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NeonCzolgoz: I- One sec
NeonCzolgoz has changed their nickname to LatheOfHeathen
LatheOfHeathen: yeah okay
LatheOfHeathen: i think we're going a bit too literal with this now
LatheOfHeathen: not complaining though, taking it literally has been rad as fuck and i live for all these takes
LatheOfHeathen: but i think wheen le guinn wrote it it was like, about the third world as much as anything
LatheOfHeathen: no ethical consumption under capitalism and yet you participate in capitalism
LatheOfHeathen: so if you live in the decadent west, when you become woke, why don't you go off and join... I dunno, whatever NGO wasn't shit back then
JuntaSThompson: The kid being a literal kid is way more fun though
NumbToNothing: I kin the garbage closet martyr child
LatheOfHeathen: yeah you know what fuck it
LatheOfHeathen: don't know why i said something so clearly wrong and boring
LatheOfHeathen: this went somewhere way cooler anyway



There are two different reactions to consider here.

Crystal’s is restrained, calculating, thoughtful. She wears a relaxed poker face with the faintest hint of an indulgent smile, as she takes a half-teaspoonful of a whipped mousse that is to a 2020s tastebud what a Cheese Supreme Dorito would be to the Dickensian orphan. She considers this. There is no impression she is about to walk away; Only that she is considering what it means that she is about to say yes. But such a critically incriminating posture must be guarded and dismantled like a ticking bomb.

Fiona, though? Fiona’s eyes flare. You can hear the klaxons between her ears, the jitter in her fingers as she drops her cutlery and starts ghost-typing on the table as she types on a keyboard only she can see, already drafting introductions. Her thoughts are broadcast thus; BE GAY DO CRIMES.

“I love how interesting you are.” Crystal begins. “But now, we must know.”

“That is to say, you have to tell us.” Fiona chips in.

Crystal gives Fiona a sidelong look. “How deep in this are you? What are the risks? How likely are you to get caught?”

“How can we help?” Fiona adds. Crystal winces in frustration.

“Must you?” She asks, and Fiona grins back, in a way that makes it clear that ‘grin’ and ‘smile’ are not synonyms.

“I must.” Then, with a teasing inflection. “I’m just skipping to the part you’re going to end up, anyway. Allons-y, love.


Team Strawberry has eyes, now. The camera feed goes back two weeks, then compressed to shit to keep another six months, then deleted unless manually flagged for archival. Goat’s vault has one clear entry point. Roughly once a week - on a random schedule - a small team of maintenance workers - never less than two, never more than five - went into the one entryway, disappeared for an average of half an hour, then came back out. Actual eyes on the location show that doorway is just a blind turn left, and standard electrical panels. Secret door, clearly.

But that information made it to Waffle, with time to prepare for this. There were a few breach points to pick. There’s the ‘ceiling’ directly across from Goat’s jack into the station. Normally it's the inside of a pipe that feeds the Cloud. That’s the thinnest cut point, almost definitely being borrowed for water cooling. You’re going to have a window where it’s empty, but it’d be up to Team Flood to make sure that it stays empty long enough to be an exit channel. Otherwise the Cloud will be spitting pieces of Waffle down on soy fields for days.

There was also the ‘back’, through a rail line shaft. Half a meter of space-age alloy walling to cut through, but plenty of open space and a fast egress. Your cover makes the heavy tools you need plausible, and the microgravity makes more things count as 'handheld'. Sometimes the best safe cracker is a thermal lance, just make sure you're not trying to get paper bills from the inside.

Finally, there’s the front door. How did it go, with Persephone? "Accessibility demands concessions from security?" The gate is the weakest part of the castle wall, but defense is usually centered around it accordingly. If your number one priority is not risking any damage to Goat from your smash and grab? This is the safest option.

What did you choose?

This is it. Last decision before the bell rings. The end of strategy and the beginning of tactics.

It’s even more convenient. The ag land under the Cloud is near enough to your target for further plausibility - there’s no real district between Gaea and the cap marking the Prime. Goat’s located near enough one of the massive filter-pumps feeding the cloud that you have a prime plausible target near your operational area.

That you just get. You want physical damage to a substation, the rail line being more wholly inoperable? That would take more effort to co-ordinate.

