Modern/Delta Green - The Beginning of the End (COMPLETED) - Page 34




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    The Fortress: Part 5 – The Firewall

    Caprice ran down the steps past the others. Drug dealers and cops were firing on each other with abandon. Sarah had thankfully been forgotten in the conflict. He only hoped she had climbed down one of the drainage pipes off the roof.

    Caprice paused as he caught sight of Keys standing near a server room.

    "Keys!" shouted Machete, blade at the ready. "Burn it!"

    Keys nodded and came out of a maintenance closet with two bright red cans of gasoline. He undid the stoppers on both.

    Caprice grabbed Hammer by the arm before he lost track of him in the smoke. "They're torching the servers!"

    Keys kicked open the server room door. Several programmers, unaware of what was going on outside, looked up in shock as gasoline was poured over them. Keys made no distinction between program and programmer, spraying the contents of one of the cans of gasoline everywhere.

    He drew a lighter and lifted one thumb to ignite it.

    Hammer sprayed Keys with the other can of gasoline. "I wouldn't do that if I were--"

    The shock of gas hitting Keys made him involuntarily twitch, and he set flicked the lighter. Flames consumed him immediately. Screaming and wailing, Keys flailed backwards, striking one of the computers. The flames roared across the top of the monitor. Electronics popped and crackled.

    “Damn it!” shouted Hammer. He hadn’t intended to set Keys on fire, just discourage him. "We need to get the data off those systems!"

    Caprice nodded, no longer the swaggering Snow Dog persona. He slipped into the chair furthers from the flames. He tried to plug in his cistron to the USB port, but Keys was far too paranoid to allow any form of access. It was dummy terminals.

    That meant he had to hack it manually. He started typing.

    The first security level was breached as the flames roared behind him. Hammer evacuated the other programmers, in some cases throwing them bodily out of the room into the hallway.

    The smoke and fire was sucking the air out of the room. Caprice coughed and wheezed, but he kept typing. He breached the second level of security.

    Flames roared closer. The monitors were popping like water balloons at a carnival, one by one, each a little closer.

    He got through to the heart of Fortaleza. There was no way to remove media off mainframe. Images flashed by of the name and location of Machete’s dealers. Caprice's eyes were watering so badly that he couldn't make it out. He held up his cistron and took pictures of everything.

    Hammer threw two computer tables down, one to either side of the doorway, which provided a temporary firebreak and a path out. Caprice crawled his way out of the doorway...

    Hammer helped him to his feet. Jim-Bean skidded to a halt in front of the door, blood staining his shirt where the bullet had entered and exited his shoulder.

    "There's cops the other way. Go back up to the roof!"

    Caprice wiped soot from his face as the flames roared behind him. “I hacked it,” he said, gasping for air. “I hacked it in time.”

    Jim-Bean gave him a lopsided smile. "Huh," he said as he resumed jogging towards the stairwell. "Now that’s a serious firewall."

    Caprice shook his head and followed after him.
    Mike "Talien" Tresca

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    The Fortress: Part 6 – How Much Do You Weigh Again?

    Machete and Sluggy were already at the top of the roof, all other routes of escape having been cut off. From their vantage point, one alleyway was still a viable option.

    "Climb down that pipe!" shouted Machete, pointing at a long drainage pipe.

    "I dunno dog," rumbled Sluggy. "It looks pretty flimsy--"

    "Dammit Sluggy!" Machete shouted. "Will you stop bitching and start moving yo fat ass!"

    He hopped onto the pipe and started clambering down it with ease.

    With another doubtful glance down at the four stories below them, Sluggy started making his way down the pipe.

    Machete hopped lightly to the ground and dusted himself off. "I can't believe I gotta deal with this sh--"

    Metal shrieked over him as the huge shadow of Sluggy blocked out the moonlight. Machete let out a squeak as Sluggy landed on him.

    "Told you I was too heavy," said Sluggy. He rolled off Machete and then flopped the unconscious man over his shoulder.

    Hammer landed next. "You got a car?"

    Sluggy pointed at a vehicle under a tarp. With a tug, he tore the tarp off to reveal a black sedan.

    "Throw him in, I'll drive," said Hammer. Sluggy opened the door to the back seat.

