This story takes place on January 29, 2034
For Aoi, it seemed like the perfect assignment. She had taken a Spycorp offer to track down and bring in a known criminal figure. Although his connections put him seemingly 'above the law,' there were still individuals willing to pay handsomely to secure his capture. She had moved quickly, renting a car and heading to his residence for quick capture.
Of course, that's where it had all started to go wrong. She had barely caught his limo as it had pulled out of the street. Since then she had tailed it half way across the city, and had realised his destination; the airport. It was hard tailing him through the traffic, but she had managed to draw close to his car.
And now they were pulling into the long-term car park. Aoi cursed as she saw the limo pull into a spot up ahead. Glancing around, she saw a parking space for herself and quickly pulled in. By the time she was out of the car, she could see him emerging from the limo.
"I can't let him escape," she muttered to herself and started towards him at a brisk pace. As well as her target, four minders in dark suits emerged from the limo. She quickened her pace, reaching into her suit for her trusted pistol.
At that point, one of the minders spotted her. Noting her hand, he yelled a warning to his companions and drew his own pistol. Aoi dived to the side behind a car as shots rang out through the parking lot. She could hear them yelling to get the man to safety.
"Now I've done it," she muttered, and sprang into action. She vaulted onto the car's bonnet, jumping from there onto the next car, drawing closer to the minders. She saw three remaining, all with guns drawn. The other must have taken him to the terminal, she thought as their shots whizzed past her. She took a running leap off the car, spinning in mid-air and kicking one of the minders in the chest. As she landed, she spun around planting her foot in the second one's face.
She heard a noise next to her and leapt out of the way, rolling onto the roof of a sports car as the third minder swung his pistol like a club at her. He swiped again and she rolled aside, bringing one foot down on his hand, pinning it to the roof. Her other leg swept across and connected with his face, sending him sprawling.
As she did, the other two fired at her. A shot clipped her suit as she rolled off the side of the car. Keeping to the ground, she swung her foot around and tripped one of the thugs, dropping him to the ground. The last one rounded the corner and swept down with his pistol. She rolled back to her feet, then brought her leg up in a crescent kick, catching the side of his head and beating it against the sports car. She relaxed her posture, and he slid to the floor.
Looking around her, she could tell her target was long gone. She shook her head and crouched down by one of the minders. She quickly patted him down, listening as the alarms came to life. She grabbed a sheaf of papers from his coat pocket along with his wallet and dashed for the exit.
A quick check of the papers turned up a few clues. First and foremost was an airline ticket for Hong Kong. After that was a packet of expensive cigarettes and a few ticket stubs, apparently from the horse track. His wallet yielded an international weapons permit, no doubt acquired through less than legal means. She hung onto the permit and the ticket, but dumped the rest in a bin as she passed.
Inside the terminal was bedlam. The security scare in the car park had only managed to make the queues worse and fill the place with nervous looking guards. Checking the departure board, she saw the flight on the ticket was due to leave soon. She glanced at the ticket again and shook her head. All she could do was join the check-in queues.
She finally made her way to the front of the queue and silently handed her ticket to the check-in clerk. He glanced over the ticket, then simply said "I'm sorry, but your flight has just left."
She glanced up at the board. Sure enough, the flight on the ticket was listed as 'Departed.' She turned back to the clerk. Without thinking, she blurted out "Book me on the next flight."
"Right now?" he asked.
What am I doing? Aoi thought to herself. "Yeah, right away." She sighed, quietly hoping the flight wouldn't be too expensive.
He tapped in a couple of commands and said "We only have first-class seats available. Is that alright, madam?" When she nodded, he tapped in a few more orders. "Let's see... First class, no prior booking... Comes to..."
Aoi's eyes bulged at the figure. She sighed and reached for her wallet, hoping her expenses claim could run that far.
The biggest flaw in Sandra's "move to HK and shack up with Dave" plan was money. She didn't have any, plain and simple. And while the apartment and the utilities were all paid for - thank you Jason for something - between her and David they had precious little else. So in order to get the clothes, food, weapons, ammo, expensive nights out, ferry tours and the like they needed to live, she needed to find some work. And there was only one type of work that Sandra was any good at.
She'd made contact with a local fixer, who it turned out was a part of this whole "Spycorp" mess that Jason Stone had dreamed up. For some reason this irritated Sandra. It seemed that no matter what she did or where she went, that guy was following her everywhere. Sandra's irritation level had only increased after the initial meeting; her new Fixer was a brown-haired, blue eyed woman who's combination of skin-tight attire and faux Russian accent seemed to be orientated entirely to getting more money out of her male contacts and clients.
On the other hand, Sandra had come away with a job, so she couldn't complain.
It was a simple case. A big-name criminal figure had left the relative safety of Neo-York to come over here to HK. A number of names back home wanted this guy alive. All she had to do was arrange for him to get there. Simple. It was the sort of job she did all the time. She wouldn't need David for this one, which was a relief to her. Despite his skills with a computer, she could tell he just wasn't big on being dragged into illegal operations and huge gunfights. Poor guy had been through enough of that living with her in the Zone.
She'd called David and let him know that she was out working. He knew enough to know what that meant. Right. No more messing around. Let's get this tool.
As part of the whole "apartment" package, Jason had also supplied Sandra with a motorbike for use in the battle aginst the brown armband gang. That bike had survived the battle (in fact, in Sandra's mind it was about the only thing involved in that whole mess that had gotten out alive). She'd had it shipped back to HK when she fled there after the battle, but left it behind when her stupid emotional yearnings had dragged her back to NY - it was too expensive to ship back, and she'd figured that she'd only be there for a short stay before getting over all her emotional hang-ups and going back to HK. Ha! However, now it was proving to be useful.
By the time she'd reached the airport, he was long gone. She'd expected that. Very few people lingered in airports longer then they needed to, especially if they believed that someone was after them. She had, however, managed to track his method and route of departure. A black limousine. Real subtle. Yep, she could tell the sort of guy she was dealing with here. She'd also gathered that he had a number of hired goons with him. They'd make things difficult, but she felt it was nothing she couldn't handle. After her run in with Jinsei's wolf brigade, she tended to think that there was nothing she couldn't handle.
