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Gatac posted in OOC on 2018-11-14 19:35:42
Note to self, Mason will spend one point from Alira's pool to get more intel on codename WILDCHILD. Intel will drop at the end of Hamburg.

Re: IC 6 - Hamburg - Day 3

Gatac posted in IC 6 - Hamburg - Day 3 on 2018-11-14 19:34:49
Mason doesn't have to go far to catch up with Operations. The neglected-looking door for rooftop access has obviously been unlocked the night before and it's only a few steps up a narrow fire staircase to hit the rooftop, gray gravel on gray concrete silhouetted against a gray sky. Sticking out from it is Operations, with a cigarette already in her mouth, trying and failing to get her lighter to, well, light. You might as well not be in the city at all for all the deafening silence around. Mason stands in the doorway, arms crossed, and waits for her to get it lit. She gives it two more tries, then curses under her breath and exchanges it for a different disposable lighter from the interior pocket of her jacket. Lights the first time, what do you know. She closes her eyes and takes a deep drag, that brief moment of freedom from knowing you've just started smoking and not the fretful countdown of the last cigarette burning down to a stub in your hands.

"You got something to say, so let me have it," she says.
"I'm waiting for an explanation of what the fuck is going on," Mason says. "The Bulgarian, I got it, he was dead weight and we had no support to pick him up. Section 9, they got stupid and we can't afford stupid so we cut them out. But now you're talking about outrunning fighter wings and itching to go to war with the German police while burning our one chance to hurt the assholes behind this. I'm waiting to hear what the fuck is going on, because if this is the way Wildcard runs then it's a wonder your face isn't on the front page of a dozen newspapers because your last op would have blown up in your face."

Operations listens patiently to Mason, taking another drag off her cigarette.

"For the record, no, this is not how it should run, and most of the time it really doesn't," she says. "Average dwell time for handlers is six missions. Getting that done without one blowing up in your face is considered a pretty good record." Another drag. "I'm on mission 12. I'm not going to lay some law of averages bullshit on you. I should be doing this better and if I can't I shouldn't be doing it at all." Another drag. "What's going on is that I'm sick, Mason. Not in a way that would make sense to you even if I wanted to explain it. What matters to you is whether I've got enough left in the tank to get this done in a not-shitshow kind of way." Another drag. "I don't know and where I'm from, that means no. I'm sorry I had to take out my ego on you and Laith before I saw it, for whatever that's worth to you."
Mason's fists tighten. And I dragged Alira into this... "The bombing."
"Was the first time I failed," Operations says. "Not that I'm some paragon of perfection, Mason, but before that it was details, flourishes here and there, nothing you could criticize me for. Batting way better than average, in fact. But that was failure and I don't have anything in my toolkit for failure. What I did have was an impeccable track record and Director Walsh. Very much a 'get back on the horse that threw you' kind of man. He told me I could do it, grab the local candidates, make a new team, find whoever's responsible, we believe in you." She remembers the cigarette and takes another drag. "There's no yardstick for success other than that something worked out, innocent people didn't die, tonight's headline is some celebrity sex bullshit. When you spiral - when I spiral - I start thinking, what could I have done differently, what could have been better, could someone else have done it better - was it fair?" She laughs. "Was it fucking fair? Was it an appropriately difficult test of my abilities like I'm gonna get a letter grade and a diploma at the end?"

Another drag.

"I had to believe it was. I had to believe I could do it, that we could power through and get it done." She looks at Mason. "I still believe in you boys, by the way. The question I'm asking myself right now is, do I fail you by staying on or do I fail you by stepping down?"
Mason pulls his phone out. Roof, he texts Alira. "Or you tell me and Alira what's going on. Between the two of us, we'll know if you should step down - and she knows enough to keep an eye on you."
"Can't tell you," Operations says, finishing her cigarette. "You don't have clearance for WILDCHILD." She crushes the smoke under her heel. "Also you've never heard of WILDCHILD. Especially not from me." She considers her next words very carefully. "Tell you what, I'm still coming with you. Let's give Miss Holden a chance. But I'm not going to have much more to say to her. I realize that this is all aggravatingly vague and not the kind of behavior that builds trust. If that's a leap too far for you boys, I'll understand if you tell me to get lost. I'll leave it to Laith. He's a good agent, good head on his shoulders, he won't let you down. That, I can tell you."
Mason nods. "I see."

Alira doesn't make Mason wait very long. She appears on the rooftop in Mason's footsteps. He can tell that even as she says "Hey, what's up?", her stance is defensive. Angled just a bit to the side of and behind Mason. Packing a pistol, too. Whatever the dance is gonna be, she's come prepared.

