Monday, 30 May 2011

Flashback, part 2: "Briefing"

Pakkonen III

Corporate ownership:
CBD Corporation – 67%
Caldari Constructions: 15%
Zainou Biotechnology: 11%
Misc. other/Independent: 7%

Planetary Synopsis: A standard type 2 Temperate world, colony established YC.98. Currently in colonial stage 5. Pakkonen III has a population of approx. 57.4 Million persons. Estimated unemployed vagrant population – 230K (+/- 3%). Principal exports – metallic ores, bacterial cultures, aqueous liquids, industrial textiles, livestock, luxury consumer products, foodstuffs, petrochemicals, plastics, alcoholic beverages, flora and fungi of potential pharmaceutical significance. Principal imports – human resources, electronics, consumer products, entertainment material, medical supplies, vehicles, Quafe. Capsuleer import/export data not available. Estimated contraband traffic level – very high.

CBD-specific information: Corporate jurisdiction covers 88% of the planet's population. Corporate colony capital – Yakiya. Other settlements of note – Eristaken, Port 13, Pakkonen Landing, Jesken's Reach, Retikko. 56% of corporate personnel of Pakkonen III colony live in the above-named settlements. Remainder addressed at agricultural or industrial settlements on all continents or sectioned to non-CBD corporate enclaves.

Your mission:
Primary Objective: Colonial security and policing in city of Jesken's Reach outsourced to private contractors,“Bastion Security Co.” Headquartered intersection of South 18th street and Jernau Road. You are to assume role of Spacelane Patrol investigative graduate, sectioned to Bastion Security for observation and protection of investment. Be efficient and competent in handling criminal investigations you are assigned, but project an air of naivety and youth under a professional and serious fa├žade. Make the occasional minor and forgiveable rookie mistake.

The corporation is concerned by the high apparent level of contraband moving through Jesken's Reach. Your primary objective is to investigate possible causes for this above-average volume of smuggling, and especially to examine possible corruption and/or complicity inside Bastion Security. Full liberty is given to exercise your punitive discretion up to and including human resource reclassification, but if Bastion are involved at a level higher than lower-middle management, we would prefer legal action to be brought. Any Guristas, Serpentis, Angels, affiliated or independent criminal cartel operations are to be dismantled through strategic targeting of command structure and/or provocation of gang war. Ceasing contact with Bastion Security permissible if this will further investigation. Code phrase in this eventuality - “Think somebody tried to follow me last night so I caught a taxi home.”.

Secondary Objectives: Individuals Mejan “King” Kalesti, Irigo “The Reader” Vasten, Akia Junat, Byre Tarn believed to be present on Pakkonen III. See attached dossiers. Eliminate if possible, else secure information concerning movements since April YC110.

Tertiary Objective: General security monitoring and intelligence, reports to be given weekly unless priority Copper or higher.

Resources: You have been issued with an apartment (1540 North 11th, Apt. 404), personal funds in local corporate scrip (Equiv. 1.6 ISK), professional expenses account (with handling and approval agent) equiv. 400ISK/quarter. 1 personal vehicle, 4 seats, executive armour modification.
Also issued: 3x safehouses (Railyard South A, Warehouse 6; 223 West Menenden Av, apt. 104; Spacelane Patrol recruitment showroom, 95 1st street (recruiting staff have Silver clearance, briefed that a CBD corporate agent will use the space above the shop as a safehouse). code in all cases as per your public address. Visit ASAP and change.)

Armouries (identical to all three safehouses. Biometric locks with iris pattern scanners already programmed) each containing 1x gauss rifle, 1x projectile shotgun, 1x projectile SMG, 3x projectile handgun, 2x gauss handgun. Ammunition for all, 3x nervejam grenades, 2x fragmentation grenades, 5x thermite demolition charges, 1x nausea gas grenade, 2x smoke grenades, 1x stun gun. 1x complete suit modular armour, appropriate tools and materials for maintenance and repair of above, 1x set of silencers, scopes, customisation options etc for all weaponry, plus workbench. All weapons have full biometric locks and are tagless, all ammunition is rifling-falsified and has no nanotracers. You will be issued with a sidearm and armour by Bastion, to be stored with the Bastion armourer. Do not take your armoury equipment to Bastion HQ with you. Do not take your Bastion equipment to your public address or safehouses. Be aware that all Bastion equipment is nanotagged – return to public address and shower thoroughly after duty, then have housekeeping drones conduct a hypoallergenic clean.

