Good Old Fashioned Spy Work

September 23, 2017:

Finding the mole in SHIELD requires many hands on deck.


Agent Hill calls on some junior agents to spy on the Level 9 agents that could be the mole. The strategy isn't so straightforward.


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Phil Coulson

Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…


The SHIELD warehouse where Maria set up this meet is well off the beaten path. In fact, this particular one has been long since abandoned. Nick Fury set it up as an off-the-grid warehouse almost ten years ago— before Maria even pinged on his radar. It's easy enough to find, but not remotely recognizable for its SHIELD connection. Nothing about it screams federal building.

It isn't much to look at, and it's even less to look at inside. Cement floor with an inch of dust means dust bunnies have formed all along the walls. It lacks furniture save a few chairs which rest in a circle like some strange AA meeting.

Maria looks the role of the SHIELD agent today. She's dressed in her flight suit, has her earpiece in. There's little question she's here on business. She stands askance to one of the windows, looking out its ridiculously dusty expanse to the world outside. It's fortunate it's a one way window. No one can look inside. This really was a secure safe house.

The note had gone to the involved agents. Although it's message had been coded to look like little more than a mission briefing. For a mission no one had gone on. It invited them here. Now. At least it was decipherable enough…


Warehouse district? She'd actually been through this area, poking around for a potential storage space for engineering projects - namely the Master's Thesis. She'd seen the building, heard it wasn't for sale, and decided it was too large for her purposes anyway. Sally Stojespal had never bothered to consider /why/ - the vagaries of international commerce, storage, real estate, and spycraft had never quite been on her radar.


The blue-eyed young woman can't help a small smirk - of course there'd be secret places like this. Safehouses, that was the word. She's new to the game, but chess is a national sport for her homeland. And chess was a game of obfuscating strategy, tipping any number of false strategies while hiding real ones. Both false and real entirely plural; the warehouse-safehouse certainly speaks to the same sort of elegantly planned mindset.

Sally approved. But she's here for more than mere approval, and came dressed more subtly than usual. The Lotus is parked a good walk away; nothing screams secret meeting more than an expensive sportscar in a skid-row district. Borrowing a page from Jessica Jones, her outfit of faded jeans, a t-shirt under a hoodie, and rough sneakers does a lot to fit either the generic laborer that might be found in such a place…or the homeless who haunt them.

Now to find her way in…


Rin has is not a stranger to the Cloak and Dagger needed for sensitive missions. She of course made a few perperations, spoofing the IP addresses on all her devices and leaving when no one else was looking. She even left ehr super flashy and loud back back at work and took public trasnportation to their destination. She's careful, and dressed down with a hoodie over her short dark hair and a pair of jeans and looks like anyone else on the street.

She spots the Lotus on the way, since it is hard to miss, and she isn't at all surprised to see that Sally will be joining them. When she spots the younger agent she'll slip up behind her and nod toward the door. "Evening." She says casually before she looks at a near by door. "Shall we? Or are you enjoying the decor out here?" She's guessing that this is the right door and leans into it to open it and slip inside.


Through the one-way glass, Maria's blue eyes narrow when the agents come into view. Her arms cross over her chest and she cants her head towards the chairs, considering positioning and the potentiality of the meeting in question. Phil had put these agents on her radar.

Outside, the door is altogether nondescript. It has a simple padlock— the number for which had been recorded in the message inviting them both to this place for this purpose. There's little question that their host had spent ample time putting together adequate documentation, including the filing of a mission that never happened.

It was, to Maria, relatively standard. She even wrote it on letterhead.


Maybe she's a little on-edge because of the seriousness of the affair, and maybe it's because she knows Invisigirl - Agent Rin Nakano - is a capable Specialist. That doesn't help a slight jump when she's addressed, since Sally had been /pretty/ damn sure that she was alone. At least, according to the basic tail-shaking education she'd gotten. Not being part of the Academy makes things a little difficult at times.

"Yes, yes." Hmpf. "Ah. Padlock - that must be the combination mentioned." Fingers spin the wheel, and tug gently - a loud clank of the metal lock on the door would be best avoided. Ho hum, nothing here, just a couple warehouse employees come to clean up or something. Right? Right. Totally nonchalant.

"Of course, Rin's the Specialist - as the door opens, the engineer backs off a bit to hold it open for her. She glances back behind them, taking in the view and looking for a moment for anything out of place - people with binoculars, or people paying more than no attention to them at all, that sort of thing.

