Decoding the Evidence

September 02, 2016:

The White Queen and Psylocke confer over the evidence they've managed to assemble from their raid on Donald Pierce's home, and decide they are ready to confront Selene.

Private Suite - Xavier Institute - New York City

Several interior walls have been knocked down to form a close but comfortable living space for three people, turning the one-person dorm rooms into a suite with a common area. The common area has a small dining table near the kitchenette, atop tile floor, and a big bay window in the kitchen to let light pour into the room. A living room of sorts includes a sofa, high-backed reading chair, and a massive beanbag chair all turned to face one another with a television pushed into the corner.

One bedroom is decorated with a tasteful if Spartan view, a combination of baroque British Imperialism and sparse Japanese aestheticism wrangled into a relatively pleasing juxtaposition.

The northmost bedroom looks more like a study, with a large desk and computer station against one wall and a rumbled queen bed against the other. Books are everywhere, from novels to reference materials, and it's obviously someone's workspace.

The third bedroom is divided precisely in half like a cheap photo trick. One full half of it is done all in steel and glass, looking precisely like a high-rise corporate office complete with workstation. The other half sports white carpet, a four-poster bed with white sheets, and white furniture that costs as much as a midsize sedan. The room is surprisingly well noise-insulated, too.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Selene, Donald Pierce

Plot:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

Two days of recuperation and care have followed, and it seems finally Elizabeth has been restored, thanks in no small part to the advanced and nigh-impossible medicinal capabilities of the Institute and those who live there. With said treatments largely at an end, the other woman's mind is clear and no longer requires aid from Emma to stay that way. This has freed both women, most fortuitously, to resume their investigations by reviewing the data they have so carefully recovered at some personal risk, and catalogued.

"What do you make of these skip and book codes in the messages?" Emma inquires of Elizabeth, as she leans back in her chair, looking over one of the messages in question.


Betsy's wearing a short green kimono, hair back in a messy array that resembles a spring of flowers and held in place with a pair of chopsticks. Sitting in Emma's suite, she's curled up on the small loveseat, feet curled to one side and tucked under her bare thighs. "It's definitely a cypher of some kind, but I don't know how to begin breaking it," Betsy says, frowning and chewing on the blunt end of her pen thoughtfully. "It's clever, though, despite being grossly low-tech— book codes are subtle and terribly effective, and if you don't have the /exact/ book needed to decode it, then all you have are completely useless numbers and letters. And that's not assuming there's more encryption on the raw data itself," she says, wryly. "Which, I assume there is, because that's what /I/ would do." She considers a few sheafs of paper, shuffling them back and forth for more evaluation.


Emma just rolls her eyes and smiles. "Trust my dear ninja to try to do all of this old-school." Emma, on the other hand, has fed all of this into the computers, and the pattern recognition has managed to assemble a multitude of potential variations and then compare them to every tome in their available databases. It has taken a good deal of time, but Emma has finally found the right book, or so she believes. Most interestingly, it appears to have been the same book for each of the different chains of communication with different subjects and targets.

"According to the algorithm, the most likely match gives us these messages: Clear details on time, date, security codes. Literally instructions on the theft of Pierce technology, FROM Pierce."


"I'm not accustomed to working with a supercomputer," Betsy mutters, a bit defensively. "I've had to crack cyphers in the field armed with a dictionary and a box of #2 pencils." She heeds Emma carefully, brows climbing upwards at the woman's offer of information. "Interesting," she murmurs, tapping her pen aginst her lower lip. "So Pierce is stealing from himself and selling the goods and information. I'm sure he's making a pretty penny with each insurance claim he files, too," she says, lips curling into a moue. "And all the while making himself look the unwilling victim to his allies."


"What I find most fascinating is the tenor of the hidden messages." Emma offers, as she pulls them up and starts displaying them, each in its own window, for Betsy to see. And yes, that means she leaves her chair and walks over to wedge herself into the loveseat beside Betsy, laptop in hand. "I could be wrong. But the way I read this, it seems more like the instructions given to subordinates. He's not just allowing this to happen and profiting form it. I really think he's commanding these thefts." And isn't that disturbing.


