E5150 takes place two days after the events in The Mob Rules.
Catherine's home near Stanley, afternoon:
The elderly laptop computer whirred into silence as Catherine disconnected the secure satellite receiver and switched off the power; the orders from HQ had been clear, load the data miner that they had sent her into the Cybernetic Technologies secure mainframe by any means necessary. Standing she collected the memory disc with the program and picked up the business card the corporate agent Ryan had given her grabbing her jacket on the way she headed for the door, before she dealt with Ryan she had business to attend to.
Street Hong Kong, late afternoon:
The minivan pulled up to the kerb with a soft hum from its fuel cell driven engine, as it stopped next to her Catherine smiled and waved to the driver as he opened the door.
"Hey Pakman what's up?"
"I have something for you young lady."
The Korean's cryptic reply piqued her interest.
"Something for me... has my order finally arrived?"
Sonny "Pakman" Pak Hong Kong's leading arms dealer opened the passenger door of the minivan and pulled out a large plastic case, dropping it on the passenger seat he opened it and motioned for her to look inside. Reaching in Catherine picked up the dull black components studying the markings on each with a satisfied smile before putting them back in the case.
"You actually found them, thanks a bunch Pakman."
"They took some finding young lady, you're probably the only person outside europe who uses an MP12, finding magazines and replacement parts is nightmare without a direct line to the factory.
Catherine handed him a wad of bills held in an elastic band, stuffing the bills into his suit's inside pocket he looked up from the box and casually suggested her next purchase.
"You know I also got those hot +P rounds you like..."
"Four hundred or so mixed AP, ball and HPs, enough to fill those eight magazines you just bought, yours for two hundred HK."
Catherine paused for a moment before turning back to face him handing over a smaller handful of bills.
"I'll take them... hey Pakman I have a job coming up so I need a sidearm, one with real stopping power."
"If it's stopping power you want how about a Desert Eagle or maybe a Hoshoku Zeta? Those are about as powerful as you can get before moving up to a hand cannon like the Stormbreaker."
"Hmm, well for someone like me the Eagle is really too slow handling for the close quarter battle role, as for the HKZ it's even worse, you have anything in 10mm Auto or .400 Cor-Bon?"
"Well I've got plenty of ten mils from the usual suspects, I have the ammo but no guns in point-four hundred there's no demand... if you want firepower I have a Star M55SF but it's not cheap."
"Can I take a look?"
He opened the back doors of the minivan and climbed in squeezing himself past the arsenal of weapons that filled the entire back of the minivan, the arms dealer returned quickly with another plastic box this one embossed with the Star logo, opening the box she saw it contained two pistols and a wide selection of accessories.
"I picked this up as a sample a while back but the buyer chose another brand so it's been in the locker since then, it's a great package two M55s, spare parts and a handful of mags, the whole lot's yours for two and three quarter HK."
"Two and three quarter HK? You can't be making a profit on this."
"Well if you get a good deal today you'll be coming back hoping for another."
"Ha, you've got a point there; get me AP and Hydra-Shok loads for the M55 and we'll call it twenty nine hundred."
Reaching into her jacket Catherine retrieved another wad of bills and counted them into his hands with a faint smile, handing over the last of the bills she picked up the boxes.
"See you round Pakman."
"I look forward to it young lady."
Bar Kowloon, early evening:
The dirt encrusted communications terminal with its cracked screen that hung askew on the wall of the run down bar looked like it had been used to bludgeon a brawling customer and considering the bar's customers it probably had. As Catherine entered the code for Ryan's terminal on the grimy keypad the screen flickered on into static and then promptly shorted out as the poor connection crackled and fizzed into life, fortunately the sound whilst distorted still worked as a disinterested voice came on the line.
"Cybernetic Technologies security division, April Ryan speaking."
"Good evening Miss Ryan this is Dagger, I wanted to speak to you about an offer you made me a couple of days ago."
Ryan's voice perked up.
"You do? All right! When do you want to come to the tower?"
"Well I was wondering if you could pick me up I'm at this bar in Kowloon I guess you can trace the terminal to find me."
Ryan's enthusiastic reply made Catherine smile.