Once Rin goes in, she'll follow, drawing the door shut and doing her best to leave the padlock in place and make it look untouched. Locking it's not possible…but at least it'll pass cursory glances for now.

Deep blue eyes glance around the warehouse, blinking in the sudden darkness and looking for details. "Agent Hill…?" A little nervous, her accent is showing a tad thicker than usual. It's hard to keep precisely controlled, especially when she's a little nervous. Please be the right warehouse!


She can't help but sneak up on people, it's what she's paid to do after all. "That seems pretty straight forward." Rin let's Sally do the leg work and once the door is opened she slides on in. While she might appear to be casual, as soon as they slip inside of the safe house, she puts the screen implant over her eye and starts to scan over the room. She's pretty sure Hill has already sweeped for bugs, but she likes to be sure.

Once she spots the seinor agent, Rin nods her head. "Agent Hill." She says, mustering up a bit of polietness for the woman. She reaches into a satchel and pulls out a tablet and slinks down in one of the chairs. "Are we all here?"


The open door causes Maria to pivot towards it. Her feet naturally stand shoulder width apart while her hands comfortable clasp behind her back. She's all military lines. All formality. Even her posture maintains those sharp angles. With her dark hair tugged into a tight bun, and her nearly hardened gaze, she has the air of command.

The sound of her name though, causes a flicker of a smile. Her eyes warm slightly. She hasn't met either of these agents, but she has familiarized herself with their files. "Agent Nakano. Agent Stojespal." Her eyebrows lift with the greeting. While Rin automatically occupies one of the chairs, she drops her hands and motions towards the chairs for Rasalka, "Please, have a seat."

Following the invitation, the sound of heavy booted steps, military paces, close the distance. Her lips twist to the side, and a note of apology reflects in her tone, "I'm glad you both found your way here." She clasps her hands behind her back once again and looks between them. "I'm aware that Agent Coulson has tapped you both as trustworthy in this mission. Your loyalty isn't in question here, you've already been vetted. It's why you received the invitation."


When her eyes adjust to the dimmer light, Rusalka can't help but straighten up slightly. Maria Hill is very different from Phil Coulson, she can see - and a lot more like her mother. The woman's formal and precise stance is all too familiar, in fact - and it gets a reflection in her as well. There's a faint coolness that comes over her attitude, reflecting the woman's demeanor for a moment.

It's what she's born to be, after all.

The slight shift in Maria's expression is noticed, but prim and properly the Sokovian takes her seat when told. "Yes ma'am. It wasn't too difficult to reach this building, in all honesty." Probably why it'd been chosen as a safehouse. Easy access in, and easy escape routes out.

And then it's down to business, and Sally relaxes slightly, fingers drumming against one thigh. "Yes ma'am. I've been a bit busy myself, with other incidents. But we are working on the problem." A glance at Rin, wondering if that 'backdoor key' was worth the trouble.

Trustworthy and vetted? Of course she is. That's practically ignored, in all honesty - she'd never have considered otherwise. Or thought that anyone would question it. Sometimes being blueblooded has its blind spots. "Then may I ask, the purpose of this meeting? Has there been any new developments?"


There isn't a whole lot about Rin in her files, just the typical live background, and her service record. Of course there is the off color comment that while she might be rude, rough around the edges, but very effective in her work. This is of course displaed as she slowly slinks down in her chair, killing her posture and turning her eyes to the tablet in front of her. It might appear that she's ignoring anyone like a petulant teenager.

"We all had a clandestine meeting about the potental problem. I've begun digging into some of the people Coulson listed, I have sent out my initial findings, but I'm trying to take it slowly. We have to be careful so that we are not seen."


"Assignments," Maria answers Rusalka's question directly and immediately. She leaves nothing to chance and nothing to assumption. It's not in her character. All things are form and function, and it shows in her very posture. Her chin drops while her gaze levels at the pair. "Progress has been hampered substantially and efforts need to be focused further." She can find her shoulders tighten while her fingers knit together behind her back. Her expression remains neutral, however, even despite the nature of the conversation and the betrayal each of them has experienced.

Maria's chin drops into a nod with Rin's assertion. "Of course. But we need to remember these are people who know how to cover their tracks. Digital consideration is good, but we taught these people to be invisible. They taught other people how to be invisible."

She looks between them. "They won't be expecting tried and true method." Her jaw tightens. "I'm proposing good old fashioned sbywork." She arches a single wry eyebrow. "And I'm offering an assignment to you both if you're willing to spy on some spies." Her lips press into a thin line.