Catching him wasn't the hardest thing in the world to do. In HK's dense traffic, a large limo would be slowed to a virtual crawl. Unable to lane hop or weave like a small car, it'd have to be content to stay in whatever traffic queue it got itself into. On the other hand, a motorbike could easily weave its way in and out of traffic. The odd far form legal cut through traffic or against the lights didn't hurt either. Heck, it just made the whole process more interesting.
A large black shape trying to barge its way through the dense traffic ahead of her. A glimpse at the plates confirmed it to be her target. Perfect. Dropping behind it, she decided to maintain her distance and play subtle for the moment, ducking into the traffic for cover. The limo continued on its way, before suddenly dropping out of the traffic and turning into...
"A construction site?" She asked herself out loud. "What the frelling hell is the tool doing taking a limo onto a construction site?"
She ducked around to a side street off the site and parked the bike behind a dumpster. "Right." She muttered. This guy had come all the way from NY to HK to visit a construction site. Well, whatever. She had no idea how the criminal mind worked. That was up to police psychologists, profilers and other people who earned a lot more money then she did.
In leaving the Zone, Sandra had been forced to abandon her weapons to maintain her disguise. She'd disposed of the armour and gear afterwards; it was far too conspicuous to sell and far to distinctive to keep. Fortunately, she'd been able to acquire a new pair of guns for when she was at work. "Looks like its time to test you two out." She said to herself. She quietly slipped into the site, looking for her target.
Aoi's luck seemed to have changed. Her flight arrived in Hong Kong shortly after her target's. She had dashed out the front of the terminal, just to see a limousine departing ahead of her. She had hailed down a cab and instructed the driver to follow the limousine. The result was not so much a chase, as a crawl.
Still, the time in the cab had given her a chance to make a few calls. From her various leads - and her rapidly increasing expenses account - she figured he was in HK to make some sort of deal with local crime figures. The details had eluded her contact, but she didn't particularly care. She had enough to know what to expect.
Ahead of her taxi, the limousine pulled into a construction site. She paid the cabbie and quickly exited. As she approached, Aoi caught a glimpse of suited thugs waiting by the front gate. They watched her intently, hands straying towards barely concealed firearms. She did her best to ignore them and stroll nonchalantly past the driveway. As soon as she was out of sight, she turned around to look over the site. It sat close to the corner of the block, and stretched all the way to the back. She smiled to herself and took off around the block.
Soon she was at the makeshift iron fence that marked the other side of the construction site. Smiling to herself, anticipating an easy capture, she hoisted herself over the fence and dropped silently into the construction site. The place was a mess of scaffolding, surrounding half-complete walls. She could see a small group through the mess, and made a beeline for them.
A noise to her left caused her to stop and drop to the ground. Aoi watched as a figure approached. It was a woman, wearing dark clothes with a pair of pistols drawn. She was slowly circling the group, watching around her. Aoi cursed inwardly. Her target had no doubt tipped off his contact, who had hired this woman to guard the meeting.
She glanced between the woman and the group beyond. There was no doubt that she was approaching Aoi, and may have already spotted her. It seemed she had no option now. Aoi sprung from her position, drawing her machinepistol. At the same time, the other woman spotted her and leveled her own pistols at Aoi. They both acted at once, each one diving to the side while firing at the other. Bullets ricocheted off the steel framework as each one landed.
Aoi was first to her feet, drawing her gun around at the other woman. She fired wildly from her back, forcing Aoi to dive away again. Aoi could hear the woman cursing under her breath as she darted for cover. Aoi likewise took refuge behind a low wall, then turned around.
All around her were the sounds of people running and yelling. She could see movement all around her, and spotted the tail of the other woman's trenchcoat. Although she couldn't capture her target in this commotion, she figured his hired thug may know where to look next. She sprang up from behind the wall, firing at the coat-tail and dashing between the steel piping, bearing down on her target.
To her left, the woman stepped out of the shadows, stripped of her coat. Aoi caught a breif glance of shaggy black hair before the woman fired again. Aoi leaned back, barely avoiding the rounds as they whizzed past her chest. She sprung around, leaping towards the woman and striking her hand with her foot, knocking one of the pistols off to the left. It clanged against a pipe, discharging and clattering to the ground.
She swung her pistol like a club, forcing Aoi back. Aoi leveled her own pistol at the woman's chest and pulled the trigger. The mechanism clicked loudly, jamming in place. Before she could react, the woman seized her hand, knocking it against one of the multitude of steel pipes. Aoi gasped in pain as she released her pistol. Keeping her grip, the woman twisted Aoi's arm painfully around behind her back. Aoi jabbed back with her free elbow, catching the woman in the gut and forcing her to let go.
The woman brought up her pistol but Aoi was ready for her. She seized the gun, trying to wrench it out of her grip. They struggled briefly, the pistol firing into the air as they fought over it. Aoi surged back, bringing her feet up and kicking her opponent over her head. She saw her roll to one knee, the gun clattering off to her left as Aoi rolled in place and raised herself from the ground.
Each stared at the other for painfully long seconds. Aoi took in the woman's black leathers and her scarred face. The woman's eyes darted to the pistol, and they sprung into motion. She dived aside, reaching for the pistol, but Aoi was on her feet, kicking the handgun out of her grasp at the last second. Aoi brought her knee up at the woman's face, who barely dodged aside. She then grabbed Aoi's still-raised leg as she stood, leaving Aoi balancing on one leg. Aoi spun in place, pivoting on the woman's grip and sweeping her free leg up at her head. The woman ducked her swing and yanked up, dropping Aoi onto her front.
"They always do that," she heard the woman mutter. She stepped over Aoi's leg and wrenched it up painfully. "Now how about you tell me where-"
Before she could finish, Aoi grabbed her leg and yanked hard. The woman stumbled in place, releasing her grip on Aoi's leg. Aoi rolled forwards to her feet, then stepped at the woman, lashing out with her foot. She ducked behind a support beam and grabbed Aoi's leg again, wrenching it around the beam.
"Stop being so frelling stupid!" The woman yelled out. "Just give up and we can all go home."
