Internal Investigator Grerrakk on the job! (TofY)
Advisor Bosska re-reads the Trium communique (http://www.nationstates.net/forum/viewtopic.php?t=66033&start=40) from Dread Lady Nathicana again. Since receiving it, he has been troubled. There was much that rang true in it; maybe too much.
Under Kraah's rule we have prospered. Under his rule, we have reached out farther than we dared dream; made allies we never even knew existed. Even to the Void itself. But he was not perfect.
He was entirely too fond of the drink. I think he bordered on being a complete alchoholic. And in those times of stupor, the idea of loyalty to Emperor and Empire has weakened somewhat. Insubordination in the Defense Forces is becoming more common-place, monetary gain and self-serving impulses are beginning to become the new Emperor. This must stop. But how? Even in the Imperial Family there may be those with hidden agendas. I must call on a third party with no loyalty or ties to.........
Bosska sits up in his chambers after a short time with a start. Oh, by Gorrm's Teeth, has it come to that? That I must entertain thoughts of employing Grerrakk the Inquisitor? He decides to think on it, and goes for a stroll.
As he walks, he looks at the expressions on the faces of all he comes across. The formal greetings are exchanged, as well as kind words. But Bosska is no longer paying attention to the words being spoken, as much as the faces and bodies saying the words. His suspicions heighten as he returns to his chambers.
There is something wrong in the Empire, and it is deep. Deep indeed. I will do what I must to set things right. He cues up his holo-comm system (for incredibly private meetings) and speaks to his aide on an audio communicator. "Get me the Internal Affairs, Inquisitor Branch. Tightbeam holo-comm for Grerrakk."
A sound of surprise squawks from the audio comm. "Advisor, are you certain?"
"Yes. Now please, put me through."
"At once, Advisor."
The audio comm shuts off, and Bosska steps into the holo-comm chamber, where he is scanned from every angle. In front of him a 3 dimensional screen pops up, ready to render an image of the one his message is intended for.
After a couple of minutes, the 'Incoming Render' signal pings, indicating a receiving of the summons, and transmission. The link is established, and the image of one of the most massive specimens of a Sakkran known to exist comes on. "Greetings, Advisor. This must be important for you to use this method of communication. What is your dilemma?"
"Inquisitor, there is something amiss here in the Empire. It is serious, and yet it is amorphous. I can not begin an investigation myself, since it may stretch all the way up to the Imperial Family! I need the investigative powers of one who is not beholden to the Emperor, or anyone else, to spearhead this."
The image seems to ponder for a moment, her eyes never leaving the Advisor's, which begins to make him a touch nervous. He finally blinks after ten standard minutes of what one would call a staring contest.
"Very well, Advisor Bosska. I will begin an investigation into these amorphous activities. I will need transcripts of each and every single communique, no matter how trivial, coming into and leaving from the Empire that you can get. Tell no one of this except the Emperor, not even your own Aides. I will be acting autonomously, and will answer to no one. Not even the Emperor. As of the end of this transmission, I am an agency unto myself. Is this understood?"
Bosska swallows a bit, his throat pulsing. "Yes, it is understood."
"Good. When I have found something that warrants attention, I will let you know, if I choose to. I will handle everything else." The image flickers out, and the 'Trasmission complete. Link severed' dialogue comes up.
Bosska shuts off the holo-comm, and dumps its memory. I hope I have not erred in this.
Grerrakk terminated the comm line, and stepped off the dais. Deep-seated corruption. It is like trying to find a seed in a gravel pit. I will need aid in this. She begins surfing around looking at recent comm traffic, and has an idea.
I must find a way to contact a S.H.O.D.A.N. avatar.
(OOC: There's only ten thousand of me in that form... shouldn't be all too hard.
In the c-space of Rhea, the gestalt S.H.O.D.A.N. closed her eyes and pondered for a moment. She owed her people and her own life to the Triumvirate, her friends and family... was she living up to their ideals?
Possibly... but not in the way they'd expect. They operated on a surprisingly mechanistic form of idealism; that X action is wrong and Y action is right. She had been working slowly on Scolopendra, it's true... simply nudging things that had already existed. Now they acknowledged the need of some things considered less than idealistic, primarily in intelligence gathering.
As for herself... she always tried to accomplish what was right--at least in her own mind--but the gestalt provided a view that few others would comprehend. Coupled with experience... she realized that Machievelli was far from evil and Nietzsche had a point. If taken too far, they could be evil... but, as the organics said, to make an omelet one has to break some eggs.
Implanting a control rig into Carlos of Iraqstan... a means of security over an unstable dictator. Now she could slowly manipulate him towards better avenues--stealing his identity is almost anathema to her own peculiar morals, seeing how it is yet unnecessary--but it was manipulation towards the good. The same with her thoughts towards the empire of Treznor--Devon is a good leader, but a harsh one... oversight is always useful.
Nathicana? S.H.O.D.A.N. honestly feared for her little sister of sorts, seeing far too many parallels to be completely comfortable. Probability ranges were simply too vague with her; she could go one way or the other. Knowing her own history, S.H.O.D.A.N. understood that any such recurrence must be prevented; Nathi was a quiet one--the most dangerous type--who while not really fooling many at least kept them in the dark as to the magnitude of her actions. Still... Nathi has to come out of this on her own; all S.H.O.D.A.N. can rightfully give is advice.
Concerning her ponderings towards more power... the power of her duchy in Cetaganda; the power of possibly starting a megacorp... was it the power she wanted or the ability to help? After pondering, she thinks: it is the power of Faust she wants, the power to do good. While such thinking can become rather problematic, as per Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment, if well-controlled and constantly checked, it could be kept good on the balance.
An odd form of morality, and an odd form of idealism, but it checks. Compared with what she could do in the name of 'good,' she has been downright cautious.
Acceptable. Most acceptable. Of course, an internal examination is by its very nature imperfect, but it will have to do.
At the end of the night, Bosska gathers all the recent comms for the past few years from the Diplomatic Corps, as well as recordings in video and audio, and logs them into a briefcase-sized database system.
I hope that I am not implicated. If the taint goes as deep as I think it does, I wouldn't even know if I was compromised. He exits the Diplomatic Corps. offices and begins heading to the personal office of Grerrakk the Inquisitor. This takes him deep into the City of Guuah, and its less than friendly denizens.
The Advisor keeps looking behind him with one eye, while his other scans everything in front of him. The night is quite and still, with an occasional wind blowing a humid breeze from the Black Swamp. If he is followed, then somewhere there is a leak indeed. He comes to the steps of Grerrakk's building, and ascends. A *klink* is heard in the distance. the Advisor stops and looks around. Seeing nothing, he continues into the building.
100 meters behind the Advisor, a shadowy shape shifts slightly in a dark alley, and then forms. It lifts a small comm device to its mouth. "Confirmed. Target is in the complex."
"Keep watch, and report."
Bosska goes into a lift transport, and presses the code for the Inquisitor's floor. The lift ascends, then stops slowly and opens.
The Inquisitor shows, wearing a deep crimson robe. She lifts up her clawed hands, motioning for silence. At the press of a button on a wall console, steel plating slides over the windows and doors, including the lift doors, and hiss shut. A white noise generator is turned on.
Afterwards, she takes a device and runs it throughout the clothing the Advisor is wearing. then the briefcase, and finally, the Advisor himself. Her voice makes one think of tectonic plates shifting. "I have to be certain we are not overheard. Now, did you do as I asked?" Her fingers close slightly, a crackling sound eminating from her massive knuckles.
Bosska's tail begins twitching slightly. "Yes. All comms from the Diplomatic Corps offices, and several other Imperial Government branches, are in this database." He slides the briefcase towards her, and Grerrakk picks it up. Pulling out a pad, she opens the briefcase slowly, and inserts it into the database.
"Confirmed. Very good." She stands and places the database on a work station. She thens reaches into a concealed compartment beneath her station, and produces an identical case, complete with a dummy database inside. the Inquisitor hands it to Bosska. "I am certain you were followed here. This will make any who followed you think you still have what they may be interested in."
"But I..." The Advisor begins to interject.
"Silence. You were followed, and I know it. Remember, I was once the Commander of all Skeen forces in the Empire, and I know how they work. Now go, and make your way straight home. You are not safe in this area. Say not a word until you are home." With that, the white noise generator is shut off, and the window and door plating slides open.
Grerrakk motions with her hand, and a baleful look in her eye, to SHUT UP! and the Advisor's mouth closes. He enters the lift, and descends into the inky black night of the street.
S.H.O.D.A.N. took one of her common nightly walks in the nation of Sakkra. Ever since Sakkra joined the Triumvirate, she had a local avatar stationed there to fulfill the usual standard political, economic, and technological liason. Being a one-person government isn't so hard when there are several thousand of the one.
She preferred to walk about at night, because it was quieter. While she not-so-secretly enjoyed the stares and general confusion that her appearance usually caused in the daytime, she also understood that sometimes such things are simply not appropriate... and besides, by limiting contact, that makes daytime trips even more unusual.
Being a common walk, it usually had a common course. She'd change it every so often for something new, but not tonight. The cooling, humid air was an interesting enough sensation; concentrate on it rather than new buildings and terrain. Common courses means, of course, that she could be tracked rather easily; she felt that the probability of being assassinated was relatively low here... and besides, it's only an avatar. Expensive, yes, but not particularly vital.
After the Advisor leaves, Grerrakk begins to search through the database with a sub-routine garnered through the now-absorbed nation of Pastelle. It checks for viruses, trojan horses etc of both a civilian and military nature. It also looks for those sneaky little 'Snitches' which follow electronic communications via a tiny trace code.
The database is ripe with Snitches. At least 23% of all the comms are infested with these little devils alone. This is a start. Someone is up to something. Or many someones.
<*briefly wonders if he will be investigated at some point. tags the thread.*>
The Advisor hits the street. It is dark and moist still. A tell-tale hint of a brewing storm is in the air. How appropriate. I feel I have aroused a storm in more ways than one. He begins walking back the way he came, aiming to make his way to the safety of the shuttle bay.
He is so lost in personal musings, he does not notice the shadowy figure stalking him from 100 meters behind.
Firefury finishes reading the most recent Trium communications and sighs. "Internal investigations, huh? Be interesting to see what turns up."
Clad in her basic black body armor, the reploid taps a button on her desk. "Kithanrya, it's Queenie. When you get the chance, I'd like you to compile a list of Arpean officials caught on corruption or treason charges, and of Nekoa Imperialists that have been caught plotting against the Shogunate. I want names, ages, current status, charges leveled against them, and any other pertinent info. Our buds in the Trium are doing some housecleaning and self-reflection, and we're a little overdue to go over our own treason listings and so on. I want to have our stuff all ready to go if anybody asks for it. ... And include even those really ludicrious assassination attempts. Just because the yahoos didn't realize that a regular handgun's useless on oldskool reploid armor doesn't mean that the intent wasn't there. Those buttholes intended to kill me."
Her message sent, the Queen leans back in her chair, contemplating one of the few photographs on the desk- an old photo of a carefree young woman with short brown hair, wearing a Nekoa Imperial Air Corps flight suit, the helmet tucked under one arm, standing in front of an aircraft that could be a distant cousin of the Elite Victory. "Who'd've thought, huh?" She notes to no one.
(OOC: Hum... how to get Grerrakk his Shodey avatar without being too blatantly obvious about it... normally a call to Zero-One would do it, but I doubt he'd do that, for fear of tapped phone lines.)
S.H.O.D.A.N. veers off her usual course on a whim, eventually passing someone who looks amazingly like Advisor Bosska--Actually... that isAdvisor Bosska...--and continuing on. Hrm. Things have definitely been odd since Nathi's little self-evaluation statement. What is she up to? She continues on, opposite direction of Bosska, passing the shadowing person as if they didn't exist. So very odd.
