And part two is up for you're reading pleasure (I hope).
(Wall of text, yikes!)
Lemme know watcha think.
Part One: Link
Koshka stopped her Ducati Monster out of hearing range of the Embassy and walked the final distance. There was haste in her steps but she was never careless enough to neglect caution. Every-now-and-then she would stop and scrutinize an artifact in the night—she was getting the feeling that Kowalski would show up again; and the street was quite the sniper’s paradise.
As she made her final approach to the U.S. Embassy she donned her balaclava and sped her pace to a light jog. With her gloves, dark jeans, and zipped up jacket, she became a perfect silhouette. Incidentally, the tail of her scarf draping down her back gave her the guise of a ninja.
Just a few breaths further and she arrived at the Embassy. The empty street around her was a comfort but the window above her was lit with a shadow projected on the inner curtain—looked like someone on a phone.
She looked back down and continued along the path, toward the next window—it was dull. There she took a step back and silently leaped up and began a tedious climb to the roof. Her limbs performed the rhythmic actions of climbing without a conscious thought.
The brickwork around the windows provided adequate grip points but the smooth surface between the first and second level required greater effort than she anticipated. “Shut up, you’re not getting old,” she told herself, before launching herself over the gap and catching the windowsill above.
The next level was different but slightly more manageable.
One more reach and she was at the top of the third level. Her breaths were now shaky, partially because of the temperature and partially because of adrenaline. The climb itself was nothing she couldn’t tackle recreationally but the reality of the marines patrolling on the other side of the wall amped up the intensity.
Following another debatably harebrain stunt she got her feet onto the roof. A quick survey revealed nothing threatening and she quickly traversed to the cupola and squeezed along the guttering at the front edge, to access the window.
As she reached over to disable the alarmed lock her keen eyes caught a shadow flicker under the door in the room. As quickly as the door opened she dropped down and hid under the windowsill.
A marine stepped into the room and flicked his light around and over the window. Though less than the width of a hand from the edge, she kept her cool and laid still. Checking the room appeared to be part of the marine’s routine and he soon disappeared.
Koshka inhaled deeply as she sat up, and then finished off the lock. “Miss me?” she said, flowing inside the cupola and disappearing under a blanket of shadow.
“Just a little,” Lev replied—subtle pattering saturating the reception. “I checked up on Bouvrais. He’s not on Novak’s payroll at the moment but his bank details suggest he’s been getting some pretty royal treatment from someone.”
“I remember Julien being better than that.”
“Time changes some people.”
“Not only time,” Koshka whispered, half to herself. “I’ll drop by and see Andy; it’s possible he knows something.”
“I get the feeling something happened when you worked with Bruvaous? …it’s up to you if that was a question.”
“It can be a question later.”
“Yeah; bad timing…”
Koshka cracked the door open—the patrolling marine was auspiciously unaware. “Baxter is probably in his office. Any idea where I can find that?” she asked, exiting the room and creeping away from the marine.
“Try checking on the computer in the administration office,” Lev tapped the back of his pencil on the map. “Below that area you’ll find a lounge; from the lounge take a left, it’s the second door passed the stairs.”
“Got it,” she replied, and checked her mental map. “But I think I should go through the neighboring office. I can access the AC system from there and slip passed office security.”
“Err… yeah, that’ll work too; but time consuming don’t you think?”
“Well yeah, but you know how I don’t like getting shot at.”
“I thought so.”
Koshka stalked to the edge and silently vaulted over the railing and landed in the lounge below. There she negotiated a security camera before heading to the end of the next hall. Around the corner she saw the entrance to the administration office; a little closer and to her left was the stairs. She recalled there being a checkpoint between the stairs and the VIP area. She then stepped across the hall and disappeared into the unoccupied office.
“I had a feeling I’d end up in one of these tonight,” she said, slithering into the open shaft.
“Good thing you’re not a claustrophobe,” Lev noted, feeling uneasy just watching the narrow space on a camera. “Wouldn’t get me in one of those things,” he shuddered at the thought.
