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Contagion (IC | TWI ONLY)

PostPosted: Fri Sep 09, 2016 3:13 am
by Atnaia
Sometimes the cure is worse than the disease. - Yiddish Proverb


ACS Adirondack
South of Hart Island, Atnaia

The crew of the Adirondack had first picked up on the SOS signal about twenty minutes earlier. Normally, they probably would have slinked by and let someone else handle it, the miltiary or the coast guard or something, claiming communications failures or something. Not this time, though. They'd just gotten paid for a sizable shipment from the Silver Branch Club, and the relative fortunes they had all deposited under their matresses, in their bank accounts or, more commonly, in some portside whore's bank account had made them generous. So when they had heard the first pings of the SOS beacon, Captain Rennard had ordered them around and taken them off course to check it out.

"Worst case," he said, "we might get some salvage off of whatever is out there before anyone else shows up."

"Worst case, pirates are lingering around and we get fucked from behind," Jazz had countered, but the captain was the captain and what the captain said went. So now they sat about half a kilometer out on clear waters from a belly-fat cargo ship sitting low in the water. It was enough to get the smuggler-salvagers salivating, seeing a ship sit like that, cargo hold fat. It was a decent sign that it wasn't a pirate trap, too. The ship would have been empty if it were pirates, either having been cleared out or not yet laden with ill-gotten plunder. Pirates loaded with booty didn't keep attacking, they cut their losses and sold, then drank and whored and gambled until it was time to go back out and do it all over again.

Still, it wasn't a salvage job, either, much to the crew's mild chagrin. Through binoculars, they could see people on the deck waving their arms.

"Damn it," Jazz said. "Looks like it would have been good salvage."

"Sure would have been," the captain agreed. "Can you get them on the horn?"

Jazz sent out a radio call and got nothhing back but static. The flags out on the boat across the water suddenly explained why in naval codes: radio was dead, engine was dead, power was dead. The boat out there was basically just a big bucket, floating in calm waters. With the forecast the way it was, that wasn't a good hope to last. A storm was supposed to be blowing in. A ship without power was likely to be flipped or flooded or cracked if it couldn't maneuver through storm waters. If Jazz had been an ounce nastier, she would have suggested they just gut the thing and let its crew handle themselves. They ahd lifeboats, after all.

But she wasn't an ounce nastier, which pissed her off. "They're dead out there, cap. Well, the rust bucket they are riding is dead."

"Jesus Christ," the Captain said. "Least we got room for 'em, can't be many out on it. Plus, we're not far from port, we can swing them back and be back on track to Port Gray without losing much time."

"Seriously, cap, your heart is too gold for this sort of work," Jazz chided.

"Yeah, yeah," the Captain replied.

He sent out the order to load up some dinghies and start hauling the crew of the other ship over. Jazz could watch their smaller boats bounce across the waves all the way over to the other ship through her binoculars. She frowned.

"They're loading a crate onto one," she said.

"Valuable cargo they aren't willing to leave bouncing until salvagers come along," the Captain said. "We got a logo or anything?"

"Nothing," Jazz replied.

The Captain shrugged. "Maybe there'll be a reward. Could be worth the time and fuel."

"Better be," Jazz replied.

About half an hour later they were pulling the crate up onto the deck with the deck crane, and helping crew from the other boat up. The first one on deck was a middle-aged looking guy, curly gray hair and a salt and pepper beard. He wore a yellow rainslicker, and looked every inch like a whaler or something. He wore a penitent look on his face, a twinge of embarassment in his eyes.

"Hey there," he said, as he was helped up. Jazz and the Captain had come out on deck, and the Captain approached.

"Hey there," he said. "Looks liek you're having car trouble."

"You don't know the half of it," the man said. "Thanks for stopping."

The Captain nodded towards the crate. "What are you hauling?"

The man shrugged. There were already a few others of his crew on the deck. "Feel free to pop it open if you want to."

The Captain was surprised. "Really?"

"Hey," the man said. "I don't own it. Least we could do for having you stop."

The Captain glanced at Jazz. She shrugged. What did she care? There wasn't a logo on the box, at least not one that she recognized. The Captain called for a crowbar, and Twig ran over a second later and handed him one. The dinghies were prepping for another run out to the other ship when the Captain popped the top off the crate. He pulled out handfuls of straw-like packing material and a confused look crossed his face.

"What the hell?"

Jazz came over and glanced in the box. "Jesus, Cap, what the hell is that?"

Inside the crate was a large metal cannister, connected to a series of wires and mechanized devices. The polished, stainless steel gleamed. If she didn't knwo better, she would have called the thing a bomb. A high-tech, sci-fi looking bomb, but a bomb.

The Captain spun on his heels, but the man in the rainslicker had already drawn a heavy-looking revolver from under his coat. The rest of his crew had liekwise drawn weapons.

"Sorry, mate, it's not personal," said the man. "You were just the ones to stop."

"You're pirates?" Jazz said, raising her hands.

The crew from the other ship laughed. "Hell no," one of them said.

The man in the rainslicker grinned. "We're freedom fighters."

Jazz could see the Captain look at the crowbar in his hand, then to the revolver pointed in his face, then to her, then back to the crowbar. So did the man with the raisnlicker. He clicked his tongue behind his teeth.

"Here's how this is goig to go down," the man with the raisnlicker said. "You are going to let us get off this boat. If you attempt to attack, we will gun any rebels down. Once we are off the boat, you will ping your SOS, and if you are super lucky, you will live for awhile. Your best chance at survival is letting us get back to our boat without hassle."

"What's to stop us from smashing your bomb once you leave?" Jazz hissed.

"Nothing," the man chuckled. "But it is a bomb, and none of you lot look like the bomb defusal team type. What are you going to do? Swing a crowbar at it and cross your fingers?"

The Adirondack's crew remained silent. The armed men were already heading for the dinghies. The Captain looked at the man in the rainslicker.

"You lot are SOAR?"

"More or less."

The Captain swung the crowbar at the man's head. It didn't come close to hitting. The man in the rainslicker ducked, darted forward and drilled the barrel of his gun into the Captain's stomach. There was a muffled pop and a spray of blood exploded from the captain's back and he stumbled backwards with a groan.

"I said we would shoot rebels," the man said, stepping back, his gun hand bloody. The rest of his crew were boarding the dinghies and he followed. Jazz had already caught the Captain and was glaring after the man in the rainslicker.

"I'll kill you," she said.

"We'll see," the man replied.

The terrorists disappeared over the waves back to their boat. A few minutes later, the bomb went off. No one on the Adirondack had tried to stop it, there was no point, but when it went off, they were surprised. There was no boom, just a small pop, then a spray of water and fluid and a wet hissing noise, and the deck was suddenly covered in a viscous, dimly glowing fluid.

"What the hell?" someone said, just before the coughing started.

Jazz saw immediately what was going on as the device kept hissing and leaking and spraying fluid everywhere. She grabbed her shirt and tugged it over her mouth as a slimy, bluish-green film began building up on the deck, and across the skin and clothes of everyone on board. It looked like algae, she thought, like the slime that built up on the edges of a boat that had been too long at port. Except it radiated light like the fluid inside a glowstick. The crews was coughing as they breathed it in. Jazz glanced around and ran for the hatch into the ship. She nearly slipped as the slick surface of the deck was covered in the jelly-like film, but managed to get in and slam the door behind her.

She wasn't proud of hiding. She'd made her way to the galley and locked herself in the fridge, the most airtight thing she could think of, and it wasn't until after that she thought about the rest of the crew and what might have happened to them. She hadn't even set off the distress beacon.

She wondered if someone else had.

PostPosted: Sat Sep 10, 2016 12:34 pm
by Atnaia
"Jesus Christ, what's that fucking smell?" Private Mark Witton asked. The smell in question had assailed all of them as soon as they came within ten yards of the floating, abandoned hulk of a ship that they'd been sent to check out. It was a strange scent, like gasoline splashed with rotting fruit and the alkaline scent of smashed batteries. Somewhere between sea water and a chemical plant explosion. It brought tears to the eyes. Not that it was entirely surprising, given the state of the boat itself. They had seen it from a fair distance away in the darkness. The water surrounding it for fifty yards in every direction glowed blue-green, like someone had spilled the world's largest glowstick into the South Mesder. The light was recognizable to anyone who had sailed Atnaian waters for awhile, a kind of native algae called Ghost-in-Sea, although no one on board the patrol craft had ever seen so much in one place. Normally, you saw small patches of the stuff, floating neutrally six inches below the surface of the water like wisps of something arcane. The stuff was practically endangered, so seeing nearly a square kilometer of the stuff silhouetting the hulk of a small cargo ship was strange all by itself.

Then you got closer and saw the ship, lit from below by the glow. Some of the algae climbed the sides for about a yard, but after that the whole thing was coated in a gray-blue film, like cobwebs or chalk dust. And everywhere, there was that half-electric, half-meaty scent.

"Masks up, could be nasty," Sarge said, and the whole squad lifted breathing masks over their mouths. The navy had quarantined an are of a kilometer in every direction around the Adirondack, and Frances Auckland's squad would be the first boots on board. They weren't taking any chances that whatever that chalky shit was was going into their lungs. Frances especially. She'd taken chances before and had been shot for her efforts, and now she and the squad had a dog back on base that she had to clean up after.

They pulled themselves up onto the deck. "Fuck," Frances said. She normally didn't swear, but the scene elicited the response.

The deck was covered in bodies, maybe twelve of them. In the center was a crane, and next to the crane was a crate as high as Frances' waist. The deck was covered in the crusty build up of that gray stuff, dead algae maybe, and the bodies had practically fused to the floor with the stuff. But that wasn't the worst bit. As Frances approached one and turned her flashlight on it, she saw it's face contorted in a permanent scream of pain and agony. Only half of this was how the person had died, she thought. The rest was that the skin seemed to have been sapped of all liquid, curling the lips back from its mouth and sinking shriveled, raisin eyes into the depths of its skull. The shadows of the eyes and mouth, their deepest depths, still glowed a slight blue from the luminescence of the algae. It was like looking at some terrifying, undead creature. She could almost picture the creature moving, pulling towards her and eating her flesh.

She jumped as Mark swore from across the deck. "Jesus Christ."

She turned and saw him stepping back, his boots coated in something red, filled with sparks of pulsing green-blue. A corpse in front of him spilled half-coagulated blood from a crack in its thigh where mark had stepped on it. These things insides were still damp and liquid, without all the moisture sucked from them.

"Was this algae?" she asked.

"No clue," said Sarge.

"How the hell does algae do this?" Mark asked. Over at the crate, Johnson waved them over.

"We got something here, guys," he said. They came over and looked into the wooden crate. Inside was a stainless steel device, vaguely drum shaped, with various nodes and modules stuck to it like remoras on a shark.

"A bomb?" Sarge asked.

"Not like any bomb I've ever seen," Witton replied.

"Sweep the ship," Sarge ordered the squad. "Johnson, Carlyle, get this thing checked out. If its about to blow, let us know. If its safe, get it down on our boat so some egghead somewhere can figure it out."

The crew snapped to it. Frances, Mark and Woolsley grouped up and moved into the belly of the ship. It was warm down there, and musty. The algae wasn't as thick, only coating the sickly damp corners of rooms and casting an unearthly pallor with its glow, like haunted moss.

"I hate this," said Witton. Frances didn't disagree.

