Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Pine Box Consulting: Session 1 (Dec 11, 2017)

I have recently tapped a friend to begin transcribing the Pine Box Consulting sessions, going through the Discord channel me and my players have used to play since Dec of 2017.

The Players:

Hassan: Formerly attached to Egyptian Intelligence, Hassan is an expert Intelligence Analyst, Interrogator, Pistolero, and dog person.

Kujo: Former LAPD, was kicked out of the force for having anger management issues and problems with proper escalation of force. The most combat heavy of the team.

Alex: Hacker and Sniper extraordinaire. Alex has a lot of illicit contacts, and his access to places he really shouldn't be poking around in would probably have landed him in jail for life if not for his PMC occupation.

Otto: Electronics whiz, tinker, and the other combat heavy for the team. Otto appreciates extreme sports, drones, and suffers from being Easy to Read.

Gaston: Gaston is a world-class surgeon and medical mind. He's also the team's primary demolitions expert.

It’s 8 in the morning on the first day of August and it’s soon to be scorching hot in Tampa, FL. Pine Box Consulting has called the group back from their Rest and Relaxation and they’re all ready to assign them their next job with one of the account executives, Angela Apolonia, being the one leading the briefing with the team. They’re all familiar with Tampa’s office, despite being in the armpit of the US, it’s also the largest in the state and it’s a common pit stop for people that are going to be dealing with affairs south of the border in Latin America.
The group convenes as Otto jumps into a chair into the conference room and immediately plops his recently dirtied shoes (dirt biking is always a hazard to welcome mats) onto the table while Hassan shows up promptly 15 minutes early with heavy messenger bag in tow. Kujo marches in about 5 minutes early to the meeting and, not finding a dark corner to lurk in, declines a seat; instead he leans against the doorway and pulls a cigar case from his pocket and chomps down on one of them in a bit of a ritual.
Promptly at 8am, Angela walks in with an armful of manila folders and a laptop bag slung over her shoulder. A quick headcount later and it’s immediately obvious that she’s displeased with the fact that several of the group are running late and passes out the folders. Barely a moment later Alex walks in, playing on his smartphone looking like a tourist before slumping into one of the chairs. The next second in walks the last of the group, Gaston, with his nose buried in a book until he gets to his seat where he places a bookmark in to mark his place and takes one of the distributed folders. In a show of disinterest, Otto ignores the folder given to him and instead pulls out his phone as well to start playing drag racing and asking how everyone else’s weekend went, the only people to respond being Kujo, telling him that he just went to the gym, and Hassan saying he went to a bar but was quickly bored by the poor conversationalists there (even the drunk ones) and that war criminals were more interesting.
Deciding to just get on with the briefing, Angela addresses the group while going through some rather sparse slides on PowerPoint. Their Rio branch had gotten a tip from some of their local contacts that a man wanted by the State of Israel was living in the area. The local contact, Hubert J. Makovich, was a British national and entrepreneur that moved to the area to try and capitalize on the Olympics. A few slides showing information on the man, his photo, his merchandising company, and his accounting records that show his very rapidly diminishing net worth and plummeting stock prices. He was hired to pose as a venture capitalist to server as HUMINT (Human Intelligence). Slides change from Hubert alone to distant photos of him shaking hands with investors.
Hubert has managed to survive in that position for years, despite being a known information security risk as the next few slides show with him in various stages of undress with a large amount of ladies that were previously featured in past slides in much more (formal) attire. Finally paying attention, Otto asks if someone is after Hubert. The only thing Otto got wrong was the tense as Angela explains that he was found dead almost a week ago, snatched by a local gang who then tortured him before disposing of him.
Kujo asks if Angela wants them to go over the local gang while Hassan snarks about him seeming like a pillar of the community, on the other hand, Alex is excited by what he managed to accomplish on his phone. Angela’s responds that they were prepared to write off Hubert until his last report caught some attention… Apparently, it’s not every day that a low-level asset manages to turn some heads in Mossad. She pauses for effect, to see how the group handles that bit of news.
Otto spins in his chair a bit while Hassan mentions that Mossad’s interests outside of the Middle East tend to be very limited and very focused while Kujo questions why the Mossad are outsourcing their kills, why aren’t the targets dead already.
Angela explains that they’d normally be all over Nazi fugitives but due to the political climate, it’s just too difficult for the Mossad to directly act. And while Kujo expresses delight and excitement at the prospect of delivering long overdue justice, Angela explains who they’ve found with the best picture they had of him, almost 20 years old back in the 1940s. Heinrich G√ľnther, a scientist specializing primarily in physics and biology, an impressive intellectual prodigy that eagerly participated in the science programs of the time and while most records past the end of WWII are scarce or non-existent, recent indications show that he made use of a Ratline out of Austria at war’s end. Hubert’s digging around landed him on some financial records that indicate that Heinrich is still alive in Rio de Janeiro.
Alex is now finally interested in what’s been going on and puts his phone away and begins to dig through the folder in front of him while Hassan inquires as to how a failed venture capitalist managed to get the attention of the good doctor. Angela has to admit that they have no idea of Hubert’s death was related to his findings or not, just that the company is interested in the Israeli bounty on Nazi war criminals.
