Paved With Good Intentions, Part I



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Scene Title Paved With Good Intentions, Part I
Synopsis On Groundhog Day, Asi leads a team to PISEC to carry out Nabu's request.
Date February 2, 2020

There's nothing as dramatic as flashing lights and sirens, but everything's falling apart all the same.

There's a compromise in the system, something running rampant. It encrypts whatever it doesn't outright corrupt, and it's spreading so, so easily, so very quickly. It somehow got in, and now—

Now it's gaining access to everything. Secrets, systems, controls.

Genki Nagano's never seen anything like it, and he stands over his desk with a blank expression, looking down to his terminal and then back up to the larger monitors hanging from the walls. He can hear other analysts around him trying to get control, to shut it out, but they're not having any luck. He's not to a point yet where he's afraid, but looking at what's happening, there's no mistaking that there's an active attack happening on the Japanese government.

And that whoever is carrying it out is no mere hacker. No, this— this was everything he feared from his current case.

This was almost certainly the act of an oni.

12 years later
Orient Point, New York
February 2, 2020

In an ideal world, Asi would be doing this with BOOM. Actually, in an ideal world, she'd not be doing this at all.

But in a more ideal world, she'd be surrounded by people she actually trusts.

She turns back at the sound of another set of footsteps on the grassy sand, the end of her cigarette burning red. The lanky figure that approaches wears a black vest covered in velcro, a duffel bag slung across their chest. Fist-sized objects hang off the black body of velcro, and who knows what else is in the bag. Their eyes are covered over by a pair of black goggles, its lenses tinted red. "Well hey," they greet all too cheerily. "This the party? Which one of you's the oni?" Asi lifts her hand in reply before pulling the cigarette away, exhaling a thick cloud of smoke into the cold. The ocean wind takes it away before she can even reply.

"That's me." She lifts her head, gesturing to them with her chin. "Are you the demo expert I ordered?" she asks in a deadpan.

The newcomer spreads their arms, grinning wide. "What gave me away?" they ask suavely. Their torso twists more her way as their arms fall. "You can call me Boomer."

She'd rather not.

"Boomer," she says anyway. "This is Redd, Aman, and Masika." Asi looks over to the one she called Redd, a darkly-dressed man with a weathered visage that's all too familiar for her. Her gaze flits on rather than peering into the funhouse mirror that's the face of this Silas. She regards Aman next, who stands with his arms folded tightly against the cold, the scarf woven twice around his neck looking like it's more for show than to keep him warm. He's been looking up and down the coast nervously in the few minutes since he arrived by foot, wondering just what they're doing out here, their focus on the water rather than back toward civilization.

Masika's attention has been more firmly on the water than the rest of them, standing right up against the waves that crash upon the shore. Asi regards her last, flicking the ash away from her cigarette. "You about ready?" The woman turns to Asi, water that had been clinging to the beach rushing back into the sea. She lifts a hand to brush stray strands of black hair behind her ear. Her brown eyes harden, the crow's feet around them becoming more pronounced.

"This way," Masika directs them. Boomer saunters past Aman who stands in place rather than moving. He looks befuddled. Go? his expression says. Go where? There's nowhere to go.

But there is. When the others get closer, Masika steps forward into the surf, and the water repels around her foot in an arc. She splays her hand before her, taking another step, and the water pulses away, creating a bulb around her. Looking back, she tilts her head to indicate the others keep walking. Her other hand lifts, and as the group continues to walk forward, the water continues to part for them, the wall getting taller. Brows popping high, Aman rushes forward to bring up the pack. Masika doesn't speak again, her arms lifting as she leads them into the surf

and then below it, a bubble of air created by her power sealing them in.

The disruption in the water above is fast to fade, ripples moving in the direction of the island in the distance … before they're covered over by the normal movement of the tide.

12 years earlier
Cabinet Intensive Information Center
Chiyoda, Tokyo, Japan

The security engineer is trying to explain and get an edge on the thing at the same time. Information comes from him in fits and starts. "«It's moving through the network now. It—»"

"«It's doing what?»"