Here’s what I can give you for free: Someone actually plays the part of Crimson Tower through the operation, stays present and accounted for in the SES offices overseeing this. You do that, and you get to cut the power and the cut rail lines as a critical response to the fluid situation. Limit the spread of damage, and limit just how much damage it can do. But someone’s going to have to be Tower in the switch room, justifying that. It lacks the permanence of real physical damage, it’s something that can be overruled.

What are your teams for this? Where is everyone, when the virus shreds a gigaliter pump like an Iranian centrifuge?

Where are you, when the flood hits?


Do you have an answer that satisfies you, your question? The one that began this.

“Who owns my apartment” - Whoever it is, not for much longer.

You don’t have to write about this. This was a project for your one-armed goblin-tenant, a mothballed project from a data-researcher that couldn’t follow the path down personal connections.

Junta’s going to be grateful for it. Euna’s not the only one who needs to be doing something, even while he’s dealing with the cost of taking that swing. How do you break the story?

Also - how do you feel about faux-duck pho for dinner? Junta’s having trouble cooking with just one arm, but soups aren’t particularly time sensitive.


There’s an extra bit of genius to your play. If Greg’s mad about this - and, he is - he can’t show it while there’s a camera there. And he’s got to be understanding why his conversation ‘partner’ here’s dropping him like a hot coal to lean into it.

“Peristalsis. The same way you can drink upside-down. Or pee in microgravity.” The BioTan representative smiles - sincerely, relief and gratitude and the sense of genuine interest. “I hadn’t actually considered the ecosystem interpretation. Everything just goes in its line, in a single chain. If we modelled it like Aevum, or a living body, then the different organs would all have to interact with each other. All those systems become interrelated. You lose the simplicity.” She sighs. “All art is a tradeoff, isn’t it? Clarifying one message means closing off the possibility of different interpretations.”

She looks taken aback at herself, and glances to Greg Von Mises, who’s sized you up and decided to strategically lose interest. “Sorry,” the BioTan representative says, flickering a wan smile. “I’m Dr Talbot.” ‘Tal’ like ‘tally’, ‘bot’ like ‘beau’ - the second t is silent. “Are you working right now, or is this just-” her eyes dart to Von Mises, who’s finding a waiter to explain the amuse bouches to, “Social?”

No wrong answers. This is just about your choice of approach. Investigation is an art, too - Which possibility do you close off, in clarifying your message?

It’s a great concept for a plan, but just because the infrastructure for the defense batteries are nearby doesn’t mean this is where people will run if a collision happens. You’re looking at a site in the axel, in the station’s creamy microgravity core, and the damage you’re describing would be external. But the core concept? A mundane disaster that causes the site to be a hotbed for people you can move in and out from? That is something Crimson is well suited to create, and well positioned to find herself in.

As Crimson, you have the resources to take that core concept and spitball a variety of more localized, specific targets to get what you need. Severe physical damage to a substation in that sector could potentially kill a lot of birds with one stone. Destroying an aspect of the fluid transit in microgravity would be devastating, requiring a long cleanup and justify Crimson access to the strangest of places. Targeting a nearby freight artery would not only justify heavy equipment in the area, it could also delay potential reinforcement - at the cost of an egress route.

All pieces to mix-and-match, depending on whether you want people to move away from your target, or around it to give yourself a crowd to hide in. Establishing a chain of potential disasters would allow you the opportunity to change or escalate mid-operation… but of course, the more predicted disasters you cause, the more unpredicted disasters that you don’t have control over. You can mitigate that risk, but not eliminate it.

All these opportunities require work and setup. The easiest is if you just need something to go wrong, and to be ready to capitalize on it when it does. The hardest is if you need something to go wrong precisely, at the flick of the switch, or at an exact location. But you have just as many options as complications.

An homage to stuxnet would allow a virus to cause the physical damage you need. Explosives and demolitions are a time-honoured, but might attract attention. Some things just break spectacularly, if you know what and how. The only limit is your creativity, here.

One other thing, though, that Crimson Tower gets to see within their purview. The interior of Goat’s vault is an information black hole, but the exterior? You got that. One side of the vault is way thicker than the others, and traces out to a horrendous amount of fibreop and cabling. Like a spinal column sending out its cascade of nerve endings - mostly up into the Prime.