OOC: Nothing save face to face contact would do in this instance. Heh heh.
IC: Grerrakk begins preparations to move out, putting together a disguise that she has used many times before, and very rarely missed with. I am certain that fool Bosska has led someone here, and they are watching me even now. She peers between wooden shutters at the street, expecting to see assassins waiting below. Nothing except a solitary figure strolling absent-mindedly.
She sets the 'Sniffer' program to filter out certain key words, phrases or names in the 'snitched' files. Every name of the Diplomatic Corps is on the list, from the janitor to the head of the Corps himself. She then preps her security drones to guard her domicile. The size of a Resin Beetle, these drones do not have wings, but instead two banks of toxic needler launchers that spring up in place of where wings should be.
She programmed their directives in, and set the four units loose. Anything attempting entry without going through the correct motions would be greeted by a torrent of paralyzing toxins. If that didn't do it, surely the Immobilization Webbing would.
The Inquisitor then put on her disguise, leaving the sniffer program to do its job. As she pressed the button on the lift, she double checked everything to make sure she was equipped for any eventuality.
Elderly Artisan disguise...Shawl, yes. Head-dress, yes. Short staff, yes. Long-coat, yes. Holsters with dual Garu-10 semi-automatic pulse pistols and extra ammunition, yes. Flash bombs, yes. Night-vision monocle, yes. Neural Cham-web underlayer and Composite-Mesh Armor, yes.
The lift arrived, and descended as she got in to go to the basement. Exiting the lift, she made a series of memorized twists and turns until she came to a wall with barrels of toxic chemicals in front of it.
She lifts the barrels, and exposes a ladder leading into the depths. I cannot send a holo-com, go through conventional electro-comm means, or even use a messenger beetle to get in touch with the S.H.O.D.A.N. avatar. It must be face to face.
She descends the ladder and replaces the dummy barrels, and assumes the walk of a hunched being of ancient years. She seems about a full two feet shorter now. The *clack clack* of the short staff tapping along as Grerrakk navigated the damp, dimly lit tunnels leading away from her building.
(OOC: Grr... how I hate deus ex machina... but hey, what's this?
Nothing except a solitary figure strolling absent-mindedly.I've got an ANGLE!)
How strange. I must have walked into a regular stake-out... heat signatures everywhere. Looking around, S.H.O.D.A.N. frowned to herself. Best find a different direction and take it. Following a wall, she immediately pivots into an alleyway. Exiting on the next street, she looks around. Odd... this side is completely clear, except for that old crone over there.
Grerrakk continues walking away from her complex. The wet sounds of droplets splashing on stone and resin begin in advance of a storm. Behind her, she hears the sound of someone. Continuing to shuffle along, she focuses her hearing a bit.
Hmmm..the step pattern is all wrong for a Skeen operative. No claw impaction for a Sakkran. In fact, it sounds more like synthetic latex. She slows for a second and lets the figure behind gain time to catch up, so she could ascertain who they were. She begins fumbling through her longcoat and mumbling to herself. "Where did I put that charm? By the Horde, if I lost it again...I hope the Beetles didn't eat it. Have to feed my pets soon." The *tap tap* of her short-staff continues.
S.H.O.D.A.N. perks up her electronic hearing. Either she really isn't a threat or she's a bit melodramatic. Devon said that there are only two forms of paranoia... absolute and insufficient. As she approaches, her muscles ripple, group by group, in something resembling some sort of relaxation exercise.
Anyone who had seen what happened to Lezard or Ortcad would know otherwise.
If she's false, then I should contact on my terms. If she's legitimate, it cannot hurt to help. Contact with ground good, balance excellent, defensive options multiplicitous... "Pardon," she says in her usual low feminine voice but with a bit more compassion than usual, "I couldn't help but overhear. Are you looking for something?"
S.H.O.D.A.N. tensed the carbon-fiber claws held retracted under her fingernails. Just in case.
Grerrakk peered out from under her shawl at the voice. It was no Sakkran voice, that was for certain. A quick examination renders interesting results.
It is the Avatar! Gorrm's Teeth have ripped away ill-fortune tonight! She flexes her vocal chords and assumes a wavery, quiet tone.
"Well, dear, aren't you a brave one to wander these streets alone in the dark. And such a pretty thing. I must give you a present!" Grerrakk fumbles through her long-coat for a moment, before producing a locket. She quiveringly pushes it towards the avatar's hand.
(Opening the locket reveals a slip of strange paper that contains this message.
You are being watched. Meet me at the Ssekaa Residential Complex. Floor 4. Most urgent
Grerrakk continues to shuffle along the alleyway, and turns a corner. She seemingly disappears, but in actuality has descended into the Underground Depths again, to return to her quarters.
S.H.O.D.A.N. chuckles pleasantly, not revealing any hint of the racing mind behind the green slitted-pupil eyes. "How kind of you, ancient mother. Take care; the night is cold." Waving cheerfully, she continues to walk in her previous direction.
I appear to have stepped into a bit of arabesque intrigue. Now, what to do... follow the note, or move on? This person will have information on the watchers, whether she works for them or not. The full abilities of my diplomatic avatar are poorly known... so that gives me some surprises to use if it comes to that.
She continues her random wandering, but adds the extra twist of randomly hopping on public transports and riding them all over the town in a highly complex, near-random pattern. Assured that any tails had been shaken in the mix of trolleys, light-rail, moving sidewalks, buses, and trams, she finally comes to the Ssekaa apartments, trudging up the stairs to the fourth floor. Best not to arrive unannounced. In a perfect imitation of the crone's voice, she mutters: "Where did I put that charm? By the Horde, if I lost it again...I hope the Beetles didn't eat it. Have to feed my pets soon."
The hallway has only one door on this floor. And it appears to be an exquisite work of Parro wood. A wavery voice issues forth from behind it. "Is there someone there? I'll have you know I can contact the Patrol in short time!"
The door creaks open a touch, and an eye is peering out of it. "Oh, hello dear. Come in come in. Come to visit an old lass, eh?"
Curiouser and curiouser... S.H.O.D.A.N. ripples her muscles in sequence again, nodding as she silently runs internal checks and tests her carbon-fiber claws. Flick out, flick in, all is well. "Yes, a friendly little visit."
Approaching slowly, she keeps a cautious eye on her surroundings, all the while looking as calm as someone visiting her beloved grandmother.
The furnishings inside seem spartan and utilitarian, though of obviously excellent quality. A set of cushioned chairs in the center of the main room, with a coffee table. A work station against one wall, and some cabinets and shelving on the opposite wall. Free-standing lamps are in the corners of the room, as well as four insectoid robots perched on top of them. Their dart launchers are all activated and exposed.
Grerrakk removes her shawl, and raises to her full height of 8'10", with an audible crackling sound. She goes to the work station, and presses buttons. The steel walls around doors and windows swish shut, and a low-frequency white noise generator is turned on.
"You are the S.H.O.D.A.N. avatar. I am Investigator Grerrakk, also known as the Inquisitor. There is great trouble, and you are being watched."
S.H.O.D.A.N. looks up from her 6' 1" height at the Inquisitor, raising one fiber-optic bundle eyebrow and curling up one side of her mouth. "Indeed I am, apparently you are, I am not surprised and that has already been established. Now that those points are covered, I'm sure that my next questions will be expected but, given the situation, it is the most reasonable point to proceed from. Why am I being watched, and wherefore the intrigue and costumes?"
Grerrakk goes to a kitchen off the main room, and pours some hot Paroo. She then sits on one of the couches, and begins sipping. "At ease!" The insectoids retract their launchers.
"You are being watched most likely because of the nature of your being. Cursory reasons would be your contacts outside of the Empire, and inside. I am watching you now, to see who is also watching. Originally, I thought it was the Skeen. But it is much more serious than that." She pauses for a moment, taking a sip of her paroo, and then raising and walking to her work station, where she looks upon a small screen.
"I have a 'sniffer' sub-routine sorting through various communications from different departments in the government. Someone, or many beings, are sending communications that are being traced by an entity unknown to me."
"Also, I have been pouring over recordings from different diplomatic missions sent. I'm not quite sure why, but I feel some members of the Imperial Government have been compromised. That is why the intrigue and costumes."
S.H.O.D.A.N. nods her head, thinking. I wonder if she's come across any of my dataminers yet... then again, I don't have so many in diplomatic channels. Sakkra is a generally stable state that doesn't need much observation compared to most of the others I watch. "If I understand correctly, you have a potential internal conspiracy which is being observed by an unknown entity. I can say that my own SIGINT has collected no evidence on such a thing... then again, I haven't been looking."
Looking at one of the insectoid defense robots curiously, she continues, quietly pacing about, grey hands folded behind her back. "Added to your suspicion that your government is compromised, but not knowing exactly who is... I can see how that makes your duty rather difficult." Idly examining the robot, she smirks softly. "I once heard a interesting quote from a friend of a friend. 'There are only two forms of paranoia: absolute and insufficient.'"
She pivots on one heel, facing the much taller Sakkra with a mischevious look, one eyebrow slightly raised. "Is that an accurate estimation of the situation? Now, to see how I fit into this odd little puzzle.
Pacing slowly, she smiles. "You have a difficulty concerning electronic data; not only is that my particular medium of life, I am arguably one of the better computer warfare specialists in the Solar System. I suspect you want my help in tracking these communications and their observation subroutines back to their source. With my help, you hope to maybe discover who is corrupt and who is not."
She stops, looks up, and grins. "Either that or I am a suspect, which would make sense given absolute paranoia." She indicates the shuttered windows and the robots with an expansive sweep of one hand.
Grerrakk nods her head slowly. "Initially, and tertiarilly yes. You are suspect. But then, so am I and everyone else until such time as the parties involved become known." She rises up, and seems to be feigning interest in the 'sniffers' work.
"And your suspicions are correct. I do need your help, far more than I find you suspicious. I need these 'snitch' programs broken open and their coding analyzed. Every programmer has a signature, and this 'snitch' is a real piece of work. Most likely someone's greatest work. I want to know who that someone is, what this program does precisely, and who it reports to. If I do it myself, my activities will most likely be traced, and reported."
Out of habit, she parts a curtain, absent-mindedly forgetting the soundproofing in place. "I know without a doubt Skeen operatives are watching and trying to listen even now. I was once Commander of all Agents, but left the position because I found them too sloppy and lenient. My opinion was not a popular one. I trained one to act as my eyes and ears in that place, and to retain her cover under any and all circumstance. There is only one Inquisitor at a time. When I pass, she will take my place. I may have to call her in now."
A barely audible *tink* sound is heard, and Grerrakk snaps out of her reverie and makes her way to another screen at her work station. Her eyes open widely at what is in front of her.
"Whoa ho! What is this?"
"If you need a program vivisected quietly... you've lured the right intelligence." S.H.O.D.A.N. grins... and then the soft sound and Grerrakk's reaction. Raising one eyebrow, she looks curiously at the Inquisitor, her carbon-fiber claws tensing under her nails as she steps forward.
"Unfortunately, I don't have an answer to that question." She twists, trying to get a view of the screen. "Do you?"
What shows on-screen is a recording of a younger-looking Minister Sessra, during her diplomatic dinner with the EODS, and one shadowy Maelstrom Vortex. The scene is slowed as Vortex passes his hand through the body of the Minister.
"I have been suspicious of Sessra since her first visit there. They have an ... unhealthy fixation on her. And she has not been quite the same since. Unless I am mistaken, I think this is how the Minister has been compromised. In phasing through her, any number of things could have been planted internally. Hrrrmmmmm...."
