Skycastle, Part I


avi_icon.gif hana_icon.gif rue_icon.gif

Scene Title Skycastle, Part I
Synopsis Wolfhound identifies their next target.
Date February 23, 2018

The Bunker — Intel Room

Hana heard the Tlanuwa come home in more ways than one; the sound of a jet landing outside is nigh impossible to miss, the digital signature of its systems even less so for her.  She sent a ping to Rue and Avi once the engines were off, simple instructions to meet not at Hana's office, but in the rooms staked out as the major's personal space. One of those is private, off-limits; the other is still private, but only limited, the place the technopath and analyst retreats to when seriously communing with data.

Implicitly, whatever Rue is returning with is not the only intel haul of the day.

Like most of the repurposed power station, the space has a distinctly concrete aesthetic, but many of the walls have been whitewashed, the better to display projections.  The room's windows are covered with shadescreens despite the late hour; that state is virtually permanent. There's a table in the middle of the room, an envelope on it addressed to Rue Lancaster; the envelope has been opened, but its contents have since all been neatly returned to their encasement within.  A handful of scattered chairs offer places to sit; Hana isn't using any of them. Rather, she stands before one of the white-coated walls, contemplating the montage of bird's-eye city shots displayed upon it.

“…and all I’m saying is, all things being equal, a rhinoceros could beat a tiger in a fair fight.” Whatever conversation Hana catches the tail end of as Avi and Rue make their way to her private quarters is clipped off when Avi opens the door, giving Rue a brow-raised look that implies and that’s final, before walking in.

“Major,” Avi is all business after that, unzipping his light coat and taking off his sunglasses to fold in the right front pocket of the button-down shirt beneath the coat. “Good timing on this, we’ve got some, uh… We’ve got a report.” To say the least.

Avi is fixed with a look that calls bullshit, but Lancaster doesn’t say anything to contradict his pronouncement. Whatever that’s about. She just shakes her head with a little smirk and lets him think he’s won their little debate.

Rue fishes a glass vial out of her coat and holds it up a moment before setting it down in front of Hana. The microtransmitter rattles around inside. “That was found inside my informant when the funeral director was draining him.” She’s not quite so squeamish about it all now that she can speak about it in the abstract and not have to stare at the corpse. “He probably didn’t even know he had it.”

Hana doesn't turn as the pair enter, ignoring the tag end of their prior conversation, bizarre as it is.  She does turn as Avi mentions good timing, her gaze following Rue as the operative moves to the table and sets down a vial.  "It's certainly interesting timing," she says, gesturing towards the packet on the table. The one labeled for Rue.

"That's apparently from your informant.  Wound up quite promptly with a fence, who contacted Berlin to come get it."  All on the same day as the man's death was discovered.

"Institute safehouse call signs," Hana continues as she steps up to the table, picks up the vial, studies the microchip within.  "Employee files. Surveillance photos." Behind her, the projector blanks. In short order, the white space splits: a list of GPS coordinates populates on the left half, scrolling, sorting, dividing into groups.  Several are highlighted, pulled out into a block; the right half acquires a panoply of images from a Company facility in Chicago.

Vial still in hand, Hana turns to the wall, steps forward to tap a finger against a different block of coordinates.  "Skycastle," she muses aloud.

“Motherfucker,” Avi says in a hushed tone of voice. Squinting at the images on display, Avi takes a few steps further into the room, disregarding the envelope for now. “Lancaster’s contact was supposed to have sent a care package of info for her to his family in the Safe Zone. We found his apartment tossed, somebody faked a robbery.” Avi’s eyes narrow, head tilting to the side. “I think someone he either knew or didn’t hear coming killed him. There was evidence someone else spent the night at his place too. Looked like it was a safe house.”

Reaching up to scratch his chin, Avi looks over at Rue, then back at the photographs. “His family house was burned to the ground. We figured the package was lost.” Shifting his weight to his good leg, Epstein considers everything on offer. Then, looking down to the ground, his brows furrow in an expression of visible worry.

Rue picks up the envelope addressed to her and starts looking through its contents. Three people, at least, died to get this information to her. It makes the triumph feel a little hollow. “Berlin managed to get her hands on this awful quick.” She doesn’t turn her attention from the photographs as she speaks, sneering derisively at some of the rather obvious code names. Emerald City? Really? “Seems a little convenient.”

Then she lifts her head and stares at the screen. Chicago - home - is of particular interest to her. “The way his face was messed up…” Rue switches tracks back to the state of her informant. A small shiver runs up her spine, but makes itself outwardly known only as a sharp inhale through her nose. “It looked personal to me.” It’s one of the only reasons she would stab someone in the face like that. That or self-defense, if it was the only vulnerable point she could reach. This wasn’t likely self-defense.

A wave of Hana's hand blanks the imagery on the right side of the screen.  The highlight moves to the block of coordinates she tapped, and a new set of visual aids layer across the empty space: a map of Detroit with lines corresponding to the GPS traces, satellite images of three massive apartment buildings in a line along river's edge, and scanned copies of the pictures in Rue's hand — the ones focused upon Donna Dunlap.

