"Say, have you checked for surveillance devices lately?"
Apt 403 - Village Lofts - East Village
There's kind of a college-dorm feel to this place, though some of its occupants have left college behind. Entering the apartment finds visitors greeted by the perpetually messy living room, a mismatched assortment of couches and chairs (and milk crates) surrounding the wide table in the center. The wall holds a range of posters; some political, some sporty, some from video games, and a string of white lights strung over the kitchen doorway might be a holdover from Christmas. A widescreen television stands against the wall opposite the couch, shelving beside it holding a host of video games from different consoles. More shelving beside the windows on the far wall carries stacks of board games, as well as sourcebooks from various RPGs.
The kitchen adjacent is just as cluttered, its table unfit for eating due to its perpetual covering of books, papers, cereal boxes, projects; the fridge is usually sparsely populated. Ketchup. Beer. Not a lot of food. There are two bedrooms here and one bathroom situated between them, split between the three people who live here.
There's a rattle at the window as someone clambers down fire escape and gives the glass a perfunctory knock before just opening it and climbing in. Skye is being very casual about her B&E, calling out "Yo nerds!" as she closes the window behind her. She's dressed in a cloud-soft gray sweater, wide neckline slouching down on one side to expose the strap of her pink camisole, colorful galaxy print skinny jeans, and hot pink combat boots. She carries a no-nonsense black tactical backpack over the shoulder that is still padded by sweater, though she unslings it once she is inside. It looks heavy.
The apartment is, as usual, kind of a wreck. Last night's Chinese food sits out (on the milk crates, not the tables or counters) and a disorganized jumble of books (medical textbooks, gridded notebooks with Hive's braindump-sketches, Shadowrun sourcebooks, a library copy of N.K. Jemisin's /Hundred Thousand Kingdoms/ open face down somewhere to its middle) takes up the space on the living room table that /isn't/ currently occupied by heaps of fabric and a sewing machine.
The apartment is quiet, but it doesn't take long before Dusk's door opens. He leans up against the doorframe, rumple-haired and pale, shirtless in sunglasses and fraying old brown corduroys. "Just one nerd, sorry. Our supply is low today."
"Heeey." Skye had just knelt down to root through her backpack, but looks up long enough to give Dusk an appreciative once-over. "You're nerd enough for me. Say, have you checked for surveillance devices lately?" She asks this off-handedly, as if she didn't really care, but the tension in her shoulders says otherwise. "Also, you want coffee?" She's waggling a thermos. "From Evolve."
"Tss." One of Dusk's thumbclaws flicks along with this scoff. He saunters out from the doorway, hopping up to perch in a crouch on an arm of the couch. "Who do you think I am? The only one who bugs this house is me." A frown follows this swiftly; he scuffs knuckles against his scruffy cheek. "... hypothetically. Not like. Currently. Though come to think of it maybe I /should/, as many bomb threats as Ryan's been getting." His claws hook into the already much-beaten-up couch, bracing himself to lean forward and snag the thermos. "Bless you."
"Good! I mean not the bomb threats, but you know. The absence of bugs." Skye drags a large laptop and a small hemispherical device from the backpack. The first she opens and tries to set down on the table before giving up and just letting it boot on the floor. The second she wiggles in between cartons of rice on a milk crate and activates so that it issues an irregular stream of soft noises. "Cuz I got something to show you," she says while she types in a comically long password, then drags the computer up onto the couch, sitting kind of diagonally so that Dusk can see the screen over her shoulder. "If you wanna. It's kinda tinfoil hat stuff -- but it's /true/! Might be dangerous to know, but..." She twists around to consider Dusk. "I think Matt and his siblings are being targeted for -- /something./"
Dusk pops the cap on the coffee, cradling the thermos in both hands. He takes slow sips, a soft appreciative rumble purring in his throat. The rumble doesn't stop when he he speaks. "Sure, I haven't filled my monthly danger quota anyway." Though Skye's subsequent explanation quiets the purring. His wings shift, claws hooking tighter into the couch with a quiet tearing sound. "Matt? You think it's Prometheus?" He's looking down toward her screen, shoulders hunching a little bit inward. "I don't know what they'd want with his /siblings/, though."
Skye calls up a terminal and runs a script that boots into a custom-made utility suite that charts Internet bandwidth usage across several axes. "I don't /think/ so," she says, then adds, "I sure /hope/ not, because if so they've gotten a helluva stereoid shot straight in the cloak-and-dagger budget." A flick of her fingers on the touchscreen expands a wireless traffic volume chart. "About a week ago, my bots picked up a /big/ spike in wireless bandwidth usage across a couple of phone towers near the Tessiers' house. So like, whatever, that happens, but this just...kept spiking, in four-hour shifts, and never got throttled." She scrolls to the right and, indeed, the usage line jumps up and down somewhat, but remains far above where it had been before the initial spike.
