Saturday, 28 June 2014

Archetypal Adventures: four netrunner adventures in Sektor:K

All pictures from Starcraft II
Sektor: Korprulu is an eSports bar on the decaying fringe of a central European city, named after a location in the forgotten progenitor game of the eSports scene. Situated in a rusting Soviet-era industrial park, the Sektor is a metallic realm of varnished steel and fading Americana frequented by eSports fans flocking to live broadcasts of Korean, French and Argentine professional matches. 

It is also famous in a different scene: criminal hackers and fixers from across Europe know the bar as a place to wheel and deal and make connections, safe from absent police and protected from underground rivalries. This post covers four netrunning adventures originating in Sektor:K, concerning match-fixing, political violence and the viler side of unlicensed cyberware installation.

INTO THE NEUTRAL ZONE

Unbeknownst to most of the crowd, the staff and even the owner, the Sektor is located conveniently close to one of the pillars of the local 'runner economy: the underground "black medical" run by the Bandura clan, a Polish operation which manufactures and installs pirated, bespoke and illegal cyberware designs. 

The Bandura clinic attracts 'runners from across the region, possessing a reputation for discretion and competence. The clinic also has some notoriety within the same scene; the people who run it come across as totally amoral. In addition to 'runners - not exactly the most reputable people themselves - they have also been known to supply gear to paramilitary militias, football hooligan gangs and organised criminals. This last client is responsible for much of the special horror surrounding the clinic: the Bandura have been known to perform non-consensual surgery on various captives and "employees" of the Balkan mafias.

The proliferation of 'runners caused by the presence of the Bandura operation gives the Sektor its specific ambience. Situated close to a number of discrete hotels and far from regular policing, the Sektor is a convenient place to rest, recuperate and pass time while waiting for the mercurial Bandura to complete their work. Anyone who pursues a grudge or starts a fight anywhere near the clinic risks smashing the tacit agreements which keep the police away. The Bandura have promised to "blacklist" anyone who does so, so the Sektor remains neutral ground. The presence of so many cyber'd individuals attracts transhuman subculturalists and posers, reinforcing the chromed aura of the place.

FOUR SEKTOR:KORPRULU ADVENTURES


APM OVER 9000!


The Stalingrad Cowboys are a major hacker syndicate operating all over Europe, acting as mercenaries in the corporate conflicts sputtering across the continent. Recently, they've decided to get involved with match-fixing.

Starting from the early days of Korean Starcraft leagues, eSports have become big business. In 2020s Europe, the Paris suburbs have produced the best players, creating a powerful French league. Gambling on the sport has become big business.

The eSports world has schism'd in recent years between "natural" and transhuman leagues, just like every other sport. Modern Angel Aura 2 players are rebuilt like Formula One cars, show-casing the newest in neuralware. 

The Cowboys believe they can influence matches if they have more detailed information about the neuralware they are dealing with. Their specific plan involves camera flashes, subliminals and... well, it's complicated. What they need right now is specific data on the newest neuralware deployed by teams like PanEuropaTV and ZavivasParis. Once those datastores have been broken into, the Bandura can analyse it, and together the two groups can create a plan to subvert the matches (or simply make more accurate bets).

The run requires total secrecy. If the targets know they've been compromised, the information won't be worth anything. A failed run on PanEuropaTV could conceivably be disguised as an attack on one of their other departments, but ZavivasParis does nothing else.

In the course of making these attacks the team may uncover some dirty secrets hidden in the bowels of the eSports industry, the street kids who volunteer for experimental tech in the hope of getting into the big leagues and end up mentally mutilated. As soon as the Bandura discover this, they'll want the team to go to Marseilles, break into the private Chaebol laboratory and steal a "sample," ethics be damned (the Bandura never had any in the first place).

JACKKNIFE 

Polikarpov Shipping is a wealthy, family owned company which has recently been ploughing campaign finance into "preservationist" political actions against the transhumanist movement. This has naturally annoyed the denizens of Sector:Korprulu, a group of posers pool their money to hire a team to start "attacking their money supply." This will involve subverting their robot trucks and torching them, possibly after removing the goods for resale (if the team or the "investors" know a decent fence).

Polikarpov run all sorts of goods for all sorts of companies. What the "investors" didn't realise was just how high value some of these goods were. We're talking orbital manufactured white goods with an enormous street value, particularly if they were to be sold across by sanction lines by a competent smuggler - this is the kind of stuff a rogue state apparatchik would kill for. 

As soon as that happens, the "investors" will turn on each other and the team in an attempt to get the money. It's fairly likely that the original handshake contract didn't specify things in much detail, and even if it did some of these wealthy kids might not have been told "no" enough times in their lives to take it for an answer. Having successfully hired 'runners to commit a crime once, they're perfectly willing to do it again...

CONSENT


A hacker mob called the Zonds dominate the criminal underworld in the districts that surround the Sektor, ruling through fear and subtlety rather than brute force. By subverting the local surveillance systems and deploying a few of their own, they maintain an effective protection racket enforced by a few dangerous street soldiers and a number of "spiders" - hackers who might have defended corporate systems if they hadn't been blacklisted from legitimate employment for some reason.

