It’s early evening. The group is debating the merits of a plan to “beat up some gang members and get some information out of them”. Zhou thinks this is cataclysmically stupid, but finds himself drawn into the tactical and logistical dimensions of the project, which he suggests would involve somehow grabbing a higher-up in the gang hierarchy while he was away from the rest of his crew…
Molly: “Wait, who are we kidnapping?”
Zhou then raises the possibility of using some drones to watch the movements in and out of the shooting gallery. Vulcan has contacts with Boeing, and they arrange for some equipment to be delivered in a couple of days. The nervous people handing out drones are very keen that their hardware should, in their words, “stay off the evening news”. Zhou mutters something about night surveillance and infrareds, and Casey notes, great, thermal cameras might be able to spot the fire giant. Molly gets hold of some thermal imaging cameras and the party packs into the van to search the gang’s turf, looking for a big humanoid blob of heat, ignoring all the ways this is a silly idea.
There’s a lot of activity in the basements in this area; a lot of abandoned buildings have cold upper and hot lower floors, looks like a lot of squatters living belowground. Within ten or fifteen blocks of the shooting gallery, Raahi gets the strong sense that they’re being noticed and that people are talking about their passage in hushed tones. Hearing this, Zhou suggests they abort the mission. Molly agrees to cut this short, but Dayna wants their last stop to be the corner where that kid got shot.
The van does a slow drive by the corner. There’s an abandoned building that was a KFC once, then something else, and is now on its way to being a ruin; there are kids standing around. Raahi uses Instant Investigator to work out how the shooting must have gone; it was done at a surprisingly long distance with a large-caliber handgun. There are some places where the pavement has been torn up, like construction equipment, except that he knows there’s nothing that makes those kinds of jagged tears in asphalt. One of those looks to be right near where the victim was standing. Dayna notes that two of the kids standing around are two of the kid’s friends that she spoke to after his funeral. She gets out and approaches them while the rest of the party warily watches the street with thermal and human eyes.
Dayna fills in the kid’s friends about what the party has learned and asks them for some more information. Needless to say, they know about the “bloo” stuff; she asks if they know where it’s being made. One of the boys looks like he wants to say something; the other gives him a nasty look. She tells them to leave a message for her at the Rainier Beach Community Center, and tells them to stay safe.
They are definitely being followed; there’s a car a few blocks back that stopped when they did. The tail has almost certainly got their plate number; they get the tail’s plate number (it’s an H3, about as conspicuous as they are.) They zoom out of the neighborhood and Molly rather deftly shakes their follower. It’s late and the group decides to call it a night.
The next day, Zhou gets in touch with his contact in the Seattle police force and has the plates on the H3 run. The car is registered to a Razovan Ludovich — from his photo, a shaven-headed guy who looks like he spends a lot of time in gyms. It’s registered to an address in a McMansiony part of Renton.
After a couple days, the drones show up, three of them, about ten pounds heavy each, the size of a card table in wingspan/fuselage length. Some Boeing guys give Molly a quick tutorial through the software you can put on your laptop to run the things; they mention something about an iphone version being in development. It’s pretty simple, very consumer-facing; you basically put waypoints on a Google Maps type deal and the drone does the rest. Molly really wants to know a lot about the drone’s flight routines and the Boeing guys really want her to use the autopilot — but they let slip that there’s an override. They can’t resist boasting about how great the things fly, though. They are very expensive, these scary little machines.
Meanwhile, Raahi has to resolve the question of Lakshmi’s education. He approaches someone in the Admissions department and tries to convince them they really need this person in their school, and manages to get hold of her records. Lakshmi has middling-high SATs and an uninspiring application essay, and it’s clear that the admissions peeps aren’t going to bend easily here. Raahi decides to use his axe here, to clear a metaphorical obstacle from his path… to cut through the red tape? Whatever. He swings the axe alone in his room and it just feels sort of… empty, ineffectual. This isn’t the right situation for the axe to do its work.
Dayna checks her message drop and finds a torn piece of notebook paper: “You mentioned the bloo. They used to deal it where he got dropped.” No signature.
It’s dark now and the party decides to launch two drones, one to cover the shooting gallery and one to cover any suspicious vehicles. They launch from a dark alley about a mile from gang territory. The drones whir vertically up into the darkness. Everyone’s there because noone can resist the coolness of it all. Molly is monitoring the controls, itching to jump in and override if necessary. Zhao, Dayna and Casey are watching the screens and keeping an eye on their immediate environment, and Raahi acts as driver.
