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Re: Jade Imperium - Afghanistan, Pt. 3

punkey posted in Jade Imperium - Afghanistan, Pt. 3 on 2017-09-24 22:10:59
"Kill drone batteries, Interceptors, the whole batch," Arketta adds. Her arms are crossed and her brow is deeply furrowed. "One thing we do need from the Narsai'i is orbital surveillance - both in space and of the ground. Since they haven't started shooting down satellites, we need to know as soon as possible if there's any significant Turai presence in this nation. If they've been on the ground long enough to smuggle these weapons to insurgent groups, they've had enough time to build an orbital, so either they're waiting for something or they have other plans - probably some kind of decapitation strike against key targets. Either way, we need them searching the skies and the ground for the Imperial Turai - yesterday."

Re: Jade Imperium - Afghanistan, Pt. 3

e of pi posted in Jade Imperium - Afghanistan, Pt. 3 on 2017-09-24 16:46:54
Luis frowns. "The Bashakra'i village is more of a problem. We can defend the other side of a footgate with our existing measures, but a Needleship, or even a land invasion, would pose a risk to every Bashakra'i on Narsai. We need better defenses here, we can't just write it off. Ground, and space." As much as that might start seeming simpler some days, he thinks.

Re: The Kingdom - Born on the Bayou

punkey posted in The Kingdom - Born on the Bayou on 2017-09-24 14:18:07
(Red Shoot: 2d10 v. 2d8 toughness = 8 v. 6)

It only takes one - which is itself somewhat remarkable - knocking the tablet from Pop's hand and splitting it into three pieces, which break into several more when they hit the ground. No colored smoke or unearthly screeching, just a bit of dust.

Re: Jade Imperium - Afghanistan, Pt. 3

Gatac posted in Jade Imperium - Afghanistan, Pt. 3 on 2017-09-24 12:55:40
Hug'sh clears his throat. "It is my understanding that a gate in orbit would be be easier to find - far from trivial, but at least within the realm of what the Alliance could accomplish with an intense search effort and increased orbital presence. Something the Alliance indeed must accomplish, if we don't wish to hand total destruction of Narsai to our enemies this easily. Still, even with the Narana'i restricted to ground gates, which we have established are all but impossible to eradicate with our means..." Hug'sh harrumphs, and his fur darkens. "...perhaps there is nothing we can do for Narsai. I will have security measures at the Whirr gateway tightened immediately and recommend the same to our allies - I can only pray that it is not too late for that, too."

Re: Jade Imperium - Afghanistan, Pt. 3

punkey updated in Jade Imperium - Afghanistan, Pt. 3 on 2017-09-24 12:38:09
"Not that it matters that much," Garrett says. "Let's stick to what we know for the moment and work our way through that. These weapons aren't from the Bashakra'i, and they didn't come through any gates we control - they're fresh from the Akwhela's Eye and scream 'Imperial Turai. We came across at least a brigade's worth of assholes in the mountains with these things and a few dozen sunmines, and there's no way to smuggle that much weaponry through a foot gate - so we have a rogue Gateway on Narsai. I checked with Samantha, she said that as far as she can tell, the crates have official PRC transport labels, so it's probably somewhere in China. And if that is true, then the Chinese government must have a Gateway of their own, and be working with the Imperium. And once we're there, it doesn't really fucking matter where it is. We have bigger problems."
Ngawai nods. "We need to think about Narsai security - if I was the Turai, I'd be smuggling a freighter through, piece by piece, put a orbital assembler in it, and skip the wait for the Gateship. Anyone with a telescope can see that the Narsai'i don't have any orbital defenses or surveillance. They could have a Needleship here inside of a couple weeks."
"And we don't know how long they've had their Gateway running," Angel adds.

There's a pause while that thought settles over the room.

Re: IC 3 - Amsterdam - Day 3

Gatac posted in IC 3 - Amsterdam - Day 3 on 2017-09-24 11:27:35
"'vis is Sage Virteen," Luc points out, as Blake pulls up the bug's surveillance on a fresh laptop.

