Tuesday, September 17, 2013

SUETHULU: We Do Something Significant, part 2

Last time, we had Kevlar, acquired via heist. Now we needed nets, and of course it would take several days to tie them apparently. Bear in mind, the nets we wanted were tied with square knots, these being the easiest we could think of; my knowledge of ropework does not extend very far into nets, I'm afraid. Nonetheless, manual tying was out; we needed a machine.

Obviously nanofabrication couldn't help, and trawling doesn't happen anymore so we can't use a trawl net machine. Apparently commercial fishing is now done entirely via angling regardless of species, because what's efficiency? Regardless, the only kind of net we could come up with that had the right characteristics was a volleyball net -- and, finally, Marty admitted that people still play volleyball. However, there is only one factory making nets for the entire volleyball-playing NEG, and it's run by Chrysalis. It's also "about the size of a high school gymnasium, because there isn't all that much demand these days." Across the entire NEG, mind you. Nonetheless, we wander down to look at it, off in the sort of suburbs outside of the arcology. Are there security cameras? And here, Marty actually pulls out a pre-prepared sheet of notes that I can only assume were for a much more important installation:

"Of course there are. There are cameras on every door, at regular intervals along the walls, and pointing back at the windows. There are frames with multiple cameras on them pointing the same way to foil the old spin-the-camera trick. There are infrared cameras, ultraviolet cameras, nightvision, radar, and a dozen other systems you all can't even comprehend, all overlapping and looking at each other. You count at least two hundred cameras, and those are just the ones you can see--and some of them are turning to stay trained on you with telescopic lenses."

I know sports has a lot of money in it, but this is a bit excessive. This is a greater investment in security than in the facility itself; he maps out the cameras we can see, and there is no approach not covered to quadruple redundancy at least. Then I look at the roof. It's clear, and when we look from the arcology we can confirm that it's clear. That, then, is plan A: get a truck over the building at night, then HALO down. Rather than interfering with the cameras, we'll just use a modified Fulton skyhook to get back up, nets in tow; the plan called for a bit of cunning with the parachutes and skyboards to dodge around tall bits of the suburbs while the winch was reeling us in. I had perhaps been too enamored of Saints' Row III at the time to plan sensibly, but hey, it might have worked, and it avoided the problem of having an air truck stop in midair to facilitate our operation.

Now, when I proposed it to Marty, he agreed with me that, in theory, the tricky bit where we're dodging chimneys via inverted parasail could, in theory, work, given the forces involved. I was expecting him to quibble over how readily our characters could pull it off, but no, he had another plan to shut us down entirely: neither the skyhook nor the parachutes existed anymore. "What use could they possibly be when all the intelligence services are unified? James Bond shit like that is for the Cold War, man." Well then. I shall ignore James Bond shit henceforth. Plan B: I tie a big bag of water to a long rope, we rappel down that, we untie the bag and the truck goes off. New truck comes in, same deal (we wanted to dump our ballast into the sewer system) we all clip onto it, and it makes a sharp turn upward to get us out of the danger zone. We'll figure out how to get off later. By our math, there was even a new moon coming up; with any luck, it'll hide the truck and we can explain away the weird flight pattern later.

"There's no air traffic over Chicago."

WHAT. Wonderful thing about Skype: it keeps records of everything. Like all the time you spent describing the hive of air traffic over Chicago, Marty.

"Uh, clearly there's no air traffic over Chicago at night. It'd be much too difficult to avoid hitting anything."

He's stammering and flop-sweating now, and nothing makes any sense. Wonderful; I'm past giving a crap. If we can't go from above, how about from below? Hop into the sewers and use these freaky hyperedge goes-through-anything-like-butter monomolecular blades to cut a path to- "The sewer lines don't run that way." Well, then can we - "And that's exactly why the security system has seismometers."

Wait wait. People are so willing to tunnel through the foundation for a stupid machine that their security system includes seismometers? I could grow to like these people; they're engagingly insane. And no, we couldn't just go invisible. "Metamaterial? What? What kind of Harry Potter bull**** is this? Okay, clearly we don't have it now, and I'm assuming whatever problem they have with putting it everywhere now is still keeping them from doing it." Unfortunately, that rules out all my plans but one: involving Ian. He had exactly one invisibility spell that "might" work on the full spectrum, and it almost always fatigued him nearly to unconsciousness to use. On this occaision, it stopped short of full-on unconsciousness, and he made it to the inexplicably external cable hookup to insert Jin's best technomagical spy gadget and loop the camera footage -- after many, many Security rolls and other things that apparently needed a sidebar conference to resolve. Then we all just walk in. To this day I don't know why that suddenly worked.

Anyway, he started going on about the power usage monitors and so forth, and I point out that we brought batteries.

"You didn't bring powerful enough batteries."

