(50) Through A Glass Quietly

The Misha Campaign (287-1121 to 289-1121)

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

    Nightshade is at the town of Starcom, hovering over the Wonstar Development Corporation head offices.  It's about midday ship's time -- the crew have not yet adopted local time.  After the disaster trying to break in last time, they need some other plan.  Possibilities include another (better planned) intrusion into the head offices, or going back to investigate the arrival of the new visitor at the Rosebud project in the desert.
    At last it's decided to break in again, but this time taking a very different approach.  One option is to come in through the sewers, which is the only unguarded access.  Otherwise they'll have to get by the guards somehow -- which could include walking in during the daytime, of course.
    Kalida Siena says that what they really need is a personal stealth bubble so they can sneak by the guards unseen.  Unfortunately, they don't have one.
    There would be a way in through the sewers.  It is large enough for a human -- they could walk through the main sewer, crawl up a small pipe into the building, and could get in through an access hatch in the lower basement.  It would of course be unpleasant, and they also couldn't carry a lot of gear in that way; still, access through a manhole to the main sewer would be trivial.
    They do have full densitometer scans of the building, as it was considered worth risking the active scan to obtain such detail.  The layout is fairly open plan -- on each floor in the center is a large room, with desks, filing cabinets, and so on around it, open to the windows.  Stairs covering all floors are on the outside wall, immediately to the right on entering the lobby and immediately on the left entering the loading dock.  Two elevator shafts also access all floors, one directly facing the main entrance in the lobby, the other at the rear by the loading dock.
    There is no external computer link -- like they did at Rosebud, they'd have to enter and physically hook up to any machines that might be there.  Their scans don't tell if there's an internal network, but show computer rooms or equivalent on each floor to the right of the elevator looking through the entrance.  There is also what might be a larger computer in the basement -- Robert Morris suggests that they have a minicomputer on each floor, serviced by a mainframe in the basement.  Edward "Shark" Teeth suggests cutting into the sixth floor computer room from the roof, waiting until the four guards there are asleep or otherwise distracted -- perhaps Robert could use laproscopic techniques to hook in.
    The next thing to do is to determine the pattern of the guard patrol.  The guards are all wearing the WDC uniform -- apparently none of the local police have remained on site.  Helia Sarina brings Nightshade down to about three meters above the room -- as long as no-one will walk into them, there's no reason to be too far away.
    Shark checks the Starcom telephone directory and looks up the names of visitors to Rosebud from the appointment book there.  None of them are listed -- either they're not from this city, or they aren't using their real names.
    The best people for breaking and entering are Jaekovic Ils-Nevronne, Misha Ravanos, and Robert.  Misha is considering a two-pronged approach, with him going through the basement while the others make a distraction at the roof to draw the guards away from the entrance so Jaek (possibly with Robert) can slip in there.  Suddenly he comes up with another idea -- bring Nightshade down beside one of the upper floors, extend the gangplank, and use the stealth bubble as cover to cut a hole through the window.
    Jaek agrees it's a good idea.  He says he has the capability to cut through the glass and put it back afterwards so it's undetectable -- a cutting tool, a couple of suction cups to pull the cut panel out, and glue of the correct refractive index to put it back in again.
    Everyone agrees that's the way to do it.  Jaek will do the window work, while Misha and Shark will do the actual investigation.  Misha will be wearing his zack and carrying his sword, while Shark (also wearing his zack) will take his gauss pistol, loaded with tranq rounds.  Jaek will be armed as usual, and wearing his gravbelt -- he doesn't want to risk falling six stories to the street.

