A/N: Another crossover from me, now with collaboration with Sevoris from SB. Many thanks for all beta readers. Please enjoy and comment.
Oh, and OVERSHOT was underway. Don't worry.
"...massive incident of what experts are calling the "Infocrime coup of the century" as human hacking AIs were used to subvert banking systems citadel space-wide in a massive attack that must have been prepared for months…"
"...Advances in salarian augmentations, with Ovetes Enterprises announcing a new series of Salarian-issue "Cyberbrains" for the Consumer market later this year, promising a new series of advanced Eidetic Exocortex Memory Augmentations as the forefront of the new system…"
"...The question of how exactly the Citadel will deal with the increasing leakage of advanced and dangerous human technology into the galactic markets remains unclear. The Citadel Council recently assured a new solution is being worked on, but declined to name details…"
"...It is obvious we are looking at a new age of infocrime. And it is threatening everyone. "
The man took the call at the proverbial center of human space. His office's view gazed out onto the canyon of reflective glass, greenery growing down its sides from the round infinity of the sky beyond, the horizon curving up and about to be swallowed by the sky. Stanford 1 was a microcosm of the modern city: glass buildings, vertical gardens, greenery walls, skyscrapers and bright pastel walls under a holographic sky, squeezed into a 10-kilometer tube.
All this was perfectly replicated on a molded holographic screen that filled the offices round wall and part of the ceiling; the actual room was buried 50 meters inside a building complex that wrapped around one of the Torus structural beams through the center of the pressure body.
Aramaki liked the openness of the room for what it was worth; though he had grown up in the crampiness of Japan's earthen Megacities and seen his share of starship headquarters and tight space stations during his lifetime and career, the years in the colonies had kindled a fondness for open spaces, even if it was only a facsimile.
At the moment, though, his attention was not occupied with the world of glass, silver and green beyond the confines of his office, but the man whose head, upper torso and shoulders hovered in front of Aramaki's desk, projected there by the trigraphics system embedded into the table decorations, various pieces of the ceiling, and sunk into the walls.
"So what can I do for the System Alliance Military Intelligence Agencies Internal Security today?", Aramaki asked, friendly but wary under his apparently open face. Kubota did not call like this if the case wasn't urgent… and dirty.
"The short version?", Kubota asked. "We have an urgent leak that needs stopping and got about 24 hours before we lose more than water."
Aramaki fought a snort. "And you come with me with this because…?"
"Because the leak is a high-ranking official within the Office of Military Intelligence Systems and we can't shut down the leak legally… he's involved with foreign officials with diplomatic immunity."
"And you want Section 9 to go in and sanitize?"
"Yes. I know you can scramble one of your mission teams for a Black Ops on Earth within the hour. I'm sending you all our files and encrypted uplinks with One-time pads to you can keep your eyes and fingers within the system, but we have to stop this leak for good - And if I do this, I'll have to do it openly with Section 6 and we have both burned fingers and a big scandal on our hands."
"Transfer will be in a hotel complex at Singapore Groundport the next day in the evening. I take it you can handle this?"
"I can. I'll call you back."
"Thanks. I owe you one." Kubota looked openly relieved, his professional mask cracking. Aramaki took note. People like Kubota didn't lose their integrity openly like that for nothing.
"That you do. Have a nice evening." Aramaki closed the connection and watched the checklist running in the open as the quantum-encrypted end-to-end connection closed and disconnected. Kubota had pulled all the stops on this one - Quantum-encrypted transmission lines, a dedicated one-time pad, and a scrambled multi-packet connection that looped through various parts of the Extranet and the System Alliance Communication network between him and Aramaki's personal server at Section 9. The connection was anonymous, heavily encrypted, not stored, and ultimately deniable. Just as they both wanted. Aramaki valued sources like Kubota, men and women within the massive apparatus that was the System Alliance, feeding him critical info and political munition alike in return for favors like these. It made Aramaki job of keeping the Infosecurity of human and now also citadel space from the manifold forms of infocrime much easier at times, and gave Section 9 the working space it needed.
