IC 6 - Hamburg - Day 3

skullandscythe 2019-02-10 22:50:11
"We-" Blake takes a gulp of surprisingly fresh air. "There were two people - a man and a woman, or maybe two men? I don't know if there is anyone else, but you have to be careful! They have guns - held us prisoner -" Blake manages to choke back a sob. "oh God - they threatened to kill us if we stepped out of line!"
Gatac 2019-02-11 16:49:07
"It's going to be okay," the firefighter reassures Blake and lets her look sweep over the rest of the sorry-looking team. "It's all going to be okay. Just make your way outside. The medics will check you out."

As she waves you past, she keys the transmit button on her radio. "Central, we have a report of armed suspects in the K Group vault."
"Copy," a voice replies from the radio's speaker. Even as he speaks, police officers in coyote tan protective gear push in, their MP5s slung to the side. "MEK standing by."
"We'll take point, you follow and advise on possible fire risks," the police team leader(?) tells her.
"If there are still people down there -" the firefighter begins.
"- we'll find them," the cop cuts her off. He gives the team a probing look from underneath his balaclava but he's got a different problem set to work now, so he takes the lead in guiding a mixed team of cops and firefighters down the stairs.

And then...then you're outside. No sign of Section 9. "Over here!" one of the medics waves to you. "Come on, sit down, catch your breaths."
punkey 2019-02-11 21:18:06
Mason nods to the firefighter, takes Alira's hand and walks towards the medics with the rest of the group. "Meet up at the observation post in 10," he hisses, then breaks off with Alira as they hit the curb towards the van and Laith, around the corner.
"Hey!" the medic calls after them. "Hey! Take it easy!" Seeing that neither Mason nor Alira are collapsing on the sidewalk from the smoke inhalation or exertion, however, he sticks to waving them off and shaking his head. He's got three other patients to look at and besides, getting IDs would be the job of the cops, if there were any standing around.
"You all right?" Mason whispers.
"Fine," Alira tells him.

As they hurry down the sidewalk, Laith's van pulls up in front of them and Alira pulls the side door open. Lucy gives a satisfied little whine from the passenger seat as you climb into the back. "About time!" Laith comments. "Everything go okay in there?"
"Fractal was there," Mason says, digging into their equipment for a brace of firearms. "Where's your signal blocker box?"
"Blue bag," Laith says. "Relationship status: complicated?"
Mason finds a stash of pistols and a C8 carbine in the equipment stash. "Playing both sides with international terrorists is a first-date no-no," he replies, stripping the upper off the carbine so the whole shebang plus ammo and mags fits in a backpack.
"It's broad daylight, Masie," Alira says.
"That's what the backpack is for, Lira," Mason says with a smirk. He gives Alira a kiss on the cheek. "You got your little PDW?"
Alira grabs the gun from another box and does a quick chamber check. "We're good. Now go on. You're holding up the courier service."
"Where *are* we going?" Laith asks.
"The hangar," Alira says.
"Yes'm," Laith replies. "You gonna be good on exfil," he asks Mason, "or do you need another pickup later?"
"Hopefully not," Mason says. "Drives and bags in the quiet bin, go straight to the CIA hangar and wait for us. Tell me this thing has an IR flasher for the stop lights."
"It doesn't, but the signals here wouldn't react to it anyway," Laith says. "We'll be going the speed limit."
"Then eyes up," Mason says. "We embarrassed them, hopefully they took the bait but I'm not a guy to bet everything on hope." He slings the pack full of guns on his shoulder and takes Alira's hand. "Love you. Be safe."
"Come here," Alira says, pulling Mason in for a kiss. "There. That's a goodbye. Now get your arse moving, Masie."
"Yes, Ma'am," Mason says with a smirk, the slides the door shut before turning away from the front of K Group, walking down the block to their hidden entrance to the observation post.
skullandscythe 2019-02-15 18:20:05
"Thank you, but right now I would really just like to talk to my wife," Blake stutters. "Do you have a phone I could borrow?"

Whether the medic complies or not, Blake seems a bundle of nervous energy, pacing around the front of the building, possibly carrying on a one-sided gut-punch of a conversation; in truth, while he's somewhat tense, Blake is playing up the shell-shock to have a seemly excuse to do some surveillance. If Section 9 - or someone else - is around and something is afoot, now's the time to know.
Gatac 2019-02-15 18:41:24
"Of course," the medic says. He hands over a slightly-beaten old "feature phone" from a pouch dangling from the open back door of the ambulance. You don't know what's scarier - that it's a fomite that could have been touched by all kinds of bodily fluids, or what the medics use to clean it between calls. Either way, you may want to wash your hands afterwards.

(Blake spends Tradecraft!)

The track on them is subtle, Blake has to give them that. Across the normal din of a city street - never mind in the middle of a police raid - the soft whirr of the quadcopter drone's rotors is inaudible. And hovering as it does with the roofs for cover, it's all but invisible, too. Chances are, if you play a game long enough, you start to get used to the rules. Rule was, ten years ago, your worry was Predators. Flown by the good guys over the places where rubble needed bouncing. Not much threat of that in orbit here, not in civilian airspace. But these days, you can pick up cheapo foldable drones the size of a cellphone from any electronics superstore, and a decently powerful quad with a stabilized GoPro for primary sensor runs you as much as a good mountain bike. Blake thinks back to the horror stories from the foreigners who streamed into Syria. Daesh used those as spotters for mortars and Katyusha rocket salvos. Drones were shoot on sight but the better idea was to just yell and run because if you did see one, you were about to be touched by a fire mission.

