Tagged: 365

Written in 365 Parts: 149: Drawn Out

The cloud of debris and bodies had been slowly drifting apart for more than two Terran days. They were affected by virtually no forces except the gentle tug of a distant star. They would, no doubt, be pulled as long desiccated flotsam into that star and their eventual consumption in some far distant epoch. Perhaps the fortunes of the galaxy may be impacted before then and some other cataclysm claimed their body. It was even possible that they would drift and slowly be taken apart atom by atom by the background radiation of space until some final lump drifted in the dying lights of the last glance of the universe.

Until then the slight acceleration they had on leaving the vessel was pushing them on a long arc around that gravitational object. It would help them set a long and very slow orbit. The two figures who had been close enough to be one object had drifted apart by a hundred metres since they were last together. Their trajectory was never completely matched, just sufficient for the looting of the dead. The speed at which they had moved apart did not belie the fact that they were still trapped in the same parabola. They would drift along a similar path for the eons yet to come.

Power had started to become an issue after just twenty hours. Sustaining body temperature was its biggest issue. The suit was able to recharge, there were kinetic activators and solar cloth layers. But they required far more than the background starlight, and the lack of motion in zero gravity, to help. There was a choice to be made between keeping the suits heating systems working, or the full recycling of all secondary life support systems. In the end it had to be the heating, it afforded the greatest chance of survival.

At first it was easy to just lie still and relax, let the consciousness drift into a gentle sleep. A snippet of some long forgotten verse tingling the synapses ‘sleep of death in which dreams came’. What else was there to do? Worrying about the situation would just increase the heart and respiration rates and cause more use of limited resources. 

But, with each passing hour other physiological factors started to cause issue. They were lying in their own sweat which had started to coalesce around the internal skin of the suit. The micro pumps had been disabled with the recycling system. This was causing slight skin irritation. Far more concerning was the rising temperature, mild dehydration induced fever which was steadily raising heart rate. The dehydration was also causing a headache that was getting progressively more intense. This caused them to be in a fitful state of wakefulness. All of this further exacerbated the sweating, increasing the irritation and making their skin start to prickle and burn. With no drugs to relax the mind the constant pressure to be distracted was becoming a strain. 

There was a light flashing in the periphery of their vision which was becoming steadily deeper in shade. It had started as a smooth green with a high percentage figure but was now a blinking red. It was the suit’s oxygen levels and they had reached a critical point. The supply had already been reduced to its minimum saturation, causing a burning in the lungs adding to the overall discomfort.

Drick did the calculations. There was probably less than five hours of air at this level of burn. They checked the weapon they had taken from the dead body. It was fully charged. Recoilless, magnetically accelerated, ballistic rounds. They would work just as well in the cold vacuum of space as they did in an atmosphere. Drick would wait until the final few moments, but they would not die of asphyxiation.

Written in 365 Parts: 148: Surprise Instruction

Marsh dove through the hot edges of the hole, he had just made, in the armoured doorway and rolled to the corner of the room. In this corner the wall met the large curve of the window and for a second a wave of vertigo threatened to knock him off his feet. A mental shake settled the sensation and he checked his surroundings.

A quick scan of the room revealed the friendly signature of Drick’s suit and no other signs of life. Marsh took a quick glance outside the window again. There was a large amount of tracer fire erupting out of the front of the building, but he could not determine what they were firing towards. The tracer fire was actually the discharges of plasma as the discharges ripped through the air heat-deathing the atmosphere. The angle of fire was seemingly towards empty space. Whatever was firing was taking a lot of efforts to destroy nothing.

Marsh signalled that he was secure on the comms screen and waited for Drick’s instruction. When it came it was surprising but he did as he was asked. Marsh had learned that Drick was always about ten steps ahead of him in working any situation out. It wasn’t that he was slow or they were exceptional, well not that exceptional. It was the advantage of decades of experience of equipment, tactics and events coupled with a passionate zeal for the work.

Marsh followed orders and started to spray the room in a random pattern covering floor to ceiling with a slew of the paralysis darts. Marsh was forced to hit the auto-reloader which pulled another ten thousand shot magazine into the chamber twice before there was a sudden reaction that almost made him drop the weapon.

A figure fell from the ceiling.

