IC 0 - Prelude

Gatac 2016-09-25 09:52:34
Operations nods to that. Tapping a few controls on the screen changes it from the web of intrigue to a more general user interface, which quickly morphs into what a "Connecting to..." Skype screen would look like if it was designed for people who think "user interface candy" is what you bribe the Senator's kids with to get a black budget passed.

"Operations?" a young woman's voice answers as the call picks up.
"Hello again, Hoi Yan," Operations says. "How goes the data dump?"
"It's, uh, it's transmitting," Hoi Yan answers. "...is there something wrong?"
"No," Operations says. "Could you please add Geraint Reese's files to the mix?"
"Um, yeah..." Hoi Yan says. "I think. I can...uh, I can send a second package? Is that okay?"
"That's okay, Hoi Yan," Operations says.
"Okay!" Hoi Yan says. "Okay, I'll get on that right - oh! Uh, stand by."

A moment passes.

"Uh, Operations, I have Director Marsh for you and uh, the team," Hoi Yan says, "if that's okay?"
"Sure," Operations says. "Put him through."
"One moment," Hoi Yan says.

Another moment passes.

"Ops?" Director Marsh says.
"We're reading you Lima Charlie, Sir," Operations says. "Go ahead."
"Good," Marsh says. "I'm calling to advise you that Pakistan is willing to deal with us, and India is willing to deal with us."
"Not with each other?" Operations asks.
"We can't even get them together in a phone conference," Marsh says. "Bottom line, they both want Brahmvir Singh, no big surprises there. If we turn him over to Pakistan, they promise to stand down, if we turn him over to India, they promise to stand down."
"I don't see the appeal in turning him over to either of them," Operations says.
"You and me both, but State tells me he's the only carrot we have right now," Marsh says. "Popular guy, huh?"
"Seems that way," Operations says. "Do you have orders for us, Sir?"
"Yeah," Marsh says. "I want to hear your takes on this. You're closest to the situation, you've actually met the guy. How do you think we should play this?"
punkey 2016-09-25 10:46:50
"I think he's a useful idiot," Mason says. "Amrita called him that, and I'm inclined to believe her."
skullandscythe 2016-09-27 22:37:41
Wait. Isn't that the bitch who tried to off him?

The only thing Blake actually says is "Useful as what, exactly?"
punkey 2016-09-28 12:10:32
"Okay, remedial Kremlinology for the slow kids in the class - 'useful idiot' is someone who's able to be manipulated into doing someone else's dirty work without knowing it," Mason says. "Both useful and an idiot."
Admiral Duck Sauce 2016-09-28 12:15:24
Tim pipes up. "Time, if nothing else. We can use him to stall them. As for gear, I make friends easy. Shouldn't be a problem."
Gatac 2016-09-28 13:30:27
"Tell State to lawyer it up, then," Operations weighs in.
There's a breath from the other side. "We do have extradition treaties with both countries," Marsh counters. "In theory, it's open and shut."
"Pakistani agreement is eighty years old and still mentions Britannic Protectorates," Operations says. "Article 6 says don't extradite for political crimes, I'd argue terrorism against the state to bring about political revolution is a political crime, Article 9 says they need to present sufficient evidence and they've got jack shit, so I dare them to round up their translators and lawyers and refute me," Operations says. "And India's gonna play nice. They always do. Offer them intel sharing, and if they keep pushing kindly ask them to explain the NSG operators that we have on video as attacking US personnel."
"Yeah, I'm sure State can figure something out," Marsh says. "But if they have to cave to salvage this -"
"I'll hand-deliver Singh to Islamabad myself," Operations says. "And if they ask nicely I'll even lend him a parachute."

There's an uncomfortable chuckle from Marsh.

"I'm sure you would," he says. "But I prefer solid intel to craters."
"Don't we all, Sir," Operations says. "If that's everything, we do need to strap in for the landing approach."
"Oh, right," Marsh says. "I keep forgetting about the plane. Good luck and godspeed out there, Ops."
"Thank you, Sir," Operations says.

With a few more taps, she ends the call.

"Politics," she says. "I wasn't kidding about securing the plane and strapping in, though. This Wolfhound isn't exactly...stock."
"It is almost twice as fast as it is supposed to be, no?" Luc adds.
"And the thrust reverse has enough kick to stop inside a football field without touching the end zones," Operations adds. "Buckle in, boys."
Gatac 2016-10-02 10:21:35
As you filter back out of the SCIF and into your seats, Operations follows behind, locking up the door behind her and taking a seat of her own before buckling in.

