Difference between revisions of "Cyrene - Secrets and Covert Operations"

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Cyrene - Secrets and Covert Operations
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Secrects and Covert Operations is semi-official storytelling written by [[MS9]].
  
 
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It is recommended to read the original with images and further info in [[EntropiaTimes#EntropiaTimes_June_2011|EntropiaTimes June 2011]]
 
It is recommended to read the original with images and further info in [[EntropiaTimes#EntropiaTimes_June_2011|EntropiaTimes June 2011]]
 
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'''A Committed Mission, But At What Cost?'''
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It is recommended to read the original with images and further info at [http://www.entropiaplanets.com/forums/threads/cyrene-a-committed-mission-but-at-what-cost.6008/ A Committed Mission, But At What Cost?]
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'''"Unfinished Business" - Part 1'''
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It is recommended to read the original with images and further info at [http://www.entropiaplanets.com/forums/threads/cyrene-unfinished-business-part-1.6229/ "Unfinished Business" - Part 1]
  
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Cyrene seems to be a planet in turmoil at the moment, and apparently no time can be wasted, so a new ops plan is being set in motion …
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Getting settled at the Intergalactic Space Mission Agency Headquarters took a bit of doing. Planet hopping is one thing, but a full-on move back to Earth from Arkadia almost felt like a step in reverse of personal progression. For over 6 years, Entropia Universe and its expansion has been my life source, and a means to advance my journalistic endeavors to an even greater degree. If it wasn't for Senator Calvin Neff needing my help on Planet Cyrene, and the ISMA lending assistance in a huge way, I'm sure things would be quite different.
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The ISMA compound is located on the East Coast of Florida in the United States, with acreage that spans an enormous stretch overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, so when I arrived at my personal quarters within the compound, I was pleasantly surprised to find more than a room with a view. One of the residential areas for ISMA staff was developed on beach-front property, and my little cottage was only a brief walk to the water's edge. Prior to leaving Earth for Entropia Universe, I was a resident of Florida for a long time, so I'm used to this type of environment. The touch of old home comfort eased the transition a bit.
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Having a few days to get my new digs in order was welcomed, but I knew there was a lot of work to be done, and would soon need to check in with Commander Winslow Anderson at the headquarters office. Besides, I was anxious to see just what kind of a setup he put together for me as an ops center, which would become the hub for my work with the Senator on Cyrene. One thing I did notice, is that everything I've seen so far seems to be locked down like Fort Knox, and every communication device is state-of-the-art, including the electronics I found within my residence. Obviously the ISMA takes security quite seriously.
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As morning broke, the sound of the ocean waves kept me lingering in and out of sleep. The cool breeze from the open windows left a scent of freshness that reminded me that air quality on other planets paled in comparison. Just as I felt myself slipping deeper into sleep, there was a knock at the door. As I threw off the covers and grabbed my robe, I wondered who could possibly need to see me so early in the morning, and why not just make a phone call.
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As I peered through the peep hole in the door, there stood Commander Winslow Anderson holding up a container of coffee in one hand, and a bag of unknown content in the other. I didn't think I would be seeing him for at least a few more days after getting my ops center organized, but there he was like a decorated delivery person in all his military glory.
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"So are you going to open the door, or what," he asked with a tone and look that you normally don't experience from a Commander, but then Winslow, just like the Senator, was a long-time friend, and outside of a professional environment, the atmosphere and demeanor were far less formal.
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I quickly opened the door and motioned for the Commander to enter. "Looks like you've come bearing goodies, and the kind that are most welcomed so early in the morning. I didn't expect to see you so soon after my arrival, so this is a pleasant surprise." The Commander acknowledged my greeting and walked directly into the kitchen for coffee mugs and plates before heading back to the dining table. I grabbed some napkins and joined him.
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"I wanted to make a personal visit before you became intensely involved at your new ops center, and give you a briefing on the lay of the land so to speak." He poured the coffee and opened a bag of what seemed to be over-sized biscuits. I wondered if they would measure up to the biscuits the Senator's housekeeper made.
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"It's always good to see you Winslow, and I know we have a lot of personal life to catch up on, but I'm curious about the new ops center and how exactly the covert operations will work with the Senator on Cyrene." I picked up my coffee mug while looking in the Commander's direction and waited for the holes to be filled in. He shared that ordinarily, I wouldn't have seen him so soon, but he was contacted by the Senator, and it seems that things are escalating on Cyrene.
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"It's good to have you back on Earth MindStar, but I also know that what you're about to engage in is not just a minor smoke and mirrors operation. My communication with the Senator this morning pretty much put everything into perspective." Winslow's initial smile after the welcome back began to diminish as he proceeded to share a few more details, but then I knew from the get go after receiving his transmission on Arkadia that accepting this position meant it came with huge responsibilities and risks. However, not without potential rewards if missions were completed successfully.
