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#8: Byte-crashing (The computer is my friend?)

[Run by Milliken]:

The Bat has been stealthed, & Selene has just recieved a package from Byte! After doing everything but disintigrating it & scrutinizing the remains, she opens it to reveal a holo-disk & a holo-game board -- on four plastic feet. It's from one Allen Wann. We play the disk -- holo of a Byte Corp. Security person (Wann), w/ a funny "bogus" ciruit diagram in the background. He says along the lines of, "I remember you fondly, hope you remember me, here's a gift." Selene doesn't remember him, save for a flat "He's Allen Wann, Core Security." After much discussion, mainly on the order of "footsies?" & "is this your sense of humor?", Selene *Holmes* twigs to the pun! "The game's afoot!" This is the key to unlocking the "bogus" circuit, & we get a text message that says, "Selene, I think I've found your brain-tapes. Come & get them. Allen."

Much more discussion rages -- it could be a trap of some kind, to get ahold of the new stealth-ing system that Selene's just designed. Then we discover that she says, "I don't know him, I don't even know his name." "But you said, when we asked... Who is he?"

Selene: "He's Allen Wann, Core Security." Blank, flat tone.
Moonfur: "Uh, can you track what you just said?"
Selene: "I hear myself saying it, but it's not me saying it..."

Hm.... Okay. Now we really think something's fishy! A trap? That monotone bit really bothers us. Paranoia runs rampent. Implant? How do we even know this Wann guy is w/ Core Security -- we've only Selene's monotone word for it.

Larana & Nick the diplomat get people to start links to the Librarian (big megacomp on Byte, which Selene is not allowed to talk to {she's not allowed back on the surface of Byte either -- we don't know why, she doesn't know why!}, may or may not be AI; AIs aren't allowed on Byte, though....) so we can get info on A) Selene & B) Wann. Well, first scan on Selene is going on, Frank typing pretending to be the diplomat buddy of Nick's, second feed comes in, starts, Librarian breaks in & says, "Mr. Whisk, your search on Selene will be delayed slightly." Frank gets ticked, tries to hack into the computer. "Sorry, Frank, that won't work," says the computer & hangs up. Much grumbling.

We (w/ much commentary on "A blind date w/ an old flame") persuade Selene to call Wann -- just chat-chat, & he excuses himself to go back to work. No leads. At least it seems he's real.

More gritching. Larana uses her contacts w/ Kylaran Intelligence to get all she can on Selene & Wann.

We pick up rumors, from both there & stuff that our diplomat's heard, that Selene was banned from Byte for selling "private" secrets out of Byte's Swiss data accounts, & THAT SHE'S STILL DOING IT. Our Selene? nuh-uh!

Also rumors that Byte can read brain-tapes, & that memories can be implanted! Though Selene's response to Wann's name is the only hard data that they've heard of. Paranoia surges to new heights! Could Selene be under some sort of mind-control? Is she beta-testing these procedures & now they want her back to install version 2.0? She's been sent away, before most of this is discussed... Of course, we're talking about it & there's no telling what her sensors are doing... *sigh*

Okay, Moonfur tries to spot communiations from anyplace on the ship to anywhere it shouldn't be going, but no dice. This is done from the Bat's computer -- built by guess who. *sigh* Eventually (what can you do when you suspect that your best & only computer & sensor expert is possibly working against you?) we give up & decide to walk into the lion's den. Frank decides that he'll offer to sell the info on his new jump drive to Byte, & that will get most of us down onto the planet. Larana has made a deal w/ her kinfolk (the notion that someone unethical might read a Kylaran brain-tape & be able to waltz right into the planet's defences is very distrbing to them -- Kylarans are rather paranoid, seeing's how they were invaded once) that if her transponder goes "dead" for too long, they'll come in & shoot a way for our escape. Moonfur makes a gizmo that can block off the transponder.

