Decrypting the Data

August 11, 2015:

Kitty seeks Doug out to get help repairing and decrypting the data found at the deserted HYDRA base (emits by Zatanna)

X-Red HQ - New York

Characters

NPCs: Lockheed

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

Zee and Kitty, with help from Colossus, had recovered data based on intel Jericho had provided. The data though, is in bad condition … mangled, corrupted … and Kitty's going to have to fix that before they can even begin analysing it.


While Kitty's great at computers and at hacking, this is the sort of job that needs more than one hacking genius. And that meant that there was only one person she could trust with this kind of information. Immediately, she called Doug and made her way to the new X-Red Headquarters with the data. Lockheed, never far from her side lately, is curled up in her magic purse - out of sight. She whistles as she approaches the airport, trying to find Doug so that she can figure out where exactly she's supposed to go in this winding - literal - airport terminal.


Awaiting Kitty's presence, Doug had the usual hacker fare ready: chips, Mountain Dew, and chocolates. And -just- to ware off warning looks, vegetables and dip.

Checking the security warnings when they go off to see that Kitty had arrived, Doug turns on the directional signals. Follow the blinking lights to where you should be going.

What Mike's system does with people who -aren't- supposed to be there, well, best to not ask.

"Kitty!" Doug calls out once she's arrived, expanding his arms to show off the wide amount of space they had to work with. "C'mon, the lab's this way… what do you think of the place? Mike whipped it into shape, we got the security up and going, I'll have to show you around. We could use your expertise with some things, but for now… what've you got for us today?"


Kitty follows the directional lights, impressed and snickering as she does so. It's a strange couple of twists and turns and then she laughs at Doug. The typically upbeat mutant still looks as if she's recovering from her time spent away, but at least she's starting to look as if she's more herself. For now, her voice is sincerely happy as she greets her friend. "Hey Doug! It's fantastic."

Glancing around, Lockheed pokes his head out of her purse. "It's official. I'm jealous. And, believe, just ask and I'd be glad to take a look at all this stuff." She starts to reach for her purse, but the little purple dragon holds the flash drive out to her in a helpful manner. "Thanks, Lockheed," she tells him. Holding out for Doug to inspect, she starts to explain, "I've got some information on here that I need. It's in pretty bad shape. If anyone can help me, you're it, Obi-Wan Kenobi."


"Mike made most of this hardware, so rerouting things and finetuning this stuff? Totally yours, Kitty," Doug responds, pausing long enough to skritch Lockheed's ears and grunting something that might serve as an 'hey, been good?' before opening, and then offering a slim jim to the small dragon. "Encrypted data…?" he asks, reaching out to take the flash drive. "Bad flash drive, or did you rip off pieces off some decaying storage media?"

Grabbing an ergonomic seat, Doug motions to Kitty to pull up another one, as he motions to the equipment about. "The tools you need for bad hardware are over there, by the way."

And if the answer is affirmative, he'll just gliiiiide his seat over that way. And if not, well… over there he'll gliiiiiide.


"Ooo." Despite all she's been through lately, Kitty can't help but brighten at the idea of getting her hands on some of this hardware and software. "I'm sure it was encrypted at some point. I pulled it off of a decrepit old computer in the middle of nowhere. I think the drive is fine, but the data's all corrupted. I tried my basic tricks, but I think it's really going to take the two of us to get it all figured out."

She smirks at his sliding wheelie chair and pulls one over for herself to drop into. Lockheed happily takes the slim jim, starting to inhale it inside the purse even as he warily looks around the new space. Kitty will make a grab for Dorito's when she isn't worried about Dorito fingers.


Merrily trying to grab the chair and then flinging it towards where they'd be working, -after- Kitty's gotten ahold of her junk food, Doug scoots across the floor in the wheeled chair happily, setting himself in place. "Fixing corrupted data, possibly encrypted. Let's hope there's not too many gaps in that data, or it's going to be a nightmare. I hope you also nabbed some of their backup files, we might be able to fill in the gaps. By the way, what computer was 'out in the middle of nowhere'?"


When Doug starts to investigate, he'll find the the data is corrupted. Segmented, and jumbled, caused when the computer system was fried and the spirits bound to the electronics to protect it. It was only Kitty's talent, along with the use of the Soulblade, that recovered the data at all.

