The Agency (Closed, Started)

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The Agency; The Super Secret Spy RP

October, 201X, London

"The Agency", 5:20 P.M.

A Week From Mission Five Stars

Among the tall and impressive buildings of London lay a smaller and much less impressive building. Appearing to be nothing but a simple call centre with the purpose of being both cheap and simple, giving people the information they need with a simple phone-call, it wasn't anything to take note of. For most, it was a normal work-place, they would come in, take phone-calls, look up information and numbers, then return home to their families. However the elevator went down for certain people, leading them to a door with nothing but a camera, a key-card lock, and an eye-scanner.

The Agency was hidden under this building, and its windowless rooms were well lit and often white in colour, giving them a sterile and clean look. Scattered around were computers, files and chairs, organized, but plentiful. One of the rooms, a large room with a round table and around 20 chairs, were currently in use by not even half that number. They had been called there not long ago by the man often referred to as "The Boss" or "Maestro". The man appeared to be in his late fifties, and had almost completely white hair and a preference for old fashioned suits.

Making sure that everyone was there, he started speaking in an authoritative voice.

"You all should know why you are here. A few days ago you were individually given a short document describing this mission."

The few details he had given sprung to mind as he spoke, a famous luxury hotel in the wealthier parts of London. The client wanted information that the hotel was supposed to have, as well as that from several important people. The day they were to strike would be a conference, Saturday a week from this day. No names or locations had been included in the document in order to prevent any possible leaks.

"I do believe that you understand just what you are to do. Get inside, get the information, and leave, without leaving a trail for anyone to follow. This document contains the information we have on it. We also have a man on the inside, Simon Jones, who cannot be here in person, but will speaking from his current place of residence."

He placed a more satisfying folder of documents in the middle of them, and checked his watch, turning on the screen in the room. The screen was dark at first, then Simon appeared on the screen, looking as if he was wondering if it worked, then smiling.

"Oh, hello, I was wondering if this old thing was going to work."

"Jones here is going to fill you in on what he knows."

"I will? Right, I was supposed to--- give me a moment."

He left the picture for a moment, and appeared again, holding a folder on his own.

"As soon as you're ready then."

The Boss nodded and went towards the door.

"I assume there are no questions. You are not allowed to leave until you have a plan."

Then he left the room leaving them to it.

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Simon Jones, [Location Unknown]

Simon examined the group in the room through the camera. He knew pretty much everyone in the Agency, so they weren't strangers. Not that such a thing would matter to him. He smiled again as the Boss left the room, and started looking through the folder.

"Anyways, I bet you're dying to know just where the target is, right?! It's the Pink Diamond Hotel, the hotel in this picture!"

he showed a picture of it, a large white hotel in the middle of London known for its size and high quality service. Simon hadn't been sure how to approach it at first, but it had soon proven to be quite the nice job, even working as a guard was very different from working as a guard somewhere else. Working there for one and a half month had seemed like a lot less time.

"The client provided the Agency with information pointing towards illegal activities including trading, smuggling and blackmail. Of course, that's not the reason that's our target. We're not the police, after all! What the client wants is information that the hotel have. There's a list here, but---"

He noticed the documents that the Boss had left behind.

Well, that makes things easier for me.

"Oh, nevermind, you can read that yourself, it's basically a more detailed list of just what they want. Getting more, of course, would probably provide us with a bonus, and what kind of secret agents would ignore the chance to get a bonus?!"

Simon chuckled, and looked further through his own folder. There was a lot of information there that was either irrelevant or just plainly uninteresting. Besides, they'd read the document on their own. He picked out the more important things from the documents.

"Let's see... there's also the conference, but that kind of thing is obvious. Politicians have conferences all the time, and the client believes some of the politicians is using the stay at the hotel as an opportunity to do business of sorts with the hotel without seeming suspicious. I do not, sadly, have the knowledge of where they would stay, I haven't had an opportunity to look through their databases. As for what I have uncovered..."

Hm, what had he even uncovered? Oh, right. Simon put the folder down.

"Firstly, the layout of the hotel is odd. It feels like it should be larger on the inside, but the number of rooms feel odd to me. There's a bunch of rooms I'm not allowed to access either. I suspect there's hidden rooms, but I have no information about whether or not this is true... I also did not manage to get ahold of a blueprint or a map of the hotel, there's is nothing of the sorts here. I even tried to say that I get really quickly disoriented!"

He tilted his head, and shrugged.

"Didn't work, though. There has to exist blueprints somewhere, the government should have access to them... On the other hand, I've managed to infiltrate the guards completely! I even mentioned, casually, that I might have a friend whose interested in working here, and they said that there's a spot open among the cleaning staff! If we're going to access individual rooms, that could be really useful!"

Barely waiting for their reactions, he continued.

"Oh, almost forgot, the food here is really good! There's a chef that makes food for the staff alone! If it's needed, I can slip something into it before the conference, sleeping pills or something, would probably loosen up the security around here, make it easier to move around and such!"

He grinned, eagerly. "So? What do you think? Do you want me to do that?"

Purnima gave an exasperated sigh, and massaged her forehead. It had been a long day - she'd been reading through the mission dossier for several hours straight - and it looked like they wouldn't be leaving any time soon. She brandished a pen at Simon in a vaguely accusatory manner.

"No, Mr Jones. We are not going to drug the staff. We have some particularly important politicians attending this conference - they will expect a certain level of security. If half of the guards are asleep or mysteriously absent, people will notice, and when they notice, they will become concerned."

She had worked with Simon Jones before, on occasion. He was a competent agent, without a doubt, but Purnima did not care for his somewhat overconfident approach. Hoping he had gotten her point, she continued.

"I think that further infiltration is a more appropriate tactic. How much do we know about the attendees at this conference? Would it be possible to access the guest list and, perhaps, add one of our own? Somebody to mingle with the targets and give other agents time to investigate the rest of the hotel relatively unchallenged?"

Purnima clasped her hands, and looked inquiringly round the room.

