Two more days, and no new, serious incidents of anti-government violence occurred until campus police at a university in the L4 cluster found a man using the computer labs without a valid school ID. With all authorities notified to be on alert, the tension quickly escalated out of control, and the man was subdued by force. Several people on the periphery had also gotten themselves involved, and we were lucky things stopped before it became a riot.
The damage was done, though. Despite the findings of the investigative panel supporting the officers' actions, the civilian population had something new to be riled up about, and the underground population had someone new to hold up as a martyr.
As the unrest grew stronger, we had a new angle to work with. The school had conducted a quick study on computer lab usage, and found that unauthorized use of their facilities had been on the rise lately. We took the logical leap to public libraries, net cafés, anywhere with an easily accessible cluster of computers. Those were ideal jump points for illegal activities on the network.
We convinced local authorities to stake out likely locations within their jurisdictions, taking some of the burden off of the Preventers resources. We were lucky to get that done before Moon Base somehow got itself removed from all of the routing tables in the intracolony comm network. I tried to re-insert it, but there was a hard lock against my code sticking.
With public network communications down, we were left with private lines and relaying our messages through shortwave to agents on the outside, who could then pass the reports along. Our choices were limited since very few private organizations were willing to associate their holdings with us. It didn't take long for the traffic stations and port systems to become unstable, which was just as well. It gave us a good, unalarming reason to clear out the base's transient civilian population, though it was concerning as well. We guessed the rebels also wanted us to clear out the base. They were probably planning direct action against HQ, and wanted no 'innocents' to get in the way.
Trowa had stayed out in the field to maintain his mobility. Duo and I had both taken our turns on the ground, checking up with agents, getting messages out, following up on leads, but came back to Moon Base occasionally to check in. We both happened to be on base at the same time when Trowa gave us a call from his shuttle. It was easier to report using the onboard comm systems than it was to land blind and report in person.
"Officials on Kendall Seven and Nine have imposed some strict limitations on anti-government speech."
Duo smacked his forehead with the palm of his hand. "You've gotta be kidding me. They think that will help at a time like this?"
"If they did, they've been finding out that it doesn't. The people's reactions are about what you'd expect. But they're too far in to back down now."
"Man, I can't decide if the colonists have the right idea and we should decentralize the government more, or if we should centralize it more so that more stupid stuff like this doesn't keep happening. I bet if Relena were still queen of the known universe, we wouldn't be having these kinds of problems. Hell, throw Quatre in there as her prime minister or something, and we'd be set."
"Luckily, Kendall Prime is smart enough to at least try to contain the damage. We're keeping an eye on the sector, but it looks like they've got things localized so far."
It was good to know that not all of the smart people had defected to the rebel side. "I'm sure Kendall isn't the only side doing that sort of thing."
"Halliburton has gone witch-hunting."
"Great. Have we put a stop to anything lately, or have we just been making more enemies for ourselves?"
"We caught a couple of ambitious souls this morning trying to patch some loggers onto an access conduit on the grounds of a government credit union."
It was a small scrap of triumph, but Duo winced dramatically and gave it its full due. "Ooh. Right where it hurts. I hope that made it personal. Nothing like money to do that."
"Maybe we should have caught them a few hours too late?" Trowa suggested wryly. "But this is L4. There are a lot of government contracts here, and this little rebellion is bad for business. It's already personal. The people here are pretty keen on stopping things."
"Were they useful?" I asked. "These two from this morning."
"I'm no Quatre, but we did confirm our impression that there is no one behind the scenes calling the shots. This definitely sounded like it was their own idea, but it was a decision made in light of a larger picture."
Duo scratched the side of his nose idly. "Kinda like the five of us, I guess? Kinda on the same side and doing the same sort of stuff, but not really together?"
"Kind of," he agreed amiably. He sent some data over the line to us. "Here's some more information for you. Word on a gathering that someone's organizing out in L2. Five officials that have taken bribes recently. The latest security reports from the private sector. We're still following up on leads from those two guys. If we get anything interesting, I'll pass that along as well."
I pulled up the packet and glanced over it. "Lenkey? She's on the committee for--"
"We've got incoming," he broke in, his attention diverted to one of his monitors. "Mobile mines, it looks like."
"Time to get out of there, Trowa," Duo advised, punching up the external scans on the terminal next to mine. Our sensors had limited range, but they could tell us something. "What the hell, man? These guys are getting serious."
"ESUN has a cache of old mines on MO-18," I noted, watching the blip of Trowa's shuttle move away slowly from the base. The swarm of mines was closing in, but they weren't built for speed or maneuverability. Their release could have been done remotely without anyone knowing immediately. The asteroid didn't have an active crew.
"Obviously, they're still active. Shit, MO-18? It'd take them, I dunno, at least hours to get here. And that's not even in the direction that Trowa was coming from, so they can't be aiming at him."
I opened another window and accessed a data feed with more detailed information about the mines' approach. "They're aiming at us."
"It's not enough to do significant damage against this base... but it would be enough to destroy a shuttle. They're locking us down."
"Dammit." Duo punched me in the shoulder.
I jumped slightly. "What did I do?"
He frowned grumpily at me. "You said we should listen to that stupid agent and agree to his meeting request to work out the deployment details. If you'd just let me blow him off to get some real work done, I wouldn't have to be stuck here."
I stared at him for a full three seconds before I made the decision to ignore that frustrated little outburst. "Trowa, are you still with us?"
"There was another shuttle inbound," he responded. "I've alerted them. Confirming your estimates now. How big would you say that cache was? There seem to be quite a few of them out here. Enough density to keep you pinned down."
