IC 6 - Hamburg - Day 3

skullandscythe 2018-12-14 13:45:28
Blake figures a closer examination is worthwhile, at least, though 'surgery' is not out of the question. He's also careful to take note of any eyes that might be on him right now, electronic or organic. There's at least one person Blake doesn't want knowing what we've learned...
Gatac 2018-12-15 13:19:12
(Blake uses Electronic Surveillance to locate a blind spot in the cameras and Architecture to divine how big the hidden spaces behind the panels are.)

Carefully wandering down the lower fork of the E, Blake flys casual until he's clear of the last camera. Sure, they've covered all doors and exits, but they haven't covered all the walls - including the ones with the weird niches. Blake puts the rooms together in his head as he kneels next to one and mashes it up against the elevator shaft plus structure, utilities...call it about a cubic meter, then, for each niche. That's not a ton of volume, but it is a ton of hidden volume. Maybe a dozen niches all around on this floor? With a deep breath, he sets a thin screwdriver to work on the locking mechanism. Only one way to find out...

(Blake's Mechanics v 3: 1d6+2 = (3)+2 = 5)

The panel pops quietly and opens up softly, sliding aside and into the niche. Fuck, even their hidden compartments are overengineered. What's waiting inside is...well, let's not beat around the bush, it's a tracked drone, wrapped in riot-grade transparent Lexan shielding. It's got cameras, it's got loudspeakers, it's got a swiveling taser launcher. That can't possibly be legal. Further inspection shows that it's got a heavy-duty cable sticking out the back, probably both for controlling it and supplying power, though it's got low-slung battery packs between the tracks that imply it can run off-grid in a pinch. If Blake had to guess, these are intended to deploy when the security system registers a failure. But they're too wide to go through the doors and don't have a robot arm or anything to open doors in any event - so their primary purpose must be to lock down the level and keep any intruders from getting away rather than autonomously chasing them down. That's...slightly less terrifying than it could be, but still, where the hell did K Group get this kind of tech? That was not in the RapidScan catalogue...
Gatac 2018-12-16 11:04:34
(Mason spends Military Science to ID the drone.)

Listening to Blake's description of the drone over the radio, Mason recalls three important nuggets of information:

1) A six-month old security breach at Hanwha Techwin's R&D that pointed to North Korean agents may have resulted in China getting software for autonomous weapon systems either because Best Korea sold them the goods or their involvement was only ever a smokescreen for Chinese agents to begin with.
2) A classified briefing that China deployed "autonomous protection devices" in reaction to "production disturbances" at some of their new factories.
3) Plus a few rumors about directed energy weapons tech that failed to yield anything particularly noteworthy aside from excellent knockoff Tasers, with extended range and prongs that penetrate both body armor and skin with rather more enthusiasm than the US models.

Okay, so far so humdrum, but if it rolls like a drone tank, scans like a drone tank and fucks shit up like a drone tank, is that enough to link those to the bigger drone you blew up in Amsterdam?

"- armor panels," Mason and Blake say over each other. Behind the Lexan shielding, this thing clearly has some protective plating on its chassis. If you dismantle that and have it analyzed, you may not only prove that it was made in the same factory as the drone tank, but being that this machine is rather less exploded, you'd get to recover intact parts off it, making it much easier to trace them to an actual manufacturer or at least the system integrator who put these things together. The drone tank was a plausible one-off, maybe, but a dozen of these things? Somebody's manufacturing them on an assembly line, at least in small scale.
punkey 2018-12-16 11:16:38
Mason reaches into the tool bag and tosses a roll of duct tape over to Blake. "Sensors are on the stalk sticking out the top - looks like cameras with IR and ultrasonic. Cover them with the tape and they'll be blind. They didn't put tamper sensors on it, or you'd be twitching on the floor already." He motions down the hallway. "Once we own the cameras, find the others and tape them up too."
Gatac 2018-12-29 19:46:42
(Tim's Infiltration v 6 = (2)+5 = 7)

It's mandatory to whistle while carrying a network testing toolkit, so Tim does the same as he approaches the overkill security door. Beginner mistake: only one camera angle on the door and it's a wide angle from down the hall, i.e. not good for looking at what Tim is doing to the panel while his body blocks direct line of sight to it. Sure, you'd need to be a pro to pop the panel box and hook up the cable tester from your toolkit with only your left arm (the one not visible from the camera angle), but Tim is a pro. It's fast enough that it probably looks like him just fumbling for the right card, too; he alibi-scans the cloned card at the separate reader just as he sends the "Yo, the 15000€ security system says I'm cool" signal to the door lock. Bzzt! The door slides open and it's actually a marginally more difficult task to pull the cable tester off and push the box closed before the door times out. Tim slips through just so, and...