"I think that further infiltration is a more appropriate tactic. How much do we know about the attendees at this conference? Would it be possible to access the guest list and, perhaps, add one of our own? Somebody to mingle with the targets and give other agents time to investigate the rest of the hotel relatively unchallenged?"

Ben smiled listening patiently through the explanations and the brief call with Simon, occasionally checking his suit for wrinkles throughout. He thought for a few moments after the call ended, doing a quick headcount of everyone present, and making note of what skills he knew they had. A plan formed swiftly in his mind, and his smile only increased as Purnima spoke.

"An excellent point Ms. Sarin," he said "In fact I think I have just the plan to follow along that line of thought."

Ben smirked and sat back down as he finished explaining, expecting them to be awed with his brilliance. If the plan has any one flaw its that it doesn't feature myself prominently enough. He thought, but then that couldn't be helped his skills weren't always perfectly suited to the task at hand.

Y.T. was half listening to the men talk, missing parts here and there as she thought about other things instead. Mainly she thought back to her last time off the grid, regretting she'd begun to run out of cash and have to take a job again. She briefly looked through the documents, with her driver gloves clad hands, not reading too much of it, then closed it again.

"A hotel? Seems too easy." Y.T. said, ran a hand through her long disheveled hair, and then put a cigarette in her mouth. She listened to Purnima talk while she rummaged through her own pockets for her lighter. "Assuming they've got this guest list stored electronically it shouldn't be any problems for me to do that. I might be able to find the missing blueprints too."

Y.T. found the lighter in her back-pocket, and lit the cigarette, forgetting that she was no longer outside or close to ventilation 24/7. The lighter was covered in what seemed to be oil or gasoline. She cleaned her gloves off on her white shirt, which already had more of those stains. On the front of the shirt "I (heart) Paris" was written in bold letters, with a red heart.

She clearly hadn't adjusted herself to society or being around others yet again, but then she'd arrived this morning in the city, having driven for hours and barely slept. She nodded in regards to what Ben said, as she'd already expected her task to be what he seemed to suggest as well.

As the planning began, Lars listened with half an ear, slowly scanning the faces of his colleagues. He knew them all in one capacity or another, Purnima most of all as she'd provided intel support to him on countless occasions. The man on the screen, however, was more of a mystery.

Lars tended to know at least a few bits about each person at the agency but all he knew of Simon was that he was an expert infiltrator. The Russian, Varvara was also an enigma. Lars thought her stunningly beautiful. Distractingly beautiful. But that was the point.

Blinking away his thoughts, Lars concentrated on Ben's plan. Everything seemed ok except for the initial entering of the hotel. "Are you insane?" He said gruffly to Ben. "You fink they'd let me into a joint like that? With this?" He tapped a ragged fingernail on his fake eye. "All those high profile targets. Aside from the fact that someone is likely to recognise The Butcher of South London?" He snorted softly in amusement.

"I guess we could try and bluff through if they suspect but in a place like that I'm gonna stick out like a sore thumb. Especially if I open my mouth." He paused, as if considering something. "And we all know that's likely to fucking happen." Lars hesitated again, fingers stroking his moustache. He made strained groaning sounds, evidence that he was thinking of a plan. Suddenly, he clicked his fingers and leaned forward exitedly. "I've got it!"

"It's only a small change, but the key here is that I'm totally separate from you guys. If they know I'm part of your group then any noise I make could spread suspicion over the whole party. I just gotta make 'em fink I'm crazy." Lars sat back, grinning maniacally.

Varvara rolled her eyes, specifically at Ben and Simon. There was more to espionage to simply flashing some gadgets and honeyed words. Not like the James Bond wannabes would know. The woman absent-mindedly looked through the documents they had been given. Why the others hadn't escaped her, maybe they assumed that the mission was as simple as it seemed?

'First rule of espionage: never assume anything. Always question.' She reminded herself.

With Y.T. lighting up, Varvara was almost tempted to so herself. The image of yellowing teeth only stopped her from doing so. Back then, when she did smoke, there was always the matter of paying the dentist to whiten her teeth. But surely enough, she managed to crawl out of the dirty habit. Though, that didn't stop her from eyeing the smoker.

Varvara then turned to the centre of the group, "I have no objections. Glad to see that Ben actually thought with his brain this time."

Reclined in his seat with his legs crossed, Renart quietly watched and listened as the others plotted. He was interested to see just how his colleagues worked, their thought processes and compatibility, as well as whether or not he could see himself remaining within the agency for the long term. Of course, it was much to early to make that decision, but he knew just how important first impression could be. Not that he hadn't had a chance to speak with the other agents, albeit briefly, but here he had opportunity to watch the machine at work. Determine if all the little cogs fell into place, or at least a place comfortable enough for him.

The documents before Renart were soon being carefully analyzed by the man, the collected intelligence processed silently as he uncrossed his legs and changed into an upright position. For the moment, he was content with listening--letting the machine work. He'd speak out of necessity or if he was asked, but he had nothing to add for the time being.

"Do we have any idea of the amount and possible location of these hidden rooms? Or an indication of how to spot them? Otherwise I'm just going to be wandering around a hotel for a bit acting suspiciously." Richard spoke up after Ben and Lars had been busy planning. Some members of the group chipped in with their contributions, Y.T. was busy with a cigarette.

Richard looked over the documents for the mission, the part he was most interested in was the hidden rooms, who knows what might be concealed behind their doors and walls? "If we can get the blueprints, and combine that with inside knowledge of suspicious parts of the hotel that would make my job much easier. Just saying."

The tech girl, Y.T., was smoking. Purnima snapped at her "Do you mind?" These underground conference rooms were bad enough without smoke in the air. Plus, Purnima didn't want to think what the Boss would say if they had to stop the meeting because some idiot set of the fire alarms.

Purnima was fairly satisfied with Ben's plan, and Lars' amendments. She was rather sceptical about giving 'the Butcher' free reign to cause a distraction, but he had himself specified "not violently", so that was something.