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"Apparently, the Senator thinks that the situation with the Zekkonians has advanced to the degree that immediate investigation is required, which is why your transfer to ISMA and setting up an ops center was so rushed." The Commander leaned forward placing both hands on his coffee mug as he waited for a response, but I wasn't sure what he was expecting to hear.
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"Well, as you know," I started, focusing only on the basics, "my previous trip to Cyrene was to investigate the Zekkonians because the Senator was quite certain even then that something was going on. There must be new information to make this a more urgent mission and a need to complete unfinished business." The Commander took a sip of his coffee and nodded his head in agreement before sitting back in his chair and continuing.
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"Yes, there is new information," he responded, "but that conversation needs to take place between you and the Senator, and you'll have an opportunity to connect with him tomorrow when you take command of the Cyrene Ops Center at headquarters." Well now, that sounded pretty official. It's not just an ops center any more, but the ISMA-COC, and the hub where all future Cyrene covert missions will originate. I am certainly taking this new position seriously, but come on, how damn cool is it to be running your own special ops center.
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"When you arrive at headquarters tomorrow, you'll be given a tour of areas accessible to you, and ultimately end up at the Cyrene Ops Center where you will meet your staff." I actually thought I was going to have to interview and choose my own staff, but I guess not. "I took the liberty of assembling the best team possible since time was of the essence, so I hope you don't mind," the Commander said as he stood up from the table.
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"Not at all actually, I trust your judgment, and I'm looking forward to meeting them, so thank you once again for making this transition as easy as possible."
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"It's my pleasure," the Commander responded, "but now I must get back to headquarters. However, before I leave, here is a transcript of the communication with Senator Neff from this morning. It will give you a bit more information prior to connecting with him tomorrow."
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After the Commander left, I sat back down at the table to enjoy a fresh cup of coffee while I read the transcript, and came to a very clear conclusion. There was no doubt in my mind that I was in for some intense involvement, but I'm taking this new direction quite seriously, and have resolved to the fact that it won't be a walk in the park like some of my past activities within the Entropia Universe. However, I've always been drawn to adrenaline-pumping danger and solving mysteries that unravel the twists and turns that play havoc in our universe.
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One thing I know for sure, I can't be a one-woman army, and while I am quite certain I will have trustworthy staff at the ISMA-COC, I will also need to reach out to my fellow Entropians in an effort to align forces with self-sufficient factions that are willing to go to battle should there be a need. There are already strong and able societies on other planets that have proven their warfare efficiency, and my hope is, that their leaders will give consideration to assist in supporting a call to Cyrene should it be necessary. There's something to be said for being prepared, as well as always having a backup plan.
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After reading the transcript, it seems that the Senator is ready to pick up where we left off with my previous visit. I was on my way to the Zekkonian City under cover as the Senator's guest on vacation to see if I could gather any Intel. He had a sense that something was going on, but it would have been way too suspicious for him to make the trip himself. My excursion however, was rudely interrupted when my escorted transport was hijacked by an incredibly vicious creature, and armed guards who led me to Zorra Winters, the Leader of ARC (Acacia Rebirth Corp).
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It was all planned once they learned of my presence on the planet, and this was the beginning of a solicited involvement the likes of which I had difficulty wrapping my head around. However, once I debriefed the Senator and left Cyrene for Arkadia, the enormity of this undertaking took its rightful place at the top of my to-do list. There was no mistake that this was more than a simple probe operation, and now that I have relocated to the ISMA compound on Earth, my thoughts were clearly centered on future missions that would bring Cyrene more into focus. The Senator's references to potential danger were hardly sanitized. He had a genius of expression that surpassed any second-step mentality, but it kept everyone on their toes and at the ready. I was ready.
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After arriving at the ISMA Headquarters building, I learned that my initial ID was only temporary, and didn't get me very far, other than an escort directly to clearance central. It was here where high-tech took on a new meaning, and where my right thumb and eyeball took center stage. However, what surprised me most was a required full body scan to record whatever it is they needed to record. They weren't very forthcoming regarding this procedure, but my guess is, they wanted to be sure I wasn't wired for sound, or housing any GPS tracking devices under the skin or elsewhere. I figured I would lighten it up a bit and tell them I kept all my music on my iPod, but they weren't in a humorous mood.
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Once the clearance procedure was completed, I now had access to areas that were relevant for coordinating my missions with Cyrene. It was cool that I didn't have to worry about losing a badge, or carrying such on my trips to Cyrene and potentially blowing a cover. Upon leaving the clearance center, I was greeted by an individual who identified herself as my personal assistant.