Each safehouse also stores one personal vehicle (motorbike).

Platinum-grade emergency healthcare at all clinics and hospitals in the city.

Fluid-router personal comms device rated for unlimited calls within the State, extraterritorial calls by arrangement with your handling team

Personal pocket terminal with HUD contact lens/spectacles support, earpiece, microphone/dermal subvocalisation patch.

Replacements for any/all of the above may be paid for by the corporation, or may come out of your expenses account or be docked from your salary, depending on after-action review by your handling team.  

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Flashback, part 1: "A-7"

The schools of the Caldari State differ in a great many respects. With each falling inside the demesnes of one or another of the eight great megacorporations, and also within the ambit of different catchment areas, with different demographics, under the control of a dizzying variety of subcorporations, education contractors and citizen resources executive control boards, the result is that no two are quite the same. Not least because children inevitably introduce a touch of anarchy to any system.

The one constant is monitoring. In a society rooted in Meritocratic principles, the argument that each person naturally gravitates towards the role for which they are best suited is subtly aided from a very young age through observation, data mining and the findings of centuries of studies in child psychology. The children who prefer to run around on the padded part of the play yard, throwing the ball around in a vague semblance of the final, adult form of a game are encouraged towards physical pursuits. The ones who cluster at the other end of the yard and buzz around playing Pod Pilot are destined for a life of intellectual education and academia. With subtle labyrinths of extra checks, tests, observations, data points and feedback, the ideal is that a person's life can from a young age be set on the course intended to be most fulfilling to that person.

Such a system must – and does – account for a staggering variety of burgeoning child personalities.

The girl's first fight was at age four. A boy knocked her down while running after a ball. Where other little girls her age would have resorted to upset bawling and caused the teacher to reprimand the careless boy, this one picked herself up again and, even with hurt tears clouding her vision, attacked her classmate with such vicious energy that corporate security had to be called. The boy, two teachers and a Spacelane Patrol officer were treated for bites.

She was a tube child. No parents except in the genetic sense. No home except the creche she shared with other children, none of whom felt comfortable around her after the fight. The problem escalated – they avoided her when they could, ran scared from her when necessary. She responded with violence despite the best efforts of their caretakers to prevent it, which only made the problem worse.

She was eventually taken out of the creche by a tall woman in a silver-grey greatcoat. The other children, demonstrating the remarkable mental tenacity of the young, soon forgot all about her.

They took her name away. It had never meant much, having been randomly assigned to her by a computer when she had been born from the tube, but it had been hers. Now, only the initial “A” remained, tagged to the number 7 for identification purposes. She fought at first, refusing to respond to the label, insisting on doing nothing unless called by her name. She quickly found that discipline was a real thing in this new school. Before, “discipline” meant being sent to stand in the naughty corner, or stacking the chairs at days' end before being released to the lonely quiet of the Creche.

Here, discipline meant a firm slap across the face. She attacked the first person to slap her – she got slapped harder, a ringing blow that left her too dizzy and sick to even stand, let alone try to bite. The approach was simple and made her cry at first in frustrated anger, but unlike the weak bleating of her previous teachers, she came to respect it in time, and appreciate that it wasn't handed out arbitrarily. She was told in clear terms every time what she had done to earn the reprimand.

She stopped demanding her name and started answering to “A-Seven”. Before long, she became more comfortable with her designator than she had been before. Eventually, she forgot her name entirely.

Her class numbered more than a hundred children of both genders, all sleeping in one enormous barrack patrolled by armoured persons – she couldn't guess at their sex under the riot armour they wore, and she wasn't allowed to talk to them – whose function was to keep a barrack full of psychopathic pre-teens from each others' throats. Fights were broken up by the simple expedient of hauling the participants apart, binding their wrists and ankles and throwing them onto their bunk to cool down. Bigger fights prompted the use of charged pain prods that left many a child buckled over and mewling in pain. Riots were ruthlessly gassed. A-7 felt the sting of all the various humiliations the guards could give over the years, and by the time she forgot her name at age ten, discipline in the barracks was absolute.

