Week 67: Hacker Goddess
We left our heroes in the pantope Emerald Metaphor, disconnected from exterior spacetimes, quietly waiting. Cantrel is sleeping off exhaustion in the tent, while everyone else has a rest.
We left Braeta having a soaky bath in the Munch, which is under a force dome at Jumping Jacks, where one of our two battles is. Taking a soaky bath in the middle of a battlefield has panache, but we reluctantly decide we shouldn't have done that. We should roust her out to finish her resting here, with us, where events cannot overtake her.
Before we do that, Robbie rezzes up a substitute bathtub for her, while Tom, using a similar power, gathers up water from the pantope's "moat" by forming it into glassy bricks. Once the water is in the bathtub and liquid again, they heat it up using chunks of fresh shrapnel from the recently defunct armored airlock.
Still procrastinating over interrupting a demigoddess at her bath, we recall the other two folk who came in from Yazatlan with Desmond, Greywolf, and Obedan -- Pablo and Hassan. We could profitably try to find them.
Tom opens a window back at the ranch, in freeze-frame, and uses it to look into the infirmary, where those two were last seen heading. The infirmary is a large, airy room -- all the more so now that someone has blown a large hole in one wall, taking out an autodoc. There are no body-parts lying about, however, and a trail of blood drops suggests one or more people ran away. Tom turns window to door a couple of brief times, to acquire a sample of blood, then a bloody rug, to use for dowsing. He uses that and optical tracking to follow the trail down to the back door, which is burst out, suggesting a very hurried and forceful exit.
At this point, we decide we'd do just as well to ask Braeta for more information.
Accordingly, we send Kate into the Munch with an explanation, an apology, and a bathrobe. Braeta comes back with her in reasonably good temper and concludes her soaky bath. We then ask her some questions:
Does she have any idea who is attacking us, or why? No. All she knows is they wear grey uniforms and one of the officer types was wearing a state-of-the-art (or slightly beyond) personal force field pack.
What about Pablo and Hassan? She hasn't met with them since the attack started, but she picked them up on her instruments. She last saw them 4.5 hours ago (taking time-travel into account), headed west by north-west. It looked like they were about to be surrounded. She hopes that it helped that, about then, she took out one of the house computers the enemy had suborned.
So the enemy took over the house automation? Yes. She took back about 37% of it, 22% was never taken, and 5% has been blown away, leaving them with a maximum of 36%. Can she go crash now? Certainly.
She staggers into the tend to collapse. A couple of hours later, we hear a bellow in Cantrel's voice, there's a sort of ZOT! sound, the tent tries to become spherical, there's another yell from Cantrel, and a thump. Then the tent collapses.
A lump moves around and eventually gets to the exit, revealing itself as Braeta. Robbie goes in for Cantrel as she explains apologetically -- She was having a bad dream and Cantrel apparently startled her in trying wake her out of it. She slugged him, apparently after missing with a small lightning bolt.
Tom goes in to fetch out the autodoc, then folds up the tent and unfolds it; it re-erects itself, being magic. Kate tends the unconscious Cantrel while we ask about the dream. It was nothing portentous -- just a flash-back to her time in her foxhole, at a point where some of the enemy came by and one of them stood on her hiding place (and thus on her shoulder). We learn that she dug this foxhole out herself, using a chunk of ranch house that wasn't attached anymore.
She doesn't feel like sleeping now, so refreshes herself with eating instead. She remarks that the enemy seems to her to be a medium-sized organization, from the volume of their internal communications. She infers they have a substantial established history and, of course, a military-style hierarchy, with very high security levels. She might be able to tell us more if she could get back to her computers.
Markel fetches them for her, from the Munch, where we left them when we rescued her. Tom asks her if she would be interested in tapping straight into the enemy's computers. After all, we have this ship, about to land by the ranch house, and Tom could open a little door inside a computer chassis, if she liked.
She's intrigued. Very. But she isn't set up to do computer taps right now. Of course, she adds longingly, there used to be this nifty tap device put out by Eldacur Technologies (which, like Jumping Jacks, is another industry of ours). It was really great. In fact, just about miraculous. (Several of us nod, calmly.) In fact, it was taken off the market just about the time she had finished deducing it violated entropy...
We discuss ways and means of getting one of those taps for her. We concoct an elaborate scheme for going back 30 years in time, using pantopes, starships, and trips to the alternate Hellene, but when we start to try it, Tom promptly loses his pantope connection.
Kate bids Tom try the timelock detector. This is a handful of ten coins. Basally, you look for omens, with the firm intention of following them. The idea is that Time, so to speak, finds it easier to bend Luck through the coins than to do it by swatting you with timelocks. It only works if you believe in it, rather like placebo effect, but it does work. Or so we believe.
Tom throws, and gets ten heads. Right. Well, the plan did look rather rickety. We use a simpler plan, not backing up so far:
1) We open the pantope on the alternate, Co-Dominion Hellene.
2) We back up a month.
3) Kate, Robbie, and Braeta pass through the portal in the warehouse, into United Earth, "home" Hellene. It is now a couple of weeks before all our complicated machinations have begun.