It’s probably not possible, or wise, to tap directly into that. And there’s too much of it - and too poorly documented - to isolate something as convenient as alarm lines in the mass. Linked to too many critical systems to be worth the risk of cutting through.

Still, it’s a dead giveaway for Goat’s connection point. In a 3D environment, that gives you a floor. It might tell you other things, too.

[But nobody came].

This is not the answer to the question you asked, but it is an important answer. Consider your reasoning: A security system accommodates over time to deal with its volume of low-level offenders.

This one’s been running for a very, very long time. How much of the utility corridor would have to be locked off, to be secure? But secrecy is the most important first layer of protection, clearly. Over enough time, there’d start being rumours about that weird corridor, that has its own maintenance team. Either that, or one that had long fallen into disrepair without one.

Neither rumour exists, at least, not here. The photo is untouched, unremarked on for days. Hell, it’s not even soft-hidden from the major search engines. If anyone noticed it at all, they were more worried about the Streisand effect than your picture.

You threw a brick through the window and nobody showed up, and nobody’s going to show up. Don’t take that as a failure to learn who you’re up against. Take it as a blank cheque that throwing bricks has to be below their noise floor.

There’s one way to cross reference that. If your picture didn’t get taken down, if the meta-data is still pingable from a major search engine, well… You could maybe search it directly? See if there aren’t real pictures still up online with the metadata you’re looking for that also didn’t get taken down, see if someone else has done some scouting for you.

And yeah. The results come up with a dead split of urban explorers and maintenance workers. The former always passing through to more interesting places in the Prime, taking side channels to avoid getting nabbed along the main access tunnels. The latter posting for help on message boards, or taking selfies on their lunch break.

Real maintenance workers are going right by the door you’re really looking for. Dusting, cleaning, replacing frayed wires, painting the whole shaft once-a-decade or so. Real maintenance workers in an easily accessible uniform, I should add. All below the noise floor.

Tell me how you pulled that off safely. How you made dead certain that nobody could pin you for doing those searches and learning that. Then what’s your next move?


Don’t rush this too much. The air’s too rarified here for any but the highest of social climbers. Everyone in this room wears a watch worth more than your entire camera rig. If there’s enough to be called a crowd, it’s only because the 1% of the 1% is still 1/10,000th of a very, very large population.

Think, this is the investor class. Think that everyone in here could be your real suspect or your target, at the end of things. Think that this is probably where they’re going to be least guarded, least tied to a potential crime scene. Nobody’s been whacked for the concept work.

Over there, under the oroborous organic fountain by BioTan. A three meter high loop of flesh bound to a padded arch like ivy to a wedding-arch, a chain of translucent organs pumping products into by-products and back again. At each juncture is a plaque saying what the biochemistry just synthesized, what it can be used for, and the difficulties in manufacturing it through inorganic processes. The whole thing’s a loop. A sugar-water IV drip makes up the difference in ATP to run it, but the whole thing chains so that every organ uses the output of the previous organ and sends it through to the next.

Standing under it? Amazon CEO Greg Von Mises, proud of that Austrian heritage. He’s talking to the BioTan representative, a woman of Southeast Asian descent in a costume labcoat but with real protective goggles. Sounds like he’s trying to explain her own sculpture back to her. She’s putting up with him. Von Mises isn’t half the name Bezos meant fifty years earlier, but half a Bezos is more than nothing.

Over there’s the C-suite for Yggdrasil. They stand out, the former Mumbai-and-Bangladeshians in their ‘starmetal’ full plate, a tradition carried on since finding meteroic iron was a rare and magical thing. The craftmanship there is stunning, gorgeous. Filigree and scrollwork and muscle-plate, worthy of a warrior-king in a big-budget Bollywood take on the Holy Roman Empire. Their weapons, by comparison, are crude and eccentric - it’s considered good form for the c-suite to make their own, from the heart, express themselves. By hand, by forge. They’re all armed, if you consider a zweihander or a flanged mace ‘armed’ in 2080, which you should.

Their display is simple by comparison. Elegant, even. Phar Lap’s heart, preserved in alcohol for over a century, a mutation that made it grow more than four times larger than average. Behind it a black plinth, with the genetic sequence for the isolated mutation in white light. It’s a statement. For what? You’d have to ask them.