    Once night falls and the streets are empty, Helia moves the ship into position beside the front of the sixth floor.  Inside the building is dull lighting, and not much extra light comes in from the streets as this is the tallest building for several blocks.  The whole team is equipped with variable spectrum goggles.
    Stationing guards on the roof has depleted the WDC's presence inside the building.  The team has about ten minutes to enter.
    The team moves out to the end of the gangplank.  Jaek slices through the window and pulls a section aside, then Misha, Robert, and Shark slip inside.  Jaek replaces the glass section with temporary glue and moves back into the stealth bubble.  There will be no sign that anyone's entered -- as long as no-one leans on the cut section, of course.
    The immediate objective is the computer room.  Robert easily opens the lock and moves in to examine the equipment.  Something doesn't look right.  The cabinet looks like an old machine, but when he looks closer he finds that it's merely a facade to cover up a small TL-15 Imperial computer.  It's a regular civilian Model 2, not particularly powerful but quite capable.  Network cabling goes down to the computer room below, and it's driving some sort of peripheral in the center room.  It's also hooked up to an honest-to-goodness local manufacturer magnetic tape reader.  Robert attaches one of his devices so he can pull the data down later.  He and Shark return to Nightshade.
    Meanwhile Shark has been checking for security devices.  He says they're clear, and no-one should have seen them yet.  They should have about three minutes before the guards come up the stairs.  The usual guard patrol starts out with a clockwise walk around the outside office areas, which is an open plan area with desks, chairs, and filing cabinets.  They circle three quarters of the outside and enter the center room , then come back out and continue the circle.  They take about ten minutes on each floor, and each patrol covers two floors.
    Misha wants to check out the large center room.  There are three doors that access it, one in the center of each side other than the elevator side.  He follows -- or rather, leads -- the guards' path.  He's about three minutes ahead of the guards.  There is not as much office furniture as could be -- it's sparse, with no names on the desks -- but Misha is pretty certain that some of them are used regularly.
    The center room has three sets of double doors, one set on each side not taken up by the front elevator shaft.  The first set is locked.  Misha moves quickly through the back half of the building, heading for the furthest doors to give himself some extra time before the guards catch up.
    The third set of doors is not locked, although there is a lock on the door.  Misha quickly checks for alarms, and finding none he opens it and goes through.
    There are chairs around the outside of the room.  In the center is a device on the ceiling that looks out of place -- like the large holodisplay projector he's seen on Third Eye.  There are bookshelves, a bar, chairs, tables that can be wheeled around.  It strikes Misha as a holotheater, or like the survey holotank on Third Eye.  There are books on the shelves; he can't read the titles, of course, but the bindings are similar to those he saw in the desert at Rosebud.
    Misha leaves the room and closes the door behind him.  He can hear voices around the far side of this floor -- the guards are about to enter the back side.  He works his way around towards the stairs.  The next floor down should now be empty, so he enters the enclosed stairway and goes down to the fifth floor.
    Here, Misha traces out the same exploration pattern.  This time all the doors are locked to the center room; he opens the first set.  The room is almost identical to the one above, except it does not have a bar.  The holodisplay here is active, brightly lighting the room.  It shows a view of the desert location, with ground level not quite a meter above the room's floor.  It shows only the ground and above.  There are people in the image, but they're not moving -- it appears to be a frozen image.

    Shark -- in sparkly pink sensors -- would like to put his viewpoint inside the building, but that's really hard to do.  Looking through the glass is quite easy, however, and he looks at the holodisplay as well as watching the guards.

    The fourth floor has another pair of guards, of course.  Their patrol path is known, but their schedule varies as they walk their route.  They're probably supposed to be on a schedule, but they don't keep to any particular timing pattern.
    Misha, however, now has the benefit of Shark watching through the windows.  The guards are currently on the fourth floor, at the far end of the building.  Misha goes down the stairs, following the guards around on their patrol this time.
    The holodisplay here is also on, behind the three sets of locked doors.  This is a view of a coastline.  There are some buildings visible, but the scale is such that the buildings are fairly small.  There is some offshore structure also shown, and a harbor.  Misha reminds Shark to suck these images off the computers.
    Misha continues down the floors.  The next floor shows a location at the edge of some grasslands.  There's some rocky terrain behind it.  There are fields, and some sort of construction going on in the rough terrain.
    On the first floor there are guards permanently stationed in the lobby.  The bottom two floors are not being patrolled right now because the patrolling guards are chatting and drinking coffee with the guards in the lobby.
    On the second floor, the holodisplay shows a shoreline.  The sea is calmer, and looks quite shallow.  The sea floor is shown on this display.