Jackpot...is that a pot made of jacks? A pot made for jacks? What does that even mean?

Leaving aside the whirring of the servers' cooling fans, the most notable find in the secure server room is a company laptop patched into one of the servers. Sloppy, but considering the exalted ranks of the IT people allowed in here, it's probably been here for a few days and nobody has noticed so far. Tim carefully glides across the touchpad to wake the laptop from its standby state, whereupon the screen flashes a standard-issue Windows 10 lockscreen with a K Group corporate background.

(Tim's Digital Intrusion v 8 = (6)+6 = 12)

We may never know how Tim guessed the dude's password first try. Perhaps it will remain one of the great unsolved mysteries of our time. What we can report is that he stared at the laptop's keyboard real hard for a couple of seconds before he started typing. Beyond that? Only God and Tim Barstow know. Neither are telling.

But speaking of, maybe don't put a password manager on your work laptop if your master password for its digital vault is gonna be "ABCD". Within the minute, Tim's got the primary surveillance system pwned harder than Zero Cool's crew took down The Plague. Clean loops from the night before, which looks all the same in the sublevel hallways. For bonus points, Tim pops all electronic locks to the storage rooms on this level. Wham bam thank you Ma'am.

(Tim spends one of the Investigative points from the dossier pool to reset biometric security for the Black Vault.)

There might be more stuff on the laptop to exploit, but you're on a bit of a schedule. So possible side show aside, Tim's got a network cabinet to locate and some signals to spoof. Let's pro/con their security in depth setup. Pro: it's locked! Con: with a C415A-keyed lock. Are you guys fucking serious? Ugh, Tim thinks, at least make me try. He digs out his keyring with the greats and thirty seconds later, network cabinet opens up. Not that the thin sheet metal door would've stopped anyone trying to force it, but still. Tim pulls out a little netbook from his toolbag, unplugs the right cable from the network patch panel and plugs it into the computer. A couple seconds to boot to a Linux CLI, run the zero-day Tim bought off a darknet site for an altogether obscene amount of Etherium (but then it's not like it's gonna appreciate from here, so not exactly part of his retirement stock portfolio) and wait for that thing to tell him it did its job and biometric security has been reset throughout the second sublevel and if Tim hasn't gone wrong in any of the dozen places he could've gone wrong with his plan, it means they've now got the actual innermost secure door opened. All that's left now is to actually manage to get down there.

(Blake uses Common Sense And A Bit Of Elbow Grease to disable the security drones.)

You pop sixteen hidden compartments, what do you get? Another drone duct-taped 'cause K Group shat the bed. Oh front desk don't call us cause you won't know, we're here for your vault and all prepwork is go.
punkey 2018-12-29 20:05:03
Mason, having paced the whole floor while Blake disabled the drones and Tim...apparently took control of the whole security system, has failed to find any other way down to the vault other than the stairs and the elevator - and the elevator still has that hidden compartment in the back.
"Hey, Tim, you got a button on there for unlocking the hidden compartment in the elevator?" Mason asks. He sneaks a peek over at Operations, who hasn't had much luck with her attempts to break open the information system.
Gatac 2018-12-29 20:15:27
"I don't, but would you like the wifi password?" Tim replies, making his way back towards the elevator. He casts a skeptical glance at it. "Okay, that's an OTIS, I'm gonna need" - Mason holds up an interface cable pilfered from one of the spare parts heaps - "exactly that thing." He looks around. "And a hot minute. And a bit of luck."

