This is a one-shot episode, which takes place before the Brace the Badlands campaign. This means you don’t need to have listened to the main series, but there might be characters or events referenced which this origin story ties into.
In this episode, Gunhead (played by Jackson) is walking through the hallways beneath a large bank branch in New York City. Alongside him are Kara, a Rockergirl, and Blane, a Tech. A security guard is walking just ahead of them, directing them to the main vault door. Their in-ear agents chime off, with the familar voice of Kaboose, on the extraction team asking them to confirm they know the plan. They sound off:
- Kara confirms she will distract the guard long enough to let Blane do his work. Once inside, she will cause mayhem and steal randomly, to make it look like they weren’t after anything in particular.
- Blane acknowledges that he will need to invoke the vault door’s manual override, sealing them in and giving Gunhead time to do his thing. Once the door is closed, he will disconnect the security cameras on the walls.
- Lastly, Gunhead repeats his part of the plan, which is to disengage any localNET security, pop open the security deposit boxes, and gain access to the private vault which has the artefact they’ve been sent in to collect.
The crew arrive just in front of the vault door. The guard uses a large key to activate the mechanics of the door, which swings open, and indicates he will wait just outside for them while they tend to their business in the vault. Kara tells the crew she needs to take a “breather”, and begins to flirt with the security guard, pulling out her foldable electric guitar. Meanwhile, Blane pulls open a maintenance panel near the vault door, finding a mixture of components that will force it to close when he activates an override. Kara continues to strum her guitar, keeping the guard distracted. With a nod from Blane, they all move into position, with Kara repositioning to step through the threshold into the vault. By the time the guard realises what is happening, it is too late, and the door closes and locks shut. As the guard begins banging against the door, the crew quickly get to work on the rest of the plan.
Now locked inside, Gunhead whips out his cyberdeck and jacks into the localNET. Bypassing a password on the first level, he encounters, then takes control of a control node on the second level which administrates access to the security deposit boxes. Invoking a security override, he calls on Blane to pass him his fingers to scan into the biometrics system to open the boxes. As Blane runs around popping open the boxes, Kara begins to sift through, making it look like their search was random. Blane begins to inspect the security cameras, finding them just out of reach. Kara helps by pulling out some of the deposit boxes, which Blanes then fabricates into a makeshift ladder/step-up. Reaching up to one of the cameras, he makes quick work of it to disable it.
Back in the localNET, Gunhead drops a level and encounters a Skunk Black ICE program. The Skunk moves to attack, but Gunhead’s defensive stats (in the NET) are enough to dodge the blow. On Gunhead’s turn, he activates his sword program, landing a single, killing shot, which derezzes the Black ICE program completely. He moves downward, attempting to crack a password on the next level. The backdoor check fails, so disheartened, he decides to switch to the other branch and runs an EYE-DEE on the file in the NET. Cracking it open, he finds this is a running database of customers with deposit boxes in the vault. He quickly exports, then greps through the output to identify anyone of importance, and directs Kara to a box owned by Ronald Masteron, a well-known figure in New York City in 2042. Blane shifts to the other camera in the room, sets up his make-shift stepladder, and begins to work on dismantling it. Having too strong a smoke from his blunt, he fails to dismantle it properly. He grabs some tools, tries again and finishes it off.
Continuing to browse the localNET, Gunhead sees a Hellhound Black ICE program. Curious as to what could be behind it, he lunges in with his SWORD program. He quickly gets into battle, then destroys the running program. Blane begins to inspect a door marked “Private Vault”, and asks Gunhead to check the customer assignment list, who confirms the vault belongs to “Colomon Enterprises”. Gunhead finds a control node in a lower floor of the localNET, which looks to control a number of security systems, including access to the “Private Vault”. Cracking the floor with a control check, he now overrides the security lock to open the private vault. Inspecting the contents, Gunhead finds what looks to be an “artefact”, somewhat like an old data storage device. Kara calls Kaboose to confirm they’ve retrieved what Richmond was looking for, so he begins the extraction plan. The crew step away from the north wall in this small room, and Kaboose blows open a hole and walks through. They walk through a basement neighbouring the bank, and walk out through the back room of a convenience store. As they depart from the immediate area, Kaboose begins to head towards Richmond. Gunhead asks Kaboose to keep Richmond busy, as he needs to find out what is on the artefact before he hands it over.
