(49) The First Shots

The Misha Campaign (286-1121 to 288-1121)

286-1121 : Wonstar / Five Sisters / Spinward Marches

    Nightshade is outside the warehouse building at "Rosebud," the Wonstar Development Corporation's installation in the desert.  It is very early morning in ship's time.  They have picked up what they deduce to be psionic testing inside the building.  Their investigations inside, however, have not revealed as much as they wanted, and the plan is to move to another part of the world to take a different approach.
    Misha Ravanos has suggested that they go to the starport, where Robert Morris can tap into any records about the company.  They can then to investigate the head office.  In the absence of any other ideas, that's what they indeed do.  Helia Sarina lifts the ship into the air and flies them halfway across the planet to Down Port city.

54 / 2876 local (286-1121 to 287-1121) : Wonstar / Five Sisters / Spinward Marches

    Just in time for breakfast, Nightshade has arrived at the downport; here in local time it's about 2 am.  At Robert's request, Helia positions them above a berthed trader so he can hook in through them.  The trader is a normal civilian Imperial ship, and Robert very easily subverts their link to the starport net.
    The first thing he reports is that there is a new item from the TNS.  Dated 243-1121, it states that the Duke of Adabicci has announced his commission to resolve the problems on Ianic.  Helia reads the list of people, and asks if anyone has heard of them.
    Mich Saginaw has heard of one of them.  He says, "That must be NoName.  He was a crew member on the Anastasia.  He was training Chiang Ho in the arts of the Black Things That Spit.  Some sorts of martial arts training.  If we've got time, we can head over and see NoName."
    Kalida Siena says, "He's in an interesting position now."
    Robert adds, "The other interesting thing is that the starport may be upgraded by the same company.  The ownership of that company is strongly tied to be Imperial spies, so it's setting up Ianic as another Imperial spy base."

Private activities by Kalida Siena
(Referee and Kalida's player only)

    News is not, however, the main reason to be tapping into the trader's comm.  Robert quickly hacks through them into the starport network.  Unfortunately there's not a lot of local information on the network -- virtually nothing about the Wonstar Development Corporation, just a directory entry with head office location and a contact phone number.  It is noted that payments to the WDC can be made through the starport, as they have an account at an on-offworld bank so transactions don't have to go through the local banking system.
    Robert hacks into the on-offworld bank.  There are not a lot of transactions through here -- most are to buy passage for people.  Tickets are return and one-way in both directions.  No destinations are named and neither are the passengers.  Fees are normal -- apparently there's no money laundering going on via the tickets.  Funds for Marquis Marcus Crestworthy's research are clearly not going through this bank.  Tickets are usually for one passenger, but sometimes as many as three.
    Kalida suggests they might be sending the funds through a courier in order not to leave any traces.
    The payments are made to various ships or shipping companies.  In most cases it's to regular commercial shipping companies.  None of the companies are local or have a local office; all payments are made via the ship doing the transport.  Half a dozen companies are represented; most of them are local to Five Sisters, but there are a few for Imperiallines and Tukera.
    This seems to be pretty much a dead end.  There is really no more information to be had from the computers in the absence of any worldwide network.  The main office computers certainly don't talk to the ones at Rosebud, or they would have discovered it already.  Anything from here on will require physical action.
    There are three other field offices, plus the head office sixty kilometers southeast of here.  It might be time to visit the head office and either do some more breaking and entering or just knock on the door.

    Helia flies Nightshade towards the town of Starcom.  They arrive there at 4 am local time, 10:00 ship's time.  They plan to wait until night before sending out an infiltration team.  Robert suggests that in the meantime they find a phone booth so he can use it to phreak into the system and monitor the WDC's head office lines.
    The town is probably around 60-70 thousand people.  It's mostly office buildings in the city center, with residential areas in the perimeter.  There's a well developed light rail network.  The downtown area is scattered with parks.
    It's in one of these parks that Callisto spots an isolated phone booth that suits their purposes.  At 4:30 am local time, there's no-one around to see them anyway.  Helia puts Nightshade down beside the phone booth.
    Robert makes up sign that says "Out of Order" to hang on the phone, and along with the equipment to do the radio relay he heads for the main cargo lift ready to leave the ship.  Edward "Shark" Teeth accompanies him, and Teri Cralla stands by on the cargo lift in case they need firepower.
    It's a really warm night.  Robert and Shark disembark and go over to the phone booth.  It takes Robert very little time to hook up the relay; as a final act he hangs the sign on the phone so it will remain undisturbed.  They return to the ship, and Helia takes them up into the sky -- they don't want an early morning jogger to run into them.

