Mercy Does Not Go Unpunished [Mars]

Where nations come together and discuss matters of varying degrees of importance. [In character]


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Postby Zero-One » Sat Jan 20, 2018 7:25 am

The grey-skinned gynoid listened quietly, with not just merely professional sympathy written across her face. She thought of her own delays and how they could have come out as opposed to how they did. "That was not, necessarily, an irrational decision given what you knew. No one can predict these things."

Just as no one could predict the r-brane turning and making those who once existed vanish into less than thin air. Somewhere in her self-consciously self-deluded mindspace, she sighed to herself.

"With hindsight, how would things have been different?"

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Founded: Dec 28, 2003
Benevolent Dictatorship

Postby Northrop-Grumman » Sun Feb 18, 2018 9:45 am

“I don’t know. Maybe, if even the slightest thing changed, she would’ve been still alive…maybe not.” He rubbed the unbandaged side of his face in frustration; he knew that any one thing could have made things better or perhaps it would have made things worse. There were so many unknowns. Who knows if there would’ve been something out there that they had managed to avoid by walking the path that they did. “Maybe neither of us would’ve been there that day; maybe both of us would’ve gotten caught up in it.”

“I do know that there will never be a chance to do what we wanted to do, say what we wanted to say. All of that, that potential, those hopes and dreams, that future we were going to have together are lost forever. I will have to live with that for the rest of my life…I just…don't know how…”

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Postby Oyada » Wed May 02, 2018 4:44 pm

Alex could still see the wobbling flare of Lenny Pearson's slowly bulging body, a plodding shuttle pacing across the glaring yellow warp of the broad window frame, though her eye swam now and stang with the brightness of the image. She paused, ducker and rubbed at it until the itching pain subsided and tiny stars burst beneath her kneading fingertips, and was reaching back for the plastic guard and the warm metal barrel when she caught sight of the headlights that ran to a halt at the foot of the tall tower and were swiftly extinguished. It could do no harm to watch – Lenny couldn't go very far after all – but foreboding overcame curiosity as she saw the two sombre suits pass beyond the grimy glass doors. Without looking, she picked up the phone and jabbed deliberately at practised digits, and pick up the little headset she habitually left hanging from the end of her bed as the ringtone came through. On the fourth tinny buzz, a click and a cough emerged in startled static.


“There's a problem,” Alex said matter-of-factly as she returned her attention to Lenny's window. “Two, actually. There's too much light, and I can't do anything about it.”

A pause, a steady breath that wavered momentarily and was stifled in its wavering by the firm intake of tobacco smoke. “Do your best. If needs be, we can stargaze somewhere else.”

“True. I'll let you know.” The line dropped, and Alex focussed doubly hard on ignoring the world her right eye could not see.

The buzzer at Lenny's door didn't stop his pacing, or even slow it. A sense of glassy confidence buoying his otherwise hollowing psyche, he pulled on a pair of faded jeans and padded-staggered to the entrance, unaware of the eye that watched.

Behind that glass eye, Alex reached to a small switch with a gossamer touch, and looked down to the monitor resting on her right knee. Providing the night remained clear, she had a good chance of knowing everything Lenny said, without ever hearing a word.
Freedom's price is liberty. The individual and his liberty are secondary to our objectives; how are we to protect our lives, our culture, our people, if they all act independently? If each man pursues his own petty aims, we are no more than tiny grains of iron in a random heap. Only by submitting to the need of the whole can any man guarantee his freedom. Only when we allow ourselves to be shaped do we become one, perfect blade. - General Jizagu Ornua, The cost of freedom for Oyada, 1956.

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Benevolent Dictatorship

Postby Northrop-Grumman » Sun May 06, 2018 5:06 am

The moment Lenny opened the door, he was greeted with two men standing before him, both having their black leather badge cases flipped out for him to see that they were indeed law enforcement personnel. One side of the case had the golden shield of the NIO and the other had their personal identity verification cards, showing their pictures, occupations, and the office they came from.

They were about average height and were visibly older than who they were meeting with. A lifetime of intense concentration was displayed around their eyes and foreheads. In addition, Lucas had a severely receding hairline, and Ryan’s hair, while still full, had transitioned into the more of the salty side of salt-and-pepper. Both were still physically fit, having to maintain the standards of their position, but retirement was marching ever closer.

“Good afternoon, Mr. Pearson. I’m Lucas Strauss and this is Ryan Sheperdson from the NIO Valacirca Operations Division.” He extended his hand for a handshake, followed by his partner. “Do you have a few moments to speak with us?”
Last edited by Northrop-Grumman on Thu Jul 12, 2018 5:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Benevolent Dictatorship

Co-op Poest with Oyada

Postby Northrop-Grumman » Sun Jan 06, 2019 8:10 am

Well, this was it. The bell had tolled, proverbially speaking, and Lenny was sitting inside its shuddering bronze walls with no seeming escape. Staring at the door, he tried to decide which of fight or flight to commit to and, almost petulantly, committed to neither. He pulled on a shirt from three vacations ago that was, if anything, too large for him now, awkwardly twisted the jeans into some semblance of normality, making for the door; paused, spun, and hurriedly emptied the ashtray into his bin; it somehow seemed important.

The door waited patiently, faceless face staring blankly at him, daring him to prod the control panel. He didn’t want to, couldn’t bear to do as it asked, but did so anyway, and nodded too-quickly to the two solemn detectives’ badge-proffering. “Good afternoon; you wanna come in, officers?”

“Certainly, thank you,” answered Strauss, entering the apartment with Sheperdson following closely behind. “I hope you’ve managed to, ah, keep clear of all that mess out there.” He waved in the general direction of the windows. “It seems like, every time they think they get a handle on things, something else goes wrong…”

“Yeah, I guess,” Lenny mumbled. “Can’t really believe it’s happening, if I’m honest; it’s more like something on TV than real life.” He closed the door behind the two, feeling as if he’d just shut his own cage. “So, I’m guessing you’re here because I work there.”

“You’ve hit it right on the nose. But to provide a little more detail to what we’re doing here, we’re trying to put these pieces together, sort of like a puzzle. Who was where? What happened? What did they see? Things like that. We’re hoping you can shine some light on all that for us.” Sheperdson nodded along as his partner continued on. “Can we all have a seat somewhere? No sense of us standing around for this.”

“Sure, sure,” Lenny said, gesturing to the compact but now luxuriant living room. “Can I fix you something?”

“Water would be great.” Sheperdson finally spoke up, albeit remarkably quietly, and then bowed his head. “Thank you.”

Both men left Lenny’s immediate presence and proceeded to get comfortable – at least, however much the situation would allow for – taking a seat beside one another on the sofa in the living room. They surveyed their surroundings, attempting to pick up on what it showed of their host.

Just water, naturally. Lenny nodded, fixing his concerned expression and tacking on a thoughtful furrow of the brows. “Of course, of course.” He padded into the kitchen and returned with a studied absence of haste, handing Shepherdson the tall glass, and stood before the two, hands clasped before him awkwardly like an apologetic schoolchild. “So, what do you need to know?”

Shepherdson bowed his head again in appreciation and took a long sip as his colleague began. “Well, to give ourselves a bit of a start, we’ve been looking over who all was around the area of the turret recently and, as you undoubtedly know, your name popped up,” Strauss pressed his hands together and leaned forward. “Again, we’re trying to get an idea of who was doing what where. So to start us off, what is your position and what are your responsibilities?” He smiled warmly. “I get we can just look up personnel records and find out your position description, but we all know how well we keep to those.”

“Well,” Lenny began, and abruptly realised he had no idea what his job was. Come on, you still do it… or you did… did I do it? “I’m a fire-control technician. We help the actual military operators conduct tests when necessary, integrate new program upgrades as required, and diagnose problems when they arise.”

