Chapter 257 V Correspondence 2
"The more the world has us up on a pedestal, the harder it gets for the authorities to push us down," said Aldrich. "With this level of media momentum, anything short of a widely broadcasted public hearing won't be accepted by the public. And I can't imagine the uproar a hearing ending in jailing would drive up.
People are getting desperate, it seems. They see the variants and Loci rising up and they want something to rally around. Something new, not just the S rankers they're already familiar with."
"Right. But there's one thing about the whole public nature of this that's a downside," said V. She frowned a bit, her brows knitting together in concentration. "Hey, Fisky, I sent you the deets about the hearing. You break it down yet?"
"Uh, uh yeah." Fisk's voice came from a corner of the room. "I was just a little busy."
"Busy?" V raised a brow. "Busy playing those weeb games of yours, yeah." She sighed. "Alright, just hit me with the analysis."
"These games have artistic merit, you know," complained Fisk. "Good plot too."
"Yeah, real big plot, I'll tell you that." V paused for a moment as her eyes lit up a bit, processing data. "Anyways, the huge attention from the hearing's made it so that real high end officials, both AA and gov, are going to be the judges.
I have a finalized list of people for you that Fisk sent me that I'll forward to you now. You can take a look at it when you have time."
"Interesting. Very interesting," said Aldrich as he briefly glanced at the document containing the list of names.
There were a total of 50 officials attending, split roughly evenly 24 to 24 among AA and government. There were 2 Panopticon Arbiters, former operators turned into policy advisors, too.
On the government side, Aldrich saw none were without influence. The vice president of the U.S. was there as well as the secretary of the department of defense, to name a few. Similarly ranked officials from countries like China and India made it as well.
The AA had sent a host of notable executives as well from a variety of departments that ranged from variant defense to even marketing. There were also popular retired heroes, many of them veterans of the early Monstering when things were at their worst, turned policy advisors.
This included quite a few heroes that Aldrich revered as a kid, looking at their comics, buying their merch, all in the hopes of becoming something other than a powerless waste of life.
Foremost among them was Supermind, a powerful telepath who once was part of Vanguard's team. Now, he was aged, suffering from Crystallization and confined to a wheelchair, but even if his powers, power that could once freeze the minds of an entire city's populace, had waned, his judgment was still sharp.
Aldrich was in for one hell of a questioning. But the good thing was he did not think he had cause to use Fler'Gan's potion anymore.
The big time names in this hearing meant that overall, they were ready to accept Aldrich. Maybe not as a Sentinel - he would have to argue for that - but definitely as some kind of hero.
There was no way so many officials with so much to their names would risk their public images being part of a trial that threw Thanatos to the curb.
Had the hearing been more secret, more prone to being rigged, Aldrich would not have hesitated to use Fler'Gan's potion and initiate some kind of attack on the hearing using either his unknown forces or the Death Lord's, though he probably had to give her a favor for that to happen.
With the threat of an attack looming over the hearing, Aldrich would have used the potion, its effects amplified by situations of intense emotion like the type felt under survival situations, to sway the hearing to his side.
But now, with the public fully behind Aldrich, the potion became less necessary and riskier to use. A higher profile hearing meant even higher profile security checking, and though Aldrich could pass by practically all of them with his magic based powers, there was always the off chance of something he did not expect blindsiding him.
Aldrich would still have Fler'Gan make it. Perhaps to use on the nomad chiefs. Whatever the case, it was a useful tool to have. Plus, the Geist's efforts would have all gone to waste otherwise.
"V, keep tabs on that list. Notify me if anything changes," said Aldrich. "Now on to other things. You've analyzed the server I directed you to again, right? You still can't crack it?"
"That thing? It's impossible," said V. "It has security the likes of I've never seen before, and I mean that in a very literal sense. It's something I'm completely unfamiliar with. If you saw it in the Cyberverse, you'd see it as some kind of strange glitchy box. Nothing I have can even begin to unravel it.
The only thing that works is a biomarker. Specifically belonging to that old guy I've been keeping track of."
"..." Aldrich wondered how Elaine had managed such a thing. She might have been a genius, but was she really that much of a genius that she could create security measures that could block out V, a genius in her own right specialized in infiltration?
That was the biggest reason why Aldrich risked so much to come to Redrock. He wanted the secret behind what this personal server was. Elaine's spirit had not made much of a deal about it, but the more Aldrich investigated it, the bigger the mystery surrounding it became.
"Anyways, Randall's holed up in a shack in the city outskirts. I'll scan the area around you and make sure you've got a clear path to him. One without having to deal with pesky bounty hunters and the like.
You better pay me some nice overtime, because I'm doing, like, everything right now. Techno work and being your navigator, too" said V.
"I'll try and get more technos to help you out when I can," said Aldrich. "And thanks. Try and get me an early morning trip to Randall. I know his health isn't the greatest, and I don't want him dying on me before I get there."
"You got it, boss," said V. "Can I call you that? Boss? It sounds super official, you know, and if we're going to be something big, then I figure it sounds right."