And now Aramaki was about to use that working space once again. He called up the trigraphic interface of his desk with a hand gesture, and directed it to the internal com system of Section 9. The quick-call section held the name he wanted in the first slot. He tapped it, and waited for the connection to establish itself. It opened with an affirmative digital tone: "Sir?" "Major, come to my office and ready your Mission Team for deployment. We have an urgent CASE BLACKLIGHT DELTA that needs fixing." "On my way Sir."
= Prologue - "Leakage" =
-| March 21st, 2232 |-
Public Security Section 9 was, on first glance, just another organization within the massive apparatus that was the System Alliance Government. The group occupied a single square inside of the Home Ministry organization chart, mostly standing out because it wasn't, unlike other Sections, subordinate to the Bureau of Home Security Operations, but stood in a little separate group with a few other Sections. Those in the know knew that even this was more an administrative formality - Section 9 was really only subordinate to the System Alliance Government itself, and that its leader Aramaki only spoke with one person very often - The Prime Minister of the System Alliance. Besides that, pretty much nothing was known about Section 9, outside of a small section on the sleek and polished System Alliance Home Ministry Information Page clarifying that Public Security Section 9 "deals with cyberterrorism and capital infocrime cases."
Togusa knew better now. He had heard of the secret innards of the System Alliance Intelligence community before - And had dealt with his share of ONI and MIS agents while working with Starpol, at times even received information from them. But Togusa had never shown much interest in the dark side of the System Alliance - His dedication was to catching those who broke the law, without breaking it himself. And as helpful and enticing it had seemed at times, he had never broken the law, gone through cases upright and with his morals intact - And built a reputation as a very good detective and morally uptight man. But it had also made enemies with those parts of Starpol that were less so, and Togusa found himself slowly but steadily being sidelined, having made made an enemy in high enough places somewhere along the way.
And then, one day, an old man - Japanese from the looks of it - had sat in Togusa's office at Starpol's Arcturus Headquarters, and made him an offer. He introduced himself as Daisuke Aramaki, Chief of Public Security Section 9. His second-in-command had requested Togusa for her team. When Togusa had asked why, Aramaki had answered with one word, her words not his, he had stressed: "Diversity."
The group assembling in High Security Meeting Room 03 was certainly diverse, Togusa reflected as he entered the room, a coffee mug in hand.
"Look who's coming," greeted Batou.
"Afternoon, big guy,"Togusa replied with a grin.
Batou grinned back. A former Alliance Army Rangers, his very notable feature was a pair of Leupold M15A3 Integrated Visual Systems, making him capable of seeing in multiple spectrums of light. It also gave him the appearance of wearing a pair of goggles in place of normal eyeballs, earning him the nickname 'Sleepless Eyes' by his colleagues back in his Army days. A jack-of-all trades, he was capable of doing all tasks given by Chief Aramaki, although he was not as capable as other specialist, except for one thing: Endurance. No one in the Section was as capable of stakeout and reconnaissance as Batou in his bad day. And he could do it in weeks. A big and burly man, his Fuji Heavy Industries Type 10 Skeletal Systems Shell was currently wearing his beloved bomber jacket, jeans and a pair of suede boot to match.
With a nod to his right, Togusa took his seat between Ishikawa and Batou. At 60 years of age (not that it was showing), Ishikawa was the second oldest member of the Section, after Aramaki. A veteran of First Contact War, he was involved in the Retaking of Shanxi. He also was one of the first Cyberwarfare specialists that were exposed to Turian network architecture. Today he looked tired with his beard unkempt and his brown cardigan ruffled.
"Pulling an all-nighter again?" queried Togusa.
"Yeah, the attack vectors of the Defense Ministry Data Retrieval Hack from a week ago are still largely unidentified. The punks who designed the mainframe architecture ought to be lined up and shot. Their software was a fucking joke. Buggy Defense APIs all around and no AGI support to patch it. Only TWO barriers between the Net access and the NetDefSec servers, no single hardware interlock. The attackers could wipe the Black Box data simple, and left us with nothing to track and fix the exploit. Fucking cheapest developer shit."
"That serious." Togusa silently hoped Ishikawa wouldn't launch into one of his exhaustion-fueled, hour-long rants.
