2-19-2001

Author/Alias: Fractalforge
Title/Part Number: Drachenblut: Part Two
Category/Warnings: Action, Technobabble.
Pairings: None thus far
Feedback: Yes!

Gundam Wing is the property of Sotsu Agency, Bandai, and Sunrise. No infringement is intended. Please contact me at fractalforge@hotmail.com if you'd like to give me comments, and visit http://www.geocities.com/fractalforge/index.html for the latest version of all my work. All feedback is appreciated.

DRACHENBLUT

Chapter Two

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"Oh, the shark has pretty teeth dear; and he shows them pearly white... just a Deathscythe has the Death God, and he keeps it out of sight..."

Evrett Davis, pilot and owner of the salvage craft Yevgeny Onegin, shuddered as the sounds of Duo Maxwell's singing wafted out of the bathroom. He had owed Howard a favor when he's agreed to give the kid a ride from Los Angeles to Seattle, but the braided teenager had a certain inimitable and unmistakable way of testing his patience. The man adjusted his baseball cap and scratched his face: a few days without shaving had caused a forest of prickly fuzz to appear beneath his chin and nose. He'd have to think about shaving before he hit the city.

Davis sat down in a worn stuffed-plastic chair inside his craft's command room and started typing commands into the GPS system. The green-on-black display dispassionately churned out exactly what he'd expected: with any luck they'd make Seattle within four hours.

The Yevgeny Onegin was an unapologetically ugly flat craft about a hundred meters long, with a lot of open spaces: basically, a barge adorned with hydraulics and cranes. Its crew of five subsisted by hauling up junk metal from the ocean floor, cleaning it, repairing it if it was possible; otherwise melting it down -- and selling it at market value. Around most major city harbors and many military ports, hundreds of years of seaborne commerce had practically coated the bottom with metal.

Davis frowned again after hearing some more inane lyrics, then chuckled and looked at the shrouded lump on the repair deck of the craft. He had to admit it, but having to convey the kid and his associated chatter was a small price to pay to look at the mechanics and design of Deathscythe Hell. In all his fifty years in space, in the sea and out of it; even after pulling sunken OZ prototype suits out of the water (under cover of darkness, of course) he had never seen a piece of engineering even remotely in the same league as the black mecha. After swearing an oath of secrecy, he and his crew had recieved the privilege of seeing its ECM and thermoptic-cloak system in action.

Duo was out of the bathroom now, wearing a black tank top and loose pants; his long brown hair dripping water over everything. "Yo, Captain Davis. Is it cool if I, like, drip on stuff?"

The captain rolled his eyes. "This IS a boat, Maxwell. We see tropical storms on a regular basis. It's not as though water's going to hurt anything. Just stay out of the cabin."

"Check." The Deathscythe pilot made a thumbs-up gesture. "...Listen, I really want to thank you guys for putting up with me. I really owe you."

"Any friend of Howard's is a friend of mine... at least that's what I thought until I dragged your ass on board," intoned Davis, deadpan. "But having the chance to see your Deathscythe Hell more than makes up for your annoying presence."

Duo shrugged and smiled. "I admire honesty in a person. It takes most people a few weeks before they tell me what a pain in the ass I am."

The captain snorted. "They probably just realized it later. A ship is a very small place to share with somebody." He gestured to the shrouded lump on the deck. "I meant to ask you a question about your thermoptics."

"Please, ask away." Duo made a show of 'modestly' looking at his nails.

"It has to do with the reflection-cancellation system and the effect field. Does the fact that the mech is black have anything to do with its optics?"

Duo rolled his eyes way back, thinking. "Good question. Actually, I thought at first that the black was just for intimidation an' looking cool. But the color -- the paint, I mean -- absorbs some of the EM emissions that the I-field doesn't. No reflections mean no detections... that's the principle."

Davis nodded comprehendingly. "That makes sense. You seem to have a good head on you... even if you aren't putting its faculties to their best use."

"I'm glad to hear that." Duo's face broke into a grin. "What with all of this hostility toward me, I'd have thought you'd have turned me into OZ by now."