"We're leaving," Mason says, giving her a peck on the cheek.
"Gotcha," Alira says, not a hint of hesitation in her voice as she keeps eyes on Operations. Operations, for her part, doesn't make a move.
"Laith's a nice guy, but he's just that - a nice guy," Mason says. "I want him at my back for support all day long, but this isn't a 'nice guy' kind of deal. And if whatever your deal is is so classified we can't even know what to look out for, none of us should be on this. It's not safe for you and it sure as fuck isn't safe for us. So either someone that can hack it up front takes charge or you make whatever is going on with you that we need to know need to know so we know what to look for before you order us to execute the President of fucking France. Wildcard is built to break the rules to get things done - and right now, knowing what triggers the pink elephants definitely is needed to get things done."

(Mason spends Negotiation!)

Operations swallows a short, sharp laugh. "It's funny, Laith would probably agree with you. I wasn't bullshitting you when I said he could do it, but wanting to, that's a different question." She pauses. "Speaking of...what the hell. I guess it did just become need to know. Come on, let's do this downstairs. The others need to know, too."

And so, the tense conversation moves downstairs, where the rest of the team has not gotten much further into the briefing on account of Laith's obvious worry. When he sees her walk in and deduces that she's about to open up, the worry doesn't go away, but he makes no move to stop her, either.

Operations begins her demonstration by pulling back her hair, exposing the device behind her ear to the room. "I am who I am because of this little trinket. Before I got it, I was a wreck. TBI and PTSD and a couple other fun conditions. I could barely manage my ADLs. Was about to end up in an assisted living community, the kind where you don't get family visits, if you know what I mean. Then they gave me this and I've been plain old 'Operations' since. Easier to compartmentalize that way. So, the good news is, as long as this works, I'm fine. Maybe even a bit sharper than I used to be. It keeps everything level, it keeps me aware, it keeps me focused. The bad news is, it's not working correctly right now. It's been field-repaired but I can feel that something's off still. I've been trying to arrange for a specialist to come meet me, perform an assessment and maybe swap it out. He won't make it today, so right now the plan is to vector him wherever we end up going next and get it done first thing there. As for mitigation strategies...well, I don't know, that's the point of having a specialist out to take a look, but I think I get wrapped around the axle especially when it comes to Wiesner and her Section 9 gang, and then it just gets worse from there. Couldn't tell you why because I honestly don't know. But before you ask, no, killing the Bulgarian didn't trigger it, and I've been away doing some...field-testing. Nothing you need to worry about in particular, nobody got hurt, I cleaned up after myself. As far as I could figure out, I could still handle myself in an infiltration or a fight if need be. But just to be safe, I'd prefer not to test it."
" does it work?" Alira asks. "We can't assess failure modes without a mechanism of action."
"Electrostim is part of it," Operations says. "I've got a half-dozen electrode clusters in my brain. The device modulates when and how they fire."
"Rack off!" Alira says. "That' many operations did that take?"
"Four, according to the doctors," Operations says. "I don't remember. Part of my condition was anterograde amnesia. I was in a haze for months. Then a couple more for rehab while they did PT with me and fine-tuned the device. Toughest fight I've been in. But it worked...more or less."
"Right," Alira says. She looks to Mason. "Trying to make an informed assessment with just a few scraps like this borders on malpractice, but...I believe her more than I don't. The question is, can we put her anywhere so that she won't have to deal with Section 9?"
"Easy, she focuses on K Group," Mason says. "The whole point of the warehouse was to get Section 9 off of K Group and onto something else."
Operations considers this. "Okay," she says finally. "You get Section 9 after the Bulgarian safehouse, I backstop you boys at K Group and we do our best to keep things from getting exciting. Once we're out, I get assessed." Another pause. "Whatever that turns up, I'm going to ask to be taken off duty just to be safe, but by then we'll hopefully have created enough breathing room that my replacement can be brought in and get up to speed. Deal?"
"And if not?" Mason asks.
"Then I guess you boys are gonna be dragging just an elite covert operative around with you while you do the job," Operations says. "If that doesn't work, you tell Director Walsh to get you whoever - whatever you need. And if that fails, you get it done regardless."
Mason nods. "Last condition: warning signs," Mason says. "What should we be looking for?"
"I'd say losing my calm, but that's like saying you'll know you're standing on a track when the train runs you over," Operations says. "For obvious reasons, I've been trained to control my body language. That makes it hard to name a specific 'tell'." She considers the question. "Possibly my dialect. I've tried to sand off the edges until it's as newscaster as humanly possible, but you might start to pick out some Pittsburghese phonemes when I stop being able to focus. Someone with your ear for language should be able to hear it, now that you know what to listen for. Also, I don't pace, I don't dither, I don't play with my hair and fidget around. If I start doing that, then I'm slipping." She thinks for a moment longer. "Sorry. That's about what I can think of. I should get a list from my counselor when I have a chance."

