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[IC] Freedom of Information

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GM

 

Thursday, April 20th, 2017

2:24 PM

 

 

Morning, this came in today. Not as in, was sent, but as in “suddenly popped up in my drafted messages”. Is directed towards you too, so check it out:

 

Hello

You may remember me, I’m the one that helped you with Solemn’s network. I’ve got some information you and your scaly buddy are almost certainly interested in. New stuff about the guy and some stuff heating up again. The bench, where we first met. Today, 7:24 PM. Both of you.

This is not a request.

-Ph0enix

 

Thoughts? Sounds pretty damn ominous, but going’s probably safer.

 

All messages by Bonfire, written in quick succession, and received by Leviathan.

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The monstrous reptile reclined in his throne on the bridge, buried under both water and earth, and frowned deeply as he read Bonfire's email for the third time.  Like his fellow hero, he didn't like the sound of it.

 

And what does she mean, "this is not a request"?  Is that a threat?  Lady, we saved your life; if it wasn't for Bonfire and I, you'd be painted across the curtains in that hotel room, and Solemn would still be free.  ...I guess you were only there in the first place because of us too, but that's beside the point! 

 

However, he knew full well that he and Bonfire couldn't ignore this.  Even if it was a trap, then that still meant that one or more of Solemn's loyalists--Ph0enix or someone impersonating her--was out there looking for revenge.  Best to deal with it sooner rather than later. 

 

Leviathan kept telling himself that his way back up to the sunlit world.  He stashed his submarine down in the water near the Riverside Park peninsula, swam out closer to shore, and transformed below the waves.  He couldn't actually remember the details of his disguise last time, so the shapeshifter instead took the form of a young Asian man with a thin dusting mustache.  After dressing himself quickly in a biological outfit of swimming trunks and a T-shirt, he pulled himself to the surface for much-needed air and waded the rest of the way in.  Just another diver taking advantage of the unusually warm spring.

 

Now to find either Bonfire or the hacker before something bad inevitably happened.

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PC

 

The messages had been the first thing Cass had seen in the morning. He’d gotten up, checked his phone, noticed something was off, and there they’d been. Just, there. Had he gotten hacked again? He’d specifically commissioned a few people he knew to get him a new, upgraded, security system after the Solemn Incident. And yet, here he was again, another hacker getting access.

 

Immediately afterwards, he sent his messages to Leviathan. He probably had a tighter schedule, so knowing it early was a good thing. And only once all that had been done (and Cass had checked a few other things), he got up. He probably had a long day ahead of him, so he decided not to dress up today. If he’d wore actual clothes the chance of them getting lost was too high.

 

And after a few cups of coffee, Cassidy Bauer left his apartment. He still had most of the day, and he had to do something.

 

“Want to meet up before then and go over stuff? We might find something. Otherwise I’ll probably just patrol for a bit. “

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For obvious reasons, Leviathan didn't carry his civilian cell phone around, and even burner phones were tricky when he spent so much time underwater.  But from the submarine, before he took his swim to the shore, he checked his messages and sent Bonfire a response.

 

"Good idea.  Meet you on the other side of the park, so we can check out the area without running into Ph0enix before we're ready.  I'll wear a green shirt and blue shorts."

 

On his way to this rendezvous, Leviathan made sure to keep watch for their mysterious friend, or anything else that seemed suspicious--a very wide net, to be sure, but he remembered the thugs in the van who started this all by throwing bombs into the coffee shop.  Maybe he couldn't spot another sniper, but at least his shapeshifting should keep him safe from those kinds of distant threats too.  This sneaky spy stuff actually felt pretty good; he was still curious and worried, but he and Bonfire beat Solemn once already, and if they worked together, then their odds couldn't be too bad.

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GM

 

Okay. Will be there, wearing let’s say a green hoodie.

 

It was a fair amount of distance between where Levithan had surfaced and the park. Not enough for it to be uncomfortable, but enough for it to take a few minutes. He did his best to make sure nothing slipped past him. He moved, doing his best to not be suspicious, all the while a bit suspicious of everything. Not that anything ever happened. The cars all looked harmless, as did their drivers. There were no sudden movements on rooftops, and nobody who was trailing him either.

