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All the world's a stage


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Syart
03.28.2013 , 02:04 PM | #111
A beetle's view, one week later:
Quote:
Message from Aphran IV SIS local office to Agent Harson Nild, Coruscant

Com records indicate messages were routed via Carratos system but both sender and receiver were in the same hotel. Observation maintained constantly on dropped package as ordered. No pickup or apparent interest to date. Continue observation or retrieve package for analysis?
Nild frowned. He made a note and dropped his datapad back on the desk, but it landed awkwardly and slid off a pile of files onto the floor. He picked it up irritatedly.

A few hours later:
Quote:
Message from Corellia SIS local office to Agent Harson Nild, Coruscant

Regret all subjects evaded observation shortly after arrival, unable to regain trace to date, efforts continuing. No identification under supplied names or other details. No matching record in Coronet City or Tyrena. No matching record at Core Worlds Central Bank all Corellian system offices. No matching record at Coronet University any department. Further searches ongoing.
Nild muttered several things, none of them printable, added a note to his record and threw the datapad back on his desk. It bounced off the files again, knocking his coffee cup over. Fortunately it was empty. He went to refill it.

The next morning he came into his office and found the message light already blinking on his terminal:
Quote:
Message from SIS Central Records Division to Agent Harson Nild, Operations

Summary:
Subject 1 identifed as Imperial Intelligence Agent Eckard Lokin, code name Fixer Fifteen.
Subject 2 identified as Imperial Intelligence Agent Cirean Geardail, no code name on record.
Subject 3 identified as Imperial Intelligence Agent code name Cipher Twelve, real name unknown.

Attached: supporting files and cross references
Attached: personal note
Harson, fast turnaround as requested. You owe me at least five drinks by now, about time you paid up or you'll be added to my double-crossing rat file.
We don't have a great deal on them, but from previous records, the last time all three were known to be in the same place was on the Imperial science vessel Warhammer where they successfully prevented a defection from the Imperial Science Bureau. Senior Agent Cnoc Garbh was picking the defector up, but made a hash of the whole thing. Captured Cipher Twelve but the other two broke him out again, and managed to disable the SIS ship and assassinate the defector, all right under Garbh's nose. He got demoted three levels and transferred to Tatooine. Hope you do better!
Yours, Tag.
Nild read the attached information, growled a lot of very unprintable things, and proceeded to send some replies:
Quote:
Message from Agent Harson Nild to Corellia SIS local office

Acknowledged and thanks for your work. No further identification or trace efforts necessary (see attached). Try checking spaceport records to see whether individuals matching descriptions have left Corellia recently, and destinations if possible.
Attached: copy of files from Central Records
Quote:
Message from Agent Harson Nild to Aphran IV SIS local office

Acknowledged and thank you for your efforts. No further observation necessary, retrieve package and return it to Coruscant for analysis. Further communication to come.
Quote:
Personal note from Agent Harson Nild to Senior Clerk Tagetes Patula, Central Records

Thanks for the info Tag, though not what I wanted to hear!
The three of them set us up, looks like a clear case of diversion. Something else must have been going on at Aphran IV but the chance of us ever finding out what now has to be small at best.
Reading the Warhammer report (Garbh's demotion well-deserved, I'm afraid), it looks like Lokin took the lead there too. I have to admit (reluctantly!) that he and his two supporting agents did an excellent job. I'll be doing a full analysis of everything our observers picked up on Aphran IV and comparing it with the Warhammer incident to see if we can document their MO and spot them faster next time.
Oh well, we live and learn. Next time Lokin shows up, we'll know to take a wider look at everything and not fall for his misdirection.
Get you that drink next week, bit pushed for time right now.
Cheers, Harson.
It was close enough to lunch time. In a fit of rage he threw his datapad across the room and went to get a large drink.

It took a couple of weeks to clear up the resulting fallout, but fortunately he didn't get posted to Tatooine. The previous experience with the three Imperial Intelligence agents on the Warhammer made it pretty plain that they were a top team, and Tuath and Sgorr escaped all censure. His own response to their report was considered acceptable. Then he got another message:
Quote:
Message from Dr Eckard Lokin, Imperial Science Bureau, Dromund Kaas, to Agent Harson Nild, SIS HQ, Coruscant

My dear Harson,

I anticipate that this letter will have taken a while to get to you as I have naturally had to send it via a rather circuitous route. I trust it finds you well, and that the stresses of your work are not proving too onerous at the moment.

