IC 2 - Amsterdam - Day 2

skullandscythe 2017-08-16 22:22:33
Didn't ID anyone, though MSS is high on list.
SUV guys probably Crips or friends of theirs. Again, didn't stop to ask.

Blake doesn't look happy about letting the tails go, but he nods to acknowledge Luc's point.
Time to go, then.
Gatac 2017-08-30 15:03:21
(Blake tests against Infiltration to sneak out. Luc spends 1 point from his pool to piggyback on Blake's result. Because Blake and Luc have positive Trust with each other, Blake adds a +1 to his roll.

Blake's Infiltration = (3)+5+1 = 9)

It takes approximately two minutes for the car to circle its route. Blake watches from behind the blinds of the houseboat while Luc goes through yet another change of clothes. When they're both ready - and having made extra-sure that there's nothing incriminating in plain sight at the boat - Blake and Luc get out the door the moment the car disappears around the corner. Gangway, lock the door like nothing's wrong to any casual observer. The two stroll along the canal, Luc following in Blake's footsteps while the Navy man keeps his eyes peeled for any potential shadows. They make it to a little roadside truck selling pickled herring with ten seconds to spare; Blake casually orders two rolls (but easy on the onions!) and hands one of them off to Luc just as the car drives behind them, whoever's inside obviously thinking nothing of what they're seeing. Blake keeps up a quick chat with the proprietor - Ajax is playing Feyenoord this weekend, we're gonna smoke those bastards 3 : nil, right? - until the car is out of the way again, then the two proceed into a small back alley. Luc barks a quiet pardon to a cyclist who has to swerve to avoid them, but speaking of avoiding, they seem to have shaken their pursuers. It's a half-hour hike through the quiet parts of Amsterdam then to make sure - not exactly the full surveillance detection route Blake would have preferred, but it'll have to do.

A taxi ride, three stops on the tram, a quick ride on the free ferry service between Centraal and Noord and, of all things, two rented bikes later, Blake and Luc are only a few more minutes out from the safe...barge.


Didn't take much doing to convince Abbing that they had to go out - retrieve Luc now before he can talk to the cops, help Tim out with whatever hoops Fractal's making him jump through - it's a "all hands on deck" kind of situation that easily explains why they're all going out again. Only, it's not quite true. Sure, they all get in the van and drive away, but the van parks just outside the office building, out of sight from the barge, and then Mason gets to work.

(Mason Athletics to sneak onto the barge = (5)+2 = 7)

Getting 90% to the barge was easy, the last 10% could be tricky due to the security cameras - Laith's dialed in from the van, but Abbing's probably smart enough to know that any "glitches" in the feeds are to be taken as proof that something's wrong. The old-school way, then: Mason finds a dumpster and a fire ladder that get him onto the warehouse roof, then carefully walks across the roof to the poles. There's one holding up a thick cable strung from the side of the warehouse over to the barge for the data connection. Mason gets his commando on and works himself up the pole, then hand-over-hands carefully along the steel wire the actual cable is fixed to. Not exactly a breeze, but easy enough for Mason, and it puts him right on top of the barge out of view of the cameras. He drops silently to the weather deck and positions himself above the bulkhead door that leads in and out of the barge interior.

After what only feels like a few seconds of waiting, Mason gets a call from Laith to his earbud. "Picking up an outgoing call from Abbing's phone," he says. "Encrypted. Block or let it through?"
"Degrade it. We need her to want to take it outside," Mason says.
"Got it," Laith says. After a moment, he speaks up again. "Spoofed a handshake fail." Pause. "Okay, she's moving, I got her on cam 4. She's dialing again, coming up on the exit in 3...2...1.5...1..."

As the countdown finishes, the door under Mason's perch groans open and Abbing walks outside, nearly putting her thumb through the phone when she mashes the redial button. Mason draws his pistol and waits for her to connect her call. While Abbing holds the phone to her ear, she also fishes a PDA out of her jacket and taps a few controls on the screen. "Just lost cameras," Laith says over Mason's earpiece. "Hard shutdown of the whole system."