That doesn't mean it's not fixable, but Dougs going to have to do some work to unjumble that mess before they can do the decryption…


"Oh, you know, secret HYDRA base. That sort of thing." While Kitty is not normally flippant about that sort of thing, they've all been working on such dangerous cases lately that she seems to think that Doug will take the information in stride. "We're trying to figure out what's going on in Limbo." Maybe she should lie about what they're doing, but she's already asked for Doug's help and he'll be seeing what she dug up at some point anyway. She doesn't see a reason to lie.

"This seems to be the best way to do it. And, no, I don't have a back up. This is the only copy. It was kind of a hack and grab, if you get my meaning."


"Wonderful," Doug notes. "If we can see what time-stamp they have, maybe we can figure out which one of the encryptions they were using… and what do you mean, what's going on in Limbo? I'm -not- going over there again to feed her mutts…"

A bit of tinkering here, guesswork there, looking for general encryption keys, occasionally moving over for Kitty's kibbitzing, moving back in place to back-seat drive over the other X-Man's shoulder… and even one 'Are we there yet?' made in jest, before Doug leans back. What do we have here now?


The data is slowly taking shape, there are now several files on the drive that can be unecrypted. There are three files that are larger than the rest, and two files that seem to be incomplete.

All the files need decrypting and the two X-Men are close to breaking the key. Just a little bit more work is required.


"A lot of weirdness," Kitty tells Doug with a sigh. "We're trying to figure it out, honestly. And, no, it has nothing to do with feeding her mutts." She smirks and looks back at the computer, adding in her own helpful hints and advice on what she's tried before. She doesn't care if it annoys Doug - in fact, that helps the matter. It's all done in good fun. Lockheed crawls out of the purse toward Doug, hoping for more Slim Jims.

As they draw closer and closer to unspooling the thread of the data, Kitty keeps pulling her chair toward the computer, anxious and nervous.


Turning one of the incomplete files over to Kitty to do her usual elegant hacking, Doug went at the other incomplete file with all the subtlety of Donald Trump at an open mic, pausing long enough to fish out an extra spicy slim jim for Lockheed, and then re-directing the dragon's breathing at Kitty. Enjoy, Kitty.

Sipping at a can of Mountain Dew and putting it down where Lockheed can get at it, Doug pauses long enough to ask a long-delayed question. "So what happened in Limbo, then?"


As Kitty and Doug start to decrypt the files, they'll start to see that most of it is research notes, made by HYDRA. Mentions of the Witchblade and Spear of Destiny keep appearing… and indicate the thinking that every realm has things on which everything turns…

But what does this have to do with Limbo?


As soon as the files are within reach, Kitty starts typing and hacking. She may not exactly be quite as elegant as Doug may think, but she has a few tricks she's prepared for and protocols to execute under certain circumstances. As they start to decrypt the files, she starts to explain what she knows of what's going on in Limbo to Doug. It's, honestly, not much. "There's a power struggle. Other versions of X-Men keep showing up dead there. We think alternate versions of the people close to Illyana are attempting a coup. Or simply figuring out a way to hurt her."

As her eyes scan the screen, her expression turns from curious to dark as she clicks next and scrolls down. "Oh no. That's…I…crap. If the next file is what I think it is…" Kitty leans back, letting Doug drive for a few moments. A hand reaches protectively to her purse. Lockheed isn't there any more, but that's not the point of the gesture.


"Alternate versions?" Doug responds, as he skitters through the files. "Like, alternate dimensions…?"

Frowning, Doug studies the research notes. "… and HYDRA seems interested in poking through 'every realms', whatever that means. You think HYDRA's leated to whatever's going on in Limbo?"

The move to the purse doesn't go unnoticed. Whatever was going on, it had Kitty nervous, which…

Pulling away from the table with a swift push of his legs, Doug spins around in the chair to face Kitty. "Ok, so what's going on?"


As the pair keep reading they'll find mention of other artifacts but what's telling is there is no mention of the Soulsword at all.

