The Zalozhniy Quartet

Among Thieves

With 24 hours to go, the final stages of the plan are coming together. Thanks to Clarique’s assistance we’ve got access to the passcodes and swipe cards we need. Massimo’s going to extract the vault key and deposit box key from the Manager’s safe, doing what he does best. Sergei spends the day cooking up a special batch of knock-out gas, compressed into aerosol cans and an ‘antidote’ for the planned double-cross. That just leaves the SBS security system to tackle.

Patrick’s affairs in Ireland are temporarily on hold, so he agrees to fly back to Zurich to be close on hand. Katya and Somerset set up a meeting with an SBS sales rep, posing as security consultants. With a bit of careful questioning, Somerset is able to sketch out a map of the security protocols and once back at the safe house, he picks it apart to find a weakness.

There isn’t one. Cameras in the bank feed directly to a control station inside the building and are simultaneously transmitted back to SBS Security where they are monitored remotely. Any alarm activated in the bank will also alert the local black and whites.

With Clarique’s warning about there being no police involvement, the alarm is the first priority. Luckily, Patrick had the forethought to add his alias to a list of approved engineers and is able to get into the bank in office hours to inject a backdoor program into the air-gapped security server, overriding its programmed response to alarm signals. In theory, we should be safe from all internal alarms and invisible to the cops, which just leaves the on-site human element to worry about.

Without having a serious tech head physically inside the bank, we’ve got no chance of spoofing the camera feeds, and they’ve got redundancy protocols anyway. If we mess with cameras inside the building, then SBS will know about it, and if we mess with the SBS feed, the bank security will still be able to see us.

There’s only one solution – take out SBS Security.

Fortunately Patrick reckons he can do this without the use of explosives and begins building a new rig at the office. The room soon fills with computer components, open cases disgorge their coloured entrails into a chaos of monitors. Silhouetted against the glowing LCDs, Patrick’s face is filled with a manic glee. This promises to be quite a show.

However, it’s time to get in position at the bank. Katya parks close by inside a stolen Audi, ready for rapid extraction. Somerset, Malach, Sergei, Massimo, Keith and Minina ascend to the roof of the neighbouring building and prepare the zip wire.

An icy breeze tears across the rooftops as the team prepare to make the crossing. The five wouldbe bank robbers share a look, a silent agreement that the plan is going ahead.

“Oh, I almost forgot, " says Sergei. He hands a small package to each of the team. “Patrick picked these up – a precaution, in case we get caught on camera.”

The Bulgarian grins and pulls his own colourful bundle out and down over his head. Keith mutters darkly. Malach sighs. Then they don their own masks, leaving five Luchadores scowling at each other in the Swiss night.

“I’m not going to forget this, Patrick,” Somerset breathes into his radio. Across the city, the Irishman giggles hysterically.

The rooftop crossing goes smoothly until Somerset makes a rough landing, crunching hard into the gravel roof. Quickly recovering his composure, he check that the mission hasn’t already been blown . A couple of passersby must have noticed something in the direction of the roof, but we’ll just have to trust that this isn’t going to raise enough suspicion for them to call the police.

Massimo steps up to the roof door and breaks out a set of tools. If he’s as good as his reputation, this won’t take long. We radio Patrick: “Game time.”

As Massimo inserts a narrow shaft of metal into the lock and attaches wires to parts of the frame, Patrick launches his cyber attack on the SBS servers. The Irishman is far too canny to go straight for the security systems – first he’s going to lead them on a merry chase. And there’s no better way to get the attention of their sys admins than hitting them where it hurts: right in the pension fund. Minutes pass in a flurry of keystrokes, strategic script bombs and Mountain Dew, and for one heart-stopping moment, the admins seemed to be a hair’s breadth from closing down his root access. But it was only another ruse: with attentions fully diverted, Patrick abruptly vanishes from the financial servers and drops through a backdoor into his real prize, leaving only a self-replicating tangle of malware in his wake. Then it’s just a matter of delivering his pre-prepared virus package and executing.

As the entire SBS Security remote monitoring server bank begins an inescapable power-cycling routine, Patricks gives the rest of the team the green light: “All their base are belong to us.”

