IC 5 - Hamburg - Day 2

Gatac 2018-07-13 20:06:29
Operation SWITCHBACK continues. Your actions have uncovered a potential new ally in Section 9 and stalled an attempt by RoI to frame local community activist Dr. Sulemani for an attempt on a secret G7 summit. But you still need a way into the Black Vault and RoI is far from done with the city...
Gatac 2018-07-17 18:54:54
Rising and shining after a well-deserved good night's sleep, you filter out of the apartment's two bedrooms to find Operations already up and about, with her Agency phone set on the table and on speaker.

"The boys are here now," she says.
"Well, if that ain't timing," Deputy Director Marsh says. "How are you holding up?"

Some general and inconsequential niceties later...

"Reason I'm calling is that we have new intel on Asim Tuma," Marsh says. "Hoi Yan, if you would -"
"Yes, Sir," Hoi Yan speaks up. She sounds like she's forgotten what sleep feels like. "When Operations forwarded the request for BLACKFIN intel, we had nothing, but since you exposed Major van Roemburg in Amsterdam, there was been substantial movement in his periphery - culminating in a reactivation of a dark channel used by BLACKFIN previously. Authentication checks out, but so far we haven't responded."
"I thought you might want to weigh in before I make the call," Marsh says. "Being as this is your rodeo."
"The way I see it," Operations says, "RoI has to consider Tuma compromised at this point. So this is either him trying to cut a deal - or it's a dangle for God knows what."
"Do yous have a location on that channel?" Alira pipes up.
"Miss Holden, I take it?" Marsh says. "Operations briefed me about your presence. Glad you took the gamble."
"No worries," Alira replies.
"The approach was made to a contact in Varna," Hoi Yan says. "We can't substantiate anything at this point because we have no assets in the area other than the freelancer BLACKFIN left the message for."
"Now I don't have to tell you," Marsh says, "but just so we're clear, there's Europe and then there's Europe, as for as the DNI's office is concerned. Operating there would be a lot more...palatable, politically speaking."
"With just the minor drawback that that's not where the action is," Operations responds. "We'll keep it in mind, Director. Anything else?"
"Uh, yes," Hoi Yan says. "Don't go downtown today. We have reports that protests are already gathering throughout Neustadt, St. Pauli and Altona. Federal police has been mobilized."
"They're not quite outside our windows yet, but thank you for the update," Operations says. "Ops out."

With a press of the touchscreen, she hangs up, then runs her hand through her hair.

"Everybody knows what to do today?" she asks.
punkey 2018-07-22 01:21:14
"Lira and I are looking to run down that phone call that dropped the dime on Sulemani," Mason replies.
Gatac 2018-07-22 06:58:53
"Busy day, then," Operations comments. "Get to it."


Tim arrives at the observation post to see that the party, such as it is, has already been started. A group of protesters in black clothes, bandanas and hoods up have assembled in front of construction site, with clear intent to fuck shit up. The good part is that it's brought some K-Group security out front, as well as two patrol cars worth of cops who are currently trying rather fruitlessly to contain the group until reinforcements arrive.

"Fuck the bourgeoisie!" comes a cry from within the group, followed by a brick through one of the construction site's windows. No real risk of them damaging any of the stuff in the perch, but if the cops lock down the site, there goes the post - and worse, if the owners arrive to assess the damage, they might find the post before you guys can clean up.


By contrast, the cop to protester ratio at Dr. Sulemani's community center approaches infinity, ringed as it is with patrol cars and cops on protection detail. After yesterday's fuckup, Section 9 leaned on the local constabulary to make a show of force here to ensure that nobody uses the protests downtown as a convenient cover for attacking a mosque. That said, the cops are clearly not very happy babysitting here when they know their colleagues are downtown in the thick of it. A more practical problem for Blake might be that they're now watching everyone coming and going, which may make it a little difficult to leave with Dr. Sulemani without anyone noticing.


It's a decently long ride to Section 9 HQ for Mason, being that he's riding in the back of Ze Van and Lucy has made it very clear that she gets the best seat there, having been banished from the front row by Alira riding shotgun. Laith has the radio set to a German station that has somehow managed to combine "hot 40" with "sly commentary on current events" by playing a certain jaunty tune.

"Call when you're ready for pickup," Laith tells you as you climb out. Alira's barely out when Lucy jumps out from the back, trots past her with as close to self-satisfied as a dog's expression gets, and then jumps back in onto the front passenger seat.
As the van drives away, Alira turns to Mason. "How big is the stick up the arse of these particular Germans?" she asks.
"Boss lady likes things to be done properly, but aside from that, no better or worse than anything else," Mason says as he punches in the code for the door. Once it closes behind them, he continues. "She didn't like it when I helped them get the G7 evacuated."
"At least you didn't use smokies this time," Alira says.

Walking in, Alira takes the "tower of shipping containers in the middle of warehouse" look in stride, ducking her head into the main lobby right behind Mason. Standing at the kitchenette is Elias Senai, whose chili-based concoction threatens to overwhelm the fume hood even at full tilt. Sitting nearby on the floor is Jadwiga, noise-canceling headphones on as she watches something very intently on her laptop - she doesn't even look up when you enter.

"Hello," Senai greets you, then looks past Mason. "Should I get the boss for this?"
"Possibly, we're hoping you could help chase down the tip that sent the police after Sulemani," Mason says.
"Alright," Senai says. "Would you - ah, just keep stirring this, please."
As he leaves his cooking spoon in Mason's care, Jadwiga finally looks up from her laptop and slides off her headphones. "'sup?" she says.
"G'day," Alira says. "I'm -"
"Venus de Milo?" Jadwiga guesses. Alira looks to Mason. "We got kind of a Ninja Turtles thing going on with you guys."
"That...actually, that explains nothing," Alira says. "But sure. Venus works." She grins at Mason. "Right?"
Mason shrugs with a smirk. "As long as you keep your arms."

Just then, Senai returns with Wiesner. Her expression doesn't drop when she sees Alira - it already was at "annoyed".

"Boss, Venus," Jadwiga weighs in. "Venus, the Boss."
"Mandy Wiesner, AiC," Wiesner says. "Elias says you're here about the anonymous phone call?"
"We're hoping you can help with running it down," Mason says.
Alira nods. "I was hoping you'd let me peek at your MCID dump for the call?" she says. "We can do the reverse search ourselves."
Jadwiga smirks.
"Suppose that we let you know the name and address we traced the call to," she says, "what exactly is it that you intend to do? This is for our colleagues to work, I'm sure you have more important things to follow up on."
"Knock on the door, say hello, ask a few questions," Mason says. "You know, normal spy stuff."

(Mason uses Tradecraft to persuade Wiesner to work with them.)

Wiesner's eyes narrow, but having witnessed Mason deal with the Bulgarians without messing up anything too badly, she nods.

"Tell them," she says.
"Number is registered to a Stefanie Gruenewald," Jadwiga says. "I also looked up some background. She's a student at HfMT - Hamburg Music & Theater Hochschule. Not her that did the call, obviously. Facebook pictures have tagged a roomie of hers, one Abdul Muti Sabari. Guess where he's from."
Mason looks to Alira. "That should be enough, right?"
Alira thinks. "What's Sabari's connection to Dr. Sulemani?" she asks. "Other that they're both from Afghanistan."
Jadwiga shrugs. "Didn't have time to dig that deep yet," she says. "Might have better luck asking him directly."
Wiesner sighs and shakes her head. "Or you could let us handle this the low-profile way."
"Always know the answer before you ask the questions," Mason says, and looks back to the main conference/lunch table. "Mind if we set up for a moment?"
"Not if you mind me looking over your shoulders," Wiesner replies.
Mason looks to Alira. "Do we?"
"Oh, I don't mind someone watching," Alira says, grinning and earning a withering glare from Wiesner.
Gatac 2018-07-25 05:13:54
(Mason spends Tradecraft to get more intel!)

Is there anything better than some good social engineering? Alira digs into Sabari electronically, quickly jacking his Instagram by guessing that the password is the name of his cat - Bala, as tagged in another of Gruenewald's posts after doing that cat thing where she fell off a cupboard and then pretended nothing happened. Meanwhile, Mason and his command of accents comes into play again as he goes after Sabari's student loan account with the info Alira got from his private pictures - dude, don't put scans of your bills in the cloud! Sheesh, everyone knows that. Anyway, it takes about half an hour for the tag-team of Alira and Mason to find out that Abdul Sabari is just as underwater on his loans today as he was three months ago. However, his brother Ahmad now enjoys unfiltered air after Abdul paid for his bail - looks like Ahmad tried to settle a brawl at an outdoor pool with a knife. It stands to reason that Abdul was very receptive to an offer for quick cash on a small favor. Check his PayPal account - seriously, dude, the same password on two different services? - and you find two large coming his way just the day before, sent by...a member of K-Group's security team? What the actual fuck?

Wiesner's face assumes a shade of consternation rarely seen out of congressional panels. "...did you just implicate K-Group in a frame job?"
"One of their employees, at least," Alira beams. "So, how about a warrant?"
"That's not going to work," Wiesner says. "But this is...worrying."
"Megacorp in bed with terrorists?" Jadwiga says. "Cyberpunk af. I believe it."
"Less jumping to conclusions, please," Wiesner says. "You're still surveilling the place, yes?"
"We are," Mason confirms.
"Anything you managed to find out about their security?" Wiesner asks.
"They're very bored," Mason says. "Mostly digital security, mostly focused on the underground areas."
Wiesner considers the matter. "Okay, here's how I want you to play this," she says. "The guard -"
"Matthias Loewe," Alira says.
"Talk to him," Wiesner says. "No offense, but I don't trust the connection here. Before I go authorizing anything we can't take back, I want at least some old-school detective work and a personal assessment of the man."
"Well, before we go -" Mason starts.
"Got his home address!" Alira says.
"Yes, that's -"
"No social media presence, though," Alira continues. "You don't happen to have a live tap into city surveillance, do you?"
Jadwiga chuckles. "We're in the land of Datenschutz, babe," she says. "Also, the hardware out there is vintage 90s. Pre-big data. You'd have better chances with open-source weather cams." She coughs. "Not that I've ever tried that..."
Mason spins around in his chair. "Finances?"
"Hey, you wanna guess his PayPal password, be my guest," Jadwiga comments.
"Sorry," Alira adds. "We have nothing else to go on and I can't pull a bank account and PIN out my arse."
Mason spins back to Wiesner. "I don't suppose -"
"Get me something that will convince a judge to issue a warrant," Wiesner says. "Unlike you guys, we have to play by some rules."
Mason spins back around to Alira. "Then I guess it's time we say hello, then."
"Oh, I do so love meeting new people," Alira beams.
Admiral Duck Sauce 2018-07-31 18:42:00
Tim smiles and heads downstairs, zipping up the hoodie he was already wearing and pulling his shirt up over his nose and mouth. Some rebar and a hefty chunk of concrete from the construction site let him seamlessly blend into the crowd of wannabe-Baltimoreans.

Fuck it, Mason or Blake were probably going to put them in the hospital anyway.

Tim shouts "Fuck you, classist tool!" and chucks a brick at one of the K Group security guys - except his aim isn't to hit the guy, it's to hit the camera on the northeast corner.
Gatac 2018-08-01 15:57:37
(Tim's Athletics: 1d6+1 = (4)+1 = 5)

Tim pitches the brick through the air, nailing the security camera just over the personnel entrance to K Group's yard. The stone shatters into pieces and rains down on a security guard beneath, who reflexively grabs for the side of his waist and comes up empty. Oh shit, these guys are willing to draw down! As police continues to not be present for the altercation, another one of the guards steps up to try and calm the situation, but he gets peppersprayed and whacked over the head before he can even start talking. After the crowd's chant heats up and the downed guard eats a few kicks to the ribs, several of his colleagues wade into the fray with collapsible batons and start swinging, literally beating back the protesters and adding some pepperspray of their own to the party. From the corner of his eye, Tim can see two more K-Group guys rushing from the all-glass stairwell down to the entrance, and these guys are packing guns. Shit's about to get ugly.