The captain shrugged. "Well, they'd probably shoot all of us anyway if they found out that we'd helped you... and then come down hard on the Sweeper Group. Besides, there's no love lost between me -- between any of my crew and OZ."

Duo started to nod, but he was interrupted by an electronic /beep-beep/. "Excuse me; I've been paged." He yanked a small black box out of his trousers and read the message on it. His violet eyes dropped as he read the message.

"Duo, it's your mother. Call me!"

The first thought through his mind was: /Leave it to me to walk into a high-priority mission with wet hair./

The second: /I wish Professor G could have thought of a better code-phrase./

And the next: /I always wanted to see how the thermoptics worked over the open ocean../

Duo sighed and shrugged. "Yo, Davis!"

The older man turned and grimaced. "What now?"

The braided boy shrugged. "Sorry to deprive you of my enlightening presence, but I've been Code-Nined. I gotta split to somewhere. Have a good time in Seattle."

Davis turned to face the ocean, scratched the white hair on the side of his head and tried to think of something sarcastic to say. He failed, though, as his curiosity overtook him. "...Where are you goin'?"

But Duo, wet hair streaming behind him, was already running towards the black-clothed lump on the deck. Over his shoulder, he yelled, "Not here, that's where. Thanks a lot, old man!" and disappeared beneath the shrouds.

Forty seconds later, the Gundam Deathscythe Hell doffed its black dropcloth and extended its wings. As the thermoptic panels powered up, the giant mecha faded from existance like a ghost or phantom, leaving only ripples and a loud mechanical /hiss/ in the salty sea air.

///////////////////////////////

It was early morning, before the colony's artificial light had begun to appear. On the eleventh floor of OZ Computer Center #28, located on Colony L3 X0909; System Administrator Marie Garner plopped down in her chair. The dark-haired woman silently regarded the terminal of Machine 104 with detatched fury and a familiar sinking feeling in her stomach.

/Joy of joys.../

Machine 104 was a supercomputer mainframe about the size of a large refrigerator, installed in a superclean room seven floors below. Two of the thousands of cables running from it were attached to a small, insignificant-looking monitor and keyboard sitting on a desk on one side of the eleventh story control room.

/I gotta figure out what Morovsky stole./

She took a sip of her coffee.

/But I've got to do it behind the backs of my superiors. Because Vice Admiral Negon's running this operation... and if Negon figures out that I know more than what I'm supposed to, I'm going to get shot. Maybe worse./

And gazed into the screen as the monitor warmed up.

/And I DO know more than I should./

"Yo, Ballard!"

/A hell of a lot more./

The tech looked up from his workstation at the other side of the large room and adjusted his glasses. "Ma'am?"

"Did you suspend the system's security yet?"

Ballard nodded. "Yeah, while you were getting the coffee. Now hopefully we'll be able to work... We also got a call-in from the Operations Bureau."

"Oh? Wha'd they say?"

"We've got permission to route all service requests out to the other centers. We've got this place to ourselves now. They asked if we wanted support personel, but I said we didn't."

Garner moved her black hair out of her eyes and started typing. "Good thinking. I'll call them in a few minutes and tell them that we've got the situation under control. That'll give us some peace and quiet for a while; enough time to figure out how the mole did his thang... and enough time to figure out what we're going to say when they debrief us. We certainly can't tell them the truth."

"Why not?"

The Administrator sighed. "Because I thought he was small-fry. They got me out of bed a few hours ago too, and I just wanted to get everything done and get out of here. I thought we could use some shortcuts and violate some system rules. Like working off accounts with higher access than we really have. We both did it."

"...Right."

"But this shit goes so deep that now they're going to want to know exactly how we work our magic. If we tell Ops the truth, we'll lose our jobs."

/YOU'LL lose your job, Ballard. You didn't read that file. You're still clueless. You didn't see the secret that I saw./

/All YOU did was violate some procedures./

/I saw what was in that computer./

/I saw that document./

Ballard's face became a picture of reluctant acceptance. "...Guess it's too late to change things now. Do you want me to help you with looking at the machine records now, or...?"

