"Well now... whatever it once was, it is now home."
Standing in front of the two story house, Korey admired its construction and how well it had faired over the years under the wear and tear of the elements. The paint had once been a crisp sky blue in color, but it had now faded a bit, and a few areas around the windows and doors had begun to peel away. The garage had been built into the house's frame, and took up most of the lower left side, with a small porch and door to the right. Large picture windows on the second floor reflected the early morning sun as it rose into the air, and gave a brief view inside the house. However, the driveway, in a start contrast to the house, was solid and whole, with not a single crack to show.
Taking out her keys as she approached the door, Korey unlocked the double thick bolts set into the steel door and equally steel door frame, and pushed it open to reveal a spacious living room stretching out to the right and in front of her. Through an open doorway she could see into the combination dining room and kitchen, with doors leading out to the backyard at the back and side.
Hard wood flooring stretched out along the floor and continued up the stairs to the second floor, where the three bedrooms and bathroom were, as well as down the stairs to the furnished basement with it's laundry room, miniature bar, and large bathroom. Every surface actually gleamed, except for those sections of floor covered by what little supplies she had, and Korey smiled, glad that she had hired in a cleaning crew to spruce the place up before she had arrived.
Taking her shoes off, Korey placed them in the closet beside the door and approached the small pile of boxes placed in front of the large, midnight black desk. Kneeling down, she picked one up, suppressing a grunt of effort, and propped it up on the desk before opening it. However, before she could begin, the doorbell rung.
>From out of the box came the Beretta 95R and a clip of bullets. In a flash, the gun was loaded and Korey was approaching the door, the gun held behind her back. She sidled up to one side of the door and opened it, allowing in a older looking oriental man dressed in a dark blue suit and tie.
"Please, come in," she offered, stepping back and sliding the Beretta silently into the back of her pants.
"Winter's Investigations Inc.?" he asked, to which she nodded.
"How may I help you, Mr..." She cocked her head slightly to one side, awaiting a response.
"Mr. Kuto. A pleasure to meet you." He extended a hand and she took it, shaking it firmly. "I have need of a woman with skills such as you, Miss Winters." He followed her into the living room and, at a nod from her, took a seat in one of the two only chairs in the house. The second which Korey sat in, was behind the desk.
"How so?" She resisted the urge to arch an eyebrow, amazed that she would have gotten anyone in so soon. It had been only a day or two since she had started advertising her company amongst the many others that subcontracted out to the numerous mega-corporations.
"I represent Mitsumoto Motors Inc., a quickly expanding sports company with emphasis in areas such as outdoor recreation, including motorcycles." He hefted the briefcase up and, at a nod from her, laid it atop the desk and opened it, withdrawing a number of pictures. "Last year, a small company specializing in new motorcycle designs was destroyed after several unsuccessful attempts to buy them out, and all the personnel, equipment, and files were lost along with the company... or so we thought."
He handed Korey the pictures, slightly blurry ones of a familiar looking motorcycle racing about what she assumed to be a private race track. "We, at Mitsumoto Motors Inc., have reason to believe that our rivals, Konenski Inc., were the ones behind this attack."
Korey nodded, and wondered if Mr. Kuto had any idea that not all of the personnel and equipment had been lost. "I see... and what, exactly, would you have need of my services for?"
"To steal the prototype bike they have built, destroy any and all records they have on it and bring it to us." His face was calm, businesslike, as though he were discussing a day out in the park rather then a major act of industrial sabotage.
"I see..." But at least she had gotten the reason out of him rather then moving through the dance of corporation talk. "A tall order, Mr. Kuto."
"One which we are confident you can achieve..." There was a pause, and Korey raised a hand to silence whatever was about to come next.
"Of course," she said with all confidence. "However, before I proceed with anything, I wish to make clear my fees for such a service. Half now, and half when the job is completed." She named a figure, her face a stoic mask of indifference, and inwardly raised her impression of this company mouth piece another notch when he didn't flinch, and even smiled inwardly when he agreed. Within minutes, the first half was electronically wired into her bank account, an account that had become seriously dry with usage over the past few days.
"When can I expect a completion of this task?" he asked.
"When it is done," she replied. "I do not give assumptions as it leads to false beliefs."
"A wise motto. Good day, Miss Korey." He stood as she did and, after another handshake, he packed up his briefcase and left, leaving behind a number of photos of the motorcycle and what information they had on it.