It's both not much and more than enough; a live-feed webcam view of the MSS's security station and whoever is in front of it, to the tune of maybe one frame per second, a compressed audio feed and a live readout of a keylogger.

And there, sitting at the security station desk, is Liam Warren, with Sage Thirteen over his shoulder.

"- out of bright ideas, boss," Warren says. He's not currently typing because whatever he's doing, it's probably already running without user input. "There's only so much I can do."
"I'm paying you to find solutions," Sage Thirteen says.
"You're not paying enough," Warren says. Sage Thirteen doesn't reply, so Warren kinks his head. "Right, let me rephrase that. You're paying me enough, just so we don't have a misunderstanding on that point. But what you're asking for requires more boots on the ground, cooperation from local authorities, maybe even keyhole surveillance sats retasked. There's no magic 'find this man' button I can press here. We're already running Lagarde's picture through 35% of security cams in the city and all selfie machines with the Magic Background! app backdoor. This is as far as we get on your budget."
"And the others?" Sage Thirteen asks. "Coemans mentioned that Lagarde arrived with others."
"Mentioned being the key word," Warren says. "Did he get us pictures? Provide descriptions? Names? Did he ever share the location of their safehouse with us? Do we have anything at all from him I can use?" Warren sighs. "What about his phone?"
"Dumbphone, no SIM inserted," Sage Thirteen says. "I don't suppose you can figure out where he went regardless?"
"No GPS, no cell tower records - he's just not very useful, is he?" Warren says. "Forget Coemans. What about Clayton's team?"
"A little too arrested to ask them, still," Sage Thirteen says. "Forget them, too. Not our problem anymore."
"The bloody hell they're not!" Warren snaps, jumping out of his chair to face Sage Thirteen. "They've been here, they've seen our faces -"
"They're not our problem," Sage Thirteen insists, standing his ground. "It's being handled. What I want to know is how Lagarde got the gun from Coemans without you seeing it."
"You asked me to hide a camera in the room," Warren says. "I did. I hid a camera in there. I had a pretty good angle on the room, I think, but that's just it, one angle - and Lagarde must have figured it out. Maybe I could have seen it if I had a second or a third camera in there, but I didn't because you told me to hide a camera in there, just like in every other interrogation room, so if you wanted Google fucking Streetview in that particular room, you should have bloody specified that! Besides, you and Otto and Angelina were all in the room, and you didn't spot it on him, either."
"...Lagarde's good at what he does," Sage Thirteen admits.
"Which includes hiding," Warren says. "Bibi's reporting no movement at the workshop, either. Randall's phone is quiet, no calls to his cell - they're not going for him, either." Warren shrugs. "Don't know what to tell you, boss. They've gone to ground. We lost them. End of story."
"Then I guess we need to lure them out," Sage Thirteen says. "Stay here and keep looking. We will go ask Randall some questions. If they're as wired as I think they are, they're keeping an eye on him, too - and they won't want to lose their asset."
Warren is quiet for a moment. "That's...bold, boss," he says.
"Well, you haven't exactly provided me with any alternatives," Sage Thirteen says. "If you find anything, you let me know immediately."
"Naturally," Warren says.
"Get back to work," Sage Thirteen says.

As he turns and walks out, Warren stands alone for a few moments, then snorts and runs his hand through his hair. Walking back to the desk, he sits back down. After a second or so, he seems to look directly into the webcam and rolls his eyes, in a "Get a load of this guy" way. Then, he types out a message on his keyboard.

LAGARDE I KNOW YOU READ THIS CALL ME 06-115-4097532

After a final nod and a mock salute, Warren begins tapping on the keyboard again - Blake can recognize some commands used to reconfigure a router. Seconds later, the connection to the bug stops responding and finally times out.

