SUNSWEPT CH13B


Bee glanced over at Kip who had gone from watching his videos back to pacing about the cabin, soon he'd ask H'Aki to spar or do katas again and the cycle would start anew. Even Bee's considerable patience was starting to wear a bit thin. The ship hadn't moved all morning and the Sub-Coordinator wasn't being very clear about why. There was nothing much else to do so Bee occupied xerself with reviewing previous scenarios. That review hadn't lasted as long as xe'd hoped and now xe was trying to better understand the nature and purpose of practical joking in comparison to other inner-societal survival methodologies and techniques. Perhaps that venture might prove to consume more time than re-hashing tactical analysis. At this particular moment xe was reviewing the causal effect which Sophia's tricks had had upon xer own data security. The journey to the mission yesterday had been spent trying to find some way to counter any attempt Sophia might make to embarrass Bee again. Xe'd been unable to actually see what data was stored in the package which xe'd uploaded to the nanny drone but Bee had done the next best thing. Xe had booby-trapped it. Xe had no conceivable reason to believe that Sophia might get access to that package but xe wasn't taking chances. For all Bee knew, even Leth might try to get back at xer in some method other than really nasty challenges. And so, in that manner, the very moment anyone tried to access the data package stored within the nanny drone, her alarm would send out a burst transmission along with an image of whoever was physically tampering with the drone at that moment. Bee was particularly proud of that last bit and how xe'd gotten the program to link into the nanny-drone's visual feed so seamlessly. It was an ingenious bit of work... and it was all for nothing apparently. No one would ever find or trigger it for years most likely, because it seemed the scenarios were over. And this brought xer own cycle of boredom back to what had ended xer review of scenario performance.

Bee wasn't upset, not like Kip. And xe wasn't quite as lost as to what to do next like H'Aki who just kept finding make-work. At least those two were keeping each other busy with some spare-time sparing or kata work. But xe wasn't really into that. Xe was grateful really. Xe'd gotten access to implants and relays xe'd never expected to and for as long as xe represented a possible future asset to the Coordinators then xe was quite sure xe would have a safe place within their system. Bee's fear of Them had subsided but it was still there. Xe thought on that for a moment. In all xer time spent with the others xe'd never really set aside time to explore xer origins. Perhaps it was the talk with Kip last night, or the tactical training which now prompted xer to consider that xe really couldn't hope to protect xerself from 'Them' unless xe tried to discover who or what 'They' were. Maybe that could fill some time.

Bee resettled xerself and started digging. It took a while to find xer way past all of the tightly guarded primary databases back into some of the oldest publicly available news stories from the earliest days of Origin. From there xe started xer real hacking into the secrets buried just beneath. Coincidentally, in those next few hours, xe happened to follow right through a few of the very same back doors which Solu had discovered. Bee finally learned of the monsters who killed xer own family and for the first time xe had to reevaluate xer Primary Priority. Yes, being safe was good, but could xer fear have been more of a cage than armor? Xe couldn't hope to know whether any of those evil seed ships still remained out there in Origin or whether they existed beyond the wormholes which separated this system from the others, but in all that xe had learned in the past several weeks avoiding others turned out to be the wrong way to achieve safety. For in spending so much time with others xe had managed to learn valuable knowledge and xe was discovering that learning and knowledge really were the best defenses. Look at how something as silly as a prank had taught xer to set alarms, or how understanding a person could inform your electronic defenses against them. And those lessons were from just Sophia alone. Kip and H'Aki had taught xer about hiding, physical stealth, and combat. They had also taught xer about love.

Bee glanced over at the pair now. They'd completed their katas again and were once more back to back sitting on the decking; H'Aki re-reading yet another technical manual and Kip watching his videos. Xe'd spent so much time trying to help them see the emotions of the other one that there was no way of missing them xerself. It was, odd. Xe could almost see the differences in their posture, movement, and there was something else too. It was as though the interfaces between xer mind and xer bodies sensory abilities was missing proper translation tables. Xe knew that the pair were giving off a sort of feeling of comfort with one another but xe could find no actual sensory data to corroborate it. Was this what a 'gut feeling' was? Maybe that was why non-digital sentients made such a big deal about 'their gut', it was their way of saying 'my mind can't fully process the sensory data but past experience says it means X' And that, right there, was another example of something learned among others rather than just watching from within a digital existence.

Xer priorities would need to change. And maybe now, while xe was waiting and worrying for two friends that xer gut told xer xe may never see again, was a good time to start realigning those priorities.