We had, in fact, brought twelve class-3 D-cells. Combined, they could run a car for a few weeks. Apparently "this is a major piece of industrial machinery, dude. It takes several kiloamps of current to run." I'm not asking it to fly itself into orbit, Marty, I'm asking it to tie some goddamn knots. Ultimately, though, when we finally calculate the capacity of D-cells, we actually have enough. "Barely." Well great; I'll just plug them into the inverter and-

"You have no idea how to operate the machine."

Well, that's no problem. Where's the operating manual? Presumably they keep a copy somewhere. I admit, I'm going off laboratory experience here, but generally there are manuals for everything; heck, we keep ours in a bright orange binder so they're easier to track down. If not an operating manual, can I maybe find a maintenance handbook or a safety sheet or something?

"Nothing of the sort exists; that would be an unforgivable security breach. The operation of these machines is on a need-to-know basis, and Blackspire certainly doesn't need to know. Likewise, spare parts are cheap; why would there be a maintenance or safety thing? A bad worker is more likely to damage himself than the machine."

Charming. Okay, how many rolls do I have to make before I can emulate knowing a relatively straightforward skill?

It turns out to be hundreds, and every single one I fail either hurts me or leaves "very obvious" tool marks on the machine. Marty, you're flinging people at this thing with no training; it should be covered in tool marks. Security checks to unscrew the access panels, Repair to unplug it and plug it into my inverter, Engineering to wind each individual bobbin, on and on until I'm rolling Repair for components demonstrably not in the machine. There are neither Tesla coils nor pumps nor lasers nor elevons in a goddamn loom, Marty. This is not the TARDIS, this is a machine normal human beings designed to perform a specific and fairly mundane task. It ties knots in a grid.

Nonetheless, two hours later the Kevlar is loaded, and I push "what [I] think might be the power button." It works, but apparently it is "very loud. About 300 dB. You all have severe trouble hearing each other." Marty did not ever take a course in sound, apparently. That is...very loud indeed. That's not even sound anymore. Apparently tying knots creates more noise than nuclear detonations. We didn't suffer much either; we should have been liquefied at the very least, but instead it was just hard to hear and everyone took a -5 penalty to all actions. For being under two hundred thousand atmospheres of pressure, that's impressively generous.

Or maybe Marty just didn't know how decibels worked.

Regardless, it took two hours to make a few dozen meters of volleyball net, which struck me as needlessly slow. We ended up having to cut it off at 80x4 meters for time's sake, but thankfully we'd been cutting it as we went so it was all wrapped up, tied to the tractors (we used bolts) and stuffed in the cylinders. Since the packing peanuts were apparently completely inflammable and unsuitable as filler for the coffee, we used them as wadding instead.

As Ian, Darya, and I worked by flashlight on the nets, Jin broke into and futzed around with the office supercomputer. Yes, a netting factory has a supercomputer. Why? Who knows anymore.

It might occur to you, as it did to me, that we may have accidentally broken into the Chrysalis equivalent of the Utah Data Center because we needed to borrow their legitimate business front. I wish I could say we did; it would handily explain a lot from the institutionalized delusions of grandeur to the staggering technical incompetence. Sadly, this "really is just a netting factory, dude. Chrysalis takes security seriously." Jin found nothing on their computer, too, although "accessing any of the files instantly deletes them no matter what you do, so they can tell someone has messed with their system." That must make legitimate use of the system fun.

Come to think of it, this might be why he never understood Shadowrun very well, or indeed any other game with a strong infiltration element: it may never have occured to him that security needs to compete with usability. He's done it in other games, too, where we've had such things as computers with passwords no one knows -- and, here, the stupid ten-minute access door delay. "Better" security is always harder to access, until the most secure facilities are launched unmanned into the Sun and never spoken of again. This is a guy who will laugh at the "shoddy" security at the local dump, because they let trucks in without scanning all the garbage for infiltrators. But then, sensible security would detract from the gamism, so what do I know?

Anyway, Jin went and put a smattering of Blackspire-issued bugs into little nooks and crannies in the walls, just as a precaution, while the rest of us cleaned up after ourselves, re-threaded the machine with nylon and verified over and over again that we hadn't left any trace of our presence. Then, as soon as we left and invisible Ian removed the technomagic bug: "You all can't keep being so obvious, you know. Chrysalis will figure you out if you keep going, if only because of the pattern emerging from your crimes." Jin fields this one, actually. "Uh,[Marty]? We're the government, remember? We haven't committed any crimes, just minor acts of eminent domain and a quick warrantless search and seizure." Then things got ugly. I'll spare the politics, but in essence: Marty likes government, and we don't. Naturally, rather than agreeing to disagree --or getting the joke-- Marty has to "prove" the inherent rightness of dogmatic jingoism. With sound bites! When he runs out, he changes the subject: the meeting's been moved up, and we've lost twelve hours of prep time.

Now, my first reaction is to run, especially since they deliver this directly to our public PCPUs, which means they know who we are. If they're confident enough to mess with us like this, they have a plan, and in any case we won't be ready; we don't have nearly enough coffee, for one thing. Marty doesn't let Cael respond in the negative to the time change. "I'm not going to accept that action." It took a while, but we finally hit an invisible wall, right where it'd knock my plan into a cocked hat.