Re: Empire

Gatac updated in Empire on 2017-09-24 10:24:20
Whoever said it was always darkest just before the dawn probably didn't mean the kind of supernatural shadow that settles over the basement of a commandeered tavern when Kagemaru blinks into its darkest corner, causing all the lanterns down there to flicker.

"That ain't never gonna not be freaky," Holger comments.

The Hanse police captain may hold no official rank here, but together with Rock Lee, he has been putting the private army to good use forming search grids and patrolling the streets in cooperation with Ishikawa's men, while Kirika has busied herself instructing Shadowwatch for more...discreet searches.

"What you got?" Holger asks Kagemaru.
"Certainty," the shadow replies. "We have tried to direction-search for the heart from four different vantage points throughout the city. They all point towards Ikishi's redoubt."
"But you're not sure," Rock comments.
"The same way I am not sure that inserting a blade through someone's eye will kill them," Kagemaru says. "But I have no reasonable doubt."
"Pretty sure is about as good as we're going to get," Kirika says. She looks to Rock and Holger. "Tell your scouts and the police to finish their current grids and then get to somewhere safe. Ditto with our people, Copperhead." She pauses. "Have you seen Kiara and Sidewinder?"
"...yes," Kagemaru says. "Apparently she decided that a whole cow was a bit too much so late at night and instead took two pigs. I declined to watch the meal. I last saw her half an hour ago, circling above the harbor."
"...and Sidewinder?"
"Conducted a search of some bank records for any type of deposit box or private vault in Ikishi's name - he was almost finished when I last talked to him, but hadn't found anything of note," Kagemaru says. "He said that after riding with Kiara, he would prefer a job where he got to sit on the ground for a while."
"Understandable," Kirika says. "So, it's in Ikishi's palace. What do we know about it?" There's a silent pause. "I mean, not the secret underground death lair part of it."
"Officially, it's a live-in crypt," Rock explains. "As in, Ikishi erected the whole place to honor her family and ancestors, and says she lives inside austere quarters in there to remind herself of the impermanence of life and her duty to the past glories of the empire."
"Don't play that," Holger says.
"I'm not playing anything," Rock says. "Here, check the records."
Holger reads the scroll and scowls. "That honey be tripping," he says.
"You got that right," Rock agrees.
"And in light of her obsession with magical powers and demon spirits, who knows what she's doing with those ties to the spirit world," Kirika adds.
"Nothing good for sure," Holger says. "You got a scheme, chica?"
"Not yet," Kirika says. She looks up at the sky - not yet light, but not as dark as it was when they started. "I have a trial to prepare for, and an impenetrable evil fortress to scout. Holger, Rock, I thank you and your police and scouts respectively for their aid, but I cannot ask you to put your people at risk scouting Ikishi's lair." She looks over to Copperhead. "The same for our people. Ikishi is too dangerous and far too cornered a foe. I will see what I can learn myself."
"I will make sure to coordinate the drawdown," Copperhead says. "If you require any additional assistance for the trial, please do not hesitate to send for me."
"Yeah," Holger says. "We got you, fam."
"Uh," Rock says. "I'll contribute what I can, if there's...anything I can contribute."
"Uh, you said learn yourself," Kagemaru interrupts. "Learn yourself how? The only way in is the hard way. You're not...seriously considering that, are you?"
"I...I was just going to walk in the front door and ask for an audience," Kirika says. "See what I can see inside her palace. It would be rude for one Lady to reject an audience with another, and she wouldn't dare at this moment."
"That's...shaky," Kagemaru says. "I mean, that's not a plan. That's barely a Kirika-style plan. How about you focus on the trial and we, uh, we workshop your entry strategy later?"
"No!" Kirika says. "It's...it's too risky. I have to -" Kirika takes a deep breath.
"...is it me or are you glowing a bit brighter than usual?" Kagemaru says.
"Uh, yeah," Holger says.
"I wasn't going to bring it up," Rock adds.
"Perception is unreliable given the lighting conditions," Copperhead says. "That said, I do believe I have observed an increase in brightness since your arrival here." "Good, bad?" Kagemaru asks. "Again, might just be me, but I'm suspicious of glowy things, in general."

