Game Theory 2

Thwack. Thwack… Thwack 

Upstroke. Downstroke. Cross-stroke. Repeat.

He must have been at it for hours, his victim reduced to an unrecognizable pile of broken bits and pieces. Deep gashes punctuated what had been a smooth exterior, a body free of blemish or deformity. Panting lightly, he folded his collapsible baton by jamming it sharply into the mass in front of him, eliciting no response. Letting out a contented sigh, he tried to slide the folded baton into a holster on his waist, providing the mess in front of him with a good, solid kick for every failed attempt.

“Accuracy, 63.5%.” A female computer voice announced nonchalantly.

“What?!”

Seething, Reginald threw his baton down at the test dummy and unstrapped the collar of his fencing outfit with a single tearing motion. He was slipping.

He had arrived in Saikamon uneventfully after completing his move at the manor. It had been largely quiet there, with no additional word from Tigerfish Torpedo and comparatively little from Vlad Cetes following the auction. But he knew that others were watching–the unnamed, unseen faces close to Lady Lianne. He needed information to tread carefully.

The natural solution, at the time, was to fall back to Saikamon. And not just to the public corporation holdings in the system, but his own private starbase. The one he kept off the books, a shadowy line in the ledger that fell under “Miscellaneous Expenses.” There were perks after all, to being an overworked CEO, of possessing the unquestioned confidence of a corporation by virtue of handling finances and managing starbases. He had not given it a name, his private reaction tower off of the range of long distance scanners from the other corporate holdings. But it was home, his sanctuary.

But while he had intended to begin work immediately upon arrival in Saikamon, he had found himself exhausted. Despite the familiar surroundings, instead of setting machinery into motion as he might have done before setting foot at Cerra Manor, he rested.

“You should take a break. All work and no play…”

He could feel the whispers throughout his fortress–his fortress–about how he’d changed after visiting the manor. After his first night, he noticed eyes wandering towards his neck though he knew they searched for glimpses of the thin scars strewn across it. Since then, he had taken to wearing high collars, a ridiculous concession that only reinforced his sense of weakness and vulnerability.

Unfastening his white cotton jacket, he sauntered to a corridor away from his area of recreation. For being the CEO of a major militia corporation, his private domicile was relatively spartan. Limited to a few floors at the top of a Gallente Large Tower in a system that offered little in terms of mining, industry or trade, at first glance, it seemed closer to the home of a pauper. And yet, the system met his needs beautifully.

Low-traffic, little activity–its only real claim to fame was serving as a border system between Imperial high security space and the warzone. And yet, with enough planning and a little hard work, it could serve as the capital of a renaissance that would breathe new life into a decrepit Empire. Indeed, this seemingly insignificant system, could become a catalyst for the Empire’s renewal–to unchain itself from slavery, to revolutionize its feudalistic system, and to enlighten itself from its belief in God.

“My lord?” A communications link beeped.

But that would all take time. He activated an earpiece as he continued his walk towards his shower, “Can it wait?” He managed with a hint of contempt.

“My lord, I’m not–” The transmission ended.

“Speak up, I can’t hear you,” Reginald said uselessly. When he received no response, sighing, he took a detour towards the elevator. Climbing in, he punched a few buttons and entered a passcode, the elevator lurching into motion as a result. He hadn’t thought he’d need to go there this soon.

It wasn’t surprising to him that internal communications within the control tower were less than reliable–even transmissions within the same floor could be disturbed. Most of the time, however, the issue was white noise, allowing an individual to more or less understand a series of instructions. Rarer, though not unheard of, the transmission was cut entirely. And it was mostly due to the room Reginald was fast approaching.

Stepping off of the elevator, he found himself looking at two familiar panes of green-tinged glass. After he entered another series of passcodes into a control panel, the glass doors slid apart, offering unobstructed access to a wide, circular room filled with monitors of various makes and sizes. At the center stood a display that projected a three-dimensional image–the current one was of Huola VII. Each screen was playing a scene from somewhere in New Eden–Tritanium prices in Jita, skirmishing in Providence, coverage of Theology Council proceedings in Domain. Crowning the room was a glass skylight that revealed the control tower’s dome beyond, the stars transmitting their own eternal signals. Largely hidden from view, however, was what made this room more than just a central location for receiving news transmissions.

It was an illicit box, concealed by a number of panels in the center of the chamber, and while Reginald didn’t understand the exact science behind it, he did understand its effect. Everyone in the Empire feared the Ministry of Internal Order, their prowess of demanding compliance preceded their incredibly public image. But just as everyone feared the Ministry of Internal Order, everyone paid attention when one of their operatives conducted their open investigations. No one paid any attention to the Amarr Certified News reporter trailing behind.

The ACN was offered unfettered access to nearly every branch of Imperial institution. And, considering how low-tech the Ministry of Internal Order actually was, the ACN was much easier to hack. With the rights codes, input values, and knowledge of region-wide FTL communications networks, all sorts of information was right at Reginald’s fingertips.

The box itself was of allegiance to no one, but coupled with an extensive number of Fluid routers and the proper hacking cards, by masking requests as those of an ACN reporter looking for information for a story, it was possible to coax unwitting Imperial bureaucrats into releasing information that should never have been released at all. If the authorities ever actually discovered the request, it was the career of the clerk that was burned–the trail of the request having been routed through every system in the Domain, Tash-Murkon, and Forge regions and thus largely impossible to follow for even the most dedicated of Internal Order hounds.

But he wasn’t here to utilize the box, at least not yet: There were still pieces he needed to put in place, a board that needed to be set into motion, names that needed to be named to faces. Much work to do indeed.

No, he was here because it was the only room in the damn tower that received perfect reception. He raised the communication link back through the master channels and waited for a response. Once the connection was in place, he asked, still annoyed, “What is it you wanted?”

“My… lord… ” A voice gasped through the link, “Run.”

Reginald darted towards the central projector, inputting codes for an image of the control tower’s internal security. The resulting holograph looked like it had gone through an insect infestation. There were dozens of omissions varying in size across various floors–the armory, security barracks, and docking bay were all dark.

“Why in Divinity’s Edge do I pay you people?” He screamed into the transmitter, before flinging it towards the door.

There wasn’t much time. He started weighing options. Requesting an alliance or corporation fleet was out of the question–the resulting public exposure would ruin him politically. Normally, intruders were supposed to be stopped at the force field, and if not at the force field, then by the blasted security personnel. If they were already incapacitated, then rallying a counter-attack was not an option either. Becoming frantic would only ensure his demise. Remaining calm was key in this situation. Exasperated, he turned to his last resort of last resorts. He walked over to another panel and typed in a code, made up of four simple letters–D-E-N-T.

Now, came the issue of damage control. Being apprehended here was unacceptable, the nervous center of his entire information network depending on its safety. Although loathe to leave it unattended, he stepped out of the room and started the process of sealing it manually–it would take nearly an entire construction crew and the brute forcing of numerous digital locks to open the heavy blast-resistant doors. He had just sealed himself away for nearly a month. Whoever was invading his domain would pay dearly.

The elevator doors opened, revealing two large Brutor men armed to the teeth. Reginald extended his collapsible baton, if only as a measure of defiance, though he noted that neither of them even bothered to flinch at the gesture. He raised it instinctively, then dropped it to the ground, showing the open palms of his hands.

“Get on with it.”

And that’s when one of the men threw a filthy bag over Reginald’s head.

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