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One more from the ShadowSea Data Haven, then I'll probably call it a day.

Connecting VPN...
... Matrix Access ID Spoofed
... Encryption Keys Generated
... Routing Connection Through Anonymizer
> **********
> ***************
Connected to <ERROR: UNKNOWN NODE>

?unknown node? >> ShadowSea >> Message Boards

> Okay, guys. I have some bad news. Phage was doing some reconaissance into the Azty systems, trying to find out about these anomalous auctions that were mentioned in News You Can Use. It looks like she got into a slugfest with some nasty stuff while she was in there, and I don't think it was anything put there by Aztechnology network security. It may possibly have been some psychotropic black IC, which would be some pretty bad news. In any case, she's been unconscious for several hours, so she isn't talking about what she got her can kicked by or what she found in their systems.
> SqueakTheMouse

> Psychotropic black IC? Sorry, I'm not a hacker like the rest of you guys. Can someone enlighten me?
> Spirit Man

> "IC", or ice, is intrusion countermeasures, the stuff that keeps just anyone from hacking any given node and does it's best to try to keep the hackers out. "Black" ice means it's nastier than usual in that it can cause damaging biofeedback, signals sent back through your matrix connection that'll fry your brain. And "psychotropic" means it's even nastier than regular black ice, because it can actually cause lasting neurological damage, rewiring your brain to behave in a different way. A lot of hackers might call it "programming" you to do certain things, usually by installing neuroses like phobias or compulsions.
> Uplink

> So who's this Eidolon guy who commented on your News You Can Use post?
> Slice

> The question you should be asking is "what is he?"
> Wake the Devil
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Information Pamphlet
Another matrix download, this time primarily for the magic users. This is just one of three write-ups I'm putting together to help describe exactly what it's like to be Awakened in Shadowrun. This is part one of a two-part informational pamphlet given out to thamaturgy (magic) students at MIT&T, and is mostly just setting background info for the players. The second part will be put up eventually, and will actually contain some foreshadowing of a few things you'll likely have to deal with in the coming games, so Noghri and Hush will want to pay attention. I have in mind a third write-up for a few days hence, but it will again be mostly informational and not necessarily have any direct bearing on the campaign.

I'm also going to give these three write-ups, the News You Can Use, and any other future write-ups each their own page in the wikis, so you can find them easily without having to slog through the backlog of front page posts.

Understanding the Manasphere, Part I
Dr. Ellen Farley ThD, Dr. Philo Sexton PhD ThD, Dr. James Standingbear MD ThD, et al.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology & Thaumaturgy

This pamphlet is intended as a primer for incoming students to MIT&T. If you have been accepted into the School of Thamaturgy, you likely already know some about magic. Perhaps you already know a spell or two and how to assense, and maybe you have even already learned to astrally project. What follows are brief descriptions of the astral plane, or "manasphere", and some of the magical phenomena that one may encounter in it. Part one will be a refresher of the basics that you likely are already familiar with, and part two will deal the more obscure information, such as alchera and mana voids. Since this will just be a brief overview, anyone who finds this material interesting is encouraged to take Dr. Lancaster's cource on advanced astral projection.

The reason for this pamphlet is that we feel that all Awakened students need to be aware of the potential dangers involved. Here at MIT&T, we take every precaution necessary when performing magical experiments, first researching the proposed method extensively, and then using very powerful wards and barriers during the actual experiment. However, despite all our best attempts at understanding it, magic remains a largely unpredictable force. With that in mind, students should be prepared for oddities and accidents while on campus, and prepare for themselves the best defense: knowledge.

The Astral Plane
The astral plane exists in the same space as the physical plane, as sort of another "layer" of reality, but composed entirely of mana rather than of matter. All non-living physical objects are visible on the astral plane, casting a "shadow" of sorts by appearing to astral perception to be a dull, grey, mostly transparent form. However, living objects show their auras on the astral plane in a mottled cloud of bright color. Those experienced at assensing can read these colors to gain a lot of information about a subject, including physical health, emotional state, what sort of cyberware or bioware implants they may have, and even whether they are Awakened or a technomancer.

You might also be able to astral project, allowing your consciousness to leave your body and travel through the astral plane. In doing this, you gain an astral form and can move at great speeds, passing unhindered through the auras of people and the shadows of physical objects. However, you will be solid in relation to any other astral form, such as mana barriers. Spirits almost always exist as astral forms, since they usually have no physical form (except when they materialize on the physical plane). Just like while on the physical plane you can only cast spells against other physical objects and beings, while on the astral plane you can only cast mana spells against other astral objects and beings.

