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B: The Santos Scheme

Episode 03

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#1
CrazyDreamer

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The shuttle pilot got them on course and checked to make sure that everyone was comfortable.

 

"Yes, thank you, Davis."

 

"No problem, Sarge." He threw a cocky salute and returned to the cockpit.

 

Alexi bought up the in-flight display. "A quick economic history lesson. The first wave of colonization on a lot of planets uses prefab, self-contained living units in the boom period between the initial colony ship landing and local industry getting to the point where it can support housing construction at the necessary rate. Over time these units are moved to undesirable plots of land on the main city periphery to make room for new construction, the price drops in favor of real housing, and they are eventually dismantled, demolished, or turn into slums.

 

"On New Kara, the situation was exacerbated by the rebellion, occupation, and liberation. The owner of the slum fell off the grid during the rebellion, and when they didn't resurface after the liberation, the government seized the slum via eminent domain. The only problem is, it's now occupied by thousands of squatters who will probably riot if anyone tries to throw them out and would be homeless if they were dispossessed of the only housing they can afford. Politically, there's no will to put in that much effort for that poor a result.

 

"While the politicians are busy pretending the problem doesn't exist, the slum is basically a semi-self-contained society housed in a multistory maze of prefab units stacked every which way and then creatively improved by the residents; we'll have to send a scouting team to get an accurate read on the area. I've got a lead on a couple of empty units near one edge that we can move into if you like, but we should probably come up with a better cover story than 'A bunch of mercenaries on a manhunt.'

 

"One side note: Colonial Intelligence informs me that they're re-opening the investigations on two other officer deaths in the past month. There was no reason to connect them at the time, but they're reviewing suspicious deaths now that they're aware that there may be an assassin on the loose. I'll let you know if anything turns up.

 

"Ideas? Suggestions?"



#2
Rivel

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"Mercenaries on a manhunt, no.  Mercenaries expecting action and a paycheck... maybe.  For all we know, our target will approach us with an offer.  He'll suspect we're out to get him, but is probably in need of allies.  Also, I have no faith that our under-the-table hiring is going to be a secret from someone who's clearly a professional, judging from how neatly he covered up his last assassination,"  Nick said after a moment.

 

"Our last attempt to make up a cover whole-cloth didn't exactly pan out."

 

"Or I just try to find him on my own, whatever cover we end up with.  Perhaps I can gain his trust, or at least get some information out of him.  Especially if I have backup hiding just out of sight."



#3
Hiro Protagonist

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"And we are being good at hiding?" Natalya asked. It was news to her. She had thought CCS excelled at the opposite.

"Nyet. If dhe target is being plugged in well enough to be knowing we are on dhe hunt for him, dhen we are possibly dealing with organizational intelligence dat is much bigger dhan we are. I am thinking we should not be operating on dhis assumption. Because, if it is being true, we would be fools to be operating at all." Not that she minded being a fool, if things got exciting. She just didn't see a point in jumping at ghosts. Not every enemy was backed by the protodevilin.

"Either dhis one is being very subtle, and no one in dhis ghetto is knowing what he is doing, or he is being surrounded by people with like minds," she went on. "I don't which possibilty is being worse. Dhe philosophy of dhe ghetto can be simplified to 'if you are not one of us, you are against us.' If he is just using dhe place to hide, dhen dhe locals will be as suspicious of him as dhey will be of us. If he is has been making a home dhere--integrating--dhen dhey might be defending him like family."

She looked squarely at Alexi. "We are needing more information. Dhe politics at dhe local level. What dhe people are feeling--do dhey haye each other? Do dhey hate dhe ogliarchs? Who are dhey hating more?" They needed a cop's point of view. Otherwise, any cover they tried to manufacture might be just the sort of thing to turn the villagers against them. While reenacting the October revolution might be fun, Natalya had no wish to be cast in the role of Tsar's family. 



#4
CrazyDreamer

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"Some of us have undercover black ops experience from our days in the UNG," Alexi said, carefully not looking at anyone in particular. "I have to agree that this isn't the stealthiest team in CCS, though." He coughed, still not looking at anyone.
 
"As to the locals, my understanding is that this is not a hotbed of political extremism or else Intelligence would have more to give us than shrugs and promises, so there's that. Unfortunately, while the population's large enough that it's got to have its internal divisions, the news doesn't dig deeper than 'human interest' fluff and the cops don't appear to care; they only roll up when the crime spills into the city and they need a trophy for the newspapers. I think you've got a point about needing more intel, but we're going to have to collect it ourselves.

 

"CCS started out as a Force Recon company; who wants to be our forward scout team while the rest of us get moved in?"



#5
Hiro Protagonist

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"What is being dhe population of dhis ghetto?" Natalya asked. She had an idea.

#6
CrazyDreamer

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"We're looking at a bit under a square mile of dense residential area with some open units around the edges but overcrowding in the middle. Call it maybe 15,000? They don't trust census-takers much more than any other government worker."



#7
Rivel

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"I think I should go in first," Nick said.  "I've been broke before, and I've traveled a great deal.  I'm well suited for the task in that regard." Nick said, in response to Alexi's question.