Strauss nodded. “Sounds like you’ve got a pretty important job there. I hope they’ve been compensating you well for it. If not, that’d be a damned shame.”

“Oh, yeah,” Lenny responded with just a touch too much enthusiasm. “The pay could be better, sure, I guess. But I was hoping to get a promotion before too long; I’ve been working on little improvements to the systems for months. My boss seems pretty happy… well”, he added thoughtfully, “if she’s OK.”

“Yeah? What sort of improvements are we talking about here?” Strauss inquired, completely avoiding how much of a down note Lenny ended on. “They’d be the kind of thing that might get you some attention amongst your colleagues?”

“A little, but I’ve kept it quiet.” Lenny looked at the officer with ill-disguised apprehension, suspecting the trap he knew they must lay. “Don’t want anyone takin’ my ideas, y’know? But I had a good one. I’d figured out a way to drop the targeting times on fast-moving orbitals. ‘Course, the brass didn’t think it was as good as I did when I mentioned it, but I know I’m right,” he added, flushing slightly.

“Oh, I see,” Strauss nodded understandingly. “You’d think they’d be interested in having the slightest bit of improvement to their systems. Well, I imagine that you had to test it to give them those figures. How did you do that?”

“Mostly at home on my own rough models. Then I went into the test suite when it was free - we have a test setup and environment where we can do more advanced work. Plan after that would’ve been to put it into the development labs once I’d shown them what I was doing. That was the next thing I’d hoped to do, before… well, before this.”

Once again, Strauss waved off the looming of that topic. “So let me back us up a tad…one of the potential avenues for upgrades to these weapons is your own creativity, right? Any organization worth its salt wants its people to be engaged, and I bet this is a good way to do that.” He nodded, agreeing with his own assessment. “That brings up a couple of questions: what ordinarily is the procedure for software updates and where do they come from?” He then shrugged. “I’m just trying to get a handle on your processes.”

“Well,” Lenny said with gentle condescension, “obviously, I can’t just go messin’ with the live systems. Like I said, we’ve got test and development environments, places we can develop new upgrades, test whether they work. I tried mine in the test area when it was free, and I told them I’d tested it in my own time. The brass didn’t think it’d work as well as I said, but I told them I just needed to get it refined a bit more, needed more time in the suite. Hell, it was working better’n what we’d got already,” he finished with flushing cheeks. “But I wasn’t gonna give up just after one refusal, ya know? They can be hard to get, when it means paying extra.”

“Ah, so there’s money involved. That would certainly encourage them to downplay whatever you or anyone else has designed. So, when you say paying extra,” Strauss probed a bit more. “What are we talking about…a set dollar amount or percentages?”

“A set amount,” Lenny replied, grudgingly. “Guess there’s no real way you can put a percentage when we never make a profit anyway. And anyway, the money’s nice, but, it’s really about getting yourself seen. Get seen, and you get people talkin’ about you, get movin’ upward, get recognised. Except to them; to them it’s about the money and keepin’ it from gettin’ spent anywhere they don’t want it.” He swung into a gangly pacing atop the deep tan rug beneath his feet. “Dollars…”

“That’s tough,” Strauss noted. “It sounds like the usual management and staff conflict. Staff want what’s rightfully earned, while management wants to keep penny-pinching because their bonuses are on the line, what with keeping their expenses down and all. Are there any others who are in the same boat as you?”

“Yeah, a few, I think. Frannie Sterkenburg walked away because of it, a few months ago, and Steve Williams’s been arguing with them over some improvement to the control servos’ software from the gun control side. Last I talked to him, he was thinkin’ of goin’ somewhere else, too, I think. Seems the brass want the dollars more’n the staff. I… look, I don’t want you guys thinkin’ I don’t like my job,” Lenny insisted with entirely honest earnestness, his pacing stalling. “I do, and we do good work. It’s just… the brass can be so damn bureaucratic.” Lenny emphasised the last word with a clench of his meaty fist. “Took years to get some of these up and runnin’ in the first place, and nothing seems to go any faster now.”

While Sheperdson quietly jotted down a list of names and other notations, Strauss continued, “Oh, yeah, I hear you; it’s tough when your management isn’t supporting you. And it’s really detrimental for the organization when the talent starts wanting to leave.” He then clasped his hands together. “Now, I don’t mean to put you on the spot, but have you noticed anything unusual with them lately? You know your colleagues more than us, frankly.”

“No! Well, uh, apart from what I said, obviously.” Lenny clenched again. “Truth is, all of us’ve had our ups an’ downs with the place, but I can’t imagine any of us doin’ this, whatever it was. I mean, to kill all those people, do all that damage, over pay? I can’t believe it. If it was anythin’, it was an accident; someone tryin’ somethin’ that went wrong, somewhere. Hell, maybe the brass were right, if it was.”

“Of course, we’re not necessarily saying that they were at fault,” Strauss nodded. “But folks in our positions have to run down any and all leads. Better that than focusing on a single plausible cause and suddenly we miss what actually happened…and it happens again. So, to move away from them, when was the last time you were down in the turret control room for the…ah…which one was it?” He glanced over to Sheperdson.

“Number four,” he answered simply.

“Ah right, the number four turret. What we want to know is if you saw anything, heard anything, hell, smelled something then…anything out of the ordinary. Perhaps something that you brushed off as being ‘nothing’.”

“No,” Lenny answered with insistent immediacy, facing Strauss square-on with ploughed-field-furrowed brows. “Nothin’ special at all; last day I was in was, well, the day it happened. I was workin’ late in the test area, again. Did some work on my little project, then I wrapped it up about seven. I know they had a test shot penned in for that night, but those aren’t unusual; they do ‘em every month at least. There were the usual extra folks around to monitor the testing, but like I said, they’re not unusual. The only thing I can think of is, one of them screwed the test up somehow. The system should be completely locked on low power, the turrets locked to point at the goddamn water, when the tests happen. If it wasn’t… boom,” he finished softly.

“From what our analysis has shown so far, the turrets were obviously not pointing at the water, but the system was telling the technicians that it was. Likewise with the whole low power aspect. Now, I’m not a computer person, to be honest, so the minutia of coding and the like are beyond me, but, in your opinion, how can they screw up the test that badly?”

Lenny’s jaw tightened a little. “Misinterpretation,” he ground out. “If the part of the program handling the data from the inputs wasn’t handling it right, you’d get the wrong outputs fed to the control units. Or, I suppose, if the inputs were just sendin’ the wrong data through to the program. Or, I guess, if someone hooked up false inputs to the entire system - y’know, disconnected the sensors, replaced ‘em with different ones. Those’re the obvious ways, anyway,” he concluded, with the hint of a smile. “You’d need to look into it deep to find anythin’ more.”

“We have,” Sheperdson stated bluntly, finally deciding to speak, or perhaps that was the plan all along. “The automated control systems were working fine – the coding was clean. However, the coding for manual control was deliberately changed – it displayed the properly entered inputs to the operators, while skewing the actual aiming severely. The changelog showed only one change had been made since the last successful test.”

Lenny’s eyes reluctantly turned to Shepherdson’s stony countenance. “And…” he stopped, blinking slowly. “And you’re tellin’ me it was somethin’ I did, is that it?”

Sheperdson nodded. His expression did not convey judging, sympathy, anger, or any other emotion. He quite simply was relaying to Lenny the facts as they were. “Yes, access logs place you in the room and in control of the terminal that uploaded the code.”

“To the fucking test systems, damnit,” Lenny bellowed, rich baritone reverberating on the little apartment’s blank walls. “I told you, I worked on the test suite, did some stuff on the mod I’m workin’ on. No way could that have caused, caused… that! It was just the latest trial build of my targeting modification, and it was on the test system! Don’t you understand that?” he plead, realising it with nauseous clarity. “Whatever that code was, I didn’t make it, an’ I didn’t do anythin’ to the live systems. You’ve seen the logs, you know what I logged into!”