Mason and Alira are parked street-side, in a position that gives them a good view into the third floor living room of one Matthias Loewe. In his hands is the note that Jadwiga slipped him on their way out the door - Loewe's cell number. Officially, Section 9 couldn't provide that information, but unofficially...
"So how are we getting inside?" Alira speaks up. "I've seen just about all I can see through the window and this Loewe character doesn't sound like he gets a lot of mates dropping in with a pack of coldies to watch the game."
"First things first," Mason replies, and dials the cell number.


"Mathias Loewe," Loewe(?) says on the other end of the line. Can't be very busy at work if he gets to his private cell phone this quick.
"Hello, are you satisfied with your current Internet Service Provider?" Mason asks in German.
"Take me off your list, please," Loewe says. "Goodbye." click Well, he doesn't dawdle, does he.
"And we're clear," Mason says, grabbing their breakfast fast-food bag out of the back.
"Right behind you, Masie," Alira says.

Mason walks up to the front door and hits the buzzer for the apartment of an old woman they spotted doing her gardening.

After about half a minute, the panel comes alive. "Hello?" the old woman asks in German. "Who is this?"
"Hello? I have a food delivery for an apartment here?" Mason asks. "It's for someone on the third floor, but the apartment number is rubbed out on the receipt and nobody is opening. Can you buzz me in, ma'am? It's really important."
"Oh, my boy, I know everyone in this house, I've lived here for 27 years, you know," she replies. "Who are you looking for?"
"Engel?" Mason asks.
"Ach," the old woman says. "Let me guess, pizza again? It's a wonder Frauke can get anything through to you on the phone with her little rascals in the back. She probably just didn't hear you. You're new, aren't you? Your colleagues already know." She buzzes you. "Well, no sense keeping them waiting and hungry. Come on in."
"Thank you, ma'am," Mason replies, and holds the door open for Alira.

Mason and Alira squeeze through the narrow entrance hall and past a couple of bikes as well as a folded-up pram, then up the winding staircase. Hanging from the walls are prints of fancy paintings showing 19th century Hamburg harbor and ships. Up on third floor, you find Loewe's apartment to the left by process of elimination - the Engel apartment has a little painted stone sign with hand-lettered "WILLKOMMEN" hanging from it and the sound of children loudly playing coming from behind it, while the Koenig apartment has an adhesive label with that name on the doorbell buzzer. Mason knocks on the door - there's no response from inside.

(Mason's Infiltration to open the door: 1d6+1 = (3)+1 = 4)

No muss, no fuss. The door clicks open as Mason jimmies the lock. As Mason and Alira enter the apartment, all remains quiet, but there's a faint whiff in the air, the smell of something...chemical. Mason motions for Alira to step inside his footprints as he advances into the apartment. Advancing carefully through the apartment, Mason and Alira detect nothing too out of the ordinary, though a glimpse of the bedroom reveals that the bedsheets are in disarray. The smell leads back to the bathroom, where opening the door gets Mason a face full of poorly vented bleach vapor. Looking beyond the stinging chemical residue, Mason can see that someone did a hell of a job on the bathroom. It probably hasn't been this clean since it was last renovated.
"You got anything for blood?" Mason asks.
"Left the luminol in my other handbag," Alira quips. "I have a flashlight, though."
Mason digs his own mini light out of his pocket. "Grout and corners, then."
"You want me to check the other rooms?" Alira asks. "Could get a little cozy in there with both of us."
Mason nods. "Check for bleach stains and check the path between here and there. Anything else that smells off."
"Got it," Alira says.

(Mason spends a point of Notice.)

Mason's search for blood residue turns up exactly zilch in physical evidence, but that's a very telling result in itself. On the assumption that violence happened in here and needed to be cleaned up, Mason would expect a would-be criminal to clean up the visible blood spatter as best as they could and then GTFO. An obsessive weirdo might douse everything in bleach, too, but even that would leave some of that tough blood residue detectable. No, whoever did this went farther: abrasives and oxygen-cleaners, with a bleach stage on top of that just for kicks - or to mislead investigators? In any event, this must have taken hours of painstaking work by someone trained in evidence disposal techniques - and not just the "Forensics Disruption 101" class they give you at the Farm.

As Mason ponders that, Alira returns. "The trash isn't older than twelve hours," she says. "I think whoever cleaned this place took out the real trash bag with them and left a decoy with some opened and dumped cans. The bedsheets and so on are also new, though they've been made to look like someone slept on them. The only thing I'm pretty sure hasn't been deep-cleaned is the hallway rug." She frowns. "Masie, if there's a bloke in a gimp suit waiting to jump out of a closet, you'd better go find him and shoot him right now."
"You check under the counters and cabinets for dust?" Mason asks. "Tables and chairs?"
"Yeah, I turned up a whole three specks from here to the bedroom," Alira says. "Unless Loewe's workday routine is to mop and wipe down his whole apartment, I think we can add that to the tally, too."
"Other rooms normal?"
"The living room looked proper lived-in," Alira says. "Crusty ramen noodle cup on the table, couple of empty bottles next to the sofa. And no mail lying around, either."

Mason recalls the mailbox downstairs: a free "sample" Bild newspaper stuffed in Loewe's mail slot and about half the others, too, with the other half presumably already removed. Might be worth opening that to see if there's any mail below that he didn't collect. Mason leans out of the bathroom to look at the wooden board mounted to the wall next to the apartment door. There's a ring dangling from it with four keys - Mason guesses apartment, cellar, bike lock, mailbox - and another ring with a car keyfob.

"I'll be right back," Mason says, grabbing both keyrings and tossing the car to Alira. "I'll meet you in the garage, but -"
"...do we know that Loewe actually showed up to work today?" Alira asks back.

Mason nods. He then heads straight for the stairwell and hustles downstairs, pausing to see if anyone is waiting or watching out the front from behind the privacy glass.

(Mason's Sense Trouble: 1d6+2 = (4)+2 = 6)

Mason scans the street outside, his eyes lingering on a guy on a bike having a bit too much trouble with starting his bike, but then he notices something different - a glint from the roof of the fire station across the street. The reflection's too strong for a serious gun optic - especially an unmagnified one suitable for the short range - but it'd be about right for a fat lens on a camera.

"Babe, you got that monocular?" Mason asks over text.
"always what do you need eyes on" Alira texts back.
"Roof of fire station, guy with a camera" Mason replies.

Half a minute later, the reply comes in the form of an MMS containing a zoomed-in snapshot. It's not the best picture, but Mason recognizes the mug as one of the Bulgarians he met the day before. Looks like the photo sniper got countersniped here. Then again, if he's been waiting here for someone...did he see Mason and Alira enter? Did he take pictures of them then? What is he sticking around for, in that case? Mason runs down the options. If he had pictures of them going in, then why would he hang around? If he had pictures of them in the apartment, ditto. Either one would be enough to make their lives uncomfortable.

"he doesn't have pictures of us yet" Mason texts Alira.
"whats the play" Alira replies.
"garage then surprise party"
"k ill keep an eye out for more friends" Alira responds.

Mason nods and then heads for the garage downstairs. He's been to plenty of garages. This is not one of the better ones. It is clear that the Gilded Age construction of the area was done without much attention paid to future parking needs, so the newly constructed garage in the backlot is more of a cramped afterthought, each nominal space doubled by car lifts that fit one car below and one above, with copies of the license plates next to each lift, presumably to signify that these and only these cars are allowed to be parked there. Going by the keyfob, Mason locates Loewe's car, a Land Rover Freelander 2 in a subdued 799/HFU "Keswick Green" that just barely fits into its spot. From what Mason can see through the windows, the car looks about as clean as the man's living room. Some dirt in the footwells, empty plastic water bottles dumped in the back, a well-worn road atlas wedged in the space between the center console and the front passenger seat. No signs of struggle, either. The bottom shelf of the center console contains an assortment of printed "tickets" from parking meters.

Mason changes position to see what the date on the top-most ticket is. Good thing that Mason's got that 20/10 vision! The topmost ticket is from yesterday evening, actually. Looks like someone parked in Rostocker Strasse. There's shiny black ticket for something else wedged underneath it - actually make that two tickets - but Mason can't get a good angle on those from outside the car. Mason pops the locks and grabs the two tickets. The tickets are two admissions to the "SLUT Club Hamburg", punched for yesterday evening.

Mason pockets them. "leaving via garage any new friends"
"hes on the phone" Alira responds.

(Mason's Preparedness for "Did we bring the Stingray?": 1d6+2 preparedness for Stingray = (2)+2 = 4)

Mason closes and locks the car before heading back into the rear stairwell, away from the fire station. He pulls out his good phone and calls Laith.
"Schnitzel-Express, we bread it you dread it, can I take your order?" Laith responds.
"You got the Stingray warmed up?" Mason asks. "Looking for any calls from a 1 block radius around my location, Bulgarian country code."
"Surprising amount of Romanian calls going on, but one Bulgarian call, got it," Laith says. "Okay, go ahead, guess the city."
"Akron?" Mason asks.
"I thought that was a myth," Laith says. "You ever meet anybody from Akron? Anyway, no points, Sir. It's going to a landline registered in - wait for it - Varna. I can't get a detailed fix for it on the fly because Bulgarian telephones apparently don't have ECHELON priority but I'm sure our team back home will be all too glad to find us another reason to go there."
"Let's start growing some trees from these numbers, yeah?" Mason says.
"Sometimes I feel bad for Hoi Yan," Laith says. "Anyway, call's done now, I recorded what I could of the convo. We can go over it when you're back in the van. Anything else?"
"Machine translation pick up anything like 'he's here and we have the kill squad on the way'?" Mason asks.
"Something about...new orders?" Laith reads off the screen. "The machine is like 80% guessing, though. I've seen better transcription on YouTube's automatic closed captions."
"All right," Mason says. "Tracker on his number, and this number," and then rattles of Loewe's cell. "And a current location on that one."
"Tracked and tracked," Laith says. "It'll take a while to get a fix on Loewe's phone, though, it's not anywhere in the vicinity. I'll let you know."
"K Group?" Mason asks.
"That's a question for someone physically at the observation post," Laith says. "If they can detect it through the shielding on that place."
"Yeah..." Mason says. "Okay, good. You're a doll, Laith."
"And don't I know it," Laith says. "Stay safe out there."
"Always," Mason says, and shifts back to his text app. "friend still there?"
"packing up in a hurry"
"get the car ready" Mason replies, not needing to fill in the gaps.
"on my way" Alira replies.

Mason pockets the phone as he slides out of the rear stairwell and back onto the street. Swiftly stepping along the apartment building, he waits and watches around the corner for the man on the roof to step away, then full-on sprints across the road to get in position around the corner from the side door to the fire station that leads to the parking lot for the firemen, and waits. As he works to still his breath, he can hear the footsteps of the Bulgarian operative approaching. A decent pace, but not rushing, not drawing any more attention than necessary.

(Mason's Infiltration to set up Player-Facing Combat: 1d6+2 infiltration = (1)+2 = 3 NOPE)
(Player-facing combat fails. Initiative goes to the character with the higher HtH score - in this case, the Bulgarian.)
(1d6+2 Bulgarian HtH = (1)+2 = 3 NOPE)

Mason swings out of cover - only to get swung on! No time to think about what gave him away - Mason deftly ducks under the Bulgarian's right cross.

(1d6 Mason HtH = (1) = 1)

Mason's counter fizzles - he's too close to build power for a proper punch, so it ends up as more of a shove. As both combatants back up a half-step and size each other up, the Bulgarian's face turns to anger. "Znaekh, che si predatel!" the Bulgarian growls, then comes at Mason again!

(1d6+2 Bulgarian Hth = (2)+2 = 4)
(1d6-2-1 Bulgarian damage = (5)-2-1 = 2)

The Bulgarian feints with his fist, then sends a lightning-quick straight kick at Mason's midsection. The armor lining spreads the impact, but still, that smarts pretty good.

(1d6+1 Mason HtH = (3)+1 = 4)
(1d6-2 Mason Damage = (4)-2 = 2)

Mason's counter jab rings the Bulgarian's clock. He blinks a few times, but before Mason can capitalize on it, renews his attack.

(1d6+1 Bulgarian HtH = (3)+1 = 4)
(1d6-2-1 Bulgarian damage = (6)-2-1 = 3)

Pow! That punch goes straight to a nerve cluster near Mason's shoulder, sending a spike of pain through his chest and arm.