"Thumrait Tower, Mike 12, down to 4,000 and slowing to 160 knots, with you on localizer three five."
"Mike 12, roger, you are cleared to land three five."
"Cleared to land three five, Mike 12."

A glance out of the windows shows low clouds speed past you as the aircraft dips down for its final approach. As you pass through the thermals off the scorching hot desert beneath, the small aircraft rattles on through as it plunges towards asphalt beneath.


(The sound of rubber on asphalt like two swords clashing against each other in a cheesy kung fu flick, along with a bearhug from Mike Tyson)


"Thumrait Ground, Mike 12 off runway three five at alpha one."
"Mike 12, roger, taxi to staging and stand by for customs inspection."

As the plane rolls towards its parking spot, you take a breath. Operations wasn’t kidding about that thrust reverser. Good thing the seatbelt sign was on!

Finally, the Wolfhound stops and the turboprops outside power down, with a brief flicker of the cabin lights and a whoosh of the A/C as it goes to aux power. Operations is the first out of her seat, passing through to the side exit and opening it up to unfold the stairs while the flight crew goes through their power-down procedure checklist. Entrusting Brahmvir Singh to the plane’s well-trained crew for a moment, you climb out of the plane onto the field to find three vehicles speeding through the desert haze to meet you: Omani airport officials in a speedy little pickup, a fuel truck and your standard-issue all-black GMC Yukon SUV, arriving at the staging area in that order.

“Smile, boys,” Operations says. That’s all she gets to say, because she pointedly shuts up when the Omani truck pulls to a stop right next to the plane and disgorges a gray-bearded Major So-and-So from its passenger side. He looks over the lot of you, then wordlessly shakes Operations’ hand and climbs back into his truck, which reverses into a turn and speeds away, fast as it came at you, back to the base proper in the distance. “Two more of those handshakes and I get a free yoghurt,” Operations mutters.

As the fuel truck people - all three of whom look very Omani while moving very American - get to work on the plane, the SUV’s doors open - and the first one out is a dog, who only briefly looks side to side before darting straight for Operations. She takes a knee and embraces the dog, gamely endures the barks and licks on her face. It’s not immediately obvious what breed the dog is supposed to be; you would have taken her for a Doberman at a standstill, if she didn’t look so damn goofy with her floppy ears and excited tip-toeing from side to side. Operations pats the dog on the side, earning herself a few more licks. “Every time…” she says.
“Lucy!” comes a call from the SUV; the man who made that call steadies himself against the open door while another guy - this one so obviously CIA that it hurts to look directly at his white shirt - pulls a collapsible wheelchair from the SUV’s back, unfolds it and rolls it around. As the dog’s owner takes his seat in the chair and wheels himself closer to you, you get a better look at him. Immaculate five o’clock shadow, soulful eyes, probably in the best shape of his life - and missing most of his right leg. “Lucy!” he calls again, and this time the dog obeys and disengages from Operations. She trots back to his side and collects a little rub on the head from him before circling around, apparently maneuvering herself for a better line of sight on you. “She still misses you,” the man says to Operations with a smile.
“The feeling’s mutual,” Operations says, smiling back and bending down to embrace him. “Hello, Laith.”

The man just keeps smiling and taps her on the back, quickly ending the embrace. After a moment’s recuperation - which the man cleverly uses to roll up closer to you - Operations turns back towards the team.

“Boys, this is Special Agent Sy,” Operations explains.
“Laith,” he quickly corrects her, holding out his hand for shakes. “Laith Sy, Technical Services. And you’ve met Lucy.”

At the mention of her name, Lucy gives a happy bark and wanders over to you.

“Back is fine, belly if she offers,” Laith explains, “but don’t touch her on the head. She barely lets me do it.”
punkey 2016-10-02 10:25:21
"Good to meet you," Mason says in a neutral tone, shaking the man's hand more to avoid any antagonism than out of actual enthusiasm. He stands back and waits for something actually important to happen - his interest is more in Operations and this new player. Between the dog and Operations trying very hard to distance herself from him, he's guessing...between four and seven dates and a month or so of passionless passion before she broke it off - and the fact that both of them have been maimed is a bit too coincidental for him. "Hm," he grunts, and tosses a glance back at the plane to see if there's anything interesting over there.
skullandscythe 2016-10-02 21:38:07
Blake's eyebrows knit together as Sy is introduced. They've settled back in place by the time Sy gets to him, though, and the smile is genuine enough.

"Blake." The grip is strong, and the shake brief. "Pleasure to meet you, Sy. What's your specialty?"