They moved room by room, looking for survivors. Radio chatter in their headsets droned into their molars. They hit bunks, cargo rooms, and finally a tiny, ugly galley. Frances hadn't thought the smell could get worse, but she hadn't factored in the day of warm, day-old milk and years of spilled, shitty food that would comingle with the salty evil that had previously been assailing their nostrils. Even the masks didn't filter it.

"Wow," she said. "That stinks." There wasn't much else to say.

Suddenly, they heard a banging from the back of the galley. The three soldiers looked at one another. Mark raised a hand to signal to wait. A voice emerged from behind the galley's industrial fridge door.

"Oh my god, is someone out there?"

They heard the sound of sliding bolts and the door swung open. A damp, shivering woman emerged, her dark skin twinging towards blue. She took a step forward, her teeth chattering, and slumped to her knees. Frances darted forward and helped her to her feet. Mark hit the radio.

"Sarge, we have a survivor down here," he said.

Frances helped the woman to a seat. "What's your name?" she asked. "What happened here?"

"I'm Jasmine Mashinka," the woman replied behind a chatter of teeth. "And SOAR killed my crew..."

PostPosted: Wed Sep 14, 2016 4:12 am
by Atnaia
LISA Escott Prefectorial Command Office
Ambress, Escott Prefecture, Atnaia

"Her name is Jasmine Maria Mashinka," said the analyst, named Penny or something equally common, handing Agent Benny Holden the file on the case as they moved down the hallways towards the holding room. "Daughter of a pair of immigrants. Basically raised in the workhouse system. Picked up a pretty standard indent contract during high school. Worked for Redroom Shipping under the contract. Managed to land herself a windfall from somewhere, looks like inheritance from a grandparent back in Japan or something, and bought her way out of the contract. Joined up with the shipping vessel Adirondack out of Ambress a couple months later and had been working on board since then. If the ship had an XO, she'd be it."

Holden took the file and skimmed. "'Shipping vessel'," he said incredulously.

The analyst shrugged. "Smugglers and salvagers," she replied. "Nothing bad. They're on the watchlist, but they never ship anything really awful so we pretty much let them do their thing. Blind eyes at the right times to just keep the wheels turning, you know?"


"Not directly," the analyst replied. "Silver Branch Club does grease the palms of the Port Authority a bit, and the Adirondack got trickle down from that, but mostly it just wasn't worth the cash we'd be dumping into an op. Is it really worth the money to catch a crew of twelve people shipping unauthorized herbal teas and traditional Chinese medicines into port? I mean, the worst they are doing is moving around a bit of untaxed blow for Silver Branch, but barely enough for it to be a felony charge."

"Fair enough," Holden replied. They'd stopped at the door to the holding room. "What's its current status?"

"We have a whole team in hazmat combing the whole thing with hairtooth detail," the analyst shrugged. "Crews have dumped a ring of oil around it to stop the Ghost-in-Sea from spreading. Never heard anything like it. Pretty sure there's more of that stuff around the Adirondack than in the rest of Atnaian waters combined. I'll get you more details when I can."

Holden nodded. "Thanks," he said, struggling to remember her name. Finally, he broke down. "What's your name again?"

"Aria," she said. Holden blinked. He had been way off base. Not a common name at all, he was just an asshole. She grinned at him, and walked away. It would have almost been a sexy move, if Holden had had the strength of will to get over the fact that she was an amputee and so her right hand was a chrome-and-fiberglass thing that made her look like a cyborg out of a science fiction film.

Again, Holden thought, asshole.

He scanned his Atdent card at the door's reader and opened it. The room wasn't a cell or an interrogation room, but it also wasn't not those things. A brightly lit, white room, it had a few chairs on its carpeted floor, a cot in one corner, a table, a TV mounted in a corner with a cage around it. No windows or sharp objects, though. It's only occupant, aside from Holden, was a girl in her mid- to late-twenties. Dark skin and vaguely slanted eyes, tall even by Holden's metric, with curly black hair. Some mix of Pacific Islander, Asian and African heritage, maybe just a splash of Atish in there somewhere, given the bluish tinge to her green eyes. She had the sort of feyish good looks of a supermodel, only vaguely marred by a scar on her chin and a network to match on her hands and forearms.

They'd given the girl a change of clothes, for what it was worth. She lay on the cot in dark blue track pants and a matching sweatshirt marked with large yellow letters that read "LISA" with smaller letters beneath that said "Local Intelligence Service of Atnaia". She wore papery, powder blue slippers. As Holden entered, she sat up a bit and looked at him through eyes that spelled exhaustion but an inability to sleep.

"Good evening, Ms. Mashinka," he said. "I'm Agent Ben Holden. How are you?"

"How do I look?" she replied.

Wouldn't kick you out of bed, he thought.

"Tired," he said. He leaned against the wall. "I just have a few questions for you, then we'll let you get some rest."

"I can't sleep on this damn cot," she replied. "Will you let me leave?"

Holden squirmed a bit. "Probably not, no. Look, what you witnessed was not only a terror attack, but an unprecedented terror attack."

"I know," Jasmine said. "I was there."

Holden sighed. "Look, Jasmine..."

"It's Jazz," she interrupted.


"It's Jazz," Jazz replied. "Only my mother called me Jasmine."

Holden noted the vehemence with which she said the word mother, and decided to roll with it. "Jazz it is. Anyways, do you know who perpetrated the attack? Any identifiable signs or..."

"It was SOAR," she replied adamantly.

"And how do you know that?" Holden asked.

"They told us."

Holden nodded. "Yeah, that would do it. But why did they tell you? There's no point, if they were planning on killing everyone on board."

The question was more rhetorical than anything. Holden was just brewing over theories. Jazz shrugged.

"No idea," she said. "But I want to see them at the end of a rope. Or a gun."

I always land the ones with revenge fantasies, he thought. "Did you see their faces or were they wearing masks? Could you identify one?"

"I saw them all," Jazz said. "But there's only one you'd need to find. Their head guy. Real asshole."

"You saw him?"

"Clearly," Jazz replied.

Holden stood, his brow furrowed. "I'm going to send in a sketch artist..."

PostPosted: Thu Sep 15, 2016 6:19 pm
by Ostehaar
"Ghost-in-Sea? Is that the name?"

Laara Vehter nodded to confirm. "That's how they call it," she kept her gaze fixed at him, "I don't remember the binomial name."

Alen Bergman put his glasses back on and kept reading aloud. "Twelve of the ship's crew are confirmed dead, with one survivor," he uttered some of the other sentences quietly and skipped a bit further, "widespread detention of individuals with confirmed links to SOAR has been authorized by the Quorum."

He folded the newspaper and laid on his desk. "And that's a quote from ANN, ah?"

Laara nodded again. "Exactly the same words."

"Interestingly enough," Bergman said, "there isn't much we can do with it at the moment. The Institute has a team in Camtholia, a team in Taziristan, a team in the International District, the usual team in Lovsk, that training team in Polar Svalbard, the team monitoring vessels in the Eterna for the past months... and we've only recently invested a whole lot of resources in the Merrit case."

Laara remained silent, resting her cheek against the palm of her left hand and drumming on the desk with the fingers of her right hand. Both stared at each other for a few moments of awkward silence. "This doesn't have to cost us a lot."

"I know what you're thinking, Laara, but I can't commit to it right now. It's a whole new thing. Another team, getting people to the area, protection gear, technical analysts who would delve into the weapon design, and so on. The Doctor would shut the door in my face for even suggesting it now."

"Not a team," Laara insisted, "I'm not talking about an operation. We already have people in the area, in Atnaia, who can sniff around. Also, there's a group of radicals in Lovsk who claim to be linked to SOAR cells in the Mesder, and it would cost us nothing to try and see if they're not bluffing. That's all I'm saying, sir. We can start small."

Bergman took a minute to think about her suggestion, stroking his beard slowly. "Do you have anyone in mind?"

Laara smiled in excitement. "Elena and Jim in Atnaia, and Johan in Lovsk."

"Alright. I need a short advisory paper about it. Give me one or two pages with a formal recommendation by this evening. I'll go with it to The Doctor. Ask someone in your section to contact the operatives and make sure they can do it before you give me the paper."

"Will do!"

PostPosted: Fri Sep 16, 2016 3:16 am
by Atnaia
"Alright, people, we've got a match," Holden said. He was in a sparse briefing room, a projector displaying evidence behind him for the onlooking LISA investigators who formed his team. Technically speaking, they were all equals in the investigation, running down their own leads, but Holden liked to think of himself as lead investigator, if only because it gave him the warm fuzzies when he tried to sleep at night. The real boss spent most of his time on phone calls with government higher-ups, so someone had to be in charge. Why not Holden?

He pressed a key on his computer and the projector flashed to the sketch done off of Jasmine Mashinka's description. A wild-haired, middle-aged man, he had a coarse, lined face and a curly, graying beard. He could have been anyone's uncle, or any random Coldwater factory worker. He wasn't though.

"We had our analysts run it through facial recognition, plus we combed manually through everything we could as well," Holden began explaining. He quickly adjusted his flow, realizing he should give credit where credit was due. "Aria actually managed to flag the guy, although I'm sure a few of you recognize him."

Holden clicked the button again and a photo appeared next to the sketch. It was a mugshot, showing a younger version of the same man. Shorter hair, blacker hair, less lines in the face, but definitely recognizable. "We think that its this guy. Claudio Hohenberger."

"Hohenberger?" said Agent King from his seat as others scribbled in their notebooks. "I know the name. He was involved in the Coup back in the '80s. Would have needed to do something real bad for me to recognize the name, though."

"Depends on who you ask," replied Aria from the other side of the room. "You should recognize him, though. He was one of the Headsmen."

That elicited a moment of murmured conversation across the room. Holden held up a hand and pressed another key. Everyone silenced as a well-known video clip played. Grainy old news footage showing a guillotine on Parliament steps, nobles in fancy suits dropped to their knees by soldiers, the blade falling. Each and every man and woman in the room had seen the footage a thousand times. It was a touchstone of Atnaian history. If they hadn't been alive for it, they had seen the footage in school. Still, they winced as the blade chopped through neck after neck. Holden paused the video and pointed with a laser pointer to a figure in the background, amongst the soldiers.

"That," he said, "is Johann Hohenberger. He managed to disappear after the coup, but turned up once or twice afterwards, leading Asorist protests and the like. He was arrested once, hence the mugshot, but couldn't be held on anything because of the amnesty deal at the end of the Coup."

"Damn," someone said.

"So he's a radical Asorist," asked King.

"One of the most radical," Holden nodded. "He was calling for armed revolt ten years before the Crisis. If I had the money, I'd bet that he he was behind a fair share of the more nasty attacks during it too."

"He wasn't in the leadership, though," Aria interjected. "We know that much. We think he may have even been too radical for them. He borders on that anarchist fringe of the Asorist doctrine."

"Hence his involvement with SOAR," King nodded. "Makes sense."

"I'd actually suggest an alternative," Holden said. "I'd say he's probably a good portion of why SOAR is the way it is. A lot of their releases have a healthy dose of his language in them. Hell, that one after the St. Luke's Bombing literally quoted a pamphlet he wrote in 1995. If the guy isn't in the upper echelons of SOAR, I'll eat my hat."

Agent Perez shifted her muscly bulk in her chair. "I've been doing SOAR tracking for six months," she said. "They don't have central leadership. They follow Asorist doctrine, after all. individualized cells with delegated leaders, all operating independently and occasionally cooperating."

