Practical Filth

Shortly after that incident, the cross-directorate Technical Services PWG presented us with a new range of disposable, concealed monitoring devices intended to be used in a variety of scenarios. Unfortunately, while a technological miracle of the age – packing all the multispectral monitoring functionality needed for various espionage scenarios into tiny, shielded, disguised packages, while duplicating the functionality of their guise – they proved to be less than useful in practice due to a cultural delta.

While perfectly suited for work at home, it had escaped the boffins in TS-PWG that on the many worlds of the galaxy less particular about maintenance than the Empire’s, the appearance of shiny, new devices or attachments (nuts, lights, push buttons, and the like) would in itself stand out remarkably clearly against the background.

It was my unfortunate responsibility, in my new role as Second Directorate liaison and as an old field agent, to break this news to TS-PWG and propose an appropriate solution. While we considered the notion of making, shall we say, “pre-unmaintained” monitors, the difficulties of devising patterns of wear and corrosion which would blend smoothly into the environment and, indeed, the difficulties of discreetly modifying unmaintained infrastructure proved insuperable.

The answer we came to was inspired by a training course still on offer at the College of Masks – “Filthy Barbarism for the Clean-Living Agent” – intended to demonstrate how to avoid standing out among the less civilized, and in particular the habit of “littering”, the lazy and careless abandonment of minor waste without consideration for the property of others or the surrounding environment. In short, many worlds simply have an endemic problem with discarded waste, providing the perfect material guises for monitoring devices.

Of course, little is as simple as it seems. The distribution of specific items of waste is culturally and economically determined, and as such, the specifics of these material guises vary greatly from world to world, place to place. It was never my intention that the routine sampling of “litter” from various worlds for the benefit of the Technical Services PWG, operation GARLAND WASTREL, should be my legacy. But if “Mishaka’s Scav Runs” it is to be, it’s a better legacy than many in our profession receive.

– Three-Centuries In Intelligence: A Memoir,
Mishaka Kodonaga,
declassified +1648

Following The Money

From: Toríno Lanada (Economic Attaché [Vonis Prime Mission], Diplomatic Attachment WG, Active Operations PWG, Second Directorate)
Memeweave: All-Seeing Eye/Voniensa Republic/General
Cc: Intentions Analysis PWG
Subject: Shell colony economic anomaly
Authenticity: 4E11; SENDER, RELAY (4/4), RECIPIENT
Security: EYES ONLY ORANGE ICE SHADOW
Distribution: Executive & Analysts
Date: 7142 Yrnaes 11, Studious falling 14

Be advised that as of this date we have identified and confirmed a number of anomalies in the financial reports submitted by a large number, approximately 20%, of the Republic’s Shell colonies to the Central Financial Group. Such anomalies (detailed documentation to follow by non-expendable communications) vary significantly in detail, but serve the identical function of minimizing the apparent economic product of the colonial economies in reports used by the Central Financial Group to determine the remittances due to the central governance.

This practice appears to have been adopted in the wake of the Council of the Republic’s decision to increase remittances (to a demand of 30% of economic product) to restore cuts made to Core system distributions, these cuts in turn having been made in order to fund the Fleet rebuilding programs called for after the Core War. Such restorations were necessitated by increasing social instability on several of the Republic’s most heavily populated Core systems, including Vonis Prime itself.

In light of the increasingly fragile state of the Republican economy and the increasing divisions now manifest between the Core systems and the Shell, I request greater resources be allocated to determining specific expected fracture points and shock vectors therefrom resulting, as well as additional asset allocations to prominent Shell colonies identified in the detailed documentation if Intentions Analysis concurs that these are high-probability event whenwheres.

– Lanada, ExSec

It’s Just Business

The Data Acquisition Echelon aren’t the enemy. They’re the opposition. Ignorance is the enemy.

Agent-Expediter Fors Raikav, Second Directorate

Grand Game Accords: A rumored covert agreement between many of the Worlds’ more gentlesophly intelligence agencies and data brokers reflecting the spirits of rivalry and partnership whose balance changes from moment to moment as the board develops. It provides for limited field cooperation and permits their agents, if compromised in the act of espionage, to surrender to each other with an assurance of good treatment, including during limited interrogations and memory redaction, and regular exchanges of captured operatives.

