The C-9 V.R.I.D.
by John Myers
Art by Clifford Vanmeter
The C-9 is a TL-9 V.R.I.D. (Virtual Reality Interface Device), designed in a TL-7 world. It is the predecessor of what will one day be known as the cyber-deck (though it is far better in many ways than a normal cyber-deck). It connects to the user through metal probes placed on the user's temples. The device doesn't seem to need a phone line to work. After a few seconds connected to the machine, the user will find himself a place that feels strangely familiar, yet with some disturbing quality to it, like a city where all the buildings have a bio-mechanical Gigeresque look to them, or a gothic Victorian setting with crawling mist. The people who walk the streets completely ignore the user.
After 10 minutes exploring the area, the user will realize that it is just a visual metaphor for a giant communications network linking all the databases in the world (this realization takes half the time if the user is familiar with computers). In the the above examples, each building represents a database, with each room representing a specific subject. The rooms all contain information to search through. The user will find that it is exceptionally easy to break into secured databases (in fact, it's only a matter of time, 3d6 min.) and to decrypt files (1d6 min.). Not to mention that data transfer happens at twice the speed of any system the user has ever tried.
But here's the catch (there's always a catch): the device works so miraculously because it uses the operator's brain as a co-processor. It sends bio-electric signals to the user's thalamus gland, which is the reason for the horrific setting; the system provides stimulation through fear. The human mind works faster under stress, so the system speeds up.
For every minute the character is "logged on," make a Fright Check. A failed Fright Check means rolling on the table below. Using the C-9's higher functions causes the device to create a stronger fear reaction. Every minute while decrypting or decoding the user must make a Fright Check, adding the number of minutes worked to his Will roll. The longer a person uses the higher functions of the C-9, the more likely he is to end up rolling on the Fright Check chart.
"Hey guys, look what I found!" - One of the characters finds the device ("wow, now we can break any system!"), but every time he uses it he has a feeling that he's being watched. The device is an alien invention. The aliens can't use it becuase their physiolgy/psycholgy prevents them from directly access the network. They need a human to interface with the world's info-net. Once the device has destroyed the user's mind, they make him their spy.
"The Network": The device was created by the network.
If the network is run by computers: the device is used to enslave the humans' minds and make them malleable tools.
If the network is run by humans: the device is used to lure talented hackers and take control of them.
Failed Fright Check Table
Roll 3d61-9 20 pt. phobia (GM's discretion)
10-12 30 pt. mental disadvantage (GM's discretion)
13-16 Addicted to using the C-9 (20 points)*
17-18 Brain Becomes mush, user will die if she is removed from the C-9,
IQ is reduced to 3
* (it's legal, debilitating and totally addictive)
Article publication date: July 31, 1998
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