A sharp nod is returned when Maria states their mission. And then something crawls under her skin slightly at the mention of progress being hampered. Rusalka opens her mouth to explain, to give excuse, and then snaps it right back shut. Agent Hill is, very clearly, not someone who will accept such things. And it isn't as if she has many excuses anyway - yes, she was needed for the radioactive-material convoy attack, and its aftermath, but she's spinning her wheels otherwise.

Time to debrief, for the moment. All business, all formality. "Yes ma'am. As Agent Nakano said, we did meet on this initially. I worked with Mr. Stark on creating a backdoor-key. With so much Stark technology in SHIELD, and Mr. Stark's…ease of access within the information technology resources," she continues, giving a bit of a side glance at Rin. "I suspected he had some sort of backdoor, something that would be useful for handling malfunctions or corruption."

Or for just being Tony Stark and punking Phil by sending pictures of cats photoshopped onto Lola's seats.

"He did give us tools to access Stark-manufactured SHIELD equipment directly, and I turned that over to Agent Nakano. It's at least able to, ah, to look in on things without being spotted. That is, as long as it's Stark-made. Then…the Ukraine convoy and other events took precedence."

Good old spywork. She's a little curious; half of what she knows about intelligence operation's she's learned on the job. The other half she's learned from the movies. "Are we being reassigned to exclusively this, then? And yes - I'm willing to do what we need. Have ah…the others had any luck yet?"


"Some of them are also lazy and don't realize when the click on the terms of agreement to our corporate email, we can actually do what it says we can. Others are also inherantly lazy when it comes to shutting off GPS tracking on their devices. It's allowed me to at least set up a pattern so the 'good old fashioned spywork' can be completed." Rin states blandly. "Besides, everyone is a sucker for free wifi."

Rin raises her brow just a touch and shakes her head. "If they're not expecting a tride and true method spy method, than they are a very poor mole." Rin says, giving her opinion freely. "I'm not saying it isn't going to be done, but if they haven't thought of dodging their own co-workers, they would have been discovered already. We have to be just as careful with old fashioned spying as we do with the digital spying."

Nodding to Sally, Rin reaches for something in her pockket. "I've just scratched the surface on what I can do with this. I have to be careful not to get into things I shouldn't be getting into, but this should at least give us an advantage. Perhaps we can find ways to roll out new Stark Tech to their departments."


Maria's gaze rests on each of the agents as they speak. "To be honest each of these people have secrets for their secrets. While some are acting oddly," like rendezvous at strange locations, "I think we need to be equally concerned about those turning up little or no evidence. Like I said, these are people trained to cover their tracks." Maria can feel her lips curve down into a frown. "And while I know Phil," not Coulson this time, "seems to believe it's one mole, we can't be sure that there aren't several working in tandem."

The words come out even and collected, but if either of the other agents are paying attention, something very different flashes across Maria's eyes. For an instant, something unspoken reflects in them. But seconds later, it's gone.

Blue eyes rest on Rin, "Good work on the technology side. The digging is helpful, and I tracking could certainly ease more traditional methods. But the truth remains, it's easier to scrub your tracks technologically than in person."

"While no one in here is a mole, consider for a moment how you would go about doubling for Hydra. What would be imminently important? How would you keep from arousing suspicion?" Her eyebrows draw together. "I lifted Grenon's daily planner, and beyond the scheduling and attendance of meetings, actually physically spying may give us more leverage."

"And I'm not proposing to send either of you in without some cover." She looks between them. "Instead, I want you to spy on their pilots. Each of the Level 9 agents has their own quinjet pilots. I propose together you tag two of them."

"The pilots are Level 7 agents. All of them are well-trained, but they should be easier targets to follow than the Level 9 agents." And then with a quirk of her lips, "And we have a cover if you get caught following either of them." She manages a vague smile, "We will call it a training exercise. Assigned by yours truly on behalf of Director Fury." She'll deal with any blowback from invoking the Director's name.


"They overthink their moves. Assume they are safe from regular investigation because they would see it, because you would be 'dumb' to use such obvious tricks, therefore…ya znayu, shcho ty znayesh. Ah, 'I know that you know.'" Shrug. It's something that's not hard to fall into, Sally supposes. Trying to think like your opponent also means recognizing it is happening, and adjusting tactics accordingly.