(1d6+1 Mason HtH = (4)+1 = 5)
(1d6-2 Mason damage = (4)-2 = 2)

As the Bulgarian tries to push his advantage, Mason stomps the instep of his left leg. The Bulgarian grits his teeth and powers through once more, though.

(1d6 Bulgarian HtH = (3) = 3)

Whiff! The swing goes wide as Mason has managed to step back far enough from his momentarily hobbled opponent.

(1d6+2 Mason HtH = (5)+2 = 7)
(1d6-2 Mason damage = (1)-2 = -1)
(Per the optional rule we're using, every attack that hits does a minimum of 1 damage, so this is not a whiff.)

Mason sweeps the leg, sending the Bulgarian to the concrete ground. He's still not knocked out; Mason sees him reach for his belt, drawing a small blade from its disguised belt buckle sheath. Before that can see much use, though, Alira runs up next to Mason, gun out.
"Don't you fucking move another muscle," she says, aiming at the grounded operative. "You okay?" she asks Mason.
Mason reels back, and kicks the Bulgarian square in the face with the heel of his boot, knocking him out cold. "Gonna need a massage to get this nerve pinch out," Mason replies as he zip-ties the man's hands behind his back and hefts him into the waiting trunk.
"I think that can be arranged," Alira says. Grabbing onto the Bulgarian's feet, she helps Mason quickly load the operative into the roomy trunk of their Local24.de dull grey Volvo 760 wagon - with the optional 6-slot CD changer, of course.
"Back to the warehouse first," Mason says, and gets out a clean phone and dials Wiesner. "Loewe is dead," he says as she picks up.


Blake does a quick double check at the ANHALTEN sign. Checks himself in the mirror - frowning, he tightens his tie a bit, but is otherwise the model of a Foreign Office employee. The dossier, from the passenger seat - containing files on a asylum seeker to be recommended to Dr. Sulemani (provided by Section 9 to "Donatello"). The cordon causes Blake to stiffen reflexively for a moment before settling a little - no weapons in the vehicle means he should have nothing to fear from the police presence, but Blake still feels ill at ease without some weapon on hand. Everything he needs where it should be, he drives up to the perimeter, signaling his intention to enter the community center. As Blake rolls up, one of the cops walks into his path and signs for him to pull over and roll down the window. As Blake does so, the cop walks around to meet him.

"Good day," the bored-but-by-the-book cop says in German. "Name and purpose of your visit?"
"Heinrich Foehrkolb, AA," Blake responds with a tinge of a Berliner accent, "Here to see Dr. Sulemani."

The cop looks over Blake, clearly thinking that Heinrich's daddy must have been in the US Army, but he's on the list, so the cop waves him through. Blake's face betrays nothing as the officer, like so many before him, gives him the black-man-double-check, and pulls in to park. Time's a-wasting. As Blake pulls up at the community center's front door, he is greeted by a nervous Muhammed, whose eyes sweep the police perimeter even as he moves to shake Blake's hand.

"Mr. Foehrkolb?" Muhammed says. "Please come in. Dr. Sulemani will join you momentarily."
Blake gives a firm shake and a momentary smile. "Thank you...?" he responds, waiting for Muhammed to introduce himself...and so Blake can get a better read on him.

(Blake uses BS detect on Muhammed.)

"Oh, you can call me just Muhammed," the young man says. "I'm just the the assistant here." Blake can't escape the feeling that quite a bit of Dr. Sulemani's successes involve Muhammed doing the grunt work, but it's not very culturally appropriate for Muhammed to take credit for that. Overall he seems anxious and clearly hasn't slept well.
"Thank you, Muhammed," Blake says, and allows himself to be guided to his appointment, though he does comment, frowning, "Awfully large number of officers for so few rioters."
"I don't think they're just here to protect us," Muhammed mumbles.
Blake frown deepens at Muhammed's observation, and at realizing just how deep the fear goes. He'll have to give Mom a call soon. Make sure she's okay...

Muhammed then leads Blake into Dr. Sulemani's office upstairs, where Dr. Sulemani is tapping away one last e-mail on his laptop before packing up. His suitcase is already packed, sitting next to the desk.

"Mr. Foehrkolb?" Dr. Sulemani asks, then introduces himself and dismisses Muhammed. After Muhammed is out of the room, Dr. Sulemani looks straight at Blake. "I usually get more warning when I am called upon to consult on an asylum case," he says, leaving that hanging for Blake to respond to.
Blake nods, acknowledging the justice of the question. "I apologize for the abruptness, but the Ministry decided to fast-track this case just last night." He passes the file to Sulemani. "Here is the dossier for your perusal. I will drive you to your destination." He pauses, and adds with some sympathy and apology. "We both know this is all highly irregular, but the riots have everyone on edge. My superiors will want to know you made it to the airport safe."

(Blake uses Reassure.)

Dr. Sulemani nods. "I understand your bosses wanting me safely out of the city and I see no reason not to play along," he says. "Just as long as your colleagues in blue out there don't take liberties with my staff. Also," he adds as he scans the file, "I expect that my recommendation for Angeza and her children will be...impactful."
"Your evaluation will be taken quite seriously by the Ministry," Blake says gravely, making a note to pass Dr. Sulemani's sentiment onto Section 9, who can then pass it along to...whoever their contact is. Besides, the whole point is for Sulemani to keep doing good while out of danger here.
Blake escorts Sulemani to the vehicle, but asks for a moment to inspect the vehicle. "Rioters threw something at it earlier," he says apologetically.

(1d6+5 Blake Sense Trouble = (6)+5 = 11)

EXTERIOR DAY. BLAKE and SULEMANI walk out of the front door to head to the car. As BLAKE puts on his sunglasses, his eyes meet with a ROGUE COP. The ROGUE COP turns away and says something into his radio, his hand resting on the MP5 SUBMACHINE GUN slung across his tactical vest. BLAKE looks down at the ground, seeing something reflected in a water puddle underneath the car. It's a BOMB! (This description guest directed by John Woo.)

Blake walks forward a little more, reaching into his pockets, pulling out his burner and typing a quick text to Laith: "Need fac rec on photo, badge no. if poss." He also makes a show of not finding his keys. "Oh damn," then looking up and around, then pointing: "Officer, are those keys yours?" If the officer gives him a good angle, Blake snaps a pic.

(1d6+2 Blake Conceal vs. 5 = (3)+2 = 5)

Blake's snapped the odd surreptitious cellphone pic before on arms inspections, so getting a mugshot from the cop is NBD.

"I can't help you, Sir," the cop answers in German - but Blake can pick out that, good as he is, he's not a native speaker. Seconds later, Blake's phone buzzes. "Forwarded to Section 9, stand by" is Laith's reply.
Blake doesn't even look at the phone. "Damn," Blake says, looking at Sulemani and speaking more softly while keeping the 'cop' in his vision. "I must have left them in your office, Doctor. Let's go back."
"...okay," Dr. Sulemani replies.

As he and Blake walk back inside, Blake notices the rogue cop moving away, probably attempting to first get some distance and then fade away before he can be made, probably with some sort of distraction -

Maybe you should walk faster.

Blake picks up the pace, adding even more softly, "Get in front of me, Doctor. Now."
"What is going -" Dr. Sulemani tries to say.

BANG! The bomb detonates as Blake shoves Sulemani to the ground to shield him from the blast. Out of the corner of his eye, Blake can see a lance of fire pierce through the car and flip it over. Explosively-forged penetrator. Blake knows immediately. This bomb would have injured the driver, too, but it was made and placed very specifically to obliterate the backseat and even cut through whatever armor a possible transport vehicle could have packed.

As the cop perimeter outside breaks into shouting and chaos and Muhammed comes running to help Dr. Sulemani, Blake catches a glimpse through the column of fire and smoke outside - the rogue cop is jogging away, past the ring of patrol cars.
Blake growls to Sulemani "Stay here," (complete with stabbing downward, for the hearing-impaired) and dashes after his first real lead on RoI in Germany.

(This is an Open chase on foot. As Blake is less armored than his target, he gets to be the faster one by default, which means every chase roll he makes is at +1. Starting lead is 6, starting difficulty is 3.)
(Ross, go ahead and test v 3, spending from your Athletics as you see fit.)
(Going to spend 1 from Athletics, and will also spend a point of Notice - I figure the flustercluck is strongest here, and that's me trying to keep my mark on him)
(1d6+1+1 Blake Athletics = (1)+1+1 = 3)
(1d6+1 Rogue Cop Athletics = (4)+1 = 5)
(Okay, you both succeeded, but the cop's margin was better. LEAD SHIFTS TO 7. The Notice spend means the cop will have to declare first what he's spending in subsequent rounds.)

Blake motors after the rogue cop, bouncing out of the community center - and straight into the cops swarming the car that just blew up. Blake vaults over the wreck and tumbles past the cops, but it's not the flat-out run that would let him get closer to the rogue cop.

(Next round, the rogue cop spends nothing. Ross, you're up.)
(Gamble Time! Swerving, Spending 3, and throwing a point of Urban Survival on top - using my knowledge of the area to get a better advantage)
(1d6+3+1 Blake Athletics = (2)+3+1 = 6)
(Do you want to spend the three Athletics points for the Swerve on top of the three you spent on the roll or do you want to use Urban Survival to gain the benefit of the Swerve without spending Athletics?)
(Oh shit, that's right. Let's go with the latter.)
(1d6 Rogue Cop = (1) = 1)
(Blake succeeds, while the Rogue Cop fails miserably. Due to the Swerve, all lead changes are doubled this round. LEAD SHIFTS TO 3.)

Blake glances at a street sign and correlates this information with his knowledge of Hamburg's geography - plus the tram timetable. He runs to the left, nudging the rogue cop into a right turn around a corner - and directly into a busy intersection, where one of those very punctual German trams is currently executing a low-speed turn. The cop freezes while Blake makes up ground; in fact, he's only ten meters ahead of Blake still when he finally sees a route through and starts running again. Hoping to lose Blake in a crowd, the cop runs straight for a pedestrian zone.

(Rogue Cop raises the difficulty to 4 for both of you and spends 2 next round. Ross, you're up.)
(Going to spend 1 and a point of human terrain to grok how the pedestrian zone works/where it goes/something like that. Also want to use Parkour, but not sure how you want to handle that right now)
(I will give you a situation and you write up how Blake moves through it.)
(1d6+1+1 Blake Athletics = (6)+1+1 = 8)
(1d6+2 = (2)+2 = 4)
(Both succeeded, Blake has the bigger margin. LEAD SHIFTS TO 2. Also, Blake's insight into the workings of the pedestrian zone reduces his difficulty back to 3.)

Blake snorts as he charges forward, veering to the right edge of the throughfare. The man charging straight down the middle is impossible to miss by following the wake of angry walkers in his wake, and he's fighting the current. Blake sticks to the right, which means an easier way forward with the current. He shifts closer, but not enough to seal the deal yet. The officer starts elbowing his way up some stairs onto a busy pavilion - people start falling down and clog up the stairway with bruises and wailing curses. Blake frowns, but kips up onto the raised marble framing the stairway - in time to see the 'cop' elbowing his way across pedestrian traffic closer to the opposite side of the stairs. Blake takes one step, two, plants his feet and pushes up and over while tucking - somersaulting once over the supine victims of the moving mosh pit and landing feet first on the smooth railing with a CLANG. For an encore, Blake jumps into another roll to stick the landing on the other side of the stairway. From there, it's a simple push, step, and flip to land in the wake of the runaway 'cop.'

(Okay, Cop is spending 2 next round. Ross, go ahead and roll.)
(...Okay, this is going to get...interesting. I have a floating point for Investigative abilities, and I'm going to spend it to get a rank in Cop Talk, then I'm going to spend that point to basically shout "You're under arrest" and that sort of thing, try to get the crowd to part for me, clearly an officer of the law. Also, spending 1.)
(Cool, roll it.)
(1d6+1+1 Blake Athletics = (6)+1+1 = 8)
(1d6+2 = (4)+2 = 6)
(Okay, I'm ruling that the Cop Talk spend straight reduces the lead by 1. Together with this result, the lead drops to 0. CHASE IS OVER.)

