"That was our employer." Chalk informed the group. "Most resourceful..." His voice trailed off as he made the statement. The pearlescent sword in his hand was still dripping blood from his victim, almost forgotten as just another limb not currently in use. It's blade shimmered with a material identical to that of the angel on the pommel, like a pearl though it's doubtful one had ever been created by nature which would fit those dimensions.
"We've been commended on our performance and given the next step in our mission."
As he went on to brief the others he absently cleaned the blade and return it to it's sheath. Once more the device became an innocent walking stick.
He told them of a company called TriTech, once based in Moscow but now headquartered in Sweden, which has technology the group's employers need. It's up to them to secure this technology.
There was a problem, though. Most of TriTech's resources have been moved off world into an orbiting space station. To find this, the group will have to go through a TriTech executive to learn what they need.
A target for that had already been named. Heinrich Stuttman. He could be found at a bar called Big Eden, and the group was to pick him up there for questioning.
"Diana, I'd like you to lure him to a safe location where he may be interrogated. During this, Klemmer, you work on setting up a hit on his office. Don't go in until you get the word from me, though, because I'll risk the additional exposure only if Stuttman turns out to be a dead end. In that case, I want you poised and ready to strike at a moments notice.
"Kellinger, same thing for you on a physical insertion of his residence. When the word comes in, strike hard and fast. Find whatever you can and bring it back here... by the way, I've also been informed that this is our new base."
He didn't give any time for that statement to sink in before continuing.
"Bring everything you find back here for Klemmer to decode and we'll move after that is completed. For now, we secure the base and clean it of all these unholy abominations."
He indicated a hanging cloth on the wall featuring the infamous six-pointed "Star of David", lifting the small tapestry with the tip of his cane.
"I'll have no subversive symbols around while we are operating," Chalk stated. " Sweep the structure, kill all remaining personnel, tag and inventory all resources, collect all religious icons for disposal.
"Gisele, you're with Klemmer. Find the computer room and take over. Kellinger, go with Diana and dig out all of the base's secrets. Find anything and everything."
Diana listened to what Chalk proposed in getting the target. She had done those kind of things before, and hated it. It had always left her feeling ..... dirty almost.
She took a deep breath, letting it out slowly.
"No problem here. I can lure him outside, where do you want to take him at?" she asked. "I do have an old, beat up looking van that would be perfect. Does this guy have any bodyguards? Does he carry any weapons? Or, did you what me to slip something into his drink, and 'help' him out of the place, and take him then? Playing the slut isn't a problem. It's the taking of him after I get him out that can be tricky," she said.
"T-t-t-team work," interjected Ed. "If you c-c-c-can g-g-g-get him out, w-w-w-we c-c-c-can t-t-t-t-take him."
Diana smiled at that.
"Oh, trust me, getting him out is no problem." she says with a chuckle and an evil smile.
"That is no problem at all. It's the other part that can be tricky, especially if he has a bodyguard or something like that around. Then, things can be very tricky."
She then turned her attention to Chalk. She took a piece of paper and wrote down a price <40k>, and slid it to him.
Chalk frowned at the figure but accepted it, crumpling the paper absently.
"The van sounds perfect." Chalk acknowledged. "And how you get him out will depend on what our research shows."
"Actually, Kellinger, I want you monitoring his residence. Diana and I will be conducting the interrogation while Klemmer stands ready to invade his office through the net. If we decide the target does not have what we want, or is not willing or able to give it up you'll search his place.
"I want this done fast, before his company can get wind of what's happening. If they realize one of their top men have gone missing, they'll figure all of his data is compromised. They'll lock down his office systems and boost security at his home."
"I assume he'll have bodyguards, but that's something we'll have to find out through research. That, plus his home address."
"I assume that won't be a problem, Klemmer?"
After everyone gave their reports, Chalk once more began to hand out assignments in securing their new base as he temporarily put aside plans for their next mission.
"If this is going to be our new home," he sneered, "We need to do something about security. It took us, a crew of five people, probably less than a minute to take over. That will not happen again.
"Silber, you'll be in charge of security. Go over the place and let me know what enhancements need to be made. I want us locked tight, and if anyone has suggestions make them through her.
"Klemmer, take a look at the computer system and report back on its capability. I need to know if upgrades are required.