Below, Abbing starts talking. Mason speaks enough Mandarin to tell that Abbing's not speaking Mandarin; at a guess, some of the phonemes sound like they could be Wu, though. Mason focuses in. It's clear she's talking about more of something, and she mentions "the package". Whoever's on the other side apparently says something she doesn't like, because the next thing she says is a very, very Dutch series of cursewords. She starts to look around - not upward, but around - and draws back her jacket, reaching for a weapon. The next line she says is in the Chinese dialect again, but Mason gets the message from that one loud and clear: "clean up".

Mason waits for her to hang up before sliding off the roof between her and the door, pistol already pointed at her back. "Hands up," he says in Mandarin.
"Perfect," Abbing says in Dutch. She slowly raises her hands, pistol in her left and phone in the right. "Here's how this works," she says. "I give you the phone, you let me go, I call in the unlock code in half an hour. You try to trick me, you will not get the code. You attack me - this thing goes in the canal. You get nothing. So, what's it going to be?" As she lays out her proposal, Laith pulls the van back into the lot in front of the factory building.
"You mean the phone call you were placing to the MSS?" Mason asks, and produces his own phone. "The one to these guys?" He shows her the pictures that were taken from when they tailed him earlier today.
"I was just making a table reservation at my favorite Chinese restaurant," Abbing says. It's not even in the same zip code as a plausible lie, but the implication is clear - she's playing this as if you need a smoking gun to take her down.
Mason sighs - then pistol-whips her square in the face, taking advantage of her being stunned to try to take the phone.

(Mason's Hand-to-hand = (3)+4 = 7)

Mason's pistol slams into Abbings face like a bus into the cocky last survivor of a Final Destination movie. She unwisely attempts to pitch the phone into the canal instead of letting it drop over the railing, and Mason catches her throwing hand in the nick of time. As she falls over, Mason is able to snatch the phone from her.

Mason levels his pistol down at her as he slides the phone into his pocket. "So now that that's over, why don't we come inside and have a chat?"
"Okay, okay," Abbing says. "You have...made your point."

(A sense of danger permeates the air! Mason's Sense Trouble = (2)+2 = 4)

As she tries to sort herself out on the ground, Mason catches a glint of something from her sleeve. In any other kind of situation, he'd have registered it as the reflection off the faceplate of a watch or something, but Mason's the kind of guy who can tell you how many people in a room are wearing watches on which wrist - and Abbing hasn't worn a watch at any point since he first saw her the day before.

Well, nothing to it but eliminating the threat. Mason puts a bullet through her wrist. "Apparently not," he quips. Abbing howls in pain and rolls onto her back, holding her wounded arm. Fresh, slick blood covers what Mason recognizes as a small knife sheath strapped to the inside of her lower arm.

"Hands!" Operations calls out, approaching the gangway with her own pistol aimed at Abbing, while Laith trails behind her. "Show me your hands!" she shouts at Abbing.
Abbing has no witty response; she just tries to remove her good hand from her bad wrist.
"Well, she can talk, that's good enough for me," Operations comments. "Get her inside and stop the bleeding. I'll clean up out here and join you in a few moments."

Mason hauls her to her feet and back inside - while Laith gets the safe house back up and running, Mason strips the jacket off her shoulders, handcuffs her uninjured hand to a table bolted to the floor, and jams a hunk of clotting gauze into the new hole in Agent Abbing's other arm. Abbing grits her teeth through the manhandling and doesn't fight back - she knows she's just gonna get hurt worse if she tries to dance again with Mason - but once she's sitting down, she seems to find her voice again.

