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The Truth Is Out There (Dashal Vance)

Moira Skaldi

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@[member="Dashal Vance"]

It was at an ungodly late hour, yet Moira Skaldi, head of Military Intelligence in the Omega Protectorate, had found cause to be in her office, stark and sterile, though the neatly polished desk was by now overflowing with datapads and filmsi reports. The boss never slept, so the saying went, and she expected the same of her minions, to function as cogs in a well-oiled machine. The complex was located Underground far beneath the surface of Fondor, in fact it was a bunker, so not even moonlight fell into the room.

The Protectorate and the Republic were still reeling from the destruction of Rhommamool and Osarian. Ironic considering how tensions between both empires had been boiling over. For now at least they had a common tragedy that might bring them together, something to potentially unite them. Perhaps.

Two worlds vaporised, millions of innocent beings dead, undoubtedly not an accident, but the work of a third party. The question was to what end? To incite war between both nations, perhaps. If yes this might not be the end, but the start of a series of terror attacks. Residues of darkside energy discovered in particles...Sith sorcery. Moira had a few answers and theories. Not all had been revealed to her superiors. After all, knowledge was power.

No doubt many words could be used to describe the situation, but Moira had one term that in her eyes applied to it, namely 'intriguing'. She idly tapped a pen against her desk as flicked through the file on a very specific subject, an individual who would be of use to her. Whether he wanted or not. Willing would be more desirable, but it was not a necessity. Tracking him down and getting leads on him had not been easy, he was good, she had to give him that. Of course, otherwise she would not be investing her time in this.

Jericho, also called Ivan Bliminse. Undoubtedly both were aliases. But then Moira had many names as well.

A slicer sticking it to the powers that be by airing their dirty laundry across the holonet. There was a part of Moira, buried beneath steel, that could appreciate such daring. The part of her that could still be considered human, but then when she looked back it felt like she was trying to recall a dream and it only yielded blurry images and flashes. Since she was not the introspective sort she seldom bothered. She was accessing an S-stream through her computer to send a transmission, which was sent encoded by the encryption programme. She was certain that the decoding programme would only be available to this 'Jericho' or someone as good as him. Either would be useful to her - and utility was what counted to her.

Back in the day Moira had lived in the twilight world of terrorists, rebels, slicers and holo-criminals. It had come in handy for the operation on Contruum. She had been known as Ruby, the terrorist with a religious verse on her lips, and she still had her contacts. She entered a password to run the encryption programme, granting her entry into the messaging system, so she started her message.

Ruby is calling

The Colt shot open Devil's Gate

A city of marble and a wretched village were consumed by Lucifer's light

Yellow-Eyes has taken the Impala

But the Illuminated know

They seek the Ring

Who wishes to go down the rabbit hole and be illuminated?

Gandalf gave the mandate to spread truth

The Righteous must gather

Thus the message was transmitted and disappeared from the screen.
It has been said that great minds think alike - and while Dash's mind was close to the processing power of an artificial data-matrix simulating sentient self-aware life, he was still a fleshy. The late Galactic Standard Hour was actually his prime-time, as most of the underground operated while the majority of the Galaxy slumbered on. Invading the minds and hearts of those willing to spend long hours staring at holo-screens until their retinas would need serious rehabilitation. For the Hapan though, it only warranted a pair of the industry leading standard of holo-shades, specifically designed to thwart the tired-eye syndrome of those entrenched in the holo-world. Sunk below the ground as well, the recesses of what he laughably called the Sarlac - Vance sat at his command station and went through dozens of screens, occasionally flicking them out of the way with a casual bat of his fingers before moving to the next one.

One foot kicked over the arm rest, while music of a heavy syncopated rhythm drummed out of various speakers resounded in his manclave. Tossing another small grape up and catching it in his mouth, while he flipped through a few news bulletins of holo-blogs he followed and commented on randomly. A lot of his own personal work involved a lot of reading - but it didn't often take long. Whatever Dash read, he understood, and whatever he understood he never forgot. His brain processed information at an alarming rate - and only the holo-net with it's endless streams of data could satisfy and cope with his need for constantly changing bits of information. Official news and unofficial rants of various holo-trolls ran across his visual while he picked out the most interesting pieces of information for a second look. The mood changed though as an alert popped on a monitored transceiver that he'd placed a piggy-back onto a while ago for discreet S-thread requests. Chatter across S-threads generally warranted some interest as it was supposed to be a private system. Privacy was a pipe dream unless you were really special.

The first two lines snapped Dash out of his relaxed state and drew him in close. Both feet planted on the floor as he rolled towards the console, and scrolled through the file before picking out key words and literally tossing them out of the phrasing to other view screens. Simultaneous searches warranted a host of images and chatter back and forth about two very cataclysmic events. It was not everyday that two planets died in the Galaxy - and never at the same time. He'd heard about, but he hadn't suspected it was worth much to him. You could do a lot with information, but he'd yet to figure a way to nuke two planets with data. He let it pass by no his radar until now. Until -her-. That single name; Ruby, caught his interest. She hadn't been seen in ages, not since he was far younger and just starting on this underground path.

