28.61 - Bored Now

The monitor room is always kept cool and dark, to help the agents stay focused on the watch. It actually works pretty well, so Agent Parker isn't surprised to see eyes mostly up when she pops into the detention block. A few people tapping out reports. The one she's interested is splitting his attention between the screen and a piece of paper he's scribbling on in front of him. He's due for a reaming, except -- "Grogan, what the blazes is she doing?" On the monitor is Alycia Chin, doing some weird sort of ... dance? A linear set of movements, pacing along a line, then off to its sides, intersecting, from left to right, from front to back of the cell, a series of right-angled steps, slow-motion tumbles, ballet pirouettes ... "Ma'am, yes, ma'am." Grogan straightens quickly. He's a normal agent; if he's on detention block duty, there's a good chance he's screwed up somewhere recently. Everyone rotates through all positions at some time or another, but few like to linger where they have to keep a sharp eye on prisoners, or come in contact with the sort of threats, metahuman and not, that AEGIS deal with. A few actually like the work. A lot of them need to be washed out of the agency, in Parker's opinion. "It's a puzzle," Grogan continues. "She doing a crossword puzzle." Parker evaluates it, and can just see it -- Chin is tracing the steps of various answers, up and down, across, interlocking, interdependent. "Interesting exercise, I suppose," she comments. There's something not quite right about the movements. She's doing the same words multiple times Parker realizes. "Of course, most people just solve them on paper." "She's not solving it, ma'am. She's writing it." "Writing --" Parker is impressed, despite herself. Juggling the contents of the puzzle that looks -- she watches for several moments -- Twelve on a side? mMore? Until she retraces all the way across or up-and-down, it will be difficult to say. But juggling all that is impressive in and of itself. Creating the puzzle, with its necessary backtracking and revision along the way -- that's gobsmacking. Not that she'd say so. "This is the third one she's been doing today, since the interrogation was suspended for the afternoon." The movements are almost hypnotic -- there's some system she's using, but she's not just pacing back and forth, but occasionally doing spider-like tumbles, twirling, even at one point a handstand. It's all strangely beautiful. "How do you know this is third?" "When she's done, she sits down, pulls out that sketch pad, and writes it up." He holds up the piece of paper he had been working on earlier. Yes, 15-by-15, the size of the New York Times weekday puzzle. "It's a damned hard one, too." She snatches the paper -- half-filled, lots of erasures -- out of his hand. "This -- is one of hers?" "Well, yes, ma'am." "And that whole 'No contact with the prisoner, no exchange of information with the prisoner, no communication with the prisoner, except under Star Seven protocols' bit of directive -- this didn't seem to apply to crossword puzzles, too?" Grogan seems to shrink slightly. "We didn't contact her. She put the first two she did on her dinner tray, folded in half. I've been working on the first ever since, but she never talked to us, nor us to her." "Words, shapes, movement -- the building blocks of communication, Agent Grogan. Agent Matthews!" The agent at the next table, who's been studiously watching another set of cells and very pointedly not being seen to pay attention to the conversation, snaps to in her rolling chair. "Ma'am!" "Call officer of the watch, have two security folk sent down here, and get Agent Grogan into psych lockup until we can be sure he hasn't been programmed in some fashion." "Programmed?" Grogan and Matthews say simultaneously, though with different tones of voice. "Hypnotic movement, subliminal messaging in the clues or answers, even the shape of the puzzle could convey information, consciously or unconsciously. If you know what you're doing, you can get someone to choose a number or a word even without saying it, by peppering their environment with the right suggestions." "I don't --" "Or the whole thing could be a way to smuggle information out. Finish the puzzle, toss it in the trash, it gets picked up by dumpster divers, or suborned cleaning staff." "How -- how do you know she's doing that?" "I don't. But I don't not know, which is just as bad when dealing with someone like this prisoner. Matthews?" "Yes, Agent Parker, right away." "And once they've arrived and I'm sure you aren't going to pull out a gun and start shooting others, Agent Grogan, I'm going to walk this down to cryptoanalysis and see if they can tell me anything interesting. Which should have been your go-to response as soon as that paper showed up on the tray." "Yes, ma'am." * * * The cryptoanalysis team crunched the two puzzles for some three hours before finding how the messages were encrypted. They contacted Parker. "And?" "Well, it was hidden, ma'am, pretty well, but