Re: IC 6 - Hamburg - Day 3

Gatac posted in IC 6 - Hamburg - Day 3 on 2018-11-12 18:02:23
Mason's a perspicacious kind of guy. While he's looking at the unchanging neutral expression on Operations' face, he doesn't miss her hand balling into a fist. Holy shit, is she really that tightly wound?

"There's a hundred ways that could fall apart before the finish line, Mason," she says, her voice deathly even. "It's a nice ace in the hole but it's not going to get Section 9 off our backs with the snap of our fingers. They've made it clear that the absolute best they were gonna do for us was look away - not withdraw or even inform the other LEOs on site, not get us a search warrant, not helps us get in - look away. And that is way the fuck off the table now. Whatever we give them, they can still decide they'd rather have us here answering questions and being a walking talking pressure point for our government. This isn't quid pro quo, it's offering a consolation prize - and I haven't met many players in this game who settle for consolation prizes. So how about you worry about getting the heist done while I worry about the most expedient way to get us all out of this Schnitzel-flavored fuckfest?"
"Hey!" Laith jumps in.
"And I gave you a fucking job -" Operations starts.
"That's enough," he cuts her off. And whatever it is that used to be between them gathers another crack if it doesn't shatter right there, but she does stop to listen. "Take about 20% off there. This right here isn't helping us get anything done."

She stares at him. Something in her eyes - she almost looks - sad?

"So, for the record," Laith says, "I think Mason's got a good setup. What I'm getting from you is that you don't want to just throw it to Section 9 willy-nilly. That's fine. You're both agreed on that point. I am going to the airport and I am going to have the contingency worked out, but we're not outrunning an alarm flight of Eurofighters in the Wolfhound and you know it. Let's keep it low key, let's keep it low impact, let's leave enough pieces in place that the home office can smooth this out after we're done here. We can get this done without dropping napalm on transatlantic relations. Okay?"
"...okay," Operations says. "I'm...okay." She pinches her nose. "Can you take the briefing?"
"Yeah," Laith says.
"Okay," she says. "I'm gonna take five outside."
"That's a good idea," Laith says.

Operations just nods to him, then makes for the door. As she passes Mason, she briefly looks at him and manages a "...sorry..." before she's out the door.

"Well," Laith says. "Let's...let's work the problem at hand."

Re: IC 6 - Hamburg - Day 3

punkey posted in IC 6 - Hamburg - Day 3 on 2018-11-12 17:42:29
Mason looks around. "I'd think that 'I have a solution to our Section 9 problems that also wraps up part of a major terrorist network' would rate a little higher." He turns back to Operations. "Unless you want to start an international incident, maybe we should take a tactical pause and figure out how we're not going to get caught rather than defaulting to dropping more bodies."

Re: IC 6 - Hamburg - Day 3

punkey posted in IC 6 - Hamburg - Day 3 on 2018-11-12 17:16:57
Mason raises an eyebrow at Operations' exfil plan, but she obviously isn't in a "let's talk about it" mood so he puts a pin in it. "We have a ready-made distraction for Section 9 - our Bulgarian associates have left a treasure trove of evidence pointing to the Imam as the source of all the trouble over the last few days. It'll keep her whole team and most of the police busy long enough for us to take care of business at K Group and exfil without having to dodge the German air force. All we need to do is drop the dime."

Re: Jade Imperium - Afghanistan, Pt. 3

punkey updated in Jade Imperium - Afghanistan, Pt. 3 on 2018-11-12 17:13:48
(Ngawai Shoot: 3d10+1d8 vs. 2d6 (Cloak) = 10 vs. 6 / Damage: 2d8 vs. 2d6 (Armor) = 5 vs. 1, Dead)
(Arketta Shoot: 1d12+1d8 vs. 2d6 (Cloak) (x2) = 8 vs. 6, 2 vs. 3 / Damage: 6 vs. 6, Almost Dead)
(Luis Shoot (Arketta's target): 1d10+1d8 vs. 2d6 (Cloak) = 10 vs. 3, Dead)
(Hale Shoot: 1d10+1d8 vs. 2d6 (Cloak) (x2) = 10 vs. 5, 8 vs. 6 / Damage: 7 vs. 5, Almost Dead, 6 vs. 4, Dead)

Firing those shots was the last mistake Wazir's guards will ever make. There's a reason why Turai carry swords - in close range, beams break your cloak no matter how good your position is. Ngawai pivots to follow the closest shot to her eyeline, and delivers a shot straight to the head of the man that fired it, vaporizing said cranium. Arketta snaps on her target and pumps the trigger twice. One goes wide into the wall but the other tags her target in the side, scorching the armor and staggering the man wearing it. Luis takes advantage and delivers a square headshot to finish the target off. Hale zeroes in on the last one, and follows Turai doctrine with a solid double tap - one to the chest, bursting steam and blood out of the hole, and the second straight to the head.