Unflapped by the outbursts, Sheperdson shook his head. “Your test modifications are backed up regularly and are versioned to record changes made over time, so we were able to access and compare your targeting coding to the manipulated code. They do not match. However, we do have logs listing a data chip being inserted at about 17:43 that day, which breached the testing containment and infected the live systems.”

There wasn’t much to say to that.

Lenny stooped slightly, tall back wilting with the effort of responding, and found he had nothing to say. It was impossible, surely, that that little thing could have breached the security - the Republic’s finest software engineers made it, for God’s sake.

“If,” he retorted in a hollow rasp, “that happened, how’d it get past the security? Everything’s checked for malware, every port an’ every connection. Can’t be, damnit.” He backed onto the bed and collapsed, staring at nothing, against its plush covers. “Can’t be.”

“That is what did happen,” Sheperdson stated flatly and rose from the sofa – one hand still grasping his notes and the other tucking a pen neatly into his jacket’s inside pocket. “Where is it now?”

Lenny shook his head. A part of his mind, one not preoccupied with his impending doom, awkwardly bobbed his head towards a drawer in his desk; within laid the perhaps two dozen solid-state devices he’d accumulated over the years. “‘s in there. One of them. I dunno, I didn’t label it.”

Sheperdson gestured Strauss over towards the desk; the latter immediately began collecting the devices, being careful not to touch the outsides, in the event that fingerprints were needed. Meanwhile, Sheperdson turned back towards Lenny. “The obvious question now is: why did you do it?”

“Do what?” Lenny gazed at Strauss’ methodical collection. “I just plugged my drive in and went to work,” he said in a flat, hoarse monotone. “That’s all.”

“I see,” the investigator responded equally as monotone. Judging by the man’s response, he suspected that Lenny was being honest about what he did; it was what he was leaving out that was all the more concerning. “Then why did you put malware on your drive?”

Lenny slowly shook his head at no-one. “There wasn’t any malware on it. I loaded up my latest test build and went back to work, just like usual, like I told you.”

Strauss interjected without the usual stiffness of his partner. “I’m not sure you’re understanding the gravity of the situation you’re in. There’s 20,000 people who are dead. 20,000 folks who won’t be going home to their families. Mothers. Fathers. Sons. Daughters. Whole families wiped out.” he emphatically added. “We can demonstrate that it was you who introduced the malware to the system. There’s logs. There’s your drive. But what we’re trying to figure out is the why.”

“I already told you,” Lenny said in an insistent mumble, “I didn’t upload any malware. I just plugged my drive into the system and did what I was gonna do. Anything else… I didn’t do it.” He took a long blink and resumed his lethargic stare at the carpet. “I didn’t do it.”

Coming to the conclusion that he was wasting his time – at least as long as Lenny was wallowing in his misery – Strauss shrugged his shoulders towards Sheperdson and produced a set of handcuffs from his other jacket pocket. “Mr. Pearson, please stand,” he began emotionlessly. “You’re under arrest.”

Lenny offered no resistance as the detective cuffed him, eyes listlessly focusing on the floor and nothing more. “I didn’t do it, I tell ya,” he insisted once again. “But, sure. I’ll come along.”

As Strauss walked Lenny outside of his apartment, Sheperdson briefly performed a walkthrough of the premises, ensuring that no one else inhabited the area. And once he was certain, he too stepped outside the doorway and called into Central Operations. “Central Ops, Sheperdson here. Please secure block 02-79-15-80.”

When the request had been approved, the single entrance into the apartment sealed shut, only allowing entry by authorized individuals, such as those within the NIO. And blast doors, ordinarily used only in emergencies or spaceflight slid shut over Lenny’s balcony and exterior windows, blocking anyone from outside from peering in or being able to access the home from the outside.

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Founded: Dec 28, 2003
Benevolent Dictatorship

Co-op Poest with Oyada

Postby Northrop-Grumman » Mon May 27, 2019 10:41 am

Several hours after his arrest, NIO agents escorted Lenny into a sparsely-furnished room. Centered neatly between its walls stood a rectangular steel table – its corners rounded for safety and four legs solidly bolted into the floor so that it would be immovable without the necessary tools. Likewise, two round stools made of the same material accompanied the table on either side, with a single pole bolted into the floor, but the seats could actually swivel back and forth.

The walls were also devoid of any real color, were unadorned with any decorations, and were completely windowless. The only things noticeable were four cameras tucked into each of the upper corners and a small dome sitting directly over the table, monitoring the vital signs of the room’s occupants.

Into this lifeless room strode a much older gentleman, sharply dressed in a dark grey suit, solid white dress shirt, and a blue and black plaid tie. The man was of African descent and his nearly bald head only had a strip of short white hair running from ear to ear around the back of his head. He took a seat quietly before Lenny, first sitting down a manila folder on the table before him and, through his bifocal glasses, his brown eyes looked over the man seated across from him.

“Mr. Pearson,” he began softly, his hands clasped together atop the folder. “I’m George Bedell, Director of the NIO Valacirca Field Office. We’ve had the opportunity to review additional evidence both from your apartment and our records, and before we turn your case over to the prosecutor, we had a number of additional questions that I would like to go through, to tie up loose ends on our part.”

Bedell opened the folder and neatly laid out a set of eight-by-ten photographs in front of Lenny. They each focused on a particular object – a three-person sofa, a cigar humidor, and a watch. He pointed to the first, which contained a black streamlined leather sofa with three-sets of spindly stainless steel metal legs sticking out of the bottom, akin to the base of a free-standing coat rack. “A Marshall Jeffries sofa. Twelve thousand dollars.”

The next he pointed to was the humidor, which was in the form of a cabinet. Climate controlled through a built-in HVAC system that was further connected into the apartment’s water supply to maintain the appropriate humidity. It was made from African blackwood, which eliminated the need for painting it to match the sofa’s color. The doors were framed by stainless steel and a solid crystal knob allowed access to the inside. Added to it was a combination lock that barred entry to its contents. “Zimmermann cabinet humidor. Fifty cigar capacity. Ten thousand dollars.”

Last was the mechanical watch, which had a black-colored titanium band, designed so that all of the joints were seamless when it was worn around the wrist. The bezel made of the same yet grey-toned material surrounded the watch face, which displayed the tiny, carefully-crafted gears that continuously rotated, turning the respective silver hands for showing the time, day of the week, day of the month, and year. Yes, it was designed that, every five years, the glass covering the face needed to be removed to switch out the backing to update the year. “And finally, the Baggio. One-hundred twenty-five thousand dollars.”

The folder contained additional papers, but Bedell once again clasped his hands together on top of them and started right into Lenny’s eyes. “How does a man of your income-level obtain these things?”

Lenny looked back, eyes managing to look at Bedell’s but not into them. “You tell me; you’re the ones with access to my financial records, aren’tcha,” he asked, weakly attempting the fictional hero’s defiance. Before Bedell could respond, he shrugged, rounded shoulders rustling his shirt’s smoothly luxurious cotton. “I worked extra. Moonlighted a lot.”

“Mmhmm…” Bedell nodded. “That is where matters become a touch more complicated. These items do not show up in your financial records, but I’m sure you knew that already. Besides, for the number of working hours required to purchase these items, you could have very well decided to quit your job here and gone full-time in your side hobbies. You would be making significantly more pay and have more time off.”

“Wish I had,” Lenny mumbled, still eyeing Bedell’s nose. “I got the watch cheap from an importer in Carrolton. Said he’d brought it in for another guy who fell through, and he just wanted it gone. It wasn’t a hundred twenty-five grand, it was fifty-eight. I figured it might be a little sketchy, but what the hell. Y’don’t get a Baggio every week.”

“I see…so how long have you been doing this ‘moonlighting’?”

