What Are They Trying To Do

June 28, 2016:

Tim drops by the Gym to check on Babs … and find out what's on a USB stick.

Hamilton's Gym - Gotham

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Fox

Plot:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

It's been a busy few weeks for Gotham's defenders. It's been hard to stay on top of each of the goings-on. Which is why Gotham is much like falling behind on any real project, a game of eternally playing catch-up.

But then Gotham also changes a lot in the span of a few minutes let alone a few weeks. Regardless, there's much to catch-up on, which is one of the reasons why Red Robin has turned up at the gym prior to his patrol.

Or, as it stands, HOURS before his patrol. Or ANYONE'S patrol.

Without calling first.

Which is how Tim ended up in the gym, watching monitors while eating a freshly popped bowl of popcorn (where the popcorn came from is anybody's guess).

Drake-Wayne watches the screens with his feet up on the console. His hair is a mop-mess (presumably having been hiding under his cowl before turning up here), and he nurses a single black eye with an icepack (which is now half melted on his face pooling into small beads of moisture along his face).

He reaches into the bowl and shovels a fistful of popcorn which he attempts to stuff into his pie-hole with the grace of an elephant balancing on a tennis ball.


There's a belief in the Bat Family and the wider community that Oracle doesn't sleep. For the most part, that's true. She's generally available through the night hours and during the day, she's often found analysing and working data.

Today is no exception and the redhead had been working out, doing her remedial work, when the Boy Wonder had arrived.

Coming up to the second level, she snorts softly as she takes in the lazing young man. "Get your feet off my console…" Babs looks over to Tim and shakes her head "And you'll clean up any mess you make with that popcorn before you leave."

On the console is a small disk on a chain, made of bronze with faded writing on it in what might Latin or Greek.

"What can I do for you? Not that your visit's not welcome, but you're a lot earlier than I'd expect for a pre-patrol checkin." The black eye gets a careful look "Or are you here to suggest I not be out on the streets?" The last is a tease, a throw back to Dicks concern the other day.


The words about the console have Tim leaning forward to sit properly — without his feet perched on the console. "I'm not — " he begins to object around a mouthful of popcorn. He swallows hard and finishes the thought " — making a mess." Except he kind of is, incredibly evident when Tim's chin drops to inspect both himself (complete with multiple white fluff popcorn kernels lining his costume) and the floor. His reply at the observation comes as a single syllable, "Huh."

There's a humourless chuckle at the suggestion about the streets followed by a shake of Tim's head. "This. Nah. Don't think a small," it's not that small, "bruise would discourage anyone from heading to the streets. Besides, I learned my lesson not to lecture people about heroics after Steph didn't listen." He bends on the floor and begins plucking kernels of popcorn, "We all know how that turned out."

It's only as he's tidying that the question of purpose truly sinks in. "Oh! Honestly? I wanted to follow up on the USB stick May and I retrieved…" Pause. "Also to generally come visit. It's been a bit."


"Thank you." Babs acknowledges as he moves his feet off the console. "Kane made me some new gear, new pants and gauntlets. The reinforced guantlets came in handy the other night." She'd punched a Bocor in the face with them. Go figure.

As Tim starts to pick up the popcorn she laughs. "I do have a vaccuum you know. And I really hope your not implying I won't listen to you…" she's teasing again, picking on his phrasing.

It's not that she won't listen, but she certainly has a mind of her own in most things.

"The data key, sure." It's like she expected he'd be by soon. Reaching into one of the drawers she tosses it to him "Go for it. Let's see how you go with it." Maybe she's cracked it already, but it's clear - she wants to see how the younger bat handles it. "You've got access to my systems. I've set you up a sandbox, so if there's anything dangerous on it, it shouldn't affect the rest of my systems."


"Not exactly implying that," Tim states as he continues to pull the larger kernels from the floor. "More so suggesting that some people excel at being listened to. Dick. Bruce. Damian. All top notch persuaders. If they can't convince someone," his tone takes on a self-deprecating edge. "Just saying."

