IC 4 - Hamburg - Day 1

Gatac 2018-04-05 01:45:26
"It's tough either way," Operations weighs in. "Going in yourselves puts a lot on your plate. In my experience, the biggest problem isn't getting on the guest list, it's getting rid of the real deal in the process. That's gonna have fallout. If we're smart about it, that fallout can point to RoI, but it's a point to consider. Also, it's exposure for your biometrics. Last I checked you only get one face and one set of fingerprints each. If you go in, you'll need to make sure there's no useful evidence of your presence left in the aftermath. That could get complicated. So, Tim's not wrong about subverting someone who's already in there. Done right, that can minimize our exposure. The problem with that is going to be finding the right person on any kind of schedule. Anyone at K-Group with access to the vault has undergone a background investigation. If we had time, we could run a long-term seduction and create leverage, but if we're going to get this done in a few days we'll need to dig up a skeleton that's already in someone's closet. And Mason's got a point about the fingerprint. Sophisticated B&E is criminal. Subverted insider says 'intelligence work' - unless we're very careful." She looks around. "Either way, boys, we need a hell of a lot more intel."
Gatac 2018-04-06 15:08:10
"I'll pay a visit to the Imam, have a talk with him," Mason says. "I could use an opportunity to work on my Arabic."
Gatac 2018-04-18 12:07:26
"Yes, you could," Laith replies to Mason with a smirk.
"Keep it low profile," Operations adds. "Okay, everyone else, let's dig into our other open issues. Any other go-getters or do I get to do assignments?"


The drive to Imam Hanania's house is uneventuful, as Mason has already missed the worst of the evening commute. And it's a nice house, Mason notes as he walks up to the little earthtone villa. It's surrounded - though not too closely - by other nice houses, out here in the little subdevelopment. Outside of Hamburg's bustle, but not too far from the A7 into town. It's the kind of neighborhood where you drive over two speedbumps to get into it, with brick sidewalks and about a 50:50 spread between people spending way too much time on their lawns and people who pay professionals to spend way too much time on their lawns. When Mason walks up to the front door, he can hear the muffled sound of explosions from a cranked-up surround system. Sounds like Hanania's watching an action movie tonight. Wouldn't be the first time Mason walked into a gun fight - or the aftermath of one - covered up by such a thing. He resists the urge to check to make sure his sidearm is still there before pressing the button on the doorbell/camera.

The sounds from inside don't abate - Hanania's probably seen the movie before - but Mason does hear footsteps inside after a few seconds. Then the intercom buzzes on as the panel lights up. "Hello, good evening?" a male voice asks in slightly accented German. "Can I help you?"

(Mason uses Blake's background research on Hanania's financial backers!)

"His Excellency Prince Khoury sent me," Mason replies in his own German.
"Oh!" the voice replies, switching to Najdi Arabic. "Just one moment, please." Mason notes some frantic steps from inside, then the sound of the movie is killed, then a good few seconds of something - probably tidying up - then the steps return to the door. Hanania all but rips open the door and steps aside to usher Mason inside. "Peace be with you," Hanania says - with that slight Riyadh inflection, if Mason's not mistaken. "How was your trip? I hope you and your family are well. Please come inside and make yourself at home." It's all the standard pleasantries rattled off in a hurry before Hanania seems to actually get to the not-formalities. "Can I offer you anything? Water? Tea?"

(Mason uses Languages!)

"Peace be upon you as well," Mason replies, matching his shift to Arabic and vernacular. "And water would be fine, thank you." He calmly steps through the door and lets Hanania close it behind him. "How goes your flock, Imam?"
"It's...good," Hanania says, closing the door behind Mason. The inside of the villa has that German upper middle-class swank from what Mason surmises were the previous owners; Hanania's own sense of decoration seems to be limited to his choice of consumer electronics. 60 inch OLED TV, a gaggle of consoles underneath and a rack of shootmans games. Not bad. Hanania continues the conversation from the walk-in kitchen attached to the living room. "There are many young souls who seek our guidance on the path to Allah. Many young souls. You should come see them!" Mason's getting the distinct impression that there's a reason Hanania thinks Mason is here, and it's not to simply inquire after the faithful.
"Is that wise?" Mason asks.
"...no," Hanania says. "No, of course, I understand that His Excellency wishes for discretion. Forgive me, I spoke in haste." He takes a breath. "So...I assume you have the answer to my request? As His Excellency is certainly aware, three million Euros could fund a sizable outreach program. I do not wish to presume, but I do think it's the most effective way to grow the community." Mason can all but hear the scare quotes around 'outreach program'. Of all the places those three million bucks could go, the mosque wouldn't even break the top ten.
"I am here to be the judge of that," Mason replies. "His Excellency wishes for me to review the details of this outreach program, to see if I can provide guidance."
"Um," Hanania says. "Yes, the...details. Of course." He hesitates for a moment. "Of course I do not keep anything printed or on my computer here. In fact I have tried not to become too entangled in it at all." He fakes a chuckle. "I am an imam preaching in Germany, after all. You never know when the cops come knocking!" Seeing that Mason isn't in on that joke, Hanania quickly returns to a more sober expression. "But I could arrange a meeting between you and the officers I've picked. They can tell you everything you desire to know." Mason's getting the distinct impression that Hanania's stalling, dog-ate-my-homework style. Is there even a plan? Or is Hanania just trying to fleece his patron?
"If you are not entangled in your own plans, then I must ask what you are entangled with," Mason replies.
"I am the face of the community, of course," Hanania says, sounding a bit more confident at that. "His Excellency does wish for some distance between our public efforts and our outreach, does he not?"
"He does, but he did not send me here to discuss the former," Mason says.
"Then I will put you in contact with the officers and you can sort out everything with them," Hanania says, sounding like he thinks he's won this argument. "Surely they will convince you as they have convinced me that this would be money well spent." He smiles. "When the Germans are outraged and Sulemani is not longer around to mislead them, the faithful will fill our house and heed our sermons." He smiles. "I will just, um, need to talk to them first."
Mason slides a clean burner out of his suit pocket, loaded with just the number for his other burner. "Let me know."
"Of course," Hanania says. He takes the burner, then hesitates. "I...I am afraid I did not catch your name, brother. Whom shall I announce to them?"
Mason thinks back to the drive and the ads plastered over Hamburg. Seems like Ze Germans are still way into Blacklist. "Mr. Spader," Mason says.
"...I will convey that," Hanania says, recognizing the fakeness of the name but knowing better than to question it. "And after you have discussed this issue, you will make a...recommendation to His Excellency?"
"I will," Mason replies. "In the meantime, I hope you know better than to go behind my back to His Excellency. He entrusted me with this responsibility, and it is my duty to discharge it."
"Of course," Hanania says, bowing to Mason. "I am but his humble servant. Whatever you need I shall do my best to provide."
"And I thank you for your hospitality," Mason replies, finishing his glass of water. "Good night, Imam."
"Good night...Mr. Spader," Hanania says. "Allah is great."
"Allah watch over you," Mason replies, and takes his leave.