(Tim's Digital Intrusion v 6 = (5)+2 = 7)

A minute later, the nice, flush-fit control panel is hanging off its ribbon cable only while Tim sits cross-legged on the floor, netbook in hand. At the touch of his fingers, the locks on the rear doors disengage. Bzzt! Mason pushes them open to find a compartment that might just barely fit them all. No treats left behind inside, though.
skullandscythe 2018-12-29 21:16:10
"Good work, Tim," Blake leads in with an apologetic tone, "but while you're in the system, can you try to find the encryption key for the drive we want?"

Blake does offer his assistance for Tim's task, but if he's not needed, he inspects the door to the elevator compartment - he's mostly looking at the seal. An airtight seal leads to trap possibilities, and with Tim borking security footage, he has the run of the place and its' supply cabinets...
Gatac 2019-01-13 18:55:57
(Blake spends an Investigate point from the dossier pool to get the location for the secret encryption code to the harddrive)

"Anyone can try," Tim says, bringing up a copy of the security catalog for the Vault. "Like, here's our main target. And these are his friends. They're using HP Direct Attached Storage racks, 25 drives per, it's 2 HUs tall so that's 21 units per rack, times...20 racks. I don't want their cooling bills but that's neither here nor there. Anyway, that gives them 6.3 petabytes raw storage on 10,500 individual pieces of spinning rust. That's a pretty big haystack. Better odds than the Powerball, sure, but..."
"Find the one that spins up every time our data drive is accessed," Blake adds. As Tim narrows search parameters, Tim scrunches his eyes, then finally taps one entry. "That one."
"Hey!" Tim says. "Pointing is fine."
"Sorry," Blake says.
"I'll take your apology in the form of an explanation," Tim says.
"Miniscule I/O, low space utilization, marked as non-redundant," Blake rattles off. "And I don't recognize the company name renting it. Do you?"
"...no," Tim concedes. "Nice catch."
"You got our primary objective, Barstow?" Operations throws in, finishing her attempts at the wall panel thingie.
"Rack 12, DAS unit 1, drive 22," Tim says, balancing his netbook in the crook of his arm as he stands up.
"Okay," Operations says. "Everybody into the elevator. It's time to get what we came for."

Everybody piles in, then the elevator doors close. Tim taps a few keys.

"Achtung," comes a voice from the elevator's loudspeakers. Surely a cursed princess trapped within, waiting for true love's kiss. "Für den Zugang zum Sicherheitsbereich -"
Tim taps a few more keys.
"Für Wartungszugriff benutzen Sie bitte -"
A few more keys.
"Verbindung zur Servicezentrale wird hergestellt, bitte warten Sie auf -"

And yet more keys. This time the voice cuts off entirely and the cab shudders before it starts to move downwards.

"Sorry, baby," Tim says to the now-silent speaker grille. "Es liegt an mir, nicht an dir."
Gatac 2019-01-15 19:26:22
Fifteen seconds later, the elevator slows its descent and gently stops. There's no pinging as the doors open, which seems strange until you remember that this is Germany and ADA compliance is not a thing here. In any event, the hallway outside seems much the same as the one from the level above, but the forks at the end are substantially less balanced; the left one only goes to a compact utility cabinet and some emergency firefighting gear, while the right one winds around the elevator and fire stair shafts towards THE VAULT.

Well, an armored door, at least four inches thick in the middle, with a biometric scanner mounted next to it. The door has popped open, though, while the biometric scanner's little display blinks information about its network config, firmware version and current status, which is "Außer Betrieb". But behind that door - THE VAULT. The humming coming from it is tremendous. There's a reason why there's a case with several rows of ear protectors mounted to the wall just before the entrance door.

A quick scan of the hallway panels does not reveal the same seams as the sublevel above. There's no guidance panel next to the elevator either, presumably because a) everybody who comes here knows the way and b) there's nowhere to get lost here. Compared to what you've just seen, this whole setup looks...almost sensible.
skullandscythe 2019-01-18 21:29:42
"Tim, why don't you get acquainted with your new friend?" Blake says, gesturing to the door. "The rest of us can sweep the floor, make sure no one's here. Stopper the fire escape if we can."
Gatac 2019-01-30 16:12:39
"Friends, friends, friendly friends, we have all the friends," Tim hums to himself as he makes his way towards THE VAULT, snatches a pair of earpro and then steps through the door. "Cool!"

