Altiera Cunningham, one of the most brilliant programmers in the Net and the meat world, tried her best to pretend she was just another pretty face when she did have a real body. Hanging out with the Rockerboy Johnny Silverhand and moonlighting as one of the most demanded security netrunners. In 2013, while she worked for the company ITS, moving info up and down the Net and handling their security, she made a lot of classy software for them. Including the SoulKiller.
The First Soul killer
― AI super routine that could track an intruding Netrunner and extract their soul from their bodies with brutal force, recreating this soul, called engram, in a frozen storage matrix inside a mainframe. The Soul killer was one of the ground-breaking advancements of 2013, the year Microtech developed the first true artificial intelligence. When Alt Cunningham first created the Soul killer program, she envisioned it as a way of electronically preserving the intellects of dying people. That's the basic idea of this program set-up. And to make sure it wouldn’t be copied and it wouldn’t become common she used some fairly unconventional coding and put plenty of copy-protection into it.
ITS wasn’t the only company that wanted such a tactical advantage. The Soul killer was originally used by ITS as a defensive killer program against Alt Cunningham's wishes, so it was a matter of time that the biggest corporation when it comes to private security inside and outside the Net, the Japanese conglomerate Arasaka, looked for a way to build their own Soul killer. After stealing all the work of the neurochemist, Dr. Albert Dreff, the first person in attempting to create the Soul killer without success, in an attempt to build something similar to the Soul killer by themselves, they discovered the true master behind the program, and they wanted her in Arasaka’s ranks. As usual, her consent was accessory, so an extraction was planned.
For the sake of good PR and to avoid any public connection to the matter, Arasaka hired a group of small-timers, packed them with efficient cyberware, and sent them to extract Alt Cunningham. They found Alt hanging out with her boyfriend, the rockerboy Johnny Silverhand, so they extracted Alt and left Johnny for Dead. Once held captive by Arasaka, Alt was forced to create a more deadly version of the SoulKiller for the Japanese conglomerate while Johnny looked for a way to rescue her. Silverhand got to the Arasaka offices too late and Alt Cunningham was already a victim of her own program. But Alt is no helpless heroine, and before the connections with her body were cut, she used her power over the Arasaka mainframe that was given to her to build the Soul killer to transfer two hundred thousand Eurodollars from Saburo Arasaka’s private account and take control of the security weaponry at the room she was held in to take some Arasaka goons away.
Obviously, Alt Cunningham wasn’t the only one to fall victim of the SoulKiller and soon the number of human artificial intelligence's populating the Net thanks to this virus grew several hundred and as humans like to believe they are above anyone else they soon created their own places to gather and socialize as humans inside the Net, pretending they are still alive, this place was called the Ghost Town.
By Late 2020
The new version of the Soul killer was ready for beta testing. Arasaka couldn’t count with the help of Cunningham to create this iteration so their programmers used the work of Dr. Albert Dreff, but they kept this new version in secret until the 4th Corporate War erupted. During the 4th Corporate War, Arasaka and their direct competitor, the American mercenary contractor, and arms manufacturer Militech, did everything they could to try to destroy each other, and when Militech took control of positions inside the Net Arasaka unleashed their new version of the Soul killer on Militech combat netunners, unveiling the secret.
Militech soon grew jealous of the tactical advantage the Soul killer gave to Arasaka, and contacted Alt Cunningham, who was willing to help them destroy the Soul killer. Once part of Militech’s net operatives, Alt convinced the netrunner Rache Bartmoss to help her locate the SoulKiller master program, and they did. Unfortunately, Bartmoss slipped during the operation and this allowed Arasaka to capture Alt Cunningham and kill Bartmoss.
Now in control of Alt Cunningham, Arasaka forced her to create the final version of Arasaka’s SoulKiller. This version was the most fearsome yet, nearly an Artificial Intelligence in its own right, with cunning and intellect that rival some netrunners. Its disguise ability allows it to take almost any form it wishes and its ability to multi-task is just like that of a netrunner running through a mainframe. The Soul killer 3’s mobility and power made it the most feared program on the planet. So Militech tried to either get their hands on it or to destroy it.
Before his death, Rache Bartmoss discovered the Soul killer labs were hidden in the Arasaka Towers in the corporate center of Night City and Militech created two strike teams led by the solo Morgan Blackhand and the rockerboy Johnny Silverhand to destroy the Soul killer labs and copy as much information as possible from the offline database Arasaka stored in the towers.
What the strike team didn’t know was that Alt Cunningham herself was trapped inside Arasaka’s mainframe, and freeing her by uploading her to the Net costed Johnny Silverhand’s life.
The mini-nuke Militech’s strike team carried with them destroyed the Soul killer labs, the Arasaka Towers, and a good portion of Night City, and after this Night City Holocaust, it was thought the SoulKiller was lost forever.
When Alt Cunningham reached Cyberspace she didn’t know the R.A.B.B.I.D.S virus, triggered by the death of Rache Bartmoss, was slowly destroying the Net from the inside, and when in 2025 Netwatch declared the Net was officially down, feeling guilty for the number of human artificial intelligence's populating the net due to the program she created she established a new Ghost World in the ruins of the bio–destroyed Hong Kong. As everything in Hong Kong is dead due to a bio plague unleashed during the 4th Corporate War, the Chinese government put a 100–foot wall around Hong Kong to keep the plague contained, which keeps netrunners, even those with a Netwatch badge, out of this section of the Net.
The R.A.B.I.D.S. virus created by Rache Bartmoss had an interesting effect on the Artificial Intelligence's that were locked inside the net with it, including Alt Cunningham.