But this one is just watching you, right now. The only reason Blake sees it because the drone operator never learned the old first rule of cities: everything is a mirror. Especially downtown, where glass facades are everywhere. If Blake had to guess, it's Section 9 - too COTS for Fractal and besides, they have bigger problems right now - but this seems about their speed: make the perimeter easy to slip, then follow you to your safehouse. Obviously they're looking for back-to-back busts of troublemakers on their turf, even after you so thoughtfully gave them the Bulgarian leftovers.
punkey 2019-02-16 21:17:14
Backpack slapping against his shoulder, Mason makes a quick round around the block in the shady back alley, heading for the construction site and the secret perch within. As he goes in, however, one thing becomes obvious: Blake's security measures are gone. Not disabled, not ripped out, it looks like those little hidden sensors have never been there at all. Somebody already sanitized the way in, without setting off the alarms.
Mason slides the backpack behind a half-mounted sheet of drywall, and steps up closer to the perch. "Thunder," he says.
"Afraid I must disappoint," comes a familiar voice from inside - the Fractal recruiter. "Why don't you come in, Major?"
"Love that TV show," Mason says, stepping inside.

The perch looks...like a half-finished construction site. All the work Blake had done to transform it into a disguised surveillance site has been reverted, leaving only the bare structure behind. In the middle stands the recruiter, the only difference from his appearance in Amsterdam being another expensive suit. "We'll be glad to mail you your gear, of course," the recruiter says. "What's your return address?"
"Benefits of working for the US government - just mail it to Langley," Mason replies, hand in his pocket. "Don't tell me you're just here because you're upset about the drives."
"I think we're within our rights to be upset," the recruiter says. "But being that I'm here anyway and that I like to think of myself as having a bit more of a rapport with you, Major, I figured I might try a new strategy." He turns to look at Mason. "How about I tell you what you're going to find on those drives? Straight up, no strings."
"I'd call it a good start," Mason says.

"I figured you might welcome that," the recruiter says. "We've recently become aware that parts of our operational security are not as watertight as we would like them to be. Your fiancé uncovered some information about us that I'm sure she's shared with you by now. Leadership was not amused but some amount of friction loss had to be expected after we came out of hiding. A secret is only safe as long as nobody knows to look for it, isn't it." He pauses. "The far bigger problem is Edil Varajev. Quite aside from the files he was going to provide to Brahmvir Singh, he also came into possession of an unknown contingent of our sensitive files. He used K Group's vault to back them up. Now, that in itself posed the problem that we have no idea how many copies he ultimately stashed in various locations. If we had the files, we could at least try to trace their path and plug our internal leak. Leadership is also not enthused that you now have a copy of those files, too. No doubt you will seek to gain some sort of advantage through them. We haven't given you much reason not to investigate us, after all."
"That's a really sticky situation," Mason says. "Sounds like a rough time to be you guys. Don't know what you think I'm going to do about it, but, you know, that sucks."
"Quite," the recruiter says. "Now. Suppose I make a call to my people that you have, as is reasonable enough, zero intention of handing the data back to us. The response is going to be an immediate sterilization pass on our field ops, erring on the side of caution. I am confident we can render the data largely useless to your investigation before you can decrypt the drive and act on the intel. You'll have done all the breaking and entering for nothing and we'll be out a considerable amount of resources. I'd call that a lose-lose scenario." He looks at Mason. "I imagine you will remain unwilling to turn over the drives themselves because for all you know, I'm lying through my teeth about what's on them. But assuming there is a deal to be made for a copy of the data...we could minimize our loss of assets to the ones that are actually compromised and you would still get at least an afterimage of our operations. So my question is, what do you think it would take to get that kind of deal?"
"I think that we can talk after we scrub the information from a terrorist organization that collects launch codes like baseball cards," Mason says. "And you come clean about what Fractal's interest in all this is. Because it's not just a mole hunt."

"Hmm," the recruiter says. "Tell you what. You and yours get a look at the data. Verify it as you like. If you use it to make a move against one of our assets, we will initiate the shutdown. Might get messy, so I suggest we avoid that. Look, but don't touch. When you're satisfied that I've been truthful with my description of the data, you contact me - you do still have my number, after all. We will hash out the conditions under which you turn a copy of the data over to us. I'll make clear to leadership that a bit more transparency about our agenda should be part of our offer. I should say right now that I can't make any promises, however. The decision is above my paygrade. I hope you understand."
"I'm pretty sure you know I'm in a similar situation," Mason replies. "If what you have in there is a counter-intel threat..."
"Well, I'm pretty sure that when they came up with the term 'information warfare', they didn't mean to import the concept of mutually assured destruction into it," the recruiter muses. "Anyway, I should get going. I assume you'll want to make sure the site here is as clean as it looks."

"I'll make some calls," Mason says - and extends his hand to shake. "Talk to you soon."
"I look forward to it," the recruiter says, giving Mason's hand a shake. The recruiter's hand feels impossibly smooth against Mason's fingers. Still made of flesh, but without any wrinkles or lines - and not like they were sanded or burned off, but like he was born without any ridges or wrinkles on his hand. Mason's not sure it'd even leave anything that might pass for a fingerprint. "Be seeing you." He makes for the door.
"Be by the phone, I'll be calling soon," Mason replies, watching him go. When he hears the stairwell door slam closed, he retrieves the bag of guns and starts sweeping the room while he waits for everyone else to show up.