    Hammer pulled his concealed Glock from his waistband and fired a silenced shot into the front tire. With all the gunfire echoing around them, Sluggy didn't notice.

    Sluggy had barely gotten into the car when Hammer slammed on the gas. The car lurched forward.

    Two cop cars shrieked in their path at the end of the alley. Hammer slammed on the brakes.

    "What are you doin'?" shouted Sluggy. "Hit them!"

    Hammer was about to say something when a black SUV smashed its way through the two blocking cop cars. There was a spray of gunfire from an automatic weapon.

    "Get in!" shouted Janky, one arm hefting an AK-47 out the driver's side window.

    Sluggy tossed Machete into the back seat. Before he could clamber in, the SUV peeled out in reverse, leaving them both behind.

    "Son of a bitch!" shouted Sluggy. "She left us!"

    Hammer was already running past him. Janky was driving a large vehicle down an alley that was only wide enough to just barely fit the vehicle. Garbage bags exploded as the SUV careened through the alley.

    Hammer pounded after her. He unscrewed the silencer and tossed it over his shoulder. He wasn't going to need it.

    The SUV screeched as it suddenly entered busy traffic, spinning on its rear wheels sideways. Hammer came out of the alley a second later and fired off several shots into the driver's side.

    The SUV lurched forward, smashing into an oncoming minivan. The SUV's horn went off and kept shrieking; a bleeding Janky slumped over the wheel.

    Police cruisers arrived a second later and cops shouted for Hammer to surrender. He couldn't help but smile as he put his hands up.
    Mike "Talien" Tresca

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    The Fortress: Conclusion

    Caprice took the oxygen mask off and pointed the paramedic to Jim-Bean. "You should check him out. He got shot in the shoulder."

    The medic shrugged. "Not a scratch on him."

    "What?" Caprice rubbed his forehead. "I saw him get hit by a sniper's bullet!"

    "Maybe he got lucky," said the paramedic, hustling off to deal with other cops who were in worse condition.

    Hammer ambled over. "Got the analysis back from SINNER. There's a lot of smoke but we were able to get a name, William Davis Ko, and a location, somewhere in the Chinatown district of Chicago."

    "Not much," said Caprice with a frown. "How's Sarah?"

    "She'll live," said Hammer. "She climbed down the drainpipe before we did, then dismantled it just in case anybody followed."

    Caprice allowed himself a smile. "So Sluggy wasn't so fat after all."

    "Oh he was fat enough. She was in such a rush that she didn't do a good job of it. Sluggy did the rest." Hammer started to walk away. "That reminds me..." He handed Caprice a business card.

    "What's this?"

    "An agent was snooping around. Said he heard some up and coming rapper was new in town and he wanted to hear your album."

    "What did you tell him?"

    Hammer nodded at the card. "See for yourself."

    Caprice flipped over the card. It read in hasty scrawl:

    "Snow Dog, Can't wait to hear about your new album, The Blizzard. Call me."
    Mike "Talien" Tresca

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    Chapter 25 - An Outbreak of Alchemy: Introduction

    This scenario, “An Outbreak of Alchemy,” is a Mystic China adventure by the late Erick Wujcik. You can read more about Delta Green at Delta Green. Please note: This story hour contains spoilers!

    Our cast of characters includes:

    • Game Master: Michael Tresca
    • Jim “Jim-Bean” Baxter (Charismatic Hero/Telepath) played by Jeremy Ortiz
    • Joseph “Archive” Fontaine (Dedicated Hero/Acolyte) played by Joe Lalumia
    • Kurtis "Hammer" Grange (Fast Hero/Gunslinger) played by George Webster
    When I needed an Asian mad scientist who was refining Blink into something more dangerous, I had to look no further than Mystic China. The scenario is a little incoherent (much of the description of the Equitech building is in William Davis Ko’s stat block), but the ingredients were all there: ghosts, mutated dead bodies, and a doddering old scientist who just happens to know the secrets of life and death.

    Because this scenario is light on details, Critical Locations was very useful for filling in the blanks. I used the Black Lotus Trading Company from the Cold War scenario (which is also the bulk of the next chapter) to provide a starting point for the agents, but I needn’t have bothered as they didn’t stick around for long.