Kirika looks at her arms - her tattoos give a slight ripple of blue in response.

"It's...I'm fine, I just -" Kirika takes a deep breath, and tries to calm herself down. "We're so close to the end, and Ikishi is only going to get more dangerous from here. I can handle it."
"Just checking," Kagemaru says.
"Your dedication to bringing down Lady Ikishi notwithstanding," Copperhead says, "I believe that you should depart now if you wish to have sufficient time to make some basic preparations for the trial."
"Yes, of course," Kirika says, and starts for the exit of their hidden basement hideout, then stops. "I just...I am trying to protect you. All of you. Ikishi...she's evil, pure and simple, and I don't think there's a single person in this room that believes that anyone who even gets close to that palace isn't in extreme danger, either from her assassins and spies or from whatever evil spirits or magic or potions she has whipped up." She steps back towards the assembled group. "We have seen what she can do - Ikishi twists minds, poisons and drugs, uses her magic and influence to push people into committing awful acts. And you are all more than just partners on this quest with me, you are my friends, and I will not let her harm my friends anymore."

Kirika really gets a full head of steam going now, not feeling the rush of the moment propelling her forward. Seemingly unnoticed by her, the glow on her neck tattoos, having already started to peel off into flickers of blue flame, entirely seperates from her for a moment, bursting in the air to project a brief, grim vision of Kaede Kamura grasping her spear. Before Kagemaru can question that, the display is gone, and Kirika's tattoos settle into their "normal" amount of unearthly sheen.

"Ikishi is done hurting my friends and attacking my family," Kirika growls, then takes another breath. "So. I just want you all to stay safe," she says, sounding a bit calmer than before. "I will handle it. I promise." She takes a deep breath and lets it out with a huff. "Just...stay safe. We've already lost too many people to Ikishi. I don't intend to lose any more. I'll be back after...after I defend Yukio at trial." The flames erupt again at Yukio's name, almost as big as when Kaede made an appearance. She bows to the group, a wave of blue fire from her neck and face tracing an arc in the air. "Thank you for all your help."
"Yes, of course," Copperhead says. "You may depart now. We'll take care of things at this end." As she's about to turn away, he adds "Shadowguard."

Kirika nods with a brief smile, then hustles up the stairs.

After Kirika departs and Kagemaru melds back into the shadows, Rock turns to Copperhead. "So, uh, this is pretty much how it always is?"
"There has been...somewhat of an uptick in phenomena," Copperhead says.
"You mean ghosts," Holger says. "That was a ghost."
"And she didn't even notice," Rock says.
"Chica don't get paid to rest," Holger opines. "You run too hot, your shit goes whacko, that's just science, man."
"...it is not quite how I would have formulated my hypothesis," Copperhead says.
"Yeah, yeah, pull the stick outta your ass," Holger says.
"It's a needle in my brain, actually," Copperhead retorts.
"...I'm going to take a walk," Rock says. "I think I need some fresh air."

---

Daiki takes on a few more shots of liquid courage, then it's back to his house. It's a slow kind of walk, both from the inebriation and the perhaps natural reluctance Daiki must feel at abandoning his decade-long quest to find "justice" for his sister - plus, you know, getting all those gambling debts taken care of. But just because it's slow doesn't mean it's going the right way. It is perhaps natural for a man to slowly but inevitably trot towards what he thinks he has to do.

It is perhaps equally natural for his sister to be waiting in front of his house. Seeing you approach, she tries again to move towards the house, but Konoko gives a short, sharp "Kii!" at Lady Ishikawa, who recoils again from the large bird. Well, she is technically armed with her baton, and trying to approach Daiki's family. Konoko's just following orders on that one.