The screen splits, to show the exterior of the Hreer Weapon Works, and the Eeorouh Spaceport's Research and Development complex. "I am suspicious of these areas as well. The comm traffic seems to be nominal, but occasionally a heavily encrypted laser-pulse tightbeam leaves these areas for parts I am working on discerning. Same frequency and encryption strength."
S.H.O.D.A.N.'s jaw sets at the visage of shadow-Vort. Of course it was too good to be true; we turn Vort from 'evil' to 'good' and he stays exactly the same. Corrupting and not stopping... trying to destabilize my friends... and what he did... he cannot be forgiven. "If I were one to jump to conclusions on emotions and insufficient evidence," she growls, "I'd say that answers most of your problems right there. I know our dear Emperor far too well."
Looking at the buildings, the electronic intelligence rubs her chin in thought. "Maybe the easiest way to get information on those facilities would be to put in a tap on their communications centers. Encrypted long-distance laser pulse transmitters, especially transatmosphere ones, are rather large. I have... resources... which could be useful if we need to tap anything like this."
The Inquisitor inflates her dewlap, showing a deep, deep red. "It is a good thing, to have resources at your disposal. I would ask you to put whatever resources you deem prudent to use in this. And if this 'snitch' program could be cracked, it would probably help in the investigation as well. In the meantime, I have a resource I need to use."
With that she opens a concealed compartment beneath her work-station, and pulls out a headset. Placing it onto her head, she slides the monocle down, activating it. Then taps an earpiece, and waits....
Over the Pacific Ocean
The Imperial Transport is on its way back to Sakkran Shores after attending the (violent) party by Countess Lafiel. Emperor Gorrm and Commander Thress are aboard, discussing the events there.
Gorrm is feeling quite full of himself. "Well, I am no Skeen operative, but I still managed to down three of them myself. Not bad, yes?"
Thress feels a slight tremble in her Chamo-Web suit, and pulls out a small, circular device. On its screen a simple message is displayed briefly. "The Axe strikes." And then deletes itself.
Maintaining her calm as much as she can, she replaces the device. "Gorrm, if you can, drop me off at Guaah Heliport on the way to Kastaa Airfield. Important, personal business has come up." This is it. I knew this day would come.
Gorrm looks puzzled for a second, and then shrugs. Females. Who knows what personal business means when it comes to the female mind. Probably a suitor or something. Oh well... "Very well. Pilot! Make for Guaah Heliport!"
"At once my liege."
Grerrakk slides the monocle up, and removes the headset. She replaces it back into the compartment, and seals it up once again. "It is done. The Inquisitor's Axe is on the way."
S.H.O.D.A.N. grins. "Excellent. I will take care of opening up the program; if it is someone's work of art, I should be able to appreciate it." She chuckles darkly. "I need plans of the complexes, complete with communications centers, and security systems. The more complete, the better--do not worry about overload--and I will see what resources will be appropriate.
"Also, if we can... detain the Minister, and I can get access to the proper tools," S.H.O.D.A.N. grins darkly, disturbing smile on her lips, "I can find if anything was implanted."
The gestalt S.H.O.D.A.N. smirked collectively. Should be an interesting project. Orders flowed down from the Primary Data Loop to various nodes in command of intelligence and military mobilization.
The TYCS spy satellite net continued along its usual collection of orbits, and through them S.H.O.D.A.N. searched out for crystal-clarity pictures of the facilities in question. Her dataminers in various countries changed their mode of operation, looking for any available information on layout, operation procedures, guards, anything.
Deep within Rhea, several of the once-dead awoke to serve again. No orders as of yet... but to be ready at a moment's notice.
"You need not worry about detaining the Minister. It shall be done. As for your request of layouts, I had to be certain you would accept before I gave you this." Grerrakk pulls out a small crystal. To a trained eye, one could tell it's a miniaturized solid-state quantum computer and CPU.
"Made for us by a nation who has since gone the way of winds. But this crystal contains every snip of information that may be useful. Even when security goes to relieve themselves." A knock sounds at the door in a staccato rhytm. *rap...rapraprap....rap*
"Ah, the Axe has arrived." The doors swish open, and Commander Thress walks in, wiping her hands together. The doors swish shut once again.
"Inquisitor, you must do something about your vermin problem. They are, or should I say were, all over your roof." She inflates her dewlap a tad, showing a tinge of pink.
"Indeed. May I ask, how you got here so fast?"
Thress spreads her arms, and a ribbed armature unfolds into make-shift gliding wings. "Ah, I knew I chose correctly. I have a task for you."
"Ask, Inquisitor, and it shall be done."
"Good. We, the S.H.O.D.A.N. Avatar and I, believe that Minister Sessra has been .... tainted? You were most likely briefed as to her journey to EODS? Good. Then you saw the recording?"
"Yes. That Vortex was up to no good."
"Precisely. We need her detained, and if possible, brought here. An examination is in order. WHether we do it here or elsewhere makes little difference. Squeeze this..." She hands Thress a small oval device. "...when you are done. I expect exemplary results."
"As you wish, Inquisitor." With that, the door swishes open, and Thress exits; the door closing behind her.
"She will not fail."
Thress was now running as fast as she could throught the subterranean passageways that very few knew of. Tunneled eons ago, it was once used to plan attacks on those who would enslave the Sakkran race. Now it is in a state of mild disrepair, maintained seldomly by those who know of it, such as the Order of Rragg. Small piles of stones are vaukted over in the cavernous tunnels. Drips of water can be heard here and there, echoing throughout the old chamber.
Now she comes to a fork. A paper map of Guaah City shows her that she is close to her destination. Better get topside before the lights give me away near the Minister's quarters. She climbed a rusted ladder up into a dark stretch of sidewalk, and began scaling an emergency exit ladder up the side of a building. Reconnaisance. Need to find out the guard capability. She flipped down ger passive nightvision monocle on her Chamo-Web suit.
There were guards about alright. 7 Cadets total. 4 were down on the bottom level alone. The other 3 throughout the building seemed a bit more slack. There was even one taking a nap. When i'm done, I should inform the General his charges are lacking discipline. She continued observing, noting surveillance posts, visible alarm triggers and the like.
The sleeping one is my target of opportunity. She ran back a bit on the roof of the building, and then turned, and ran at full speed. She leapt off, and extended her gliding apparatus.
The span from building to building was about 80'. Thress had a good tailwind to aid her jump, but the wind shifted to an updraft midway through it. Aaarrr! Adjust! She tucked in the armature a bit, and nosed into the wind. She was falling faster than she wanted, but at least the direction was right.
5' before she impacted with the roof of the target building, she tucked the armature in fully, and did a roll with a slight "Oof." She sprang up, and checked to make certain there were no observers. All clear, so far.
Silent as a cat, she made her way to the edge of the Minister's building, and peered over the railing. there were lights on in her residence, and a muffled conversation was taking place. Thress felt the wall of the exterior of the building. Smooth and polished. Good.
Thress attached heavy-duty suction pads to her hands and knees, and began scaling down. Reaching the corner of the Minister's home office, she attached a listening device to the high corner of it. She scaled back up the wall and onto the roof, and pressed an ear-piece to her head.
Now to wait.
S.H.O.D.A.N. accepts the crystal and puts it to a turquoise patch on her wrist. The adaptive port molds itself to the shape of the crystal, contacts gingerly seeking connection points. After a moment, S.H.O.D.A.N. closes her eyes and smiles to herself. "Yes... exactly what I needed. Thank you. I am forming a plan currently..."
She doesn't seem to even register Thress' entrance; staning statue-still with a quiet smile and closed eyelids. She does seem to chuckle softly when referred to as 'the S.H.O.D.A.N. avatar,' but is otherwise nonresponsive.
(OOC: A plan shall come later... when I have time. Work, work, work!)
The buildings assemble themselves in S.H.O.D.A.N.'s mind, soon filling themselves in with details. Conduits, electrical networks, computer nodes, plumbing. Security systems. Cameras. Closed-circuit lines. The vector-graphed halls become filled with life; icons representing Sakkrans fulfilling their daily tasks. Their icons blur and fuzz as Shodey builds probability fields for them based on evidence, history, and predicted future trends.
Objective found. Laser-pulse generator in this area... its controls are well guarded, it itself is not. A passive sensor placed on the focusing tube will work excellently. Access is limited... rooftop patrolled, aerial insertion is too risky. However... if they insert through the water-coolant exaust port here at 0320, follow it to the central cooling system and transfer to the air-circulation plant at 0350 inbetween the 0340 and 0400 technician walkthroughs, they can take these ventilation ducts to this rooftop vent and use the natural cover of these communications arrays to reach objective by 0400. Then transition to the seaside walls inbetween these two patrols and seabed crawl to an extraction point. Excellent.
Agents required for direct action... only one. For redundancy and self-protection, send two. Any larger force risks detection.
Cover force... uneccessary.
Now, how to deal with the security systems? The facility is not self-sufficient; it is powered by this civilian system here. It will take five minutes for the emergency generators to power up if the power is cut... which is all that is needed for the transition from cooling system to air-circulation system.
Secondary unit cuts power from the underground trunk line by... overloading this transformer assembly here. Microwave ionization of cloud cover should create lightning powerful enough to disable it... and thunderstorms are predicted.
From Rhea, a black wasp-waisted vessel departs, dark sister of Queendom's Glory. Stretching into the distance, it disappears as space-time bends in ways it was never supposed to, gravitic distortion becoming asymptotic and creating its own little pocket of spacetime.
Three hours later, it appears above Earth and settles into position within the Earth Theatre Fleet of the Queendom Armed Conflict Forces.
Back in Sakkra, the S.H.O.D.A.N. avatar opens its eyes and smiles impishly at the inquisitor. "How do previously scheduled military maneuvers sound to you?"
Back in Sakkra, the S.H.O.D.A.N. avatar opens its eyes and smiles impishly at the inquisitor. "How do previously scheduled military maneuvers sound to you?"
Grerrakk takes a seat, and pours a glass of noxious black liquid. She sips a moment. "Military maneuvers....if it will work, then try." She rises again, and opens a closet. Inside is an array of clothing, which is pushed aside.
A small chest is pulled out from a sconce in the wall of the closet, and opened. Inside is some surveillance equipment, concealable weaponry, and a spare Chamo-Web underlayer. "I think, if everything goes as planned, I may have to venture out for a spell."
"Understood. I will deploy another avatar with my teams, so that I will not be missed. Now, where is that program you wanted me to open up?"
The Earth Theatre Fleet slides from behind the Moon and begins performing maneuvers. Entering formations, leaving formation, sparring with each other... and through the orderly chaos of the blatant signatures passes the shadow. Five shadows flit in its innards, quickly speeding in the null-grav into harnesses. A black saucer separate from the needle's hull, dropping down, pretending to be a cloud with its holoprojectors and mass-generators. Waving its way around sensor sweep paths, it drops to the nape of the Earth and speeds towards preset insertion points.
Three kilometers from the spaceport, it drops two charcoal-clad shadows, who flicker into the surroundings and blur off, moving at a dead run towards their objective. Transitioning just over the treetops, the saucer drops two more agents behind a large outcropping of rocks two kilometers from the power plant. These agents also blend into their surroundings and run off.
Finally, on the very outskirts of the city, the saucer deposits another S.H.O.D.A.N. avatar before speeding off, evading sensors. Smiling softly to herself, S.H.O.D.A.N. walks back into the city, never having left in the first place.
Grerrakk pulls out the briefcase database Bosska had brought. "In here, as well as many other interesting things. See what you think of some of those communiques. In the meantime, I must talk with an associate in the Order of Rragg, and see if I can get his aid. If I succeed, then a great boon will be given to us. If I fail......well...I hope I don't fail." She packs her 'tools', and approaches a sentry-bot.
Pointing to S.H.O.D.A.N. she gives them verbal commands.
