o’ the ridge. Once we crest it, I’m only taken such as is sure they won’t ghost me.”June 3, 2019 at 12:32 pm #19439
[Saturday September 10, 2078; Ash wastes around Mt St Helens]
Lily had few needs for the hike south which weren’t being covered by the others. She’d collected her spy drones and suit after a quick detour to Orting, her cased pistols and some electronics completed the outfit. The Raiden was stowed away in Al’s useful smuggling compartment although she hoped that the horrible thing would never be needed.
When Al suggested a foray in to the dust she had immediately volunteered to come too, setting the catsuit to a dull grey that blended in to the surroundings mostly by being covered in it…
#15June 3, 2019 at 4:19 pm #19448
The hike up the slope was brutal and quite dangerous. The two scouts reached a place where they had a good overview:
The camp had been build inside a shallow crater. To the west lay a small airstrip. Beside it four VTOL Drones stood in a row – likely used to transfer supplies in and out of the camp.
To the east a confusing array of bubble tents had been errected around a central structure. The building looked like a half sphere made from highly polished metal.
Lily had no trouble to recognize it as a nanoforged structure.
From it four main tunnels reached out to four symetrically arranged, half as large bubble tents. They looked big enough to house two levels.
These four tents all had airlocks to the outside as well as several smaller tunnels leading to small bubble tents that were arranged around the main tents. On top of the four large tents were 10 m tall posts mounted. On top of those the runners recognized sensor arrays.
Beside that, the only other apparent security feature consisted of a pair of space suite clad people patroling slowly around the structure.
Everything, beside the metal sphere was covered in a substancial layer of ash.Spoiler:June 3, 2019 at 5:59 pm #19454
Preston had eyed the slope, and decided he’d hold off risking triggering his asthma until it was more critical. Instead he got as comfortable as he could in the Gaz, and jumped in VR.
* Monkey: ah, no dust here!
* Gamma: not the best matrix coverage though.
* Coleman: which means I’m more noticeable, best to run silent.
He configured his deck for maximum noise handling and data processing, then he started locating matrix icons. He started with their camp, making sure that things running silent here all made sense to him and they hadn’t picked up any spy drones yet. Then checking that Al and Lilly, to make sure they were still clean. Then finally taking a look towards the camp, being careful of anyone looking like they were keeping careful watch on the local matrix.June 4, 2019 at 8:13 am #19467
“Goin’ in fer a closer look,” Al said to Lily.
He didn’t know if she would follow or not, but he was pretty sure nothing he said would have any bearing on her course of action anyway, so he made no indication as to whether he expected her to follow.
He made his way down the steep ridge with an eye to taking advantage of the terrain to minimize his silhouette. But his eyes were on the poles jutting up from the bubble tents, and any other apparatus he could spot. Up against a sensor-loaded security array like this, going undetected was as much about guessing their search parameters as it was about not being spotted by enemy eyes.
The ridge would obstruct the point-to-point comms he could access wirelessly via his transceiver, so while everything else was wifi-dark, he kept his Fairlight on. It had a nearly invisible profile, the way he had it tricked out. Plus he knew Preston was on overwatch. And since it was on and covering any other wireless activity in his PAN anyway, he went ahead and let his eyecams send what he saw back to the team in real time.June 4, 2019 at 9:33 am #19468
[Saturday September 10, 2078; Ash wastes at the ‘Mars Base’, Mt St Helens]
Lily wormed her way down the crater after Al, vaguely hoping that the sensors weren’t scanning for thermal signatures as Al didn’t seem to believe in technological camouflage. Her own suit rendered her practically thermally invisible when coupled with her own unique heat profile.
She too took the risk of running her ‘link on silent, trusting to the smoke and mirrors program to bury it in ambient static, so that she could passively scan the area ahead of her with a radio scanner wand, sending the info back to her contacts…
#16Spoiler:June 4, 2019 at 10:08 am #19469
Rebbeca turns of wireless on her equipment, which only allows it to be used for short distances. She accompanies Lilly, and help the team stay hidden using her disguise and sneaking skills.Spoiler:June 4, 2019 at 1:13 pm #19473
To his surprise, Preston found a strong matrix signal and a plethora of icons, indicating strong servers running at the camp. Filtering by commlink, he counted a total of 32, varying in class from 3 to 6. But there were also devices with Attack and Sleaze capabilities around. Not to mention at least two AIs…
Al found – either by instinct, skill or pure luck – a perfect way across. The ground was quite warm – typically for a volcanic region, but not very similar to a cold Mars environment.
