By Rob King

(Note: this story was intended for Turn 5; it has weak points but does have key parts of the characters background.)

Disused warehouse Lantau Island, late afternoon:

The old warehouse a relic of the late 1990s could only be called utilitarian, little more than concrete block walls with a simple roof of girders and corrugated metal it was designed to keep its contents dry and not much else, the thick vegetation growing in the grounds was clear indication of its long dereliction. Checking the rusting sign for Grunder Industries Catherine was sure it was the right place, a bright flash in her eyes caught her attention, looking closely at one of the walls the barrel of a gun protruded from a broken block, "laser sight, definitely the right place". Walking up to the door she knocked and waited, a few second later it was flung open to be greeted by half a dozen very large men with very large guns, after a tense moments silence she introduced herself.

"I'm Dagger, the shifty looking Chinese guy in the cheap suit sent me."

They lowered their guns and she stepped inside. From within it was clear why Grunder Industries was forced out of business eighteen years ago, the walls and the roof supports bore the scorch marks of the fire that had burned the entire contents of the warehouse to ashes. The Russian mercenaries she was working with took up the whole warehouse, one half was taken by four outdated Chinese military trucks and a battered pickup converted into a delivery van, the other half was covered by tables, bunks and storage used by the sixty men and women of the Hammer unit. Led by a Colonel Markov, Hammer was an apt name for this band of former soldiers, spies and assassins known for their direct and often brutal methods.

The heavily armed reception committee shepherded her to a table where a heavy set bearded man stood looking at the plans to the target facility, one of her escorts exchanged short almost monosyllabic conversation with the bearded man who turned and faced her, after long leering glance at her body he addressed her in heavily accented English.

"So you're this "Dagger" no?"

"Jesus this guy's a prick" Catherine thought before replying in Russian.

< Spetznaz Colonel Pavel Victorvich Markov I presume.>

Markov stepped back in surprise at the response.

<You speak Russian?>

<Yes Colonel Markov.>

<Superb young lady, but call me Pavel please I'm not a cog in that ghastly relic of an army anymore.>

<In that case call me Catherine, shall we get down to business Colonel.>

<Certainly Catherine, firstly what do you know about this mission?>

<I know your hitting a GMD research centre tomorrow to snatch something, my employer happens to want something else in that facility, in short my fixer asked around and found you, money changed hands and I got tacked onto your raid.>

<You know your background and your fixer's money is good, so what do you need from us young lady.>

<Well I'll be in the above ground sections of the building so what I need is a few spotters to follow the guard's movements, apart from extraction, that's it.>

<That's less than I expected, you can use Nicolai he used to be a navy combat diver he's very good at his job but not so good at working in a team, so he's no use to me for this job, get him to pick out a few of the men I'm not using to provide your spotters, I'll even let you use that piece of junk van.>

Catherine was pleasantly surprised by the Colonel's willingness to help; hiding a smirk she thought "Maybe he isn't so bad after all."

Colonel Markov shouted for Nicolai at the top of his lungs.

<Thank you Colonel I won't forget this.>

<See that you don't, go with Nicolai he'll help you.>

Nicolai a tall handsome man with long dark hair led her away from the Colonel to a table near the corner, unlike his commander Nicolai spoke excellent English and they talked on the way.

"Good afternoon Nicolai, I'm Catherine the Colonel said you could help me."

"It's nice to meet you Catherine, how does the old fool want me to help? What do you need?"

"Well Nicolai I need spotters to follow movements in the above ground sections of the building, I also need extraction the Colonel said we could use the van."

Nicolai stood for a moment deep in thought and called out a string of names, eight figures drifted toward them, as each one arrived Nicolai introduced them to her. Pointing to a pair of muscular young men he named them as Mikhail and Vladimir inseparable friends from childhood who had joined up and served together in an elite airborne unit. A wiry figure carrying a sniper rifle was Yuri, with him a powerfully built woman named Petra who was according to Nicolai an intelligence technician; they were accompanied by an older man with a bushy moustache Victor, engineer and their driver. A short dirt encrusted man with a shaved head was introduced worryingly as "Crazy" Ivan explosives expert and demolition specialist, the final team members were Larissa a tall intelligence operative and translator and finally Sergei communications specialist and Nicolai's best friend from the navy combat diver unit.

Catherine laid out a plan of the facility and outlined her ideas to the small team.

<My mission is to retrieve a sample being developed Global Materials Development, I'll be going in under the cover of the main raid but I'll be in the in the building's above ground floors.>

Petra yawned and asked her why the others were needed.

<So what do we do then?>

<Good question Petra, I need observers to keep me informed on the guard's movements I also need extraction.>

Mikhail spoke up.

<Sounds like a walk in the park.>

Sergei calmly responded.