"You fucking - argh - savages," she spits at Mason. "I'll bring you down. You go too far. You think Wildcard allows everything? You just shot a station chief. They will shut you down, you and your team, and then you will disappear like all the other wild animals!"
"A station chief selling a laptop so hot it should glow in the dark to the Chinese," Mason replies, tossing Abbing's phone to Laith. "How long?"
"Out of my league," Laith says. "But I can find a contractor. Give me three hours."
"You idiot," Abbing spits. "You want to give a secure CIA phone to a hacker on the internet? That thought alone means you should be in jail."
"- or we express it to the next CIA field office and have Tech Services deal with it," Laith says.
"You are bluffing," Abbing says. "Only I know the code. You will get nothing."
"They haven't built an unhackable phone yet - didn't your Chinese friends teach you that?" Mason asks.
"Get cancer," Abbing says, just as Operations walks in. "You will not get away with this," Abbing tells her, but Operations hardly deigns to look at her.
"Outside is clean," she says to Mason. "Where are we on the phone?"
"Laith says either three hours for a contractor or we turn it over to Tech Services," Mason says. "Normally I'd not be a fan of turning over sensitive tech to people I don't trust, but since that now includes the CIA in Amsterdam..."
"I need to make a call first," Operations says. "So, Agent Abbing," she says, turning to the injured woman. "You like deals, don't you?" Abbing says nothing, so Operations continues. "The deal is you now have ten minutes to tell Mason everything you can think of that might interest us. When I come back in here, he'll tell me if it was enough or not. You'll be traveling in a box via diplomatic baggage either way, but if Mason likes what he hears, you get the box with air holes."
"Fuck you," Abbing says.
"Nine minutes 55 seconds," Operations says, then turns to leave.

Mason just sits back and stares at Abbing as Operations walks out of the room, saying nothing. Abbing stares right back at Mason.
"Do you need me for this?" Laith asks.
"Nah, not really," Mason says, waving Laith off. "You're good."
"Later," Laith comments, then leaves the room, too.

After being locked in with Abbing in an interview room, Abbing takes a few moments to get her breathing back under control. Quikclot or not, the bullet really did a number on her arm, and it's clear she's struggling to stay lucid against the pain. Still, she finally looks up.

"It will take...a few minutes to...bring the security...system back up," she says, then takes a deeper breath. "Tell me your price."
Mason says nothing and just stares at Abbing.
Abbing takes in Mason's silence, then scoffs. "A good soldier," she says. "You will get...a white cross, someday, if you are lucky. Is that...what you want?"
Mason shifts his seat around to the other side of the table and crosses his legs, checking his watch as he does so.
"I won't talk," she says. "I know I'm not getting out...without your help. So what is the price?" Another breath. "Money? A new life?" One more breath. "Her name?"
Mason press checks his pistol, then looks at his watch.
"Fine," Abbing says. "Fuck you. What do you know? What proof do you have? You will all burn for this."
Mason clears his throat before getting up to check the mirrored window for smudges.
"Aargh!" Abbing howls, tugging at the restraints, trying to tip over the chair - anything at all to change up the situation or grab Mason's attention. Can't fault her drive to escape, but there's nothing much she can do, and finally she slumps back into the chair from exhaustion. After a few more breaths, her head goes from hanging back to tilting forward, and she faints onto the table. Over her breaths, Mason can hear the quiet drip-drip of blood - she must have reopened her wound with the escape attempt.

"The lady was pretty clear,” Mason finally says.

Abbing doesn't respond to that; she's too busy being passed out, apparently. Whatever the case, that's the way she runs out the rest of the clock, and by the time Operations enters the room, there's maybe a half-pint of fresh blood on the floor. Operations seems exactly as concerned about that as Mason is.

"Did she say anything?" Operations asks.
"Apparently she thinks she knows who you are," Mason replies.
"Uh huh," Operations says. "Did she give you a name?"
"Don't care, didn't ask," Mason says.
"Let's file that under trivia, then," she says. "The Director asked nicely that we keep her in one piece for the night, they're vectoring a new team to take over the station and transfer her into custody. Can you take care of the bleeding?"
Mason pulls another package of gauze out of the kit bag and some wrap to go with it. "Watch my back."
"Always," Operations says.

Taking position besides Mason with her pistol at the ready, she watches as Mason uncuffs Abbing's injured arm and renders some second aid. Weak pulse, GCS 7 - she'll need someone to check on the wound through the night, probably an IV with some fluids, but nothing that can't be done with the safehouse's supplies.

"Not that it matters for us, but she's probably not going to say shit," Mason says. "MSS is in town, we already know that, and now we know why. Unless you want to do a snatch and grab on a PRC spy, we can stick her in a hole until backup arrives."
"Tempting as as catching the MSS with their hands on the cookie jar sounds," Operations says, "we have what we came for. You take care of Abbing, I'll have Laith scrub the system while I go search this barge for...surprises."

Mason nods, and tightens the wrap around Abbing's arm before starting the tourniquet for the IV.