"No, Ballard. You get to start looking at his directory and figuring out his encryption methods." She typed a command and frowned as the machine spit it back at her. "Don't read what you decipher. You don't want to. Believe me."

The tech shrugged and got working and tossed his coffee cup into the pile of trash in the corner of the room. "Who's the mole?"

Garner sighed. "A guy named Aleksandr Morovsky. You didn't know him... he worked here for about three months after this center was established, but then quit.. around the same time as Clarke got fired. You have his job now."

Ballard raised an eyebrow, interested. "...Huh. So someone could cause a 1077 security breach... from my position? With my level of access?"

Garner frowned. "I don't know how he did it. But we're gonna find out."

Electricity arced between synapses in her mind, and she pulled up records and linked logic pathways.

The work, looking for correlation between various times Morovsky had accessed the system and a report of various breached files, was too temporary to waste time writing a program for. It was only about six minutes of manual work, and writing and debugging a program for it would take ten. And it needed to get done fast so she could establish a pattern between Morovsky's login times and the reported data breaches she had.

She took a sip of coffee.

Besides, unlike complex programming... she could think as she worked.

/I need to find him./

/I need to find what he did./

/I need to understand how he covered his tracks, and then cover mine./

/And I need to do it before Morovsky tells Negon what he took... and Ops starts prying into this mess./

/Right now, they'll shut up and leave me alone. I called in a 1077 security breach, which is "Central System Contamination." There's some truth to that statement, but not a lot of it. Actually, I don't think a disaster code exists for this situation./

/What really matters is that Ops knows that I understand this system better than anyone; and I'm doing my damnest to fix it right now. They won't interrupt me or screw with me. Hopefully I fooled Ballard too -- he seems to think that this is still a simple matter of violating procedures... and I'm just covering our tracks./

/Maybe for him it is, but not for me./

/I've got to keep everybody in the dark except me. I've got to play all the cards I've got, and play them well, if I want to get out of this./

/I've got to think up a lie to use when that sadist Negon can get the mole to spill his guts... no pun intended./

/I know what Morovsky took... at least, the latest thing he took. And it was hot shit, way too hot for me to know about./

/The twenty-eighth computer center is like pretty much every network hub on L3: messy and crowded. The system won't show traces if they're hidden right. I can make it, as long as I can understand it.../

/So, as I work, I'm going to let my mind wander. And I'm going to see what I come up with./

/In the beginning.../

/When the OZ military syndicate got a toehold in the Space Colonies, instant and reliable communication had been necessary between OZ officials on earth and in space. The folks in charge needed a way to communicate easily./

/Each individual colony has totally unique systems for commerce and communication. For instance, this colony -- L3 X0909 -- has a fiber-optic information network, and dedicated vidphone lines./

/But colonies on higher technological levels, such as most of the L1 chain, have already progressed beyond fiber and had gone totally wireless. Poorer colonies such as the L2 group didn't have the money to feed everyone; let alone develop and install a high-tech communication system -- they're still using nothing but analog data lines./

/The big problem was that there was no standard, and that none of the systems that existed could handle heavy-ass traffic like OZ wanted./

/Even before Operation Daybreak happened, Trieze was all about total control over the Earth Sphere. That's one of the reasons we were delayed past the original start date: we didn't have a system for Earth-Colony communications in time. Several plans were developed and abandoned; all due to inefficiency, cost, or security issues./

/The final plan was ESIN: Earth-Space Information Network. It's what we use right now. Six central system elements: one on earth and one at each Lagrange point. Large-ass, manned, and extremely heavily armored communications satellites. Each one directs traffic to us: the network hubs./

/The twenty-eighth of these -- this place -- was installed as soon as we appeared here. Berend Clarke, the old system administrator, was dismissed after three months; and command of the computer center had shifted to me./

/Morovsky quit then, too./

Garner stopped: no pattern was forming between the mole's computer use and the various files that had been reported "branched" -- or monitored.

