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Mailing List Logs for ShadowRN

Message no. 1
From: schu1545@**** (Bryan Linn Schuler)
Subject: Re : Basement Transations
Date: Tue, 9 Jan 1996 13:03:44 -0500
Basement Transactions
Basement Transactions
- By Frobozz

So, you want to be a Shadowrunner neh? Alright, pop quiz, first question, how
do you go about getting in touch with your armourer? Wrong answer if you said
"I call him up on my trid." chummer. That's what I'm here for. Let me
introduce myself, my name is Frobozz, and I've been doing this biz longer than
I care to remember. I'm going to tell you how to get in touch with people and
not get monitored. I'll tell you how to get the things you need to complete
your runs. And lastly, I'll explain to you how you can watch your back when
doing shady dealings.

Part One - Contact.

Sad but true, big brother is here to stay. Depending on whichever megacorp
owns your phone lines, or the pizza shop down the street with the strategically
placed broadband radio receiver on the roof, people are watching you, listening
into your most intimate conversations. In this day and age, there is one maxim
and that is information is power. This section is how to carry on
conversations and remain anonymous and unmonitored.

While nobody will suspect you calling up the local chinese joint and ordering
take-out, things can get interesting when you call your shadow mechanic and ask
him to mount a chaingun under the hood. Phone lines have been around for a
hundred years. During that time, they have changed quite a bit. Originally,
they were copper cables and mechanical switching systems. Around the end of
the 20th century, an amazing device was introduced to the consumer that changed
phone history forever, the modem. Computer communications changed phone
systems almost overnight. Electronic switches quickly replaced the older
mechanical ones, and copper was replaced with fiber optic to handle the
increasingly higher transmission speeds. Up until 2015, this fiber-optic net
provided incredibly clear audio, high-speed electronic transmission speeds and
even some basic video. This all suddenly changed again though when another hot
product suddenly slammed the market, trideo. The consumer demand for trideo
teleconfrencing forced a phenominal load on the phone systems of the time.
Suddenly, it was apparent that more powerful equipment was needed. And, in
2017, Fuchi Industries introduced the F-9 Fiber Trunk System. This system
included a wide fiberoptic cable to handle over fifty times the current system
load, state of the art router electronics and a powerful, decentralized
computer system that could handle billions of complex electronic exchanges per
second. Today, the F-9 standard is still being used. Unless something
else really interesting in the telecommunications industry comes up, F-9 has
enough power to provide the planet with crystal clear, fast trideo and data
communications for the next hundred years. The principles of the phone system
have never changed though. When you enter in a person's phone code, you are
entering in an electronic address. The phone company's computer then scans
the address, splits it up into it's various components, contacts various other
computers in the network, and figures out the route your transmission is going
to take. This all takes place from the time you click "enter" to the time the
message "ringing remote party" flashes on your screen. Once your chummer on
the other end picks up, a loop is made and data channels are opened. These
channels may include video, audio, FAX, mail, ECT (Electronic Credit Transfer),
various datalines and so forth. When you open a connection, only the data
channels that are actively being used are open. Thus, if your trid has FAX
capibility, and all you are doing is talking with video active, you are only
using 2 channels on the phone system. Now when you put a sheet of paper in
your FAX and click "Transfer", a third channel is opened up between you and
your party, the information is transmitted, and the channel is then closed.

Now that you are all experts in phone system, here are a few bits of equipment,
some new, some old that will make contacting your shadow chummers a little more

Translator Box
This innocent little box that hooks in between your trid and the wall, will,
when activated, effectively encrypt all outgoing channels and decrypt all
incomming ones. The box uses a scrambler key that is known to both parties
ahead of time. This is an effective device for short conversations since even
the low powered models will buy you some time before your encryption key and
algorythm are discovered. Note that this will also work on portable phones,
and there are even encryption circuits made small enough to fit into the wrist

>>>>>[ This little bugger's real useful most of the time, but if you're
under active surveillance then those fraggers will KNOW you're up to
something and probably bash in your door right then and there. ]<<<<<
-- Quicksand <01:46:18/09-27-56>

>>>>>[ A good use for a Translator Box is to make a chip recording of your
message, run it through the Box and onto another chip, and then put the
chip and a cheap phone someplace with a timer. ]<<<<<
-- Manic Compression <02:10:03/09-27-56>

(The Data Encryption System in SRII pg243 can be considered older
technology being the size of a briefcase. The newer models are generally
the side of a modern day VHS tape.)

