BetaForce – EchoCell 07
GridTime 2508752267 (12:37 July 7th, 2049)
Orbital Sixteen Communications Interconnect
The Presence looked down at the planet below through the satellite’s cameras, watching the patterns in the clouds before returning to work and sending it’s consciousness down the uplink towards the networks of the North American Zone. The Grid was busy at this time of day, a blizzard of blue lights streaking across the inky blackness, bouncing from one relay to the next until they reached their destination. Individual communication packets containing audio, video and computer data making up the cybernetic nervous system of the ECM.
Concentrating lightly, the Presence zeroed in a stream of messages passing back and forth between two users. A quick invasion into the user profiles revealed their identities as a pair of college students complaining about the policies of the government. The Presence smiled it reported the conversation to the local UniCop monitoring station. It was the fourth time the male user had had one of his conversations reported. Although the Unity had taken no action against him, they had arrested and imprisoned the other party each time on the Presence’s recommendation. The Presence idly wondered at one point the male user’s friends would begin to suspect, incorrectly, that he was an informer.
As the Presence hopped from system to system, it passed through the central dispatch computer for one of the local Sector PD’s. In a split second, it scanned the current service records of a squad of Sector Cops that had been involved in a disastrous UniCop snatch and grab operation a month earlier. Although nothing suspicious turned up, it decided that a round of random “interrogations” would do wonders for local UniCop morale.
A few seconds after entering the ECM grid, it had reached its target location. Sector 7, known before the Unification War as Boston. A group of so called “freedom fighters” was suspected to be operating in the area and local law enforcement had been characteristically lax in investigating the area. The only intelligence it had on the group was that it referred to itself as “Kilo Cell” and was part of the terrorist organisation BetaForce. The group had been a thorn in the Unity’s side for a number of years, most recently it was suspected that they were responsible for the theft of weapons and equipment from a Unity supply depot. They had become bold with the repeated successes, perhaps they had also become sloppy.
It gathered its thoughts and focused its energy in preparation for what it needed to do. The Presence opened itself up, flowing across the local network and invading the communication relays throughout the sector. Within minutes it had access to every communications signal sent within and through the sector. It scanned every message, and packet of computer data, looking for keywords and suspicious phrases. From inside the system it did not need to stop to accommodate the physical needs of a human body, it could remain in position for weeks at a time if necessary. Thankfully it did not come to that.
After an hour it detected a sloppily encrypted communique which when decoded revealed itself to be a message between two members of the target group. From there it infiltrated their computers and gained access to their messaging programs. They had been smart enough to keep no suspect addresses in their address books and had deleted all messages once read. However, they hadn’t erased the internal transceiver logs of their cell phones. When all the data was cross-referenced with information it gained from other sources, the Presence identified all the members and had identified their current locations. It dutifully noted the UniCops and an assault team was dispatched. Moving on to its next assignment, it was unaware that it had triggered a series of alarms which alerted the terrorists to its presence.
14:58 July 7th, 2049
Echo Cell Bunker, 200m below Sector 23
Tommy stretched as he entered the common room, scratching the back of his head. Toby was sitting at a desk on the far side of the room, his brow furrowed in concentration. Toby had been surprised when Talbot had handed him a fat workbook two weeks ago. “Just because you’re a wanted terrorist,” Talbot had told him, “it’s no reason to skip on your education.” He’d complained bitterly of course but had eventually relented. Jared was sitting on the couch, munching on a bowl of cornflakes while watching TV. Sarah, Talbot and Kai were nowhere to be seen.
After grabbing coke from the fridge, he plopped down on the sofa next to Jared.
“Hey sleepy,” Jared said in greeting, “you’re just in time for the next episode of Jake Danger.” Tommy grunted in response.
“Meh, the comic’s are better,” piped in Toby.
“Oh come on, the comic’s are nothing more than a cash-in like the computer games,” retorted Jared, “name one thing the comics have over the show.”
“The comic’s aren’t laced with subliminal messages,” said Tommy.
Jared’s mouth opened as he tried to formulate a response but he gave up as the opening credits started. He turned back to the screen, pointedly ignoring the sniggers from the two boys.