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"Good morning MindStar, my name is Hannah, your personal assistant, and if you'll follow me, I will take you to the Cyrene Ops Center." My first impression came with mixed reviews. She almost looked fragile with her upswept strawberry blonde hair and feminine features, and with a name to fit such a description, but her stride was presented with great confidence, and an air of professionalism that was refreshing. However, I need a kick-ass assistant ready to jump into the trenches if need be, so this was going to be interesting to see if it was a good fit.
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Upon arriving at the Cyrene Ops Center, I met the rest of the staff who were obviously waiting to meet me, and after all pleasantries were exchanged, they seemed like a solid enough team after learning of their individual responsibilities. I have to say that the Commander did quite well, but I was still skeptical about Hannah. Time will tell.
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"So Hannah," I asked, "where do I hang out, and how close is the coffee machine?" For the first time, Hannah cracked a smile as she motioned to a rather large corner office and started navigating in that direction. Entering the office, my first thought was, it's rather quaint and decorated nicely, but didn't look like a setup worthy of an ops center command post. I especially noticed that there was no computer in sight, and wondered if I would need to go elsewhere to access one.
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"MindStar," Hannah said as she closed the door, "this is where the rubber meets the road so to speak, and if you move to the other side of the desk and have a seat, you will find a small panel embedded in the right underside of the desk." I felt my pulse increase, because this was beginning to feel like serious business, and certainly nothing I had ever experienced before.
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"The red button is a toggle that will shade the interior and exterior windows and obstruct visibility," Hannah continued, "and are a high-grade quality to withstand penetration by bullets, lasers, and explosive devices." Ok, now we're talking. I love gadgets and pushing buttons to see what the results are – sometimes good, sometimes not so good, but after depressing the red button, the windows displayed something akin to built-in sunglasses, and the interior lighting increased in intensity.
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"The small glass panel below the red button is for your right thumb print," Hannah instructed, "and it's the only way your top right desk drawer will open." Without hesitation, my right thumb met the glass panel and the top right draw opened. The only thing in the drawer was something that looked like an oversized digital remote control that appeared to be inset in the base of the drawer and stationary.
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"This is your office command device, and if you look at the icons, you will notice that each is clearly marked to gain you access to your computer, your communications equipment, and a hidden personal room to retire to should you find your hours long and demanding of your time. Go ahead, test it out."
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Hannah stood there with a bit of a grin on her face, and I'm sure in full anticipation that I would indeed give the device a test drive. "Alright, let's see where the computer is hiding," I said with my own anticipation to see where all of this was going. My desk area was L-shaped and rather large, with an intricate inlay design that seemed a bit strange to me. All of a sudden, the desk in front of me started to vibrate a bit, and the desk pad reversed itself to reveal a computer keyboard, while just beyond the keyboard, a sizeable monitor rose from the desk like a resurrection.
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The monitor lit up and presented a log-in process which appeared to be touch-screen access, and it became clear rather quickly that this was another time when the right thumb would meet the glass panel. "Does everything require my thumb print," I asked as I looked at Hannah.
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"Pretty much MindStar," Hannah responded, "except for the Cyrene War Room that will require both a thumb print and an eyeball scan to access."
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"Wait, I have a Cyrene War Room," I asked.
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"Yes," she replied, "it was requested by the Senator in anticipation that certain segments of operations may need to be conducted off planet for security reasons. The select few who will gain access to the Cyrene War Room will be required to also receive clearance and be required to provide a thumb print and iris scan. The thumb print process is actually built into the door handle, and the iris scan is embedded in the right door of the entrance. The Cyrene War Room is located in the lower level of the building with direct underground access and without anyone having to enter the main lobby of the building, but we can take a tour another time."
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I went silent for a moment to contemplate the gravity of what the implications were, and obviously just how serious the Cyrene situation is to require such covert operations. The Senator was sending a clear message, and I couldn't wait to connect with him to get briefed further, but I wanted to familiarize myself with the rest of what might be cleverly hidden before getting down to business.
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"Let's give communications a spin, shall we?" As I depressed the comm icon the beautiful mural of the space center on the wall above the L-shaped portion of my desk to the left morphed into a full-on monitor, while the inlay portion of the desktop rotated into a touch-screen. Again, the thumb print security was in place in order to log-in and gain full access to communications. As I sat mesmerized at the ease with which these activities were presenting themselves, Hannah interrupted.
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"You will note that there is simple and direct access to the Senator," as she pointed to the center of the touch screen, "with an option to record all communications if need be." One would think that modern technology might be a bit more complex, but so far, I've only needed to lift a finger – make that a thumb – and while I was quite anxious to make contact with the Senator, there was one more icon I needed to check out before I was on my own.