Responding to Hassan’s question about their objective and the rules of engagement, they’re told the objective is to locate and then either lift or liquidate him. The mission isn’t sanctioned by the US Government so they will disavow all knowledge and the company’s propaganda team are already arranging stories of anti-fa hit squads coming out of Connecticut in case the Brazilian authorities become alerted to the team’s activities. Civilian casualties are to be minimized, but unless it’s a complete cock up then minor accidents may be overlooked.
Kujo jokes around it being similar to LAPD’s departmental policies while Hassen mentions he may have trouble fitting in as a college junior before the rest of the information unfolds. They’ve got a funeral home cover in Rio, but local politics keep them from truly establishing themselves in the area. The Funeral Director’s name is Robert Smith, a resident of the area for many years and quite reliable, but resources in the area are limited meaning that his armory and garage are more meager than what the company has Stateside, this means that the team will be sent out with their own bit of kit.
While most agree things will be fine if they can bring their own kit, Hassan makes a point to ask for their preference on Henrich’s condition. Despite being previously explained that they can bring him back alive or dead, bringing him back alive will be a rather large PR boost in finding and arresting a War Criminal. However, 90-some year-old men are also notoriously fragile and will be taken into account. Extraction will be tough so it’ll have to be secured on the team’s end once Henrich has been dealt with.
With some probing from Kujo, other than the photo from multiple decades ago and the financial records from recently, there’s no real clue to Heinrich’s location which is somewhat of a benefit as if it was known, then it would be likely that the Mossad would already be on their way. Instead it’s up to the team to be able to investigate the location and survive the violent environment in the Rio underworld.
There are no more questions, just folks confident that they can handle the job of locating and dealing with an old Nazi and climbing the Chriso Redentor despite the objections of some of the party.
The fight down is a sight-seeing tour plane that takes a 12-hour one way trip, looking any deeper reveals that it’s thinly veiled criminal enterprise that specializes in trafficking around customs and border patrols. Everyone has their bags packed and ready to go as a new companion shows up to flirt with a cute receptionist while the rest of the team discuss how shady their flight is and that it’s quite obviously not baking ingredients causing the white flecks all over another passenger’s luggage. Having failed with the receptionist, Salvador comes up to rain on the team’s parade by informing them that even if they managed to lift the smuggled cocaine, it wouldn’t be any good to use as blackmail materials as the South American cops are more likely to suicide them via beheading than capitulate with any attempts at blackmail.
Most are minorly dissuaded from attempting it, they start boarding the plane with Kujo asking if it’s a smoking flight. True to their reputation for customer service, the steward informs Kujo that he has no idea in rather colourful language and assuming the best, Kujo lights up a Churchill as he takes his seat. Otto, however, having stayed behind for a moment quickly grabs the rather obvious bag of cocaine while its own was distracted and immediately moves away and onto the plane and stows it away.
With the exception of Alex and Salvador, the rest of the group takes the time to relax and do their own thing. Alex decides to research what he can about Rio’s telecom systems and maps to be able to navigate his way around the Latin American city while Salvador attempts to find some form of “in-flight entertainment”. Unfortunately, the most entertainment available is Otto playing candy crush, listening to Skrillex too loudly through his earbuds, and attempting to sneak lines of coke in the airplane bathroom when he thinks that no one is looking. Otherwise it’s getting drunk with Kujo or reading a book.
It takes them quite a few hours before they manage to reach Brazil where the pilot points out Chriso Redento to fulfill it’s purpose as a tour plane and then after the rubbernecking out the windows is over, it swings around for a final approach for touch down. The pilot kicks the passengers off the plane with just long enough for them to grab all their luggage before he taxis it into a nearby hanger and while they group up and try to figure out their next step, the rest of the passengers from the tour plane get into a hired car and start to drive off before being immediately surrounded by police. They decide quickly to get the hell out of dodge and start to move away from the police presence as unobtrusively as they can when a van pulls up right next to them.
The driver tells them that the hearse broke down and that he had to take the backup vehicle. Grateful for any way to get away from the cops, the team piles in with Kujo calling out shotgun. It turns out the driver is Carl, sent for the group by Bob and that business is booming with funerals happening left and right. Rio is a mess, the government has had to deal with numerous corrupt scandals, that gang violence hasn’t been too affected by UPP, and that almost every cop is dirty. This may explain why Bob stayed back at the funeral home, the rather tasteful three story affair with a small graveyard in front.
Complementing and joking about their current digs, the team starts to offload their luggage into the house where they are greeted by Bob and a short woman in bloody medical scrubs. Bob is rather amused by the fact that it’s not everyday that he gets to play host to undertakers instead of corpses while the woman in introduced as Marigold, the pathologist that seems to do the reputable work as a side job when she’s actually the head of security and the only cleared field op they’ve got down there since Bob was deemed too important to lose in the field, especially as the previous funeral director was mailed back home to his family in pieces, a fate which Bob has managed to avoid so far. Still, with the long flight and the long day they offer to let the team get some rest before starting the briefing in the morning.