"Everyone else, split up and clean the place out. Get rid of everything the old owners had and make room for your own stuff. You don't have to bunk here if you don't want to, but be prepared to use this place as a bolt hole if you have to. Spare equipment, emergency medical facilities and arms lockers. Bring in whatever personal items you need to make your stay comfortable just in case.
"Anything you find that might be of strategic importance bring to me, however. I'm talking about diaries, contact lists and communication records. We might end up going against other cells in this organization in the future and I think we can count on them calling on us at some point so I want to be prepared.
"When we're ready, we'll start to move against Herr Stuttman."
In a quick fashion, Ed started to clear the areas. He put items in piles as they ascertain to what was asked for. He did this all quietly and efficiently.
It did not take long for him to have a few of the rooms cleared and re-organized.
Once all areas have been sanitized and swept, Ed departed and returned with a lone military style duffel bag. He took a small, sparse room and set up his space. Pillow, sleeping material, and a duffel bag were the only things that mar the bleakness of his room.
Chalk meant to go over each pile when he had time. The religious and personal items would be burned, everything else were to be taken care of as needed.
Gisele nodded in agreement to Chalk, then glanced intently toward Klemmer. After a moment of silence, she nods, and ushers him on toward the computer room.
Performing the sweep as asked, she first made sure Klemmer was secure in the computer room. She insisted on walking in front of him, only letting him pass after she'd checked the surrounding rooms. It was mildly annoying, but at least she wasn't leading him by the hand like a small child. She was apparently taking her job as Klemmer's bodyguard very seriously.
She suggested to Chalk that redundant security systems be installed over the current, so that if the first is tampered with, the second will sound, and vice-versa. She also commented on the strength of the doors and locks, and made recommendations for repair and replacement as necessary.
She fetched some personal belongings only after being assured that the others will keep adequate watch. She returns with a small suitcase and what looks like a black art portfolio, and begins making her room livable, if spartan.
Chalk noted all of the equipment asked for by Gisele and suggested extending the camera perimeter. The group had been able to get all the way to the front door without being noticed. That wasn't good at all.
After receiving their instructions, Frederick turned to ask Chalk a question.
"What about the Slave unit? It seems to only be able to communicate via uncoded radio transmissions, and expects you to issue it's instructions."
Once able, Frederick examined the level of damage to his Cyberdeck, hoping there would be none. Fortunately, it seemed fine. Once satisfied, he examined the contents and security level of the machines on the local network and the machine attached to the 'Net. Noting everything of interest he downloaded a directory listing of all machines and moved on to the weapons automation systems and other communications equipment. The most surprising thing, though, was when he volunteered to examine the Slave unit for damage and capabilities.
Once things started to resemble a sort of normalcy, Ed took out the paper that his new boss handed him earlier. He looked at the figure on it. He knew that money was needed, but he really didn't know what he needed. Food, equipment, minor necessities; that was all he needed. Former employers never gave him money. He just ran an expense account. Of course, they provided him with everything else. A place to stay, medicines and doctors, training, you name it he got it. All he had to do was ask Butler for it.
When Chalk was less busy, Ed approached. "I w-w-w-will requ-qu-qu-quire 35,000 a j-j-j-job. I w-w-w-will do w-w-w-what ever j-j-j-job you n-n-n-need. If I f-f-f-feel I have enough m-m-m-money, I m-m-m-might l-l-l-leave you. I w-w-w-will t-t-t-tell you w-w-w-when th-th-th-that happens. I d-d-d-do requ-qu-qu-quire f-f-f-food and n-n-n-necessities at the m-m-m-moment, s-s-s-so a s-s-s-slight advance is a-a-a-asked f-f-f-for at this m-m-m-moment. S-s-s-say 1,000?"
With very little experience in negotiating like this, Ed only hoped it was taken.
"That sounds acceptable," commented Chalk.
Soon, other members of Chalk's new team took the cue and began turning to thoughts of pay.
At one point during the inventory and cleanup process of the new bases of operations, Frederick handed Chalk a piece of paper in passing.
"I think you'll find my rates very reasonable."
The hacker then walked off without another word.
Frederick, careful to keep outside terrorist cells from being alerted to potential hacking of this cell, made certain there was no hard wired connection to the Net active. Since the base was underground, Frederick hoped that would block any possible wireless transmissions. Crouching over his cyberdeck, directly connected to it through his A/V visor, he appeared to manipulate the machine. Identifying and cracking coded data was never a quick process, but after a while, the amazingly thin man smiled in success.