About three minutes into his drive back into town, Mason picks up on a sedan that seems to be following him - keeping its distance, sure, but Mason's gut tells him he has a tail and that gut is rarely wrong. Mason waits for a nice little two-story office building to appear in the distance, flashes his blinkers, and pulls into the parking lot after giving plenty of signal time to let the tail know where he's going. As Mason blinks, the sedan very briefly flashes Blaulicht blue strobe from behind its grille and slowly follows Mason's turn. Mason slides his sidearm into the glovebox as he parks, and gets out of the car as the...whoever they are do the same, giving his coat a courtesy lift.

Out of the car steps a 40-something Afro-German man with beard and a shaved head. He nods to Mason's display of "I'm not resisting" and approaches slowly. With careful telegraphed motions, he opens his leather jacket and retrieves a little leather pouch from it. The clear plastic front shows his German Federal Police ID - it reads Kriminalhauptkommissar Elias Senai. "Good evening, Sir," he says in German. "May I see your license and registration, please?"
"Of course, Hauptkommisar," Mason replies in German, producing his most recent ID, with his picture and the name "August Bosch" next to it.
Senai takes the ID and looks it over, but it's obvious to Mason that he's just pretending to read it all, for the sake of appearances. "That seems to be in order, Herr Bosch," Senai says, returning the ID. " He produces a business card from his leather pouch - just a phone number printed on it, no other info. "Please tell your boss to call my boss as soon as possible - and before you...take any further steps. We would really appreciate that."
"I'm sure you would," Mason replies, looking the card over. "Are you aware why we are here?"
"No, therefore I'm stopping you," Senai says. "Your colleagues usually have the courtesy of calling ahead."
"My colleagues usually have time for such things," Mason replies. "We're moving fast on this one. In fact..."
Mason pulls out yet another burner and texts the cleanest number Operations gave them. BfV made contact. Up for a chat?

Seconds later, the phone buzzes back. Prefer face-to-face. Text me the number, I'll work it out.

Mason replies with the number and hands the card back. "My people will talk to your people. In the meantime, here's something for free - the Imam is planning something big soon, something against Sulemani."
Senai nods. "Yes, and I am quite impressed that you have already zeroed in on that after half a day in the city," he says. "However, it would surprise me if you flew all the way here to handle that." He holds up a hand. "I don't need to know what you're after. That is above our paygrades, is it not? I'm only interested in keeping things quiet and orderly around here. If we can work together to accomplish that, I would very much like that."
"We didn't fly all the way here to stop in with the Imam," Mason replies. "I'm telling you this because I'm going to need space to work him, and to let you know that the odds are good things are going to get interesting in Hamburg pretty soon."
"I appreciate the information," Senai says, then checks his watch. "I will let you be on your way, then. I have some chores to take care of myself."
"I can imagine," Mason replies. "Good night, Hauptkommisar."
"Good night, Herr Bosch," Senai says. With a final nod, he gets back to his car, climbs in and drives off into the dark.

Mason watches the agent drive off before getting back into his car. Hopefully the agent heeds his warning and gives him enough space to work - and enough trust that they can pull off what they came here to do.
skullandscythe 2018-04-18 14:56:43
"Well, there's one big thing we need to know before we even get inside," Blake pipes up. "Where the damn files are. You game, Laith?"
Laith nods. "Let's mosey."

(Blake uses a spend of Data Recovery to assist Laith)

Off in what quickly becomes their corner of the room, populated by keyboard staccato and the remains of currywurst to go, Laith and Blake use the data they gleaned from Varajev's call and compare with what they find slicing into K-Group's directory. It takes them a while to whittle the potential accounts down, but they do manage to populate a list of one: a Stefan Baader. A web search reveals that's a real guy, a 50-something intellectual property lawyer from Hannover, but even a cursory probe shows he's got no connection to RoI other than that they probably jacked his identity for this.

The drive "Stefan's" data is hiding in is spinning in Row 7, Rack 13. However, Blake stumbles across some concerning lines in the call logs - stuff he and Laith thought was junk data before, but fresh eyes and German fast food make out some weird handshake protocols that were missed before. It seems RoI added additional layers of encryption. It's likely they have a second account in the vault where the key is stored, but currently the script kiddies can't trace it from the data they have - someone'll need to hack into the system proper for that and run sophisticated traffic analysis to see which data stores are accessed simultaneously for anyone accessing the target drive.

HOWEVER, Blake is quite sure that's the only copy of the data in the vault. Nab it, nobody has it even if you can't decrypt it yourselves quite yet.
Gatac 2018-04-19 14:46:52
With Blake and Laith in the middle of their data recovery, there's a subtle buzz in the room as Operations's phone vibrates with a message from Mason. Texts fly back and forth, then she looks around the room.