“Coupla years,” Lenny said, finally meeting Bedell’s pupils briefly. “I didn’t do anythin’ wrong; there’s no law against doin’ two jobs. And anyway, with ‘my income-level’, I could use the extra money.”

“So, in a couple of years, you have accumulated assets totaling more than eighty thousand dollars – all without any transactions occurring in your checking or credit accounts. Likewise, we have records of two trips taken abroad – to the Dominion and Mangala – each consisting of about two-and-a-half weeks of vacation-time a piece.” Bedell swiftly slid more documentation out from one of the photos. There were two documents with accompanying flight information, baggage receipts, and biometric confirmation that Lenny actually departed to and returned from these locations. Along with that was another printout of transactions, or rather, a lack of transactions for that time-period. “No money was actually spent there, nor converted into the local currency.”

“I stayed with some friends, people I’d met. Good people. I did some stuff for them, they paid my expenses. I paid for the tickets, an’ I didn’t do much apart from take in the local culture and do stuff for ‘em.” Lenny looked at Bedell’s tie sullenly. “Mangala’s pretty dead, nothing much to do there anyhow.” He looked apprehensively at the firmly fastened table. “Can’t a guy do anything without bein’ watched here?”

“Then I presume that they would be more than willing to vouch for you.” Bedell flipped over one of the pieces of paper and set a pen from his suit jacket pocket onto it, sliding it all over towards Lenny. “That, of course, leaves your moonlighting. Naturally, we are going to want contact information to ensure that your story is what it says it is, along with where you bought these items from. Since it wasn’t purchased using Grummian currency, it certainly leads one to believe that tax fraud was being committed. Of course, that does beg the question of: why were they paying you outside of the normal system and why you proceeded to accept payment in this manner?”

“It poses it, actually,” Lenny retorted, some of his old swagger returning. “I’ll give you the names, sure. And I’ll tell you what I can, but I didn’t commit any kinda fraud. I earned my money and I earned some luxury. And when do I get a lawyer,” he added, writing down names with slow, deliberate strokes of the pen; Kelras Tormond, Aaron A. Aaronsen, Maron Tockrow… “I… do get a lawyer, right?” Lenny paused for a second, resuming with an effort.

Ignoring the snarky response, Bedell calmly watched the other man’s hand spell out each of the names and then peered over the top of his glasses. “There are some elements of tax fraud, yes, but the issue at hand is considerably more serious. You deliberately inserted a drive containing malware into a weapons system. That system then proceeded to end thousands of lives. You accepted massive untraceable money to furnish your lavish lifestyle.” He paused briefly and then made a slight shrug. “One could make the connection that you were specifically paid to murder.”

“And you’d be wrong!” Lenny retorted, eyes wide and staring, pressing down onto the pad as his brow began to chill. “There was no malware on that goddamn drive, and there was no way for it to get across even if there were, but try tellin’ that to a pen-pusher!”

Bedell slipped his glasses off and rubbed the bridge of his nose. “Mr. Pearson, it’s your testimony against those of multiple subject matter experts working with us,” he stated softly, sliding the glasses back on again. “Besides, we can confirm that it was on your drive. We can confirm that it was what was inserted into the weapons console. We can confirm that it was you that had done it. All the documentation lines up to make these connections, and a court…if we do reach that point…will most likely not see it any other way.”

“Then the court’ll be takin’ your side! Can’t say I’m surprised, either.” Lenny’s thick fingers squeezed the pen, eliciting a small and unhappy cracking from its plastic sides. “I’m tellin’ you, there was no malware on that drive, and even if there was, it couldn’t have gotten out of the test environment unless the security was screwed-up! You oughta be chasing the people who left that hole, not me! All I did was try my new software in the test environment,” he insisted, pushing the pen’s nib through the sheet, sweating cheeks flushing. “That’s all I did, and you bastards are makin’ me the fall guy.”

“Mr. Pearson…” Bedell calmly said once more, clasping his hands neatly together atop the table, and leaned forward. “There are no ‘sides’ here, only the facts, and that is what we’re trying to get today. No one here is trying to make you ‘the fall guy’; the evidence is leading us towards you being solely responsible. Unless you can provide some mitigating evidence to this whole matter, then I don’t foresee our conclusions changing from what they are.”

“I’m not gonna provide anything,” said Lenny, his voice climbing, “until I get a lawyer in here with me. I didn’t put any malware on that drive, I didn’t put any malware on that system, and I sure as hell didn’t put anything anywhere that’d kill a few thousand fuckin’ people! Your conclusions”, he added with a desperate sneer, “can go to hell, because I didn’t kill those people!”

Bedell exhaled sharply and paused a moment to collect his thoughts. He was worried that it might go in this direction. Ordinarily, there were no concerns whenever the accused asked for representation, but in these circumstances, with the parties involved, and with the line of questioning, matters would going to get considerably more complicated rapidly. Yet, he had a duty, and there were rights afforded to this man under the law that he could not take a way. “Alright then,” he finally responded, rising from his seat. “It will take some time to get it processed.” And with that, as he approached one of the walls, a handleless door slid open and closed right behind him.

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Benevolent Dictatorship

Co-op Poest with The Atheists Reality

Postby Northrop-Grumman » Sat Jul 13, 2019 4:01 am

The study remained as it once was so many months ago now – a time capsule, a frozen moment of time – that the elven woman refused to disturb. The same outdated copy of the Hawthorne Times rested untouched upon the sofa that centered the room. Shelves lined every wall and stretched to the tall ceiling, containing dated tomes gathered from across the cosmos; some had familiar names and were mass-printed; others were handwritten original versions from its authors, the only copies in existence. However, these were mostly obscured by sympathy cards, standing neatly upright and open, dotting each shelf. Those that could not make it to these shelves were relegated to cardboard boxes stacked up around the edges of the room, a testament to the quantity that had been received.

Seated in one of a pair of wing-backed armchairs on the room’s far side, Siri stayed still, hands resting upon her lap, clutching the cloth of the sundress that Nathicana had provided to her. Since the ‘accident’, as it continued to be referred to publicly, her eating had tapered off, which became more evident by her slowly thinning body, and her sleep continued to be disturbed and near non-existent, causing heavy bags to form under her eyes. She spent her days here, alone, only addressing matters that came directly to her, of which there were few, since the Vice Chairman had graciously offered to bear her burden.

Her stillness, though, was briefly disturbed by the sound of movement in the foyer, and her green eyes darted for the partially-opened door leading into the study.

A typically creaky thing, old and dusty itself. As with the elven gentlemen that enters through it, his antiquated suit looking for all the world as if something that would collect the dust of ages spontaneously. The faded bottle of wine he carries is set on a convenient cardboard box, half empty glass raised in a toast. An idle, mocking thing, the gesture of someone who must feel they can get away with a great deal.

"Eating well of late?" A similarly dry tone, and a total failure of an introduction. Movodor is not given to undue fawning but with this woman of green eyes and sour demeanour has provoked concern that must have seemed painfully obvious before he ever said a word.

The hermit-elf does not leave his estate, much less visit a woman bedeviled by sympathy cards without good reason.

In ordinary times, Siri might’ve playfully threatened him for barging into her home unannounced or, at the very least, made a wiseass remark. But unfortunately, these were not such times, as her will simply was not there. Yet his mere presence, a sudden arrival of someone who quite frankly doesn’t do sudden arrivals, unlike her, did cause a brief flash of surprise across her face, which quickly dissipated once he asked his question.

She mumbled a non-answer, a brief string of sounds that couldn’t be pieced together into any comprehensible language, and then put forth a question of her own. “To what do I owe this visit?” she asked. Her bluntness would always be there, even if she suppressed everything else.

To that intruder, it was never a question of owe, but earned. Questions that demand answers. And Siri retreating from both the business of state and her wine cellar visits was very much one of them. Instead of answering her question productively he gestures to that bottle he’d brought and smiles in a distinctly dispassionate manner.

