Virus Hunt Syria: The Subtle Approach

Summary:
August 26 2014: Jericho, Kate, May and Coulson investigate the Port Authority in Lakita in a manner that does not involve explosions. Mostly.

Lakita Port Authority

One of the northern ports in Syria, Lakita has been the object of some rather heavy fighting recently.


Characters

NPCs

  • None

Mood Music:
[* None]


Jericho had greeted the Bus when it finally landed, being on hand to confer with May and the others before outlining the basic situation and plan he'd worked out while in country waiting for them. Which may have been of note to a couple people, that he'd apparently beaten the Bus there. May, at least, hadn't seem surprised, but when does she ever? Certainly the pseudo paramilitary outfit he was wearing (common enough for the region) looked like it had gone a few rounds with the desert.

He had been keen to start investigating right away but of course it couldn't be quite as simple as landing the Bus and heading out. That didn't appear to deter him though, and he informed the team that anyone who wanted to come could catch a ride with him (in the Ruzzan Gaz SUV he had parked not far off) or follow him when ready. So saying he, turned and began the walk back to his car.

*

The grown-ups have things to do. Like plan. And debate plans. And plan some more. Kate? Kate is interested in action, and was ready to go when they landed, so when Jericho says he's ready for moving forward, she slings a quiver over her shoulder and jogs after him. In deference to the gravity of the situation, she's gone with plain black gear rather than her usual purple fashion statement, though the shades remain.

*

Jericho looks over his shoulder as she jogs to catch up. There's that flash of amber that is his eyes again. Really it makes him look kind of otherworldy. Almost canine. "Bishop, right? Don't think I caught your first name. Mine's Jericho." He opens unlocks the car door for her and climbs into the driver's seat, starting up. "Do you happen to speak either Russian or Arabic?"

*

They're already moving soon as she's in. He appears to have the route memorized. In truth, he's cheating, using the mapping function on his HUD to navigate around known IED corridors on drive over to the site they're to investigate.

*

"Kate," the archer introduces herself with a flash of a smile, swinging into the passenger seat. Shotgun! "And sorry, but no," she shakes her head to the question of languages. "I mean, I've picked up the polite phrases in a few languages, but I'm not really a linguist. I should probably work on learning more," she muses, trailing off for a moment as she thinks it over. She shakes her head when she refocuses, looking back to Jericho. "I kind of got the sense I probably wasn't invited to interrogations, anyhow."

*

The hacker chuckles. "Nice to properly meet you, Kate. I was only asking because mostly that's what folks speak around here. I guess let me do the talking if it comes down to it." He takes a deep breath and swings them out onto a main road, gunning it. This thing may have been modified, it's really picking up speed.

"So I'm willing to bet you get this a lot, but you look kind of young. Now, I trust May enough to figure that means you're just super talented but if it's not too much to ask, what are your specialties?" Cause aside from the bow? Jericho can't guess at all. "Given that you have a bow and are known to associate with someone I know can shoot one, I'm gonna say archery is one of them?"

*

"First of all, I'm twenty-one," Kate notes with a smirk, settling back in her seat. Which means she's totally an adult. In her own eyes, and probably no one else's. "But yeah, archery's one of them. Also fencing, sword-fighting, staff-fighting, boxing, and jujitsu. And, you know. I'm good with the plans," she adds, tapping a finger at her temple. "And I play the cello, for those post-battle fugue moments, or something like that. What about you?" she asks, resting her elbow against the window and propping her head against her hand.

*

Oh why the hell not? She seems nice enough. "I'm thirty one." Jeri starts, shaking his head with a smile as he carefully navigates around a pile of trash. They're getting pretty close now to the destination. Thirty one is old enough that he's willing to bet it makes him fairly ancient to Kate. "Shooting, mixed martial and weapons arts, hacking, running from people who want me dead and playing the piano. Oh, and street magic." It's an abbreviated list of his skills but those are the relevant ones. Well, most of them.

"So the place we're going to is supposed to be a port authority. We know the virus came into Syria via Lakita, but not which ship it came in on. We learn that and it'll save us a lot of time figuring out where the next place to hit is."

