Sunday, 15 December 2013

After Action Report - The Zalozhniy Sanction - Part Two.

Hello once more,

this last week 08 DEC 13 we had Andrew, Joseph, Leslie and Omar and we continued with The Zalozhniy Sanction. With this being a published adventure it is important to be aware that 


Odessa Catacombs
Wed, 31 JUL 2013
22:15 (GMT+2)
Fred is behind the wheel of one of the Volkswagen Touareg R-Lines, heading to the RV point at the catacomb exit when he spots an Odessa politsiya Skoda Octavia trailing about four cars back (Sense Trouble). He performs a few chancy manoeuvres to ascertain if it's him they are after and they stay the same distance back but also don't approach to arrest him. Odessa cops are notoriously corrupt. There's no chance on Earth that they wouldn't pull him if they thought they could shake him down for a decent bribe. He updates Ibis, letting her know he's got a tail and he can't make it to the RV point with these guys tailing. Ibis opens a map and checks Fred's GPS location then starts working out a plan. Fred makes a right turn onto Velyka Arnauts'ka St., leading the cops away from the catacomb exit.

On the last underground stretch, a few hundred feet from the end of this branch of the catacombs, comms are restored. Evelyn opens the iron gate (Open Sesame) to the catacomb exit and the team set up overwatch to their rear as they await pickup. The team prepare to dump their larger weapons, keeping just their handguns - E&E through a city of hostile cops will be a lot easier if they're not trying to sneak a shotgun around.

Ibis, driving a converted black Range Rover Sport HSE, suggests a route that will give Fred opportunity to break away from his tail (Traffic Analysis), then radios the politsiya car direct, pretending to be a dispatcher, distracting them for long enough that he can get away. Ibis cuts down Bohdana Khmel'nyts'koho St. to the meeting point with the team, letting them know her licence plate number and that she can carry three or four people. Fred pulls up soon afterwards and in the dark the team begin to load up the vehicles.

Fred climbs into the passenger seat of the Touareg, allowing Kelila to take over driving duties. Gyasi dumps the body and his shotgun into the back of Fred's VM Touareg and Angela and Luc get in the back. Evelyn and Ron get into Ibis' Range Rover before Gyasi jumps in and the team sets off in a convoy. A few minutes of anti-surveillance driving and then they settle down to drive carefully and obey speed limits. Ibis directs them to the safe house on Radial'na Street in the Malinovsky district of West Odessa. The team split up, taking different routes and carrying out further anti-surveillance drills. As far as they can tell, no-one is following them.

Odessa Safe House
Thu, 01 AUG 2013
00:28 (GMT+2)
The team park the Touareg in the garage out of sight. The politsiya may have a description of this vehicle so best to keep it off the road. The Range Rover is left on the driveway. Ibis gets a collapsible wheelchair out of the car and makes her way inside and introduces herself to everyone. The team recognise the disembodied voice from their comms line earlier. Gyasi, Angela and Fred lead a quick debrief, discussing what they've seen (Shrink spends increase Stability). The team are able to relax a little for a few hours (Haven – the team are able to refresh several skills). Evelyn is collating notes on the photos and items seen in warehouse.

Ibis asks if someone can open the crate in the foyer - Luc opens the crate as directed by Ibis and finds some drones and surveillance equipment. Ibis begins setting up a few cameras on the safe house for security. Gyasi has meanwhile brought the body inside, putting it in the bath whilst keeping the shotgun close to hand. He spots the dog-tags are still on the body (Notice) and finds that the body is that of Staff Sergeant James Bannerman, a 5th SFG A-Team member. Angela is keen to check on the body and conduct some tests to see if they can identify the substance that “The Doctor” used during the reanimation process. Angela, Gyasi and Fred all gathered round body. Kelila watching door. Gyasi keeps his M-1014 ready. They are taking no chances with this...whatever-it-is.

Ibis inside notes that everyone is too distracted to ask her how she hacked their comms – this suggests that they are in a very serious situation. At Gyasi's request she begins to check for records of S Sgt Bannerman. She turns up a news report of his death indicating that he was killed in Iraq by an IED about a year ago. The bodies condition implies that it has been on ice. Gyasi tries to identify the cause of death (Forensic Pathology) and, other than injuries inflicted by team, finds a shrapnel wound to his neck was probably what killed him. At some point after this the body was clearly stolen from storage facility, before ending up with the Lisky Bratva. Kelila & Ron head out to steal a numberplate to replace the one currently on the Touareg.