"Barstow, you've got a meeting tomorrow, I'm sure you have some homework to do," she says. "Luc, come with me. We need to go on a little drive."

Well, what's Luc to do but nod? The two of them leave.


About a ten minute drive in a car of unknown provenance later, Operations indicates a little side road for Luc to pull into. "There," she says. As Luc rolls the car to a stop, Operations cranes her head around, trying to check all the mirrors.

"What is ve matter?" Luc asks her. "We were not followed. I am certain."
"See any good perches for snipers?" Operations asks.
"A few, but none wiv a sniper," Luc opines. "Vis is a meeting, and you are worried, non?"
Operations answers him with a sigh. "Tell me what you know about Section 9."
"Vat has no meaning to me," Luc says.
"You sure?" Operations drills down.
"Why do you ask?"

Another sigh.

"Two reasons you're in this car with me right now," Operations says. "One, you're European."
"Français," Luc insists.
"Not American, is what I'm getting at," Operations says. "I figured we'd be stalking around the continent sooner or later, and I figured someone like you might have a better lay of the land than other assets. So if you don't know who Section 9 is..."
"Vis seems to upset you," Luc muses. "Perhaps, you know not the answer yourself?"
Operations scoffs, but nods. "We were supposed to be the mysterious ones," she says. "I know it's not the BND, they know to stay out of our way. And I know it's not the BfV either - they've got too many eyes on them to risk working with us. Federal police doesn't have the resources."
"So I don't know and you don't know," Luc says. "Vat is the second reason I am in vis car?"
"Because I can see past your suit and your cigarettes," Operations says. "As the kids say, game recognize game. A shooter knows a shooter. Where did you serve before you went freelance? GIGN? RAID? Something like that, I'm sure. Now, there's a healthy selection from our armory in the trunk. If this goes sideways, I'm going to need someone to come in guns blazing and pull my fat out of the fire."
"You vink I am vis someone?" Luc asks.
"I hope you are," Operations says. "But I also hope it doesn't come to that. Keep your eyes peeled and be ready for a quick exit."


It's a dark alley, Operations notes. Wasn't supposed to be like this. Wasn't supposed to do things in the field. No longer cleared for kinetic work. But still...this felt too big to trust to anyone else. Operations always had a very squared-away relationship with trust. A little trust goes a long way...the less you use, the farther you'll go, in this line of work. Used to be that she walked herself into these kinds of traps with more regularity...more confidence. But you only have to be blown up once to be cured of that.

There's a parked car in the alley; Operations gets her hand up in time to avoid being blinded by the headlights turning on. Leave it to the Krauts to walk right into every old spy film cliche. "Can we stop messing around, please?" Operations says, squinting through the gaps between her fingers. "You wanted to talk to me, I'm here."

The light switches off, and out of the car climbs Elias Senai, looking a bit apologetic.

"Sorry about that," a woman says, getting out of the passenger seat. She doesn't sound a bit sorry, though. In a way, that suits Operations just fine. "You're the American team leader?" she asks.
"Something like that," Operations says. "Look. I know this is your turf, not mine, but I've had a few really stressful days and I am not in the mood for fuck-fuck games right now."
"...uh, what?" Elias asks.
"Who are you, who do you work for?" Operations says.
"You first," the woman says.
"I'm the woman who makes things happen, and I work for you know who," Operations replies coolly. "I'd show you my badge, but I left it in my other duffel bag."
"Funny," the German woman says. "How about we start with my badge, then?" She flips open a little leather pouch. "Mandy Wiesner," she says. "Europol, Section Nine."
"Never heard of it," Operations says.
"Then we're doing a good job," Wiesner says. "To be brief: our charter is to fight transnational organized crime and terrorism. I lead the Hamburg unit. We're not the biggest fish in the sea, but we have the necessary...latitude to be effective, nonetheless. I imagine your team has a similar mission statement?"
"I can neither confirm nor deny that," Operations says.
"That's good enough for me, anyway," Wiesner says. "I want our teams to meet tomorrow, go over the basics."
"Suppose I say 'no, I don't want to'," Operations says.
"Suppose I say 'Fuck you, do it anyway'," Wiesner volleys back.
"...so, you'll call tomorrow with the address?" Operations says.
"Ten AM sharp," Wiesner says. "Be ready."
"Will be."
"Tomorrow, then," Wiesner says. "Any allergies?"
"...excuse me?"
Wiesner rolls her eyes. "We're catering. Do you or anyone on your team have any food allergies we should know about?"
"No," Operations says. "But make sure it's halal."
"Sure," Wiesner says.

With a final nod, she turns around and gets back into the car. Elias follows her, then the car starts up and reverses out of the alley, leaving Operations all alone.

She takes a breath.

Gatac 2018-04-28 15:53:32
"Vis was not ve way you wanted it to go," Luc muses on the drive back. Getting no response from Operations, he shrugs. "It is not such a big setback, non? We worked with ve police in Amsterdam. We can work with ve police here."
"That was on our terms," Operations says. "I feel like..."
"Like I walked us straight into a trap," Operations says.
"Vraiment?" Luc says.
"Not the meeting," Operations says. "The whole mission. I should be used to this, I should be better at starting the race ten steps behind...but right now it feels like everyone's ahead of us." She buries her face in her hands as her breathing shallows out. "I can't lose this one. But I don't think I can win it."
"...I will make sure vere is no pursuer," Luc offers.

The rest of the drive happens in silence.


When Luc and Operations return to the safehouse, the sea chnge in Operations is obvious. Though you've only known her for a few days, she's gone to a lot of trouble to look bulletproof in front of you. The way she looks right now is anything but; "haunted" seems more apt. Before much of anything can be said, she pushes past you and locks herself in one of the empty offices.

"...the hell happened?" Laith asks.
"Of her condition, I am not certain," Luc says. "But we have been invited to lunch tomorrow. It is an invitation we must not decline." He looks to Mason. "Your new ami works for a department of Europol, it appears. A Section 9..."