"So I started intercepting their data, and look at this beautiful shit." Calling up another terminal, she opens a text file filled with what looks like utter nonsense and a small floating graphical interface searching it for patterns. "This is a /better/-than-US-military-grade encryption algorithm called 'Scylla' that people have only started seeing in the last couple of years. No one's cracked it, but the accumulated meta-data it's almost always used in surveilling prominent mutant activists or their close associates. Including quite a few people living in this very building, as it turns out, though that's either ended or been migrated to wired hardware somehow. But the thing is, Scylla's never shown up in any Prometheus data -- that /I'm/ aware of. Have you seen anything like that, hacking Prometheus shit?"
Dusk leans in, elbows propped on his knees and the coffee forgotten as he studies Skye's screen. "Sounds like a challenge." This, with a quick half-smile. He shakes his head, the tip of his tongue running between his fangs. "They're good, but they're not *that* good. Don't get me wrong, it took B and I a lot of coffee and lost sleep to break their shit but." A hitch of a wing supplants the obvious conclusion: it *was* broken. "You think they know? I mean, Prometheus probably isn't the only group out there who'd have an interest in getting their hands on someone like Matt." His brows furrow, as he considers the other possibilities: "... or maybe they're really angry theatre nerds? Taking dance criticism a little too far?"
"Challenge accepted. Wanna help me with it? My money's on theatre nerds." Skye's grin is slightly manic in that underslept and overcaffeinated way. "Yeah you know, I tried going to talk to them about it earlier in the week but his sister...Desi? Just closed the door right in my face. Super weird." She shrugs. "But that was before I figured out about Scylla, so in retrospect it's probably /good/ I didn't blab about it in their house. Oh!" She slaps one palm to her face. "Duh. They probably /do/ know. But I'm not sure they know the /extent/ of the monitoring. I mean..." She pulls up a different data set in her utility suite. "Here they started intercepting the house's internet traffic, and I'm sure they're doing the same to each person's mobile data. Even with that, the meatspace surveillance is continuing." She points back at the first chart she had opened, still floating in the background to one side of her desktop. "Like, why bother? Even for Big Brother, this is a /bit/ much. I don't think this is FBI, NSA, DHS, any of those clowns. But..." She rolls her head back to give Dusk an embarrassed smile. "I probably shouldn't go down the rabbit hole of guessing which probably non-existent covert agency this /might/ be just yet. You know I got a whole Mary Poppins bag of 'em."
"You know I'm down. Haven't slept yet, though, we might need more coffee." Dusk finally remembers the thermos and takes another gulp. "There's been a pretty heavy bump in noise around here but, well." One of his wings hitches up. "Ryan. I didn't think much of it, figured it would taper off in a couple weeks." His brows dip, fingers tapping lightly against the side of the thermos. "When did you say this started? I was at a party there earlier this week and they have a new houseguest. Don't know much of anything about him, though."
"Yeah same, but we'll summon more," Skye says, waving a hand in the general direction of the kitchen, then hums thoughtfully. "Yeah, given how many people are spying on Ryan right now, it'll be a lot easier to pick out these /particular/ assholes after we break their encryption." Twisting around again, she braces her elbow on the back of the couch, raises her eyebrows at Dusk. "The initial spike in traffic happened almost two weeks ago, uh..." She taps the first chart again and flicks left so that it scrolls back in time. "Late at night on February 5th. They didn't start intercepting traffic until afternoon of the 9th, though. Also their -- Big Brother's -- comms volume went up overall this week, starting Monday. If this guy started staying with them on any of those days, it's might well be him Big Brother's after.
"No idea how long he's been there. Didn't talk much he looked really --" Dusk rubs a cheek absently against a wingspar before giving a small shrug. "White." He's taking out his phone, writing a quick text. "You got ideas, though? About the agency. I'm open to the tinfoil hat variety, if you have a place to start looking."
Skye chuckles humorlessly. "Well, being really white can help when the government is after you -- to a point." She opens up an encrypted archive on her computer and enters another ridiculous password. "Well, if I narrow it down by interest in mutants /and/ super-extra shadowy goodness, my first bet would be on one of these two organizations..." The directory she opens contains two folders labelled 'H.A.M.M.E.R.' and 'S.H.I.E.L.D.' "Yeah, I know. Rumors about them crop up on the darknet occasionally, only to disappear -- as often as not along with the OPs. But /supposedly/ S.H.I.E.L.D. is the U.N. Security Council's answer to the Liberty Island attack, and H.A.M.M.E.R. is the U.S. military's. Mutant-focused counter-terrorism." She shrugs. "Very little of the info on these orgs is...not what you'd call /solid/, but I can make you a copy of what I've gathered."
Dusk eyes his phone as it buzzes. "Matt says he's been there a couple weeks, so the timing lines up." His brows hitch way up as he peers down at the screen. "S.H.I.E.L.D.? H.A.M.M.E.R.? Are they staffed entirely by James Bond villains?"
"Wonder why these jokers are after him," Skye wonders aloud. "Seems like the only logical explanation to me. I've seen several versions of what S.H.I.E.L.D. stands for, and /no one/ seems to know what H.A.M.M.E.R. stands for. I'll set some bots to trawl for more recent news about them both. This much extra activity has got to show up on someone else's radar, too."