"Yeah no problems a car will be there soon to pick you up, I'll meet you at reception when you arrive."
Catherine ended the connection and took a seat waiting for the car, her mind running over the mission and just how she was going to get the program loaded into the security system with Ryan chaperoning her.
Cybernetic Technologies tower, evening:
Cybernetic Technologies better known as Cyber-Tech inc. was an up and coming player in the precision engineering sector, the result of a merger between several small to medium sized engineering companies in the UNA and the Pacific Rim. Its principal products were the individual components of cybernetic systems for everything from medical systems to combat cyberdroids, Cyber-Tech had built up a reputation as a highly efficient subcontractor but was not yet successful enough attract a takeover bid or real hostility. Recently Cyber-Tech had begun marketing a line of complete cybernetic systems of a design that was suspiciously similar to a recent UNA military model...
Stepping through the doors Catherine stepped into the imposing lobby, the wide reception area was dominated by a huge desk its polished black granite surface and the matching floors contrasted with brushed metal fittings to give the lobby an imposing cavernous feel, with the only splash of colour coming from a vase of flowers on one side of the desk. Wearing black jeans and a burgundy shirt under her jacket Catherine felt completely out of place here, she'd rather be at the Y&T right now rather than dealing with Ryan. It appeared she was expected - Ryan was sitting on a chair in one corner, spotting Catherine the Cyber-Tech employee sprung to her feet with ease before bounding over to Catherine and greeting her with a warm smile. This was the first time Catherine had got a good look at Ryan, wearing jeans and a man's shirt the slim and toned young woman looked to be around 25 or slightly younger with dark hair down to her shoulders, looking down to meet hazel eyes Catherine guessed Ryan was a couple of inches shorter than her probably about 5ft7. What caught her attention was the way Ryan had sprung to her feet, she was either a natural athlete or wired, as Ryan was in the security division Catherine guessed it was the latter.
"Hi there, it's great to see you again."
"It's nice to see you too Miss Ryan."
"Umm, could you tell me your name please; I don't want to be calling you Dagger all day."
"Well Miss Ryan my name is Catherine."
Ryan repeated her name as if getting used to it before taking Catherine's hand and leading her to the elevators.
"Catherine, I like that I'm April but you already know that. So what do you want to see?"
"Well, I was hoping for a tour of the facilities, maybe the training areas and amenities, then maybe we could take a closer look at the bedrooms April."
Ryan quirked an eyebrow when she heard "bedrooms", Catherine suddenly felt dirty she managed not to shiver as she heard the first voice mocking her.
"What's wrong? You might enjoy it."
The second voice was appalled questioning her.
"How can you be so cold, using her like this?"
"Both of you can go to hell, I have to complete the mission."
The first voice laughing was the only response.
"Catherine are you all right?"
"Sorry just lost myself for a moment."
"Lost myself... that's about right" Catherine thought before realising they were in the elevator heading up.
"Where are we going? I missed what you said just then."
"We're going to the training area Catherine; by the way we are going into secured areas so when we get there you're going to have to hand in..."
As Ryan was speaking the elevator doors opened into a wide room decorated to match the lobby but with a security station set into the wall opposite the elevator. A sign on the wall read in large clear print "SECURITY DIVISION, TRAINING SECTION" leading Catherine to the security station Ryan continued talking.
"...any weapons, I know in your line of work it's necessary but you need to hand it in to my colleagues before we can go any further."
Ignoring the looks and murmured comments from the smugly smiling security guards on the desk, she handed in an outdated Beretta and a small folding knife, as she walked away following Ryan she managed to catch fragments of their conversation.
"...how does that Ryan chick get..."
"...maybe it's 'because you're..."
"Oww you son of a..."
Ryan gave her a wry smile and a wink; it appeared her proclivities were well known in the security division. Catherine followed Ryan along the corridors into a large state of the art gymnasium with exercise machines of all shapes and sizes arranged in neat rows across the floor.
"You wanted to see the facilities so we'll start here with the gym, we have a wide selection of exercise machines and weights available and there is a fully equipped boxing ring and martial arts dojo through the doors to your right...