4) The three head across town to Jumping Jacks, where Eldacur Technologies "rents office space," to acquire a tap.
Robbie (in his current form) and Braeta are unknown to ET, but Kate gets them in. Soon, they are ushered into a conference room, where a Mr. Watanabe hears out their requests. He respectfully tells them that getting a "divination tap" requires a Principal's Waiver. Tom is one of the Principals of ET, so they make a quick trip back across Pericles, through the warehouse portal, to the pantope, and fetch him.
Tom duly signs stuff and Braeta picks some nice models out of a highly-classified list. Mr. Watanabe tells us we'll have to pick it up in Manufacturing, which he's actually very happy about, since he hardly ever gets to go there.
He leads the way to a small corporate library. He touches a secret something and a wall of books slides away, revealing ... a very nice spring day. Somewhere Else. Mr. Watanabe may call it Manufacturing, but it looks a lot like Faerie to Tom. He checks his watch, which reads Year 275, Month of Flowers, Day 17. (Which is not a Faerie kind of date.)
Meadowlands. Grass. Cottages. We're led to one of the cottages and presented to The Jeweler -- an elderly-looking elf named Mirendir, though the white hair may be as much of an affectation as the bifocals certainly are. He's very please to meet Tom again -- and understand when Tom admits to not remembering having met, at least not yet. We explain we're in some haste, so he calls up three Spinners and The Watchmaker.
The Spinners are an elven lad and two elven maids. The Watchmaker is something fay, though his exact breed isn't clear -- shortish with an unhuman tone of brown to his skin and a large gold pocketwatch in hand. They're all quite excited about the project, especially since one of Braeta's picks is an experimental one that never got marketed, since the whole line was withdrawn because of the "physical anomalies" discovered.
Tom begins to suspect he has met these folk before. There's a seal in his memory that seems to relate to them. But it's still labeled "Do Not Open Until," so he doesn't poke at it.
They smile, the Watchmaker clicks his watch -- and they all vanish, to return through a side door. They proudly present us with four widgets, including the Very Special one. (Tom checks his watch again. It's now the 24th of Flowers; looks like we were cast into stasis for a bit.) We thank them and return the way we came. (When we get back to the corporate library, Tom checks the time yet again and finds virtually none has passed on Hellene. The Watchmaker knows his stuff.)
Kate, Robbie, Tom, and Braeta then wend their way back to the pantope. Now to tap into the enemy computers. Tom produces the miniature windows. Braeta coaches him into just the right place and shape, apparently able to "see" electrical currents. To do this, she has everyone around her turn off unnecessary electronics. Gannar, for instance, shuts down his cybernetics. Robbie, on the other hand, is not trouble at all, oddly enough.
The crucial moment arrives. We make the window into a door, Braeta reaches through and pops the magic tap onto a bus, then turns to her laptop.
In short order, she determines that control here emanates from someone called "Yanova." (So it is Admiral Yanov's daughter. Now we know who, though not why.)
There is something or someone called "Blue" that is "interdicted." We explain to Braeta about the color-coded names of the Rainbow Contract people. She soon gives us reason to believe that Ms. Yanov ("Yanova") has perpetrated a coup on the Rainbow leadership. Blue is isolated, Green is being systematically deluded so he doesn't even know he's isolated, and "the White staff" has limited access, though they aren't allowed to know it's been limited. Also Yanova has acquired a prisoner, which we suspect of being Pablo or Hassan.
Braeta also remarks that Yanova, besides being massively clever, appears to be clinically paranoid, or at least "very intense." She trusts no one and nothing, not even the computer systems she's using to muddle and block everyone else. But Braeta can use this against her, because, if you are able to masquerade as Yanova, you can do just about anything.
By now, Cantrel has come to and received Braeta's apology with a sour grin. We ask him of Adm. Yanov was the top of the Rainbow hierarchy. He was, says Cantrel, as high as Cantrel could discover, and possibly the top. Also, Cantrel knows where Adm. Yanov lives, though no one knows that he knows this -- in a hunting lodge in Novarus.
Well, it is now obvious how to cope with that spaceship, poised over our ranch house. Braeta, at our request, sends out orders, as from Yanova, to go to high orbit to await further instruction. After they do that, Braeta sends out a few more choice codes and crashes every computer on the ship.
Orbital patrol ought to pick them up before they run out of air. Or maybe they can get the life support going without the software. But that's their problem.
Using Cantrel's guidance, we home in on Novarus, then the right area, where Braeta spots the hunting lodge because some hi-tech glamour has made it look like a patch of wilderness -- exactly like that other patch over there. We're soon in past the illusions, having noted lots of patrols of heavy-duty air cars, armored and plain. We're zooming in on a sprawling estate. Robbie notes one outbuilding shines in the infrared.
An armored aircar takes up position exactly below us. The outbuilding opens up and a big aircar like the one that blasted Salimar lifts out. Is it Yanova, perhaps, going to see what happened to her spaceship? Let's go take a look.
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.