By Jamie Jeans, Jeff Skagen, Max and Alex Fauth

Note: This takes place after Search for Family Part 3

The complex was large, wide spread, and imposing with the sheer number of buildings within it and the large security gate surrounding it. Every twenty meters along the five meter high concrete barrier there was a guard tower, armed with the latest in weaponry and security equipment. There were two entrances, large steel door affairs that were flanked by some of the biggest cyberdroids ever to be produced.

Within the complex itself were numerous buildings, and amongst these buildings there traveled groups of security guards, each with a cyberdroid tagging along, every fifteen minutes. Were an alarm to be triggered, any intruder would soon find themselves in the midst of a rather heavy gun fight.

All of this, plus whatever backups Jinsei could send if a large enough force descended upon the area, made Jinsei's Weapon Manufacturing Facility a force to be reckoned with.

"Which, of course, makes sense, considering the very precious target they have hidden within the North tower here," explained Korey, pointing at said building with a laser pointer.

She turned to face her partners in this latest endeavor, Shoko, Aoi, Sandra, and Ray, of course, to gauge their reaction. They were seated at the bar, the meeting taking place down in the basement of her home, which served her needs nicely. Have a drink and plan some massive Jinsei destruction: no downside to that.

"Needless to say, the first phase of this operation will have to be performed flawlessly if we are to have any degree of success," she said. "After all, we are not simply taking out a weapons facility, but the testing ground for Jinsei's newest project: the Esper Enhancer."

Shoko sipped at her beer as she mulled over this bit of information. "So..." she said, when nobody else immediately spoke up. "I guess that means we might have to deal with some espers too. And they may be 'enhanced'. Do we know anything about this drug - like, say, how much extra zap this stuff gives 'em?"

"So far as I know, Jinsei currently has no espers via the Esper Enhancer, but just in case, Ray will be accompanying us, as he can detect them." Korey clicked a button on her remote and a blurry picture came up on the screen.

"As for the Esper Enhancer itself, it is not so much a drug as it is a series of machines and mind enhancing chemicals with a special harness shown here." Korey clicked the button again, and a different picture was shown. "It is still in the experimental stage, but if successful... well, there would be allot more espers out there."

"More espers? Okay, now I'm confused," said Shoko, quickly shaking her head. "Just what does this thing actually do? With a name like the Esper Enhancer, I just assumed that it, well... enhanced espers. You know, gave 'em a power boost or something. But now its sounding more like it actually gives a normal person esper powers. Please tell me it doesn't really do that."

"It dose not, actually," Korey said. "It does, as you guessed, enhance an esper to their full capability. But, it can also awaken the powers of latent espers... that is, if it is successfully completed."

Shoko breathed a sigh of relief. "Thank you! The idea of entire squads of Jinsei troopers with esper powers is probably going to become my new worst nightmare." She tipped the can back and finished off her beer in several quick swallows. "Please continue your briefing, Korey. What else do we need to know?"

Sandra sat back to take in what she had just done. She said she wouldn't ever do it again, but yet, scant months later, she had.

She was back in Neo York. She'd told herself when she left with David for Hong Kong that she never was coming back. She'd had enough of it all; the Zone, the fighting, the dying, the constant struggles to stay alive and find enough food to eat and a roof over her head. not to mention the people.

Yet still, here she was.

She'd said that it would take a lot to get her back to Neo York. Well, a lot had called and she'd decided to follow it like the tool she was. Still, she couldn't blame herself. Korey Winters, her old friend and one time host, had called her up out of the blue and asked her if she wanted to do a job. It was a job that involved a lot of Zeroes, something that she couldn't pass up. And besides, Korey was a friend.

So she found herself saying goodbye to David and Sarah and getting on the next flight over. It hadn't been easy to say goodbye this one time. She'd never been away from David for any length of time since they'd met. She'd been gone overnight on a job or maybe a few days, but never for so long or so far. In the end, she'd decided not to think about it and assume that the whole building wasn't going to fall down without her (In fact, Sarah said its odds of staying up were better). And to have lots of cold showers.

