Tuesday, 29 October 2013

After Action Report - (S)Entries - Part Two

Hi there,

this week, Sunday 27 OCT 13, I was joined by Omar and Joseph and the team completed the next phase of (S)Entries, the introductory assignment for Night's Black Agents. As before, since this is ripped straight from the core rules book it is worth pointing out that


When we last left Luc, he was alone just outside of Gostilj, performing an advance recce of the meet location where the team would be handing over to Dedopovic. Angeline, Evelyn and Ron were in Sarajevo, on the last day of the timetable weighing up their options to complete the mission to lift the laptop or the data contained on it.

Day Three
10:22 (GMT+1)
After some discussion the decision was made to simply go in after dark, switch out the laptop and double time it out of Sarajevo in time for the meet. The team had sufficient surveillance footage of Lennart to establish his patterns of behaviour. They knew he would return for around 8pm, work in his study before retiring for the night around 11pm. Lennart never connected the laptop to the wireless network in his apartment which meant it had to be a physical penetration rather than remotely downloading and deleting the data. Since he did not have time to use the laptop in the morning before heading to the flight the team was confident that he would not be checking the contents until his arrival in Canada.

Time contraints and the increased risk of entering the apartment multiple times to remove and download the data then return the laptop removed several alternative options. They could also not know for sure if there was any inbuilt decryption hardware within the laptop and so the decision was made to lift it in it's entirety rather than simply taking the hard drive.

Evelyn's history as a cat burglar extraordinaire and Angeline's skills in surveillance suggested a single entry; lifting the laptop and replacing it with a similar model. Angeline took care to mock up the laptop from their meeting with Rudek in Dubrovnik to appear similar to the laptop he possessed and made sure there was no trace of digital or physical evidence that could lead Lennart or future investigators onto the team's trail.

Day Three
09:37 (GMT+1)
The meet was scheduled for the next day in Gostilj at around 5pm. The sun would be setting in the hills to the East of the cemetery where the team would be meeting Dedopovic and whilst it would still be light Luc decided to have a look for E & E routes as well as checking the high ground for a suitable observation post (OP). He checked the surrounding area for unexploded ordnance from the Balkan wars, figuring the last thing that the team would need would be to hit a land mine if the drop went bad.

Day Three
15:58 (GMT+1)
Ron received a call from Colonel Voll, his Norwegian contact. Voll had looked into Dedopovic a little more due to his concern for his comrade-in-arms' safety and had gained access to Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) indicating that Dedopovic had been in touch with a man named Vladek, an acquaintance from the Balkan Wars. Vladek had been a sniper who had a nasty reputation, targeting pregnant women and children as terror attacks against Bosnian Muslims during the war. Dedopovic's contact with Vladek implied strongly that his presence would be required the next day at the drop off. With this warning, Ron contacted Luc in Gostilj.

Day Three
16:06 (GMT+1)
Luc decided that perhaps a handgun would not be quite enough to deal with a professional shooter who could reach out to people at much longer distance and decided to head into town to see if he could rustle up something a bit heftier than the pistol Rudek had offered him. Putting his streetwise knowledge to the test, Luc located a nearby armoury used to store weapons scheduled to be disabled and got hold of a Zastava M70, a local knock-off of the venerable AKM as well as a couple of extra magazines of ammo. Not quite enough for a drawn out firefight but certainly better than relying on a pistol against a trained sniper.

Day Three
18:45 (GMT+1)
Luc's military experience and recon of the surrounding hills suggested four possibilities for a likely overwatch position. Taking into account the angle of the sunset (Vladek would want the sun behind him to reduce light glare off a scoped rifle from giving away his position) Luc narrowed it down to two positions. Luc set up camouflaged remote cameras in the trees covering these locations and moved further up the hill to a location where he could safely monitor them. After identifying the best lying up point (LUP) equidistant from these two locations, Luc knocked up a camouflaged bivouac and settled in for the night.

Final Day
01:01 (GMT+1)
The team put the final gears of the plan into place. After making sure there would be no forensic evidence left in the hotel and with his now increased concern about the drop off, Ron checked his Preparedness and came up trumps with another pair of M70 rifles as well as some smoke and fragmentation grenades. The team made their way to Lennart's apartment, arriving around 01.30. Angeline checked the surveillance systems and both Lennart and the occupants of the other apartments appeared to have been in bed asleep for long enough to make the assumption that they would in deep sleep. Watching the feed from the concealed surveillance camera in the study established that after completing his work, Lennart placed the laptop in a tumbler-locked briefcase in the study.