    Nightshade hovers over the trees in the park.  It's now about 5 am local time.  There's no air traffic, but Helia keeps watch to avoid any birds running into them.  She makes sure that Jaekovic Ils-Nevronne knows when the ship is going to move, in the hope he'll react by looking out of the window.
    Robert has access to the phone system.  He starts phreaking.  Unfortunately the communications here is as primitive as the computer networks, and there isn't much information available that way.  He does however put a tap on the WDC's three phone lines.  Directory information is available, but it is not automated.  No phone records are available over the system, although obviously they'll have records of everything while their tap is in place.  As a distraction, Robert programs the computer to talk to people over the phone in their own voice.  It would freak out the crew to have it talk to them in their own voice, so he saves them from that excitement.
    They discuss means of finding the WDC building.  They know the address -- One Enfield Plaza -- but they don't know where that is.  They don't know where they are for that matter, so they can't call up the company and ask how to get there.  The plan they decide on is for someone to hail a taxi outside the park, and take it to the WDC head office.  They can follow him -- Shark volunteers for the task -- and pick him up later.

    Shark dresses appropriately for the world, and sneaks out into the park to wait for a taxi.  He picks one up about an hour later, and takes it to One Enfield Plaza.  Callisto tracks him on the sensors as Helia follows the taxi with the Nightshade.

    The office building is about three blocks from the park.  It has six floors, and the Wonstar Development Corporation apparently occupies the whole building.  Helia brings them over the top to they start a long densitometer scan.  They figure the active scan is worth the risk of being picked up, especially since the desert site didn't seem to detect them.
    Apparently it's a normal office building, six above-ground floors and two basement levels.  They'll spend the day watching the building and fine-tuning the scan, and tonight they'll send in the physical intrusion team.
    Shark continues to observe the building during the day too.
    Grand Admiral Baron Bridgehead says he should go in with his genuine Imperial ID as an Imperial Noble and ask to be shown around.
    About mid-day, a phone call goes out to another building in the town of Starcom.  The caller discusses an order of wheat seed, in terms of quantity, delivery date, guarantees, penalty clauses, and so on.  A couple of hours later, and on another line is someone calling his girlfriend in Down Port city.  It's a very personal call and goes on for about an hour.  Later that afternoon are other apparently above-board business calls.
    Kalida comments that the Baron's idea is sounding promising right now.  If the company is pretending to be legitimate, they can send in a legitimate reconnaissance.  Shark, however, raises the issue that the Baron is supposed to be dead; but they do have ID's which should work fine at this tech level.  Someone with a title would probably have a better chance of getting in, but their fake ID's don't have anyone with a title.
    Bridgehead again expresses his irritation that he has "lost" his noble status.  He mutters that he could just show up at the Naval Base and tell them that it's a mistake.  Robert and Kalida discuss the likelihood of the Baron being called on his being dead, and agree that he could always back out by showing he's not dead and saying it's a mistake.  And if necessary, they have Teri and several others to extract him...
    The command crew, however, consider that's a bit risky at this point, although they may consider it later.  Kalida and Robert are all for the Baron going in, but for the time they are overruled.  They'll send in the intrusion team tonight, and if they draw a blank perhaps the Baron can do his stuff tomorrow.
    Robert finds it odd that there are only three phone lines for a building of this size.  He finds that very suspicious.  Their observations of people coming and going indicate that there are about fifty people working here -- again, small for a building that big.

55 / 2876 local (287-1121 to 288-1121) : Wonstar / Five Sisters / Spinward Marches

    The intrusion team plans to move out at about 1 am local time.  It is mid-morning ship's time, and the whole crew have had plenty of time to rest.  For this mission Misha agrees to have Jaek accompany him.  The plan is to break into the building and start looking for interesting materials.
    The building has one large main entrance, with glass doors at the top of the wide shallow steps leading from the street.  The building is on the corner of the block, and is isolated from the other buildings (three stories high) around it by alleys.  There are plain door entrances on either side of the building, and a loading dock and delivery entrance at the rear accessed from the alley.  The side entrance in the alley offers the most cover, and that's chosen as the entry point.
    There isn't room to bring Nightshade into the alley beside the building; Jaek has a grav belt, but Misha would have to rappel several stories.  In the absence of traffic on the street, it's decided that Helia will bring the ship down on the street in front of the building, and they'll simply walk out when they're sure they're unobserved.