So she'd turned up out of the blue on Korey's doorstep sporting a supposedly cool new hairstyle and a bag full of gear and asked if she could borrow a bed while she was there.

Then Korey had dropped a pair of surprises on her. The first was that their mission was taking place in Tokyo, something that Sandra really, really hadn't expected. On the other hand, it was a bit of a relief, given that it meant she'd probably go nowhere near the Zone, which was a good thing. And besides, she'd never been to Tokyo.

Then Korey had reveled that, besides her and Ray, Sandra would be working with two others. The first was Aoi, who Sandra had met several months ago in Hong Kong when the two ended up going after the same target. Even though the operation was a complete tool-up, the two of them had hit it off.

The second was a very large, rather unusual looking Puma called Shoko. Sandra had never worked with a Puma before. In fact, most of her dealings with them had been on the receiving end. She figured that this could be very interesting.

Which, she realized, in her mind meant that it would probably all go horribly wrong.

"Security will be extra tight for this mission, both because of the sensitive nature of what Jinsei is researching, coupled with the attacks on Jinsei facilities as well as the fact that this is a weapons manufacturing plant." Korey clicked the button on the remote, and brought up a different picture. "Aoi will now outline just what opposition we can expect."

Aoi stood slowly, shaking her head and taking a place beside the screen. "I'd love to tell you I have a plan, but I can't. Security on this place is downright insane." She indicated to the front gate on the plan display. "Externally it's pretty ordinary. The layout isn't that different from most other isolated facilities - open space from the fence to the building, guard towers with a view of the entire grounds..." She shrugged. "The usual. It's internal security that scares the life out of me."

She flicked over to a new image of a sophisticated wall panel, with a small lens and speaker grille. "Front entrance, along with the doors to each lab and workroom has one of these. It requires a simultaneous retinal scan and voiceprint. If that's not enough, the voiceprint confirmation is a separate, personalized phrase for each employee. Beyond that, they work with three entirely separate computer networks - one for administration, one for security and one for research. Only the admin one has outside connections; the rest are completely isolated, so we can't get in with an external hack."

"Just to help out, most of the top officials and researchers are accompanied by security synths around the clock." She let out a long sigh and shook her head once more. "Now I've wracked my brain, and I can't come up with any way inside. Sorry, guys."

"Hmmm..." The tips of Shoko's ears twitched as she considered the problem. "Do their security synths also have to do the whole ID check thing, or do they just ride in on the coattails of whatever important person they're accompanying?"

Aoi turned back to the screen, rubbing her chin in thought. "Y'know... I don't think so. A lot of the synths were giving voice IDs, mostly just repeating their given names. But I didn't see any using the retinal scanners."

"Voice ID's, huh? Well, that's still a problem. Let me think..." Suddenly Shoko smiled. "Okay. We can't hack the security computer, but we can possibly hack the admin computer. Now, assignment of synths is an administrative decision, right? So if we can hack the admin computer, we could input my voice ID - even my retina scan, if necessary - and tell it that I'm someone's newly assigned security synth. That info, in turn, will be automatically passed on to the security computer at the next update."

She hesitated a moment, tail flicking from side to side, then added "Of course, before we pursue this idea any further, we should decide if there's any point. I mean, say we sneak me in that way. Great. Now what? Just what do I need to do to get you guys in?"

Korey had a hand to her chin in silent thought as she listened to the to speak before she spoke. "That sounds a solid plan, Shoko. In fact, I believe it should extend to the rest of us. Of course, not as security pumas, but as members of the facility transferred from outside. Depending on what information I can get my hands on before hand, I'm positive I can sneak us in as various low level employees and one high ranking employee."

"Thus," she continued on. "We may be able to create many a small problem while we get the layout of the inner workings of the facility and plan our next move. Taking this far more subtler route, I must warn, will take up more of our time, but I believe caution must be exercised to the utmost here."

At that, Korey grinned. "So..." And she spared another grin for Aoi. "What would you all prefer to dress up as? I'm afraid that school girl outfits will be out of the question this time around, Aoi."

