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Oct 20, 2020 1:56 AM
Meanwhile, back at the ranch,
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Sometimes they came in to the store with some other faces that their scan of video records didn't find. The girl with one leg, her boyfriend the blind guy. One of the people who lives in the house is an appallingly bad driver, sometimes he hears brakes grinding and engines shrieking and he's pretty sure the mailbox has a few new dents. They mostly don't talk to each other, though they're big on meaningful glances. 

One of his coworkers asked one of the guys out, once, got brushed off. She'd been bitter afterwards, but she wasn't that hot so he didn't think it was weird.

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Visser 3 memorizes those faces perfectly in Alloran's mind, to look into later, and all the small unusual facts about them. The blind and one-legged ones are...not the sort of thing Andalites would go for, as disguises. And make them stand out. Huh. 

When he's gleaned all he can from this human, he retreats from their ear, demorphs and re-morphs quickly, and en-Yeerks the other contestant. 

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Tara Graeber lives next door. She doesn't like the neighbors. One of them is black and, like, probably not that kind of black because she dresses real nice and speaks English properly but it still makes you wonder what's going to happen to the neighborhood, you know? They don't go to church. (Tara Graeber does not, herself, go to church much.) Once she headed over to tell them that they weren't allowed to park where they were parked with a storm coming in, because the snowplows need clearance, and she was doing them a goddamned favor but she wasn't very surprised to find a guy in his twenties, probably high, asked her what a snowplow was.

At least they don't litter or make a lot of noise. 

There is one other interaction in her memory, which is that once she saw them lugging in a ridiculous amount of clothing, like, just carrying this mountain of sweaters and jeans, and she thought about going out to help but it's not like they ever offered to help her so she didn't. 

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Once again he scrapes through for every possible memory of every interaction. Has she seen them leave on errands much? Does she recall what stores they've come home with bags of merchandise from, or what she's seen them leaving the house with? He's not expecting anything on this, but has she ever watched any of them for more than two hours at a stretch? 

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She hasn't watched them for two hours at a stretch. They go to Goodwill and to the supermarket and the bank and the... library? Maybe a bookstore. They're definitely sometimes carrying stacks of books or magazines or newspapers. They don't have an antenna or a satellite dish for TV. They tend not to leave alone.

He can get a few more faces out of her memories. There must be a lot of people living in this house, like at least ten.

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Once he's gleaned everything he can, he leaves her head. Instructs the doctors to administer a final dose of amnesia-causing twilight sedation, monitor the humans' health, and arrange for them to wake up hungover back in their hotel room beds.

He goes and thinks for a while. There is definitely something going on here. What he doesn't understand, yet, is what the probably-Andalites (he's putting more than even odds on it by now, this would be a lot of weird coincidences) are hoping to achieve here. 

He wants camera surveillance on the housefronts and driveways of all the various rented houses in cities that they've now got listed, but arranged via standard criminal-investigation routes, and without involving Yeerks in cities that don't otherwise have them? 

Do any of the houses have telephone lines, or have any of the suspects made purchases of cellular or satellite phones? If so, can they, by saying 'national security' loudly, get them wiretapped without doing anything obvious and visible in their neighbourhoods? 

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There are phones they can tap, and they can also get call records of past incoming and outgoing calls from those phones for as long as the telecom company keeps them.

 

They answer phone calls from numbers all over the country; landlords doing reference checks, when they chase them down. They make a few outgoing phone calls to various people in Alaska and Canada. What the calls are about is unclear but they will have them monitored going forwards.

 

...presumably the reason they're not storming in in force is that the Andalites will commit suicide but is there a reason they're not waylaying one, the next time they leave the house alone, it seems like that'd be a much faster way to get to the bottom of this?

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Because he has to assume that once one of them knows, they'll all know, and then they're going to go further underground. Visser 3 wants at least a better chance of tracking them when they do that. 

He's - confused. They've now identified a lot of people in this operation, and he's putting nine of ten odds that many of them aren't from Earth. How did they get here unseen? Also, their current activities might indicate capabilities that aren't obvious, because as seen so far they don't seem that productive. 

But, yes, they should make plans to waylay one of them, maybe with a mugging and drugs, they next time their surveillance captures them leaving the house alone. Ideally they choose one of the humans who's been observed continuously for more than two hours, because anyone who might be an Andalite in morph could have thoughtspeak, in which case they could get out an alarm rather than giving the Yeerks a while until their disappearance is noted (during which they can find out if there are Yeerk-sensing precautions, and if not send them back in with a Yeerk.) 

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Preparations begin for this. They take over a building a block from the ATM that the probable-Andalites seem to use, and prepare a tactical team with drugs. They could do a mugging, or hit someone with a car, the next time they see one of these faces out unaccompanied.

 

The next day the New York team calls in. One of their verified-humans is out alone. Go?

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He takes five seconds to pace. No going back from here. 

Yes, go. 

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He does not hear back from his strike team.

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...Shit. This is not optimal. 