Final Day
01:46 (GMT+1)
Both Evelyn and Angeline had been in the apartment previously and knew the layout well enough to know that they would not be closely approaching Lennart's bedroom and with that they moved into the final part of the operation. Evelyn's MOS is Infiltration and, having keys for both the front and apartment doors, had no problems gaining access. Moving stealthily into the apartment using a night vision monocle she relied upon a pre-agreed squelch code over her earpiece to warn her if Angeline spotted Lennart moving.

A Filch test allowed Evelyn to open the case and gain access to the contents, the laptop and various bits of paperwork. Evelyn switched the laptop with ease, closed up the case (making sure to return the tumblers to their original position) and made her way back out of the apartment, locking the door behind her. Evelyn jumped into the Jeep Cherokee where Angeline and Ron were waiting and they moved off to a nearby area, out of sight from prying eyes to park up and go through the data. Having both the password to log in and the password for the encryption Lennart was using allowed the team to bypass the security and, with time being of the essence again, they began the physical and remote backup of the data.

Final Day
02:10 (GMT+1)
Whilst this was taking place (around 50GB of various file types video, audio, image and text in various languages) the team indulged in some nosiness and opened a few files at random, including the files that Lennart had most recently been accessing. Up on the screen pops a Nazi swastika on some official looking documentation. The documents appear to have been created by Amt VIIB (Ideological Investigation) of the Reich Main Security Office or SS-Reichssicherheitshauptamt (RSHA).

Evelyn remembered that Reinhard Heydrich had been the person in charge of RSHA and that their role included propaganda and evalutation of field reports, Angeline piped up with the information that they investigated the persecution of witches by Christian churches in the 16th and 17th centuries with an eye towards promotion of the Volkisch movement. These Nazi documents originate between 1937 through to 1945 and appeared to have been grabbed by SOE and OSS agents as Berlin fell to the Soviets.

As the resident German language speaker, Evelyn glances quickly through the files seeing documents relating to witches, mentions of Sonderkommando H (H = Hexenforschung, Hexe being German for witch) and other specialist field units running down reports. Later dated files (1942 onwards) include field reports from the Eastern Front where front line soldiers are reported as being abducted from their lines in the night and discovered the next day, torn apart and frozen in the snow. Nobody detected these infiltrators, no footprints, no sign to be tracked and no noise was heard. Other reports talk of front line assaults on German positions where injuries that should have stopped any human did not stop the Russian attacks.

A report dated 18th April 1944 from Army Group North Ukraine has handwritten notes on it that appear to have been written at the time. It is from an SS-Sturmbannfuhrer (equivalent to a Major) who writes about noting that prior to an attack his pocket watch stopped working. He recalled winding the watch to no avail before his unit was assaulted by a Russian partisan. Three of his men were killed in hand to hand combat with this man and the Nazi fled from the attack. When next he glanced at his pocket watch it was working normally.

As the war marched on and the Russian steamroller moved inexorably towards Berlin the reports received by RSHA get increasingly far fetched. There is talk of men taking headshots and carrying on coming, their limbs blown off by grenades and not being slowed down. The veracity of these reports is seriously questioned by the Amt VIIb team with many attributing cowardice or battle fatigue to the men reporting them. Red ink stamped across many reports indicate that they were suppressed with the files not being passed around outside of RSHA with the exception of a small unit named Sonderverband K apparently stationed near Kiev, Ukraine.

In addition to wartime reports from Nazi Germany there are many post-war reviews of these reports from the newly created CIA as well as SOE reports reviewed by SIS (MI6). There is some cross-pollination of ideas between SIS and CIA. Both the CIA’s Project MKUltra and the British Porton Down LSD experiments gained official sanction around 1953 and it appears as if the CIA and SIS were trying to work out if the wartime reports of Russian super-soldiers were true and whether the Russians used drugs to inure their men to pain or whether they planted psychotropics in the German supply lines. There are several video and audio interviews with men involved in the CIA and SIS projects.

At the beginning of the 1970s the CIA closed down these lines of enquiry, just under twenty years after SIS ended their experiments unsuccessfully. Many of the files are Top Secret : Codeword compartmentalised files and should still be classified. Lennart, as a Canadian Air Force officer should not have had access to either these or the SIS files which strongly suggests that he has friends within the intelligence services of the UK and USA.