The Zonds apply these same techniques to their other operations, notably prostitutions. Zond affiliated prostitutes carry subtle IFF and tracker systems, allegedly for their own protection. Naturally, this isn't optional. Worse, the gang - who often simply buy girls (and boys) from snakehead gangs - have a long standing habit of forcibly implanting their slaves with varying forms of cyberware. Biomonitors are the most common devices, but varying physical enhancements are also used, along with crude psychological hacks. 

A German ronin called Slovik has recently arrived in the city, searching for a runaway called Aleks. Slovik used to work as a criminal spider himself, for a vile outfit in Amsterdam, and he knows the territory. His concern is to find Aleks and save the kid, both from the Zonds and from the cranial bomb he's sure they will have implanted. He once scrubbed the evidence ahead of a police investigation in Amsterdam by pressing a button that killed 15 people. 

Slovik's plan is to do things quietly, and on the net. He needs to locate the systems the Zonds are using, subvert their surveillance system, and ultimately break into whatever systems they use to control their slaves. He would prefer to decapitate the system before trying to extract Aleks, and preferably uncover and deactivate any booby traps that might have been implanted in the runaway's body. It would help to know the specifics of the bespoke cranial bombs used by the Zonds, which almost certainly means making a run against the Bandura. That in turn could mean making enemies of almost every 'runner in the city.

A FEAST FOR KRUKS


In the imbricated borderlands between Russia and "Europe" (wherever that is and whatever that means), borders and alliances have lately been determined by armed militias and nationalist "referendums". Initially the Russians seemed to hold the initiative when using such tactics, but central European states responded quickly enough, deploying their own deniable forces. 

The "Kruks" are one such group, a powerful militia covertly funded by right wing elements inside the Polish, Hungarian and Slovak governments, with an area of operations encompassing the Baltic states, Belarus and the Ukraine. While they have normally engaged Russian interests (literally, during fighting around Kobrin and Hrodna during the "Belarus crisis" three years ago), they didn't blink when their leadership took them into battle with Finnish spooks and German anarchists during a wild assault on data havens in the Gulf of Riga last year. In fact, they aren't above striking at Polish targets, whenever their backers in the Polish hard-right wants the opposition intimidated anywhere in eastern Poland. 

It was during one of these Polish "loyalty operations" that the Kruks (allegedly) assassinated Adam Rubik, an anti-corruption politician in Bialystok. Bialystok is deep Kruk territory, surrounded by their training camps and weapon printshops. He'd threatened the web of collusion and police malfeasance that allowed the Kruks to act as a uniformed political militia on Polish soil, and he died for it.

A year later, his niece Kasia Rubik recruits a fixer called Wildkat to get a level of revenge. Police corruption and political patronage ensured that the investigation into the murder was stillborn from the start, and she doesn't care about that. Her desire is simply to hurt the Kruks as much as possible. Her goal is simple - to locate and smash the lines of illegal finance that keep the Kruks in business.

Here's the plan: the Kruks regularly send operatives to the Bandura for "enhancement". Rubik has discovered that the Kruks and the Bandura both use a shifting series of bank accounts to handle payment. On the fourth of each month a Kruk courier called Patryk Wydra travels to the Clinic and hands over the details of an account containing the money they owe the Bandura, receives the number for a current Bandura account, and transfers the money. 

Rubik will hire the team to extract Wydra en-route to the Bandura meeting, hack into his Johnny Mnemonic style implanted data store, find out which bank or banks the Kruks favour, and then carry out a second job: hacking into that bank and tracing the movements of their money. The next phase of her operation will be determined by whatever information she finds. Rubik will pay a considerable amount of money and provide a kitted out ambulance for the operation (to anaesthetize Wydra during the datasteal, or even provide a place to "interrogate" him).   

There are several complicating factors. The team will have to break into Wydra's implant extremely fast. It is defended by considerable amounts of black ICE. Naturally, he has also been implanted with a tracer, and Kruk paramilitaries will respond with armoured street-soldiers and surveillance drones as quickly as they can. They are, however, quite unwilling to kill or abandon Wydra.

If the team secures the information, they'll be able to pursue the money trail through the dark electronic alleyways of Fulton-Robinson Financial, a powerful New York bank without much care for who deposits money there. The most arresting piece of paydata may be the payments to Kruk sympathisers and double agents inside Belarus and Russia.

Where did Rubik get the information about the courier in the first place? From a Ukrainian fixer called Tatiana Kozak, who is (unknown to Kasia Rubik) herself a Russian agent. Her goal is simply to spread political chaos in Poland by creating a scandal around the Kruks (which is also why she has talked Rubik into sponsoring a violent kidnapping likely to cause chaos on the streets of a central European city). As the team discovers more about Kruk financing they'll find links to Polish politicians, Hungarian corporations and even evidence of British and German support in the form of training and armaments. Any of those organisations might try to kill the team to prevent a scandal, or even have them arrested as "traitors" or "enemy agents" if Kozak's identity becomes known - if, for instance, the team uncovers it while investigating their client!

(In Shadowrun, the Kruks might be the remains of anti-Russian partisan group gone bad, or even a deniable force sponsored by Saeder-Krupp or MCT)