The gun fell silent as Marsh almost leapt out of his own skin in surprise. A short message from Drick scrolled over his internal monitor. “They came in and didn’t go out, had to be a stealth suit. They will be out for too long, prepare the hypo while I prep them. We have to ensure the construct program is in place before they fully awaken.”

Written in 365 Parts: 147: Liquid Flesh

Charlie looked up at the Powered Armour that towered above them. If the organic inside took a brief look down at an outside monitor they would clearly see the figure crouching up at them. Charlie could even see themselves on the security feed that Rodero was altering in real time. However, they were presented as a non-threat. The weapon they were holding identified as a dart emitter, and of no consequence. Charlie knew that they would get a single shot before that assessment would be altered. They had to get the perfect hit, and then get out of the way.

The gun indicated that it was cycled to its maximum emissions, Charlie depressed the activator. The weapon was an extension of the same technology that allowed for gravity reducing fields, and the constant acceleration graviton drives of interstellar spacecraft. Inside the gun was a powerful fusion cell that fed directly into a graviton accelerator. The accelerator was a series of opposing particle loops that fed increasing levels of energy to massed particles. These particles were positioned in loops around each other, and a central core, that allowed the build up of gravitons. On release the combined charge was directed as linear gravity. The effect was a frame shift that disrupted any particles it passed through. Literally tearing matter apart on a molecular level. 

The beam had two severe drawbacks. It would quickly lose its potency as the incredible energy charge was a weak force that would dissipate quickly in any gravitational field. It would not affect structures that had strong bonds. Heavy armour resisted the shifting forces, as did most physical weapons. However, its effect on sensitive electronics, computers or organic matter was devastating. Anything within a few metres of the beam was disrupted. Delicate circuitry shattered into pieces. Flesh fell apart, and puddled, leaving a clean skeletal frame behind.

There was an electronic scream from the suit as thousands of circuits died in a micro-seconds brilliance. Inside the suit the organic occupant didn’t even have time to contemplate the agony that would have made them scream, before their flesh and organs liquified.

The suit toppled forwards onto its still firing guns. Physical systems that no longer received instruction. They took a full two seconds to stop firing which made the suit jerk and jitter on the cold concrete surface. It jerked and shook, gouging holes in the smooth grey expanse.

Charlie checked and noted that Alpha had neutralised the rest of the room. They flashed a signal to control and the other teams that they had achieved penetration. The ground floor was taken. Without waiting for a response the two Dricks moved immediately to their next task.

Written in 365 Parts: 146: Two Desks

The explosion was loud in the confined space of the maintenance room. The concussion wave, that followed the sound, had barely dissipated against the shield when Drick started their run. In the monitor view Drick could see that Marsh had also started his run. He was four metres and three seconds behind Drick, separated by a wall.

Ahead of Drick the shaped charge had blasted a, roughly circular, hole in the toughened resin and steel laminates of the compound internal walls. There were a few sparks from exposed wiring systems, that would trigger fire alarm breakers the minute they erupted into life. However the systems were under their control and still disrupted by the pulse. 

Drick leapt through the thin haze of smoke at the lowest height they could manage. Landed on their hands and rolled into the office. Drick was  using the captured security systems monitors, and their own internal systems, to quickly build up a layout of the room.

The space was larger than Drick had expected. On the schematics they had used there was an extra wall partitioning this office. It was clear now that the wall was a temporary divide. It was, no doubt, retracted at this time. Drick could see that there were runner tracks on the floor and ceiling. The room was now dominated by two large desks. The walls were the right angle shape of smooth internal surface, and a large corner window that curved between the two ends.  

The first desk was an impressive single slab of wood, that had been shaped into a u-shaped curve, that was laid on one long edge. It gave a deceptive clear view through the desk. However this was false as Drick could not see the chair through the desk. The upper half chair which was clearly visible behind the top of the desk. Clearly it had a hologram field, or a mirror, projected in front of it.

The other desk was more a long meeting table. It had thirteen chairs arranged in a curious pattern around a long oval. Twelve of the chairs were arranged along one side of the table culminating at the curve of the sides. The other chair, slightly larger and taller, was opposite them. All of the electronic displays were arranged to give this primary chair the most advantageous position, and all of the information.