The last guard hits the deck, blood streaming out of the stump at Wazir's feet. "You might have stopped my message, but my death will be message enough," Wazir says. He slowly pushes himself onto hands and knees as the team finishes sweeping the room and then up straight, kneeling as Garrett and Ngawai walk up to him. "There are those watching and they will know the beasts that you and the abominations are. So kill me -"
Both Garrett and Ngawai draw their sidearms - Narsai'i slugthrowers - and empty their magazines into Wazir's chest and head.
"Sounds like a good idea to me," Garrett says as Wazir's corpse leaks onto the floor below. Ngawai just takes Garrett's off hand.

Re: IC 6 - Hamburg - Day 3

Gatac updated in IC 6 - Hamburg - Day 3 on 2018-11-12 16:34:54
It's an uncomfortable night's rest, not just because of the unsettling events of the day before, but also because it never gets quiet; with the smaller apartment, Operations' all-nighter is all the more obvious, as is her coming and going several times during the dark. Still, even if she won't, you do need your rest, and covert operatives are nothing if not experts at getting whatever sleep they can under adverse circumstances.

Adverse circumstances, definition: Jacob Mason, holding on to his wife-to-be, both wondering what they've gotten themselves and their imminent quiet little retirement into. Leonard Blake, trying to forget what Operations asked him to forget and not being very good at it. Tim Barstow, a lifetime of going wherever and being whoever and doing whatever brought into sharp focus by being in the right place as the right guy doing the right thing to protect his sister - a close call so mathematically improbable that it retroactively makes the whole rest of his life seem much more fragile. And, well, Laith's got nightmares only Lucy can salve, to judge from her soft whining as she climbs into bed to lie beside him at about 3:50 AM.

Fast forward two hours and change to 6 AM sharp as alarms throughout the apartment blare and the recalcitrant are summoned by the smell of fresh coffee. It'll do for breakfast together with some bread rolls and cold cuts plus a pot's worth of hard-boiled eggs.

"Okay, boys, this is where we are," Operations says, talking and moving like she hasn't been up for well over a day. "We've got enough cloned credentials to get through the perimeter. I got us a car and some clothes to pull it off. The area is still on police lockdown but they're going to let essential personnel through, and who's more essential than IT? I assume Section 9 is watching somehow but the surveillance from the perch doesn't show them nearby." She smirks. "Plus I have a tracker on Wiesner and she's been called to police headquarters to help ID possible transnational radicals they've arrested last night. If we move fast, we might get in, grab and get out before they're on us. I don't like the gamble but we're out of options here."
"So what do I do?" Laith asks. "I can't go in with you, I can't get up to the perch and I can't park a van close enough to help, either."
"Which is why you're gonna clean up the apartment and then get to the airport to prepare the Wolfhound for immediate departure," Operations says. "Plot a direct route back to Croughton. If we dash, we should be out of FABEC airspace before they can vector anything that might force us down."
"Uh..." Laith says.
"Questions?" Operations says.
"Are you seriously telling me we need to worry about dodging the Luftwaffe?"
"I don't know how much pull Section 9 has in getting us grounded," Operations says. "Under the circumstances, it seems best to exfil German jurisdiction quickly. Actually, we should vector north first to hit the Danish-Swedish FAB, Croughton remains our first choice from there, and...let's say Sola as a fallback, just to be safe, Norway's not in EuroPol after all. Should be a wash in flight miles, we just pick whichever creates more complications for Section 9 than for us. I think the Brits are gonna choose us over the continent but who knows with them these days. We can figure that out and make arrangements in the air, give Section 9 less lead time to call in favors. So after that we'll have to chance Keflavik even though the Danes might be prickly by then, and Thule...damn, okay, that might be a reach. But it should work if we use the extended fuel bladders. Worst case, we'll have to divert to the Stinkin' Lincoln, last I heard they were freezing their dicks off in the Labrador Sea. I don't think we've had a live carrier landing with this one yet. Could be fun."

Laith sighs.

"Questions?" Operations says, more firmly.
"No," Laith says. "You got it, boss."
"Good," Operations says. "Boys?"

IC 6 - Hamburg - Day 3

Gatac posted in Wildcard on 2018-11-12 16:33:11
Operation SWITCHBACK draws to a close with your eyes on the (main) prize: whatever data lies buried in K Group's Black Vault, buried beneath a city still trying to sort itself out after yesterday's chaos. You may have chased off RoI's hired henchmen, but you've made enemies of EuroPol's Section 9 - and what the hell is Fractal's plan now?