"We think that might be shifting," King replied. "We've picked up chatter that a bunch of the bigger cells have been meeting up. Might be that they take the whole delegative democracy thing seriously and actually set up a functioning decentralized command structure. We have the tech to do it nowadays. Any asshole with a cell phone can..."

Holden leaned against his podium. "Bingo. And bottom dollar has it that Hohenberger lands himself a juicy place in that structure. I'd say this attack is likely just a dress rehearsal for the first big, organized series of strikes SOAR pulls off."

"what's our play?"

"We all have the leads we're running," Holden said. "Play them backwards, with the knowledge that Hohenberger is involved. See how that lands you. Don't change the game unless we find something definitive. But we need to be ready for another, imminent strike. I recommend reading Hohenberger's pamphlets. He talks all about his ideas for how to wage war against the 'grain of aristocracy'. There'll be another attack, and it will eb soon. Trust me."

PostPosted: Sun Sep 18, 2016 7:00 pm
by Polar Svalbard
SMI-3 Chief Abdul Makman whistled and leaned back in his chair, "So, this SMI-2's work?" He looked to the SMI-2 Chief with a smile. The Director looked at him and shook his head, "Makman, now is not the time for jokes. This is serious. Terrorists with Bioweapons striking at our allies are not something to be taken lightly, especially not by the section that's going to be needed most." Abdul sat up straighter with the rebuke, back to business.

The Director swept his gaze across the four back to the main screen, "Since the attack the Consul Bellum has made it our top priority to make sure that this, "Ghost-in-Sea" doesn't make its way to Polar Svalbard. His reasoning makes sense, as an ally of Atnaia, Atnaia's rebels may look to strike at us. The Consul Adstutia is going to get into contact with the Hegemon as soon as possible to go over possible plans and what not. Along with that, it is my belief that we should get into contact with OVAST, it is more than likely they are already looking in on this, and as allies to Atnaia it is more than likely that they could also be a target, same as any CFN member."

The Director leaned to the side and coughed into his handkerchief, "Now," he looked to the SMI-3 Chief, "I want your section to start monitoring for mentions of "Ghost-in-Sea" across the web, especially the Deep Web, any sales of the stuff will have to be looked into extensively." Abdul looked at him, "Understood sir."

Next the Director moved his gaze to the SMI-4 Chief, Alexis Odlorf, "Alexis, I need agents on the ground in the Atnaia, Merrit Isle area, try and pick up trails of the stuff, where it might be, who has it, if they sold it to anyone else." She nodded in affirmation, he turned to the SMI-2 Chief, "SMI-2 needs to be ready at all times, make sure Biohazard gear is ready for use. I'd like task force Raven on Standby, along with a Hotdrop team for farther out locations." The SMI-2 Chief also nodded.

Finally the Director rested his gaze on the SMI-1 Chief, Ivar Clasen, "Clasen, make sure this doesn't cause too much of a stir within the home country, I'd also like your team to be in contact with the Atnaian Intelligence division, try to see if we can get an SMI-2 team stationed out there." Ivar nodded and said yes sir.

Director stood up, the Chiefs took his lead, "Alright everyone get to work, I have to be off to brief the Consuls."

PostPosted: Mon Sep 19, 2016 12:14 pm
by Ostehaar
A series of impressively blown thick smoke rings floated confidently into the air, gradually dissipating as they made their way towards the bartender, who was polishing some wine glasses. He glanced up for a moment, a satisfied smirk across his face.

"Nice," the bartender said as he laid down a glass and picked up another one to clean, "I told you it wasn't so difficult."

Johan chuckled and cleared his throat. "Yeah, but you know... they make it look difficult."


"The people in movies." Johan raised his reefer and put it between his lips. He sucked it a bit and slowly drew the smoke into his lungs. He inhaled at length and closed his eyes in tranquility, savoring the taste of the smoke, and exhaled. It was then when Johan noticed the soothing American folk music which was playing in the background.

The bar was a dim looking, wooden styled place in the center of Mitverk, east Lovsk. The town saw very little action during the crisis of late 2015, when Ostehaar took full control over the island. The local underground resistance groups were later eradicated by the Oster government to prevent insurgency. Outside groups, like SOAR cells, were of lesser concern, and the Oster intelligence services were perfectly fine with letting them blow off some steam while keeping a close eye on them. A team of several undercover OVAST operatives was in charge of this activity, and two high-level agents - Lehna and Johan - headed this team.

"The usual, mate?" The bartender asked, already waiting with the correct bottle in his hand, over the proper type of glass. Johan nodded casually in approval as he tapped his reefer lightly to ash it into an ashtray on the counter. He got his glass of whiskey as soon as he returned the reefer into his mouth.

With long, blonde sideburns and a short chin curtain, rumpled grunge style hair, and an old thick flannel jacket, Johan looked like an indie rock musician waiting alone for the rest of his band after a long day at the studio. He took a sip of his whiskey and gazed directly at the bottles neatly arranged on shelves behind the bar.

The music changed to a darker, psychedelic vibe dominated by the bass, which reminded Johan of a nineties Krautrock piece. He glanced at his watch - quarter past one - and took a brief look around the pub, scouting for a vacant table at some corner or near the wall. When he located one, he thanked the bartender and took his drink with him.

About ten minutes later, two men in jeans and cheap plaid jackets entered the bar and sat at a table a few meters away from the Oster spy. The two ordered beers and beef and seemed like they were going to stay there for quite a while.

Johan got up and walked towards the bar to pay the bartender. With the empty glass of whiskey in his hand, he allowed himself to drift slightly out of course and stumble right next to the table where the two men sat. One of them got up to help him stabilize, and as the man did so, Johan held the edge of the table for a quick second - just enough time to stick a small tapping device on its lower surface. He thanked the man and apologized, and emphasized that he wasn't drunk, only a bit mellow. The man responded with a polite smile and sat back at his table.

After paying at the bar, Johan returned to his place, sat down, and took out his mobile phone, as well as a wireless earpiece which he shoved into the ear facing the wall.

The two men he was listening to were top members of the a SOAR cell - the cell which claimed to be connected to some SOAR cells in the Mesder area. No one back in The Institute knew of they were bluffing or not, but knowing the content of conversations between this cell's members could be a good way to start finding out...

PostPosted: Mon Sep 19, 2016 1:50 pm
by Polar Svalbard
The six soldiers were jostled around in the FVT-1 Tiger as it traversed into the simulation village. The only sound was that of weapons, armor, and kit check. All six of them wore gas masks in addition to their normal kit. Raven-1, their team leader, Captain Lycomedes Sarkis, wore his with red skull paint over it in contrast to the white skull paint the rest used.

Captain Sarkis looked over his team with a nod, their FN F2000s gleamed in the dim red light that bathed the interior of the Infantry Fighting Vehicle. His number two, Sergeant First Class Dias Yedilev, looked at him and drew a finger over his mask in the approximation of a smile. The Squad Leader returned the gesture. The number three, their Heavy Weapons Specialist Staff Sergeant Gjik Zhuzhumi sat there prepping his primary weapon, his MG4, the squad's LMG.

The number four, their grenadier was reading his book, his rocket launcher on his lap. Over to his left at the back of the vehicle the five and six, the squad's riflemen, were playing roshambo to pass the time. The Captain smiled to himself and thought,This is going to be fun, Bioweapons... haven't had to deal with those in a long time.

After a few more minutes the IFV rolled to a halt, the door opened and the comm channel opened and the commander of the IFV told them to get out, the objective would have them walk the rest of the way. They got out and it was different to what many of them were used to, usually when wearing gas masks, even in training, the air would be cloudy or hazy, but here the air was clear. The ground though had a simulated fungus around the place. Although the same thing as in every training with WMDs was present, dead bodies, in this cases dummies, but still the covering with the simulated fungus was less than appealing.

From there they would spend another couple hours on the simulated course, learning what to expect, procedures and other things, whatever they were able to get out of the Atnaian intelligence division to let them know what to expect. By the end of the day Raven-1 was just tired, and a little concerned if that was what they were to expect.

PostPosted: Thu Sep 22, 2016 4:42 am
by Atnaia
The door to the room swung open. Jazz had begun to think of it less as a room and more as a cell, and every time that door opened she came to dislike whoever stepped through a little more. Usually it was Agent Holden. She'd been here for what she guessed was two days, but had spoken to Holden probably close to two dozen times. It didn't seem to be getting anywhere.

As she glanced up from the couch where she had been lying and watching the old CRT TV mounted in the corner, she was unsurprised to see Holden step through again. He was in his late thirties, maybe early forties, just creeping up on the age that would mark him as past-his-prime and get him relegated to desk duty. He had broad shoulders and the slightest amount of paunchiness that suggested he hadn't quite gotten a handle on a slowing metabolism. He wore a dark suit and tie and held a cardboard tray with a pair of red and yellow paper coffee cups from a corner coffee franchise steaming in it. He seemed like a good enough guy, but didn't blink nearly often enough. It gave him the slightly unnerving gaze of a lizard or a bird of prey.

"Alright," he said. "Time to go."

Jazz sat up. "What?"

"Go," Holden said. "To move to another location. Come on. We're shifting you to a safe house...well, I say a safehouse. More a hotel...nice hotel though."

"I have an apartment," Jazz replied. She stood up and stretched and felt a pop in her spine.

Holden rocked his head back and forth noncommittally and donned an apologetic expression. "Eh. Sort of...we had to look in on you, see? And it turns out your landlord has been running this rent scam slash unlicensed drug ring out of your apartment while you are at sea..."

"Jesus Christ," Jazz sighed.

"Yeah," Holden shrugged. "We can't exactly let you go back there until the investigation is over."

"Which investigation?"

Holden didn't answer, he just glanced past her with a frown. "What the hell?"

Jazz followed his gaze to the CRT in the corner. She'd been watching WINN for their sports coverage, since the United were set to play Coldwater, which was always a shitshow of a game and worth watching for the crowd shots alone, but the station had cut away from the sports desk back to Nicholas Riggs, the lead anchor. The little box over his shoulder showed the now-familiar image of the Adirondack, floating on a glow-stick sea. Below that was bold white text that read "SOAR Threatens Further Attacks".

Holden crossed to the TV, balancing the tray on one hand, and turned it up. Rigg's soothing baritone filled the room.

"...has provided this network with copies of their demands. For those just tuning in, spokespeople from the Sons of Asorist Retribution, or SOAR, have announced that they intend to perform further attacks using the bioagent responsible for the attack on the Atnaian shipping vessel Adirondack. According to the dispatch they provided WINN, they have devices in several major cities region wide, which they, and I quote, 'intend to activate if the nation's of the Western Isles do not comply with the demands of SOAR'. Attached to the dispatch was a list of said demands, including such elements as demanding the release of major Asorist terror suspects from several Atnaian debtors' facilities, military and political withdrawal from Merrit Isle, cut-off of international trade with the Hegemonic government of Atnaia until the Quorum disbands, and many other demands which could be seen as beyond extreme. At this point, WINN has not heard from the government on this breaking story..."

A vein bulged in Holden's temple. He spun so quickly coffee sloshed from the cups and onto the floor. Without saying a word, he stomped out of the room. Normally, the door would have swung shut behind him, but this time it stood open. Jazz glanced around and followed a moment later.

When she caught up with Holden, he was down the hall in the bullpen, shouting at the room as a whole.