As she tailed off Ryan suddenly burst out laughing.
"Listen to me I sound like a tour guide, why are we doing this you know what to expect, come on let's do something you want to."
Catherine had to smile "for corporate security you're a pretty nice person April" she thought, gesturing back where they had come from Catherine turned and walked back to the elevator Ryan trailing behind as she asked.
"So what do you do for fun around here anyway?"
Ryan laughed heartily in reply, taking Catherine's hand she looked her in the eye.
"Well let's see just how much fun we can have together."
Still laughing Ryan used her key card to open the elevator doors stepping in she pushed a button for their destination, as the doors closed and the elevator started moving she leaned over to whisper in Catherine's ear.
"depends on what kind of fun you want to have, where were going it's the clean kind but if you want something a little more... personal we could go upstairs..."
Ryan suddenly stepped back just before the doors opened onto another reception area again set up to match the main lobby, this time there was a waiter at a desk instead of a security station the two signs on the walls read "DINING HALL" on the left side and "RECREATION FACILITIES" on the right. Leading Catherine to the right along the corridor Ryan pointed out the various facilities available.
"We have just about everything you could think of, full VR and net access, various indoor sports arenas on this level and the one below, we have a huge range of societies and groups, whatever interests you I can guarantee there will be people with the same interests, they're based out of these rooms along the corridor."
As she spoke Ryan gestured to the doors along both sides of the corridor and the signs next to each doorway with the schedule for rooms use, Catherine simply nodded reading the signs where they took her fancy, the activities ranged from genre specific book clubs to a twice weekly meeting devoted to the Mitsumi produced "Warrior Catgirl Aelissa."
"So where exactly are we going?"
"Well this corridor runs in a loop around the building it'll take us into the dining hall."
"Dining hall, sounds good what do they serve at this time of night? "
"Well tell me what you fancy and I'll tell you if we have it."
Leaning over Catherine whispered in Ryan's ear.
"Well how about... you?"
Ryan froze before turning to Catherine with a smile like the cat that got the cream; Catherine missed the reply as the return of the voices distracted her.
"You're really getting into this aren't you?"
The first voice gave her another harsh mocking laugh as the second pleaded.
"Why are you doing this? There has to be a better way."
"I'm doing what I have to, I don't like her in that way but using her is the only way I can complete the mission."
The huge dimly lit dining hall took up almost a third of the level; divided into several sections each offering a different experience it covered the needs of most of Cyber-Tech's staff. A fast food style outlet was located near the elevators for staff to grab food on the go, a dozen other smaller restaurants were arranged around the perimeter the wide range of styles available covered everything from Chinese and Thai to a barbeque inspired grill and a family oriented franchise. Located in the centre of the dining hall was a quiet restaurant subtly partitioned into small dark nooks suited to an intimate dinner, Catherine noticed that almost all the tables were set up for two, leading her to a darkened corner Ryan pulled out a chair for Catherine.
"Thanks Miss Ryan."
"You're welcome but my names April, anyway what would you like to eat?"
"Something light would be nice maybe a salad."
"And what do want to drink?"
"Just water please."
"Sure you don't want something stronger?"
"Yeah I'm OK."
Ryan waved to an androgynous synthetic that came over to take their orders.
"Good evening and welcome may I take your order ma'am?"
Ryan looked up and ordered for both Catherine and herself.
"I'll have the marinated chicken and a beer; my friend will have the Ceaser salad and water."
With a vacant smile the synthetic turned and walked away, left alone Catherine took the chance to ask Ryan about the offer.
"So what will I be doing for Cyber-Tech?"
"Well for starters the job you did for us two days ago grabbing that brat was pretty impressive."
"Yeah once we calmed him down he was one stuck up little bastard, giving everyone orders and to top it off he wasn't even grateful."
Ryan fuming at the would-be anti-capitalist made Catherine smile "damn I'm really starting to like you April, this is going to be difficult."
"Well at least you find it funny."
"Sorry but I guess executive privilege outlasts anti-capitalism."
Ryan gave her a wry smile.