Blake, close enough to see beads of sweat and conscious of the eyes of the populace on him, dredges up his best cop impression and shouts "FREEZE! YOU'RE UNDER ARREST FOR IMPERSONATING A POLICE OFFICER!" The crowd parts instinctively, thinking of and/or fearing the consequences of getting in the way of an officer of the law, and the space lets Blake surge forward and tackle the man to the ground.

(Okay, you have him down on the ground. Hand-to-Hand v6 to snatch the handcuffs from his belt and cuff him before he can effectively fight back.)
(Spending 5, and will use Martial Arts here if it applies.)
(Sure, gimme a description of wrestling the MP5 from his hands and applying a joint lock or something.)
(1d6+5 Blake HtH = (3)+5 = 8)

Both men go down on the ground, and the scuffle starts almost immediately. The right hand of the 'cop' goes immediately for the MP5, now pinned between his chest and the ground, and he tries to buck Blake off his lower half and free the firearm in one motion. Keyword: "tries." Blake's heavy enough, and has his arms around the man's thighs, so he just rides the wave. The 'cop' has his wrist at an angle and the gun isn't free yet, and that's all the opening Blake needs. The ex-SEAL unwraps his arms and springs over. He gets his fingers over the man's knuckles and wrapped into the palm, with his left arm cupping the shoulder at it's base, and from here it's all leverage, baby. The nikyo comes back to Blake without prompting; feet spinning him around to the man's shoulder, his left arm sweeps back towards the 'cop's belt and clasping the handcuffs before swinging back toward the wrist, his right arm caught in the prone man's elbow and forcing the bend. With one arm locked against Blake's chest and the crook of his elbow, the fight's almost over - the only reason it's not is beacuse the cursing man's other hand is reaching into a side pocket on the belt for something. Blake drops the cuffs into his right hand, and reaches over and flicks, catching the 'cop's left wrist in one end of the silver bracelets. The 'cop' tries to tug either of his arms away, but no dice, and with a moment's work, he's trussed up like Thanksgiving turkey.

As Blake secures the rogue cop, the crowd around him steps back and clears the immediate area around him. To be fair, they're being asked to accept a lot: someone in a police uniform who is not a cop, and then this guy in a suit who says he is, all ending right in the middle of the market, but for the time being, Blake's explanation seems to hold water. It is, perhaps unintentionally, reinforced by reinforcements; Blake can make out a few cops from the protective perimeter entering the market, trying to find where the chase ended. Question is, does Blake want to stick around for that? Dread starts eating away at Blake as he realizes he didn't really think up an exit plan, and what happened back at the mosque, is Sulemani okay-

Blake rubs his face and pulls out his phone. First, check if Sec 9 got him a match for the identity of the 'cop.' Second...probably call Sec 9. Regardless of whether he can fast-talk the real police or not, he should arrange for them to send another car for Sulemani. The phone does show a match, together with a mugshot and a telephoto shot - must have been Wiesner's work from when Mason met with the Bulgarians. The man is identified as Radislav Kozlek, formerly of the 68th Special Forces Brigade, 3rd Battalion - para-recon, deserted four years ago.

With a sigh, Blake punches in the number Wiesner had given out for Section 9.

(Blake uses Intimidate to get Radislav's compliance.)

As the phone dials, he hauls up Radislav and whispers in his ear. "We're going to go, and you won't make a fuss, because I won't feel guilty about leaving bits of you behind...Kozlek." Then he starts pushing Radislav forward through the crowd, aiming to get them out of the police's net.

(1d6+5 Blake's Surveillance to slip the cops and get out = (6)+5 = 11)

Radislav knows when he's beat, but more than that, he knows that Blake is the better choice than the cops - so he cooperates quietly, even helping Blake get him back onto his feet. As the real cops close in, crowd attention turns momentarily to them, which is all the time Blake needs to push through a gap in the ranks of people, past a clothing stand. The breezy coat was in the women's section, but it covers up most of Radislav's uniform, while Blake dumps his suit jacket into the trash and dons the Marvel Cinematic Universe disguise of basecap + sunglasses, even leaving behind enough cash to pay for everything - just because you're a spy doesn't mean you have to be rude about it. Blake and Radislav duck past a couple of lollygagging tourists, dodge a crew of street cleaners picking up trash and disappear into a side alley with nobody the wiser.

"Hey, Donatello," Xavier's voice answers him on the Section 9 number. "We got Sulemani, you need a ride, too?"
"Spri se -" Radislav coughs as Blake's arm presses in on his neck, but it's much too late to think of fighting back. Within seconds, the Bulgarian passes out and collapses into Blake's waiting arms.
"Sorry about that," Blake responds in the phone. "Sure, as long as you have space for a terrorist in the trunk."
"Uh, sure," Xavier says. "See ya."
Admiral Duck Sauce 2018-08-14 16:31:21
Shit, if those jackasses shoot someone the post is fucked, Tim thinks. Go big or go home, I guess...

Making sure his face is as covered as possible, Tim weaves and ducks his way towards one of the police cars. He's gotta bleed off or redirect the steam from this situation, and stealing a cop car might be just the Pied Piper he needs.
Gatac 2018-08-20 14:52:29
Tim "Lock King" Barstow easily cracks open the door of a patrol car and climbs inside just as one of the cops - hot off his latest attempt to calm the situation - chances a look sideways.

"Halt!" the cop shouts, trying to part the human sea before him, but he's not nearly fast enough. Tim just cranks the engine to get everyone's attention, does a little burnout to the cheer of the protestors and then speeds off. As expected, a good few protestors follow him, whether to see what he gets up to next or to shield one of their own from the cops catching up to him. In any event, the protest spreads out and starts to dissipate.

Flawless, really, except for -

"All units, all units!" the radio crackles to life, just as Tim turns the corner to see another, even larger demonstration a few intersections down - with cops rolling out armored trucks with water cannons. "Be advised we just...someone stole our car! We're in pursuit but we need backup!"

Yeah, the part about getting rid of the cop car just as downtown is on lockdown and there's zero civilian traffic to blend into. That might be not so flawless.
Admiral Duck Sauce 2018-08-23 15:48:47
"Suspect just turned south on Kattrepel!" Tim lies into the radio, hoping to cause enough confusion in the coming moments to squeeze the cruiser into a parking garage, an alley, somewhere that'll break contact so he can clamber out and disappear into one of the protests again.

(maybe cop talk spend?)
Gatac 2018-08-30 17:21:43
The radio comes to life with momentary confusion until Tim radios in a location. Then the real confusion begins.

"NI 12-1, suspect vehicle should be going your way, please report."
"NI 12-4 at Stopenstahl, road remains closed."
"No, damn it!" the original cop radios. "He's on...we're at -"
"NI 12-1 here, we don't have eyes on, please advise."
"All units, does anyone have -"
"Control, this is NI 5-78 from Ballindamm, protestors are deploying molotovs! We need reinforcements here!"
"Copy that, Ballindamm, all available units on Rosenstraße say -"
"NI 7-11 here, possible suspect vehicle turning onto Holzdamm!"
"That's us, genius."
"Who's us? Identify yourselves!"
"All units, clear the channel," Control voice says and waits for silence to set in. "I repeat, all available units on Rosenstraße, say status." A heavy breath follows. "And somebody tell me where the damn water cannons are!"

More than enough time for Tim to pull the police cruiser into a parking space next to a deserted little playground and de-ass the vehicle with the quickness. As he climbs out, he notices that somebody - probably a protester arrested early on - forgot their backpack on the back seat. Tim gives it a quick scan to size up the opposition, digging out a cellphone - no PIN set, so it opens right up to a buzzing Whatsapp channel. Tim only has to watch the chatter for a few seconds to see that it's groups of Black Block members exchanging information on police strength and protest routes. Under a cinder block and some bottles of water, Tim then finds something just a bit more concerning: a concert ticket.

Gallerie FreiGeist presents: A COMPLETE SENTENCE "Djent to the End" tour - General Admission - Standing Room Only

Five hours until the gates open...


Mason guides Alira to the outskirts of town, where they pull into the first empty-looking cheap underground parking garage they see. By this point, their guest in the trunk is kicking and screaming - well, trying to scream as best he can through his gag. Mason slams on the brakes as hard as he can once he reaches their bottom-level parking spot in the back corner, next to a drain pipe, and hustles out, keys in hand. Alira takes a position a few feet away, PDW shouldered and ready. They both nod at each other, and Mason opens the trunk. Mason is greeted with a blind kick that goes just past him. Hopeless through the Bulgarian's situation might be, you can't fault him for lack of grit. Mason can also see that the operative has turned around, apparently in an attempt to kick out a tail light. Good thing for Mason and Alira that this Volvo predates mandatory emergency trunk release levers.

"You done?" Mason asks. "The lady with the submachine gun would like you to calm down."

The operative bucks in the trunk, obviously testing if having a bit more space to move could help with breaking free, but the handcuffs hold. Mason is sure that what the operative is shouting into his gag include some very unkind words about Mason's mother, Alira's mother and the kind of torture threats that would make the scriptwriters of the Hostel franchise blanch, but he does finally seem to stop wriggling enough to be manhandled out of the trunk. Mason takes an extra zip tie out of his pocket and secures the man to the drain pipe, then pulls a four-inch flip knife out of his suit.

"Now, you're gonna want to hold really still for this," Mason says. "Wouldn't want this going into something you need."

The operative keeps barking into the gag as Mason tries to fill in some of the gaps by analogy to Russian. Something about a power drill being applied to - okay, that's enough for today's attempt at Völkerverständigung. He does hold reasonably still, though. Mason proceeds to cut off the man's clothing, shirt and jacket first, then pants. Cooperation is ensured for the shoes and socks by holding the knife to the man's femoral artery, while underwear is the last thing to go. A cursory search of the clothes yields some cash and a clearly fake EU-style "credit card" driver's license in the name of Petar Boyanov, plus a few other odds and ends: caffeinated chewing gum, a notepad - written on in Bulgarian, naturally - and a burner phone with battery and SIM card neatly removed and stored separately. No obvious bugs or trackers. As for "Petar" himself, he's got some tattoos - notably not the Russian "bratva" style - and old scars from previous fights, to go with a wrestler's build and muscles. Mason's man enough to honestly assess that he probably would have lost a fair fight against this guy...if Mason ever fought fair, that is.

Mason walks back to "Petar" and holds the knife to the zip cuffs securing him to the pipe. "You're going back in the trunk," he says. It's not a suggestion, it's a statement of fact."

Mason can clearly hear a "Fuck you" being spoken in the gag, but after that Petar rolls his eyes and slides up the zip cuffs slightly as if to show that he's not going to contest going back into the trunk. Mason snaps the zip cuffs and steps back, waiting for Petar to walk himself back into the trunk. There's a look passing between Petar and Alira. Clearly Petar isn't so sure about his odds of taking Mason while he has a knife at the ready, but it wasn't entirely out of the question. But then he'd still be dealing with Alira, and Alira has a gun on him, and Petar knows how the game is played: when you're beat you're beat. He walks back over to the car and climbs back into the trunk. Mason grabs a bottle of water out of the back of the trunk and tosses it in after him before closing the trunk.

"Let's roll," he says.

It's about a thirty-minute ride - ten to the highway, ten on the highway, ten on the Landstrasse to reach the lakeside vacation home Blake had his eyes on.

As they ride, Alira looks to Mason. "How do we get rid of him?" she says in a low voice.
"We'll figure something out. CIA's rendered people before," Mason says.
"But you and the CIA are on a break," Alira says.
"Only because they're afraid we're out on a limb," Mason says, shutting the car off as they pull into the garage. "Which is what we're here to prove otherwise."
"That's what I love about you, Masie," she says with a smile. "You're such an optimist."
Mason gives her a peck on the cheek. "Just a big old ray of sunshine."

Mason climbs out of the car and walks around to the trunk, waiting for Alira to take up her position again before opening the trunk. Alira takes up position and the trunk is opened. Petar proves reasonably reasonable, letting Mason help him out of the trunk.