*

"Street magic, huh? Cool." Kate listens to the explanation more attentively than one might assume from the rest of her demeanor, eyes sharp as she takes in the details. "You think there was another shipment of the virus on whatever ship it came in on?" she asks. "Or are you thinking some sort of Typhoid Mary carrying it around?"

*

"I'm thinking they have to have kept it somewhere and none of the places I've run down so far have had the necessary cold storage facilities. I'm also thinking if we trace the ports of call back, we have a chance at figuring out where the actual production facility is and that's what we need to get to shut this mess down for good." Jericho's smile is… approving is such a patronizing word, but it is. Her questions amply demonstrate why she was given a spot on the Bus. "Not all of the paperwork will be in Arabic. In fact a good chunk of it will be in French and Russian. Odds are good it's falsified too, so we're looking for innocuous items. Too innocent you know? No one ships baby formula to Syria. Weapons and munitions are typically the order of the day."

Lakita has been the sight of some nasty fighting recently, but is, at least temporarily, under rebel control. Not that it matters to Jericho who simply bypasses the checkpoints by taking the SUV off road. "Any questions?" The port building comes into view and Jericho stops the car about a block away and parks.

*

"Sure. Why do you think the people shipping it won't have it listed with weapons and munitions?" Kate asks, taking a grip on the strap by the window as the car goes off-road. "They came up with a designer virus. They're probably not really stupid. I mean, if I was going to start shipping viruses around the world? I'd probably do it-" She pauses, wincing and scrubbing a hand over her face. "So, really awful thought. But do any aid groups come through this area? Because I'd be willing to wager you need the same sorts of things to transport a virus as you do for vaccines. And if you're posing as aid workers, people'll line up to get the shot."

*

Jericho groans softly. He hadn't thought of that, to be honest. One of the downsides of living a paranoid life is that you tend to think in those terms. "Several. It's hard to get in because of ISIS and the way the Government has handled things, but that doesn't stop people from coming."

Jericho gets out of the car and looks about. Business as usual for the moment but that could change rather abruptly.

" Great. Just great. Now he has to deal with the possibility that Hydra has been spreading other things via the international aid system. Well… it's a good thought anyway. He'll look into it. For now though… he opens the trunk and produces an eighty five pound minigun with a sling. Blue, circuit like traces begin to glow on his skin and he picks it up and slings it as if it a regular rifle.

Alright. Let's go have a look shall we?"

*

"My mom used to be involved in all kinds of aid groups," Kate says as she steps out of the car, checking her quiver to make sure everything is in good shape and tucking a pair of short staves into loops at her thigh. "I'll make some calls when we get back to the Bus. If there's one thing rich people like to talk about, it's what charities they're involved in, and everything those charities do. You won't even have to dig," she says with a roll of her eyes. The traces get a look, and a curious arch of her brow, but she doesn't ask. More fun to speculate anyhow.

*

"Did you bring the phone with you?" Jeri asks as they approach the port building. It's occupied clearly, as well as guarded. "I can hook it up to a secure network here." Granted that network is him but it may be handy. The curious look just gets a tight smile. "Fancy a bit of skullduggery? I'm going to go talk to the port manager here. Promises to be involved. Wanna go see if there's anything on that little side doc that might be interesting to us? That's where they keep 'impounds.' Often that's code for 'stuff from people who didn't pay up.' Possible Hydra has a few deposits in there after the mess Partisan and he have made of their local infrastructure.

*

"Nope, popped the battery when we went up in the air and left it on the plane," Kate shakes her head to Jericho's question. Overkill, probably, but also more proof that she's not just some kid playing along here. Kate's been in this game for a while, at least. Enough to have a few clues. At his question, she eyes the dock, chin tipping up. "Yeah, sure," she says after a moment, popping a comm link into her ear. "Just give me a call if you need back up in there or anything."