He pushes himself back up to a stand to catch the USB key. With a lopsided grin, he slips onto the rolling chair and allows (while sitting on it) to slide to one of the terminals and pop the data stick into the machine.

The thought of the sandbox earns a boyish grin. Robin rubs his gloved hands together eagerly, "Alright. Let's see — " he pulls up a command box to begin working at cracking whatever secrets the USB key holds.


"Tim …" Babs sighs and looks at the young man "Stop comparing yourself." She's not going to comment on anyone's ability to persuade her to do anything. "I'd listen to you. And then I'd make up my own mind based on all the information I could find." Stands to reason that she'd fall back on information.

When the data stick is inserted into the system, Tim finds the data is fairly well encrypted. Not anything he's seen the Bats or Babs use, still, it's good, very good, he's going to have to work a bit to break the data encryption before he can even see the file structure.


"It's not a comparison," Tim counters as he stares at the screen. "Just an observation." And some habits never die; even after they take brief hiatuses. He Hmmms quietly as he considers the information on the screen.

Sucking on the inside of his cheek, he begins murmuring to himself to crack the USB. "Key to cryptology is always the key," he murmurs to himself. He leans back in the chair for a moment and cracks his knuckles before really getting to work. "Cracking encryption is just resolving a puzzle. Like a cryptogram in a paper, the algorithm can be…" the thought is lost as he begins to study the encryption itself before engaging in a small trial and error method. "It's just a code," he murmurs to himself quietly. He continues with his method and eliminates a few choices. With another quiet hum, he considers, "It's possible — " he chuckles and notes " — basic code breaking means that statistically how often letters and numbers show up will be based on human error as much as randomization…"

He narrows down some options and tries again.


Babs lounges against her end of the console and picks up the disk on the chain to examine it. Seems she's going to let the boy wonder handle this himself.

Tims efforts yield him some success but it's going to take a little bit more refining before the files in the folders he can now see are visible. Multiple layers of encryption, interesting.

"Kane says there's been a reorganisation in the arcane underworld." Babs speaks quietly not wanting to disturb Tims concentration, but the algorithms always take a little while to run. "Which means it was mean and bloody. Whoever 'Medusa' is has been installing new 'lords' and parceling out turf." Green eyes look at her screens as the disk hangs from her hands "It means they're planning more. Steel City wasn't the end of it…"


The layers of encryption keep Tim engaged as he fights with the USB stick some more. The puzzle colours him impressed. "This is pretty fantastic encryption. Someone definitely knows what they're doing." He hums again and follows the basic principles of cryptology, recreating a pattern of a different sort compared to the first.

The thoughts about the arcane underworld causes Tim's lips to press into a thin line. "And who is shooting to take Gotham?" he murmurs as he wraps on the keys again, aiming to tear down more the encryption.

"Why is it…" he mutters "…whenever they win, it doesn't stop there?" His eyes narrow. "Guess we'll have to find them."


"Power?" Babs shakes her head and considers Tim "Winning is in the eye of the beholder. Without knowing their end goal, who's to say it is a win for them?" The problem that Babs is having is thinking like a monster. Her mind is too ordered, too focussed on doing the 'right' thing. "Kane and I have been calling the group 'Medusa' because of the iconography it uses and the medusa that hurt Kane in Steel City." There's an ever so slight hitch to her voice as she mentions the latter but she pushes on "On top of stopping them, we're trying to find out who the hell they are. How's the decoding going?"

The next set of algorithms work and the files are listed on the stick. That's a good start. Tim will see that there seem to be 'drawing' files - and judging by the naming structure, referencing structures in Gotham. Not so surprising given they came from a construction company. There also appears to be documents, some of them tagged with a suffix on the filename of -gor.

"Kane has some locations to check out where the monsters have re-organised to. He wants us to check out one. In the tunnels under the city center. He's concerned they'll make a direct play for the government. I tend to agree."


"If you need any help with discerning this group, I'm up for the challenge. Mind," Tim starts, "the arcane isn't anything I know about." His cheeks puff out with an exhalation of breath as he looks through the files. "Slowly," he finally answers.