Mason secures both his wrists to one of the support posts in the multi-car garage, then grabs a chair and sticks it underneath Petar. "English good?"
Petar grunts a "Yes" into his gag.
The blade comes back out, and Mason snips it off before stepping back. "You sure you don't want water?" he asks, grabbing the bottle and giving it a squeeze to show it wasn't punctured.
"Fuck your water," Petar says.
Mason shrugs. "Your loss. So, you just a big fan of rooftops and apartment buildings?"
"And you like the kinky sex? Making me naked and tying me up?" Petar asks. He looks to Alira with a smirk. "My safeword is 'socialist realism'. What's yours, sweet baby?"
Alira just scoffs at him.
"Ah, the classics," Mason says. "Defeating the capitalist world oppressors."
"Yes, we are both very sarcastic," Petar says. "Is this how CIA makes connection to interrogation target now? I usually kill before I talk to them."
"No, this is how I see if you're ready to talk," Mason replies.
Petar laughs. "I don't think I am," he says.
"I agree," Mason says. "We'll be back."


(Blake uses Conceal to pat down Radislav.
1d6 Blake Conceal = (2) = 2

Blake quickly pats down Radislav for additional weapons or other items of interest, retrieving a balisong knife and his wallet. A few tense minutes later, a black BMW cruiser with tinted windows pulls up next to the alley. It's barely come to a stop when Xavier gets out on the driver's side and jump-slides over the hood, somehow not scratching the paint. He helps Blake maneuver Radislav into the trunk, then motions for him to get in on the passenger side. As Blake climbs in, he finds Sulemani and Muhammed in the back seat, both of them staring at him.
Blake nods to Xavier to get rolling, then turns to look back at the passengers, trying to ignore the kernel of guilt in his stomach. "Doctor, Muhammed, you are both unharmed?"

(BS Detect to gauge their mental state - will they crack if I tell them the truth?)
(Difficult to gauge, but then there's the truth and there's the truth, right? They're ready to be told you work for the cops, less so that you're an American agent.)
(Yeah, mean the former not the latter, sorry)
(Was in fact worried how they would take the news of being specifically targetted)
(I think they've had some time to digest that already.)

"We are...in good health," Sulemani says. "Thanks to you. I suppose being honest with us about your work for the police was too much to ask up front, but I am resolved not to let that sour my opinion of you. Can you tell me your real name, however? I am not fond of charades."

As Blake considers his answer, his burner phone buzzes with a message from Alira. Sorry to play the bludger but we had to take over your cubby for a new friend. Hope that doesn't trouble you. Let's skull coldies tonight, Masie and I are paying.

Blake skims the message before putting the phone back (having not passed his "needs response now" check), and girds himself for Sulemani's reaction. "I'm afraid I can't do that while the operation is still ongoing," Blake responds gently before slyly adding, "but once we get you to your destination, the operation will be over." While Blake plans to do what he implies and give Sulemani a name, "Wilhelm Goetke" is not his real name.
"And where are we going?" Sulemani asks.
"Directly to the airport, Sir," Xavier says. He looks to Blake. "You okay?"
"I'm fine, thank you." Blake tries making small talk with the passengers while keeping an eye out for tails or ambushes - he's more cognizant of his bodyguard capacity now that he's realized he shirked it earlier.

(Blake uses Reassure to project an aura of "Everything is under control".)

Muhammed leans back and takes a deep breath. "I still can't believe that just happened," he says.
"Neither can I," Dr. Sulemani says. "But we can sort this out in safety."

Speaking of safety, Blake can't help but notice a panel van behind them that runs a red light to stay on their tail. To Xavier's credit, he doesn't take long to spot it, either.

"Looks like we have more friends incoming," Xavier says, then grins. "Anybody wanna see what this baby can do?"
"Go for it," Blake says, frowning as he reaches for his burner. "Doctor, Muhammed, please duck down. I'll call for backup."

The spec sheet lists the BMW M550i's power as 456 horsepower, but when Xavier puts pedal to the metal, Blake hears more from the engine compartment than just the stock twin turbos on the V8. No, this baby roars and presses him into the seat as Xavier stands on it and thunders across an intersection, weaving past a stopping bus and then entering a squealing powerslide around a tight corner - takes quite a bit of power and a lot more skill to drift an AWD, but Xavier manages it. Blake recalls from the meeting that he isn't even the team's transportation specialist, though - that would be Elias Senai, and Blake shudders to imagine what kind of driving that guy can do. In any event, after thirty seconds of bowel-loosening terror, Xavier eases up on the throttle and rolls the sedan back into regular traffic on the arterial to the Autobahn.

"Oooooooh yeah," Xavier says, grinning from ear to ear. "And the best part is, I get paid to do this!"

A quick glance in the rear view mirror confirms that the van has indeed been left in the proverbial dust. Blake blinks a couple times before coming back to himself with a "Good job" for Xavier and putting the burner back in his pocket. He checks with the passengers to make sure they're unharmed, and returns to keeping an eye out for anything amiss. Everything seems quiet and in order for the jaunt on the Autobahn. Muhammed and Sulemani send a quiet prayer skywards for a safe journey while Xavier turns on the radio. The music is almost enough to make Blake overhear the tone of his burner, but it vibrates enough to get his attention. It's a message from Operations: Immediately cease all cooperation with Section 9.

Blake manages to keep his poker face on as he sends back: Only out is obvious Y/N?
I don't care how you do it. Get them off your back and RTB. There have been developments.

Blake slips the phone back into his pocket, and waits a few minutes before turning to Xavier and saying "I think we should head to a gas station, hit up the men's room. The doctor has a long flight ahead of him, and we've all had a bit of a turn."

(Blake spends Negotiate to get Xavier to fall into his ploy.)

"Hm, yeah, they don't have the best toilets in those shorthaul flights," Xavier agrees. "I mean, I don't know if a gas station is an upgrade from that but at least you can stretch your legs, right?"
"And our...guest," Blake adds.
Xavier considers that. "Yeah, probably for the better to get him in there, do a proper search," he says.
Admiral Duck Sauce 2018-09-04 20:10:04
Looks like everything's coming up Barstow, Tim thinks. He calls Laith from his calling-Laith phone, not his Freiherr-von-Wertheim phone nor the impersonate-a-protester phone.

"Hey L, I got an open channel to a flock of Black Block people trying to keep each other out of custody on Whatsapp. Figured that might brighten your day a bit if I shared that port with you. Had to change location but I'm circling back to the post now."

edited by Gatac on 2018-09-05 02:09:32
Gatac 2018-09-05 07:23:37
"Yeah, about that -" Laith starts, but is cut off by a message from Operations beeping on Tim's phone. Immediately cease all cooperation with Section 9. "We have a bit of a situation. Uh, Blake told me to tell you to finish hooking up the remote access to the surveillance feeds and then try to tail anyone who looks...high security. Particularly with glasses, he said. Anyway, I'll get back to you when we know more. Gotta run now, there's a lot of data that needs scrubbing. Laters!"



"He's a charmer," Alira comments as you leave the garage behind in favor of the house's living room. "Are you all right, Masie? Don't think I didn't see you wince getting out of the car."
"He tagged me pretty good," Mason says. "But I'm all right, just need a bit of rest."
"To coincide with letting him stew?" Alira asks. "We need to secure him, then. Those cuffs won't hold him long enough to make a cuppa."
"Probably should let Mom know," Mason says, and pulls out his phone.
The phone rings four times until Operations picks up, to the sound of passing trains in the background. "Go ahead," she says.
"We've secured one of our Bulgarian friends," Mason says. "He's clean and at the new safehouse, as are we."
"What do you need?" Operations asks.
"Need to make him a little more secure for softening up," Mason says.
"There should be an old well on the property," Operations says. "Or did you have something else in mind?"
"Unless it locks from the top, I'm thinking just chains and a camera setup," Mason says.
"I'll get shopping," Operations says. "Also, I got the weirdest call from our German friend. Apparently you told her a K-Group guard is dead?"
"Loewe, the name that made the phone call that tipped the cops off about Sulemani," Mason says. "Pretty sure that while his name made the call, he was already dead."
"Well, she went ahead and made inquiries at K-Group," Operations says. "Apparently Mr. Loewe came in to work after all." Operations sighs. "She didn't tell me how exactly she learned that. I just hope she didn't tip anyone off doing it. Anyway, that's a bit of a conundrum, isn't it?"
Mason sighs. "And she seemed smart. Well, lesson learned. And yes, it is. Now he'll be on edge, since it's his department she would have called. All the more reason to accelerate our plans."
"But you are sure a death took place?" Operations asks.
"Either that or he spends a lot of time bleaching his grout and scraping his floorboards," Mason says.
"I rather doubt that," Operations says. "Anything else I can do for you?"
"That's about it," Mason says. "We'll keep our guest company until we can make better accommodations for him."
"Right," Operations says. Another train passes by in the background. "Expect me in two hours."
"Sounds good," Mason says and hangs up.

Two hours of waiting game pass tersely as Alira and Mason take turns to watch Petar and make sure the added set of zipcuffs isn't being sawed through. Petar, for his part, keeps trying to get a rise out of both of them, but eventually the lack of reaction and sheer physical discomfort manage to shut him up. Finally, there's the sound of a car pulling to a stop outside, then Operations walks in. Far from her usual stylish attire, she's dressed in a hooded overall, safety goggles and a respirator mask. Slung over her shoulder are an assortment of chains and heavy-duty locks, plus a large roll of dropcloth under her left arm and a hefty-looking toolbox in her right hand.

"Let's get started," she says, looking around. "You find any eyebolts you trust in here or do we need to start drilling?"
"There's a support post in the garage that runs into the foundation and to the structure above," Mason replies. "We secure him to that, he's not going anywhere."
"Hm," Operations says. She puts down the materials on the floor, then retrieves a suppressed pistol from the toolbox and steps back to cover Petar while Mason and Alira work.

Mason's always been a fan of the classics - pick-resistant handcuffs (with non-standard keying, of course), secured to a length of quarter-inch welded chain, secured in a loop with wire stick-welded into a solid blob of metal. Unless Petar has a night gig as the Hulk, he's not getting out of that. While Mason sets up the chain, Operations makes a bit of a show of unpacking the rest of the toolbox. Notably, there's an electric drill in there - Operations whirrs it as if checking the function, then retrieves a spare battery pack from the box and sets it up to charge from a wall plug.

"Are you sure you want to renovate now?" Petar asks, a bit of nervousness bleeding into his voice. "I don't want to get in the way."
Mason taps the stick welder against the pole - the electric charge zapping Petar just a bit as it arcs. "Trust me, you're fine where you're at."
"Should I put the cloth down?" Alira asks.
"Let's wait until we start working," Operations comments.
"You bring the plastic, too?" Mason asks.
"Rolled up inside the bundle," Operations says.
"You won't torture me," Petar says. "You know it won't work."
"Depends on what I want from you, doesn't it," Operations says.
"I mean, that's never stopped us before," Mason says, giving the pole another tap with the stick.
"Could just do it to fuck with you."
"Or because I already found out everything I wanted to know from a friend of yours and now I'm in the mood for some light entertainment," Operations adds.
Alira looks at her, not altogether sure how much Operations is kidding.
"We didn't just show up at Loewe's apartment out of the blue," Mason says. "How do you think we got there?"

(Mason spends Interrogation to get Petar talking.)