*

"Same. Give me two minutes. I know how to make a point with these people. Then go see what we've got, if you would be so kind." Jericho flashes Kate a grin. "And thank you. I realize it's probably not easy to 'take orders' from someone you've only met twice. If it makes you feel any better, feel free to argue with me if you think I have a bad idea." Not that he expects to, he's been doing this for a while, but the SHIELD operating dynamic is a bit different from he and Parti's.

*

"I'm not a follower, but I don't really need to get myself stranded in Syria," Kate winks at Jericho's apology. "You sound like you know what you're doing." And apparently that's good enough for her, because once that's taken care of, she starts picking her way toward the dock, picking out a place with enough distance to let her get a good look without necessarily being seen by anyone who might be patrolling.

*

The hacker flashes Kate a tight grin and saunters over to main building. Apparently that minigun is at least half for appearance's because the guards rather quickly give way before him and then fall in behind him as if to keep an eye on him as he goes and talks to whomever is inside. Security at the Lakita port is tight, but not as tight as it could be. It shouldn't be any trouble for someone like Kate to pick her way over to the very cluttered looking impound dock, which appears to be stacked with containers of every size and shape.

*

Oh, so many reasons to enjoy the hero life. Not the least of which is the chance to do things like sneak into port impounds. Kate quietly counts off the seconds of Jericho's two minutes before closing the distance to the dock, moving lightly from cover to cover until she's stepping quietly across the dock itself. Once inside, she takes a moment to scan the area. Refrigeration. They would have needed something that would keep the virus cool. So first check is for anything that looks like it could be insulated, or else supplying a chill.

*

Easy way to look for insulated or chiller units, ask Overwatch to turn a satellite's thermal imaging their way. May is ghosting alongside Bishop, and when the teen pauses, she touches the comm unit in her ear. "Overwatch. Any likely thermal signatures?" She looks at Kate to make sure the younger Hawkeye isn't going to run off before they're ready.

*

The argument in the port room isn't loud, though Russian is certainly a language that lends itself to loud arguments. Jericho is the master of this kind of subterfuge. He did it professionally for years, after all. By denying and demurring he's all but convinced the people in the building that he's with an unnamed Russian State Security agency. And given the minigun he's packing on his back with glowing blue circuit traces on his skin, he clearly means business.

Back in the impound yard, Kate's search is bearing fruit. Well, could. Quite literally. There are several containers that are insulated or actively refrigerated. Of those half she can dismiss because of their poor state of repair and another half of the ones left because they wouldn't get cold enough. That leaves a cluster of five containers on the far end of the dock. A quick scan says they're from two different ships: The Revanche and the Santa Rosa. And it seems that Overwatch is operational at the Bus now, so that should be handy.

*

"Eenie, meenie, miney, mo," Kate murmurs to herself, counting off the remaining possible crates as she waits for May's question to have an answer. As she waits, she shifts her grip on her bow, keeping an arrow loosely nocked in case of emergency. Unlike Hawkeye the elder, her arrows are…well, they're mostly entirely normal. No sense in messing with a classic, after all.

*

Coulson and May had a discussion. It went like this.

May: Do you want to stay on the Bus as Overwatch for this op?
Coulson: <Looks at May as if she's speaking some pig latin dialect of her home tongue>
May: Okay, then.

So with Phil on the op alongside May and Bishop, the data from Overwatch comes over the comms: The Revanch is Albanian, transporting Medical Aid for civilians in the war zone in the Red Crescent. The Santa Rosa is listed under Argentinian registry, with a bill of lading that is listed as perishable food stuffs.

*

Melinda May nods to herself at Overwatch's information, then glances from Coulson to Bishop. "The Revanch first." She indicates the ones that are, in her mind anyway, more likely to be what they're looking for, then starts in that direction.

*

"Bingo," Kate murmurs at the mention of medical aid. The satisfaction of a solid deduction, though, is tarnished by the realization that these people may well have subverted legitimate aid operations for their own evil projects. "Can't wait to find these jerks," she mutters as she follows behind May, scanning the area as she goes for any security measures.