She nodded along to Richard's suggestion about finding blueprints. "Even if we cannot find a complete floorplan of the building, there must at least be some simple maps around the hotel. I don't believe that guests at the Pink Diamond are simply expected to wander around the place with no direction."

After flicking through the documents again, she turned to Simon. "From your position as a guard, would it be possible for you to bug the security team? Put tracers on their uniform, perhaps? I'd be more of a help if I could see the patrols and tell you where the guards are."

"No, Mr Jones. We are not going to drug the staff. We have some particularly important politicians attending this conference - they will expect a certain level of security. If half of the guards are asleep or mysteriously absent, people will notice, and when they notice, they will become concerned."

"Ah, shame, I think it'd be fun,"

Simon replied, though it became rather obvious that no one else thought such a thing was a good idea, not moving to defend it, nor including it when speaking of their plans. He listened to Ben talk about his plan, still smiling, but when Lars started speaking, especially about Simon's role in it, his smile faded, and he tilted his head.

"I don't know about that,"

He muttered, and sighed. While he'd rather not be rude about it, the idea of him sneaking around with others of the group was odd.

"I am currently undercover. I'd prefer to spend the rest of my time during my stay in that role, and, if someone started trouble, me being a guard, sneaking around somewhere else, would seem awfully suspicious. Besides, could you really create enough of a distraction on your own? It is a very large hotel... Oh, I know! How about I--- hm, but I didn't bring my FBI badge---"

He trailed off, and listened to Richard speak as he did.

"If we can get the blueprints, and combine that with inside knowledge of suspicious parts of the hotel that would make my job much easier. Just saying."

"Right! We'd better get those blueprints beforehand, yeah?!"

"Even if we cannot find a complete floorplan of the building, there must at least be some simple maps around the hotel. I don't believe that guests at the Pink Diamond are simply expected to wander around the place with no direction."

"Actually, they're given simple directions to their rooms on their keys,"

Simon explained, addressing Purnima.

"Their card-keys, or is it key-cards--- well, anyways, as I said, I had no way of getting a map myself, and the maps on those cards are just instructions on what floor and side of the building! So a blueprint would be best!"

"From your position as a guard, would it be possible for you to bug the security team? Put tracers on their uniform, perhaps? I'd be more of a help if I could see the patrols and tell you where the guards are."

"I could... some of them... But there's a whole lot of guards, and I don't know who will be on duty that night! I can give you some details on their schedules, but that won't matter if someone is making a distraction! Anyways, I think I know of a good plan, just give me a moment---"

Some more thinking, then he grinned.

"So, my plan is a bit more complicated, but I'm sure it'll be easy to understand!"

"So... I think that's a good plan!"

He said, the sound of his voice made it clear that he really thought so, regardless of what others might think. With a grin, he let the others speak, hoping that they shared his opinion.

"I mean, it's a bit overly complicated, I suppose, but we're secret agents, our middle names are complicated!"

he chuckled, seeming to not be thinking a lot. However, Simon did his own kind of consideration, examining everyone else, knowing some of their habits -or supposed habits- and keeping an eye on those, for the purpose of getting to know those he didn't know that well better. Habits told you a lot, and even if they were forced habits, there was still things to learn.

We do need to make sure we've covered everything, would be bad to not have all the information requested. My plan should make sure of that everything is considered, though!

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The Document:
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The Document, for those who read it, contained a list of the information the client wanted, all seeming to be blackmail material on both the hotel, the politicians that would be there, as well as more international targets. The politicians, while none of them were high-profile ones, were certainly known in the media and society, some despite being from smaller countries like Denmark and Switzerland. The conference, in more details, was an official conference being held by a British politician, on the topics of international trade and relations. The choice of invited politicians were, as noted by the client, strange and suspicious.

Apart from that, the details in the document were mostly supporting these facts, even proof of some of the clients claims. One picture in particular, of the hotel manager talking with a suspicious man in a dark coat, made it seem like the client had been keeping an eye on the hotel, perhaps even uncovered most of the information provided with their own life at risk.

"It's only a small change, but the key here is that I'm totally separate from you guys. If they know I'm part of your group then any noise I make could spread suspicion over the whole party. I just gotta make 'em fink I'm crazy."

Ben considered this "I don't mind you being separate from the group, but I do think Simon's distraction should be first, as it will be larger scale and thus provide more cover for the initial move," he said.

"I have no objections. Glad to see that Ben actually thought with his brain this time."

Ben smirked and turned to face her "My dear its perfectly alright to admit you're impressed," he said perhaps a bit too smugly "I am a man of many talents after all."

"I mean, it's a bit overly complicated, I suppose, but we're secret agents, our middle names are complicated!"

Ben frowned "I would prefer to avoid anything more than smoke bombs, the regular sort are too messy," he said "Though it would help if Y.T. could find something before we begin the op, I find myself doubtful the real blueprints are online."

He glanced around the room, and smiled slyly "That said it seems we have enough plans on the table, I say its about time we put it to a vote, though I suspect I already know which one we're going with."

"It's a good plan, of course they say no plan survives contact with the enemy but they also say if you fail to plan, you plan to fail." said Richard (the others may not know this, but he had last seen that one on a kitten picture on the internet), mulling over the details. His own part in the operation was very vague, but they didn't know enough to be more detailed. Acquiring the blueprints and studying the building would give him more direction.

"I think my part in this plan is a bit unclear. We need to get those blueprints otherwise I'm going to end up wandering around looking suspicious. So," said Richard, rubbing his hands together and grinning, "When do we get the blueprints?"

Y.T. put the cigarette out against the table, leaving a black mark, when Purnima seemed to have a problem with it. "Of course not." She said, then listened to them talk again. They were more interested in talking about the plan than putting any of them into action, though her role in it remained the same.

