Lasso Diplomacy

Summary:
May 27 2014: A hacker attempts to breach the Themyscrian Consulate's computer systems. Wonder Woman investigates only to find that not everything is as it seems

Back Alley, a few blocks from the consulate

A nicer back alley than might be seen in the poorer parts of the city, it's still dusty, damp, a bit smelly and full of refuse.


Characters

NPCs

  • Consulate Data Technicians

Mood Music:
[*]


Aspect was concentrating. Sure it looked like he was leaning in an alleyway a few blocks from the Themyscrian consulate nursing a bottle of gin inexpertly concealed in a brown paper bag. That was just for show, though. Not that he minded the occasional gin. No, Aspect was working. He'd traced another node of the Hydra network and this one went into a secure part of the grid, one that he'd had to get physically close to in order to establish a good connection. Network security was good… but not quiiiiiiite good enough. He didn't have a whole lot of time to find whatever they'd stashed in here though. Damn Hydra. They would set up shop in the political district.

It's near five in the evening when an urgent message comes for Diana in the Consulate's preferred messaging form: a runner from the ubiquitious but unobtrusive staff. Someone has penetrated the Consulate's high security files with some rather alarming custom malware and is rifiling at high speed through the data files. Tracing indicates the source of the intrusion can't be more than a few blocks away, but no solid fix yet.

As the messenger whispers softly in Diana's ear, the princess cants her head slightly. She looks at the small collection of people in the room, in their expensive suits and Capitol Hill best. "Forgive me, gentlemen, Ms. Westbury. Unfortunately, I need to cut this short. However, rest assured, we will finish this discussion as soon as I am possibly able. I promise." With that, she rises and slips from the room, leaving an aide to deal with the wrap-up while she heads into the embassy's ward room for an update.

"What's happening?" she asks, entering the room where the data techs live.

"We've got an intruder. Close by, but we haven't got a fix."

"What is he looking for?"

"Beats the hell outta me— sorry, Princess. I mean, we don't know. But they're digging pretty deep into our high security files."

Diana purses her lips at that. "You said they're somewhere around the area? I'll be on my com. Let me go take a look. Do what you can to minimize the damage while you trace. As soon as you have a fixed location, shut everything down." She'll have to speak to Bruce about beefing up security, apparently.

The veteran hacker can definately tell when live people start interfering with him, as opposed to simply very sophisticated intrusion denial algorithms. He had, after all, held exactly that job for some time before all this insanity. He glances up at the hud. The trace is closing in pretty quick. Quicker than he'd thought. He can spoof it for a bit longer, and he figures he still has about five minutes before NYPD shows up. Plenty of time, right?

Sadly, he hasn't found what he's looking for. He changes tactics, opting to simply sabotage a couple tech workstations with a lockout virus to slow them down. The files fly by on the screens inside the consulate as Aspect scans them for the (to him) telltale signs of Hydra complicity. Still nothing. Worse, though is the fact that he doesn't realize quite who's computer system he has broken into, or that even with an imprecise trace, the techs now have him within 100m of his location.

Indeed, if there are any mentions of Hydra in the Themysciran files, they're all related to countermeasures taken against the organization, or conflicts against them. Chances are pretty good that, if he did think there was Hydra activity there, it was actually Hydra trying to get into the embassy's files in order to screw things up for Wonder Woman.

Bad move, on their part, if that really was the case.

As it is, though, the techs relay to her what information they have. She streaks out of the embassy, hardly more than a flash of light, coming to a stop when she's hovering high overhead of his location. Her eyes and ears sweep the area. She may not have Superman's x-ray vision, but she's still got divinely enhanced senses and the ability to hear a bug crawl over brickwork.

It shouldn't take her long to spot him at all. The only thing that may throw her is the lack of a computer in evidence, something that under normal circumstances, a hacker might need. But in an alley, on a side street with good sight lines, is a man in a nondescript brown coat and work pants who might at passing glance be mistaken for a common vagrant, and a drunk one at that. But if one has, say, the keen senses necessary to see and hear what he's actually doing… it becomes clear he's anything but common. Faint lights play over his left arm, while his right hand moves as if over a virtual keyboard. Infintesimally soft tapping noises waft up from him along with a faint, harmonic, electrical hum.