Luc's phone rings and he steps out - it's Donald Carroll. He hits record on the phone to capture the message.

"Jesus fucking Christ - you've got to get out of Odessa. It's the Lisky Bratva! They don't mess around. Slave trading, guns, drugs, you name it. They've got the politsiya in their pocket as well as the military. Get the hell out of there. Marta and I are bugging out. We're heading to Vienna. It's safe ground. Make your way to the airport left luggage. Locker 827. We'll meet you..."

Carroll's voice is cut off by the noise of a helicopter flying very close, followed by a loud crash. Luc hears a woman scream out. There is more crashing then the sound of Marta sobbing. Metal can be heard being torn from metal, followed by a gurgling noise and a crack. Marta screams again then goes silent. A female voice in a Russian accent speaks into the cell phone.

"Мы убьем вас, если мы можем (We will kill you if we can)"

The line goes dead.

Luc heads back inside and plays the recording for the others. Angela immediately takes the phone and removes the battery. Ibis wondering what she's gotten into. She is able to identify the sound of a heavy military helicopter (passive Piloting). The only things that big and heavy locally would be Mil Mi-8 “Hip” or Mi-24 “Hind” helicopters. If they have access to that much firepower the team is likely not safe. A quick Google by Ibis indicates that the 79th Airmobile Brigade is closest to Odessa. She does some maths and works out flight time at full speed from Sevastopol to Odessa for a helicopter which gives the team a timeframe to work to.

Ibis begins packing up. Kelila checks over the VW Touareg, making sure it's ready to move. Kostya calls in to tell the team that there are three Stenka-class patrol boats in the harbour, manned by sailors and marines of the Ukrainian Sea Guard. Ibis volunteers that she has plane at airport and will be able to extract at least some of the team. The team get cracking, breaking down Ibis's drones for transport and packing away whatever else they intend to take with them. Angela pulls a blood sample from the corpse for later testing.

Odessa Safe House
Thu, 01 AUG 2013
00:45 (GMT+2)
The team decides to split up for safety. Evelyn, Fred and Ron going with Ibis on plane and Luc, Kelila, Gyasi and Angela going via land. Donald probably mentioned the locker because it contains details of safe house location in Vienna (Tradecraft) but didn't want to spell it out over open phone line. Ibis prepares a flight plan to Turin, Italy with the intention of diverting to Vienna due to unforeseen “mechanical problems”.

The other team will take the Touareg on the M-16 motorway to Transnistria region. Given it's disputed status they can shake off official pursuit and then make their way to Romania via Moldova. This will allow them to follow up the mention of Dragovir in the shipping manifests from the warehouse. They strip Bannerman's corpse and take the surveillance gear that was emplaced in the house as well as one of Ibis's quadcopter drones.

M-15 Motorway from Ukraine to Moldova
Thu, 01 AUG 2013
00:54 (GMT+2)
Meanwhile Kelila and the others head to the M-16 for the 65-mile drive to Tiraspol. Traffic is very light on the motorway at this time of night which makes it very obvious when they are being tailed by other vehicles. Kelila identifies the cars as a Toyota Highlander and a Kia Forte; relatively common vehicles in the area. They don't look like cops but they do their best to match speed and retain distance. If the helicopters are heading for them, there's a window of approximately 30 minutes before they will catch up.

Kelila decides to see how far ahead she can get. The top speed of this R-Line is supposedly around 135mph, she decides to test that theory. Tails left far behind, they just can't keep up with the Touareg's speed. As soon as sufficient lead has been created slows down and they reach the border soon after. The border looks fairly unofficial and the guards are clearly taking bribes from drivers ahead in the queue. The Touareg is not a subtle or cheap vehicle so it's luck the team have access to sufficient cash to buy their way in.

The team are shocked to learn of the terrible potato blight in the vicinity of Tiraspol and must therefore pay for their vehicle to be sprayed with chemicals (which appear to be simply water) to ensure that this is not further spread. The team decide to drop a little more money to the guards to slow down the Toyota and Kia should they decide to follow them into the capital. The plan in the meantime is food, shelter and some sleep before they can head off to Dragovir in Romania.

