Molehunt: Better Luck Next Time

September 29, 2017:

Agents Nakano and Stojespal try tailing one of their suspects and get an interesting result

New York City and points north


NPCs: SHIELD Pilot Maher


Mood Music: None.

Fade In…

At least the heat has finally broken, Rusalka Stojespal decides. It makes the job of looking like a random technician a lot easier when she can strut around in a proper SHIELD-logo'ed jumpsuit and work boots and look perfectly natural. She's extra-pleased about this because while Quinjets are a heavily armed assault-transport, they're also not light on the creature comforts…when they're running. When they're not, like right now, they're a little metal microwave oven good for baking young engineers to a fine golden brown.

It's made worse by the realization she can't just go to the one she suspects; that makes it too obvious. Sally instead takes a page from her racing experience and instead decides to start with all of the planes. Noone can complain they're being singled out for tech inspection when everyone gets the once-over, right?

Six aircraft in, two to go she finally comes to the personal transport for Percy Maher. Just like all the others, badges flashed, technology examined, and Sally climbing aboard. Just one more flunky on the flight line making sure someone didn't break their jet, right? Right. Maybe she took an extra look around to make sure she's not being watched, but nothing suspicious about that. Once in, she's sliding under the flight consoles, hooking both of them up to her tablet.

One's uploading things. Some touched up software, a monitor program that follows and covertly logs all flight instrument and navigation data, slight updates and improvements to the world map aboard the plane, and some extra maintenance logging software as well. The other's downloading data - what the more rudimentary current system already has for its logs, usage, maintenance and repair, and other sundries. Just like the six other Quinjets, she'll know where this one's been for as far back as its flight log holds - hopefully, something that will provide a smoking gun. Or nothing at all.

If someone walks in on her, the explanation's simple - new accounting software, new requirements for the upcoming year for the bean-counters, and spending a few million dollars on software updates so they can minimize the effects of a few hundred dollars here or there. Technical blather about fuel consumption monitoring, part lifetimes and tracking logistics for repairs, updated mapping because of the major quake adjusting GPS data slightly, a technical bamboozling that's well-delivered. She'll even demonstrate if need be, and the explanation for downloading the logs is equally useful. Compared before-and-after data sets to verify the software works and see just how many hundredths of a percent of a budget can be shaved off to improved efficiency.

She's not the daughter of an Air Force officer for nothing, after all.

Once Maher's aircraft is done, she goes on to the next - and the next - and then calls it a day, glancing around the airfield and slipping away as best as she can. Hopefully Rin's found Maher, and they can follow him to whatever he might be up to…if he's not just spending another night playing pool in a bar being the Ace Pilot type.

Rin helped! Really she did! Granted she told people she was checking the firewalls on each of the plans as she passed them by. Esepcailly after some software upgrades you can never be too careful when it comes to firewalls. If anyone asked any further questions, she would start the mindnumbing technobabble that usually makes peoples eyes glass over and shoo her along.

Of course the real work happened once the job was finished. She begins to track their flight patterns and matches them up with what was submtited in their flight plans. But as Maria said, some old fashioned spy work needs to happen and starting with Percy might be their best bet. At least, by her calculations it should be. For now she's tracking the GPS on his phone, though if he's playing pool with the guys, she might be able to catch him off guard. Still, none of that matters until the data pours in.
This is, as it happens, the work of days.

Three of four days after Sally gets the plane messed with successfully (worth noting she could have done that to all three of the pilots on the list given her strategy, should she desire to do so) shows Percy and all the other pilots following mostly predictable patterns. Pool with the guys, for sure. Seeing girlfriends. Work. Whatever. Following Percy is a boring exercise. But good old fashioned spywork told them it was rarely a matter of one day anyway.

On the fourth day, something changes. He takes his car to a parking garage, and emerges with an entirely different car.

She'll get to the rest. Day after day, another small batch of Quinjets is "upgraded" - but only a few; Sally isn't going to do all of them. After all, such modifications are expensive, and the accountants are sure to decide that it's not necessary for quite such a detailed bit of software. Naturally, this means they'll all be rolled back, eventually.