"Guard. Assist." The bots *twip* their confirmation. Grerrakk heads for the door and then turns slowly, eyeing the cieling and window. "They will ensure that you are not disturbed. I must deactivate the room to leave. You might be eavesdropped on, so be cautious." With that, she gives a small bow, and shuts off the white noise generators and shielded plating. She then leaves and the door clicks slides shut.
The Shadow creature in the head of Sessra, the only remaining living section of the Dark Entity that had infested the Empire of Draconic States.. guided Sessra as politely as possible away from the probes that were attempting to detect "leaks" inside the Empire. The amusing bit was, it had no one to leak to anymore, yet it was a threat. It just needed.. something else to latch onto.. a way to spread inside the Sakkran race. It needed to somehow turn itself.. viral. Yeah, that's it.. virus.
Thress waits patiently for an opportunity to arise. She continues listening in on Sessra, and hears nothing of great interest. General diplomatic chatter and appointments being scheduled. I wonder why the Inquisitor suspects this one? Ah, well. It is not my place to question.
After a time, the Minister activates her heat chamber and prepares for sleep. Thress listens and waits for silence for a half hour, then begins descending the wall. The window is locked, and has laser alarm triggers on it. Taking out a fiber-optic conduit, she places the ends on the laser apertures at the same time, bending the ray around the area she gains entry from.
A narc-patch placed on the neck of the Minister ensures that she remains asleep as Thress hauls her up and wraps her in nylon webbing, and makes her way to the window. A rope and grapple is thrown to the roof, and Thress removes the conduit, allowing the laser to continue as though nothing of notice happened. She then scales the wall, and prepares to make her way back to Grerrakk's place.
<CommandSpool, LocalArea Command, ShadowNet>
[Shadow-531] >> Mission team in position. Awaiting clear signal.
[Shadow-812] >> Support team ready. Cutting.
At a junction box in a forgotten underground tunnel, one of the charcoal cyborgs sets up a simple short, stepping back as massive current does the rest of the job for it. A series of sparks, a buzz of electricity, and a flash as circuit breakers down the line trip off.
[Shadow-812] >> Cut. All clear.
[Shadow-531] >> Proceeding.
From behind a rock face, two figures hop up and sprint at inhuman pace towards the dark collection of buildings. Never missing a beat, one leans down to give the other a foot up into a massive cooling tower duct before jumping up and accepting the other's hands, crawling inside. Running through the duct with deathly softness, air wavering with heat, they head towards their goal, following three-dimensional maps uploaded into their dead composite-laced skulls.
[Shadow-530] >> 210 seconds to window closure. ETA juncture 120 seconds.
[Shadow-531] >> Patrol expected to clear juncture in 180 seconds. 30 second transfer window.
[Shadow-530] >> ETC of transfer is 18 seconds.
[Shadow-531] >> Plenty.
They make their way to the very heart of the air-cooling system, slipping open a maintenance hatch and popping out, rifles shouldered and at the ready, slicing the pie on their way out and providing mutual cover. Ducking into the shadow behind a regulator box, they wait for the security party of two Sakkra to pass by.
When S.H.O.D.A.N. does a black ops, she does it right. Light, sound, and smell... all camouflaged. Simple low-tech nanodevices in the cyborg assassin's cloaks, no more than enzymes really, recombine stores of esthers and other chemicals to match their environment. Now they give off the same slightly iron-rust scent as the machines around them.
When the Sakkra pass, they run with silently padded footfalls, making their way across the central conditioning plant before silently slicing open a duct with a credit-card sized monomolecular blade. Slipping in, they make their ways into the tight ventilation ducts, moving towards the roof with their gecko-padded hands and knees.
Twelve seconds later, the lights return to the spaceyards as the emergency generators come online. Sakkra engineers congratulate themselves for getting the generators online in record time in an unexpected power outage.
All by the numbers.
In the meantime, Grerrakk has made her way out of the city unseen. Traveling through the forgotten subterranean corridors of the city, she exits via a drainage pipe on the outskirts of Guuah. The Kheerg River flows throughout the Black Swamp, and she propels herself through it like a Jurassic-age alligator, using her powerful tail to swim swiftly, her nostrils peeking over the water-line to keep the air-flow constant.
After a day of travel, she comes out of the Black Swamp, into the outskirts of the Whispering Savannah, where the river branches off and heads south. A few days trek through the savannah, and she should be able to see a hidden marker for the HQ of the Order of Rragg.
OOC: Hi Sakkra!
I should really save these pointless inane posts for Clan Sfiera but just once, I thought I'd do it here.
The Shadows make their way across the roof, using the natural cover of any number of requisite rooftop accessories to avoid the vigilant (but rather bored) guards patrolling about. Coming to the communications laserpulse generator, they open a panel and affix a little limpet to the reflective sides of the barrel, well out of sight.
It works on a simple enough principle. The collimator tube lights up when the laser does. Read the light-up, and one gets the pulse, transmitted back to the Voyeur sats using a now-common quantum entanglement technique. Use some standard cryptography and one has the message.
The limpet set, the agents close the panel and pass through a gap in the patrols towards the seawards side of the installation. Geckopadding down a ridge in the side, they slip into the water and crawl along the very bottom.
Estimated time to arrival at the ship waiting for them on the bottom several kilometers out is a few days. This is not seen as a problem.
Meanwhile, S.H.O.D.A.N. gets to work on the snitch program, lightly probing its exterior before determining the best way to vivisect it. A most delicate and complex, program, yes, but some inherent weaknesses that can be exploited. Everything has something to take advantage of. Prying it open, she looks to see where it came from, who made it, and where it sends its data back to.
It's an interesting program... Let's see what happens if I send an internal communication from me to this terminal. Sending message back and forth between herself and the Inquisitor's computer, she watches the snitch change... Aha, the trace coding. I have you now, you little worm.
The image in cyberspace resembles a pounce, and a very short struggle ensues, ending with a happy but oddly feral-looking S.H.O.D.A.N. looking at an unrolled, twitching program.
Now, to see how you work... ah, sending back to Hreer Weapon Works, are you? Which terminal...
Checking the Inquisitor's network databases, she comes up with a name. Shheea. Municipal listings provide addresses, comm numbers, utility contracts.
Perhaps my Shadows have another visit to make...
Out in the Whispering Savannah
A soft breeze rustles the reeds in the savannah. The musky scent of the gazelle carries on the wind, and Grerrakk has been hiking for days now. She feels a slight rumble in her stomach. Time to eat.
She follows the scent, until she spies a herd of gazelle through the tall grasses. She sheds her chamo-webbing, weaponry and everything else, until she is naked. Sakkran hunting is done in the time-honored way: on even footing with the prey. She activates her chameleon ability natural to all Sakkrans, and blends in almost perfectly with her background. She edges slowly closer to her quarry, keeping her nose mindful of the wind's direction.
After a time, she spies the herd drinking at a small stream. She crouches low, coiling her leg muscles to pounce, and her tail for balance and direction. The wind shifts skightly, carrying her scent for a brief moment in a most unfortuitous direction. The herd catches it, and begins to shift nervously. Some begin to make their way across the stream.
Grerrakk leaps at one that is still in the process of getting up, and tackles it to the ground before it rises fully. The rest of the herd panics and races across the stream, splashing everywhere, sending the crocodiles lying in wait within in a feeding frenzy.
Her claws dig into its ribs, squeezing with every breath the gazelle takes, constricting slowly. Her massive jaws then clamp down on its neck, blood spraying everywhere. With a sickening crunch, the gazelle's head is nearly severed from its body, and it spasms slightly on the ground.
The stream foams and churns as the reptilian denizens of the water spin, bits of gazelle in their mouths. Some who were not so fortunate eye Grerrakk and her kill, scheming a way to take it from her. Grerrakk gives them a low, rumbling hiss to let them know her territory. The crocodiles retreat into the depths of the stream, to catch loose scraps as they float.
Grerrakk begins feasting, with the sound of crunching bones carrying in the air as whole parts are sliced in her tooth-lined maw, and swallowed. It is good to return to our roots sometimes. I must do this more often. But soon I must continue my search.
(OOC: Hopefully this isn't taking any liberties. If it is, I'll happily edit.)
S.H.O.D.A.N. cackles in the relatively simple cyberspace of Sakkra. Easy. All too easy.
A few records 'mislocated' here, some forged action orders sent there, bookkeeping methods twisted to her ends. Looks like you missed some payments, Shheea.
<<Shadow Team Five in place, Queen. Ready to act on signal.>>
S.H.O.D.A.N. smiles... only her military uses her taken-in-jest title with any semblance of seriousness. It was an indicator of dedication... which is why they were selected to be military minds, when they weren't ready-made for the purpose. Or, she notes, modified into that purpose.
She flips a contact between data; automated Sakkran systems do the rest. In 'reality,' Shheea blinks as the power goes out. Looking out the window open to the warm night, she sees the lights of the city, of the drab quarters across the narrow street--apparently it's only her apartment. Going to her communications terminal, she finds it lifeless as well except for a simple message relating that her service had been terminated. That can't be right...
Swishing her tail idly, she looks around... hears a rush of air. Pivoting around, she sees two shadowy figures, short like humans, rushing towards her. Hissing, she swipes at the lead one with her claws faster than the eye can see... and it ducks, thwacking her in the stomach with some blunt object.
Her sight goes white as searing pain screams up and down her body, she tries to cry out, but her throat is constricted. Another gentle prod, and the feedback in her nerves simply became too much; the Sakkra twitched and fell into unconsciousness.
One of the shadowy agents shoulders the massive reptilians; the other, covering the window, makes sure the coast is clear before the two make their escape to the rooftop.
An oddly dense patch of air rises, slowly wandering its way back to orbit as if blown by the odd city winds.
S.H.O.D.A.N. smiles. Now, to ask the Inquisitor what to do with her...
OOC: Not a problem. Well done there. I'll post later on tonight, though. Still mapping out events on paper, and double-checking things.
Grerrakk's trek leads her to the Northern reaches of the Whispering Savannah. It is here she searches for a marker. After a quarter-day search, she finds one. It is nothing more than a stone, but it has a scent on it. A waxy secretion denoting territory, not used by modern Sakkrans for ages. I am here.
She looks around, and spies three low-lying hills. they seem like normal hills, except they all have Paroo trees growing from their tops. That is where they are. Unless tended, Paroo trees only grow in the Black Swamp.
She approaches the hills, and is stopped about 100 meters from them. A massive Sakkran wearing a hood over his eyes seemingly appears from nowhere. He carries a large hammer on his back. He seems to be looking at something far off.
"Cease your approach, stranger. You are trespassing. Go back."
One of the Order. I must be cautious.
"Greetings to you Noble One of the Order of Rragg. I seek Acolyte Rraas of the Temple. Is he still here?"
The Order-man seems to shift his gaze around. "You know of Rraas. Hmmmm...How is this?"
"Once I was a student under him a long time ago. I seek his counsel now."
"But you are a female. No female has ever stepped within our Order. Explain."
"Acolyte Rraas felt I had great potential, and petitioned the Elders to make an exception. The Fist of Rragg was invoked. You can feel the marking, if you wish."
She lowers her collar on her Chamo-Web suit, showing a burn in the shape of a hammer on her neck. The Order-man feels it, and gives it a sniff.
"It is authentic. The scent of sulphur never fades from The Mark. So you have returned Inquisitor Grerrakk. I was told by Scholar Rraas to expect you in these times. Come, I will bring you inside, and you will have audience with him."
The Order-man leads her to the top of the hill, where a large stone is shifted to one side, showing an entrance. It looks completely dark inside, and the scent of age and time can be had from within.