(Tim uses Cop Talk!)

Section 9...that name does not fit into Europol's org chart at all.

"Veir badges looked real," Luc adds, noting Tim's skeptical look.
"So, we're all going?" Laith asks. "Like, hello, we're your new black ops neighbors?"
"Vat is the implication," Luc says.
"This is beyond reckless," Laith counters. "We already pushed it in Amsterdam with Hesselink and the other civilians. Last I checked, this was still technically a covert operation, so showing up for ham sandwiches and fingerprinting at the local constabulary is not high on my wish list."

After a minute, the door to the office opens and Operations walks back out. Her expression is carefully leveled out and there's a renewed pep in her stride; when she opens her mouth, it's clear things are back to business as usual.

"Listen up, boys," she says. "You've heard the news. We've got yet another group of players on the board, and they made it look like they're a step or two ahead of us, too. They want a face-to-face with all of us and they think this little field trip is going to be played by their rules. I appreciate that exactly as much as you do, but it is what it is right now. So, we show up. Nobody said anything about sharing intel. At minimum, we get the chance to take a look at their operation. Best case, we make some local allies, which we direly need."
"Still sounds shaky to me," Laith says.
"The only alternative is that we abort," Operations says. "And that's not an alternative I'm willing to entertain, given RoI's activities. If we're blown, we're blown. Rather here than elsewhere. We're going to the meet and then we'll take it from there. Questions?"
Gatac 2018-04-28 15:58:50
"Slightly hampered by not knowing where the party's going to be," Operations says. "They'll probably have us meet them at a neutral spot and then shuttle us to their place after a search of our gear. That's what I'd do. Still, if you have an idea, let's hear it."
punkey 2018-04-28 16:01:12
"There's enough space in one of those battery banks for C4 and a little detonator, and the aluminum case means they can't X-ray it," Mason points out.
Gatac 2018-04-28 16:05:54
"Rig one up, but keep it diversionary," Operations says. "I want people to still have all their fingers when the smoke settles."
Admiral Duck Sauce 2018-04-30 15:14:50
"We'll just roll with it," Tim offers. "They sound cool. Tell 'em whatever they want to hear and then do whatever we want anyway."
Gatac 2018-04-30 15:47:58
Barely half a day in Hamburg - it almost doesn't count - and you're already up to your necks in a new mess. Well, as they say, the only way out is through. And so the prepwork continues until you finally punch out and call it a night.


When the call from Mandy Wiesner comes at 10 AM the next day, you've barely had time to have a decent breakfast, but needs must when Europol drives. You show up at the appointed meeting place - a little plaza in front of St. Mary's Cathedral - where Elias Senai is waiting for you with a silver-colored van, probably not particularly happy with playing taxi driver for the lot of you. The lot of you being four field agents, Laith and Operations: Lucy's holding down the fort at the safehouse, and you're pretty sure Europol does not want to interrogate her.

It's a quiet drive through Hamburg's old city core towards the Elbe river, where you get a first-hand account of how much the old Hanse city is changing these days. It seems like everything is under construction, either renovating or outright replacing the old river port warehouses with what seems more abstract art than building. Elias takes the van through a well-shaded sliding gate into a building that looks like a glass-and-steel shell around an old red-brick Speicher. Inside, the building seems gutted of its old floors and still half under construction, with cars and other heavier gear just placed wherever there was room; however, in the center, a three-story pillar made from brand-new "container" offices and steel staircases rises. So, essentially, it's the architectural equivalent of a seven-layer bean dip, giving Section 9 an entirely too big HQ with entirely too little usable space. But hey, that'll probably get sorted when they finish building the damn thing in a few years, right?

"Please, step inside," Elias tells you.


Well, the good news is, it's not quite as cramped as it looked from outside, though mostly because someone was fairly smart about having a central multifunction "lobby" for various occasions, and it's certainly big enough to seat a dozen people in between a cooking niche - Elias pushes past you and grabs an apron to relieve another young man, who does look suitably relieved at not having to breathe in spice fumes from the chickpea stew being prepared.

"...hello!" the young man says, seemingly taking a moment to decide whether to go ahead and shake your hands when Wiesner barges in.

"Ah, good, you're here," she says, walking around to give short, sharp handshakes to everyone. "Most of you haven't met me yet. Mandy Wiesner, AiC. You've met our precision driver Elias Senai" - Elias nods to you while giving his shiro wat a final seasoning pass - "and this is our physical access specialist, Xavier Rhyner."
"Yeah, that's me," Xavier says, doing the shake-hands thing with a firm, but not unpleasant grip. Calloused fingers, too; that job description probably includes a whole lot of hanging from ledges by his fingertips and other advanced traceur-isms.
Then Wiesner turns away from you and shouts "We also have a security consultant!"
"One minute!" a woman shouts back from above. Wiesner turns to Operations and gives her an eyeroll that's probably meant as a "Ugh agents amirite" sympathy fishing expedition.
Operations doesn't bite, though. "So, we're here," she says. "What now?"
"We have a bite to eat," Wiesner says, then turns around and shouts again. "As soon as we're all here!"
"Coming!" the other woman shouts back; the ceiling reverberates as somebody upstairs starts moving.
"Drinks?" Wiesner asks. "We have Coke, Sprite, Fanta, Alster, beer...several kinds of beer, but don't ask me, I don't touch the stuff -"
"I think we'll stick with water," Operations says.
"Carbonated?" Wiesner asks.
"Tap," Operations shoots back.
"Suit yourselves," Wiesner says. "Xavi, if you could get our guests some tap water..."
"Yeah!" Xavier replies, then goes about squeezing past Elias to fetch glasses from the kitchenette.

As he does so, the woman from upstairs enters the lobby, rocking that Sinead O'Connor look for all it's worth. Wedged under her left arm is a laptop.