The Hacker finished analyzing the data and reported to Chalk. He seem to be having mixed emotions.
"Herr Chalk, The only information was about the Slave Unit. If they ever had any older information, they'd already offloaded it and wiped it from the system."
"According to the terrorists' files, the Cyborg had an identity and a family before being seized by the State and sold to a corporation called Krupp Aerospace. She was a Jewish housewife living in the eastern portion of the Ukraine, and had a husband and three kids. The husband and children manage to escape the SS when they came."
Frederick nearly spat venom at the mention of the SS. It would have been obvious to the least observant that he disliked the Secret Police.
"Apparently, this cell had planned on making a career of liberating enslaved peoples."
Strangely, Frederick showed an equal amount of dislike for the terrorists.
"Their data on Slave suggested that she had been completely mind-wiped and reprogrammed. She was once an active and intelligent human being. The terrorists had hoped to retrain her over time to give her memories and self-will back. However, their tests indicate that she had been corrupted by a Slave Soft virus at some point in her history. Her real name was erased from the data bases and they had hoped to learn more from a planned contact with her husband two weeks from now, in Odessa."
"Her systems seem to carry the make and model of Krupp Aerospace, but the terrorists had found signatures of Heer military programmers in some of the software they had found with her. The terrorists also recorded that they believed there was something out of the ordinary about the Slave Soft program she was infected with. Something more than the usual, but they didn't have time to finish their study."
Frederick's attitude did an about face when he started talking about the involvement of the Heer. It became almost reverent.
"Good enough." Chalk told him. "Go see what you can dig up on Stuttman while we finish setting up the base.
"Is there anything you need? Special foods, equipment or handicap access?"
Frederick suddenly flew into a rage. Pushing the much stronger Chalk with all his might, he didn't even budge the larger man.
"I'm not handicapped! If you ever call me handicapped again, or even imply as much, I'll strip you of your identity! There will be no record of your existence anywhere! All your accounts will be closed and your travel papers will be invalidated! I am Aryan, and a loyal citizen of the Fatherland! How dare you even imply that I am somehow less than perfect!"
Then a truly spooky thing happened. Frederick smiled. In an instant, he had returned to his genuinely good mood that was so pleasant to be around.
And when he spoke again, all traces of the rage that had been there just a moment before were completely gone.
"I should have Stuttman's location in short order."
He then returned to his new systems room with a spring in his step.
Chalk's hand remained where it was after the first instant of the emotional explosion, wrapped around the pommel of his cane. Realizing, though, that the smaller man was no threat either to him or his already absent electronic presence he let the hacker tirade.
A look of confusion stayed on his face after he was once more alone.
"That was not good..." He mutters to himself.
Chalk eventually followed Frederick back to his workstation before asking, "You're absolutely sure you found nothing else on the cell's system, Herr Datenwolf?"
"Hunh???" It seemed like at first Frederick didn't know what Chalk was talking about. Then he calmly reported.
"There was some music, some videos, and I deleted the pornographic smut they had. Such decadence. They barely deserve to be called people. It is their hypocrisy that makes them inferior to the Aryan Nation. But, no, no other useful information."
The Hacker who was sitting at the forth computer, now sported a calm, business-like demeanor.
"I'll let you know if I find anything on this system. Plus I'll look for Stuttman at the same time."
"You do that." Chalk said in low tones, his bloody eyes reflecting the electronic light of the computer room. "And I'd advise you not to keep secrets from me. I'd hate for something bad to happen to the group because I was under informed.
"And I'd hate it even more if someone stole from this group. We each share risks equally and deserve to be rewarded equally."
He then turned and left the room, long cane tapping rhythmically as he walked.
As Chalk left the room, Frederick stared at him with a highly puzzled look on his face. As if to say, "What was that about?"
Before work began on the base, Chalk formed a list of needed supplies and ask for suggestions as to necessities. After compiling a significant list with the help of other members of the team, Chalk set out to purchase the stuff while the others continued to finish work on moving into and fixing up their new base.
Gisele had already made her suggestions to Chalk. Increased security, a small repair/maintenance facility. She had been quiet ever since Slave had been found. After setting up her room in a fairly sparse manner, the only real signs of decadence were her clothes and a plain wooden easel. The painting resting there was half-finished; a pastoral scene of a grassy riverbank, populated by a refined lady and gentleman of the 17th or 18th century. It was painted with some skill, but not truly exceptional.