"There are some drawings. Nothing too surprising there." The documents, however, warrant a furrowing of Tim's brow. The cursor scrolls over each of the strange suffix and he studies the names. Knowing he's not going to hurt anything in Babs' systems grants him more courage, and he begins to work at opening the files. "You familiar with a -gor file?"

The comment about the government has Tim frowning, "Well that would be a smart way to make a power play. I'm game to investigate and see what's what…"

He finally double clicks one of the -gor extensions and continues with his work.


Babs smiles at Tim "I will. Promise." Get his help on working out who the group is, that is. "And no. Let's see what you've got." Levering herself up off the console, the redhead looks up at the screen as the file opens.

Of course, it's not that easy. The file opens in a standard document editor but it looks like the document is written in greek. Almost. If Red Robin is up on his languages - and he may not be - he can tell that this might look Greek, but there are differences in some, but not all, of the letters. Some of the letters have been substituted with a very characters from ancient greek. Seems they've a bit more decoding to do.

"We'll have to hit the tunnels under city hall, soon." Babs speaks absently as she watches Tim work. So far, she's not offered one bit of assistance.


Greek is not one of Tim's languages. He knows several, but Greek definitely isn't one of them. But he opens and works alongside a translator to see what does or doesn't belong — namely the characters. He frowns and begins to create an alternate alphabet. With a hmmm, he does a simple search for the symbols he doesn't recognize (and are not ancient greek).

So far, having managed to get through multiple layers of encryption and coding, Tim sees the USB key as little more than a giant puzzle to be resolved. And he really does enjoy puzzles.

"Sounds good. I make a pretty solid wing man," his eyebrows arch and he adds, "Pun intended." Because he's one of the birds. Clearly.

Clearing his throat, he refocuses on the document and his search again. He offers as he works: "I'm sticking with Gotham U, by the way." His lips purse. "Metropolis wasn't… right, I guess." He hmms. "Maybe it was the timing. If I hadn't gone away or if — " he lifts a single hand and dismisses his thoughts. "And Gotham lets me keep up the night job while I go to classes during the day. When I go. If I choose to go."


"Tell me what you're seeing there…" Babs looks up at the screen and frowns. Tim can probably tell she does recognise the strange symbols. She's an eidectic memory and she's been working on this case for a long time.

"You, Dick and myself will do the tunnels. It will need all of us. These things aren't to be taken lightly." she murmurs and then looks down at the young man "Mmmm. Maybe it was timing. I've had something like that recently." Squeezing Tims shoulder, she smiles "You're young. And I know that sounds annoying, but you are and you've time. One day, maybe … " or he can end up her age and …

At his implication he might not go to University she frowns again and then sighs. "Whatever makes you happy, Tim. University will give you options, though. Options that you don't have now. But, I know it's not for everyone."

As he starts to decode the documents, he can start discerning the pattern - even if he can't read them fully. They're orders. Orders for works on existing buildings throughout Gotham. Some of them, Red Robin knows have accesses to the underground railway that runs beneath Gotham. Buildings with deep foundations.

Of more interest, perhaps, is the signature on the document - it looks like a small snake.


"It's fine," he attempts to make light of the Metropolis fizzle. "I think timing is always half the battle. And in this case — we just haven't gotten it right. Neither of us." For the first time in a long time it seems that Tim isn't bearing the full weight of whatever situation he finds himself in. Growth happens sometimes, it seems.

And as far as university is concerned, Babs earns a lopsided smile. "Nah, I'm 'going,' just a matter of how often I physically go." His eyes flicker with a hint of mischief. "In massive classes that no one misses me… I just have other priorities now and then. Like sleep."

His attention diverts back to the document which he finally walks through out loud. "Looks like someone is interested in buildings that let them into the underground railway that connects Gotham. Either they're transporting something or just really trying to stay off the radar." Tim stares at the signature. "Who signs a document with a snake?" His lips purse and his head cants to the side, "…Medusa?" He squints.