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"Now let's see this hidden room where I'm guessing my tired ass can catch a few Zzz's if hours become long and demanding." As I pressed the icon on the device in the drawer, my eyes glanced over the office to see what walls would move, or anything else that would transition into an entrance into the inner sanctum. I didn't have to wait long, because the wall hutch on the right side of the office that housed a small bar and storage space swung open to reveal an entry-way.
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A regular door would have sufficed, but after entering the room, it became quite clear to me that this was more than just a snooze chamber, and it was wise that anyone visiting my office would have no clue the room existed. Aside from a personal bathroom and sleep area, a small kitchen facility fit snuggly into an alcove, as did a sitting area complete with what appeared to be a rather strangely-designed table until I recognized the intricate inlay pattern on the top.
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Hannah remained outside the room but spoke loud enough for me to hear that there was yet another panel on the wall to the right of the entrance that controlled the activities within the interior of the room. This was beginning to feel more like a bomb shelter, or panic room, but I didn't want to take the time right now to explore every little nuance of this inner sanctum when I needed to connect with the Senator as soon as possible.
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Exiting the room, Hannah instructed me on how to communicate with her if I required assistance. She said the Senator was expecting my call, and if there wasn't anything else I needed, then she would go to her work station. I told her I was fine and thanked her for everything as she headed for the door, but she stopped abruptly, and without turning around, she said – "Are you ready to kick some ass?"
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As she left the office and closed the door behind her, I could only stand there with a big grin on my face, because it was in that moment that I realized that everything was going to be just fine.
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As I sat back down at my desk, fun time was over, and the urgency of why I was here came back into focus. The first order of business was to contact the Senator and get briefed on how soon I would be heading back to Cyrene. As I engaged the communications touch-screen, I was immediately connected to the Senator's office.
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"Hello MindStar, I see you are settled in your ops center," said the Senator as he visually appeared on the wall monitor.
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"Not sure how settled I am," I replied, "but my personal assistant gave me a crash course in basically how everything works."
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"Oh, you mean Hannah, how do you like her?" Surprised by his response and that he would know the names of staff, I wasn't quite sure what to make of it.
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"How do you know Hannah," I asked, "I thought the Commander chose the COC staff."
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"He did, except for Hannah," he replied, "she is from Cyrene and hand-chosen from my personal staff. She is human-like, but not human, and no one at ISMA knows this except for you and the Commander. He took care of her clearance process so she wouldn't alert during a scan. She is equipped to cater to your every need, and despite her high-tech abilities, she is primed to be groomed and molded into an efficient and dependable assistant with capabilities only you will discover over time. It is of utmost importance that this remain highly classified, but we can discuss this more later because we need to focus on your return to Cyrene."
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Morphing walls, revolving desktops, hidden rooms, and now a not-so-human personal assistant? I wondered if there was chilled vodka in the freezer in the hidden room, because I was beginning to feel like I walked into a twilight zone or something.
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"MindStar, you ok," the Senator asked, "you look a little zoned out there."
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"I'm just taking it all in Calvin, and also trying to wrap my brain around the enormity of what's happening here. Obviously there's urgency, so let's get things set in motion."
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"Yes, MindStar," replied the Senator, "there is an urgency, and I need to get you back to Cyrene as soon as possible so that we can carry out the Zekkonian mission. Sorry to cut your R&R so short, but I have made arrangements with the Commander to have an unmarked craft shuttle you to Cyrene the day after tomorrow. I'm hoping that's enough time for you to assemble what you need. I don't want to discuss the details of this mission until you arrive, so have a safe trip and I'll see you soon."
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"See you in a couple of days Calvin, I'm looking forward to it. Oh, and ask your lovely housekeeper to have her sweet tea and biscuits ready, I've missed them."
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"Will do. Goodbye MindStar."
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"Goodbye Calvin." As the communication ended and the wall morphed back into the mural of the space center, I placed my right thumb on the glass panel beneath my desk to close the drawer, and then pressed the red button to de-shade the windows. As I looked beyond my office into the outer area, there were people busy doing things, but just what those things were was unknown. I caught myself staring at Hannah as she stood talking to a fellow staff member, and couldn't help but have thoughts of how utterly human she looked and behaved. I'm going to have to query the Senator more about this.
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As the day ended and I headed back to my cottage, I realized how important it was to gain focus and approach this unfinished Zekkonian business with renewed energy. I am more curious than ever now as to what they are up to, and why there seems to be such a threat.
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The next couple of days passed quickly, and the knock at the door told me that my transport had arrived to escort me to the shuttle that would be taking me to Cyrene. I wondered if I was going to be seeing the flyboys again. And now I was also wondering if they were human.
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... to be continued in Part 2
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'''A Committed Mission, But At What Cost?'''
 