"How in Baln's holy asshole did WINN get a release from SOAR before us?"

The bullpen was in a panic. Analysts were typing rapidly, screens around the edges of the room were displaying news feeds and analytical data. Someone replied from the hustle.

"SOAR didn't send us anything!"

"Everything that gets put up on WINN should be vetted by us," Holden replied. "There's going to be a media goddamn panic. There's going to be riots if people think there's a bomb under their feet!"

"Noonan is on the phone with the Hegemon's Office," someone said.

"Oh, fuck Noonan!" Holden said. He set down the coffees on a desk. He turned to an analyst. "Aria, get ahold of WINN now. Have them forward FUCKING EVERYTHING they have. And get King down there to pick up the originals. Strong-arm the motherfuckers for all I care. Has anyone spoken to Taubadel's office?"

"Noonan..." someone said.

"Anyone with half an gram of actual skill at their job? Taubadel is supposed to keep the media under control..."

"Haven't heard anything yet," someone answered.

"Jesus," Holden hissed. "Do we know that this wasn't him, some part of the grand fucking puppet show he hasn't let us in on?"

"We'll know once Noonan..."

Holden waved a hand at the agent who had responded. "Yeah, yeah," he pointed at Jazz, who had thought she had been forgotten. "You. We're getting you to a damn hotel and then I am cleaning up this damn mess."

PostPosted: Sun Sep 25, 2016 1:51 pm
by Keomora
Shayara, Keomora
The first thing that Dale Arkwright heard were the screams, and he knew that the interrogation had begun again. Walking in the room resembling the set of a horror film he saw the William Henderson, a suspected member of SOAR, or whatever was left of him. Naked and strapped on a chair, the sight of this broken man was a pitiful sight to see. His hair was burned off, and the former features of the face resembled nothing more than a dried raisin. Dale turned to his right to see Hailey Huyn washing her hands. When she noticed his disapproval she simply shrugged.
"He was being disrespectful."
Sighing to himself he moved closer to William who was trying desperately not to look at him. Kneeling down Dale observed that his fingers were missing, and he had numerous cuts on his body, all closed using fire.
"Are you ready to talk now?" Dale asked, finishing with a sigh that legitimately seemed sad.
"I, I told you people that I know nothing," William said, his voice weak and coarse after hours of screaming. "I already told you people that have the wrong guy here."
Dale's face morphed to a smirk. "Do we really have the wrong man here? Or are you simply lying again."
His boot pressed on the mangled remains of his left foot, causing William to weakly moan in pain.
"He's all yours."
Realizing his predicament William began to move frantically, panicked now.
"Please now, don't leave me with her, I will tell you all I know," William begged as he saw Hailey approach him from the corner of his vision. "Please, no, no, have mercy, I beg of you!

PostPosted: Sun Sep 25, 2016 7:37 pm
by Ostehaar
"Start from here," Johan laid his finger at a certain part of the display, where the computer indicated a change in volume, "this is where they lowered their voice slightly. I don't even think they noticed." He tapped twice with his finger on the screen and nodded firmly. "Play it."

The technician put the marker a few seconds prior to the spot Johan asked and pressed the 'play' button. At first there was a lot of static noise, but it took the technician only a second or two to click the correct settings and reduce the noise, revealing the content of the conversation between the two SOAR members who met at the pub in Mitverk.

You know, I, ugh... I spoke with that frigger in Rovka yesterday.
I heard. They say he's been going on about the Southern Project. It's the fourth time I've been hearing about this since last week, man. About this... this guy, some guy from the outside, from their other connections.

The technician stopped playing back the recording and looked at Johan. "Do you have any idea what they're talking about? What other connections? We've never heard them speaking about other connections before."

"It gets better," Johan said and gestured the technician to keep playing.

Exactly. So I spoke with him, right, and he tells me 'talk to Dylan', right? I called Dylan right after and he told me... get this, he told me that those fuckers in Rovka now get new supplies.
New supplies?
I shit you not, man, new supplies. Supplies from this so called Southern Project.
That is unbelievable.
I know! Exactly! So I asked him about it, you know. I told him 'how do you get this' and 'how do you get that', and he told me that a man from the Mesder contacted them and started making offers... Started talking about more 'parties' and started talking all these, ugh, new ideas and shit.
What's his name?
I don't know, he didn't tell me a name, he just said they call him by certain nicknames, like 'Inferno' or something. I don't know. But I'm telling you, they have loads now. I've never heard about anything like it. They can fucking do whatever they want in the west, man.
Do they also get orders with the stuff?
You see, that's exactly what I asked. He told me that they don't, 'for the time being'. He said that this man, this guy, sent many 'suggestions'. He said that he's probably trying to gain their trust before telling them what to do.
That's his opinion, man.
No, no, man, I'm telling you. It's a whole new thing. I even heard some talk about 'special' supplies. He told me that he can't say exactly what that means, but that I should, get this, 'tune in and watch the news'.
He couldn't tell you anything?
No, man, he said he's not talking about this over the phone. He literally told me to shut up and get updates later.
That bastard...

Johan reached forward and paused. "From there it gets boring. They talk about a relative who wants to join, or something like that."

The technician took off his headphones and took a deep breath. "Damn," he said and looked up at Johan, who stood behind him, "I really have no idea what they were talking about."

"I think I do." Johan flipped through some of the papers on the desk and pulled out a newspaper. He opened it and quickly found WINN's article about the Adirondack bio-weapon attack. "Special supplies," he quoted from the recorded conversation, "watch the news." He let the technician hold the newspaper himself after he presented it to him.

"Good god..."

"We have to find this individual they were talking about," Johan announced. "I'm going up to report this back to The Institute. They would probably tell me to drive to Rovka and investigate the cell there."

PostPosted: Tue Sep 27, 2016 6:52 pm
by Polar Svalbard
The Consul Adstutia, Samantha Hartega, leaned forward in her chair, her chin resting on her hand as the operators in Polar Svalbard and Atnaia connected her to the Hegemon’s office. She wiped the stray wisp of hair that fell into her eye back into the bun of blonde hair that rested on her head. She slowly exhaled as she had been sitting here already for five minutes while operators did their work.

Soon she heard an audible click on the phone and the light on the side shone green to let her know the line was secure. She straightened up, “Good evening Mr. Wessich, as you most likely know this is Samantha Hartega, Consul Adstutia of Polar Svalbard, I have called you about a terrorist organization that you know quite well that has just dropped some demands on my desk with the threat of Bioterrorism if I do not comply.” She laughed, "As you may understand, I can't comply."

Wessich glanced across his desk at Joseph Blythe, Director of LISA, who had agreed to sit in on the conversation. Wessich cleared his throat. "Good evening, Ms. Hartega. Before we delve into things, I should inform you that I have you on speaker phone with Joseph Blythe, who has, of course, been overseeing the threat on our side."

"Evenin', ma'am," Blythe said.

Wessich flipped open a file on his desk. "Naturally, we too have received demands. And, also naturally, we too cannot comply. I would never ask another nation to fold where we stand strong, or vice versa. Therefore, I completely understand that you will not bend on these matters. The demands on my desk are, frankly, ridiculous."

"I'd be surprised if that weren't SOAR's intent in the first place," Blythe said. "They don't want us to comply, not with these demands. They want us to deny them, try and call their bluff, and then they'll kill a lot of people. When we're all shaken up, they'll send their real list of demands and with the rug pulled out from underneath, we'll embrace the fall and give 'em what they want."

Samantha tapped her pen against the transcript of the demands that her aide had given her, "As my fellow Consul would say, extremely dishonorable, but is that not the career path we chose when we decided to go into politics and for you Mr. Blythe, the intelligence community? It would seem these fools wish for all files on the Svalbardian Military Intelligence service to be released along with a large sum of money. The money I do not care about, but the first part is impossible to do."

Once again, she wiped a stray hair back, "It would seem we are at a crossroads here, as allies and as the nation of origin I thought it best to contact you first. As allies, I believe that we, along with Ostehaar are going to have to work together as an intelligence community to locate these terrorists. Already the SMI chiefs are working with their staff on the problem and I would not be surprised if soon they will be contacting both LISA and OVAST. The two of you more than likely know much more than me or my staff know as SOAR was not looked into extremely by SMI-4 due to its seeming irrelevance to our Sphere of Interest, what are our options to counteract this problem? It would do none of us best if SOAR was able to do what it wishes."

"We have extensive files on SOAR," Wessich agreed. "But the decentralized nature of the organization...well..."
"As you may be able to guess, ma'am, the way SOAR operates makes them difficult to pin down," Blythe finished for Wessich. "Smack down one cell, another is ready to pick up the torch. But in this matter, we do have a piece of information that may help."

"The man behind these attacks is named Claudio Hohenberger," Wessich leaned back in his chair. "He's an extrmeist, to say the least. He's gone by the codename Inferno in the past, and has had his fingers in the Asorist philosophy since the 1980s. He is well-trained, keenly intellectual, and very, very dangerous. He is also, fortunately for us, one of the closest things SOAR has to a leader, as well as one or two others in the organization. And since we know that he is behind this, it also means that we have a bead on him that we have never been able to get before. Not only would catching Hohenberger help lead us to preventing catastrophe, but it would also be a crippling blow to SOAR as a whole."

Samantha smiled, "Well that is promising at least. I'll be sure that is one of SMI-4's main goals, although it is more than likely they'll need your help in that goal. Oh, I almost forgot to mention, SMI-2 has two teams ready for any action by SOAR, preemptive or... post. One team is backed up by Task Force Raven and one is ready for hotdrop anywhere within range, both ready to deal with bioweapons. If you need them I believe the SMI-2 chief wishes to set up a liaison for your services to be ready to call on them at a moment's notice. They are our best, so I hope you will have no hesitation on using them if needed."

Stephanie reached for her water and took a drink while she waited for the response.

Wessich scribbled a note on a piece of paper and held it up for Blythe to see as he spoke. Sval. int. known in At.?

As Blythe glanced down at his phone, Wessich spoke. "That's excellent. It would all wind up being a joint-intelligence venture between Atnaia's branches, though. I'd need to get ANIA on the line...Acting-Director Rook is currently on Merrit though."

Blythe slid his phone over to Wessich, who read the text on the screen. If they are here, we don't have their numbers.

Samantha leaned back in her chair, "Just thought I should let you know that you have hot drop assets if you need them, you guys don't have to use them, they're just on standby if needed. Do either of you have any more information to impart to me? This has been an enlightening conversation and I am grateful you were able to speak to me on such short notice, but as you know, things like terrorist demand a swift response."

"As of right now, we are planning to form a joint task force to deal with the matter," Blythe replied. "My current investigators will be joined by ANIA. Perhaps we can extend the purview of this investigation and form a more international arrangement for anti-terrorist investigation."

Samantha continued to write notes down, "Polar Svalbard would most definitely be interested in such cooperation, especially in times like these. This has been an insightful conversation, and it was great to be able to discuss this with you two, I am certain we shall be able to bring these terrorists to justice, even if it shall be by gunfire."

She pressed the disconnect button and leaned back in her chair and sighed. After a minute she called for the Director of SMI.

PostPosted: Wed Sep 28, 2016 3:02 am
by Atnaia
Holden kept a white knuckle grip on the steering wheel of the unmarked LISA SUV he was driving. He swore twice under his breath and glanced in the rear view. Jazz was watching him through the same mirror, a look that was equal parts anxiety and anger on her face.