*

On the ear bud Coulson is treated to an extended explanation on the merits of Chinese Water Torture. It's almost conversational if it weren't for the hinting tones. Jericho is trying to get access to the port's records in addition to making them all baby sit him rather than anyone else.

The containers are whirring along, hooked up to a power line to keep their contents cold in the Syrian summer. Inside those Conexes are barrels of something. Not just barrels though. Ones with high tech, biometric access denial devices. They appear to be double insulated themselves. There's a string of numbers on each one, ten digits and very odd in that it's identical on each barrel."

*

Agent Coulson listens, content to let Jericho go on about Chinese Water Torture. He replies, "the Chinese know how to do it. But trust me, waterboarding is even worse. Chinese water is a stilleto. Waterboarding is a Louisville Slugger to the face." a moment later, he puts the finger to the comms in his ear, "Wait," he says, looking over to May with a look that says something isn't right. "It's a got a US serial number…coming down as a NSN number…but any attempts to get more info is being returned with insufficient clearance. That doesn't scan. At all." he says, voice growing even. That getting down to business tone.

*

Melinda May looks at Coulson and nods. Anything that denies clearance to an agent of Phil's level is instantly VERY suspicious. "Then we track this container back, and tag it for retrieval." There is no way in hell she's taking one of these barrels back to the Bus. Not with Logan potentially there.

*

"Who just leaves this sort of thing sitting in the lost and found?" Kate snorts softly as she catches sight of the security measures on the barrels, taking a mental head-count of them. "And that is…a lot. I mean." She glances back to Coulson and May. "They said virus, right? I was sort of picturing more of a suitcase worth of doses or something. This is…more than that." Obviously.

*

Papers can be heard shuffling over an open link. "They let me in to look at the shipping logs and manifests. Whew. Kate, this virus breaks down easily under temperature extremes, so I'll bet a lot of those barrels container a single dose enough for one of their dispersal devices. That said.. even one container full of those barrels is a lot more than I was expecting them to have. The fact that they had this much suggests that maybe they had secondary targets… or didn't expect their initial test to go so well. I wonder where else they might have hit…"

*

Melinda May pulls a small device from her belt, activates it, then sticks to a bottom corner of the container where it won't be immediately obvious. "If it breaks down that easily, should we destroy this batch?" She'd love nothing more than to 'borrow' one of Kate's trick arrowheads and jerry rig one of these containers to explode when someone tries to open it. "What's our window?" She's checking to see how much time they have left to snoop around.

*

Agent Coulson looks over to May, "I'm going to get a second opinion." he says, and triggers the secondary frequency which is toggle only and radios in with SHIELD ops base in Israel, checking to see if indeed there have been any unusual attacks in the area that might tip them to additional targets. That done, he looks over to May, "I'm better it's narrow and closing quick. Trent's probably triggered some snoops just by his query. It might be time to let them know that we know. How fast do you think we can blow it, if it can be eaten by high temps?"

*

"Well, if my middle school boyfriend wasn't lying about his Hebrew lessons on Wednesday nights, I'd say some of this is going through Israel," Kate murmurs over the comm, nodding toward some of the markings. As the discussion turns to destroying the virus, she quirks a brow, looking between the others. "Or we could, you know, unplug the fridge."

*

Melinda May gives Kate a considering look. "How many of Barton's incindaries do you have with you?" She and Coulson both know how to rig those to blow easily enough. Bishop's suggestion to just unplug the fridge draws a look from her. "That's why these have double containment. I'd rather remove them and make a point." Like, maybe wait until someone's about to try and deploy some of this crap and THEN set it off.

*

"I wouldn't give it more than three minutes tops. We're lucky that no Hydra Operatives seem to be present, or if they are they're in watch and see mode. The virus should break down pretty quickly in this heat. The trouble is contamination. I don't know how safe it'll be to, uh, not burn your clothes if you're around when it goes off. Do it remotely, maybe." Jericho scans several documents and saves them to his buffer. "Or I could come back tonight and set fire to the place."

He pauses and blows out a sigh. "There are significant mutant populations in Tel Aviv and Gaza. Either would be good targets for this and unlike the US, knee jerk reaction would be to blame the Israeli military or Palestinian militants as appropriate."