Aoi didn't reply, but twisted in place, dropping to the ground. She caught the woman with her other leg and scissored them against her arm, using her motion to pull her attacker to the ground. Aoi flipped to her feet as the woman rolled away. She swept low, barely missing the woman with her foot. As her back was turned, the woman grabbed her around the neck and chest. She flipped backwards, tossing Aoi over her head to land painfully against a support beam.
The woman turned to watch Aoi, rolling one shoulder as she did. "You stupid little tool!" She shouted. "And on my bad shoulder too." She added, a lot quieter. She traced along Aoi's line of sight, and froze, spotting one of her pistols close to her outstretched hand. She whirled around, spotting the other behind her. Both moved at once, diving forward for a pistol, then springing to their feet and whirling to face the other, each aiming a pistol inches from the other's head.
"Okay, okay." Sandra said. "He's gotten away safely. You did your frelling job. I'm not needed here any more so we can both stop pointing guns at each other, go home and not spread each other's brains across the landscape."
"My job?" her attacker replied, confused. "You're his hired muscle," she added with little conviction.
"Me?" Sandra shouted back. "I was sneaking up on the tool when you leaped on me! If I was his frelling goon, I wouldn't be sneaking around like that, I'd be standing around and looking menacing."
"I thought you were a lookout!"
"I was trying to plug his tooly guards when you decided to whack me like a goomba!" She shouted. "You snuck up on me while I was sneaking up on him!"
"So what the hell are you doing here anyway?" She shouted back.
"I was hired to capture the tool, so he could be shipped back to NY so people could commit unpleasantness on him!"
"I was hired to drag him back to NY!"
There was an uncomfortable silence as each stared at the other over their pistols. In the distance, both could hear the sound of approaching police sirens.
"Okay wisearse, now what?" Sandra spat.
"Okay." The woman took a deep breath and steadied herself. "On the count of three, we lower our guns and get the hell out of here. Deal?"
"It's better than any other alternatives, so why the hell not?" The woman nodded. "One... Two... Three!"
For a second, they both stood rocks still. Then the woman slowly, cautiously lowered her pistol. Sandra followed her lead. The woman spun the pistol in her hand and offered the grip to Sandra. "Yours, sorry," she said simply.
"Thanks," Sandra replied shortly. "I don't suppose you have any way of getting the hell out of here?"
"Over the back fence?" she asked, nodding back the way she came.
"Right. I have a bike. C'mon." The woman paused only to scoop up her own pistol, then followed Sandra out of the site.
"Of course, you do realise this is all your fault."
Aoi nodded and held up three fingers. "That's the third time you've said that," she replied.
"I'm just re-enforcing the point," Sandra replied, and took a pull from her beer. "Education through repetition does work."
Aoi sighed and shook her head. The pair had made good their getaway, and retreated to a cheap bar to sort out their next move. They were camped out at a large wall booth with several empty bottles and the pieces of Aoi's pistol spread across the table.
"So the big question is, how are you going to find that man for me?" Sandra asked.
"Me?" Aoi replied. "Why do I have to find him! It's your city!"
"Not my city. I'm only new here," Sandra replied.
Aoi blinked in surprise. "Sorry. I took you for a local."
"No, in which case I'd have an English accent and could leap sideways through windows firing a gun in each hand while white doves go by."
Aoi looked quizzically at Sandra. "So just where *is* that accent from anyway?"
"What accent?" Sandra asked, bottle half-way to her mouth.
"Your accent... I dunno, it's sort of American-Australian or something," Aoi replied. She drained her glass and waved to the barman for another.
"Well my parents were Austrailian, but I was born and raised in NY."
"Really?" Aoi replied. "I'm from there too." She chuckled to herself. "Imagine that."
"Funny little world, isn't it? I move from the Zone to Hong Kong, and the first thing I run into is a Neo Yorker."
Aoi stared at her. "The Zone? No kidding! I grew up in there!"
"I'm guessing you got over it, seeing you're wearing nice clothes and somehow found your way here on business." A waiter finally arrived at their table, and Aoi asked for another bloody mary.
She turned back to Sandra as the waiter departed. "Yeah, I moved out just before the..." She trailed off, not wanting to think of the conflict back in the Zero Zone.
"Yeah, and I got out after it."
"How'd you do that?"
"Badly," Sandra replied, perfectly deadpan.
"I guess that's where you learnt the business," Aoi asked Sandra.
"Yeah, I worked as a Sam there for a while. I rarely worked with anyone else, though."
"Me neither," Aoi said shortly. She looked away from Sandra, not wanting to think about her past in the Zone. She spotted the waiter, and retrieved her fresh drink
"I did work with this one girl twice," Sandra began. "Some underaged, overinflated bimbo who does double duty as a stripper and thinks that nobody will notice."
Aoi spat out her drink, then stared at Sandra in a state of near shock.
"Wha?" Sandra asked.
"Sounds familiar, that's all," Aoi quickly muttered. She signaled the barman for another drink.
"What we really need right now, however, is a plan," Sandra said. "First, we need to find him."
"No ideas," Aoi replied.
"Yeah, thought so. Don't worry, I feel the same way."
Aoi sighed and stared out into the bar. Now what? Their man had gotten away clean while they were fighting, and they had no clues as to where he was going and what his plans were. "Did you figure out who he was meeting?" Aoi asked, half to herself.
"Yeah, I got a look at him," Sandra replied.
"So what'd he look like?"
Aoi stared long and hard at her newfound partner. "You're kidding me, right?"
"I would have gotten more," Sandra began in a sing-song voice, "If someone hadn't jumped me and tried to kill me."
"Fourth time," Aoi muttered. "Okay, let's try again. Anything *apart* from 'Chinese?'"
"Weeelll... I got a partial rego on a car out front, possibly his."
Aoi perked up. "You know, that sounds almost like a lead."
"I've worked with less," Sandra replied.
Aoi grinned. "Best I had was 'rough up some local toughs.' Think we can skip that bit?"
"Probably. I've got a fixer on my side, so we can see if he can track that partial rego."