"You have a point there, anyway what you'll be doing for us isn't really all that different from what you've been doing as a mercenary, but you'll probably be working with a small team, if you want we can provide you with access to cybernetics as part of your employment."
"So I'll be snatching people either from your competitors or taking back Cyber-Tech's own, will I have to follow your operating procedures?"
"Well with the kind of work you'll be doing for us you should be able to operate how you like, within reason of course."
"You mentioned a small team; will I be able to choose who I'm working with?"
"Well if you really don't want to work with someone you can have that dealt with."
"Of course if you wanted to you could work very closely with me that can also be arranged..."
Catherine didn't have time to react to the innuendo as the synthetic returned carrying both the drinks and meals the synthetic gently placed the plates and glasses on the table with another vacant smile before retreating. Spearing a green leaf with her fork Catherine picked up the conversation.
"I hope I don't have to make the choice tonight..."
"Don't worry you don't have to make up your mind tonight."
"That's nice to know, but I'm curious how an American like you end up working in Hong Kong?"
"Well I worked for Hughes on the east coast, and when the mergers came through I ended up working for Cyber-Tech, I ended up assigned here at the pacific rim HQ as a "reward" for getting well lets say too friendly with the trophy wife of one of the higher ups."
"Ahh, this is starting to make more sense."
"I was lucky, I had the skills they needed here and anyway his wife's affair was the straw that broke the camel's back, he got "retired" soon after."
"Retired huh, will I be "retiring" people for Cyber-Tech?"
"Oh no, you won't be doing that sort of thing for us."
"Good, I don't want to get involved in that kind of operation."
"OK that's no problem, is there anything else you want to know?"
Gathering the last few salad leaves Catherine paused for moment.
"Well I did want to see the accommodations; will yours be a good example?"
Gulping down the dregs of her beer Ryan sprang to her feet and stepped round the table, offering her hand she led Catherine out of the restaurant nodding to the synthetic as they passed on the way back to the elevator. Using her key card to open the elevator Ryan smiled they stepped inside she pressed a button and the elevator smoothly moved upwards for a few seconds, watching the display Catherine saw the elevator stopped on the 16th floor. Stepping out of the elevator into a wide corridor running the width of the tower they walked past numbered doors on both sides, they were almost at the end of the corridor when Ryan stopped in front of a door; swiping her key card across a sensor on the lock Ryan led Catherine into her room. In stark contrast to the spartan nature of building's style Ryan's living room was decorated in warm colours with soft furniture and watercolours hung on the walls, huge panoramic windows looked out across the Hong Kong skyline, lowering the pastel coloured blinds Ryan smiled and gestured through a doorway.
Ryan ducked through a doorway into what Catherine assumed was the kitchen, looking around she saw a state of the art computer system sitting on a desk in the corner.
"Yeah that came with the job."
"Full access to the mainframes?"
"What was that?"
"I asked if it has access to the mainframes."
"Yeah it's got access to the mainframes, security, internal mail and secure net access, what's the big deal you'll get one if you sign on."
"Sorry it's just I've only ever seen one of these in a tech magazine."
Ryan reappeared with a bottle of beer in each hand, taking one of the bottles Catherine took a swallow and almost spat it out; American beer was definitely not her first choice.
"Is something wrong with the beer?"
"Sorry but yank beer isn't my cup of tea."
"Sorry it's a turn of phrase, it means you don't like something."
Putting the bottle down Catherine turned to Ryan.
"I want to thank you April."
"For tonight, the meal and the chance to see this place, with the work I do I don't normally get the chance to have a normal evening... maybe I'll be able to repay you."
Catherine reached out and touched Ryan's cheek pulling her closer as she leaned forward Catherine kissed Ryan on the lips, breaking the kiss a few seconds later she smiled and pointed to the bedroom doorway.
"I need to use the bathroom April, why don't you go to your bedroom I'll be with you in a few minutes."
As soon as Ryan had left the room Catherine switched on the terminal as the computer booted up she remembered the kiss and the thrill she felt when their lips met, as she thought it over the first voice returned taunting her, Catherine heard it's cold cruel tones dripping with malice.
"You really liked that didn't you? I bet you're looking forward to screwing her aren't you?"
