Spooky Datareader


Image static%20box%2025.jpg
Description For the last few years, Metroplex University students have put together collections of scary stories as part of their Halloween festivities. With this years theme, focusing on the horrors of technology, it's only fair the presentation is a retro datareader rather than a dead tree book.

It's so retro, actually, that there aren't even controls to cycle through the stories. You just hit the button and hope it gives you a good story.

Even if the stories on it make you a technophobe, the datareader itself really makes you appreciate modern technology.
Type Offhand
Use See notes
Effects +4 Etheric Power
+1 Code Finesse


When using this item you get the message:

You press the button and are rewarded with a block of text etched in the spaces between swirls of static:

Followed by one of:

It's always the first sign, isn't it? That drone as your comm starts to go, slowly growing more audible as the months tick by?

It's not so bad, is it? Training yourself to hear around the hum, letting it drop below your conscious mind?

Have you ever wondered what other sounds you might be training yourself not to hear? The commands you're letting drop below your conscious mind?

Monday, Gamma woke up and let the maid dress her. The maid was a drone, so it never complained and always picked clothes that fit perfectly.

Then Gamma ate the maid's breakfast along with her mother. Midgard only had a few meals packaged for drone preparation, but it beat making their own scrambled eggs.

Tuesday, Gamma woke up and waited for the maid. It didn't come, so she complained bitterly and dressed herself.

Then she went downstairs and found there weren't any eggs. Her mother was already gone, so she poured herself a bowl of cereal instead.

Wednesday, Gamma's mother came into her room and demanded to know why breakfast wasn't ready. Gamma tried to explain that the drone was malfunctioning, but her mother just got angrier and angrier as Gamma dressed.

Then she found the maid sitting in her chair. She took out her frustrations on the drone, knocking it from the chair and eating another bowl of cereal over her fallen adversary.

Thursday, Gamma's mother burst in again, prodding Gamma with a pointed tool. She faintly recognized it as the maid's diagnostic scanner. Gamma shouted at her mother, but was only rewarded by more pokes.

Then she fled her mother, making her way downstairs in her pajamas and finding the maid in her chair, dressed perfectly in Gamma's clothes. She left the house without breakfast, still in her pajamas.

Friday, Gamma woke to the sound of conversation. Someone said "yes, just a glitch, be fixed in time for breakfast" followed by the whirr of an electric tool.

Then it went downstairs and prepared two packages of Midgard scrambled eggs.

Let me tell you about my friend Martina. Everybody probably has a friend like Martina, a friend who always gets your favorite band's songs the day before they come out.

So, nobody is too surprised when Martina doesn't show up for classes… even a couple days in a row. But when she doens't show up to play Shotgun Saint, you know something's wrong. So I get her RA to unlock her room.

We find her there, sitting in her usual chair . She's staring at her computer, which is no shock, but there's no pile of canned soup and bad lattes to testify to an all-nighter.

Her RA clears her throat, but Martina's got her headphones on. I tap her shoulder and she keeps staring at the screen.

The screen says "Zaibatsu Demo Track" and that it's been playing for 92 hours. I reach over Martina and hit 'stop'… I never saw her move. One second, she's ignoring me. The next, she's on top of me with her teeth digging into my neck.

If her RA hadn't been there, smashing Martina in the back of her head with that huge computer of hers, I'd be dead right now. Guarantee it.

He ran, crashing through opposing players, disabling their cyberwear and tearing off their feeble organic limbs.

With every step, he carried himself closer to the ball, tearing through anyone who stood in his way. Defensive players' cyberware was obviously inferior, tearing and gushing warm fluids at the lightest tug.

Even the cheaters with their external weapons died, one at a time, as their bullets tugged at his flesh. He died, facedown in his own blood, surrounded by Midgard Security officers who would never know he just won the Cyberbowl.

It would have been a better gift for Christmas, but who could say no to a spider at Halloween?

Mom and Dad bought Alex a new "personal defense drone" before he went out for the night. It could unfold, sink its spidery legs into anyone who threatened you, and be back in your pocket before they were done twitching.

It proved itself time and again, shocking muggers and beggers alike as he went to the clubs Beneath and came back home. It struck them down like an avenging angel, making sure Alex could get to his clubs and get his Z.

But one night, after the fourth… maybe sixth tab of Z, he felt a tickle on his back… his avenging angel getting ready to protect him. It wasn't until he was on the floor twitching that he realized what it was protecting him from.

Now Alex is a good kid. He doesn't go to the clubs, he doesn't speak up, he doesn't ask uncomfortable questions… because he can always feel the avenging angel clinging to the back of his neck.

Every night, I study drone designs. And every night I dream of twitching polysteel limbs and jumbles of wire around archaic memory cores. In other words, I'm your average engineering student here at Metroplex University.

But one night my dreams changed. I saw the inside of a warehouse and people calling for me. Commands rippled through my jumbles of wire and my twitching polysteel limbs carried me over mountains of boxes.

I defend them. I'm a hero, like the Vigilante, if the Vigilante were made out of polysteel and wire.

Every day, I find myself going to bed earlier and sleeping later, trying to gain a few more hours to defend my people. Perhaps I'm an awful student, but are grades more important than these people's lives?

I can't make myself sleep enough. First I used prescription sleeping pills. Then I branched into street drugs. Now I'm moving on to imports from Eurasia.

