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coldskier0320
5 September 2006, 06:23 AM
The massive blast doors that opened to a traffic pattern deep in the underworld of Nar Shaddaa now stood closed fast against the bustling vertical city. The lone ship inside was every bit as impregnable.

Alliance SigInt officer Larrad Symmons stood, somewhat irritated, at the man-door into the bay’s tiny office. He’d been waiting on a response from this location for days, and still had heard nothing. The only thing that kept him from feeling outright rage was the very real possibility that both the occupants of the ship were dead.

Finally, his electronic diagnostics man returned from the hull of the ship, headset still perched atop his unruly hair, and gave him an affirmative nod. Suddenly, now that it was time to act, he wished he could wait longer. The silence in the deserted bay was oppressive. With a mental steeling of himself, he started across the bay.

While his ED man’s footsteps had been nearly silent to him, his footfalls seemed to mock the solemn silence of the place, crunching loudly in the dirt that covered the floor of the hangar. Drawing up to the side of the ship, he cautiously palmed the hatch release.

Almost immediately, the ramp of the old Corellian ship lowered, even the muted hiss of its hydraulics sounding painfully loud amid the hushed environs of the room. As it settled into the same dirt Symmons had crunched through, he noticed that now the sounds of the ship gave the bay a sort of background noise it had been lacking, making it feel more lived in, more welcoming. In addition, the harsh, pristine white lighting of the ship shone out of the hatch into the dimly lit bay, seeming to purify a small cone of the bay with its welcome sounds and light. As he stepped up the ramp, Symmons’ hand found the grip of his blaster, though he didn’t draw the weapon.

As he walked toward the cockpit, another noise halted him. A slight scraping or rattling from a crew cabin to his right. Drawing his pistol, he called out clearly, loudly.

“Who’s there?!”

No response.

Slowly, deliberately, he reached up to palm the door control. As the door panel slid open sideways, he brought his pistol up, ready to find a target…

…only to stop short, finding the room cluttered, floor to ceiling, wall to wall, with all manner of technical goodies. Datacards, microprocessors, breadboards, datapads, droid parts, and even more unidentifiable components littered the floor, surfaces, and shelves of the painfully cold room. Indeed, in the same harsh white lighting, he could clearly see his breath, and his left arm had begun to involuntarily shiver in the frosty room. Also, as soon as the door had opened, breaking the acoustic barrier of the room, his ears were flooded with a torrent of dysphonic crashing that his brain took a few seconds to finally identify as the new phrik-core music that was all the rage among the punk teens of the galaxy lately. Still, he was surprised to find the room deserted.

Almost deserted, he realized, as he spotted a stripe of electric blue hair protruding from around a stack of recording rods on the end of the desk shelf. Easing around the desk, he finds his contact.

A young teenage girl, almost abnormally thin and bony, lay back in an overused repulsor chair, fast asleep with her mouth hanging open and a datapad stylus hanging out of it. Her hair was bleached blonde…almost white really, with an electric blue stripe framing one side of her face, while a hot pink stripe traces the outline of her other. Right now, however, both striped hung straight down, revealing her ears, one of which had a small gray earbud, no doubt reading some sort of datastream into her brain.

At first, Symmons thought she might be dead, but a slight rise and fall of her ribs, visible through her shirt, ensured him that she was simply taking a nap. This contact he’d been waiting to hear from for weeks, turning out to be a lazy teenage girl, was the last straw. He kicked out at her chair in fury, sending it slamming into another, smaller desk and triggering an avalanche of datacards form the top of it.

This woke her with a start, but unfortunately for her, her coordination in this state was only slightly more developed than her choice in music. As she rolled to the floor, she only had a chance to mumble something incoherent before Symmons descended on her like an angry hawk-bat.

“Where have you been?!”, he cried, “I’ve been waiting for a response for weeks for your transmission! You’d better have a very good explanation for why you’ve been keeping me waiting—“.

The girl, who had by now scrambled to her feet, rubbed her dry eyes as she adjusted a few switches on some of the equipment surrounding them. As Symmons continued railing, she held up a hand, cutting him off.

“Whoa, man. Would you give it a rest already?! I’m right here, no need to be yelling. Here! I’ll turn down the music…”, as she adjusted a knob, the loud noisy music fell to a quiet level.

“Music?!”, Symmons exclaimed incredulously, “You call that music?!”

“Geez! Calm down, man! Now just talk calmly…calmly and rationally. Have you seen my pain tabs anywhere?”

“NO!!!”, Symmons shrieked, pounding his fist on a shelf for effect, causing another avalanche, this time of stacks of flimsiplast.