"Even if the blueprints aren't "online" in your opinion, the hotel might have some sort of database or server connected to the internet on a private network. There may also be a password protected network accessible through wi-fi, meaning I would just have to drive up to the building and park outside to pick any such signals up. Also, for a number of reasons the blueprints may be accessible through government linked websites, such as plumbing or just a general construction permit. This is a hotel, not a high profile target exactly." Y.T. said, brushed her hair out of her face and leaned back. "If anyone could just get the information anywhere online that I can get, then I'd be somewhere else. Preferable still on vacation."

Force of habit made her reach for her cigarrette again, but she stopped herself and sighed instead, tired of waiting.

Purnima tapped on the table to get the room's attention. "We do need more information on the hotel layout. Directions on a key card aren't going to cut it. I would suggest that a few of us head over to the hotel to try and gather some more information."

She looked pointedly around the room. Y.T. in particular was looking impatient. Purnima addressed her. "Perhaps you could drive over and see if you can get anything useful out of the wi-fi network. And maybe Mr Jones can make a few sketches while on duty?" And try not to blow anything up, she added silently. "Perhaps our 'guests' could check in a few days early, as well. It would be worth getting familiar with the place before the conference."

Gesturing to the papers in front of her, she added: "The rest of us can stay here and work on the plan. There are some rough corners I would like to correct."

Lars eyed Y.T.'s cigarette wistfully before pulling out a tobacco pouch and slowly starting to roll. Once he'd finished, he slipped the end of the roll-up between his lips and left it dangling there, unlit. He nodded at Purnima's insistence for gathering information of the hotel's true layout.

"A shake-down," he said casually. Realising, the rest of the group might need more of an explanation, Lars sighed and continued. "The hotel manager'll know how to get the blueprints. Where to find 'em on the database and whatnot. Hell," he snatched the roll-up out of his mouth, "some of the regular workers should know too. Maybe even a maintenance guy would know the real layout."

Lars gestured towards Simon's face on the screen. "Any chance of being able to shake down a janitor or somethin'?"

"Any chance of being able to shake down a janitor or somethin'?"

 "I think this where I can be of use," Renart began, breaking his silence. "As Mister Jones pointed out, there's a opening in their cleaning department. I don't think it will be difficult for me to get inside. It shouldn't take long, provided they are desperate to get that position filled, and provided I get to work on it very soon. Once in, it shouldn't be a problem to get a hold of the physical blueprints, should finding a digital blueprint prove to be ineffective. Though, as Miss Tan has pointed out, it really shouldn't be. It isn't as if we're trying to break into Parliament, after all. However, it isn't unlikely they'll bolster their security given the occasion. Regardless, putting that opportunity Mister Jones presented to to use could certainly prove to be fruitful. At least, that's my suggestion. Otherwise, I'm at a loss as to what else I could be doing in the meantime."

"I am a man of many talents after all."

Finished with reading them, Varvara slid the documents away and replied, "You can talk about you 'talents' all you want, Mr. Crown. However, the truth of the matter is: in espionage, legwork is everything."

Was the hundredth time she had reminded him of that, or was it the millionth?

Regardless, the plan was coming together. The only real worry here was a certain Mr. Jones and his... enthusiasm. Maybe he should join Ben in the little playpen of people playing at spies?

Anyway, back to business.

"Perhaps our 'guests' could check in a few days early, as well. It would be worth getting familiar with the place before the conference."

"I assume you have our covers ready, then?" Varvara asked.

"I would prefer to avoid anything more than smoke bombs, the regular sort are too messy,"

Simon tilted his head again, confused.

"So. You don't want me to drug the staff, nor use bombs? I'm sorry, Ben, this is certainly not an attempt at being rude, but do you honestly think smoke-bombs is going to scare anyone?! There are cameras in every room, true, I have noted their blind-spots, but a smoke bomb really isn't going to do much. Besides,"

He opened part of a sleeve and pulled out a small, thin device that looked almost like an old-fashioned MP3 player.

"I only have this kind of bombs on me. Trust me, though, I'm a professional, I know just where to place these without making a huge mess!"

"Perhaps you could drive over and see if you can get anything useful out of the wi-fi network. And maybe Mr Jones can make a few sketches while on duty?"

"Call me Simon! And, hm, sketches? I suppose I could, though I don't know where I could do that without seeming suspicious! I mean, planting a bomb takes a second, drawing a map takes a little longer! Especially if you want it to look right, which I'll be assuming you'd want. I mean, I could probably draw something right now from memory, but I have no knowledge of the upper parts of the building, nor the presumably hidden ones."

He started scribbling on the back of the folder, listening as the others spoke, but clearly making an effort.

"Any chance of being able to shake down a janitor or somethin'?"

Simon wasn't sure how to reply to that. He did, however, raise an eyebrow, and look up.

"Well, I..."

He trailed off, puzzled. Was Lars unaware of how suspicious that would look? Or was he the only one who cared about his role as an undercover agent?

I suppose it's only natural. Still, I'd like to avoid blowing my cover if I can.

Simon never did feel comfortable with the thought of revealing an identity, after all. With nothing to say about it, he lowered his head again, and kept drawing.

"As Mister Jones pointed out, there's a opening in their cleaning department. I don't think it will be difficult for me to get inside. It shouldn't take long, provided they are desperate to get that position filled, and provided I get to work on it very soon. Once in, it shouldn't be a problem to get a hold of the physical blueprints, should finding a digital blueprint prove to be ineffective. Though, as Miss Tan has pointed out, it really shouldn't be. It isn't as if we're trying to break into Parliament, after all. However, it isn't unlikely they'll bolster their security given the occasion. Regardless, putting that opportunity Mister Jones presented to to use could certainly prove to be fruitful. At least, that's my suggestion. Otherwise, I'm at a loss as to what else I could be doing in the meantime."

"I was hoping someone would mention that,"

Simon grinned, eyes kept on the folder. While he'd normally correct the other for using his surname, he wasn't going to argue on that now.

