2034-03-13 1600EDT A Prince In The Eye Of The Storm
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The prince nodded and walked toward the room. His bodyguards were done scanning for hidden dangers by the time he had taken the ten paces to enter.
Storm nodded, and pulled up a virtual console. “CAFIA, full privacy, please.” A variety of indicators in Storm’s AR flared red as all network connections were cut. The large windows looking out over the rapidly developing CAFEL company town darkened to blackness while the doors swung shut. A light fog fell from the intersection of the walls and ceiling, quickly rolling over the floor. A stream of fog also fell on the conference table. In seconds the room was ankle-deep in mist.
"Our chief of security has a special awareness of some advanced threads we have faced," Storm said. She offered the prince a direct access connection to the scanners built into her AR. The prince verified the scan, then shared his own. Someone might physically overhear them, but there would be no electronic eavesdropping.
When Storm touched the virtual object her AR ran an authentication program on the data it contained. Light spread over her skin in an instant, then retreated back into the marble. Its colour shifted to a pale green glow. The data inside was signed by the head of INCIS – the King. The data packet authenticated Storm in return, then opened up to reveal King Henry's avatar.
“Agent Sentinel,” the King said, “my son knows the work you have done for CSIS and INCIS over the last decade and has access to your full record. Your identity as a member of both organizations is currently being expunged to the best of our ability.”
If Storm had not already been sitting, she would have had to. She had served loyally and in secret for almost half her life, having been recruited when she was not much older than the young man sitting across from her. The recording of the King showed him waiting patiently for her to absorb this news. She took a long breath, and nodded, unconsciously.
The King continued. “Your service has been exemplary. Your job is not over. The Crown still needs you.”
Storm was on an emotional roller coaster.
“INCIS have been infiltrated by the Cyborg Collective – specifically by your old friend Ellen. They have been using information from your own regular reports to figure out where you and your companions are. They are aware of eight of you, not seven.” He paused. “Do you understand?”
“Good. You are now Agent Wildfire, and you work for His Majesty’s Secret Service – the original one. The only record of your employment is now in the minds of the three of us. You are effectively outside the law in pursuit of your duties to the Crown.”
Prince Archie said, “We can not address the infiltration directly. Ellen’s influence is too broad, and it has given her access to many world leaders. It is your mission to kill Ellen, destroy the CC on all physical, social, and virtual levels, and restore INCIS to normal operations.”
“We can not provide you with any obvious resources,” King Henry said, “but we can provide you with some funding.” A bitcoin wallet floated over to her. It contained just over ten coins. “My son will be staying with you and your organizations to provide oversight on your mission until it is complete.”
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
“I expect familiarity and the associated contempt in short order. Utter unvarnished honesty is what I demand from you, Storm.” He nodded once to his son and sighed off.
“He takes some getting used to,” Archie said. “He loves being royalty, but loves serving humanity much more.” He waited for Storm to recover her composure for a few breaths. “You’re doing fine, Auntie.” He passed another ball of light to Storm. It was labeled Wildfire Archive and contained a massive set of thoroughly cross referenced intelligence. There were dossiers on almost everyone at CAF, many members of the DQE, and 52 members of the Cyborg Collective's inner circle.
Storm immediately noticed that there was no mention of Droo in the files since his time at BURF and the Biodome. They just had his “Ken” cover identity as a member of the board of CAF. ‘’They have Elon on the board, but no mention of my boy,’’ she thought. Some contextually inappropriate imagery of last night's performance floated through her mind. After a moment of consideration she decided to keep his existence hidden for now.
There were two other glaring gaps in the Wildfire Archive. “I don't see anything on the AIs and other Peers, and no mention of the Narnia Project.” Storm collected an executive summary of both as she spoke and handed them over.
The prince read very quickly. “I think you will have to bring me up to speed once we have briefed your team,” Archie said, clearly taken aback by these gaps in his intelligence.
Storm realized she was not at all certain how to proceed. She looked at her 'nephew' for another long moment. °Prioritize the information based on urgency and impact,° she subvocalized. Focussing on the prince in front of her, Storm said, "Do you have specific actions for me in the meantime, Sir?"
“I believed so, but you have more going on than I knew, Varda.” The prince smiled tightly. “The CC is a common enemy to humanity as a whole. With the merging of PD and DQE underway I expect your loyalties are aligned against a common enemy. We will discuss the relationship between the NC and the non-state actors you represent with the rest of your board after this.”
“It wasn't like life was simple before you arrived,” Storm said with some sarcasm. “I think the scope of this discussion has to include representatives of all intelligent life on Earth, not just us.”
Archie grinned again. “Daddy does like to say, ‘If you can’t solve the problem, make it bigger.’ What do you have in mind?”
In under a minute, Storm had drawn up a quick proposal, and showed it to her prince.
“I like the way you think, Ms. Anderson,” he said, reading it over.
Storm glanced over the responsibilities of an Auntie. It boiled down to two things: keep the prince as safe as possible, while treating him as her own child. Oh joy, she thought.
“On a practical note, we also need to activate my doppelgänger and disguise me for the duration of my stay. I will be your wealthy Uncle’s son while here, and not the Crown Prince.”
Storm’s eyebrows went up while she scanned the doppelgänger file. “Who else needs to know you're staying with us? These files are secured to individuals, not a clearance level.”
“We’re going to need more that five minutes for this, Archie.”
“Of course. The first step is to set up my cover. My dop' will trade places with me before we start the meeting. After that it will leave with my security people, and we can get some real work done. You should also take a look at the arrangements my father made with Manwë.”
Storm glanced over the file. "Our relationship is a very complicated web of loyalties, isn't it?"
"They all are. As royalty I'm used to the tangled webs of influence and duty and honour. You'll need to find a way to internalize it too."
Storm bowed with a dramatic flourish. “Your Majesty.”
Archie bowed just as low. “Storm Varda Wildfire." He straightened gracefully, then made a little giggling shiver and hopped with excitement. "Oh yes, Auntie. I like you already. This can work.”