We arrive at Byte Central. We get scanned for weaponry (Larana's two knives get confiscated), & Moonfur talks the Byten into okaying her somewhat modified comm unit -- "Kintarans," the guy mutters after conferring w/ someone(thing?) via implant comm. We get given a little box w/ an arrow to follow, make small-talk about the price that Frank wants for letting Byte broker the info (w/ a holographic of the other person; Moonfur thinks this is no fair, since she can't smell the guy), & leave, following the arrow again. Only we're not going in the same direction that we came from. Moonfur can smell the difference. Oh, well. Just as we come to a door that reads S-107 ("S. Security."), Moonfur gets a call from Embereyes in tribal dialect rather than Kintaran Trade-speak -- Celeste noticed Selene fiddling w/ the sensors & muttering to herself, asked what was going on, & found out that Selene recognizes one of her old sensor signatures from an area a few thousand kilometers from Byte Central. She thinks she could fix those sensors so that they wouldn't see her. A brief disussion in Kylaran, Thral, etc. informs Larana & the others, & we enter the office. Wann, in person (nasty cologne, Moonfur thinks). After a bit of paranoia, Moonfur kicks the door shut & Wann announces that it's safe to talk since the room is sealed. Moonfur looks at Larana, Larana gets him to let the transponder signal go through. "Kylarans," he says.

Moonfur opens with a, "We got your gift."
Wann: "You figured it out eventually, I trust?"
Moonfur: "Yeah. Why doesn't she remember you for real?"
Wann: "She did that herself."
All, doubletaking: "HUH?"
Wann: "Yes -- she had to, or Dillings would have known that I was involved. But he knew that she knew me, so she had to put something there."

It seems that Selene, one of the core programmers of the Librarian, spotted a CEO, Dillings, raking in more money than he should have been. She traced it to the sale of secrets from Byte "Swiss accounts." When it seemed that Dillings was getting close to suspecting her, she fiddled her own brain-tape so that when the second tape was made, reading it wouldn't uncover anything vital. Wann knew about Dillings, so she couldn't really remember him since he'd be linked to the secrets, but there had to be something about him in her mind. Fortunately, the computer that did the reading couldn't distinguish between a flat "So&so is such&such" & real memories. She did the same w/ her memories of Dillings, (Dillings' name would have gotten the same sort of, "I don't remember his name except from the stock-reports," & "Dillings-is-CEO" that Wann did) & totally nuked her skill in brain-taping stuff. The implanting was the first-ever (that they knew of) time that had been done. & probably only time.

The rumors about Selene breaking into Byte computers & selling secrets was started by Dillings to cover his actions when people started to realize that the "Swiss info accounts" were being compromised.

Wann: "Dillings has been selling the Thrals & the Unars secrets about each other."
Us, Frank as spokesperson: "ho hum."
Wann: "He's been selling New Garavar secrets to Thral & Unar."
Us, Frank as spokesperson: "That's not terribly nice."
Wann: "He's been selling your designs, Frank, w/out paying the royalties."
Frank: "He dies."

Well, the question is how. This will take both Wann & Selene (w/ her memories back), testifying at a Board of Directors meeting a week hence.

The memories -- the ones that Selene made & stored -- are accessable, hidden in a sensor report of a totally boring & useless planetary system. The trick is getting the machinery needed (no blueprints, just a minifac churning them out in a basement somewhere, & a transponder in each one), & a person to operate it (also w/ a transponder) together w/ Selene. Not to mention keeping Wann alive for the meeting, since he thinks some of Dilling's people are on his trail.

We consider a military/police raid, to be arranged w/in a day by Frank, w/ Larana & Moonfur to guard in the meantime. Finally we take Wann's plan -- he's put one of Selene's old sensor programs "on duty" at certain coordinates. ("Oh, so that's why that is.") We act like we're warping away, but actually end up landing there. We send a signal at an appropriate time, & Dr. Flynn (the brain-tape guy) will be at the coordinates w/ the necessary equipment. Wann will give us an hour (the time to read the memories back into Selene), & then show up there himself. Our extended visit w/ Wann is described as an "interrogation pertaining to Selene." We are all on our most irritable behavior when a pair of the local Security goons (one w/ a blaster) show up to escort us to the shuttle.

Once aboard the Bat, we explain the whole deal to Selene (apologize for thinking she might have been mind-controled), & Larana contacts some of her friends, waiting around New Garavar in their warships. (Yes, they're real paranoid about people reading brain-tapes.) She arranges for them to show up at approx. such&such a time -- a little "accident" w/ the hyperjump that dumps them out just outside the atmosphere, exactly above Byte Central.

We head off, turn on Selene's new Stealth system, & head back. Between her telling her sensors that we're not really there, & the stealth-ing making our image real fuzzy w/ the other sensors, there's no trouble w/ landing on Byte. An orbiting New Garavar guard ship is starting to drift towards us, though...