"Yeah". Ishikawa immersed himself in his laptop again, burning a hole into the OLED screen with his two tired, bloodshot eyes, grabbing an open Alliance OptiBoost energy drink from the table.
Well, today's his cranky day, Togusa thought, and leaned back in his chair, nursing the cup of coffee.
With the hiss of the security doors, another group arrived and took their seat at the briefing room. After exchanging greetings, Saito, Borma and Paz took their seat in front of them on the other side of the conference table.
Saito was a former Blue Suns mercenary hired by Aramaki under… unusual circumstances. His close-cropped hair revealed a scar that ran parallel to his hairline and his Hawkeye Sniper Assist System gave the appearance of him wearing an eyepatch on his left eye. The device, the implanted optical package of a full ballistic fire control system, connected directly to satellites deployed by the Office of Naval Intelligence, or other Spotter assets, to give him an optimal firing solution when snipping. As a veteran Blue Suns, he sported a Suns tattoo at his chest, exposed by his shirt.
Borma, another "big guy" in the team, sported similar augmentation as Batou, as it was standard with the Alliance Army 455th Rangers. His augmentation came with a different version however, flatter and bulkier, hardened against shock. Borma's version were specialized versions of an SA-standard EOD kit - The full-body augmentation wouldn't tank a mass driver cannon round, but he could survive a hefty amounts of bullets and shrapnel, even for a full-body Cyborg. As standard in Alliance EOD training, he too was trained as a hacking expert, and thus was assigned to assist Ishikawa whenever he could.
Paz had, like Saito, a unique history. Before joining Section 9, Paz served with the Alliance Army Military Police - Despite being a member of Sicilian Mafia. Aramaki had used that fact to hire Paz into Section 9. Having a connection with the underworld in general, and La Cosa Nostra in particular, Paz had proven valuable when the investigation involved or required the shady elements of society to solve - A depressingly common occurrence. Paz' background also taught him... numerous "advanced" interrogation techniques and hand-to-hand fighting. You could bring anyone into a same room with him, and he'd make the target sing a perfect choir song with his Bowie knife. Even Krogan. Togusa suppressed a shudder. He had only seen Helmet camera recordings of the incident, but he did not want to know where Paz had acquired the skills required to break Krogan though the application of pain. From his time at StarPol Togusa had met more than one krogan, and found them very hard to break - And utterly resilient to anything that wasn't an Anti-Cyborg weapon.
"What's the scuttlebutt about your daughter again?"
"Huh?" Togusa turned his head towards Batou. "Oh, yeah, Kat. Nothing to worry about, just her application to high school."
"Why is that?"
Ishikawa chimed in, still staring at his screen: "Because the school apparently tried to classify the kids based on their parents wealth. Turns out they discriminate on wealth and position. I didn't know that practice even done by a Citadel-based school, nevermind an Asari one at that."
"Well, as other peoples said, the more things change, the more they stay the same." Batou concluded.
"Oh, it's not just that. Those yokels apparently tried to access Togusa's classified records." Batou's head flipped around, his expression saying Are you kidding me? Ishikawa nodded, looking up from his screen for a moment. "Yes, they actually tried. They only got the 'official' version though. Our boy here", Ishikawa reached over and padded Togusa well-meaning on the back, "is just your run-of-the-mil inter-organization liaison officer with a good government paycheck." He winked with one eye.
Borma became interested to the conversation: "So what's the school your daughter apply again?"
"Askatis Academy," Togusa sighed. "If not because that school was the best near my wife's workplace, I'm damn well wouldn't do it. It's just too big a hassle."
After Togusa's wife Saori got her job as a researcher in an Alliance's lab in Tayseri Ward on the Citadel, their children were staying with her there. Togusa's hectic lifestyle just make it almost impossible for him to take care of his teenaged son and daughter. Only during the weekend or his off day that Togusa went home with the family, taking one of the private transport shuttles the Alliance provided between Arcturus and the Citadel.
"Well, perks for being a father I guess." Batou smirked and patted Togusa's shoulder. Togusa sighed again.