I'd guess cryptology, if this is the same Lieutenant Sy who wrote those files sitting in my 'office.'
Gatac 2016-10-03 10:23:10
"Numbers," Sy answers. "But I've picked up a thing or two about other kinds of weapons since I joined Tech." He cranes his head around towards the SUV. "Mr. Weathers over there helped me pull together a little care package. Nothing too wild, but it ought to cover your bases. Anybody want the tour?"
Gatac 2016-10-03 13:06:51
Tim's got a way with dogs, and Lucy is hardly immune to his charms, earning herself a few belly rubs as "Mr. Weathers" wheels up a hardcase.

"Gentlemen," he says, by way of introduction, then sets down the hardcase and cracks it open.

"Colt Canada C8s," Sy begins, pointing to a stack of carbines. "Basically M4s, but somewhat easier to source without going through government channels. Bonus points for the Coyote Tan furniture we got for desert use - they're looking pretty much like what the Dutch Army and KMar are packing, if that helps." He proceeds to a stack of pistols. "Glock 19, with mini red dots. The optic comes off if you still prefer iron sights, but if you haven't tried a red dot I highly recommend them - I picked up 7 points on my pistol qual first time. We've also prepared some first aid supplies, optical and electronic surveillance gear, and a pretty nice demo kit if I do say so myself. Entry charges, detcord, mouseholing gear...where'd we get all those explosives, Mr. Weathers?"

Mr. Weathers shrugs.

"Moving on," Sy says. "I don't need to tell you guys that this stuff draws attention. No way to legally carry anything that goes bang. If you're going to move in circles where you might have to lose a piece, you'll be better served with these." He pulls aside some canvas to expose old-school steel. "Civilian Hi-Power, non-sequential serial numbers, last seen in the mid-80s on paperwork as target shooting pistols back when West Germany was still a thing. Rest assured nobody's gonna be asking too many questions if they turn up at a random crime scene in the EU. And hey, they still run great."

Mr. Weathers holds up a briefcase.

"Fake IDs, some cash, some safehouse keys and city guides," Sy concludes. "Before you complain, the IDs ought to be good at a glance but frankly we didn't have the time to whip up anything particularly good. Even if we did, we don't have an 'in' on the Dutch network. The drawbacks of Europe...national, centralized ID is a thing there. And it'd raise too many questions if we had physically perfect fakes that don't scan as valid."

"Okay, let's get all everything loaded up," Sy says. "Two of you help Mr. Weathers, and I wouldn't mind somebody helping me up the stairs, either."
"They authorized you coming with us?" Operations asks.
"No, but who's listening to 'them'?" Sy asks. "You have final action authority, right?"
"I do," Operations says, smirking.
"And if I read your dossiers right, you could use someone who can help you decrypt a certain sensitive item," Sy says.
"Oh, now you're a hacker, too?" Operations asks.
"I'd rate myself more as a script kiddie," Sy says, "but it'll have to do, for now."
Gatac 2016-10-04 12:53:10
"HVT?" Mr. Weathers asks, freezing Sy's...roll towards the plane.
"Coming with us," Operations replies. "I don't feel comfortable handing him over until there's a an actual deal in place."
"I don't give a shit about your comfort," Mr. Weathers says. "Orders."
"I don't give a shit about your orders," Operations replies coolly. "Wildcard."

Mr. Weathers sweeps his eyes across the team.

"Fine," Mr. Weathers says. That's all the goodbye he needs, as he turns around, climbs into the SUV and reverses it onto the tarmac before racing off again.

"Yeah, he's a charmer," Sy adds.
"We've got bigger problems," Operations sighs. "We put in a work order for black bag gear and you come out with C4. I was hoping for something more...subtle."
"Mr. Weathers isn't good at subtle," Sy says. He twists around in his chair to get at a black backpack hanging over the rear of the seat, retrieving a cordless drill - whirrrrrrrr -, a small leather case and and a perspex box of pliers, wire cutters and indeterminate pieces of peculiarly-shaped metal. "Who are we robbing?"
"Edil Varayev," Operations says.

Sy whistles appreciatively.
MikeS 2016-10-09 14:34:05
Luc kept his hands busy with one of the Gitanes during the meeting.

He didn't particularly like dogs. He liked even less that there was an addition to the team that Operations had apparently not planned for, and may have a blind spot for. He would keep an eye on Sy as the mission progressed.

The runway was scorching hot, but at least it didn't have the ghetto smell that Luc had to deal with perpetually in the last six months. He walked around a bit and stretched his legs. There would be plenty of sitting later.

Who did he know in the Netherlands? Pierre might be there. Not the most reliable character, but he'd have to do.