They were educated, for much longer hours than she had experienced at her dimly-remembered first school. Calisthenics, gymnastics, swimming or running in the morning before breakfast. Physical education theory after breakfast. Gentler lessons in the afternoon, with no apparent theme – biology, chemistry, languages, acting, mathematics, engineering, mechanics, military history, literature, music and more. The lessons were well-taught by engaging, intelligent teachers who made learning fun. Then in the evening – practicals. Some were obvious training for war and killing. Martial arts with bare hands, martial arts with weapons, firearms training, medical training, assault courses, stealth challenges. Others were of no obvious practical benefit to a soldier, which was what they all now believed themselves to be. They learned how to play poker, they staged plays and concerts, they role-played conversations in a host of languages and dialects with assumed personalities and histories, they sat and discussed philosophy with their tutors.

The day started at 05:00. Breakfast was at 06:20, and lasted an hour, including recreation time. Lunch was at 12:00, again lasting one hour. Dinner was 17:00, lasting half an hour. They had an hour and a half for recreation before bunk time at 22:00. There were no days off and the pace was unrelenting, but the things they did were so varied, and their tutors so skilled, that every day was fun.

Time progressed. The class splintered into smaller groups as the aptitudes of each child were identified and they were re-assigned into smaller classes to better focus on their fields of expertise. A-7 found that her philosophy lessons came to an abrupt end, replaced with classes on people – how to read their emotions and manipulate them, and how to spot other people doing the same to you and fool them. She enjoyed those.

Failure had always been an option for the children – right from the first weeks, a few had quietly been removed from the barrack and the big board at the end of the room would have a big red stamp over their designator that simply said “Failed”. Now, it became rampant. The lessons began to encompass more difficult concepts, the practical lessons and exams got much harder. Classmates vanished at a steady pace, their “names” buried under that stern red stamp.

At age 14 – below the age of consent for CBD and the State, but the normal rules didn't apply to her - she had sex for the first time. K-1 was from a different education group, one which hadn't received the social training she had. He was almost alarmingly easy to seduce, pathetically eager to believe the things she told him. She enjoyed playing his emotions like an instrument, thoroughly enjoyed the physical act itself when she allowed him to think he'd finally convinced her to “go all the way”. She found a perverse pleasure in the sense of superiority she felt when he cried afterwards. She checked his name on the board in the morning. K-1: Failed. She wasn't surprised – instead, she allowed herself a moment of satisfaction at this confirmation that even their most intimate moments were closely scrutinized.

It also didn't surprise her when later that day, her social lessons discussed sex and seduction, and the power they held for controlling people. “You are all young, and in peak physical condition” the instructor told them. “Unwary persons, and you must remember that the average citizen is not wary of being seduced, will prove remarkably eager to obey your wishes if they are given even a hint that you might reward them with your bodies. We expect that none of you are afraid to couple with whomever you wish, whenever you wish and for whatever reason, nor will you be afraid to enjoy it. But remember – your openness will titillate some persons, and scandalize others. Your behaviour must forward your objective, and if your objective would be threatened by sexual openness, then you must become closed.”

That objective, of course, was assassination, and by the time that the board in the barrack had dwindled to only a handful of identifiers holding out a grim last stand against a red army, She and the others had all figured it out. None of them minded. There were no more failures throughout her seventeenth year of life, nor her eighteenth. Their practical lessons trained them on investigative procedures for homicide and how to elude identification and capture. They were never called upon to actually kill somebody in training, but they all knew that if and when the time came, none of them would hesitate for an instant. They had been selected, and eliminated, far too carefully and cleverly for that.