So…it might seem counterintutitive, but in a sense it plays into the mole's likely thinking. And, as well, isn't there normal security checks? It isn't that uncommon to be checked out and verified in one's lifetime; Sally herself has had a bout of that even as junior as she is. Maybe being foreign nobility has something to do with that, but still.

Maria's comment about the potential nature of their mole - that it's possibly more than one person - gets a soft snarl on Sally's face. "Strike one down…" Two more will rise. A beloved catchphrase of Hydra, second only to their affinity for shouting Hail Hydra with a frequency approaching sports fans cheering their team on.

Too bad they can't be coerced to line up in ranks on a field to be dealt with so quickly, Sally thinks.

"To think like them?" She gives a bit of a grin. "I suppose…squeaky-clean, but just slightly. Nothing too perfect." Her head tilts as she laughs. "There is only one Captain America, after all. But…hm. Pilots?" Not an approach she had suspected, but she nods as she listens.

And then can't help a cynical laugh. "A training excercise…hah. I am certainly in need of such things…at least, my marksmanship is no longer the talk of the academy. Absolutely I am to be believed as a junior agent with need for such training." Granted, she'd gotten better, and manages to keep everything on the paper target…just, not quite so much on the actual target.


Once the pilots are mentioned, Rin is already bringing up their files, learning their names and schedules. Granted those would likely match up with the level 9 agents, but still it's good to know who is doing what. Hearing that Sally is being brought in on this training exercise, she raises one brow, but keeps her thoughts to herself. "If I was thinking like Hydra I would have more than one person doing my dirty work. I would also be interested in finding other people to blame. Leaving false clues to take someone down in my place instaad. Hell I might even be the one to find them. That is my worry, that our digging is only going to end with us in our own graves, so to speak. Agent Coulson already told us that we're on our own, there would be nothing he could do to help if we fucked it all up."

Though she nods her head as she finally turns her eyes away from the tablet. "A training exercise would be a good excuse. They've likely already forgotten what it is to be at the level we are at, so they'd likely not even balk at it. "Do you know which jet's they fly? Perhaps they could be tampered with to record what's being said. I know they'd likely try to search for anything like that before they even took off, but I could hide it well enough from most mundane eyes."


"Exactly. False clues are a dime a dozen. We're not going to be able to get a real beat on this without multiple strategies. This one, right now, seems to be our best." She reaches for the device at her hip. She takes another from her belt. "I'm going to give you a file transfer. It's about the pilots. We'll start with two, and from there we can strategize further."

When she has the info, she provides two names. "Agent Wendell Brockett pilots the same Quinjet for both Agents Hand and Grenon. He'll be your target. He flies the same serial numbered vessel day in day out." Her blue eyes turn to Rin again, "I suspect it'd be useful to tamper with the plane." She taps a few keys and sends another file, "The second is Agent Percy Maher. He pilots for Lionel Shepherd." She openly frowns. "Shepherd… unsettles me." Her lips press into a thin frown. "He's pretty squeaky clean across the board," which pings her radar.

Try not to get made, but I can take initial blow back if you are," Maria states with a faint nod. "Especially with the pilots. With our Level 9 agents," her head shakes, there's no way. "You're junior agents and shouldn't ping as anything other than curious.


The eyebrow from Rin is noticed, but Rusalka says nothing beyond the slightest of offended sniffs. It's a practiced thing, and subtle, wonderful for expressing disagreement at whatever someone else is thinking. Meanwhile she listens, and nods as Agent Nakano explains her thoughts. False paths, decoys, alarms.

It reminds her a little of her great-grandmother's stories, and she wonders. "It…probably would be more than one person. At least, some ah…korysna korova, ah yes - 'useful idiots.' People who might not even realize they are helping the spy. To use them as warnings and as misdirection, perhaps." She really needs to talk to her great-grandmother again.

Rin's mention of tampering with the aircraft, and Maria's own agreement, get a nod and a handraise as Sally draws out her own tablet from where it'd been tucked in her jacket. "Actually…I might be best for that. Engineering, yes? And Tony Stark's student, so. If he's testing new software for SHIELD's aircraft, it makes sense to be 'fiddling' with their planes."

And then there's a grin. "Especially if it is the engineer who so recently flew around the solar system with Mr. Quill and company. I am sure I would be a good luck charm. And have plenty of tales to tell them." Getting access to the aircraft? No sweat. Besides, Quinjets are pretty cool, even if Sally isn't going to admit it just yet in front of Isa Reichert.