"And what are you doing here?" Daiki slurs; they say inhibition's the first thing to go when you drink, and it's definitely long gone.
"I came to speak to you, brother," Ishikawa replies, folding her arms in front of her chest. "You got drunk?" she asks, her accusatory tone leveled as much at him as at Takao and Toshiba.
"I'm going to do you a favor," Daiki says. "You want those damn letters gone so bad, well I'm gonna burn 'em right now!"
"Maybe we should talk about that first," Ishikawa says, her voice more gentle now.
"Well I don't wanna talk to you, how about that, you fake!" Daiki barks. "Outta my way now."
"What did you tell them?" Ishikawa asks.
"Everything!" Daiki says; he loses a bit of volume and steadies himself on Takao's shoulder. "Sick of you and the lies and the secrets..."
Ishikawa turns to Toshiba. "What did he tell you?"
"They know you're a fake and I can prove it and I won't, for the sake of the EMPIRE!" Daiki shouts. "That's right! Always a good reason for the lies and secrets, isn't there, you fake?"

From within Daiki's house, the sound of a crying baby can be heard.

"Daiki, please," Ishikawa says, "settle down..."
"Don't tell me what to do!" Daiki replies. "You!" he says to Toshiba. "Make a fire. We need a fire."

Re: Jade Imperium - Afghanistan, Pt. 3

Gatac posted in Jade Imperium - Afghanistan, Pt. 3 on 2017-09-23 05:05:48
Hug'sh harrumphs. "We cannot reason with the paranoid, and we cannot sit them out, either," he says. "Whatever we do, they'll try to twist it around as part of a big bad conspiracy from us against them, because that is how they think. We will appeal to those who are ready to listen, and I think Cooper is one of them. Put the evidence before him - as the finding of an independent investigation by 815. Let the Narsai'i then do what they will with this information." His fur brightens as he meets eyes with Garrett and Angel. "With respect to your success in finding solid proof, it ought to be possible for a suitably motivated military force to locate more such locations and get their own evidence. We may not convince the Narsai'i that what we bring to them is the whole truth, but if they start looking in the same sorts of places, they ought to find the same sorts of evidence. As I've said, this is Afghanistan. One does not allow things to pass within its borders without the understanding that those things will spread far and wide through the country and beyond."

"As to the matter of finding them...I was hoping you would have a clever, tech-y idea, Luis," Hug'sh adds. "Without a means to reliably detect gateways from at least orbit, I don't believe that there is much of anything we can do about the matter now. We appear to be very much at the mercy of China in this."

Re: Jade Imperium - Afghanistan, Pt. 3

e of pi posted in Jade Imperium - Afghanistan, Pt. 3 on 2017-09-22 20:20:28
Luis glares at the vox images like they've personally wronged him. "We need to find those Gateways and the people running them, and expose this problem. I didn't think any of them could be that stupid, but...it is the simplest explanation.The issue is that with the ultimatim...our credibility may not be the best. With Hilby gone, for the moment at least, we've disrupted some of their tendrils here, but even so...do you think Cooper would buy it if we just roll up and say there's a rogue Gate, we don't know where, the Chinese might be involved, and so might the Imperials?" He shakes his head. "I wish I did."

Re: IC 3 - Amsterdam - Day 3

Gatac updated in IC 3 - Amsterdam - Day 3 on 2017-09-22 16:08:54
Mason's going out again tonight. Sitting around staring at screens won't help - tackling some items off the ever-growing to-do list will. First stop: threads. Mason plays a game of five-corner phone tag, working his way through the surprisingly tight-knit world of Amsterdam's underground couture until enough people give him the nod that he gets a time and a name. The appointment leads him through a rainy evening drive on Java-eiland, then to a penthouse studio overlooking the city lights reflecting from the Ij. Waiting for him is Hilke van Bochove, the grand old dame of concealed body armor, 72 years old with an effortless chiq that women 50 years her junior would kill for - and a half-dozen strong team of assistants, bodyguards and "body consultants" (read: male eye candy). As Mason is escorted in, she briefly scans him and then holds out her hand to him. Mason might have spent a lot of time in the mountains, but he's been on enough CIA missions - well, guarded enough CIA missions - okay, monitored CIA missions from a remote location enough times to know how to respond. He takes her hand and delicately kisses her largest ring.