The deceptive desk, and command table, both indicated to Drick that the owner of this office liked to be in charge. Liked to be the centre of attention. Liked to have secrets. 

There were few other features aside from the large window. A single two dimensional projection frame on the wall of a group of organics with the sitting Planetary Governor, was the only feature of note. The other wall contained the room’s single door. All other vertical surfaces were window. The desk was almost devoid of all features aside from an antique pen, inkwell, and paper blotter. 

The room appeared to be empty. But Drick knew this had to be false. Appearances were always deceptions.

Marsh rolled through the open door and took position in the corner of the room, where the window met the wall, as they had planned. Drick watched as they also scanned the room. Looking, as Drick did, for their objective.

Written in 365 Parts: 145: Imaginary Targets

Drick Alpha and Drick Charlie watched the suit as it moved towards the main doors. The suit was ponderous in a building that it had some concern for. They could move at about twenty kilometres per hour in combat mode, but they would tear up the marble floor doing so. It didn’t look as if this unit had been fitted with any optional gravity assist or boosters. Likely kitted with weapons pods only. 

It was only a few metres from being in direct line of sight of their two comrades who were still in their pods. Even with the ballistic shields and armour that the pods had, the weaponry in the mobile armoured unit would efficiently eradicate Beta and Delta. 

The analytical packages of Alpha and Charlie worked swiftly and threw information to their internal monitors. Calculations for the time to first strike and likely assault patterns were being displayed and overlaid onto the world view. Augmented screens showed routes of attack if they wished to engage. They could see their own routes of attack and retreat, and the routes of all other allies and opponents. Their was a multitude of colours and transparencies. The most important strategic maneuvers had the brightest colour and highest opacity. The projected route of the suit was ghosted onto every overlay allowing them to prioritise it in this battle situation and anticipate issues.

Alpha was about to suggest opening the doorway now. They couldn’t wait any longer. They would have to start the assault. It was risky, in fact likely to be downright foolhardy, but it was possible that only one of them would be immobilized which would give the other three a chance against the suit.

Action now would delay the time to the detection and interception of the primary team which was an overriding objective. Alpha messaged their thoughts to Charlie. They prepped the plan and then paused. The monitor showed the suit of armour starting to act erratically. It was swiftly moving its visual systems and weapon tracking in wide arcs as if scanning multiple targets. Alpha flicked an overlay for the forward view of the security systems. They now saw the simulation that Rodero was feeding into the security systems of the compound. Alpha smiled, then signalled the go command to Charlie as they wrenched the door’s safety release system open.

The door opened swiftly, but almost soundlessly. In any normal circumstance it would still have been detected by the suit of armour, or other security personnel. But, as they opened the door they timed it so that the suit of armour had opened fire on its multiple imaginary targets. Their timing was perfect. The monitors in their implants had shown the massive power spikes as the powered armour’s weaponry charged up. This had determined the optimum insertion time.

Charlie ran across the foyer space, ignoring the few guards who had started to recover from the effects of the electromagnetic pulse. Alpha would have to deal with the additional forces alone. Charlie’s task was to disable that suit as quickly as possible. They used a randomised ducking pattern to minimise the threat of stray assaults from any opponents. Their run brought them into a position that was directly in front of, and low down to, the armoured suit.

Alpha had dropped the door wrench the moment the portal had snapped open. They waited the half second that Charlie needed to start their run, before they rolled through the doorway and to one side. The schematics indicated an alcove where there was a security panel, and a fire control panel. Alpha rolled into the alcove. It was only a slim cover, Alpha was mostly exposed, but it was better than clear space. Alpha had unclipped the automatic needle weapon and selected the paralysis darts. Alpha started to spray sections of the room where shots were being fired from, or where the heat overlay indicated organics were hiding. Alpha was cautious enough to even spray the numerous bodies lying still, or twitching, on the floor. At this stage the fewer potential issues there were, the better the outcome.

Written in 365 Parts: 144: First Objective

Drick and Marsh moved quickly down the corridor avoiding the hardened forms of organics caught in the expanded foam from the stick bombs. As they passed each doorway they executed the same manouvre. One of them would crouch to the side of the hinges. The other would climb up the wall and adhere at frame height and upside down. Then the door would be opened and they would scan the room, both moving left to right but reversed to each other. 