not as well as it could have been. A Herzfeld Transformation after looking at the cyclotomic fields and resulting homomorphisms --" "The messages?" "Yes, ma'am." The analyst looks vaguely uncomfortable, for reasons Parker can't quite yet glean. "The first one said," He pauses, then plunges in. "'NOTHING TO SEE HERE MOVE ALONG.'" A long silence. "I see. And the second?" "'THESE ARENT THE HIDDEN MESSAGES YOURE LOOKING FOR.'" Even more impressive. Not just a large crossword puzzle worked out via physical movement and mental manipulation, but one that included actual encrypted messages. A slight smile actually plays on her face, which confuses and terrifies the cryptoanlyst. "All right then, ring up the psych ward, let Grogan out. Send him home docking today's pay and -- no, have him see me. I have an errand for him." * * * Alycia's done with the third puzzle, built, compiled, and written quickly but neatly (Father was a stickler for penmanship) on the sketch pad, by the time the next meal arrives. There's a soft chime, and the panel slides way, revealing a covered plate and utensils. It's been made quite clear to her what happens if any of the utensils go "missing" -- and the ends to which her captors will go to recover such items, after administering sufficient tranqs through the air to bring down an elephant. She has no interest in that kind of a search, nor in stealing a spork, nor, in fact, of busting out. She expects to be released sooner or later -- probably sooner, given the cadence of the questioning. All that remains in question is how to avoid being bored to tears when not being interrogated. Thus the crosswords. The problem being, any crossword she could remember the questions for, she'd remember the answers to. But this game -- She pulls out the tray, and finds something there besides food. KIDZ FIRST KROSS-WORDS! VOLUME 47 says the cover. On the title page, someone has written, nicely and neatly, "Perhaps this will be more your speed." Alycia looks up at one of the cameras. "Touché," she says aloud, shooting a finger gun at it. Well, it had been fun. And not a total loss. An afternoon's entertainment, at least, and some good language practice. Plus ... Alycia considers the book, full of simplistic asymmetric criss-cross puzzles (and large, cartoony pictures of animals). Maybe she could amuse herself other ways. Fill in the answers per the clues, but in non-English languages. Find words that aren't the obvious answers but still fit.  Alycia leave the last crossword she wrote for Agent Parker. No idea if it will be decoded, but one can always hope. "'ARE WE THROUGH YET'"
"Now, July, 2014." "Yes?" "Stuttgart, Germany." She runs a finger through a lock of hair. "Yes?" The AEGIS agent glances down at the open file in front of him. "Who was involved in that operation?" "Stuttgart --" "Quill Technologies, AG. Theft of a solar cell module and subsequent fire that destroyed approximately one-third of the plant." "Oh, that Stuttgart." "Yes, Who participated in that operation? * * * "Report." Alycia swallows. That tone of voice -- not what she wants to hear. "The mission was to recover the solar cell module from the Quill Technologies plant in Stuttgart. The site was cased, entry achieved last evening at 0210 local time, the module obtained, exfiltrtaion at 0347 local, the module and team were on the extraction flight at 0710, return to base --" She glances at the wall. "-- three hours and fifteen minutes ago." Achilles Chin wheels about, walks over to the window. The view from the window is stunning, snow-clad peaks brilliant in the sun. The chill from the air outside seems to fill the room around her, but Alycia remains stock still. When her father is in a mood like this -- doing nothing to attract his attention i the wisest course. Except -- why is he so angry? The mission was a success, wasn't it? "Repeat the mission parameters," Chin says, without turning from the window. "To -- obtain the --" "Repeat. The Mission. Parameters." Verbatim then. "Take strike force team 3 to Germany. Use them to obtain the solar cell module from the Quill Technologies plant in Stuttgart. Return to base with all deliberate speed, minimizing the opportunity for detection." Silence. At last, "Well?" "I obtained the module --" " You obtained the module. You infiltrated the plant. You secured the module from a locked safe. You set the fire to cover the theft. You departed, gathered your team together, and then , with the team left the country." Damnation. She wonders who had talked. Probably Friedrichs. "Well?" She pauses. "I believed that the primary mission objective --" "Your 'belief' is not important. You had your orders. You did not fufill them." "I obtained --" Chin whirls. His eyes are hard from across the room. "I hardly need steal some device invented by Byron Quill. My genius could easily match anything that Byron Quill could devise. The purpose was to demonstrate your ability to lead." "Yes, sir." "'Yes, sir.' Instead, you chose to conduct the mission yourself." "Yes, sir." "And