Friday May 17, 2024

Delicate Business – 2

Leqqya emerges from Chief Wissenhatch’s tent, a superstructure erected by military-grade technology designed for frontline warfare. This complex machinery sketches a perimeter, deploying mini-drones that construct a fortified encampment. From a compact headquarters chamber, it unfolds into a network of interconnected chambers, each tailored for specific functions.

The sky is a clear blue, signaling winter’s farewell, yet the surrounding mountains remain blanketed in snow. Patches of white linger in the region, especially in shaded nooks where sunlight is scarce. The Gorilla Cyborg Company’s engineers are impervious to the chill, but today, both humans and bioroids of the Foothold 37th Company bask in the warmth of the sun.

🎲 What are the engineers doing at this time? → Making business as usual – Fortress/Tower
🎲 What are the cyborgs of the Gorilla doing? → Interacting with someone – Power/Control

The Gorillas were assembling, seemingly preparing for security routes and patrols. As Leqqya approached, she could overhear their plans to establish defensive positions. Despite warnings of pirates in the vicinity, she pondered who would dare approach this place. Should an incident occur, it would likely be catastrophic, involving artillery and bombing, or it might unfold through sabotage and subterfuge.

Leqqya strolled around the camp, basking in the sunlight, although her subdermal skin reduced its intensity, her head remained human, and the sensation of sunlight on her face was unchanged. She neared the 37th engineers, who were busy devising strategies for deploying drones to enhance the countermeasure satellites.

Near the weapons rack’s corner, Oliver sat munching on protein-packed bars and sipping power-energy drinks, clearly savoring the moment, his shirt off, flaunting his G-Modded Sculpted Body. He wasn’t overly large but was exceptionally fit, suited for acrobatics and athletics, with quick reflexes. To Leqqya, he was utterly captivating.

“The weather’s finally nice, eh?” Leqqya remarked as she appeared.
“How can you tell? Your skin is synthetic, probably monitored, and likely transmitting dubious data back to its manufacturer,” came the retort.
“Hey, that hurts,” Leqqya complained, but then smiled. “Got any more of those bars? I’d fancy one.”
“Sure, help yourself,” Oliver said as he hoisted his backpack, turned it upside down, and shook it, emptying its contents. A few bars and family pictures tumbled out.
“Your brother?”
“Yeah, Marcus. He was a good guy, but he didn’t make it through the G-Mod that our family got involved with.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Leqqya said, regretting her second misstep in trying to flirt. She then continued, “We’re aborting the pickup mission. The cargo was a decoy. The chief wants us to track a signal instead. Aeron’s on the line trying to figure out who’s playing games with us.”
“Where’s the signal coming from?” Marcus inquired, eager for the new task.

Leqqya took her Display Tab out of her backpack and set it on the table, next to the power bars and Oliver’s family photos. The device cast a holographic screen into the air. She refreshed the trace and indicated its location on the geolocation program.

🎲 Where does it point to? → Is holy, sacred, or somehow cursed + rectangular
🎲 Is it far away? → Weak no

The holo-screen pointed to a location within the mountains, about 50km away, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. However, as Leqqya zoomed in, a rectangular shape emerged, half-buried in the ground, surrounded by moss and grass.

“What’s that?” asked Oliiver.
“It seems to be some sort of ruined building, probably from before the war.”
“So, are we dropping in?”
“No. The Chief wants us to outsmart them. I think she knows who they are but hasn’t told me yet. She mentioned it wouldn’t be wise to confront them directly.”
“Then we’ll embark on a stealth mission.”
“We’ll capture them and make them talk. By then, Aeron should have some intel for us to use against them.”
“When do we leave?”
“Yesterday,” Leqqya concluded, standing up, closing the display tab, and tossing the protein bar wrapper into the mouth of a nearby recycling drone.