“You left a bottle behind. However could I simply leave it there?”
Concern. That’s what this is. Concern for a friend prompting the decrepit old elf to leave his hideaway and his very own method of shutting himself away from the world.
Even his infuriating way of responding to her interrogation is something that reveals much.

Her head tilted, accompanied by a curious eyebrow raise. One obviously does not travel these thousands of miles just to deliver a half-finished wine bottle, that much she knew. No, she understood full well why he was here, after the many, many visitors who came to her door wanting to express their ‘deepest sympathies’ on her loss and attempt to comfort her. They knew nothing of her loss and certainly knew nothing that she was feeling. The gesture was appreciated the first couple of times, but after that, it became drudgery, constantly being brought up, and the repeated questions.

“Mhm…can you please pour some for me?” she asked, reaching over to the table nestled between the two armchairs and picking up what would be a water glass. And then her brow furrowed in frustration. “And be out with it already.”

It’s a long moment before her provides anything in return, busy pouring wine for that woman.
“Out with it already? I would be more concerned that you are so set on this behaviour I had to inconvenience myself in travelling here.”
Such mean words, but without a hint of menace in them. He’s poking and prodding her, but as one would a sister. A cruelty reserved for those one cares about. And again so much said in so few words. He’s yet another worried well-wisher, but cares little for the pomp and ceremony.
His very presence is stating he believes Siri deserves more than dust and sorrow.

Conversely, the elven woman did not believe that she deserved anything more and had instead resigned herself to wasting away in this tomb that she had created for herself. If she were to pass on while in this room, that would be that and a better fate than living her miserable existence.

“You didn’t have to,” she answered, taking a small sip of the wine. “All that’s here is pain, misery, regret, and a past that is forever gone.”

His glass now empty, the old elf has little choice but to give Siri more than a few cruel words. A hand on the chair instead, and a moment to respond without that characteristic mischeviousness. Here we come to the heart of the matter.

“A rare thing it is for you to miss your chance to have more of that wine. But it’s not important now, is it? The dust will wait, Siri. Listen to me when I say wallowing in sorrow can be useful to the soul, but ends up going to dark places better left unexplored.”
Coming from the hermit-elf that had lingered for eons in his estate after personal tragedies that is both something indeed and more than mildly hypocritical.

Dark places. Somewhere this woman had languished in for almost her entire life – a fact that she was well aware of. She knew that she was broken; she knew that life’s tragedies had molded her into the mess of a being that she was now. In the past, these were events that could be dealt with, had a source that could be fought against, but what if there wasn’t really a source or perhaps the source was yourself?

“I’m already there.” Siri swirled the wine around, watching the red waves lap up against the sides of the glass. “Sorrow is indeed useful, because without it…without its dampening influence…” Siri grasped the glass firmly and stared over at the sofa. “All that’s left is anger.”

It’s not a statement that seems to dig deep into that worn old elven gentleman’s heart. It’s something to accept as it comes, a reason to pull up a convenient crate and set himself upon.
“All that’s left is anger and a will to merge with the dust.” Flicking some off his vest for sheer sake of emphasis. This is something he’d heard before, about himself.
“The dust, the wine and someone who really has no business being so far from home.”
A combination of concern and now uncomfortable memories. Were this intruder younger and less burdened by his own baggage, he may well have simply joined the number of those offering idle sympathy and cards thereof.

She downed the remainder of wine in one gulp, fighting back the queasiness from having not really eaten anything of substance all day, and began rolling the glass around in her hand. “So how do you manage?” she bluntly asked. A pointed question, yes, but she hated dancing around an issue.

That bluntness is characteristic of Siri. It is her. A thought to break free of that dust, even if only a little.
“I manage?”
He may not consider himself to.
“I process, adjust. Manage is something else entirely. I don’t come with offers to resolve everything.”
A jab at himself, that. He has his fair share of dwelling unhealthily on past events.
“But wine and company from someone who won’t try to fix all of your concerns, Siri? That’s worthwhile. Even the broken down and decrepit can still enjoy something.”
Or lock themselves up in a rural estate for ages upon ages. The latter is something she’d know is a specialty of his. Hypocrite.

“I can?” she muttered half sarcastically, a semblance of emotion returning to her voice, and her dispassionate mask slipping. “I haven’t had the will to enjoy anything…anything at all…since that man left me here. We could have done something, anything, a new body perhaps – either in flesh or in metal. The chains of mortality can be broken. I know that; he knew that. But no, for whatever reason he left me here.”

Siri jumped from her armchair, her bare feet methodically pacing back and forth upon the rug and her face beginning to redden as the anger seeped through. “I don’t know what he was thinking. I don’t know why he did this; I want to know why. But the only person who was in his goddamn head and seemed to knew everything about everyone sits in my basement being the aloof bitch that she is. Why can’t I know? Why do I have to sit here in darkness about what he felt?”

The briefest of smiles. He’d gotten what he came for, that visitor. He picks up the faded bottle, looking over writing barely visible. “I have another bottle. Another cellar. I don’t often have another..”
Keeping a close eye on her. Loss is something familiar to him, and seeing that grief in Siri is not something he is prone to enjoying.
“Will she listen to you? Will she listen to anyone? I am not one to deny a grieving woman her drastic measures.” Cruelty in a different way.

Siri waved off the question. “Doubtful. I’m sure you know, as well as me, that you can’t tell someone who’s immortal and over ten thousand years old what to do when they don’t want to do it.”

Leaning against the sofa’s back with a free hand bracing against the furniture’s top, the elven woman stared out at nothing. “I screamed at her about this the other day. About knowing that he was going to die. I could’ve done things differently with him. I always assumed…apparently wrongly so…that the time was always there. Yet it wasn’t. It’s so easy to think that things will be how they always are, until something comes along and changes that. I’m not old by our kind’s standards; I’ve got a long way ahead of me…just without him.”

He looks over a palm of his own. The creases, the wear of an eon or two. And a “You do, you must be aware.” without looking over. It is almost as if he is lost in his own thoughts with that idle pondering.
“Focusing on the first part of that is more productive than the latter. I have something of a history with this locking oneself away in a dusty estate concept.” History. Civilization grew up around him when he was busy wallowing in his despair.
“The world will go on without you for now. Find someone that frustrates you and resolve it.”
He’s not one to judge how that resolution happens. Especially with this raging, pacing elf.

“And what if that person is myself?” she asked.

Siri produced a small folded up envelope, well-worn and yellowing, from her dress pocket and ran her thumb over her handwritten name. “Everything he said I shouldn’t do…I did. And everything he said I should do…I didn’t.”

She clutched the paper to her chest and repeated those words that were now burned into her mind. “‘Don’t allow yourself to always live in the past.’ ‘Remember the time we had, but don’t let it consume you.’” As the words came forth, so did tears. “And he said that my son and I should ‘take care of each other’ and ‘look after one another’. ‘you’ll always have your family there with you’. And of course, I fucked that up too.”

Some revelations take longer to process than others. A letter.
A dead man saying the same things in far more meaningful a fashion than Movodor ever could. And she wasn’t listening to him either. Time to change tactics.
“There is someone to take care of. You. And if you’re weary of visiting vengeance on the deserving, there’s always getting shitfaced in a wine cellar.”
How very dry of him. Teasing, in the world’s most distant manner. Insufferable elf that he is.

The last thing lingering in Siri’s mind lately was any level of self-care; it took Nathicana forcefully ordering her into taking a shower, changing into clean clothes, and actually feeding herself. Now, the tears quickly gave way to anger again, completely ignoring his attempt at humor.

“I. Don’t. Deserve. It.” she snapped back at him, her face flushing. “I’ve pushed away my son and made it a point to become distant from him. Why? Why?!” The drinking glass flew from her hand and crashed against one of the wooden bookcases, shattering into hundreds of tiny shards.