No alarms blared as the runners got into spitting distance of the next airlock. There were no features that prevented anyone from entering – sensible if you considered that on Mars you’d want to be able to get in quickly if you had a malfunction.
Up close, the bubble tents looked ash laden and dirty.
The runners noticed a small flying drone – a model no-one had seen before. It didn’t have a visible mean of propulsion – no propellers and no jets and it was certainly not large enough to contain a helium balloon.
The drone was busy inspecting the outside of the bubble, now and again dabbing with a small arm against the hull to leave a little smear of fast acting adhesive, likely patching up weekpoints.June 4, 2019 at 6:51 pm #19478
Though it had started as a scouting run, Al was thinking that with the three of them having made it this far, they might as well just go for it – head in and stay as quiet as they could for as long as they could, find Veljanov, and fight their way out.
It was likely to go that way eventually anyway, so why not jump on the headstart they’d just gotten?
Well, he supposed, because they had no idea where the guy was. And he, for one, hadn’t brought all of his stuff. And the others would whine about not having wasted enough time planning. And…and….and….The more he thought of reasons they shouldn’t just go in right now, the more he wanted to.
But then he saw the drone. How the hell was it flying? He watched it closely…..June 5, 2019 at 2:15 pm #19507
Al looked at the thing and couldn’t make head or tails of it. It resembled in its movements a maglev train, moving like it was pushed up by a magnetic field. But for that the whole floor would have had to be covered in coils and every ferro-magnetic object in the area would have been pulled to the ground – including the nails in his boots.June 5, 2019 at 4:06 pm #19515
> Al, can you plant a data tap, give Preston access to their systems
Lily quickly sent the message burstJune 5, 2019 at 5:26 pm #19522
<<Sheee-it, ol’ Al don’t carry around all that matrix-ey crap.>>
But he could have kicked himself for not keeping such things a pocket somewhere. It was the perfect middle ground between slinking away empty-handed and charging in half-cocked – not that he spent a lot of his life in the middle ground.
<<Aw hell, jist gimme a tick.>> he added, slinking deeper under an overhang of cooled lava flow and shoving a yellow fingernail into the seam on the casing of a burner ‘link, cracking it open.
As he worked, he muttered away into the open channel. <<That there Hummin’bird variant’s a neat trick. Anti-grav drive – ya don’t see that ever’ day. Big red flag fer Evo affiliation. Worse, if they got that, they could have them gravjack grenades – not cool amigos, not cool at all. So eyes up.>>
Two minutes later, he had the cheap Metalink reconfigured the way he wanted it. The two-man patrol was just approaching, and the trio stayed motionless for the long minutes it took them to pass by out of sight.
With the airlock right there, all he had to do would be to access its wiring and that should link to the whole system. Should. Inside would be better, but even without locks on the doors, they probably had basic alerts whenever one was opened. No – he’d go for the external airlock controls – the way everything here was coated in several milimeters of volcanic ash would work in his favor.
Creeping forward, he quickly had the casing off, clipped the ‘link to the wiring inside, confirmed there was an active tap, and replaced the casing, brushing the dust back around it with an eye that had been tracking sign since childhood.June 5, 2019 at 9:45 pm #19527
<<They have a lot of matrix resources. I’m seeing multiple signs that could be decks, or at least have similar functionality, as well as two AI. Once we do anything that gets them looking into the matrix for intruders, I expect that our ability to make use of the matrix will likely be done in under ten seconds. Oh, and I counted 36 links, so let’s try to avoid brawling our way through all of them, unless Becky is getting real bored.>>
* Coleman: I should run a matrix check for weapons, but opening assumption should include drones with autofire
* Oleg: And I may not be able to mess with drones, if with fragging artificial intelligences riding herd on them.
<<Nice job on the improv data tap Al, I can ‘see’ it. Ready for me to risk blowing the whole thing? Anyone want to get closer to the huts or back this side of the ridge before I try things?June 7, 2019 at 11:02 am #19561
The data tap on the airlock had an interesting effect: Preston became suddenly aware of an otherwise offline host. Despite it’s lack of matrix support, it sported some impressive processing power as well as strong defenses.Spoiler:
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