you have an explanation for this deviation from the orders?" She draws a long breath in, lets it out. "I judged the priority mission objective to be the module. To those ends, it made the command decision the mission would be best accomplished with my own talents. Bringing in additional forces would have increased the likelihood of detection and so endangered the mission." "That is the sole reason?" "Yes." "There were no -- objections?" * * * "The guards are light. They are poorly armed. We can take them down, no problem." "And chance someone overhearing, alert the Polizei? You're an idiot, Friedrichs." "And you are a fool and a child!" "I am the daughter of Achilles Chin, and the leader of this --" "You are a 14 year old girl. I have been doing this sort of thing for your father since you were in pigtails, missy. He knows my value. And I tell you, this is a mission better done by bold force. Send a message to Quill and his people --" "This is a mission for stealth. The goal is not to send a message, but to obtain --" "The goal is always to send a message. Your father understands this." He smiles. "Don't worry, we'll make you look good in the after-action report." She eyed him. "Fine. Tonight, determine the access codes and alarm structure. We will go in tomorrow night." And instead that very night she had gone in herself. In the morning she had shown up in Friedrich's hotel room, with the module. He'd rolled his eyes, laughed, clapped her on the back, and they'd all taken the plane home. * * * "I performed the mission to the parameters I judged to be correct. If I misjudged, the fault is mine." "Do you believe your being my daughter will make your punishment the less?" "No sir." A pause. "The opposite, in fact." "Correct. Within certain limits." "Yes, sir." "However, you show integrity in taking responsibility without betrayal of weakness. That is to be commended." Her father sighs. "Daughter, you are a faithful agent of change, to the betterment of the world. You will be my heir -- if you are worthy." "I am worthy, Father. I swear it." "To be my heir, you must learn to lead. You must not only believe, not only act for yourself, but inspire others, drive them, bend them to your will, use them as your weapons for the cause. This mission -- its purpose was to see if you knew how to do so." "Yes, Father." "You allowed your will to be overridden by your lieutenant. You worked around your weakness to fulfill the mission yourself, but that was not the point." "I --" "You failed, Daughter." There was little else she can say. "Yes, Father." "And it was a costly failure." "Father?" "Friedrichs. He was a loyal and effective agent." "I don't --" "He is dead, daughter. I could not allow such insubordination to go unpunished, especially when he bragged of it to me and to his fellows. Your actions have cost me his future value, and possibly the value of those agents to whom he spoke, should I have to further address the repercussions of his dissent. I am most displeased." "Yes, Father." "In truth, I ought to have forced you to kill him yourself -- but his offense, his disrespect, was as much against me as you, and --" He pauses. "-- I am now unsure that you are strong enough to do so. Yet." Shame burns hot within her, warring with fear. "There will be consequences. We shall discuss them further in the morning." "Yes, Father. I -- will learn. I will correct my error." "Yes, you will. You may go." She pivots on her heels and heads for the door, but stops before she reaches it, and turns. Chin is back looking at the view. The air in the room is still cold. "Father." "Yes?" He does not turn. "Your counsel, please. How ought I to have handled it?" "Such a dismissive objection, such direspect on Friedrich's part ought never to have happened in the first place because he should have been aware of the consequences. Failing that, you ought to have killed him on the spot, in front of those who witnessed the dispute. That is the behavior I will expect the next time. And there will be a next time." He raises an eyebrow. "Any other questions?" "No." She hesitates. "Yes." She swallows. "Should you feel that I am similarly dissenting and disrespectful ..." He turns and meets her gaze. "See that such a thing never happens, Daughter. Some wounds must be cauterized no matter how deep they reach." Alycia nods after a moment, then leaves. * * * "I'm sorry, what was the question again?" The AEGIS interrogator frowns, impatient. "Who was involved in that operation?" "Oh, that would have been me. Solo." "We have intel that a Chin strike team, commanded by a Kristoph Friedrichs, was in Stuttgart at the time." She shakes her head. "Friedrichs was a bit heavy-handed. Not the right man for the job, I assure you." "And if Mr Friedrichs contradicts you?" "Oh, I doubt he would do that," Alycia says, her mouth smiling brightly. "He's always been interested in making me look good."
Good lord.
Doyce T.
Sheet Author
Fandom rumors start to circulate that Season 2 will be run with Delta Green...