A short time later, Gunhead, Kara and Blane arrive at Gunhead’s Arcology apartment. Gunhead dives through his old equipment, eventually finding gear compatible with the old-school artefact, then plugs it into his sandbox kit, which has no outside NET connections. Preparing his 2020 era kit, he activates the program that has been loaded off the artefact. Landing in a black void, filled with red and purple coloured hills, he sees a figure in the far distance and moves toward it. As he approaches, Gunhead sees the figure of a man, his body mostly transparent, who appears to be meditating. Gunhead walks up and touches him. The figure is taken aback, asking questions about what they want from him this time. Gunhead shows his confusion, asking what the virtual space he is in “is”, and the man realises Gunhead isn’t with the people that normally talk with him. He introduces himself as EYE-VAN (pronounced like IVAN). Gunhead pulls away from the sandbox, to search against the localNET for the name. After a brief search, he gets results about EYE-VAN, a known hacker during the 2020s era. He also finds an article showing EYE-VAN’s death, with an image showing him jacked into his cyberdeck, and brain seemingly fried. As Gunhead tries to process this, EYE-VAN explains that while his body and probably real mind are long dead, somebody using some advanced tech was able to capture at least part of him, and as far as he can figure he now gets traded around. Every few years he gets booted and forced to process sensitive, confidential data that can’t be trusted with AIs, then gets shut off before he finds himself at the hands of a new corp, to do it all over again. Gunhead expresses sorrow, and says he’ll find a way to help. EYE-VAN explains there are only two real options for something like him:
- Destroy the storage medium of whatever he is on, so that he can never be booted up again; or
- Upload what’s left of his consciousness to beyond the Black Wall
Gunhead indicates he would never be able to destroy the artefact, and worries that EYE-VAN wouldn’t last with the rogue AIs that roam beyond the “safe” NET. In response, EYE-VAN shows that through his meditation and the time he has had between boot-ups, his grasp of “reality” now extends far beyond just his virtual persona, as he reshapes and forms the surrounding environment in the sandbox, showcasing some of his power. Impressed, Gunhead agrees and takes off his headset to speak with Kara and Blane.
Meanwhile, Kara and Blane hear a knock at the door which causes them to investigate. Kara sees through a peephole that it’s Kaboose, and opens it. As Kaboose enters, trailing behind is Richmond, the crew’s fixer, who begins to question why they are running late and how the job went. Kara and Blane attempt to keep Richmond distracted, while Gunhead continues to talk with EYE-VAN. When Gunhead explains that he promises to find a way to get him beyond the Black Wall, EYE-VAN explains he used to have a direct jack-in to the old NET at his friend Barry’s bowling alley, though he questions if Barry is still around given how much time has passed. As Gunhead disconnects, Richmond begins to question him about the job and to have over what they recovered. Gunhead attempts to hide that they found the artefact, but Richmond indicates he’s done playing games, looking to Kaboose who has his pistol on his waist belt. Gunhead moves to disconnect the artefact, while secretly reaching for a pistol, duct taped underneath his desk. In a quick, sudden motion, Gunhead draws the pistol towards Kaboose. Richmond reluctantly backs down, as he and Kaboose leave, telling Gunhead that if he stays on the East Coast he’ll be a dead man. As they continue to push Richmond and Kaboose back out of the apartment, Kara and Blane draw their weapons, overpowering them, giving the crew a chance to run for the elevators. With a head start, they travel through New York City to reach this “bowling alley”.
Taking public transport, the crew arrive a short time later at the bowling alley, finding it packed inside because it looks to be league night. They enter and speak with an older man, who they find out is Barry, and Gunhead explains the situation regarding EYE-VAN. Barry explains that EYE-VAN favoured using a jack-in point to the old NET in one of the bowling lanes that Barry had installed, and while it has been covered over and unused should still be a hard-line to the old NET and a way to reach the Black Wall. Barry speaks with a few bowlers taking up the lane, and they bowlers move off to the bar. Gunhead prepares the artefact, along with his own equipment, to jack into the older NET architecture to move EYE-VAN across. As they begin the process, Kara and Blane spot Richmond, Kaboose and a handful of armed thugs barging into the bowling alley, beginning to search the place. Thanks to the crowded environment, they are somewhat hidden but determine it is only a matter of time before they are found. Kara approaches some of the leagues members who went to the bar, and introduces herself as the Karasmastic, from the entertainment feeds. She indicates Richmond’s crew are from a rival bowling club, and that Barry needs help to get them out of here. Riled up, the bowlers quickly move in and enter into a fistfight with Richmond and his crew.
After what feels like hours (in NET time), Gunhead and EYE-VAN approach after a long journey through cyberspace to what appears to be an infinitely high wall, cordoning off a large swathe of the old NET. As Gunhead touches it, he finds it solid and unmoving, but for EYE-VAN, in his transparent, not-fully-a-consciousness form, it appears to be more malleable, as he waves a hand through which parts for him. EYE-VAN gives a word of thanks to Gunhead for his help, and warns him to “watch everyone”, before passing through the remainder of his form through the wall. As Gunhead looks on, a relic of an old virus appears in the distance, moving in quickly to attack Gunhead. As Gunhead shouts in terror, through the wall a single lightning strike appears, de-rezzing the virus, giving Gunhead the opportunity to safely disconnect from the old NET.
Back in meatspace, Gunhead finds Kara hovering near him with her bat drawn, while Blane, wearing a league jacket, is bowling down one of the lanes. Kara and Blane update Gunhead on what’s happened while he was online, and they debate on what to do next. They decide the best solution is to slip out the back, where Barry shows them a side exit. Barry thanks Gunhead and acknowledges that (he hopes) what was left of EYE-VAN is now in a “better place”. Gunhead, Kara and Blane agree the best thing for now is to leave the East Coast to get away from Richmond. Gunhead debates on travelling to California in the near future…