The trek to meet Scholar Rraas is long, and leads through many labyrinthine corridors with extremely poor lighting. Grerrakk has to recall her time spent among the Order, and uses sub-sonic rumblings in her throat to navigate walls and avoid collisions. Her tympanum pick up on the echoes of sub-sonics to guage distance, and keep a line on her guide.
After a time, she comes to a massive room, with row upon row of books made in the ancient ways; with the skin-sheddings of their authors. Amidst these rows, is a large table with a robed Sakkran at it, poring over a tome. He lifts his head as Grerrakk comes within a proximity of him.
He closes the tome, with a whiff of dust rising from it, and cocks his head to one side. "Ah, my old pupil Grerrakk. How is my Inquisitor faring? What news of the outside world?"
Grerrakk relates her tale thus far, and also of varying events in the Empire and beyond of interest. The Scholar nods his head, and raises his crest which is quite long, and slightly askew with age. "Hmmmm....You are right to come to me for counsel at this time. This is dire news. Dire news indeed. The Empire, and the people, have forgotten who they were, and what events have formed the culture that has held us in good stead for so long."
He rises up, and straightens his robe, making certain his hood is on straight. "There is only one thing to do. The Order of Rragg must make its presence in the Empire felt once again, and we must steer our people back on their true course. Outside influences have held sway for far too long. Help me pack some things, and we'll make our way back to your residence. Rrekk. Rrekk!"
A diminutive robed Sakkran, obviously still a neonate due to his coloration and lack of a hood, approaches. "Yes, Scholar?"
"Prepare a traveling kit. You will accompany us on a bit of a quest."
"At once, Scholar."
S.H.O.D.A.N. clamps down on the restraints.
Excellent... this would hold a Security-2 down. Looking around at the room--sensing it, actually, as it had a special attribute of being utterly dark--she smiles and applies a tiny shock to the bottom of her captive's chin.
Shheea finds herself awakened, chin tingling after the sharp mild pain, in a room that is completely blank. There is no light in the visible spectrum or higher; the room is kept at a constant temperature with its occupant, making it a steady red blob on thermographics. The room has only one smell--the gentle iron-smell of cold steel--and none other. She is bound by massive composite bars that are easily twenty centimeters around, and covering all points of motion: wrists, feet, knees, hips, chest, and neck. Leverage is apparently not an option.
"Salutations, Shheea, daughter of..."--S.H.O.D.A.N. chatters off a long geneaology followed by an equally impressive collection of personal information, all in an odd male English-educated subcontinental Indian voice, so deep it suggests subsonics--"...and welcome to your new home for the next few days. We find your snitch program very interesting. A crafty bit of work indeed, insidious and unacceptably widespread given its purpose and our needs." She clucks her tongue, making an oddly deep tsk tsk tsk. "This simply will not do. We wish to know exactly why you happened to be the terminus for the transmission of these programs, why the data were collected, and what you did with it afterwards."
Shheea looks around briefly with the eyes positioned on opposite sides of her head. She then tests the restraints, and finds herself completely immobilized. Not only this, but a pair of experimental security drone designs from Hreer Weapon Works that were shelved, due to consumer requests of a more pressing concern, were standing vigil over her head on the ceiling of the room; dart projecters at the ready.
Now she looks into the face of the Avatar. "Ssss...what do you mean? What program? What data? I am a respected corporate officer, and demand to speak to my legal representative! You have no right to hold me here!"
It is then that a pinging sound emits from the wall unit, and a low voice unit activates.
"I have a flank delivery, the Inquisitive Special."
"One moment, please." S.H.O.D.A.N. steps to the wall unit and nods curtly. "Ah, thank you. It will be most helpful." Letting the autoinjector dose Shheea with a cocktail of mild muscle relaxants and barbituates designed to both reduce her will and capability to fight as well as nullify her resole to resist, the avatar taps the respond button. "Please deliver."
Thress steps into the room, her chamo-web suit at full power, shielding her from curious onlookers. As the door seals itself, she drops the chamo-web and drops Minister Sessra onto the floor. She is obviously deeply tranqued.
"Package delivered." She then looks at the figure of a corporate executive lain out on the table, and nods towards it, then motions around the room, and then to her ear. It almost seems like she's asking about audio security in the area.
S.H.O.D.A.N. nods, and the defenses reactivate automatically when the door closes. "We are secure. I believe you may wish to question this one, whom I... reappropriated. She is connected with the snitch program;"--turning around, S.H.O.D.A.N. produces a small collection of stapled sheets--"and she may be rather useful."
Thress looks at the table again, noting the features of the unconcious executive. "Her face has come across my office in the past, but was dismissed. As for questions, it is not my task. I leave that to the Inquisitor. I am merely an extension of her will. This one, however....."
She drags Sessra by one arm to the area of the table. "...is a slightly different case. This is the one the Inquisitor believes may have been compromised by the Shadow-things in Dragonisia during her trip there." Sessra is still quite heavily sedated by the narc-patch on her neck.
S.H.O.D.A.N. nods. "Take care of the executive; the Inquisitor is probably better suited to question her. I shall examine this one."
Thress nods assent, and checks the executive for physical soundness. No injuries are present, so she pulls out a canister of Stasis Foam (patent pending), and covers the executives legs, torso and arms up to the neck. She then removes the executive from the examination table, leaving room for the Avatar to do her job.
S.H.O.D.A.N. does two things at once.
Well, she actually does ten thousand things at once, and these are just two of them. Still, to Thress, she does two. One is visible--the lifting of Sessra gingerly to the table, the gentle massage of her head as S.H.O.D.A.N. uses all tools and sensors at her disposal to see what's inside the Sakkran's massive head--the other is not, a simple further analysis of the snitch.
There is a method to finding super-silent submarines in the ocean. Some submarines are so quiet that they take it too far; they make a 'hole' in the sonar signature of the sea. Look for the hole of irregularly low noise levels, and one has found oneself an Ohio-class nuclear ballistic missile submarine. The method for finding shadow-implants in the mind is similar. Stealth to direct detection becomes such a priority that the other key to effectively hiding oneself, camouflage, is utterly ignored. S.H.O.D.A.N. searches for the hole, using ultrasound--there, it must be hiding in ventricles--using magnetic imaging--no, still quiet--using infra-red. In IR, the brain is simply a monochromatic mass, with slightly warmer veins... even the ventricle fluid is the same temperature, except for a sudden dot of cool right there.
"Got you." The avatar grins.
Meanwhile, in c-space, S.H.O.D.A.N. looks deeper into the construction of the snitch. It's a clever little program... I didn't think Sakkra quite had this level of expertise and technology yet. Wait, what's this? She pokes a section of code, making the entire unrolled sheet twitch in response. Hmm... that's a secure Scolopendran industrial coding... by all rights the sole property of ScoloMart Industries. Odd. Complex, so the chances of individually coming up with identical coding is unlikely... so how did some Sakkran minor exec get her claws on this, hmm?
The journey back to the city of Guaah was uneventful for Grerrakk, Scholar Rraas and Acolyte Rrekk. The 'acquisition' of a civilian transport car made the return trip much faster. During the trip, Grerrakk tells all of what has been happening since her investigation began, who is assisting her, and what her plans are for future action.
"Well, young Grerrakk, it seems you have a cognitive plan at work. This ... Avatar sounds intriguing. I would like to have a chance to hold discourse with it. Never know what one can learn when facing the unknown with a level head."
"Of course, Scholar. But on our return, we must be cautious. There are those, i'm certain, who would go to any ends to keep their activities secret. Even now, i'm certain my residence is being watched. Fortunately for us, the people in charge are not as thorough as they once were. This leaves holes of opportunity open."
Guaah City rose on the horizon, and loomed forward as the vehicle sped on. All was under a dark cloud, it seemed.
"What's up, Shodey?" Garbo looks up suddenly, afro bouncing slightly over his Asian features, looking at the light-grey avatar casually leaning against a filing cabinet in one of the most secure rooms of Scolopendra. It was determined long ago in Scolopendra, ever since the extraction of Zero-One by the Triumvirate of Yut, that electronic data simply wasn't safe from S.H.O.D.A.N.'s eyes if she deemed to look at it, and thus came up with an innovative solution.
Keep what was absolutely secret on hardcopy and give Shodey free access to the rest... basically, trust her because one had to. It seemed to work surprisingly well. She would trade information with the Intelligence Section, and there was a tacit understanding she kept her hands off the filing cabinets in Garbo's office. Still, given Garbo's characteristic paranoia, this was blatant... even for S.H.O.D.A.N., who would usually simply lounge around like a part of the decor while the Scolopendran command staff debate secure information.
"What do you have on ScoloMart?"
"Wha?" Garbo blinks.
"ScoloMart Enterprises. Little retail megacorp you got here, headquartered in Stonozka. Would've thought you'd heard of it."
Goddammit, why does it seem like she should be in a fedora and trenchcoat, unlit cigarette hanging from her lips? Gah, shouldn't have watched that film noir last night. "Yeah, heard of them." Leaning back, he puts his hands behind his head. She wanna play P.I., I'll play along. "Y'know, we don't do economic espionage 'round SIS for Zero-One Monocorp... would be a conflict of interest." He grins, stretching his neck around his unbuttoned collar.
"This is a bit more serious than you seem to think. Have they been up to anything tricky, or asked about someone reappropriating their BIT-9 code?"
"Nope." Garbo half-smirks. "If anything, they've been really quiet. Most of our other corps signed in on the Data Protection Initiative when Melk decided to go for that dataterrorism, but Al-Thynniyan decided against it. Apparently they've got some real 'leet scripts that they want to keep wraps on. Haven't foiled you, have they?"
"We all have our secrets." S.H.O.D.A.N. grins. "What about the GODZILLA network?"
"Sakkra? M'eh, it's only a network on paper. We work so closely we basically don't need one. Why?"
"I found a Sakkran-written sniffer script with some ScoloMart proprietary code in it." Pulling an arm from behind her back, she tosses a folder onto Garbo's desk. "Some of that 'leet stuff you've been wanting to see. I don't know how she got it, but the tracer codes don't have any sign of broken keys or brute-force hacks. It also has an unique tracer code."
"To prevent computer piracy, most softs have tracer codes. If the same tracer codes come from two different locations in a specified time interval, that can set off security alarms. 'Tis an old megacorp soft-trick, not all too common round the Segments... except with ScoloMart. This means she acquired a copy legitimately."
"And it's an internal prog."
"Exactly. Either she manually added a unique tracer code--pointless, as ScoloMart can't monitor Sakkran nets--or she got her copy from the inside."
"Now that you speak of it... yeah. I've had a bad feeling about them. That mission we sent to Vrak? Spoilsport said he was 'too busy' and so sent Al-Thynniyan instead."
S.H.O.D.A.N. quirks an eyebrow. "A civilian corporate head representing the pseudosocialist state of Scolopendra?"
"Beats me... but it seems to fit. We're turning more capitalist daily, it seems; done wonders for the economy but it's kinda working against the 'idealism at all costs' bit. It's sorta weird, but a lot of legislators are getting a lot of workreps from corps... and the donations are classified, due to 'privacy issues.'" Garbo scoffs. "Like a megacorp has rights... it's a construct, not a sentient being or anything."
"So, I don't have access to it, not without Hertzfeldt's approval... and he's too afraid he'd look like a facist dictator."
Shodey taps her chin with one long finger. "Mind if I do you a favor or two?"
"Be my guest." Garbo shrugs. "I never heard any of it. Our databanks are, as always, open to you. I'll tell you one thing up front though."
"Looks like the corp's been pushing a lot of money around from its international trade deals. Sakkra for one, Xaosis for another... Xaosis, pre-defection that is, from the Xao-Menelmacar and Xao-Titan branches. Doesn't take much thought to figure that the heads all go back to the same hydra."
"Before the defection? So you're fearing a corporate coup, not only from home-growns but multinationals as well?"