The second voice responded it sounded shocked almost disgusted by what Catherine had done.
"What you're doing is wrong in so many ways, what makes you so cold?
"Leave me alone I have to do this, I must complete the mission."
As soon as the terminal finished booting up Catherine inserted the disc into the drive, with a quiet whirring as the drive engaged the password entry screen was replaced by the words "E5150 UPLOADING". As the data miner loaded the screen flashed up "SEARCHING 0%" the percentage immediately began rising quickly, when it reached 100% another message flashed up this one read "DOWNLOAD IN PROGRESS 0%" the percentage counter began rising more slowly this time, focussed on the rising numbers on screen Catherine didn't see Ryan emerge from the bedroom behind her.
"What the hell are you doing?"
Catherine spun to face Ryan the blades snapping out from her left hand as she lunged; caught off guard Ryan tried to dodge twisting away from the razor sharp blades which slashed across her right cheek. Screaming Ryan staggered back clutching her wounds, knowing she couldn't give Ryan the chance to recover Catherine grabbed her by the shoulders and delivered a vicious head butt knocking Ryan back against the wall. Stepping forward to pin the stunned Ryan Catherine grabbed Ryan's head and slammed it into the wall over and over until she collapsed unconscious in a pool of blood. Catherine stood over the prone form "oh god what have I done, April I'm so sorry" recovering form the shock Catherine reached down searching Ryan's pockets for her key card, when the voices returned the first was calm.
"You should kill her now, what if she wakes up?"
The horror in the second voice was clear.
"H-how can you do something like that?"
Rubbing her temples Catherine stood pocketing the key card, turning she stepped back to the computer as the voices delivered parting shots.
The first voice's taunt was followed by the second's accusation.
The computer screen now read "DOWNLOAD COMPLETE", ejecting the disc from the drive and pocketing it inside her jacket Catherine opened the door and started waking back to the elevator, she was almost at the elevators when red alarm lights started flashing accompanied by an ear splitting siren and hidden loud speakers broadcasting a recorded message.
"Attention all personnel security breach on level 16 please stay where you are, all security personnel report to active duty stations immediately."
The message repeated twice before giving way to the siren, approaching the elevators the doors opened disgorging a squad of heavily armed Cyber-Tech security, raising his weapon on of them accosted Catherine.
"Where are you going?"
"I'm going back to my room."
The guard lowered his weapon.
"Thanks ma'am, have you seen anyone suspicious?"
"Sorry I haven't seen anyone."
The security team began advancing along the corridor towards Ryan's rooms, in a few moments the other elevators arrived one after another as more security teams arrived and joined the first outside Ryan's rooms thinking quickly she stepped up to the door next to the elevators marked "FIRE EXIT" "When they find Ryan I wont be able to use her key card, so I guess its down and out." Removing a metal bar from inside the lining of her jacket Catherine jammed the tip between the door and the frame next to the lock, pulling hard on the bar the door burst open with a splintering sound, Stepping into the stairwell Catherine forced the door closed again and started running down the spiralling flights of stairs her footsteps echoing down the stairwell, as she charged downwards counting the large painted numbers next to the doors as she ran. Vaulting down the last few steps on level 11 Catherine suddenly crashed into a powerfully built figure catching a glimpse of blond hair and cat ears as they tumbled into the wall. As she staggered upright Catherine found she was face to face with a seriously angry lynx class security synthetic which pinned Catherine to the wall.
Catherine responded to the lynxes demand by reaching behind her back gripping the combat knife concealed there Catherine pulled it out and jammed the blade into the blonde lynxes side, dropping her the lynx darted back out of Catherine's reach grasping the pistol on it's belt. Throwing herself onto the flight of stairs she'd just come down Catherine drew her own pistol, both Catherine and the lynx brought their weapons up at the same time and fired the deafening shots echoing throughout the stairwell. Thrown against the wall by the heavy calibre rounds the lynx crumpled with a soft moan, Catherine lay on the stairs recovering from the sudden fire fight, glancing to her left she saw the bullet hole in the concrete stair "that was too close, an inch and a half to the right and I'd be history" she thought. Sheathing her knife as she clambered unsteadily to her feet Catherine heard shouts from above spurred on by the shouting Catherine started running down the stairwell vaulting the handrails to save time, as she vaulted over the rail on the 7th level the door burst open behind her and she heard someone shouting.