"Look who came out of hiding. Let's see what you've got in store, and how many others think they're gonna cut in line." Dash mused as he began to light up the keys of his console with deft digits that effortlessly jabbed at the dozens of keys in order to transcode a reply, and engineer a way to jump ahead in line, and make his presence the only one worth mentioning, by eliminating all competition.

Within the space of ten standard minutes, thirteen bulletins came in on the same S-thread, racing back towards Moira's location and her watchful gaze. Each reply from a different recipient, but unfortunately every single one seemed to be incomplete. The sentences fractured, words misspelled, even entire letters missing. The thirteen replies slowly started getting deleted, character by character in a random and chaotic sequence. Soon out of all the thirteen replies, only a few letters remained for each, before the characters shifted position on the screen and converged into one line. The fourteenth reply to her missive flashed on the screen with a simple message.

The Sun is shining, but the Ice is slippery.
A few seconds later the response initiated a chat feature.

Mr. Emerald: Hello Ruby

@[member="Moira Skaldi"]

Moira Skaldi

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@[member="Dashal Vance"]

Moira's receiver beeped, the signal that the thirteen bulletins had arrived. Each of them from a different recipient, fractured and chaotic in nature, a pandaemonium of words and random characters before finally the remaining letters transmogrified into the fourteenth reply after the thirteen preceding ones had been deleted by her programme, all under Moira's intense scrutiny. She stared at the screen as the last and final reply manifested, gaze impassive.

For simple security she quickly ran a viral scan, several anti-viral programmes running after one another at breakneck speed because Moira was frankly a paranoid woman, along with a spyware programme. Her features remained impassive, no emotion betrayed her thoughts, but inwardly she was satisfied. Contact had been established at least, curiosity aroused. Now she had to keep him on the line and then lure him towards her. It would take time but she was patient, there were no vices, no passions that could distract her from the task at hand because she was efficient. Not because she had any love for the cause of the Protectorate or even cared about the innocent lives lost, but simply because that was what she was.

Countless screens continued displaying information for from various fields while this happened, she was quite adept at processing and holding information at an alarmingly fast rate, finding herself often frustrated with her minions' inability to keep up. The Galaxy was in flux, the wind of change was sweeping through it. She studied the protocols of the anti-viral programmes, which indicated that no virus had been discovered but several damaged files deleted. The spyware programme had moved an unknown file into quarantine, which she immediately erased.

The Sun is shining, but the Ice is slippery.

The Sun's rays are too weak to melt the Ice. But it might burst under pressure. Beneath you it devours.

The chat was opened and his response appeared before her eyes. Briefly there was a flash behind her eyes, a flare-up of electronics before they looked a human blue again.

Ruby: Hello Mr Emerald.

Ruby: I am out of twilight. I presume you want the truth. Two planets in the same system of two colliding great powers vaporised at the same time. This can be no coincidence. Curious?
On a few occasions, Dash had been dubbed as 'The Wizard' - and while it was a self proclaimed title, it wasn't undeserving. Hands moved back and forth shifting holo-screens around like he was conducting a symphony. News feeds echoed in, several screens popping up at once detailing the devastation from every conceivable angle. This was a tragedy that rocked the mid-rim, and caused quite a bit of stir. Still he had been avoiding it as he really didn't see potential gain from the destruction. Though when two worlds get destroyed and the term 'deathstar' is not uttered, other questions arise. Among them - who exactly wields a power great enough to do that, and what exactly was that power in the first place? There had only been two battle stations capable of that kind of destructive force - and both were destroyed long before his grandparents were crawling.

Whatever had come to pass during two 'warring powers' which meant only that factions were involved; that was undiscovered so far by his immediate intel. Granted digging could take some time, but if the data was put anywhere on the holo-net, it was just a matter of time before he'd isolate and pin-point that answer. Especially if it was hidden information, that was his favorite drug of choice; mystery. The chat feature blinked with Ruby's reply, and his newfound alias - the green to her red began to engage in the secure conversation.

Mr. Emerald: Echos on every stream and channel, but that you already knew. Question is, what don't you know, and how much is it worth to find out?

Dash personified various personalities on the holo-net. While in person he wasn't as intimidating or polished in his speech, on the holo-net he could be anyone, say anything, and claim any and every skill. There wasn't much in the way of covert breaches, and system security that he already didn't know or couldn't learn - so his prices were genreally rather steep. People didn't come to him unless they wanted something they couldn't get in other avenues. Though he wasn't at all aware that he was dealing with a HRD, that could read through his posts and decipher bytes of data faster than his own rig could. Still, if something or someone like that needed answers, perhaps there were even limits on droids themselves. Sometimes you just needed that sentient touch. If only Dash could of seen who he was talking to - touching might of been more prevalent on his mind.

@[member="Moira Skaldi"]

Moira Skaldi

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@[member="Dashal Vance"]

Power. That was the crux of the question. Who had the power to obliterate two worlds within the blink of an eye, without a large war fleet or a conventional superweapon supporting them? For without power one died. Life was perpetual struggle between life forms, though of course they liked to use fancy euphemisms to make themselves feel better and moral and vilify anyone who opposed them. The death of one man was a tragedy, the death of a million just a statistic. Moira had walked upon the ruined, radioactively contaminated surface of Donanyd once, the sight of an earlier holocaust now forgotten by so many, though the pyre had not even cooled yet.