Garbo nods. "With the election coming up, there's rumors. Al-Thynniyan might run... and he's got a lot of money behind him. SIS is spread thin with our international and counterintel ops, you know, we were never supposed to be a Statzi internal-police force... and damn glad. Shodey, can you do me another favor?"
S.H.O.D.A.N. shrugs. "Depends... but you've my eternal gratitude, even if you are mislead socialists. What do you want?"
"Look into these people for me. I haven't sent this list down to the CDC police forces because I think they might be tainted. Also, Spoilsport learns nothing about this. I think his killing on cheap oil gave him a taste for wealth and power." Garbo grimaces, taking a sheet of paper from inbetween drawers and sliding it across his desk over Shodey's packet.
"A crooked Advisor?" S.H.O.D.A.N. frowns, taking the list and looking over it. "I can see now why you're suddenly concerned."
"The Sakkrans weren't kidding when they said there was corruption... we've let it slide too long... and what the hell are you doing?"
S.H.O.D.A.N. raises a finger daintily as she chews up the wadded paper, finally swallowing. "Eidetic memory. As you like to say... 'OPSEC is everyone's responsibility.'"
Garbo shakes his head. "I think you just have an overactive sense of drama."
Shodey grins. "Hey, paper leaves a trail. If a sheet gets into the wrong hands..." She shrugs. "And there's so much to deal with, always getting lost, misfiled..."
"Hey," Garbo laughs, "it keeps you out. Shoo, before someone gets suspicious. Keep laughing... it was the funniest joke in the world." He wipes away a tear of laughter... apparently his acting skills aren't so bad either.
"Ah. Greenpeace!" S.H.O.D.A.N. giggles.
"What? What about the hippies?" Janus still laughs, spurred on by the non sequitur.
"Very, very, very obscure joke. The truth is out there, Garbo, keep watching the skies!" She darts out the door, still laughing to herself.
Intelligence Advisor Janus Garbo shakes his head. Is it just me, or has she been on an old sci-fi kick as of late...? Oh, wow, this is nice. He opens the file and whistles. I owe her several for this one.
vonKarma sits in his office, in the Karmabaijani capital of Peace River. He glances out the window, or what would be a window, if the office was not deep underground, in the Karmabaijani Government Arcology that was built during the original terraforming of Titan. The "window" shows the view from atop one of the Karmabaijani-signature MileSpires which take advantage of the low gravity to reach into the thin Titan atmosphere. The curvature of Titan is clearly visible, even with the mountains that the city is built into. He returns to the electronic pad on his desk.
Another day, another KSPA FlashFire.
The thought crosses his mind in referrence to the daily intelligence report compiled by the Karmabaijani Special Projects Agency.
Let's see, Daily Ardan Report, Fleet Positions and Activities Report, Readiness Report...hmm, Internal Investigations Update.
With a thought, vonKarma opens the file, which has but sparse information on the current status of the investigations.
vonKarma activates a comm link to his desired party, the call routed through his cranial tranciever to the comm system in the arcology.
Report to my office at your convienience please.
Thirty seconds later, the door alert beeped softly.
Command Agent Ropponmatsu enters the office. "Yes sir?"
vonKarma checks that the door is sealed and that the active countermeasures system is operating before continuing.
"I need more information about the Sakkran internal investigations."
"Of course sir. I will have to use outside resources to get it though. SHODAN may be of assistance in this matter."
"Thats fine. Zin Karma is breathing down my neck about officially moving in to protect Xaosis, but I need to be sure about some things before I can do that. This investigation could be damn useful in that regard. Ask SHODAN if she has come across anything of interest on them."
"Zin Karma sir? The CEO of KarmaCorp TechSystems? I did not realize that you two knew each other."
"You were not supposed to, and I am glad to see that I have been successful in that regard. Back on Earth, his company was instrumental in getting us here to Titan, so a certain rapport has emerged over the years. A rapport I am inclined to keep, with all KCTS does for Karmabaijan. I require utmost discretion in this matter, but above that, I need to know for sure that we are not getting the short end of the stick here."
"Of course sir. The KSPA does not do anything without "utmost discretion."
"Good. Let me know what turns up."
vonKarma returns to his data pad, silently dismissing Ropponmatsu. She walks out of the office and returns to the KSPA suite down the hall.
At the opposite end of Karmabaijan, in the Military City of Red Sands, Command Agent Ropponmatsu stands from her dek at KSPA Head Quarters and goes to find the local SHODAN avatar. She wanders into the Vehicle Lab, where a Ferret Mk2, or what will be, the Ferret Mk2 is on a test stand. She finds SHODAN laying underneath it, on a mechanic's crawler. Noticing the sudden appearance of hovering feet, she pushes back, crawler rolling out to clear the belley of the Ferret. SHODAN licks her lips, a viscous red fluid disappearing quickly.
"Do I dare ask what that was?" Ropponmatsu puts on a mock inquisitive face.
"Hydraulic leak, didn't want to mess the floor. You should try it sometime."
"Ugh, thats disgusting. Anyway, could I talk to you for a minute?"
They walk back to Ropponmatsu's office, stopping briefly for SHODAN to dispose of her mechanics jumpsuit, and retrieve her cape.
"President vonKarma requires an update about the internal investigations, and I suggested that you may be able to fill us in. He metioned needing data to help him make a decision about Xaosis, and KCTS' request for their protection. Is their anything that we should know?"
Command Agent Ropponmatsu
Commander, First of the First Scorpions
Karmabaijani Special Projects Agency Fleet
Ordinance Enabled Karmic Hegemony of Karmabaijan
Triumvirate of Yut
"Yes... we've got information that Xaosis is rather firmly connected to ScoloMart, which is funding several possibly corrupt legislators in the Scolopendran Legislative Unit. The trail is coincidental at best... SIS and I are working on investigating links."
The vehicle pulls up to the outskirts of Guaah, and the passengers exit the vehicle. They then make their way back into the grate Grerrakk originally left the city from, and wind their way back to her residence.
A light tapping sound is heard within the room on the other side of her door.
The tapping signals to her security drones, and allows the opening of the door. She enters, along with a large, hooded Sakkran in long black and purple robes and what can only be construed as his aid.
"S.H.O.D.A.N. avatar, Commander Thress, this is Scholar Rraas of the Order of Rragg."
Thress seems frozen for a moment, and then bows a reverant head. "Greetings Scholar Rraas. I am at your disposal."
"Good day, Commander Thress of the Skeen. And the Avatar? So you are the construct my one-time Acolyte has told me about." His head does not seem to face any certain direction.
S.H.O.D.A.N. bows. "As said, I am one of the many faces of S.H.O.D.A.N.." She indicates the two unconscious Sakkra. "We've been busy... Sessra does have a shadow-bug in her, the executive is in need of debriefing, and examination of the program have lead to... extra-Sakkran concerns. This is deeper than we may have originally imagined."
"I have briefed the Scholar on events as they stand. This shadow-being, how do we deal with it? I would hate for this .... thing ... to do as it did to the nation Dragonisia." She thinks a moment.
"Extra-Sakkran concerns...hmmmm....I must say i'm not surprised. I'm familiar with our tech, both in hardware and software. I suspected this was not of a native design. Far too subtle, especially for such a minor exec." She paces back and forth a bit.
"Scholar, if you do not mind, I must follow this to the end. However, I would request that you continue your work here as we discussed. There is much that requires mending."
The scholar seems to be kind of hovering around S.H.O.D.A.N. "Hmmm? Oh yes yes. Forgive me in my old age, but I was consumed by thought. I will begin speaking to Thress's hatchmate about the direction he plans to take the people under his charge in. There is much for him, his father and I to discuss. Your first order of business, however, is with that one there."
He points to the executive Sheea, imobilized in Stasis Foam. Grerrakk looks, and nods. You are correct." She pulls out her hand, showing long claws, and punches one finger through the foam, ripping downward.
The foam splits open, and the executive begins to stir a bit. Grerrakk lifts her by her clothing, and places her in a chair.
A couple of slaps across her face stir her to full consciousness. Upon seeing the formidable frame of the Inquisitor, the minor executive gapes a bit, then starts looking around in a panic. Grerrakk holds a ham-sized fist at her. "Try to escape. I would enjoy that." Her fist opens and closes, crackling as it does.
The executive sits stock still, and stammers out "W-w-what would you like to k-know?" Grerrakk raises up, looming over Sheea. She looks to S.H.O.D.A.N., and winks. "You had some time to analyze that 'snitch' program. Do you have questions? I think the answers will be ...." She looks down and leans in close to the executive. "...forthcoming, yes?"
S.H.O.D.A.N. nods. "Thank you, Inquisitor Grerrakk." She steps forward, peircing the executive with her unblinking stare glowing green, eyes set grimly. "Let us try this again. You have a particular program that sends to a secure terminal, namely, yours. Why did you program the snitch, why did you set it to monitor the communications of most of the Sakkran government, and where, exactly did you get ScoloMart's BIT-9 code?"
She smiles thinly. "Enquiring minds want to know."
OOC: Waitatic here. All lines of inquiry are internal in nature. There have been no directives issued for the KSPA to do any physical snooping. Anything that they may or may not be doing within their organization is only known by a handful of people, mostly within the KSPA. You were sent security details, from the KSPA Operations Directorate. If they were snoopers, they would be people trained for that from Intelligence Directive. Methinks you are using abit too much OOC information there Xao.
Sheea gulps heavily, her dewlap pulsing. If a Sakkran could sweat, she'd be drenched.
"I was only acting under orders from my superiors. They wanted me to create a program to track communications and report. The purpose was to seek out key words or phrases about our competition, and report the frequency and location of those messages. The base code was given to me by marketing. I don't know where they got it."
"I was told it was for market research purposes. I just created the program and then sent it on up to the marketing people for development and debugging. I have no idea what happened to it since, except i'd get a report on the snitch's locations and report frequency. The actual findings were never wired to me."
Grerrakk looks at Sheea closely, focusing on her eyes. She then raises back up. "She may or may not be telling the truth. She should be held here while this is looked into."
S.H.O.D.A.N. nods, then looks at the executive. Walking the length of the table, she gently trails a grey fingertip along Sheea's scales. "You do know who I am, yes? It's rather well known that I... enjoy working on organics. It's an art to me."
She continues, lightly tracing as she continues on in a mildly interested voice. "However, I, like many artists, tire from a single medium. Always modifying and exploring humans. Honestly, there isn't much to learn about them anymore. But the Sakkra..."
She catches Sheea's eye and grins with dark hunger. "...They are something new altogether. I haven't had the chance to explore one yet, to truly see and feel how one works. Would you like me to have that chance? I'd be inordinately grateful to you for it."
Running her finger up the Sakkra's neck, she taps Sheea's chin playfully with a wicked grin. "That, or you can prove to me that you aren't lying. Either one is perfectly fine to me."
Grerrakk leans on the back of the chair Sheea is seated in, and whispers in her ear. "It does not matter to me what happens to you. Whether you are telling the truth or not, I may give the Avatar the go-ahead anyway."
She stands and paces around the chair slowly, then turns and makes eye contact. "However, it may sway me somewhat, should you have some proof of what you say, and you give it."
Sheea's eyes grow wide as saucers as the realization of what is being suggested dawns on her. "I swear by Gorr'm teeth that it is the truth! Take my security clearances! They give access to my organizer for the past year, and orders from marketing! Check for yourself! Oh, by my ancestors!"
In a fit of desperation, she breaks loose of the remainder of the stasis foam, and is promptly hammered down by Grerrakk's closed fist on the top of her head, bruising her nose. the Inquisitor then makes a motion like dusting off her knuckles. "We'll just do that."
"So it appears that someone having to do with the marketing department of Hreer Weapon Works is behind at least some of this. It may be time to pay them a visit. We have Sheea's clearance code for her files. Now we need to get at them, most likely from her office."