 

He knew he was recognizable, but that was what he was counting on.



#8
CrazyDreamer

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"Okay, but I don't want you out there with no backup. Can I get a second?"

 

[OOC: I'm gonna go poke the players who haven't posted.]



#9
Coolhand

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Quola had remained quiet during the briefing, though far from inactive.  She had been reviewing the various death reports and the crime scene footage via her implant.

 

"I'll go in with Nick, under the condition that we cover up this." she yanked on Nick's hair gently " Unless we want to stick out." she pulled a teal lock of her own  in front of her face. "I should probably do the same come to think."

 

"What kind of gear have we brought with us anyway?



#10
gradius

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"I'll go as well."  Roderick raised his hand.



#11
Abaddon

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Tommy was caught a little off guard. He had been wrapped up in his own thoughts, particularly the thought of wife's current health.

 

"Some of us have undercover black ops experience from our days in the UNG..."

 

Tommy couldn't resist a smile at that comment. He did have a fair bit of black ops experience...too much for his taste at times.

 

Looking around the room Tommy added his opinion to the rest of the group. "I'm willing to go with Nick if I can be of use...though I may be better suited to watching Alexi's back."



#12
CrazyDreamer

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"Waiting for us when we land will be miscellaneous semi-automatic handguns, reliable, not models used by the local police. Those will be our walking-about weapons. Nick, when you go out, take your Grizzly but leave the XP-100 at base; it's too distinctive.

 

"I also have a couple of silenced SMGs and some cold-loaded ammo in my second bag, just in case."

 

"Thanks for the volunteers. Quola, Nick, I think you'll have the best chance of spotting this guy, so you can do the initial survey. You two also have the best chance of being spotted, so Rod, you trail behind and look out for trouble. The rest of us will secure our living quarters, get unpacked, and see what we can do from there."

 

He switched off the display and settled in for the flight.



#13
CrazyDreamer

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They arrived at a small, independent spaceport. Alexi made a brief trip to a small section of storage lockers and came back with a gym bag full of rolled towels, each of which proved to contain a handgun and spare magazines except for the one with a box of spare rounds. Alexi didn't take any himself, but he packed the leftovers into one of his bags and tossed the gym bag into a trash can.

 

Then they waited for the bus.

 

Alexi and the housewarming team took the first bus while the scout team waited an hour for the next so they wouldn't all arrive in a group. As it turned out, the bus line from the indie spaceport into the capital ran past the target neighborhood and there was a flag stop across from the official entrance. What the found waiting for them was everything the photographs had promised and more.

 

The neighborhood was a sort of irregular neo-ziggurat laced with narrow, twisting streets. Some of the later additions to the towering blocks weren't aligned with the layer below them; in some cases, they even bridged the gap between two blocks. Everything was connected by electrical wiring of varying qualities and occasionally by makeshift bridges between balconies/upper-story porches. Indeed, it was probably possible to cross the core of the slum without ever descending to ground level, if one had the guts and balance. A fair number of the ground-level units—and some higher up—had been converted into businesses, judging by the makeshift signs or commerce being conducted in front of the entrances.

 

Alexi directed the housewarming team around one side to a lonely block of four units connected two high and two deep, making it maybe 20' high, 35' deep, and 90' long. There were no signs of recent habitation, especially once one of the doors had been jimmied open, but at some point in the past an enterprising individual had cut internal doorways between the four units complete with interior ladders at each end. It looked like the "ground floor" had briefly been a bar or other gathering space of some sort, but given its position at an ill-kept extremity of the neighborhood, it had probably died for lack of business.

 

It took only half an hour to restore power, at which point the two computer experts' comm packages began registering the existence of an archaic, ad hoc mesh network connecting the old colonization units. Possibly there was even a link out to the planetary network, if only it could be found.



#14
Hiro Protagonist

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Natasha considered the accommodations. Not exactly up to her standards, but it would do for what she had in mind. She had a deserved reputation for doing things the hard way, so it wouldn't be out of character.

She was also quite certain that any creature comforts could be imported for the right price.

It would do, pig. It would do.

"I am having suggestion about cover," she announced. "I am thinking no cover is best cover." It was logical to her. She was an interstellar celebrity. And she hadn't bothered with disappearing from the public. A few championship victories didn't put her on the A list, after all. But it wouldn't be hard for anyone to connect her to CCS with a good photo and a public search engine.

"I will set up school, here. CCS will be guarding my body, and cutting red tapes. Dhis is giving good reason for poking noses. I will be needing information on local economy, growth sectors, good trades to be training for, local power brokers, activists, trouble makers. I am needing to find some teachers and some 'good kid in bad neighborhood' stories to be making successes with. It is being reason to ask anyone anything, and covers any material we need, except guns."

She was rather pleased with herself. "Anyone having better ideas?"

#15
CrazyDreamer

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"Not I." Alexi glanced around at the rest of the group. "If no-one has a better idea, I'll relay that to the scout team when they hit the stop. I think I can convince the local data net to relay our comms, but we'll have to keep the traffic down or else someone monitoring it will notice the spike in encrypted traffic."



#16
Rivel

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Nick scanned the ground like a hawk as their shuttle came in for a landing.