The older manuscripts are written in Latin but Evelyn’s knowledge of Italian allows her to puzzle out some of the basics of these scanned documents. Her skill in History allows her to narrow down the age of the manuscripts to some time in the 14th century. They appear to have been written by monks and are possibly copies of earlier materials.

Most monks had their own uniquely identified illumination style and it becomes clear from the number of manuscripts that there were several different monks at different times recording this information. Despite this being the case, each manuscript shares imagery in the margins. An almost cloaked figure with skin drawn tightly over skeletal features holding an open book and sitting on a white stone.

The manuscripts talk in unkind terms about the barbarians of Thrace and their reputation as fearsome warriors who would feed the living enemies to packs of dogs. The Slavic-Bulgar sacking of Thrace in 542 is mentioned as is the spread of Bubonic plague from Egypt; the combination of which wiped out nearly 50% of the population. The Bulgars meanwhile rampaged across the countryside taking anything they could get their hands on.

Evelyn’s History skills pinpoints Thrace as being between modern-day Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey . One of the manuscripts that Evelyn reads through mentions a place named Starosel, noting that the Bulgars stripped it bare.

A quick Google search indicates that Starosel is located at the base of the Sredna Gora mountain range and is known for its ancient ruins, underground temple and a well preserved mausoleum. Another place mentioned amongst the Latin is the city of Pernik, built on the Thracian ruins of Krakra. There is a notation in the margin next to this datum -  +IH INI NI hVIL PIDH, INI hVIL PN+ in a non-Latin script.

The team were unable to go through everything in detail due to the sheer number of files and so they continued backing up everything onto spare physical drives and on before deciding to head off to Gostilj to meet up with Luc and prepare for the handover. With the meet due at around 5pm the team decide to make their way direct, catnapping and trading driving duties on the long journey northwards.

Final Day
15:22 (GMT+1)
Arriving early to the meet, the team verify Luc’s previous recce and decide to prepare the ground for the handover, just in case. Ron parks the Jeep out of sight further up the hill around a bend, shielded from sight by the heavy trees.

Evelyn locates two jerry cans of gas in the caretakers shed for running the petrol mower. One is full and the other around 1/3 full. There are spiked iron railings set into a low stone wall around the graveyard and whilst there is a iron gate leading in from the town but nothing leading away up into the hills. Angeline sets up a fire-bomb using the gas cans along with smoke pots either side of the road. Angeline and Evelyn park their rental car at the far end of the cemetery and await Dedopovic’s arrival.

Final Day
16:47 (GMT+1)
Moments after completing their preparation Luc hears a vehicle approaching from the hills, it sounds heavy but not well maintained. The vehicle stops further down the hills, between his position and the graveyard but far enough up the road that the occupants would not notice the team’s vehicles further down the curved road. A door is open and closed and moments later a second door is heard opening and closing.

Luc reports this series of events to the team and Evelyn grabs an M70 and ducks into the Northern tree-line that boundaries the graveyard. Angeline is in the rental car with the laptop and Ron is in the Jeep with the engine running, loaded M70 in the passenger seat next to him.

Luc makes his Sense Trouble roll and makes out a man in a Ghillie suit with a camouflaged rifle bag making his way slowly towards the left-most position he identified earlier that morning. The man reaches the location and opens up the rifle bag, removes a Zastava M76 (an SVD Dragunov copy) and begins sighting in on the centre of the graveyard. Luc makes an infiltration test and makes his way stealthily to just 10 yards away from the man he assumes is Vladek.

Final Day
17:02 (GMT+1)
Two vehicles approach the graveyard from the town of Gostilj, a dark blue BMW 5 series sedan and a black Nissan Patrol 4x4. The 4x4 pulls over on the near side of the maintenance shed whilst the BMW pulls in just behind the shed. Four hefty looking men climb out of the Nissan and take up positions surrounding the shed with folding stock M70 rifles over their shoulders. They are focused outwards to look around the graveyard for signs of trouble. They look capable, tactically sound and experienced. These are clearly men who know war like they know their own families (they are identified as NW/SW/NE/SE guard in the following text).

After a few moments the occupant of the BMW exits the car, opening the trunk and removing two small nylon carry bags which he places on the road in front of the shed before turning to look down the road towards Gostilj, clearly expected the team to arrive from that direction. This must be Anton Dedopovic and he does not look like a well man. Pale and drawn with dark shadows under his eyes, he looks as if he is barely able to carry himself.