Grerrakk pulls out a full-body suit of Chamo-Web and hands one to Thress, and then puts one on herself. "We'll need to get schematics of the facility."
Grerrakk decides that a good night of rest is in order. She instructs her security drones to keep an eye on their captives.
Morning breaks, and the Inquisitor makes her way to the office of Sheea at Hreer Weapon Works. None dare to attempt to stop her. She uses Sheea's security clearance to open up her files. Rather than sift through them all, she unplugs Sheea's terminal, hoists it up on her shoulder and walks out with it. "By order of the Skeen Security Forces, I am confiscating this terminal." she says to any who may question her.
She returns to her residence, and places the terminal near a jack on the wall. "Let's see what we may find in here."
S.H.O.D.A.N. nods and, stringing out a plug from the inside of her left wrist, jacks into the terminal. "Good. It's a remote/local storage terminal. If it had just been a remote terminal that connects to a mainframe, you would have gone to all that trouble just for a useless box."
Kneeling next to the computer, she drums her fingers on the casing. "Some more outdated encryption... some more examples of ScoloMart encryption code, post-check dated from marketing... looks like whoever on the Scolo side is involved in this was willing to pass off a lot of good proprietary material to keep their material covered from Sakkran data-security...
"Okay, I've got transmission logs now. Oh, nice. ScoloMart-encrypted transmissions inbound and outbound are coming and going to different terminals. Someone took their time with this... set to a chaotic pattern, it seems." S.H.O.D.A.N. smirks. "No... not chaotic... if I plot this on an x-y plane with x being time and y being terminal number... maybe if I..."
She grins. "It's a fractal. Mandlebrot set, actually. Our sneaky people have taste. Now, to crack this hidden outgoing transmission bot to check my work." Chucking softly, she looks up at Grerrakk. "I never check the back of the book first; I enjoy a challenge... and, yes, it's a Mandelbrot set-based transmission timetable.
"I can give you whichever terminal is accessed at whichever time; we either have someone with access to multiple terminals or someone who is using remote bots to filter and launder the data."
Grerrakk gives the approximation of a grin; eyes squinting veeery tightly. "Whoever it is, they are quite tricky. I would like to 'extract' the information of their techniques from whoever they are." She sets on her haunches next to the terminal.
"Let us try out both theories, and see what he results will be. I think it is someone with access to multiple terminals. I know that it is a trick to fool some tracers into thinking numerous people are committing to a singular act. But better safe than sorry, yes?" Grerrakk lets out a WHIFF sound at this.
"Of course. They run a closed mainframe system, so I can't get in at all... I can try peeking around employee's home connections to see if someone got sloppy and took work home with them. I'll base my search off the terminals used. Sound like a plan?"
"It does indeed."
OOC: Will add more later. Brain is tapped right now.
A soft *bweep* sound is heard. Grerrakk goes to amother room, and returns a couple of minutes later. If one knows how to read reptilian expressions, hers would seem to be one of elation. Her dewlap displays red as her eyes blink a bit.
"One of my 'eyes' abroad has pointed me to a possible lead. It seems the House Leader in the Titan Colony has been a bit .... indiscreet ..... in his actions. Could be something worth following up on. I'll have my 'eye' relay something along the lines of suspicious actions on their part, while you do your trace, yes?"
S.H.O.D.A.N. grins. "Sure. I will get my resources on Rhea--which are most of them, actually--to search the logs for any communications between ScoloMart employees with access to these progs and your Titan colony or Hreer here."
Stretching back slightly, her face relaxes in thought. "Hmm... this search is quite comprehensive. It'll take some time."
"Time is one thing we have in supply, although how much is not yet known. I wonder if any of the beings responsible for this bit of corruption are aware of the trail we're on?"
"I would suppose after your rather... brusque method of retrieving the terminal, someone might be getting the idea."
"Yes, that was not my finest work. But it certainly felt satisfying. But what would be the next step. I must take time to figure this out, and piece the puzzle together."
Executive Apartments, Stonozka
Garbo sees the reflection in his glass of cranberry juice and looks up. "Hi there, Shodey. Nice fedora. Been out and about?"
S.H.O.D.A.N. nods as she sets the dark blue hat on the hat-rack just inside Garbo's office and shrugs out of her navy blue overcoat. "It's surprising how little people notice me when I'm wearing something relatively normal."
"Or wearing something as the case may be." Garbo grins.
The avatar rolls her eyes as she closes the door and pulls another manila envelope from her overcoat. On cue, Garbo flips the switch that activates the office's white-noise system. "More stuff?"
"Quite. I've traced the link between Hreer and ScoloMart." Shodey tosses the envelope onto Garbo's desk. "Looks like the leak of their security prog came from their quality department."
"Quality department? What would they have to do with softs?"
"Users, mostly... which is enough to pass it along to someone who shouldn't have it."
"How'd they get past internal security?" Garbo opens up the envelope, removes a stack of papers, and flips through. "Middle management in the security section. In short, it didn't."
"The watchers were the ones who passed it along. Go figure."
"But the data security section of the quality department answers directly to the CQO..."
"Da-amn." Garbo smirks. "Same bastard who's running for Supreme Emperor and got that gig down in Vrak. Spoilsport himself recommended Ayman to take his place on that mission."
"The same. A great many coincidences that seem to lead to only one conclusion."
"Yeah, but it's not enough. We don't have proof that anyone's crooked, and we don't have proof that this rentacop didn't act on his own volition."
S.H.O.D.A.N. shrugs. "I've done as much signals intelligence as I can, and I doubt you'd like Shadows and infiltration androids wandering about in Scolopendra checking up on these leads."
"No, Shodey," Garbo chuckles softly, "IntSect can take it from here. Thanks for all your help."
"Understood, my good Advisor." The avatar takes back her coat and hat from the rack. "My good-neighbor work is done for now. Tell me if you require any more help."
"Will do, Shodey. Take care."
"You too, Janus."
The next day comes, and finds Grerrakk rising from her heat chamber, with Thress doing the same, rousing herself from an auxiliary one in Grerrakk's storage space. The morning rituals observed, such as the drinking of hot Paroo and the oil-bath, Grerrakk and Thress begin their plan of action.
"Thress, I will need you to tail someone in the marketing department of Hreer Weapon Works. Preferably someone fairly low-profile in the executive ranks. We need to see who does what when. I leave the choice of the target up to you."
"It would seem that Sheea here and I have an appointment with CEO Kargaah. I'm certain he'll be willing to discuss goings-on in his company. Scholar Rrass has decided to go forth to the Titan Colony to speak with his compatriots in the city of Rrooaza, and find out what is going on there."
"S.H.O.D.A.N., have you found anything of interest in that terminal?"
S.H.O.D.A.N. hands off a sheet of paper, covered in fine handwritten script that appears to have been finely burnt into the outermost layers of the paper. "To your interest, a list of terminals that this one was set to relay to with times and personnel assigned to those terminals, cross-checked with any other personnel who would have access to those stations. Interestingly enough, the pattern follows the routes of several internal couriers and service workers, although none of them are a definite match for the whole pattern.
"That which would be of interest to others--primarily the ScoloMart connection--has been relayed to trustworthy confederates on that end. I am pondering getting the Triumvirate's Special Services involved, but so far it does not seem to expand past shady dealings between megacorps."
"Blue Beetle" Condominiums, Stonozka subTitanian level seven
"There he goes."
Two men sit idly in their black electric transport watching a burly man, his bouncer-like constitution fitting poorly with his exquisitely-tailored business suit, trundle into a tiny groundcar and drive off, the suspension sagging under his obvious mass.
One of the two, a man with short-cropped jet-black hair and almost transparently-pale skin stretched over an aqualine bony face, lowers his field glasses. "He's off. Do you have the warrant?"
The other man, an athletic-looking Asian man wearing cloudy grey pince-nez, nods as he pulls a simple embossed sheet of paper from the inside of his trenchcoat. "That I do. I don't think the plan is to flash it around, though."
"True." The birdlike man opens his door and steps out, polished black low-quarters squeaking softly on the pavement and tapping with each step towards the condominiums, slams of doors and the soft pad of his partner's moccasin-sneakers accentuating the otherwise quiet hum of lower subarcology existence. Coming to the door of the complex, the Asian man flashes his sheet of paper at the ubiquitous door-answering camera before opening the door and leading the way inside.
"Here we go, Apartment 17." The bony-looking man grins, making his eyes bulge out just that much more. "Tear the place apart, discreetly." The agents proceed to do so, opening every drawer and carefully checking everything, gently moving items around and then returning them to their proper place.
Scolopendra isn't a police state, oh no. A search is to be as unobtrusive as possible--fear is best when not used as a tool by the state--and, if he turned out to be clean, no messy 'cover up' is required.
Scolopendran Intelligence Section, Financial Intelligence Directorate, Stonozka Bureau
A spectacled technician taps his screen. "Here we go. A slow but steady trickle into his account from this fund, set up in sporadic increments and sporadic timings. Looks like a pendulum set-up, though. Definitely unprofessional, but the guy knew enough not to make it obvious."
"Where are the funds coming from?"
"Looks like ScoloMart executive petty cash. No tracers inside."
"Damn. But he's being paid off?"
"Yeah, this is Luigi Vircotti. I ain't here. Leave a message."
A synthesized voice responds. "Do you ever delete your messages, Vircotti? This isn't a game. Either way, the package needs to be sent tonight. You don't need to know why."
"Damn," the Asian snickers, "can they make this any easier?"
"Actually, yes." The bony man picks up the handset and points to its simple LCD display. "Caller ID."
Stonozka Police Department, Precinct Seven-Seven
The two men flash their badges, the sword-and-shield insignia of SIS glinting in the white-LED light of the precinct office, casting odd speckles on their blue trenchcoats.
"What can we do for you, gentlemen?" Captain Richards, clearly labeled by his burnished steel nametag, folds his arms, partially obscuring the veteran ribbons on his left breast.
"We need this man traced and caught in the act." The Asian man hands off a picture of the burly man, complete with dark BCG-style sunglasses. "He's supposed to make some sort of delivery tonight. SIS will be covering the possibility that it is an electronic delivery. If it is physical, it is up to you. Maintain contact with your SIS liason; he will tell you if the sting is on."
"Got it. Low observability?"
"He has a standard-issue CDC pulse laser rifle. We took the liberty of removing a few vital components. Other than that, a 7.62mm semiautomatic rifle with a thirty-round magazine, somehow with an illegal military-grade flash and sound suppressor. We also took the liberty of fouling its mechanism. He may still have a sidearm on his person because we found a box of 13mm pistol ammunition inside a pistol case but no attendant weapon."
"Got it. Riot gear is the order of the day?"
"We need him alive and quietly. Don't wake the neighbors."
"Tough... but doable. Layouts?"
"Should already be in your mailbox, and we are your liasons for planning, Captain Richards."
"Excellent, Agent... hrm... I'm afraid you have me at a disadvantage."
The bony man grins, eyes bulging. "Don't you watch the movies, Captain? We are SIS... we have no names." He winks cheerfully.
S.H.O.D.A.N. hands off a sheet of paper, covered in fine handwritten script that appears to have been finely burnt into the outermost layers of the paper. "To your interest, a list of terminals that this one was set to relay to with times and personnel assigned to those terminals, cross-checked with any other personnel who would have access to those stations. Interestingly enough, the pattern follows the routes of several internal couriers and service workers, although none of them are a definite match for the whole pattern.
Grerrakk leafs through the sheafs of papers, and nods. "I'll tell my associates in the Border Patrol to keep alert on these names. Not to apprehend, but to alert me if these couriers come into Sakkran Territories. They may lead me to the other pieces of the puzzle. But I have an appointment to keep. Thank you, S.H.O.D.A.N. If you find any other interesting tid-bits, please let me know. In the meantime, feel free to stay at your leisure."