“Oh thanks”, the girl muttered, crouching to the floor, grabbing a tiny bottle. “My pain tabs.”, she explained, swallowing a small handful of the pills, then throwing a huge piece of gum in her mouth.

Now beginning to shuffle through the jungle of clutter in the room, apparently having blocked out the Intel man, she asked absent mindedly, “Now what did you say your name was again?”

Symmons nearly exploded again. But as a practical man, he realized it would do him no good with this girl, “Symmons”, he growled, “I had an intercepted transmission for you to decrypt. I sent it to you about three weeks ago, with no reply, you incompetent fool.”

Again, the girl sifted just what she needed from Symmons’ rhetoric, mumbling to herself, “Simkins…Slith…Symmons…oh yeah…”.

Pulling a datacard from a stack, she plugged it into her workstation and tapped a few keys. Symmons eventually asked, “What? Is it ready?”

“Uh…”, she looked sheepish, “Not exactly…in fact…I haven’t gotten to it quite yet.”

Symmons turned another shade of red before she again tried to calm him down.

“Hold on man! Don’t polarize a coupling! I’m gonna run through it and see if I can get you on your way here.”

“Girl”, Symmons began, icy, “my own crack team spent nearly a month on this code, to no avail. I can hardly see what you intend to do here, without your team leader…or for that matter…the rest of your team.”

At this the girl actually stopped tapping at the keyboard and looked him in the eye. Apparently she hadn’t considered that before. Symmons smiled smugly as she blinked once.

“You have a team to do this?”, the asked around noisily chewed gum, “Then what do you need me for?”

“I told you…my team couldn’t make any progress with it.”

The girl continued staring up at him from her seat at the computer, as if she were unable to comprehend anyone not being able to crack an Imperial code. Finally, she cleared her throat, “Well, to start off, I am the team. I’m the team leader, I’m the analyst, the programmer, the scripter, the decrypter, the formatter, the whole deal. My man Jay, he’s my pilot; he hasn’t been around for a few days though, he must be having trouble finding the double-asymmetric randomizer subroutine disc I sent him out for. I told him to call me if he got confused, but who knows where he ended up…he likes to sniff ryll, and has no sense of direction. Now, if you’ll just give me a second here, I can send you on your way, at the very least, further along than when you walked in here and kicked my damn chair out from under me.”

Without waiting for a response, the gaunt, pale girl swiveled back around to her screen, rubbing her arms to warm them as she did. As she brought up the transmission, Symmons was temporarily disarmed by her youthful naiveté. Her pilot…apparently a drug-addict with no sense of direction, was probably killed, or in an Imperial cell, spilling his guts about where he’d taken the Alliance’s best decrypt team for the past few months. Oh, and the little detail that the ‘team’ was, in fact, a single teenage girl. Hesitantly, as if he were disrupting an ancient ritual, he hazarded,

“So…why do you keep it so cold in here? You can’t possibly like it this way.”

“Hate it.”, she agreed, never turning from the screen. Apparently, she was used to talking to someone while doing the task of seven men, “But if it were any warmer, all this heat generated by the machines would overpower the climate-control system. And rally cold is better than really hot. The processors run three percent faster in the cold environment.”

Symmons nodded at this selfless, practical logic as possibly the most lucid, worthwhile thing she’d said so far, “And I suppose you go out and get some fresh air from time to time. To warm up, if nothing else.”

Starting a few decrypt subroutines on the message, she shook her white hair to the negative, “Haven’t left this room since we landed.”

“But”, Symmons objected, “you’ve been here almost two months! Where do you sleep?! There’s no bed in here.”

“Well I usually don’t. I take stim-tabs, sleep replacement drinks, and brew caf in four pot cycles, round the clock. Intel keeps telling me I’m too valuable to have any downtime, so I just skip sleep most nights. Besides, the beds on this crate are about as soft as a molecularly-bonded armor plate. It’s just more convenient not to sleep. Besides, who’s gonna do all these transmissions while I sleep? You? Intel sends me everything that their field teams can’t decrypt in all of Hutt space, clear out to Tatooine. And then I get people like you in here who can’t figure out why your solutions are a few days late. ‘Sides, you get used to the cold.”

Symmons felt a pang of pity for the young girl, who didn’t seem to be fazed by the gross injustice she’d received as a result of her talent. Suddenly, felt very much a cruel tyrannical leader that he swore he’d never become. Still, the anxiousness to see what the transmission contained overpowered all else. Some cynical part of his brain realized that that sentiment was what kept four cycles of caf pots brewing at all times.

“Heh”, the girl cracked a slight grin, “ILKO.”