Odessa International Airport
Thu, 01 AUG 2013
02:05 (GMT+2)
Ibis starts the drive to Odessa International Airport with Evelyn, Fred and Ron. Within 20 minutes they are at the aircraft, an Aero Piaggio P180 Avanti II. The Range Rover is sanitised and within 30 minutes the aircraft is loaded and the preflight checks complete. Ibis gets confirmation from the ATC and the aircraft takes off and makes a slow bank to starboard towards Turin. The flight time will be around three hours so the team settle down in the back and get some rack time.

31,000ft over the Slovakia/Austria Border
Thu, 01 AUG 2013
03:58 (GMT+1)
Ibis relates to Vienna air traffic control that she's having mechanical issues with her port engine and requests permission to land along with setting aside some hangar time to work on the “malfunctioning” engine. After being cleared she makes a successful landing and taxis to the private aircraft hangars. Fred sorts out a pair of hire cars and Ron unpacks the equipment they need whilst Evelyn carefully checks the locker at the airport, finding the address of a safe house in Vienna set up by Carroll. Donald has left a fully stocked go-bag in the locker as well with passports for he and Marta, some cash, medical supplies and a Glock 19 9x19mm with a single box of ammunition.

Carroll's Vienna Safehouse
Thu, 01 AUG 2013
09:15 (GMT+1)
The team settle down for a few hours rest and then it's back to work. Evelyn and Fred pick up some coffee and pastries and then everyone gets down to business bringing each other up to date. Ibis checks for surveillance on Brigovich's safe house in Odessa; she notices that the unknown duo left the house during the night but sees no evidence of activity from Danilo himself, or from Zoric. It does appear, however, that the two unknown men are likely in transit with “The Doctor”.

Ibis begins to research Dragovir and the monastery. The quantity of supplies being shipped there suggests either a lot of people are moved through the area or there are a few people staying for the long term. The monastery is high in the hills, far from the nearest centre of population. It's possible given what they now know about the Lisky Bratva that trafficked individuals are being kept there, particularly given Romanian links to Ukraine, Moldova and human trafficking. Târgu Jiu is the nearest town of any real size, the capital of Gorj county in the Carpathian mountains – the monastery goes back to the Dacian-era (15th century) but like many places of religious worship in Romania, it has been built over previously existing. Ron checks in with the team in Tiraspol that this is their next destination. The Vienna team will hang back and offer remote support.

Evelyn looks into Cistvaen Merchant Marine and finds that it is based in Antwerp but has subsidiary branches in Hamburg and various other European locations. They are primarily a shipping company but they also have access to ground networks. The company appears to be profitable and entirely legitimate business. There are a couple of instances of people being arrested while trying to smuggle themselves aboard Cistvaen transports but these are individual cases and are par for the course.

The landline in the safe house rings. Ibis connects a recording device and Ron picks up. The voice on other end is somewhat familiar. A hoarse whisper, speaking slowly and in short sentences. The voice of “The Doctor”.

"You have a choice. I can call off those who seek you. Those who will kill you. I seek something. I need half of this something from you. I will hold off the hounds of the Bratva if you get the Albedo. Seek the Albedo from Arkady Shevlenko. If you do not provide it, I will destroy you."

Ibis establishes that the call is originating outside Austria. Even with this being the case the team moves to grab gear and get out of the safe house. Before they leave, Evelyn sets up video surveillance on safe house.

As the team yet again packs up Ibis recalls that the Albedo is a term from alchemy (Occult). She briefs the team quickly before she begins looking into Shevlenko. It's hard work to find anything out about him from public sources. He's ex-KGB (what is now the SVR). A case officer responsible for recruitment and support of agents. Now nearing 80 years old, he has chosen to live out the last few years of his life in Vienna. There's a good chance that he's still being watched by the FSB or SVR so even if he is not too hard to find it will still be difficult to do so without alerting his watchers. Evelyn finds out that he was responsible for debriefing Kim Philby before he was exiled to Moscow (History).

