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July 16, 2016, 6:58 am

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Digital Angel


The virtual police/help function of the CogNet

The CogNet is a large place, and it populated by hundreds of millions of people and billions of programs, running the gamut from single task to semi-sentient to viral intelligence. It's easy to get lost, or get overwhelmed. It doesn't help that inside this massive virtual world that there are indeed places where a user can absolutely get lost, and that's by design. Black Nodes, Back Alley Nodes, Ghost net sectors, black band feeds, gray zones, damaged archives from 3rdNet, all places that can disorient a user. Then there are hostile programs, malware, viruses, and hackers. The things a person could potentially face outside of the sanitized White Node system is frightening. That's why the CogNet has patrol programs.

The Angeloids

An Angeloid is a virtual program, a large packet of free floating quantum code, that has autonomous permissions in the CogNet. These programs function as the immune system of the CogNet by moving through sectors and nodes and searching for anything that needs their attention. Most are capable of destroying malware and confronting hackers, and what they cannot handle, they can request back-up to deal with.

Viruphagy - Angeloids first and foremost task is the hunting and destruction of viral programs. This ranges from damaged programs, corrupted programs, malware, to sentient viruses. An angeloid that detects a virus classified program it will move to intercept and then will destroy the offending packet of data with the virtual tools and weapons it has at it's disposal. These typically manifest as light/energy attacks, or melee weapons, should there be humans to witness the manifestation of an angeloid in the process of destroying a virus

The first angeloid I ever saw was at the Potempkin Club, this grey node place, where half of the charm was the fact that it was off the white nodes and there was a chance that something bad could happen, you know, the thrill of danger. So everyone is getting down on the dance floor, or hammering back bathtub vodka bloody marys and a packet enters, no biggie, just a shrouded user, given em a few seconds and they unpack and 'arrive'. Instead it's this six foot tall goddess, wrapped in one of those latex fetish looking encounter suits, chrome steel wings with gold and gloss white trim popping out of her back, and a look on her face like she was ready to murder God and heaven. Those big wings flashed open, scattering people and progs like leaves, scared the wits out of me and I dove for cover. I saw people panic, they were trying to gate out of the Potempkin but couldn't, she had the place locked down, no in, no out. The bartender pulled out this antique looking RPG-7 and leveled it at her, and he fired the damn thing. My ears are still ringing from that, ghost feedback, the doctor says it will go away in a few weeks. The fire and smoke clear and she's still standing there, this glittering force field wrapped around her, and she pulls a spear from somewhere? Hammerspace, her ass, who fucking knows where programs keep their stuff. She goes through the bar, spear right through the bartender's chest and they crash through the simwall of the club. It's over quick, flicker of the spear and the service program derezzed. She blasts the dissolving code with this plasma-flash thing from her hand, and then the lock down is lifted and everyone starts gating out. I got a notification twenty minutes later that my credit had been attacked by malware, and intrusion countermeasures had been successfully employed. Took a 20 point hit to my UBCS for having been at a grey node. Willful negligence, they said.

Personal Assistance - The second most visible function of the angeloid is personal assistance. As a full fledged virtual environment, with the verisimilitude of things and dangers that can happen, the angeloids are 911, the police, search and rescue, and first responders. This is mainly a reaction time function, as a semi-sentient program hooked into the CogNet framework can respond at near instantaneous speed, where a human operative would still be registering that there had been a request for aid. It has been repeatedly demonstrated that a human operator is still acknowledging that there has been a call by the time the average angeloid program has responded and eliminated the problem.

The Berenstain Woods is considered a child safe white node, among the most safe of the safe, and it is largely populated by talking toy, talking animal, and other whimsical chat-box programs, while children play. There was a defragging incident at the server, and while there were no major problems, part of the node destabilized, leaving one sector of the Woods open out into the general network around it. Several children, thinking this was a level expansion, or new zone, left the woods. Of the six who did, two returned immediately (under the recommendation of their toy playmates) the other four were missing approximately sixteen analog minutes (4 days virtual time) All four missing children were recovered by two angeloids. One responded to a child pushing their panic button, summoning the angeloid. The responding unit found the child, noted the damage to the Woods, alerted system admins, and requested assistance finding the other missing children. There were no injuries or traumas.

Cybermachty - The most dangerous thing that angeloids do is engaging in cybermachy, virtual warfare. Hackers and computer intrusion into the CogNet (cyberterrorism, cyberwarfare, cybervandalism) present a real and present threat. These are fully sentient users who have the means and ability to do a great deal of harm to the system. This is considered a very high level threat as the CogNet is a major communications system, and while damaging a server might crash domains and make users do something else, it can also disrupt internal functions in arcologies, seacologies, or space habitats. The act of identity theft, or avatar assassination (using hacker tools to 'kill' an online avatar, causing biofeedback injuries to the user) are also highly negative. Angeloids are a major component in the net defense against such abuse. Where fights between angeloids and viruses are typically very one sided, good hackers can fight off angeloids, while the most dangerous can destroy them, or corrupt their code and take control of them.