Non-living objects can also exist as astral forms, called constructs. Spells are the most predominant example, in that they have form and substance on the astral plane. A spell sustained on a person will appear as a haze or cloud surrounding the person's aura. If the spell was cast and sustained by another person, it will appear as a "tether" of sorts, linking the caster to the spell itself; those versed in counterspelling can "cut" this tether, ending the spell.

Mana Barriers
Mana barriers, such as wards, are another prevalent type of construct. These exist as walls in astral space, preventing passage to astral forms, although a spirit or projecting magician can usually attempt to "push through" the barrier if it is not too strong for them. Most mana barriers are hazily opaque walls, making it difficult to see anything on the inside. However, to the creator of a mana barrier, it appears transparent and presents no hindrance to astral movement.

Wards are a useful and easy, though temporary (lasting a number of weeks) form of astral security that any Awakened being can create and maintain, which surround a portion of astral space with mana barriers on all sides. All the student dorm rooms come pre-warded, though these wards will disolve after about six weeks. Before that time is up, all students will be taught the warding ritual and will be expected to refresh their ward or create a new one. The "mana barrier" spell can also create a smaller-scale mana barrier for a shorter duration.

Dual-Natured Beings and Astral Perception
In some cases, beings are dual-natured, existing simultaneously on both the physical and astral planes, having an astral form while remaining in their physical body. Spirits that have materialized a physical form and some Awakened animals are dual-natured. Any time you are using astral perception while remaining in your physical body, you become dual-natured. While dual natured you can cast physical spells on the physical plane and mana spells on the astral plane. However, be careful as there are ways to injur yourself while astrally perceiving. Just as your astral form can pass through the shadows of physical objects but your physical body would be stopped by them, your physical body can pass through a mana barrier unhindered but to your astral form it would be like walking straight into a wall.

The Earth itself is actually one very large dual-natured entity, often referred to as Mother Earth by shamanic magicians. Anywhere that hasn't been paved, built upon, or excessively polluted, the ground beneath your feet will actually have an astral form and even a dim but present aura. However, unlike most astral forms that are solid in relation to other astral forms, the ground is more similar to a mana barrier that is more porous than usual but also much thicker. Attempting to push through the earth while astrally projecting will be met with slow progress, and the possibility of becoming lost, in which case the astral form is disrupted, sending the magician back to his body but leaving him unconscious for a time. Due to being opaque and more risky to push through, simply constructing something underground is a means of astral security that is often considered as an alternative to wards.
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Found on the Matrix
I've just been looking over my notes and coming up with a rough outline for the rest of the campaign. It's looking like I've got at least six more games in the rough planning stages. Probably more like eight, bringing the total up to eleven games in the campaign (counting the three we've had so far). I might tack on another one beyond that to make it twelve, because I don't believe in odd numbers, not when I'm GMing games and not when I'm doing math.

Anyway, here's a little something for you. Pretty much all shadowrunners visit the ShadowSea Data Haven, a matrix node with all sorts of resources, from time to time. Well, maybe everyone except Noghri.

ShadowSea is just one of many data havens. Data havens are massive archives, sometimes specializing in specific types of data but often just a general library of knowledge. If you ever have information that others will likely want, upload it to a data haven; other matrix users can pay a set fee to view the data, part of which goes to you and the rest goes to the data haven. Data havens also come in three flavors of legality: completely legal like the UCAS Library of Congress, completely illegal like ShadowSea, and quasi-legal such as the Helix or orbital-based Asgard. The largest data haven, the Denver Nexus, is hosted in corporate-neutral Denver on a vast array of servers kept at what used to be Buckley Air Force Base; it's so large that other data havens often keep backups of themselves there.