"Speaks for yourself, Batou," Paz lighted his cigarette, his hint of a smile lit by the fire of the Zippo: "Who's gonna take care of Gabriel this time again?"
"OH COME ON!" The rest of the group laughed.
Batou's own Basset Hound was always the point of contention in the group. One of the rarest cloned dog breeds, Gabriel required exorbitant amounts of care, moreso because more than once in awhile Batou and the rest of the team were off Arcturus for a week or more on Field Operations. However the group agreed it was better that Batou at least used his money on something worthwhile rather than blowing his paycheck on totally useless things like his weight training equipment - Batou's prosthetics experienced neither atrophy nor build-up, and thus did not care about being exercised like biological muscle; if anything his insistence on using the weights only resulted in increased maintenance on the mil-spec limbs. Batou's response when someone brought this fact up was a grumble of indignation. He liked the feeling of his muscles working, even if it was only the Body Image Feedback interface of his Shell and not actual flesh and bone doing work instead of the strands of synthetic muscle fiber over alloy bones.
"Maybe we should ask the Old Ape if we can get a Mobile Dog Unit with us on OP", Borma suggested, his voice heavy with mirth, cracking the obligatory joke. "No Biomorphs permitted in the Cargo Section, you forget that?", Paz crackled, then switched his voice, trying to immediate Aramaki: "And we will not be retrofitting every of our Spacecraft with a Dog enclosure." Everyone suppressed a grin, Saito rolling his good eye and Batou crossing his arms before cracking a half-smile.
"So, anyway…" Togusa was thrown out of the smalltalk when an AR Token popped up in his vision. The Briefing Room had posted a standard Information Package into the local Mesh, informing someone was authenticating themselves at the Security Console outside. The wooden door began opening with a Clonk! of unlocking bolts, revealing the armored bulkhead hidden underneath.
Major Kusanagi stepped through first, a small portable Data crystal in one hand; Aramaki entered behind her. Togusa noted the serious expression on both faces; Aramaki, Togusa thought with some shock, looked even more grim and serious than he usually did.. Major Kusanagi had her usual game face on; a face bordering on that of a low-quality Android. Togusa had noted this quirk about the female full-body Cyborg early on - Her body language was very controlled, especially when she was being serious, and the Major lacked many of the "living" quirks human faces had. He had no idea what caused that quirk;- the Major's body was far too well-constructed to explain away the lack of facial motor control. Nobody build bleeding-edge androidal shells for Special Forces and then skimped out on the facial capabilities.
Kusanagi walked straight to the front of the conference table and hit two keys on the trigraphic interface there; the tessellated OLED panels in the ceiling dimmed down to plunge the room into darkness, and around them the walls seemed to recede into black infinity. With an off-hand motion the data crystal was slotted into a recess, where it was drawn in and covered by a thin hatch. The wrap-around Holographic Wall Screen and the trigraphic space over the conference table came alive with a voluminous dot grid as the briefing package loaded.
[ 1835 Hours 40 Seconds Arcturus Time | March 21st 2232 ]
[ Section 9 Mission Team Alpha-01 | High Security Conference/Briefing Room 03 ]
[ Operations Briefing OPERATION BLIND LILLY - Major Motoko Kusanagi briefing ]
[ SECURING CONFERENCE ROOM ]
Togusa's network connection cut out abruptly as the briefing room shut down its outside connections and activated its jammers. Besides him, Ishikawa jolted in his chair, apparently so immersed in his work that the cut-off had caught him by surprise; he made a strangled sound under his beard. Really cranky today if he forgets to save and log out.
[CONFERENCE ROOM SECURE. BRIEFING MAY COMMENCE. ]
Motoko Kusanagi looked throughout the room, making eye contact with everyone and ensuring she had their attention, then spoke:
"Alright people, listen up! We've been made aware of a potential leak from Military Intelligence about fifteen minutes ago. A high ranking official with the Defense Ministries Office of Military Intelligence Systems will be handing over classified AI Software code and System Logs to a Citadel official in about twenty-four hours from now."
"Shit, AI code?" remarked Batou. "Damn, that OMIS brass sure has balls to hand that over so easily. Gotta be greased with a big payout."
"Or got honey trapped really well", Paz contributed.