Betsy shifts about two inches to make room for Emma, which is the equivalent of at least acknowledging that Emma is invited to sit next to her.

Betsy does, however, demand her toll of mild cuddling for the privilege. %r She presses one foot up onto the ball and crosses her legs at the knee, resting the laptop on her thighs and pushing the monitor back to examine it. A sharp muscle spikes in her calf with the motion. It takes her a few moments to read through the messages, one at a time, and her eyes narrow by inches as she goes through them.

"This is code language. Bad code language," Betsy clarifies a second later. "You see this pattern?" One manicured nail taps on the screen. "This is a report to the Board at Pierce Industries. Here's what was taken— ten units of this product. And he talks about how this, these, and those" she taps on three different points "are the remaining reserves, or items coming up for shipment. But, if we scroll…" she flickers through the images. "You can see how every time he talks about 'secured warehouse', that's the next thing to get hit. And here… I think 'delivery pending' is a code for priority, and 'excess materiel' in these memos suggests calling off the previous orders." She frowns, tapping a fingertip against her lower lip thoughtfully.


"Well, it could be far worse code language. As it is, we're looking at the message decrypted from locating numerics in the text, and pairing up each set of numbers with a page number, line number, and word number on that page. Without knowing what book was being referred no one would even see the 'code speak' you're seeing now." Emma explains. "And yet, despite how thoroughly encoded all of this was, he didn't speak very directly, even then."

Emma closes her eyes, blotting out the visual of the messages as she mulls over the logic and business consequences of all of this. "Let's tell the computer to use the tracking data available to pin down the other ends of these electronic conversations, along with the messages they received. That should be enough to turn all of this into evidence worthy of Selene." And isn't that a comforting thought?


"It's a good notion," Betsy says, leaning back with a sigh. "But ultimately we're still facing an uphill battle. We're trying to convince two enemies to turn on one another, and that's one of the oldest gambits in warfare. Even if Selune agrees with us— even if she believes us wholeheartedly- it won't guarantee her help."

She narrows her purple eyes, thinking. "We need to create a story. A narrative," she explains. "It's not merely enough to drop this evidence off piecemeal. We need to phrase it so that Selune feels betrayed— targeted. Humilated," she clarifies. "We are not just three points in this triangle, we need to rephrase it so Selune views this as evidence of Pierce's disdain for her. We need to make it personal."


"I think he has made it personal, by stealing from the Club's finances, and thusly hers, to fund terrorists who have been hunting extranormals, herself and her lackies included." Emma opines, being incisive enough to get directly to her point.


"Perhaps," Betsy says, frowning. "I am still concerned that Selene may simply elect to leave us to solve the problem. Withdraw her support from Pierce and sit back to allow someone more motivated to finish the issue. I don't /know/ her, not well enough to predict her responses," Betsy explains. "I feel if we can be sure— absolutely sure— that she'll be driven into a towering fury, we'll accomplish more than merely tipping our hand and allowing her to retreat to a safer position. What do you think?" she inquires of the blonde at her side.


Emma purses her lips as she considers Elizabeth's points. "To eb honest, I would consider it a success if she withdrew her support from him, backed off, and left him to us. If she withdraws her support, shuts down ehr finances, then we have a chance to take him out without having to worry about her." Because Selene is extra super scary. Who wants to deal with that if they don't have to? "I would love to arrange things so that she would actually take him out for us. But I'm really not sure how feasible that is. But getting her to withdraw support is, I think, quite feasible."


"Oh, a success, just not a particularly sexy one," Betsy acknowledges, a smile curling the corner of her mouth. "I am not thrilled with the prospect of her operating from a position of relative security while we mop up her mess, but I suppose the end result is what matters. If we can't bait her to manage Pierce, then we can at least deal with him without her intervening." She reaches bakc and removes the chopsticks from her hair, letting it down, and sets about trying to set it back up again to capture a few loose tendrils. "Which would give us the same end result, in the long run."

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