I enjoyed our conversations on Aphran IV; perhaps we may have a chance to resume them at a later date. I gather you are something of a rising star in the SIS and feel quite flattered that you would give us your personal attention.

Since you seemed so interested in the Aphran IV insectoids, I have taken the liberty of putting together a short list (attached) of references on evolutionary biology for you. These are written for the lay audience and should be fairly readily comprehensible. Sadly, I regret that I can't make myself available for any questions you might have, but Professor Assynt's former colleagues at Corellia University will certainly be able to help.

However, my real reason for writing is concerning your agents Tuath and Sgorr. They are delightful people (I would appreciate it if you could thank Tuath again for the Mirialan recipes she gave us, which really are delicious), and displayed admirable skill in detecting my Imperial affiliation. We were most appreciative of their immediate reaction.

Unfortunately, I feel it incumbent on me to advise you that they could both do with some more advanced training; most notably in bugging techniques and communications security. We have been able to use Tuath's identity to good effect in the lower levels of the SIS nets, but it has now come to the end of its usefulness. I felt I should do you the courtesy of informing you that we no longer require it, and you may feel free to change or withdraw it at any time.

Yours cordially,
Eckard Lokin
---

Quote:
Message from Agent Harson Nild to Requisitions, SIS HQ

Please supply new official datapad, also technical support to assist with retrieving information from the previous one which has suffered a number of cracks and the screen no longer works.
Control, passion, diligence: these three principles shape your world.

Lord Scourge: To repeat a mistake and expect a beneficial outcome is a sign of insanity.

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bright_ephemera
03.28.2013 , 02:35 PM | #112
Ahaha! No part of this latest chapter was not delightful. Lokin's gloat-o-gram was a perfect topper.
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Ventessel's Avatar


Ventessel
03.28.2013 , 11:49 PM | #113
I loved the context behind this installment, and the format you chose. The messages told just enough of the story to be hilarious, and that email from Lokin cements his reputation as a Magnificent Bastard
The Heir to ChaosAdded Chapter Sixteen-- 17 APR 2013
“People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” ~ George Orwell

Syart's Avatar


Syart
03.30.2013 , 03:33 AM | #114
Quote: Originally Posted by bright_ephemera View Post
Ahaha! No part of this latest chapter was not delightful. Lokin's gloat-o-gram was a perfect topper.
Gloat-o-gram - I like that
Quote: Originally Posted by Ventessel View Post
I loved the context behind this installment, and the format you chose. The messages told just enough of the story to be hilarious, and that email from Lokin cements his reputation as a Magnificent Bastard
That is a fascinating website, I had no idea such things existed You're absolutely right, Lokin does come across in game as a Magnificent Bastard, and I'm sure he would love the description. But he's still quite young (32) and there are even bigger bastards out there

I had fun writing this episode, thank you both for expressing your appreciation
Control, passion, diligence: these three principles shape your world.

Lord Scourge: To repeat a mistake and expect a beneficial outcome is a sign of insanity.

Syart's Avatar


Syart
03.30.2013 , 03:47 AM | #115
Twelve, Cirean and Lokin all managed to meet up together again a few months later, on Hutta, which was a bit less public than Nar Shaddaa. The toxic stench, foul swamps, and eye-watering fumes tended to make it a less desirable destination. Most people didn't go to Hutta at all unless it was unavoidable.

They were in a surprisingly pleasant cantina on the outskirts of Bilbousa, off the beaten track. It had working air conditioning and particle filters, and served plain but decent food. Another agent had discovered it some years ago and passed the location around, much to the delight (and relief) of any Intelligence person who had to spend time on Hutta.

Having got their drinks, they retired to a table away from the other patrons, ran their usual bug scans, Lokin produced his small sound damper, and then they relaxed into their chairs.

"So then, what news?" asked Twelve.

"Let me start, I have some big news", Cirean announced, fairly bursting with it. "Found out just before I left to come here. Keeper is retiring."

"A pity", said Twelve, looking regretful, "but it had to happen sooner or later. He's managed to hold out for a long time. I did part of my training under him, you know. He was one of the instructors at my academy for a couple of years too."