These small, wheeled drones follow people around, performing various mundane tasks and converting waste into energy, which is then stored in battery cells for the camp’s use. Locals refer to them as “Nifties,” and some enjoy pushing them around and causing mischief. In response, Chief Wissenhatch ordered the electrification of some units and equipped them with shock-chargers. Gregor Oyster was one of the first to suffer the consequences and is currently recuperating in the clinic chamber for his last encounter with them.

“I’ll set up a scout drone. Could you handle the infiltration gear? If there’s anything you can’t find, ask Jonathan. He organized the rack’s layout and oversees the inventory,” Leqqya suggested, and Oliiver nodded in agreement.

She directed the handy drone tailing her to assist in organizing the workshop and creating more space, while also requesting it to play some chillstep music during the process. Meanwhile, she connected to the network to search for a scout drone’s feature store but quickly realized they were compromised, and being monitored—staying online might not be safe.

Switching her interface to offline mode, she began searching for cached data and stored documents within her interface’s database. Through the local communications, she requested the 37th Company to dispatch a stealth drone for her to utilize.

🎲 How good is the unit the Mercenaries deliver? → Magnificent, or perfect

Leqqya acquired a Hunter Drone, a cylindrical flying device designed for surveying terrain and locating adversaries. Bearing the insignia of the 37th Company, it required her attention. She intended to adjust its radar systems to enhance countermeasure detection capabilities and extend its operational range, enabling them to reconnoiter the path to the caves without undue risk.

🎲 Rolling for mechanics, to enhance the Hunter Drone capabilities
Nor success or failure, but two advantages. Given a permanent +1 movement range.

Leqqya dedicated several hours to tweaking the drone, yet fine-tuning the radars proved to be a challenge. She realized that replacing the components was an option, but it would mean at least a few more days of work, not to mention determining if Jonathan could procure the necessary parts. Ultimately, she reassembled the drone, removing some superfluous pieces, which rendered it lighter and swifter—a compromise that, while not ideal, was still a beneficial modification.

Aeron paced around a circular table, the holoprojector connecting him to Herr Rudolf Steiner, a board member involved with the compromised cargo. The hold music afforded him extra minutes to rehearse his approach, aiming to avoid angering them while extracting information.

Aeron mulled over the details: A particular cargo was used as a decoy, its internal systems tampered with to alter the timezone settings, misleading various control systems. It was a straightforward ploy, yet its simplicity was deceptive; often, elaborate ICE breakers are anticipated to employ complex hacking techniques. However, to precisely adjust the timezone by one shift, one had to know the specific cargo in question, its delivery schedule, and target it exclusively. This act transcended mere piracy or sabotage; it was a calculated strike on a particular delivery.

He dropped the call. Interfaced to his personal database, and browsed through a plethora of files. He tried to access the content of the delivery.

🎲 Does he have access to it? → It depends (on skill)

He was certain he had access to it just a few days ago when he perused the inventory. Why was it now password protected on his own local interface? Could he have been hacked even before the attack occurred? With a sigh, he made a call.

“Leqqya, come to the comms chamber, door 12.”
“It’s almost midnight, for heaven’s sake. Not everyone can survive on two hours of sleep a week, you know?”
“It’s important. Let’s meet in person. I’ll make you a nitro-coffee, and bring your computer toys.”

Leqqya trudged to Aeron’s chamber, cursing each step. The air was bitingly cold, and the rain was relentless.

“What’s going on?”
“The decoy cargo file—it’s been password-locked on my interface.”
“Damn. We should have anticipated this.”
“I know. I was about to inform the board, luckily I hesitated.”
“Let’s examine it.”

🎲 Using Computers (Sysops) to undo an attack. Difficulty 2. 1 Setback for being tired.
3 successes and one advantage. Easy-peasy, plus additional information.
🎲 Additional discovery (PUM) → Find an item or a weapon
🎲 What kind of item? (PUM) → Capable of channeling or enhancing + Global/Universe

“This was encrypted and locked from a remote location. I can undo it. The signal’s origin is far beyond our node’s range. They might be using a signal magnifier, an extrapolator, or—wait a second. There’s got to be a relay in the camp.”
“Slow down, what exactly are you talking about?”
“Someone hacked your interface from afar; there must be a concealed relay in the camp allowing remote access to our nodes. We need to find it, and quickly.”
“Okay, but first let’s examine the file.”