Any organic would be shot with paralysing needles. Any machine, defensive or monitoring, would be hit with a micro-pulse from the electro-magnetic discharger they carried. If the machine looked to be shielded they would toss a static discharger onto it. The discharger would shock the machine if it attempted to move or give any signal. 

They soon reached the double doors at the end of the corridor. This was their first objective. This room contained the offices of the highest ranking security operative in the compound. They went by the name of Max Ducotte according to the nameplate on the door. Their title was regional security administrator. Drick paused and raised a brow behind the faceplate. There were no visible signs of an issue, but Drick had developed a special wariness, and the only times they ignored that feeling they regretted.

Drick motioned for Marsh to hold, and then they took out a handheld scanner. It wasn’t very accurate but it might detect an issue. Drick did a broad scan across visible and non-visible electro-magnetic spectrums. Then checked radio and magnetic spectrums. The scan came back with some slight inconsistencies but nothing dramatic. However there was still something gnawing at Drick. Then they understood. The room must be shielded. There was no organic life, or heat trace, on the monitor, and yet the officer was in there according to the intel they had from three minutes previously.

Drick paused to consider. There was nothing listed on the schematics as that unusual about this room. The doors were standard fire-resistant and attack-resistant security panels. The room beyond fitted with surveillance counter-measures that would have been taken offline by the pulse. The hand scanner was limited but it should be showing at least a faint trace of an organic life through the doors. 

There were two conclusions. One, the room was empty of organic life, even if recently deceased they would still be giving off heat. Two, the doors and room had been upgraded from the original recorded schematics.

Drick decided that option two was the more likely answer. This meant adapting the plans. They had originally wanted to use the doorways for a direct assault. But that may not be possible. So a two pronged attack would have to be used. Keep the original plan, but add to that plan. 

Drick indicated to Marsh to start preparations for a full assault on the doorway. Drick checked the schematics and moved back down the corridor to where there was a small maintenance doorway. Drick opened it and looked at the long oblong room. According to the building layout the end of this room was adjacent to the end room. Drick went to the wall and quickly started to pull an explosives kit out of the satchell. A few seconds was all that was needed to set force directed ordinance in place. 

Then Drick erected a small kinetic shield at the far end of the small cupboard near the doorway. The shield used an electrostatic force to repel ballistic objects. It should deflect the secondary effects of the explosion before draining its power cells. A quick look outside and Drick saw that Marsh had moved back to be parallel with the maintenance doorway. Marsh was erecting a similar shield. Drick gave a signal and they both activated the charges they had placed.

Written in 365 Parts: 143: Incoming Ghosts

Drick Alpha sent a coded burst with a data package detailing the current situation to command. Rodero unwrapped the information and added the live views from their feeds to the assessment. Alpha and Charlie wanted to get close to the suit and Rodero didn’t envy them. It was a very dangerous piece of machinery. More tank than assault suit and more than competent enough to push back the entire attack. It was unlikely that there were more than this one in the tower. This suit alone was unusual and broke about five thousand city ordinances.

Alpha was requesting a diversion so that the two Dricks could get closer to the suit and incapacitate the machine and its operator. Rodero would have thought withdrawing to a minimum safe distance of a hundred kilometres and using a low yield tactical strike would probably discourage the suit, though maybe not stop it. Rodero pulled multiple screens into view detailing full statistics on the unit. They showed combat profiles, materials in the construction, payload types and configurations, deployment situations, control systems, and most importantly any weak points.

After a few seconds, while Rodero immersed in synchronous communication with multiple constructs and their own super command construct, they had an answer. In regards to the suits armour and weaponry it had few weaknesses, the only one that would be suitable was already the suggestion Alpha and Charlie had devised. However in regards to the suits monitors and sensors there was a single weakness. 

The suit had a flaw in its threat capacity. If it was presented with too many targets and incoming information it tended to prioritise for maximum threats only. This wasn’t a flaw in itself, however on this particular model that meant that some objects were not just placed on a low threat status they were dropped as threats completely. Effectively, if presented with too much data the system queued the information by level of importance. Less threats were moved to a lower priority and data about them placed into storage or disregarded. The systems were finite, and on this machine finite was around ten thousand individual threats. After a few thousand it started to disregard data until it reached a saturation where it stopped everything but minimal threat assessment, and limited that to ten thousand objects. It had no capacity to hold any further data, and no way in which to store it for future assessment, so it was ignored. Those threats would be invisible.