“Because I was scared. Scared that he’d follow in my footsteps and become this.” Her now free hand pointed to herself as her rant continued. “I’ve suffered a lot of loss in my life and it’s twisted me into the person I am today. Most of my family was murdered when I was young, and you know what I did? I made sure the guilty paid the price for what they did. And from that day on, I made sure any others who harm innocent people also paid a price. And guess what? I enjoyed it; I enjoyed being the hand of vengeance. It didn’t matter what others thought of me, because the people with me were equally as broken.”

Her chest heaved from the toll that she was placing on her already weak body and she braced herself against the sofa for balance. “Then I had a family,” Siri said quieter and calmer. “And you don’t realize how much your child takes after you – their mannerisms, their way of speaking, even the way they think – until it suddenly hits you. I didn’t have that before. My sister was too young to know what had happened to our family; and she went on to live with people who were good, decent, honorable people. But here with Alakantar, he’s my son and I was afraid that he’d wind up like me…I know my sins. I accept what I am, warts and all.”

The weakness bore down upon her, forcing her to carefully seat herself onto the floor, legs outstretched in front of her. “I just didn’t want him to become a monster.”

Hand of vengeance.
No, that wouldn’t do here. Not for the woman sitting stretched out on the floor amidst dust and frustration. Not at all. He’s much more sympathetic now, the result of having seen all of this play out before him.
“And what would any of them think if the only one you take vengeance on is yourself? Your future has more to it than this, Siri. I am not your personal judge of morals. Do what you feel you need to.”
He was never entirely concerned with classical goodness and justice, that fossil.

“I’m the only one who deserves vengeance, Movodor,” she answered matter-of-factly with a certain confidence that this sort of situation was not entirely new to her. “These wrongs that I’ve laid out are ones that I’ve committed and I must pay for them.”

She waved towards the cards lined up along the wall. “Well-meaning platitudes of ‘Oh, you’re not that bad’ or ‘It will get better. Have faith!’ cannot make up for it. I know they’re putting forth their best effort and have good intentions, but mere words can’t paper over what I’ve done.”

When the hermit-elf recognizes coping mechanisms aren’t helping, it may be time to adjust them. Still, he was never one to judge.
“I’m not some hand of vengeance, Siri. Are we not more often the target thereof? Do you wish to shave your head and become a pilgrim, atoning for your choices? There is a wine cellar somewhere if you wish to wallow in this more productively.”
Offer and criticism both, as warped as Movodor’s opinion on vengeance seekers has been over the years due to his nature.

Siri was never one to handle her guilt that well; in the past, she had allowed relatively minor injuries to become severe, locked herself away from the world yet again, and distanced herself from her loved ones. Other’s opinions of her rarely cracked her armored shell…but her opinion of herself? That was one of her true weaknesses.

“I have to atone for what I’ve done. I have to. I can’t act like this all never happened,” she answered him, staring down at her hands. “I just don’t know what else to do.”

Atone. That much he understands, the deep desire to make things right.
“Must you know each and every little step to be done? Few know as well as you the universe is not that kind.”
He’s looking almost longingly at that wine bottle now, Memories in itself.
“But lecturing you? No. That’s your own job. And if you simply do not know?” He gestures emphatically back to that chair. “What is a few months more there?”

“I don’t have a few more months…I have obligations…responsibilities…to billions more people than myself.” Siri released a labored sigh, drooping her shoulders. This could not go on forever; that sense of duty prevented herself from accepting that she could just wall herself away in this house for all eternity to grieve and punish herself for all the wrongs she believed she committed.

“I just…” The elven woman trailed off briefly, hesitating about what she wanted to say, before collecting her thoughts once again. “I’m not great at expressing myself about these kinds of things. It’s…difficult…to be that kind of emotionally open with people. I’m…worried I’ll just utterly screw it up.”

Something he wrinkles his nose at, but more to painful memory than dismissal.
“Catastrophic mistakes are a common thread for us both. It’s the recovery that matters. But I built and stocked a national wine collection once upon a time just to avoid processing my own.”
There’s a distinct tone of experience in that, someone looking back on their own mistakes.
“You may yet fuck it up entirely, Siri. Though it is only a certainty if you remain here.”

Siri had wanted to simply scream out in frustration but resigned herself to clenching her fists. He was right – the universe was not that kind and would not provide all the answers she sought, and it would definitely not guide her towards the best path to settle these issues.

“So, I’m possibly damned if I do and certainly damned if I don’t…” she responded, putting a slight spin on the old adage. “I don’t seem to have much of a choice in this matter. I have to go out there and deal with all this…head-on.”

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Father Knows Best State

A further co-op poest!

Postby Oyada » Sun Jul 21, 2019 9:40 am

Approximately an hour later, Bedell reentered the room, a single sheet of paper grasped in his hand, and returned to his seat across from Lenny. He read over the document again quietly to himself, gathered a quick breath, and slowly slid it over towards the other man.

It was a standard memo with a letterhead from the Office of the Chairwoman, indicating an origination from the capital city of Hawthorne. Its message was simple and to the point, not meandering with legalese, as one would’ve expected in this case. In text that had clearly been quickly punched out with a typewriter and then hand-signed, the document stated:

Code: Select all
September 27, 2066
On the matter of legal representation for Mr. Leonard Pearson, this request has been denied at this time.
Siri O’Neill
Chairwoman of the Provisional Government

Lenny held onto his composure and his face alike, burly fingers reaching out and gingerly removing the anachronistic message from its repose. A single word; denied. Not pausing to consider the value of a legal system overridden by a single individual, he raised the paper to his eyes, examining it minutely, weaponising concentrating against his hands’ incipient trembling. Fake or genuine, it didn’t matter; it had been in Bedel’s hand.

“I didn’t kill anyone, an’ I didn’t put malware on a live goddamn defence gun. I swear,” he added, controlling his quivering voice with a set jaw and cheeks that sought paradoxically both to blanch and to flush.

Faced with the continual denials from the man sitting opposed to him, Bedell sharply exhaled through his nose. He ordinarily wasn’t the sort to threaten, raise his voice, or make a scene in these situations. He always maintained an air of professionalism and courtesy to those being charged. But the increasing complexity of the case and its importance to those above him and certainly the general public, drove him to quickly change tactics. Plainly laying out the evidence wasn’t getting anywhere.

She does not see it that way.” He pointed towards the denial in Lenny’s hand. “You’ve mangled her son and murdered her future daughter-in-law. She has an interest in this case and with your request for representation, she now knows who you are. She too has seen the evidence.”

“I didn’t kill her!” Lenny croaked, the archaic ink smudging beneath his sweating grip.. “I just tried to test somethin’ on the test units, that was all! That was fuckin’ all! I didn’t know this’d happen!”

Bedell pressed harder. “Mr. Pearson. You have a choice. We can walk through everything you know together, and you can be considered a cooperative witness to this case. Of course, we will still charge you but you might actually be able leave prison before you die of old age. Or. You can continue to drag this out until the point where she gets here and handles everything herself…in which case, it will be out of my hands.”

“What d’you want? I already told you what did,” Lenny said, raising his eyes to see walls seemingly closing on him from all sides, and Bedell’s smugly indifferent face condemning him to the crushing power of the state. “I told you!”

“The truth. All of it,” Bedell answered simply. “Where you got the money from. Who instructed you to put that code in the system.”

“Nobody did! They told me it was an improved version and it’d just work the same way as always. I loaded it onto the test systems and went ahead like I always did.” He knew, of course, what the next question had to be. “They… they were just some guys. A kinda hacker group. Not black hats, just ordinary guys. I was tryna improve the gun control software an’ bitchin’ about it on the web, an’ they offered to help, that’s all. Just a bit of help.”

Progress, finally. Yet this did not mean that Bedell would let up, now that he got the other man to actually start providing some useful information. “Who are they?” he continued to press.