"Jadwiga Kozlowski," Wiesner says. "So, that's us."
"Hey," Jadwiga says, raising her free hand in lieu of going around for handshakes. Before Wiesner can stop her, she plops the laptop open on the table and scoots into one of the folding chairs to resume work.
"Jadwiga, we have guests," Wiesner reminds her.
"Hm," Jadwiga replies. "Sorry, raid's running long."
"...you're in a raid?" Laith pipes up. "Like, WoW?"
"Right now?"
"Was supposed to be done seven minutes ago," Jadwiga comments, not looking up. "You'd think Al Queda would be better at taking down big fat dragons. But they all want to be deeps. Only so much I can do to keep them buffed."
"...Jadwiga's current assignment is penetrating terrorist social networks, you see," Wiesner comments. "But that's talk for after food, isn't it?" She turns to Elias. "Are we ready to serve?"
"Yes," Elias replies.
"Okay!" Wiesner says, exhaling after that. "We'll do your introductions in a moment. Please, everyone, take a seat."
punkey 2018-04-30 15:53:05
Mason takes a seat. It's a learned skill to be able to sit both defensively and look nonchalant while you do it, the kind of "yeah whatever" look that says you're confident - maybe even a little bit cocky - not that you're inexperienced and trying to fake it. Mason, fortunately, is old enough to have it down pat.
skullandscythe 2018-05-01 11:28:20
Blake sits, propping his face against his fist. He's waiting for the posturing to end, and afraid that posturing is the only reason they were brought here.
Gatac 2018-06-26 17:46:01
"And here I thought Americans can't shut up," Wiesner comments dryly. "I see we have to put some more cards on the table. Jadwiga?"
"Your flight came in from the UK, but traffic analysis shows it started the hop in Amsterdam and changed transponder codes on the stopover," Jadwiga comments, not even pretending to check her notes as she buffs the defense of a few more of her terrorist guildmates. "Go back a few more days, I've got you coming in via Oman and Turkey from Delhi. And before that -"
"The point is," Wiesner cuts in, "when we know what to look for, we can find it. Both Delhi and Amsterdam suffered terrorist attacks. Delhi succeeded. Amsterdam fizzled. And that's despite the use of much more matériel and personnel on the attacker's side. Which, I'm sad to say, completely went under Europol's radar."
"Because we didn't know what we were looking for," Elias adds.
"Exactly." Wiesner clears her throat. "Xavi, the presentation?"
"Yes!" Xavier says, quickly wiping his sauce-smeared mouth with a napkin and then jumping up.
Jadwiga holds out a small black remote for him to grab. At Xavier's touch, a large flatscreen TV in the back comes to life, showing the first of many pictures of the warehouse in Amsterdam that had a little...unscheduled demolition work done. The watermarks on the images confirm they're official crime scene photos from KMar and Amsterdam PD's investigation, forwarded to Europol via the appropriate channels.
"This was a tank," Xavier says. "Now it's garbage."
"Chinese-made garbage," Wiesner adds. "Designed to look Russian, though."
Xavi clicks through the slides to "Russell"'s report. The name on it has been censored, naturally. "A massive siege on an apartment complex!" he adds. Pictures of shot-up hallways at Leeuwentoren, some dead civilians covered with tarp, mugshots of the four American gunmen - and grainy surveillance of another focused detonation at the exterior wall of the holding complex, followed by the team being exfiltrated by yet more armed men through liberal use of smoke grenades and automatic suppressive fire. "And then they escaped again - the Dutch kept that one out of the press," Xavier adds. "Friends of yours?"
"Not a nice thing to say, Xavi," Wiesner says. "Especially since we have a witness who places you on the side of the angels during all this."
Next slide: Constable Hesselink's file photo. "She didn't give up many details," Xavier says, "but we're pretty sure she knew what she was getting into, working with you."
"My boss had a little chat with her boss," Wiesner says. "They went easy on her. Medal, promotion to a desk job in an anti-terror task force, maybe a book deal in a year or so. The Dutch need a hero."
"Especially after the attack on the royal family!" Xavier says. More crime scene photos, including the dead terrorists, a mugshot of the arrested collaborator and pictures of the explosive devices, with the missing control boards highlighted.
"We can account for you guys there," Wiesner says. More surveillance pictures, this time of the disguised team inside the palace. "Now this," she says as Xavier brings up an unfortunate angle on deSilva(?) at the palace, "this looks like a friend of yours. Care to comment?"
"We really don't know who she is," Operations says, finally breaking her silence.
"I thought the line went 'I cannot recall any details'," Wiesner shoots back.
"About everything else, sure," Operations says. "About her...we really don't know." She smiles. "That's a card on the table, isn't it?"
"I'll take it," Wiesner says. "What I can't take is that I can figure out your moves but even after an all-nighter of searching for suspicious travel patterns, I'm still in the dark about who the hell the bad guys are. So. I think it's fair to say that whoever they are, they're well-trained, well-financed and completely off the grid. And then there's your group, the Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles. You try to follow them and keep them in check. Did I get that right?"
"Ninja Turtles, actually," Laith weighs in.
"Goddammit," Wiesner snarls. "This isn't a joke. All I know right now is that you guys are here for a reason. Now you either get straight with me or I'm detaining you until I can sort out who you're supposed to be with You-Know-Who. I'm pretty sure we all have better things to do. And last I checked, we're still allies in the Global War on Terror. So, you don't just come to my neighborhood and shoot bad guys. You tell me what's going on and get my help. What's it going to be?"

Mason says nothing, does nothing. Not his Indians, not his call.
"Look, she already decided before you said word one," Tim explains. "You were already part of the plan."
"Exactly," Operations says. "We did show up."
"Already counted in your favor," Wiesner replies.
"Laith," Operations says, "read them in on the enemy."
"Just gonna drop my name, huh?" Laith replies.
"You're the cheapest card to put down right now," Operations says. "No offense."
"Some taken," Laith says, then turns to Jadwiga. "Do you mind if I use one of your laptops?"
"Sure," Jadwiga says. "Give me a moment to spin up a new VM."

