Your eye on the shadows All the latest news bits and bytes from the Shadowland BBS Hey, chummers, things are happening with some of the AAA megacorps that do not bode well for us in the shadows. Renraku and Fuchi have been going at each other with a lot of runs in the past couple months and it looks like things are starting to come to a head. Like Black-Eyed Susan reported, the justices of the Corporate Court, all of them, took the boost up to the Zurich-Orbital for some closed-door meeting. Now Fuchi and Renraku seem to be arming quietly for a war behind the scenes; moving assets and personnel around like pieces on a chessboard. I have the sinking feeling a lot of what is about to go down hangs on what decision the Corporate Court hands down and, either way, it could come down to a corp war. If you have any information, please post it. We need to keep each other informed because an out and out corporate war could mean big business in the shadows… or a fight that nobody wins. ›Captain Chaos Saigo swaggered over to where Lanier stood, under guard, as the doctors made their preparations. “Soon, Lanier-son, we will have the information we need from Michael to fully realize Renraku’s potential,” he said with an air of certainty. “Don’t be so sure of that,” Lanier replied. “His wetware is scrambled but good. I doubt he even knows what it is you’re looking for.”

“So you have said. Fortunately, that is not a concern.” Saigo allowed Lanier to wonder about that for a moment as he took in the room and the white-coated men making preparations around the examination chair where Babel sat. “You see, our Dr. Westcott is a sorcerer with some experience in spells allowing him to probe deeply into the minds of others, reconstructing any and all recollections of their experiences as if he were experiencing them himself. He can even retrieve information Michael is not consciously aware of, knowledge blocked from his conscious mind. Far more effective than any interrogation technique could ever hope to be, wouldn’t you say?” Westcott moved over to the small bank of equipment near the chair where Babel sat and took two cables from the console, plugging one into Babel’s datajack and the other into a similar jack behind his left ear. “We take the process even further,” Saigo said with some pride. “Dr. Westcott has all of the neural cybernetics necessary to record the various sensory impressions he gets from his mind probe at the moment he experiences them. We can also record all of Michael’s impressions as he relives the memories Westcott uncovers. The simsense records of the two of them can be reviewed and compared to give us a complete, first-hand picture of all of Babel’s knowledge of the otaku and their secrets.” “I know something of mind-probing,” Lanier said. He had certainly seen the techniques used enough times by magicians to extract information. “The magic is exhausting for both the magician and the subject. Even if your spell-worm is as good as you think, he won’t be able to maintain a sustained telepathic probe for very long. I also know mind-probing can be dangerous to the subject if he resists, and sometimes even if he doesn’t. Digging around in the subconscious and breaking through repressed memories can cause permanent brain damage.” “Hopefully something we can avoid,” Saigo said without any trace of concern. “If not, Michael knew the risks of this operation, and he was willing to take them for the sake of his company. I hope you enjoying watching this, Lanier-san.

This will be the operation that puts Renraku on the track to dominion over the world market. Once you are removed from the Board of Directors, perhaps I will ask that your seat be given to me.” “We’re ready, sir,” came Dr. Lambert’s voice from across the room. “Ah, please excuse me, Lanier-san.” Saigo bowed to Lanier and turned toward Dr. Lambert. “Proceed, Doctor,” he said as he moved to get a better view of the proceedings. Dr. Westcott adjusted the placement of the fiber-optic cable leading to his datajack and placed his cool, dry hands gently on Babel’s forehead, spreading his fingers a bit and resting them there lightly. The simsense equipment hummed quietly in the background, recording the sensory impressions of both men. “Michael, all you need to do now is relax and breathe deeply,” Westcott said, giving Babel his best bedside manner. “This won’t hurt a bit. Just take in a deep breath and let it out. Good. That’s good.” Babel looked back at the doctor, his strange, violet eyes glittering darkly, then his eyes fluttered closed. His breathing became deep and he began to relax under Westcott’s touch. “Impressive,” Westcott murmured, almost to himself. “He’s already in a light trance state.” He turned toward Saigo, hands still resting lightly on Babel’s head. “We should have no difficulty at all, Saigo-san. The young man is a natural. His auto-hypnotic state should facilitate the mind probe and allow things to go smoothly.” “Then proceed, Doctor,” Saigo said with a touch of impatience. He wasn’t interested in hearing Westcott lecture him again on the subject of telepathic memory recall or any of the other subtleties of mind-probing. The doctor might consider the inner workings of his profession as a mind-prober fascinating, but all Saigo was interested in was securing the data Renraku needed and bringing it and the traitor Lanier before the board of directors in triumph. Westcott began speaking the words of his spell in a firm voice, the strange, arcane language spilling from his lips as he gathered power to him. The room seemed to turn and crackle with invisible power, like a charge of static electricity, and Saigo could feel the hackles on his neck rise. Westcott’s eyes were closed and his head tipped forward as he, too, sank into a deep trance. His lips still moved to the words of the spell, his voice now little more than a whisper above the hum of the simsense recorder. Saigo thought he saw a faint shimmering around both men’s heads for a moment as Westcott lifted his head, eyes still closed, and began to speak. As he spoke, the voice that came from his lips was not totally his own. The tone and speech