Lenny threw up his hands. “I don’t know, they gave me some names but I guess you’ll probably think they were made up.” He didn’t dare even try to meet those cold eyes now, merely managing to gaze at the glassy-smooth paint of his incipient prison. “The guy I spoke to most was called Rex Banna.”

Fake or not, that was at least a start. Anything at this stage would be a lead and if it was even a pseudonym, the NIO could attempt to track any instances of it on the Internet. That might direct them to whomever it was. “Write the rest down,” Bedell instructed, handing over a pen and pointing it towards the correspondence from the Chairwoman. “So, these individuals…did you ever meet them in person?”

Lenny set the Chairwoman’s note down as if it might explode, and picked up the pen with scarcely less trepidation. “I only ever met Banna,” he replied quaveringly, “at least face to face. All the others, I knew ‘em by handles. I guess you’ll find all those easy enough on my computer,” he muttered, setting them down in ink nonetheless for good measure. “I only met him a few times. Little guy, kinda dumpy, losin’ his hair.” He stopped writing, unthinking of any task save the memory of Banna’s shrewd eyes and warmly crooked grin, perched beneath a his oft-reddened nose. “He didn’t look like a Rex, though. Smoked a lot, looked like he drank a lot too. Had real… real clever eyes,” Lenny continued, frowning. “The kind that always seem to look past you, like Janus.”

“Good, good,” Bedell added, nodding approvingly, while the man opposite him began both writing down the handles, along with describing the one who he had actually met. “We’d want to get you in front of a sketch artist. Also, when was the last time you met Rex, and where?”

“The Hotel Carnegie,” Lenny replied eagerly. “West Side, just near the Royal.”

Bedell nodded yet again, scratching out his own notes. “And when was this?”

“About… wait, it was Thursday. Thursday the ninth,” he added with a spasmodic nod.

“What do you recall about the conversation with him?”

“He was real helpful. Said they’d been lookin’ at my work and thought it was good, and gave me that drive. Told me to upload the contents like I always would, and that it shouldn’t do anything special”. Lenny grunted a poor imitation of a laugh. “I asked him what he wanted for it, an’ he said that it was ‘just good to work on something interesting,” he concluded, Rex’s accented diction flat in the deadened chamber.

“Anything stick out to you? Anything different?”

“He sounded unusual,” Lenny replied, squinting. “I don’t know where he was from, but he wasn’t a local. I lived here all my life, know pretty much all the accents. Could’a been from outta town, but he didn’t sound like he came from the sticks. He carried coins, too. I saw him flip them a bunch’a times - y’know, makin’ little choices.”

Bedell steepled his fingers and pondered for a moment. The possibility of this being orchestrated by a foreigner, or even worse, a foreign government if that’s what it amounted to made this matter even more serious. While nothing was definitive at this point, it concerned him. The man then asked, “Was there any indication that he lives here in the city, currently?”

“I dunno,” Lenny replied, watching Bedell’s still controlled countenance closely. “We only met a few times, maybe a half-dozen. We always met somewhere quiet, outta the way a bit, and he seemed to like kinda swanky areas. I could put ‘em on a map for ya,” he offered, as if placating a quick-tempered dog.

“Sure, we’ll get you a map,” Bedell answered and rested his hands atop one another. “Is there anything else we haven’t covered today that we should know?”
“I…” Lenny trailed off, eyes staring without focus at the wall. “What happens now,” he asked, hoarse and soft.

Ah, that question everyone always asks once they’re in custody; a fair question, mind you, and it was certainly one that Bedell had anticipated. “In the short-term, we’ll want to get you in front of a sketch artist and get those meeting places. In the long-term, you will remain in our custody until the investigation concludes. And you will be charged accordingly, in the meantime.”
There wasn’t really anything to say to that. Lenny nodded, dumb for the moment, his mouth a desert. “I getcha,” he croaked. “But you see what I mean? I didn’t kill them. I never meant anything like this to happen.”

“We’ll show the relevant parties all information you provided us here and see what the prosecutor has to say,” Bedell added, not wanting to go another round with Lenny’s denials, and then rose from his seat. “Let’s take you downstairs.”
Last edited by Oyada on Sun Jul 21, 2019 10:43 am, edited 2 times in total.
Freedom's price is liberty. The individual and his liberty are secondary to our objectives; how are we to protect our lives, our culture, our people, if they all act independently? If each man pursues his own petty aims, we are no more than tiny grains of iron in a random heap. Only by submitting to the need of the whole can any man guarantee his freedom. Only when we allow ourselves to be shaped do we become one, perfect blade. - General Jizagu Ornua, The cost of freedom for Oyada, 1956.

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Posts: 1619
Founded: Dec 28, 2003
Benevolent Dictatorship

Postby Northrop-Grumman » Thu Oct 03, 2019 4:39 pm

Fast moving images rolled across multiple displays, showing various angles of a dimly-lit hotel lounge’s interior. Young couples chatted amongst themselves, a family or two filtered in and out with their kids in tow, and assorted businessmen kept to themselves, nursing their drinks at the bar. The light reflected upon Bedell’s glasses as his eyes darted back and forth, searching for a familiar face.

Despite what Lenny had asserted about his being there at the Hotel Carnegie that day, his bank statements showed no indication that he actually had bought anything there. As always with any witness statement, one must trust…but verify. The lounge’s records had shown that a certain Rex Banna had bought a number of drinks. Now it was a matter of verifying whether the pair had actually been together so that had left Bedell and the NIO analyst seated at the console in front of him needing to search through a couple of hours’ worth of videos.

Some time had passed before they spotted Lenny sidle up to the bar, cautiously survey the other customers, and order himself a drink. About fifteen minutes later, another man – balding, shorter, and a little more disheveled – seated himself on the barstool next to Lenny and, too, ordered a drink.

“Is there a better angle?” Bedell asked.

The analyst’s fingers deftly spun a two-dimensional map of the hotel’s ground floor, which contained bright little dots and arcs showing the placement and viewing angles of the cameras. She selected one just on the other side of the bar and its footage popped up onto one of the overhead monitors.

Bedell squinted. “That would be him. Speed it up.”

The figures in the background rapidly came and went as the two men chattered amongst themselves, but then, Rex raised a finger towards the bartender.

“Normal speed.”

There was some discussion across the bar, and the seated man produced a card from his shirt pocket.

“Focus on the bartender.”

The bartender stepped away and entered information into a touchscreen panel, which served as the “cash” register, and then inserted the card. The analyst knew that this is what her boss was looking for and pulled up the exact timestamp for that transaction. NIO branch offices were much more limited with their searching functions, more from an internal control standpoint than of technological limitations. They were not permitted to perform a comprehensive national search. However, because the network was distributed because of distance issues, they had the option of searching recent transactions and other details within a local database, which was helped by the fact that Mars was relatively isolated.

The analyst compared the information and pulled up additional details on another monitor. “We have a match with the information we already pulled; that is Rex Banna.”

“That would lend some credibility to Mr. Pearson’s story,” Bedell nodded. “Where has Mr. Banna been lately?”

“Let’s see…his permanent address is currently a P.O. box at the post office on 23rd. As for everything else, let me pull that up…” She brought up an overhead map of the city and restricted it to the area where the all of the man’s transactions took place. They peppered the landscape – different hotels on a regular basis, it would seem; and then there were bank deposits, denoted by green dots, from irregular places of work. Although there were a few brighter clusters around certain areas.

“What is there?”

“Grocery store. It’s a Save-Mart…looks like that one’s a café. Jirani coffeehouse.”

Bedell rapped his fingers against his coffee mug and stared thoughtfully at the clusters of dots. They now knew the general area where the man lived and could easily pick him up the next time he went to get mail or when he shopped or dined. But, they had originally thought Lenny had been the only participant in this whole affair, yet they found Rex. And if there’s two, there may be more.

