2950-01-04 – Tales from the Service: A Plugged Leak
This week, Fifth Fleet is finally in motion here in Berkant. After a major attack on the picket line on the last day of the year was defeated, Admiral Zahariev ordered the fleet to form up for a push away from Berkant toward occupied Hallman.
While this movement across the open system has not (as of this entry being submitted late on the second) yet resulted in a major fleet action, I can’t see how it can be avoided at this point. If the Incarnation fleet at Hallman does not run or come out to fight a maneuver battle by mid-day (fleet shipboard time) on the fourth, the day this post is being ingested into the feed distribution system, they’ll be forced to fight a defensive battle in orbit to protect their groundside installations.
By all estimates Fifth Fleet has the numeric and tonnage advantage; almost none of the dozen-odd enemy cruisers observed retiring after being damaged in the numerous skirmishes here have been seen returning.
While we are waiting to see what the result of Zahariev’s offensive will be, I am bringing you a unique account. Unlike most, which are sent to Cosmic Background and then fed to Naval Intelligence for review, this account comes directly from Naval Intelligence, and is about the activity of an agent of one of its subordinate organizations, the Bureau of Counter-Intelligence. In interests of full disclosure, they did not pressure me into editing it for the text feed; they submitted it last month with a request to treat it exactly like any other candidate for the Tales from the Inbox series. Their interest seems to be mainly to remind the public that the terror campaigns waged by Immortal agents like Horus are not the only variety of Incarnation espionage within the Confederated Worlds.
Just to avoid the inevitable flood of questions to this effect, the name of the BCI agent used here is almost certainly a pseudonym, and though the submission claimed this took place on Madurai, I doubt highly that that is true.
[N.T.B. - If we’re not missing something – and I rather think we are – I expect Nate to run rather than fight here. Hallman hardly seems worth protecting, and at this point Berkant is nothing but a fortress.]
Duana stared hard at the bouncer at the nightclub entrance as the man made a show of scrutinizing her holo-badge and credentials. Most likely, the oaf normally saw such things as forgeries created in a vain attempt to allow those not on the sleazy establishment’s curiously exclusive guest list to enjoy the party.
The man's vain search for subtle signs of falsification increasingly creased his broad forehead, but Duana didn’t move a muscle, knowing even the least motion would be analyzed both by the guard and whoever was watching behind the cold eye of the security camera behind him. She had already cataloged the extensive list of illicit body-modifications which the club’s door-man kept concealed under his ill-fitting uniform, and her folded arms concealed one hand already beginning to work an electromagnetic stun-wand out of its hiding-place in her sleeve.
“This ain’t real, sis.” The man flipped Duana’s badge back to her.
She pretended to be surprised and deliberately failed to catch it, then stooped to pick it up. “I assure you, it is very real. This is a matter of the utmost-”
The man half-turned away to focus on a slouched, shifty-eyed man approaching the club entrance. It was just enough of an opening for Duana to leap up and jam the shiny studs on the stun-wand into the side of his neck. With a surprised gurgle, the bouncer crumpled to the ground, all of his concealed cybernetics scrambled. For his sake, she hoped none of those newly defective components were hooked into the vital processes of his body; an EM wand could put a grown man on the floor for a few minutes, but against the cybernetically corrupted, it was a lethal weapon.
As the slouching man fled down the shadowy street, Duana held her holo-badge up to the camera’s lens for several seconds, then held up the five splayed fingers of one hand. Slowly, she lowered one finger at a time. The door lock clicked open just as she reached two. Clearly, the club’s owner was not as dull as his help. It was no secret that those who obstructed Bureau of Counter-Intelligence investigations rarely stayed in business for long, especially when their business acted as a covert hub for the degenerate goings-on of the local counterhuman scene.
In addition to a wall of thudding, discordant music, a slim young woman whose face was painted with bruise-like purple makeup slipped out of the door. Glancing nervously at the bouncer, she beckoned for Duana to follow her. Unlike the downed man, Duana’s analysis lenses didn’t detect any cybernetics installed in her body. True, her facial features bore the unmistakable signs of having been "improved” by a bargain-basement fleshsculpt procedure, but Duana didn’t have the time or the jurisdiction to worry about that.
Duana followed her guide around the margins of a chaotic tangle of human and mostly-human revelry toward the club’s back office. Dim lighting shot with bright strobes, diaphanous curtains hanging from the rafters, and a haze of damp smoke made it hard to see any particular details, but Duana didn’t mind that double-edged sword; it also made it less likely that her quarry would notice her in time to escape. Of the few patrons close enough to look up and see her clearly, most quickly lost interest. One made a doomed, intoxicated come-hither gesture, but received only an exaggerated eye-roll in response.
Ushered into the sound-dampened office at the back, Duana found a broad-shouldered, silver-haired man sitting behind a huge desk. She calmly set her holo-badge on that desk and waited for his eyes to return to her after examining it.
“Got nothing to say to you or any other spook.” The club manager shook his head. “Come back with a magistrate’s warrant.”
“Please.” Duana waved her still-active stun-wand around, and noted the way it made the man wince even before her analysis lenses identified several unknown cybernetic modules within his body. “Our style is more to come back with an extraction team, but you like your roof, so you won’t let that happen. I’m just looking for someone.”
Duana tossed a miniature holo-projector onto the desk next to her badge, and it lit up to display the head and shoulders of a dumpy-looking young man. “He probably gave the name Adam Symons. Real name doesn’t matter.”
Even before he spoke, the man’s reaction told Duana that he’d seen her quarry. “What for?”
“There’s been a leak on a secret project. We just need to talk to him.”
Whether the man believed this lie or not didn’t matter. He didn’t need to know that “Symons” was a Ladeonist ideologue named K.B. Cole who had penetrated Naval security systems and was only hours from delivering the full technological specifications of the battleship Maribel and dozens of other new warships to a local Incarnation sleeper agent.
After a long pause, the club manager nodded. “He’s in one of our private rooms, with, ah... entertainment.”
“Which one?” Duana didn’t envy the prostitute unlucky enough to be in the process of satisfying Cole when her associates interrupted the festivities. Prostitution, too, was illegal in the Core Worlds, but once again she had neither the time or jurisdiction to be concerned with it.
“Upper floor, third from the stairs.”
As soon as the picocameras woven into Duana’s coat picked up these words, she knew a dozen armed agents were in motion. Smiling and nodding her thanks, she reached out to collect her badge and projector, then sat down in the chair across the desk.
After a few seconds, the manager seemed to conclude Duana was not going to leave. “Er, you said you wanted to talk to him?”
Duana smiled. “Oh, sure. But you said he’s busy. You have the cameras... Tell me when he’s... quite finished.”
After a minute of glancing between the screen in his desk and his guest, the man cleared his throat and seemed likely to object. He never got the chance. The distant thudding of the music was interrupted by the resounding, tooth-rattling boom of very rapid remodeling. Duana knew the string of shaped charges used to cut open the wall of the traitor’s room would have left a two-meter-wide hole and left anyone inside insensible, and that her compatriots had stormed in through the gap to black-bag everyone inside.
“Sounds like he’s finished.” Duana set a cred-stick worth a few thousand of the bureau’s credits on the edge of the desk and stood, extending a hand to the grey-haired man as she did so. “Thank you for your cooperation, and sorry about the mess.”
The man didn’t take the offered handshake, so Duana turned and left. She could feel his glare on his back all the way to the front door.