"As I've already mentioned, I don't know the upper floors. The guests wouldn't be very happy if I marched up there with a stun-gun and a uniform, after all! Oh, which reminds me, while the guards don't carry guns, there is going to be a couple of police-officers there for extra safety. Why such a shady hotel would ask the police to come, even for something like this, is beyond me, but there you go! It's not the norm, we are in UK after all, but they could have permission to carry guns because there's international politicians there. Wouldn't want to cause an international incident, after all!"

He finished what he was drawing. Simon held the folder up against the camera. While it was somewhat hard to see, it was a set of two floor-plans, rooms outlined, and named, and doors marked on some of them. It was a decent one, lines were straight and text was easy to read, though not held up to the camera like this.

"This is just from my memory, so I wouldn't trust it completely, but as you can see, the floors have a bit of different shapes here and there. For instance, there's a room close to the staff-room that's used for laundry, yet it is a lot smaller than the room underneath it, if I'm remembering correctly."

He let them take it in, then took the unfinished map down.

"That's what I can do about that, I think. Even if I did wander around, I wouldn't be able to estimate better than this, I believe. So I too think Renart should go undercover!"

"I assume you have our covers ready, then?"

Simon looked at her, curiously.

"I'm surprised you don't already have a cover ready, Varvara! I mean, if you don't keep at least half a dozen new identities in your back-pocket, how do you expect to survive as a spy?! I even have some that the Agency doesn't know about!"

He laughed, innocently, as if it was a joke. It wasn't, of course not, but they didn't need to know that.

"More importantly, I'm sure you'll manage to come up with something before you head out, you've got a couple of days before it'd be needed either way."

"I'm surprised you don't already have a cover ready, Varvara! I mean, if you don't keep at least half a dozen new identities in your back-pocket, how do you expect to survive as a spy?! I even have some that the Agency doesn't know about!"

'Stop assuming so much, boy.' Thought Varvara.

That reply just showed complete and utter ignorance - which was a good sign. She didn't want or need anyone but herself knowing about her cover identities. The process of creating one was rather like gardening; firstly care is taken to grow a life and then swift shears cut it down when needed. It was probably her favorite part of espionage.

The female agent replied idly, "Shame. I thought a bright mind like yours would have come up with something rather interesting to play as. However, that is but a small disappointment. I guess I'll have to play the 'escort' again."

She sighed, Ben would probably lap up having the part of a small-time politician or business leader and - worst case scenario - she would be assigned to holding his arm and looking pretty.

"The rest of us can stay here and work on the plan. There are some rough corners I would like to correct."

Ben sat back and listened as the others discussed, though he felt the need to respond to this point.

"Well of course its merely an initial draft," he said "We have plenty of time to iron out the specifics before we begin the operation."

"You can talk about you 'talents' all you want, Mr. Crown. However, the truth of the matter is: in espionage, legwork is everything."

"And I of course am fully intent on backing up my words in the field my dear," Ben replied, unshaken by the attempt at criticism "As are you I'm sure."

"I only have this kind of bombs on me. Trust me, though, I'm a professional, I know just where to place these without making a huge mess!"

"You'd be amazed at how people react to fire alarms going off," Ben replied dryly "Make do with what you have I suppose, but I'd prefer the fire department be called in to handle it rather than the police or a bomb squad."

He considered saying more, but then Varvara engaged Simon on the point of their covers, he felt himself smirk even more as the discussion went on. It seemed Varvara wasn't as prepared as he hoped, it didn't matter much though he had a number of covers lying around he could use.

"Shame. I thought a bright mind like yours would have come up with something rather interesting to play as. However, that is but a small disappointment. I guess I'll have to play the 'escort' again."

"I've got a few covers in store that should work just fine," he said "I think the best one for this would be my old corporate executive identity, I'm sure you won't mind playing the part of my wife or lover Ms. Zolnerowich."

Purnima squinted at the screen, looking at the map that Jones had scribbled on the back of a folder. It was better than nothing. Marginally. She was still baffled by the fact that there were apparently no maps or directions in the hotel at all. Hidden rooms were understandable, particularly if the management were involved with smuggling, but this level of secrecy seemed like an inconvenience more than anything.

"Do you honestly think smoke-bombs is going to scare anyone?!"

She was starting to wonder if the younger agent was being deliberately obtuse. "We don't want to scare anyone! Surely you know that it's easier to get information from your targets if they are not panicking?" In most cases, that is, she thought, glancing at Lars.

Purnima sighed, and made an effort to keep the patronising note out of her voice. "Mr Jo- Simon. This distraction should be enough to occupy the security team, but not enough to warrant the attention of the police. Or the fire department, preferably. What if you planted these, er, small bombs in the kitchens? Or started some small fires there? I imagine that would keep the staff busy without upsetting the conference guests." After a pause, she added "Assuming you can find the kitchens, that is."

"I'm sure you won't mind playing the part of my wife or lover Ms. Zolnerowich."

From the way that the blonde woman had been speaking to Benjamin earlier, Purnima rather doubted that the Russian would enjoy playing his consort. She interjected. "You speak about every language in the book, correct, Varvara? Perhaps you could be Mr Crown's secretary and translator. Then you both are free to...ah...mingle, without needing to keep up the pretense of a relationship."

"Shame. I thought a bright mind like yours would have come up with something rather interesting to play as. However, that is but a small disappointment. I guess I'll have to play the 'escort' again."

Simon grinned.

"Hey, give me a moment, and I'll come up with something much greater than that!"

He looked over at the ones that would be going, Ben, Varvara, and possibly someone else, possibly Richard. His eyes turned more serious, as he kept thinking, removing any kind of suspicious identities and so on. Politician was way too risky, someone there might be expected to know who they were, after all, especially if they made enough money to stay at the hotel. Unless they kidnapped someone, that wasn't a viable option, and even then it was risky at best. It was an expensive hotel, but they couldn't bring too much attention to themselves, so not celebrities...

Hm, it'd be best to think of someone who has a lot of money, but not that much of a presence.