Rodero verified that the assault teams for the building were all still tied into the main security and monitoring systems. Then Rodero analysed the whole of the connections being fed to the combat suit. A small guilty smile of pleasure crossed Rodero’s face. Typical. When spending close to three quarters of a billion credits on a top of the range assault suit, the absolute last thing you wanted to do was give any pilot of such a suit any level of fully autonomous control. The suit’s systems were tied directly into the main security systems. It wasn’t a wholly stupid idea. The suit would use all of the security systems for additional information and to offload capacity overcoming the potential flaws of its own systems. At the same time it would also be able to receive immediate new threat information not available to its own systems. 

However, the company had decided that any pilot of the suit would not be given full authoritative control. This amounted to overrides being switched in favour of the buildings command computers. The security system was treated as a single point of truth. The user could not override this. So if, for instance, the buildings systems determined that a half million ground assault troops were attacking in mixed formations using tactical nuclear weaponry it would place them as the highest threat level and utilise all system resources to combating them. Any other information would be dumped. The pilot could not override this, they couldn’t even turn the suit off as it could be remote operated. In fact in the event of such a massive threat the pilot was automatically overridden in favour of the suits faster, and more superior, algorithms for dealing with the highest level of threat first.

Rodero quickly assembled a construct that matched the building foyer and adjoining areas. Then the outside world was drawn with significant changes to the level of threat. Rodero slowly uploaded the construct over the real world information being supplied to the suit by the master security system. 

For the suit the world changed. It didn’t know there was a change, but change occurred. Drop ships had slowly moved into position and were opening bay doors to release waves of ground assault marines in full combat armour. Rodero made sure to place the position of each ship in a clear space so that no building or vehicle was directly in front of it, or directly behind. Similarly the troops all dropped into positions clear of organics. The suit was about to go ballistic in a big way and Rodero wanted to minimise any potential collateral damage.

Rodero watched as the combat armour moved forwards and then squatted down. The large automatic cannon on the back of the suit moved up its rails onto the left shoulder and started to auto-target the thousands of incoming ghosts. The arms lifted and a dazzling array of weaponry sprang forth. The suit upped its stance to full tactical resistance and targeted the waves of ghosts.

Written in 365 Parts: 142: The Corridor

Drick slowly inserted a pneumatically-powered fast expander into the slight gap between the elevator doors and set it to immediate open. There was an acknowledgement from Marsh that he had moved into a safe position. Marsh was currently using the molecular adhesion bonds on his suit’s feet and elbows to stick on the vertical wall of the lift shaft, ready to cover the corridor beyond.

The computer monitoring system used by security was still resetting after the electro-magnetic pulse. There was a flashing counter in Drick’s view that gave the most conservative estimates of how long each system, or organic, would take to recover.

Drick activated the expander and with a snap it pushed the doors apart revealing the corridor beyond. It would have been glorious if the corridor had been empty, but they didn’t expect it to be. They were mildly surprised at just how full it was.

Drick figured there must have been a meeting on this floor as there were at least thirty organics strewn in the small foyer in front of the elevators. For the most part they were dressed in business cut clothes, though still displaying the military black and grey favoured by Volstron Services. They were all in various stages of disarray. Many were drooling or clutching their heads in pain, or confusion. Some were semi-conscious and others lay twitching, unresponsive to outside stimuli.

Among them were at least fifteen security guards. These had favoured better than the administrative organics. Their implants would be shielded and resistant to electromagnetics. Most of the guards were already bringing themselves back onto their feet and looked up in confused surprise as the elevator doors sprang apart.

Drick used the few seconds of confusion to act. With a thought the instruction was sent to Marsh to spray the entire area with darts. The tiny needles were loaded with a paralysis drug that would incapacitate the organics and disrupt mental processes. This effect of the paralysis was enough to cause a lack of communication skill, without triggering emergency medical measures.

