[This is a guest post by one of the Cyberpunk players, the Quantum Dutchman, who played our hacker Ghost. It’s the story of what happened at the end when he put the dragon heart into the machine, and some background information about secret forces driving Ghost].
Ex-Alta? Yes, I understand why you’re supremely angry with me, but saying it’s all my fault is a bit much isn’t it? As I see it, you set that chain of events in motion yourself.
What? Who the fuck sacrifices themselves and expects it to make the world a better place?
Oh. Yeah… But you were a world spanning AI! I’m just a human!
Lock up the stone, protect it, launch it into space, shoot it into the sun. For fuck’s sake, even my team of mercenaries could come up with a better solution than killing ourselves to not have to deal with the problem!
Yes, I guess I still wanted to bring you back, even if you were faulty, because you were the best we’ve ever had. The whole world disintegrated without you. Humans just cannot deal with a situation where they have to control their own lives.
Normally Drew is posting these notes, but since I’ve run out of options… I figure there are worse things to do than send out a last signal to the world.
Date: December 3rd, 2177
Situation: Mind stuck in dragon (egg?) Trying to get out.
Outfit: Power armor, I guess? My body has been taken by my friends, but I’m going to guess they haven’t stripped it yet, since they’re probably trying to get the hell out of here. I guess my actual current outfit is a dragon body made of torn up flesh, concrete, steel and electricity. Pity I’m just a passenger in here … for now.
Mood: Pissed off, disappointed in myself, but glad my friends got out.
Well… That was a disaster.
I thought everything was going well, but it turns out I was being misled from the start. Ex-Alta is not coming back. Though she was back long enough to chastise me for what I’d done.
I’m not sure if you’ll be able to read this, but I’m sending you my version of the story anyway just in case it’s the last thing I do. I’m was fairly confident in my skills, but it turns out that I was being supported all along the way, so I’m not sure how much use they are any more.
Since I haven’t really talked to anyone about this before now, let me describe my last week to you.
Obviously it started when we got that mission from Alt. As you are aware, I don’t particularly like her (I assure you it has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that’s she was constantly showing off her fucking talents in front of me), but hey, we’d done jobs for her before, and she quite literally said to us:
I will give you anything you want.
So sure, let’s do that shit!
Fucking out of the way though, but we are provided with transport, so sure. Rescue the final third of the trio -Sam- from an oil rig somewhere up above New Horizon, where she for some reason is holed up with some psychopaths.
That part went pretty well. We busted in, Drew shot popped all the baddies, as she’s supposed to do. Pops cleaned up the loose ends, Coyote intimidated people and fired a few rounds. His dog fucked up some psycho. By all accounts a successful run.
So we rescued her, and as soon as we tell her we are sent by Alt, she goes full retard on us, screaming we led Alt here, and that she’s fucked now. Right at that moment, Alt starts hacking our comms.
Now, I’m no genius (as you all know), but if you tell someone that her sister asked us to save her from some lunatics, you’d expect them to be happy right…? So I figured there was more to this, and cut Alt off. Apparently that pissed her off royally (don’t fucking hack our comms then, bitch…). Sorry for passing out afterwards though, I’m sure I must’ve been heavy.
On the run
Glad you kept your comms switched off, which was great. Apparently we got away from Alt’s AV’s eventually, since they weren’t there when I woke up in that dirty building.
After a while there we got to talking, and everything Sam told us pointed in the direction of Alt being exactly the crazy psycho I suspected she was. Then she helped Coyote regain his memory, and the deal that she was the good guy was pretty much sealed to me.
So I talked with Sam a bit more, and turns out she’s the leader of the Children of Ex-Alta, who are trying to literally bring back Ex-Alta, which I might remind you was a near godlike AI that was serving all of New Horizon until she self-destructed for some reason around 10 years ago because some idiot (e.g. Coyote’s father) tried to present her with a Magic Rock.
She asks me if I’m interested in helping with that, and since I’ve been interested in the same thing from pretty much the time I was a teenager (I guess reviving a dead AI was a bit of a strange obsession for a teenager, but fuck that, I didn’t have any friends to care anyway), I of course agreed. She touches me almost right away and shared some sort of power she had that allowed me to see what was going on in the Husk without using any cyberdeck.
I’m sure you can imagine how amazing it is to me that I was suddenly able to see all signals being transferred through the net. That shit is amazing!
As expected, their plan involved the items everyone had been hunting for already. The LOLITA (which is basically a smaller, more localized instance of Ex-Alta), the MACNIC (e.g. Magic Rock, I refuse to call it that inane abbreviation), a willing sacrifice and a metric shit-ton of energy.
I realize now how insane that sounds, but at the time I didn’t think it particularly bad. I mean, we could bring back fucking Ex-Alta… That’s the closes humanity has ever been to god!
So I was ready to drop Alt like a brick, but apparently you thought otherwise (I still wish you’d have discussed that). Before I knew it you’d executed the poor guy that Sam had brought, knocked her out and thrown her over your shoulder to bring her back to Alt.