And boy is it kühl in there. The air inside is a brisk 60 Fahrenheit while humidity is somewhere down in the single digits. Even through the set of Mickey Mouses, the enormous thrum of the compressors serving the cooling circuit is clearly audible, while the constant whirr of harddrives is handily swallowed. Tim glances at the labeling of the server racks to his left - doesn't match. Oh, those are the tape archives for the "regular people" storage tier. The "firstborn children" tier of live redundant harddrive arrays is off to the right. And way in the back, there's a cage with a wall's worth of strongboxes, presumably for other valuables. Probably child's play to bust a few of those and augment the retirement fund, but then again, you probably don't want to make the acquaintance of the kinds of people who store their family jewels here.

In short order, Tim pulls two harddrives: one with the data transmission traced from Varajey's laptop, the other with the encryption key. They're both still in enclosures with backup batteries, though. Now to smuggle them out without triggering the "secure delete" failsafe...

A perfect time for the armored door to THE VAULT to start to close up.


While Tim is working the issue, a grand total of four operatives search the rest of the floor top to bottom for any other surprises. The outcome: nix, nada, zilch. A screwdriver serves to jam up the fire escape to Blake's satisfaction.

Then a klaxon starts roaring from inside the server room. The fire alarm. Loudspeakers in the hallway chime in with insistent beeping just as both the vault door and the elevator doors start closing...


(Tim's Sense Trouble = (6)+3 = 9 FUN TIMES)

Tim's eyes dart from side to side as he ducks and covers behind the nearest server rack. The klaxons are loud enough even through the earpro, though admittedly this is helped by the compressor dying and the servers around him parking their harddrives and going to shutdown mode. Eyes on the vault door, it's closing, too far away to run for it - where's the next Halon override button -

And Valentina de Silva (?!?) stepping out from her hiding place behind the tape racks. She's back in her motorcycle leathers wielding her suppressed SMG, though her bike helmet has been replaced by a full-face breathing mask with a breathing gas bottle slung over her hip.

"Hey there," she greets Tim. "You should get to the override button. But I think those drives would just slow you down."

Then there's a crunching noise, metal against metal - Tim's toolkit! Wedged into the vault door, it blocks the armored colossus from closing up. Not precisely the situation Tim left it there for, but close enough - after all, you never walk into a place you don't know how to walk out of.
punkey 2019-01-30 17:43:40
(Mason Preparedness = (6)+2 = 8)

Mason doesn't waste a moment when the fire alarm goes off. He breaks for the utility locker in the room and rips it open. Fire equipment, they have to keep fire equipment around in this room... And indeed they do. Extinguisher, O2 bottles - and a big fuck-off ax. "Stick the extinguisher in the elevator door!" he shouts to Alira as he grabs a O2 bottle and the ax and sprints for the door.

(Mason Athletics = (3)+6 = 9)

The battalion CO's obsession with tabata drills comes in handy for once, as Mason bursts across the room and jams the ax into the door the long way, reinforcing the block enough to easily slide through. Mason doesn't call out for Tim, though - tossing the drives out while not leaving himself is a very unusual thing, and "unusual" usually means bad things in an operation. Instead, he slides down the other aisle, O2 bottle shoved in his pants and knife in his hand.

edited by Gatac on 2019-01-31 10:01:29
skullandscythe 2019-01-31 13:08:04
Blake beelines for the Vault - it sounds like Mason has the situation under control here, and if there's a chance he can get Tim and the drives out of there, he's gonna try it.
Gatac 2019-01-31 15:28:21
(Tim's Athletics = (2)+8 = 10)

Tim's toss of the drives sails right through the half-open vault door. Blake's there first, catching the tossed ones. As he contemplates what to do with those, Mason rushes past him, jams a freaking fire axe into the closing vault door and then squeezes through. Operations arrives to take the drives off Blake, but just as he sidles up to the door, he spies Valentina de Silva (?) swinging her SMG to cover the door - too slow for Mason, but enough to make clear that Blake is not welcome at this particular party.

Tim, meanwhile, has reached the closest "emergency stop" button for the halon release and punches it down. The klaxons keep coming - and a close inspection of a loose wall panel above it indicates that the wiring has been cut. Low-tech and messy, but effective, one supposes.