    Misha and Jaek move quietly out of the cover of the stealth bubble into the street and quickly enter the alley.  The pair is rigged with cameras and commdots, and that'll let the crew know the team's location inside the building based on their densitometer map.
    The team proceeds silently to the side door.  There is a mechanical keypad for the door.  Misha takes a look, and reckons he can easily bypass the mechanism and open the lock.  He does so.  He opens the door quietly and carefully peers in.
    Misha is looking up the barrel of a submachine gun.  This is not good.  He closes the door and the team breaks for the ship.  Misha runs while Jaek takes to the air -- "People never look up," as an ancient Solomani leader once said.  Fortunately it's not far to the street.
    The street is quiet.  There's some passers-by several blocks down, but here it's clear.  Invisible Nightshade is ready to go, cargo lift on the ground.  Teri is ready on the lift in full battle gear.
    Teri's job is to provide backup.  Her orders are to protect the Captain, and she does so.  As the first guard steps out of the door and raises his gun, Teri fires.  There's no need for overkill, so she just uses the built-in laser -- which doesn't work, stopping at the edge of the stealth bubble.  Reacting immediately she flies up rapidly to get a clear shot and lets loose with her weapon of choice.
    The shouting behind Misha stops suddenly -- or was it drowned out by the violent explosion?  Whatever, there's no incoming fire anymore, and he makes it to the ship unharmed.  Jaek is already there with an odd expression -- perhaps he's never been that close to a firing FGMP-15 before.
    Teri's back on the deck in a moment, and the lift starts to retract even as Helia rapidly pulls Nightshade up a kilometer or so.
    Jaek and Misha are not pleased, but unhurt.  Teri says she confirms two casualties as the result of her supporting fire; she quietly apologizes for using a major weapon, and explains that the laser doesn't pass out through the stealth bubble.  She believes there were no other witnesses.
    It will be interesting to see the response to this attack and to see the news reports tomorrow.
    Robert is disturbed that their team was intercepted at the door.  The footballs didn't register anything, so they either ran into bad luck or they didn't get the right guard positions worked out from their scans.  He says, "Plan B.  Send in the Grandam.  He can say he's heard they have some security problems..."
    Kalida was thinking that the Baron would express interest in the agricultural aspect of the company.  In that case, going in right after the attack might not be the best timing.  Robert's idea has merit, provided it shows up as a news item.  Robert sets up to record local news broadcasts and search them for relevant content.  There are four TV channels and about a dozen AM radio stations.
    With Nightshade parked comfortably over the town of Starcom, and with no more activities planned for the night, Helia hands around beer and margaritas for the whole crew.

    After the incident there are FM radio emissions from the building, probably from a handheld unit.  It's a guard reporting to a superior, saying there was an intrusion at 1:10 am, two guards down, shooters repulsed, full report to follow in the morning.
    The reply comes from a building about a kilometer and a half away.  It says to hold on and they'll send somebody out.  He asks for casualty details, and the response of "Two guards dead" gets a more serious reaction.  Apparently someone's coming out right away.
    Ten minutes later an armored car and a wheeled APC arrive at the WDC.  About twenty troops pile out and secure the perimeter.

    Helia takes the ship over to the building where the radio response came from.  She holds the ship really still while Shark goes into sparkly pink on the sensors, and gives them a view of the front of the building.  It turns out to be Starcom Town Police Headquarters.  They return to the WDC area.
    So the security guard called the police.  The APC and the troops are therefore police.  It's an unusual response, Robert suggests, a very large show of force.  He'd expect just a forensic team, who would of course say that the shot was fired from the third floor of the building across the street.
    Kalida is amused that it will cause someone there some grief.  She adds that the WDC must look legitimate, or else they wouldn't call in the police to have them poking around.
    Robert says that if it's really the police, and not another part of the conspiracy, they've probably never dealt with an FGMP blast.  The news reports -- if there are any -- should be interesting.
    The police, meanwhile, have reported the area secure and will remain there overnight.  The question remains as to the guard disposition -- they can spend some time trying to work that out with more densitometer scans.  As for now, police forces have taken up positions on the ground and on the roof.  They don't seem to be investigating, just guarding.  The two bodies are not in sight.  There's a report every half hour or so saying that everything's clear.
    Callisto is working the densitometers constantly.  Six hours of refining the scans takes them until the next morning.  It becomes clear that -- at least now -- there are permanent guards at all entrances, and patrols inside the building covering most areas.  There are at least twenty guards inside the building; the police remain outside.  So this place is always well guarded.
    Robert smiles.  Now they know it's well guarded, it must be an interesting building.  They're going to have to come in a different way, though -- either the roof (after the police leave), or somewhere even less straightforward.

    As morning approaches, news reports start coming in.  They mention that a shoot-out at Wonstar Development Corporation has left two guards dead, and police responded to guard the building overnight.  One suspect was seen carrying a large sword on his back, but there are no details or description.
    At 8 am local, the police leave.  Building guards take over some exterior guard positions, doors and roof all around the building.  There are two guards at each of the four entrances, and four on the roof.
    At 8:30 am the building gets a phone call from the police informing them how much they'll be charging for security overnight.  There has been no sign of investigations, and no mention of such on the news.
    Another call from the WDC is to send telegrams to the other company locations on the world, telling them to step up security after intruders killed two guards here.  They're to be on the lookout for a man with a sword, and to expect offworlders involved.  There's an explicit warning to watch out for heavy weapons.
    As Kalida says, now might be a bad time to send in the Baron.

    Mich suggests going in again very soon because they're probably not expecting another intrusion right away.  Perhaps they could flood the building with gas through the ventilation system in the basement.  There are no guards stationed at the lower basement at the sewer system -- they could get in that way.  All they need is enough knockout gas to flood the whole building, working on skin contact.  The Doc says he can't provide enough of what they want -- or anything, really, not to flood the whole building.  So it's back to thinking up ways to get in...