    Meanwhile, Robert has been downloading data, including the holodisplay data.  The views are clearly the company's locations.  There is software to allow voice control of the holodisplay from the conference room, zooming, rotating, and so on.  The display is a static picture that is uploaded from the mag tape reader.  The display for the lower floors is fixed at one location per floor, but the sixth floor conference room can display any of the locations.  The ground level floor does not have a connection to the holodisplay system.

    Misha skips the first floor rather than try to tackle the guards in the lobby.  He continues down to the first basement level.  The guards who handle the first two floors occasionally patrol the basement, but of course they're currently drinking coffee with their mates.
    Down here is a larger computer.  Robert explains over the comm what is happening: the top floor computer runs selectable images, and the mainframe coordinates it with a much more detailed model of the images.  The display on the top floor can show a lot more detail than the others, but again it's just a static image.  The image on the mainframe also shows underground areas -- but it doesn't show the mysterious area in the desert site, as on that one it only goes down 20 meters.  The plans for Rosebud are the only ones that show underground details.  It does show some future plans for development of the locations as well -- the blueprints from the desert are here, as are equivalent ones for the other sites.  Robert is very pleased with the access he has, although he would have liked to have found a comm link to the remote sites.
    Also down here in the basement are maintenance stores, cleaning supplies, and so on.  There are stacks of files that have clearly not been used in a long time.  Assorted office furniture is also stacked around.  There is no center room in the basement.
    The guards in the lobby are opening up lunchboxes.  It looks like Misha will have all the time he needs.  He goes on down to the lowest basement level.  Down here is heating, ventilation, tooling, sewer access, water, power.  The building seems to be all electric -- there is no sign of any gas supply.  The area smells slightly damp.
    Shark directs Misha back to the top where he entered.  Jaek pops the window section for him, and replaces it with permanent adhesive.  It's a perfect job.

56 / 2876 local (288-1121 to 289-1121) : Wonstar / Five Sisters / Spinward Marches

    Shark is surprised that there hasn't been any sign of a safe, or any boss office.  He thinks this is a front, and while they do some work here this is not the real main office.  He also thinks that the boss in charge of Rosebud would not have been sleeping in the dorm with the regular staff -- he must have been down the shaft further.  Perhaps the main office is on the military base.  Whatever, they need to find the real headquarters.
    The oldest company site is location 3, in the southern hemisphere where grasslands border rough ground.  It's doing some work on the grassland interface with the rough ground.  They're investigating what might grow on the rough ground that can't be found anywhere else, and conducting various other agricultural experiments.

    It's decided to head to location 3.  Helia takes Nightshade up from the town of Starcom, and heads away to the southwest.
    As they approach the site, however, they find that there are two Imperial Navy system defense boats working a patrol pattern over the location, running active and passive sensors.  Unfortunately they don't have any records as to whether this is a new development, or a permanent posting.  All they know is that there weren't any SDB's at the desert site.
    The location is a good-sized village, or perhaps a permanent camp, with residential buildings for a fairly large work force.  There are farming and construction activities, and machine shops and so on to support it.  Over on the rough ground are some large solar power arrays.
    They decide not to run an active densitometer scan, not with the Imperial Navy ships nearby.  They do determine that the layout of the site does correspond, at least within a meter or two, with the plans at the head office.  There are communications at least of some sort -- weather stations and other remote data equipment communicating to a central building.
    There is no sign of guard patrols here.  There are certainly plenty of places where Nightshade could put down out of sight, although the sensors on an SDB could pick up people approaching.  Kalida could put together a marine troop to get into the town, and there are high tech approaches that would allow people to infiltrate the town given some time.

    But there are other things they could try first.  A quick orbit around the world reveals that there are now SDB's patrolling every other WDC site except the headquarters.  So does that mean, as Shark suggests, that the headquarters is -- or was -- a trap?  Whatever, it poses a dilemma for the crew as to what to do next...