"There's the intruder, get them."
Gunshots ricocheted off the steps behind Catherine as she threw herself down the stairs as fast as she could. On level 4 Catherine stopped slamming the door open and bursting out into the corridor, dashing across the corridor with the metal bar at the ready she wrenched her way into one of the secondary fire escape stairwells and continued her flight. When she reached the first basement level there were several doors one marked "B1 PARKING GARAGE B," the second marked "B1 MAINTENANCE ACCESS," and the third an armoured blast door marked "EMERGENCY USE ONLY" wrenching open the door to the parking garage Catherine emerged into the cavernous parking garage.
The massive concrete structure contained vehicles of every size shape and description arranged in neat paired rows with the more expensive closest to the elevators moving outwards in what Catherine assumed was in order of their owner's importance, the cavernous garage was dominated by the massive pillars of the towers foundations. Catherine spotted the patrolling security guards scattered through the garage and her ideal getaway vehicle a Jinsei No-dachi mark 2 series bike parked in one corner. Ducking behind the parked vehicles Catherine slipped quietly through the shadows slipping between the rows of parked vehicles as she made her way across to the parked bike. The No-dachi had an encrypted electronic locking system Catherine had prepared for this kind of electronic lock by bringing a decryption unit, but she hadn't prepared for the enhanced security on this particular bike and the ear-splitting alarm that followed. Resetting the decryption unit Catherine looked up to see the guards running towards her from all directions, drawing her pistol she lined up the closest pair and fired making them dive behind a grey Mercedes for cover. The whizzing sound of bullets flying past made Catherine duck back into cover, reaching out from behind the bike she fired blind trying to keep the guards back, but the flickering light of the guards muzzle flashes clearly showed they were surrounding her. "I need to buy some time" Catherine thought as she pushed the M55's controls from single shot to burst fire, standing to face the guards Catherine fired the snarl of the heavy calibre burst momentarily drowning out the crack of the guards lighter weapons. Staggered by the recoil of the bust Catherine dropped back behind the bike as a barrage of gunfire tore through where she had been standing, waiting for the chance to return fire Catherine was startled by the No-dachi suddenly starting up it's fairing smoothly rising.
Climbing onto the bike Catherine twisted the throttle making the No-dachi surge forward as bullets thudded into the faring leaving spider web cracks in the glass. The bike raced between the rows of parked vehicles skidding round the turns out of the parking garage onto the exit ramp. Powering up the ramp Catherine let the bike roll to a stop in front of the heavy shutter closing off the parking garage, opening the faring Catherine swiped Ryan's key card over the control pad and pressed the button to open the shutter. With a loud clunk the shutter unlocked and started to rise as soon as the shutter had opened enough the No-dachi shot out of entrance its engine snarling as Catherine sped away from the tower.
Speeding through the streets Catherine pulled up to the kerb a few blocks away from the Cyber-Tech tower, climbing off the bike leaving the fairing up and the engine running she walked through the side street before turning into an alleyway. Walking along the alleyway she could hear the bustle of the open air market now only a few turns away. A low rumbling noise caught her attention looking up Catherine saw the lights of a circling helicopter; no doubt Cyber-Tech was throwing all its resources into finding her. Rounding the corner Catherine smiled as she disappeared into the throng of people just another face in the crown at the bustling market.
Shopping mall Hong Kong Island, morning next day:
Catherine slowly walked away from the meeting with her SIS contact; Cyber-tech's secrets would soon be in the hands of the British government. Browsing some of the window displays Catherine was distracted by the return of the first voices mocking tones
"Last night was fun, when can we do it again?"
The sadness was clear in the second voice.
"How can you do these things? Why do you have to cause so much pain?"
"Stop it, why can't you just leave me alone?"
"did I just say that aloud?" she thought seeing the people around her staring, Catherine wandered out of the mall on her way home one thing foremost in her mind "what's happening to me?".
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