“Ah it’s not so bad,” she shrugged, but turned her nose up. “Smells though…”
She found a safe balance between speed and noise as she crawled to the administration office outlet.
Peering through the vent cover she observed the room. Her AC outlet was in the far corner of the large office and covered in darkness. Nearer to the entrance there was a desk with a lamp—the only real light in the room—and standing at the door were two marines. They were well built guys with the right haircuts and M-16 service rifles.
Looking around to the back of the room Koshka spotted her target—the admin computer. The screensaver left the immediate area illuminated but the desk supplied adequate cover; there weren’t any backdoors though—not the kind of place where one would want to screw up.
After checking the time Koshka sucked in a breath and began prying the vent loose. It gave little resistance and popped out quietly. Then, clinging to the frame with her fingers she swung out headfirst and let her lower body follow. She had already planned to use the door to get out, as once on the floor there was no silent way to get back into the ceiling. However that meant putting the vent cover back on from the outside. So hanging there with one hand her feet found the wall and her free hand pressed against the sturdy halogen light fixture. It was awkward but she was confident she could hold her frame long enough to replace the cover.
When she finally let herself fall there was an inevitable sound but the marines at the door were unaware. Her breath slowly slipped out from her lips as she flexed her left hand.
The shadows provided cover as she traversed to the desk. She kneeled at the left of the chair and pulled her PDA from its pocket. Once she stirred the computer her suspicion that the system was locked was confirmed, but the firewall only kept her out for twenty seconds or so.
“Got him,” Lev sounded triumphant.
Koshka smiled and gave him a thumbs-up.
“Umm,” his voice took a sudden shift in tone.
“You’ve got lasers. The checkpoint to the VIP area crawls. ”
“Words outta my mouth; I hope you brought your lucky underwear.”
She bit her lower lip. “I went commando.”
“Oh… well, one thing at a time.”
Koshka smirked a little. “Quite,” she replied, and opened the Windows Media Editor. She browsed to the sample music folder and exported a .wma with twelve seconds of silence at the beginning. Then, after checked the system volume, she opened the file in the media player and used those seconds to get to the hind side of the desk with the lamp.
Like clockwork the two marines snapped to attention when the music started. They immediately created a sweeping formation and stalked towards the computer. Koshka seized the moment and vaulted over the desk behind them and slipped out of the room.
As quickly as silence allowed she hugged the wall under the hall camera and moved down the stairs to the VIP division checkpoint. She scooted under the camera that circled above the security booth and stopped just shy of the lasers.
“Careful,” Lev cringed a little.
Koshka stared at the field of red beams; they slowly moved in a seemingly random pattern. “Why couldn’t they be nice lasers…” she whispered, and counted the second between pattern shifts.
Lev watched her hand hover in front of the camera, moving in a slightly rhythmic fashion. From what he had decrypted about her thought process he guessed she was onto something. “What degree of crazy?”
She smiled passed her concentration. “Moderate, but… I’m on top of it.”
Without warning she sprung into the cluster of lasers; landing in their heart and then rolling like a plank towards the door. The crossing beams missed her legs by inches as she slithered into the hall.
“Or in this case under it,” Lev said, taking a deep breath.
“That’s why they call me versatile.”
“I thought that’s why they called you Koshka.”
“Touché,” she replied, continuing to the far side of the hall on all fours.
From there she was able to get an angle on Simon Baxter’s office. The room was clearly occupied but the door was closed and possibly locked. Her ears told her that no one was around so she crept towards the room, unhindered. A quick examination of the lock revealed that it was not engaged, thus she continued in and closed the door behind her.
Baxter was a reasonably tall chap in his mind thirties. He stood before his desk facing away from the office entrance, frantically packing his briefcase with several files, a bunch of money, and a Sig P228.
