BSS Babbage, High Earth Orbit, Gulf of Mexico
JoshLamont shifted in his seat with the faint unease of one who didn't really need to be here. Despite doing this dozens of times without the Board so much as raising an eyebrow, he still carried a faint feeling of tension in his stomach.
There was no real reason he couldn't just transmit the "documents" (a fancy name for scribbled reports the Board didn't even demand much anyway, when uploading from his POST was a far simpler proposition, and of course the Dragon's rare and precious signature on the latest Nemo construction paperwork) he brought with him. But that would have meant he missed a chance to scrounge the co-pilot's seat and see...well, call it a little proof that he was well and truly on the right side.
You could see her from the moment you broke through the upper cloud layer, or even from the ground on a clear night — if you knew where to look. But it wasn't until you could brush aside the wispy shell of atmosphere and shake the dust of the Earth from your proverbial boots that you could truly drink in the awe-inspiring shape of the Funky Horror. Boardies got a little blasé about their home at times, but it was still a matter of considerable honour to Josh that somehow this gigantic creature thought him worthy of a place aboard her.
Josh continued to watch the station as it swelled before him, knowing that it was looking back and probably already knew everything about him there was to know.
* * *
Board Orbital Headquarters, Space Station Funky Horror
Well-oiled brass snapped into place with a faint *click*, and stars sprang from sharp relief to watery distortions as the telescope of a deity quietly folded up.
Lately Mari had taken up stargazing, for reasons known only to her inscrutable self. One of the side-effects of this was a tendency to carry a small Napoleonic telescope around - to say nothing of some amusing Fleet operations for which the only motive was to get a decent view. Nevertheless, the sight of a small figure in white tracking some impossibly-distant star or other was quite common on the Funky Horror these days.
Luis fought back the urge to swallow. It's one thing to idly toss Her name about in everyday conversation, quite another to actually get attention from the Woman in White. Oddly enough, that epithet doesn't apply to Her dress sense but rather Her glasses, which flare back with coruscating energy to completely cover the eyes that use them.
"Aerilon'll be back when the Babbage docks, Mari...you wanted...?"
A flight of myriad Board craft burned their way past the station "behind" the discussion, engines white-hot flares against the infinite night outside. A tacit reminder that Goddesses don't need to make their presence felt when they have people to do it for them.
"I'll chat to him when he gets up here. Make an appointment with High Command whenever they can fit me into their busy schedule."
"Okay..." Luis's tone crept back to normal levels. "There's some stuff from Nemo...mostly reciepts."
The glasses dilated faintly. "Read 'em."
"Oh, and Talix is complaining that the Director keeps rebuilding the chairs on the bridge. He says redecoration is all very well but the Command Deck's wiring is sensitive."
The glasses bobbed for a second before they were obscured by an amused dismissive wave. "Well, you know her. Bit of a horror."
They both shared a conspiratorial snicker. Mari click!ed her telescope open again and went back to watching something that wasn't a star at all.
* * *
Speculation Epsilon, Funky Horror
"SKID?" Flax's voice was a mixture of dismay and disbelief as he paced in front of the translucent projection of Hayasaka that formed her avatar for videoconferencing, sandwich in one hand from a plate balanced on the numerous ELINT consoles that dot such a place. "Are you utterly, totally sure?"
"Oh, we're sure all right...get a Spec Thread pointed here and we'll be certain, but half of them are wearing the logo like some kind of Scout badge."
Knowledge of current events is essential to good government, and the Board are well aware with this. They estimate a good 65% of all Board activity is mostly based in or around their complex speculation systems, and the Funky Horror's upper superstructure bore several colossal antennae farms and a huge passive receptor dish that together made up the mighty Speculation Array, which in turn fed to multiple threads to prevent Gulf War Syndrome.
In action, a Spec Thread looks like a massive information centre — a tall cylindrical hall with one end flattened to allow a massive projector to fill it with wide-angle displays. Archive terminals and AI systems access consoles dot the walls, and everywhere are the hyperactive speculating Boardies as they battle to turn each update into cohesive and usable data for their operations.
But for now, with the next update hours away, the threads are empty aside from screensavers and the odd Boardie who needs a communications system - since at their most basic level that's what a Spec Thread mostly is.
"Yeeeeuuus...?" Jappus poked his head out from the centre of one of the consoles, a trail of solenoids and computer components surrounding him — the side-effects of an attempt to remove Spec Epsilon's annoying habit of sticking every time someone tried to use it on April, although that might have had more to do with Dusty's recent return to the Boards than any electrical faults.