"«I'm telling you, it's— it's elsewhere in the system. Anything in this building, anything on our network, it's going to get to it.»" And the building housed their entire counterintelligence operation— had access and controls to all of their satellites. Information and systems used to respond to natural disasters was a floor in the other direction, too.

The door to the analyst's room bursts open. Someone Genki recognizes from the Counterintelligence Center invites himself in. "«Hey, what the hell is going on down here? We just got locked out of everything on our end.»"

Genki's boss gets it now. He looks to the security analyst. "«Shut it all down.»" It's that simple, right? Pull the plug, this all ends?

"«It just ran off with my credentials after changing the password. I can't.»" the engineer tries again to explain, more frustrated than before.

A hand catches the door before it can close, pushing it back open again. Without the door slamming to call attention to what's happening, nobody notices the short, determined woman who makes her way in after. She's not dressed like everyone else here; not dressed professionally at all. She's in a tank top and cargo pants, a laptop clasped in one hand. Her face is drawn back in determination, and she walks through the space like she owns it, despite never having been here before.

Despite the pounding of her heart inside her chest.

It's Genki who notices her first, because of course it is. The surprise of it makes him start, hand flattening on his desk. He finds his voice a moment later, authoritative to a fault. "«Tetsuzan Asami, stop right where you are.»"

She ignores him. She finds an unoccupied desk and opens her laptop, which is already running. A hand fishes out cables from one of the bulging pockets at her side. "«Don't worry, Nagano. It's kind of hard to spy on you when your whole house is falling in around your head.»" is how she chooses to reply. Genki takes the quip poorly.

"«ON1, stop! You're under arrest!»"

The room goes silent at the outburst, but only for a moment. Then they move to separate technopath from system, which doesn’t take long. The cabling is ripped from her hand before she can hook into the station she’d tried to make herself home at, arms forced behind her. There’s shouts all the while, and not all of them belong to the government officials bringing the technopath into submission.

It’s the third or fourth time she shouts, “«It wasn’t me!»” that there’s enough of a break in the clamour for her to be heard. She looks up at Genki in particular, down on one knee. This position isn’t comfortable by any means, but her expression is stoically determined as she regards him. “«I’ll stop it. I’ll keep it from going any further.»” the technopath insists with calm force. “«But I can’t do it from right here.»”

“«After everything you’ve done, what makes you think we’re going to believe you?»” One of the men holding her down sneers.

It’s then that she loses part of her calm, a flare of passion in her voice as she closes her eyes. “«Despite what you think, I don’t want the fucking country to fall in on itself. This is my home, for all you’ve people done to make it inhospitable. Let me help.»” The mask she wears slips, a twinge of discomfort and frustration both slipping through. “«I can stop this.»”

There’s an uncomfortable silence that follows, no one willing to make an immediate call on what to do. After a moment of consideration, Genki looks up. His boss was already moving for the door, having finished up a conversation across the room. The distraction that was playing out with the technopath’s stunt didn’t eliminate the crisis at hand, after all. “«Chief,»” Genki calls out as he heads for the door with the Counterintelligence agent. “«We should let it try. Maybe the only way to fight this is with another one of its kind.»”

His boss pauses in the doorway, glancing to Asi for only a moment before looking back to Genki. “«You get 15 minutes.»” he stresses flatly. It’s not a courtesy. “«That’s how long it’ll take to physically pull the plug on everything.»”

The door swinging shut behind him, it leaves everyone else to figure out what to do on their own. Genki does his part in insisting they let go of her. Asi’s arms shake for a moment after she’s released, coming back to her feet. She gets back to what she was doing in silence, the dark blue of her eyes flaring brighter with an inner light as she sends out a web of subprocesses to chase after the stubborn, powerful program wreaking havoc on the government systems.

She’d told v.iris to not go easy on her.

Now she can only hope she’s able to pull this off in time.