His attention got snapped away by Ben and Purnima.

"You'd be amazed at how people react to fire alarms going off. Make do with what you have I suppose, but I'd prefer the fire department be called in to handle it rather than the police or a bomb squad."

"We don't want to scare anyone! Surely you know that it's easier to get information from your targets if they are not panicking? Mr Jo- Simon. This distraction should be enough to occupy the security team, but not enough to warrant the attention of the police. Or the fire department, preferably. What if you planted these, er, small bombs in the kitchens? Or started some small fires there? I imagine that would keep the staff busy without upsetting the conference guests. Assuming you can find the kitchens, that is."

Now, this was just getting plainly insulting, though he kept smiling, surely they didn't mean anything by it.

"I told you, I'm a professional, I wasn't intending for this to look like some sort of terrorist attack! I said scare because... well, because scare is a stronger word."

He tilted his head, examining the people who probably never had even touched a bomb before. Was he going to keep excusing that fact, and explain it to them, or was he going to make it clear that he knew what he was doing.

I don't want to make anyone angry. I'd rather be on good terms with everyone.

While that was what he thought, in reality, he ended up settling somewhere in between.

"I was thinking of putting a couple of bombs close to, or in the kitchen, and some in the areas where the central heating, as well as the--- well, of course I'd make it make sense!"

Simon huffed at the last part, letting his annoyance show, slightly, but making sure to smile again.

"But fine, if it makes you more comfortable, I'll keep it to the kitchen. I'm sure you can plan enough to compensate, after all, you're both really good at this kind of thing."

Praise, almost as if it were some kind of apology for letting himself get annoyed. Such an odd habit of his.

"I've got a few covers in store that should work just fine," he said "I think the best one for this would be my old corporate executive identity, I'm sure you won't mind playing the part of my wife or lover Ms. Zolnerowich."

"You speak about every language in the book, correct, Varvara? Perhaps you could be Mr Crown's secretary and translator. Then you both are free to...ah...mingle, without needing to keep up the pretense of a relationship."

That reminded Simon of his initial task.

"Oh, right, I had a cover! How about,"

he started, gesturing eagerly, this was part of his interest, after all.

"Varvara is a rich, American business woman, whom has taken Ben as a trophy husband? She can be.... Felicia Owens, and he can be Dimitri... lemme see, something Polish... well you'll have to choose that yourself! However, Varvara is the slightly older, more experienced and clever of the two, while Ben is just sort of stupid, a bit young, very into the luxury life-style, and if you bring some more people, they'll be renting another room, being his friends that Varvara--- well, Felicia is paying for because Dimitri insisted that his sort of parasitic friends come along! Like this, you'd not need to make an effort to make people underestimate and trust you! They already would do that to Felicia because, let's face it, most men in power seem to be looking down at women, and Dimitri is just some jerk of an air-head, only meant to be eye-candy!"

He seemed really fond of his new creation, a cover that would both be interesting to step into, and something to make them, if not invisible, easily underestimated and thus less likely to be suspected of anything.

"And, it makes use of the fact that Varvara is clever and independent, which I don't think is a negative thing at all!"

A bit too much, was it? Nah, he meant well when he said it, all he was guilty off was showing his approval for her, which shouldn't be an issue at all.

"That's more interesting than being a secretary or a someone's lover, isn't it, Varvara?!"

Renart continued taking mental notes on the group's cohesiveness. It appeared that gears were likely to grind, but not to the point where the machine would be left inoperable. He felt like he was watching a blacksmith at work. The process was rough, took quite a bit of hammering, but with fortune the end result would get the job done. "Out of curiosity, exactly how much have you said about this 'friend' of yours, Simon? Are they expecting anything in particular?"

"Simon, you're overcomplicating things with the cover identities. Let Ben and Varvara work out the details between themselves." Said Richard, aware that detailed and personality rich cover stories were important for espionage but making them too specific could lead to problems. By trying to heap too many aspects onto the relationship there was the danger of creating a caricature that could be spotted a mile away. The 'High Flying Wife and Trophy Husband' (trademark pending) was an increasingly stereotypical couple seen in popular culture and celebrity life. People can be good at spotting lies and performances and each new aspect to the performance increased the risk. Richard always liked to keep things as simple as possible.

"I think the idea if some of us checking in before time is a good one too. I volunteer for that since I'd prefer to be familiar with my surroundings when I'm in there. Blueprints are good and all but actually knowing the place will help." Richard declined to mention he had heard the hotel had a nice restaurant and wanted to try their salmon tagliatelle. Some jobs have perks and he could always charge it to one of the dummy companies the agency had. He could pose as a businessman in town for a week or two.

"My, my, someone is letting fantasy interfere with reality." Was the the retort to Ben's lewd remark. Varvara also gave a slight chuckle at the suggestions, "Life isn't pulp fiction, Simon. And Ms Sarin -- no -- all of you, why do you insist on putting us together?"

Varvara leaned in as she continued, "It's much simpler if we weren't joined to at the hip."

She then began to fiddle with a nearby pen as she took in various aspects of the numerous suggestions and made them her own. Aftewards, there was a smirk on her face as she shifted her accent to that of a New Yorker.

She then threw her idea into the ring, "Felicia Owens here, from Ignite Solutions. Whaddya think?"

Of course she would seem a bit obnoxious, that was the point. As for that phoney company, well, she had plans for that. Something which could excuse the presence of a stupid blonde American.

Slipping back into her natural accent, she went on, "Ben can take to the political stage, people like him were born for that sort of thing. Also... Sorry to be a bit of a pochemuchka, but do we think we can set up a sponsorship deal with this British politician?"

"Naturally, I'm sure setting up the dummy company will be easy." Varvara added.

"My, my, someone is letting fantasy interfere with reality."

"Not at all Ms. Zolnerowich, I simply thought the position of a mysterious lover would help accentuate the allure you wield so well," he said with a shrug, "It also lets us both hassle the clerk about a shared room, and there is nothing preventing a couple from splitting up to look around or some such, and attaching it to my existing cover makes it more protected from scrutiny, though of course the choice of cover is in your hands."

