« on: 11 March 2013, 21:43:05 »
Loubrg, Alarion Provence
12 February 3074
“You know.” Levisha began as she sat at the table, smiling at the three already present. “I’ve wondered why you like to meet at Tharonjas.”
“Bacon.” Sandra admitted with a smile.
“No sense of sentimentality over it being where we first met?” She asked.
Sandra shrugged, then glanced at Elezha and Reg. “Maybe some brand loyalty.” She admitted.
“The Jihad has been terrible for Tharonjas.” Reg explained. “All seven of its biggest branches destroyed, as well as at least five of the lucrative Solaris City locations. Though I heard the Montenegro District Bacon Wagon was still on the loose.”
That warranted a small laugh. “So you said you had something for me.” She continued, looking over the four of them. “A follow-up from the last operation.”
“True.” Elezha nodded, then glanced at Reg. “A name mentioned by Crenshaw just before his inconvenient demise.”
“Ogel.” Levisha nodded.
“A name we first encountered during operation VOLCANO.” Reg agreed. “From the communication that we took from the pirate records, mentioning operation ARASAKA. We took that and went looking from there.”
“Any results?” Levisha seemed genuinely curious, pausing only as a waitress arrived with three meals.
“Some.” Reg nodded. “The name ‘Ogel’ cropped up in the contract negotiation of a number of the Word’s merc units.” He pulled out a small notebook and began running his finger down the page. “Morgan’s Black Hands were one of them, which nicely ties in with ARASAKA. Similarly the Miljavo cavaliers were another.”
“That explains a lot.” Levisha nodded.
“Interestingly enough, the Cavaliers, a unit known for being ‘good guys’ started getting a lot rougher and dirtier after they were signed.” Sandra added. “Makes me suspect that some tool had something on them that was enough to turn them really nasty really quickly.”
“Fascinating. Do you have a full list?” Levisha asked, casually stealing a chip from Reg’s plate.
“Partial.” He nodded. “Besides the two I mentioned, there’s also a smattering of lower-tier units; the Blackguards, the Bloody Eye, Harmon’s Hellhounds, the Redrock Raiders, Valeria Victrix and Zandar’s Cannons, but they might not be the limit of it. The only big-time unit that I can attach to the name are King’s Tigers.”
“So in short, a mess of ugly, nasty tools who aren’t afraid to kick puppies for a paycheck.” Sandra explained.
“And that’s not including units that might have been signed earlier before the Jihad during the Word’s shell game period.” Reg leaned in closer. “See, the story I heard was that a lot of the ‘random’ damage in Waco’s Harlech rampage wasn’t so ‘random’ after all. Somebody was taking advantage of the situation to strike at specific targets and disguise the damage done. Of course, since all those involved in the rampage are dead and the Word torched the planet, it’s hard to prove.”
“The burnt ruins of a riot. Worst crime scene ever.” Sandra nodded.
“So these... dogs of Ogel’s,” Levisha continued, listening intently to every word even as she pilfered more from other plates. “Is there any connection between them?”
“None we’ve found beyond a tendency for them to disappear for random periods.” Elezha explained. “For example, the Crimson Blades simply up and vanished from the protectorate in mid 3072. There are some third-hand reports of them being destroyed in an attack on a Falcon OZ world, but given how tight the information control is in Clan Space right now, I couldn’t guarantee a thing.”
“Likewise, the Bloody Eye vanished from sight for some six months in mid ’67.” Reg continued. “And that’s a unit which already has a questionable origin, having apparently appeared out of nowhere in the early sixties.”
“The same sort of pattern recurs across all of these units.” Eleza added. “Most recently, King’s Tigers and the Redrock raiders dropped out of sight for about three months each before reappearing on Symokov, and in the company of our associates, the Miljavo Cavaliers no less.
“Interesting. Do you think that this ‘Ogel’ is using them as a part of some plan?” She asked.
Reg was about to speak, but Elezha cut him off. “Delusional theories about ancient conspiracies aside, it is a possibility. We would, however, need to figure out what it is, and where they’re going to.”
“After all, when we caught the Black Hands during ARASAKA, they had just come back from a year’s disappearance, and were trying to nuke Taygeta.” Sandra noted. “So yeah, finding out what those tools are up to helps.”
“Now do we know anything about this ‘Ogel’ themselves?” She asked, curious.
“Sadly, not much that we were able to find.” Elezha admitted. “There were a few fleeting references, but nothing tangible. The only solid one was a news article from Gibson dated 3064.” She tapped the side of her head a moment, likely scrolling through data on a screen only she could see. “There was an incident where somebody kidnapped Kristina Hopewell, a holofilm actress who had begun to get some League-wide recognition”
“She made several sci-fi tearjerker romances.” Reg noted.
“Actually there’s some fascinating material in there, but that’s by the by.” Elezha continued. “Ogel lead a force that freed Hopewell from her captor, but not before she lost both eyes. Of course, this being the Free Worlds League, that killed her career right there and then.”
“Yeah, I have no idea about that at all.” Sandra muttered, rubbing the scars under her right eyesocket.
“So that’s something.” Levisha admitted. “Anything else?”
“Little to go on; the information I found mentioned that he was formerly of the Com Guard and had been wounded in action fighting the Clans.” Elezha explained. “It’s possible, then, that he is one of those... things.” The mixture of fear and distaste in her voice was pretty clear as she spoke.
What is it about the Manei Domeni that frightens you? Sandra asked herself. It’s not just the usual ‘freakish cyborgs that are going to kill us all’ fear, is it? You afraid of what they are, or because they’re so much like you?
“Well this is all very, very useful information.” Levisha noted. “And very helpful too. Unfortunately, our friends were not very happy about Crenshaw’s unexpected demise, and they are looking for a result.”