And then Laith lays it down: what you know about RoI and Fractal, their methods and equipment, the other "interested parties" such as the MSS...even the Cliff's Notes take a while to run down. Elias seems to be trying to soak up everything while Xavier just looks more and more unsettled. Jadwiga's more focused on the raid, though she does look up from time to time and apparently runs some queries against Europol's database on particular persons of interest. Wiesner, however, remains impassive through the whole thing. You can't help but think that she and Operations are way too similar to each other to ever become friends.
"And that brings us to where we are now," Laith says. "My colleague was investigating the possible threat to Mr. Sulemani when you made contact with us."
"But your primary objective is the Black Vault?" Wiesner weighs in. "You've got your work cut out for you."
"If you get in, send pics," Jadwiga weighs in.
"Boss," Elias says, "I realize we're talking about an immediate crisis, but...we can't just sit here and let our guests commit a break-in at a secure facility. We should do this right."
"We can't risk destruction of the data," Laith weighs in. "If they see us or you coming, that harddrive is toast and our trail will go cold."
"Do you know what's on it?" Wiesner asks.
"No," Operations says. "But considering what we found on the laptop..."
"2 Terabytes of Armageddon," Jadwiga speculates.

Wiesner draws a deep breath.

"We're a law enforcement agency," Wiesner says. "Whatever special consideration we've been granted both by Europol and our host agency, we can't be party to breaking and entering. I don't think it's productive to work at odds, though, so how about we forget that and focus on the Sulemani situation."
Elias grunts.
"You're not happy," Wiesner says.
"No, I'm not," Elias says, leveling eyes on Operations. "Laws that get broken in emergencies soon get broken for convenience. When my grandparents came here, this country had just learned that lesson."
"On an ethical level, I 100% agree with you," Wiesner says. Xavier nods along, too. "On a practical level...if nobody gets hurt, I think I can live with it." She looks around. "Is that acceptable?"
"We can't promise nobody will get hurt," Operations says.
"Well aware," Wiesner says. "And I'm saying, if somebody is, we'll have to come after you."
"Fair enough," Operations says.
Elias grumbles, but says nothing more.
"So," Wiesner continues, "the Sulemani problem. I don't need to tell you that we're dealing with a very volatile situation. Especially with regards to the Pre-Seven Summit."
"...the what now?" Xavier asks.
"Morning briefing, Xavi," Jadwiga says.
"Nobody reads these!" Xavier protests.
"Everybody reads these," Jadwiga says.
"Except Xavi," Elias says.
"Including Xavi, starting immediately," Wiesner says. "Every time we have a G8 or G7 summit in town, the streets go crazy. The security strategy this year is...unorthodox. Basically, representatives are already in town with low-key security details and will be having an informal meeting tomorrow to hash out policy drafts with some peace and quiet. The actual, publicly announced summit later this year will be...well, theater, mostly."
"And you think RoI knows about it?" Laith asks.
"Well, considering you spent half an hour describing them as the big bad wolf even the CIA is afraid of, I wouldn't bet against it," Wiesner comments. "Killing Sulemani would get a lot of people on the street. And there's the disadvantage of the Pre-Seven idea...regular police is not prepared to deal with large-scale unrest right now. That would be exactly the kind of chaos they could use to draw away police resources from protecting the secret summit."
"Plus, you know...murdering a man," Laith adds.
"I'm aware," Wiesner says. "Don't get me wrong, even if all they do is kill Sulemani, it'll still be a ghastly crime and I won't stand for letting it happen. But I am saying that if we're considering worst cases, we need to be thinking bigger than just one death."
"Then just get them out of town," Mason says. "We send word of a threat back to Washington, you alert half of the others at this little party, and they relocate to Lake Geneva just as secretly as they got here. Easy."
"I don't like saying it, but that's a step or two above my pay grade," Wiesner says. "I can run it up the chain, but we don't have a concrete threat to the dignitaries themselves yet. Right now, it's just a bad feeling...that said, if you're willing to work with us, we'll stand a better chance of figuring out the plan and reacting accordingly."
Mason looks at the papers on the table. "Is this the morning briefing?" he asks.

Elias gives him a look. After a nod from Wiesner, he slides a briefing package over to Mason.

"Now I know why you didn't read it, Xavi," Jadwiga says. "You were too busy not cleaning up."
"Hey!" Xavier pouts.
"Settle down, kids," Wiesner says. "Anything strike you as relevant...Raphael?"

Mason looks over the top sheet, the bit with the info about the summit - the highlighted hotspots are all on the western side of the city. Mason pulls out his cell phone and opens a hotel booking site - sort by 5 Stars, west side of the city...
"Is that secure?" Xavier asks, trying to regain some footing in the discussion.
"Nothing's secure," Jadwiga says, not looking up from her screen.
Grand Elysée, top of the list. Perfect. Mason punches the number into his cheapest burner and hits dial.
"Grand Elysée Hamburg," a pleasant male voice answers in German. "What can I do for you?"
"I know you are harboring the capitalist murderers that are killing our society," Mason replies in German. "You and your decadent bourgeois snake pit will burn along with them. You have been warned." He disconnects the call and snaps the burner in half. "There, now you have a real threat to act on."

Xavier laughs.