Sitting down again, Korey finally allowed herself a small smile as she glanced over the photos. "Wow, what luck!," she thought. "I've still got lots left to get and frankly, I ain't got any money left to do it with! If this keeps up, I might even be able to make a living of this... maybe even get that Honda Arrow I've had my eye on for awhile. Still..."
She flipped through the photos idly. "This looks allot like Falcon's bike and I'd know... I've ridden on it. Now I wonder if she'd be interested in finding out about this... after all, it'd be good to have an expert on this kind of bike along." With a wry glance over the still messy state of her home, she sighed. "But first, I had better pack everything away. Wouldn't do good to greet anymore new clients with weaponry on the desk."
Kristen looked in the doorway of the restaurant, feeling somewhat out of her element. It was a fairly fancy place, and the only clothes she had that weren't Goodwill recycles were her motorcycle leathers. She was still trying to decide how to make an entrance when the maitre d' opened the door and looked out at her. "You would be Miss Falcon?"
"Miss Winters is waiting for you at her table. This way please."
The place looked fancier from the inside, but she couldn't see many people as she walked along. The restaurant looked like a miniature jungle with plants hanging all over the place; perfect for blocking line of sight between tables, she realized. And the muted music made any conversations near her inaudible. People probably came here for the privacy.
Korey Winters was a young woman, fairly athletic in build, with white hair that hung down to her shoulders and one bluish streak running down the middle. She stood up to shake Falcon's hand, her voice cultured and soft. "Pleased to meet you, Falcon."
Falcon had a brief moment of deja vu, then dismissed it. "And you, Miss Winters."
"Please, just call me Korey." Turning to the waiter who had shown up after the maitre d' silently left, she said, "I'll have a glass of white wine."
As the waiter turned to Falcon, she added, "I'll stick with iced tea, thanks."
"You don't drink?"
"Not a good habit to get into when you live by your reaction time."
"Ah, yes, your bike." Korey nodded, then sat back as the waiter stepped in and set down the drinks for both of them. "That's part of why I asked you here."
Korey set a file folder on the table, then tossed the top photograph from it onto the table in front of Falcon. "Look familiar?"
The photograph was of a motorcycle. Enclosed faring for better wind resistance, sleek lines, solid wheel frames, and a pair of suspiciously wide 'exhaust pipes' that projected out the back. "It looks similar to the motorcycle I ride." A closer look at it and the other couple of photos tossed to her revealed that the sprayers for the fire extinguisher weren't present. "Not identical, but very close."
Korey nodded. "I've seen your bike before, and that was my impression as well." After taking a sip of her wine, she cut off Falcon's next question by adding, "And that of the company that hired me, though I doubt they knew you were still alive."
"I was hired by a competitor of your former employer's. They suspect that another of their competitors stole this design..."
"... and destroyed the company on the way out."
"Pretty much. My employer wants the prototype this other company has built, and all files they may have on it. I'm hiring you because I figure an expert on the bike's design and capabilities would be useful."
Falcon sighed. "I suppose I'm as close to an expert as is still alive, anyway."
"You don't consider yourself an expert?"
"I was just the test driver, I wasn't involved in the design. I don't know much in the way of low-level details..." Her voice trailed off suddenly.
"You just thought of something?"
Falcon started to nod, then frowned. "You realize, of course, that if this is based off of my bike, then any attempt to find weaknesses in the bike will also find weaknesses in mine. And I don't know how much to trust you yet."
Falcon tapped her fingers together around her glass, then sighed. "Okay. I may be able to get my hand on some of the original documents, but they're encrypted, and I don't know what's actually in them yet. You have access to any serious code-breaking software?"
That took Korey by surprise, though she hid it well. "I might. That sort of software will cost considerably, though."
Falcon shrugs. "Take it out of my pay. Getting those files decrypted would be worth a lot to me. And could be useful, depending on how closely they followed the original blueprints."
"Good, because the cost of something like that could take up most of your pay." Korey jotted a number down on a pad, then handed it over to Falcon. "Would this be a sufficient amount? Any deductions for the decryption software will have to come later, of course."
Falcon looked over the amount. Certainly more than she'd ever been paid for a job before, and a chance she wouldn't get shot at this time. "What would be involved in doing this job?"
With a slight smile from her victory, Korey said, "Ideally not much. Accompany me to the complex where the bike and the information on it are being kept. Guard my back while I clear out the data from their computers. Assist with any problems that occur with the motorcycle itself. Help me get away from the building with the prototype when I'm done. If everything goes perfectly, we can avoid security forces. Of course, things rarely go perfectly."