"He invited you to dinner at the sex club?" Petar tries to joke, but the sound of the cordless drill from Operations distracts him.
"So you knew where Loewe was yesterday," Operations says. "How long have you been following him?"
"...about two days," Petar admits, while Alira wrangles his hands to take fingerprints. He looks to Mason. "Look, if you already know everything -"
"I like to make certain," Operations says. "As do my colleagues. Now, I'm not going to bore you with flowery descriptions. I'm sure you can imagine how it's going to feel when I put this drill through your kneecap. I do like seeing tough guys squirm. Bore me enough with your answers and I might lose my appetite, though. Got it?"
Petar nods slowly.
Operations nods to Mason. "All yours," she says.
"Why were you there?" Mason asks.
"To prove you weren't who you said you were," Petar says. "You showed up out of the blue being too mysterious and vague. Bogomil wanted proof, however. And he wanted to make sure that nobody would come looking for Loewe."
"Bogomil?" Alira asks.
"Bogomil Ranin!" Petar says. "Our leader."
"He's supposed to be dead and buried in Chechnya," Operations says.
"He changed his face!" Petar says.
Operations harrumphs. "So, what, you just watched Loewe's place on the off-chance somebody would show up?"
"No," Petar admits, then looks to Mason. "We heard you would be coming to check it out. Bogomil wanted pictures of you there, to confront you with them when we capture you..."
The name rattles a gray cell or two in Mason's head. Bogomil Ranin was third-tier management of one of Bulgaria's infamous post-Soviet "insurance companies", criminal organizations with their hands in just about everything up for grabs after the fall of the Iron Curtain. Ranin was just low enough on the totem pole to not have his name in the papers, but more than made up for it by going into business as a contract killer afterwards, doing a Yojimbo bit on some of the squabbling fractions before skipping town to various Eastern European hotspots. Reports of his death in the wake of a shootout in Grozny were clearly exaggerated.
"Who is playing Loewe?" Mason asks.
"I don't know them," Petar says. It's almost not a lie.
"I didn't ask for their Instagram," Mason says, giving him another zap.
"I don't know them!" Petar insists. "They're a specialist! We never met them! Bogomil just said they were here all the way from Hong Kong to do the job! We were told not to try and get a look at them, they worked completely separately from us!"
Alira raises an eyebrow. "For a Bulgarian gangster fuckboi, you're pretty careful with your pronouns," she says.
"I don't know!" Petar says. "They're not a...he or she! I don't know!"
"What is your team here to do?" Mason asks.
"We're support! They told us to pick a target, Bogomil picked Dr. Sulemani!" Petar swallows. "The real mission is to give the specialist enough time to disable the Vault's security and gain access to it!"
"Why?" Operations asks.
"I don't know!" Petar says. "Bogomil knows, he wouldn't do the job if he didn't know! But he doesn't tell us and we don't ask. Bogomil knows, he tells us what to do, everything works!" He looks around. "Until you show up."
"Funny thing about that," Mason says. "You might want to close your eyes."

Petar stares at Mason for a moment, but then closes his eyes. Mason starts welding the chain together, while Petar averts his eyes, seeming genuinely afraid now.

"That's right, don't start twitching now," Operations comments.

After the weld cools, the agents leave the garage and Petar behind.

"Should I run the prints by Section 9?" Alira says. "Sounds like they have a leak."
"I have a more immediate question," Operations says. "Do we still need him?"
"Not unless we need a pet," Mason says. "We shipping him to a hole, or just putting him in one?"
"The latter," Operations says. "Objections?"
Alira shares an uneasy glance with Mason but doesn't speak up.
"You have a idea?" Mason asks.
"No, just..." Alira says. "I'm considering the complications of producing a body."
"You'll never know he existed by midnight," Operations says.
"Any particular reason we're wiping the slate clean on this one?" Mason asks.
"Tired of loose ends," Operations says. "We went through a lot of trouble with Brahmvir Singh and didn't get shit out of him afterwards. There are entirely too many factors in the wind right now for my taste. I'm not going to take a chance with another deal or a prison break. If that Bulgarian has outlived his usefulness to us, then I'm going to close the account. Simple as that."
Mason raises an eyebrow to Alira.
"Can't we...use him as leverage?" Alira says.
"For what?" Operations says. "You're reaching."
"And you're talking about murder," Alira says.
"Yes," Operations says. "There's a lot of good people in Wildcard, Miss Holden. I'm not one of them. Now was there something substantial you had to add or can I get on with it?"
"...go on, then," Alira says.
"If he was valuable, babe, he wouldn't have been on that rooftop," Mason says.
"Don't you start now," Alira says. As Operations wanders off, Alira looks away from Mason. "You...you know I have your back, Masie, and we'll do everything that needs to be done, but -"
"Hey," Petar's voice carries through from the garage. "You have...more questions? I told you what I know! I'm just a...what do you say, a pawn!"
"Yes, you are," Operations replies. THWACK THWACK! The sound of a suppressed double-tap carries through the walls.
"...I need some air," Alira says.
Mason nods and lets her go - he knows better than to press her too hard. Instead, he walks into the garage to help Operations clean up. "Prints and photo?" he asks.
"You can take a mugshot before I dice him," Operations says. "Is your fiancé all right?"
"She's been out of the field a while," Mason replies, snapping the standard face and profile pictures with his phone. "And she never liked this side of things."
"Keep an eye on her, then," Operations says. "Let me know if there are any concerns."
Mason nods. "You need any help?"
Operations smirks behind her respirator. "Been a while since I did a whole body, but I'll be all right."



Despite Blake's worries, nothing bad happens as the van pulls into the gas station parking lot. While Xavier goes in to grab the restoroom key, Blake shoots a quick message to Mason: Need help moving VIPs. Head for Langenhorn Quarter, not far from Wandsbek street. Will send all clear for pick-up. Wait no more than 10 minutes. Call me Goetke if need name. He gets a prompt response from Alira instead, saying she's on her way. Just then, Xavier turns the corner with the key.

Blake comes out of the car to meet him, saying "I think we should deal with the prisoner first, make sure he's de-fanged."
"Yeah, that's what I'm thinking," Xavier says.

You walk back to the car and - after a quick scan of the surroundings - pop the trunk, then manhandle Radislav into the restroom. As far as those go, it fulfills the most important quality any gas station restroom can have: it's empty. And look, there's even a fold-out table for diaper changes!

Xavier drops a little bag onto the flood, then retrieves a pair of jeans and a hoody. "Let's get you out of that uniform first," Xavier suggests to Radislav, who then does his best to avoid any movements that could be construed as resistance while you get to work on strip-searching him. Looks like he knows this drill. Blake lets Xavier go about the business of strip-searching, partly to make sure Radislav doesn't try anything, but also to make sure Xavier doesn't try anything. The time to strike would be soon, once Radislav is naked and confirmed clean. As Xavier goes over Radislav, he tosses aside a small punch-dagger hidden under the buckle of the uniform belt, as well as a razor blade under a fake superglue "scar". Finally, Xavier steps back.

"Just the usual tough guy tricks," Xavier says. "Let's get him dressed and out of here."
Blake makes sure to pick up the little blades and stuff them in the bag while still keeping an eye out.
"Yeah, I'll watch him for anything funny," Blake replies, eyes glancing toward Radislav.
He waits until Xavier starts to put some clothes halfway over him before going "Look out!" and moving...to apprehend Xavier.

(Blake spends Infiltration to initiate player-facing combat.

1d6+3 Blake Infiltrate! = (3)+3 = 6

Blake then spends HtH to overwhelm Xavier.

1d6+3 Blake HtH = (2)+3 = 5)

"What?" Xavier whips his head around, his certainty that he got Radislav searched thoroughly evaporating in a moment. He doesn't even have time to realize that Blake's slipped the spare pair of handcuffs from the cop uniform before Blake grabs his arm, shoves him towards the sink and cuffs him to a sturdy-looking drainage pipe.
"HEY!" Xavier cries, but it's too late: he's locked in place, and wedged in a way that he can't quite see his wrists, either. "What the...what the hell?" He just looks at Blake. "Aw...fuck. Shit! Cheapest fucking...trick." He takes a deep breath. "Okay. Fuck. Guess you could've done whatever if you wanted to, so...shit." He strains his arms. "Okay, I'm gonna be out here in fifteen minutes, tops. Better use that headstart, because if I catch you..."

Blake doesn't dignify this with a comment: he's got work to do. He goes and finishes dressing and securing Radislav, not afraid to get rough if Radislav smells a chance to escape or fight back. Radislav's already drawn the short straw against Blake once and the latest display of his close-quarters prowess does not encourage him to resist, either. Also, Blake just took down a cop, so who knows what his agenda is, anyway? Something like hope starts to stir in Radislav. Like, yeah, cuffs and a ride in the trunk, but that's just how things are done, right?

"Hey!" Xavier shouts to Blake before they leave. "Hey, uh...from one pro to another, uh...don't tell Wiesner you got me like this, okay? We both just shut up about it. I'll come up with something. Like, no need to get all aggro about it, this is just crossed wires, right?"
Blake continues ignoring Xavier's remarks, focusing on the job at hand. Make sure no one is watching outside, haul the prisoner out and stuff him in the trunk -
"Oh, right." Blake strides over to Xavier and takes the keys from him, and starts executing his plan.
"Oh, man," Xavier calls after him. "Don't scratch it! You hear me, you scratch that baby, I will kick your ass!"

Blake manages to manhandle Radislav back into the trunk, then sends Alira the 'all-clear' text. Now for the hard part - making sure Sulemani and Muhammed don't panic. He opens the door to the cab, looks at them, and gets started explaining.

"More bad news. My partner tried to pull something on me in the bathroom while we were dealing with the prisoner. He's not going anywhere for a bit, but between that and our 'friend' managing to grab a uniform and pass through a police cordon...there's definitely a leak. So I've called in someone I trust, and we're moving you to a safehouse while we figure out our next move." Blake heaves a sigh. "I wish I could get you both out of danger now, but I'm afraid you'll have to be patient a little longer."

(Blake spends a point of Reassure to sell Sulemani on the new lie.)

Muhammed turns pale, but Sulemani stays quiet for a bit. "Are we to still believe that you work for the cops, then?" he says.

Aw shit.

Sulemani smiles. "Please do tell Freiherr von Wertheim that he's gone a bit overboard with protecting us. Not that we can argue with the results."
Blake didn't figure that that particular notion would survive after dropping the bomb, but he did hope. Oh well - more important that they trust him, not suspect him, and understand the danger they are in. He nods, replying "I'll pass it along," then gets in the driver seat and heads for the parking lot he specified.

It's a quick, quiet drive. Blake keeps an eye on the rear mirror, waiting for either more RoE goons or cops or God knows who else to show up and complicate this whole thing even further, but the road is clear as he pulls into the parking lot, where Alira is waiting with the Volvo.

"Andrea Hoch," she introduces herself to Sulemani and Muhammed in barely accented German. "Nice to meet you."
"You are another employee of Freiherr von Wertheim?"
"He sends his regards," Alira says, "and we prefer 'associate'. I owe him for a favor and I'm glad to repay him if it helps someone else in need. Come, I've prepared a...guest house near my vacation home. It's not much, but it'll keep you safe until this whole thing blows over."
"I've no doubt," Sulemani says, then turns to Blake and sticks out his hand. "And thank you for all your help, of course. Though I don't believe I caught your real name..."
Blake gives the offered hand a firm shake. "Wilhelm Goetke. Pleasure to be of assistance, Doctor, Muhammed."
"Take care, Mr. Goetke," Sulemani says. "Thanks," Muhammed adds. As they get into the Volvo, Alira comes up to Blake. "Fuck me dead, you really needed that safehouse, huh? Anyway, you better shoot through and get that mad sled somewhere underground where they can't track ya. But getting all that shite out is a piece of piss for ya, right?" She grins before she gets into the car. "Later, Lenny."
Lenny? Oh hell naw!

Neither Blake's voice nor expression betray his dismay as he replies "Catch ya later," and heads somewhere he can de-bug the vehicle.

He'll definitely have to talk to Alira about that nickname, though.

(Blake spends Electronic Surveillance to sweep the car for bugs.)

Blake heads for the nearest, most concrete bunker-est garage he can find, bottom level. There's actually a couple down there loading their week's grocery shopping into the back of their minivan while their toddler daughter does a coloring book on the back seat; Blake waits it out, even though every second he doesn't have the trackers ripped out of the car feels like a noose tightening around him. Finally they drive off, and Blake gets to work. Crack the hood, remote start/immobilizer pack: out it goes. Pull the stereo inside: cellphone hookup with a SIM module attached. SNAP! Pull up the trunk liner and the hatch for the tire repair kit: rip out the hidden black box, crack the case, pull the battery. Blake's just about ready to get back out when a hunch has him checking the wheel wells. Aw shit: there's another tracker with an antenna glued to the inside of the rear left well, with the actual bug and battery pack hidden in a cavity by the rear bumper. This isn't government issue fleet management, it's not even intelligence agency next-level - this is early 2000s gray market gear. What the hell is that doing on a Section 9 car? Blake harrumphs as he removes the last bit of surveillance gear, effective for however crude it is. Far as Blake can tell, it's proof the Bulgarians are getting some inside help from Sec 9 - otherwise, they couldn't've gotten the tracker in such a cozy setup. He can't analyze it right now, but with a little time the team can try to find out more about the leak in Sec 9. Information like that can always help out.