Conceal Weight Availability Cost S.I.
Standard Unit 8 1 Rating/14 days 1200xRating 2
Micro Unit (internal) NA - Rating/18 days 3000xRating 4

Passcard Circuit
This is a small modification you can do to any existing phone. This small bit
of electronics will filter out your phone's identity number from your
transmission and insert a pre-programmed fake. Now you may be thinking,
"Uhh, why not just remove it altogeather?" The answer is simply the telecom
system will not accept your call and will flash you back a "Faulty Equipment,
please have your equipment serviced" message in a microsecond. Nicer versions
of this circuit have a link to your phone's keypad so you can change the fake
ID anytime you want, but most just have a preprogrammed number that require a
new circuit ROM to change.

>>>>>[ Again, Chummer, if you're under active, they'll be on you.
-- Quicksand <01:50:17/09-27-56>

Conceal Weight Availability Cost S.I.
Staticly Set NA - 6/7 days 8000 2
Changable (via keypad) NA - 8/7 days 11000 2

TRAC. System Modification
There exist in all portible phones, a small feedback algorithm that is used
to trace the location of the unit when it is in use. This simple routine
called TRAC (Threshhold Range Algorithm Code) transmits a "signal quality
check" to all surrounding remote receivers, and by judging signal
clarity, can compute distances to each one. This in effect is used to
triangulate your position and can be as acurate to 100 square meters.
Thus, many of us in the shadow community either have this "feature"
removed or more likely (for fun or to look less suspicious) has the circuit
modified to transmit a set of false location readings. Some examples of
modifications I've seen are having a wrist phone report that it was always being
used from a public latrine in the dirtiest section of Tacoma, one
which reported it was 400 meters offshore, and mine, which I've had
modified to displace my position approximatly 500 meters in a random
direction from my true position (close enough to see the helicopters and
hear the sirens but far enough to not be noticed).

Conceal Weight Availability Cost S.I.
Disabled NA - 6/7 days 1000 1.5
False Location NA - 8/7 days 3000 2
Displaced Location NA - 8/10 days 5000 2

(There is no way to locate a portible phone with this modification using
TRAC. since it will not be able to compute signal strength anymore.)

Sidebander Box
This is an advanced version of the standard "Translator Box". The most notable
difference is how it manipulates channels. The "Sidebander Box" will take over
the audio and video channels of your connection, and will play pre-recorded
data over them. Meanwhile, it opens up two more channels (usually disguised
as mail and FAX) and sends encrypted audio and video over them. The results
are impressive. On your screen, you could be talking to your fixer, and
anybody listening would see a pre-recorded play of you and your Auntie Bertha.
A low level scan of the dataline will detect the encrypted channels, but
most listeners won't bother checking if they are already monitoring the
primary channels.

Just remember to change your recordings often. The best types of recordings
are usually long, electronic conversations with a public BBS, since you aren't
limited by conversation time.

Conceal Weight Availability Cost S.I.
Standard Unit 6 2 Rating/18 days 4000xRating 3

(Those attempting to view the call must make an inteligence test vs the
unit's rating +4 or be convinced that the false signal is real.)

Pong Box
This is a device for re-routing your signal to prevent tracing. Remember,
even if you have a passcard circuit installed on your phone, you can still be
traced by brute force means.
Depending on the level of the unit, your "across town call" could appear as if
it was comming from the next city or across the world. The way it works, is
during the connection loop, the box transmits fake router instructions to the
telecom's computer. The end result is a nice wide loop bounced off of a
thousand different routers. Pong boxes usually also includes encryption
which can be activated at any time.