"Of course," Falcon responded dryly.
"In any case, I can get you half the money now, and then will contact you with more details once I have more time to look over the objective. Or if I manage to get my hands on a good code-breaker; the more detail we have on the capabilities of the motorcycle, the better." Handing over a business card, Korey continued, "If you find out anything interesting, get in touch with me at this number. Anything useful about the bike that could change the intrusion plans."
Falcon nodded, and took the card. "All right."
About then, the dinner arrived, and the rest of the conversation devolved into talk about local politics. Falcon had a lot to think about after that...
"My my my... what big security precautions you have," Korey whispered softly, the electronic binoculars held firmly in her hands.
Through it, at a distance of over five kilometers away, lay the Konenski testing grounds, an arcing race track surrounding a series of low built buildings. The lowest and widest one was a concrete structure with a guard post at the front beside a large, steel garage door that stretched the entire width of the building. Even as she watched, the large door opened up and two motorcycles came puttering out. One was easily the twin of Falcon's, done up in a sleek black with red racing stripes along the sides. The grenade tubes positioned at the back were, as best as Korey could tell, a little longer and more sturdily built than the ones on Falcon's bike, perhaps to allow for greater launch distance. The other was a more sportier version colored blue, with the tubes removed and the frame made more aerodynamic.
"What do you make of those?" Korey asked.
Falcon took the binoculars from Korey and frowned as she focused in. "Definitely both based on the same basic design as mine. Second one obviously built more for speed, though why..." She paused for a moment, then continued, "Oh, I see, they had to reshape the 'door' to deal with the more streamlined frame. Looks like it slides back instead of flips up. Fantoma did a little work on that, then decided that it was more difficult to get on and off the bike quickly that way. Better seal, though."
Reaching into her back pack, Korey withdrew a midnight black digital camera with an extended lens on it. With a flick of the switch, it snapped on and she brought it up, focusing in on the bikes and quickly taking a few pictures before the two roared off. She focused in on the main gate, a large, metal linked affair set up between two concrete towers. At the top of each tower there were armed guards and a 30 mm belt fed cannon that she recognized as a Whitney Morgan ASP. After taking a few pictures, she focused on another pair of towers placed on the opposite end of the testing grounds, and then the corresponding towers placed at the sides.
"Fairly heavy security... and yet nothing in-between the towers. No doubt a land mine field of some sort, or some other pressure and motion sensitive explosives," she said, speaking aloud as she continued to take pictures.
"That's a whole lot of security for somebody whose business is making motorcycles. They really don't want anybody breaking in here, do they?"
"No, indeed they do not." An explosion sounded off in the distance followed by a plume of black smoke rising into the air in-between two three story buildings. "That explains the rest of the buildings. This is a military testing ground." Through the camera, she spied the black motorcycle speed out into the open and onto the race track. "Which one would you prefer to bring back? The black one? Or the blue one?"
Falcon startled at the question. "I thought you were supposed to return... well, _A_ prototype, I guess." She smirked. "Probably the blue one. It would be easier to get away with; the black one looks more like the original design anyway."
"Oh, simply curious. I much prefer black myself." She smiled at the biker.
Looking back at the track, Falcon asked aside, "Getting anything on the radio? The bike I've got has a radio link to the person wearing the helmet, and it used to have another link to the base station before said base station got destroyed." Focusing in on the bike as it moved, she added, "Apparently the original design was to cut the link at any sign of tampering, and only reinitialize it with simultaneous commands at both ends using some sort of agreed-upon code. That was to make it difficult to hijack the link."
Korey quickly took out a small broadband digital radio and set it to scan. Sure enough, after a few seconds, voices sprang up from the speaker as clear as day.
"Target two in sight... firing."
There came an explosion and another plume of smoke rising into the air. Korey looked out to see the blue bike zoom out of the cluster of buildings and quickly accelerate to join it's black twin.
"Target two destroyed."
"Apparently so," Korey commented. "This link between the bike and headquarters, was it used for something other then monitoring? Something such as motor controls of the bike itself?"
"As far as I know, it was only for monitoring; though it also contained a data stream for monitoring the actual status of the bike, so they could tune it as tightly as possible." She paused. "Of course, since I can run some basic commands of the bike like start up and shut down from the helmet, it's possible these can be run remotely as well. Depending on how accurate a copy it is, there could be a fairly sophisticated computer in there, able to run the bike mostly on its own."