She went on without commenting. "The transfer will occur at a hotel megaplex at Singapore Groundport, Penthouse level. This is the target." Several images of a Hispanic man in his visual fifties appeared on the briefing room screen - one an official file portrait, the other a high-resolution camera image shot in a richly decorated hallway, talking with two other people as they walked towards the Camera. His bio and general appearance framed the images.
"Juan Carlo Martinez, Commodore, Alliance Navy. Served with ONI before transferring to OMIS Luna HQ. It should be obvious why he's hot. He's in contact with this man." Martinez file zoomed to the side, making space for a second file: This time it was a salarian, in his visual mid-20s, with green-blue skin. The image was a high-resolution security image shot in the lobby of a building, the violet skies of the Serpent Nebula visible beyond the windows. "Hendal Wim. Citadel Alliance Representative at the Citadel Economic Development Foundation in Malaysia. Believed to have ties with the STG. He and Martinez are assumed to have been acquainted during Martinez' stint as a 'Legal Officer' at the Alliance Embassy on the Citadel."
"Sanitize?" Saito asked, eyeing the images, his remaining eye flickering over the details, taking in identifying cues.
"Yes. We'll be using Emergency Mobilization Loadout 2, departing within the hour aboard In Shadow Waiting for the Singapore Geo-Highport, undercover. No official trace."
"Err; we're neutralizing both, Major?" Batou asked, grinning.
"With the material as well", she confirmed. "We have to ensure nothing gets out of that meeting intact enough for a useful recovery. Collateral damage is secondary."
The Major returned from the wall of the conference room and approached the conference table. With a haptic motion she grabbed a trigraphic blue cube off the Readers trigraphic interface, and "threw" it into the center of the Conference room. The cube stopped in the center of the table, sinking down onto the surface and unfolding its sites, blossoming into digital lines in a small digital render effect.
The transparent holographic rendering of a cityscape blossomed on the table, gaining in fidelity and details with every second. At the center of the table rested a large, fat skyscraper, one solid fife-sided lower segment branching into two upper towers, with two surfaces angling towards the center at the base of the upper two towers. A set of "panels" was pierced through by the two top towers like by two pincers, apparently Air car garages among other things. At its base it melded into a larger superstructure from which three other similar towers of varying geometry also stabbed towards the sky.
"The Hilton Singapore Groundport Megaplex Tower 4 - the site of the meeting. Specifically, the west side penthouse facing." On her cue, the volumetric render closed in on the western angled face of the tower, orange holographic lines imposing themselves over the photorealistic render of the facade, highlighting floors and suites. One particular set of rooms at the base of the angled face was highlighted, orange lines and surfaces sketching out an impressive hotel suite with a large meeting room on the lower floor behind the glass facades.
"Penthouse Suite 0632. Two stories, living and meeting room on the lower floor where we presume the meeting will take place. Major Security features: bulletproof glass class IV-A, reinforced doors, building safety kinetic barriers, up-to-date building security systems. No obvious security solutions otherwise - all very likely to evade the attention of the AIA."
"Those aircar terraces above look perfect as an abseiling assault point", Batou remarked, pointing with one finger.
A smile played around The Major's lip for a moment: "It is. There's a maintenance level below the first garage, two stories of support and outside catwalks."
"Sniper positions?", Saito asked. "I know you'll want to get in close and personal to ensure their brains are ventilated and the stacks crushed, but overwatch is pretty much a necessity for his guards", he thumbed halfway over his shoulder to the portrait of Hendal Wim. He turned towards the table and spoke up: "Zoom out and show good overwatch sniper Positions for Suite 0632." The trigraphic did as desired, zooming the surrounding skyscrapers and the Skyways into view, and highlighting four positions on the faces of two nearby skyscrapers. "Fork off all four positions as trigraphs for detailed review.", he commanded. The system did as requested.
"In the meantime", the Major continued, "Ishikawa and Borma, I want you two working on infosec and a good dataflague. No traces in any local networks. We're going in total black, and we're going out total black."