That didn’t sit well with me, but with a vote of 3 against 1, I couldn’t very well go against it.
Back to the Civilized World
So we get back to Alt’s base, get received very coldly, have her take Sam, and then she makes us wait a week.
In her horrible spaceport-bunker that’s literally crawling with transhumans. I may have those advertisements on my cyberlegs, but that doesn’t mean I want to spend a week with so many of them.
Remember how I said I was able to see all the data traffic going on in the world?
Right after we handed off Sam, I saw an immense, and I mean IMMENSE, flow of data from wherever Alt had gone with Sam, to the spaceship that stood in the hangar.
To me, that seemed like a terrible, terrible thing, since the only other situation in which I’d seen similarly sized flows of data, had been in Lima’s facility, where we found those 3 kids connected to the mind-drain machines.
So I tried to figure out a way to get into Alt’s lair. To figure out what she was doing to Sam, but I couldn’t find a way. I tried several ways, but they were just as transhuman inside as they were out. Those barrels of Ghost Chalk kept coming through too, and just confirmed that whatever was going on was bad.
Yes, I realize that I was a Ghost Chalk junkie. How can you not be, when entering the husk with it feels like an angel pissing on your tongue. But even I know that barrel sized portions can’t be good for anybody.
So the last thing I tried, was hacking one of those contact terminals she had sitting around, and while the internal network was heavily protected, the connections to the outside were surprisingly weak. So I hacked it, and send a message to both Goliath and Arasaka, informing them of an illegal spaceship sitting around.
I really hoped they’d attack the base and interrupt whatever Alt was doing to Sam.
Right at the moment I was going to disconnect, I received a small probe on that terminal from Sam. I followed it, and found what remained of Sam’s mind in a virtual chamber that was already falling apart, as if seeing it through a huge amount of static.
It’s not something you usually see in a netspace location created in someone’s mind and I’m not sure what it indicates, but it wasn’t good. She once again pressured me to make sure that Ex-Alta was revived, and gave me a lock of her virtual hair, which somehow melded into my mind.
I hoped Arasaka and Goliath would intervene at this point, but nothing happened, and a day later the data flow to the ship abruptly stopped. I hope I don’t have to tell you what that means.
Then Alt returned and gave us exactly what I expected: Nothing! Did she seriously think we’d considering going off with her in that spaceship, all the while living in a virtual world?
I realize you might’ve thought I’d take that opportunity, but come on, spend the rest of my life in a world created by Alt? No thanks! Plus that fact of informing Arasaka about the spaceship.
Then we left, and watched Alt lift off. I wasn’t sure anything would happen, but I was sure holding my breath. I’m glad we at least got to get back at her for killing Sam, and for that stunt she pulled on us!
Retrieving the Magic Rock
So we left for Haven, resupplied, and figured out what to do next, but that lock of hair that melded into my mind turned into a small version of Sam that was incessantly telling me to go to where the Magic Rock was, which it apparently knew the location of.
When I tried to find the location of the children in the GPS we found, this turned into a full blown mental assault, with the result you saw, of me being totally unable to do anything. But as soon as we decided to go to that location, it stopped. Sorry for not telling you what exactly there was at that location in the first place.
Anyway, even though that was a fucking pain, we managed to get the rock. I didn’t actually expect to feel the bliss that I felt when I was near it, but it was amazing. I’m not sure why you didn’t notice. Nobody else carried it right?
Of course, it was covered in Ghost Chalk, so that might have something to do with it.
Of course, when I tried to find the location of the children afterwards, I didn’t even need to hack anything. That pointer in my mind practically dragged me and the rock to their hideout.
Sorry for deceiving you, but I didn’t actually hack the GPS, and I knew exactly what we would find when we arrived there, but I was seriously worried you’d have other plans for the Magic Rock, and I wasn’t going to be surprised by one of you going rogue without discussion again.
I guess that was the worst decision of my life.
You know what happened afterwards, and that was surprisingly much the same for all of us I imagine. Who’d ever thought it would be that easy? We got to the hideout, were received by the children as heroes. Got the Magic Rock to the Lolita, and everything went apeshit from there. I guess I should’ve disabled those trackers a long while ago, but I never quite got around to doing it.
We succeeded though, and I connected to the Lolita. It didn’t ‘seem’ anything was amiss, except that it asked me to take ALL the willing people in the room, instead of just one (that would’ve been myself). But why was I to deny all those people their wish. Surely reviving Ex-Alta would be worth the lives of a measly thousand.
I repeat again, the sacrifices should’ve thrown me off (what machine, AI or no, needs sacrifices?). But I was too blinded by the possibility of a better world with Ex-Alta in it to see what was going on.
So I killed them. One by one. Emptying their minds, taking all of their experiences and adding them to the Lolita’s storage. Pushing them in if they were trying to backtrack, knowing the things that made them decide on this course and subtly reminding them why they should do it.