Gisele had taken to occasionally sneaking peeks at Slave, sometimes staring for minutes on end. The glances were varied. Sometimes passive, or pensive, or even resentful.
Gisele tried several times to get the cyborg to communicate with her, asking what her name was several times.
For her part, Slave had remained utterly inanimate since rising and responded with an automatic, "//Unit Slave/04143//" but after the third answer, Slave ceased responding.
When Gisele's inquiries no longer received a response from Slave, Frederick will responded via his own transceiver. //We don't know who she is. And, while we may have an opportunity to find out, why would you want to know? She is a Slave. Sold to a corporation by the Reich. Though, since it was the SS that sold her, I'm in no hurry to return her.//
Gisele watched Slave, who was motionless, for a minute more. She then transmitted to Frederick.
//I don't care who *it* is. It was the Reich who made it, and the Reich who sold it. ... It just intrigues me, that's all.//
She turned on her heel and left Slave behind, heading back to her own room.
Diana, too, had contributed to Chalk's shopping list, especially in the area of security.
Diana silently watched, as one machine tried to talk to another. She thought it rather ironic. Here Giselle was a machine, just like the one in front of her, only she was of a higher level. She felt sorry for the "slave". She had seen part of the way that humans were "converted", and it made her both sick and sad.
"Hey, didn't the records show that she had a family in Russia, and that they were supposed to meet with the ...." She didn't want to use the word terrorists, as she didn't really think that that was what they were. But at the moment, she couldn't think of any other word. "terrorists?" She finished.
Finally, the shopping was finished and everyone was busy installing the new equipment into the base as Frederick worked hard on tracking down the best information he could on their target.
Frederick crawled out of his hidey hole for another soda and something to eat. Carrying several printouts, he wandered into the main room, sat down, and checked that as many of his teammates as possible were nearby.
"Mr. Chalk, I'll give you the short report." He began flipping through the papers.
"Heinrich Stuttman, 707 Kopenhagen St. Gas and electric, no library cards, no other public information. Likely an unlisted phone number, too. He was never in the military, has clean tax records and has been employed by TriTech for the past 12 years, starting out as a computer engineer and eventually moving to management. He holds a masters degree from the university in engineering and business. One fine for soliciting for sex from a young undercover police officer two years ago."
"TriTech, a military weapons manufacturer, originally made millions making arms for the German Empire. Specifically Muscovy and Ostereich state police and militia. About 10 years ago they moved to the international scene and made billions creating custom weapons of destruction for essentially the highest bidder. These weapons include cyborgs and even specially trained psychic assassins. Around this time TriTech headquarters moved to Sweden, apparently seeking neutral ground to avoid seizure by the SS for selling arms to enemies of the Reich. It is now a world-wide megacorporation with many subsidiaries, and many companies held by shadow corporations set up by TriTech."
"I'll need to be on site to get into his computer. The I.C.E. will be too thick around the company. Internal security will be weaker. It'll be faster and less likely to be detected."
"I was unable to determine any link with Krupp Aerospace. However, I also suspect that Krupp is not our employer. They are a struggling commercial venture spun off from the non-military space technology for the Platzwaffe. They I.C.E. protecting that call was very high end. Probably either Military or The Corporation."
"Our employer seems to have some connection with Krupp though, so we might be able to make some use of their resources. They run three colony stations in zero gravity wells between earth and the moon. These stations, while owned by Krupp, are considered part of the German Empire."
"Now if you don't mind I need some sleep, followed by a large meal."
With that, Frederick got up and staggered off to find a bed.
Big Eden was a dance club that seemed popular with the younger crowd, as Diana noted while she climbed out of her van. The streets were filled with people moving up and down to various night time hotspots and several of the better dressed people headed in to Big Eden after a quick but thorough check by the bouncers at the door. It appeared the club had strict policies about bringing weapons into the place. That was probably one reason Stuttman and other execs felt secure enough to frequent such a place. She had brought her new comset and checked with Chalk and the others that they were in position. She would take hers off when the go-ahead was given since wearing a wire or hidden comset could be detected by the bouncers and that was a complication the team didn't need.
Meanwhile, Frederick and Gisele prepared to infiltrate Stuttman's residence in case Diana's team wasn't able to get the needed information out of Stuttman himself.