The only suggestion of the others he had an issue with was Purnima's, having to keep up the pretense that he didn't speak english could be useful of course but it also meant that he couldn't apply his skills directly as easily. He wasn't certain that Varvara spoke Arabic either, which would be the best if the languages he knew to use for such a cover. Simon's suggestion put him a bit too much out of the spotlight, but all the same he could manage with the suggested position.

"Felicia Owens here, from Ignite Solutions. Whaddya think? Ben can take to the political stage, people like him were born for that sort of thing. Also... Sorry to be a bit of a pochemuchka, but do we think we can set up a sponsorship deal with this British politician? Naturally, I'm sure setting up the dummy company will be easy."

"Hmm, that could certainly work," he said "Provided we can set up the dummy corp in time that cover should work just fine, forming one on such short notice might leave it a bit vulnerable to scrutiny, but that cover should work well enough, welcome aboard Ms. Owens."

The conversation and subtle snipings between the other agents washed over Lars with little effect. He knew that anywhere a group of skilled individuals gathered, a proverbial "my-dick's-bigger-than-your-dick" contest inevitably surfaced. It was even worse with the mercenary types. Sighing loudly, Lars stalked impatiently towards the door.

"You guys iron out the par-tic-you-lars," he growled around the still unlit roll-up, "and fill me on the details later. I'm going for a smoke." He put his hand on the door and turned his face to the group. "Be seeing ya..." He chuckled, pointing a finger to his fake eye, before exiting the room.

Be seeing ya... Said Lars, leaving for a cigarette break. At least he smoked outside, unlike Y.T. who seemed intent on giving everyone in the room a cough.

"How long is he going to make jokes about the eye? I swear those are the only jokes he makes, you'd think he'd mix it up but no it's all about his name and the eye." Said Richard, once Lars had left, "If we ever do a secret Santa, whoever gets Lars has to buy him a joke book." Richard smiled, sometimes he said stupid things to alleviate tension.

"Out of curiosity, exactly how much have you said about this 'friend' of yours, Simon? Are they expecting anything in particular?"

He smiled, but shook his head.

"Hm, no, I just mentioned a friend of mine. I'm using the cover name of Damien Collins, though, so keep that in mind. I'll also be wearing a black wig and kind of green contacts, though I'll meet you later to prep you further."

The others seemed a bit opposed to his suggestion of a cover, especially Richard seemed to think that he was adding too much details. As much as Simon respected the other as a fellow undercover spy, he felt that his method was his own. While he rarely took the identity of a real person, he spent a lot of time building up his fake ones, spending more than a week required you to have an answer ready for anything from personal belief to favourite colour and what they thought of the current economic situation. Especially habits were something he enjoyed mimicking and making, to the point of no longer knowing which habits were his own, and which he had just kept from an undercover mission.

However, that said, he also knew the importance of letting someone decide for themselves. He'd mostly made up a cover as a challenge, making something at least remotely different from what the people before had suggested, and, while he didn't like the idea of setting up a dummy company this late during preparation, he knew the agency was good at making a paper trail where there was none.

Tired of the discussion, Lars left the room, but not before making a cheesy joke involving his name, and then one about his fake eye. Simon almost felt like adding one on his own, though he preferred to keep quiet about that particular thing. Instead, he noted what Richard said.

"If we ever do a secret Santa, whoever gets Lars has to buy him a joke book."

He wasn't sure what he'd need it for, or if it was even useful to note something like a joke, but he did, if nothing else he might use it for his next identity. Checking his clock, he realized that they'd been talking for quite a while.

"Wow!"

he exclaimed.

"I've been talking way too long, I was supposed to get something to eat almost an hour ago! It sounds like you guys have a plan, though, so I say go with it! I'll see you later!"

With that, he turned off the camera, and laid back in his bed, closing his eyes as he went through the other people's habits and movement, tone of voice and personal traits, merely because he could. They'd be fine, he was sure of it. This mission was going to be fun!

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October, 201X, London

"The Agency"/The Pink Diamond Hotel, 8:00 P.M.

Mission Night

The group worked out the details between themselves, and started working towards the mission night. Simon introduced Renart to the manager, and he got hired that very day. Setting up the dummy corp went well, and, Richard, Varvara and Ben managed to get their covers sorted out well, making it through the hotel's checks with the hotel none the wiser. Y.T. got the blueprints from the government database, and they turned out to be the real deal. After that, the hacker left, stating that her part was done, and expecting the pay sent to one of her accounts, as she was done with socializing.

With everything set up, the group was ready, the hotel as a target seemed unprepared and ready for the taking, whatever secrets the client wanted, the spies would attempt to steal away.

Ben put on an officious air as he entered the hotel, his expression reflecting someone who was used to quick service and getting his way. He approached the front desk at a brisk pace and tapped his foot restlessly while waiting, even checking his watch once or twice.

"Excuse me," he said stiffly "I have a reservation, I'm meeting with some important representatives of Ignite solutions."

He'd called in to set up the reservations a few days ago, it was a bit last minute certainly but significantly easier than trying to talk his way into getting a room. Doing that would leave more of a mark of his presence as well, regardless of whether he succeeded or not.

"My name is Mr. Harper, Jonathan Harper," he said "Keep an eye out for me next election."

He wondered how the others were getting along, the early stages of any mission were crucial to success after all. Almost any plan eventually met with problems, it was how long that they could go until those problems arose that mattered.

As the person fetched his room key he glanced around, then spoke "This is a nice place, I'll be sure to recommend it to my friends," he said "Do you know if any of the people I'm meeting with are here? Important looking fellows, they'd be representing a number of different interests."

With luck the person might give him some clues as to who the people they were looking for were, and maybe even where said people were. He just had to be careful how he asked to avoid suspicion.

