By Rob King

Catherine's home near Stanley, morning:

Sitting in the dilapidated dining room clad in plain grey-green German army surplus trousers a dark blue shirt and black body armour Catherine leafed through the contents of the package, the pictures and notes on the young man who was her target were exactly what she had asked for. Examining one of the pictures she carefully studied the young Asian man it showed, reading the notes there was nothing exceptional about this eighteen year old who had rebelled against his corporate upbringing by joining a anti globalisation movement. His father a high ranking executive could not allow this, and had called in the security division who's desire for discretion meant calling in a freelancer, the security people at Cybernetic Technologies had done an excellent job gathering information on the youth, their monitoring of his messages had revealed he was taking part in a protest in front of the Jinsei tower that afternoon. After a few minutes thought Catherine saw an opportunity and the ghost of a smile quirked her lips "a protest, now those can turn violent..." standing she turned and headed for the cellar, she knew exactly what she was looking for...

Anti globalisation protest outside Jinsei tower, afternoon:

The protest had been in progress for several hours and was getting loud and restless; Catherine had been prowling around the edges looking for the teen for almost two hours and had only just found him, he had dyed his hair electric blue and whilst hard to recognise at a glance now stood out. Slipping into the throng of frenzied shouting protesters she began to approach the tall barrier Jinsei had erected at the end of the street to keep the protesters out. The wide concave barrier bristled with non-lethal crowd control weapons and was manned by guards in full riot gear, Catherine noticed a few shifting nervously "just what I was looking for" she thought as she pushed through the crowd towards them, reaching into her battered leather jacket she withdrew the first of the small cylinders. Pulling the pin she threw the first of the canisters over the barrier at the guards the second canister landing at the base of the barrier as she turned and began to push her way toward the blue haired teen, shouts could be heard as the canisters burst releasing their contents, military grade CS tear gas.

As the choking gas began to spread anyone breathing it in collapsed gasping as their airways closed up, with a howl of collective rage the protest tuned into a rampaging mob and surged forward into the barrier, at the same time the riot guards hit by the gas assumed a attack was taking place and let fly with an arsenal of non-lethal munitions increasing the confusion. The teen rather than join the charge into the Jinsei position was tying to flee but was being carried forward by the weight of bodies, pulling the pins and dropping the last two canisters Catherine seized him and as she dragged him to the edge of the crowd the canisters burst the choking fumes stopping a section of the mob in their tracks. The frightened youth tried to twist free of her grip but the vicious blades that snapped out of her free hand convinced him otherwise, Catherine knew that it was now a race against time as the mob overwhelmed the barrier Jinsei would use it's plan-B. She had seen the flat panels behind the barrier just before she began her search for the teen—area denial systems, banned by international law the microwave weapons could disable an entire crowd in seconds, Catherine had been on the receiving end only once and feeling as if she was being burned alive once was enough for her. Dragging the terrified target along the edge of the crowd they almost reached the street corner when she feel the burning pain wash over her, biting back a scream she dragged the youth around the corner where he collapsed moaning.

Out of the area denial system's line of sight the burning subsided to a faint tingling as she hauled the teen back onto his feet ordering him to keep going.

"Move it kid we have a schedule to keep."

Grabbing the youth by the back of the neck she began to lead him away. They were just over half way to the pickup when she got the feeling something was wrong, the delivery van going past looked very familiar and it was slowing down... She realised why it was familiar and what it meant—the van had passed them before a minute ago "a snatch squad" panicking she suddenly changed direction leading the teen into the shop they were passing, in the clothing section of the low end department store she waved off the startled salesgirl and was pushing him toward a door marked "staff only" when the van's occupants arrived. The three men and two women dressed in nondescript suits and dark glasses were no surprise and neither were the large threatening bulges beneath their jackets, ducking behind a rack of clothes she looked through the hangers to see one of the men swat the salesgirl out of the way as the suited figures drew an assortment of weapons and fanned out to search the clothing department. Catherine gestured to the frightened teen to keep quiet as she drew her pistol "at times like this paranoia is an asset" from her jacket she retrieved the magazine of armour-piercing rounds she had brought "just in case" looking out again she saw the man who had hit the salesgirl advancing down the central aisle a cut-down auto shotgun in his hands. Lining him up in the sights she fired twice, the roar of the pistol reverberating through the wide room, Catherine threw herself flat on the floor as the clothes on the rack were shredded by a volley of bullets. A strange sound filled her ears it took her a second to figure out that it was the youth screaming, hauling him to his feet she pulled him behind a nearby pillar, crouching low she ducked out and fired hitting one of the women her sub-machinegun firing wildly as she fell, pausing Catherine took stock of the situation "five of them medium weapons, two down so that leaves three" ducking out the other side she had to pull back immediately as the remaining three opened fire, grabbing the teen she pulled him back into the racks of clothes, weaving in between the racks they scrambled for one of the counters as gunfire tore through the clothes all around them.