"Very droll," Wiesner replies. "And what shall I tell my boss when they trace the call to this location?"
"Call must have come from the sewers below," Jadwiga says.
"Taped two cell phones together as a relay," Mason adds.
"Any other problems we can solve for you?" Operations asks. Her expression is as close to smug as you've seen her so far.
Wiesner takes a breath. "Xavi, I think this lunch may have been a bit spicy," she says. "Would you please fetch me an antacid?"
"...sure," Xavier says, then leaves to do just that.
Wiesner barely has time to lean back into her chair and run her hand over her face when a cellphone in her jacket goes off. "And would you excuse me," she says, standing up. "I have to take this." She heads out, too, leaving you alone with Elias and Jadwiga.
Gatac 2018-06-26 17:52:21
Blake takes in the conversations impassively (mostly; Mason's solution gets a moment's smile before he tries to put the poker face on again), trying to get a firmer read of the new faces as they talk and react to Laith and Mason, and especially that last bit regarding antacids. (BS detect, no spend) Assuming nothing sets off any mental alarms, Blake tries making some small talk with Elias, asking about his grandparents - where they came from, did they talk about what Germany was like back then?

Well, Blake's no medic, but he's pretty sure Wiesner's upset stomach stems from something other than the food. And while sending Xavier to get stuff might be Europol for "timeout, kiddo", Blake gets to thinking about how it is that they've got two people who scream cop - Wiesner and Elias - and then two who...don't. Is Xavier the civilian expert and Jadwiga the crook on work-release, or the other way around? Blake's pretty sure it's one or the other. That does speak to Section 9's unorthodox staffing policy, but on the other hand, it's pretty clear that these guys are law enforcement first, intelligence work second and direct action...possibly never. If they were the shooty type, after all, somebody might have heard of them before.

As for Elias, turns out his great-grandparents fought in the Second Italo-Ethiopian War, where they made good friends with some German "technical advisors" who came along with Germany's more overt support in terms of matériel. (This might be the first time Blake's ever heard of anyone considering a Nazi military intervention abroad a good thing.) While Ethiopia didn't precisely win that one, plans were made to visit Germany "after all this craziness". That turned out to take two more decades and a new generation, but finally Elias's grandfather and grandmother - already married by then - managed several long visits with the family friends. And then Elias's grandmother divorced his grandfather and took the kids to Germany and we won't get into the details here, but suffice it to say that by the time Elias was born in the late 70s, the family was German-Ethiopian for good. The view on Germany itself was always...divided, Elias admits. His grandparents were well aware of the Nazi regime, but also came to believe that the desire of postwar Germany to be better than that was genuine, and with the apparent failure of Haile Selassia's dream of a modern Ethiopia in the wake of the split with Eritrea, they coolly considered their chances for a good life to be higher abroad. Elias himself admits he wasn't always the most welcome sight among his "peers" at school, but that's the Afro-German story, isn't it? There's a subtle but clear undercurrent of "At least I didn't grow up African-American" in his words as he regards Blake with a kind of...odd pity.

There's a brief moment in the conversation with Senai as the subtext carries over, when Blake blinks and his poker face falls - brows creased, eyes narrowed, nostrils flared. And then his more impassive expression flicks back into place, looking interested in Elias' discussion and responding without any tightness or clipped speech. Blake doesn't talk about his experience as a black man living in America or elsewhere - it's clear Elias has his opinions, and as far as Blake is concerned, he can damn well keep them. He keeps the questions more on Elias' background and perspective, and Blake is still interested, at least a little.


Posted to Sydney Barstow's tumblr:
get crazy #djentledudes were in munich tonight

were not drunk yet because we are LADIES and RESPECTABLE and also EVERY damn biergarten is packed #munichsummer

plus shit is crazy expensive were four to a hotel room and trying to save some money for a bar crawl tonight #alcholismonabudget

but for serious my dudes there is some good grub here even if you never sit down in a restaurant, we basically hit a bakery first thing everywhere we went #pretzelsgotmelikewoah

Missy saw another doctor today for her ankle and that dude was super serious but gave her some injection and she felt a ton better! mad props to @herrdoktor

so Missy will be playing tonight with her left foot on the kick drum pedal and ALL THE ICE on her right ankle #icetoseeyou

also #fulldisclosure monique is a LYING LIAR WHO LIES! we specifically let a BASSIST into our band on the understanding that she had to speak impeccable foreign languages and monique TOLD us she SPOKE ALL THE FOREIGN LANGUAGES because she was a SERIOUS bassist! yet here we are at the main station trying to get our tickets and seat reservations to hamburg in ENGLISH like were TOURISTS and not a SERIOUS BAND WITH A SERIOUS BASSIST #notmadjustdisappointed

(Obviously staged photo of the band at a train station with everyone pointing fingers at a frowning Monique.)

monique has confessed her sins to us and to repent she has promised to play 2000% BASS tonight for our german fans! #thatsbassistdude

also apparently well be on the ICE 4290 whatever that means leaving at 0046 hours from munich main station tonight so if any of your crazy #djentledudes are following us to hamburg and wanna hang out with us and watch us sleep off our delirium, i hear there are still tickets for the #trainofrawk

keep screaming!!!

syd the sorceress


"I gotta get Train of Rawk tickets", Tim thinks to himself, trying to figure out if the puzzle pieces fit together to make a picture where he can drop in on Syd. Ill-advised? Sure, but how often did this kind of thing come together?

While Blake pumps Elias for background and Tim checks his phone, Mason notices that Jadwiga's raid is over, to tell from her glancing at Luc, typing some stuff on her laptop and then repeating that action a few more times. Without further words, she nods to Luc, who looks to Operations, and then all three of them leave the room.

They don't stay gone for long. By the time Xavier returns, everyone else comes back in as well. Blake notes that Xavier hands Wiesner a foil-packed antacid, but she just pockets it.