NE guard spots the rental car with Angeline in it. He turns to signal Dedopovic who then raises his arm to wave her towards them. Angeline puts the car in gear and drives slowly towards the armed group, alone in the rental with just the laptop, and a small surprise for company. NW and SW guards focus their attention on the approaching vehicle and Evelyn takes this opportunity to move in closer to the location, just 20 yards North of the shed, still staying back within the tree-line.

Anton has a look of concern at there being only one person in the vehicle. When Angeline steps out of the vehicle she makes a spend on Sense Trouble and notices Anton wave his left hand. NE guard; stood next to the BMW reaches into his coat pocket, withdraws a mobile phone and makes a call.

Luc watches in silence as Vladek (for it is he...) reaches into an inside pocket of his Ghillie suit and pulls out his mobile. He overhears Vladek confirm that he's is watching and is ready. Vladek places the phone on his left, and puts his eye to the scope, no doubt drawing a bead on Angeline below.

Anton presses Angeline as to whether the team have looked at the information stored on the laptop. Angeline states that they haven't done so and that they switched the laptops so Lennart is unlikely to spot the switch until touchdown in Canada. Anton tries Detect BS but with a miserable failure believes that haven't looked at info. He asks Angeline to hand over the laptop. Due to the proximity to their principal, all four guards now closely focus their attention on Angeline.

As Anton reaches for the laptop, he asks where Angeline's friends are. "Cleaning up and covering tracks in Sarajevo" she answers. Anton looks doubtful, still holding laptop case. Angeline asks for wire transfer but Dedopovic points at the two nylon bags and says "Cash on delivery". Angeline moves to the bags, hefts them and slowly moves backwards towards the rental car.

Anton again makes a motion with his left hand, spotted by Evelyn with a Sense Trouble roll. NW guard reaches again for the phone in his pocket. She squelches twice on the radio, a prearranged signal to Luc who pulls the trigger on the suppressed HS2000 9mm pistol he has been training on the back of Vladek's head. Vladek's lifeless corpse slumps forwards and Luc sprints the few yards to the sniper rifle, gets into a stable firing position and begins taking aim at the guard on the South West who is out of Evelyn's field of view.

Angeline releases the dead-man switch in her armpit (thanks Preparedness!) and the firebomb in the shed goes off. A fireball gushes from the windows and the door is thrown off it's hinges. The door hits Dedopovic which would be bad news for him were it not for the small explosive charge in the laptop detonating at the same time. The laptop shatters and his left hand and forearm are shredded by shrapnel just before the door plows into him, knocking him off the road and onto the grass on the far side. Angeline's smoke pots also go off, releasing heavy plumes of white smoke that block the Eastern-most guards from drawing a bead on her as she runs past the rental car.

Ron stomps on the gas and hurls the Jeep down the dirt road and into the cemetery aiming to pick up Angeline and using the rental car as cover. Luc uses his Sniping cherry and puts a single round straight through SW guard's forehead. Luc sees him crumple to the ground. The guard to the North West drops his mobile and reaches for his rifle whilst running towards BMW.  Ron stops just past Angeline and whilst she leaps into the back seats with the bags he pokes his M70 out the window, trying to pick out a target in the smoke and firing a short burst to suppress when he spots one.

Evelyn hurls a fragmentation grenade at the guard by the BMW, it bounces off the hood and rolls down to the front of the car. It appears that he does not notice it in the confusion. Ron fires at the dark outline of the SE guard, who moves towards gravestone for some cover. Luc fires at NE guard who he can just about make out through the smoke but misses. NE guard drops prone and tries to crawl towards the Nissan. The grenade by the BMW detonates with a loud *CRUMP* and NW guard screams in pain and then begins swearing in Serbian.

Evelyn can make out that he is lying on his back, clothes smoking and that whilst he is still alive he is neither holding his rifle nor likely to offer a further threat. She turns her attention to NE guard near the Nissan, pushing the thought out of her mind that she has just thrown a grenade at someone with the intent to maim or kill them. She makes a Called Shot to the legs of NE guard and peppers his legs with a burst from the M70. He falls to the ground, propped up against the Nissan, still holding his weapon but the overwhelming events have shaken him.