At the same moment Drick launched out of the elevator, using arms to pull hard against the sill, and flip upwards. Drick has set the gravity adjustment to its maximum, lessening greatly the effect of the planet’s gravity. Drick flew towards the ceiling and as they did activated the adhesion pads on the suit. The plans had revealed that this section had no false drop ceilings. It was solid panels, eight millimetre thick tungsten carbide, layered over carbon fibre composites, attached to shock absorption panels. This section was designed to resist external attack but maintain some flexibility. The designers did not contemplate the attack happening internal to the building.

As Drick attached to the ceiling the view on the battle monitor inside their mind showed the tracers of the darts. This information was pulled directly from the targeting and monitoring system attached to Marsh’s dart ejector. Drick would have smiled if this was a casual observation. Marsh was precise, there was no random spraying of an area. Controlled bursts in tight patterns. Exactly the way that Drick would have done.

Drick drew four globes from a pouch and activated the trigger to mix the liquids inside. These were expanding epoxy grenades. Or as many people called them, stick bombs. With a carefully controlled flick of the wrist Drick launched them into the air, and then used the internal micro-motors to guide them to their exact destinations. There was no flash as these grenades used an expanding compound that reacted violently, but with no kinetic impact, with the air. They quickly saturated the area with a liquid, that expanded to a foam, that soon hardened to a porous block.

Drick dropped onto the top of the mass of forms that contained all but one of the security guards. Casually Drick walked to the edge and viewed the half free guard who was now hacking at the epoxy foam which covered, and held, their head. Drick shot them with a taser set to maximum charge and calmly waited for it to override their defensive countermeasures in their suit and stun them. After a few moments Drick signalled the all clear to Marsh and waited for him to join them.

Written in 365 Parts: 141: False Prints

There was only one possible solution. The signal was an instruction or a flag for an instruction. It was unlikely that it was intended for an organic, it was too short. The communication must instruct a computer system to do something. If Hooper was to guess the instruction would be an indication, some pre-arranged signal, so maybe this was the signal that someone wanted to talk. But, what was also apparent, was that it was clearly not by scrambled comms. So they were smart, they knew about tracing routes. They must know that any encrypted commercial communication could be intercepted, its route known and its contents eventually unencrypted.

Hooper wondered if they had been wrong to dismiss the idea of laser or radio communications. They pulled the data from all of the monitors and scans for the last three months from the security systems. There was no reports of any illicit communications streams. They decided to look for any unusual activity, making sure to include any data the systems had matched to known bad behaviour. All systems kept a file of their bad behaviour. Incidents they recorded that didn’t exist due to a failure in software or hardware, or known phenomena messing with the results. A clever person might use that against a system. Hooper found a few small incidents in a dump file, they were auto-detection of signals with no cohesive structure. Basically static on the monitor’s reception array.

However these incidents shared the same features. Random noise on the infrared spectrum in a localised area. Hooper looked at the reports. The noise was a tight scattering of photons in the infrared wavelength, unusual but not recorded as an issue for investigation so thrown to the dump file as a bad behaviour. Hooper took the record of incidents and compared them to the list of communications bursts from the Yee On Kline. Each of the incidents occurred within a few minutes of a scrambled comms message. Hooper’s instincts tweaked.

Hooper ran an analysis for how often the infrared noise occurred versus the comms signals being sent and the times of day. There were far more comms signals, so many in fact that there was little pattern to them. That was another piece of the puzzle. The association between signal and static was a little too random, false signals to stop anyone finding a pattern, especially a computer system that was cleaning out the trash from log files, and linking it to a person.

Hooper smiled. If one took this as a principle then every datum point had the chance to be a false reading. Someone was being very clever, someone who could alter low level computer readings. Someone who knew that footprints in the snow could be easily hidden if there were enough false prints. It appeared that the mole may be hiding behind others, Hooper wondered how well they could hide themselves. Hooper requested a greater number of data streams from the Judicial systems, everything from purchase requests to oxygen usage by section of the station.

Written in 365 Parts: 140: Communication Types

Hooper sucked on their teeth for a few minutes. The weights were bugging them. There was something there but it was hard to know what exactly. It would have to be left to stew inside the rusty synapses of a police officer’s tired mind. Their intuition though said that the figures didn’t quite feel right. Hopefully the computer would detect something. The first pass showing nothing unusual was a blow, but police work was a slog, a long hard crawl and not a leap. Hooper knew this, it’s what they preached.