But it gives her time, and a second crack at those planes and just where they've been.

Meanwhile, she finds herself bored to tears, practically. Yet another Ace Pilot she thinks, nothing to dream of but flying, and of course whatever competitive demands their friends come up with. It's made worse by the need to rent a car - a little blue hatchback, modern, "hip" or something like that. Something that a college girl would, like, totally drive and be completely ignored in traffic in.

And then, something finally happens. He'd driven to a parking garage, Sally cheerfully following the well-known sportscar all this time. Another Mustang owner, she'd griped; the things were like candy for American power-hungry drivers. Not that they were a bad car, just…so cliche. And almost silly in the hands of people who didn't know how to properly use them, which of course was about 99.99 of the driving population anyway.

At least she has Rin with her this time on stakeout, and she's about to ask a question before it's forgotten in an instant. "There! That's Maher, wait - that's not a Mustang. No, I swear it was him. That same shoulder glance he does, remember? Never checking his mirrors, always looking back like he's still in a fighter plane." It was a weird little thing she'd caught early on, and it'd made him just that much easier to tail - sort of.

This time? "He's switched. He doesn't want to be followed. Here we go." The hatchback's started up from its spot on the curb, and Sally slips out into a gap in traffic - very glad that the car she's got is as small as it is. "I can't see his license plate, can you?" Nervousness, excitement, it's starting to get her a little on edge - and just a little worried. Where's this going to lead…

Stakeouts are boring AF. So boring that the words arn't even spelled out. However Rin has been studying the area, idly watching wifi signals and text messages as they pass through near by devices. "I still think I should be the one to drive." She says idly while she waits for Percy to pull back out of the parking garage. When Sally points out the new car she titls her head to the side and taps on the screen over her eye. "Zooming in… yeah that's him. Someone rememberd his training."

When Sally pulls out into traffic and that nervouse excitement pours out of her Rin frowns. "Remember, don't get spotted. He may be a cocky pilot, but the fact that he changed cars means he is worried about something. Keep a few extra cars between yourself and him, I'll keep an eye on his location." When she asks about the license plate, Rin moves her head around to get a better angle, using her screen to zoom in if she needs to. "Please tell me you didn't put this car in your name." She asks as if the thought just occured to her.

There are few drivers in this world who can match Sally Stojespal when she really gets going. Of course, this is hardly the freewheeling experience of the track. This is New York City, where at least once she gets to go up to a whole 18 miles per hour before being brought to a screeching halt by some sort of construction combined with too many cars on the road. If nothing else, frustration at driving conditions may well make the agent less vigilant. And make them less obvious. There's not a lot of changing lanes to be done for either party.

Eventually though it gets harder. He ends up leaving town, headed northbound towards one of the rural areas. Yet even then he doesn't take any actions which might indicate he's trying to lose the two women in the car.

WiFi connections pick up a cellular conversation, which Rin can access.

"I'm on route," he tells an Unknown Party.

Unknown Party:


Not exactly titallating, but this isn't a social call.

Hah! She knew she'd seen his face for sure. And that giveaway check was totally right. "Bah, you can do much more than that. How will you scan and track him and whatever otherwise, if you are driving? Besides, I picked the car."

The advice from Rin is good, and she nods. "Right, yes. Alright." She takes a deep breath, feeling like the start of an actual race this time, and focuses herself. For her, born to the driver's seat, handling the new little hatchback is an extension of herself - even for the few days she's had it, she's gotten used to the little underpowered machine's quirks and handling. New York City may not be the easiest place to tail someone in, but the difficulties work against them both.

In her case, it just means an extra-careful dance on the controls while making sure she doesn't completely lose him. Having Rin along helps, especially when Maher manages to slip around a garbage truck and break contact for a few seconds…but only that.