*******


Meyan's daily schedule had changed abruptly over the past two days. Solu was very understanding of her position with Planning Director Flint and backed her all the way. She'd also asked if there was anything that was wrong as well but Meyan hadn't wanted to blur the lines between her personal and professional life any more than necessary. Besides, if Solu's warm reception was any indication, the crafty capsuleer had likely figured out that things between Meyan and Delyyn weren't going well already. Capsuleers just seemed to be everywhere and know everything and while she knew it wasn't magic it was damn creepy sometimes. Though, she had to admit it was somewhat less creepy with Solu.

Meyan sipped her drink as she sat amongst the bar's mid-day crowd. Crowd was perhaps a strong word for the gaggle of capsuleers and crew who sifted about the bar. It felt strange to not be in the lab but Solu agreed with her that without a new project needing her attention, Meyan's efforts were better spent on her own little quest to secure the best possible location for Indigo City's facility. It wasn't exactly a promotion but it felt like one. She knew she was throwing herself into that quest a little heavier than normal and she knew why too. It was the same reason she was visiting Sunny-side Up a little earlier; there was no chance of running into Delyyn. She hadn't actually com'd him yesterday as she'd said she would for dinner and she'd not communicated with him in any way yet following that. Meyan knew that she was effectively avoiding him but somehow it really was a lot more complicated than that. She wanted to tell him that she just needed some time, or maybe some space, but every time she thought of com'ing him she couldn't think of what to actually say. While she wasn't exactly keen on talking with him she felt all the worse for knowing that she at least owed him an explanation, or she thought she did anyway. Of course that just left her feeling angry at him again for making her feel like she owed him anything and once more she'd be back to wanting nothing to do with him and thus back to avoiding him.

So, sitting in a bar just after midday, Meyan was throwing herself into her hunt for whoever had surreptitiously reserved that prize suite that she was so determined to get. She'd managed to secure an overly comprehensive list of who might have had access to the space prior to Solu but that list generally included all of the Sub-Coordinators and Coordinators as well as just a few of the more senior members of the Alexylva Paradox. This turned out to be roughly about thirty-odd people. In the past few hours she'd been able to narrow that list down by about half based on the fact that many of those thirty had no vested interest in the sort of real estate she did or were entirely established on one planet or another. Now she had a new challenge, of those on the remaining list, none of them were going to be easy to even contact much less get any time with once contacted. Meyan let her head fall momentarily to the bar and Derrek, who was tending again today, chuckled. She didn't bother to lift her head. She had a pretty good relationship going now with the friendly barkeep and she couldn't let him go giving her a hard time like that. "What, exactly, is so funny?"

He chuckled again. "You, you're all flustered up about something again."

"And what, you think you know me so well then do ya?" It was a little strange to feel so casual with anyone she knew as little as she did Derrek, but he'd always been friendly and over the weeks since she'd been coming in they had developed a friendship of sorts. That she so often came in with Delyyn lately meant that she and Derrek rarely ever talked anymore but that was likely a good thing. She didn't want to be a distraction to Derrek, he did after all have a job to do.

He set down the datapad he'd been holding and smiled. "Maybe not. But something is on your mind and face first into the bar is a routine more typical of someone who's had more than just one drink."

"Fine, yeah, something's on my mind but I just can't seem to grasp it."

He shrugged. "Well, if you needed a place to think and clear your mind, this is the spot."

The spot. It was the way he'd said it maybe, or perhaps his inflection but Meyan suddenly remembered another time she'd heard the S'up referred to in a similar way. Yeah, that was it! Solu had used those words too. She'd said Xeph had swiped this spot first. She'd been referring to S'up in explaining why the current lab was where it was now. Could it be even remotely possible that he'd done the same thing again?!

Here head came up with a slight grin she couldn't hide. "Derrek, will there be a new S'up at Indigo?"

He smiled and nodded knowingly but he must have misinterpreted her grin because his answer was way off her trajectory. "Worried about gettin' enough rays at the new place then?"

"Wha- oh, heh yeah. A little." She had to catch herself as she finally realized his misunderstanding. That he'd figured out her need for S'up's solar aspects was only a little surprising but this whole clandestine information gathering thing was new to her and she didn't exactly want to show her hand yet.

He glanced out at the force field overlooking the docking approaches. "Actually it should be a bit like this one, but without the sun theme I'm afraid; and bigger, a lot bigger." She forced herself to remain calm and nodded sadly. "But that one will be a right and proper restaurant too. With great views of the main docking approach, it's not over the capital ship docks like I was hoping but the boss says that he was looking to attract a bit more of the commuting crowd coming and going from the central docking corridor as well." Perfect. Meyan had to really force down the sudden excitement that she felt. Luckily Derrek's gaze had shifted from the force fields up to the namesake roof as it swirled and coalesced one color into another. "Of course you really can't replace the S'up can you?"