Advancing the plot: Plot track 2/15
🎲 Modified Proposal → Deal with unexpected bad news
🎲 Risk (PUM) → Betray a value or friend + Focus: Enigma/Query
🎲 Who betrayed? (PUM) → Someone holy or well revered

“This is strange,” muttered Aeron.
“What is?” asked Leqqya.
“The cargo was supposed to be camp supplies, for us.”
“All of it?”
“Not entirely, but the bulk of it was destined for the 37th Engineers Company of mercenaries.”
“I see… that explains the infighting over the missing modules. Someone is tampering with them.”
“But it doesn’t add up; the cargo is Tashido Corps business. Why would the 37th use our smuggling routes for camp supplies?”
“Ah, that shifts the perspective. It’s not about someone tampering with them; it’s them tampering with us.”
“And why would pirates hack us for this?”
“Likely an outsider spotted the vulnerability, aiming to exploit it and seize the modules.”
“Or internal strife; mercenaries sabotaging each other isn’t unheard of.”
“Regardless, we need to report this to the Chief first thing tomorrow morning,” concluded Leqqya, before adding, “And now, I’m going to search for that relay device.”

Leqqya reverse-traced the signal and attempted to physically pinpoint the location of the hacking network node. It’s likely to be a small device or antenna.

Advancing the plot. Plot track 3/15
🎲 Modified Proposal → Bring someone quite inconvenient
🎲 Who? (PUM) → Someone you relate to, or know + Friend/Allies

Realizing her hunger, she reflected on the day’s complexity, the overwhelming workload, and the scant outcomes. At last, she located the proxy box; it wasn’t concealed or meticulously placed. It was such that unless one sought it intentionally, it would remain unnoticed. Strategically positioned, it bore no obvious connection to any party within the smuggling camp, nor implied responsibility. Just a small box, it stood inconspicuously in the open, perched atop the communal dining tables near the buffet zone.

Leqqya heard footsteps and turned around to see Chief Wissenhatch.

“What are you doing?”
The timing seemed too convenient, and Leqqya felt a surge of suspicion. However, she chose to share the truth, albeit not the whole truth.
“I was experimenting with our interfaces, and some signals led me back here. Are you familiar with this object?”

🎲 Does she? → No, but it’s strange

“No, although I have seen one of those boxes before. The day we arrived, by the deploy drones. I believe I took it with me to my room.”

This revelation seemingly exonerated the Chief, suggesting genuine innocence, or it was a display of cunning intelligence. The Chief then added, “And now, you’re handing me the second piece.”

Initially, Leqqya approached her confidently, but she halted, taken aback by this second request.

“For what purpose do you need it?”

🎲 Reasons (PUM) → For protection or survival + Enigma/Query

“It’s for the good of the operation,” she insisted.
“But you just told me you didn’t know what they are.”
“I don’t, and that’s precisely why I need them with me.”
“That… Chief, that sounds like a terrible idea.”
“You sound like a terrible idea,” she retorted, snapping her fingers. “Take her away, lock her up.”
“What? Wait! Chief Wissenhatch!”

The Chief turned and walked back, and two hulking bodyguards from Gorilla Company materialized behind Leqqya. She needed to think quickly. Resisting would accomplish nothing, nor would attempting to flee. Was the Chief anticipating her actions, suspecting her of guilt? Yet, the Chief’s certainty seemed unwarranted; she had asked no questions. Had Leqqya inadvertently disclosed something unexpected?

Resigned, Leqqya chose to cooperate and allowed herself to be taken into custody.


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