And then scattered around there’s the security details for these people, scowling at the Yggdrasil C-suite at every opportunity. First among them, a statuesque Madagascarian woman whose flanking escort looks like they’re there to protect everyone else from her, not the other way around. It’s hard to tell if she’s one of the power players, or just someone’s head of security. It looks like she’s not sure herself. You don’t recognize her. The people who do seem to be moving clear.

Don’t cut this place short. Think of who might be here and use your press-privilege as carte blanche to talk to them. There are some people here who’d pay you to put the camera on them, and they’ll say anything on the record.
Aevum has two pseudo-districts. Erebus is the spine through which the infrastructure runs. It is a pipe of pipes, a cylinder filled with the sewers, electricals, internet and maintenance tunnels. It is the axel around which the O’Neil cylinder spins. Trans-district train lines spiral towards it and then back down to Aevum’s surface like carbon ribbons around a maypole, to take advantage of the microgravity. It is the systems of internal life support.

The other pseudo district is the Prime - it is the engine that turns the axle, the thrusters that navigate Aevum in its orbit around the sun, the shields against rock and radiation, the weapons that break up asteroids that would break the shields, and the solar panels that power the whole thing. It is the systems of external life support, accessed from the ‘top’, from the opposite end as Selene and the shipping airlocks.

The blueprints of Goat’s location put him in Erebus somewhere near the start of the Prime, above even Gaia and her farmlands, but still inside the station. The blueprints gave you a location in the maintenance tunnels down a warren of blind-turns and switch-backs. Not a place that’s impossible to stumble on without a map, just a place that it would be impossible to find twice. Still, you have that map.

You know what the funniest thing is, though? About where Goat is?

This part of Aevum looks just like the mainfares of Thrones, when you take the AR off.

According to the blueprints you’re looking at something the size of an industrial boiler room, with at least half a meter thick walls on every side, at least some of it running critical infrastructure. That’s a guess, because none of the internal dimensions are evident here - how many sub-rooms, how it’s partitioned, where Goat is specifically within. Still, it’s a start.

The area has total coverage with cameras, the same as any other part of Erebus. Their role as a security feature is an afterthought, though, to their role as just checking hundreds of kilometers of utility corridors for faults from a centralized location. With the right approach they’re more to your advantage than anything, they’d give you an opportunity to scout the location, going back for as long as there was stored footage. But that you already knew.

Goat’s in there somewhere. And if he’s actively being used for something, then this isn’t a vault you’re raiding, but a functioning server room. The need for accessibility always demands critical concessions from security, and that may be to your advantage as well, if you can work out some of the considerations needed here.

Because you planned for this, November.

ProvocativelyFickle: Yessss!!!! +2 +2 +2 +2 +2
NeonCzolgoz: i mean
NeonCzolgoz: when you say it like that
NeonCzolgoz: i feel kind of owned lmao
JuntaSThompson: I am immune to this callout until 3V buys us groceries and then I will be a part of the solution.
NumbToNothing: with one arm
JuntaSThompson: An electric can opener is on the shopping list
NumbToNothing: What about pull tab cans
JuntaSThompson: Electric can opener the bottom side.
NumbToNothing: oh shit huge brain
NeonCzolgoz: what about jars
JuntaSThompson: 3V can open jars
NeonCzolgoz: lmao can she though
JuntaSThompson: I’m typing grammatically one handed better than you do with two dipshit, you want to bring heat here?
NeonCzolgoz: i get it i get it im owned im owned

Seems like the mic drop obliterated the conversation beyond recovery, and people are retreating into tangents. Nice.
NeonCzolgoz: Good question.
JuntaSThompson: You're asking a room full of martyrs if they'd be martyrs
JuntaSThompson: The only suffering we can abide is our own
NumbToNothing: excuse you nobody deserves that
NumbToNothing: except me
ProvocativelyFickle: Why are all of you like this