Koshka stalked across the carpet of the lit room, careful to not disturb the rhythmic pattering of paper. She kept her weight on her hind foot so that her stepping foot could touch without a sound. But suddenly Baxter closed and locked his briefcase. She clenched her teeth when noticing him stare at her shifting smudge-like reflection in the shiny leather. He didn’t pause for more than a second at the revelation and quickly attempted to reopen the briefcase.
Immediately Koshka ran for him. The sound of her fast step inspired him to get his case open and retrieve his 9mm. Once it was in his grip he stepped back and rotated with it held out at full reach, aiming at where he anticipated her head would be.
Koshka weaved to his outside and brought her left forearm up to redirect his aim and then slammed her right hand into wrist to knock the weapon away, and as if a part of the same motion her hand seized his wrist and levered against her other forearm, to tip him off balance. There she reached across with her right foot and stepped on his calf to put him on his knees. He turned to look up at her, to formulate a defense perhaps, but his thoughts became a blur when her horizontal knee shot landed on the rear of his head.
She kept hold of his arm to control his decent, face first onto the floor. There she squatted over his upper back and exchanging his wrist for his neck at the last moment. “Shhh…” She hushed as she pulled his head up and lowered her mouth to his ear.
“I can’t breath!” He struggled helplessly against her chokehold.
“Yes you can,” she whispered, calmly. “At present the vertebrae in your neck belong to me, if you’re happy with their configuration you’ll answer my questions. Nod if you understand.”
His head twitched up and down.
“Good. Now I’ll ask just once; why’d you betray Dmitry Rudakov?”
“I… I can’t answer that.”
“That’s a problem.”
“Look, they’ll kill me if I talk.”
“The quintessential excuse of a coward.” She chocked him a little harder. “Cowards make me angry.” She spoke into his ear with closed teeth and then slammed the side of his head with her palm. “I hit things when I’m angry.”
“Alright! I’ll talk… but it’s not as simple as it sounds.”
“Every story has a beginning, you can start there.”
“I… five years ago when Rudakov took that girl I refused to help him. I told him that she was trouble and that he should let her go. I… I worked for the people that had her family killed.”
“Worked?” She spat the word back at him. “You mean work, right? And just who are these people?”
“Okay! Yes, I still work for them. They came to me years ago; offered me money, security… but after a while I realized I couldn’t back out, even if I wanted too.”
“Maybe I didn’t ask that right; who are they, exactly? Specifics, if you please.”
“They… they is a convenient way of saying I don’t know. They never use names, everything is done through proxies. They cover their tracks perfectly… they’re like ghosts.”
She shook her head. “So there was no higher calling, no conflict of beliefs or humanitarian disagreement. You simply sold out your countrymen for money; how do you sleep at night?”
“I didn’t want to betray Rudakov!”
“You accidently betrayed him?”
“I risked my life knowing he had the girl! I warned him to not bring me anything concerning her… but he came to me about a week ago… he was desperate. He asked if I could use my contacts at the embassy to get her back home. I swear I almost did it, but I know if they found out I would have been a dead man. I stonewalled; I convinced him that I couldn’t legally get it done.”
“What did you do? Why is Rudakov dead?”
“It was that data—Skulachev’s files; it started everything. Rudakov told me about it; he saw it as a means to get what he wanted from the SVR… there was a time when he worked for Russian intelligence, but I didn’t think he trusted them anymore…”
“But you weren’t about to let your employers burn, where you?”
“No; the things they would do to me if they found out…”
“Fear is a powerful tool.”
She suddenly twisted his neck again. “That’s not my sympathy you’re feeling. You’re pathetic; not even worth the effort it takes to kill you. Now tell me what happened next.”
“I offered Rudakov my help; he asked me to hide the girl while he took care of business…”
“He put his life in your hands and you sold it to the devil.”
“I didn’t have a choice…”
“There’s always a choice, Simon; now where did you take the girl? Is she still alive?”
“Yes, for a while at least… she’s at Romanov Nightclub.” He opened his mouth, fighting for a whole breath. “I made a deal with Artyom Romanov, the owner; I told him the girl needed a place to stay… he thinks it’s a domestic issue. She’s waiting there for Rudakov; I was to take him there at midnight… the hitters know not to approach her before then.”