"Yeah, well, most of my plans seem to have a 'Then?' component to them," Sandra replied.
Aoi drummed her fingers on the table for a second. "I mean, logically we track him through that. But if that comes up blank?"
Sandra glared at her. "Don't make me think too hard, okay?"
"Sorry," Aoi replied, toying with her glass. "I know, my fault and all."
"Well, I wasn't going to say that..." Sandra replied. "But yes. And no, that doesn't count because you said it, not me."
They sat in silence again, until Sandra started anew. "Okay. Let's *pretend* that we can track him through that rego."
"So we find the guy that man met," Gem said.
"Right. Then once we locate the guy, we can assume one of two things: One, our target, 'that man' is also there, which makes our life a hell of a lot easier." Sandra counted off her fingers. "Two, he isn't there and we beat the stuffing out of a lot of people until we find where he is."
"I'm hoping for the second option," Aoi said, grinning.
"Nah. Always number one. The less steps we have to take, the better."
"Right. *So,* when can we get to your fixer?" Aoi asked.
"Theoretically right now." Sandra looked over at her partner. "However, being a little more sober could help. Or we could just do it now and damn the consequences."
Aoi sculled the remainder of her drink and slammed the glass on the table. "Now, I say."
Sandra's fixer, although rather bothered by her client's state, had come up with a name. Their target's local contact was Peter Chung, an up-and-coming figure in HK's underworld. Apparently Peter had begun investing in construction, and a lot of his former partners had gotten into cement. Peter had just moved uptown to a rather pricy mansion, where the vehicle in question was registered to. Driving past the site for the third time that morning, Sandra and Aoi spotted a conspicuous black limousine parked in the driveway.
"You know, my life would be a lot harder if these guys weren't so predictable," Sandra muttered. "Of course if they have a large black limo they're going to park it in the driveway. They want the neighbours to know it. Probably has a very small bedflute."
"A what?" Aoi asked as they drove past.
"You're too young to know."
"Anyway," Sandra said, ignoring her, "You've had enough of a drive around the place as you can without violating some property laws." Aoi spared her a curious glance. "Yeah, I know we're about to do it anyway, but I just want to make sure we're in the clear for now."
"Okay. Let's pretend we're not suicidal enough to just shoot the guards and walk in the front gate. Well, I'm not at least."
"Gee, thanks," Aoi muttered.
"For some reason, people in HK don't use security synths as much as they do in NY. They probably figure importing thugs from the mainland is cheaper."
"Good thing, too," Aoi added. "So we're expecting poorly-trained thugs with guns?"
"Reasonably trained. But most of their training goes towards mowing down other cheap thugs. Of course, he'll probably have one or two high-end goons who can put up a reasonable fight." Sandra craned her neck around. "Unfortunately, I can't see for sure if our target is in there for certain."
Aoi smiled to herself. "Only one way to find out, really."
"Right. So how do we want to approach this?"
"Best answer is we get in over the back fence, or something like that."
"Weeelll..." Sandra had a look over the street map. "It backs onto a hill, with the next knob up's mansion behind it."
"Not much help there. Any other entrances?"
"Not unless you feel like going over or around the wall," Sandra replied. "But that's a start."
"Back wall's our best bet then. C'mon." Sandra kicked her motorbike into gear, and took off around to the back of the property. Looking over the wall from up the hill, they had a better view of the manor. There was a clear run from the back wall to the back of the manor.
"He only bought the place recently," Sandra commented. "He probably hasn't had time to install the landmines, killer dogs, gun-runs, barbed wire, pop-up thugs, spiked pits and swinging axe traps."
Aoi stared long and hard at Sandra before replying "You're kidding me, right?"
Sandra shook her head. "Local crime bosses take their privacy seriously. Unlike in NY, they don't have a corp to provide them with 24 hour rent-a-cops."
"Right. So we vault the wall and make a run for it?"
"That's what I was thinking," Sandra replied.
"Love the simple plans," Aoi muttered to herself. The pair dismounted Sandra's bike and scurried up to the wall. At this end of the property it was notably shorter than out the front - short enough for Sandra to reach the top on her own.
"Alright. We'll split up and take the house from each end. If necessary, we can flush our target into the middle and take him on there."
"Right," Sandra replied. "We can do more damage that way."
Sandra grabbed the edge of the wall and hauled herself up. She reached down an arm and helped Aoi up, then together they dropped down into the grounds. Almost immediately they heard shouting from within.
"Damn, they're ready for us," Aoi said as the pair broke into a run.
"I told you we didn't need to do a third tour of the block!" Sandra shouted back.
"Let me guess - my fault?" Aoi replied.
"Always," Sandra shot back. Gunfire burst out from the back of the manor, drowning out any further comments from the older woman. For once, Aoi was glad to be shot at.
The pair split up, Sandra running for the west wing while Aoi headed for the east.
Sandra crouched by the side window. Since leaving the Zone, she'd been living in relative peace. Aoi aside, she hadn't tried to shoot anyone, or been shot at by anyone, in ages.
"Couldn't have lasted anyway," She muttered to herself.
Checking inside the window, she could see a pair of thugs waiting in the first room. Well, no sense in putting off the inevitable, she thought. Leaping up with a pistol in each hand, she opened fire on the pair of them through the windows. Her bullets shattered the glass in the windows before striking the two things in the room. Both of them went down. Confident in their demise, Sandra gingerly stepped in through the shattered window.
She was committed now. Everyone would know she was here. Her only hope was that Aoi could make just as much noise as she did and try to draw off as many thugs as possible. She also quietly hoped that Aoi's gun didn't jam again. From the look of the modifications she'd had done to it, Sandra was surprised it'd never blown up in her face.
Time to throw caution to the wind, she thought. Business as usual.
Grabbing a gun from each of the downed thugs and stashing them inside her coat, she ran over to the door. She could hear shouting on the other side, and the sound of running feet. Great. More of them. Shock attack time. Turning around, she kicked the door open and opened fire without even bothering to take aim. Her plan was to take the enemy by surprise. The fire was less to kill as it was to confuse and distract.