Connecting VPN...
... Matrix Access ID Spoofed
... Encryption Keys Generated
... Routing Connection Through Anonymizer
> **********
> ***************
Connected to <ERROR: UNKNOWN NODE>

?unknown node? >> ShadowSea >> News You Can Use >> In Brief
  • Troll go-gangers mistake bus full of nuns for a new gang moving in on their turf. Three dead, twelve injured. Lone Star believes one of the go-gangers may be a suspect wanted for questioning relating to the brutal point-blank shotgun slaying of an unarmed civilian in broad daylight just over a week ago.
  • Great Dragon Lofwyr, CEO and sole shareholder in Saeder-Krupp Heavy Industries, makes another stop on his world tour of some of the largest SK subsidiaries. His inspection of an SK arms factory in Seattle was disrupted by a team of alleged shadowrunners with unknown intentions. After "dealing" with them, he made a brief stop to see his friend and fellow great dragon Hestaby at her lair on Shasta Mountain in the Tir Tirangire/California Free State DMZ.
  • New drug hitting the Seattle streets. Doctors report users of "Shockwave" being admitted in staggering numbers to hospitals in Redmond and Puyallup. Lone Star's Drug Enforcement Division has placed priority on discovering the source and nature of the drug. Rumors abound, attributing it to everything from a new product coming out of the Ghost Cartels in South America to illicit testing being performed by one of the megacorps.
  • Aztechnology with egg on their face: Sheila Nielson, 78-year-old grandmother and resident of the Seattle ACHE, mistakenly purchases an Aztechnology aerospace factory in Austin, Texas, Aztlan, due to an unspecified error involving a matrix auction node. "I was only trying to bid on some Beanie Babies for my grandchildren." Aztechnology corporate hackers are scrambling to check network security and ascertain if anything else was mistakenly sold off, though they are keeping most of it hush-hush.
  • In related news, minor skirmishes have been reported on the Aztlan/Amazonia border. Fighting on the already tense border may be an indicator of coming struggles in the region on the southern side of the former site of the Panama Canal. Hualpa, the Great Feathered Serpent leader of Amazonia, has made a statement reiterating that the Awakened forces will not cede any more ground to the nation they consider to be an immenent ecological threat.

> That's it for News You Can Use In Brief. Check back tomorrow; fellow hacker Phage is attempting to break into the Aztechnology network to find out some more info on that accidental auction. There may be some work in it for us runners. The Azties might want all their stuff back, even if some satisfied customers don't want to give it up.
> SqueakTheMouse

> Hold up. I may already have some info. Looks like it was the work of some sort of virus that's been buried in their network for a few weeks now, putting various properties up for auction through a system of encryption and steganography. A lot of the properties being sold appear to be chosen at random, but there might be some kind of pattern here. I'm still trying to track down the virus to find out more, but it's hard to find the thing in the Aztechnology systems while evading their Black IC. Whatever it is, the thing seems to be moving from node to node through a series of backdoor exploits; too good for even an advanced Agent or Sprite, I may be dealing with some kind of Semi-autonomous Knowbot here.
> Phage


And as one final parting gift, a preview of what's to come. You might be seeing this lovely vista on an upcoming mission.

Edit: Well what do you know, you learn something new every day. It turns out that the Crash 2.0 actually took out the Shadowland BBS back in 2064. To reflect that, I've edited this post to say that News You Can Use is available on ShadowSea, a successor to the Shadowland BBS.
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Chemistry 101
DB looked over the bewildering assortment of beakers, test tubes, Bunsen burners, separatory funnels, titration burettes, Schlenk flasks, pycnometers, Soxhlet extractors, and all manner of other apparati.

"What the hell is this." More of a statement than a question. The tutorsoft was a help, but all the VR tutorial videos had all the pieces helpfully labeled, with some nerd in glasses and a labcoat describing, very slowly and carefully, what each piece did. And the labcoat nerd wasn't mixing betameth in the poorly lit basement of a housing project in Puyallup. None of this stuff looked familiar.

Shrugging his tremendous shoulders, he grabbed a padded case and began tossing in whatever glassware came within his gigantic reach. He slammed the lid, hearing something smash but not caring; no telling if these drug monkeys had friends or when they'd be showing up.

Heading out the back door, he glanced at the unconscious form of the dwarf drug chemist. Setting the case down, he quickly rolled the prone figure, checking pockets and finding nothing. No doubt the dwarf's commlink would be a treasure trove of formulae for all manner of fun things, but DB had neither the time nor the skills to pry the files out of the thing.

He briefly considered taking it along and asking Fat Nerd to dig out anything useful, but stealing the guy's commlink would be only marginally smarter than painting a giant target on his billboard-sized back, leaving a note on personal stationary, and scattering a trail of breadcrumbs to lead them straight to his hideout. Even a mildly retarded hacker would be on him in seconds, followed shortly by a large number of very upset drug dealers.

Cursing once under his breath and giving the dwarf a good kick in the ribs for good measure, DB grabbed the case and high-tailed it out of there.

