Playing all Their Cards

I was still seething at my own failure by the time I arrived back in Aldrat. It appeared Nilf Abruskur wsa still reeling from my failure as well.

We dropped the ball on this one, Roc Wieler, and those putrescent, motherless Angel freaks made sure to capitalize on it. Our only consolation is that it cost them, too. We’ve managed to root the Angel spy within our ranks – the one who tipped the Cartel about your visit to the historians. They’re in a world of trouble right now; you can trust me on that.

I bit my tongue for the moment. My own hostility at this game Nilf had been playing, keeping me in the dark, sending me on missions with limited information, putting myself and my crews in unnecessary danger, was second only to my remorse at the historians whose lives were lost during the last engagement.

From our initial interrogation of this captured Angel agent, we have learned that just before the Cartel blew up the outpost, they managed to find and make away with the data we needed on the Wildfire Khumaak. The historian that was supposed to have a text for you relating to it was tortured into handing over his research and was then killed.

Nilf paused, letting his words sink in, letting the blame sink in. Even though he had used the royal ‘we’ in his speech, it was clear who was going to shoulder the blame for this failure. The only reason he hadn’t hung me out to dry already was that he still needed me; and better me than having to put trust in some other random capsuleer, though if push came to shove, I am sure there were hundreds whom could do the job.

They’re offering us a deal. We give them back their agent, and they give us the information we want. They tried to make a bid for the Wildfire, but there wasn’t a chance in hell we were going to entertain that idea, especially once we discovered who their agent was. We negotiated it down to the agent, but we have no intention of making a fair deal with them, simply because when it comes to the Angels, there is no such thing. They have no desire for the safe return of this traitorous scum; in fact if they could kill him right now to shut him up, they wouldn’t hesitate.

I silently agreed with the Angels’ sentiment. This traitor, whomever he might be, had traded lives for money, put profit over morality, and it sickened me.

In addition to providing us intel that the historical texts on the Khumaak have been taken, our captured agent has also revealed something else; its location. His testimony and a good deal of other intelligence we’re receiving is pointing to one of the Angels’ main staging outposts in Metropolis.

Finally, something tangible. I felt we were close.

The defense forces posted at this place are impressive, Colonel, beyond even your capabilities. We’ve come up with a plan to lure some out and reduce their numbers to something you’ll be more easily able to manage. We forced subversion on our Angel prisoner, made him tell his superiors that we’re sending a huge ambush fleet to the meeting point. This should goad them into bringing along a bigger reserve of manpower, most of which will be drawn from that base.

While we’re having the meet, you sneak in, bypass the remaining resistance, and grab the texts that were taken. Underneath the central command center, we’re told there will be several data banks. The documents we’re looking for will be in one of these. You’ll need to deactivate the security firewalls, which means some hacking. You’re looking for a drive cluster called “EDF-285″. Grab it and get the hell out of there before the Angels figure out the game.

Lovely. This time Arsten Takalo wasn’t around to divert attention from this flaw I possessed; I had no hacking skills.

“When’s the meet? I’ll need time to prepare.” I asked.

“You have four days, Roc Wieler.” Nilf replied.

Four days was a long time for a capsuleer to engage in accelerated neural learning. In four days I could easily inject the skills I needed directly into my brain, and probably even get in some hands-on practice time.

I’d also been meaning to pick up a Loki T3 cruiser for quite some time now, so figured now was as good a time as any to kill two birds with one stone; I could pickup the required skillbooks I would need to learn Hacking, and do up a couple of fits for a Loki while I was at it.

Only problem was, I would have to go to Jita, the market hub of the New Eden, right in the heart of Caldari high sec.

Well, I’d been through worse.