Right at the end, there was this moment, I just know I could’ve taken one of the soldiers minds, or anyone else for that matter, and have them sacrificed to the great machine instead, but I felt that it wasn’t my place.
That’s weird right? We’ve killed so many people, with guns, with bombs, and with AV crashes due to miscommunication. I had just killed a thousand, even if they were willing, but I balked at the idea of taking just a single extra life to save myself. Maybe that made the difference, I’ve never liked to shoot people unless they were actively trying to kill me either.
Anyway, it was the wrong decision, but I took my own soul, and together with those thousand others was sucked out of the Lolita, and right up into the Magic Rock, which promptly imploded.
Ghost in the Shell
When I came to (if you can call it that, having no body), I couldn’t see, but I still had a sense of the world around. Debris flying right at me, then disappearing or being absorbed or whatever happened to it (you must’ve actually seen it).
Drew, I can’t believe you went to pick up my body. It was insane! But I’m glad you weren’t caught by what must’ve been a gravity field of some kind. I’m glad you all got away, especially wounded as you were by that fight.
Me, I’m stuck in this shell. It seems to have risen, and grown larger. My mind is in the Lolita, and the Lolita is in something… Enormous.
It’s like I’m in the husk now, and bits of it are still connected to the rest of the world, so I can send some information out. I’ve tried getting out, but it seems my window is gone. Right before being sucked in I had a chance, but I missed it.
There is one more thing I thought of, but I’m not certain it’ll work, which is why I’m sending this now, so you’ll at least know what became of your Ghost, and why he did the things he did.
You are an amazing team, and I can’t be more proud to have worked with you. It was an experience I’ll never see the likes of again.
Let’s hope Alt had the right idea. If you don’t hear from me again, please…
Have you ever had to live a thousand lifetimes? No?… I doubt you could understand how I feel then. I’m still surprised they all had their reasons. Good reasons, but just like in my case, nobody but them would understand.
Most of it is fading, which is somewhat of a relief. A thousand lifetimes should be enough for anybody.
What is this thing that I’ve decided to fall into? It feels like a kind of… dominating presence?
It’s quite unlike any vibe the Magic Rock gave off, but not wholly unpleasant.
A fucking dragon?!
I’m IN a fucking dragon?!
Sam was right. You have to take chances if you want to get anywhere in the world.
I wasn’t taking any chances, I was always playing it safe, manipulating things from a distance. This was probably my one chance to make a difference, and a goddamn difference it was. I wonder if it will be positive?
I still wonder how she convinced me. Was it really as simple as being deceived by a cute girl? Was it really the realization that despite all my efforts, I wasn’t making a dent?
I guess all of it boils down to me being an impetuous young fuck who didn’t think about the consequences of his actions.
Getting to destroy Alt was satisfying, but in the end it was something that was mostly out of my control again. I gave some people the coordinates of a spaceship launch, and they decided that it was better to destroy than leave it. What’s the point in that?
It was satisfying, but why is it such a hollow feeling?…
In the end I led them to this conclusion. I didn’t really have to deceive my friends, but I’m not sure why they so willingly followed along with this. But I guess after what we’d been through, we all just kind of wanted to see the world burn in one way or another.
Of course Sam did something to me, I don’t know why she didn’t tell the others what she told me. It seemed so clear to me. Ex-Alta was the best thing that ever happened to the world.
She destroyed herself to save it, but I’m left wondering if that was actually the best course of action. I guess even a semi-omniscient sentient AI can encounter edge cases it just can’t deal with. If I ever find the engineer who thought it would be a smart idea to have the error handling force-kill the program, I’ll stomp his head in.
I guess I won’t get to do that any more though. He’s probably already dead anyway.
How this rock got on the earth? Fuck if I know. Maybe there are more?
Obviously we should do something about it, but it doesn’t seem particularly inclined to listen. I wonder how this will change the world?
I suddenly wonder how my brothers and sisters are doing? Isn’t that odd? I haven’t thought about them for years.
Mikhail must be 18 now, finally old enough to legally drink, though I’m not sure he’d actually do so. Ida and Lena, married maybe? I hope they’ll be alright.
I’m not so worried about Gaspar, I hate him still. It’s interesting how fierce childhood hatred can remain burning.
I keep thinking about how it got to this point.
It could be when I at last met the mysterious Sam, who turned out to be a pretty normal fanatically obsessed woman of dubious morality. Or as normal as those can be anyway. I guess I have experience with those. I guess I only have experience with those.
Further back, I guess we can trace it to me being rescued by my current (is that still the correct description?) team after being assaulted by some ghost in cyberspace. If I never met them and died that day, all of this would not have happened.
It’s really difficult to speculate, as the real start is probably when I got my first cyberdeck. It’s still amazing to think that I once interfaced with the world through a screen and keyboard.
Everyone has to start somewhere I guess.