The Calculating Commander Pt. 3

A Nightmare Takeover AU
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Master Plan
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Joined: 8/28/16 08:45 PM
Location: Canterlot

The Calculating Commander Pt. 3

Post by Master Plan » 1/30/18 12:05 AM

It had been a productive week for the Commander, though not all the news was good. The loss of Agent 340 had admittedly been a blow, and an irritating one at that. Having dispatched a pair of more senior agents to his last known location after missing two check-in’s had yielded little: just the remnants of a fire with charred bone fragments in it behind the Silver Carafe, and his needle dagger with dried blood on it under a dumpster. The curious part was that on accessing the spell matrix of his quarry’s tag, they found the tag far afield in the middle of the Equestrian countryside. Plan however, elected not to attach more resources to finding the suspected thief. Though she had somehow likely killed 340, She herself was also likely dead. Her coat and tag might have been taken off her corpse by a transigent. Or, even if she was still alive, she might have discovered the tag and placed on a passing bird, either way, the lead was cold.

In other bad news, there was the latest bombing at the station. However, MP merely found it tiresome. The loss of life was tragic and reflected poorly on security, yes; But more important, the loss of a train station taxed resources and infrastructure. However, the silver lining was such indiscriminate means and killings like that meant, with the media underhoof, that he would easily spin it so the Southern Rebellion came off as religious terrorists that murder civilians to simply make a statement. Whose leader was clearly unstable if they continued to target civilian centers, and it tied back in nicely with the continuing subtle propaganda about the old regime.

The numbers of such a radical group would likely remain low, and they could be hunted down by taskforce or possibly goaded into confrontation. The taskforce was being headed by Kadai Montanya, the Queen’s Wrath, a knight errant if ever there was one and who saw it as his duty to lessen the Queen’s burdens. The self styled chivalrous needed a righteous cause, the indiscriminate murder of civilians fit the bill, and Plan was happy to oblige with the assignment.

Psychology like that had always been a long standing fascination of the Master Plan’s, even as much as the art of strategy. He had long suspected that had he not been drawn into the the guards and service to the state, had fate turned left instead of right, he might have made a rather good psychologist. As it was though, he found that the two of them, psychology and strategy, were inseparable; each a side of the same coin. Knowing how your opponent, or even your ally, thinks: knowing what drives them, and how and why they’d likely react in a crisis is precisely how one exploits them to achieve victory.

The Commander had been given ample opportunity to indulge in his hobby of exploring psychology under the new regime too. Early on, he had worked up psyche profiles on his peers and contemporaries, like Montanya, seeing what drove them, and submitted some of his findings to the Queen for the first round of governmental purges.

He'd also studied the Nightmare’s creation of “Despair,” tried some subtle course corrections to make her at least field useful, and then turned around and used what was learned from that experience to help implement far more masterful conditioning in the Magister. Despair’s crude conditioning made her right though, she could be replaced if necessary, but part of that was what drove her to be useful.

Another of his successes had been the Panopticon. A new type of dungeon, carved into the side of the mountain, it was an elegant synthesis of psychology and surveillance. Prisoners were always watched but never seen being done so.

It had been here, in the Shard run facility, that he had been most productive this past week.

He had observed the prisoners taken from the raid on St. Corona’s. Unaware he was building a thorough understanding of what they were ‘saying’ behind magically reinforced and mirrored glass, he watched them sign to each other. They signed both between the ponies in the cells and between separate cells, all-the-while unintentionally giving him what he wanted in their 'secure' conversations. He also had his jailers take them out occasionally for interrogation and ‘persuasion’ for more direct extraction of intel.

He’d been right too about what he told Madam too, many ponies gave up whatever information they had on “Leach,” or hotbeds of small to mid scale seditious activities, or even smuggling routes. Anything to try to save their sorry hides from being stripped from their body and made to swing under a bridge. While that wasn’t exactly the Shard’s preferred style, these poor fools didn’t need to know that. He dispatched agents to stakeout these places and set up scrying surveillance where he could. Doubly so if his Auguries reported Madam’s trail had crossed there.

However. Unable to push much further on his art theft investigation at the moment without a solid new lead, he probed into other areas, and what he found there intrigued him.

While piecing together the power structures of the lantern district, trying to ping if there a potential buyer for the portrait there, he slowly uncovered the broad state of affairs in the lower districts. There was a certain amount of simmering unrest there, scum just trying to eek out a dishonest living, naturally involved frictions that came from everypony trying to get one over on the other. But, there also were a number of individuals with rebellious leanings: Not enough to do anything on their own, mind, but certainly in want of a leader or catalyst to take up a cause that they could follow. And it made sense, ponies were naturally herd and tribal creatures after all.
Most would shy from radicalism like that of the Southern rebellion, but they were just disgruntled or bitter enough that a spark could cause a number of them to create a small armed mob, if conditions were right. For instance, if rebel cells in the capitol looked like they were ‘winning’ they may join them. Sadly, there was little he could do about this in the meantime, other than to dissuade or break the moral of these rebels-in-potentia by crushing any kind of organized resistance that might crop up in the near future.

As he further mapped networks and the shared threads of connections though, a name that kept cropping up that many of these types of ponies all had in common, whether directly or indirectly, was “The Crow’s Call”, “Talon’s.” And with a trend like that, he both paid informants and put some of his most highly skilled and deceptive hooves on the ground around the bar to survale and stake out the establishment discreetly Fortunately, the brothel nestled next to it helped make that easy.

His interrogations also turned up a bit of news that only a couple few of these wretches divulged, but it was frustratingly vague and currently non-confirmable. There was a rumor, hearsay really, that a substantial fraction of Rebels might be preparing for an attack or a raid in the capitol city soon. This itself was normal, there were always such rumors but, among this batch of prisoners, the distribution was just enough above a nominal mean, that the rumor’s veracity was actually likely.
His best off-the-cuff guess was it would likely be one of the remains of the politically ostracized or cast out houses from the aforementioned first round of government purges. Many still had the ponepower and the resources to do it. More importantly, they knew the area, general disposition of forces, and more than a few still had a smattering of popular support. The question though, was who? And when?

He noted sourly that the Obsidian Shard never did manage to fully wipe out the fanatics of house Horizon, and he couldn't rule out their remnant looking for maretyrdom. The line of Twilit was too much a minor house, but their male heir had managed to smuggle out the Contessa of Love in the opening hours of the now long night. House Gallant too was know to be making daring forays from the Everfree.

Each would have differing objectives. Horizon would want to be seen, Twilit would want to remain low key but still let other ponies know there was an ‘alternative’ to the Queen’s rule. Gallant would likely have a military or strategic target in mind..

Too many options, not enough intel at the moment to effectively plan unfortunately.

So, the Commander would wait, and let the answers come to him. Both the whereabouts of his quarry, the fence, and the identity of these potential raiders. He would keep a rotating shift of some of his elites at the ready as a rapid reaction force in the short term until something panned out on either end. He would get to know his enemies, he would figure out how they thought, and then he would pick them apart: piece by piece.
"Cutie marks might designate talent, but purpose is something else entirely."

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