<Don't underestimate an enemy Mikhail, it'll get you killed.>

Ivan cocked his head turning his left side toward the table

<Can I blow something up?>

Nicolai patted Ivan on the shoulder and said.

<Sorry Ivan if this goes to plan, you won't get to blast anything.>

Ivan looked upset and murmured quietly under his breath as the group huddled around the table making plans...

Catherine's home near Stanley, late evening:

Once a colonial era house, the large property had been abandoned during Hong Kong's accession from the late Chinese People's Republic, in the process the house had been acquired by a western intelligence agency and used as a depot to supply those in the employ of various western governments tasked with destabilising the area.

Stripped to the waist Catherine sat on the floor of her bedroom looking at the small bundle in front of her, opening it she saw the few reminders of her family she had left, among them a few pieces of her Mother's jewellery her Sister's pendant and the heavy Colt pistol left to her by her Father. Lifting the pistol feeling the smooth cool ivory in her hands she closed her eyes and thought of the past, the lost innocent days of her youth and how they were shattered.

She remembered the happy days of a loving family with a bright future, her Mother and her Sister snatched away by a twist of fate, her father a broken man stricken with grief at their senseless deaths. Even at fourteen years old she had known what he did and why he was away from home, she watched him becoming empty lost without them, he went away more and more, and when one day he didn't come back she wasn't surprised. Sitting alone in the empty house she felt lost "I miss you, since I lost you there's been no one there... I'm alone."

Catherine opened her eyes as the last component went into place and she pulled the trigger the click of the unloaded weapon breaking the silence, putting the pistol back into the bundle she stood. Walking to her bed she looked over the plans for the facility spread out on the covers before rolling them up and putting them on the desk. Picking up her own pistol she walked slowly around the room checking the doors and windows as she went, checking the gun was loaded she engaged the safety and placed the weapon under her pillow before shedding her clothes and climbing into bed.

Early morning:

The flash of light on a blade, a wave of agony, and a scream.

Catherine sat up with a start gun in hand looking for the source of the scream before realising it was her own. The dreams were becoming more frequent, she had dealt with nightmares before but these were different and somehow worse, she thought they were memories of something but she wasn't sure what they were memories of.

Disused warehouse Lantau Island, sundown:

The battered van carrying Nicolai's observer team had left almost an hour ago and the main strike unit had just boarded the trucks. Dressed for her mission in black fatigues and body armour Catherine carefully checked her H&K MP12 submachine gun and Baer combat pistol. The trucks started up and the warehouse's massive doors began to open, as the first truck started moving she pulled a fireproof mask and ballistic goggles down to cover her face, stepping up to a truck a mercenary lifted her onboard. As the elderly vehicle pulled away from the warehouse she thought she saw a flicker of movement near the perimeter fence.

Approaching Global Materials Development research facility, 20 minutes later:

Turning onto the road leading to the facility the trucks moved into a box formation and began to accelerate towards the main gate. Catherine's tactical radio clicked receiving a transmission as Nicolai's voice came through her headset.

"We have visual on the trucks do you copy."

She sent two clicks to reply in the affirmative hen engaged the radio's secondary communications scanner mode, the trucks continued to accelerate until seconds later the lead pair struck the gates head on with shattering force, no match for two speeding military trucks the gates were simply smashed off their hinges. The trucks kept going skidding to a stop in front of the entrance as the mercenaries swarmed out and stormed in with guns blazing. Catherine followed them in but as they charged across the lobby towards the basement access Catherine turned right, up the stairs and into the main building itself, bounding up the stairs she keyed her radio calling Nicolai for assistance.

"Scythe do you have a visual on research personnel?"

"Scythe copies, second floor recreation room grid B3."

Catherine turned up the second flight of steps and into the main corridor searching for movement her cybereyes detected a sliver of light under from under a door, checking the MP12's fittings she looked out across the deserted hallway and stepped out into the wide corridor moving swiftly and silently toward the faint light.

"Dagger two tangos approaching from grid F4."

Ducking behind a water cooler Catherine watched the two guards step into the hallway, stepping out across the hallway she brought the MP12 up and fired, the suppressed weapon spitting out two short bursts. As the guards fell the radio clicked on receiving the communications of the strike team as they reported in, it seemed to her the raid was going well. Continuing along the corridor she came to the room where the two researchers were sitting. Thinking of the plans she had studied "If I remember right this room is pretty big", calling in she asked for clarification.

"Scythe can you give me precise detail on grid B3."

"Dagger there are two research staff on couch west end, one guard standing to their north, east end of room is unlit."

"Dagger copies."