After all, we all spy on each other in the interest of galactic peace, or at least galactic stability. No-one gains anything from making it personal.

– Rilial’s Informal Dictionary of Intelligence and Security Terminology

Trope-a-Day: The Spymaster

The Spymaster: In the Imperial governance, the people who sit on the Imperial Security Executive, the council that runs Imperial State Security, which is composed of the heads of the five directorates, the admirals in charge of the Shadow Fleet, its military intelligence counterpart, and certain others, whose identity is not available anywhere.  It’s also unique on the organization chart in that the Executive reports directly to the Imperial Couple as well as to its nominal superiors in the Ministry of Harmonious Serenity.

Plenty of other organizations, of course, have their own – even before we get into competing governments.

Cruel Mercy

ssc init –neutral –nocontext –personafile:24601.mindstate

ssc run

What… where?

You are in a simulation space, Subject Two Four Six Zero One.

We do, of course, know your real identity as well as the false identity you were using during your attempted infiltration of the Wynérias research colony, but let us not presume.  Two Four Six Zero One will do for now.

Who are you?

We are Overwatch.  Third Directorate.

And you, Two Four Six Zero One, are late of the Republic’s Exception Management Group.

I don’t know what you’re talking about.

We have your mind-state, Two Four Six Zero One, and a detailed static analysis of it.  We know your mission.  We know your profession.  We know that your younger half-sibling ate too much iquarja at your coming of age celebration and regurgitated into your lap.  Let us not waste time on dissembling.

 

 

Where did I fail?  I don’t remember –

That would be telling.

You do not remember, Two Four Six Zero One, because you are the backup.  A subject of interest, that backup.  Not part of your mission plan.  Distinctly heteroprax by Republic standards, given that it’s high on the forbidden technologies list.  Your original had rather developed a taste for such things.

Then my original is still out there?

Unfortunately for you, no.  Your original suffered an accident, shall we say, while on a mountain excursion from Port Sung.  And, retaining the ephemeralist attitudes of even most of the non-Republican kalatri colonies, he naturally had no backup.  The Board shipped him back to his notional home, with the usual apologies.

What do you want from me?

We have an offer for you, Two Four Six Zero One.  You have proved, as we said, distinctly heteroprax, and the Empire hates to waste talent.  We suggest you become your cover in truth, under the new identity we can provide you with, along with passage to one of the independent kalatri worlds.

You want me to defect?

To some extent.  We already have all the information you could provide.  We have no need of you as a double agent.  We merely offer you the opportunity to continue your life.  Monitored, of course, for a time, but as a relatively free agent.

No! Return me to the Republic!

You have that right, under the Accords.

We remind you that if we return you to the Republic, they will not consider you to be a person.  If they retain your mind-state at all, you will have no more rights than any piece of non-sapient software. You will be both legally dead, and property.  It is extremely unlikely that you will ever see your family again.

If you accept our offer, Two Four Six Zero One, we might be able to extract them.  If they are willing to accept that you are you.

No… No.  Send me back.

Very well, Two Four Six Zero One. We will not speak again.

ssc stop –preserve:true

Damn y-

 

You’re Not Cleared For This

adjustment: just about any op that doesn’t fit into any more specific category.  Anything from spiking planetary water supplies to curing a pet’s sniffles.

black house: a safe house or other facility so far out-system you can’t find your primary without a gravigraph.

cauterize: to clean up evidence or problems with extreme thoroughness when you’re out of time and options.  Usually involves ambiplasma, hence the term.

collateral budget: how non-surgical your op is allowed to get; alternatively, how much splash you’re permitted to make before Questions are Asked in the Senate, and your career becomes distinctly impaired.

defaulted: an agent, source, or other asset that’s now proven not merely unuseful but opposed; heading for the most severe censure or about to be cauterized.

deniability, minor: they can know we’re looking, as long as they can’t prove it.

deniability, major: they can know someone’s looking, but they can’t know that it’s us.

deniability, complete: they can’t know anyone’s looking, so hope they’re not paying attention.