"I didn't know, but it's about time", Lokin commented acidly. "Did he jump or was he pushed? If pushed, whose hand do I go and shake?"

"You've never forgiven him for what he did after the Warhammer, have you?" asked Twelve.

"We were a good team, he didn't have to split us up. And effectively kick me out."

Twelve shook his head. "I told you before, he was a man in a difficult place. Try to think about it objectively. He had to give some form of punishment. His ultimate masters - the Sith, via the Minister of Intelligence - wouldn't have accepted anything else. But what he should have done was to have sent you both for 're-education', and you know what that means, and had you removed from Intelligence. Me, he would have sent for complete mindwipe or to Shadow Town on Nar Shaddaa forever. Instead, he kept the services of three of his most competent and loyal agents."

"A strange way of keeping us, downgrades all round and kicking me out to the ISB."

Cirean kept quiet, obviously having had this discussion with Twelve before.

Again Twelve shook his head. "On the contrary, you're a Fixer, still part of Intelligence. He made sure the Warhammer reports appeared to show that you'd made all the decisions. Thereby he protected Cirean, who only spent an extra year as junior agent, and seemed to throw the book at you instead. But, tell me the truth, are you hating what you do now? Didn't you tell me all those years ago in your recruitment interview that what you'd always dreamed of was biological research work?"

"Well.... yes", Lokin conceded reluctantly. "I admit it, I do love my work in Harvest, it is fascinating, I'm making real strides, discoveries. Cutting edge stuff, in popular parlance. I won't be giving that up, whether in the ISB or out of it. I think I said before, I'll experiment on myself if there's nothing else available. The SLV work has its interests as well."

"Yes, and you're finding things out about behind-the-scenes deals between the ISB and Intelligence and the Sith. Didn't you consider that too? Keeper put you inside the ISB, at a fairly senior level, in a job he thought you would enjoy and in a place where you would find things out. He expected you to go hunting and snooping, that's one of your strongest attributes, but you went all resentful ..."

"Snarly", interjected Cirean.

Lokin narrowed his eyes at her but Twelve laughed. "Good description. I had to nudge you in the end, Eckard, remember that conversation at the Star Cluster? Finding out what the Sith were up to, what other plans there are for the SLV projects, the eugenics programmes. Keeper maintained the illusion of punishment, so well that even you were convinced", he gave Lokin a faint grin, "but without its actuality."

Lokin was frowning deeply, furiously rearranging his thoughts about Keeper, Intelligence, the ISB, even Twelve.

Twelve continued. "Over the last decade or so, the position of Keeper within Intelligence has been increasingly marginalised. Reduced almost completely to purely ongoing operational matters, cut out of most long term and strategic planning. Keeper has known for a long time that there were things going on that he was excluded from. He's been trying to fight back, keep Intelligence as independent as possible. Creating a network of Intelligence within Intelligence. Protecting agents not used by the Sith, those he could trust, by spreading them out, away from central operations or sideways into other organisations. ISB is only one of them. We're seeded through the military, in production, logistics, diplomacy, technology, justice, every one of the Spheres. And the Sith haven't spotted it."

"So, let me get this straight. You've been working with Keeper?"

"Yes. After the Warhammer, while I was recovering, I had a lot of long conversations with him. He explained what he'd done with you and why, that he knew about me and Cirean and was sympathetic to our situation, and he sent me off, in an apparent operational downgrade, to the margins of the Empire, nominally under the control of Darth Ravage as head of the Sphere of Expansion and Diplomacy. But out there, I'm away from the close eyes of the Sith. I vet every agent sent out to train under me; those I decide to trust I warn about what's happening. I'm cultivating our allies without Sith interference as far as possible, and recruiting some of their best as new agents, free of other influence. You know I've always liked recruiting and training." He smiled.

Lokin nodded, but absently, still processing this appalling enlightenment.

"I firmly believe - and so does Keeper - that the order of the Empire is the best thing for the galaxy, and our job in Intelligence is to maintain that order. But the Sith are ... not very orderly." He smiled wryly. "As long as they use their strength in support of the Empire, and keep their squabbling and power plays between themselves, that's fine, the Empire functions well. But once they start using the structures of the Empire as pawns, to fight their internal battles for them ..." He shrugged.