"Nothing… nothing… nothing. Damn it." He mutters, unaware he can be clearly heard. The trace was getting far too close for comfort and he suspected police would be dispatched soon. Time to close up shop, he decided. That's when the connection goes dead.

"The hell?" It takes him a moment to realize someone in the Intrusion Countermeasures room must have done something clever and gotten a fix on him. Then… shut off the system. "Crap."

The lights, the harmonics, and the softly whispered frustration are all great tip-offs to Diana. In a flash, she streaks towards him and, given just how fast she truly is, it probably takes his own awareness several moments to catch up to what happens. Her lasso whips out to encircle his body, trapping him within its coils as she lands in the alley and faces him directly. She gives him a beat or two to catch up and then demands, "What, exactly, were you trying to do?"

It's the voice that he hears first. Concentrating on wiping his connections and getting the hell out, he didn't see her arc in toward him and certainly didn't see the lasso whip out - not that seeing it would have done him any good without the Polymorpher on. The next thing he feels is a strong compulstion to answer the question, which he really does not want to do. Not quite comprehending he fights the urge with all of his formidable will which turns out to be just… not… formidable enough.

"Breaking into a… Hydra network node…" He forces out through clenched teeth, looking up as he does and finally seeing Wonder Woman. Even living on the run and off the grid for a year, he'd have to be blind, deaf and dumb to not recognize her instantly. Oh. Crap.

"Hydra." Wonder Woman regards the hacker directly, an ebony brow arching. "Interesting, since what you were actually doing was breaking into the secure files of the Themysciran embassy on American soil." A beat. Her dark head cants. "Do you know what sort of punishment cybercrimes of that magnitude entails?"

She did ask him a question, after all. "Depends on who gets to try me…" Which is true. And also a thought that just occured to him. Followed closely by the thought that, once Hydra learns where he is, he likely won't live long enough to be tried anyway.

Diana steps closer, coiling the end of the rope she holds as she does. She does not let him go. "Why did you think my embassy was a Hydra node?" She might as well ask, while he's inclined to be so truthful, after all.

Aspect has stayed alive for a year by tightly controlling information about himself and his activities. Mostly, actually, by making sure it doesn't exist. This… is deeply uncomfortable, to put it mildly. "I didn't know whose system it was… I was tracing Hydra connections through the municipal network. One from the NYPD led here. Secure network in the political district. Seemed logical enough at the time…"

Diana can concede that. But, it still concerns her. "Why are you trying to track down Hydra connections?" she wonders, now, eyeing the man. He doesn't look like much, really, but that tech is obviously something special, and she knows better than to underestimate people whose capabilities she doesn't know.

It's getting easier to answer the questions. Which is not - the part of Aspect that isn't being pushed by the lasso reflects - really a good thing. "I was trying to find out what they were planning to do with a couple tons of cyanogen chloride gas. And seeing if they'd gotten close enough to finding me that I had to reloacte again."

Cyanogen chloride gas? Wonder Woman is no scientist. Indeed, she's smart enough to be, and she's become acquainted with a remarkable number of strange terms since leaving Themyscira. But, the most she absorbs from what he says is that there's a threatening gas out there and he's probably on the run from them. "Why are they after you?" she asks now, "And what does this gas do?"

The first question is the one Aspect had been dreading. By this point he's too spent to even offer token resistance to answering. "They're after this." He tilts his head enough that she can see what at first might be mistaken for tattoos but turn out to be circuit like traceries running down his neck, a quarter inch thick and just below the skin. The strange things pulse with blue light for a moment, as does a network of the same under his shirt and on his arms and thighs. That soft harmonic hum gets just a bit louder for a moment.

"As for the gas, it's a blood agent. Very deadly. The US was supposed to have incinerated all its stocks. Hydra got them somehow. Or some of them, anyway."