Conceal Weight Availability Cost S.I.
Standard Unit 8 1 Rating/72 hrs 5000xRating 1.5
With Encryption 7 2 Rating/14 days 7500xRating 2

Tracking Unit
Those attempting to trace someone using a pong box must have available
to them either a special tracking unit or a modified cyberdeck. These units
can backtrace a call and must be connected via a tap (see below). Cyberdeck
units include system software and can be installed on almost any cyberdeck.

Conceal Weight Availability Cost S.I.
Standard Unit 3 5 Rating/10 days 15000xRating 1.5
Cyberdeck Modification - - Rating+5/20 days 20000xRating 2
Program Size (in Mp): (Rating x Rating)

Satpong Box
If somebody is trying to trace you, then this will frag them over pretty nicely.
This is an advanced version of the pong box that works on the same principle,
but takes a more airborn route. The box will instruct the telecom's
computers to bounce your signal off of several satullites. Since these types
of transmissions are difficult to trace, anybody attempting to do so will be
trudging from one satcomm relay to the next for hours trying to figure out
where the call is originating from. This device can buy you about an hour's
worth of communication at a fairly decent level, but they can also slow down
system time dramatically. Conversation will generally be be unaffected, but
data transfer and video will usually be slower than usual.

Conceal Weight Availability Cost S.I.
Standard Unit 6 3 Rating+2/8 days 8000xRating 2
With Encryption 6 3 Rating+2/18 days 10000xRating 3

(Rating of one of these units counts as double that of an appropriate Pong
box. Data transmissions take Rating times as long to complete. See rules
on satullite transmissions in FASA's Virtual Realities 2.0)

Fiber Optic Tap
Most people have argued that fiber-optics are impossible to tap. This has been
a fallicy since the twentieth century when they first came out. It is
impossible to make a tap in a fiberoptic line without cutting it and disturbing
the data. But, one can easilly cut the line and terminate each end into this
little box. The device takes any data passing through it and sends it through
an output line. The listener then connects this output line to a computer and
uses software to select the active data channels to monitor.

There are several problems with this box in that first, since fiber optic
communications are transmitted with such high-powered micro-lasers, this box
usually needs to be plugged into an external power source. Second, it takes
time to install and remove. To install it means breaking the fiberoptic line
and re-terminating it into the box. To remove it means to unplug the tap and
re-plug the wires into a fiberoptic passthrough. Both require time and skill
to do. Third and most importantly, breaks in the phone company's lines are
usually immediatly detected. Depending on how much nuyen your target is paying
the phone company to watch his lines, an investigation team (usually
accompanied by law enforcement) will usually arrive on the scene in a few
minutes. One way around this is to plant the tap in a line as close to the
target's phone as possible, so that the least amount of data is interrupted
(and if nobody's using their phones or trids, you're pretty safe.) Lastly, of
course, unless you replace the entire length of fiberoptic cable you cut, it
will be obvious that something occurred at the site of the tap.

These taps can be very versatile and usually have many optional extras. Some
of these features include battery power (although I've never found one to last
longer than 2 days, and when the battery goes dead, your target's line goes
dead,) radio transmitters to send the transmissions to a remote receiver, and
of course, encryption.

Conceal Weight Availability Cost S.I.
Standard Unit 12 - Rating/14 days 9000xRating 1.5
w/ Battery unit 10 - +1 /+1 day +500 1.5
w/ Radio Transmitter 12 - +2 /+1 day +1000 1.5
w/ Encryption 11 - +Enc Rating/Same +1500xEnc Rating 2

>>>>>[ These things are usually tricky to attach. Most fiber datalines,
the ones installed in small corp's telecom system, can have a loop-back to
determine if one of the phones has been disconnected. And it don't matter if
the fraggin telecom is turned off either, I know some have some sort of
battery-backup to keep the security net running. ]<<<<<
-- Big Schwartz <01:35:51/09-27-56>