'''A Committed Mission, But At What Cost?'''

Revision as of 19:52, 2 January 2012

Secrects and Covert Operations is semi-official storytelling written by MS9.

Secrets and Covert Operations

It is recommended to read the original with images and further info in EntropiaTimes June 2011


A Committed Mission, But At What Cost?

It is recommended to read the original with images and further info at A Committed Mission, But At What Cost?


"Unfinished Business" - Part 1

It is recommended to read the original with images and further info at "Unfinished Business" - Part 1

Cyrene seems to be a planet in turmoil at the moment, and apparently no time can be wasted, so a new ops plan is being set in motion …

Getting settled at the Intergalactic Space Mission Agency Headquarters took a bit of doing. Planet hopping is one thing, but a full-on move back to Earth from Arkadia almost felt like a step in reverse of personal progression. For over 6 years, Entropia Universe and its expansion has been my life source, and a means to advance my journalistic endeavors to an even greater degree. If it wasn't for Senator Calvin Neff needing my help on Planet Cyrene, and the ISMA lending assistance in a huge way, I'm sure things would be quite different.

The ISMA compound is located on the East Coast of Florida in the United States, with acreage that spans an enormous stretch overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, so when I arrived at my personal quarters within the compound, I was pleasantly surprised to find more than a room with a view. One of the residential areas for ISMA staff was developed on beach-front property, and my little cottage was only a brief walk to the water's edge. Prior to leaving Earth for Entropia Universe, I was a resident of Florida for a long time, so I'm used to this type of environment. The touch of old home comfort eased the transition a bit.

Having a few days to get my new digs in order was welcomed, but I knew there was a lot of work to be done, and would soon need to check in with Commander Winslow Anderson at the headquarters office. Besides, I was anxious to see just what kind of a setup he put together for me as an ops center, which would become the hub for my work with the Senator on Cyrene. One thing I did notice, is that everything I've seen so far seems to be locked down like Fort Knox, and every communication device is state-of-the-art, including the electronics I found within my residence. Obviously the ISMA takes security quite seriously.

As morning broke, the sound of the ocean waves kept me lingering in and out of sleep. The cool breeze from the open windows left a scent of freshness that reminded me that air quality on other planets paled in comparison. Just as I felt myself slipping deeper into sleep, there was a knock at the door. As I threw off the covers and grabbed my robe, I wondered who could possibly need to see me so early in the morning, and why not just make a phone call.

As I peered through the peep hole in the door, there stood Commander Winslow Anderson holding up a container of coffee in one hand, and a bag of unknown content in the other. I didn't think I would be seeing him for at least a few more days after getting my ops center organized, but there he was like a decorated delivery person in all his military glory.

"So are you going to open the door, or what," he asked with a tone and look that you normally don't experience from a Commander, but then Winslow, just like the Senator, was a long-time friend, and outside of a professional environment, the atmosphere and demeanor were far less formal.

I quickly opened the door and motioned for the Commander to enter. "Looks like you've come bearing goodies, and the kind that are most welcomed so early in the morning. I didn't expect to see you so soon after my arrival, so this is a pleasant surprise." The Commander acknowledged my greeting and walked directly into the kitchen for coffee mugs and plates before heading back to the dining table. I grabbed some napkins and joined him.

"I wanted to make a personal visit before you became intensely involved at your new ops center, and give you a briefing on the lay of the land so to speak." He poured the coffee and opened a bag of what seemed to be over-sized biscuits. I wondered if they would measure up to the biscuits the Senator's housekeeper made.

"It's always good to see you Winslow, and I know we have a lot of personal life to catch up on, but I'm curious about the new ops center and how exactly the covert operations will work with the Senator on Cyrene." I picked up my coffee mug while looking in the Commander's direction and waited for the holes to be filled in. He shared that ordinarily, I wouldn't have seen him so soon, but he was contacted by the Senator, and it seems that things are escalating on Cyrene.

"It's good to have you back on Earth MindStar, but I also know that what you're about to engage in is not just a minor smoke and mirrors operation. My communication with the Senator this morning pretty much put everything into perspective." Winslow's initial smile after the welcome back began to diminish as he proceeded to share a few more details, but then I knew from the get go after receiving his transmission on Arkadia that accepting this position meant it came with huge responsibilities and risks. However, not without potential rewards if missions were completed successfully.