"Madam van Bochove, it is an honor," he says.

Hilke turns slightly away from him to stretch her arm out further, but there's a wry smile on her lips at Mason's show of respect.

"So I've been told on many occasions," she answers, in slightly accented English. "You must have run quite the gauntlet to get here, my American friend. Surely you've been told that my wares are expensive - and rush jobs even more so." She turns to direct her smile at Mason. "That marks you as an unreasonable man, doesn't it?"
"Reasonable men don't buy armored suits," Mason points out. "And they definitely don't buy ones as good as yours. You're probably very used to dealing with unreasonable men."
"Oh, the world never seems to run out of them," she says. "Let's discuss your...needs, then. But first, I should probably help you get a bit more comfortable - this may take a while to get through." She turns away. "Guiseppe!" she calls. "The gentleman will have a" - she looks at Mason again - "an Old Fashioned. I do believe we have some WhistlePig under the counter." She smiles at Mason. "Would that be to your taste?"
Mason nods. "Thank you," he says to Guiseppe.
"And one for me, too," Hilke adds, before turning her attention back to Mason. "So," she asks, "what did you have in mind?"
"American in style, black, business but not tight enough that it impedes my work,” Mason says.
"Naturally," Hilke says. "Wilhelm! Get the materials." She turns back to Mason. "Any other considerations?"
"Diplomatic cover, so I'll be carrying a full-frame sidearm," Mason says. "The rest is up to you."
"Hmm," Hilke says. "I like a man who lets me do my work."

Guiseppe arrives with the drinks; Hilke hands Mason his tumbler, then holds hers out to clink glasses.

"To unreasonable men," she says.
"To doing the job right," Mason replies as his glass touches hers.

---

"You'll be Michael Williams," Operations reads through the phone as Mason travels back to the city center in his new suit. "You're replacing one Jeffrey Brown, who'll be getting double pay to wait in the limo - just in case. Ambassador Phelps is ex-CIA; he's not officially read in but he won't make your job harder than it needs to be, provided you do the same. Oh, and when you get the body, please be sure to dispose of it properly. We don't want to cover up a cover up."

---

The things you learn to appreciate about Europe: they have very, very no-nonsense morgues. This one, in the basement of the central hospital (ironically the one Abbing lied about holding Luc), is pretty much just a hallway with a reception desk to the side. It's staffed by a fifty-something male nurse with short, graying hair and horn-rimmed glasses making up most of his thin face. As per Mason's request, Senior Constable Hesselink - looking like this isn't much of a disruption of her non-existant sleep - is waiting for him there.

Tired though she may be, Mason can see her checking out his new suit. "I see you went shopping," she says. "Come on, I'll sign us in." She turns to the desk and receives the log book from the nurse. Mason takes the same, using the Stef Heimans identity from earlier.

With the formalities done, Hesselink leads Mason into the actual morgue. A resident's still working on preparing a body on the slab for autopsy when Hesselink asks her to "take a quick smoke break", and so she goes, though not without staring a bit longer at Mason and his eye-poppingly black suit. Hesselink moves towards the body, then picks up the almost completely blank report hanging from the slab.

"Is that the one?" Mason only has to briefly look to be sure that, yeah, that's Coemans - sans teeth and fingertips.
"That's him," Mason confirms. "I'm going to need his body. I have a van outside."
"Of course you do," Hesselink says. "And I'm going to need more than that. You're asking me to cover up quite a bit here."
"What do you want to know?" Mason asks.
"I have a feeling you know why he died," Hesselink says. "The how is pretty obvious."
"He was a double agent for the Ministry of State Security - the Chinese intelligence service," Mason replies. "We had figured that out, and so they killed him and made him more difficult to identify."
"No shit?" Hesselink asks, raising an eyebrow.

