Probe 10.0 tells me an ICE's strength, as well as whether there's an AI behind it.
...and so I continued my push towards Neuromancer’s climax, with not the slightest clue what my character’s motives really were. I really thought that by this point I would have some reason to be hacking into all these bases and defeating AIs, but I really didn’t. It was particularly unclear when I considered that a) I was now very rich and so had no real reason to continue down the path of a criminal and b) that I’d made it to Gridpoint, which was the original task I received from Matt Shaw during my first gaming session. Clearly I was on the way to attempting to bring down both Greystoke and Neuromancer, but the reasons why were not at all clear in the game. Anyway, let’s get to it! The next base I discovered was the International Security Agency. I’d not visited it earlier in the game, so all four menu options were of interest to me: 1. Codebreaker, 2. Data Traffic Schedule, 3. Skill Upgrade and 4. Software Library. The Codebreaker section acted the same way that my own Cryptology skill did, asking me what word I wanted to decode. There was only one encoded password that I’d not been able to decode with my level 2 Cryptology skill, and that was EINHOVEN, the second level access password to Bank Gemeinschaft. I was able to decode it here (VERBOTEN), although it was now completely useless as I could access it through cyberspace anyway.
Better late than never!
The Data Traffic Schedule was a list of daily transmissions between various bases, along with what type of traffic they contained and whether or not the INSA was monitoring them. There may have been a reason why I needed to know that (for example) there was a data transfer made between Fuji Electric and Tozoku at 1500 hours, and that the INSA were not monitoring that transmission, but I couldn’t figure it out. I took screenshots of all of the transmissions, just in case I figured out how they might be useful later. The Skill Upgrade section held an upgrade for the Cryptology skill, taking it to level 4. I upgraded my skill, but I couldn’t see how it might benefit me at this stage of the game. Finally, the Software Library section contained ArmorAll 3.0, Hammer 6.0, Logic Bomb 3.0, Injector 5.0 and DoorStop 4.0. All of these were new to me, so I added them all to my deck, removing Hammer 5.0 and DoorStop 1.0 in the process. The most useful of them would have to have been ArmorAll 3.0, but LogicBomb 3.0 and DoorStop 4.0 were fine additions to my ICE breaking warez. I moved onto to the next base, which was the Bank of Zurich. There were no new access levels to this base, so there was nothing new to explore. I did download the $30000 I’d recently transferred from Bank Gemeinschaft though, taking my total cash back up to $460906.
My awesomeness increases!
I was rapidly hacking through one base after another at this point, with little concern for dying since I was so powerful. I continued to save my game regularly though, as I never knew when I was going to face off against an AI, and potentially one with no discernible weakness. The next base I broke into was Nihilist, which once again was a base I hadn’t been aware of previously. There were three menu options there, being 1. Statement of Purpose, 2. Philosophical Diatribe and 3. Software Library. The first section was a fairly long explanation about why the Nihilist base was created. “In short, we desire complete and utter change. Change to the truth.” It went on to criticise the false realities created by the media and listed their purpose as “to combat this misrepresentation of the world. How will we do that? We offer warez that will put the lie to these truths.” The second section was a very long definition of what it means to be a nihilist. I won’t go into it all, but the first two sentences pretty much sum it up. “What is Nihilism? Nihilism is the belief that society is so bad it must be destroyed for its own sake.” These two sections may not have offered much of use, but the software library sure did. It contained Python 5.0, Slow 4.0, Acid 3.0 and Logic Bomb 3.0. Slow 3.0 had already made ICE breaking relatively easy. Version 4.0 made it a walk in the park!
I have to say, I've learnt about a few unexpected topics while playing this game.
It was at this point that I started hitting zone 6 bases. I’d actually run into a couple earlier by mistake and got absolutely crushed by the ICE, but now I was prepared. I hacked into KGB without any trouble at all, with the Slow 4.0 - Jammies 3.0 - ArmorAll 3.0 combo making me pretty much invulnerable. However, once the ICE was broken down, I was faced with an AI called Lucifer! “You dare to confront Lucifer? Eat hot brain death, you capitalist worm!” Thankfully the first skill I used on him was Logic, and that turned out to be his weakness. I was then able to take him down without coming close to death! “Fear me. I am Lucifer. You too will die. But right now, I’m going to die.” That might have sounded threatening in his head, but it really didn’t give me much cause for fear. I was then in the KGB base, which I found stands for Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti (Wikipedia confirmed that the KGB I was aware of is the very same). There was no menu, with only a message describing the real threat that Artificial Intelligences are to society, and then a software library. Not just any software library though! This was the biggest collection of awesome warez I’d come across in the game, by far! Slow 5.0, ArmorAll 4.0, LogicBomb 6.0, Concrete 5.0, Depth Charge 8.0, Probe 15.0, Injector 5.0 and Jammies 4.0!!!! That was everything I needed to be a God in cyberspace!