Blake makes sure it's off, and heads out of the garage, dialing Ops on his burner. "Sent the VIPs ahead, on my way with a new ride. Section 9 won't play nice with us any longer, though. Nothing hurt but pride, but that's all it takes."
"I'm inconsolable," Operations replies. Sounds like there are trains in the background. "I just got a call from Mason that they have a Bulgarian. What's the status of yours?"
Blake's teeth grind as he processes that statement for a second. "Fine for now. Do I want to know how you know that already?"
"Can you get him to talk?" Operations asks.
"Long as I don't try that same tack with him, yeah."
"Okay, here's the plan," Operations says. "I assume you haven't had time to change the car's exterior. You're riding hot and I don't need anyone tailing you and finding the safehouse. Get out of the city, find one of those Brothers Grimm-type forests and have your chat there. If he turns out less than helpful, get rid of him."
"Works for me."
"Oh, and Blake?" Operations says. "Next time you need an extraction, you call your team first."
Blake lets the sigh out through his nostrils. Nothing hurt but pride, indeed. Time to own it.
"Yes, ma'am."
"Call me when you have more intel," she says, then hangs up without another word. Rude.
Blake puts the phone down. Terse and rude, but he's not always any better. And she's not wrong either, which is probably the worst of it. Now, there's something he needs to take care of...
...next time, on WILDCARD.

Gatac 2018-09-07 18:26:52
Tim makes it past the lunch slump all the way into the afternoon. Twitter is still on fire with reports from the frontlines, so to speak, but since he cleared out the protesters in front of K Group HQ, his sector has been mostly quiet, with no one big group sticking around to cause any trouble. Just as the #wasserwerfer tweets roll in again, Tim notices somebody in a suit with glasses exit the building and cross the inner courtyard to his car. Tim aims one of Blake's craft projects, the Pringles-Cantenna-On-Steroids, at the car and gets an RFID dump off the badge - longer than that of the normal guards that Blake has logged. As Tim watches on through the x4 monocular, he spots the dude taking off his glasses and putting in contacts. Ah! Retinal scans to get into the high-security areas, Tim guesses - has K Group ever heard of a high-tech security measure they didn't want installed? Well, it's for Blake to figure out the deets, but in Tim's experience, the more layers and different security measures tied into a system, the brittler the whole construct is. He dutifully adds it to Blake's already copious notes. Just then, a laptop plings - new post to Sydney's tumblr page.


what up #djentledudes

bad luck in hamburg my dudes apparently theres another band in town getting all the attention

i am talking about the G7 who are not a band but go with my joke for a moment and man their "fans" are assholes! #ACAB

#rockon to the protesters who came out and stood up to motherfrakkin TANKS and WATER CANNONS and TEAR GAS to be heard

(Links to news articles.)

the G7 are some bullshit! old white dudes wrecking this world for centuries and getting cops to bust up protesters but WE are the effin problem? #yeahright

this shit is #cyberpunk without the cool parts!!!

we dont often talk politics because EVERYTHING WE DO is politics #getwoke

but my dudes please dont go setting fires :O #notcool

beating on people and wrecking shit is what THEY do!!! look at this

(Several pictures of riot police fighting protesters.)



THEN REBLOG and VOTE and JOIN A PARTY or MAKE A PARTY and RUN FOR OFFICE YES YOU HEARD ME! i know its a drag but this is a democracy not north korea, get with the program and use your power! #onlygameintown

man straight FUCK this shit i am fucking crying

yeah im saying fuck tonight dont tell your parents

our gig at freigeist is still on because ALSO FUCK shutting up

and were putting our money where our mouth is #goodreasonstosayfuck

ALL profits for tonight are getting donated, we stopped ticket sales because were opening our doors to EVERYONE who wants to come in FOR FREE and if we cant fit you all into the gallery were moving this fucking thing to the park next door, if you already bought a ticket and think thats bullshit well guess what WE WILL REFUND THE FULL PRICE TO ANYONE WHO ASKS!!! yeah the whole price out of our own fucking wallets, so we are LITERALLY paying you to come see us!!! #moneyforsomething

because we want you there with us. we need you there with us. we just gotta know youre all okay tonight. #strongertogether

keep screaming!!!

syd the sorceress


After the garage, Mason felt the best place for him was nearby Alira - not so close that she felt like he was trying to force a conversation, but not so far away that she didn't know that he was there if she did want one. Alira mostly stares into the woods; a cool wind blows in, she folds her arms in front of her. Her hand absently reaches for her left breast pocket - where she kept her cigarettes back before she quit. She catches herself and more firmly crosses her hands with a quiet curse, but the fact that she reached at all instantly makes Mason's blood boil.

Mason storms off and back into the garage, where Operations is winching Petar's corpse up by its ankles. He kicks the metal tub across the floor with a loud rattle before it slides to a stop underneath the body.

"So," Mason barks. "What's your proof about Wiesner?"
"Before I start explaining," Operations says, "are you here for answers, or are you here to be angry at me?"

"Why can't it be both?" Mason replies. "There's a lot of people who will agree that I'm very good at getting answers while angry."
"Anger clouds understanding," Operations says. Dragging the tub into position, she begins her cutting of Petar's throat. The way the blood begins to drain seems to indicate that she's stuck a few pigs in her time. "But to answer the initial question, I got a call from her. She told me you had called her about Loewe being dead, that she had 'checked it out' and that Loewe had reported for work. She wouldn't tell me how exactly she had made her inquiry, but she instead demanded that we all reconvene at their HQ to talk over the next step. That's where I hung up and got off the grid." She regards her work, not with admiration, but with the keen eye of a professional measuring her own work for potentially needed adjustments. "I also learned that Blake leaned on Section 9 for exfil from the mess he got stuck in." She looks at Mason. "I don't know if I've made this clear enough, but we're making some very heavyhanded moves here with just about nobody on our side. I'm going all in on some long odds here. I would therefore appreciate if Laith or I were your first points of contact for any inquiries, because if I hadn't gotten Wiesner's call, I might still have been acting under the misapprehension that Section 9 can be trusted."
"I called her because we don't have the manpower or resources to get a fucking CSI team on an apartment that had been scrubbed clean," Mason said. "I had no idea she had a chronic case of stupid, but unless you can shit a light source and team to sweep an apartment for blood, I don't know what else you want me to do. And if that's all you have on her, that's pretty fucking thin pretense to go to war with the cops."
"When were you planning to inform me?" Operations asks.
"After we were clear and secured with Petar here," Mason replies. "She must have immediately called K Group after I hung up."
"Do you think that she's stupid?" Operations asks.
"No, I don't," Mason says. "But that's also what a cop would do."
"I can't afford cops on this operation," she says. "I could tolerate cops playing spies if they were any good at it, I was hoping for somebody with brains given her position and the otherwise impeccable ghost job Section 9 has pulled on our intelligence network, but what I got was someone either unable or unwilling to think even two steps ahead. I don't think she's stupid, either. But whether deliberately or not, she's a threat to our objectives, so I ordered contact terminated until further notice." She watches the blood draining from Petar slow to a trickle. "And by the way, you'll hear about it when I declare war on them. This wasn't it."
Mason watches the blood pool in one corner of the tub. "Is this going to be SOP?" he asks. "If so, it'll help me save a lot of trouble just dumping the body."
Operations looks at Mason from behind her respirator. "We're not cops," she says. "We don't arrest people. If we take prisoners, it's because we expect they have a practical use - information, subversion, access. Usually, when it turns out we got someone we can't find a use for, I make it Langley's problem. Not an option right now. Neither is local law enforcement or running our own blacksite. We don't have the time or the resources to deal with prisoners outside of an HVP." She sighs. "I was angry before, but I don't think I was wrong. We're running this dirtier than I would like, but I don't see a lot of alternatives. Do you?"
"No," Mason says. He pauses. "Good thing we've only got one more we need to have a heart to heart with."
"That is Blake's problem now," Operations says. She pauses. "Your fiance. Is she going to come around?"
"Not who I meant," Mason says. "And I'll talk to her. You know what she went through. It'll be a rough transition, but she knows what's going on."
Operations nods. As if on cue, a watch under the sleeve of her overall buzzes insistently. "I need to take a break," she says, still looking at Mason.
Mason nods. "Gives him time to drip dry," he says on his way out the door.

Mason walks back out onto the patio near Alira, puts his hands on the rail, and waits for her to engage.

"Any news from the murder shack?" Alira asks.
"SOP is, since we can't trust the cops and we're denied by CIA, we keep captures to a minimum unless they're HVTs," Mason says. "Because otherwise..."
Alira coughs. "No, I get it," she says. "Should've shot the bastard right there." She's quiet for a few more moments. "Something I wanted to ask you, Masie," she says. "How much do you really know about her?"
"Next to nothing," Mason says. "But you don't get her job without being a very specific kind of person."
"Is that enough for you?" Alira asks.
"At the moment," Mason says. "Part of that is being the kind of person who knows how to get the right outcomes. But it also means you're the kind of person who takes the easy and bloody way first."
Alira's quiet for a moment. "I know who you are," Alira says. "Knew it from the moment I saw your mug and started feeling clucky. You got nothing to explain to me, Masie. But I'm so...she makes me stuffed just being around her. And you know me, I get frustrated, I try to...figure it out. And I want to figure her out in a bad way."
Mason gave Alira a peck on the cheek. "Let me know when you do. And if you need anything..."
"I'll find you," Alira says. She smiles, but doesn't return the peck. Instead, she lowers her head, brushes a bit of hair from her face and goes back to looking at the woods beyond the rental property.

Mason sighs, and offers his hand instead. Alira says nothing, but takes Mason's hand and squeezes it.


It's actually rather beautiful outside Hamburg. Afternoon sunlight spills overa few clouds and around coniferous treetops. A wind picks up now and then, turning pine needles into wind chimes. Blake half-wonders if he can actually smell the resin in the cab, or if he's just imagining it. Then he shelves the thought. Business first. He can try to enjoy the walk back later. The forest track terminates when parking for hiking trails begins, and Blake is just glad the parking lot is empty - the car will draw less attention this way. He pulls into a space close to the edge of the woods, kills the engine, and walks back around to the trunk, steeling himself for Radislav trying an attack or a runaway. Neither happens as the trunk pops open; Radislav doesn't even scream for help. Instead, he just looks up at Blake, waiting to either be helped out of the trunk or get shot right there. Blake hauls his subject out of the trunk and gestures to the treeline, wondering if Radislav will make a fuss. Wordlessly, Radislav starts walking ahead of Blake. Blake keeps one hand close to the knife he grabbed from Radislav, and follows close enough behind, only speaking to steer Radislav in the direction of his choosing - one that doesn't end too close to a trail.

As they go off the trail, Radislav suddenly starts talking. "I don't want to be tortured," he says. "I will tell you everything and then you can kill me, but please..."
"More walk, less talk, " Blake growls.

Radislav shuts up and keeps walking as Blake directs. When the pair reaches the final destination - a tree with a thick branch hanging low (but not too low), Blake tells Radislav to hold his hands as high as he can and make no sudden movements, "or I will pick a torture that reflects how annoyed I am." Torture may or may not come into the coming discussion, but the fear of it may make a good carrot now. As Blake works to secure Radislav's wrists above the branch and tests that it's sturdy enough, Radislav remains quiet. Blake can just about smell the fear on him. With Radislav secured and cowed, Blake stands back a little, pulling out the balisong and not saying anything as he sizes up Radislav for a few seconds. "Let's start with the easy questions, then," Blake huffs, "Your name, your boss' name, and how good your English is."

(Blake spends Interrogate.)