"You said you trained under him", said Lokin, still trying to absorb these revelations. "You mean that fat old idiot was actually an active agent at some time?"

"Not just an agent, he's a former Cipher. Cipher Two, if you're interested, I'm sure you can snoop through the archives some day. He's worked hard for years to cultivate a persona of limited competence, plodding, unflashy, easily despised and overlooked. Non-threatening to the Sith, who now see him only as a tool to be used, and thereby holding onto his position for so many years."

"very convincingly." Lokin was frowning deeply again. "Why didn't you tell me this before?"

"Don't feel too bad about it, Eckard." Twelve chuckled. "He was one of the best covert operatives in his day, probably one of the best ever. He spent years on Coruscant in the early days of planning for the war, and taught classes in long-term deep infiltration when he came back. Think about it. His continued existence, and ours for that matter, and maintaining the independence of Intelligence as much as possible, all depended on his ability to do this. Fighting back, from the inside and in total secrecy, against those who destabilise us and the Empire. As to not telling you, it was safer that way, it protected both of you."

Lokin scratched his beard, still looking annoyed. "I suppose I have to reconsider a lot of things."

Twelve nodded. "As will we all, now he's going." He looked at Cirean. "Any news on his replacement?"

"I heard it's some woman being transferred from the Office of Military Offence, order of Darth Vengean." She sighed. "Direct interference, exactly what Keeper was trying to prevent."

"But, thanks to Keeper, something we're prepared for and which won't affect Intelligence nearly so much as it might have done."

He looked back to Lokin. "I think we'll leave discussion of your ISB discoveries for after dinner. You probably want to do some thinking." He smiled, not unsympathetically.

"Indeed", said Lokin, trying not to show his chagrin. "And I clearly need to become a lot more suspicious. Take no-one at face value and seek ulterior motives everywhere. After all these years, I'm appalled at my own naivety."

Twelve nodded. “Paranoia always pays off, if only in an increased life expectancy.”

Lokin sighed again. “I think I shall take that as my personal motto.”
Control, passion, diligence: these three principles shape your world.

Lord Scourge: To repeat a mistake and expect a beneficial outcome is a sign of insanity.

kabeone's Avatar


kabeone
03.30.2013 , 01:57 PM | #116
Hi! Just wanted to say I've been enjoying this story and I love the new twists Lokin's life takes at every turn.

Syart's Avatar


Syart
03.31.2013 , 02:36 AM | #117
Quote: Originally Posted by kabeone View Post
Hi! Just wanted to say I've been enjoying this story and I love the new twists Lokin's life takes at every turn.
Thank you! And even more for this. For anyone who doesn't want to read the whole thing, just look at Kabe's picture.
Control, passion, diligence: these three principles shape your world.

Lord Scourge: To repeat a mistake and expect a beneficial outcome is a sign of insanity.

Ventessel's Avatar


Ventessel
04.02.2013 , 08:55 AM | #118
Quote: Originally Posted by Syart View Post
That is a fascinating website, I had no idea such things existed You're absolutely right, Lokin does come across in game as a Magnificent Bastard, and I'm sure he would love the description. But he's still quite young (32) and there are even bigger bastards out there

I had fun writing this episode, thank you both for expressing your appreciation
I love TVTropes, they're a great place to just browse for ideas and also to see what ideas are common and what concepts are less often used in fiction. It's dangerous, though, I've lost countless hours there when I only meant to check one thing, haha.

Reading the latest chapter actually made me consider something: What if Intelligence got agents recruited by the Sith? Find Force Sensitive people and train them as deep-cover agents with the express goal of sending them to Korriban to infiltrate the Sith and minimize their danger to the Empire? That would be a hell of a coup for these agents.
The Heir to ChaosAdded Chapter Sixteen-- 17 APR 2013
“People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” ~ George Orwell

Syart's Avatar


Syart
04.09.2013 , 12:42 PM | #119
Apologies for the hiatus, my old cat (21) got ill over Easter and I had to have her put down, which left me feeling rather squished for a while

Quote: Originally Posted by Ventessel View Post
Reading the latest chapter actually made me consider something: What if Intelligence got agents recruited by the Sith? Find Force Sensitive people and train them as deep-cover agents with the express goal of sending them to Korriban to infiltrate the Sith and minimize their danger to the Empire? That would be a hell of a coup for these agents.
This is a very interesting idea, and actually has the potential to dovetail quite neatly with another thing I'm semi-working on *develops outline further* Thank you
Control, passion, diligence: these three principles shape your world.

