Friends in High Places

I knew it was the right course of action. They needed me for this. I had past relationships with the Republic Security Service, and was in good standing with them; it should’ve been a no-brainer.

Why Arsten was still in debates with them as to whether I was an acceptable candidate or not was beyond me. I stressed about it more than necessary, blaming my recent public misfortunes once again.

I wasn’t self-pitying; I was self-loathing. There is a difference.

Alright, we’ve talked it out and I was right. You’re going in there. The RSS almost threatened to have you killed for attempting it, but with the accusations being leveled at them right now they’re just gonna have to get over it. We needed someone independent, not tied to any one faction, and who we knew we could trust. You were the obvious answer; I didn’t even have to suggest it.

That gave me a small sense of satisfaction. The previous few years of my life at that time had been tirelessly dedicated to the cause of the Minmatar; my blood bled daily for our freedom.

The RSS has given us the location of the compound where this agent was doing his work. Your task will be to fly to Alakgur and investigate it. We’re looking for anything that would give us further insight into why he was visiting the Defiants. All they could tell us was that he expressed an interest in examining the Khumaak and then suddenly showed up. The Angels followed shortly after.

Hmmm, it seemed the “official” story they were going with was different than what had actually occured. I supposed it wasn’t the first, nor the last time, a cover-up would occur surrounding potentially volatile situations.

It’s a politically delicate assignment, Roc, but a pretty easy one from your end. Just fly in there, have a poke around, and bring back anything you think may be relevant to our investigations. I’ll be plugged into your camera drones for this one, along with the rest of the RSS, heh. We’ll tell you what to look for too, if we see anything in there. Sorry about the invasive measures, but it was either that or a 500 million isk collateral to the RSS.

You down for this?

I grumbled to myself at their extreme measures. It wasn’t like I was some random cadet, still green around the ears. I knew how things worked. They didn’t have to threaten; they simply needed to show some courtesy was all. Then again, it was the RSS, and I had never known any of those security types to be charming or personable.

“Yeah, let’s do it.” I told Arsten, ignoring the look on his face at my obvious lack of enthusiasm.

“Thanks Roc. I owe you one.” He said, disconnecting the comm.

It wasn’t that I didn’t want to solve this mystery as much as anyone else involved, or that I wasn’t excited to be a part of it.

I was just tired of taking orders from just about anyone I spoke with at that point in my life. When would I get to be in control of my own destiny? When would I get to make the decisions?

The Onslaught made good time to Alakgur, warping insystem to the coordinates provided by the RSS.

I was unceremoniously reminded of my audience.

You’re in warp to the RSS compound foyer, from here you have to use the acceleration gate marked RRD-XX3. It should be the only one you have access to.

So far, it was only Arsten talking, which I didn’t mind. We were Brutor, and he was a pretty straightforward guy thus far.

I maneuvered my Sleipnir to the designated gate, and activated it, hurtling myself and my crew through subspace, the gate controlling our destination remotely.

Okay, we’re in. Good.

Arsten was anxious. I could hear it in his voice. I pulled up my overview as soon as reverting to realspace.

Now, see those three storage warehouses to your left, up the back? Start there. The RSS says any documents archived there would have more than enough information. Let’s see about that.

It seemed Arsten was the designated mouthpiece for this mission. He was as much a puppet right now to the RSS as I was.

I moved to within scanning range of the warehouses as directed.

warehouses

Nothing was showing up on my scans throughout any of the warehouses. I was starting to doubt the RSS had any clue whatsoever. Arsten apparently agreed with that sentiment.

Still nothing? What the hell?

Okay… one last thing to try. That giant radio telescope over there? I’m guessing it cached all outgoing transmissions. Everything else might be empty but I’ll bet there’s still some data in that thing. Head over and check it out. We’re going to kindly ask the RSS for the decryption passwords right now…

Good thinking on his part, and he quietly covered my ass in the process. I knew little to nothing of hacking and decrypting, leaning closer to the nothing side.

I moved towards the telescope.

telescope

Using the codes provided by the RSS, I accessed the logs of the telescope… and found what we had been looking for.

Finally, something. This is looking good. We’re picking up all sorts of data on your sensors.