"I call not being the plumber" Sandra dryly replied.

Actually, this plan seemed a lot better all of a sudden, Sandra thought. We may be able to get in without making too much noise and then disrupting them from within to keep them off balance. Perfect. It beats the old sneak in, have it backfire and everything explodes routine that seemed to have characterized her recent endeavors hands down... and that would definitely be a bonus.

She felt rather optimistic about this whole job, for some reason. Maybe it was just the people. She should work with friends more often, she thought. Someone to talk to while planning your next insane move would be good.

"Well I'd volunteer to be the plumber, but somehow I'm just sure I'm gonna be playing someone's bodyguard," said Shoko, as she leaned back in her seat and popped open a fresh beer.

They were going to do it, she thought, taking a sip. They were going to use her plan. Well, a plan built on her idea, anyway. It hadn't occurred to her to sneak the others the same way she'd suggested for herself, because she knew human personnel would undergo more extensive background checks and cross-referencing than a security synthetic, which was after all, merely property. Still, Korey seemed to have confidence that they had access to a hacker good enough for the job, and getting everyone in that way would simplify things tremendously. Of course, there were still some downsides to consider...

"So, um, not to put a damper on things, but has it occurred to anyone else that no matter what you choose to dress up as, I'll probably be the only one allowed to carry a sidearm? Also, we'll probably be limited to armorcloth clothing at best. If the shit hits the fan - excuse me, make that *once* the shit hits the fan - we aren't gonna be able to fall back on the go-in-with-guns-blazing-and-blow-everything-up plan."

"With all due luck, the security forces will be busy dealing with the aftermath of the explosions we have to set off." Korey pointed to various points on the map. "You see, the most important point of extracting the Esper Enhancer is to cause as much damage as possible."

"With all due luck, Jinsei will assume an all out attack on their facility rather than an extraction of their top secret project. Combined with the destruction, they will be weeks sifting through the rubble looking for something that is not there."

"Thus, sneaking in as minor personal, we can plant explosives all about the facility... or..." And here she let the pause sink in, a sly smile on her face. "... or sneak in a small thermonuclear device and detonate it via remote control."

Aoi stared at Korey, mouth half open in shock. "I sure to hell hope you're joking, Korey." Aoi shook her head and sighed. Truth be told, apart from Korey's brief lapse in sanity, it sounded like a solid plan. Despite Shoko's concerns she knew most of them could handle themselves without firearms. And more importantly, it should encourage the others to keep their heads down and stay quiet. Of course, there were a lot of details to be worked out, but the foundation was good.

"So..." She began, almost dreading the reply. "Who does what?"

"You... big... tool..." Sandra muttered. "If that was your frelling idea of a joke, then it was not frelling well funny, damnit!"

Laughing, Korey waved her hands. "Sorry, yes, my poor attempt at humor." She arched an eyebrow. "Unless of course, you really would not mind. Most miniature thermonuclear devices are designed to withstand combat conditions until they have been detonated." The smile on her lips remained, albeit a small one.

"Don't even joke about that, Korey," Sandra snarled. "Because its not frelling well funny." Sandra would admit that she didn't know much about nuclear bombs. But she did know that she wanted to be away from them on general principles.

"Well, returning to the more sane plan, we will be bringing explosives in, but only after we have entered the facility and secured ourselves within." Korey looked over the layout of the weapons manufacturing plant. "This is a very delicate job, and will require plenty of patience, and no little luck. However, having worked with you all previously, I am confident that our endeavor will succeed."

Shoko slowly set down the beer that had been hovering halfway to her lips ever since Korey first mentioned nuclear weapons. "Well, I'm glad that's resolved. But we still have aspects of this mission to hash out. So, back to the original question - just who or what are we going to dress up as?"

"You will obviously be a security escort," said Korey. "As for the rest of us, it depends on what we can get. However, we will need one high ranking executive while the remainder will play the role of janitors and other very low level personnel."

Shoko pursed her lips and nodded slowly. "I guess that sounds fair enough for now. So, next question. What do we do once we're inside, and how do we get the explosives in later?"

