[NULL] Handshake [M5]

Let's fast-forward a bit. Tao has come and gone from your humble abode. They were summoned back to their Daimyo's dwelling for a nightly report, so you've had some time to yourself. You performed your nightly backup, did some info-trading (work your gig), and have had some time to unwind. You've noticed your cyberbrain is acting weird — Kage's face has been indistinct for the last few hours, and you've been feeling conflicted... Before you're able to put your finger on the exact cause, you get a ping summoning you to an online chat with a familiar name: Ceres, your point of contact within the Oni, requesting an urgent meet.

Tell me about Ceres. How did you meet them, and why do you owe them Giri?

Comments

  • edited July 18

    I first met Ceres as a client. Actually I’m not sure if the man I met was Ceres, or if it’s a codename passed among operatives or shared on operative teams, or if the Oni simply change sleeves like you and I would change our clothes. The first two times I encountered Ceres, they were male. Though they seemed remarkably similar in personality they were entirely different physically. The third time the person identifying as Ceres was female, and the personality seemed different. There are rumors however that the Oni use personality mods to help disguise themselves.

    My mother and I were both operatives for a private organization. We were pleasure workers and human/veil intelligence operatives. My knowledge of how to manipulate a neruochip is no accident, though the cyberbrain the Oni put in this sleeve has given me an unprecedented ability.

    I have no idea who my father was, whether a client of my mother’s or a fellow operative or somone else she genuinely cared for (though the last idea seems laughable). In time, I was trained by the house and started my own career and only then did I truly begin to get a notion of the shadowy tendrils the house had extended through all important political and business spheres. At the time I had finally decided to find a way out without being killed, Ceres showed up with an offer. If I gave them the intel they wanted on my employer, and performed other tasks as directed, they would help me disappear.

    So I did and so they did. Though I no longer owe them giri for the resleaving itself, I did request some cyberware upgrades to the sleeve, eyes, ears and storage, and I still owe them heavily for that.

  • edited July 18
    Ceres steps into your public lobby through a back-door the Oni have asked you to maintain. Do you give them access to your private lobby as well? You wouldn't have recognized Ceres if not for the heavily encrypted markers they carry in the veil. You can feel your cyberbrain grinding away at the decryption calculations in real time to keep up with the ever-changing salt.

    "Mnemosyne," the androgynous figure calls, in a soft falsetto, "how are you, darling?"
  • edited July 20
    Not direct access such as this back door. Though I invite them in on occasion. You don't hand intel operatives the keys to the kingdom, it's bad form. So we maintain a face-saving fiction. They pretend they can't get in and I pretend that I could stop them if they tried.

    In truth I had been waiting for this shoe to drop for a while. It had been so long that a less paranoid mind would think they had forgotten me. I didn't of course. The Oni don't forget anyone.

    I mentally implement a 'do not disturb' for my public lobby.

    "Ceres-san" I smile warmly and make a small bow. "You honor me with your presence. It has been far too long. I am well enough, thank you. I continue, to make my way in the veil, and pursue what catches my fancy, as do we all." I move forward, appreciating their avatar as if admiring a work of art. "But what is this? Such a fetching look! I confess I almost didn't recognize you."

    It is rude to acknowledge an awareness of an ulterior motive. I must simply wait until they bring it up.
  • edited July 20
    Ceres smiles and pirouettes to demonstrate their new sleeve. "Oh, this? It's just something I've been tinkering at. Thank you for receiving me — it has been so long that I thought to myself, I absolutely must check in on my precious Mnemosyne. It simply wouldn't do if I abandoned you after all we've been through. I'm glad to see you're well." They clap their hands and pull you in to kiss you lightly on each cheek. "I'm sorry to do this darling, but I'm afraid I have a rather sensitive subject I have to discuss with you. Could we go somewhere a little more private?"
  • I bow again.

    "Of course."

    I move the interior door of my lobby, configuring the door for my private domain. I lead them in and we pass through the mirror hall and with what might seem a neck wrenching twist of environment pass into a construct of an cozy 19th century parlor, bright sunlight streaming through the windows.

    I motion to the elegant furniture.

    "Please make yourself comfortable."


  • Rolling Construct
    (Rolled: 2d6+1. Rolls: 4, 5. Total: 10)

  • Detailed and expansive.
    Secure.
  • Ceres follows you into your private lobby, which is lined with the statues your mother was so fond of. You also spot Kage sprawled out on a chaise next to... Is that Tao? It doesn't quite look like them, but damn if they don't have Tao's mannerisms. This new figure, flirting coyly with Kage, locks eyes with you and winks. Kage giggles, and throws herself at this new apparition.
    Ceres notices them and smiles, but doesn't comment — perhaps as a courtesy to you. "Thank you for receiving me. I'm sorry to jump straight into business — but time is of the essence, and there is a matter of dire importance to the Oni." She straightens up, and holds out a hand in this shared mental space — the image of a young man pops up:

    image
    "This young man," she begins, the tone in her voice now somewhat perturbed, "reneged on a contract with us, and we need to have a private, she pauses, considering her next word carefully, "chat with him. He was last seen at the Neon Pagoda, but an unknown agent intercepted him, and pulled him away from his task — now it appears he's fallen off the grid entirely... He has some very dangerous information about us, Mnemosyne, and we need to take steps to protect ourselves."
  • edited July 31
    Clearly Tao has affected me more deeply than I anticipated. That is equal parts thrilling and disturbing, but I do not have the bandwidth to do more than take note of it, though it pulls at me.

    I'm long practiced at having my expression reveal only what I wish it to, but seeing Havana's 'rescue' and having him asked after by the Oni does dent my equilibrium. A 'chat' could very well be an extensive and unpleasant interrogation followed by a casual execution.

