2019-12-14 - Tracing The Trace


Tracing the hack on Jemma leads the team to an apartment. What they find is disturbing … and smelly.

Log Info:

Storyteller: Jemma Simmons
Date: December 14, 2019
Location: New York

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Theme Song



The apartment block in downtown New York is mid to lower class. Dingy but liveable - the doors lock, the windows shut and there's wifi. There's not just a lot of disposable cash and the landlord clearly skimps on the maintenance.

It's here that Hank drives Jeriah, Jemma and a rather irrasicable feline. The four of them are sitting outside in his car, watching the building from a distance.

"Godfrey Winifred, Apartment 14D." Jemma is saying. "Caucasian, 38 year old male. It's his apartment that the hack attempt on me originated from. How do you want to do this, Jeriah? We've no warrants and it's possible the lead is red herring."

There was NO way she was doing this while stuck in a hardshell carrier. OR a backpack. Tortie-May is perched primly on Jemma's lap, looking at the building just like the rest of them, her ears twitching to follow the sounds of cars passing them along the street or the occasional noise of pedestrians and similar.

« I have a suggestion, » the bell on her collar chimes as she mrrps. « I go do recon and tell you if things look clear. » After all, who's going to look twice at a wandering cat wearing a collar?

« If they are, then you can search Winifred's apartment for evidence. »

Once they park, Hank unbuckles his seatbelt. "Well, I'm normally a costumed vigilante, I don't think I've had a warrant - not ever." He has the good graces to look sheepish. And no, Tortie-May did not need to be in a carrier in Hank's car, the seats are all treated for his old furry self, she's totally fine!

"That's actually along the lines of what I was going to suggest, Agent May." After all small felines are not generally considered threats by most people. In this case they'd be dead wrong, but…that doesn't mean they can't take advantage of that.

Hank then does something a little odd for him - he dons his reading glasses, when not reading, then watching out of the corner of his eye watches people's reactions when he taps the side of the frumpy looking things and it morphs into a face-hugging visor of see through amber. "Do we have a means to keep in comms with you?"

"I have a warrant. I just forgot it in my other pants." Jeriah snarks as he does a weapons check. It's very professional but also very military. May's suggestion gets a nod. "Go for it Agent."

While May is doing that Jeriah motions to Hank to follow him. They'll get set up to either come in casually or storm the place. Depending on what is needed.

"Any chance of convincing you to stay in the van, Jemma?" Probably not.

As May heads off Jeriah is humming. 'There's a cat who lives a life of danger…'

Jemma nods at Mays suggestion and takes a small gadget from her field bag. "A mini camera, that I can fit to you collar, if that's ok …" She says to May. Waiting just long for acknowledgement to do so. When the feed comes through to her to her tablet, Jemma shares the code for the others to link too. Mays feed goes to Jemma and Jeriah, Hank, if his suit will allow it. "There's a built in mic, but I'm not sure how sensitive it is."

Making to floor fourteen proves a little challenging for May. She has to wait for the elevator to arrive. Fortunately someone enters the building with her, glancing at the cat with undisguised disgust… and pressing the button to fourteenth floor.

Fortunate that.

On the fourteenth floor, she can see the apartment. All seems quiet as she approaches the door.

"We should start to move up, at the very least." Jemma murmurs. "Do you really want me to stay here, Jeriah?" She's no intention of doing so, he can tell that from her thoughts.

As she starts to exit the car, a group of people come in and head for the elevator. Probably good cover for the group of them?

Of course May allows the camera to be added to her collar, but she insists that the bell be removed in its place. Just too noisy.

Quickly exiting the car and heading for the building, she debates using the fire escape but no. Not for fourteen stories in this tiny body. Elevator it is. The human controlling the elevator for her is a stroke of luck, though his look of disgust makes her oh so tempted to do some impolite-looking grooming just to make the person even more disgusted. But ew. No. So, she just does her best to keep in the person's blind spot on the elevator ride up, then slips out before the conveyance's door close again.

Trotting over to the target's door, she looks up and down the hall for anyone else approaching before sticking her nose toward the bottom of the door. Can she hear or smell anything of note? Would she even know what she was smelling if she did?

Honestly the least suited of the group to being unobtrusive is Hank, his sheer size and oddball proportions make it really hard to blend. A pause. "I could get us to the roof easily enough if you'd like?" This offer to both Jeriah and Jemma. "Just a few quick skips and hops, easy-peasy and bam, Bob's your uncle."

He does note the group entering the building however and is ready and willing to sort of join the flow if the others are not keen on Hank Express to the rooftop.

Hank's new visor does have comms built in, and Jemma would certainly have the access codes and the like, no question. Hank windows the feed in one corner of his HUD. May, comms check, meow to ack.

