Intel Worth Having



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Scene Title Intel Worth Having
Synopsis Elisabeth stakes out Ryazan Ironworks in the hope of obtaining information that Team Charlie might be able to use the Vanguard.
Date December 3, 2009

Ryazan Ironworks, Ryazan, Russia

Ryazan Ironworks sits at the end of a long gravel road through a forest of thinning trees several miles outside Ryazan's city limits. The factory overlooks a section of the Oka River, frozen over in the winter, and is fashioned from wrought iron and vibrant red brick that has lost little of its colour over the years in spite of the harsh climate that Russia is known for.

The property itself is surrounded by an electric fence some twenty feet high, though it's impossible to know whether or not a current runs through the mesh without risking a shock; would-be trespassers will just have to trust the sign hanging from the gates, the largest warning written primarily in the Cyrillic alphabet, though several translations in additional languages are provided below for those who do not read Russian.

The late afternoon, near dusk, seems to Elisabeth to be a good time to be out in the woods near the foundry — dark enough to cover her movements but not so dark yet as to trigger problems for her. She has staked herself out a location over the past several days, hidden well enough to manage to not get spotted. And lots of heavy clothes for staying warm out there! She's got a pair of binoculars that can be quickly stashed if necessary and a notebook and pen with her. She began simply, making notes of how many guards there are that she can see, what kinds of patterns they walk, and how often the guard seems to change. And whether they have dogs. This is yet another recon run, and today she's planning on taking far more copious notes — She's hoping that her limited understanding of Russian will at least allow her to phonetically write down some of what she's planning on eavesdropping on. But first she has to get situated in the small copse of evergreens that are serving to hide her location.

One of the dangers when it comes to dogs is that they need no abilities to benefit from superhuman hearing. If Liz plans on getting close enough to eavesdrop on the guards that patrol the electric fence surrounding the Ironworks, then she's close enough for her presence to be detected by Alsatians that strain at the end of their masters' leather leashes. Snow filters down from the forest canopy in grainy flakes reminiscent of clumping sand and cushions the sound of her footsteps as she moves, enabling her to avoid rustling leaves, crackling twigs and other noises that would otherwise give her away.

It's been fifteen minutes since the last patrol rounded the other side of the brickwork building and disappeared in its shadow. Assuming her calculations are correct, she has another five before the dog and handler reappear some fifty feet from her intended hiding place.

She can do nothing about the dog's sense of smell except make sure to have the weather patterns, especially the wind patterns, carefully memorized and make sure that she's observing from an area that is downwind that day in order to keep herself from being detected. The only other thing that could give her away is sound, and that is muted to nothingness as she moves to secure herself in the small copse beneath an evergreen with broad fronds that reach ground level. It's kind of like hiding in the bottom of a bush. But it affords her a somewhat dry patch of ground to watch from *and* the dense brush to peer through. It's the best she can do. She settles in at the edge of the tree and goes very still so there's no movement to give away her location, waiting tensely for the patrol to make their rounds.

The figure that appears around the corner of the Ironworks some thirty seconds after the guard's anticipated arrival does not wear a uniform. Neither does he struggle to rein in a dog. He's a tall, slender man dressed in a heavy woolen greatcoat, and at first it would be easy for Elisabeth to mistake his profile for Dr. Kozlow's, but as he approaches the fence, boots crunching through snow, it becomes increasingly apparent that his hair is a little too fair, his features a little too familiar to belong to Sasha.

James Muldoon doesn't notice anything amiss in the evergreen copse when he comes to a stop at the edge of the fence and reaches into his coat pocket with one gloved hand, producing a silver tin from its dark interior which he then flicks open with a deft, practiced movement of his thumb. A solitary cigarette is selected and plucked out between two fingers, the case snapped shut and replaced in the pocket.