"Eh, you're smart enough to miss a few classes. Just make your attendance minimum." Babs brushes that off. Sometimes sitting in class isn't all it's cracked up to be. At Tims mention of timing, she shrugs "So it would seem…"

"What do you make of the unreadable characters?" She asks as she peers at the unfolding translation "But yes, certainly under Gotham. Can you decode a couple more, please?" she asks as her eyes narrow at the Snake. "Stone Snake…" Babs sighs "I've heard that used once, in conjunction with The MEDUSA. It's the organisation we've been following. Seems we've found something… we just need to work out what."

The extra documents that are decoded are all similar. Not all the buildings are known to be connected to the Underground Railway - perhaps they're not looking to move things then. The buildings all range in age - some are newer, some are older - and they all range in height and purpose.


"Code, maybe? Different language or syntax, perhaps?" Tim continues to manipulate the documents. "There are schematics for a variety of buildings. This one is the old Regent; this one the redone Tripp Tower." He hmms quietly. "Deep foundations, different heights, not all hooked into the railway." His lips hitch up on one side thoughtfully. "I wonder… if it's connected to MEDUSA, is it possible they're summoning something? We know they were trying to enact some kind of ritual — it seems possible they're trying again?" it's a thought wrapped into a question.

"Let's pull up a map. Maybe we can see if there's a rhyme or reason to the buildings in question? Ultimately, these buildings are important in some way…" Even as Robin makes his suggestion, he's dropping pinpoints on a virtual map to see if any of the above show an obvious pattern when linked on a map.


"Have you tried searching for the shape of those letters?" Babs is using this as much as a teaching opportunity as anything else. Sometimes the answer is right there in front of you, you just have to look. Pulling up a page from a website, the strange characters that Tim has seen in the documents are right there - mostly, there's some flourishes and accents on the ones in the document - but it's a close enough match. "They've substituted ancient Greek. I doubt it will be that easy to decode, but it gives us something to work with."

His next question gets her nodding thoughtfully "They didn't try to enact the ritual in Steel City, they did. They could be trying to do similar here, but why? Why hit one city and not both together?" It doesn't make sense, really. "And why were that group trying to access this information?"

There pinpoints are all over the city. There's no real discernible pattern. "This was just one construction firm, Tim. What if there are other companies getting similar orders?" That's an awful lot more buildings and … who knows what else.


"Good thought." With Babs' suggestion in place, Tim started searching for the shape. He hmms at the characters and shakes his head. "The cryptography in this is a work of art."

"Maybe you answered it already," Tim suggests with a small stroke of his chin. "I asked why keep pushing if they'd won, but what if they didn't win? What if the ritual worked but they didn't get the result they'd anticipated? Fanatics are determined." His nose scrunches. "Or maybe it's part of a bigger ritual?" He shrugs. "'Course The Fox would be a more useful resource of speculate with. I don't know much about magic." Or anything. And then with another hmmm he offers, "Or it's a competition of some sort. Two groups? Conventional gangs engage in that kind of behaviour all the time…"

With a sharp inhale of breath, Tim nods at the observation about the construction firm, "Then we have to seek out some of the others and see if they have similar documents or interest to the group — "


"It is good cryptography." Babs agrees. She can admire the work even given it's source. His next conjecture has her nodding thoughtfully "Maybe. I can float that with The Fox, but he'll likely just say - we have to stop them, regardless. And he's right." Still knowing the motivations, might help with deciphering the mystery. At the thought of this being a competition, she shudders "That's some way to prove you're the better group."

"I'm doing work on tracing money moving through the city. I'll check TKO's finances as part of that. In the meantime, I need you to visit some of these locations, let's see what we can find."


"Well it seems we have a plan of sorts. Or, at least, some next steps." Tim pushes the chair away from the console. He shoots Babs a small half smile, "We'll figure this out. We will." Despite everything, Robin remains somewhat optimistic.

"Keep me in the loop, and I'll do the same. We'll figure this out," he repeats. "We have to."

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