"I'm good with a roof entry? Clench up Simmons. Since you insist on coming. And don't close your eyes when you shoot." He knows she doesn't. Anymore. But damn it he's pretty sure she did once.

That had annoyed Jeriah slightly.

"My uncle's name is Dave, by the way."

Once up top Jeriah checks his weapon again and it reconfigures - visibly - from a carbine into a shotgun.

Right. One spray of hot electro-plasma death ready for the first person to annoy Jeriah.

Cats have extraordinary hearing and smell. From the apartment, May can smell something … off. It's got a sweet sickly scent, like rotting garbage … And there's a radio or tv playing or something. Not loudly enough that it's audible in the hallway, but it's loud enough to offend her feline sensibilities.

That's when someone comes out of apartment 14E, turning into the hall and heading towards to May. "Oh hey, Kitty. Want some of this?" he offers the cat a piece of hot bbq chicken.

It smells delicious…. or does it, with the stench coming from the apartment near them?

"Clench up?" Jemma blinks at Hank and Jeriah, wrapping her arms about the hacker soldier. Maybe she won't throw up when they do this? Jemma has never really liked roller coasters or free falling from the Quinn Jet.

Up on on the roof, the trio have to get through the roof top access door. It's locked solid and not with technology. Just good old fashion physical security. Fortunately each of those present can get it open. Down the stairs, to lead out into the hall where May is being tempted by chicken. They'll exit right behind the Samaritan - after they wrench that door open.

May mrrs faintly in reply to Hank, then listens to the music coming from the apartment for a moment before sni—UGH. She sneezes and leans away from the door with her ears thrown back, just in time to be noticed by the kind-hearted human now offering some bbq chicken. She's not hungry and that STENCH likely will follow her the rest of the day so she declines the kind if misguided offer by taking a moment to scratch at her collar in the most normal cat way possible.

It likely sounds rather annoyingly loud over the comms.

Hank gives the other two a lift to the roof - the ride is a bit bumpy as he bounces them off its walls and the building next to it in a zig-zag several hops. It is very fast, however, definitely faster than climbing the fire escape would have been. Once up top, and not feeling particularly in a destructive mood Hank takes out a set of lockpicks, and simply bypasses the locks. Why break stuff when you don't have to? There's people that live here after all.

Down to fourteen they go, and Hank will be the first out the door, side stepping quickly when he sees the samaritan with spicy chicken and to make room. For a big guy he moves very lightly on his feet, and with surprising quiet, though of course the door opening will not be as easily masked.

A faint sigh at the scratching from the May.

Jeriah makes a living of breaking things where people live. And also breaking people where people live. Which is possibly why he simply gives Chicken Guy a smack on the back of his head with his weapon. That should put the guy down. He's going to wake up with a headache but he's also not going to have seen anything. Well. He'll have seen Hank. And May. But nothing else.

"Alright." There's the apartment they need. Jeriah looks at the door. Then at May. And then at the door.

"Go go gadget spy cat."

"Hank. Can you see through the door with that visor of yours?" He knows Jemma has some vision like that. Might be useful now while May gets actual eyes on.

Though not human eyes so everything is going to look WIERD to her. Well. Has been looking weird.

Tortie-May hisses at Jeriah in annoyance, her tail lashing twice.

Honestly, the jangling of the bell in the comms is almost painful. It hits just the frequency to be so for Jemma's ears. "Jeriah!" She says as he hits chicken guy from behind and then shrugs.

It works. Just not how she would do it. Jemma would use an ICER. *sagenod*.

Offering May her shoulder, Jemma's right eye glows red - XRay vision penetrating the door. It's barely helpful. Then blue. "I'm not seeing any heat signs. Hank, what about you?"

Indeed, there are none. And the smell that May gets doesn't waft to the three people standing with her. The apartment looks … empty even if there is something playing inside, which they can hear.

Honestly, the jangling of the collar in the comms is almost painful. It hits just the frequency to be so for Jemma's ears. "Jeriah!" She says as he hits chicken guy from behind and then shrugs.

It works. Just not how she would do it. Jemma would use an ICER. *sagenod*.

Offering May her shoulder, Jemma's right eye glows red - XRay vision penetrating the door. It's barely helpful. Then blue. "I'm not seeing any heat signs. Hank, what about you?"

Indeed, there are none. And the smell that May gets doesn't waft to the three people standing with her. The apartment looks … empty even if there is something playing inside, which they can hear.

"Oh, well, that's…effective." Hank says as Jeriah simply thumps the guy on the noggin. It honestly never occurred to Beast to just knock the guy out like that, he'll consider adding it to the repertoire later though. Hey! If it works, well, why wouldn't the man, right?