"Everybody chill!" de Silva (?) calls out. "I'm the only one who can stop the halon - and the only one with a gun. Emergency services are on their way. Give me the drives and we all walk out of here in one piece." She checks her wrist. "Fifteen seconds, agents."

Then the clang of the elevator doors closing on the fire extinguisher and reopening.
punkey 2019-01-31 20:19:07
(Mason Infiltration = (4)+5 = 9)

Mason's little folding knife slipped out of his pocket and into his hand as he crept down the aisle of humming servers. Between the alarms and the din of the server room, he had a clear shot to de Silva's flank, and he was going to take it. A brief peek around the corner confirmed she was focused on Blake and Tim, and that's when Mason made his move.

The naïve approach to putting a knife to someone's throat is what you see in movies - put sharp thing against throat - but there's more to it than that. A professional knows you have to guarantee that any attempt to disarm or move the blade means the target will cut their own throat, and Mason is a professional. Before de Silva could react, Mason rushed behind her, wrapping his blade arm around her chest, leaving the razor-sharp edge of the knife resting across her jugular vein.
"Then we'd better get out of here," Mason says.
"Are you sure about this?" deSilva(?) asks. "Ten seconds."
Mason's other hand reaches down and unscrews the hose from her O2 tank. "Pretty sure."
"Trigger on my belt," deSilva(?) says, using just her finger to indicate some sort of clicker-style device carabiner'd to her rig. "Five seconds."
"Go ahead and push it, then," Mason says.

deSilva (?) reaches down to push it. A snappy little BANG echoes from one of the far walls. Then, that nice synthetic lady from the elevator comes on over the speakers. "Halon-Auslösung unterdrückt. Bitte verlassen Sie sofort den Gefahrenbereich. Hilfe ist unterwegs."
"There," deSilva(?) says. "Now you better get that knife off my neck."
"Take the gun off my friends, first," Mason says.
"I lower my gun, you take the knife off and then I step away," deSilva(?) says. "Deal?"
"Drop the mag and lock the bolt," Mason says.
"No," deSilva(?) says. "And you're not walking out of here alive without me. Promise."
"God's sakes!" Operations shouts from outside. "Can you wrap up the dick-measuring contest? We got what we came for and I want to sort out the details without the cops."
"Had a para in Columbia say the same thing once," Mason said. "He hosed the people I was trying to save down the moment I stepped back. Drop the mag, lock the bolt."
"Did you kill him?" deSilva(?) asks calmly.
"Didn't make that family less dead," Mason says. "Drop the mag. Lock the bolt."

Click. The mag clatters to the ground. deSilva(?) slowly reaches her hand around the gun and pulls the charging handle back, dropping the last round onto the floor. "War makes demons of us all," deSilva(?) opines, but offers no more resistance to Mason.
Mason releases deSilva and steps back - but keeps the knife in his hand. "So, what's your big plan?"
"Ground floor fire door is welded shut from inside and I have cutting charges on the elevator counterweight," deSilva(?) explains. "We go out through the garage exit on the first subfloor. I have exfil standing by."
"Sounds like a plan to me," Mason says, looking to Operations and Alira.
Gatac 2019-02-01 18:41:39
(Blake spends a point of BS Detect.)

The situation with deSilva(?) dissolves before Blake has much of a chance to influence it - but that doesn't mean he can't use a moment to question it. So, what, deSilva(?) was already in the damn Vault the whole time? How did she get in? Surely Tim should have turned up a sign of prior tampering while he cracked the security system wide open. Is there a literal physical back door to the Vault and if so, where the hell does it lead? Nothing in Blake's ground surveillance indicated that there might be and it would make no sense for a high-security setup like this at all, but suppose one wanted to generate the appearance of a high-security setup...but why? Are K Group in bed with Fractal, somehow, or did this go the same way every backdoor goes - built in secret, exploited by someone cleverer than the architects?

So what possible reason would deSilva(?) have to run this whole charade anyway? Well, she only stepped out after Tim pulled the drives. Maybe she simply didn't know which ones to take. Reassuring though, in it's own way - at least one aspect where your own efforts were ahead of Fractal.