It worked to a degree. The door itself hit one mook in the face, stunning him. Another one stood there, staring blankly. Swinging around, she leveled both guns at him then fired. The thug was hit and fell backwards, squeezing the trigger on his machine pistol as he went.
"Tool!" She shouted as she leaped away from him. He wasn't in any condition to aim, but Sandra didn't want to cop the risk. His armed spasmed as the gun traced a line of bullets across the wall, in an apparently half-arsed effort to track her. Great, she thought. Cheap smartgun linked to a cheap pistol. She'd seen enough of those in the Zone. Hitting the ground, she fired again, finishing off the Thug with the end of her first clips. His gun spat a few bullets into the ceiling, then went quiet.
She stood, only to hear a moaning sound. Spinning around, she could see the thug behind the door stirring. Not wasting any time, she span around and kicked the door back, slamming it, and the mook behind it, into the wall.
"Tool." She slammed a new clip into each pistol. Two full clips on only the second room... she was not doing well today. The sound of people running and shouting reached her ears. Great. Reinforcements.
Ahead of her was what she figured was the main lounge room. This was probably going to be messy, she thought. Still, could be worse. She'd rated the bathroom and kitchen both as places she'd rather not fight someone. Maybe I should write a guide, she thought to herself. Sandra's guide to places to have gunfights in. Checking that both pistols were loaded and ready, she glanced around the doorway. Several thugs were waiting, carrying a variety of weapons.
Time for a plan.
Grabbing the jacket form one of the dead goons and stuffing a cushion in it, she tossed it through the doorway. As she expected, there was a hail of automatic gunfire that shredded the jacket, and served as a convenient distraction. Leaping in to the room, she opened fire on one of the thugs who's attention was still on the jacket. He collapsed behind a couch, crashing to the floor.
Realising that she was now the center of their attention, she leaped behind a different couch. Bullets ripped into the expensive furniture, sending bits of fabric and framework flying into the air. Leaping up from the other end, Sandra fired again, hitting another thug in the chest. His partner fired back, the bullets sailing past Sandra and destroying the expensive looking television behind her.
"Somebody's not going to be happy about that." She muttered as she leaped up, turning to fire again, her coat billowing out behind her. A pair of shots went past her. She was closer, her attacker collapsing to the floor. Another shot went past, striking the gun in her left hand and sending it flying from her hand.
Firing her remaining gun, she dived and rolled behind one of the couches, where one of the previous thugs was lying, his arm outstretched. Grabbing the gun from his hand as she rolled, she came to her feet. The thug turned to fire. She was quicker.
Looking around, she couldn't see anyone else still standing. She hoped that meant that she'd cleaned the place, or at least the floor out. Grabbing her lost pistol from the floor, she discarded the one she took from the thug. Didn't have the room for more guns anyway. Going back to her normal weapons (The two guns she came in with; they were both brand new but she had paid for them with her own money. She had also realised that she went through a lot of guns and should do something to fix this), she cautiously stepped out of the room.
A burst of automatic gunfire tore into the wall next to her. Ducking back into the doorway, she glanced up at the source of the attack. There was a man standing at the top of the stairs, a submachinegun in hand. Tool. He had the advantage of range, elevation and a higher rate of fire. All she had on here side was accuracy and insanity.
So time to go with what she was good at. He'd be expecting her to come out standing or running, or maybe crouching. He probably wasn't expecting her to be falling backwards, firing as she went.
Her ploy worked. His shots ripped up the wall above her, while hers struck him head-on, knocking him down. She rolled to her feet, then ran up the stairs. Yep, dead, she thought. Charging up the stairs, she left him behind.
Aoi burst in through a side room, finding herself in a short hallway. Without thinking she dashed through, making her way into a cluttered storeroom. Ahead of her, a pair of guards burst through an open doorway. She ducked behind a shelf as they fired, covering her head as shards of crockery rained down on her. She caught a bowl as it dropped from the shelf above her and whirled around, throwing it like a discus. Hearing it crash against one of the men, she dived out. One of the guards kept firing, the bullets passing over her head as she slid along the floor and hit his leg, taking him off his feet. She spun on the floor, kicking up and striking the other man on the chest as she sprang to her feet.
Before he could recover, she pressed him against the wall and struck him repeatedly in the chest then shot her knee up into his face. As he slumped to the ground, the other thug rose behind her and wrapped his arms across her throat and chest. He leaned back, hauling her up and raising her feet off the ground. Aoi gasped for air, her arms flailing around for whatever she could find. One hand caught on a bag of rice in an open box. She grabbed it and struck backwards, splitting the bag over his head. He dropped her, and she staggered forwards, lashing back with her foot and connecting with his face. As he fell, she pressed on.
Beyond was a large, cluttered kitchen. Staff fled before her as three more suited thugs pushed in through the doorway. She took the initiative, grabbing a long-handled strainer and whisking it through the air at them, striking one of the thugs across the face. The other two spread out across a stainless steel bench, surrounding her. She blocked as one punched high, then gasped in pain as the other struck her from behind. She dived sideways, rolling over the bench and supporting herself on the sink against the wall. She kicked out, shoving the bench back and pressing one of the thugs against the wall.
The one who struck her grabbed a cutting board from the bench and swung it at her. She blocked with a raised leg, releasing the pressure on the bench, and kicked the cutting board out of his hand. Glancing around, she saw a pressure hose by the sink. She grabbed it off the wall and pulled the handle, spraying hot water in the man's face. Glancing at the other thugs, she saw one pulling a cleaver from the rack on the wall, while the one near the door reached into the dishwasher beside her for a kitchen knife. She seized the dishwasher's handle and brought the door down on his hand, trapping it and starting the wash cycle. She spun on the handle, lashing out with her foot and knocking the man away from the dishwasher.
To her right, the man lunged with the cleaver. She ducked below the bench, lashing out with her foot but missing her legs. Behind her, the second thug brought down the chopping board on her back. She let out a yelp of pain and spun around. The man swung down again, only to have her catch the board. She rolled back, yanking it out of his hands and stood, only to find the first thug swinging the cleaver at her. She raised the board in desperation and the two connected, part of the cleaver's edge poking through the chopping board. Yanking the board again, she wrenched the cleaver from his hands and struck behind her, knocking the third thug in he head as he extracted his hand from the dishwasher.
