[Public Key Decryption Complete]
I think the new teams will perform to higher expectations than the last, unlamented ones. Our mesh-filters and recruitment subroutines have become more sophisticated. I admit, I certainly never would have considered pairing someone like Aeryn Taft-Crowley with a cartel thug like Argo, but mission-potential forecasts didn’t even come close in predicting how effective they’d be. The one thing they did predict accurately is how, after an initial period of cooperation and rapport-building, they’d be more inclined to accept our offer of employment when otherwise any one of them might have brushed us off.
This was, overall, a most effective recruiting scenario, with the added benefit of actually uncovering a sordid little murder plot on the part of our own Joanne Elgin, esteemed Councillor for the Shukra aerostat.
As suggested, I plucked a likely situation from the feed, one which showed a circumstantial connection to the Star Council as a pretext, and contacted Taft-Crowley, asking her to put together a small team to investigate. The situation in question was a trio of seemingly accidental deaths by individuals playing the new Emerald City Games ARG release “Gumshoe City.” It would appear that safety protocols did not function appropriately, leading one player, the daughter of our own under-secretary of Finance, to fall from a fifth floor promenade to the ground level of one of our Octavian plazas. Another, the son of our Director for Tourism, exited an airlock into the maintenance areas of the aerostat, where he asphyxiated. In both of these cases, upon resleeving from their cortical stacks, they reported none of the usual top-priority AR warnings or other safety measures most games of this sort employ. The third death was the secret, illegitimate child of one of our Councilors from Lucifer. A useful lever against him should he consider voting in favor of the VTP agenda at the next session.
I tapped Taft-Crowley, having already run the social-network analysis. I’m pleased to report that her eventual team matched our predictions with near-certainty.
She went to her connection within the Lacuna corporation of Gerlach, Ricky Thompson, counting on his skill as an urban tracker, and also recruited her new “project”, the transient asynch known as Satori. Thompson, in turn, brought in his occasional Octopus-muscle Argo, while Satori solicited the aid of her occasional petty-criminal co-conspirator Tari, borrowing her from her duties to Egonomics corporation.
They played around with Gumshoe City itself for a bit, familiarizing themselves with the ARG. They were given access to Octavia’s security services analysis of the software and the AI running the game, and the somewhat unsurprising negative results on anything strange or suspicious. I should really lean on Halis Sapien to hire better personnel, or at least get better training for the ones they has.
In any case, it didn’t take the team long to discover the Council connections on the three deaths. Tari, it seems, managed to successfully bypass all the encryption protocols and firewalls keeping people from tampering with the game’s AI, and was able to set up a mirror in her own personal area network to monitor the AI’s performance in real time as they tried to set up another victim, and thereby discover the source of the deaths.
They did an impressive mesh-analysis and found not only five relatives of current Star Council employees currently playing, but also found another concealed child, Jennifer Rodriguez. It seems the girl was brought to Octavia by her biological mother, Councilor Joanna Elgin, but that she had, in point of fact, been an accelerated-growth experiment performed by a Cognite subsidiary Elgin was in charge of five years ago, back before we formed the Constellation. It seems that notwithstanding the lesson of the Lost generation, Cognite was still dabbling in such things in secret. Once the Constellation was formed and Elgin became a Councillor for Shukra, her pseudo-daughter became something of an embarrassment to her. She revealed the truth to the girl, namely that the Rodriguez family of her memories were mostly virtual fictions modeled on real company employees who simply took over the job when she left the creche. She then brought her here to Octavia. It’s no wonder the child took to the escape of an ARG.
In any event, the team tracked Jennifer through the game and Tari monitored the functions of the AI as it dynamically adjusted the game scenario. She noted the sudden, cunningly concealed sub-AI routines that emerged under certain optimal circumstances which would have caused Jennifer Rodriguez to chase “Marco the Killer” into some narrow old-fashioned ventilation ducts which were, in reality, one of our public waste-disposal and reclamation chutes. Had she not been stopped by the team, she would have been broken down into her component particles and recycled, cortical stack and all.
At this point, the team had enough circumstantial evidence to theorize that Jennifer Rodriguez had been the real target all along, and that the other three, temporary deaths were the smokescreen to divert suspicion from Councilor Elgin, who sought to clean up the evidence of her former illegal experiments. With the complete disintegration of Jennifer, and the strategic destruction of any backups, there would be no remaining evidence. This theory was bolstered by the determination that the “switch” that turned the game’s AI into killer-mode had to be monitored and triggered by an operator, and the identification of two Emerald City Game company employees on Octavia with access and capability, who made for the docks as soon as Jennifer’s death was prevented. Councilor Elgin also received an encrypted communication while she was in the Council meeting, and sought to beg off on “personal family emergency” grounds, also seeking to flee apprehension. Fortunately the team alerted me and the security forces to the possibility, and all three were detained.
I have counseled Arisa on how to put optimal pressure on Shukra to ensure that any forthcoming Councilors from that aerostat are less likely to prove PR disasters for us.
As for my project, it would seem that my new prospects uncovered far more interesting dirt than I had any right to expect. I extended the contract offer to them to become covert free-agents on behalf of the Diplomatic Corps. They all seemed inclined to accept the offer. I anticipate their individual contractual demands momentarily.
I’ll keep you informed.