This shadow life of studying and parties seems so pointless now. I look at the newest shipment of Eurasia pills, worrying they'll make me sleep forever. But only because that eternal sleep may not have dreams.

She was the first in her department to get the new neural expander, which meant management's eyes were on her. It was her time to rise or fall.

Every day, she dutifully connected the expander to her work PDA, skipping ahead her coworkers in terms of productivity and quality. Even better, with her brain handling much of the PDA's processing, she hardly noticed the work day passing.

When a coworker dropped off her new PDA, she beamed. Management had already noticed! She smiled as she switched her PDAs out, connecting the new one to her expander.

Only her coworker noticed her face go slack. He leaned over to explain the virus on the "unauthorized PDA she brought in," knowing she could only hear for a few more seconds and shortly after wouldn't remember anything at all.

He'd always wanted a pet. Well, really, he'd wanted a dragon or at least a giant snake. But a dog would do.

And his new dog reminded him of the doggies that mom made at the lab. So he could pretend mom made his dog for him too, even though she couldn't be at his birthday party.

He wouldn't know when he'd see mom again, but he trained his dog so he could show her he made dogs too. He knew he could make her proud.

But when she finally came home, she wasn't proud at all. She looked scared. She said he should never talk about his dog again or bad men would take them both away.

The next day, a smiling man came. The smiling man told him that his mother wouldn't be able to come home soon, but that she was very proud of her son's dog training skills and wanted him to go to a special school.

The doctors said it was the "next breakthrough in regenerative medicine." They were right, of course, as they so often are.

Your arm was back in days, the burns faster than that. Even tiny scars from your childhood vanished like they'd never been.

They mentioned you might be hungry, of course. All that new flesh has to come from somewhere, so you celebrated your good fortune with your family and a good steak.

But even the best steak couldn't slake your hunger, not even when you ordered seconds or begged for your mother's scraps. But her hand and her arm, tough and stringy as they were… they began to sate you.

Perhaps you could have stopped then, but the steak knife slipped under her skin, leaving you full and satisfied.

It wouldn't seem like a big deal, just another neural recording from a chase scene, from back before Zaibatsu relearned how to do practical special effects.

But it was a little too rainy that day and the stunt driver missed a turn. The recording has everything until his brain gave out. Perfect viewing for Halloween, am I right?

I slotted it, feeling the curves of the road and the pressure of the turns and then… weightlessness and light and unbearable pain. I remembered dying, but when I came back, I'd never felt more alive.

Heading to the Happy Hour, I sat down to get a celebratory over/under, but somehow got a whiskey instead. I hadn't liked it before, but the burn reminded me of dying and being alive.

And, instead of leaving after a couple drinks, I danced. I danced with men and women, punks and 'clipsers.

I wasn't until I got into a fight, swinging a broken bottle at a Third Eye goon, that I realized I couldn't leave. I couldn't stop the bottle from ripping open his face any more than I could have ordered an over/under.

I was too in love with being alive again, too addicted to the rush. I'd died once, trying to make a stupid director's movie. But I was going to live again for myself.

My uncle was a cheap bastard, never wanting to pay tag price for anything. Usually he'd wait for a sale, but he'd already waited too long when his arm finally gave out.

The whole family tried to convince him to go to one of the boutique cybershops downtown. We knew he could afford it and what are you going to spend all that money on if not a new body?

But he went below instead, finding a cut-rate clinic. Some haggling later and he was the proud owner of a slightly-used cyberarm.

When my mother called him out about his wife's bruises, he blamed it on the arm. We didn't believe him until we found him one afternoon, dead at his kitchen table, polysteel hand around his own throat.

It was my first time trying a neural recording. I figured they're illegal, but so is everything else fun.

I slotted it, watching a great fencing match from inside the fencers, you know. It's all the exhilaration, plus knowing you're going to win.

But heard something. I heard a laugh like a pond's ice giving way underfoot, like an invitation to dance until you burn. I saw the laughing man, in the audience with teeth like broken glass.

And the other fencer gutted me. He gutted me like a fish. I felt everything. I felt every bone and muscle give way as he ripped through me with a dull blade.

When I came to, my friends said I'd been laughing like I'd been dying and that I thought it was the funniest thing ever. I don't touch recordings anymore, but every once in a while, I hear that laugh. I hear that invitation and I want to dance.

The doctors promised him their neuralware was far safer than organic nerves and his new neuralware effectively indestructible. He took their confidence with a grain of salt, but couldn't afford anything breaking down out in the wild.

After the mandatory bed rest, he returned to work maintaining power infrastructure between the corp states. It was grim work, fighting off scavengers as much as performing actual repairs, but his new nerves served him well.

He started to get a reputation as indestructible, bouncing back after any injury. Soon the local leeches were moving on, out of his territory. But their leader had a plan to keep her subjects and maintain her power.

She didn't know the source of his strength or whatever weakness it might have, but broke a power line and set traps all around. He avoided all of them except one: a hidden pit, walls slick with petrol.

He burned in the fire like any man would, flesh charring away and cybernetics failing in the heat. All his cybernetics, that is, except for that indestructible neuralware.

No, that lies in the bottom of the pit, forgotten by everyone. It can only wait, reliving those last few moments of flame to convince itself it's still alive, something more than raw nerves splayed across the charred sand.


Halloween Fundraisers


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