 

He arrived in the park later, and made his way towards the agreed-upon meeting spot. There weren’t many people in the park, probably a bit of a disadvantage. There were some groups, most of them teens or young adults, out on their own, some playing hacky-sack. Leviathan waited for some time, when one person broke off from the groups, and approached him. He wore a green hoodie, covered in leaves, and short cotton pants, ending halfway down his shins. He also didn’t wear shoes, and was surrounded by the smell one would expect from these groups.

 

He wore a beanie, hiding all his hair. Only as he came closer, his unnaturally red soul-patch came into view, and he smiled. His voice was rather sluggish, and fairly deep. “Hey, you the guy I’m looking for?”, a wink for good measure.

 

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Rather than being comforted by the apparent lack of trouble, Leviathan only worried that maybe he just wasn't seeing something.  He wasn't exactly prepared the last time bullets and bombs started flying.  He hadn't yet discounted the possibility of Ph0enix laying a trap, or even unwittingly leading Solemn's allies to them.  At least Bonfire was easier to find; Leviathan nodded when he approached.

 

"I think so.  Have you seen the woman we're both looking for?  I thought she might arrive early to check out the situation, like we are.  Then again, maybe she's watching us right now.  Hopefully just not through a rifle scope."

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PC

 

“No dice so far. Been here for a while. They…” he tilted his head back towards the group he’d just split off from “and the others like them are fairly paranoid, so they’re on the lookout for anything suspicious. … Even if they’re probably not the most attentive bunch. “

 

“I’ve not seen anything either. Had the police come through a while back, but from what I can tell they were just doing regular patrols. No suspicious vans, no sudden movement on top of buildings, no strangely reflective windows, you call it. Either there’s nothing yet, or she’s really good at hiding. Let’s hope it’s the former. “

 

Then, Bonfire sat down on a bench a few steps away. He gave the entire park another quick glance, before looking up at Leviathan.

 

“Okay. So, what do we know about this entire thing? Unless I’m missing something we have essentially nothing to go on…”

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He took a seat as well.  "Just that email," Leviathan agreed.  "I haven't done any research since we handed Solemn over to AEGIS--" and I really should've, he thought bitterly, "--so I don't know anything new.  ...He is still in prison, right?  Your government friends would tell you if he escaped or weaseled his way out with legal loopholes somehow?  Other than that, we know that whoever was in the van and throwing bombs is still out there.  Solemn might've been among them, but he's got to have some minions lurking around.  It's possible that one of them is even Ph0enix; what if she's playing us?  Unlikely, sure, but it's possible.  Either way, Solemn definitely has a grudge, and he made it clear that we hadn't seen the last of him."

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PC

 

Bonfire laughed at the mention of “government friends”. It wasn’t a mocking laugh, just one that suggested he didn’t quite agree with the term. He replied once Leviathan had finished.

 

“Oh, I’d hardly call them friends. If anything, they’re there to make sure I don’t screw up again. Well, AEGIS is, for the most part. But I’ve got some contacts, yeah. And I haven’t heard anything regarding Solemn either, which is why the message surprised me. Unless everybody went radio-silent for some reason, he should still be in prison”

 

He looked as if he’d just had a realization, and continued onwards, not totally believing his own words, but just a bit shaken. “Wait. What if he was their way of shutting me down? What if he was undercover, and everything we did that day was just staged? … It would explain the general radio silence about him. They definitely have the tech to build an armor like that, seen it with my own eyes. “

 

“No, that can’t be it, right? That’s way too convoluted. Why would they have stopped afterwards? Why wouldn’t they have tried again … well, apart from that one time … to get rid of me? No, I think I’m thinking too far. “

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Like a real lizard, Leviathan turned his eyes toward Bonfire without moving his face, which had taken on an expression of uncertainty. 

 

That's your relationship with AEGIS?  You think they may want you dead?  Now I might be on that list too, just by association.  I let you into my base, man!  I told you things!  I knew about the nuclear thing, but I thought it was just a misunderstanding!