Mason nods.

"Double agent," Hesselink repeats. "So, the other side he was working for..."
"The Chinese," Mason says.
"And our side," Hesselink says. "What department was he working for?"
"That would be us," Mason says.
"Us," she says. "Right." She sighs. "I do this, we're even. Not that I don't appreciate your help with those shooters, but there's only so many favors I can do you before this needs to get...official."
Mason nods. "I'd like to read that report. Victim was foreign double-agent killed by his Chinese handlers during foreign denied operation that I participated in?"

Hesselink bites her lip. "You're right," she says.

"But yes, this does make us even," Mason says.
Hesselink shakes her head. "Okay. Take your colleague with you, I'll clear a way to the fire exit. And then lose my number."
Mason nods, collecting the personal effects and paperwork tied to the former Agent Coemans. Hesselink has turned and is two steps closer to the door when he speaks up again. "Are you on the security detail for the Royal Palace remembrance event?" Mason asks.
"No," she says, stopping and turning her head to look at him over her shoulder. "...you're not..."
"I don't know," Mason says. "But if you want me to lose your number, then I'd try to get on that detail, just in case."
"Just in case?" Hesselink asks. "In case of what?"
Mason looks at her. "If you really don't want me to contact you."
"Jezus," Hesselink sighs. "But...how? At the end of the day I'm just a regular cop, I can't just flash my badge and walk in there. I could get into the crowd control detachment outside...maybe."
"How about your tactical friends? Don't they have a presence inside?" Mason asks.
"I really wouldn't know," Hesselink says. "This whole thing is so far above my paygrade I'm getting dizzy just thinking about it. You're the big shot, why don't you pull some strings?"
Mason shrugs and extends his hand. "Do you have their number?"

Hesselink reaches for her wallet, browses through some of the business cards inside and retrieves one before handing it out to Mason.

"Good luck," she says. "Whatever you're doing, it looks like you'll need it."

Mason inspects the card. It's got an official KMar logo tucked away in the corner and a font for the name and number that seems to have been picked by the expedient of being the default in Microsoft Word '97. So, legit government work. Mason pulls his latest burner out of his pocket and dials the number.

After a few rings, the phone picks up. "First Lieutenant Arnts," the voice of the KMar commander comes through, loud and clear. "Who's calling?"
"Lieutenant Arnts, this is Agent Heimans, I have been working with Senior Constable Hesselink on the tower incident?" Mason says.
"Ah, you're that guy," Arnts says. Then he says "Thank you for your assistance," though it sounds a lot like "what do you want?"
"Your security detail for the Royal Palace event, it would be greatly appreciated if Constable Hesselink accompanied them," Mason says. "She is privy to sensitive details that your men are not."
"That's not how we do things here, Agent Heimans," Arnts says. "No offense to Constable Hesselink, but she's not qualified to work a security detail, much less THE security detail. The roster has been set in stone for weeks at this point."
"That is unfortunate," Mason says.
"Good luck with your investigation, Agent Heimans," Arnts says. Then he hangs up.

Well, that's a bit of a bummer. Mason draws in a sharp breath. Looks like another favor to cash in - that Randall character Blake got in with would know the right kind of people to make it happen. Mason's sure he can be convinced.

"Do you have a single stack subcompact pistol?" Mason asks Hesselink as he slides his phone back into his pocket.
"Something that fits in a clutch or purse?"
"Just my P99," Hesselink says, indicating the service pistol on her belt. "What kind of a question is that? I mean, where would I - I'm not in a gun club or anything -"
"We'll get you one," Mason says. "You should prepare your most formal dress for tomorrow - you'll be attending with the royal diplomatic party as part of their protection detail."