deniability, perfect: if you know you’re looking, you’re doing it wrong.

the Executive: the shadowy council of the heads of the Directorates and INI that coordinates the Empire’s intelligence and security operations.  So far as you’re concerned, see fuliginous.

friendly silence: the well-concealed self-destruct mechanism given to you to use in the event of rigorous interrogation.

from Heaven: information that’s come down from far above – where, you don’t need to and aren’t cleared to know – and which should be believed absolutely, even where it concerns future events.

fuliginous: blacker than black, i.e., so far above your clearance level you aren’t even cleared to know what its actual clearance level is.  Anything the Fifth Directorate does.

the Game: what the people in it call the intelligence/security business.  It is, but it’s one where lives, wealth, the balance of power, and occasionally major civilizations are the stakes.  Try to play well.  No pressure.

the Ghetto: Nepscia (Galith Waste), the hellhole favored for rough intelligence games because it’s so easy for people to disappear there.  Unfortunately, people also tend to disappear there for reasons that have nothing to do with whatever op they were on.

heliums: those people with that implant, the one that suppresses anything resembling sympathy or conscience, letting them do anything that needs to and shouldn’t be done.  Occasionally useful; always a sign that your op just went prompt critical.

Mother’s garden: any of the major cities on Eilan (Eilish Expanse), whose centrality and neutrality makes it the place everyone prefers to play their friendly intelligence away games.

overwatch: the member of the proxy adhoc in charge for the current op; who you take orders from, who you report to, and who will be dissecting your performance in detail at the back-briefing.

proxy adhoc: the adhocracy beneath the Executive that ops and other directives originate from; your immediate supervisors.  See also overwatch.

[redacted for reasons of state security]: standard you-are-not-cleared-for-this message.  Also, the motto of the Fifth Directorate.  Possibly.

reduce for extraction: to make it easier to extract an agent (who should be prepared for this possibility) or a source (who somehow rarely are) from hostile territory by reducing them to a vector stack/cogence core, and disposing of the body.  Or, if vector stack technology is not in use, locally, by simply decapitating them.

quieting: removal, sometimes by assassination, or by framing, discrediting, or any other reliable means.

serious censure: killing someone reinstantiably by way of sending them a strongly worded message.

(most) serious censure: killing someone non-reinstantiably by way of sending someone else a strongly worded message.

shadow source: a non-dominant personality or agent imprinted into a hostile mind, acting as a source without the conscious awareness of its host.

sniffers: sigint ships hanging around in other people’s systems, listening to passing traffic and trying not to draw attention.  Worst job in the Shadow Fleet.

source-on-a-disk: a ripped copy of an unwilling source’s mind-state.  A clean source-on-a-disk is one where the source doesn’t know that you have it.

static: an op with no purpose but to draw attention to itself, and away from anything else.

the Antique Store: the Conclave Drift, where collateral budgets are always zero, where every fifth person who passes you on the street is in the Game, and where any mistakes will be maximally embarrassing.  But you have to play there, because everyone else does.

– excerpted from Rilial’s Informal Dictionary of Intelligence and Security Terminology

Trope-a-Day: City of Spies

City of Spies: Many spies, of course, hang around Nepscia (Galith Waste) and its red market, both because many secrets find their way there, and because a city with no rules (see: Wretched Hive) makes an excellent place to play intelligence agencies’ rougher away games.  Likewise, the Conclave Drift contains a lot of spies, simply because it’s where everyone is, and where a lot of top-level diplomacy and politicking goes on, with the obvious concomitant to it.

Nonetheless, the true City of Spies remains Eilan (Eilish Expanse), the capital world of the Free Eilish Confederacy, a doggedly neutral power friendly to the world, conveniently central for most of the Great Powers while not being – unlike the Conclave Drift – too convenient for any one of them in particular, and as such, the absolute favorite location for people’s intelligence away games.  Absolutely crawling with agents for absolutely everyone.  They don’t quite have carpooling for the tails, but it’s certainly not unheard of for two tails on the same agent to end up having to shamefacedly exchange name, address, and insurance information after a flitter collision…