12 years later
Plum Island
9:02 am

Along an empty beach, the water on the shoreline begins to burble. The surf abruptly parts, revealing a pod of space where the water has been braced away from the group of trespassers who neared the island by walking under the waves. “Go, head for the trees,” Asi urges them all as soon as they see the sky again. She takes in a breath of fresh air for the first time in minutes, looking up and down the beach for any signs of a patrol. None.

Masika lags behind, tripping and pausing for a moment, one hand resting on her knee. Asi can’t imagine what kind of strain she’s suffering from after the stunt she just pulled, but she doesn’t slow her own pace. The older woman grits through it and jogs to catch up with them in the relative safety of the treeline, where the cluster of them take a moment to breathe and regroup.

“We follow this around— the research lab is the first building we’ll run into.” Asi states, ignoring the widening of Aman’s eyes and focusing on Redd, ‘Boomer’, and Masika instead. “We get whatever information we can from there first. If it’s everything we’re after, we leave immediately from there.” But she doubts it. Things like this are never that simple, and they’re going in almost blind.

They make progress quickly through the woods, the cover of it they’re able to leverage lasting almost up until the side building off of the larger center that must make up PISEC. They have to pause just before the building comes into sight— staying down while a Jeep rolls down the paved, single-lane path on the island’s perimeter. At least it means it should be a while before the next patrol comes by. It’s Redd who’s directed to take point as they close in on the building, Asi just behind him. It’s her hand that produces a keycard with a stolen identity and waves it on the panel of a door flanked by a meter-high cigarette disposal.

The light turns green, and they’re in. Asi sticks to the front, drawing her gun as Redd draws his. She doesn’t remember it happening, just notices it in his hand as they head down the hall. Bulletproof windows line an internal wall, providing a view into the lab they’ll need to enter next. It’s close quarters, so either Redd’s ability shields them, or the people within don’t take note of the group heading down the hall until they swipe the card again and push in the doors.

Instantly, the lab attendants and their guards turn. Everyone who should be here is here. Who else is coming now?

No one who should be, that’s who. Redd lifts his silenced gun and fires with professional precision, right between the eyes of guard one before he can lift his weapon, and through the temple of guard two before he can properly face them. Asi’s spared the need to immediately fire herself as a result, glancing sidelong at the hitman she stands by before quickly moving on to assessing who still stands. The only recognizable face among the lab personnel isn’t a face she’s looking for.

But maybe Richard Schwenkman will do. “You,” she directs him. “Are you already logged in?”

Back in the hall, Aman is recoiling. “Jesus Ch—” he whispers, still loud enough to draw a steely glance from Masika. She shakes her head and spares a quiet word for him before following in after. In the meantime, Schwenkman is moved to the research terminal and made to validate his credentials. Asi picks up the identity card off of one of the dead security guards on her way over. Once the prisoner-researcher is in, she’s brusque, and quick. “Move.” Her eyes flare with an inner light as she takes control from him. Whatever he’s working on will make itself apparent faster than if she asked him out loud. The external drive she pulls from a waterproof bag is directed to accept the trove of information she forces the computer to dump out.

In the back of her mind, she begins a running tally of all the things they’ve done so far to have possibly caused an alert to be thrown, the bypass of the security policy on the terminal becoming the most recent instance. While she waits for it to finish working, she leverages the guard’s identity next, working her way into the camera system with little effort. They didn’t seem to expect someone would ever come at them from inside the network, or know precisely where to poke.

The cameras in the lab are rewound, paused, and left. Then she moves on to adjusting the ones outside the door they need to enter through next, nudging their view away from the entryway. “The target’s not here. We’ll have to enter the main building.“ she announces while she works. Now’s here where it gets tricky.

Asi looks over her shoulder at the group with her, visibly doing a calculation. “Aman, with me and Redd,” she decides, and the previously-frazzled thirty-something merely nods his head twice, quickly. Yeah, sure, anywhere but here. Anywhere but where there’s dead people, please. She seems satisfied that he’s not going to cause a fuss or otherwise bail on them and looks to Redd next. What comes next will put a good deal of stress on his ability.

But it also might be the only thing that keeps them alive.

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