On the side, Alex speaks with Bob about what he can expect in terms of electronic support. There’s an old Pentium 3 sitting alongside a first-gen DSL modem that mildly horrifies and disgusts Alex before he learns that they also don’t have any radio support either and they mostly use cell phone service. It’s looking to be rather scant for the tech down here.
In the meantime, since they slept on the flight down, some of the group end up going out to the bar with Otto finding himself the center of popularity while Salvador finds an ex-girlfriend that dumped him after he was caught in a threesome with her sister and cousin. Gaston stays back at the funeral home and unpacks before asking Marigold if she needs some help with anything. Hassan attempts to lure others into a game of cards with Kujo begrudgingly joining in. Back in the bar, Salvador has managed to mollify the girl with the promise of a buying her a drink, trying to get him to buy her something from the top shelf. At the funeral home, Carl and the other lackey have joined the card game, Bob has opted out, and Marigold and Gaston share a moment over Hubert’s corpse.
Marigold explains that Hubert’s corpse wasn’t handled correctly by the local law enforcement and they had to even pay them a few grand to get the body delivered to them. Alex subverts local internet traffic for his own purposes as two medics note down the notable findings on Hubert’s body.
It appears that some of his initial wounds had time to partially heal, indicating that he’d been worked over for at least several days, he was missing fingernails from his left hand, he was missing one testicle, three ribs were broken, a lung was lacerated, a kneecap was busted from an source uncertain because the body had also been left out in the elements for at least a day and there are signs that some sort of scavenging animal had been having a good meal.
Police also refused to release his possessions and it’s unknown if his apartment was searched either. The report was sorely lacking in even the most basic details and the attack was written off as gang violence due to the location the body was found and didn’t bother to probe further, or at least any attempts to was overturned as it also appears that the report was rather poorly edited too. Some posit that it may have just be thugs, or it could have been trained interrogators, it could go either way depending on how they obvious took their time working him over. It could have been corrupt cops looking to make a quick buck or folks that have paid off the local police like Heinrich. Regardless of all the speculation, they decide that it may be a good idea to check out Hubert’s apartment and Bob lends the crew the van.
Hubert’s apartment looks rather squalid and obviously was most propped up to the funds coming in from Pine Box. Kujo heads inside to try to deal with the apartment door but trips and ends up with a used syringe protruding from his leg, getting it removed the best he can while Salvador “entertains” the neighbors. Gaston helps to treat Kujo quickly before they head back in, finding the apartment already tossed and trashed. Hassan digging into wreckage and extracting an intact hard drive from a wrecked computer.
The crew takes some time to do some crime scene reconstruction, Salvador joining in midway through adjusting his outfit. It becomes obvious that the tossing happened while Hubert was absent, there’s no blood, no signs of a violent encounter, and very obviously no signs of someone trying to clean up after themselves. Alex alerts the crew that they’ve got some company coming down the street checking out vehicles and Otto decides that means they need to get going. The company stops by a car, knocking out a window and grabbing a radio as the crew pack up. Alex gets the van going to the meeting spot, the gang banging the side of the van with a bat as he drives by, scoring a loud thump. Once around the block, the crew piles into the van with their findings.
The hard drive itself has three partitions, the OS, a Restore Partition, and an Encrypted partition. Alex makes sure to take a backup image of the hard drive before he starts attempting to decrypt the partition. It appears to be a bad install of tails that Hubert didn’t do quite right and back at the funeral home they explain what they found and that it looks like it would take a few days to crack the encryption. Alex attempts to think of ways to speed up decryption before finally deciding to head down into the basement with Kujo and Otto. They jury-rig an old scanner and camera to start taking and uploading pictures of pages they have found to attempt OCR on the drive. It takes an hour and a half to get Hubert’s book and rolodex uploaded and scanned.
With this new data, it takes only five minutes to crack the drive. Hubert was huge on computer security as he used Candi followed by his birth date as a password and while Salvador notes down Candi’s contact information, they find communications and financial records on the drive. At least some of which was Hubert contacting Heinrich and attempted to blackmail the old scientist. Apparently Hubert knew less than they would prefer, but the blackmail makes sense as Gaston’s financial forensics discovers that Hubert owed thousands to local gangs and a few Russians and his credit was so bad that even local banks wouldn’t lend him money.
Using this newfound information, the crew try to figure out how to use this to their advantage. Either baiting Heinrich into responding to more e-mails, finding the cop that altered the report. Maybe send him e-mails from another account to bait him into clicking a phishing link that would give away his location while they attempt to get information on the police reports. Though the fact that Heinrich may know that Hubert is dead could also explain the redacted police reports and tossed apartment. All the searching and talk of e-mail inspires them to check out the origin of the one that Hubert contacted Heinrich through, apparently it was an e-mail account from a company called Protroleum but it doesn’t appear that Heinrich is an official part of the company. The crew decide that might actually be worth a look as the session ends off.