Hooper ran with an assumption. It was unlikely that Susa would arrive and have a request. Would they arrive with a list of things they needed? Unlikely. Maybe they were told to go and collect. More likely they were just told to go frequently and the things happened around them. They would be a trained courier not an active agent. Hooper felt pretty sure of that. So, a courier, a go between. Someone worth protecting but also someone who would know little and could be cut loose. Hooper doubted they had even met the mole on the station. If it were Hooper they would want as little exposure as possible. So no formal contact had to be the assumption.

 So how would the mole be contacted. How would the mole know they were coming? How would the mole get items to them?

There must be someone running communications and since Hooper knew that the comms link had to be able to manage ad hoc connections, as was indicated by the recent activity, that route had to be available at almost any time. So it wasn’t via Susa Camile. Someone else made the communications. Someone else contacted the mole.

This left only one conclusion. Someone had access to the judicial inside operative, the mole, via a remote communications link, probably to the planet. That would have to be either a directed radio signal, tight beam laser or standard communications array. Hooper ruled out the laser, if you pointed a laser directly at Judicial it would be detected, even a short range laser. You could put a remote receiver somewhere on the satellite’s surface and run a short, tight beam, comms to it. But that ran the risk of being detected in a random sweep, of which there were many.

Radio had similar issues. There were random sweeps of the surface looking for any unusual signals. The satellite wasn’t just a government administrative centre for legal. There were the rapid response teams for civilian militia based here, along with the only prison in the system, aside from the rehabilitation facilities in the asteroid field. The prison here was a maximum security facility with secure wards for those who had severe psychologically divergent criminal tendencies.

So it had to be via a standard comms route into Judicial. Hooper assumed that they would use a civilian link into the system. Government links, even those that were private, were recorded as to who sent them and who received them. So it had to be commercial. However, it would still be recorded who received the calls.

Hooper pulled a list into a new query for all private communications that had come into Judicial in the previous decade and stored it in a table. Hooper then set up a new query of all personnel and who had received calls, and when they had received them. Then Hooper made a new table of all the registered calls, those that were private but marked as to their contents. Many of these were private medical or insurance companies. They were given their own query as it was unlikely they were using that as a cover. Hooper demonstrated the thinking by checking against the companies listed to return a verification, making sure that those calls had been made and were regulation. The query took a few minutes to confirm that they were legitimate.

This still left a large number of calls to a great number of organic officers. Hooper sucked a cheek. There was no officer who was contacted a significantly greater amount than another. Over a certain pay grade the number of calls increased. But that nagged at Hooper. If they were above a certain pay grade they would be more noticable. True they would be able to exert greater control and affect more systems with less impunity. But they would be more physically visible. Something told Hooper that the organic they were after would make themselves less noticeable.

Hooper decided to run the query for where the calls originated from. The calls were divided into private and scrambled. A scrambled call didn’t reveal its location, sender or contents. They were most used by Judicial and Government, but there were a legitimate number of private calls, lawyers for example, who also used them. However there was an interesting artefact about a scrambled call, many intellects might not know the whole process. If a scrambled call was transferred across standard commercial networks it left a trace in the system. In order to avoid data corruption of other commercial traffic, scrambled calls were always given their own routing, they didn’t share with other data streams. 

Hooper sent a request for all the routing information for the calls that had come into the satellite that had single routes. Then Hooper built a map of where those calls originated from to see if they could identify a hot spot of calls. It wasn’t long before the pattern emerged. A vast number of calls from the banking and government sections, but also an unusually large number of calls from a floating city. The sector indicated had hundreds of buildings, but thankfully only one organisation owned them. Yee on Kline.

Hooper did a query with his received calls table and list of names. It was less instructive than they had hoped. There was no single organic who had received calls from Yee On Kline.Hooper scanned through the list and suddenly paused, that was interesting and bizarre. The calls came into Judiciary and then they went to no person. The communication lengths for the majority of the scrambled signals that came in from Yee On Kline were short. Not just a second or two short, but a microsecond or two short. That was not enough time to send a communication. It was only enough time to send a signal. But a signal to do what?