It's immediately clear that the distinctive overlapping-diamond architecture of the towers as seen from above matches the saw-toothed edge of the building Dunlap is entering.  Apartment buildings that seem to have weathered the war reasonably well.

"Very convenient," Hana agrees as she steps back from the wall.  "Makes me wonder what he was killed for, if not the package. Without those photos," she continues, turning to gesture at the packet Rue holds, "we could have been chasing the GPS log in that chip for weeks."  As it is… they have a destination.

She looks between the other two.  "I hope it was personal," Hana remarks.  "Unrelated. That's less likely to come around and bite us later."

“Riverside,” Avi notes thoughtfully. “Freshly cleaned up part of the city, expensive high-rise apartments.” His eyes narrow. “Skycastle, ok.” He mulls what he’s seeing over, paces back and forth slowly. “So, Dunlap was the Institute’s head of security. Had a hand in their west coast operations. Drops off the face of the earth after the Ark collapses, and…” he motions to the photos. “Is hiding in a fucking luxury penthouse?”

Looking back to Rue and Hana, Avi seems momentarily incredulous. “Second thought, who the fuck is footing the bill for all of this?” That’s more directed to Hana. “Between the batteries they had at the dam, all the security personnel, that’s not free. The folks we fought there didn’t all seem like ideologues. Why the fuck are they still active as an organization?” He looks back to the photos. “Leadership’s gone, except for Varlane. Government that paid their bills is gone…”

Crossing his arms over his chest, the unanswered questions from Operation: High Road come reeling back through the fog of everything that transpired after. “This is a civilian zone,” he notes as an afterthought. “Public. Visible. We can’t just fire fucking rockets at this and put whatever’s left in handcuffs.”

“It’s a good question.” Rue shakes her head slowly, setting the packet down again. “Somebody’s got awful deep pockets. Someone we don’t have a read on yet, or we’d have nailed them already.” But how can that be possible?

Blue eyes watch Avi pace, letting him be a vicarious outlet for her own restlessness. “I can go stake the place out. Turn over some rocks. See if the locals know anything?” One hand comes up and frames her chin between thumb and forefinger as she turns over her own suggestion in her mind. “Can see if I can figure out her schedule.” People are creatures of habit. “Find an opportunity…” A beat. “For a coordinated effort. I’m not talking about acting alone.” She only goes off half-cocked in the safety of closed briefings.

"Why, indeed," Hana echoes.  "Why and how." She returns the vial to the table, beside Rue's packet, now that its scant contents have been divulged.  Her gaze goes to Rue, and the major nods; a flick of her hand dismisses the qualifier; no less was expected on her part. "I want you and Dearing on the ground. Get the lay of the land, local news, everything satellites can't catch."  They know how this goes by now, broadly speaking; each scenario is different, but the same reconnaissance framework applies.

Hana pauses thoughtfully, then nods once more, a slight dip of chin.  "Surveil Dunlap if you can, but above all do not let her catch wind of you.  If that means you only stake out the tower, so be it."

Her gaze flicks to Avi, narrow-eyed.  "You and I…" is said begrudgingly, concession made with the greatest of reluctance, "…can start figuring how to deal with the public setting."

“Remember, Dunlap has superhuman vision.” Avi recalls that from an earlier briefing years ago. “She’ll catch you a mile away if she gets suspicious. There’s a reason she’s been able to avoid us for all this time. She’s smart, paranoid, and dangerous. If she rabbits, we might not get another chance like this again.”

Then, looking side-long to Hana, Avi dips his head into a nod. “I’ve got some ideas, and you’re probably not going to like who they involve.” The March 8th end of a specific administrative leave is rapidly approaching, after all. “But yeah, that’s another talk entirely.” Avi nods to Rue. “Make sure Dearing doesn’t punch through a fucking truck or something. We need to keep this quiet like fucking baby field mice.”

Superhuman vision. “Ugh, what a bitch,” Rue mutters under her breath. There are certain abilities that make her job that much harder, and this is one of them. Harder, but not impossible. “I can manage Dearing just fine,” she assures, mouth ticking upward in an expression that could be taken for a smirk if any light from it reached her eyes.

Her gaze flits between Hana and Avi, lips pressing together against voicing the thought that comes into her head. She’s also thinking about that administrative leave that’s about to end. Running her tongue over the front of her teeth, Rue stares down at the floor like it said something personally offensive. She doesn’t cave.

Hana gives Avi a flat look.  "I already don't like who they involve," she says, equally flat; on the one hand, it's an abrasively rude statement.  On the other, it's an expression of resignation: no, she doesn't like it, but she'll deal. Hana isn't exactly known for making those concessions with anything like grace.

No inquiry is forthcoming regarding the words Rue keeps tucked away behind her teeth, although her staring at the floor certainly does not pass unnoticed.  "Get me your reports on today's events tonight. You and Dearing move out tomorrow," she continues for Rue's benefit, turning back to the wallscreen. "I'll have packets ready before you go."

Also implicit: dismissed.

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