"We've come to an agreement," Operations announces. "Turns out Luc here has just volunteered to stay behind as liason" - i.e. hostage - "while we pursue our objectives. In return, Section 9 will provide assistance as needed. Incidentally, we are going to need assistance."
"Show them, Jadwiga," Wiesner orders.
"This just popped on social media a couple of minutes ago," Jadwiga says as she throws a browser window up on the wall screen. It's a shaky YouTube video of several limousines and SUVs departing the Grand Elysée hotel while lots of men with sunglasses and suits stand guard around them. It's titled Secret Summit! G7 in Hamburg! in German. "Trending on Twitter thanks to bots," Jadwiga says, switching to a different tab. The tweet reads "BREAKING: covert G7 meeting filmed! They didn't want you to know! #behindyourbacks #globalists" with a link to the video.
"Looks like they had a Plan B," Wiesner comments dryly.
"Eh, more like a Plan L at best," Jadwiga comments. "No actual video of any of the delegates because they got there too late to catch them getting into the cars. If they hadn't already known about the hotel, they would have had nothing now."
"The good news is," Wiesner says, "the threat to the delegates is all but over. They're only a few minutes out from the airport with a police escort." She looks to Mason. "So, thank you for that. They're not going to Lake Geneva, by the way." She frowns. "The bad news is that this leaked at all. Clearly the summit was already compromised. We just scuttled the cockroaches. Elias, Xavier, get to the hotel and start canvassing. I want the grounds and the staff on duty checked out. Jadwiga, you're on cameras. Find me the vantage point that video was taken from and get me eyes on whoever shot it. You guys" - her look sweeps the room - "follow up on your leads. We'll let you know if we turn up anything, I expect you'll let us know about anything you dig up. Questions?"
"Plenty," Laith says, sounding not entirely satisfied with the arrangements.
"There'll be time to sort the details out later," Operations says. "You know your job, boys. Get on it."

While Operations's look sweeps the room, one of Mason's burners buzzes with a message in Arabic. Mr Spader a meeting has been arranged to inspect our preparations, Meet us at Elbtunnel in one hour, Allahu akbar.
Mason taps out a quick reply. I will be there. Insha'Allah.
The phone buzzes with a noncommittal confirmation. "Anything you want to share with the class?" Operations asks.
"Contact from Imam Hanania's people about their plans, and probably how they've changed recently," Mason replies. "Elbtunnel, one hour."
"Pretty good," Wiesner comments. "Metal detector at the entrance, no cell reception in the tunnel."
"Laith can pick you up on the other side," Operations suggests.
"I'll handle that myself," Wiesner comments.
"And how do you plan on doing that?" Mason asks.
"I'll take the ferry, of course," Wiesner says.
Mason smiles politely. "That's not what I asked."
"If they're smart, they'll use the tourist crowd for a brush pass, keep you or anyone who's shadowing you from getting a good picture," Wiesner says. "If it's an actual meeting, they're probably just using the tunnel as an airlock to make sure you're not carrying and that nobody's following. They'll probably have transportation waiting on the other side. I'll make sure we don't lose that. Does that answer your question?"
"How far away will you be staying?" Mason asks. "How will you be picking me up?"
"Far away enough that they won't see me and you won't see me, either," Wiesner says. "Second-guessing me by rubbernecking is just going to endanger you. And I'll be picking you up however is convenient at the moment I'm sure nobody is watching you anymore. If you prefer to leave by yourself, that's fine. Doesn't mean I won't be watching you all the way home, though."
"And I suppose this is a non-negotiable babysitting?" Mason asks.
"It is," Wiesner confirms.

On Wiesner's return and the way she takes control, Blake arcs an eyebrow but otherwise has no questions. He's got recon to set up. Sec 9 will probably be watching him, too, so he'll need to keep an eye out, and maybe get Mason and Luc to run some assignments for him when they're free...hope the van's gassed up...

Tim gets up from the table. Claus-Wilhelm has a Zuhr to attend and he needs to look his best.
Gatac 2018-06-26 17:54:05
Blake departs the premises of Section 9's HQ on an agreeable enough note, albeit with another object lesson about assumptions. He gets the feeling that there might be more to Elias Senai if he cared to go digging - no deep dark secrets, maybe, though certainly layers - but for now, Blake's attention is firmly on K Group. Eyes on the prize, so to speak. It's time to get to work.

Job Nr. 1 is setting up a decent perch to overlook K Group's operations. The area around their glass box style offices is lousy with construction sites, old houses being remodeled for bigger apartments or stabilized against collapse. Blake's been on enough work sites to see which ones are actually being worked on and which are, well, a couple of alibi fences and signs intended to get the city off the owner's back while they continue not ponying up the dough to demolish it properly. Having picked one of those within sight of K Group HQ, Blake rolls out the whole surveillance package. A set of new locks for the temporary doors inside to ensure privacy and easier access going forward - wouldn't wanna be caught picking locks every time he has to go in and out -, some camping furniture, office supplies, a nice tripod and telephoto lens set for his camera body, plus black garbage bags and duct tape. Having picked a suitable third-floor room, Blake uses the bags and tape to fashion "curtains" for the windows, then further subdivides the room with more hanging plastic until he can move around inside and come and go without giving away any sign of movement to anyone looking at the building from the outside. Then the boring part, setting up a whiteboard, camera angles and dialing in the focus, starting to keep notes, tagging into the power lines and stealing some WiFi from a neighbor.

One thing Blake figures out pretty damn fast: they're running a lean, hi-tech operation over there. Despite four cars driving up to the gate in the first hour, only once does a security guy enter the picture, given away by a silver-grey tie and a big radio setting on his belt. No sign of foot patrols at ground level, either, but plenty of cameras, and Blake's zoomed-in shots of the interior show what looks like buried sensors and magnetic detection loops cut into the pavement. When the guard gets out to help another car get through the gates, Blake focuses on taking more photos of him. This is not the schlubby rent-a-cop type - this dude looks more like a high-class bouncer graduated to owning his own club, with short-cropped hair and a strategically graying beard, plus the hint of a military tattoo on his forearm when he reaches for the driver's ID. So far, so high class, but what Blake can't get past is another detail - the guard looks checked-out. Like, not terse or angry, but like someone who's stopped showing up to work for anything but getting his timecard punched. Blake puts a pin in that observation, but there'll be time for analysis later - right now, he's got some raw footage to capture.