Carroll's Vienna Safehouse
Thu, 01 AUG 2013
10:00 (GMT+1)
As they leave safe house, Evelyn checks for tails and surveillance; it's unlikely that the Lisky Bratva could get someone there fast enough but better safe than sorry. Ron knows the SIS station chief here in Vienna (Contact). Albert Carpenter is a portly, middle-aged man with the smart, clipped accent of an Oxbridge educated man. He has many years at SIS and has been stationed in Vienna since 1997. Ron contacts Albert, saying out of operational courtesy that he's running something in the area and trying to arrange a meet. He also checks to see whether there's a place for him to lie low.

Ron drops Ibis and Fred at the airport. Ibis has long list of things to do - changing the registration and ID of the plane, hacking system to obfuscate paperwork (e.g. to make it look as though they actually arrived in Turin) and change the flight manifest. Fred meanwhile keeps an eye on Ibis and looks around to see if any surveillance in general area.
Fred has connections with the GRU (Russian Military Intelligence) in the city and will see if there is any way he can find more information of Shevlenko.

Evelyn and Ron head off to their meeting with Albert.


Thanks for joining us again - the updated map can be found here.



Wednesday, 11 December 2013

In Media Res - Luc (PBEM)


Prior to Alain Winants taking over from Koen Dassen in 2006, the Belgian VSSE had a series of “agreements” with foreign terrorist organisations. In exchange for not attacking Belgium, the Belgian Secret Service agreed that Brussels would be “neutral ground” and that whilst terrorist organisations might be watched, they would not be arrested. Dassen also offered the services of the VSSE to actively prevent other foreign agencies from capturing and extraditing terrorists from the capital.

With the humiliation of Fehriye Erdal's escape and the open letter to the King from the Algerian GIA highlighting these activities, Winants decided that he could no longer stomach the humiliation of these agreements. Alongside several EU countries he worked to create a wholly secret cell-based organisation tasked with hunting down and bringing to justice those who would take part in terrorism. This original concept has been expanded to include counter-intelligence operations throughout the EU and other associate nations.

“Working Group 15” is the name used among the Belgian cell, headed by Luc. He has four colleagues, two of whom were VSSE and two who previously worked for the Federal Police. The unit is based on the NATO “Gladio” stay-behind units from the Cold War and was formulated in 2006 alongside the authorization of “Special Enquiry Methods” (wiretaps and covert entry) within the VSSE.

The team shared a close-knit camaraderie but were only called upon to work as a team when necessary. One of the more recent instances where the team worked together was in late 2010 on the trail of Fehriye Erdal.

Working Group 15 Team Members:
1: Edouard Sauvage (M, 51) – former VSSE Counter-Intelligence Officer.
2: Nicholas Renaud (M, 36) – former VSSE Case Officer.
3: Nicolene Schenk (F, 37) – former Federal Police Investigator.
4: Tom Spiker (M, 32) – former Federal Police CGSU Operator – aka Group Diane.

14:38 (GMT +1), 23 December 2010

Brussels, Belgium
Office of Alain Winants, Ministry of Justice, Brussels
“Mr Winants will see you now” says the curt secretary outside the wood-panelled office of the Director of State Security.

Luc thanks her with a smile and opens the door to Winants' office. Marie's known him for four years now and still calls him 'M. Maréchal', if she calls him anything. No-one at the VSSE, excepting Winants himself, has gone untouched by the investigation; you'd expect a degree of resentment, even from those confirmed to be clean.

Even though it is early afternoon, Winants has already placed a bottle on his desk along with two glasses. He greets Luc with a smile, shaking him by the hand.

“It is good to see you again my friend, we don't get to do this often enough.”

Luc eyes the bottle of Fernet Branca. He can't tell whether it's the same bottle that Winants proffered at their first meeting back in 2006, most of which Luc spent feeling as though he'd been kicked in the throat with a liquorice boot. The bottle and the two glasses have been sitting on Winants' desk at every meeting since. Luc's never asked whether everyone gets Fernet, but he has his suspicions.

"Good to see you too, Alain. No, I'm fine, thanks."

Luc lowers himself into a chair. Winants shrugs and sips the glass of dark liqueur with every sign of enjoyment before taking a seat.