 

He swallowed the lump in his throat and tried not to panic.  Making an enemy of Solemn was sort of scary, but also pretty cool, and certainly in line with the kind of hero Leviathan wanted to be.  Going up against AEGIS sounded a lot less fun and had a good chance of actually getting him killed, or worse, exposed.

 

"Y...yeah, that's...probably just crazy.  They wouldn't.  I...maybe we should just wait and see what Ph0enix has to say."

 

If I see anybody who looks like an undercover agent, I am out.  ...So...how do I spot that kind of thing?

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PC

 

Bonfire switched to a more upbeat tone immediately afterwards, giving the another park another scan to make sure nothing new had appeared on the scene.

 

“I think I’ve just spent too much time reading about stuff that happened during the Cold War. Let’s focus on the matter at hand again…”

 

He seemingly tried to think of something to say, but after about ten seconds of silence gave up. With a look of defeat, he admitted:

 

“Yeah, no, I got nothing. We shouldn’t have met this early I think, now we’re gonna be sitting here for a few hours. Soooo, coffee break? Or do you want to stay here to make sure nothing happens until the time of the meeting? I doubt she’s just gonna waltz in unprotected.”

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Still nervous, Leviathan scratched his ear.  He personally felt like a different sort of drink right now, and in any case, his heart already beat quickly enough; he didn't need a stimulant. 

 

"I don't want to go too far," he said slowly.  "But just sitting here might look suspicious.  Do you know a place nearby?  You could hang out in the cafe, maybe watching entrance routes, and I can keep making passes through the park.  I can meet back with you maybe every half-hour or so and then change my face for another patrol.  Does that sound like it could work?  I've never really done this before."

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PC

 

“Oh, there’s a place right over there. Gives you a good view of .. most of the park, save for a few angles. I didn’t bring any equipment, but it’s probably better to just sit down in civvie disguise anyways. Sounds like a plan, all things considered. Even if, honestly, I’ve not really done this before. Learning experience!”

 

“If you feel like it, we can switch shifts too. I can disguise myself ... reasonably well. More so in terms of clothes, but that’s why I wear a hat. Depending on the seat I can get, I should be able to cover … most of the left side, leaving only pathways and part of the right side unwatched. If you can focus on those areas, and also check the rooftops I don’t see, I think we’ll be able to cover all of it. Any objections to that?“

 

All the while, he used his arms to better show what he was talking about, pointing out a few positions.

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Just as inexperienced as his partner, Leviathan didn't think about the possible risks in planning their tactics out in the open like this.  If Ph0enix--or anyone, really--was suspicious enough to watch them now, then all that arm-waving could let a smart enemy make preparations of their own. 

 

Instead, the shapeshifter nodded readily enough.  Anything to calm his nerves and focus on the matter at hand.  I'll feel better once we just know what this is all about, Leviathan thought. 

 

"That sounds fine.  So I'll start off and meet you at that cafe after I make my first round?"

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GM

 

“Sounds good. Let’s see what they’ve got in store for us. “

 

The park was somewhat busy today. Not as much as on a weekend, but more than on most weekdays. Most of the people in it were the same kind Bonfire had hidden amongst before he’d met up with Leviathan. The police were aware of it, sending through a patrol almost exactly every 45 minutes. Which usually led to some scrambling.

 

Time passed rather slowly, as both the heroes made sure there was nothing suspicious happening, anywhere. A few false alarms happened, all of which fortunately cleared up almost immediately. But nothing that seemed like it was what the two were looking for, even as the time Ph0enix had … not really arranged, drew closer.

 

The two heroes met back up shortly before the meeting. There hadn’t been anything that was suspicious, at all. No strange movements, no figures on rooftops, no people in too much clothing skulking. Absolutely nothing.

 

“I really, really don’t like this….”

 

 And just then, somebody approached the bench in front of the Sentry Statue, the arranged spot. A hooded figure, who’d arrived just moments before, and taken a beeline directly towards it.

 

“Looks like we found her… so, do we just go for it and expect the worst?”