A grin as Jemma chides, and then he shakes his head to Jeriah. "Sorry, no x-ray vision, micro and telscopic, thermal and night-vision."

He turns his gaze to the side and shifts to thermals, "Nothing stands out, no hot spots I can see." A pause. "Scanning local radio and wifi, seeing if I can find anything going on in there…"

May seems unperturbed by Jeriah's method of dealing with the man offering chicken, then tries to warn Jemma about what she smelled under that door by putting a paw on the biochemist's foot to get her attention then pulling the most disgusted face she can manage (like cat smelling a banana bad) and sneezing and rubbing at her nose with one paw.

She then, holding her breath, goes back to lean her collar's camera against the door in the hopes that its microphone will pick up the music coming from inside that she can hear annoyingly well.

Jeriah CAN, fortunately, borrow May's camera. His eyes go vague for a moment and then he nods. "Right. Looks clear." He leans back and kicks the door in.

And immediately regrets doing so. There's a sickly sweet smell wafting out of the place. He knows that smell. Decay. Death. Someone or something has been dead in here for a bit.

The reason is… on the couch. "Yuck." That might be the owner of the place. He is quite dead.

Walking past that, the hacker-soldier goes to the computer on the desk and starts poking at it.

"Someone's been using this. Up to about six hours ago. It's set to accept remote access but that's new. It was being used from this location. Memory's wiped."

But that doesn't mean it can't be gotten back. Hank has the tools for that probably. He does too.

"Oh …" Jemma mutters screwing her nose up. "Let me …" she eyes the body on the couch and lets out a breath. She can do some preliminaries on it, get an approximate time of death - maybe. And maybe a cause … while the others do what they need to.

"May, check the bedrooms and other rooms… " beat "… please." It won't help the cats sensitive nose but …

Hank and Jeriah are going to have to break the security on the computer. It's a little more state of the art than your standard home computer. They'll get in though. Then have to work their magic.

May will find the wastebin in the bathroom has balled up paper in it and if her cat sensibilities can avoid playing with it, she might be able to open it out. There's a symbol on it … a stylised world with words …

The instant Jeriah kicks open the door open, May visibly gags and scrambles a few steps away from the door. Sadly, there's no escaping that STENCH. And, yeah, now she knows without having to see that that is decaying human flesh. Ugh.

SO glad she didn't take any of that chicken.

At Jemma's request to search the other rooms she seriously debates just leaving, but it's her job to do this. So, trying to hold her breath (something her cat body does NOT understand), she ducks into the apartment and checks a room, flees to the hall where the stench isn't quite so pervasive, then repeats for the next room.

It's in the restroom that she finds something interesting, and after batting it out of the trash can and out into the hall, she refuses to go into the apartment again. She'll sit here with her piece of paper and gag and watch for anyone coming down the hall.


Once again, Jeriah takes precipitous action, and upon the lovely waft of body rot stench coming out Hank has real cause to be glad to have lost his super senses! So there's that, at least. "Oh my stars and garters, that's vile." Not that Hank hasn't smelled it before, just, never a fun experience. The particular stench of death is very distinctive after all, a compound of rotting flesh, and bodily waste mixing into an absolutely horrid effluvium. It probably doesn't help it having been shut up in an enclosed area too. Double bonus stink for having the heat on!

Hank moves over to the computer when Jeriah does. "Tune to this frequency, Jer…we can tag team it, yes?" Hank offers him a highly specific frequency, and opens a link to him, what's interesting is he seems to be typing on the air as if there were a keyboard there.

He can't help but sympathize with Tortie-May, he's had senses keener than human, powerful stench? Yeah…obnoxious.

"On it." Jeriah links to the frequency Hank has provided and gets to work. "Hell that encryption is something else. Block chain, eh? Challenge accepted. Hank. This looks like a proof of work scheme. I don't suppose you have a way to short circuit the math, do you?"

He's already working on other angles but proof of work schemes work for a reason.

Unless you can cheat.

"May? Where'd Cat-May go?" She was looking for something. Wait. Is that her batting around paper? No… no. She's unfolding it. Good. She hasn't suffered from Cat Brain.

"How'd he die, Jemma?"

"Would you like to take a guess, Jeriah?" Jemma answers, very quietly. It's not really hard to pick up Jemma's thoughts as she goes through the battery of examinations. She doesn't know. "There's no physical reasons that I can see, no injuries. Initial presentation is that his heart gave out but there's small things that aren't adding up. I need to some more tests … but I'm getting similar results to the bio-phage victims on some of my tests."

She sighs. "Maybe I'm just jumping at shadows. Bio-phage is a hammer and everything looks like a nail."

"What do you have, May?" Jemma takes the paper from May and frowns. "Has anyone heard of Rising Tide?"