"One thing before we go," deSilva(?) says. "Did you bring signal blockers for the drives?" Before anyone has a chance to confirm/deny, she produces a few rolled up bags from a pouch, which glint with an unusual sheen of interior metallized film. "You don't want to walk out of here with empty hands, do you?"
"How generous of you," Operations remarks.
"We're all in the business of stopping RoI," deSilva(?) says. "Look, I'm not saying I like being outmaneuvered, but I know when strategic goals trump a mission objective. Maybe there will be another chance to get the data from you later. But if it gets destroyed now, it's gone for good. Nobody wants that."

(Blake spends the last investigative point from the dossier pool as Electronic Surveillance.)

Blake knows at a glance that the bags will, indeed, serve the purpose of blocking out any external signals. But that's because these aren't just fancy antistatic bags. These are DIA property, project CLEAN WHISTLE, also known to the read-in as "ghost bags". They don't just block signals, they also record minute fluctuations of magnetic fields inside them. Reconstructing a 90s era harddrive from the information gathered by a ghost bag would be trivial; modern high-density drives, less so, but Blake figures that if Fractal has access to this kind of technology, they also have an analysis cluster that could possibly reconstruct major parts of the information on the drives. Especially if, as Blake suspects, neither drive is used at anywhere near full capacity.

Raising a different question, though: plausible that a HUMINT specialist like Tim and a doorkicker like Mason wouldn't be read in on this development; it is, after all, still highly experimental and far from ready for field use. But shouldn't Operations know about these? Blake gives that a 50:50, not strong enough to draw an inference either way but something to keep in mind. She's become even harder to read after the adjustment to the device but she's definitely not become less...interesting.
skullandscythe 2019-02-01 20:12:29
Blake looks at deSilva(?), then looks over at Ops. After a long moment scrutinizing both, he shrugs. "Can't let generosity go to waste," he says, picking up the bags. "Alira, could you hold them steady while I put the drives in them?"

Assuming she complies, however, Blake whispers to her, being as sure as possible no one else hears: "Something happens to the drives, keep the bags safe as possible." He pats the bag a little to make sure it's secure as he follows up.

"Tell Mason that if I can't."

After this, Blake keeps hold of the bags, and is all for quick exfil.
Gatac 2019-02-05 16:28:15
Alira looks at Blake with a "What are you on about" expression but at this point in her career, she knows better than to question portentous proclamations. She confirms Blake's request with a barely perceptible nod.

Just then, there's a hell of a racket from the elevator shaft. You've been near enough of those types of explosions to recognize a detcord bang, which is followed shortly thereafter by the slap of severed steel smacking onto the roof of the cab.

And then there's a hefty THUNK. Seconds later, the escape hatch on top of the elevator cab is pulled open and down jumps the guy-pretending-to-be-Loewe from reception, looking a bit dustier than before. He steps up to the elevator doors just as they clunk back onto the fire extinguisher. With the mildest possible look of annoyance, he grabs both doors and shoves them very firmly to the side - which is where they stay. He and deSilva(?) exchange a meaningful look but neither says anything. He then picks up the loose fire extinguisher, grunts and pushes through the fire door. The klaxon from that fire alarm is barely even noticeable at this point. One imagines the alarm panel in the lobby must be lit up like a Christmas tree right about now.

Leaving behind a cool six to seven figures of property damage, you make your way up the winding fire stairs to the first sublevel and get into the hallway leading to the garage exit. Up here, it's a different kind of alarm klaxon for that full orchestral experience and the various hidden alcoves have given up their security robots. Thanks to your sabotage, however, they're not doing a very effective patrol, instead going very slowly at all kinds of angles, bumping into each other and turning in place. It's every reaction shot from a devastated father-son team on Robot Wars all at once. If the cube-shaped adorables had arms they'd be flailing by now, shouting DOES NOT COMPUTE. Oh, look, here comes one now, by sheer dumb luck heading your way and - aw. Guy-pretending-to-be-Loewe brings the fire extinguisher down on top of the approaching robot. It doesn't shatter the plastic shielding around it but it does clearly show why naively coupling chassis and applique armor is bad design: the impact compacts the robot's drivetrain under its force and then it tragically turns on one caterpillar track only, dragging its dead left track with it. As it does so, it leaves behind little pieces of broken gears.