“And our coming back with a pile of new tools while starting a riot on a Word planet isn’t good enough for them?” Sandra shot back.
“It isn’t when it doesn’t include the objective they were after.” She simply replied. “And that’s what annoys them.” Levisha smiled again. “Speaking of which, shouldn’t you be helping to integrate the new recruits?”
“I took a working lunch to meet you and the detectives.” Sandra shrugged it off. “So they’ve largely been left to Jake’s tender mercies.”
That produced a small laugh. “Well in that case I’m sure he’ll get results – one way or another.” She stood, nodding to the three of them. “Thank you all. The wok you’ve done is invaluable. Not just for me, not just for the unit, but potentially for all of us.”
Two hours later and after a quick stop-off along the way, Levisha was across the city inside the StarCorps offices, striding through them like she owned the place. Dressed in a black and red suit, complete with silk tie, she looked for all the world like a high-powered executive and certainly acted the part. Save for the odd sideways glance, nobody questioned her presence, which was exactly how she liked it.
Her aura of icy calm and control didn’t waver a bit as she approached one man who was waiting for her outside a meeting room. A touch on the short side and of a stocky build, he was an otherwise missable man with a vague hint of Asian descent, dressed in a nicely anonymous middle-management suit. Only his eyes betrayed him, eyes that right now were narrowed in some rather well-suppressed anger.
Exactly as I had expected, Levisha told herself with a small smile. Which means that my detectives’ hard work is going to be worth an awful lot to me in very soon.
“So good of you to join me, Ms Towne.” He began, a small not of frustration in his voice as he opened the door, leading her into a large meeting room that was currently vacant.
“It’s a pleasure, Mister Watanabe.” She simply replied with a warm smile instead of one of her usual smug or toothy grins. “And may I think you again for the generous treatment that you have shown my people, especially the recent donations of equipment. I can assure you now that we are putting those to the best possible use.”
“That’s exactly what I wanted to talk about, Ms Towne.” He cut her off, clearly a little annoyed at her attitude and rubbing his face in it. “It’s regarding the arrangement between your people and my company.”
She nodded. “Understandable, but I thought that we had a working agreement. You would provide us with what we need, and in return, we would use our unique skills and talents against our mutual enemies, with the added advantage of giving you a force with no overt connections to your company.”
“That’s the point.” Watanabe replied. “So far, we have done a fantastic job of footing the bill for you, but we are also yet to see any return on our investment.” He was looking her in the eye now, focused and determined, something that very few managed. “Operation TIN CITY yielded us exactly nothing for all that time and effort. All it gave us were two worlds where the Word of Blake weren’t, which isn’t exactly useful.”
“To be fair, it’s not like we would have known that until we went there. On the other hand, I can also understand that it was not the best use of resources.” She was making a play of conceding to his comments while standing her ground. “On the other hand, operation ZEN CUSTARD was a success.”
“It was a success in that you got what you wanted and we started an insurrection on a world that, all things being equal, is not that important to the war effort.” He countered. “However, the main objective, the one that we gave you, was not achieved.”
“There was the intervention of an outside force.” Levisha calmly explained, remaining flat and level in the face of Watanabe’s clear frustration.
“Which, given what you sold me on, your force should have been able to deal with.” He cut back.
“It was an unexpected situation. Even then, it appears that the loss of the primary target was purely by accident.”
“Be that as it may, this has not worked out as we had hoped.” He continued. “And I now have to front up to my department and justify everything that we have spent so far for very little yield. That is why I asked to meet you, Ms Towne. I was hoping that you could give me something – anything – that could justify your continued employment”
Inwardly she was grinning broadly, but her face was remaining calm. That was just what I wanted to hear. I can give you what I want, and you’ll thank me for it while being convinced that it was entirely your own idea.
“We do have something.” She spoke up, handing him a datapad. “My own people have been chasing a lead for some time, one that we think is rather important.”
“What’s this?” He asked as he thumbed through the list.
“A list of Word-aligned mercenaries.” Levisha explained. “Ones that seem to have been disappearing from sight and then cropping up again in odd places, as if they were following some larger plan that we were unaware of.”
“Interesting.” He nodded, more than a little fascination in his voice. “Three of these units were recently involved in an attack on a mercenary unit we employ and were working very closely with the Word of Blake Militia.”
Which matches with what I found, she nodded to herself. And now you want to know why and want to know what they’re planning, and you especially want to know where they’re vanishing off to. Anyone would. There is a mystery here, and you want, no need, to solve it, to find the full story that’s hiding from you.
“This definitely bears further investigation.” He finally spoke up, his anger gone and replaced with concern, his eyes flickering back and forth between the figures on the screen as he searched for the pattern to what he was seeing. “We need to find out why they have been doing what they have, and where they’re going.”
Of course you do. You see a threat and you want to end it. It wouldn’t have looked better if I’d manufactured the evidence myself.
“I’ll take this to my department, but there’s definitely something here.” He finally spoke.
“Agreed there.” She nodded. “And if I may be so bold, I think that you’re onto something here. These units, whatever the connection between them is, clearly are a part of something bigger.”
“Everything the Word does is a part of something bigger.” He commented, more than a little distracted as he glanced at the pad again. “Wheels within wheels and all that.”
“The secret is to find that big picture, the overall view that only they can see.” She smiled. “And I think that we may have found a way towards that.”
“Agreed. Leave this with me, and we’ll put something together. I don’t mind saying this, Ms Towne, but it looks like you’ve finally given us what we were asking for.”
“I’m glad I could help.” She replied with a smile. Because when you look at what’s there, and fail to notice what I left off, you’ll come to the conclusion that I want, and you’ll know what to do next.
And that will be just what I want.