"My name is Radislav Kozlek," Radislav says. "I am part of Bogomil Ranin's crew. Before that, I was with the Bulgarian Army - Special Forces. I was taught Russian in school, but the Army had a separate language school for us." He spits. "They went right from teaching us English to drop us as infiltrators behind NATO front lines to teaching us English for cooperation with our new friends." He looks at Blake. "I have nothing against Americans. You're still a damn sight better than the Russians."
Blake looks right back and responds merely with "The names of the rest of your crew."
"Petar Kynev," Radislav begins. "He's a thug and Bogomil doesn't trust him, but he's useful when people need to be roughed up. Mitko Tsvetanov is our fixer, he goes out and meets with people. Speaks very good German, French, Greek, whatever we need. Tsvetelina Kyneva is our angel - she takes care of logistics and she stitches us up when we get hurt. She's usually at our safehouse. And then there is Sharo. Sharo Glavchev. He is from my old unit, he builds our bombs and takes care of our guns and cars." He swallows. "For this job, we took on somebody else. Bogomil said we would not see...them. Called them Prizrak - the Ghost."
"Tell me everything you know about 'Prizrak.'"
"That'll be quick," Radislav says. "I was there with Bogomil when we met...him, her, I don't know. We met on an empty street by the harbor three days ago. It was like a bad movie, they were in a trenchcoat and had a big hat drawn down over their face, standing in shadow. You don't get too close to those people. I made a joke about it on the drive back, but Bogomil went pale. Told me not to bring it up again. Anyway, he said I didn't have to worry about that. They would do their thing, we just needed to give them a bit of cover, create some excitement elsewhere."
Blake's jaw clenches momentarily. "What is...'their' purpose here? And what have you been doing to divert attention?"
Radislav pauses for a moment. "There's a harddrive," he explains. "It's in a vault in this...private bank. Prizrak is going to go in and get it." He coughs. "You saw what we did to draw attention," he adds. "While you were chasing us and trying to protect Sulemani, Prizrak prepared for his job." Blake's thoughts turn to the results of Mason and Alira's results. It sounds like they stumbled upon Prizrak's "preparations". But is he just a step or two ahead of them or has he already gotten into the vault?
"Yes, we'll discuss that in a moment," Blake replies placidly, gesturing with the balisong. "Talk more about Prizrak's groundwork."
"That is all I know," Radislav says. "Please, I...I know I'm dead already. I have been very honest with you. I don't know this."
Blake looks at Radislav and holds his gaze. One second, two seconds, three...Radislav's lips quiver momentarily, but his chin is set. Blake frowns, and he steps a little closer, but he doesn't bring the knife nearer to Radislav. "Tasks given to you by Bogomil," he hisses.
"Petar and I both did initial reconnaissance," Radislav says. "Petar is a brute, but he is patient. Bogomil also asked me to be there for the meeting with this...Mr. Spader character." He smirks. "Is he one of yours? His Arabic is flawless, I am told. But he was here without provocation. Bogomil distrusted him from the start and so did I. I think I am a good judge of character." He pauses. "And then, Sharo and I prepared the attacks on Sulemani. We did not have a good way to get a bomb close, but Bogomil said Prizrak would help. A few hours later, there is a police cordon and Mitko brings us a uniform. I volunteer to do the job." He spits. "It was me or Sharo, and Sharo does not speak German. So I went."
Blake's eyebrows knit together and his head tilts a little, but he continues. Probably Mason's handle anyway, and it might fool Radislav into thinking otherwise. If it doesn't work, well, no big deal. "Recon on Sulemani?"
"There were rumors that he had misappropriated government funds," Radislav says. "We tried to lean on his assistant to get access to their bookkeeping, but he wouldn't talk. We made sure he kept his mouth shut, but we didn't have time to work that angle any more. So Bogomil said we would just go ahead and fabricate something. It didn't have to hold up, just create enough confusion and uncertainty to draw attention away from what Prizrak was doing." He sighs. "I told Bogomil in confidence that we were in over our heads, but he seemed certain it would work out. And he has never been wrong so far."
"What did you prepare? And you mentioned 'attacks,' plural. Describe them, briefly."
"We...we put a spray on his house wall, threw a brick through his window. Did he not mention that?" Radislav thinks. "Then, the bomb. Bogomil wanted us to specifically use a shaped charge. Sharo told him a normal bomb would do the trick just fine, but Bogomil insisted on the shaped charge - he said that would make it look like Islamic hardliners trained by Al Queda." As Radislav talks, Blake notices him glancing past his interrogator. Nothing that indicates that someone is there - Blake would've picked up on that - but Radislav seems to expect someone.

Blake had only briefly wondered why Radislav was so forthright and free with information that seemed true. Now he cursed his own curiosity. It was possible he was being tracked in other ways - should've been quick and decisive in this. Time for one last question. "Oh, yes, that reminds me. The tracker - who was assigned to put that on the sedan, I wonder? Was it you?"
"Yes," Radislav says. "We had to have a way to keep track of the cops."

(Blake spends BS Detect!)

If Section 9 was so secret - how did Radislav and his friends even know to be on the lookout for them? Moreover, how could they possibly have gotten access to the car? No, the tracker on the sedan must've been put there by someone in Section 9, but...why? And who? Was it Wiesner herself, who - as Blake read between the lines - may have deliberate compromised the operation by revealing the threat to K Group? Elias Senai, the self-styled transportation specialist who would likely be working on this car full-time and already rubbed Blake the wrong way? Xavier Rhyner, suspiciously quick to the scene at the bombing and eager to get Sulemani onto some plane and out of Blake's reach? Or Jadwiga Kozlowski, the tech expert doing God knows what behind the scenes at HQ while everyone else is out in the field? Too little information to go on, but none of those sounds good. Just as Blake turns those questions around in his head, he notices a small "scar" on the back of Radislav's arm. He's seen enough of those to tell that it's not a real scar, but a fake using superglue to affix something small and thin - like a miniature transmitter and antenna for a locator, short range and duration, but easily placed and removed as needed.

Last question asked and answered in the worst way, Blake does what he should have a while ago. It's quick for Radislav, at least - thrust into the chest, in between the ribs. Radislav opens his mouth, but only a gasp comes out - the air forced out, and a hole to keep him from getting more. Blake does a quick wipe of the handle and heads out.

(Blake uses Danger Sense for a 3-point refresh of Sense Trouble, then...senses trouble.

1d6+4 Blake Sense Trouble = (4)+4 = 8)

Everything inside Blake is screaming to get the fuck away from the body and to not go back to the car. Someone's coming that way, and they're coming fast. Blake is nothing if not a creature of instinct. He moves to take a different route back to the parking lot - his pursuer (pursuers?) had to get here somehow, and if his vehicle isn't safe, he could always borrow theirs. As Blake circles through the woods and flashes back to the first E of his Level C SERE training, someone crashes through the forest behind him at high speed, making little attempt to disguise their approach to Radislav's body. Then there's quietness, but Blake presses on. After about a minute, he finds his way back to the parking lot, gets in the sedan and starts the engine. Just as he realizes that there is no other vehicle there, the sedan's lights automatically flash on - illuminating a figure striding out of the forest, Radislav carried over their left shoulder like a rolled-up carpet.

(Blake uses Outdoor Survival to guess where the dude's ride currently is.)

Blake takes the blink of an eye to mentally roll back through the scene of coming up to the car. There were tire tracks to the lot, but they were at least a day old. It's possible the other car was parked somewhere else - would've explained how they could get so close without Blake hearing a car roll up - but the last forest track Blake recalls from the main road was about a kilometer away. Blake's not chancing another confrontation with person or persons known or unknown - knowing he has some time is enough for him to put the pedal to the metal.

I was planning on giving the sedan a remodel anyway...

Tires squeal as the sedan's tires dig into the gravel - AWD to the rescue, even if Blake has to work a bit to make the rear step out for a quick turn. When the sedan swings around, the figure seems to loom large in Blake's rear view mirror, but then all the torque bites for good and the car jumps forward, blasting up the forest track and off the lot. The figure stays behind and after a few twists and turns up the trail, the rear view looks clear. Blake brings the car back onto the asphalt and, in the manner of all good EOD techs, de-asses the area with quickness.

And with this, music kicks in.
skullandscythe 2018-09-10 02:55:43
(Blake spends 1 Notice to Mind Palace the shreds of the figure he did see.)

Beige coat covered the body, upturned collar and a drawn-down cap most of the face - but they were slender, too slight to casually heft a corpse over their shoulder. Only visible skin was the hand on his left arm holding onto the body - chalky white, almost moon-like in the shade of the woods - and no fingernails. Silhouette showed no hair sticking out under the cap, so either short crop or bald. Didn't flinch when the lights came on - sunglasses (why, though?) or extremely disciplined or maybe blind? Large feet, easily a size 12. No weapon in evidence, how did they intend to overwhelm Blake?

The face - that glimpse Blake saw - the stark lighting should've cast a shadow via his nose. It didn't. Light silhouette also didn't show any ears. Birth defect, (self-)mutilation or surgical procedure? Not a burn victim - or if they were, skin grafts covered it, but no discolorations or discontinuities visible, so if top-shelf reconstructive surgery was performed, why leave them without nose and ears?

The smallest detail might be the most disturbing. Ring worn on hand showed pattern - miniature Sierpinsky triangle. Flash back to Amsterdam, the royal palace - Valentina deSilva(?) wore such a ring, too. Not significant at the time, but now...Fractal?
Gatac 2018-09-12 12:58:47
(I'm just gonna have Blake spending a bit of time and using Streetwise to get a respray and new license plate for the car. Likewise, I assume Tim spends time with further surveillancing.)

It's afternoon edging into evening when you reconvene at the safe-partment - the vacation house isn't convenient for Tim and besides, more traffic there would just risk giving the location away, especially with Blake's borrowed set of wheels and Prizrak (?) out there. Plus Bogomil Vranin's remaining crew, who are probably still looking for Sulemani - like, one imagines, Section 9 is, too.

"What a fucking mess, huh?" Laith greets you all, while Lucy tries to entice Operations into neck scritches - tries and fails, with Operations being spellbound by the laptop screen she's looking at. It's only when the door is shut behind Alira that she stands up. "Okay, everyone, where are we at?" Operations asks.

One short orientation session later...

"Okay, so per Blake's intel, we still have Vranin and three of his friends out there, we have Prizrak out there who may or may not be Fractal but he supposedly works with Vranin who we're pretty sure belongs to RoI, and we have our special friends at Section 9. Plus the rioting downtown and while we have an in-depth surveillance dossier on K Group HQ's security, we're no closer to ghosting in."

She pinches her nose.

"Talk to me, boys."
Admiral Duck Sauce 2018-09-12 19:38:10
"K Group's opted for the security buffet," Tim explains, "but they've got a fresh hole in their outer surveillance we can work with and Laith, you asked for a bespectacled muckamuck." Tim swipes over his pics and the RFID scan. "Retinal scan's the cherry on top."
Gatac 2018-09-18 13:24:47
"I took the liberty of compiling what we know, based on the surveillance Blake carried out," Laith says.

"First stop, ground floor." Laith throws a few pictures on the projector. "Basic-ass RFID card readers. We have enough SIGINT to clone a couple for our use. Doctoring them to look like company IDs and matching uniforms is Tim's wheelhouse." He clicks through. "Without a TEMPEST suite I had to hack together some analysis tools for the EM signatures we picked up. I think I can match transient spikes to arrival and departure of their IT guys, with 95% consistency. Tells me three things. One, elevator access to downstairs. Two, no regular stair access - woulda expected at least one dude to walk if he has to go just one floor down. Put a gun to my head, I think we're looking at a fire escape staircase only, doors will be linked to the alarm - but they might also have less complicated security than the elevator access. Three, there's not a lot of people in total going down there. If we can get past this without getting blown, we should be facing minimal resistance."

"Anyway, first sublevel." Laith throws up a signal heatmap overlaid on a satellite picture. "Was able to track some phone signals even down there, that gets us a rough layout. More EM tea leaf readings suggest their server farm here and their utility room here." He points to another area that's "cold" on phones but radiates heavily. "Secure servers. I believe they have a seperate server closet for stuff that runs their security systems. Based on what I've been able to find, they use RapidScan tech already - retinal scanners, to be precise. Servers are probably a hard target for hacking but physical access covers a multitude of sins."

Then he clicks the presentation over to a big, fat question mark. "Second subfloor contains the vault. That's as much as I can say with certainty, it's too deep and too shielded to get useful signal from there. Oh, the millimetric wave scanners are not installed, this is probably where the retinal scanners actually are. Other security...who knows. The good news is, they can't be dug deeper and they can't have a big fuck-off bank vault down there, the ground water level and soil wouldn't support it. Other than that, this is that white spot on the map."
punkey 2018-09-18 14:04:41
"Sounds like if we control the first sublevel, we own the vault," Mason says.