He never explained it to the group at large, as far as I know, but he did explain it to me, while I lingered afterwards in the conference room trying to work out how to pack everything into half the time: "the Auditors have been taking over the easing of the future, now that the Scions have given up; they left Cael a message saying as much, but I never got around to telling you." Wait. The Auditors of Reality!?! "[Vamp!Marty] is very persuasive to sufficiently rational people."

Okay, so Marty's got the Auditors of Reality on his side, and they're already here. Yeah, still not passing this on; I am NOT going to drag Discworld though this. The only thing this did was infuriate me.

Time to get very, very creative.


  1. "[Vamp!Marty] is very persuasive to sufficiently rational people."

    "Technically, you're not at a sufficient level of rationality if you're rational enough to realise Marty is an awful horrible moron." - Georgie Leech

  2. Now, now, decibels are an arbitrary measurement that is worthless without a reference point. That is why a lot of the time it is written as dBm, the reference point is 1 milliwatt. With a sufficiently small reference point, 300 dB could be as loud as a pin drop. Of course it would be pretty stupid to use such a reference point, as dB was invented to avoid having to use large numbers to show the change in level. As an example, going from 0.001 watt to 1 watt is a 30 dBW change, as is going from 1 watt to 1000 watt. Because the ratio is the same, so is the decibels.

    TL;DR: I don't want to believe the stupid coming from CC so I justify why 300 dB isn't really that loud.

  3. I realise that at this point in time I should know better, but:


    Why is there even security at the net making factory? No-one cares. If three people get inside your facility and use your machine with power they supply themselves to tie knots in material they provided themselves, WHY DO YOU FUCKING CARE? Better yet, why haven't you turned the whole factory into a knot-tieing service provider? That seems like it'd get you more money than net-making for a sport apparently so few people care about anymore.

    Also, when you say "local dump", do you mean your own, real-life local dump? Does Marty really expect people to spend ridiculous amounts of time and money scanning for people trying to get into a place that you only have to store stuff people throw away anyway?

    1. There usually has to be basic security for insurance/liability reasons, and technically what we were doing did wear down their machine. It's just that at some point, you're paying more for security than you would pay to replace whatever was damaged by break-ins over the operational life of the factory.

    2. What insurance? There's not even MAINTENANCE and "spare parts are cheap." And by Marty's own admission, no-one cares anyway. You should've looked for the machine's self-destruct button after you were done. I mean, the FILES self-destruct, I'm sure the machine can be easily turned into high explosive too.

      Of course, that would leave the world without any way to make knots...

    3. I see you've spotted the glaring flaw in my desperate attempt to give Chief even miniscule credit.

  4. "...why would there be a maintenance or safety thing? A bad worker is more likely to damage himself than the machine."


    1. Marty probably assumes safety manuals are there for the safety of the machine, not the people, so that dirty workers don't damage their benevolent overlord's valuable property. The safety manuals are so that people don't fall into the machine and damage it, not so they don't fall into the machine and get hurt. But if parts are super-cheap, you don't need the safety manuals any more, because it no longer matters if people get mangled in the machine, repairing it is a snap!

      I really have no words for how disgusting of a human being Marty is. I'm actually ashamed to categorize him as a human being. He's more like sentient glue.

  5. See, the last part hurts. Dragging Diskworld into this mess causes me physical pain.

    1) Diskworld is a comedic setting. Mixing it with 'hard' settings will never end well. Ever.
    2) You cannot negotiate with the Auditors, because you have nothing they want. This is because the only thing they want is for everything to stop being alive and go back to orbiting stars like good matter. It is irrelevant how persuasive you are. If it were possible for them to want something they could create it out of thin air. They did it in thief of time. Furthermore, assisting Marty would be against the rules. Auditors do not break the rules. If it might cause mass extinction then they may bend the rules, but they will not break them. Ever. This is literally antithetical to their existence.

    1. To be fair I can't imagine any scenario where Marty "succeeds" that isn't functionally a wasteland/completely stagnant and lifeless, and if it helps, they could have faked helping him in order to sabotage his efforts (so let him get overconfident until he reaches out and does something stupid without prepping with his god powers, like say talking to an eldrich horror without somehow making him immune?

      (I have yet to get around to diskworld despite repeatedly being told to, sorry)

  6. " packing peanuts were apparently completely inflammable and unsuitable as filler for the coffee, we used them as wadding instead."
    "completely inflammable"
    Now, this is kind of a problem with English, but...
    inflammable (Adjective)
    1. Capable of burning; easily set on fire.


  7. "Nothing of the sort exists; that would be an unforgivable security breach. The operation of these machines is on a need-to-know basis, and Blackspire certainly doesn't need to know. Likewise, spare parts are cheap; why would there be a maintenance or safety thing? A bad worker is more likely to damage himself than the machine."