"This way," Guy-pretending-to-be-Loewe finally says, indicating towards the door that separates you from K Group's underground parking.
Gatac 2019-02-07 19:01:15
"Actually," Mason says, "I think this is where we get off."

deSilva(?) stops in her tracks while Guy-pretending-to-be-Loewe looks at Mason, clearly sizing him up for a possible fight. He doesn't look like he's spoiling for it but he also shows no sign of possible hesitation. Leave it to deSilva(?) to step in and be a bit more diplomatic about it.

"That's a really bad idea," she says. "Section 9 isn't on your side. But if you would rather take your chances with them, then feel free to do so." She holds out her hand. "In that case, I'm going to need the bags back. I'm afraid I can't let you try and trace them to our supplier. I'm sure you'll find your own solution to the remote deletion problem."
"I think we both know why you want those bags back," Mason says. "We'll mail them back to you - after we wipe them. What's your return address?"
"There is no knife at my neck now, Agent Mason," deSilva(?) says. "And I'm not alone. You can either hand over empty bags or just give us the drives now."
"There's a lot more of us than there are of you," Mason says. "You don't have long before the Bundespolizei kick down that door. We'll take our chances with Section 9 rather than voluntarily file into a moving vehicle with you guys quite yet. Mom said not to get into cars with strangers."
Guy-pretending-to-be-Loewe lifts his shirt and puts a hand on the pistol holstered inside his waistband, but deSilva(?) holds up her hand. "You realize that even if we leave empty-handed now, we're not going to let this go, don't you," she says. "Right now, nobody has to get hurt. Both sides can get what they want. If you persist in making this more difficult for us, we are going to have to escalate. And then you'll be playing with more than the lives of your team, Agent Mason. Your call."
"You're the ones who are playing this secret squirrel game," Mason replies. "You want us to trust you with some kind of doomsday computer bullshit and don't tell us jack shit about what it is or why you want it? You'd tell us to take a flying leap, too. You wanna talk later? We'll talk later. Right now, we're still in the getting-to-know-you phase. Dangerous secrets is a third date thing."
The watch on deSilva(?)'s wrist beeps. "Looks like this round is over, then," she says. She turns and brushes past Guy-pretending-to-be-Loewe, who gives Mason a perfunctory glare before following her. deSilva(?) pushes the escape door open and then the two of them make a dash for it through the garage beyond.

"How'd you get your ballsack through the metal detector, Masie?" Alira asks dryly.
"One of the few times betting that they would make the smart play was the right idea," Mason says.

Mason waits for the door to close behind the Fractal agents. Once the door slams shut, he makes a break for the supply room.

"They're outnumbered, out of time, and I told them exactly where to find us," Mason explains. He looks around - there, in the corner, is the exact same emergency supply locker as was in the floor below. Mason opens it up and finds the same kind of axe that was down there too. "If I was them, I'd wait for Section 9 to do what they do and book us and steal the drives from evidence lockup."
"Priority is getting the drives back to Langley in one piece, then," Operations says. "Anywhere else they might be just turned into a hot target for Fractal, and the sooner the drives are firmly out of their reach and they know it, the sooner they'll have to write off their losses on this one." She looks at the bagged drives. "But as long as they still believe they can get hands on...well, let's not test that eventuality, boys."
"Lira, you're going straight to the hangar with those drives with Laith," Mason says, hefting the ax as he leads the way up the fire stairs.
"No worries," Alira says. "You just try not to get taken hostage on your way."
"I'll do my best."

Up at the top of the stairs, it turns out deSilva(?) wasn't bluffing - the lock really has been fused shut. Mason taps the axe against the welds.

"Okay, everyone, 'frightened hostage' faces on," he says, then swings the axe back and brings it down.

THWACK! THWACK! The door yields quickly and lazily swings open. You spill into the lobby, where an assembly of firefighters are gearing up with rebreathers and turnout gear for the suspected blaze below. Outside, flashing blues indicate a fire engine, two ambulances and several police vehicles. There's a short moment of "What the fuck" on the faces of the firefighters until one of them steps forward, her voice muffled by the full-face breathing mask.

"Kommen sie! Kommen sie!" she says, waving you on and pointedly ignoring the metal detector arch going off on your presence. She holds her hand out to relieve Mason of the axe. "Are you all right?" she asks in German. "Can you tell me if there is anyone else still down there?"