It shouldn't have taken them longer than thirty seconds to do the actual kidnapping, and their orders were to report in as soon as they had the subject, or if anything unexpected happened and they required backup. So when it's been five minutes, he snaps to someone to start trying to contact them. 

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They have phone numbers for everyone on that team. They start calling them. 

Some of the phones ring unanswered. Some of the calls don't go through at all, like the phone is off (or has been destroyed). 

 

They start checking who is nearby, in case they want to send people to go look what happened, though - this was a well-equipped strike team of eight people -

 

"- also Visser we've got - a sensor reading from that location like - I don't - like a spaceship -"


"...like a hyperspace jump," someone else says slowly. 

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- what. But that's– Stop. Don't think 'impossible', it's not known to be possible to jump from a gravity well but they just observed what they observed - those missing phones... 

<Get people on site. Whoever's close, go for> he's tabbing through for the map, <the corner store, first, pull their security footage> It won't cover the building itself but it gets the sidewalk right in front of the suspects' house. <Break into the house once you have> pause <two dozen people, they took down eight no trouble. You are authorized to use lethal force, if you find anyone, do not let them escape. If they are still there at all. I doubt it>

Running would be the smart thing to do once they realized they'd been spotted, it's what he would do, and could explain whatever technology they used to give off that signature. 

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They make phone calls and pass these instructions along. They get estimates. They think they can get two dozen people there in ten more minutes, maybe less. 

"Looking back through logs for anything else that looked like a hyperspace jump on the surface," his lieutenant tells him. "We might've dismissed it as noise - since, you know, it's impossible -"

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<Excellent thinking> He tries to praise his subordinates when they have good ideas, it should help them have more of them and not be nervous to bring them up. 

He paces. 

<Do we have groups on site anywhere else. I think we should attempt a higher-force kidnapping at some of the other locations, in case they are all about to go to ground. Presumably we have people nearby at the Washington sites?> There are a couple of those, at opposite ends of the city, DC is big. 

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"We could take each location with fifty people in five minutes," someone says, pulling up a map full of red dots.

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<Go for both. Please. And someone should stay back to observe and report in realtime, in case - something like that happens again>

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They storm the apartment in Capitol Heights with fifty people and one hanging back to report live. He reports that the apartment is totally empty.

 

The storm the apartment at Dupont Circle with fifty people and one hanging back to report live. He - is abruptly cut off. A redial suggests that the phone has been destroyed. The sensors are detecting a massive surge of energy, not like someone hyperspace Gated like someone fired a ship weapon on the ground -

- they try to get nearby people on the phone but actually the first reports of what happened are on the national news.

Dupont Circle is levelled. No buildings are standing between M Street and Q Street and 19th-23rd Northwest. 

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What. 

- okay, send teams to storm other houses, they're likely to find them empty at this point (how are they getting out? they didn't sense another hyperspace-jump-like signature, could be morph but they know not all of them have it) but they can at least search them, if it was a hurried evacuation they might've left something behind. 

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They're doing that. 

About ten minutes later there's the news that one of the humans previously identified as living at the Dupont Circle Andalite house got out alive and is still in the city.  (They sent pictures to every Yeerk for several miles around when coordinating the doomed raid, and one of them saw her at a traffic light just now.)

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Emril, Healer and Mindspeaker, is driving way over the speed limit toward Dupont Circle when she gets the fragmentary Mindspeech warning from Lasvat, :helicopter incoming–: and he drops it to focus on something else. 

She wrenches the steering wheel around and drives even faster in the opposite direction, maybe she can still reach the crew at Capitol Heights - it's a slim hope but the alternative is awful so she's going to try. She can't reach ahead with Mindspeech, yet, her range is a couple miles and the other crew are nine miles away, but she's going to try - she can't even tell them to wait for her, not with the warning - damn it, why did she and Lasvat get so complacent about solo trips...

She makes it almost to Constitution Ave before the world goes white behind her and she nearly crashes the goddamned car. Lasvat. 

Keep. Driving. She's not giving up yet. 

No one seems to be pursuing her although a lot of drivers are very angry with her and she narrowly missed being hit by a semi, half past seven in the morning is a bad time for a car chase in DC and now everyone is gawking about the giant explosion behind her. 

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They should grab her, obviously. But apparently it's really important to catch these people by surprise, whoever the hell they are. She might not have her hands on whatever weapon just went off at Dupont Circle, more things will fit in a house than be portable in a car, but they can't be sure. 

(He takes three seconds to feel pain for the lives snuffed out, and then puts it aside for later.) 

He wants the Capitol Heights team headed as fast as they can in that direction. And - can the nearest Yeerk deliberately crash into her car? They should try to make it a nonfatal car crash, ideally, but she needs to have no warning before she's knocked unconscious. 

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The nearest Yeerk veers out of oncoming traffic and right into her.

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Aaaaaaaaaah Emril has time for an instant of red-hot fury, hey you asshole what the hell do you think you're doing - and then panic - and then they hit head-on and she slams forward, there's a brief flash of pain before everything goes away. 

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