 

There.  That had to be it.

 

Interesting.  Could've been fun to explore, but was no doubt riddled with escape routes.  He'd definitely want to give it plenty of hands-on and eyes-on time, hopefully before things came to a head.

 

"I'm still not sure how this is going to go down.  I haven't seen Remy in a long, long time.  I don’t know if he thinks of himself as a freedom fighter, hitman, or some kinda mob-type.   Pretty serious, in any case, given his activities.  I also don't know why he was looking for me, but I'll appreciate the backup."

 

He rummaged through his pack and pulled out a light jacket.  With hood.

 

"I may also need some help once we find a pharmacy.  Never dyed my hair before."



#17
Coolhand

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Quola smiled at Nick as she tied her hair back in a low ponytail. 
 
"Chin up. We have to find him first. Sweat on the why of it after that."
 
She rummaged through the supply bag for half a moment and threw both Nick and Rod a comm bead each before grabbing one of her own. Grabbing a black military cap to hide her distinctive hair somewhat she motioned the other two down the boarding ramp before following herself.
 
"Just keeping it under your hood should be enough i'd think. But if you want to go full ham I'll help you pick out a colour."
 
On the bus ride Quola's Sari-C was bombarded with signals from what constituted the 'net' in this place, a chaotic mess of a network that was only barely interconnected and would take a week for the strongest computer brains to fully map. She set her Sari-C to background manage the swarm of unique signals as best it could so she wouldn't be constantly distracted by it.
 
Stepping off the bus she looked to Nick.
 
"Now we find our man. Lead the way."


#18
CrazyDreamer

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It would take forever to map the mesh. Fortunately, the network itself was designed to route packets . . . eventually. It worked much better if you had, say, simply recorded the network IDs of a contiguous string of nodes between the bus stop and the safe house.

 

Quola's comm pinged that it had picked up an encoded message packet signed by Alexi. The routing info had "! dfa37133 ! 05dd6a31 ! 9732c477 ! c0551c03 ! d09aac7f ! a93e2eb2 ! 43ffa939 ! b37066a3 ! e27c1665 ! e506b638 ! 23e58417 ! 21582a6d ! 384fe167 ! ff971f5f ! f7286a53 ! 9e13b16e ! b8a49bf2 ! 6aefae3d ! 6863d234 ! c7daaad0 ! 91b3606e ! c06746f6 ! 9eb97b03 !" sandwiched between Alexi and Quola's device IDs. Once decrypted, the message contained Natalya's suggested cover.



#19
Rivel

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Going to ground

 

Nick had spent years getting away from his memories.  He’d tried to find inner peace, met the Buddha on the road at least twice, killed the Buddha at least once, and thought he might’ve been getting somewhere.  Now he seemed to be regressing.  Not flashbacks, exactly, but haunting thoughts of how things had been, how things had gone.  They loomed over him, made him want to hide.

 

So he hid.  He fell into the comforting patterns he’d developed over those years.  Looking for work, looking for a place to get a drink, a place to not be bothered.  He felt uncomfortable in his cheap cap and had to constantly stop himself from touching his hair lest he get smudges on his hands.

Sure he had some credits.  He was a Spacer, just out of job.  Bad bit of luck gambling, but enough to hold him over for a few days.  Yeah, he moved freight.  Cargo.  You know, stuff.  Sometimes secret stuff, gotta make it where you can, right?  Shhhs.. keep that quiet, would you?

 

Goddamn wars, goddamn SPACY, Goddamn CLA.  Everyone claiming a hunk of rock no matter who gets hurt.  Fuck ‘em all.  No, no, sorry, forget it.  You might think I’m too young to be this bitter, but… eh.  Probably too much to drink.  Sure, he’d be around.  Maybe be back the next night, he appreciated a good dive bar.

 

Nick wondered if anyone interesting would show up the next night.



#20
Coolhand

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Capable as she may be this was no neighbourhood for a girl to be alone in, so it was only natural she stayed with Nick. He was the face, the distraction so she could work. Many they met assumed they were a couple, she did nothing to dispel that assumption. Slaps on the wrist were common as he fidgeted with his hair and the occasional stratgeic kiss on the cheek or sudden hug was a fine attention grabber while she secretly placed listening devices at key points on their trek. Shop stalls, telephone booths and net kiosks were all bugged, some even with tiny cameras.
 
Bars were not her favourite place, too many people, too many questions. When asked how they met she gave the simple answer of "on a cargo run", when pressed for more detail she let Nick do the talking (and the drinking). She gleaned what she could from gossip with the female bar staff and yet more gossip on trips to the ladies room. Of course she bugged the bathroom too, idle gossip was often a good source of information and barflies loved gossip.
 
They stayed overlong and Quola had to drink some to keep up appearances, she still could not hold her drink to saver her life. She spent the latter parts of the night pretending to sleep on Nick's shoulder while observing her new data feeds. At one point excusing herself for fresh air she placed a device on the nearby security camera (neatly disabling it prior to doing so), next she was in these parts she could pull everything the camera had recorded since from the device.
 
One last trip to the ladies room and a tug on Nick's collar and it was time to go home. 






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