By this time, Massimo has opened the door and the team of infiltrators have started making our way to the security station. We’ve halted at the first camera waiting for the go ahead, but when it comes, there’s a pause as we prep ourselves. SBS might be cripplped, but the second we walk out in front of the camera, we could be spotted by the local security. As the others hesitate, Sergei steps out and puts a silenced pistol round straight through the camera lens. He gives the glowering form of Keith an patronising look. The big man seems wired to the point of snapping, all testosterone and alpha male. Bad luck for the guards.

We split up: Massimo and Sergei go for the manager’s office and the safe; the muscle, Keith and Malach, head for the Security Station; Minina and Somerset circle through the corridors looking for patrols.

Somerset picks up the trail of a lone guard pacing the echoing corridors. Stealthy coming up behind the hapless man, Somerset delivers a hard blow to the back of his head. Miraculously, the guard catches himself before he’s thrown to the ground, spinning around with a truncheon gripped between nervous fingers. Even though he recovered admirably from the first assault, he’s far from ready when Somersets chops his hand across his windpipe. With a gasping wheeze the man sinks to the floor, truncheon clattering away. Somerset checks his pulse to confirm that he’s out cold.

The Tac-Net suddenly springs to life – Malach is calling for backup, punctuating his request with the thump of a silenced pistol. Sergei and Somerset each break off to make their way to the security station.

Somerset is first on scene and it’s clear that the ‘no bloodshed’ plan has gone right out the window. Clearly we’ve underestimated the local security measures as there are two corpses in the room along with an unconscious guard. Sergei soon arrives and dispassionately examines the corpses. “Overwatch, or possibly just plain old Lisky Bratva – here, see the mafia tattoos. Unpleasant customers, but nothing to get excited about.” Malach reloads his pistol and Somerset glances over at the security monitors. “Can’t see any more right now,” he observes.

But Keith is furious, all traces of professionalism evaporating fast. “Who the fuck are these guys? Why didn’t you tell us about them? You’re trying to screw us!” Sergei approaches him calmly, voice soothing. “We did tell you there were third parties involved, this is nothing we weren’t expecting. Stick to the plan, we can handle this.” Keith’s hand is inching closer to his gun and for a fraction of a second, the uneasy alliance is about to break apart in a very close range fire fight. Then just as suddenly the moment passes, bunched muscles relax, breathing resumes.

Sergei puts a bullet through each of the LCD security monitors, drawing a questioning expression from Somerset. “We can’t leave anyone here and I don’t want anyone else tracking our movements through these,” Sergei responds, then stoops to snatch up a fallen automatic pistol.

Back on mission, Sergei returns to find Massimo, who echoes some of Keith’s concerns about the extra guards, but luckily none of his brooding violence. “We were expecting this,” Sergei says. “We’ve got a solid plan, let’s stick to it.” Massimo is convinced and we’re back on mission.

A few minutes later, we hit our next complication. The old pro Massimo has got the safe open without difficulty and he’s got the vault key. However, the safety deposit box keys appear to be wired into a separate alarm system, one that we can’t be certain we’ve disabled. Rather than take the risk, we leave Malach in the Manager’s office, ready to run down to the vault with the deposit box key once we’ve got the rest of the loot. Hopefully it won’t come to that though, since we’ve got plenty of other means of opening a safety deposit box in a pinch.

Outside, Katya is sitting tight, engine idling, monitoring police radio bands and the local radio stations. There’s nothing worth getting excited over on the police channels, but the local DnB station, BassFahrtFM, is pumping out some premier league funk: a double-base hook on staccato roller, stuffed full of knotty tech crunchiness. The orchestral bass whine pinions a percussive injection of delicious house atmospherica into the breakdown before the second drop.

Down in the basement, everything is flowing smoothly. No more guards encountered, no alarms triggered. We make our way to the vault door, armed with swipe cards, pass codes and the key. There’s another moment’s hesitation before the pressure plate at the foot of the vault door. Somerset, frustration showing, pushes Massimo ahead and the sudden shove knocks the aging safe-cracker to his knees. Once again Keith’s close to snapping. Sergei unhooks a gas grenade from his belt, shielding the action with his body, but Minina brings things to order with a sharp command. Dusting himself off, Massimo scowls, inserts the key, swipes the card through the scanner and enters the code. With a metallic clunk, the door swings open.

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