>>>>>[ A few chummers I know posed as a corp maintanace crew and had some
documents that outlined them as datacomm technitions. They walked right up to
the secretary of the department they wanted to bug, and explained to them that
they were there to fix the phone troubles. Now naturally, there are always
phone problems no matter how small, and they convinced her enough to show them
where the phone closet was. Installed a few taps, tightened a few loose
connections to make it look like they did something and left. Easy as
pie. ]<<<<<
-- Kage <02:41:01/09-27-56>

>>>>>[ Thank the powers that be that most corps are too large to notice
things like that. Sounds like smooth work. ]<<<<<
-- Guethrue <02:58:32/09-27-56>

>>>>>[ Sounds more like luck to me. ]<<<<<
-- Spot the Ninja <04:44:06/09-27-56>

>>>>>[ Say, call it a rumor, but I heard somewhere that some corps or
found a way to actually tap fiber optic without cutting it. Something about
detecting the magnetic shifts and energy fields given off by the line and
backward interperting it to data. Anybody know anything about this? ]<<<<<
-- Guethrue <11:21:13/09-28-56>

>>>>>[ Tapping fiber optic without cutting it? Hahaha! How much nuyen did
pay for that drek? Fiber optic is light, you can't tap it without breaking the
line. ]<<<<<
-- G Money <17:38:57/09-28-56>

>>>>>[ I've heard of it chummer, and quite frankly, it scares me.
-- Frobozz <19:22:16/09-28-56>

(This is very similar to the Dataline Tap in SRII pg243 but is used on fiber-
optic lines which cannot be spliced.)

Tap Detector
This small black box sends a pulse through a telecom line and measures it's
return resonance. This is done in an attempt to locate taps on your line,
either active or inactive by the loss in signal strength. These units are
not as secure as they're made out to be though chummer, don't fully trust
them since most really high tech taps will BOOST the returning test pulse
to compensate for it's added line resistance.

Conceal Weight Availability Cost S.I.
Standard Unit 9 1 Rating/4 days 200xRating 2

>>>>>[ He's right about that one chummers. I used to have a scanner hooked
to my trid for years. Saved my rear about a half a dozen times. Then one
month, it seems I have this guy trying to hunt me down. Real pro too, I could
never seem to get close enough to take him out, and he always seemed to know my
every move. After weeks of dodging sniper bullets and defusing bombs, I finally
nailed the guy. Still a little paranoid as to how he always knew where I was
going, I spent a week interrogating my contacts and inspecting my communications
equipment. What I found was probibly the wizzest little tap I've ever seen.
Has a computer control module which dynamically compensates for it's own
resistance. Scary world chummers. ]<<<<<
-- Kage <03:10:22/09-27-56>

(Slightly more advanced than the Dataline Scanner in SRII pg243.)

Part Two - Location.

Now that you can call your contacts without getting traced or discovered, how
do you actually receive your junk? Data and information are easilly handled
over the phone network, but trying to smuggle a heavy machinegun is another
matter; especially if you suspect somebody is watching you.

Where you conduct your biz is one of the most crucial parts of any transaction.
You want to look for a location public enough not to cause suspicion as to why
you're there, and private enough that there won't be anyone around watching.
If you're fairly sure nobody is onto you, an alleyway or any unpatrolled sprawl
is more than decent to conduct a transaction. But if you're not so sure, clever
methods must be used. Below is a list of some locations, ranging from poor to

A private house. This is a poor choice to conduct a transaction. If either
you or your contact are being monitored or under suspicion, this location will
often be bug-ridden and will have a surveilence vehicle parked just down the
street watching. It's not good for either you or your contact to have a Lone
Star crackdown team break down the door.

>>>>>[ I learned that in about two weeks of becomming a runner.
-- Pheonix <01:02:19/09-27-56>

A dance club. This is a good location to exchange information as loud music
will make most listening devices ineffective. It is also a good location to
exchange small packages out on a crowded dance floor or in the bathrooms. Major
problems include a large number of people who may observe what is going down.
Usually though, there are few who actually care enough to tell someone.