"I would need to start working on several planes, I suppose. To make it seem more 'normal' perhaps." She's tapping down data, accepting the files from Maria and making her own notes. Communications software? Maybe new encryption methods, or else new navigation software. "I am sure I can come up with something with Mr. Stark's help."


"There is something not right with Shepherd, no one is that clean, not even an infant is that clean. It's either completely truthful, or he is a decoy, but there is only one way to find out." And that's the fun way for sure. Rin on the other hand puts those files in a place not easily found by others and continues to listen to the other two as they plan.

"If it's a Stark upgrade it's all the better. Funneling all of this through his servers is a good way to take the heat off of us. Not that I want Hydra bothering Stark, but it at least gives us the room to keep ourselves out of harms way." Rin nods as Sally takes it upon herself to update the crafts. "Than I'll stalk the idiots, see what they're up to and see if I can locate a weakness."


A slow nod follows Rusalka's thoughts on the aircraft. "Make it so," Maria replies. "Update anything as needed." She allows her eyes to flit between them, "Alongside that, tail the two I've named. If you need tips or tricks, feel free to ask. Otherwise, I'll consider it handled. If you get caught, put this one on me."

Her lips purse. "Director Fury has periodically used the mole hunt scenario as a training exercise. I can pass this off as something learned from him. While it's plausible, I suspect it would put our mole on edge. So if you can help it," her eyebrows lift again with the silent imperative: don't get caught.

She reaches for her device again and transmits some more information. "Feel free to reach me about this any time." She motions to the rest of the warehouse, "This place doesn't look like much, but it's a secure facility equipped with its own encryption devices. We can safely meet here again. If you can't get ahold of me through secure channels, use the insecure ones and ask me about the Madripoor file. I'll reply with a number. The first digit will be the day, the next the month, and the last the time. Always military time," in case it needs saying.

Her posture changes as she pivots on her foot once again. "Unless you have any questions, this should be plenty to move forward."


Too clean. And suspicious. "If they are confident enough to not see the need for counter-surveillance, then…perhaps they are overconfident that they would not be looked into." Sally considers this Shepherd, and intends to do some more digging on her own. An idea comes to mind, and she can't help but speak up.

"I think the pilot will be key. If one of these agents, Shepherd or Hand or Grenon, is the mole? Then they will need an escape. A Quinjet is the best way - tell your pilot of an emergency mission, and…if the pilot is suborned, a code word. Then escape. They would need a safehouse, like this place…something large to hide a Quinjet in for that matter." Her brain's running, thinking of possibilities.

If she were a spy, where would she hide? Somewhere she could reach. With her tools. Especially, with Quinjets, a stealth-capable aircraft with exceptional range and performance. Where do you hide them? They are VTOL aircraft, so can land anywhere - but would still need a building. Fueling options. Ordnance, she adds with a grimace. Supplies.

Her head shakes after a few more moments. "I apologize. I think, if we look through requisitions? A safehouse like this, off the books. But supplies are still required, yes? And there would have to be visits to the place, to verify it can take a jet." Cobalt-blue eyes narrow in the darkness as she makes notes. "I think…I will definitely be looking into their aircraft. For luck and upgrades."

Maria brings up the safehouse itself, and Sally glances up. "Yes ma'am. Madripoor." A strange name, but something meaningful? "Is there anything else we should be doing, then, besides that - ah, tailing the pilots, stakeouts, that sort of thing?"


"I've found if you over stimulate people with technical jargon, they tend to tune you out and blindly agree to what you're updating. It works for Apple." Rin says dryly before she packs hre belongings back into her satchel. "I'd really hate to see where Hydra has their safe houses, I'm sure they're not pleasant." Still, she gets to her feet and removes the small screen from the inplant in the side of her head. No need to bring unwanted attention to herself as she walks back on public transportation.

It takes a lot of effort for Rin to not return a witty retort to Hill, most likely due to a tiny chibi Phil sitting on her shoulder and scolding her not to. "I don't have any further questions, and I know how to reach you if I do. Hopefully it won't come down to asking about Madripoor."


"Absolutely," Maria replies to Rusalka. "Good, old fashioned, spy-work. Tails. Stakeouts. Find out what they're eating. Know them. Not just the patterns, but them as people." Blue eyes darken and she smirks at Rin. It's the first true time she breaks rank while here. "That's only because what happens in Madripoor stays in Madripoor. Even according tot he file," which has long been the bane of Maria's existence. The question certainly won't ping as odd if anyone pays attention.

"Alright. Let's get these sons of bitches," she says it as if talking about the weather. "Godspeed and good luck."

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