"You aren't supposed to drive angry," she said, catching his gaze.

Holden grunted. He looked down into the cupholder that was acting as a phone depository and willed his cell to buzz with an update. They slowed to a stop at a red light and he scooped up the device. He tapped out a text to King and Aria, then threw the phone back in the cupholder.

"Is it really that bad?" Jazz asked. "I mean, its just the news."

Holden twisted in his seat and stared at her. In the oversized LISA hoodie she was wearing, her hair unkempt and a bit greasy, she looked very young, like a college kid too lazy to get dressed properly. "Just the news, kid? Right about now, the Stone Wall tip lines are exploding with thousands of calls," he adopted a mockign tone. "'My annoying neighbour put up a shed last week, must be a bomb in there!' 'Those kids in the park are making a racket! Must be SOAR!' Once that escalates, people are going to grow tired of just making calls and they're going to hit the streets. Best case scenario, we get a repeat of the Anti-Asorist lynch mobs from the Crisis. That at least is useful, takes a few asshole dissidents off the streets. More likely, we get people trying to escape bombs that might not even be there. If that goes bad, we get riots, looting, all the bad shit that comes with that. And that is the opposite of helpful."

Someone behind them honked and Holden turned forward again and put his foot down. The car leapt forward. Jazz shifted uncomfortably. "What can I do to help?" she asked.

Holden chewed at a loose corner of his nail as he rounded a corner. "Nuffing," he mumbled. "Your part of this is over. Ain't like Hohenberger is in your address book."

Holden had a tendency to slip into a bit of an Ambress drawl when he was anxious. They turned into a roundabout and a valet approached the car. Holden waved him off and got out, openning the door for Jazz. She stepepd out, eyes wide.

"Jesus, this is the fucking Palisades," she said.

"I said it was a nice hotel," Holden said. "Come on, we need to get you up to your detail so I can get back to work."

They stepped through the automatically rotating doors and into the front lobby of one of Ambress' most expensive hotels. Gray-white marble floors shone in the light of a chandelier/modern art piece that glimmered like a thousand stars overhead. Dark walls hung with abstract paintings framed the room in slight curves evoking a modern Parthenon. A fountain splashed in the center of the room, cubic metal sculptures spitting arcs of water eight feet into the air. The whole place was only slightly marred by the construction crews working on the north elevators, plastic tarp covered scaffolding and yellow hazard tape out of place in the otherwise pristine first impression.

Jazz made to walk towards the sign-in desk on the far side of the room, but Holden caught her elbow and jolted his head towards the south elevator block to their right. "I already have a key," he said. "Come on."

There was a slight chaos from the construction team as one of the day labourers dropped something heavy and his supervisor cussed him out, earning themselves a heavy glare from the pretty blonde woman behind the check-in desk. Holden ignored it and guided Jazz into the opposite elevator. There was a ding and they began to travel upwards to the 12th floor in silence.

Jazz spoke after a few minutes. "So what are the ground rules?" she asked. "Do I get full-service here?"

"Knock yourself out," Holden said. "Order the steak and caviar for all I give a shit. We have the budget."

"Can I go on excursions?"

The way she said the word excursions made Holden look at her sidelong. "Until we know for sure that SOAR isn't on your ass, you have to stay here."

"And what's stopping me from going and getting some Döner at the place around the corner?"

"Good sense?" Holden said, and when Jazz didn't reply, he sighed. "And a couple of agents in the next room over."

"So what? You'll be watching my every move?"

"It's not like we have cameras in the bathroom or anything."

"But you have cameras other places?"

Holden remained quiet. Jazz grumbled. "Jesus, like I don't get enough of you staring all the time, now you've gone and had a couple voyeurs set up cameras."

Holden looked at her. "You don't think you were on camera the whole time you were back at base?"

Jazz blinked. "Well Id din't until now! God damn it!"

That actually managed to get a grin out of Holden. There was another beep and the doors opened to the 12th floor.

PostPosted: Wed Sep 28, 2016 10:17 am
by Ostehaar

The two-hour evening drive to Rovka was a perfect opportunity for Johan to listen to a certain music album he kept for such occasions - long and solitary car rides. The last sun lights of the dying day crawled back to the side of the earth where they came from that morning, and the green countryside scenery faded into an endless dark blanket with sparse orange road lights here and there. The inside of the car was illuminated repeatedly in an almost constant rhythm, swinging between shade and light. For a moment, Johan thought that this cycle coincided with the cadence of the music he was listening to... but it didn't.

He slowed down as he approached a road checkpoint set up by the Oster military outside of Rovka. He opened the side window and presented his government badge, earning a respectful nod from the soldier and a gesture signaling him to keep driving safely. He sped up again, and the image of his twenty year old self, as a soldier during one of the many Oster special operations on the island, came to his mind. Mental sounds of silenced gunfire and disrupted radio communication soon followed.

Johan arrived at a small hotel he liked in the city center, not far away from offices used by the Oster military during the Lovsk deployment. A good friend of his, an officer in the 13th field intelligence battalion, was waiting to meet him there.

Tomas, the officer, snickered as Johan entered the room. "Do you always take night drives?"

"No," Johan replied as they shook hands, "I left the Levenburg office the moment I finished my briefing. For some reason they decided it was a good idea to schedule one late in the afternoon."

"Bureaucracy, my friend," Tomas determined. "It took some time until I could get clearance to send the information for their review. I'll show it to you."

Tomas gestured towards the door to a nearby office and told Johan to follow him. Inside there was a row of computers, only one of them turned on and ready, connected to a larger display screen. Tomas clicked something and a satellite image of the Rovka port appeared, with red markings around three small merchant vessels.

"These," Tomas pointed at the vessels in the image, "are boats we can link to a guy called Dylan. He is some kind of a... let's call it 'head of commerce', of a SOAR cell we know of around here."

"Their logistics manager?" Johan suggested.

"Yes, something like that. He takes care of buying equipment, distributing it to the sub-cells around... You know."

"Yeah, alright."

"So," Tomas continued, "we've been following him for quite some time. Ever since we laid our hands on a picture of him and on his cellphone number, actually. Lately he's been a lot more active, as if he suddenly managed to secure a large supply source, or several sources. He's been going around town, making promises to operatives, saying they'll soon get all they need to execute their plans."

Johan frowned in concentration. "And their plan is...?"

"Ah," Tomas raised his finger to emphasize that they've got to the crucial part, "that's what I wanted to show you." He clicked again and two of the vessels vanished. "The origin of the three boats was the Mesder area, and they all came to Lovsk from the east. This morning two of them sailed westwards." He clicked again and the display changed to an image of a section of the Argean Sea. "Two hours ago we spotted them again, still sailing. We believe at least one of them is on the way to Polar Svalbard, carrying something from the Mesder."

Johan took a deep breath through his nose and exhaled, his bearded chin resting against his fist. "How do you know this last bit?"

"Oh, rumors. We've heard low level SOAR operatives around the port talking about it. They might be wrong or misinformed, of course... but that's what they said."

"Fuck," Johan announced unceremoniously. "What about the third boat?"

"Well, it's still there now, guarded by a bunch of SOAR operatives dressed as civilians. Do you want to check it out?"

"No, I want them to go on with their plans until we know what exactly those plans are. I'll go after Dylan for now. I'll try to see what he's up to. If my guesses are correct, he's being used as a distributor of important equipment for some hot-shot from the Mesder."

Tomas nodded in understanding. "Fair enough."

"Meanwhile, contact the Svalbardians and tell them about the boat. Tell them what you told me, and tell them... tell them that this Dylan is connected to an individual from the Mesder area with the nickname 'Inferno'. Maybe they'll know what to do with it."

The officer realized that his friend probably had a lot more information than what was said. "I will, Jo."

"Thanks!" Johan was already halfway out, with his mobile phone in his hand. He texted a message to Lehna, the other high-level OVAST operative in Lovsk. Need SNA on person in Rovka. Mesder connections specifically. Sending details soon.

PostPosted: Thu Sep 29, 2016 11:33 am
by Keomora
Shayara, Keomora
At this point William just wanted to die. His entire body was in agony and any kind of simulation was torture. But he wouldn't talk. His friends very life depended on that, depended on his silence. William's eyes wandered to his left were that woman was cleaning her tools. From the outside she did not appear to be capable of that kind of torment. Pretty in an innocent way that hides the demon within. He remembered her glee when she cut him, made him bleed and then cauterizing the wounds with a hot piece of metal.
"You know I have to credit you for making it this long," Haley said calmly before putting down the final knife.
"Usually my prisoners would have told us everything they knew but you... you are something else."
Grabbing his forehead harshly Haley began to sit on him, gently stroking the left side of his face.
"If you keep on doing this then you're going to die," she sang, before lightly slapping him. "But I can make it last for a very long time. My record was a week. You have been here for three days. Once I am done with you... I will move on to your brother."
For William, hearing those words made the world shift upside down. No, what, how he wondered, my brother isn't even in Keomora.
"Oh he's here," she answered, as though as she was reading his mind. "He wanted to know what happened to you, and he wound up in our hands, do you want to see it?"
Haley didn't even bother to wait for an answer, she simply turned on the old television that was at the corner of the room.
My god, William thought when he saw his brother bound on a chair, they have him. He wanted to scream, to tell them to leave him alone that he was innocent.
"Now you can tell us what the 'package' is that we have heard everywhere on the darkweb. Is it related to the attack on the Atnaian Ship with that weird algae?"
William was close to panic, to betray his friends or his brother. And there he made a choice.
"The package is a biological weapon," he croaked, which forced Haley to lean forward to hear," the Ghost in Sea Algae. It was sent by this guy named Inferno. We are set to attack the City Square on October the third. This is all I know I swear. Please just let my brother go, please."
"No." The woman stood up, grinning with glee. "But you can see him, I am sure that you will appreciate the reunion." She tapped on the door. "Bring him in."
William screamed when they brought his brother in, or what remained. His body missing all he saw was a head that was distorted with pain.
"I forgot to tell you he was dead... oops. Well bye."
She closed the door, telling her associates to dispose of the evidence, before looking at her pants.
"Shit, those were my favorite too."

PostPosted: Sat Oct 01, 2016 5:12 am
by Atnaia
The hotel room was, admittedly, pretty damn nice. Jazz couldn't deny that. A king size bed that felt like sleeping on a cloud, jacuzzi in the bathroom, sixty-inch TV on one wall, full suite kitchen, the lot. It was nicer than her apartment was. All that being said, she couldn't forget the lingering specter of the pair of LISA agents in the next room over, who likely had a bank of monitors showing a dozen different angles of every inch of the room and listening devices in every lightbulb. As much as she wanted to see what porn looked like in 60 inches of 4k glory, she figured that the two-steps-removed voyeurism she would have been subjecting the agents to wasn't worth the experiment.

She'd been dropped off by Holden and introduced to her handlers. That was the term used by Holden for the two agents in the other room, but Jazz preferred the term "babysitters". The first was short, round, curly-haired and vigorously excited, like some breed of rich person's lapdog. His name was Tim Levi, and Jazz had immediately taken a dislike to him. It wasn't that he wasn't friendly, but that his friendliness seemed to be entirely an act which didn't quite reach his eyes.