Opening the door immediately before the lit one, ducking low she slipped inside and crouched by the corner of a table taking aim at the guard through the scope, as the red dot settled on his head she relaxed slowly releasing a deep breath and pulling the trigger. The hollow punching report of the weapon caught the researcher's attention as they turned to face her black clad form, she sprinted across the room her weapon held ready shouting a command at the two white coated figures.

"Freeze, if you move I will kill you."

One of the researchers a blonde woman lunged for the alarm panel in response Catherine cut her down with a burst of fire. Levelling the muzzle at the other researchers face the rotund man began to shake and murmur incoherently, Catherine punched him in the face, as he staggered she asked him in a calm clear voice.

"The materials lab where is it, where is the E-composite sample?"

"F-fourth floor r-room 435."

Catherine reached for a sedative injector attached to her vest but her headset clicked online, her earpiece relaying the sound of screams desperate shouts and voices crying out for help as the mercenaries were ambushed, Catherine could only stand and listen as they were slaughtered. As suddenly as it began the radio traffic died off, Catherine felt a cold rage filling her body slipping the injector back into her vest she lowered the MP12, the researcher cowered as she closed her left hand into a fist the blades snapping out and locking into pace, ignoring his cries she advanced on the man.

After wiping the blood off her fingers on the couch Catherine walked quickly to the stairs climbing up to the fourth floor she called in asking for a report on the security

"Scythe what's between me and room 435? Grids J4 to N4."

A shaken reply came over the radio.

"Dagger there is a roving four man patrol in the corridor; they're approaching the stairs range thirty meters."

Pausing to let the guards get closer Catherine stamped on the floor to distract the guards before throwing a thumb sized strobe around the corner, the blinding flash disabling the guards, Catherine didn't give them a chance to recover stepping out she opened fire the suppressed bursts echoing in the hallway. Stepping over the bodies she slipped along the corridor counting the numbers on the doors as she went, reaching number 435 she took out a thumbnail sized lump of plastic explosive. Pushing the explosive into the lock she stepped back as it cracked loudly shattering the locking mechanism. Kicking the door open she stepped inside, a pair of researchers in sterile "clean-suits" spun around to face her.

"You can't come in here this is a restricted area!"

"I don't think that matters to them buddy."

The radio clicked on receiving a security transmission.

"Attention all personnel this is Control, intruder in the materials assessment lab response unit to room 435 immediately."

Catherine responded to the first figures outraged shout by kicking his leg out from underneath him and putting the gun to his head.

"Give me the E-composite sample, right now."

The other researcher opened a locker and removed a case, unmarked except for a code sequence of numbers; looking at the numbers on the case she almost lost control "motherhumper, if you dare try to trick me again you'll pay" it took all her restraint to stay calm and not pull the trigger.

"I know the code for the sample, and this isn't it."

"Do as they say man, give them the sample!"

Catherine rewarded the prone researcher's outburst by kicking him in the ribs and pressing the muzzle against his head.

"If you don't keep quiet I will shoot you."

The second case had the right code printed on it, opening it she removed its contents stuffing the small light brown blocks into her vest before turning and running for the stairs.

"Team Beta to control approaching the forth floor."

As she reached the stairs the elevator doors opposite opened and a dozen armoured figures burst out, Catherine vaulted the banister as a hail of automatic gunfire disintegrated the wall behind her, landing on the third floor she gasped in pain as her ankle twisted out of place.

"This is team Beta; the subject is escaping request support."

"Control copies support is on its way."

Staggering upright she ran unsteadily along the corridor calling Nicolai for help.

"Scythe I need extraction now."

"Dagger it'll take two minutes for extraction to arrive you have to hold on."

Reaching the fire escape at the end of the corridor she shoved the door open looking down she saw a patrol of heavily armed guards, pointing up at her the guards promptly opened fire as bullets ricocheted off the fire escape she ducked inside and dashed for the nearest office.

"This is perimeter team Delta, intruder spotted third floor east fire escape."

Looking around the office it was clear there were no hiding places she could use to evade her pursuers, as she looked around she heard the security unit's communications.

"Control this is team Alpha we have arrived on the third floor."

"This is Control; intruder was seen entering offices on CCTV sweep the area, find the intruder."

"Control this is team Charlie we are en route with team Delta to the third floor."

The reply was drowned out by the thump of a grenade; the security teams had begun sweeping the rooms. She could see only one way out, smashing the window Catherine climbed out and swung down, smashing the second floor window she dropped inside collapsing as she landed on her injured ankle.

"This is perimeter team Charlie subject is on second floor easternmost office."

Stepping into the corridor Catherine shot out the CCTV camera and stumbled into one of the offices, she could hear the rumble from security teams above running for the stairs, wedging an armed grenade in the door she scrambled behind a desk.