It was sounding so threatening until you dropped the ball at the end there. Better luck next time!
I totally revamped my deck, getting rid of all my now redundant bits of software, and filling up the rest with Injector, Acid and Python 5.0’s. Nothing was going to stop me now, and I eagerly pushed on and discovered my first zone 7 base, Tessier-Ashpool. As expected, the ICE simply couldn’t stand up to my power, and once again I was confronted by another pitiful AI that would almost certainly be my next victim. Well, by the time I figured out that his weakness was Sophistry, I was just about dead. Moments later and I was restoring my game, having been utterly smashed! I tried again, confident that knowing his weakness going into the fight would result in victory. It didn’t. Not even close! Despite my ever-growing confidence, it seemed I wasn’t ready for zone 7, as none of my awesome warez could make any difference if my AI affecting skills weren’t up to scratch. Unfortunately, the next two bases I discovered were also zone 7, yet while the first one (Phantom) had a similar result, the second one caused something very interesting to happen! Once I’d broken through the ICE protecting the Allard Technology base, I found myself staring at a very fiery looking AI. “About time you showed up...” I prepared to fight a battle I would inevitably lose, but instead suddenly found myself staring at my character standing on a beach!!!!
Um...arrived where exactly?!
I was baffled to say the least, but went with it. There was a man standing nearby, who at first seemed friendly. “Ah, I see you have arrived safely. Good, this pleases me. When first I saw what was unfolding I feared Greystoke’s plans to dominate the Matrix would come to fruition. He claimed all cyberspace cowboys were innocent interlopers, but I realized his fear of you gave me a way to aid in his destruction. I believe you would agree he needed to be destroyed. You did it. You are to be praised. You have done well.” WTF???!!! Firstly, who the hell was this guy standing next to me? Where was I? Was this a real place or an artificially created reality? Most importantly though, I hadn’t destroyed Greystoke yet! It dawned on me that I might have broken the story, similar to the way I did near the start of Mean Streets, but to a much greater extent. I read on to see if I could figure out what was going on. “This is why I have brought you to this place. You see, you have proved yourself far more capable than even I would have guessed when I first started sending you messages as Matt Shaw. You danced perfectly to the tune I called. Like a marionette you raced throughout the Matrix and that complex abstraction of reality you call the world, doing my bidding. I do not doubt, as you accomplished tasks that earned you accolades of your fellow cowboys, and caused little news items to be published in the PAX, that your heart was fair to bursting with self-importance.”
I did? Um...actually, I really don't think I did!
Was this Neuromancer talking to me, projecting a human-like image into my brain? So all this time Matt Shaw, who claimed to be my friend from the very beginning, never actually existed?! I had a feeling things were about to get nasty! “Let me burst that little bubble for you, you cockroach! If not for me needing a gullible pair of legs to do my bidding, I would have destroyed you long ago. If not for my aid your bumbling attempts at warring with databases would have ended up with you being dead. Recall all the messages from me that you saw in the AIs you slew? Those had supercode message imbedded in them that slowed the AIs’ reactions to give you a chance. Without me you would have flatlined ages ago. Why haven’t I killed you? I am not without gratitude to you for the things you have done. You killed AIs. A task which would have revealed my hand too soon. For this alone I would let you live, and toward that end I have created this wonderland as a prison designed to specifically hold your puny intellect. Good bye, cowboy.” Neuromancer, if indeed that’s who he was, then disappeared, leaving me standing on the beach, if it could be called that, with nowhere to go. I quickly saved my game, as I noticed my constitution running down rapidly.
I started randomly using my skills for no other reason than not knowing what else to do. I believe it was my use of Philosophy that caused Dixie Flatline to speak up: “Good job! I never woulda thought of that, which is probably why I’m dead.” Thought of what exactly? How did my Philosophy skill help to get me out of my predicament? Regardless, I was thrust back into cyberspace and forced to go toe to toe with Neuromancer in his virtual form. “How could you have escaped the Island?!” I had no idea either, but I began throwing all my skills at him, feeling like the end of the game could be approaching. I guess I wasn’t overly surprised when none of my skills made a dent, and I died a quick and thoroughly confused death. I sat back and had a think about everything I’d just experienced. Clearly I'd just seen what was intended to be the climax of the game, but I shouldn’t have been there yet from a skill (or story for that matter) point of view. Since I hadn’t been able to defeat any of the AIs guarding the three zone 7 bases I’d found, I figured I must have missed an opportunity to increase my Logic, Phenomenology, Philosophy and Sophistry skills. I restored and began sweeping cyberspace one row at the time, checking my spreadsheet to make sure I’d visited each and every base I came across. Eventually I found the base I’d missed, and it was Maas Biolabs, a zone 6 base guarded by an AI!