"No, you really can't." Rather than following his eyes upward Meyan looked at her own verdant arms as she reached quickly for her glass. She lifted it and took a long and rather refreshing sip but behind that glass she hid a massive victory smile."

*******


Network Relay, 1858 hours:

::User UNKNOWN connects::

::Um, hello?:: Unknown

::Oh shit, am I where I think I am?:: Unknown

::Where do you think you are?:: Xepharious Wryn

::Sub-Coordinator Wryn! This is Sophia, er Agent Droitac-:: Unknown

::How the...:: Saede Riordan

::Agent Droit-, Agent Sophia how are you accessing this channel?:: Sharlandra

::It seems I've found 'The Businessman's' back door.:: Unknown

::The who?:: Xepharious Wryn

::User SENTIENT EQUILIBRIUM has assigned UNKNOWN user as TARGET 1::

::Oh, I guess SE's already on it.:: TARGET 1

::The Sentient Equilibrium's also started a tracelock on this access.:: Saede Riordan

::Agent Droitacopius, very well done. Leave this channel open for another... 34.7 seconds then close it and erase all logs of this access. Then please join me in a private chat. Thank you.:: Xepharious Wryn

Private Relay, 1912 hours:

::User JEMMALYN DROITACOPIUS connects::

::Agent Sophia, good. Coordinator Riordan will be joining us in a moment so you might as well wait just a moment.:: Xepharious Wryn

::Ok:: Jemmalyn Droitacopious

::By the way, is it ok if we use your cover name? Droitacopious seems... well yeah.:: Xepharious Wryn

::Oh, I certainty know, and yes, that's fine.:: Jemmalyn Droitacopious

::User Saede Riordan connects::

::The Sentient Equilibrium has acquired the lock, you are clear to close your connection through the Target's link Agent Droitacopius.:: Saede Riordan

::Done, and logs purged on his end.:: Jemmalyn Droitacopius

::Ok, go ahead Agent Sophia:: Xepharious Wryn

::Sure, I was able to access the personal files of a man calling himself 'The Businessman' through a backdoor program which Ghera put in place some time ago. She, in turn, has been using his files as a backdoor into Transhumanity Today's files.:: Jemmalyn Droitacopius

::The News Source?:: Xepharious Wryn

::The very one. It's how she was able to locate the children most at risk and least protected.:: Jemmalyn Droitacopius

::What is the news source doing surveying at risk children?:: Xepharious Wryn

::I think we are getting off topic here.:: Saede Riordan

::Anyway, it turns out that 'The Businessman', one Roger Dean Curren, and that's certainly not his real name by the way, was recruited by Ghera to get her and her 'humanitarian' crusade access into Origin. In truth it's very hard to tell whether it was, in fact, Curren who got himself recruited. Either way it was he who greased a few palms within the capsuleer locator agent network and identified the current entrance system to Origin at that time. Ghera then used her diplomatic access, or rather her father's, to gain entry on a temporary visa to investigate a possible industrial partnership with some low-placed gas miners working out of Skyreach.:: Jemmalyn Droitacopius

::Skyreach again, I think we have more security concerns still there than we anticipated.::Xepharious Wryn

::Perhaps you're right. I'll look into further investigations but this could just be just a legit business deal from those inside Origin.:: Saede Riordan

::I agree with the Coordinator and my analysis does support that the Origin contacts were unaware of any other motives or actions on the part of either Mr. Curren or Ghera. Focusing more on Mr. Curren, it appears that he, or whoever he used to be, was a high-placed corporate officer of Gallentean desent on Caldari Prime prior to its transfer into Caldari hands. There is evidence to suggest that he survived the State purges, and survived them well, which would indicate some strong connections to key Caldari intelligence.:: Jemmalyn Droitacopius

::Yes, it would.:: Xepharious Wryn

::However, following the removal of Caldari naval forces from around Caldari Prime it appears that Mr. Curren lost everything he had previously maintained and more. His assets were seized and he narrowly escaped custody. It would appear that Ghera's father may have had at least some minor awareness of how, though Ghera's notes seem to indicate that her father was not directly involved in his escape.:: Jemmalyn Droitacopius

::A fact that very likely saved his life.:: Saede Riordan

::Yes, but this is where we come in.:: Jemmalyn Droitacopius

::Excuse me, we?:: Xepharious Wryn

::Yes, we Origin. You see, Curren did have some idea of who it was that either betrayed him, or failed to protect him and it turns out that his company had a rather specific specialization.:: Jemmalyn Droitacopius