Aoi pondered the question for a second. "The way I see it, the plan should work in two stages. Rather than sending us all in at once, Shoko heads in first with an 'escort' - one of us, acting as her charge, or handler, or whatever." Aoi shrugged. "Shoko should be able to move around with ease. She gets into the security system, and either creates some kind of diversion, or fakes an authorization for the others to move the explosives in." She looked around the room and finished with "Well?"

"Sounds like the best course of action, Aoi. I will go in with Shoko and while she works to get you and Sandra in, I will find where the Esper Enhancer is," said Korey. "Once everyone is in and the explosives have been set, we will retrieve the Esper Enhancer and all relevant information and then leave."

Sandra quietly worked through the plan. "Well that all sounds good to me. The less chance of violence and gunfire there is, the better." She didn't want to add that she felt a lot more confident working with Aoi then with Korey. After all, when she last worked with Aoi, their target had drowned. But when she last worked with Korey, they blew up half a building. "So the question is, what are me and Aoi doing for our act?"

The pair of cyberdroids flanking the heavy steel gate swiveled their heads to watch the black Ventura as it pulled up to the guard shack in front of the heavy steel security gate, but in the absence any obvious threat they otherwise they remained still. Many similar facilities would have simply had an automated ID scanner, but Jinsei had evidently judged it worthwhile to also have a pair of human eyes assessing each arrival to the facility.

The driver's window lowered to reveal a Puma behind the wheel, who offered up a pair of Jinsei corporate ID cards that the bored-looking guard casually ran his scanner over. A few moments later, his security board told him that the owners were approved to enter the facility. The tinted windows kept him from easily seeing inside the vehicle, but the thermal sensor built into his station confirmed only the driver and one passenger in the rear, and he could see that the car had a Jinsei parking tag affixed to the lower corner of the windshield. Satisfied, he keyed open the gate.

Well, this place may be built to keep out a small army, thought Shoko as she drove the car into the compound, but it doesn't seem very secure against a couple of infiltrators. Of course, all they'd done so far was get onto the grounds. They'd have to make it past stronger security measures when they tried to enter the research facility itself.

She steered the car into the parking garage, an ugly, slab-sided structure adjacent to the main facility building. A light flashed on her dash, and she allowed the garages autopark system to take over and guide them to a parking space. The slot it chose was reasonably near the entry to the main building, but closer spaces were available - and undoubtedly reserved for higher ranking exec's than Korey's cover identity was supposed to be.

She exited the car, stopping briefly to tug down on the hem of her too-short skirt. She was used to clothing that could, at best, be charitably described as casual, and was finding the more formal clothing appropriate to an executive's bodyguard - in this case a blue-gray jacket over a white blouse, along with matching short skirt, thigh-high white stockings and low black boots - uncomfortable and a bit constricting.

She paused, wondering why Korey wasn't getting out, and then remembered her role. She quickly stepped around to the other side of the vehicle and opened the door for her supposed owner. From now on she'd have to stay in character at all times; even here in the garage they might be under a security cameras watchful eye.

"Very spotty," Korey chastised her, although her eyes silently told her how she hated how snooty she sounded. "Next time, do not make me wait so long." She stepped out, dressed in a smart, sensible yet stylish business suit done up in a dark blue color.

She stepped away from the car, waited for Shoko to close the door, and walked along side her in silence, the sounds of their footsteps the only sound in the parking garage. When they reached the hallway leading into the main facility, a large glass and steel constructed affair, Korey spoke.

"When we enter, we will be separated as I will be protected by the main security," she said in a bare whisper she knew that Shoko could hear even as she slowed her pace, making the puma slow hers to stay with her. "You have some clearance here as my guard, but don't flaunt it too much else you'll draw suspicion." Her eyes were kept straight ahead, and her posture relaxed and easy going. "It will take the both of us to get Aoi and Sandra in here."

"Understood," said Shoko, giving the barest nod in reply. The door to the entry foyer opened automatically at their approach. "Well then, let's do this thing," she whispered a moment before they entered.

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