What's My Line


devon5_icon.gif elliot_icon.gif

Scene Title What's My Line
Synopsis Just a couple of Hounds sniffing out some curiosities
Date October 7, 2020

The Bastion

A trio of computer screens glow with an obnoxious blue-white light. It makes odd shadows of neighboring chairs and cuts ghostly angles on Devon Clendaniel’s face. There's an odd sort of deja vu reflected in his eyes that mirror bits of the paused video on the screen.

Investigations office

October 7, 2020

5:27 pm

The nagging feeling that he's done this before can't be shrugged off, even though he had to hunt for the specific footage he wanted. It had taken a few phone calls, a formal request to the official news carriers in Albany, and possibly some bartering just to get the raw footage. And the only reason he can put to why it seems familiar is he was there when it was filmed.

Of course none of that helps the infrequent tap-tap-tap of the directional buttons that moves the footage frame by frame. Back and forth, forward and back. The replay isn't great, not exactly too far away but the focus obviously isn't on Devon’s target. It's just a lucky angle that happened to have one of several SESA agents who were present the day Rue Lancaster was arrested, the one he'd hoped to find.

“Alright, Rhys.” Dev sighs and rests his chin in his free hand. “What's your secret phone call.”

Elliot pours hot, black coffee from a metal thermos into the accompanying cup and into a mug pilfered from the cafeteria. The mug he slides toward Devon is followed by the fragrance of coffee and cinnamon. He replaces the cap on the thermos and takes his own cup as he sits in a chair likewise pilfered from a neighboring office. He takes a moment to enjoy the drink before opening a laptop.

“If that phone is on the Ghost Network,” he says as he types through his computer’s security, “We might be able to pull call records out of the database. Though that’s outside my expertise, you might want to copy Asi on that. Do we have any local audio?”

“Call records don’t tell us what he’s saying,” Devon points out, vaguely distracted as he replays the clip that keeps Rhys Bluthner in the frame for most of the arrest. “Allegedly he’d called Director Voss.” But maybe obtaining phone records is another key they need. “We’ll cross check after we figure this part out.”

The wide angle of the shot captures the exchange between Rue Lancaster and the unfortunate Quentin Frady as well — still worth its four seconds of Vine fame. “Local audio, though…” He’d already listened to the collection of footage with the sound turned on, but maybe Elliot would have better luck hearing what he couldn’t. “There’s a lot happening all at once. I mean, remember Rue was involved in kidnapping Nat from here and Richard Ray from Raytech. It was sort of a big scandal at the time, so the press was all over it.” Luckily, it seems that subsequent events sort of doused those flames.

After setting the marker to the point where Rhys enters the shot, Dev kicks up the volume on the desktop speakers. “We’re trying to catch what Rhys,” he points to the fancy-pantsed agent on the edge of the image, “is saying.”

As the playback begins, Elliot lets the sound wash over him and studies the target’s stooped posture, uneven gait, and anxious temperament as he shouts into his phone. When the segment stops he asks, “Can you loop that? Also, did somebody punch him in the face while you were all inside? He looks like he’s got a mild concussion.”

“One minute,” Devon says. He taps some keys on the keyboard then drags a browser to one of the available screens. It actually takes him a minute to crop in the footage, then another minute to cut down the length and loop the playback.

He looks at the original monitor, tabs the footage until it shows a fair view of Rhys’ face. “No,” he swaps screens again, preparing to play the cropped footage, “the nosebleed started when he looked at Rue.” Dev shrugs, looking up at Elliot.

“Hard relate,” Elliot says, nodding sagely. “That’s some anime shit.”

He nods to Devon to start the video. As Devon plays the looped footage, Elliot’s eyes open and close, analyzing the sounds with and without physical distractions. After a few passthroughs he states, “The beginning seems pretty clear as ‘It’s not her’, ‘never her’.”

“Yeah,” Devon confirms around a swallow of coffee. He'd heard as much from the shared memories; something he'd picked up while his other self had missed it. Just the same, he sets the mug aside and drags a pad of paper and a pen closer to write it down.

Then, setting the pen aside, he cuts out the first few seconds and restarts the loop. He leans back to listen, eyes narrowed with concentration, head tilted as if to aid in hearing through all the excess chatter.

“He's talking about something. He says it's a trap, then… it sounds like a… habit protocol?” Dev frowns, looking at Elliot.

After a few more loops, Elliot leans back in his chair. “I want to say it’s ‘white rabbit’. It would fit the cadence, which sounds like a code phrase,” he says. He takes a sip of coffee and taps out the dits and dahs of Rhys’s speech with his fingers on the edge of the desk.

“He was already on the phone when he came outside, did he say anything you could overhear on his way out that could provide context?”

“White rabbit.” Devon looks at the screen again. This time he mutes the audio before restarting the loop. He focuses on Rhys’ face, watching the agent’s reflection. Reading lips isn't one of his strongest skills, and it takes him slowing the speed of the footage to confirm that's what he's seeing and what Elliot is hearing.

The words are written down on the pad. “He mentioned broken watch as he was leaving the building.” A broken watch in effect. “All I could find on that is an email from Voss to Hana from last year, nothing about this.” He, either version of him, hadn't known before now that there even was more.