We just uploaded the interface protocols and security clearance to your electronics subsystems; you should be able to freely access the telescope’s storage compartment. That will have hard copies of all communications logs. Bring everything you find there back to me. Good work.

I sent out a drone to retrieve the now available records from the base of the radio tower. I looked over the reports myself.

reportOperation Stillwater: Synopsis

This small data storage unit contained a swathe of operational information, offering insights into an ongoing RSS investigation known as “Stillwater”.

Although the report logs number in the hundreds of pages, a few key details became immediately apparent. The name of a highly-ranked Ammatar Consulate official recurs frequently, and references to her as “sister” reveal a secret loyalty to the Republic. Despite the prominence of this Ammatar defector in the reports, her name and any other identifying details were omitted.

Page after page of synopsis were filled with meticulous documentation of the agent’s daily life; every meeting they had, every stakeout they sat through, and every other lead they chased up – it was all there. The problem wasn’t the lack of detail, more the overwhelming amount of it. It would take some time to make sense of it all.

I moved onto the next report.

reportReport R:081-9560

This fragment appeared to be just one part of a larger intelligence dossier.

“The Consulate is able to, of course, but I’m confident that the current situation won’t escalate. Even still, we need to keep pushing for the location of the [unidentified encryption – string undecipherable]… the Angels have smelled Jovian involvement and are now throwing all kinds of ISK around to catch up to us. They will, eventually. Don’t doubt it. I almost wish Boufin sold us out to them in the end, they’d realize there is nothing of value to them there and screw off. But then I guess anything we value, they’ll want to lord over us too. I’ve noticed a few people of theirs are assigned to me too. I’ll be taking slightly longer to get to our meetings as a result; I don’t want to be leading them anywhere we don’t want.

She asked to meet Boufin again today by the way, and again I had to explain the risks and make her promise to lie low. I’m not completely trusting that she will let me handle things. She needs to keep up her public appearances in court, not go off meeting Gallentean historians in secret. Her career would be over in a second if we got made, and I’d have serious problems of my own.

She’s growing increasingly frustrated though, so we may have to look into some kind of arrangement. Surely we can set up a secure FTL line for them both? I know how to do it myself; I just need your clearance to proceed.”

Things were getting personal; and I had learned quite painfully that mixing business with pleasure is poison. If ever a man wanted to end his professional life, he simply had to mingle with the wrong type of woman. Trust me on that one.

I read the final report.

reportThis fragment appeared to be just one part of a larger communication. The intended recipient was unknown, but was presumably someone within the upper echelons of the Republic Security Services.

“… you dare try and cut me out of the loop again. If you wanted to run operations without me knowing or caring then you should’ve brought in someone with half my skill.

I’ve given six years of my life to this. Try that shit again and I’ll be out of here. The last thing you’ll see before the sip of Pator Whiskey you keep in the 2nd drawer kills you will be me waving a Wildfire Khumaak on The Scope news.”

Ah women, can’t live with them, can’t kill them.

My heart ached even at the thought of another man’s romantic mishaps. I was getting soft. It was time to go home.

home

Once I had dropped off the reports and had my audience removed from my ship’s systems, I debriefed with Arsten.

Excellent work out there, Roc. We’re making copies of the data you recovered now. It looks like we’ll have more than enough here to work from.

You’re telling me, I thought to myself.

From first impressions, it looks like this RSS agent was working almost entirely alone on some operation involving a highly-placed Ammatar defector and the Wildfire Khumaak. The RSS people here with me are claiming they’ve never heard of this matter before.

Yeah right.

I’m seeing reports here to suggest that this Ammatar “sister” was a source for historical information on the Wildfire.

I don’t like the name of that RSS operation though, Roc. Stillwater? That’s basically the opposite of “Wildfire”. We should be careful not to trust the RSS too much on this one, I think.

I was about to communicate my wholehearted agreement with Arsten’s assessment, but he kept on going.

In fact, I have an idea. I’ll speak with you again after I’ve made a few arrangements with the RSS.

Interesting. What was he up to now?

I was sure I would find out soon enough. But right then, it was time for some rest and relaxation for my crew and myself.

I laid in the course for Hek.