    By far the biggest surprise was Ko’s pet. I used a monster from Oriental Adventures which is suitably bizarre, and true to form, it caught the agents by surprise. They were so confused as to what it was (and what it was capable of) that they alternated between trying to kill it and trying to run from it.

    At heart, this is an assassination attempt and the agents did an excellent job of getting past security. They just weren't entirely sure what to do once they got to the target.

    Defining Moment: Archive wakes up from his drug-induced stupor just in time to give Ko a parting shot…and discover he’s missing something very important.

    Relevant Media
    • Mystic China: Eric Wujcik's imagination was amazing, and I count Mystic China among some of my favorite RPG books.
    • Critical Locations: Possibly the most valuable book I own; whenever there isn't a map (and many older RPG scenarios don't have one), Critical Locations makes up the difference.
    • Die Hard: The real action was in the Equitech building, and as my players were fond of telling me, it was just like the Nakatomi building in Die Hard. Comparing the scenario to Die Hard made the agents bolder. There are only so many ways off a 40-storey building…
    • Love Potion Number Nine: Not the movie, the song!
    Mike "Talien" Tresca

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    An Outbreak of Alchemy: Prologue

    She bent down and turned around and gave me a wink.
    She said I’m gonna make it up right here in the sink.
    It smelled like turpentine, and looked like Indian ink.
    I held my nose, I closed my eyes, I took a drink!

    --Love Potion Number Nine by The Beatles
    CHICAGO, IL—Chicago’s New Chinatown was on Argyle St. in Uptown between Lake Michigan and Clark Street. New Chinatown was mostly Thai, Khmer, Vietnamese, and Laotian, with a minority of Chinese. Old Chinatown, on the southwest side beyond Kaminski Park, was mostly Chinese.

    "So this is Tcho-Tcho territory?" asked Hammer.

    Archive nodded, an expert on these sorts of things. "The Tcho-tchos are universally despised and feared."

    "Because?" asked Jim-Bean.

    "Stories about the Tcho-tchos range from suspicions of “special ingredients” in their cooking to drug dealing, witchcraft, and sorcery," said Archive.

    "That could describe us," said Hammer with a smirk.

    The center of Tcho-Tcho activity in New Chinatown was the Dragon of the Black Pool market that specialized in imported foods from Southeast Asia, particularly spices and seasonings for Tcho-tcho cuisine. The market filled most of the block.

    Hammer stopped the car and got out near the harbor. They flashed their badges at the police who let them through.

    "I don't know why we're investigating this," said Jim-Bean. "We should be looking for Ko—"

    "Do you know how many 'Ko's there are in New Chinatown?" asked Hammer. Before Jim-Bean could answer, he replied, "a lot. Any unusual activity is worth checking out."

    They approached two corpses. "Construction workmen discovered a very strange pair of bodies…" began Archive. He trailed off when he saw the bodies.

    The bodies were dressed in waterlogged clothing, one in a business suit, the other in jeans and casual clothing. A pair of handcuffs connected the right wrist of one to the left wrist of the other. Another handcuff was attached to the chain between the two men, but its other end was missing where there was a broken link in the chain. Someone had placed towels over the heads of each of the bodies.

    Hammer bent down and started taking pictures with his cistron. "Look at this. The hands of the one on the left seem to be covered with tiny scales, and there is something like webbing between his fingers."

    Jim-Bean bent down to take a closer look. Covering the skin of the man were hundreds of tiny scales. He tugged the towel off the man's face and immediately regretted it.

    The man's scalp looked like a patchwork with a few clumps of short black hair remaining, but with most of it covered in scales. Even more grotesque, the man’s mouth was open, revealing rows of needle-like teeth. There were two flaps, or gill slits, one on each side of the neck, each about four inches long.

    Jim-Bean gagged. "Jesus…what the hell is going on here?"

    "Mutations," said Hammer. "Maybe…I'm not sure."

    Staring up at them, the dead man’s eyes were not in the least bit human. He had a pair of fish-like eyes, flat and silvery, each about three inches in diameter.
    Hammer resumed taking pictures. "The bodies died a few hours before being placed in the water. Looks like they both died of a massive breakdown in their internal organs. I'll send tissue samples back to the Blacknet lab."

    "I've got a feeling that wherever these bodies were dropped, we'll find Ko," said Archive.