Devon stops the playback, then turns to Elliot after a moment. “How are you at digging through the intranet?”

“Broken watch is another Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland reference,” Elliot says. “At least I think it is. I haven’t read the book in a couple decades, but I remember in the cartoon that the Hatter and the March Hare pop open the White Rabbit’s watch at the tea party and fill it with jam.” A non-committal wave of his hand, Or whatever.

“Systems infiltration and data aggregation and review I can do,” he says. It’s often overlooked how vital it is to hack at the security system level when on assignment. Nobody on the inside wants cameras to remember them going to places they shouldn’t be. Being able to overclock himself to find meaning in all of the data certainly helped. “What are we looking for?”

“Nothing so technical.” Devon tips his head toward one of the open computers, indicating Elliot have a seat for the next part of the journey. “Use SQL to search SESA, see what they have on white rabbit. I'll do the same, including broken watch. We’ll collaborate along the way and see where we end up.”

In front of himself, the footage is moved to a corner of the screen and a search window is brought up. A weird feeling he's done this before washed over him, much like he'd felt watching the footage. Dev takes another swallow of coffee to wash it away before he begins typing his search.

select sesa
from all
where sesa = “broken watch”; “white rabbit”
range 1-1-2015 to 6-1-2020

Elliot nods and settles back into his chair, quaffing coffee too hot for that sort of behavior. He aligns his laptop and types in his search parameters. As results begin to load, he says, “I may be overthinking the broken watch reference. It could be something more along the lines of ‘A broken clock is correct twice a day’.”

He looks up and taps his fingers on the armrest of his chair. “If not we might have some luck expanding our search keys to include ‘rabbit hole’ or ‘Queen of Hearts’ as they’re both relevant to the White Rabbit’s story arc.”

No Matches Found

Devon’s chair creaks when he leans back. That’s an all too familiar response to his queries, but not a surprising one. If it’s a SESA thing, “Probably won’t find it in our servers,” he thinks aloud. Not that he seems discouraged by the results. He looks over to see if Elliot’s search yielded the same thing. “Any luck on your side?”

“I got a hit on ‘rabbit’ but apparently there was just an altercation involving rabbit soup, which, speaking from experience is not worth fighting over.” He shrugs. “Too hard to cover up the gamey flavor.”

He sighs, rubs a hand across the back of his neck. “We could put in a release request with the Agency. But there’s the potential we didn’t get hits because these aren’t SESA code words. Could our man Rhys be reporting outside the command structure?”

“It's always a possibility,” Devon answers, giving Elliot a look like he's a little crazy. Maybe it's just because the other man has been out of the loop for a while, still catching up on the conspiracies. But, “I don't think he is, actually, but it's one of those things that's never officially off the board. Requesting information’ll take too long and draw too much suspicion. We could always see it Rhys’ll talk to us himself. Maybe he'd shed some light since it involves one of ours.”

“Ah,” Elliot chuckles, “The direct approach. Never been my strong suit but I’ve been diversifying my portfolio.” He shuts his laptop and leans it against the wall beside him. Tosses back the last of his coffee and reattaches the lid to the thermos.

“You want to make that introduction?”

“I kind of prefer to dig up what I can the hard way.” Which explains why Devon chose the computers and the intranet search method. Sometimes it's a hit, others it's a miss. “Sometimes you trip over something you weren't expecting.” He shuts down the computer he'd been using, after dumping the videos back onto a flash drive, while he talks.

“I'll see what I can set up. Maybe next week?” Dev stands and tucks the flash drive into a pocket, then stretches. “One of these days I'll sit down and learn the finer arts of hacking. I'm kind of curious to know what sorts of files SESA’s got on us.”

Elliot nods. "It's definitely come in handy in the past. I could give you some pointers, though Asi is almost definitely more skilled than me in this area. I'd love to know what they have on me for sure, though it's been a while since I got through anything with federal-grade security. I could probably get into some other systems if needed." He leans back in his stolen office chair and crosses his arms.

"Is there anything else I can do to help in this area?" he asks. "Infiltration and intel is my specialty. I can follow and document movements for persons of interest and the like. All I can think of otherwise would involve networking a bunch of people who were there and then building a composite memory of the event for anything we didn't catch on the audio."

“It's been on my list of things to learn.” Devon’s tone implies the ways of the world seeming to frequently get in the way of those things, though. He grabs his coffee cup, the movement coming as an afterthought, as does the shake of his head to answer Elliot’s question.

“No, I don't think tailing is a good idea. Infiltrating SESA will definitely land us in a bad place.” The last thing Devon wants is to get the company on the government’s bad side again. “Let's keep this above ground, unless we get wind of anything that needs some finer skills.”

Elliot nods and stands from his chair. He steadies himself with the arm rest as he scoops up his laptop from where he had set it to lean against the wall. “Sorry I couldn’t be of more help,” he says, “Let me know if anything changes. Or if you want me to send you some Hacking 101 exercises. Non-SESA, of course.”

He looks around, pats his pockets to find his phone, takes the thermos and slides it into the center pocket of his hoodie. With one last nod to Devon, he rolls the stolen office chair from the room, down the hallway in the direction of Avi’s office.

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