/This makes my life SO much more complicated. This means that either Morovsky was somehow hacking while away from the computer OR he'd written a virus to do the hacking for him OR he had a physical bug on a wire OR he wasn't the only mole./

/Shit./

She continued looking for a pattern, comparing two large documents onscreen.

/It all comes down to this center. Morovsky used to work here. Morovksy's got some sort of trap or system here so he can read the data going across the thing. Morovsky used this center's computers to crack the code on that file and read it./

/Drachenblut./

/He knew just as much as I know...well, only a little more... and now Sethir Negon's torturing him to death./

/Drachenblut device./

/Drachenblut. Advanced tactical system for.../

/Stop that. Worry about the problem right here./

/This center./

/Twelve-story building. Three basement levels and a giant vault with a power reactor. Used to be a library and government archive, but the books and disks got moved. It was already equipped to handle huge servers and data traffic: the building was square, and its exterior windows are made bulletproof and shatterproof. The roof was equipped with a helipad and various comm dishes and wires linking the machines inside to the colony's information network./

/Morovsky worked on the construction and installation crew./

/Information comes in from the L3 ESIN element through a transmission dish installed on the outside of the colony. This dish is attached to this building via an armored pipeline containing fiber-optic cable. Runs through the colony's walls much like a water or sewage system./

/This huge-ass mass of cable is directly connected to the computer center at the third basement level, and leads into a vertical, cylindrical armored core. This core stretches through the center of the building, straight on up. Except for the entrance and the ninth floor -- which has spare parts and stuff -- each level of the building houses nothing but huge-ass computers, metal, and wires.

/And Morovsky knew that, because he built it. He knew all that.../

/It has to be in this building. But not there -- it hasn't been decrypted yet.../

/The guts of this building are those 131 supercomputers we got in here. The first and second floors of the basement are of decryptors and encryptors, which encode signals going to the ESIN L3 network element -- and decode signals coming from it. The code they use is CRYCELT -- our own 256-digit cipher./

/He might have installed some sort of bug there; something to read what those machines crank out... not very likely, though, since he'd have to read absolutely everything... he still wouldn't know when one signal began and ended.../

/The second floor's array condenses the packets going towards the ESIN uplink dish into one continuous flow, regulated by the OZ system clocks. The heartbeat. The third floor's computers take the decrypted signal from the uplink dish and expand it into distinct packets.../

/Or he could have his bugs there; maybe; watching all of that... that might happen, but those floors are the hardest to access and break into./

/But the fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, and tenth floors of the computer center consist simply of recording machines, assigned to keep records of all traffic moving from L3 X0909 to ESIN./

/That would tell him when files were moved, but not what they were... no./

/The eleventh floor is the building's control center. Climate and humidity systems, electrical power, and physical defenses. System maintenance. Where I am now. This floor has its own central server, too.../

/He had definite access to this floor... and his files are on a computer on this floor... the best possibility./

/The top floor and roof, covered with dishes and vidphone lines... all the shit that connects the core to the various machines on the colony./

/Or it could be there./

Garner took a deep breath, grabbed a pen and paper, and started scribbling.

Floor Function Tap Possibility
     
12 Connections to L3 independent nets and servers Possible
11 Control Floor Probable
10 Recording no
9 Maintenance Floor (tools, spare parts) no
8 Recording no
7 Recording no
6 Recording no
5 Recording no
4 Recording no
3 Packet Splitters (ESIN to L3 X0909) Possible
2 Packet Condensers (L3 X0909 to ESIN) Possible
1 Entrance floor no
B1 CRYCELT Encryption Computers Probably not
B2 CRYCELT Decryption Computers Probably not
B3 Cable connection to ESIN uplink dish no
Vault Power Plant  

Garner took a look at the paper, grimaced, and crumpled it up.

/This building is too big. This network is too complex. Morovsky was too good./

/I'm dead./

/Ballard's dead./

/And Morovsky's probably dead too./