As for Jeriah and Hank, they've the work cut out for them and it takes a moment to break the encryption. Well, more than a moment. Using that time, Jemma calls in a SHIELD team. Then they're in and now they can recover the memory.

As for May, she's picking up all sorts of scents in the hallway - if she can get them over the stench from the room. There's one distinctly feminine one that leads too and from the room. It's layered. Multiple visits perhaps? Maybe May wants that bell right about now.

"Proof of work? Hrm…sure, I have a few ideas on the math front." It is possibly a little scary how well the two work together, they might quip and fuss, but there's nothing lacking in their teamwork when it comes time to actually do something. Since he's linked in, Jeriah can even see the readouts on Hank's HUD if he is so inclined, yeah, no way that anything bad could possibly happen when you let Jeriah into your tech past the firewalls and such. He'd never even think of pranking, right?

Hank grimaces a bit at the mention of the bio-phage, but it is the Rising Tide thing that gets his attention. "Actually, yes, they're a hacktivist group and I have an asset who's one of them. She also provided me some samples of stuff contaminated with Terrigen, I have distilled it into a sample size worthy of analysis, I was going to bring that by later, so we can study it, Jemma."

He does look for May, and frowns a bit when he sees her out in the hall, but…then the stink comes to mind and he gets it.

Mostly he works on that encryption with Jer.

Letting Jemma look at the piece of paper, Tortie-May stays out in the hallway, already trying to figure out how to ask the WAND agent and family she's been staying with to give her a bunch of lemons to bathe in. She's still contemplating that when Hank checks up on her, and she has to fight back another round of gagging. SMELL BAD. At least it's not messing with her ears, so she'll hear anyone approaching, though they'll probably be chased away again by the stink.

Wait. Maybe this will get the six year old to stop asking her to wear dresses.

"Hacktivist troublemakers, as he says. But not outright terrorist so they've never come up on my radar." Jeriah is not someone these people like. Partly because he works for the government - or worked for them - so that's a strike against but ALSO because he cheats by having his computer in his brain and ALL of these people are proud of how skilled they are.

At any rate, them not being on his radar means 'they are alive'. Because people who show up on Jeriah's radar tend to suffer from a bad case of dead sooner or later.

"Alright. There it is. We've got something. Not a location yet but a tracer bug right in the middle of their compromised network. We should be able to do some tracking off this. Hank. Maybe use your asset? Otherwise it's going to be me, my dogs and a tactical team and I doubt very much there will be many survivors."

Beat. "Also we should leave. This place smells like a bag of smashed ass."

"Do you now. Well, it seems that either our friend here or their 'friend' has an interest in them. What that is … I don't know. Get what data you can and then we can go."

It really does smell bad in here and Jemma's wondering if she can use her implants to turn off her sense of smell.


"There'll be a SHIELD team to collect the body arriving soon. They'll be discrete."

"We might need your asset, Hank. But lets see what get from this first."

How secure is Jeriah with his tracker bug? Would someone savvy enough be able to reverse engineer it? That's a question that might need to be asked as some point.

With the data collected, it doesn't take them long to vacate. There's some lemon handwash in Jemma's lab, maybe May can give herself a wash.

"They believe that information is a right, that nothing should be kept from the public." Hank adds to the commentary on Rising Tide. "And my asset is a bit of a Conspiracy Theorist." Just a bit. "Doesn't trust the government at all, and seemed to think I was foolish to trust SHIELD at all, though I told her I really didn't…I trust the people I work with, which is a very different thing." And that likely means that were they taken out of the loop that Hank might not be as forthcoming as a consultant.

A smile and a nod. "That said, I'll reach out to her and see if she'll be willing to work with us - I'd really rather not have her hurt, please." This to Jeriah. "So yes, I'll reach out."

Hank is /so/ not military or ex-military, and it shows. Still, good heart, better brain.

Hank nods. "I look forward to working on it with you, Jemma." As to the security of the bug Hank can't say. "Yes. We definitely need out of the noisome." He considers. "I do know a few tricks for getting stink out of hair and fur, and I am sure the needed components are in Jemma's lab…"

[Melinda May]
Hearing the others talking about leaving, May voices her strong agreement by offering a quiet but scratchy and emphatic meow. Yes, let's leave. PLEASE. She looks up at Hank and meows again, a bit more insistent this time before craning her neck to see Jemma and Jeriah to meow at them also.

Let's GOOO already!

"Typical of the sort." Jeriah notes. "Incredibly short sighted but I can say that about a lot of people. Anyway. We're done here."

Someone might be able to take that code apart but doing so is always risky. After all Jeriah knows it better than anyone else. Also he leaves surprises.

"Tomato sauce. And vinegar." The hacker suggests sagely as they depart. "Come one Jemma. Hank. May. Let's get outta here."

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