Ron, in an uncharacteristic moment of flashiness (read - GM encouragement) pulls off a high speed reverse bootlegger turn and heads up the road towards the hills. Evelyn decamps from her location and moves to meet up with them at the Northern exit. SE guard fires a long burst at the retreating Jeep, several bullets pepper the rear and penetrate but none hit Ron or Angeline. Luc takes a final shot at SE guard and misses but this does cause him to hunker down. 

Luc searches Vladek's body as the rest of the team meet at the bottom of the dirt road to the hills. He picks up the mobile phone and stands up with the sniper rifle, ready to make his way to the rendezvous.

As he turns to move out Luc is gripped tightly around the ankle by Vladek's hand!

Luc stares at the gaping hole in Vladek's forehead. The eyes open and stare directly at him. Vladek's mouth slowly opens and a deep tremolo tone comes forth. Luc makes a Stability check, spends 2 Stability and beats threshold; losing 2 Stability. Most of Vladek's brain is clearly missing, but Luc can swears that he can see something looking at him through Vladek's eyes. Luc, on autopilot, drops the sniper rifle and the phone, draws the suppressed pistol and empties the remainder of the magazine into Vladek's face; obliterating what remains of his head.

The grip on his leg loosens and Vladek is no longer moving. There is blood all over the sniper rifle and Luc's trousers. Luc, barely able to process what he has just seen, heads numbly towards the Jeep.

In the back seat of the Jeep, Angeline is keyed up. She is full of adrenaline and proud of herself. Evelyn slowly realises that she has shot and possibly killed someone. Ron has seen this all many times before and keeps his professional head. Ron slows down as Luc approaches. Pale, in shock and covered in blood. He climbs into the back and tells the team "There's no-one else coming, they're all dead...now".

Angeline is coming down from her adrenaline high and makes a Stability check. The blood soaked into Luc's clothing, the explosions, killing someone race through her mind. She calms herself down, concentrating on the positives, the team is alive and thanks to her nobody is injured. Angeline turns to Luc and asks what happened?

Luc is staring at the headrest in front. taking deep breaths and does not respond. Angeline uses Shrink to calm him down. "You always prepare for the worst in combat. You did everything right." Luc turns slowly "I did everything right. Just like I have done before. Vladek didn't go down after two bullets to the head; what was hell?"

Luc remembers the camera feeds he set up on the sniping position. He passes his phone with the recorded video feeds to Evelyn. Evelyn watches the front of Vladek's head explode, Luc shooting with rifle and then standing up with the rifle and phone in his hand. Vladek's body is face down and motionless whilst this is happening. The feed goes blank. Just snow and digital artifacts on the phone's screen.

When it returns seconds later, Luc is standing there, pistol in hand. Smoke is coming from the end of the suppressor and the slide is locked back on an empty chamber. Vladek's head is beyond recognition but she can see that not only is Vladek now on his side but his hand is still around Luc's ankle.

Luc tries to explain to the team what happened. Ron and Angeline seem doubtful. Luc patiently states again that Vladek's head was partly missing, he was definitely dead. Ron stomps on the brakes and turns to Luc demanding to know what's the hell is wrong with him? He seems convinced that he has severely overestimated Luc's experience and capabilities.

Luc looks directly into Ron's eyes and says "Killing isn't a problem. I've had to do it before. It's not easy and I don't like it but I can pull the trigger if I need to. The fact that he was moving afterwards is what I have a problem with." Evelyn rewinds the camera footage and shows Ron.

Perhaps 30 seconds of footage is missing. The last image before the picture drops out shows Vladek on his front with arms outstretched but after the jump he has flipped onto his side and grabbed hold of Luc. This is not just a post-mortem twitch.

Angeline reaches into the nearest money bag and pulls out what looks like a bundle of €50 notes. Beneath the top, genuine note is nothing but cut up newspaper. At best there may be a few thousand Euros, certainly not the €200,000 they expected. Angeline is stunned. "They must have planned to take us out from beginning. But why? For some crazy General's private stash of weirdness that doesn't make any sense?".

Final Day
17:18 (GMT+1)
As Ron pulls away and drives the team away from the devastation they leave behind them Luc thinks out loud about parallels between the stories of the un-killable Russians and Vladek.

"All I know is he was dead. And then he wasn't." 

The Jeep moves up into the hills and the shade of the trees as the team privately gather their thoughts and think about what their next move might be...


Thank you for joining us. We'll be back again next week. If you're interested in joining the game or giving some feedback please message me via G+. I look forward to hearing from you.