Even as she read the message of holo feeds fed her with news and updates. The Galaxy did not sleep and so she did not. 'Mr Emerald's price would be high, but then he was good. Otherwise she would not bother having this conversation. His response was cryptic, probing for what she could offer, but this was to her liking as well, it showed capability. She dealt with enough trivial cogs in her office. Some humans had a special spark that made them worth keeping - one just needed to manage them properly and make them comprehend their place in things. She could try and trace him, but that would be such a crude move.

All for the cause...her cause. Presently her professional allegiance was, of course, to the Omega Protectorate, but Chaos was above that. Slowly but surely Ruby was coming out of the abyss to play.

Ruby: And the pyre of Donanyd still burns. You can be sure the reward will be worth it. I have employment to offer you. I am sure you will find it interesting. I'm sure you'll appreciate that specifics cannot be discussed over the net.
The cursor blinked on and off several times, as Dash mused over the reply. His thoughts set on the current situation, and the reports he was taking in from both his right and left side holo-screens displaying holo-net news feeds of the incident. Digits interlaced, pressing his chin while he narrowed teal eyes on the screen before him. How to proceed at this point was the determining factor if this job was going to be of enough interest to him. There were rumors of Ruby on the holo-net in the circles he ran in. Not much was known about her, which had his interest piqued. That however was changing as he started to piece things together, and had some to a rather solid conclusion that would ultimately determine if he was going to accept the offer. A shrug of his shoulders was offered as he slipped his hand out to the command counter, and slid off a holocade token flipping it end over end in the air before it landed on his fingerless gloved palm with a Sarlaac symbol embossed into the metal. Tails. He was in.

Mr. Emerald: I could be persuaded for a date. Do you prefer Fondor, or a non-capital planet?

He had just called Ruby out on the pieces of information she either knowingly or unknowingly had let slip. It wasn't a concrete notion, but the Omega Protectorate certainly had the most interest he could surmise form the planets that had been taken out. They had rested right on the edge of their territory, and then there was that slip of the virtual tongue, mentioning the 'pyre'. A former name for the larger than life faction that had expanded across the western hemisphere of the Galaxy. Currently Dash had no affiliation, and wasn't exactly the most interested party in joining a faction. Sure it might of given more resources, but Dash didn't lack in the department. Now the ball was in her proverbial court.

@[member="Moira Skaldi"]

Moira Skaldi

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@[member="Dashal Vance"]

Moira watched as the message appeared on her screen. He was a perceptive one, but that could be worked with. Fondor would not have been her choice anyway, too many eyes watching, too many departments eager to get their piece of cake any time a breakthrough was achieved. Besides, there was the possibility that she might have to get a bit more physical if there was difficulty persuading him - and not in the pleasurable sense. A Republic world, Osarian, had been destroyed by the cataclysm as well...but their intelligence seeemed to be fumbling in the dark more than hers. Which given her experience did not surprise her.

Ruby: Non-capital, we shall have privacy then. I suggest Abregado-rae.

It was true that Abregado was a Protectorate planet and close to the capital, but it was a minor world and it was a paradise for smugglers.
An interesting choice of venue. It certainly suited Dash, and he assumed that while Ruby was admittedly with the Omega Protectorate, that her more clandestine desires were influencing her choice in channeling through the holo-net to find a worthy contractor to pull of this data mining operation. Perhaps even this was not a sanctioned request by the Protectorate. Whatever the motivation behind that covert request for answers to her quandary, the plan suited him well enough. Though enough of this cat and mouse routine, as he only put up the pretense online, and rarely enjoyed playing cryptic long enough for it to become a routine. A final message sent through their secure connection was offered, long enough for her to read, and verify.

Mr. Emerald: Watch for my symbol at LoBue. Two days.

The connection severed and Dash sat back, relaxing back on his easy chair and flipping through more video feeds. Research would need to be done, and he'd get something on the books soon enough for his own need to know basis. Right now he wanted to know more about this Ruby, and dig into the rumors on the web. Mr. Emerald was a new moniker he'd just formulated on the spot, matching her own moniker. The rest of the night would be spent working on those two projects back and forth while listening to heavy thumping techno and snacking on dehydrated meat sticks.

Two Days Later : Date Night

LoBue Cantina
A waterway canal casino and bar stood tall as a mostly permacrete edifice with bright neon signs blazing on the front and rear of an over arching structure attracting the seedier neredowells of the Galaxy. Within it's port turbo lifts waited below for patrons to climb aboard and zip upwards to the five story structure that boasted a large open center stage and dance floor. Around the ring of four more stories were the various casino games and miniature bars. The larger bar rested at the top, overlooking the center stage and a main casino. Music thumbed down below, the chimes and ringing of the casino games echoed around the rings of floor activity. LoBue was certainly an attraction hot-spot and had more than enough activity tonight to make it a good covert place for a meet and greet. No one paid much attention to you unless you got in their way, which was never a brilliant move.

@[member="Moira Skaldi"]