“I have asked you to come to me today because it is important. We have the chance to finally clean the stain from our nation's honour. A friend of mine, Mehmet Başbuğ, has reached out to me just this week about a suspected DHKP-C operation in Eastern Turkey. They have a man on the inside who says Erdal is running with her old friends and there is a chance that if we are in the right place at the right time, we can make sure that Erdal doesn't get the chance to embarrass us any further.”

Luc leans forward, on point. The past four years have seen dozens of leads on Erdal's location and seven - seven! - known snatch attempts, including several by foreign agencies. Some have been set-ups, some have been genuine opportunities; all have failed. Following the last attempt, more than a year ago (by British operatives in Limassol, reportedly a failure by the slenderest of margins), further leads have been few and far between. The prospect of finally running his target to ground has him restless.

Winants continues.

I want you to go out to Turkey, a place called Erzincan. There is a liaison from the MİT Directorate of Operations, İskender Balik, who will meet you out there. I called in a favour to get your team to be the lead on this. They will get you pointed in the right direction on the ground but once you're there I want you to make sure Erdal and the DHKP-C are stopped by any means necessary.”

He lingers on the “any.

If Erdal manages to pull off anything back in Turkey fingers will point at us. I won't allow our country to be mocked and shamed once more. That idiot Dassen might have allowed these scum to swan around our capital city at will but I will not tolerate it. I trust you to get the job done. Have Marie outside arrange anything you need and contact your team. I will ensure there are sufficient funds to cover your travel and operating expenses. Make sure Luc. Make sure that they are stopped. The British nearly got her in Cyprus last year, now it's our turn.”

"Don't worry. This time, we'll bring her in."

'Bring her in' - letting Winants know that he's heard and understood, and that termination will, nevertheless, be a last resort. Luc has the necessary training but is not, by temperament, a cold-blooded killer. He's not sure about Winants. Although someone who drinks Fernet with that much relish can probably kill a man without blinking.

Winants finishes his drink and looks out the window over the Boulevard de Waterloo.

“Good luck my friend”.

Luc swallows a glib response. Judging by past performance, they might need it.

21:38 (GMT +2), 2 January 2011
Erzincan, Turkey
Upstairs floor of a Safehouse in the İzzetpaşa District
The team have been watching the building opposite for over a week now. Watching the coming and going of vehicles and people, photographing and recording them as they mingle. Erdal has not yet been spotted but İskender has assured Luc that she will show. Their infiltrator insists that she has been seen in the area and every bit of intel they have gathered points to this house.

The room smells of stale air and strong coffee. Luc stretches his shoulders, flicks on the penlight and studies the sketches for the tenth time. The MİT's infiltrator has done well so far: the team have floorplans of the building, audio surveillance inside and unscrewed hinges on an otherwise securely-locked roof hatch. What they don't have - yet - is Erdal. But today's video surveillance and traffic analysis looks promising; more activity, more people going in and staying in, conversations infrequent and focused on preparations for 'tonight'. It doesn't take a roomful of intelligence agents to work out that something's up.

Near the window, Edouard grunts. Luc pads across the darkened room, picking his way past the piles of gear and other occupants. Standing back from the window in the shadows of the room, Edouard nods at the street below, where a battered 1980s Mercedes E-Class is slowing in front of the building opposite. The car has a dented and dust-streaked chassis, mismatched hubcaps and - Luc "hmm"s thoughtfully - newspaper tacked to the inside of the rear windows. The garage door to the left of the building rattles upwards to admit the vehicle; the interior is dark, but before the door clatters shut, the low-light surveillance equipment picks up two men with distinctive bulges under their jackets (Notice).

Near the back wall, one of İskender's men - Kemal? - adjusts his headphones. "Target on site".
Around the room, the others get to their feet, adjusting their gear. At a nod from Luc, they move out.

Four minutes later, following a roundabout but unobtrusive route through several alleys and a silent climb up a well-placed ladder (Infiltration), Luc, Nicholas, İskender and Sami (another of İskender's men) are prone on the roof of the building next to the target location. Edouard and Nicolene are at the front door of the safe house, ready to move on the front of the building to provide support or prevent escape as necessary. Tom and a third MİT goon wait by the featureless metal door at the rear of the building.