    I peruse Ceres carefully. Though it might be that there is even less to see in a purely digital context than in meatspace.

    "Dire importance? Dangerous information? Oh, Ceres-san, This must be serious, as you aren't usually given to such melodramatic language. What is it the Oni wish me to do that their rather exceptional resources are not capable of? Merely location? I am not suited to conducting 'chats.'"


  • I think you're at Risk of exposing yourself here, Mnemosyne — can you roll that for me?

  • Let's call it Anxious, then, so rolling with scared.

    (Rolled: 2d6-1. Rolls: 2, 3. Total: 4)
  • edited August 3
    Ceres sighs, and crosses her hands on her lap as she summons a chair to sit on from the veil. It's an ornate, gilded affair, harking back to the baroque period of human history that sits well in your parlor, but stands as an anachronism to Ceres' more modern look.

    "Understand that this is something of a formality, Mnemosyne — an agent of ours has identified one Havana Mox speaking to the target of our investigation, fleeing a potential altercation with the Daimyo's men. As the Oni are an organization rooted in some degree of secrecy, we make a point of exhausting all non-invasive options before resorting to the more overt actions of black-bagging someone in the middle of the night." She pauses, and raises an eyebrow, as if playing devil's advocate, "that said... Given the time sensitive nature of this particular issue, and your rather extensive history with Miss Mox, we were hoping on giving you the opportunity to settle up with us before we resort to anything... Drastic."
  • The soft sigh through my nose is the only expression of perturbation I permit, except perhaps a cooling in the tone of my voice.

    “Our relative positions are much more clear now, Ceres-san, and of course I welcome the opportunity to fulfill my obligations. “ I walk across to the windows and gaze meditatively at the landscape. “However, the question remains. What precisely do you wish me to accomplish concerning this individual? Retrieval and deletion of your data? Engram editing?” I curl my lip slightly as if having bitten into something distasteful at a fine dinner party where I do not wish to insult the hostess. “Complete personality overwrite? A person known to carry dangerous information about the Oni… well it hardly seems like a an opportunity to waste as the best lies are firmly rooted in truth.”

    I turn to look at them again.

  • Ceres nods, and listens carefully to you questions before answering. "It would seem miss Mox connected with a rather powerful hacker, as her companion has all but fallen off the face of the earth... At this point, simply finding the young man would be a considerable task — but since you're volunteering to assist us in dealing with this young man, I can't say until we apprehend him exactly what will be necessary, in the way of reprogramming — but given our last effort didn't take, we may need you to reconfigure his reality quite extensively..."
  • The Oni may know I’m the hacker. They may not. If they do know then this game has some other objective entirely, or they would have told me.

    Either way, they’ll be watching, though watching me isn’t the easiest thing to do.

    “Would elimination be preferable?” I ask as if discussing decor. “Once he’s found, a delayed autonomic shutdown virus could be implemented.”

    Most people seem certain that their neurochip is harmless and it’s true that it’s not easy to mess with the fundamentals of the nervous system. But it is doable, with the right skills, and very hard to trace.

    “And what about my own exposure to your dangerous information? Am I expected to submit myself to decon afterwards?”

    I do not relish the Oni poking around my brain.

  • Ceres doesn't flinch at your mention of elimination, instead opting to consider the offer. You've been monitoring the traffic from Ceres' construct, and you notice a sudden decline in activity — like they've stopped transmitting a feed to outside observers — that feed was probably intercepted by your security measures; but Ceres wasn't aware of that, and they seem to drop the sense of propriety.

    "I'll be honest with you, Mnemosyne — I thought pulling this particular agent into the fray was a mistake. It was a careless decision made by a member of our community that was looking to kill two birds with one stone — one of which was a personal matter. Off the record, if you can set that up so it looks like a natural death, I would be indebted to you."
  • So… quite dangerous then. And Personal?

    I bow slightly. “I understand.” And I straighten again. “If you will forgive the temerity of my further inquiry, what timeframe do you propose before more extreme agendas, I presume starting with Mox, are pursued?”

  • Ceres ponders the question for a moment, checking a few factors in their personal databank before answering, "we will be monitoring Mox, and the veil, for any evidence of this agent's resurfacing. For the moment, as long as the agent remains silent, we will afford you whatever time you need — but the moment there is evidence of sensitive data about our organization being leaked, you can expect swift action against the agent, and Mox."

    Ceres looks at you expectantly, "acceptable?"
  • I do not pretend there is actually a choice. I tilt my head slightly. “Alas, I wish I could be certain I could tell when said information is leaking. Wild rumors about the Oni fly across the veil constantly, only insects and stars are more numerous. The effect then, is that at any time operations may be stepped up. It will have to suffice.”

    I cross to them, extending a hand.

  • Ceres cackles, covering her mouth instictively as she throws her head back in glee. "Rumors... Goodness, Mnemosyne — you make it sound like half of those fairy tales about us are true! Perception is more important than reality. If someone perceives something to be true, it is more important than if it is in fact true..." She reaches out a hand to cross the divide between you, and you're overcome with a foreboding sense of dread – like insects are crawling all over your body – as she clutches your hand, and shakes it. "I'll give you a freebie – if the name Jet Zephyr surfaces in the whispers of the veil, in any way associated with the Oni, you won't have long before miss Mox will be extended an invitation to our sanctum."

  • "Understood, Ceres-san." I withdraw my hand and bow slightly. If that concludes our business, shell we turn to pleasure? I would be honored if you came to the gallery and engaged with my recent work. Provided, of course, duty does not oblige you to be elsewhere."

    I had begun to craft these constructs even before Ceres first knew me. The Ceres who indulged himself with my former sleeve found them delightful.
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