"It's still him, right? The yellow one? He's never come out this way before…does he know anyone in this part of the state?" Sally can't help but look around, thinking of the drive she'd taken with Isa not so long ago. The same route, the same roads, the same scenery…just, this time with an air of so much more menace.

At least she's dressed the part for being a college girl, Columbia university shirt and jeans, with her favorite driving shoes. Once things get rural, it's both harder and easier - she can fall back a bit, just a dot in his rear-view mirror. But for her, still easily spotted…and for Rin, Sally suspects, all too easy to track. For the moment…

"Yes well." Rin says in retort, but she really doesn't have much more to say than that. Still she nods her head as Sally does as Rin suggests and returns to monitoring the situation. "You could have picked something roomier, I feel like my knees are in my chest." Not that Rin's small frame takes up a lot of space. Still she begins to do some searching, seeing if he knows anyone in the area they're heading. She starts with his social media before she digs deeper. "An unlikely sceneario would be visiting his girlfriend's realtives, but he wouldn't need to switch cars to do that.

As the phone call happens, she perks up. At least it's something to keep her mind off of this borning drive. That that tailing someone isn't exciting but she can't let herself get distracted. "He's on the phone witih someone." She announces, before dictating what was said. "He is definatly not up here for anything social. I'm just hoping this isn't going to lead to more sexy rumpus in a nasty hotel room." She's had enough of that for one week, thank you very much.

"Keep an eye on him and see if he turns off, he's getting close to where ever he's going." Thankfully they haven't been spotted, yet.

He turns off the interstate after about 45 minutes of driving. It is another round of boring. This is going to require some decision making. If they turn off here the risk of exposure goes up dramatically. It's a town called Phonecia, with the Catskills rising gorgeously overhead, already taking on hints of fall color. It also doesn't look like it's going to have a lot of traffic to conceal them in. There are a few blue signs which hint at tourist attractions and places to eat, but none of them are even chains. Mama's Boy. Tavern 214. A place that's just called 'Diner.'

And they're going to have to decide how to account for this rather fast.

"And no, I did not rent it in my name. I actually put a roundabout request in through Stark Industries, so there aren't any names at all. Just a temporary company car." She wasn't going to start getting into forged identification; that's all stuff that's Academy-grade things that she's managed to skip. Instead, Sally's stuck doing things a little bit differently. Maybe for good, maybe for bad, but right now it's working.

She shrugs, changing lanes smoothly. "Well. Could not simply pick best car they had, sorry. It at least has decent seats, though I do hope this won't be another week or two…" She misses her Lotus, for lots of reasons. Those heated bucket seats especially…

And after a relatively sedate trip down the interstate, their target decides to take a quick exit. For a moment Sally is about to follow him blindly, before stopping and realizing just what she's doing. There's no other exits for a while, not in this rural part of the state, which means she either pulls off now or loses him. It's an easy call, admittedly, as she slows down a bit to buy a little time before she reaches the offramp herself.

And then slips her foot to the brakes and takes it, after seeing the various signs.

There's a silent appeal to a lesser goddess for wisdom before she blurts out the first thing that comes to mind. "Diner. We are going to Boston, to visit our friend. Sloane Albright." Who's real, and is part of SHIELD, and even lives in Boston - sssort of. There'd be enough information on her file for Rin to at least quickly familiarize herself with. "I decide to stop here because I skipped breakfast after gaining three pounds. So absolutely I am hungry, diet be damned. Can you track his phone signal, at least, while…we're here?"

Maybe they can get carryout, if he takes off. Gotta be in Boston by tonight, or some such.

Rin would not welcome heated seats at this time, cooled maybe. Being in the car this long has made it way to warm for her and she has to shift around to remain comfortable. When the guy turns off she frowns, but expected this. "Well we have to follow, back tracking is going to lose him. I'll try to stay honed in on his GPS so I can at least see where he is going if you want to fall back."