Hesselink narrows her eyes. There's only so far the whole "For King And Country" routine will go with her, and this seems to be reaching that point.

"If you're going to drag me into this, I'm going to need to know more about what's going on, 'Agent Heimans'."
Mason shrugs and pulls his burner out again. "Lock the door," he says as he dials Operations, keeping it off speaker for the time being and switching to Mandarin. "I'm thinking Constable Hesselink would be a good backup surprise for Fractal at the event - she has good instincts and can clearly handle herself. I'm thinking we get Blake's friend Randall to vouch for her with our friends in the Dutch intel service and put her on the royal diplomatic detail - but she wants to be read in. How much do you want to tell her?"

Hesselink looks at Mason like he's grown a second head.

"What's wrong with the truth?" Operations says. "We're hunting terrorists who want to disrupt the festivities."
"Works for me," Mason says. "You or me?"
"You want to play handler, you tell her," Operations says.
"Understood," Mason says, hangs up and turns to face Hesselink. "What do you want to know?"
"Let's start with what's going on, and in Dutch, please," Hesselink says. "Who are those people going around fucking up my city?"
"We don't know," Mason says. "They're connected to the bombings in Pakistan and India, some kind of false-flag attempt to kick-start a war, and they tried to do something similar here with Russia and the Netherlands."
"...fuck," Hesselink says. "But the shooters, they're...I think they're American? How does that fit together?"
"We don't know," Mason says. "Some kind of third party group here to steal a laptop that's basically a ready-made insurgency - funds, weapons - physical and cyber, blackmail and intelligence, including potentially valid nuclear codes."

Hesselink just stares into nothing for a moment.

"So...so, this is some..." she tries to say, "no-shit, saving-the-world thing happening?"
Mason nods. "Yep."
Her eyes narrow. "You better not be shitting me," she says.
"You've been looking into everything I've been telling you, you tell me," Mason says.
"Yeah, that's why this is scaring the shit out of me," Hesselink says. "Well, fuck. I'm already in this deep. Okay. I'll back you up tomorrow - I mean, if you can get me in there with a gun, I'll know this is for real, right?" She nods to herself. "Do I get an earpiece and a radio, too?"
"You'll get one with the detail - or do you mean with us?" Mason asks. "Do you really want one?"
"Fuck yes I do!" Hesselink says. "You're the guy who knows what the hell is happening, plus I need to observe and report, right?"

Phone comes back out, Operations is dialed again, but this time on speaker.

"You're on speaker," Mason helpfully informs her. "Constable Hesselink wants on our comms - I already asked her if she really wants to hear that, but it's your op."
Without missing a beat, Operations answers in Dutch - through a voice scrambler. "Constable Hesselink," she says. "I'm the operations officer assigned to this matter. I'm sure Agent Heimans has impressed upon you the importance of confidentiality. I cannot permit you to receive communications on our operations channel; you do not have the appropriate clearance. Agent Heimans will instead give you a phone number to dial if you need to contact him for any reason. I trust you know how to work a Bluetooth headset?"
"Uh, yeah," Hesselink says.
"Then that will have to suffice." Operations says, then something almost like emotion bleeds into her voice. "I'm sorry about all the secrecy, but you are taking a big enough risk helping us at all; knowing too much would make you a target for the people we're hunting."
"...I understand," Hesselink says.
Mason hangs up again. "I'll send you the number. Any further questions?"
"Just one," Hesselink says. "Are you sure we can stop...whatever's going to happen?"
"Haven't been certain about anything for a long time," Mason says. "Just keep your eyes open for anything strange, and be ready to protect the Royal party and back us up if anything happens."
"You got it," Hesselink says. "So...I guess I should clear you a path outside. Can you handle the body?"
"Trolley seems well maintained," Mason says.
"Okay," Hesselink says. "I'll...see you there?"
"I'll send you the information for a package with your pistol and anything else you'd need," Mason replies, and grabs the cart. "Ready when you are."