::Cloning?:: Xepharious Wryn

::You got it. I don't suppose our very own Naraish Adarn was at all involved with some of the early advances in Origin cloning?:: Jemmalyn Droitacopius

::Your implications are noted Agent Sophia however I advise you not to go digging too far into Sub-Coordinator Adarn's past. It won't end well.:: Xepharious Wryn

::Understood.:: Jemmalyn Droitacopius


::However, Curren's files show that he may be targeting Origin cloning technology and in specific some of the earlier projects of the system's advances which may have been abandoned.:: Jemmalyn Droitacopius

::Any project which was abandoned was done so for good reasons; either because it was immoral or flat out dangerous.:: Saede Riordan

::Acknowledged Coordinator. However let's remember that this is the same man who knowingly released a deadly bio-nano agent upon innocent children. And after being in his past I have no doubt that he would be happy to cripple the OCA's infrastructure on his way out either. In fact Ghera's notes seem to expect something rather big and rather imminent. Her limited intelligence indicates some sort of cyber strike against the new construction at Indigo City.:: Jemmalyn Droitacopius

::Based on what you've said, I think we should expect such an attack to be a misdirection, would you agree Xeph?:: Saede Riordan

::I would. Agent Sophia, you were able to obtain all of this while under cover? Please tell me that you weren't accessing encrypted Origin system archives from within Ghera's compound as well.:: Xepharious Wryn

::No, Ghera's files on Curren were quite extensive and while I'm not convinced she was able to assemble it on her own, she does have a much stronger grasp on what is happening than I think we anticipated. And I am quite certain that even she doesn't know Curren's real name.:: Jemmalyn Droitacopius

::We have Curren's access tracelocked. The moment he tries to access the networks with it again we'll be able to neutralize him. If he is expecting an imminent event to distract us then I think it is fair to say that he will need to re-access the network sometime during his endgame.:: Saede Riordan

::I think I may also have an idea as to what he might be physically targeting?:: Xepharious Wryn

::The Cradle?:: Saede Riordan

::Yeah, it fits too well. Agent Sophia, what next steps would you advise for your extraction?:: Xepharious Wryn

::None, at this time Sub-Coordinator.:: Jemmalyn Droitacopius

::I'm sorry?:: Xepharious Wryn

::It is my opinion that Ghera still represents a possible asset in the capture of Curren and Agent Gein and I may be in a unique position to aid in her ultimate capture as well as ensuring the safety of the children she's endangered.:: Jemmalyn Droitacopius

::Ghera is not the assignment Agent Droitacopius.:: Xephairous Wryn

::Understood, however as I mentioned before, Ghera suspects that Curren is planning a diversion and while she never noted what it would be she is planning to use it to get her and the kids out of Origin as well. She's even gone so far as to set up a sort of digital alarm on a very specific frequency. There is a name here that I couldn't match; Ezrak Kain?:: Jemmalyn Droitacopius

::Yes, he is a cybernetically enhanced human and known mercenary wanted in connection with the Dockside Bombing. Our intel suggests that he is no longer in system.:: Xepharious Wryn

::Well, Curren, it seems, is waiting for some signal from him to launch the final phase of his plan and it seems that Ghera has the frequency of that signal, and I think she will use it to enact her escape. Given how much time it would take to transfer this many children onto a standard transport to the orbiting docks there'd be no point to use the same signal unless she expected it to come with enough lead time before the expected distraction event. Having myself and Agent Gein in place may give us just as much warning as to when that direction will occur.:: Jemmalyn Droitacopius

::That is... a very good observations Agent Sophia. Continue your infiltration but stay alert.:: Xepharious Wryn

::Understood.:: Jemmalyn Droitacopius

::User JEMMALYN DROITACOPIUS disconnects::

::It seems that we now must wonder as to exactly where Ezrak Kain has gone after all, and when he's coming back.:: Xepharious Wryn

*******


13/7/118

Khonla Keyeva had once entertained dreams that her induction into the soaring halls of capsuleerhood might, finally, have freed her from the debts of her father. She had been horribly, inestimably wrong about that dream. Her Imicus scout class frigate rematerialized 2,384 meters from the return stargate back toward Jita and everything that still held any real meaning in her life. It had been only a short trip to reach the system provided by her new 'friend' and as she aligned her ship at some random point in space and deployed core scanning probes she looked about at the .6 security system and marveled at how incredibly boring and lifeless it all really was. A bunch of rocks with a few molecules of biologic life which seemed hell-bent on conquering it all for no damn good reason. Her core scanner probes, she didn't even have the funds to scrape up respectable Sisters faction probes, shot out in all directions as she willed her ship quietly into a cloaked nothingness. She became nothing.