Channel: Main
NeonCzolgoz: so i’ve just been like
NeonCzolgoz: reading the classics a bit
NumbToNothing: look at this dumb fuck reading
NumbToNothing: gay
NeonCzolgoz: dumber and gayer than you could possibly imagine
NeonCzolgoz: and I know what you can imagine so that’s really saying something
NumbToNothing: owo
NeonCzolgoz: anyway I was reading The Ones who Walk Away from Omelas by the woman who came up with the ‘lathe of heaven’ thing, LeGuin?
NeonCzolgoz: picture a perfect utopia. All the food’s amazing and people fuck in the streets whenever they want. Total equality, everyone’s happy, and everyone knows being happy rules
NeonCzolgoz: but at the middle of the city there’s a suffering kid
NeonCzolgoz: its got rashes from being soaked in its own shit for so long, all it knows is pain, it is the saddest possible kid you could imagine
NeonCzolgoz: and it’s locked up in a room forever, to suffer like that
NeonCzolgoz: because it needs to for the city to work
NeonCzolgoz: let’s say because of magic or some shit, how that’s true isn’t important, just that it is
NeonCzolgoz: and everyone on their eighteenth birthday learns about it
NeonCzolgoz: and most of them choose to stay in utopia, thinks it’s worth it
NeonCzolgoz: but some leave. Nobody knows what’s outside omelas, nobody knows what happens to the people who leave, just that none of ‘em come back.
NeonCzolgoz: so here’s my question
NeonCzolgoz: do you stay or leave Omelas
NumbToNothing: oh shit
NumbToNothing: leave I guess
NumbToNothing: or uh
NumbToNothing: maybe stay?
NumbToNothing: maybe if I’d been born there I’d leave
NumbToNothing: but like if you put me there now, and told me I had to come back to this shit
NumbToNothing: I don’t think I’d be able to walk you know
NeonCzolgoz: yeah I’m fucking staying
NeonCzolgoz: fwiw
NeonCzolgoz: that shit sucks but like
NeonCzolgoz: i know what I already live with, and I just get mad about it, but like
NeonCzolgoz: better one kid suffering for a reason then a generation of kids being brought up by miserable parents suffering for none
JuntaSThompson: I don’t know.
JuntaSThompson: It feels like that suffering for no reason is different than knowing someone’s suffering as a price?
JuntaSThompson: In saying that, then if you know you could have utopia if one kid suffers a lot, then all that suffering for the world being as it is becomes the reason instead
JuntaSThompson: Is it worth keeping the world as it is just to prevent the suffering of one kid
JuntaSThompson: I wouldn’t break Omelas
JuntaSThompson: Not sure that means I could live with knowing either
ProvocativelyFickle: I walk
JuntaSThompson: Yeah?
NeonCzolgoz: why’s that?
ProvocativelyFickle: Couldn’t say. I just would though.
JuntaSThompson: Fair enough, I guess.


He’s basically tripping over himself he’s talking so fast. “Money would be the easiest. But I don’t… have much right now. Liquid, anyway. I mean-” He glances at his prodigiously expensive apartment. “Yes, I am obviously wealthy. But that just means I still own everything the money was spent on. If you need connections, I can make introductions. If you need a zero-day exploit, I still have some good ones I’ve been saving for a rainy day. If you need a new identity, or a safe place to go, I can do that.” He catches up to himself, and then stumbles again. “Once. I can do anything once. Everything I saved for a rainy day that never came. Don’t tell me what you need - ask for what you want.”

Of course not. He has been scared for most of his life that you hate him.

There is nothing he would not give you if you asked. Because he wants to be asked more than he wants anything else.


Fiona: But I’m not-
Fiona is typing

Fiona is typing
Fiona: Oh, right.
Fiona: Right
Fiona: Uh.
Fiona: I don’t
Fiona: I was not ready for how much the teacher/student thing was going to do this for me
Fiona: I can’t even joke
Fiona: So, thanks for teaching me something today
Fiona: I’m going to go die of embarrassment now

5 Stars, adjusted-for-inflation equivalent of a $20 tip, comment: Astoundingly capable with home lighting and sound systems. He grins, but asks permission before posting it; "I'm assuming tonight's horror spectacular wasn't a one-off display of your AV club skills? It's an honest review, in my opinion." A wistfulness. "You know that's not all I could do. But this is all you trust me to do, yes?"


Fiona: I don't know whether to be flattered or mortified at the insinuation I could still be in college
Fiona: The sheets will have to tell the tale
Fiona: I'll lay out the really white ones and we'll do a Rorschach with them
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