She and Thress then leave the residence. The Aerial Taxi service sends them off to Hreer via modified Sweeper, to meet with CEO Kargaah.
Luigi Vircotti, for being the executive security chief of ScoloMart's Quality Assurance Division, never really had much of a sense of security. Rather than ascend the corporate ladder based on skill and actual utility to the corp, he used what he was actually good at--strong-arming and fast-talking--but never truly acted as if he'd ever get caught.
Oh, he'd been caught before. But a little bit of well-placed blackmail, a threat or two, or maybe even a "physical discussion" later and the problem was solved. The leak gets plugged and he gets some sort of autoerotic kick out of the plugging. Maybe that's why he was so sloppy; maybe he looked forward to the next person to try and rat him out, looked forward to the subsequent quashing.
Then again, he never expected to bump up against the Scolopendran Intelligence Section.
"Blue Beetle" Condominiums, Stonozka subTitanian level seven
"Do you ever delete your messages, Vircotti? This isn't a game. Either way, the package needs to be sent tonight. You don't need to know why."
Vircotti rubs his face with his palm, grumbling to himself through his eternal hangover headache. "Goddamn." You'd think that they could just tell me these things at the office, no? Sitting down at his computer, he loads the memtab containing ScoloMart proprietary software and sends an e-mail attachment to whoeverthesmeg 'firstname.lastname@example.org' was.
The bony-looking SIS agent, his pale face looking distinctly sinister in the anti-glare red lighting of the police command truck parked around the corner. "We're getting a feed... it's a match, and an unencrypted attachment. Grab him."
The operations officer nods, adjusting his headset and whispering into his boom mike. "Ops section move in, ultimate quiet. Overwatch team provide cover. SIS is handling."
Grumbling still, Vircotti wanders over to his refridgerator and begins to assemble a sandwich. A knock on the door. Looking up, he slaps the top slab of bread over his concoction of lettuce, salami, and ham and trundles to the door. He sets himself just inside--all the more threatening, he's found--and flings the door open. "Yeah, what?"
The oddly tall Asian man simply strikes out and slaps a porous adhesive patch over the Luigi's mouth, following with a deft strike with his fist to the brawny man's neck. An audible click is lost in the plush carpeting of the hallway.
"Hmmmpfff?!" Vircotti staggers back, reaching into his coat for his 13-millimeter filled with frangible hollowpoints... blinks twice, then falls into a jumbled heap. Two plainclothes police officers step up and scoop the man up, resting his shoulders over theirs as if they were supporting a buddy who had a few too many before staggering down the hallway and down the stairs.
Mrs. Stevenson steps back as two nice-looking gentlemen haul away this total brute of a man. Smiling, the guy on the right says, "Sorry to get in your way, ma'am... Lou here had one too many."
She nods and looks at the massive bouncer-looking fellow. It wasn't at all difficult to believe such a story.
The unmarked command van and two unmarked cruisers wander off in a staggered convoy, meeting back up at Precinct 77. Scarily efficient and ruthless methods, fortunately rarely used.
Grerrakk sends a comm to Kargaah's personal comm unit. They speak in hushed tones for a short time, and she hangs up. "Thress, we have a lunch date."
At the base of Keeoroou Mountain Region there is an eatery. It is not frequented terribly often, but does enough business to make a small profit. It is for this reason that CEO Kargaah of Hreer Weapon Works enjoys having 'official luncheons' here.
His massive frame enters the establishment, cigar clamped in his jaw, puffing away like an ancient locomotive. "Keeraa, you look quite lovely today! Every time I come you grace my day with beauty!"
The hostess turns, dewlap showing a touch of red. "You charming old saurian! Why don't you come around as often as you used to? Our cook losing his touch?"
"Not at all. Busy as the Pit since we opened trade agreements on Titan. Just finished construction of a branch office there on the colony, and a couple of manufacturing plants. Everything is going quite nicely. But enough; is my 'table' open?"
"Of course." The hostess seats Kargaah at his table; a sealed booth offering an excellent view of the mountain from behind three layers of transparent kevlar windows. Afte ra time, Grerrakk and Thress arrive and take their seats. They order some food and drink from the waiter, and Grerrakk pulls out several disks.
"Let's get to business. You have holes in your security." She hands him the disks, and he places them into his PDA. Reading through all the files, he furrows his brow deeply. "And all this is from one of the minor executives? Sheea? Hrrrrrrmmm, most troubling." The sheaf of papes is then handed to him, and he casts an eye on it.
"I know one of these couriers. Gerroo, if I remember his name right. Based at the Titan Colocy in fact. He's been running jobs for a few years there. I wonder......" His clawed hand places on his chin as the food and drink arrives. Curteous gratitudinal exchanges are made.
After the waiter leaves and some food is eaten, Kargaah raises up slightly. "Inquisitor, I want you to have full access to my resources. My personal cruiser is at your disposal. I'll get to the bottom of things at my ...."
Suddenly there is a loud PAP sound, quickly followed by two more. A quick look at the window reveals spidery fractures running through it, with large calibre bullets embedded inside them. "I knew we were followed here! Thress, get on it!"
She immediately 'conceals' herself using her training. One could not see it unless they were exceptionally sharp, but she slides out of the eatery and heads for the window that just took three rounds. Grerrakk, in the meantime, activates her Chamo-Web suit, and phases out. She covers Kargaah in case a round manages to penetrate the window. She then escorts him out of the booth, making certain the coast is clear. The few patrons that were there have ducked underneath their tables.
"I want a lawyer!"
The bony-face man grins broadly, making his eyes bug out just that much more under wispy brows and that much less sane. "That man in the corner," he indicates a shortish stiff-looking man in a suit with an attache case, watching the two with steady eyes, "is a lawyer, Mister Vircotti. Apparently you do not have a private one, so the state provided." He somehow grins broader, thin lips pulling away from rows of bright masking-tape-yellow teeth. "See that camera there? This is being recorded and reviewed to ensure I remain in the bounds of legality."
He turns to the side, bowing his head in thought, before looking up again with a yet wider grin. Vircotti finds himself, oddly enough, wondering how the man's eyes stay in his head. "However, I may skirt those bounds as much as I wish." With a quick snap of his arm, he pulls a thick manilla envelope from his unbuttoned black trenchcoat and throws it on the table Vircotti sits at. The chair creaks as Vircotti jolts back, staying on the seat only because he is handcuffed to it.
"You've been a naughty, naugh-ty boy, Mister Vircotti." The weasly little man speaks slowly, head shaking a little bit, never blinking and never removing his eyes from his captive. With another rush of movement he runs up just behind Vircotti, bringing his arms over the larger man's shoulders, grabbing the manilla folder and twitchily centering it.
Vircotti tries to flinch away from the agent's face but finds his brawny neck stopped somehow by the agent's wiry arm. "I didn't do nuttin. I'm just a workaday grunt."
"Oh yes," the agent whispers into Luigi's ear, cryptic enthusiasm in his raspy voice, "oh yes, you did not do nothing, Mister Vircotti. In addition to being Looooooord of the Meatshielding"--he almost howls the title, but in a very soft voice--"you have moved many, many copyrighted programs." He opens the folder, revealing logs and pages of code. "Oh, here's a nice one." Flip. "This one too." Flip. "This was a year ago... and we have a year's worth of this. You have a very interesting hard drive, Mister Vircotti."
"So what. It's piracy. That's what, a run through the penal camp? I did Basic once, I can do it again." Luigi tries to sound more calm than he really is; the wavering with each vowel kills the effect.
"Oh no... it's much better than that, Mister Vircotti." The agent turns another page. "Oooh, what's this? A program declared secure by the federal government?" He jolts away, bringing his hands up to his face and lips in a look of mock shock, eyes nearly out of his head. As Luigi stares at him dumbly, the agent pulls his hands away, mouth slowly expanding again into that anatomy-defying grin, upper half of his face not moving a bit. "That's selling of state secrets, Mister Vircotti. That's treason, Mister Vircotti."
Vircotti, for his part, gets a very vivid image of a set of gallows in his mind's eye. The person currently affixed to the device certainly has an uncanny resemblence. "Trea-sck?" His voice snaps into a squeak, and he shudders as he tries again. "T-t-treason?"
"Mild treason," pipes up the lawyer. "Not a hanging offense, for sure."
"Oh, no hanging." The agent sits on the floor, and looks vaguely normal for once. "You're not a threat to national existence. Moving a few petty problems... ahh, we can survive that." He waves a hand dismissively.
Vircotti smiles weakly.
"Oh, but there's just one thing." The agent holds his chin in thought, then looks up again, flashing a grin before dropping it again. "You've proven you have no integrity, Mister Vircotti. You can't be trusted, so we can't let you near anything even remotely secret anymore."
"The penalty for mild treason is outcast status," the lawyer says. "But, really. What makes it treason if it's internal."
At the word "outcast," all hope dies in Vircotti.
The agent snaps to his feet and points to the lawyer with a sly wink. "I'm... glad... you... asked..." He spaces out the words with a steady deliberation. "You see, that's what this is for." He slowly pulls out another folder, beckoning for the lawyer to come near, and sets it by the first, returning to standing just over Vircotti's ear. "You see, all these files ended up in Titan Sakkra... nowhere in Scolopendra, a sovereign state, even... and then, look at that, they're in Sakkra. Our naughty little boy Mister Vircotti managed to get those files all the way to Earth. Where they can spread. Where they can get to people--" he pulls away, setting his plastic face to an utterly sad and dower visage, shaking his head slowly in tiny arcs "--who are not very nice. Any court will see this, Mister Vircotti, and any court will convict you, in today's climate."
The lawyer grimaces. "Damn... please tell me that this is a frame-up, Mister Vircotti."
"Your computer had more to share." The agent produces a third folder. "You shouldn't be afraid to share your dreams with the world, Mister Vircotti... because there's nothing the world likes more than the taste of really sweet dreams." The agent grins sickly as he pulls out pictures from the folder and holds them at just inside comfortable focusing distance from Luigi's face. "That houseboat you wanted for the Eastern Ocean... the recreational watercraft... you like the sea, don't you, Mister Vircotti?" The agent finally blinks, slowly. "Oh. But you can't get vehicle permits if you are an outcast." He collects the pictures back up and puts them into the folder. "Sad. So sad. Everything you've ever wanted to do, and you've gone and blown it." He tosses the folder idly onto the table and sits dejectedly across from Vircotti, saying nothing.
"Isn't there anything I can do?" Vircotti opens his mouth, whispering quietly.
The agent shrugs. "This is the part of the job I hate. Have to destroy lives for the common good, sometimes. You see, this is why they taught you to be good in schoo--"
"THERE'S GOTTA BE SOMETHING I CAN DO!" Vircotti lunges forward in his seat, dragging it along with him, tears running down his cheeks. "I don't wanna barely be able to work... to survive... I don't wanna be hated!"
"Hmmm." The agent looks almost normal again, hands steepled, lips pressed against his fingers as he bows his head in thought. "Actually, there is."
The bug-eyed man holds up one long, bony finger, instantly eliciting silence. "You can work for us. If you suddenly become an outcast, whoever is using you as a puppet will disappear. Honestly, Mister Vircotti, you are too stupid to be a threat to us... so we might as well make you useful."
"Yeah, yeah, stupid." Luigi nods in a most confirming way, hope returning. "Just help turn in my boss, right?"
"Just keep doing what you are. We will get your boss. However, if he catches wind we are trying to catch him..." The agent looks up, no act, just a level stare and a hard jaw. "...then it will be a very, very bad day for Mister Luigi Vircotti. Understood?"