::Do you have it yet?:: Ezrak Kain

"Fuck off, I just got here." She let her ship and implant systems do the extra work of translating the 'open com' he insisted she keep into the digital 'telepathy' speak of the network and send her response to him. It would have been easier just to think the response to him but that would have deprived her of the minute pleasure in actually saying it. She had to take pleasure where she could right?

::Time is not a commodity you have in large supply... much like my patience.:: Ezrak Kain

She ignored this one and instead chose to focus on the returning scan results from her probes. An image of the system blossomed into her mind as each celestial body and a few faint mystery returns pinged their stalwart existence back to her eight probes. There was also a massive translucent globe which shimmered in the view set at about fourteen astrometric units equidistant from her but she tried to ignore it. Someone thought it was a nice feature to add to the latest implant-to-ship interface software but she wasn't much of a fan, just one more distraction really.

Khonla began the well-practiced task of sorting those returns and with the help of her implants and ship UI soon only two of the faintest returns remained. Her will flowed out to each of the probes and on command they shifted in space to form a much smaller sphere about the first of the two sensor echoes. She energized the scanners again and this time the cosmic signature returned an almost glaring readout of what was hidden in some 'nowhere' of space. Key amongst the information skittering to her from her probe minions was the likelihood that this signature held several facilities and what was most likely a small defensive flotilla of ships. Not what she wanted. She shifted her probes through space to the other of the two cosmic signatures while she contemplated warping into the likely pirate drug operation then cloaking up, just because she could and it was one of the few powers she still really had. But as her 'friend' was so used to reminding her... time was not her luxury.

This time her probe placement hadn't been as good and she had to readjust the positioning of her scanner probes a few times before they returned a solid ping on the telltale space-time distortions of a wormhole. Khonla commanded her probes to return to their hopper within her imicus even as she de-cloaked and started aligning her ship towards the hole in space she'd just discovered. It didn't take long for the last of her probes to tractor gently back into its home and within moments her ship slipped immediately into warp. It was a short warp, one that didn't afford much time to think. That was a good thing in her mind as right now she didn't particularly like the idea of dwelling on what she was about to do. There were many kinds of debt in this crazy fucked up universe; there were debts of honor or debts of money; debts of faith, of blood, or of favors. But the scariest debt of all was the debt of family. Not for the first time and not for the last time Khonla wondered if it wouldn't have just been easier to let them torture her mother. Maybe, if she really betrayed her master's wishes they'd just kill her mother and end her pain. It would be better that way right? Silent tears streamed down her cheeks, or at least they would have had she not been immersed in her capsule. Instead those tears just merged with the rest of the capsule suspension fluid and became it. She was about to incur quite a bit of debt with one of the most powerful capsuleer led factions in New Eden; she was about to betray them, and all for a debt of family, of love.

"You sure this is the right system?" She didn't really expect him to say no but there was too much on the line not to, And maybe her 'friend' would change his mind.

::Yes, now do what you were paid for.:: Ezrak Kain

Paid? Hah! Khonla opened a new very private and very secure network channel relay.

::Security subnet active, verifying user KHONLA KEYEVA::

::User credentials accepted, relay rights granted::

::User KHONLA KEYEVA connects::

::I've got a clean route to your target system.:: Khonla Keyeva

::Understood. Coordinates?:: Masked

::Vaankalen System, I'm holding position cloaked on the entrance as a warp-in.:: Khonla Keyeva

::Very well, once our scout arrives you will proceed back into the wormhole and move to the next wormhole in the chain and so-on. These pilots are.... fresh. So don't move ahead too quickly or you might lose them.:: Masked

::Understood and acknowledged.:: Khonla Keyeva

::User KHONLA KEYEVA disconnects::

She closed the Pandemonious Horde's secure intel channel and shuddered. There were days when she wore the mantle of capsuleer like a cloak. It protected her, gave her hope for rebirth and that there would always be a tomorrow. But days like this, times like now? She willed her ship into a tight orbit around the solitary wormhole and cloaked up. Her role in this wasn't over yet and given the severity of what she'd just done and what she was about to do it was very likely that she'd have to once more change her name and even her face. This Khonla may never again be seen in New Eden. But she'd still have a mother who she knew loved her, through it all. Today; right now, she didn't wear capsuleerhood, today, like her tears, she was the goo that surrounded her, she was her pod, and her ship. She was a thing, in a universe of other things and she let her soul be bounced and banged about by those almighty beings who, for at least today, had conquered her.