It looks like a normal night at the drug den, customers wandering in. Casey notices that near the outside of the building, a couple of guys are getting into a big SUV, preparing to leave, and they look a lot less high than everyone else. They look like Eastern Europeans. The spare drone peels off to follow the SUV. Dayna, for her part, doesn’t see anything much on the screen, but gets an odd feeling, like someone she knows is in danger. Molly decides to pull out the primary drone, and the feeling begins to wane. The camera points backwards as the drone flies off, and there’s a small group of people leaving the shooting gallery; they have the jerky, swaggering look that Zhou had, and Dayna has the odd feeling she knows them from somewhere. Molly reluctantly flies the drone around to get a look at their faces.
The users look prosperous and charismatic and like they do a lot of substances. They are strangers, but somehow she feels that she should know them somehow. They are probably Scions, but none of them is Dan.
Meanwhile, over on the pursuit drone, the SUV has driven over to clubland south of downtown, stopping near a sketchy warehouse. The Eastern Europeans exit the car with a briefcase, enter the building, leave without the briefcase. The SUV continues south along the water towards Tukwila, gets off in a bad neighborhood. They make another drop in another crappy, run-down building. That briefcase is the same kind that Zhou got served bloo out of. Casey tries to get their license, but it’s got one of those optical obscuring devices. Crap, man! The SUV guys make a couple more drop-offs. Casey has the brilliant fucking idea to try and bring the drone down to street level to image their plate, and amazingly pulls this off. He doesn’t even think they saw him! He thinks. Anyway, they get the plate number. The last stop the SUV makes is at another warehouse, this one in an almost totally deserted neighborhood about three and a half miles. There’s a single largish humanoid heat source in the building. One guy stays in the car, three others go over to the heat source in the building, they’re just around it for ten or twenty minutes. The IR tells the party that something’s going on, but there’s not really any detail. The guy in the SUV chain-smokes. After about an hour the three guys come out of the warehouse carrying a big, hot duffel bag.
Drone one has been recalled from covering the drug den. Molly hot-swaps the fading drone two with the third, so-far unused drone, and tails the SUV up 405 to Renton, a neighborhood full of Boeing support businesses. They end up at a low-rent office plaza near Fry’s. Again, three get out, carry in the duffel bag, badge into the building, and one comes out six or seven minutes later carrying a briefcase in each hand. He gets in the car and drives off; the other guy stays behind. This building is too big to follow heat signatures. The SUV gets back on the highway and heads back to the shooting gallery.
The party’s conclusions are that this business serves Scions and is probably run by one or more Scions.
Zhou is thinking hard about how to tip the police, the staties, somebody about all this, and starts compiling a data package that doesn’t point to the party or to the unlicensed operation of drone aircraft over an American city — addresses, license numbers, a dry account of the events they’ve observed, some photographs that aren’t obviously high altitude telephoto stuff. This document package also does not mention fire giants or supernatural entities of any kind. Meanwhile, the rest of the party starts planning to plant a bug on the gang’s ‘stash house’. Molly starts researching and building hardware, including a drone-mountable rat cage. She’s pretty sure that she can direct Raahi’s rat over the drone’s data link.
They do a test flight on a grassy field. The drone is a little shaky in flight, and deviates significantly from the flight parameters — the rat is a poor pilot and takes direction less than perfectly. It’s decided that rattie will be a paratrooper/commando, someone else will fly the drone.
After a day or two of watching the stash house to get a sense of the gang’s comings and goings, they put together the plan to insert the rat aerially, have him plant the bug, and drop a series of repeaters to give many hours of continuous audio coverage. The bug goes live; there’s scuffling and squeaks coming over the audio link. The rat returns to the drone and is picked up, and another drone is dropped on a nearby roof with the first repeater. Nothing much happens except the rat getting some cheese as a reward. There is some question about whether a rat knows where to plant a bug; ffor quite some time all they hear is thumping and breathing, and some not-human noises. Dayna is dead solid certain that this is the entity she was briefly connected with, the one that felt cold.
The gang starts to throw together a plan to go into the building — an intrusion group, a drone operator to give them cover, and a driver…
Everyone gets 3xp. Molly gets 1 extra xp for technical awesomeness. Raahi gets 1xp for sending his familiar on a commando raid. Zhou gets 1 xp for having had the drone idea. Casey gets 1xp for the drone license plate maneuver.