A bar. The "classic" exchange location as depicted in trids and sims about
shady dealings. A bar makes a decent location for biz. While you are far less
suspicious for bringing in a breifcase or a large shopping bag than you would
be at a dance club, the same "large number of people" problem and the (usual)
lack of loud music makes listening devices a possibility. I've picked up
shopping bags full of SMG's and briefcases loaded with military ammo at several
bar transactions.

A restaurant. Like the bar as described above but more secure. The more
expensive the restaurant, the more privacy received. This is an excellent
location for information exchange or meeting with Johnsons.

A stuffer shack. Also like the bar, but the large open windows usually
incorperated in their design make them less secure. I had one joker pay the
boy behind the counter to slip a datachip I needed into one of my burgers.
I damn nearly swallowed it.

At the mall. This is an excellent location to conduct a transaction. It's
open enough to rule out listening devices, and one can almost always find a
sutible location to conduct business. Most people at the mall are on the move
and would never suspect a handoff. I've had toy-boxes concealing assult
rifles, and shopping bags filled with gernades handed off to me here. Christmas
season is great.

At the car-wash. If you can make friends with someone at one of these
locations, you can haul some pretty major equipment. A car-wash is an
excellent exchange location. Your chummer A drives into the car-wash, and
half-way through, chummer B shuts it down and unloads the equipment into some
backroom (usually a maintanence closet). Then, you come driving up, pay
chummer B for his assistance and a "winter protection wash", drive through.
Chummer B shuts it down, loads the equipment into your vehicle, and you're on
your way. Very large equipment like drones and heavy weaponry can be exchanged
this way.

>>>>>[ I once had to wait for three weeks to pick up a certain large
package, because my chummer was half an hour later making the delivery
and the local cops decided to get all their cruisers washed daily for a
while to work off some government grant. ]<<<<<
-- Big Schwartz <02:00:57/09-27-56>

>>>>>[ Sounds like they might've been on to you. ]<<<<<
-- Chester <05:18:43/09-27-56>

>>>>>[ We were. Local cops can be real damn easy to bribe.
-- Datalife <12:54:18/09-28-56>

At a warehouse. You can exchange some pretty large items here, but if you are
being followed, this can get real suspicious real fast. Avoid it if you can.

At trade shows, conventions. These also provide excellent locations to pick-up
equipment. Who would suspect the large white box you carry out is not your
spiderman collection but actually filled with security armour, or that "ham
radio" you bought has a few optional extras hidden inside.

On the docks. Not too good. Docks may seem like a good place to conduct biz,
but with the number of crates to ambush from and the number of gantry cranes
to snipe from, this location stinks like week old soy.

Part Three - Transaction.

There are two simple transactions, passoffs and meetings. Passoffs are usually,
small, quick exchanges such a passing off a pre-paid clip of ADPS at a nightclub
or a new Remmington pistol at the mall. Passoffs have little risk, and payment
and discussion is usually handled in advance. Sometimes though, you will need
to haggle prices or exchange information face to face. This is when a meeting
takes place. With any meeting, there's always the possibility of either
unexpected visitors or even a double-cross. Somebody may have it in for
either you or the contact that you're dealing with. Your contact may not be
as trustworthy as you may have thought. There are several ways to avoid
unwanted visitors crashing your party. Here are a few guidelines on how to set
up and conduct a shadow exchange.