"Rewire enough stuff to get us visual control and let's take a look..." Flax uttered an ugly noise as the massive speculation centre, merely one of dozens like it aboard the station, began it's startup cycle as it began looking for any and all ways of seeing it's target. After a few seconds it found a passing Russian spy satellite that had been peeking at whatever Connecticut had in the way of Cold War-era military assets and tripped all those lovely little back doors the Board install, displaying the readouts as a huge overhead shot in infra-red, the gathering an obvious panoply of yellows and blues in the cooling metal surroundings. Secondary readouts came alive around Flax as Jappus pressed significant buttons or crossed significant wires.
And then Flax emitted a long stream of curses as the Spec systems took his archive image of SKID insignia and those stupid uniforms they'd worn...and proudly found 122 examples in the target area.
"Well, for a start I want to know where they got the acronym from, since it technically stands for " Script Kiddies In Drag", a derogatory term made up by us." Flax thoughtfully sat down.
"Who are these dweebs anyway, and when do we teach them the error of their ways?"
"They were...or said they were...an offshoot of KISS..." That's Kids In Satan's Service, archive fans. "...that specialised in computers and the 'net. Or tried to."
"Another bunch who saw 'Daemon' and thought it sounded kewl?"
Jappus snorted from his maze of cabling and called out so as to be picked up by the microphone. "Pretty much. Only difference between them and real script kiddies was that these guys sacrificed goats before they tried to hack anything. Brought a whole new meaning to 'Blood on the Keyboard'..."
"Yeah, they've definitely got livestock here. Gave Joshua and Spam quite a shock earlier."
"What happened? Something mistake them for a carrot?"
"They trod on a goat."
Jappus snickered. "We'd marked 'em down as just another petulant little cult until they hit our communications network. Gave us some trouble for a few days until we tracked them down."
"And took them out? Speaking of which, when do we get to do some out-taking?"
"Heh. Yeah, but that was pre-Funky Horror....give us a bit, Hayasaka. Let's make sure this bunch ARE trouble before we get nasty." Flax turned away and discretely shoved the microphone stand away from him as he turned back to Jappus. "Grab me an archive printout, I know you're hiding one somewhere...ordinarily I'd class them as nothing more than an nuisance..."
The main speculation display extended a small subdisplay. When an update was still "hot" the room would be filled with dozens of such screens for the edification of the speculating hordes. Flax trailed off as he flicked "pages" back and forth by tapping touchscreen buttons - it was possible someone else had just picked up the nickname from the Board's myriad underground channels and was using it to try to get attention, and Goddess knew the Board's general cover as the global conspiracy was designed to be leaky. But it still suggested these people were practically waving a flashing neon arrow saying "raid me!"
The half-demon paused, and then yanked the microphone for the holocommunications system. "Anyway, thanks for all that, Hayasaka."
"No problem. Can we puree them now?"
"Keep an eye on them until we decide how big a response they warrant, I'll grab some people. Call us back in ten, over and out..." Flax tapped a button and the projection vanished. "Oh f'nord...of all the people we didn't need..."
"What's the matter? I thought we had carte blanche to get War Thread on SKID or KISS?"
"Well, yeah...it's not often the boss actually asks us to go after someone." Flax shuddered at the memory of the crazed enthusiasm back then and bit into another sandwich. "They're gone, Jap. Gone, gone, gone. Bases smashed, plans thwarted, leader thrown to Roscoe. New acronym or someone's been scaring conspiracy theorists again..." He grinned. Certain Boardies did have a habit of going up to the more vocal conspiracy nuts and whispering Dark Secrets in their ears — before running away, giggling, and then arranging for their friends to buzz past in black sedans and "flying saucers". Under the current Director such activity was practically encouraged, to the point where Loweko had issued a decree saying that no matter how silly the idea, people were to ask before borrowing the dreadnought.
So people had switched to using JJ's carrier instead, since the jackal had only just gotten back from his honeymoon and was rather too busy, ahem, to comment. "I can't help wondering why the heck someone would bother, though."
"Flax...SKID were big. They managed to get an inhabited satellite into low orbit back when the Funky Horror was just a stack of blueprints..."
Flax paused. Paused, raised an eyebrow, and slowly waved one arm around the wide cylinder of a room to encompass the, not to put too fine a point on it, huge *&%&ing space station he was standing in. The old SKID satellite hadn't even been the size of the Funky Horror's main reciever dish.
"They still built one, Flax!"
"Yeah, but the world was less rational back then..." The half-demon didn't sound too concerned. "..besides, you'd have to be an utter loon to try anything in orbit nowadays. You can't move for Boardies up here."