patterns were those of the young man sitting in the examination chair, but part of the voice was still Westcott’s, like a strange blending of the two. “Dr. Westcott told me this sometimes happens with this type of deep mind probe, nothing to worry about,” Dr. Lambert whispered to Saigo, who hushed the other man with a raised hand so he could hear what Westcott was saying. Papa Lo says I am ready for my initiation, to try and become one of the technoshamans of the tribe, the otaku. I have to travel out into the wilderness on my own and seek a vision. I will be alone and I have to follow the rituals as they have been taught to me to prepare myself for the vision quest. I will jack into the Matrix with the patched-up deck they have given me and see if the spirits of the machine will accept me. It all sounds like a lot of gibberish to me. The deck they’ve given me wouldn’t be able to cut ice off a pond, much less any kind of computer system, but I’ll go along with it. I feel I’m very close to learning what it is these otaku have learned to make them such amazing deckers. If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes I would never have believed it. Even now, it seems like all this magical stuff is just some crazy set of rituals dreamed up by an old man to hoodwink a bunch of gullible kids. When I was little I wanted to be a mage. I wanted it more than anything else in the world. I remember sitting with friends in my Uncle Chad’s apartment (he wasn’t really my uncle, just a friend of my mom’s) watching the trideo. We would sit and watch shows like Magus P.I. and Tales of Atlantis, and I would dream about when I would be a mage like those wise and powerful old guys. I loved to watch the documentaries on the Ancient Wisdom channel about the Great Ghost Dance war. I knew I wasn’t supposed to be rooting for the Ghost Dancers when they used their magic to force the government of the old United States to give them half of North America, but the Ghost Dancers said it was their land, stolen from them by foreigners, and they just wanted back what was theirs. The government tried to kill the tribes, but then the magic became real and the whole world found out just what you could do with it if you wanted to. I wanted more than anything to learn more about magic, more than the trideo could teach me. So I let Chad’s boyfriend Tarien teach me how to access the vast databases of the Matrix. Some of them were public and easy to get into, even if you didn’t have a SIN. Others were only for people who paid for a subscription, but I learned there were ways to get around paying. I would spend hours sifting through datafiles, then going out on the Matrix and getting more files to download. By the time I was eleven, I was the only kid who knew the symbolism of the four hermetic elements, the primary divisions of elemental spirits, and the Norse runic alphabet. My friends would kid me when I corrected things we saw on TV and said it wasn’t the way magic was really supposed to work. I got very good at getting file downloads off the Matrix, and I eventually got my own cyberdeck (a real cheap piece of drek) so I could go online and track stuff down. I thought about getting a datajack so I could access the Matrix easier, but I didn’t have the money and I’d heard having cybernetic implants was something magicians didn’t do because it weakened their magic. So I didn’t. Not at first, anyway. When I was twelve, I got together enough money to go to the Doc Wagon clinic in Cambridge and take a magical activity test. It took me about a month to scrape together the nuyen. They put me through a whole bunch of tests, asking questions and having me imagine and think different things. A woman came and looked at my aura and they stuck a needle in my arm to take a blood sample. Then I waited for more than a week, the longest and most torturous week of my life. I was so edgy and sensitive nobody wanted to be around me much. I just stayed in my room with my cyberdeck and my bootleg chips of Tales of Atlantis to keep me company. Then, finally, I got the results. They summed it up in one word: NEGATIVE. That was it, no details or explanations. My dreams of being a magician were done. But I knew a lot about how to use a deck and run the Matrix. I had even started writing my own programs by then. It was enough to get me into school as a programmer. I was a good programmer, very good Now I am a magician, just not the kind who throws around spells and travels in astral space. I’m a magician for the twenty-first century. The Age of the Machine. The Age of the Matrix. Programs are my spells, and my servants rise up from the digital depths at my command. I work my electron sorcery on the essential stuff of cyberspace. I’m a technomancer, spirit of the net, ghost in the machine. I think it’s one of the reasons I did so well in school, because I treat decking as more than just a science or a job. It sounds lame, but it’s more like a religion to me. It’s a way of life. One of my teachers said it was the mark of a really great programmer. That it was all more than just numbers and cold silicon to me. It was alive. I think it’s one of the reasons the company picked me for this job. Whether or not Lo and his followers are crazy, there’s no denying that they’re some of the hottest programmers I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen some of the best. I’ve learned things from my time with them I never even imagined before. They really know all the tricks and then some. And they really do have some kind of power. I don’t know what else to call it. The otaku-the Netwalkers don’t call them that, they call them “technoshamans”-they’re these kids who can just slot into a Matrix jack and they’re off doing some of the most incredible programming I’ve ever seen. No deck, no mainframe system, nothing but the ASIST converter in their datajacks and their bare brains. I always believed the otaku were nothing more than legends, but then I suppose people thought the same thing about magic before Howling Coyote and his followers called up the Ghost Dance, shook the Earth, and brought down a nation. I think part of me