We wait a few milliseconds, & a hurtling vehicle (about mach 4) arrives, screeches to a halt, & someone gets out & starts to unload large suitcases & equipment. Moonfur & Larana dash out to help. Flynn (yep, it's him) pauses, asking, "Wann said something about going to ... Hell?" "It's the Bat right now, & we'll explain later!" "We're going off-planet, though, right?" "Right!" "Fine."

About now, just when we're getting real nervous about that New Garavaran ship headed for us, the Kylaran calvery arrives! Grand confusion, bright lights, entertaining dialog over the comm, etc. The guard ship veers off & heads for the commotion.

Flynn gets his equipment set up, & is about to start, saying, "You realize that you'll lose the past two years, of course." We all go "Augh! Damn! Who'll operate the stealth stuff?" & yet, w/out this, she will not be able to access all her back doors in the sensor stuff & set up a diversion to let Wann escape (well, we set up a good diversion all on our own, but we don't want to push our luck). Of course there will be a tape of the last two years as well, & she'll leave herself a quick note as to who everyone is ("You're headed off-planet. Yes, these are your friends. Celeste: pilot. Moonfur: Kintaran comm officer. Frank Whisk: yes, him. Avoid." etc.)... The hour passes tensely. About the time that she wakes up, our sensors are picking up another vehicle, going about mach 6, chased by two others. Larana heads for the gunner's post, Moonfur borrows something big & nasty looking in case she has to guard the door.

About now Frank decides to say, "Oh, by the way, we got married last week, Selene."
Moonfur: "Fraaa-aank!"
Larana: "Ignore him."

Selene is introduced to her stealth system, & asked to "do something!" She fiddles w/ the controls for a bit ("I made this?"), Wann & co get closer -- he has to start braking, & after a moment the other two do as well, but they're gaining...

Selene says, "Why am I bothering w/ this? Where's the comm? WHAT THE HELL IS THIS???!" (Just met Kintaran creativity as applied to comm panels.) Moonfur hurriedly points out buttons & dials, "this does that, this does this, & that's the volume," etc. & w/out even a complaint of "at least it's unique" or comment of "not the Hell, the Bat."

A little tapping & suddenly the two persuers veer off at about a 30 degree angle. (She tapped into a radio reciever she planted in the main computer long ago, & switched all the surface mapping beacons so that they were 30 deg off -- the others were on "autopilot," so they got swung off course.) Wann arrives (Selene looks at him & says, "Wann." Thus driving Moonfur's curiosity about the accuracy of all our "old flame" comments to a boiling point) & we take off. The Kylaran diversion is getting straightened out & the New Garavar ship is heading back in out direction, but it just passes us by & we all say "Whew!"

Where to now? The Hell, of course. ("I own part of THAT? But I don't drink!" says Selene, since she's forgotten how much she dislikes dirty planets.)

We get a call asking if we know anything about stolen property, kidnapping, etc. Larana, in her most baffled voice, says, "It may be a surprise, but we actually don't know anything about that this time." We spend the week w/ Selene & Flynn discussing how best to splice the two years that she's lost w/ what she's got now, & Nicolas the diplomat happily obfusticating the charges, & preventing searches. The general Byte stock-holders' meeting is delayed while Selene & Wann deliver their statements, & (over Dillings' protests) Selene is allowed access to the Librarian.

Librarian: "Hello, Selene. Long time."
Selene: "Hello. Access [about 50-60 numbers & an equal amount of letters]." (Being a full eidetic is useful.)
Librarian: [starts displaying all the things Dillings has been doing -- transactions, etc.]

(Selene'd had the Librarian log every one of Dilling's actions, accessible only to her.)

Dillings is watched over by the security at the meeting, we're asked to wait outside, & the general meeting is held up un-explained for three hours.

One of the other officials meets w/ us later. "This never happened. We're very glad it never happened, & we're going to give you a million creds & free access to Byte's information databases." Though we probably could have gotten more, we don't bother to press the issue (maybe later we can call in a debt). Nothing is mentioned of Selene's memories (even though she's still in possession of three years worth of "secret" activities that Kylaran Intelligence couldn't discover -- mainly her work on the Librarian). Wann is offered his job back, takes it. Flynn is a loose end (maybe New Garavaran military snapped him up). We get to spend a lot of time being rudely questioned (except for Larana who has status enough to be politely queried) by New Garavaran military types who want to know how we slipped by their guard ship. Moonfur blames it all on Selene, & potential over-reliance on Byte sensor readings. Larana claims sensitive data. Frank threatens big explosions.