In another file, there are mentions (quite a few) to 'The Heart Of Limbo" and "The Unbound Key". There's also a mention of spell, they might need to dig further into this file for more information.


As they scan through the files, Kitty takes a deep breath when she realizes that the soulsword isn't on there. She looks at Doug then, attempting to figure out how she can explain. "I'm not sure. Yes? They're sort of alternate versions. They're Limbo versions. I don't think HYDRA is more than tangentially involved, but they tend to have their hands in all the wrong pies."

As she faces Doug, she frowns, shrugging her shoulders. "I'm just…I'm worried. I'm worried about Illyana and what this means for her. Let's…can we look at those last few things? The Heart of Limbo, the Unbound Key and the spell? Those have got to mean something."


Looking skeptical, Doug opens his mouth to say -something- about reading body language and knowing that she's avoiding the subject. But -she- knew that, of course. This was basically her way of telling him she didn't want to talk about it, and so Doug shrugs in return, nods, and turns his attention to what she'd pointed out.

Click, click…

And if it turned out to be in a language, Doug might as well translate it to a language Kitty could read for herself too.


The information is patchy, it looks like this might be one piece of research in a series, but mentions of the spell often mention the key… but not the Heart. There's not a lot more in that file.

One last file, seems to be a letter or memo … addressed to Nastirh… but the file needs a little work to be able to read it.


"I'm not trying to dodge you," Kitty tells Doug when he turns away. "I, honestly, don't know that much. And that's making me worried and nervous. You know how Illyana is. She gets cagey and won't ask for help when she really needs it because she thinks she's protecting other people. I'm worried she's in over her head." It's the truth and he should know that from her.

As they work through the other research, she frowns. "And it doesn't say anything about what the Heart might be? Or The Key?" she sighs, frustrated. Seeing the memo to Nastrih, she perks. "Oh, that, we need that. That name is important."


"It's okay," Doug responds, offering a weak smile. "It's just hard to figure, right? I mean, if -something- can mess with Illy, then it's going to be tough for us to deal with."

Poking at the files, Doug frowns. "Apparently not, but… I've got an idea, Kitty."

Tilting his head towards the other computer. "If we can hack into HYDRA and crossreference these files, we might be able to turn up something more. Usual snatch-and-grab?"


There'll be no other records on the HYDRA computers. Whatever went down here the data was compartmentalized and with HYDRA's recent thrashing they've not been able to regroup yet.

What they both can see from the corrupted file, though, is that it mentions a trade … and a Dimensional Swap and timeline manipulation.


As Kitty studies the file, she frowns, leaning closer to the computer screen. "I'm not sure what this means. It's…it's like an electronic version of timeline manipulation." Then, her eyes widen and she sits back. "The bones. The multiple bones. Is this…wait, this spell might explain the multidimensional things. They're trying to make the spell work to switch someone. Is there anything else, anything at all?"


No such luck, which has Doug shaking. "Something this big, and they kept it to a select few…?"

Probably a good thing, he supposes, in that they didn't put out big, massive waves of HYDRA soldiers, but…

Jerking his head up as Kitty exclaims, Doug looks puzzled. "What bones…? Wait, what are you talking about there?"

Jerking a thumb at the folder, the young mutant looks quizzically at Kitty. "Are you saying they're swapping alternate dimensional people here?"


"That seems to be a secret departments way," Kitty sighs as Lockheed hops back into her lap and she scritches at his scaly head absently. "They've found multiple bones and old uniforms in Limbo. I thought maybe it's the people, but maybe it's more than that. Nastirh learned how to swap out Metropolis for another dimension. Maybe…maybe they're looking to do the same for Limbo?" She shakes her head.


On further reading of the memo, although not fully interpreted, indicates the trade was the spell for the dimensional swap. What's not clear is what the spell is for….


"You mean, swapping a whole dimension for another? That kind of thing…" Leaning back, Doug frowns, before looking back at Kitty. "Aren't we getting into magic territory here? Maybe it's time to take this back to Illy, and see what she can tell us…"


"Yeah, I think it all comes back to the magic thing. And maybe why HYDRA was intersted in it in the first place." Kitty frowns, moving through the files. "We've got to figure out that this spell was for. Maybe then we can figure out what we're in store for."

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