Luc briefly runs through the op in his head. It's a black-bag job, intended to minimise the risk of tipping off DHKP-C's watchers - at least two previous attempts to snatch Erdal failed after someone got spooked. Luc and the other three go in quietly through the hatch, effect silent takedowns of anyone else in the house and then - Luc feels the weight of the suppressed Sarsilmaz K2 pistol holstered at his thigh - get the drop on the target and whoever she's meeting. Erdal gets whisked off for interrogation, her fellow DHKP-C members are dumped in a cell somewhere, and Luc's four-year hunt is over. Nothing to it, Luc tells himself.

On comms, Kemal confirms that the audio surveillance suggests four individuals on the top floor, two on the ground floor (one in the garage, one in the room facing onto the street) and another four with Erdal in the kitchen, at the back of the ground floor. All are presumed to be armed. Luc gives the signal to move.

İskender's infiltrator has done his job. Thirty seconds after the hatch opens, two of the guards on the top floor are down: Luc takes one in a chokehold as he walks towards the bathroom (Hand-to-Hand), İskender and Sami peel off into one of the other rooms and confirm target down seconds later. Two left, both in the bedroom at the end of the hall. Luc and Nicholas head in, quick and quiet.

One unarmed man looking out of the window, facing away from the door - Nicholas locks out an arm, applies a chokehold and vices tight. The other one, at the far end of the room, shotgun coming up and mouth opening to shout a warning. Luc moves fast, punches him in the throat. His hands go to his neck, the shotgun falls. Luc catches it, takes a step back, clubs him in the temple with the stock and catches him with one hand as he falls, lowering him to the bedroom carpet without a sound (Hand-to-Hand). He leaves the shotgun, after removing the magazine. It's a brand-new Yildiz P56 - an oddly expensive piece of kit for a terrorist (Shooting).

İskender and Sami come into the room; İskender nods. Luc notes clearance of the top floor over the comms and moves downstairs with Nicholas, testing each step for creaks (Infiltration). After a few seconds, İskender confirms that the top floor is clear; he and Sami leave the bedroom and follow Luc down.

The team splits: the Turks head for the garage, Nicholas heads for the front room, and Luc - once they confirm success - begins to prep the fibre cam (Electronic Surveillance). With the rest of the house clear, they can take a moment to check the position and number of targets in the kitchen before they storm in.

The others return and Luc leads the team down the hallway, step by careful step, towards the kitchen (Infiltration). İskenderlooks tense; not a surprise, given the circumstances, but the slightly unfocused look in his eyes and the tilt of his head suggests that he's listening to something on comms, something going to him only (Notice).

As they close in on the doorway, Luc hears voices: one female, three or four male, clearly in the middle of a conversation. As Luc gets close enough to make out words, he hears one of the male voices swear quietly, before another says "No wonder they're after you. Küçük was a devious bastard, but this...". At the mention of 'Küçük' (where does he know that name from?), Luc sees İskender tense (Notice). The woman's voice goes on: "That's not the worst of it. There was another - an old man. I saw him in Ankara, speaking to-".

Luc senses movement, but isn't fast enough to stop İskender bursting into the room, gun drawn, with Sami on his heels. Luc and Nicholas, frozen for a moment, are roused by a shout and four sharp cracks. Guns out and raised, they follow the Turks in.

Time slows with the adrenaline rush, and Luc takes in the scene. To the right, worktops and an oven line the wall, with a row of cupboards above and a fridge in the corner. Ahead, sitting at a table scattered with crumbs and empty plates, Erdal is half out of her chair, alarm beginning to cut through an expression of bone-deep fatigue. The sight of her, run to ground after four years of exhausting effort, leavens his anger at İskender with a powerful sense of satisfaction.

Two of the men sitting with her are down, hit in the chest and head, while the third is stock-still in his seat, covered by the smoking guns of İskender and Sami. And standing against the wall three metres to the left of the door, just where a hasty entrant to the room would miss him, is a fourth man, an MPE MP5K submachine gun rising to point at İskender's back.

Luc pivots smoothly and, with another crack, puts a bullet through the man's forehead (Shooting). İskender flinches; he pales slightly as he glances left and sees the body sliding down the wall.

Two minutes later, Erdal and the surviving DHKP-C member are zip-tied and gagged. As İskender pulls a hood over Erdal's head, Luc tells Nicholas and Sami to gather the audio bugs from the rest of the house and bind the unconscious guards upstairs, while Luc and İskender haul Erdal to the front door. Nicholas heads upstairs, while Sami, leaving the back room a minute later, moves to the front room. Over comms, the rest of the team acknowledge completion of the op and head for the safe house to pack up. Edouard confirms that the van is 30 seconds away.

