What Is Cracking?

(Cracking, pt. 3)

Cracking is a bit of cyberpunk virtual reality hacking added to the GiTO mix. It’s a way for mages to steal data from computers (or add data to, or take control of) solely through magical means.

I’ve covered the metaphysics of this in depth, but a quick recap: computers create nodes in the shadow world. Shadow walkers can enter these nodes and “use” the computer, as if they were sitting at it. Magical access grants them super-user privileges. (To the uninitiated, that means they can do the hell they want.) They don’t need to know passwords, they don’t need to know programming, they don’t need to know the specifics of the interface, they don’t need to hack anything.

Magical access just works — the walker can just sense the information, the way you can sense your hands. They just know it, without having to think about it. (Not all of it at once, you have to focus on specific bits.) It’s pretty trippy, it’s like the data is part of you.

This is a problem. Especially for people who, you know, own and use computers. So technomancers created shrouds. A shroud blocks access to the node: in order to access the node, you have to penetrate the shroud’s security.

For reasons specific to the shadow world (linked to shadow realms, which I’ll talk about some other time), shrouds create artificial realities. An estate villa, in Meiji-era Japan. A section of beach at Normandy, circa 1944. A weird technicolor domain of fragrances and swirling lights, something like living in a lava lamp. Anything the shroud’s controller can imagine can be implemented. These artificial realities are called constructs.

Constructs have their own laws of physics, unique to themselves. Every single “entity” entering the construct must follow the physical laws of the construct. In some constructs, gravity is relative to every surface, meaning you can stand on walls and ceilings, in addition to the floor. (This is known as Escher physics, to construct architects.) If Escher physics apply, they apply to all entities — people and spirits — in the construct, even the controller himself. Once the laws are set, they cannot be changed.

(Technically you can change them, but this requires rebooting the construct, which dumps all entities inside, meaning any spirits there are unbound and have to be re-summoned. A reboot also hard dumps any user entities, which is… less than pleasant. Reboots are saved for entirely replacing a construct or if a data penetration is close to the node.)

In addition to the unliving structures of the construct, technoshamans (and just plain sorcerers) can also summon spirits into the construct, to serve as additional security — roving sentries, guard dogs (or the equivalent), and so forth. For aesthetic reasons, these are typically structured to fit with the construct: Japanese swordsmen for the Meiji estate, Nazis for the Normandy bunker complex, coherent blobs of light for the living lava lamp.

More, the recent invention of shadowjacks — technomagical devisements which allow non-walkers to enter constructs and nodes — means real people can work in the construct, either as security or just office workers. Work in, or break into. Shadowjacks allow non-shadow walkers to crack. (But shadow walkers are much, much better at it.)

(Yeah, shadowjacks are a real boon for employers. You don’t have to teach people about how to click, double click, or right-click. Give them a shadowjack, send them into the construct, and they can enter data without needing to know jack about the UI. As long as they can use the construct correctly, you’re golden.)

Cracking is, at its most basic, breaking into the node by penetrating the security of the construct. I’ll discuss some more specifics next post.

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