“Get a hold of Mark; we’re going to have to bring in more people from the mainland…”

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Founded: May 13, 2008
Father Knows Best State

Postby Oyada » Fri Aug 21, 2020 4:35 pm

Alex was slowly drawing through her fourth cigarette when the group of glowing ghosts disappeared and the ponderous black alloy bats draped themselves over Lenny's windows. “Shit,” she murmured with a half-smile; “you must've fucked up bad to get those guys onto ya.” As she reached down to the computer and ended the recording, the urge to listen to its illicit contents tugged at her curiosity and her fingers alike. She resisted with a grumble; her new employer had been very specific about what she should do, and tellingly nonspecific about what would occur if she didn't. She might be new to the Private Eye business, but even the best of them had to be a little shady to operate thus.
Still, it wasn't her concern. She had done her job, and now she could expect her reward. Couldn't she? She glanced down again at the little machine nestled snugly against her stomach, and gnawed gently at her lower lip in thought.
Alex selected the still-unheard recording, unconsciously holding her breath, the spiralling smoke stinging her eyes and the back of her throat as she duplicated the file, leaving her employer's copy on the tiny (concealable?) portable drive which she slipped into her jeans' snuggest pocket. It couldn't hurt to have an insurance policy.

Save for the mournful whine of the flotilla of aircraft still combing the ruins for survivors, the streets of the city seemed stunned to stillness. Those who did take to its streets seemed mostly to do so with almost sepulchral solemnity, their gazes directed to nothing in particular; those who knew only that they did not know. The ones who knew moved, looked, spoke, sometimes shouted, with purpose. Alex watched them parade by her metro window, kneading her fingers, sweltering in her thick coat and with boots that could keep out a river encasing her feet; even as she'd boarded, the wind had plucked insistently at her coat tails, and the cloud of debris and thousands of vaporised human beings that her risen high above the stricken city now hung darkly pregnant overhead, as if to shield the place from watching gods.

By the time she reached the park, the rain had begun; ashy, dirty rain, leaving slightly grey splatter marks on anything clean it touched. The portly man, smoking as he seemed always to do, hurried over to her, clutching a grey and misshapen hat to his thick head, and nodded a brisk greeting.

“Did you get the whole thing,” he asked, as she fall in step beside him, her long legs forcing him, perversely, to accelerate.

“Everything from when I got home,” Alex replied, her voice steady, pausing occasionally to glance at the Smoker. “They put the blast shutters down once they moved him out. I tracked them into the cop car, and that was that.” She reached into her pocket and extricated the little drive after another moment, moving closer to the smoker, brushing herself against him and neatly slipping it into the cavernous pocket of his almost comically baggy coat; clearly it was at least two inches too long for him, in all particulars.

“Excellent,” he replied, and she noted with amusement that his eye flickered down to her hips before settling to his pocket. His stubby fingers gripped the device, and he nodded with a smile. “Yes, excellent. Well done, Alex.”

“Wasn't hard”, she shrugged nonchalantly, and wondered when he'd get round to asking to look at her computer. The Smoker chuckled.

“No, I imagine not. I daresay Mr. Pearson's not going to appreciate this, either, but, well, there we are.” The Smoker fished in another pocket and produced a startlingly ornate tin, pausing in his stride to open it and methodically extract one of the long, teak-brown cigarettes within. “Can I interest you in one?”

Alex considered. “No, thanks. Not my kinda smoke,” she explained, almost apologetically. The Smoker shrugged, lighting the new smoke with the end of the old and tossing the latter away into the thickening rain.

“Very well.” He took a long, luxuriant drag. “Now, I may have further work for you to do, should you wish to do it. I doubt Mr. Pearson will be home any time soon, but... well, there are, shall we say, some other leads to follow up. Nothing too difficult, I assure you; work that is suited to your skills.” The Smoker craned his neck a little, taking in the slablike cloud, and nodded. “Yes, very well suited. You have patience, a steady hand, and an eye for detail. It's a pity they've gone unnoticed for so long.”

Alex smiled, and it was mostly sincere. “Thanks. Glad someone noticed,” she added, blushing a little.

“As am I,” the Smoker replied affably. “Now, I should like to get indoors as soon as possible, and I don't doubt you want to do likewise. Have a safe journey,” he added, extending a hand. Alex grasped it with a nod, making sure to grip as firmly as he. As the rain began to flow, a river of tears pouring from the city's concrete face, both went opposite ways, disappearing into the watery air.
Freedom's price is liberty. The individual and his liberty are secondary to our objectives; how are we to protect our lives, our culture, our people, if they all act independently? If each man pursues his own petty aims, we are no more than tiny grains of iron in a random heap. Only by submitting to the need of the whole can any man guarantee his freedom. Only when we allow ourselves to be shaped do we become one, perfect blade. - General Jizagu Ornua, The cost of freedom for Oyada, 1956.

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Founded: Dec 28, 2003
Benevolent Dictatorship

Postby Northrop-Grumman » Mon Jan 18, 2021 7:53 am

Mark Haskett’s eyes lifted upwards; this was the first time that he had been bad since the disaster happened. He’d been offworld, to the mainland, undergoing mandatory refresher training back at headquarters and wasn’t around when the cannon tore through the city. Now that he was here, he could not believe how different it was. The ashen sky hung low amongst the skyscrapers, blanketing everything within a dark haze and blocking out the morning sun. A pungent, smokey smell permeated the air. The city streets were devoid of vehicles and sidewalks only had a few scattered souls. Few wanted to venture out during these times, and even if they had, city officials discouraged anyone from wandering out too far from their respective districts.

And then there was the rain. Grit-filled, grey pellets struck the canopy over the maintenance hatch, drowning out most other sounds. The cover was meant to protect the workmen below street level, to prevent a rush of water into delicate electrical and mechanical components. Yet Haskett was not with those toiling beneath him, despite being dressed in their uniform – a bright yellow full-brim hardhat, tan raincoat, jeans, and work boots. Instead, his employer was the NIO; not undercover to those workmen immediately around him, but to the subject he was tracking.

Haskett mostly kept underneath the canopy, when there was room to do so, but with the heavy equipment being set up and electrical cables being run from the utility truck, there were moments where he was forced to step out into the pouring rain. In his hands, he held a tablet, displaying an overhead map of the city’s streets with little red dots showing where the other agents were. All were undercover in some way, whether it was masquerading as a city employee, like Haskett, or a simple anonymous citizen.

Brushing the screen off, he frustratingly found the gritty residue sticking to his palm and wiped it on his coat, which admittedly didn’t help either as that also was covered with the same substance. He cursed under his breath, and then heard one of the other agents buzz his earpiece.

“I have visual on the target,” came the voice and the corresponding dot on the tablet brightly illuminated. “He’s in Wilkins Park, eastern side. Looks like he’s talking to someone.”

“Understood. Keep up with them.” Haskett zoomed in on the location and selected the feed from one of the security cameras affixed to a lamppost.

Hrm, who are you with? He flipped between different cameras, attempting to find one that showed a decent image off the person. However, all that he could gather was some very basic characteristics of who she was and what she was wearing. The rain blotted out much of it. Damnit…guess we’re going to have to do things the old way…

When Mr. Banna and his contact parted ways, Haskett started plotting out how to ensure that they keep track of them both, particularly her now. In this environment, there was always the risk that their target might catch someone following them the entire time, so he definitely could not have someone doing that. Instead, on his tablet, he started directing agents in their undercover roles to start heading in the direction that she was going. She would be a bit more difficult, since they had yet to establish who exactly she was.

The first, moving carefully at a walking pace, was a large, lumbering street cleaning vehicle, sucking up dirt and debris from the streets before it could be washed into the sewers. If she turned onto a different street or outpaced the sweeper, another agent, perhaps in a different vehicle or walking incognito as a private citizen would pick up where it left off. Meanwhile, the other agents continued to trail where Mr. Banna was going.



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