1. Select the proper meeting place depending on the transaction. Review the
above chapter. It is customary for the person who chooses the meeting place to
show up first. Try not to make this mistake. Always try to get your contact
to make the decision for you. Make suggestions about it. If you feel their
location is inappropriate, tell them and suggest another. Only offer
suggestions. If your contact is stuck up on a meeting place, beware. Any good
contact will be as flexible with this as possible. Remember, they need your
services and you need theirs. If they are so hard set on a meeting place they
will not listen to your suggestions, drop the deal, it's most likely a trap.
If you do get stuck with making the choice of meeting places, don't sweat it,
you have the advantage of knowing the turf. Make sure your location has several
back doors, the less obvious the better. Any location where you can quickly
get to a populated area is a bonus. Always set up meetings as quickly as
possible. This prevents others from having the time to set up an ambush or to
plant bugs. Know what you have to do before the meeting and how long it will

2. Visit the location ahead of time and sweep it for bugs, strange items, etc.
Be observant and suspicious. I have found bugs in wall sockets, light
fixtures, centerpeices, and even in garbage laying on the ground. If the
location is isolated, make sure nobody else had been there recently. Look for
footprints, disturbed spiderwebs, cigarette butts and other signs that your
location has been disturbed or is being used by others.

3. Before the meeting, secretly watch the location. Look for suspicious cars
parked within viewing range. Take a walk around the block, look for police
activity. I avoided one nasty encounter because the Lone Star Crackdown team
was around the corner at the local Nuke-it Burger. Make sure nobody unexpected
enters the meeting place before you or your contact do. When your contact
shows up, make sure they have the right number of guards with them and they
aren't being followed. Being "fashionably" late for a meeting (about 5 to 10
minutes) is expected of you if you didn't choose the location. Only the foolhardy are on
time or don't take advantage of this time to make one last
perimeter sweep. It's always good to have a chummer outside to watch for
strange activity.

>>>>>[I guess I've been foolhardy all these years. And to imagine I
being on time meant being professional...and that you did your final sweeps
five minutes "early"...]<<<<<
--the Dark Stranger <11:10:23/09-28-56>

>>>>>[Oooh! Sarcasm! Biting wit aside, they're both right. Depending on
rep, being even a few minutes late to a meet can make the other principles
very nervous. On the other hand, if I was on time, now that would make
people nervous...]<<<<<
--Slugmonster <11:23:51/09-28-56>

>>>>>[Which brings up a quick point: if you suspect a set-up, do the
opposite of what it expected of you. Obvious, but too many runners are
creatures of habit.]<<<<<
--Xeno <11:29:03/09-28-56>

4. During the meet, make sure there is ample security to fit the exchange.
You and your contact should bring a pre-arranged number of hired guards to
secure the transaction. Make sure the security fits what is being exchanged.
If something like a new Predator II and two clips of regular ammo are being
passed off, a single guard for each of you should be fine. But, if a Panther
assult cannon and a case of white phosphorus gernades are being exchanged,
make sure you have several guards. The riskier the medium, the heavier the
defences. If you notice your contact has heavier security than needed, be
suspicious of a setup.

5. During the meet, sweep the area for bugs before any transactions take
place. This is a quick security measure that takes only a minute, but can
save your hide. Always have on you a good radio jammer and a white noise
generator. These devices are small enough to fit in your jacket pockets and
are worth the price you pay for them many times over.

6. When dealing with your contact, watch for body language. If you notice
your contact make a strange gesture, glance around quickly at the guards and
make sure they are not taking bead on the back of your head.

7. Keep it short. Five minutes is plenty of time to discuss trade, bargaining,
and to make the purchase. Make sure your contact is not trying to stall you.

8. After the meeting, watch your back. Make sure you're not being followed.
Before you arrive at your final destination, stop somewhere remote and bug
sweep your car.


Most of what is presented in this article may seem excessive. Most of it are
just guidelines on the worst case scenerio and to open your mind on being
slightly more perceptive than you normally are. Most of the transactions
you'll do are simple passoffs or are done with people whom you trust. But when
the time comes when the drek hits the fan, my final advice to you is to be

Further Reading

If you enjoyed reading about Basement Transations, you may also be interested in:


These messages were posted a long time ago on a mailing list far, far away. The copyright to their contents probably lies with the original authors of the individual messages, but since they were published in an electronic forum that anyone could subscribe to, and the logs were available to subscribers and most likely non-subscribers as well, it's felt that re-publishing them here is a kind of public service.