“What?”

“ILKO. The new crypt routine the Imps have been slipping past all you field teams lately. Stops all our subroutines before the first line of message code even executes. It’s a real creative one, for a bunch of self-absorbed, pompous Imps, sitting there in their plus sized Intel grays, eating another pastry in their standard shift day.”

Symmons couldn’t help but smile at that. For all her youthful appearance, she sounded just like Rowlang, his gruff, grizzled fifty-somethings superior, who’d run decrypt for Republic Intel as a kid during the Clone Wars.

“So there’s nothing you can tell me?”, Symmons asked rhetorically, frustrated, but not blaming the girl. Sighing, he turned to go when he heard her laugh slightly.

“What? No. Yes. I mean, I have your translation right here.”

“What?”

“Yeah, we cracked it last night. Not me exactly, but this kid out in the Colonies, Ghent. But he’s running on a civvie setup. While he crunched most of the numbers, I ran his tests here and did some general troubleshooting here on a real machine, as well as supplying him with existing, one-code translations that Intel had for ILKO. And yes, I know they don’t like it when you send class five clearance data over the HoloNet, but seriously, I’ve worked with Ghent before. His programming is sloppy, but he’s a top-notch decrypter and slicer…and he’s cool…for a little kid.”

This time, Symmons could only shake his head in amazement. A new imperial code that he didn’t even know had a name, and here, two kids had blown it wide open. Even now, he could see the translatory numbers scrolling madly across the reader screen.

“Not bad for a night’s work, eh?”, he asked jokingly.

“A night?! I’ve been running test scripts for that kid for two months! Lemme tell ya, it’s a pain deciphering his piss poor basic!”, a moment later, she returned with a defiant wink, “Not bad for a couple of ‘incompetent fools’ though, eh?”

Again, Symmons was forced to shake his head in amazement, but now, the girl decisively stabbed down on a button, and the datacard ejected. Turning to Symmons, she handed it over.

“Ya know”, she said, “I can’t say for sure…and officially, I don’t know...but judging from the pieces of ILKO I’ve memorized, that message seems just like all the rest from ILKO format. Improbably huge supply req’s for durasteel girders and beams. Honestly, I’m beginning to think it’s just a decoy code, while they slip the real stuff by some other way. I mean, come on…they could build a small moon with that much durasteel. Still, I guess it’s good we have a leak-proof crack now, eh? We’ll know just how much durasteel they plan to throw at us.”

“Uh, yeah.”, Symmons said, once again stunned by the innocence of the girl.

As he turned to go, he heard her pop a bubble of gum, then ask, “Oh hey! I never did get a name.”

Smiling at his change in mood since entering the painfully cold room, he answers a question he’d have never considered even responding to minutes ago, “Larrad Symmons.”

Smiling like the child she still very much was, she extended a bony, white arm, “Pleased to make your acquaintance. Iylie Memna.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Comments appreciated. :)

Crymoon
10 September 2006, 01:25 PM
I've read your "rain" before and this story is up to the high standard of that one. It has a nice flow and I read it almost on breath... but, here it comes, it feels almost like a teaser or a short story for a sourcebook. I was like "What!!!! It's the end already?.. I started to warm up and here it ends..?... Oh no.." :P


they could build a small moon with that much durasteel. This made me laugh aloud..

Hmm.. I just searched for the quote and discovered that the story itsefl sin't that short.. hmm... Bravo I must say! BRAVO!

Write another one..

Ronin
11 September 2006, 01:46 AM
Yeah, the "small moon" line was really excellent! :)

You have a knack for writing skinny punk girls, don't you? :D
Very good stuff!

coldskier0320
11 September 2006, 04:43 AM
You have a knack for writing skinny punk girls, don't you?

You know...the first comment I got was similar to this, and I couldn't believe that I missed that fact as I was writing. Really, though, she's totally different. I think the biggest difference is in showing the contrast between Brody and Iylie's innocence and maturity. While Brody's been around the block a few times, Iylie's very much ignorant to the outside world. Still, she manages to be more mature in how she handles herself than the addict.

Thanks for the comments, guys! :)

ij thompson
18 November 2007, 06:09 PM
Hi Cold!

I was gonna comment in the DoD thread on what a great character you'd created, when your later post directed me here. Great writing, and great characters! I hope we both get in that game, it'd be fun gaming with you! :)

coldskier0320
21 November 2007, 05:11 AM
Thanks man! :D Gaming together again would be fun. We were fellow IAoPers waaaay back. ;)

ij thompson
21 November 2007, 08:33 AM
Holy moly, that was a while ago!