Purnima was parked two streets away from the hotel in a standard Agency nondescript van. It was rigged with a couple of monitors, which would help her to keep an eye on things if somebody managed to hack the hotel CCTV, and - worse case scenario - would function as a last resort getaway vehicle. The tech inside was a few years old, which suited Purnima fine, as she wasn't exactly up to date with her computing skills (although she would never admit that).

She checked her watch (for about the fourth time in a minute). The conference ought to be kicking off about now. "Jonathan" and "Felicia" should have no problem mingling up front. Time to get the other agents moving along. Purnima adjusted her headset, making a universal call to everybody who had remembered to put their earpiece in. She snapped over the microphone - "Sarin. Report your status and location."

Three days before the mission...
Pink Diamond Hotel, London
8:01PM

Beneath the streets, aside from the increasingly busy garage of valets finding spaces, below the bustle of guests checking in at the lobby, at the end of a ramped concrete maintenance tunnel, the doors of a freight elevator slowly closed and began its ascent. At twenty miles per hour, its cargo was being taken to the topmost conference level to begin cleaning the rooms from there to the last at the bottom. The man inside could easily tell the difference between the maintenence elevator and those available in the lobby, the most notable other than the size was the wider array of buttons. Buttons for floors that weren't available for the common guest, which wasn't surprising. What was surprising was the sheer amount. There were far too many private levels for even the most upper-class of hotels. The man knew which floors his keycard granted him access to. He was curious what could be on the floors it didn't. There was a distinct ding as the elevator came to a halt. Adjusting the tweed flat cap atop the short crop of salt and pepper hair and, as soon as the doors opened, he pushed cleaning cart along, whistling a tune as he went to work.

Mission time. Richard had spent the last few days living in and exploring the hotel. He had identified two locations he was most likely to find information in:

1. The Hotel's offices and staff areas.
2. The targets hotel room.

"Sarin. Report your status and location."

"I'm just leaving my room, can I get a confirmation on the targets room? Planning to proceed there and investigate." Said Richard, hoping there wasn't any security outside the room.

Before anything else, Richard had to find the private lift. It was unlikely such high profile guests would stay in the same part of the hotel as everyone else.

The henpecked hotel staff shrunk away from "Felicia" as she charged around the place making sure that everything was up to standard for the meeting. Few could handle her New York attitude as she went about her business, yakking off to (presumably) her higher-ups, who must've been burning the candle at both ends and... her own mother?

"Sarin. Report your status and location."

"Oh hey Mom, I'm doin' fine. Yeah, just doin' some busywork, preppin' the meeting room. I ain't gotta minute to talk, so give Vinny and the kids my love, yeah?" Internally, Varvara sighed in annoyance - couldn't Sarin tell that already? Mobiles were easy things to track and a rather convenient thing to contact HQ with, especially as the signal was being bounced around the globe to suit her cover.

Ben

"This is a nice place, I'll be sure to recommend it to my friends. Do you know if any of the people I'm meeting with are here? Important looking fellows, they'd be representing a number of different interests."

The fellow behind the desk sighed, and shook his head.

"No, I don't, Mr. Harper," he said, sounding somewhat annoyed, as well as remarkably uninterested in Ben's question. "And I can assure you that everyone here is important, some less than others." It was obvious that it was intended to be an insult, though the man went back to his other work as soon as he had spoken. Either something Ben had said had hit a nerve, or the man was in a bad mood, though it was clear that he wouldn't be up for chatting about the other guests.
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Purnima

The van Purnima was sitting in was too far from the hotel for her to tell when the conference started, but the location was ideal. It was far enough from the hotel for it not to stick out, yet it was parked in a quiet area, for London at least. She had the blueprints of the hotel in front of her, and it was clear that there was secrets the hotel were hiding from the looks of some of the rooms, they were small and lacked windows, if the blueprints were correct. It was detailed enough to show elevators and stairs, even the secret ones, as it had been taken from the hotel's own database. Some of the guest-rooms were marked by a number and name, information that Renart had provided.
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Renart

Renart spent most of his working hours moving from room to room. While it seemed to be a somewhat tiresome way of scouting out the rooms at first, he soon learned to look for the right things. With the access to a lot of the politicians' rooms, he was able to provide Purnima with information about what politicians' stayed where, though he did not get the chance to find out what every room was. He also got a greater understanding of what the hotel looked like, and how to navigate it.

Mission Night

At 8 o'clock, Renart was still working due to an evening shift. He'd been pushing the cleaning cart for a couple of hours, but there was no one keeping an eye on the area he was currently in charge of cleaning.

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Richard

Apart from learning more about the hotel, Richard found out that the meals at the hotel was as delicious as the beds were comfortable, and that the staff was eager to please. He also quickly found out that the guards were nowhere to be seen in the guest-areas, and that a lot of the guests in the hotel stayed in their room, the spa, or the restaurant, very few lingered around the halls, as successful people were far too busy for small-talk.

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Varvara

No one had suspected a thing when Varvara had told them who she was, and she'd manage to keep fooling them as "Felicia" the business woman took control, making sure everything was just like she wanted it. Even as she spoke to her "mother", the staff suspected nothing, and instead did their best to follow her wishes.
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Simon Jones, Staff Meeting Room

"Sarin. Report your status and location."

As Simon was somewhat busy now, being briefed by the people responsible for the safety during the conference, he just kept quiet, turning up the microphone sensitivity so that Purnima could hear what they were saying.

"I expect you to know the drill by now, don't be where the guests can see you unless it's absolutely necessary, or you're wearing something that looks subtle. I've already told you where you're supposed to go, so---

"Ehm, I was assigned to the, ehm, that one place, right?" Simon asked, sounding like somewhat of a ditz. It was all a guise, of course.

"For the sake of--- Collins, I've told you twice, you're in charge of keeping an eye on the cameras.

He figured that'd be enough of a reply to Purnima, though he almost chuckled at what Varvara said. It had to be, soon the bombs would be going off, after all, and he couldn't afford to get suspected now.

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