The Void, just the word conjures visions of incandescent wonder splayed across an infinite backdrop of non-space. Worlds of pulsing data, primordial knowledge and eclectic form, worlds unreal, yet real enough to kill or reduce those who delve incautiously into drooling vegetables. In actuality the Void is a vast communications grid-work that fully engulfs the various planets of our solar system and even the distant precincts of space itself with a nigh invisible realm of perpetually flowing information. Incorporating myriad technologies, the Void is the sum total representation of literal worlds of data.
Within the Void, from one node to the next the consensual reality can shift in form and representation without warning. The general latticework of the Void appears as an endless horizon of brilliant non-light, filled with interwoven patterns of ever-shifting data and information. Each generic grid-node is sculpted to vaguely mirror the geography that it serves, forcing most hackers to adopt the nodes iconography to some extent, granting those nodes a security advantage just as reality sculpting hardware can be incorporated into a cyberjack to grant hackers an innate advantage. On the surface, this is a living, breathing, continuously changing digiverse, though in reality it is largely static with respect to the intricacies involved in the various corporate and megacorp nodes scattered throughout the perpetually endless non-space.
The size and detail of iconography within the Void is generally based on the underlying system's properties, an example being optical systems versus parallel or molecular and so forth. These differences establish the overall influence of a node and its sculpted appearance with respect to those experiencing it. The majority of systems are optical, which appear to look, feel, smell, sound and even taste near flawless in relation to realism and one’s Void-born senses. Parallel systems appear both flawless and grant those utilizing parallel systems greater advantage over those using less powerful architecture types and in turn molecular based systems, and lastly quantum systems, that cross the furthest edge and grant a frightening degree of advantage against lesser systems. There has been recent, disturbing indications that there is a category of architecture that exceeds even quantum based cyberjacks and superstacks.
Utilizing and integrating a wide variety of technologies, the importance of the Void should be obvious and can't really be overstated. It is the vital central nervous system of mankind and all the planetary colonies with respect to communications and countless, simple day to day existence and functionality. To many however, the Void like the streets of most plexes, is also a lawless zone, where anything is possible and even the riff-raff of the streets has a chance against the juggernaut of the megacorps. Nothing within the Void is sacrosanct, in some instances, even the minds of those Void users who lack the necessary protection run the risk of ending up hacked.
Laws governing the precincts of cyberspace are brutally draconian in nature. Even fledgling corporations install brain frying ICE (Intrusion Countermeasure Electronics) to ward against would-be trespassers, allowing them to track down and arrest the offender on the spot, with sentencing that usually involves installation of a personality splinter, multi-decade sentences after selective reprogramming and the auctioning off of the subject's body as a sheathe for someone else's use, assuming the ICE in question isn't the type that toasts the hacker's brain right off.
Anyone can utilize the Void even if all they have is a vid or holo-com unit or more commonly utilize a comjack or holojack, not to mention the most obvious option of a cyberjack. Those who utilize methods other than a straight neural interface via a cyberdeck or cyberjack, wherein the subject exposes their awareness fully to the Void, are capable of interacting with other entities and information within the Void to a far more limited degree. Like many things in life, this works both ways. Just as they are unable to execute more sophisticated Void programs or otherwise crack into secure systems and the like, they are also beyond the reach of most direct dangers while in the Void. They can be booted or infected by any hacker worth his code and likewise by various ICE constructs, but they are never in any direct risk of having their neurons scrambled like so much white-noise or the minds pilfered or rearranged. For most, the Void is just a place to socialize, research, shop, transfer credit, find out what’s going on in the world, seek entertainment, sim feeds or simply to relay information between themselves and others, but for the rare few, the Void is all of these things and a world more vibrant and real than reality itself. These souls are commonly referred to as hackers, data-pirates, deckheads, cowboys and so forth, intrepid men and women who cast their sentience out into that vast empyreal gulf to achieve a wide variety of things most can only dream of, with commensurate dangers of course...
Those who venture so, exposed into the shimmering depths of the Void can plunder the vast resources of its digital medium and can just as easily be plundered in turn. Due to the intrinsic risks involved, it is rare in the extreme for a hacker to delve into the Void without utilizing the benefits of a cyberdeck, which is essentially a highly specialized miniature mainframe. Some do it for the glory, others for the adrenaline rush and sense of accomplishment, the majority however do it for the bottom line... credit. Though most corporations and governments keep their most sensitive data on secured mainframes that have no direct Void connection, there is still more than enough information out there to make the guy or girl with the right skills and luck a billionaire thousands of times over. The trick isn’t just stealing the right data at the right time, but getting away with fencing the data and living to enjoy the fruits of your labor.
Data-pirates have their own sub-culture, recognized etiquette and expected code of behavior by all who hold themselves worthy of the name. Like the various cities of the world, there are some hackers and even groups of hackers who lay claim to whole portions of the Void and possess their own order and hierarchies. These groups enforce their claims with neuron searing programs that can flash fry even the fastest hacker if they aren’t wary. Pocket-sized virtual realities lie scattered throughout the nether-space of the Void, usually playing host to a group of like-minded individuals bent upon a specific goal. A few, are elaborately sculpted realities that are the virtual strongholds of hacker barons, notoriously successful and dangerous data-pirates who find themselves more comfortable in their favored arena, the Void than in the world of flesh and bone. On the outside, in the meat-world; these hackers usually have elaborate arrangements to keep their largely inert bodies from getting tooled during their effective absence.
Much like the real world, the Void is incredibly hard to police except in relation to specific systems. When a hacker can jack in from Chiba, bounce her signal off a few satellites and then reroute again through a score or more jumps and hack her way into a bank in Hawaii only to vanish from the Void altogether just by zeroing the link, it makes it exceedingly difficult to catch her, unless she's sloppy. Below are a few notable personages and virtual realities within the Void. This list, by no means includes all such virtual domains nor does it include Corporations because it would be too lengthy, but rest assured any corporation worth the name has a strong Void presence. To a one such towering icons are patrolled by Corpse datarats or hired guns in the form of Lancer sys-ops and a virulent legion of ICE eager to fulfill its programming and fry the lobes of anyone unlucky enough to get caught in the wrong place with their pants down…
Most virtual realities shift and move throughout the Void, primarily to avoid attracting too much of the wrong kind of attention and likewise as an added step to ensure that only those with at least a modicum of skill or affluence in the form of the right connections can find and call upon those who dwell therein.