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It's so strange how the absence of danger could feel so dangerous.

 

Leviathan--now an older man with high, prominent cheekbones and a long ponytail--wrung his hands.  He, too, felt queasy about the situation.  Could he send Bonfire ahead alone while he prepared to shift?  Tripling in size would help his nerves quite a lot.  But no, he was already committed, and Ph0enix might just leave if they didn't come together like she asked.  Right below Leviathan's fears was his high curiosity; after the lengthy wait, he really wanted to know what this was all about.

 

"I guess..."  He attempted a weak smile.  "Maybe she's got good news."

 

The shapeshifter held onto that thin possibility and started walking. 

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GM

 

She simply sat down, and waited. She looked confident, like she knew exactly what she was doing, like she had no fear of any sorts. And then, the two heroes approached. She looked up at Bonfire, and then gave a quick nod to the person accompanying him, most likely Leviathan.

 

“Gentlemen. It’s good to see both of you made it. Or, at least, I hope so.” She added with a glance at Leviathan. “Now, then, let’s do this quickly, I have other business to attend to. I’ve got some things you’ll be interested in. Solemn, and his connections. As I mentioned, some are heating up again. Others I’ve only recently learned about. Some may not seem like much, but run deep. “

 

“It’s a lot of things you will be interested in, is what I’m saying. And I can give it all to you. Others … not so much. But, there is a price on all information, as the two of you are probably well aware of…”

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In a way, Leviathan relaxed slightly.  This seemed like good news, or at least not bad.  He definitely wanted to know more about their enemy, and one of Solemn's old crewmates seemed like a perfect source.  Furthermore, if Ph0enix was willing to arrange this meeting, then it might mean that she was confident he wouldn't be around again anytime soon.  After Solemn's promises of revenge, this subtle sign of hope felt pretty good. 

 

On the other hand, Leviathan reminded himself not to trust Ph0enix too easily, and her apparent mercenary nature raised another question: if she felt comfortable selling information about her former boss, then could she do the same to him and Bonfire?  What was the price for their secrets?

 

His expression and tone were thus a little uncertain when he asked, "What do you want for it?"

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GM

 

Ph0enix joined her hands together on her lap, and looked at Leviathan, clearly intrigued. She waited for a second, then spoke, after having made sure Bonfire didn’t say anything. Which, for now, he didn’t, simply standing there and judging the situation, most likely.

 

“Immediately moving towards negotiation, I like it. Perhaps it shows some experience in … business?” she asked, raising her eyebrow ever so slightly and closely following Leviathan’s reaction, before moving on.

 

“It is nothing major. A group of hackers have been invading my business. Yes, ironic, I am aware. They have recently appeared on the scene, and I have barely managed to gather anything on them so far. There is not much that can be said about them, they seem adept, but I have managed to keep up so far. Business is in danger, however. A small favour is all I’m asking for. Deal with them, and I will share with you everything that may be of interest to you related to Solemn. “

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Leviathan's lips thinned into a flat frown as Ph0enix commented on his possible background.  She wasn't onto anything significant, but the mere attempt put him even more on edge--as did her proposal.  He and Bonfire weren't perhaps the most law-abiding heroes in Freedom City, but helping one criminal eliminate competition, and thus grow more powerful, seemed like serious business.  It occurred to the shapeshifter that if their actions were ever uncovered by the police, then AEGIS would soon take notice, and that could be very bad for Bonfire in particular. 

 

Ok, so...what if we just go along for now?  If we refuse, then we might never find Ph0enix again.  But if we at least say we'll consider it, then maybe we can do the deal, or maybe not.  Maybe we can investigate these other hackers and take what we know about them and Ph0enix to AEGIS, turn them all in, and use that as a favor toward whatever debt Bonfire has built up, plus for information on Solemn.  They're a spy agency; they've got to know a little about him.  Maybe even more than Ph0enix does.  And she can't be a worse enemy than Solemn himself.

 

After thinking in tense silence for a few moments, Leviathan frowned deeper and asked, "What do you mean, deal with them?  Like Solemn tried to deal with you?  We don't do that.  Maybe we could shut down their operation and give them to the police, but we're not killers." 