Their graduation was nothing special. They were each given a certificate describing them as “CBD Human Resources Troubleshooting Specialists”. The bland, corporate term described thirteen precision weapons, each one of them capable of telling a direct lie with a perfectly straight face, of assuming a whole new identity, of walking undetected in a crowd, or silent down an empty corridor. Each of them was nearly as lethal with their bare, unassisted bodies as they were with any form of weapon. A-7 was quietly proud that the difference between her best time on the assault course, and her time while wearing an extremely impractical formal dress, were within five seconds of one another.

They bid farewell to the classmates they had grown up with. It was a quiet, unemotional affair – a handshake and a good luck wish – and then each was off to their assigned posts, complete with address, cover story and cover job for which they were perfectly qualified.

A-7 was assigned to a lowsec settlement called Jesken's Reach. She had expected a shanty town – she got a thriving city of seven hundred thousand citizens. She had a house, a job with the local security contractors as an investigator, a rank – Lieutenant –  and a name. HER name.

She'd forgotten that name, and felt some mild surprise at seeing it written down again, but not the shock that some gut instinct told her that somebody else might have felt. It made, she realised, a good deal of sense to use a name to which she was at least distantly accustomed to responding. It would help her fit the role a little more naturally.

Her name was Aato Sihayha.  

Monday, 23 May 2011

Adjust

The biggest part of a capsuleer's job is outside of their conscious control.

The human brain is an enormously complicated processor that handles certain types of information with an efficiency and speed that not even the very best quantum computer chips can achieve.

The process is known as "intuition", but what the human brain really is best at is Adjusting.

Throw a ball. Aim to hit a point. The hand moves, adding kinetic energy, fine-tuning a vector in three-dimensional space, adds spin, compensates for wind. Adjusts.

Catch a ball. Calculate trajectory and velocity. Move hand. Time the closing of the fingers, the relaxation of the muscles to rob the ball of kinetic energy. Compensate for relative motion of the thrower and the catcher. Adjust.

Balance on a beam. Predict shifts in weight before they've even properly begun. Clamp down on vibrations which threaten to build up to the tipping point. Adjust.

Fire a gun. Calculate target's motion, lead them. Compensate for wind, intervening cover, confusing intervening motion. Adjust to hit the centre of mass. Adjust grip strength to compensate for recoil. Adjust aim for the next shot. Adjust

Refine this process a thousand times over. Feed information to the brain. Watch as it makes snap decisions, without any conscious intervention. Watch it decide how things will be or should be as opposed to how they are, adjusts starting conditions accordingly, produces an output.

Feed this output back into sensors and computers capable of a billion times more precision. Analyse. Send back to the brain, which adjusts.

Fire a ship's railgun. Megajoules of power are summoned, meters of gun barrel swung to roughly the right angle. Targeting data is input, refined, adjusted. Smaller, more precise servos in the gun mount fine-tune the angle. Return, refine, adjust.

Microscopic changes to the intensity of the magnetic field in the barrel fine-tune the round's initial trajectory by milliseconds of arc.

Return. Refine. Adjust.

Nanovolts are robbed from one circuit, applied to another. Tracking computer predicts >99% probability that the round will no longer intersect the target's current trajectory.

Return.

Adjust.

Fire.

Target velocity - 3,112.1617m/s. Target distance - 18,004.91415 meters. Target trajectory a complicated relative motion vector in three dimensions.

Tracking computer evaluation: <0.01% probability of hit.

The round has left the breech, 25% of the way along the firing coil, gaining kinetic energy.

Adjust.

50%.

Adjust.

75%.

Adjust.

Adjust.

Round leaves the barrel with a muzzle velocity of 0.11C.

Tracking computer evaluation: 3.07% probability of hit.

The target adjusts speed by 0.0022 m/s, adjusts vector by X<+0.001 radians, Y -0.362 radians, Z by -1.18 radians.

Energy flare. Tracking computer retroactive evaluation – >99% probability target hit.

Gravimetric tactical sensor return. Evaluation: Target well hit. Hull breached.

Radiation flare. Target warp drive loses power.

Target warp bubble implodes. Target destroyed.

New target command accepted. Aiming.

Calculating preliminary firing solution.

Return.

Refine.

Adjust.

Adjust.

Adjust.

Fire.