"Apparently, the Senator thinks that the situation with the Zekkonians has advanced to the degree that immediate investigation is required, which is why your transfer to ISMA and setting up an ops center was so rushed." The Commander leaned forward placing both hands on his coffee mug as he waited for a response, but I wasn't sure what he was expecting to hear.

"Well, as you know," I started, focusing only on the basics, "my previous trip to Cyrene was to investigate the Zekkonians because the Senator was quite certain even then that something was going on. There must be new information to make this a more urgent mission and a need to complete unfinished business." The Commander took a sip of his coffee and nodded his head in agreement before sitting back in his chair and continuing.

"Yes, there is new information," he responded, "but that conversation needs to take place between you and the Senator, and you'll have an opportunity to connect with him tomorrow when you take command of the Cyrene Ops Center at headquarters." Well now, that sounded pretty official. It's not just an ops center any more, but the ISMA-COC, and the hub where all future Cyrene covert missions will originate. I am certainly taking this new position seriously, but come on, how damn cool is it to be running your own special ops center.

"When you arrive at headquarters tomorrow, you'll be given a tour of areas accessible to you, and ultimately end up at the Cyrene Ops Center where you will meet your staff." I actually thought I was going to have to interview and choose my own staff, but I guess not. "I took the liberty of assembling the best team possible since time was of the essence, so I hope you don't mind," the Commander said as he stood up from the table.

"Not at all actually, I trust your judgment, and I'm looking forward to meeting them, so thank you once again for making this transition as easy as possible."

"It's my pleasure," the Commander responded, "but now I must get back to headquarters. However, before I leave, here is a transcript of the communication with Senator Neff from this morning. It will give you a bit more information prior to connecting with him tomorrow."

After the Commander left, I sat back down at the table to enjoy a fresh cup of coffee while I read the transcript, and came to a very clear conclusion. There was no doubt in my mind that I was in for some intense involvement, but I'm taking this new direction quite seriously, and have resolved to the fact that it won't be a walk in the park like some of my past activities within the Entropia Universe. However, I've always been drawn to adrenaline-pumping danger and solving mysteries that unravel the twists and turns that play havoc in our universe.

One thing I know for sure, I can't be a one-woman army, and while I am quite certain I will have trustworthy staff at the ISMA-COC, I will also need to reach out to my fellow Entropians in an effort to align forces with self-sufficient factions that are willing to go to battle should there be a need. There are already strong and able societies on other planets that have proven their warfare efficiency, and my hope is, that their leaders will give consideration to assist in supporting a call to Cyrene should it be necessary. There's something to be said for being prepared, as well as always having a backup plan.

After reading the transcript, it seems that the Senator is ready to pick up where we left off with my previous visit. I was on my way to the Zekkonian City under cover as the Senator's guest on vacation to see if I could gather any Intel. He had a sense that something was going on, but it would have been way too suspicious for him to make the trip himself. My excursion however, was rudely interrupted when my escorted transport was hijacked by an incredibly vicious creature, and armed guards who led me to Zorra Winters, the Leader of ARC (Acacia Rebirth Corp).

It was all planned once they learned of my presence on the planet, and this was the beginning of a solicited involvement the likes of which I had difficulty wrapping my head around. However, once I debriefed the Senator and left Cyrene for Arkadia, the enormity of this undertaking took its rightful place at the top of my to-do list. There was no mistake that this was more than a simple probe operation, and now that I have relocated to the ISMA compound on Earth, my thoughts were clearly centered on future missions that would bring Cyrene more into focus. The Senator's references to potential danger were hardly sanitized. He had a genius of expression that surpassed any second-step mentality, but it kept everyone on their toes and at the ready. I was ready.

After arriving at the ISMA Headquarters building, I learned that my initial ID was only temporary, and didn't get me very far, other than an escort directly to clearance central. It was here where high-tech took on a new meaning, and where my right thumb and eyeball took center stage. However, what surprised me most was a required full body scan to record whatever it is they needed to record. They weren't very forthcoming regarding this procedure, but my guess is, they wanted to be sure I wasn't wired for sound, or housing any GPS tracking devices under the skin or elsewhere. I figured I would lighten it up a bit and tell them I kept all my music on my iPod, but they weren't in a humorous mood.

Once the clearance procedure was completed, I now had access to areas that were relevant for coordinating my missions with Cyrene. It was cool that I didn't have to worry about losing a badge, or carrying such on my trips to Cyrene and potentially blowing a cover. Upon leaving the clearance center, I was greeted by an individual who identified herself as my personal assistant.