The other handler was a tall, blonde, supermodel-gorgeous woman named Melanie Thrace. Upon first seeing her, Jazz had pegged her for an ice queen, with her perfectly straight, platinum blonde hair, severe (if tight) black skirt and heels that were simultaneously ridiculously impractical for a field agent of an intelligence service but also worn with perfect, unerring grace. She even wore earrings with tiny, ice coloured gems that played up the whole image. Jazz, who had spent her childhood being able to afford only the cheapest entertainments as a result of her workhouse upbringing, had immediately equated the woman with the comic book superhero Annie Warlock, the notorious queen bitch of the Blackout Comics' superhero team "the Green Team". If anyone had ever thought of making an Annie Warlock movie, Melanie Thrace would have been a visual shoo in, but as soon as she opened her mouth, Jazz had to reconsider the casting. Her voice was friendly and grounded in a way that Levi could only hope to imitate. Jazz hated to admit it, but she actually liked the woman.

Still, regardless of how she felt about her handlers, she still couldn't help but feel like the suite was only a slightly-upgraded cell. She'd gone to get ice at one point and Levi had been waiting for her at the door, to accompany her down the hall and back. Jazz had to wonder what they were protecting her from.

The realization had struck her like a pick ax. They weren't protecting her. They were observing her. She was the only survivor of the Adirondack and the weapon that was used there, and they still weren't sure how that weapon worked. They didn't know if at any minute she could start expressing symptoms of something, or whether she carried the algae in her lungs like a human bomb, ready to start exhaling it into the air for others to breath in. They didn't know if she had survived through luck, guts, brains or biology. And they weren't ready to let her wander the streets of Ambress with a possible bio-contaminant under her skin.

But, she thought, they must be reasonably certain I'm not about to turn into glowing sludge, or they wouldn't have brought me here.

That was a mild comfort. She had tried to pass the time watching the TV, but every news station was tuned in to the "Adirondack Attack" and the subsequent threats by SOAR, and that was not at all fun for her. She had tried to watch sports but the only thing on was cricket, and she wasn't that depressed yet. Finally, she had turned on the Entertainment Channel and watched an old black-and-white sci-fi film instead.

What Jazz really wanted to do was go somewhere, talk to someone, anyone. Scratch that, she thought, I need to talk with someone very specific.

She didn't know why she hadn't told LISA the whole truth, but she had an inkling that a part of her was clawing for revenge to be at her own hands, and so she had kept a secret. It wasn't hidden that the Adirondack's business hadn't entirely been on the up-and-up, but what she hadn't mentioned was just what that business had once entailed. Back during the Crisis, she and the crew had taken on a few jobs she was less than proud of, and they had run some guns for some very shady people. Mostly their contacts had been Silver Branch Club, and those lot had been selling the guns to the people who needed them most: the Asorists. And if the press was to be believed, half those Asorists were SOAR now, and SOAR had to be getting supplies somewhere. Silver Branch had their fingers everywhere, and Jazz knew just where to find them.

She needed to talk to Aleksei Armanov.

To do that, she would need to get out from under the gaze of her handlers. To do that would require care, patience, and thought. Thankfully, all Jazz had was time. So she began to plan.

PostPosted: Wed Oct 05, 2016 2:47 am
by Atnaia
Holden walked back into HQ to find the bullpen in chaos. Phones were ringing nonstop, people were running around with armloads of files. The screens around the central pit flashed through a thousand different windows and charts and graphs. It took a specific kind of training to be able to disseminate the raucous anthill chaos into something that qualified as order. Holden had that training, and was still overwhelmed by the sheer tenor of the place.

He caught and analyst by the elbow (Mike? Mark? Mario?) and stopped him. "Update. Now."

"Stone Wall's been trying to distill every tip and update from their lines into something useful," the analyst said. "It's still overloading our systems. Can't imagine what they are feeling."

Holden sent up a silent prayer that the analytics algorithms the government was shilling out for from all the eggheads out at PGU, RUA and UofSAt would be finished sooner rather than later. If ever there was a time for an automatic system to distill panic into evidence, this was the time.

Wishful thinking, he thought. As the saying went, people in hell wanted ice water.

Holden let the analyst go and stepped down into the bullpen. He shouted above the chaos. "First person to bring me a useful summary of where this is getting us wins my gratitude. Said gratitude can be redeemed for me overlooking the next six infractions you inevitably make that would be grounds for reprimands."

Aria stepped forward, looking frazzled. A few flyaway hairs gave her the look of a teacher with a particularly shitty class. Hot for teacher, Holden thought, and bit his tongue.

"Do you actually have the authority to do that?" she asked.

"Absolutely not," he replied. "What's the situation?"

Aria swept her prosthetic arm around. "It's a shit show."

"Thanks, Sherlock," Holden grimaced. "Specifics."

"We're getting nothing. Not sure what Stone Wall is thinkign, but they must have their heads up their asses whatever it is. Half this information is useless, and the other half is lies. It's wasting our time. We have to go through every damn hint, when we could be doing our actual jobs."

"Do we have anything that actually holds water?"

Aria closed her eyes for a second and took a deep breath. "Maybe? There's only been one hint so far that seems to go anywhere in terms of verifiable data. A guy down at the docks says he recognized Hohenberger as working for a fishing liner called the Juniper Berry. Name actually pinged a manifest in the dock records, so we pulled up a crew list. Hohenberger's not on it, but there was a particularly interesting name."

"Yeah? What is it?"

"Dante Alighieri," Aria said.

"Guy who wrote the Inferno?"

"You're cultured then," Aria teased.

"No," Holden shook his head. "I can pick up on context clues. So. Dante Alighieri connects to the Inferno, which is Hohenberger's nom de pleur. Dante is Hohenberger."

"Maybe," said Aria.

"Where's the Juniper Berry now?"

"No idea," Aria shrugged. "Hasn't hit port in weeks."

"Strange," Holden said. "So we can operate under the assumption that she and her crew are the terrorist vessel that hit the Adirondack, at least until proven otherwise. Is she privately owned by an individual or is she part of a fleet?"

Aria frowned and turned to a computer terminal. Logging in to a few different databases, she began to cross reference things. Holden was just growing bored when she finished.

"Seems she's owned by a company," said Aria. "Warm Currents Exports International."

"God, they couldn't have a more frontish name if they tried," Holden groaned. "Where do they operate from?"

"No goddamn idea," said Aria. "Their accounts go through a string of banks that seem to track in circles. None of them pass through any Atnaian facilities, so I can't even pull up those registries, and I start to lose the trail of the string of banks somewhere between San Javier and Covonant."

"Jesus," Holden said. "So we've got nothing?"

"Well, we have their holding records for everything they've ever landed on Atnaian soil," Aria mumbled. She tapped a few more keys. "Seems like they own over a dozen different boats. Most are qualified to pass over open ocean, and have docked in a few other countries recently."

"Any we can get ahold of?"

Aria tapped again. "Actually, yeah. The Pretty Woman is here, in Ambress. Looks like she's having repairs done, probably means her crew is floating around."

Holden nodded. "Then that's where I'm headed. Hey, King, come with me. You're my back-up."

PostPosted: Wed Oct 05, 2016 6:23 pm
by Polar Svalbard
The director glowered at the report he held in his hands, Well shit. At least the Osters were on this. He let out a long winded "Fuck..." and turned to the aide who gave him the report. Set up a conference call with the chiefs, we need to talk. He stood up and walked over to his chair in front of the four monitors which allowed him to be able to talk with the chiefs of SMI from his office. The shutters on the room closed and the room's lights turned on at half brightness.

After a ten minute wait in which he did some work the four screens snapped on, the one where the SMI-1 chief would be had an aide there who said that the SMI-1 chief had gone home sick with a stomach bug and after being dismissed by the director the screen turned off. The director directed his attention to the chiefs. "I presume the three of you read the report which was sent by our friends in Ostehaar?" They all nodded. "What do you three believe we should do, I have what I believe we should do, but I'd like to hear your suggestions. He looked at the one which held the SMI-2 chief.

The SMI-2 chief cleared his throat, "Sir I believe it would be in our best interest to set up a perimeter on that side of the Archipelago with AWACS support and stop any ship that has come from Ostehaar or Lovsk. It would be best to station a few ships with SMI-2 personnel who can get to ships in the area with good time, I would say that we could stop them in harbor but it would be best if in the case they manage to blow the bomb, it happen out at sea."

The others nodded their assent, each when it being their turn saying that they agreed with the SMI-2 chief, the SMI-4 chief only adding that it might be best if they station an asset in Lovsk if there is a terror cell there targeting Polar Svalbard. They waited for the Director to say what he thought, "I agree with the three of you in that, and that is what we shall do. Although I will add that it wouldn't be bad to have a frigate from the third fleet stationed out that way just in case the ship won't go without firepower taking it down. Anyone have anything else to add?"

The three shook their heads, "Good, I expect results, get to it." At that the screens turned off and the Director went back to his work, content that the chiefs were more than competent enough to get this done."

PostPosted: Thu Oct 06, 2016 5:49 am
by Atnaia
The gray portable sat perfectly at home in the shadows of warehouses and shipping cranes. It was the sort of temporary office you would have seen at any dockyard, construction site or military base, a nearly featueless block of gray siding, a single door, a few windows, all capable of being dragged away at the end of a job. A large, white placard was mounted on the wall next to the entrance, marking it with the orange and yellow logo of Diligent Ship Repairs. Holden knocked on the door as King stood at the bottom of the short run of stairs.

The door swung open and a dumpy, balding man with a face the shape of an egg opened it. The smell of stale ink and mold floated from within. Holden coughed and flashed his badge.

"Afternoon," he said. "I'm Agent James Holden, this is my associate Agent Kyle King. We understand that you are doing repairs on a ship called the Pretty Woman?"

"Aye," the dumpy man said, and sniffed. His voice was a rasp of Caldish accent and cigarette abuse. "What's it to ya?"

"We're looking for the crew of that vessel," Holden said. "Any idea where we can find them?"

"No," the man said.

Holden frowned. Not good enough, dickhead, he thought. He stood straighter and let his jacket fall open, revealing his gun.

"Sir, we are investigating a matter of national security," Holden said. "If you have any idea where these guys are, you better let us know before we drag you in as an accomplice."

The guy's eyes flicked to the holster and back to Holden's face. "They paid cash up front," he said. "Don't ask questions when they pay cash. Figure the ship is collateral enough for 'em to come back."

Holden sighed. "You've got nothing."

The man glanced past Holden. "I don't, but that bloke does. He's the guy who paid me."

He pointed, and Holden followed his finger. Across an open lot filled with old pallets and barrels, a man in a yellow rainslicker was moving towards the office. As Holden turned and met his eyes, the man's face contorted into a look of panic, and he turned. HHolden yelled just as the man bolted.

"LISA," he shouted. "Stop! King, get after him!"

King shot after the man, Holden a step behind as he leaped down the stairs. They divided, King going left and Holden going right between the shipping containers that covered the docks.

Holden could see flashes of yellow between the shifting containers as the man came in and out of view. He drew his gun. "Stop!" he yelled again, and swung a left between the containers towards the man. He hopped a series of fallen wooden pallets and got momentarily blocked by a forklift. The driver slammed the brake in shock as Holden swung around it and continued forwards. He splashed across a puddle and saw the man in the rainslicker disappear around a corner towards the water. Holden followed in time to see the man clamber up a gangplank onto a ship, it's crew shouting at him.