It takes Rin a few moments but she finally sees where his phone went, so unless he threw that out of the car, she has their direction. "Ignore the diner." She says, gesturing to the road just past it. "He's headed down town, so sorry Becky, you're just going to have to stay on your diet." Besides, food at these places are sketchy at best, at least according to the yelp reviews.

The GPS has stopped moving, at least, somewhere downtown near the post office.

Downtown? That wasn't entirely expected, though what might pass for 'downtown' in a little place like this…is not good. "We're going to stand out…" Sally's a little worried now, but between the GPS figure and the in-car map - thank heavens for such things - she'll circle around and come around part of town to reach the post office from another direction.

At least it won't be one that's being watched…hopefully.

"My diet can go to hell," Sally grumps. But she'll concede the point regarding food quality; she's been spoiled for far too long on having good eats available anywhere. "Becky?" One eyebrow's raised, before she starts puttering the hatchback at the typical small-town snail's pace. No way is she risking a ticket here…and hopefully they can catch back up with their target.

Keeping their distance of course. But she's still looking, being touristic as possible - not hard, all things considered - while letting Rin call the shots.

Rin tries to give the appearence of someone who is sight seeing. She even holds her phone up here and there to take 'pictures'. Still, with the GPS stopped, she's a little worried, especailly as this doesn't seem to be normal postal service hours. Using her phone she's trying to get a general sense of the area. Is there a large concentration of high end computers that would be out of place in a town like this? All the while she's trying to hone in on where that GPS signal last was.

"What, I thought we were role playing as college students. Arn't all college girls these days named Becky?" Not that Rin went to college, but it's still an amusing thought. "Pull off close to the post office, I can stealth in an dsee if I can find anything. One of these days I'm going to figure out how to stealth a whole car." She grumbles to herself.

The car gets parked. The phone doesn't move.

It's very easy to find though!

It's sitting on top of a garbage can, casually tossed in.

There's a text message on the screen.

It reads:

'Nice try, kids. A for effort!'

It's complete with a devil happy face emoji.

Something tipped him off at the eleventh hour. But what, precisely?

The answer might come as soon as the text is read, either by one or both of them.

The happy face devil emoji's big purple head grows and grows until it takes up the whole screen. It says: 'ha ha ha ha. ha ha ha ha.' And then the entire phone blows. It's a small, non-lethal explosion, a burn of blasted parts that travels swiftly via impulse from the WiFi Rin can pick up on, a link she just would not have time necessarily to mess with or interrupt. SHIELD tech runs on something like 8G, compared to most people's 4, making everything like this far more difficult.

But it was a burst of code.

A fellow hacker must have detected something. And warned him.

Sight seeing is good! Especially if they're picking up souvenirs or something. Or just a couple city girls seeing how the rest of the poor backwards world lives. Like a safari of culture perhaps! And would you just look at that post office, in all its quaint charming quaintness and charm. How…rural!

Sally pulls in at a respectable spot, then waits as her companion slips out. The small bang that comes a moment later gets Rusalka out of the car in worry, not realizing until too late that she's probably been made and photographed - or whatever else might be happening, since they've been made. Ugh.

At least they'd tracked him this far. There'll be other opportunities…though, probably not with them. "Blyien." Naturally she'll glance around, belatedly seeing if anyone's watching them, before looking Rin over. "You are alright, then? Uninjured?"

As long as her companion's alright, she'll lead Rin back to the car - giving it a careful look over to make sure there's been noone monkeying with it while she was out.

Rin curses, a lot when she realizes they've been made. She got sloppy, that's the problem with using her abilities over proper hacking, it's hard to keep herself from getting too eager. When Sally joins her she frowns and shakes her head. "You should have stayed with the car!" Thankfully she only got a few light burns on her fingers from when the phone started to over heat and drop it. "Ya know, people really need to be more careful with these phones." Still she doesn't decloak until they're back at the car.

"Yes I'm fine, but we blew it this time. I just hope he doesn't know it was us, just… someone was pestering them. We need to get back to town." At least this time, she doesn't have to tail anyone.

They'll have to be careful about being tailed themselves.

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