She turned to Batou and Togusa. "You two will be on vehicle and Overwatch duty together with Ishikawa. Vehicles will be supplied by our Southeast Asian Division, so only pack our custom stuff and the associated racks. Also, get working on alternative EVAC plans. I'd expect everything to go smooth but we cannot be traced by anyone or pursued by anyone. Got it?"
"Got it., the three responded and got to work on their own corner of the table.
"Borma, I want you to work out how we get a nanobaric warhead into that suite. I don't want anything recoverable in there to survive the OP."
"Got it, Major. Only problem is, any form of deniable explosive we've got won't go through the windows - armor-piercing and burnable composite don't exactly go together."
"Any ammo that can't be traced to us?"
"Only if you're willing to go with normal Thermobaric instead of NTB."
"No", she shook her head. "ScatterBug to open the window for the NTB?"
Borma nodded thoughtfully, calling up the specifications of the hotel windows. "That should do it."
"Good. Then let's use that." She turned to the room at large. "Any red flags at this point? Final planning can be done on the flight to Earth and in the safehouse we'll have there." Everybody shock their heads as her eyes flicked from one to the next. "Good. Then let's get moving, load L2 and what we discussed, and plan in for alternatives so we aren't caught flat-footed. That concludes this briefing", Kusanagi touched the trigraphic controls and extracted the Data crystal. The trigraphic and the wall screen graphics collapsed, and the lights dimmed back up. "The In Shadow Waiting is already warming up for departure. We pack up and leave in an hour." With that, she left the room.
"A final word, If I may." Aramaki final stepped forward from his position by the door. "I know this mission seems very hasty and, to the newer of our members, also questionable. Let me assure you that this mission was a request of a close friend of mine whom I trust, and that this mission will not have repercussions for us. Especially if you all do your jobs. Now, good luck and godspeed to you all."
With that, Aramaki left the briefing room as well. Togusa threw a glance at Batou behind him - The reply was a grin: "Don't worry. The Chief knows what he's doing. And this isn't our first shadow rodeo either."
"Thanks for the assurance." I guess, Togusa added silently.
SAAF Office of Public Affairs
The Organisations of the System Alliance Military
Office of Military Intelligence Systems
The Office of Military Intelligence Systems is part of the Bureau of Military Systems and Technologies, and supervises all the AI and VI used by the System Alliance Armed Forces - From the LAIs installed in modern armor components over our AGI-driven robotic forces to the Artificial Super Intelligences that handle the SAAFs strategy, forecasting, and logistics - The AI systems and codelines, their procurement, inspection and servicing are all handled by the OMIS.
If you are interested in more details about the OMIS structure, its responsibilities, its code of ethics and handling of sentient AIs, or are interested in details about our AI systems, the OMIS public information page provides this and much more information for you.
AGI: Artificial General Intelligence, sapient AI with transhuman interlect, and full heuristic purview, able to perform any transhuman neurological and heuristical task.
ASI: Artificial Superintelligence. A (sapient) AI with greater-than-transhuman interlect and heuristical capability.
Groundport: In the transorbital/interface logistics chain, the Groundport is the terrestrial counterpart to the orbital Highport - Handling interface shipping by transatmospheric vehicle, mass driver, or space elevator. In the case of the Singapor Groundport, the base anchor of an equatorial "Skyline" space elevator complex.
LAI: Limited Artificial Intelligence, Sub-AGI limited-purview AIs with transhuman-like heuristical capabilities in their area of expertise. Non-sapient. Workhose of heuristical software and transhuman society. Comparable to very sophisticated VI networks in performance.
MIS: Military Intelligence Service
OSI: Office of Space Intelligence
ScatterBug: An eezonic device, used to destroy modern diamonoid or other windows that cannot be shattered by convenrtional sonic resonance.
TITAN/CERBERUS: Systems Alliance Cyberdefense ASI; Cluster of the TITAN system.
Trigraphics: Three-dimensional volumetric projection technology, creating so-called Trigraphs. Unlike, holograms, which create the illusion of depth on a projection medium, Trigraphics are perfectly volumetric - As long as sufficient clear raypaths remain from the projectors to the projector volume, a problem side-stepped by sorounding the projection space with hundreds of individual projectors, making image disruption impossible.