"Sure." Aldrich nodded, moving on. "CEO of Hammerhead. How's that meeting going?"
"He's been in contact with me. Infrequently because he's not trying to draw any attention to himself. But he wants to wait until the hearing's over. Probably because he sees the news now and sees that there's a real good chance Thanatos gets accepted. If he meets Thanatos now, that's sus, but if it's after Thanatos is an established big shot name, then it's all good, you get me?"
"I do. Any Dark Six news?" asked Aldrich.
"Something real interesting. You're familiar with the Trident, right?"
Aldrich narrowed his eyes. "I am."
"Something's wrong with them. It's just rumors, hard to confirm and all, but I think there's some infighting," said V. "The Russian prong of the Trident's gone rogue is what I hear, going against the Japanese and Italian prongs. Techno support and supply lines from the Russians aren't flowing properly to the Italian prong."
"Surprising," said Aldrich. "The Trident, all three prongs combined, is half the Dark Six. Even one of them going rogue is a massive deal. Do you have any idea why?"
"Nobody really knows," said V. "Some people deep in the underworld like Casimir knew that the Dark Six wanted to plot some kind of revolt, bring in a new world order and all that villain crap, and theorycrafting about sitting on the throne is nice and all, but the execution is a whole lot messier.
The Dark Six have fought on how to bring out this big revolution, whether they even want to threaten their livelihoods to do it, how much each of them will have to give up, and blah blah blah, lots of arguments, basically.
The Russian prong's the least loyal because they're so new. I can imagine them being a weak link to this."
"I see," said Aldrich. He knew that Dracul had torn down the former Russian prong of the Trident fifteen years ago.
A new prong had risen up to take their place in the Trident, hailing from a few remote crime families that hailed from deep Siberia, but because they were new, they had less longstanding loyalty to the larger organization as a whole.
Especially because before the Trident, they were a splinter group of technos that did freelance work. They were likely used to working on their own terms. But even then, they had worked just fine with the others for a decade.
What had changed? Something massive must have happened.
"Investigate this situation, V. Try to get to the bottom of this. I want a reason for why the Russian prong's going rogue. If we can find that, then it's possible we can manipulate them. Exploit them and break the Dark Six from the inside out," said Aldrich.
"Right-o. I will tell you, though, that quite a few reported fights between the Russian and Italian prongs happened after Casimir's Haven stunt," said V. "They might be feeling the pressure with all the info we got about their stored weapons, drugs, labs, and the like.
The Russian prong's always been insanely secretive, though, so it's hard to figure out what it is they're actually disagreeing about."
"Yeah. I know a good deal about the Japanese and Italian prongs, but the Russian one, I'm in the dark about as well. Can you infiltrate them?"
"The Russian prong's the main tech hand of the Trident. I don't know how they sharpened their skills out in the balls freezing wastes of Siberia, but I do know they're pretty damn good.
They live up to their rep as the 'Reapers of the Cyberverse', that's for sure. Hard to spot, hard to track, and real deadly as well.
They've got a few Den trained technos like me to really nail themselves in as a threat. Top of the line, same potential as me, but with even more experience.
I can't snoop around their infrastructure in the Cyberverse without getting caught. Desmond's Cyberverse infrastructure might be like a castle, but the Reapers, well, they're like an invisible helicarrier, something you're never going to find unless you have inside info."
"Do what you can. I mostly want a clearer read on this situation. If you get any info, make sure to ping me in my earpiece," said Aldrich.
"Sure thing, boss. Anything else?"
"About Desmond, how's that going?"
"Tons of trash. The parasites have split 2231 times since they were planted in Desmond's tip server. Most of that are just random ass people, nomads and hunters and the like, throwing out info tips to Desmond about seeing this wanted guy there, this group of variants worth hunting here, and so on, nothing too useful for us.
Around half of them port into the Cyberverse using burner terminals, so my bugs die there. The other half that use personal devices don't seem to belong to anyone important.
Good thing is, ol' FIsky here has analyzed the trash and picked out a nugget of gold.
There's this one guy that sends tips to Desmond somewhat routinely and on a private device. It's secure, but not that secure. Guy's not an amateur, but he's no seasoned techno either.
I've gotten access to all his devices and figured out he's a nomad scout affiliated with the Dark Six. Also affiliated with Gerard. Basically, a spy."
Aldrich perked up instantly. "A spy?"
"Yeah. I'll forward you all his info, but basically, he tips off the Dark Six about what's going on with the chiefs. He's not important, so he doesn't know too much."
"But at the minimum, he's a security risk. He knows Casimir's met the chiefs," said Aldrich. "He knows about us."
"All he knows is Casimir came here, talked, then left. Doesn't know what was talked about or what's going on," said V. "And he hasn't had a chance to dump his info either.
From what I can tell from his call and location histories, he does that when his tribe, uh, the Eagles, make a pit stop in a specific commune. He meets a Dark Six handler there who prefers getting the info physically."
"A handler?" Aldrich's eyes lit up as he saw a golden chance manifest before him. "Get Blackwater ready. Contact Fler'Gan. I'm going to schedule an old fashioned kidnapping."