Moonfur (probably affected by motherhood -- don't let her find the trashy-romance section of the databases!) is still dying to know if we're going to be making Byte runs now.

#9: Bounty Hunters:

Frank & Larana have cooked up a scheme to take over a Thral warship & start doing nasty things to Thral. Selene isn't too pleased w/ this notion (she prefers subtlety, like all her backdoors), & Moonfur is dead-set against anything that might endanger her (or, to be more precise, her babies).

We decide to name our Garoo-class shuttle A Handbasket (Handbasket for short), so that we can go to Hell in... It gets an AI named "Handy." Whilst Selene is removing (?) certain of her trap-doors from the Librarian, she comes accross the interesting bit of data that as of two weeks ago, through various channels, this one bit of "blank space" has been requesting all data on us.

We also discover that a bounty (5000 Thralcreds dead, twice that alive {?}) has been placed on our heads. We are insulted by the small amount. We also discover that all our old shipmates -- Wuido the Mobster Thral, Ishpan the "digger," & Hil-shur the Portrolian (Thral) -- are dead in some "accident" or other.

We get the equipment on board to make some of Selene's Baker Street Irregular probes (three of them, to be precise) & get into range to drop them off to go investigate in two random directions & one deliberate one. There's a comm-satillite in the "blank space," boosting messages to somewhere in the Bethshemesh/Bethlehem system. It zaps us w/ something, we take a moderate amount of damage (Bat gets a wing knocked through the hull, gravity goes out, Celeste gets damaged & toted to sick-bay, & Moonfur in her biosuit gets to see all the pretty stars through the hole in the bridge.

About now, a smaller version of the Hell appears & demands that we prepare to be boarded. They out-fire-power us a lot so we let them. They're Kylarans, & after they haul us all off the ship, they explain that they want us to participate in an EXCEEDINLGY HARE-BRAINED scheme to blow up the Hell, take us as "prisoners" to the Thral base near Kintara (where the comm satillite was really boosting to), & help us escape there & blow the base up. They say (rather arrogently, in "Mr. Force-screen's" case) that they have force screens that will protect us. "Mr. Force-screen" wants Moonfur to "give it her best shot." After discerning what the thing is, & that it's not anchored anywhere, Moonfur delightedly knocks him across the room (she also encourages Embereyes to have fun, later).

We object to having our home blown up; we talk them out of that idiocy. We object to going down as prisoners, since the Thrals will undoubtedly search us & confiscate anything interesting. We do a lot of objecting. [Can you say, GM railroad?]

We eventually come up w/ a rather nasty plan of our own. To aid in this plan, we run simulations on the only complexity 14 computer around -- the Librarian (Selene is useful). After a couple of days, we have everything we need.

We are towed to the base. Watson "wakes up," his "self-repairs" having "finished," finds Thrals on board, announces, "Intruders! Initiating emergency hyperjump. Thirty seconds to ship jump! Twenty-nine. Hmmm, funny signals from the engine room. Twenty-eight. Hope everything is running right. Twenty-seven ..." & the Frank-rigged hyperjump engines start looking like they're charging...to blow up. Thrals abandon ship, the Hell jumps (like an explosion...). The Thrals have just been infected w/ a virus that will by-pass their Panimmunity & kill them off. Not to mention the silicon-bug that we altered to eat Thral-style silicon. Their med-comps will be going down as fast as they do. After about a month, no more base...Moonfur is not entirely plussed about this, since if it's connected to us, the Thrals will hate us worse than ever. Selene isn't too thrilled either. (She was thinking of it as an intellectual exercise, & not as something that we were going to do.)

The Kylarans (who were disguised as New Garavarans) collect the "dead" bounty (complaining that they brought us here alive!), & depart.

We are ticked w/ the Thrals. Before, Larana & Frank wanted to severly hurt them. Now Moonfur sees it as a high priority (she'd been wanting to avoid overt violence, but now that they put a bounty on her head...). However, running far, far away is also good.

[On to the next set of logs]