Some days, Elisabeth thinks she's really paranoid. Some days? *sigh* It's not paranoia if the Universe really is out to fuck you up close and personal. James Muldoon. Funny how his name came up so recently. Funnier still who the name came from. One Linderman goon out to off another ex-Linderman goon? Or maybe Cardinal just didn't realize Muldoon wasn't Linderman's. Or hell, maybe he was infiltrating Linderman — Ha. That might actually be amusing. The possibilities are endless. But certainly his presence here, in a foundry that is supposedly a Vanguard stronghold, does not bode well. Yeah. Just….. shit. All of that passes through Elisabeth's mind as she watches the man light up, and she has to shove down an urge to confront him. That's not her job and she'd probably do nothing but get herself killed; she has no authority here anyway. But it could change the game in a big way. Instead, she remains exactly where she is, hunkered down very still, and monitors his position and actions even as she turns blue eyes toward the foundry to key in on whatever conversations might be happening.

Lit cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth, Muldoon's attention shifts from his lighter, flicked shut, to a cell phone that has found its way into his hand in the interim. His thumb grazes one of the keys, angles down, and he brings it to his ear — a tinny ring audible from where Elisabeth is positioned. The voice on the other end, when the speaker picks up, is muted in comparison and interrupted by the occasional crackle of static. Reception isn't very good all the way out here.

"Yes," Muldoon is saying into the mouthpiece. "I'm returning your call. I wanted to give you my condolences personally. Healers can be very irritating, can't they?"

Eavesdropping on both ends of that conversation is pretty much nothing to the woman in the shrubbery. Elisabeth's blue eyes come back from the foundry itself and she tilts her head to watch Muldoon more intently. Idly she almost wishes for a gun. It'd be so damn simple to take that sniper shot right now. Or alternatively, to have Teo here to hitch a ride. Now that would have been intel worth having, she'd bet as she listens to the conversation and tries to place a voice.

One end of the conversation is easier to decipher than the other. At a distance, Liz can catch breathy hisses spat out through the speaker that sound like words, but nothing whole or resembling anything in the English language. She's limited to filling in the gaps using what Muldoon's half provides, and for the moment that isn't much. There's a pause as he exhales smoke through his nostrils and squints blue eyes against the setting sun, one hand shielding his face from the golden glow slanting through the trees. It will be dark soon.

"Yes," he says again. "Yes, Mr. Zhukovsky, I understand. I'll speak with Anya first thing in the morning. We'll take care of it."

Although she can't quite catch the voice through the airwaves because the sound just can't be enhanced enough for her to manage it, Elisabeth's jaw tenses tightly. Dr. Koslow is now a target… hell, who's she kidding? He was a target before, but it sounds like now he's about to get dead because of helping out Francois, most likely. She remains in her spot, utterly silent and still. Listening. Thinking her way through the possibilities of this situation.

"Do svidanja." The phone claps shut and joins the cigarette tin in Muldoon's coat. Showing Elisabeth his back, he flicks the still-burning stick into the ground, grinds it out under the toe of his boot and then kicks snow over the remains to prevent it from igniting the kindling in the damp underbrush. Long strides carry him back the way he came, a fine dusting of white gathering around the bottoms of his pant legs as he retraces his steps, maneuvers around a parked car and vanishes around the nearest corner.

His departure is punctuated by the sound of a steel door grinding closed a few seconds later, signaling the end of his smoke break and his return to the building proper. Already, the falling snow is beginning to mask his footprints, filling them with the same gritty, loose powder that has formed clumps in Elisabeth's hair during the past few minutes and runs as meltwater down the back of her neck, warmed by the heat of her scalp.

Elisabeth remains in place, still and quiet, until dark has fully fallen and the sentinels are not nearby. She uses the time to attempt to eavesdrop on conversations the guards may hold as she waits, but only when it's full dark does she back out of her hiding space and carefully head back out of the woods with a miniflashlight in her hands. Once she's in the clear, she moves faster — the full moon is giving off a good deal of light in the snowy landscape, so at least that's helpful. She doesn't need the flashlight as much as she makes her way back toward Katarina and Ivan's place.

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