The first man grabbed a small frying pan from an overhead rack and brought it down on Aoi's hand. She yelped in pain, dropping the cutting board and stepping back. He grinned as he swung the pan again. This time she sprang forwards, somersaulting over the bench with one hand to land on the grill against the wall. She spun around, kicking a pot of boiling water off the stove next to her into the first thug's face, causing him to yell and recoil in pain.
The second, now armed with a tea towel, lashed out and wrapped it around her leg. He yanked hard, pulling her off her feet. She grabbed onto the overhanging rack, holding herself off the grill with both hands. He pulled hard dragging her forwards. Aoi gritted her teeth and yanked backwards, pulling the towel out of his hands. Her feet swung back and hit the opposite wall. She bunched against it, released her grip on the rack and launched off the wall, twisting in mid-air to strike him in the face with her heel. Grabbing onto the dishwasher, she brought herself to the ground. She straightened her suit and strode to the doorway, only to find the third thug crouched up against the dishwasher. She raised her hand to strike and he recoiled, cowering against the machine. She settled for slapping him lightly on the head, then made her way out.
She quickly crossed the dining room beyond the kitchen and burst out into the main room. There she saw four figures; the lean form of Peter Chung in his faded brown suit; her and Sandra's target, with his blond beard, white suit and bright purple cravat; a wiry American man in a loose-fitting suit who she recognised as That Man's driver; and a huge wall of Chinese muscle with a shaved head, badly squeezed into a cheap black suit and wearing sunglasses. The first three were heading for the door while the last turned to face her.
She drew her pistol and fired at the retreating group. She saw Chung stagger before the man was upon her. He lashed out with a palm, catching her in the chest and sending her sprawling. As she skidded across the ground she took aim on him and fired. Her pistol shuddered, but didn't fire.
"Of all the luck," she sputtered out as the man approached her with glacial speed. She knocked her pistol against the ground, trying to clear it before he batted it casually out of her hand. She rolled back away from him and got to her feet.
"Alright... Let's do this the old-fashioned way," Aoi said. She darted forwards, kicking at his head, only to have her foot blocked by his outstretched palm. She lashed out again, assaulting his chest with blinding speed, but each time having her blow blocked with a blindingly fast movement. She sprang back then swept low, but again his palm blocked her leg. She sprang to her feet, only to get slammed in the chest again by his palm strike. She staggered back and collapsed to the ground, her opponent looming over her.
As Aoi looked up at the man, one of the doors on the second landing burst out. Sandra charged through, raising her pistols as she went. She dived off the railing, firing from both hands as she plunged towards the man's back. Aoi rolled out of the way, watching him shudder from the impacts. Sandra landed in a roll beside him, ignoring the man as he crumpled to the ground and firing up at the doorway she had just emerged from. Aoi caught a glance of two more thugs collapsing, before turning to Sandra.
"Show off," she muttered.
"Tell you what. Next time I'll let you fight the infraggable crunk here yourself."
Aoi shook her head. "Peter and That Man took off out the front. I think I tagged Peter in the leg, though." She bent down to recover her pistol.
Sandra nodded to her and the pair made for the huge double doors at the front of the house. The moment they pushed them open, they were under fire. Sandra ducked back in behind the door, glancing out at the porch as Aoi dashed out. Four columns supported the roof overhead, and Sandra ducked back as a pistol fired from behind one of them.
"Can you see him?" Sandra yelled out.
"I'm pinned down!" Aoi yelled back. "He's behind the third column!"
Sandra waited patiently until she heard a break in the firing. She stepped out, firing at the third column as a man emerged from behind it. He was struck in the chest and crumpled to the ground.
Aoi stepped over and looked down at him. He had the general look of an emaciated fish with short greasy-looking hair. "Chung," she muttered to herself.
"Great. So where's That Man?"
As if to answer Sandra's question, a large sports sedan tore out of the garage. They both spotted a man inside in a white suit, with a line of bright purple at his neck.
"It's That Man!" They both exclaimed at once as the car sped out of the drive.
"Why are we standing here shouting?" Sandra asked.
In means of reply, Aoi dashed to the garage. "Get your bike," she yelled over her shoulder. "I'll grab a ride from in here!"
In her long career of being chased and shot at, Sandra had never driven in a car chase. She'd been a passenger in a few (Rev's joyride across the Zone still haunted her to this day, although it could just have been the way Vic was giggling throughout) but never driving one of the participating vehicles. So it was a new experience for her. She also figured that it was one she didn't want to make a habit of.
Speeding around the side of the manor, she was joined by Aoi. Her partner had found a small, red racing bike that had probably only been bought because it looked good. "Any idea where he's headed?" Aoi shouted.
"Where's he headed?"
"I can't hear you!"
"WHICH WAY IS HE GOING?"
"I have no frelling idea!" Sandra shouted. "I think he's just driving and figuring it out as he goes along."
"Fine." Aoi muttered.
The car took a sharp corner very badly, swerving across the road as it went. Either the guy behind the wheel was a completely carpet driver, Sandra figured, or that car was carrying a lot more weight then it should be. The boot was probably loaded with unsuccessful business partners or something, she thought. She followed it around the bend, noting how perilously close it had come to sliding off down the side of the hill. Great, that'd be what happens, she thought. Car slides off hill, bounty-head squashed, no money.
All but slapping herself, she tried not to think about it. Those sorts of things didn't happen to her anymore.
Fortunately, for the moment, they were in a swanky hills district of Hong Kong, full of large (by Hong Kong standards) estates with lots of room. It also meant that by Hong Kong standards, the roads were relatively empty. So they had little to worry about the usual bumper-to-bumper traffic slowing them down, or their foe plowing into a bus full of Buddhist monks. Which was probably a good thing, she reflected, as it took the next corner only marginally better then the first one.
Aoi shot ahead of her, trying to get as close to the car as possible, and far closer then was advisable under the conditions. Pulling out her pistol, she opened fire on the car. Sandra watched in dismay as the shots hit the car, gouging into the paintwork on the side but not actually doing much damage. Armoured, she thought. Should have figured it. It explained the way it was handling.