Tutorsoft or no, you still don't have a very high Chemistry skill just yet, and it's linked to your very impressive Logic skill of 2. More by sheer luck than any sort of knowledge, you made it out of there with the equivalent of a chemistry kit.
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the madcap congress part 2
(again, i'm writing other character's dialogue as best i know how. because of that reason, this obviously a far cry from campaign canon. also, pardon any typos and grammatical errors (i think i got em all). i posted this pretty late.)

The conversation went something like this:

"Of course the others can't know about this." Noghri said after the energies of the room seemed to permit it.
"Why is that?" Hush asked.
"We're setting up a lodge which will have lots of expensive items in it as well as materials that may control our very souls." Nohgri tapped a metallic digit to his chest to punctuate this statement. "It's not that I don't trust our companions, but I am of the opinion that the less people know about this, the better."
"Agreed," Kyoto seconded.
"Makes sense," Hush conceded, "but we should consider that we wouldn't have our money or even our lives without the help of our chummers. If we're to keep this from the others we should at least keep their interests in mind by making sure those who join this association have no other loyalties."
"That's right," said Noghri, "No members from other magic circles and certainly no members from other teams." The unspoken secretary, Noghri jotted these sentiments down in his notebook.
"I can see already we're going to be lacking an ethos," said Slice. Of course, this was due to Slice's penchant for random and unnecessary violence. And since he was the cause of the contention, he figured he'd broach the subject.
"With the right rules," countered Spellbreaker after a silence,"I imagine we won't need to enforce any worldviews."
"I agree," concurred Noghri.
"Well get this, right," Slice began again,"you guys love the land." At this, Hush nodded and Noghri raised his eyebrow in interest. "And I love freedom," Slice announced with flourish,"And you know who's a threat to both? The corps, man. It's those mothers who's been exploiting the land and the people on it." This statement lingered in the room uncontested. "They employ guys like us who are twenty times more talented than they are, and, when we stop being useful or we get all uppity thinkin' we have a the right to ask what our lives are really worth, they go and turn on us - sell our ass to another corp." Given recent events, no one could argue with Slice on this point. The corps were scum and they'd never apologize for it. "No corporates in here - ever!"
"Right," Hush added. Noghri simply nodded and scribbled in his notebook.
"I think we should notice," Noghri added, "that we are reliant upon one another." With these words, Kyoto Slice scratched at the crusted blood on the lapel of his suit. "Our pooling our magical resources will only increase the symbiotic nature of this relationship."
"That's right," commented Hush,"as it is, if one of us dies, that's a third of the energy gone from our lodge."
"So we help each other out," concluded Slice.
"Under penalty of expulsion," Noghri added severly.
"Sure," Slice agreed.
"Sounds fine," said Hush. This decision being unanimous, Noghri scribbled a little more.
"Well if we're throwing our very lives about," chortled Kyoto with a wry smile,"a little money would be a trifling matter."
"Dues," said Noghri.
"You got it," agreed Hush.

The deliberations continued on into the night. The three became wearisome with one another, but understood thorough debate would bring them to an agreement which would be the bedrock of a significant lifestyle change. This ship was being built to last. The most difficult issue was that of a mentor spirit.
"You mean it's gonna tell us what to do?" asked Slice suspiciously.
"Yes," said Noghri.
"But so did your mother," countered Hush,"did you always listen to her?"
Noghri continued,"A mentor spirit will guide this lodge and be a vital link to the spirit world. It's a wise move."
Slice conceded this point with a nod, and Noghri opened a large guilded tome. Choosing a mentor spirit would prove most taxing. Such disparate worldviews and attitudes among the runners kept them talking until nearly sunrise. Finally, they decided upon the Trickster as it appealed to something in the nature of each the men gathered. Noghri, despite his refinement, got kicks making unwitting mundanes do things they'd hate themselves for if they read it in the evening newsfeed. Hush took joys in undoing the intricate plans of other magic users who thought they were hot stuff. And Slice just loved to con people.

With all the disagreements sorted out, Noghri transcribed his notes onto a large flat sheet of parchment. He finished just as the sun rose. Each man took a blade and made a slash over his heart and forehead and dipped quills in these wounds to sign the document before them. Then, having muddled the blood in their palms, they shook one another's hands in fidelity.

After smearing the symbols off the walls and extinguishing all the fires, each man stepped into the morning sun. As unlike as each man's temperment to the others were, they all stepped into the new day with a shared sense of commitment and an enthusiasm that only prospects of self discovery can rouse in a person.

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