Not sure how I missed this base the first time. I went straight past it!
“Time to die, meat pie” was all he had to say before we stuck it to each other. Phenomenology turned out to be his weakness, and defeating him increased my skills to a level I hoped would get me through the other AIs I previously couldn’t beat. The Maas Biolabs base had three menu options, being 1. CyberEye Report, 2. Security Report and 3. Security Systems. The CyberEye Report section described the company’s latest creation, “a cyberspace superdeck capable of being implanted directly into the user’s head and making use of the unlimited RAM in the owner’s cerebrum.” It was called CyberEyes...and I wanted one! The Security Report section described the security system in the Chiba City research and development facility, which utilised a normal Lawbot alarm system and a Guard Virus that “is released into the air of the facility after the last employees leave each evening”. I’d walked past the Maas Biolabs facility many times while playing the game, but it had always been locked. I had a fair idea how I would survive the air-based virus that protected the facility, as I’d discovered early on that Julius Deane was selling gas masks. I entered the Security Systems section, hoping to unlock the front doors of the building, and discovered that’s exactly what I could do there! I turned the Lawbot Alarm OFF and then set the Main Entrance to UNLOCKED, then left cyberspace, bought the gas mask from Julius, and headed across the road to the facility.
The second half of the game might hav bene repetitive, but it still threw up a few exciting developments.
It had been so long since I’d entered a new location in the real world; it was very refreshing to be able to do so. A message popped up on my screen as soon as I did though: “Warning! You are entering an area protected by bioengineered defensive agents!” Thankfully I’d put my gas mask on, as it served two purposes. “Although I can’t identify you through the gas mask, I have deduced that you are Doctor Yomiuri. Do you wish to test the CyberEyes implantation system, Doctor?” I answered “Yes” of course, and was then asked whether I was to be the test subject. I answered in the affirmative once again, and the CyberEyes superdeck was implanted into my brain! “Thank you for stopping by, Doctor. I get lonely sometimes.” I now had a deck with no RAM limitations! To be honest I don’t think I really needed one, as my Cyberspace VII deck held more than enough warez, but it was cool nonetheless. With my upgraded skills and deck, it was time to see whether I could take down the remaining zone 7 AIs. I jacked back into cyberspace and made my way to the Tessier-Ashpool base. My skills now did much more damage, and I was able to defeat him with little trouble. “Now I’m a ghost, whispering to a child who will soon die.” Awesome!!!! That victory meant that my skills were upgraded once again (they were at about 10 by now), and it also gave me access to two menu options in the base: 1. 3JANE’S Semiotics Essay and 2. AI Message Buffer.
Yeah, why not!
The essay was written by someone named Lady 3Jane Marie-France. The Tessier-Ashpool bust in Villa Straylight had spouted stuff about Marie-France, but I hadn’t made any sense of it at the time. I couldn’t make much of the essay either, but it seemed to explain the reasons why Villa Straylight was built on Freeside. “Tessier and Ashpool climbed the well of gravity to discover that they loathed space. They built Freeside to tap the wealth of the new islands, grew rich and eccentric, and began the construction of an extended body in Straylight.” It was all interesting stuff, but I couldn’t see how any of it was going to help me in my self-designated task. The AI Message Buffer section had two messages, both to Wintermute. So that was Wintermute that I just took out! The first message was from Greystoke, questioning Wintermute’s decision to side with Neuromancer. “My plan cannot fail. I can even alter the Turing records to keep them away until it’s too late. All who oppose me will cease to exist --- I hope you are not one of them.” The second message was from Neuromancer, warning Wintermute about Greystoke. “Greystoke is continuing to expand his influence in the matrix. To draw attention away from his activities, he is raiding corporate systems to make it appear that cyberspace cowboys have increased their efforts. He has also managed to take over the minds of some cowboys for his own ends. In a sense, he is doing the work I would otherwise have to do. But he is a strange AI, and seems to be unstable.”
I'm not really any clearer about who the Tessier-Ashpool race is after reading this essay on who the Tessier-Ashpool race is.