"Good morning MindStar, my name is Hannah, your personal assistant, and if you'll follow me, I will take you to the Cyrene Ops Center." My first impression came with mixed reviews. She almost looked fragile with her upswept strawberry blonde hair and feminine features, and with a name to fit such a description, but her stride was presented with great confidence, and an air of professionalism that was refreshing. However, I need a kick-ass assistant ready to jump into the trenches if need be, so this was going to be interesting to see if it was a good fit.

Upon arriving at the Cyrene Ops Center, I met the rest of the staff who were obviously waiting to meet me, and after all pleasantries were exchanged, they seemed like a solid enough team after learning of their individual responsibilities. I have to say that the Commander did quite well, but I was still skeptical about Hannah. Time will tell.

"So Hannah," I asked, "where do I hang out, and how close is the coffee machine?" For the first time, Hannah cracked a smile as she motioned to a rather large corner office and started navigating in that direction. Entering the office, my first thought was, it's rather quaint and decorated nicely, but didn't look like a setup worthy of an ops center command post. I especially noticed that there was no computer in sight, and wondered if I would need to go elsewhere to access one.

"MindStar," Hannah said as she closed the door, "this is where the rubber meets the road so to speak, and if you move to the other side of the desk and have a seat, you will find a small panel embedded in the right underside of the desk." I felt my pulse increase, because this was beginning to feel like serious business, and certainly nothing I had ever experienced before.

"The red button is a toggle that will shade the interior and exterior windows and obstruct visibility," Hannah continued, "and are a high-grade quality to withstand penetration by bullets, lasers, and explosive devices." Ok, now we're talking. I love gadgets and pushing buttons to see what the results are – sometimes good, sometimes not so good, but after depressing the red button, the windows displayed something akin to built-in sunglasses, and the interior lighting increased in intensity.

"The small glass panel below the red button is for your right thumb print," Hannah instructed, "and it's the only way your top right desk drawer will open." Without hesitation, my right thumb met the glass panel and the top right draw opened. The only thing in the drawer was something that looked like an oversized digital remote control that appeared to be inset in the base of the drawer and stationary.

"This is your office command device, and if you look at the icons, you will notice that each is clearly marked to gain you access to your computer, your communications equipment, and a hidden personal room to retire to should you find your hours long and demanding of your time. Go ahead, test it out."

Hannah stood there with a bit of a grin on her face, and I'm sure in full anticipation that I would indeed give the device a test drive. "Alright, let's see where the computer is hiding," I said with my own anticipation to see where all of this was going. My desk area was L-shaped and rather large, with an intricate inlay design that seemed a bit strange to me. All of a sudden, the desk in front of me started to vibrate a bit, and the desk pad reversed itself to reveal a computer keyboard, while just beyond the keyboard, a sizeable monitor rose from the desk like a resurrection.

The monitor lit up and presented a log-in process which appeared to be touch-screen access, and it became clear rather quickly that this was another time when the right thumb would meet the glass panel. "Does everything require my thumb print," I asked as I looked at Hannah.

"Pretty much MindStar," Hannah responded, "except for the Cyrene War Room that will require both a thumb print and an eyeball scan to access."

"Wait, I have a Cyrene War Room," I asked.

"Yes," she replied, "it was requested by the Senator in anticipation that certain segments of operations may need to be conducted off planet for security reasons. The select few who will gain access to the Cyrene War Room will be required to also receive clearance and be required to provide a thumb print and iris scan. The thumb print process is actually built into the door handle, and the iris scan is embedded in the right door of the entrance. The Cyrene War Room is located in the lower level of the building with direct underground access and without anyone having to enter the main lobby of the building, but we can take a tour another time."

I went silent for a moment to contemplate the gravity of what the implications were, and obviously just how serious the Cyrene situation is to require such covert operations. The Senator was sending a clear message, and I couldn't wait to connect with him to get briefed further, but I wanted to familiarize myself with the rest of what might be cleverly hidden before getting down to business.

"Let's give communications a spin, shall we?" As I depressed the comm icon the beautiful mural of the space center on the wall above the L-shaped portion of my desk to the left morphed into a full-on monitor, while the inlay portion of the desktop rotated into a touch-screen. Again, the thumb print security was in place in order to log-in and gain full access to communications. As I sat mesmerized at the ease with which these activities were presenting themselves, Hannah interrupted.

"You will note that there is simple and direct access to the Senator," as she pointed to the center of the touch screen, "with an option to record all communications if need be." One would think that modern technology might be a bit more complex, but so far, I've only needed to lift a finger – make that a thumb – and while I was quite anxious to make contact with the Senator, there was one more icon I needed to check out before I was on my own.