Wonder Woman looks at the traceries beneath his skin. "What is that?" she asks, now. "Where did it come from? And why does Hydra want it?" More questions, no doubt, he didn't want to hear. Of course, she's also not terribly happy about the gas he describes. But, one thing at a time.

There's an almost undetectable roll to his eyes. Yes. She would ask that, wouldn't she? "It's called a Digital Polymorpher. It is a suite of cybernetic implants that generate and manipulate power fields to enhance the user in a variety of ways. Increased strength, rapid healing, heightened senses, protection from harm and a variety of weapons on demand. It was developed by the US Army, but never put into production. I field tested it. Hydra wants it so that they can duplicate the technology for their own ends." He pauses. "It's also semi-broken."

"Broken, how?" C'mon, it's the next most logical question Diana can ask. "Are you part of Hydra, or merely their target?" Her expression is cautious, now. She's beginning to suspect this fellow isn't the threat he first seemed to be. Lucky for him, really. But, maybe not so lucky for Hydra.

The answers are, fortunately, related. He takes a breath and blows out a sigh before answering, reminded of the events that precipitated this journey through insanity that he now calls his life. "It was supposed to have been removed from me when I left the service. I thought it had been. Hydra somehow… compromised the process. Instead of taking it out, someone just installed a virus intended to conceal it and prevent me from using it to defend myself." He pauses for a moment. "I discovered it shortly before they tried to take me, but I haven't been able to purge it completely, so it doesn't operate at full power… and…" Damn it, this is actually kind of embarrassing to say in public as it turns out. "I can only make it manifest fields if I can relate their form or function to the animal world somehow." He shakes his head.

This next question, at least, he doesn't have problem answering. "I'm not part of Hydra. I've been running from them and trying to disrupt their operations for a bit over a year."

Wonder Woman lets out a soft breath, then. She moves towards him, and loosens the lasso. "That does not sound like a pleasant experience." Pulling the rope from him, she coils it, placing it on her belt. "My people do not work with Hydra," she tells him now. At least, to the best of her knowledge, they don't. "I would suggest that you be more careful in your hacking attempts, in the future, and stay out of our systems. However… this gas you spoke of. Do you know anything more about it? What they may be planning?"

He sighs with relief and takes a half step back, rubbing his arms a bit. "No. Which bothers me. I've had some… Ren Faire escapee named Daredevil offer to help with his contacts. Hopefully something will come of that. But that's a lot of very potent poison. The only reason to have it would be to kill a lot of people…" He pauses and frowns as a new thought occurs to him. "… or something slash someone very large or otherwise hard to kill."

"Either is possible," Diana concedes. "Neither is preferable." Understatement. "Hydra's history, what I know of it, suggest they are more likely to go for high casualties and a wider range of effect than they are to focus on a single threat, unless that threat is significant." Her brows crease lightly as she considers options. "Do you know where this gas is? You said you were tracking it."

"It *was* in a warehouse at 10th and 42nd in Hell's Kitchen. That was almost thirty hours ago though. Odds are good it's been moved by now. Or… maybe that red leathered acrobat's contacts paid off." He doesn't sound particularly convinced that might be the case. Call it Murphy's law. Maybe, though…

"10th and 42nd," Diana repeats. She glances off in that direction. "Perhaps, I'll take a look." She gives the man a tight smile, pausing before she takes off. "By the way… What's your name?"

Aspect takes off his jacket and stuffs it in a backpack. Underneath he has a long sleeved shirt on. He fixes his nondescript baseball cap. Time to fade into the crowd. He pauses when she asks his name. He doesn't give it out to anyone. He's always too worried that it'll somehow get back to Hydra. But if you can't trust Wonder Woman… then who can you trust? "Jericho. My name's Jericho Trent, though I go by Aspect when I'm on the 'net."

Diana nods to that. "Thank you for the information, Jericho," she tells the man. A small smile touches her lips. "Try to stay out of trouble." She doesn't put a lot of faith in that. However, she has a warehouse at 10th and 42nd to find. Confident the embassy computers are safe, for now, she springs lightly into the air and is off and away in a heartbeat.


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