Four green bubbles of energy floated above the console in the comm centre, contained inside each one was fluttering spark of white energy. Kai sat at the comm board with a dog eared and hand written journal on his lap, his face a mask of focused concentration as he muttered “kiryokuousei zaichuu no kouriki mewomukeru to houshutsu” repeatedly under his breath. When he mispronounced the final word in the phrase, the bubbles suddenly popped and the energy dissipated.
“Dammit dad, why Japanese, why couldn’t you have written your notes in a normal language like English?” Kai complained as he looked down at the book and tried to decode his father’s handwriting. He was about to try again when the comm-board started beeping alerting him to an incoming message.
“Bravo Foxtrot Echo, this is November Six Three Six incoming.”
“Er roger November Six Three Six, this is Bravo Foxtrot Echo receiving. Go ahead,” Kai responded into the headset.
“November Six Three Six on priority mission from Central Command Authority. Request bunker access and security lockdown. Authorisation code transmitting.”
As Kai checked the authorisation code against the most recent security, he comm’d Talbot. The request from November 636 was unusual and the invocation of Central Command Authority meant that something major was going down and that normally meant trouble.
“Authorisation code verified November Six Three Six, clear for access. Come on in, door’s open and the welcome mat’s out.”
By the time the transport craft had arrived in the hanger, Talbot was already waiting for them. As its doors opened and the occupants stepped out, Talbot breathed in sharply. “Christ, not him,” he thought to himself as he eyed the leader of the group. The leader was an African-American male, mid 30’s and around 2 meters in height. He had blue eyes and short cropped black hair and he was wearing green combat trousers, black boots and a light blue khaki shirt. The man was armed with a pistol in a holster strapped to his thigh. Behind him stood two men in dark grey combat armour carrying assault rifles. Apart from their different faces, there were identical in hair and posture.
Talbot folded his arms as they approached, there was a tense moment when the leader held out his hand which Talbot refused to shake. “Grabowski,” he began, “knowing you, this isn’t a social visit.”
“I wish I was here under better circumstances, “Grabowski said grimly, although his eyes twinkled with amusement, “but I’m afraid we have a serious situation.”
“This better be good.”
“Is your team assembled?”
“They’re in the briefing room, this way.”
“So Kai,” Sarah said as he entered the briefing room, “what’s going on?”
“Beat’s me. Some big shot from Central’s paying us a visit.” Kai sat down and Jared passed him a bowl of peanuts.
“Lucky us, the brass are gracing us with their presence,” Jared said sarcastically prompting laughter from the rest of the team. Toby’s and Tommy’s laughter was cut short when both boys grimaced in pain and began to rub the sides of their heads. Before anyone could say anything, the door opened and Talbot walked in leading the three men of November 636. When Tommy saw Grabowski, his eyes narrowed and his face hardened with his shoulders tensed. Grabowski merely smiled in return.
After being introduced, Grabowski began to address the team. “Over the last couple of months, a number of BetaForce operations and personnel have been compromised by a security leak. Myself and the rest of my team have been tasked with tracking down this leak and plugging it.” As he spoke, the two armed guards that had come with him surreptitiously disengaged the safety’s on their weapons. “We suspected that our communication encryptions had been broken or that someone was invading our computer systems so we set up a sting. We lulled the culprit into thinking that one of our cells, Kilo Cell, had been a little slack in the information security department.” The members of Echo Cell looked at each other slightly confused, each wondering just where this was going. Grabowski began to walk around the table as he continued, the two armed guards following discreetly behind. No one seemed to notice when they stopped behind Tommy. “When the hacker paid a visit we hoped to track him or her back to his terminal. Imagine our surprise when the tech’s told us that it wasn’t possible to trace the hacker as there didn’t seem to by any connection to an outside terminal during the invasion. Instead what we found was a curious electronic signature. One which is unique to one Thomas Preston.” As soon as Tommy’s name was mentioned, and before anyone could react, one of the guards slammed Tommy’s head on to the desk and started to cuff his hands behind his back. The other guard pointed his rifle at the back of the boy’s head.
Posted on Friday, June 27, 2008, in BetaForce, Fiction and tagged cyberpunk, darkfuture, Fiction, future, heroic, magic, mutants, sci-fi, superhero, supers, totalitarian. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.