"I recall it being a regional dump, so yes, that's about what I would expect." I checked in quickly with the port to make sure we didn't have any outbound flights in progress. No one seemed to be in any immediate danger.
Duo beat out an annoyed rhythm on the surface in front of him. "Well, at least we know why they wanted to clear the base of civilians, then. God forbid any of the innocents get locked up with the evil commies."
"'Evil commies'?" Trowa repeated, one eyebrow raised in question.
"Dated movie reference," I told him. One picked up interesting things from Duo's B-movie selections.
"Destination confirmed. Complete deployment in four. Plan?"
"Keep up what you're doing. Check in as you can. Try to get a report down to Quatre. Make sure someone notices our situation. After that, they can take care of digging us out somehow. You're needed in other capacities."
Duo pounded the tabletop lightly. "Who the hell builds a Moon Base and doesn't build a big ol' gun to go with it?"
"The base was officially decommissioned and disarmed in one-ninety-seven." I was glad the self-destruct mechanisms had also been disabled at that time, or else we could have been in some real trouble. "We store some munitions here, as well, but it may not help. We'll have to look. We'll also need to make contact with some of the other large weapons depots. They assured us that their security was tight. I don't feel like taking their word for it anymore."
"Why do I get the feeling we're losing this war? I liked it a lot more when we were the hard-to-catch rebels pinning down the bad guys."
"We're sort of the bad guys this time around, Duo."
"I don't like being a bad guy. Can we... Incoming message," he finished instead, responding to the alert displayed on his monitor. "Text only. Imperialist pigs... Arrogant government, blahblah. Stay put... Stay out of our business... Go home... blahblah. And blah. Signed, your loving rebels. How sweet of them."
I was already tapping away at my keyboard. "Tracking them now. Though I doubt they left me anything to trace. They're good."
"I also found some hints regarding the hive mind," Trowa mentioned, continuing his report for earlier. "It looks like most of the activity is still spread out on the public or near-public networks, spread through all five clusters, despite our efforts. A little bit less on L3, and then L2. This coherent pattern of escalation confirms that there must be one driving force behind the attacks."
"Duo, can you pull the data from the comms and the traffic systems? I need to cross-reference some things."
"Sure," he answered, shortly before he snorted. "Oh look, now they're putting the base on yellow alert. Bit slow on the pickup, aren't they?"
"If we didn't stop it before it happened, then so were we."
"Yup, sure do," he answered amiably. "They running around in circles up there, or are they actually doing something productive?"
"There was some running done." I sat down heavily in the chair next to him. "I think they were running formations or something, even. I found a level head or two to start talking plans. We set up a broadcast signal, half distress, half warning. Don't want anyone accidentally wandering into the mine field. We have agents checking in with us regularly, so we should be able to continue our communications with the outside world. The mines aren't accepting external input anymore, so we can't just send them away. This has definitely gone beyond a 'colony problem', so word will probably trickle down to Une eventually. If all else fails, she can get some equipment up here to take care of this cleanly, or else we'll start shooting debris up there and hope for the best."
"So we're locked down here for a while. We still helping the people out there?"
"Yes. Data is still coming in around the clock. No more interviewing people for leads, though, so it seems we're back to trying to assemble the big picture to help guide the other agents."
"Well, yeah, we can do that, between doing this." I leaned to look when he pointed at his screen. "Yup, weapons are a no-go around here, but we do have these babies."
"'Babies'? I thought Tauruses were beneath your dignity. Since when do they rate as 'babies'?"
"Well, you know, babies, as opposed to the manly men that were the Gundams."
"From what I've been able to dig up... uh... well, we'll have to see. Not very good, I'm sure. Leftover from ten years ago, after all. But there are six of them, and we only need two at most, one at least, so we can start cannibalizing the other guys for parts. You're good at that, aren't you?"
I ignored his pointed jibe. He could hold a grudge with the best of them. "Just what do you think we'll able to do with these suits?"
"Fly outta here, at least. We're good enough to work our way through a mine field. I'm not so sure that this is it, and I'm not gonna sit around twiddling my thumbs, waiting to find out too late that there's more."
I agreed. "It can never hurt to have a mobile suit on hand, in case of emergency. Though you should know that they're forming an official task force to try to figure out what to do with the mine field. They might decide our restoration project falls under their jurisdiction."
"Bleh. Guess it would be un-agently of us to not tell them. What's everyone else doing, then?"
"Same thing they've been doing for the past few days. No one else on base right now has really been mobile except for us, so for them, nothing much has really changed."
"That's good. That means they don't really need us, right?"
"For the most part... yes."
We paid a visit to the suits in the hangar. They weren't much to look at, but if that was what we had to work with, then that was what we were going to work with. We spent a couple of hours doing shallow inspections, then complete diagnostics on the two most likely candidates. Our official conclusion was that we were certain we could get one up and running effectively. A second one was a possibility, but it would most likely be at the cost of the first. It was less than we had expected, but it was sufficient. We decided to work on both for a while, and make a final determination as we got further along in the project.
The rest of our day was spent with the suits. We went back to our desk jobs as part of the night shift, accepting reports from inbound agents, updating them with a collation of the data we gathered, and pointing them toward their next stop. We had agents out there investigating, securing possible targets against attack, and talking to leaders and other government agents about what we could do to curb the growing violence. One of the first things on the agenda was to convince the various government officials that using violence against the people would only incite more violence from the mob, but that simple chain of logic had little effect on people on the front lines. We knew that from personal experience.
last modified : 5/5/2007 02:55:49 PST