Crouching behind the counter she looked at her charge, the teen had turned white from fear and was shaking uncontrollably, popping up she fired and saw one of the men dive behind a rack, three shots into the rack rewarded her with the sight of him slumping sideways into view, but as she ducked back into cover the counter top disintegrated in a hail of gunfire. Crawling around to the edge of the counter she glanced out and saw the remaining man and woman advancing, their weapons held at the ready, Catherine spun out to a kneeling position and fired on the woman, turning to engage the man her last shot hit thin air, he was gone, and she was out of bullets, from his hiding place behind a clothes rack the man had seen her gun run out, he stood bringing his short assault rifle up to cut her down. The booming report of the carbine filled her ears as she dived behind the counter, Catherine didn't know that the ripping shells had only missed her by inches as he raked the counter with fire. She had just got the fresh magazine in place when she heard the metallic click on the other side of the counter, she was out gunned and he had body armour, she couldn't win a straight fight so she gambled throwing the empty magazine up over the desk, in response he opened fire emptying his magazine in the process Catherine heard the weapon click empty, standing she pressed the slide stop down, the slide snapping forward as she levelled her pistol on the armed man and shot him down.

As the shots echoed into silence she pulled the whimpering youth to his feet and dragged him back toward the entrance, as they walked she heard a faint moan. Telling the teen to stay put she advanced towards the sound and found one of the women lying in a pool of blood, her eyes widened as she saw Catherine and she reached for the sub-machinegun that lay just out of her reach, as Catherine levelled her pistol on the woman she heard the first voice, cold hard and cruel.

"Kill the bitch she'd do the same to you."

The second voce was different, softer almost pleading.

"Please, she's dying you have to help her."

Catherine kicked the sub-machinegun away and pinned the woman's reaching hand, before looking down into the woman's eyes and calmly telling her.

"If I ever see you again I will kill you."

Turning away rubbing her temples she collected the youth and walked out ignoring the hysterical salesgirl desperately trying to call security. Walking toward the van she drew her weapon ready for an ambush, throwing the door open she found it was empty with the key tucked into the sun visor, starting the van she pulled the youth into back and drove off.

After spending half an hour in traffic they arrived at the pickup a filthy loading doc in an ugly communist era industrial park as they Catherine stepped out of the van with the youth in tow the Cybernetic Technologies security team rushed up to them, the leader a young dark haired woman checked the shaking figure of her charge, before offering Catherine her hand. Taking the woman's hand Catherine sat down heavily, rubbing her irritated skin she glanced at the youth his skin was reddening—burnt by the area denial system she knew she was no different, crouching in front of Catherine the worried team leader asked her if she was hurt.

"Are you OK?"

With a wry smile Catherine replied.

"I've been better."

"What the hell happened to you? I heard the protest turned into a riot."

"I know about the riot, I started it. As for the rosy cheeks Jinsei used area denial systems on the mob."

The woman cast a worried glance at the shaking youth before turning back to Catherine.

"Area denial systems I've heard bad things about those, no wonder he's so shaken up."

"Well I think the snatch team shook him up more than the area denial system did."

"Snatch team? Are you saying someone tried to grab him?"

Gesturing to the van Catherine explained.

"Well that's not my van over there but its previous owners certainly don't need it anymore, they tried to grab the kid and almost killed me in the process; there's four dead and one wounded in the clothing section of a department store."

One of the Cybernetic Technologies team walked up behind the woman and whispered in her ear nodding she responded just out of Catherine's hearing, after a moment she turned back a expression of relief on her face.

"Well he's going to be fine how about you?"

"Good to hear he's alright, as for me I've walked away from worse; there is however the small matter of payment to deal with."

The woman gestured to a bag in the corner.

"Your money is in that bag over there ready to go."


Catherine stood and collected the bag as she turned to leave the woman stopped her taking Catherine's hand she placed a business card in Catherine's fingers.

"We could use someone like you, here's my card if you're interested just call and ask for April Ryan."

Thank you, I'll think about it."

Waiting for Ryan to release her hand she stood for a few seconds and before having to pull her hand away, turning quickly Catherine walked out, the way the woman had not released her hand made her uncomfortable about the corporate employees intentions, looking at the card before pocketing it she headed for home deep in thought. "Invited into an archology as a guest of security this could be a real opportunity... if Ryan is serious about this job offer and not about the very different kind of offer I think she was trying to make."

Catherine's home near Stanley, night:

That night Catherine couldn't sleep she kept seeing the wounded woman and hearing the voices.

"You should have killed her, what if she comes back?"

"You did a good thing today; violence is not the only path."

Sitting up she cursed rubbing her temples in frustration "at least with the nightmares I could sleep" standing up she wandered to the kitchen filling a glass with water she leant on the table with a weary sigh "am I loosing my mind?".

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