As if to make it worse, the passenger in the front seat wound down his window and leant out, submachinegun in hand. "Crap!" she heard Aoi shout as he opened fire. Fortunately for her, the shot went wide, tearing up pavement but not doing much else. Given the available options, Aoi decided to keep firing, her shots missing the gunner but continuing to wreck the finish.
Swerving around to the other side, Sandra pulled up closer to the car. Reaching into her coat, she pulled out one of her pistols. "Body's armoured, so what about the windows?" She asked herself. "One way to find out." She fired, shattering the mirror on the driver's side. A second shot bounced off the window frame. The third hit the back window, cracking it but not shattering it. "Well that went wose then expected." She muttered. "Bulletproof glass to boot."
The car swerved around another corner, nearly taking out Sandra with it. "Tool!" She shouted. "That..." She fired again, her shots hitting the car's body and further cracking the back and side windows. It didn't do anything, but it made her feel better.
Over on her side, the gunner continued shooting at Aoi, his shots going wide. Seeing that this wasn't working, she dropped back to pull level with Sandra. "Now what?" She shouted.
"Armoured body, bulletproof glass, man with gun. Not good." Sandra replied.
"Can we run him into something?" Aoi shouted back.
"Could work." Sandra said. "It's risky and probably downright stupid, but for want of a better plan, I say go for it."
"Right. I'll cut across country and get in front of him."
"What?" Sandra shouted. However, before she could do anything, Aoi had already swerved off the road and was cutting across someone's lawn. "Gotta admire her enthusiasm." She muttered. "Her common sense is another thing."
Now to keep him busy while Aoi did whatever it was she was going to do. Swerving around to the passenger side (and taking the timeout to ram a fresh clip into her gun) Sandra opened fire on the gunner. Two of her shots went wide, however the first ripped across his shoulder. Swearing loudly, the gunner ducked back inside the car. "Now here's hoping he doesn't have any spare ammo..."
A sound above her caught her attention. A motorbike was racing along the edge of the embankment above her. It was Aoi. Oh god, she thought. What's the suicidal nut up to?
To answer her question, The bike leaped off the embankment and landed in front of the car. Leaning back, Aoi opened fire on the car, her shots peppering the bonnet and cracking the windscreen. The driver swerved out of the way, heading onto the grassy embankment at the side of the road.
Then he surprised the pair of them by turning to run down the hill proper, rather then along the road. The car sped off down the hill in a rough, but controlled descent.
"What the hell was that?" Sandra shouted.
"I was trying to cut him off!" Aoi shouted back. "Make him crash or flip or swerve off the road or something! How was I to know he could take the hill?"
The car continued down the hill, cutting a hard right at the bottom and onto a major road. A busy major road, crowded with other cars.
"What now?" Aoi shouted.
"He's got a huge headstart, but he's in traffic now and we're on bikes." Sandra yelled back. "We can still catch him."
"Now we get down there." She said. Swerving off the road, she followed the car's path down the hill.
"What the frelling hell do you think..." She began. "Oh forget it." Turning her bike, she proceeded down the hill after Aoi.
Ahead of her, Aoi executed a ridiculously tight turn, seamlessly joining the traffic and heading after the car. Sandra had to admit her newfound partner was rather brave. Especially without a helmet to stop her form getting smeared across the landscape. Feeling a little less suicidally inclined, even allowing for a helmet, Sandra chose to turn across the hill and merge with the traffic rather then dive straight into it. It left her some distance behind her target and Aoi, but it also left her more alive.
Opening up the throttle, she began weaving her way through the traffic, trying to catch either of them. Instead she found that Aoi was doing the same and being, if anything, more reckless in her pursuit of the car. "What's that silly tool thinking?" She asked herself as Aoi's bike wove between a pair of busses. All Sandra could do was try to do her best to catch up with them and keep her head on.
She was trying to decide if the driver knew where he was going or not, or, for that matter, if he had a specific destination in mind or was just driving for the sake of driving. The road they were on was the same one she and Aoi had traveled up to get to Chung's mansion, and was leading them back towards the city proper. Was he going back to the construction site for some reason, she thought? Or maybe he was making a beeline for the airport. That was the most likely case, actually. Whatever he'd come to Hong Kong for probably wasn't helped by the man he was meeting getting ventilated.
The car swerved off the main road, making a very bad cut for an exit ramp. Sandra winced as it went, convinced that at any second it would end in a mess of twisted metal and mangled bodies. Much to her surprise, it didn't. Aoi followed it with Sandra, now determined to get this guy, following close behind her. The driver's decision to cut off onto a side road, heading down towards the harbour was an interesting one. There was far less traffic, which made his speed a lot faster, but would also aid his persuers. On the other hand, a relatively narrow and winding road would make getting a good shot at him, or lining him up, a lot harder.
Then a huge container truck went by Sandra at close range, and she realised where they were going. In the distance, peering over the hills, she could make out something. Cargo cranes. Deep, booming horns. The river. He was making a break for the waterfront.
"Aoi!" She shouted.
"What?" The other woman yelled back. They were nearly neck and neck again.
"He's heading for the waterfront."
"I think he's going to try to loose us."
"Not me he's not!" She shouted back, angrily. She opened the racing bike's throttle up, closing the distance to the car. Pulling out her machine pistol, the girl fired again, rounds denting the car's bodywork but not doing much else.
Leaning out, the gunner fired again. However, unlike before, the car was now swerving all over the road, making his aim harder then before. Shots peppered the road and a passing truck, while missing the pair of them. Suddenly, he stopped, dropping the clip out of the bottom of the gun and fumbling for a replacement. Not wanting to waste the opportunity, Aoi bought her bike up to level with the car and opened fire with her pistol again. The shots peppered the side of the car before hitting the gunner. He dropped his weapon, then collapsed back inside the car. Abruptly, it swerved off the road, turning away from Aoi and crashed through a mesh fence.
"What's in there?" Aoi shouted.
"Waterfront!" Sandra yelled back.
"What do you think he's up to?" She shouted.