As they heft Erdal upright, İskender meets Luc's eyes. "Thank you, my friend". Luc asks İskender what the hell he thought he was doing, moving without warning the others. İskender half-smiles and shrugs. Luc doesn't intend to let this go, but they've reached the front door and he can hear an engine rumbling on the other side. İskender opens the door to reveal the open side-door of the van, idling about six inches away from the front of the house. Luc and İskender pass Erdal to the men reaching from the van and İskender climbs in after her. 

At that moment, Nicholas' voice comes over comms. The men they'd left unconscious are dead - a single stab wound on each. Luc's eyes widen: moving to the door of the front room, he sees Sami crouched over the body of the guard, wiping a short blade on the guard's shirt. Luc snaps round to look at İskender, who shrugs again: "No witnesses". Sami jogs past Luc and climbs into the van, sliding the door shut. The engine fades into the night, leaving Luc with a nagging sense of anticlimax and a rapidly lengthening list of questions.

11:06 (GMT +1), 3 January 2011
Brussels, Belgium
Office of Alain Winants, Ministry of Justice, Brussels
"All of them. Stab wounds to the heart or behind the ear. İskender and his man must have been finishing off the ones we left unconscious."

Winants frowns and looks down for a moment.

"I spoke to Mehmet last night, after I got your message. It seems that the briefing initially provided was... not entirely accurate. Erdal had become aware of certain things; highly sensitive information regarding a number of important people. As one might expect, those people were not happy about her continuing to be on the loose while in possession of this information. She appears to have arranged the meeting with other elements of the DHKP-C in order to tell them what she knew, so that the information would not be lost if she were to be killed or captured."

Luc thinks back to the fragments of conversation that he had overheard; to Kemal, sitting in the safe house with his headphones; to İskender's private comms and his increasing agitation.

"By the time we got into position, she'd already told them too much. İskender and Sami killed the others in the kitchen to ensure that the information stayed with her alone."

Luc pauses.

"But why kill the guards upstairs? They couldn't have heard anything dangerous."

"No. However" - Winants sighs heavily - "it appears that there was another reason to eliminate witnesses. Erdal's capture will not be made public."


Winants steeples his fingers and examines them as he speaks.

"Mehmet did not go into detail, but the logic is not difficult to follow. Following the efforts of your Turkish friends last night, I would guess that there are at most twenty people who know that Erdal has been captured. If her capture were to be made public, it would set in motion a formal process; the police would become involved, lawyers would be briefed, the press would be circling like flies around shit and, eventually, there would be a trial. Given the sensitivity of what she knows, I imagine that this was thought to be too risky and too difficult to control."

Winants returns his gaze to Luc.

"She evaded us for four years by, among other things, restricting her communications to the bare minimum, even within the DHKP-C. As things stand, everyone on the other side who knew that she'd been taken is dead. I suspect anyone in the local cell who might have been aware of her visit will shortly disappear as well. It will be quite some time before her lack of contact with others becomes suspicious. In the meantime, the assumption of the DHKP-C, the police, most of Turkish intelligence" - Luc raises an eyebrow - "and the rest of the world is that Erdal is still a fugitive. She will be held in secret at a secure location, where she can be interrogated or otherwise dealt with at leisure, while the people who are so concerned about her can maintain the maximum possible degree of control."

As Luc is digesting this, Winants sits back in his chair and spreads his hands.

"But that is not something that you need to concern yourself with. Your hunt is over, my boy! How do you feel?"

Luc shrugs.

"Deflated, to be honest. We finally track her down after four years, pull off what would have been a bloodless op if not for that bastard İskender, and now... nothing. The VSSE - hell, the country - finally gets the chance to absolve itself and no-one will ever know."

Winants smiles.

"Come now, you know that's part of the job. Fighting evil, protecting the public from things that go 'bump' in the night" - Luc chuckles - "unsung heroes saving the world from the forces of darkness. It's what we get for working in the shadows. Now..."

Winants reaches into his desk drawer; Luc hears the clink of glass.