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GM

 

Ph0enix looked a bit surprised at what Leviathan mentioned, tilting her head slightly while looking at him while he was speaking. Bonfire, on the other hand, just stood there, watching both of them. He didn’t seem to have anything to add for now.

 

“Oh, no. Don’t kill them, no. That would not help at all. The last thing I want is more attention. How should you deal with them? I don’t know, that is up to you to decide. I don’t need to know. Do whatever you want, and make up some story about an anonymous tip or something. “

 

Then, Bonfire responded. He looked a bit uncertain, even if his voice didn’t sound that way. Perhaps it was a side-effect of usually not having to care about his expression? “Of course, it’s possible they’ve got some more support, somebody backing them. And if we declare war on them, that means we’ll have to deal with all of them, small fish or not. A bunch of trained hackers don’t just show up out of nowhere. Perhaps that’s what’s bugging you? The fact you don’t know anything about them?”

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Leviathan considered Bonfire's analysis and began to worry even more.  What if these were more of Solemn's agents?  It would make sense.  He claimed to have other connections and wasn't worried about going to prison, and he had ample reason to target Ph0enix. 

 

And what if he knew she would turn to Bonfire and me?  This might be a trap for all of us.

 

He continued to frown and asked, "What do you know about them?  You've got to have some leads, or we won't know where to start.  What can you tell us?"

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GM

 

“That is an interesting way to look at it, yes. I suppose you are not wrong, there might be somebody supporting them. But there really only is one way to find out, after all. I don’t know much, and usually this information wouldn’t be nearly this cheap, but just this once, you will get it anways.”

 

“It’s a group of hackers, one that, as I believe, has recently formed, and is not directly related to any big hacks that I know of. And I know of them all. I don’t know who they are, only their name. They refer to themselves as mAZ. Does it mean anything? Damned if I know. “

 

“They operate out of Freedom, that much I’m certain of, and have been able to confirm. I’ve not been able to pin down a proper location, but I have a suspicion. Club Mayhem. If anything goes down in FC’s hacking scene, somebody there is involved. Both clients and management. All my contacts have dried up, however. Disappeared, or simply answering with “nothing new.” “

 

“That is the best lead I have. “

 

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Although unfamiliar with this club, Leviathan did like the sound of it.  He'd never tried to infiltrate a shady nightclub before, or just bust one up, depending on what direction this ended up taking.  It seemed like a cool, Cowly kind of thing either way; he could almost forget how worried he'd been about this whole affair.  In any case, first he wanted to snoop around online and see if he could find the 'mAZ' like he originally found Ph0enix.  That way they could learn more about their enemies before going in, and possibly take advantage of other opportunities too.  He had the beginnings of two plans in mind, although he didn't feel comfortable discussing either of them in front of Ph0enix just yet.  He still wasn't sure how much he trusted her; it was still vaguely possible that she was sending them into a trap.

 

"I guess that's enough for us to start with.  So we find these people, stop them, and hand them over to the police.  Then how do we find you so you can come through with your side of this deal?"

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GM

 

Ph0enix stood up, not quite matching either of the two heroes in height. Leviathan seemed to be the main focus of her attention, even if she had positioned herself in such a way she always saw both the people now working for her.

 

“I believe that will not be an issue. I will contact you once it’s appropriate.” She took a phone from her pocket, and with a single click, a jazzy song played. Not from her phone, but originating from Bonfire, who looked visibly confused by it all. One more click and the music stopped. She smiled at both the heroes. “So much for now. I’ll be watching.” And, without addressing anything else, walked off.

 

As she walked away, Bonfire immediately reached towards his back, and pulled out a phone. Not the one Leviathan had seen before, an older model. “Call by unknown. Which is good and all, but, well, this is my private phone. The one that isn’t associated with Bonfire at all.” He put it away again, and looked a bit more upbeat. “So, infiltrating a nightclub? Can’t say I’ve done that before. Let’s head somewhere quiet and figure out the next step, unless you’ve got a different plan?”

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