"Maybe he's meeting a boat. Maybe he's just lost." She replied. It was all she could think of.
The car sped between a pair of warehouses. Rather then follow it directly, Sandra veered off to the right, her bike ducking around the other side of the warehouse. Thinking herself clever for a second, she had to swerve to avoid a stack of barrels, no doubt containing some degree of vile unpleasantness. Weaving in and out of various obstacles, she emerged from behind the warehouse running level to the car. She opened fire, her shots bouncing off the car's body. On the other side, she could see Aoi doing the same thing.
Clearly not happy with this arrangement, the driver of the car did the about the least sensible thing he could do. He sped up.
The pair of them dropped back to be directly behind him as he continued through the docklands industrial area. "What the frelling hell does the tool think he's doing?" Sandra shouted.
"I have no idea!" Aoi replied.
"Me neither..." Sandra began and then trailed off. "Oh no..."
The car continued down a wharf, the driver looking over his shoulder at the pair of them. They both gestured frantically as they tried to close the distance. The driver turned around to look ahead of him. Then he realised what they were signaling.
The car shot off the end of the wharf, and bobbed up and down in the water for a moment, then sank like a stone.
Sandra skidded her bike to a halt, the tires squealing on the hard cement. Aoi pulled up next to her. "Don't cars usually float for longer?" She asked, looking into the water.
"Not if they're heavily armoured." Sandra replied.
"Oh." Aoi said. "So... we blew it?"
"Pretty much." Sandra said. She took off her helmet and grinned. "But I'm used to it by now."
"So, um..." Aoi began. "Little chance of getting him back?"
"Hong Kong's harbour is full of gangsters. We'd never find the right one."
"Oh." Aoi replied.
"Don't worry about it." Sandra said. "We all mess up every now and then." She smiled. "Come on. I've got a tub at my place if you want to unwind for a while."
Sandra's suggestion had been perfect. Aoi had taken a brief detour to pick up a simple green bikini before the pair returned to Sandra's incredibly luxurious apartment. Judging from Sandra's disheveled appearance, Aoi had expected a small hole in the wall or similar. Not that she was complaining. The apartment had it's own hot tub, which she now found herself soaking in.
She folded her mobile phone shut and laid it on the edge of the tub. For the first time in what seemed like a very long day, she felt comfortable, relaxed and human again. Although the mission was a failure, she'd managed to get her airfare and return (lower class, of course) paid for by the employer. Furthermore, she knew that no matter what, her day couldn't get any worse.
"Like the tub?" Aoi looked up as Sandra entered, wearing a similarly plain bikini. Two things struck her about Sandra's appearance. The first was the number of scars that she had; besides her face, her right shoulder and arm were a mess of scars, with a few more on her left arm, body and legs.
The second was that underneath the coat, and the thick, lined clothes she wore, Sandra was amazingly toned, trim and, much to her dismay, well endowed.
She slunk lower into the tub so her own chest was completely underwater.
Sandra slipped into the tub next to her. "Not bad, is it?" She said. "After a hard day of running around and getting shot at, I like to lie back in here and soak for a while." She glanced over at Aoi. "Something up?"
Aoi stared long and hard at Sandra, then sighed loudly. "You're incredible, you know that?"
"What did I do?" Sandra asked. "I was just saying that I like the tub."
Aoi shook her head and rose out of the tub slightly. "It's just... Looking at you, looking at your outfit when you work, I didn't expect anything like this," she said, opening her arms out as if to encompass the whole apartment. "I certainly didn't expect... well," she cut herself off, and fell silent.
"You didn't expect me to have such a nice place?" She asked. "Yeah, very few people do after meeting me." She explained. "It was a, er, gift form my last boyfriend." She looked up at the ceiling. "He had more money then sense. It didn't work out, but I got to keep the place."
"That's a shame," Aoi said, looking around at the luxurious setting. In a way, she was reminded of Shion's apartment, when she worked for the ESPer weapon not so long ago. Somehow she felt that Sandra deserved it more. "I mean, if this is a gift, what happens when you get married?" She asked, half-joking.
"Not going to happen." Sandra said. "It didn't work out. He and I had... well, to cut a long story short, things went very badly for us. We broke up and he found a beautiful young billionaire to marry."
That sounded strangely familiar to Aoi. "Wait a sec... Middle of last year, here in the Mandarin towers? That was you in the lift with Jason Stone!" She gaped at Sandra in shock. "No way!"
"Hang on..." Sandra said. "You were there too!" She vaguely remembered there being someone else with Jason and Midori. "Yeah, Jason Stone. He was my Ex who got me this place. Do you work for him or something?"
Aoi gaped in shock at Sandra. "Used to," she finally said. "Amazing. Everywhere I go, it's like he's been there before me."
Sandra sniggered. "It's something my mum used to say. No matter where you go, you'll end up knowing someone there somehow." She shrugged. "Jason and I broke up long ago. It's all ancient history - and a great place for me to live - now."
"Lucky you," Aoi mused. "So when's someone going to buy me a ridiculously luxurious apartment?"
"Find a wealthy boyfriend first." Sandra said. "Failing that, a ridiculously generous boss. Otherwise, you're out of luck." She shrugged. "Actually, Jason had planned to surpise me with this place; he bought it to use on a trip to HK, then was going to give it to me. Guess I got lucky."
"Lucky?" Aoi gasped out. With all that had happened today, she had a feeling that luck was rarely on the older woman's side. "I mean, I've got a nice place already... But I had to work for it."
"I guess I paid for this place in emotional strife then." Sandra said, sitting back. "Ah well, it's all in the past now. For the moment, I'm happy that I'm here, I've got a new boyfriend and I'm a million miles from the Zone and Jason Stone."
"I can certainly agree on one of those," Aoi said in a rather subdued tone.
"Something up?" Sandra asked.
She shook her head. "Forget it. I'm not going to spoil this moment, the best I've had all day!" With that she stretched out wide. Her arm struck the phone on the side of the tub, and in gently slid into the water with a muted splash. The pair glanced down into the tub, then looked forlornly at each other.
Sandra waved her hand dismissively and simply said "Stuff it."
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