Tim's just about made it to the safebarge on his own when the Fractal phone rings again. Surprise, surprise, it's deSilva(?).

"Well, Agent Barstow, I made some calls and I think I have an arrangement that works for everyone," she says. "Tomorrow, for the Liberation Day ceremonies, the King will be in town and will be giving a speech from the Royal Palace. I can arrange to have a few names added to the press whitelist - you'll need to provide your own press IDs and other accoutrements, but I don't think that will be a problem for you. This will put us inside a very secure perimeter - no guns, no bombs, no other surprises. Besides, I have a feeling you and your friends might want to be on location around Dam square anyway - while you took care of RoI's Plan A, there's still the possibility that they might try something a little more...old-school." Pause. "I'm sure you'll want to confer with your superiors first. But if you're going to show up, I'll need those press ID names by 10 PM."
Gatac 2017-09-07 15:11:47
Soon enough, everyone's more or less safely back at the Safebarge and crammed into the SCIF, while Luc's undergoing the standard post-breakout protocol - a shower, a very unsexy whole-body exam for any fresh scarring or other anomalies that could point to implants or exotic torture methods, then a set of fresh clothes with the old ones going into the next convenient incinerator. Finally, Luc and Operations enter the SCIF, and Operations makes sure to lock the door behind them before turning to Laith.

"How goes the system sweep?" she asks.
"90%," Laith says. "This room is clean, at least."
"Not until they tear it out and rebuild it," Operations scoffs. "Still, the best we have for now."

She looks at Luc.

"So, Luc," she says, "how about you walk us through what happened to you today?"
MikeS 2017-09-10 20:19:37
Luc lights himself a cigarette and inhales deeply.

"Sure," he replies as he exhales.

"I went to dump ve car, as we discussed, and Agent Coemans picked me up. But instead of taking me to ve meeting point, he asked me to put on a 'ood and took me to ve MSS. Turns out 'e was working for vem."

He takes another drag and exhales, gesticulating with the cigarette.

"I played along. I was curious. What did vey want? As you know, I got ve laptoep from vem in New Delhi and handed it off to Varayev. Courier job. Vere was a guy vere 'o called himself Sage Virteen. Like ve noember. 'E wanted me to recoever ve laptoep. Vat made no sense to me, unless vey vink Varayev did someving to it, or saved files on it. Or maybe vere is a proegram vat logs vat 'e did. Anyway, 'e offered four million Euros. 'alf in advance. I woender if 'e actually did make a deposit to my account. Wouldn't count on it, vough."

Another drag, and flick off of ash.

"'E also wanted me to kill Coemans. Some weird loyalty test. Chinese are big on vose. Vey fought Coemans was a liability, long term. 'E sent Coemans in to interrogate me, and I took 'im down when 'e came in, but I just knoecked 'im out. I told Sage vat I don't kill for free, and maybe 'e bought it. 'E 'ad two guards wiv 'im, one German, ve ovver Serbian. Local 'ires, I guess. Anyway, Sage ordered ve German to kill Coemans, which 'e did. I might 'ave been able to do someving about it, but I didn't want to tip my 'and yet, and Coemans was a mole anyway. I 'ave it on a USB stick; vey 'ad cameras in ve room."

"Ven the Serbian merc took me out, to bring me back wherever. I took 'er goenne from 'er hand knocked 'er out, ven 'ad a quick look around. Ve place was pretty empty, no guards anywhere. I found ve comms room, downloaded ve camera feed and whatever else I could grab, and planted a smoell bug. Ven I headed out. Ve place is in Haarlem, by ve train yard. I took veir car, drove back to civilization, and ditched it. Ven I called Operations, and you know ve rest. Seems like you 'ad you own MSS problems."

End of the cigarette, end of summary.
Gatac 2017-09-11 01:43:17
"Fuck," Operations mumbles.