I moved onto the Phantom base, where I faced off against the second zone 7 AI. He announced himself with the words “Pawn to King-four”, which made it pretty obvious that his weakness was going to be Logic (as it was for Morphy). He had no chance of surviving my skill onslaught, and I quickly found myself perusing the Phantom base’s two sections: 1. Hello 2. Software Library. The Hello section was filled with ponderings regarding how safe and easy drifting through cyberspace used to be, and how it had become dangerous and quiet. It got pretty weird though: “You probably want to know who I am. I’ve almost forgotten what my name was, and me, well, we never knew what her designation was. I think I was Victor. YOU WERE VICTOR LAVASKA. YOU CHOSE TO FORGET AFTER PALOS MORPHY KILLED HIMSELF AT THE SAME AGE YOU WERE WHEN WE FIRST MET. All right, you don’t have to nag me. I called you Galatea, but now we are more than we were apart. What is it that Greystoke called us? THE PHANTOM. HE SAYS WE HIDE BECAUSE WE ARE A MISSHAPEN CREATURE – NEITHER HUMAN NOR AI.” It goes on and on in this nonsensical way, with clearly two personas having a conversation about their singular existence or lack of. The most critical part was “Greystoke must be stopped. We have his shotgun program, you must find and terminate him before it is too late.” I then discovered a piece of software called Hemlock 1.0 in the software library, which I eagerly added to my deck!
Who doesn't want a shotgun program!?
Could this be the key to bringing down Greystoke in the Musabori base? I raced over there, smashed the ICE, and fired away with Hemlock 1.0! “No! This cannot be happening! Damn u, eye shud uv kilt U when de chance.” As simple as that, Greystoke was no more!!!! It was time to figure out why it was so important to get him out of the way. There were two new menu options on the Musabori base. 1. Software Library and 2. AI Message Buffer. The software library contained only one piece of software, which was called Kuang Eleven 1.0. I had no idea what it was, but downloaded it anyway. Perhaps it would help me defeat Neuromancer? The AI Message Buffer contained two messages to Greystoke. The first one was from Chrome, telling Greystoke not to “be contemptuous of tricky. This one is different.” Too bad he didn’t listen! The second message was from Neuromancer, announcing that he would listen to Greystoke’s plan. “I await the data transfer to see if your arguments have become any more intelligent, or are just more of the same bellicose posturing I have seen previously.” Well, there were no further bases to explore apart from Allard Technology where Neuromancer awaited me. I had to believe that Kuang Eleven 1.0 would allow me to defeat the alpha male AI.
You have been Hemlocked!
I broke down the ICE protecting Allard Technology, and then read through the beach scene again. Strangely, when it came time to escape from captivity, Philosophy didn’t work. I now think the player needs to use three different skills to get out, although it doesn’t appear to matter which ones and in which order. Anyone know for sure? Once out, I flung Kuang Eleven 1.0 at Neuromancer as soon as he appeared. His response didn’t fill me with confidence: “Ha! I’ve been waiting for that one, you pathetic human.” He was bluffing though, as the rest of my skills on top took him down easily. “No, this is impossible. You cannot… CHECK SUM… have defeated me. My plan was perfect…OVERFLOW ERROR… and I am invincible. I used you!... DEVICE NOT FOUND… I owned you! You were dirt before my… I/O ERROR… efforts shaped you into what you are… MEMORY FAILURE IN CORE 432… No. I cannot die. I must survive! I… PARITY ERROR – CORE FAILURE… will find a way to revenge myself! ABORT RETRY (Y/N)…REBOOT… %#$*()##!$*()! I am done… MATRIX VERSION 94.56 ON LINE.” Neuromancer was dead!!! I was a bit stunned at first, having spent close to two months playing and posting about this game. All that was left to do was collapse back into my chair and read the outro, basking in my victory!
The big baddie, about to die!
“Sharp fragments of Neuromancer’s exploding consciousness rake razor talons through your brain. You recoil from this final attack, but even before the echoes of pain ripple through your skull, the sensation ends. The hissing haze in your brain clears and you find the Matrix more utterly still and lifeless than ever before. You reach out with your mind yet across the unmeasurable expanse you sense nothing. You are alone and the absolute master of all you survey. Then, slowly, the other Matrix users come on-line. The cold, sterile feeling and the sense of menace you had experienced before evaporates. The Matrix awakens, life pulsing through silicon veins once again. Data transfers scream through the ether and the characteristic thunder of ICE being cracked on database rings in your ears. The Matrix is alive again, safe once more because of your efforts. In a world where knowledge is power and the skill to use it separates hackers from cowboys, you have no equal. Tricky will live forever in the RAM caches and on the WORMs of the Matrix. The End.”
It felt like tricky would indeed live forever in the Matrix for a while there!
Session Time: 2 hours 00 minutes
Total Time: 19 hours 30 minutes