Holden followed, shouting LISA at the confused dockworkers as he swarmed across the half-rocking deck and down another gangplank on the far side. The target swung elft again, back up the docks, barely dodging the head of a crane that was lowering towards a pallet on the docks and knocking a pair of workers into the oil-slick water.

Holden felt his breath catching. He was getting too old to be chasing perps through dockyards. That was a sad thought. How long until he was confined to a desk like a broken machine. Still, he thought, I'm not too old yet.

He raised his gun and squeezed the trigger. The bullet exploded from the barrel and struck the fleeing perp in the back of the calf. The man twisted, tripped and slid several meters across the pavement in his momentum. Holden reholstered his gun and calmly walked over to the man, who was crawling across the ground away from him. King swung around the corner ahead of them a moment later.

"Alright," Holden said. "Let's get started..."

PostPosted: Thu Oct 06, 2016 12:49 pm
by Ostehaar
Johan gazed at the image which appeared on his tablet right after he tapped the 'output' file that Lehna had sent him. He found it fascinating, the way social and work connections formed a molecule-like form of several people groups clustered together. The program he was using gave a distinct color to any group of people with strong connections between them, and since all of them were already well connected to Dylan - the guy he was following - the program practically presented the social and work groups Dylan was a part of.

Johan was sitting in his car, with Lehna on the line. "It always amazes me that our work can still be artistic at times."

His partner chuckled. "I had the best drawings in class."

"The credit goes to the computer, Lehn," he replied.

"Anyway," she explained, "zoom in on the yellow group. Some of the people there we already know. They are SOAR field operatives."

"The Gang."

"Yes," she approved. "Two of them also have some connections to the green groups, which are..." She checked her data for a moment, "well, I don't have a title for them yet, but those are some of Rovka's port dealers. We've seen them involved in smuggling of equipment to the island, illegal trade, and so on."

"Those are the two folks Dylan met this evening," Johan announced.

"So my guess is that these three, Dylan and the two extras, are the ones involved in this specific operation. Dylan brings the outside connections and his resources, and they bring the SOAR agenda and coordinate the delivery to the cell or to other cells."

Johan grimaced. In his mind, something wasn't exactly right. "But then," he said, "why would they also have connections to the smugglers? Why doesn't Dylan do all the trafficking for them? Why do they need more people at the port?"

Lehna didn't know what to say. Johan's arguments were valid, but in her opinion they only suggested another aspect of her theory. "They could be smugglers helping Dylan with his stuff for all we know. It's not unreasonable."

"No, their connection to Dylan himself is very loose. I'm sure he was only contacting them for small requests... or maybe they're his friends or something. Their links to him don't imply strong affiliation. Can you give me some details about the smugglers those two contacted recently?"

Lehna sighed. "Recently? I checked them up a bit earlier. Most of them work for a company called Warm Currents Exports International. We don't have a lot on it, though."

These words frustrated him to a point he clenched his fist and held it firmly above the steering wheel. All those pieces of information didn't mean anything to him, but something felt different. He has been following these people for a few months now, and they've never been so active and never had so many late meetings and strange phone calls.

He tried to sum up what he did know in his mind again. There's a guy called Inferno, he thought. He is from the Mesder area, and he's been sending new and special supplies to the Lovsk SOAR cell, sparking fresh activity referred to as the Southern Project. He nodded slowly as if he was explaining these things to himself. Inferno is in contact with Dylan, a local smuggler. And indeed, three of Dylan's boats have arrived recently from the Mesder area, and two of them sailed westwards after docking in Lovsk.

Other than that, there are two local SOAR field operatives who met with Dylan, and are also... Johan suddenly realized what was the problem.

"Lehna, are you still there?"

She cleared her throat. "Yeah, what?"

"We've assumed Dylan was the center of the activity, when in fact he might simply be a tool. They're using his boats, but they don't really need him. It's not that he met those two guys today, it's that they came to meet him. That's not the same thing. They are the focus. They are field operatives, with agenda, which have ties to several local smugglers, Dylan being only one of them. We've assumed he is the one with the ties to Inferno, when in fact Inferno might be in contact with several others we haven't been following at all, or he might be even operating things around here by himself through other people."

"You're saying Dylan isn't important?" Lehna wondered.

"No," he said, "I'm saying we were wrong to follow just him. We have enough information about him at the moment - we need to go after this other company, Warm Currents, and after those two field operatives." He uttered some curse words. "We have a lot, but practically we have nothing. We have no idea who this Inferno is, no idea who those Warm Currents smugglers are, and we had no idea that there were two SOAR field operatives working closely with local smugglers. For all we know, we might have a bio-weapon on its way to one of our cities."

PostPosted: Fri Oct 07, 2016 3:44 am
by Atnaia
The man rolled over, gripping at his bleeding leg and trying to crawl away from Holden one-armed. Holden bent over and grabbed him by the collar, lifting him and slamming him against a shipping container.

"You--you shot me!" the man stammered. "You fucking shot me!"

King sauntered over and leaned against the shipping container next to Holden. A few dockworkers looked on. Holden noted King's bemused smile as his partner lit a cigarette.

"Yes," Holden said. "I did. And I will shoot you again if you don't talk."

"You can't do that," the man said. "I got rights."

King nodded. "Yeah, you got rights. You got the right to tell us exactly what we want to know exactly when we want to know it."

"I want a..."

"A what?" Holden leaned in to the man. "A lawyer? A ride to the station? You'll be lucky to get a cell in a prison instead of a bullet in the brain. You're not in any position to be making demands."

"If you can point to a spot in the constitution that protects you, we'll be happy to read it," King said.

The man's mouth opened and closed like a fish. Finally, his head drooped. He looked pale. "Fine. Fine, I'll talk."

Holden nodded. Knew you would, he thought. "Where's the rest of your crew?"

"Bars? Brothels? Shit. Fuck if I know."

Holden didn't think the man was lying, and didn't feel like pressing that topic. He could track down the crew if he needed to. He moved on. "Who owns Warm Currents?"

The man glanced up and met Holden's eyes. "They'll kill me, man..."

King shrugged. "So will he. Answer."

"Fucking Silver Branch, man! Silver Branch! It's just drugs and guns, man! All this over that?"

Holden frowned. "Where's the bombs?"

"What bombs?"

"The bombs you and your people were shipping and planting around the region. The fucking bioweapons, asshole!"

The man looked panicked. "What the hell are you talking about? I don't know nothing about no bombs."

"That," King pointed out, "is a triple negative and a very confusing sentence to track. Grammar is important, friend."

"Fine," the guy said and gritted his teeth. "I don't know anything about any bombs. Better?"

King took a drag on his cigarette and shrugged.

Holden looked in the man's eyes and tried to read him. He came to the conclusion that he wasn't lying, but didn't have much else to go on. Shit, he said. He let the man drop. The guy crumpled to the ground, clutching his bleeding calf.

"He's a mook, doesn't know anything," Holden said.

King shrugged again. "Sure," he said, and looked over at the startled dockworkers. "Someone call this dickhead an ambulance."

Holden was calculating in his head. "So...Silver Branch Club owns Warm Currents, Warm Currents owns the ship that attacked the Adirondack, the ship that attacked the Adirondack was captained by Hohenberger, who claims to have placed more devices in a bunch of other locations, both here and in other countries. Warm Currents is likely connected to that, so is Silver Branch Club with SOAR now?"

King stood away from the container. "Doubt it," he said. "But we just interrogated a guy in broad daylight and no one can say shit. What a time to be alive, my friend."

Holden felt worse about that, but didn't mention it. He grit his teeth. "You know what that means?"

"We have to go bash our heads into a wall trying to talk to Silver Branch?"

Holden swore under his breath. "I hate the Midnight. All they play is eurotrash house music and the drinks cost three times what they are worth."

"Girls are cute though," King said.

"The girls are trashy," Holden replied. "Come on, we have to go talk with Armanov."

PostPosted: Thu Oct 13, 2016 12:02 pm
by Polar Svalbard
---"Oster Freighter Janevar Sjohordir, stop your engines, this is the Svalbardian Frigate, Northern Lights, a team will be sent aboard your ship to inspect cargo. If you do not stop we will be forced to fire upon you. This is in accordance to Svalbardian maritime law number 1072."---

Captain Adalkam Tinknam nodded to the communications officer, "Good message, they'll stop." He walked towards the center of the bridge and looked towards the Fire-Control officer, "Make sure the five-incher is ready to fire, aim for the superstructure above the hull after the warning shot, if they don't stop then, make sure the third hits their engine block." The fire-control officer nodded back and started issuing orders to those below him. The Captain walked to the SMI liaison he had on his ship, contrary to belief he was a rather nice bloke and so far in their time together the liaison had been more than willing to eat and joke with them in the mess. "Your guys ready?"

The liaison, Officer Olark Knohial smiled with a glint in his eyes, "Yes they are certainly ready. They say your men are good men and that they are more than willing to work with them." The Captain nodded, "I see the same in your guys, although if I didn't I wouldn't believe they would be SMI-2 soldiers. Tell them I said thanks, it means alot. As we went over these terrorists probably have weapons and may release the weapon as a last resort, all geared up?"

The liaison nodded, "Yes, they are ready and geared up, they understand that the Frigate will be a bit more than a quick swim away." The Captain nodded, "We have to take caution, wouldn't want the Frigate to get contaminated, but as you know the Seahawk will be ready to get them at a moment's notice." The liaison smiled, "Yes, we understand that, we thank you guys for the ride." The Captain nodded in a no problem sort of way and put a hand on the man's shoulder before walking away. He looked out the glass and saw the terrrorists' ship, still not stopping. As he looked the five incher fired a shell right over the ship. Yet it did not slow, the next shell though hit it in the front of the ship, blowing a large hole above the water line, it wouldn't sink it, but it showed the next one would. Finally an urgent message came across that they would stop.

The Captain nodded to the fire control officer. At that he saw the seahawk flying towards the ship carrying its deadly cargo.

PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2016 2:18 pm
by Polar Svalbard
The helicopter ride was nice and smooth for the SMI-2 squad as they were on route to the ship. The Squad Leader, Jack Sylvies, looked to his men with a grin, of which they could not see through his gas mask, although his eyes held a glint. "Alright guys you ready?" He was met with a chorus of hell yeahs!" After that Jack looked out the open door seeing the ship under them as they circled. A guy stood near the ship, seeming to reluctantly wave them on. He turned to the door gunner, "You know the signal?" The door gunner shook his head. Jack raised his eyebrows, "Well if we all drop to the ground, fire over us and kill everything that is not us." After a second they both laughed, Jack turned his head but after a second turned back, "I'm serious about that signal, if that happens it means shit's going south." The door gunner nodded this time.

The helicopter after a moment landed and the six SMI-2 members hopped out, guns drawn to the man there. The man looked quite angry, "What is the meaning of this, you are coming onto my ship with guns?!? And what the hell do you have on?!?" Jack looked at him, "Where's your crew?" The person, presumably the captain from how he talked spat on the ground, "You Svalbardians, fuck you." Jack swung a punch right into the side of the man's face, spinning him around. When the man turned around he held some broken shards of teeth in his bloody hand, "You will regret that, surrender now and none of you will die." He motioned with his hand and men came out from around containers, weapons drawn.