"Okay, new to-do list," she says out loud. "Laith, I need a clean laptop and secure wifi off-premises. No way we're dealing with anything from the MSS inside here."
"On it," Laith says.
"And call in some data dumps from Hoi-Yan," she says. "I need everything on German and Serbian mercs active in the region, and everything we have on the current whereabouts of the Sages."
"Sages? Plural?" Laith asks.
"Nominate yourself for their SAP while you're at it, Codename..." Operations says. "Whatever, I'll remember it in a minute. Anyway, bottom line, 64 handlers from the PRC. They usually stick to influence ops and scientific espionage, but I guess this tiger's finally showing its teeth."
"So, what?" Laith asks. "Did we just run into Chinese Wildcard?"
"Don't know - Blake, I'd like you to give Laith a hand," Operations adds. "If I don't miss my guess, we're gonna be dealing with a lot of awkward angles, telephoto shots and pixeled garbage when it comes to the surveillance on mercs - they don't like paparazzi, as a rule. Look into the files and get me some usable pictures so Luc can ID them. Luc, I'm gonna need you to sit down and think. Is there anything more you saw or heard there that might help us? Dig deep."

"Mason, you got an in with the cops here, right?" she asks. "We need a line on Coemans's body before that becomes a murder investigation that could lead back here."

She pinches the bridge of her nose.

"Barstow, please tell me you got something out of your meeting with Fractal."
Admiral Duck Sauce 2017-09-11 14:02:02
"I got a meet," Tim announces. "Tomorrow at the Royal Palace. We'll need press IDs tonight for their whitelist - I can work those up if you want, Laith sounds like he's plenty busy. Nothing more to indicate whether they're worthy of us sharing our warcrime-in-a-box, though. My gut says it's a colossal waste of time and effort to try to jockey for position with this crew, but it also says they're too dangerous to have as enemies. Not with the other stuff we've got going on."
Gatac 2017-09-11 14:13:40
Operations thinks about that for a second.

"I don't buy that they're burning their access to the Royal Palace just to talk to us, not even Fractal's that wasteful," she says. "And this isn't about impressing them, no matter how often they try to play that card. They're the ones who've got something to prove to us, and I'm getting pretty tired of them trying to lead us around by the nose."
"They might be there to stop something," Laith suggests.
"Or start something," Operations replies. "Fuck. Okay, I'm putting this to a vote. Fractal's got their game all set up. What's our move, boys? Play nice, or play rough?"
punkey 2017-09-11 15:26:44
"I haven't made it so far by making enemies when I didn't have to," Mason says.
"That'll only get you so far," Operations says. "In my experience, when someone's really pushing the 'with us or against us' angle, it's gonna end on 'against us', after they take you for a ride. All things being equal, I would prefer to have Fractal on our side, but all things rarely are equal. Your neck, your call, though. I'll put you down for playing nice, then."
skullandscythe 2017-09-11 18:52:25
"If they're going to try and take us for a ride, I say we return the favor," Blake replies. "And we stand a better chance of getting something out of them by playing along. For now."
MikeS 2017-09-12 00:39:30
Gatac wrote:

"Don't know - Blake, I'd like you to give Laith a hand," Operations adds. "If I don't miss my guess, we're gonna be dealing with a lot of awkward angles, telephoto shots and pixeled garbage when it comes to the surveillance on mercs - they don't like paparazzi, as a rule. Look into the files and get me some usable pictures so Luc can ID them. Luc, I'm gonna need you to sit down and think. Is there anything more you saw or heard there that might help us? Dig deep."

"Well... 'e 'ad dark skin for a Chinese agent, looked more like Southeast Asian. And 'e spoke a dialect that was not Mandarin. I don't fink it was Cantonese, eiver. 'e got a call when I was about to leave, somefing about ve laptop and Varayev, and somefing about evading ve MSS. I fought it could 'ave been you guys. Ve Serbian was called Angelina, and ve German was called Keller and 'ad dreadlocks. He was a bloodfirsty guy. She.. seemed more squeamish. Didn't like ve killing."

"I fink we need to be at ve Palace tonight, just to find out what Fractal is planning. But not all of us should go as press. We should 'ave people vere vat Fractal does not know about."

He shrugs.

"We need to find out what vey are playing first before we decide to play nice."
Admiral Duck Sauce 2017-09-12 10:56:19
Tim nods at Luc's points. "I'm a nice guy and they already like me, so I'll be going as press regardless. But their game is a con and they're not going to accept second rung on the ladder, not long term. I vote we play it nice and look for an angle to get naughty on our own terms."