didn’t want to believe. Part of me stopped believing in magic when I was twelve, but that’s what the Netwalkers have, magic. And not just about things in the Matrix, either. I had no idea people in the world really lived like this. The Rox is like another planet compared to the computer labs at MIT amp;T. It’s so dirty and savage and… primal in its way. It reminds me of the tribal freedom-fighters from those documentaries about the Ghost Dance War, about the tribes who lived in the wilderness because they were outlaws and outcasts in their own land. Papa Lo himself escorts me to the place of initiation where I’m supposed to seek my vision. Along the trip he tells me some of the truths of the world and things he says I’ll need to know before I face the spirits. He tells me that cities, from the great megaplexes like Boston to the smallest villages, are a part of our natural evolution, of our development to the next stage. For the majority of known history, mankind lived in homeostasis, in harmony with the environment as hunter-gatherers. Primitive, we would call them. But one day, people started settling down, farming the land, domesticating animals, and building permanent dwellings. The first symptoms of the “city virus,” a mutation in our evolutionary development, Papa Lo called it. It was the start of urbanization, which led to the creation of things like the sprawl, and eventually, the Rox. Papa Lo says the purpose of cities is to further our evolution. Cities led to settlements, allowing people to spend less time migrating to follow the herds and more time harvesting the plants they depended on to survive. Settling down brought the development of technology, which improved the amount of food a settlement could produce. With more food, there was more time to be spent on things other than hunting and gathering. That led to learning and the development of more technology, bigger populations, and bigger cities. On and on it went until technology eventually led to the Matrix. Our creation of another world here on Earth. Our ability to make new places for us to live grew so great we had nowhere to go except to create another world. Now the Matrix is our gateway to another phase of existence, Papa Lo says. Cities are like the cocoons caterpillars weave around themselves when they go into a state of hibernation to be transformed, changed into the next stage of their life-cycle. Our shelters of ferrocrete and steel support the flesh we depend on and provide the structure of the Matrix. Eventually there will come a time when we will have to leave our bodies and our cities behind, shed our chrysalis of mortal flesh and earthly stone and metal and take up our destiny in the otherworld, among the stars. “What is all of this gibberish?” Saigo asked Dr. Lambert. Lambert seemed unable to tear his eyes away from the display he was studying. “Hopefully, part of the experience that creates the otaku, sir. The sim-rigs are recording some very interesting impressions. Some neurological configurations I’ve never seen before.” Dr. Westcott continued on: The idea of it makes my head ache. I have always felt something similar, but never had words to describe it. It’s the freedom I feel in the Matrix, the… rightness of the electron world telling me that a state of pure mind is one where we could be happy. It is a world where we are like the gods and magicians of old: able to weave the stuff of reality into any form, creating worlds within worlds. I feel like I am close to figuring out the secret. I am taken to the mouth of a tunnel into the Catacombs, a passage I have never seen before. The inside is like a cave our ancient ancestors might have lived in. The walls are painted with images and icons and hung with pieces of hardware and festooned with wires, like the lodge beneath the old church used by the technoshamans. The floor is covered with mats, and there is a terminal junction spliced into a Matrix trunk-line. A working one. I ask Papa Lo why it is no one ever disturbs all of this tech, left here undefended. Why don’t we use it more often? “Because this place is sacred to us,” he answers. “It is the place of initiation. To use it for common things would despoil it. Those who live in the Rox know and fear our power, so they leave our sacred places be. Wait here and meditate on what I have told you until dark, then jack into the Matrix with the cyberdeck we have given you and await your vision.” He puts his hand gently on my shoulder and looks at me with sad eyes. For a moment, I think he knows everything about me, who I am and why I’m here with the Netwalkers. I want to bolt and run, but the look of sympathy and sadness in his eyes holds me there. He touches my head and my heart with his fingertips in a ritual gesture and says, “Michael, I take your old name from you. You are no longer the person who first came to us. Tonight you will be reborn or you will die and either way your old name will be forgotten. Go out into the world as you came into it: nameless and with the mind of a child. Find your new name and your power. Dream well.” Then he leaves and I am alone. I wait until nightfall, my stomach rumbling since I have been fasting for two days in preparation for the ritual. I try and sit and meditate, anything to quiet the sound of my nervous heartbeat. I thought at first that all the “magic” of the Netwalkers was just a bunch of primitives playing with computer toys beyond their understanding, combined with the crazy dreams of an old man, but now I don’t. Sitting here in the dark, the Matrix patch is starting to look to me like a gateway, a gateway to another world, a world I have been traveling since I was a child, but one I may not really know at all. I thought I had put my hopes and dreams of magic behind me a long time ago, but I feel the wonder I felt when Tarien first taught me how to deck stirring within me again and I realize I was looking for information on magic in the Matrix when it was there before me all the time. The shadows in the cave grow long as I watch the gleaming trunk line. The sun sets, and I jack in.


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