Lord Scourge: To repeat a mistake and expect a beneficial outcome is a sign of insanity.

Syart's Avatar


Syart
04.09.2013 , 12:43 PM | #120
(After another two years)

Twelve and Lokin met in the Mirialan restaurant on Nar Shaddaa again, as usual. It was divided into small private booths, and with the two agents' sound damping tech, bug scans, and general paranoia about being followed, it was reasonably secure for undisturbed and unnoticed meetings. The date happened to be Twelve's birthday, though that was entirely coincidental.

"So, forty-two today, getting old", said Lokin with a grin, raising his glass to Twelve as they waited for their meals to be served.

"Watch your tone, youngster, it won't be that long before you're here too." Twelve chuckled. "You're right, though, and I'm going to retire from active service after my next mission. I am old, for an Agent."

"True, Ciphers are only supposed to last five years on average, and you've done double that already. Impressive."

Twelve nodded. "The last psych assessment warned of incipient burnout, and they're right, much as I hate to admit it. I'm slower than I used to be, spend more time thinking, less time doing, don't always react fast enough. One day I'm just not going to get out of the way in time."

He took another drink, then rubbed at his right shoulder, the one which had been badly damaged by the Republic and SIS troops on the Warhammer. "I ache more, too." He grinned ruefully.

"I'd offer you a painkiller, but it wouldn't mix with this fine Mirialan wine and it would be a shame to waste that. Seriously though, do you need a medical going over? You can trust me to be discreet. And honest, for once."

"No, no medicals thanks. But yes, I do trust you. Odd really, you're undoubtedly one of the sneakiest, nastiest, and most underhanded people I ever recruited or trained."

"I'll take that as a compliment." Lokin chuckled, as did Twelve. “So, retiring, eh? What will you be doing for your last mission. Finishing off in a blaze of glory?”

Twelve shook his head. "Not at all. I'm off to the Hapes Cluster, delicate border negotiations with some of the Hapan Royal Court. Usual story, protect our allies, do what I can to disrupt the Republic, frame them for a bit of sabotage, an assassination or two, and stop them doing the same to us. Should be fun. A nice easy final mission and then home to a desk job, whatever they can find me."

"You'll be bored silly within a week", prophesied Lokin.

"Oh no, it'll take at least a month." Twelve grinned. "Depends what it is, I suppose. At least if they put me to Watching or Minding, I'll still be involved in active missions."

"Confess, you'll miss it."

"Certainly for a while. But there are other reasons, and on the plus side, Cirean and I ... well, we'll finally have the chance to settle down together. She's already requested a transfer to Minder status. We meet when we can, but long distance and clandestine affairs are never easy, or enough."

Lokin nodded. "Yes, I can understand that. I felt quite guilty for taking up your time with her when we were on Aphran IV. Though it was fun to be working as a team again.”

He took another sip of wine, savouring the delicate flavour. “After a while thinking about it, and re-examining everything I knew, or thought I knew, about Intelligence, the ISB, the Sith and all the rest of it, I admit that the old Keeper was probably pretty close to genius level as an agent. From a few things I've since heard or seen, we weren't the only ones he appeared to punish without doing so. I just wish he'd been able to transfer me back to active service." He smiled twistedly.

"Certainly better than the current Keeper, thrice-blasted idiot woman straight out of a bureaucracy nightmare." Twelve added a few curses in Huttese, a language amply provided with profanities, then took another swallow of his wine.

"You were never really going to make it as an Agent, you know", he said thoughtfully. "Not because of any lack of capability, but you're unpredictable sometimes. Not considered reliable by the bureaucrats, who have no idea what active service actually involves. The Warhammer incident was a convenient way of getting you off the Agent lists, but it would have had to happen sooner or later anyway."

Their food arrived just then, and the conversation became more general.
Control, passion, diligence: these three principles shape your world.

Lord Scourge: To repeat a mistake and expect a beneficial outcome is a sign of insanity.