Jack laughed, "You know what we came for, you surrender and we won't have to kill as many of you as we will if you don't." The man shook his head, "You arrogant Svalbardians, if this is what it comes down to..." At that moment Jack put a burst of rounds into the man's chest, the hollow point exploding outward, and along with that dropped to the ground with the other's in his squad. Just as the first of the terrorists registered what happened, the door gunner opened up on them. Sweeping the gun in an arc around the deck. On the first pass half of the terrorists were killed as .50 caliber rounds ripped through their fleshy bodies. The last one in the arc took a round straight to the neck, blowing it and his chin clean off, his body slumped to the ground, minus his head which flew across the deck from the velocity of the round.

Instants after that, the Svalbardians popped up into a crouching position, putting controlled bursts into those who were left who dropped to the ground to avoid the hellfire which the door gunner had just rained onto them. With only five of the original sixteen men who greeted them alive, the five threw their weapons to the ground and put their arms behind their head. Jack laughed and threw a thumbs up at the door gunner, who returned the gesture with a thumbs up of his own.

After a few moments Jack stood there with two of his men before the men they had captured whose arms were now tied together behind their back. The other three were searching the ship for any more terrorists. Jack went up to the first one in the line, "Alright, we played your game, now you play mine. Where is the bioweapon?" The terrorist spat at him, "You Svalbardian scum, you can't make me talk." Jack just wiped the spittle off his gas mask. "Alright you have one more chance." He motioned to one of his men, the SMI-2 operative walked over and put the terrrorist's leg out in front of him since he was in a kneeling position. Before the terrorist had time to think Jack slammed his boot down on his upper shin, the sound of the bone snapping was simultaneous with the sound of Jack's boot hitting the ground. The terrorist howled in pain and fell over on his side, after a second the Svalbardian near him pulled him back up to his one good knee and held him there, the pain in the man's leg was intense. "Now tell me, where is the bio-weapon?" The man just glared at him, trying not to howl in pain.

Jack shook his head, "Wrong answer," and with that slit the man's throat with his knife. The Svalbardian holding him up just let his body hit the deck. At that Jack moved onto the next one, "You know my question, you only have one chance to escape injury and one more to escape death, the clock is ticking." The man looked at the one who had just died and swallowed, "It's... it's in container number thirteen." He pointed with his head, "Just... just over there." Jack patted him on the shoulder, "Good man, although if you're wrong it's your life. Zach, check the container." The Svalbardian named Zach walked over to the container and opened it. At that he walked insided and dragged out what looked to be a bomb, "Sir, this is it from what Atnaian intelligence described it as. But, where the bioweapon is supposed to go there's nothing there, all the mechanisms are but no material."

The SOAR operative looked shocked as he looked back to see the barrel of Jack's gun staring him in the face, Jack's eyes narrowed inside the mask, "Where the fuck is the weapon, the real weapon?!?" The SOAR operative shrunk back, he looked like he was only in college, "I... I don't know, I thought we were carrying the real one! I... They... they told us we were, although they also said that another ship was going and that it was going to play decoy to get you Svalbardians off our trail!" Jack had to hold himself from pulling the trigger, "Well it looks like you were the decoy. Does anyone know where that other ship may be, if no one speaks I'm going to kill all of you!" For a moment no one spoke, Jack pulled the trigger firing a hollow point round right into the 20 year old's skull. As he slumped over the back of his head revealed a large, gaping hole which bled sheets of blood and showed the interior of his brain.

Jack looked to the rest of them, moving the barrel of his gun to the next one, "Tick tock." The men looked at each other, the one who had the gun to his face showed fear and a debate on the inside of his head, "I... I have a family! Please don't kill me, I'm all they have left after the succession crisis. The ship is coming from Atnaia, it, it is going to leave in another couple days. I knew we were the decoy, but I didn't expect you guys to be on us so fast." He looked to the others, "I'm... I'm sorry." Jack nodded, he moved his gun to the next one and shot each in the head down the line except for the one who spoke. "Zach, bag him we're rolling out." He pressed his comm, "Report. This ship is a decoy, we have an asset and are going to move out, get back here." A buzz came over and then a voice came on, "No one on our end is alive, everyone we met tried to fight us. No injuries. We're coming back."

PostPosted: Sat Oct 15, 2016 4:08 am
by Atnaia
"I am fed up with room service," Jazz said.

"I really wish you were," Levi said, running a hand through his hair. "Then this food would be gone and I wouldn't be having this argument."

Jazz pinched the bridge of her nose at the implied pun. "Look, we're in a nice hotel. There's a great bar right downstairs. There's two of you. And we both know that I'm not a target and this is all a waste of time. Can't we just go downstairs, order some food from the restaurant and get me out of this damn room? I feel like I'm wallowing in my own filth."

That wasn't entirely a lie. There was a habit, when you spent long enough in a hotel room, for everything to begin developing the psychological sheen of grease. It was likely the remembrance of the hundreds of people who had shared the bed, the bath, the sink, the toilet. You tried to ignore it, but eventually that little nagging voice in the back of your head would remind you that, even at the classiest of establishments, that bed had been home to at least one drug-fuelled night of debauchery with a few unlicensed sex workers. Better drugs and better escorts, probably, but the patina of fluids could never quite be washed out, no matter how many times house-keeping came around.

That being said, that wasn't the main reason Jazz was being a brat. After several intense minutes of Jazz's best staredown, Levi finally sighed, relenting.

"Fine, but you gotta put on something nicer than those sweats," he said.

"You gave me these sweats," Jazz replied, pointing to the yellow letters on one leg that spelled out LISA, but she stood and moved to the drawers. The LISA agents had brought her clothes from her apartment, likely in an effort to make her feel more at home, although it hadn't worked well. She'd spent her entire time since being transferred in the hotel room, so it wasn't like she had been motivated to wear anything other than the sweats and hoodie LISA had given her. Not to mention the fact that she knew there were cameras everywhere, and giving Levi the chance to watch her change hadn't been high on her priority list. The sweats had started to stink.

She began to pick out clothes as Levi left, then went to the bathroom and quickly changed into some decent jeans and a sequined shirt that could reasonably be described as trashy or classy, depending on how the light hit her. It was the sort of outfit she might have worn clubbing, if she had ever had the chance to do so. It was also the most expensive outfit she owned. Smuggling wasn't always the most lucrative profession. She threw on some deodorant, brushed her teeth and tied her hair back so it looked just a little less wild and frizzy.

A few minutes later, she met Levi and Thrace outside the room. Thrace, naturally, was gorgeous and apparently comfortable in five inch heels that made her stand taller than Levi or Jazz. Levi was round and red as a tomato. Accompanying two pretty women to a high class hotel bar was either outside of his wheelhouse or two closely reflected how he spent a discriminate part of his salary for him to feel comfortable. They took the elevator down to the first floor, disembarked, and were soon in the restaurant off of the hotel lobby. Rich-looking folks filled the tables, mostly foreign businesspeople and wealthy tourists. They got a corner booth and ordered drinks. Jazz noted that not one of them had ordered alcohol.

There was a pair of TVs over the bar on one side of the restaurant, one showing WINN with subtitles, the other running a match between the Ambress Raiders and Redwood. Thrace chatted cheerfully about the match, and somehow the pair of agents wound up arguing about the season. Jazz got the feeling she was sitting in on a long-running argument that had just had the play button hit on it. She hadn't really thought about it, but the pair of mismatched LISA agents probably spent more time together than most married couples.

"I need to run to the loo," Jazz said. The agents shifted.

"Sorry, sweetie, but I'll need to go with you," Thrace said.

Jazz shrugged and they slid out of the booth and down the short hall near the bar. It came to a T intersection at the end, with the women's at one end and the men's at the other.

"You don't need, go in with me, right?" Jazz raised an eyebrow.

Thrace laughed. "I'll wait here."

Jazz swung left towards the women's, put her hand on the door and gave it a shove so that it swung open. As Thrace looked away, however, she swung right through the swinging door to the kitchen, the sound of her move hidden by the women's bathroom door slamming shut.

A dishwasher inside looked up and opened his mouth to tell her to leave. Jazz immediately and dramatically burst into tears. "My ex just showed up in the lobby," she said. "He's threatened me before. Where's the exit?"

The dishwasher looked suddenly and acutely uncomfortable, and jerked his thumb towards a door near the back. "Over there, honey. Where's the guy? Should we call the cops?"

"No, it's alright, I just need to get out," she said. As she passed by, she patted the hand that lay on the sprayer that dangled over his workstation. "Thank you."

She sped through the kitchen and pushed through the back door into an alley that smelt of vomit and garbage and the hundreds of cigarettes that kitchen workers had smoked out here. She swung left down the alley, rubbing her wet eyes with the heel of her hand, and emerged out onto the street. Cabs milled around outside the hotel, waiting to take patrons to bars, or the airport, or theatres, or wherever rich people went when they were in a foreign city. She jogged over, popped open the door on a cab with his fare light on, and slipped in. The Magarati guy behind the wheel turned around, and spoke in a surprisingly thick Caldish accent.

"Wha to, sweethaht?"

"The Midnight," she said. "Quickly, please!"

PostPosted: Tue Oct 18, 2016 12:47 am
by Ostehaar
Somewhere between the Tork Mountains,
East of Krikvein, Lovsk

"Three... Two... One..."

Frank "Rex" Veksler moved the 'execute' knob to 'on' and waited. "Come on, come on," he said anxiously, gazing at a small brown box on the table in front of him. Nothing happened. Rex rotated the knob a few more times, until eventually the box made a mechanic ticking noise and burst open, tossing away tiny fragments of its inner mechanism.


Sean Veksler was watching his brother's little test, and sighed in despair when it failed. "What was it," he said, "the fourth attempt?"

"Third," Rex corrected. "Something's wrong with the equipment, I'm pretty sure about it."

"Why not use a simple bomb?"

"There's a risk of destroying the sample itself. We need a special device like this one, with the liquid tank and everything. We can try to build one ourselves, I guess."

"And how long would that take?" The brother asked, trying not to sound demanding.

Rex stared at him for a moment as he scooped parts across the table and arranged them neatly together next to the ruined device. "I think I can get it done in a day or two."

Sean smiled. "That's great, man! I mean, since we already have the thing..."

"We'll see."

Johan's rented apartment,
Central Rovka, Lovsk

Johan drew a picture out of his suitcase and laid it on the table for his partner, Lehna, to loot at. "That's Claudio Hohenberger," he explained, "the Atnaians say that he is this Inferno we've been hearing about."

Lehna's eyes suddenly widened. "I am so, so stupid," she said as she closed her eyes and dropped her forehead to rest on her hand. "I actually know this man from my time in the Mesder Section. I mean, I've heard about him. Dammit, why didn't I think about it when they all spoke of a guy from the Mesder..."

Johan remained silent and waited for his partner to return to her senses. For a moment he thought about comforting her like an old friend and telling her that it was fine and that nothing really happened, but he didn't feel close enough to her and quickly ignored that thought. Her emotional reaction did appeal to him, though, and his awareness of this fact felt a bit awkward to him. It was the first time he had seen her as more than merely a professional colleague.

"Do you know any specific aliases?" He asked.

"No," she replied, "but I do know that if he's involved, and given his threats and this week's new findings, we have a very serious problem."

Johan nodded firmly once. "I agree."

"So where do we stand?"

"We have enough evidence to prove that it's a national security issue. We involve the analysis guys and send a recommendation up the ranks. We get this SOAR cell out of the 'monitor' list and into the 'terminate' list... and terminate, hopefully before a bio-weapon detonates in one of our cities."