The hacker Metatron is one of the CogNet's top ten most wanted. Metatron is believed to be a disgruntled former cybersecurity expert as he has extensive knowledge of the Angel system, including their Synapse Communication channels, weapons abilities, and shield programs. In the last bout of cyberassaults by Metatron, the hacker co-opted the Eurasian Baikanul relay to bypass a North American data black out around a serious dimensional fatigue event. A quarter billion people witnessed a class three teratomorph that resembled a woman with the upper body of a sea anemone pull a sky frigate down and apart to start eating the crew while a group of Federation Wolverines moved in and started hacking it to bloody pieces with hyperedge swords and linear guns. The Alliance attempted to regain control of their relay, but Metatron had no fewer than three angeloids holding the relay. Two were apparently of his own design and were unknown, while the third was a known and presumed destroyed angeloid, Titania-636EV. Metatron was eventually driven out and the feed was cut, but it was not until both a team of cybersecurity operatives and the security AISC Daedalus were both brought to bear.

Cyber Civil Works - The least glamorous job of the angeloid is the most pedestrian. Given the amount of space in the CogNet that they can cover, and the diagnostic tools they have, most of the time the angeloids are roving inspectors. Damaged sectors and glitching nodes are tagged for CogNet system admins to address and repair. Transfer gates, node security system, system buffers, and the rest of the technical jargon of the net is inspected, repairs are requested, attention is noted, and so forth.

The CogNet is as real as the analog world, so there are things that happen there that no one programs for, it's the environment echoing itself, generating it's own code and sim expressions, it is both profoundly amazing and terrifying. You can tell if the node is bad, because you'll see trash on the ground. It's personal data, shed by users, discarded bytes and used cookies, technically. But it looks like physical trash. Older systems look older, grainy, crumbly in places, like old brick or cracked cement. These are the sort of places that cyber adepts like, they can take it and transform it, reformat it into whatever they want. Thats where the snuff parlors and virtual dungeons are, the depraved and deviant clubs, the strange and the disturbing, and the illegal. They keep that hidden though, because there are still angels, and when they find something like a festering open air slave market, they shut it down, and then the big system sanitizers show up and reformat everything again. That's the gray. White has been actively sanitized, and it's squeaky clean and safe for the children. Gray zones haven't been sanitized as thoroughly, and there are grades. You can find gray zones everywhere, but most of them are so light gray they are almost white. Others, others start turning into the other side of the tracks, the bad part of town. It's a sliding scale.

Plot Hooks:

Background Element - anyone who spends enough time in the CogNet is going to eventually encounter and angeloid. Most of the time, they are in a shrouded or cloaked passive setting and look just like any other user. When business gets real, the disguise falls and the wings come out, then it's beam attacks and collateral damage. The average citizen is not going to see an angeloid, and in common circles they are a disputed entity. For those in shadowrunning and underground cognet ops, angeloids are one of their biggest concerns. One of these beauties can wreck a money making venture and destroy a client base.

Hunt or Hunted - Hacker PCs have to face not just general angeloid activity, but now a dedicated angel. Having pulled off a number of successful jobs, a special angel has been tasked with tracing them down and not just finding their information and identity, but also counter-hacking and destroying/damaging their hacking gear.

Rogue Angel - an angeloid has been damaged facing a sentient virus, and has herself become sentient. The angeloid retains her abilities, but is now considered a virus/corrupt program and now faces attack by her own kind. The angeloid now seeks refuge in the places that she formerly would have destroyed, and company among those she would have apprehended. Awkward.

Black Angel - ala the Metatron fluff, there is a dangerous hacker who has an angeloid as a virtual bodyguard. Anyone wanting to deal with the hacker has to deal with his black angel first.

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Comments ( 2 )
Commenters gain extra XP from Author votes.

Voted Mageek
August 1, 2016, 22:55
Looking forward to the complete sourcebook.
Voted Dragonlordmax
August 5, 2016, 21:49
I really like this one. There's enough here to give an idea of the setting, but I also think that angeloids are potentially generic enough to fit into a lot of different settings with virtual reality. The premise of VR police is, I think, a strong one, and I think that making them angelic is a nice touch. It's interesting to imagine that these might come from societies with certain cultures, and other entities might have their own "angels" with different presentations.

Lot of good food for thought here.

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