After a few seconds, she added, "Of course, if there's no base station left to report to, as what happened in my case..."
"Then perhaps we could drive the two bikes out solely on remote." Korey smiled, but a thought quickly turned it into a frown. "Of course, there's still the matter of removing all knowledge they have of the bike's design that we have to eliminate. And that means getting inside. Then again, they have to receive supplies at one time or another, in which case I can sneak in, tap open both bikes to a frequency you can access through your bike, and ride one out while you pilot the other after the design specs are destroyed."
"And if we can drive the bikes on remote, so can they," said Falcon. "Besides, they were going to sell more than one of these things, they've all got to have some code or frequency difference so they don't interfere with each other too much. Even if they're still using the same system, there's no guarantee I can control them at all; though admittedly it's probably worth trying. Just so long as it doesn't set off an alarm when I do it..."
Korey nodded. "How about this, then? You control one bike as a decoy while I ride the other out? With the only way out being between those towers, it would be preferable if they had two targets to shoot at rather then just one." She quickly checked the radio. "I can, if given enough time, rig the computer on the second bike to accept only your commands while shutting off the radio of the other to prevent any interference."
Falcon nodded slowly as she thought. "That might work. The onboard computer isn't a _great_ driver, but it's good enough to keep going to a set location. Of course, we still need to make sure that either it won't report its location, or that they don't have any equipment left to receive it."
"Now, what I need to do is get in, which is, of course, easier said then done..." As she panned back to the garage, the large door came open and a sleek, black sports car came racing out and towards the Easterly pair of guard towers. "Hmmm..." *****
Jonathon Bryce was a man racing for the top, or so he would often say to what little friends he had. After all, one couldn't afford a weakness such as friends when one was aiming high and never looking back. Yes, indeed, the current project he was overseeing was going according to schedule and, when completed, would no doubt earn him a top spot on the executive board of Konenski Inc., a position he had been fighting for for the past couple of years.
As he sauntered into his condo, he passed in front of the full length mirror to look himself over, pleased with the image that greeted him. Groomed as well as any pure breed dog, Jonathon stood resplendent in his midnight black suit, his long blonde hair pulled back into a ponytail. His smile grew just a tad more as he rubbed his hairless chin and winked at himself with deep purple eyes.
"You... are hot stuff," he complimented his reflection. "With the completion of this project, they'll have no choice BUT to accept me as their equal, something they should have realized long ago."
"Oh? And what project is that?" asked a honey sweet voice.
He stopped, and dropped his hands to his sides, his posture that of perfect relaxation. Then, with a speed granted him by his cybernetic system, simultaneously dropped to the floor and drew his gun. He aimed for the owner of the new voice, but saw no one there. A prick at the back of his neck was all the warning he got before several volts of electricity ran through his system, shocking it into paralysis and locking up the backups before they had a chance to engage.
He couldn't even shout out for help, as his tongue refused any command he gave it. The one thing he could do was simply stop twitching as the flow of electricity was stopped and a young woman with midnight black hair and red eyes stepped into view.
"Good evening, Mr. Bryce. How are you doing?" she asked, still speaking in that honey sweet voice of hers. His eyes locked on hers, drawn into the red iris of her eyes.
"Have your attention, do I? Very good, for you see, we have much to talk about, you and I... for starters, exactly what project were you talking about?" She smiled, and that smile seemed to tell him she knew exactly what project he was talking about.
"Please do be a dear and be sure not to leave anything out... and do not even bother trying to resist." She held up a black box like object in her hand. "This little device is good enough to keep you in your current state for some time. Now, you should be regaining some measure of your speech right about now, so do begin talking..."
"And... what if... I don't?" He managed to get out of a mouth still half numb.
"Well, since you are so 'hot,' it would be a shame to see it gone to waste when it's revealed you've been cooperating with a rival company to sell your own corporation's top secrets..."
"But, I haven't..."
"Oh please, of course you have. The executive board simply doesn't have the evidence yet." She took a disk from out of her leather jacket pocket. "Purely fabricated, of course, but entirely too convincing. After all, we both know exactly how paranoid such people are of up and coming executives, and this could prove to be just the thing they need to debunk you... or worst."
Jonathon swallowed, his throat suddenly gone dry. Give up his companies secrets and survive, or be accused of giving up the companies secrets and be subsequently... debunked.
"Well, Mr. Bryce? What is it to be?"
Jonathon opened his mouth, found his tongue, and began talking.
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