*

Agent Coulson looks over at May, "I dunno, I like the idea of monitoring it and if they try to move it or use it before tonight, blow it. Otherwise, send Trent in under cover of darkness and make it go 'splody."

*

"Two," Kate answers May with a wrinkle of her nose. "I sort of try not to use them unless I'm trapped in rubble or something." Normal thing to prepare for. "Exploding things is definitely going to let them know we're on to them, though," she shrugs at the suggestion. "That's you guys' decision, though. If we need to get clear, I can fire one from a distance, that's not a problem."

*

Melinda May nods to Coulson and looks at Kate again consideringly. "Acid tips? ICERs?" She's considering non-explodey possibilities now, though setting off the others would require at least a small charge.

*

"Here's a thought…" Jericho is walking out of the building now and back toward his car. "Blow the nearest transformer. Knock out the power and let it bake in the container."

*

Phil grins at the idea on his comm and looks to May, "I knew I liked him. This stuff would be useless by the time they traced the cause. Seems like the soundest course of action."

*

Kate lifts the arrow currently nocked in demonstration. "Pointy. A couple not-pointy, for hitting things without poking holes in them. Two incendiary." She lifts a finger at Trent's suggestion. "Exactly. Unplug the fridge. And if it doesn't kill everything? We know where it's sitting. They can either let it die in the heat, or they can come and get it and we can follow them back to wherever they want to take it."

*

Melinda May nods slowly. "I'll rig the cooling system to fail, start buttoning everything up. And locate the nearest transformer. We're out in five." She moves to get to the chiller unit in this container and starts picking at it with a Leatherman. She's going to make all the chiller's coolant leak out so it keeps running but isn't blowing cold air anymore.

*

"Meet me back at the car when you're done then. I'll have the AC running…" The grin in Jericho's voice is fairly audible. Nice to work with May and her co-workers. He hopes Kate goes far in SHIELD.

*

Agent Coulson follows May's suit to assist in rigging the cooling system, buttoning things up, and making sure than when the heat hits, it does the maximum amount of damage. He pauses, "We could have Kate leave a couple of the incindiaries here, wired to key points, that way if they start to move, we can blow thins and ensure it's vaporized."

*

Kate backs away from the dock, though not before she can catch the tail end of the conversation between May and Coulson. "You guys really aren't happy until you do something complicated that ends in an explosion, are you?" And then there's a quiet tinkle of something rolling across the floor toward the pair of agents. Incendiary tip. "Go to town," she murmurs into the commlink, making her way toward the nearest transformer.

Back in the car, Jericho is chuckling as he stows the minigun and powers down his traces. "One block up, on your left Kate. I'm going to give them something across town to deal with while you take care of it." Something like…… a six block wide power and communications crash focused on the business district? Eat code, bureaucrats!

Melinda May scoops up the arrowhead and moves to rig it to the chiller's casing while Coulson finishes sabotaging the coolant. And, in response to Kate's comment about explosions, she simply has to quip, "You didn't think Barton had a monopoly on that, did you?" She nods to Coulson when she's done, ready to get out and back to their vehicle.

*

"I should've known better," Kate replies to May's comment, amused, as she jogs out toward the transformer. "Let me know when you're ready to go, I've got a clear shot." And one more incendiary arrow, too. Hopefully they won't run into a cave-in on the way back to the Bus. Once she's got an all-clear, she'll take the shot, blowing the transformer. Burn, virus, burn!

*

Once everyone is back in a vehicle and safely on their way to the bus Jericho relaxes a bit. "Nice work out there." He nods to Kate with a grin as he opens up his comm line to May. Curiously, he doesn't seem to nead any actual equipment for that. "That's one down. I'll see you guys back to the Bus and then get with Parti-girl to see if she's turned up anything else. I'll be in touch."

*

Melinda May says, "Acknowledged," May says to Trent bluntly enough, though really she's got it easy now. Coulson's driving them back to the Bus. And no, Lola stayed behind this time. Maybe next time."


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