“She’ll disappear… Rudakov taught her well.”
“And you wouldn’t lie to me, would you?”
“No! You have my word.”
“Like that means something.” She looked partly unsatisfied.
“Got it,” Lev informed her. “Romanov Nightclub is now marked on your GPS. I’ll send some relevant data too; you know: profiles, a map…”
She acknowledged Lev with a slight nod. “What about Skulachev’s data,” she returned to Baxter. “Did Rudakov mention where he had it?”
“He had it with him.”
“No he didn’t.”
“Then I don’t know.”
“What’s with the money in the case?”
“I was supposed to pay the assassins after they killed the girl.” He wriggled his head to try and breathe easier. “There’re two of them en route to the nightclub. One of them is my double; I used him when I contacted Romanov.”
“Do you know anything about the sniper that took out Rudakov?”
“No, the operation is going through Redberet. I was just handling the finances for the hit on the girl… you’ll have to talk to them if you want to know more.”
“Then we’re done here.” She checked her watch. “Unfortunately I’m in a good mood and you get to live.” She suddenly grabbed a handful of his hair and smashed his forehead onto the floor, knocking him unconscious. “Do svidaniya,” she whispered, and stepped away from his body.
“I’ll get onto the Americans and let them know they’ve got a piece of trash in their Embassy,” Lev informed her, and began routing a line to one of his trusted contacts.
She climbed out Baxter’s window and started her methodical decent towards the street—heights were never a problem to her.
“Home free,” Lev noted, watching her get back to the street on his GPS. “Let’s hope Madelyn has that disk, ‘cause I could use a coffee break.”
“It’ll take me a bit to get to Romanov’s,” she replied, pulling her balaclava off—it was a short walk back to her motorcycle.
“Nah, I got work to do; gonna look into this Redberet.”
“I got that. Redberet are an international PMC comprised of former Special Forces operatives from every country that has Special Forces. They’ve got more money than the Queen of England and they’re big enough to occupy a small country. On paper, they’re a Super Power.”
“Damn… How come I haven’t heard of them?”
“It’s not common knowledge. Half the time they operate through their subdivisions, which are separated from the main beast by proxies. Take Falcon Helm for example.”
“Falcon Helm is a puppet?”
“Not exactly; they’re the East European division. I imagine mama Beret does her share of micromanagement but for the most part all the subsidiary divisions operate in a solo capacity. But they seem to report to the parent, which is what pricked my curiosity in the fist place—Falcon Helm reported their Moscow operation to Redberet.”
“That says ‘bad guy’ to me.”
“That’s what I said,” she replied, arriving at her Ducati Monster.
“How’d you find this out, anyway? I didn’t think you were part of the interrogations.”
“I wasn’t, but I have a ravenous desire to learn.”
“No kidding. Looks like I thank you this time.”
“You’re welcome,” she replied, swinging her hind leg over her bike.
“What about the political situation. No one could be happy with this kind of power up for the highest bidder.”
“Like I said, it’s not common knowledge. I’d say there’s some political pull keeping it quiet; which begs the question; Baxter said he works for the same people that killed Senator Roosevelt, and according to Rudakov that was another U.S. Senator.”
“You thinking the data, Redberet, and the Senator are all connected?”
“Far from conclusive but I’m definitely taking a look behind Redberet’s firewall.” She put her helmet on. “That makes two reasons to see Andy. They’ll have a base here and he’ll know where—nothing comes into this city without him knowing.”
“You think he’ll hand you their location after that thing with the warehouse? He never struck me as the forgiving type and you know how he is with favors.”
“He likes me too much to hold a grudge. Besides, I won’t give him a choice.”
“Doesn’t mean he won’t try and take one.”
“Of course not, but let me worry about Novak.”
“He also stares at your butt; though I do that too, so…”
“Are you trying to make me blush?”
“Is it working?”
Part Three: Link