"Now let's see this hidden room where I'm guessing my tired ass can catch a few Zzz's if hours become long and demanding." As I pressed the icon on the device in the drawer, my eyes glanced over the office to see what walls would move, or anything else that would transition into an entrance into the inner sanctum. I didn't have to wait long, because the wall hutch on the right side of the office that housed a small bar and storage space swung open to reveal an entry-way.

A regular door would have sufficed, but after entering the room, it became quite clear to me that this was more than just a snooze chamber, and it was wise that anyone visiting my office would have no clue the room existed. Aside from a personal bathroom and sleep area, a small kitchen facility fit snuggly into an alcove, as did a sitting area complete with what appeared to be a rather strangely-designed table until I recognized the intricate inlay pattern on the top.

Hannah remained outside the room but spoke loud enough for me to hear that there was yet another panel on the wall to the right of the entrance that controlled the activities within the interior of the room. This was beginning to feel more like a bomb shelter, or panic room, but I didn't want to take the time right now to explore every little nuance of this inner sanctum when I needed to connect with the Senator as soon as possible.

Exiting the room, Hannah instructed me on how to communicate with her if I required assistance. She said the Senator was expecting my call, and if there wasn't anything else I needed, then she would go to her work station. I told her I was fine and thanked her for everything as she headed for the door, but she stopped abruptly, and without turning around, she said – "Are you ready to kick some ass?"

As she left the office and closed the door behind her, I could only stand there with a big grin on my face, because it was in that moment that I realized that everything was going to be just fine.

As I sat back down at my desk, fun time was over, and the urgency of why I was here came back into focus. The first order of business was to contact the Senator and get briefed on how soon I would be heading back to Cyrene. As I engaged the communications touch-screen, I was immediately connected to the Senator's office.

"Hello MindStar, I see you are settled in your ops center," said the Senator as he visually appeared on the wall monitor.

"Not sure how settled I am," I replied, "but my personal assistant gave me a crash course in basically how everything works."

"Oh, you mean Hannah, how do you like her?" Surprised by his response and that he would know the names of staff, I wasn't quite sure what to make of it.

"How do you know Hannah," I asked, "I thought the Commander chose the COC staff."

"He did, except for Hannah," he replied, "she is from Cyrene and hand-chosen from my personal staff. She is human-like, but not human, and no one at ISMA knows this except for you and the Commander. He took care of her clearance process so she wouldn't alert during a scan. She is equipped to cater to your every need, and despite her high-tech abilities, she is primed to be groomed and molded into an efficient and dependable assistant with capabilities only you will discover over time. It is of utmost importance that this remain highly classified, but we can discuss this more later because we need to focus on your return to Cyrene."

Morphing walls, revolving desktops, hidden rooms, and now a not-so-human personal assistant? I wondered if there was chilled vodka in the freezer in the hidden room, because I was beginning to feel like I walked into a twilight zone or something.

"MindStar, you ok," the Senator asked, "you look a little zoned out there."

"I'm just taking it all in Calvin, and also trying to wrap my brain around the enormity of what's happening here. Obviously there's urgency, so let's get things set in motion."

"Yes, MindStar," replied the Senator, "there is an urgency, and I need to get you back to Cyrene as soon as possible so that we can carry out the Zekkonian mission. Sorry to cut your R&R so short, but I have made arrangements with the Commander to have an unmarked craft shuttle you to Cyrene the day after tomorrow. I'm hoping that's enough time for you to assemble what you need. I don't want to discuss the details of this mission until you arrive, so have a safe trip and I'll see you soon."

"See you in a couple of days Calvin, I'm looking forward to it. Oh, and ask your lovely housekeeper to have her sweet tea and biscuits ready, I've missed them."

"Will do. Goodbye MindStar."

"Goodbye Calvin." As the communication ended and the wall morphed back into the mural of the space center, I placed my right thumb on the glass panel beneath my desk to close the drawer, and then pressed the red button to de-shade the windows. As I looked beyond my office into the outer area, there were people busy doing things, but just what those things were was unknown. I caught myself staring at Hannah as she stood talking to a fellow staff member, and couldn't help but have thoughts of how utterly human she looked and behaved. I'm going to have to query the Senator more about this.

As the day ended and I headed back to my cottage, I realized how important it was to gain focus and approach this unfinished Zekkonian business with renewed energy. I am more curious than ever now as to what they are up to, and why there seems to be such a threat.

The next couple of days passed quickly, and the knock at the door told me that my transport had arrived to escort me to the shuttle that would be taking me to Cyrene. I wondered if I was going to be seeing the flyboys again. And now I was also wondering if they were human.

... to be continued in Part 2


A Committed Mission, But At What Cost?

It is recommended to read the original with images and further info at A Committed Mission, But At What Cost?