1879: Actual Play: Conning the Rothschild
When we last left our intrepid explorers, Sam and Bethelie had recruited an old friend, Thierry, a Byron of some repute, to assist in their efforts against Otto von Schmerz. They’ve gained some insight thanks to Monsieur Peretsky, who has no love for Prussians himself. As we tune in to this week’s episode of Actual Play, we find Sam and Bethelie attempting to get Thierry in where he can do the most good – the Engine console of a bank branch.
It’s the wee hours of the morning, and Sam’s barely touching the throttle, ghosting Sweet William down over the rooftops of Berlin. He’s lined up his approach with the buildings of the block, to avoid the streetlights to either side, and coming in from upwind to take advantage of the air currents. Karma spent on his Pilot Airship Test results in a 25, and Sam brings Sweet William down to the roof of the Moabit branch of Banque Rothschild with precision. Two crewmen drop down on ropes, and make the lines fast to sturdy-looking bits of architecture, then remain on station in case a rapid casting off is required. Bethelie and Thierry follow down a rope ladder, and while Thierry waits for his tool bag to be lowered on a rope, Bethelie finds the roof access. Her previous escapade in the tenements and bier stubes of Wedding paid off; the key works, and she’s got the door unlocked. Thierry makes his Building Security (9) Test easily with a 14, and fastens a wire to the door and its frame, so that opening the door doesn’t break the circuit and set off the alarm. The two slip through the gap.
With Bethelie in the lead, they make their way down through the building to the first floor, and the dispatch office. The lights are out except the red bulbs burning over the emergency exits. The felt slippers they both wear (White Star Line first class passenger issue) muffle their footsteps. Another quick moment, a Lock Picking (12) Test with a result of 18, and Bethelie has the office door open. She stands watch while Thierry unpacks and gets to work. There’s two guards in the building, if her informant was correct, and he has been thus far. One will stay on the ground floor at the service entrance, in case someone needs to be let in. The other will make an occasional perambulation through the building. Villy is on duty tonight, and he boasted of taking a cigar from the boardroom humidor around one in the morning. He should just be lighting it if he’s kept to his routine, and that will keep him busy on the next floor up for at least a half an hour, longer if he also gets into the boardroom’s brandy.
Thierry cracks his knuckles and flexes his fingers like a piano player, and (with a Lock Picking (12) Test result of 15) opens the keyboard cover on the Analytical Engine console. It’s not the system master console, that’s down in the basement and would require getting past more security than they have time for. Looking under the keyboard, he finds a slip of paper with a single string of characters written on it. He enters it as a password, and he’s into the system, chuckling at how humans are always the weak point. Now to get system console access.
Thierry makes a Mechanic (12) Test against the Hardware Defense of the terminal, and gets it open without setting off alerts. A Clockwork (12) Test, and he’s got a bypass installed that tells the terminal he’s a maintenance engineer. A couple of innocuous query commands get him the version number of the Engine and the proprietary Rothschild financial cardware it’s running. He makes an Engine Programming Test against the Mill’s Software Defense of 18, tosses in karma, and gets a 24. (Blimey, Banque Rothschild is serious about their security. Usually, a bank Engine would only have a Software Defense of 10 for the Mill.) Using a maintenance instruction allowed by the hardware bypass, he exits out of the financial communications module to a system prompt and uses the extra success to skip the security challenge. Another Engine Programming Test, this with a result of 19, and he’s got his privileges extended to Mill access, although that was a close one.
All this has made some noise, the terminal Thierry is using being a standard electrical typewriter sort with a roll of paper for output. Bethelie keeps the door closed for the most part, only opening it a little in between Thierry’s commands and the Engine’s output so she can take a quick butcher’s down the hall. No smell of cigar smoke, so Villy hasn’t gone wandering about with his mid shift indulgence, but there’s no guarantee he’s actually in the boardroom right now.
Thierry needs to access the Store, and find specific account information. To do that, he’s going to need two successes, and the Engine’s security cardware will get a chance to detect his intrusion. He spends karma on this Engine Programming Test, against the Store’s Software Defense of 20. He gets a 32. Deep breath, it’s not over yet. The access at this hour may trigger a security response. The Security cardware makes a Test using its Rating of 15 against a 30, Thierry’s result of 32 minus 2 because he’s running an Advanced Manipulation. It gets a 17, a little better than average for its Step. The Store retrieves the data, sends it to the Mill, and the terminal clatters away, printing out the deposit history for one Otto von Schmerz. Thierry watches the output, putting his Knowledge of Finance to work with a Test result of 18. There it is. A series of deposits from Eduard Egon, Landgraf von Fürstenberg-Weitra, corresponding almost exactly with the attempt to retrieve the Zener tubes in London, the second attempt in Paris, and the unfortunate incident in München.
There’s no time to think about that, though. With the printout safely tucked away in a pocket, Thierry runs one more Advanced Manipulation, to delete the query he just made from the system log. His Engine Programming Test comes up with a 31, and the Security algorithm gets a 19. He logs out of the terminal, tucks the password back under the keyboard, and generally puts things back the way he found them. A nod to Bethelie, she checks the hallway for guards, and the two are on their way back up to Sweet William and a quiet exit over the rooftops of the Electric City.
What on Earth does a childless count in Austria, the last heir of a demesne nearly as defunct as the family line, want with Weird Science technology? Will Bethelie and Thierry make it to the roof, or will Villy finish his cigar early and run into them in the hall? Why are Otto’s payments being deposited in Berlin, to his own name and not an alias, but to an account with a French bank? These and many more questions will be answered in future episodes of Actual Play!