"All units this is Control; intruder is on the second floor location unknown, all reserve units deploy to first floor cut off their escape, response units sweep the second floor."

Catherine now realised that she was trapped in the building surrounded by enemies with all routes of escape closed, paralysed by fear she started to cry as the thud of grenades got closer and closer as she cowered shaking. The security teams reached the room where Catherine was hiding, opening the door they didn't see the grenade as its handle detached and it detonated at their feet a second later. The blast shocked her into action, the confusion of all the security units talking at once jammed the radio robbing them of their coordination. Catherine seized her chance smashing the window at one end of the room and clambering into the next office, in the confusion the report on her escape never reached the security units. Pressing her advantage she repeated the move putting more distance between her and the security teams.

"Dagger this is Scythe we're coming through the front gate in twenty seconds."

The security control room had just regained control of the situation when the security hut beside the wrecked gates was blasted to rubble; the battered van came hurtling through the gateway into the grounds its tyres skidding as it swerved to a stop in front of the facility. Catherine ran toward the broken window and jumped; as she leapt the security team smashed the door down and raked the office with a murderous hailstorm of bullets. Hitting the ground hard she felt her ankle snap on impact, somehow she managed to reach the van, where strong hands seized her and dragged her onboard. Nicolai held her down as the van powered away from the facility bullets thudding into its shell.

After collecting the rest of the observers from a nearby building the drive to the old warehouse was muted as they thought about the nights events.

Disused warehouse Lantau Island, night:

Pulling up to the warehouse the small group disembarked from the bullet riddled van, Catherine leaned on Sergei as they walked into a scene of devastation, the Hammer units' support personnel had been cut down with the same merciless brutality as their comrades in the facility. Nicolai looked around horror changing to anger as he turned white with rage and started screaming damnation in his native Russian.

<It was a fucking set up, bastards I'll kill them all the sons of bitches I'll make them pay.>

Catherine stumbled over to a chair as Sergei rushed forward to try and calm his friend.

As the mercenaries cleared up Catherine sat with Petra trying to comfort the Russian as the she put a splint on Catherine's ankle, Nicolai gathered the mercenaries together and was about to say something to her when she looked him in the eye and spoke carefully.

<I owe you guys my life, I want to help you find who's responsible for this.>

Nicolai taken aback stopped allowing Sergei to answer her.

<I've been thinking about what happened her and a the facility, Nicolai old friend I think I know who sold us out, it wasn't one of the unit or they would have been waiting for Catherine upstairs and known about us working with her as observers and... everybody's here and they're all dead. This means that whoever sold us out knew about the raid but didn't know exactly what we planned which leaves either the fixer or whoever hired us, now whoever hired us wanted this raid to happen otherwise we wouldn't have got all those new weapons but as we didn't receive payment I'm guessing it was the fixer.>

Mikhail cycled his rifle by hand, the clicks echoing in the warehouse as he summed up the groups mood.

<I think we should pay him a visit, don't you Nicolai?>

<That, is an excellent idea Mikhail.>

Bar Kowloon city slum, late night:

The doorman took one look at the mercenaries and stepped back as they barged in, toward the back of the bar a shifty looking Chinese man in an expensive suit took one look at the eight advancing figures before much to the surprise of his companions he bolted for the back door. He didn't get very far because as he emerged into the street he ran straight into Nicolai who promptly flattened him with an uppercut, the mercenaries gathered round the sprawled figure discussing their betrayal.

<Take one look at that suit; this guy's come into some serious money, hmm now I wonder how that could have happened.>

Mikhail's sarcastic comment on the fixer's prone form received nods of acknowledgment from the group.

<No questions this is the scumbag who sold us out.>

Picking the fixer up by his lapels Nicolai pinned him to the wall.

"We want our money, if you pay up right now we might even let you live."

Terrified the fixer gave up his bank details.

Mikhail's response was blunt.

<I think its time we went for a drive.>

Pier harbour side, early morning:

The fixer's body dropped into the dark waters of the harbour and sank out of view, turning to face each other Catherine and Nicolai exchanged a grim look.

"So that's it Nicolai?"

"Well we've got our money back, and I don't think anyone will try that on us again for a very long time."

Handing her a bundle of cash Nicolai forced a smile.

"There's your share, it's a lot more than usual but there's so few of us left."

"Thanks Nicolai I owe you a hell of a lot, if you need my help just call don't worry about money I'll be there regardless."

To her surprise the big Russian hugged her fiercely lifting her off her feet.

<Good luck.>

<You too Nicolai.>

Catherine turned and walked away.

Catherine's home near Stanley:

That night she slept fitfully, there were no nightmares this time just memories of the raid on the facility she saw the chaos and death again and again, barely audible above the mayhem voices repeated the same word over and over "Killer".

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