    Jim-Bean covered his nose. "Then let's go find Ko. This place stinks like fish."
    Mike "Talien" Tresca

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    An Outbreak of Alchemy - Part 1 – Ghost Drama

    Hammer followed the trail a few blocks, looking around alleyways. They were about to pass an alleyway behind an Asian import shop when Jim-Bean stopped short.

    "Do you see that?"

    Hammer looked sideways at him. "No," he followed Jim-Bean's gaze. He was staring at the fire escape door to the import shop. "What do you see?"

    "Nothing," said Jim-Bean, "what’s up on that fire escape."

    What Hammer didn't see was a translucent man staggering down a set of stairs, starting from the third floor and stumbling down, almost to the street. Although the fire escape was currently pulled up, the ghost image staggered down as if it were extended down to the street.

    "Looks like a symbol," said Hammer. "Of a dragon."

    "I think I saw that shop on the way over here," said Archive matter-of-factly. "Black Lotus Something…"

    Jim-Bean's gaze went from the street back up to the fire escape. The scene was repeating itself. It looked like the ghost is being helped by two people down the stairs.

    It was a phantasm, caused when a traumatic event was imprinted on the environment for future playback. The environment stored the energy created by the traumatic event and played them back at a later time.

    “And why, exactly, should we be looking into this shop?” asked Hammer.

    “Just a hunch,” said Jim-Bean.

    Archive peered at him. “Just a hunch, huh?”

    “Yep,” said Jim-Bean, his gaze still tracking the scene that played over and over.

    “I know how these hunches work.” Hammer loaded both of his Glocks. "Let's go knock."
    Mike "Talien" Tresca

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    An Outbreak of Alchemy: Part 2 – The Black Lotus Trading Company

    The front of the large Asian import shop was decorated with a gaudy black and green Chinese motif. On one wall was an unusual mural depicting an Oriental dragon striding through a star field.

    "Interesting," said Archive. "The dragon’s hindquarters turn into a mass of tentacles."

    They entered the dusty shop to the tinkle of a bell over the door.

    Shelves lined with Asian spices, dried and canned foods, statuettes, dishes, tea sets, and fans crowded the store. Piles of dried ginseng root were kept in the glass-front counter. Behind the counter was a doorway draped with a curtain of Oriental design.

    Several of the customers shot them curious glances as they entered. They were distinguished not only by their ethnicity but their height; all the customers were five-feet in height at most.

    "I don't suppose anybody speaks Vietnamese?" asked Jim-Bean.

    Hammer shook his head. "I speak a lot of languages, but Vietnamese isn't one of them."

    Hammer hit the bell for service at the counter.

    Archive looked around the shop. After a moment, he clipped a leaf from one plant, rubbed the wax off the stem of another, and combined it with dirt from a third. Then he popped it in his mouth.

    "What the hell are you doing?" asked Hammer.

    Archive spat out the contents into one palm. "Learning Vietnamese." He separated the paste into two separate balls and then plugged them into his ears.

    Jim-Bean just shook his head in disbelief.

    A wrinkled older Asian man with a limp made his way through the curtains. "Yes? Can I help you?"

    "We are looking for a William Davis Ko."

    The air left the room. All the customers turned to look at them. The old man didn't react.

    "I'm sorry, but I know of no William Davis Ko. And you are?"

    "Concerned for his safety," said Hammer. "If you see him, please call this number." He handed the man a card.

    The man nodded, nonplussed. "Is there anything you would like to buy?"

    Hammer shook his head.

    As they walked out of the store, the shop owner shouted something to a delivery boy. The delivery boy shouted something back.

    Without looking over his shoulder, Archive said, "Dr. Fung Dou Nan just told Tony Wong, his delivery boy, to warn William Davis Ko."

    "How do you figure that?" asked Jim-Bean.

    "I heard him," said Archive with a shrug.

    Jim-Bean was about to crack wise when a boy darted out of the store and down the street.

    "We'd better get to him before Wong does," said Hammer.
    Mike "Talien" Tresca

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    An Outbreak of Alchemy: Part 3 – Jumping at Shadows

    Jim-Bean caught up with Tony easily.

    "Tony," he said slowly, tapping the boy on the shoulder. "I was wondering if I could speak with you for a moment."

    The boy whirled around, a confused expression on his face. "Do I know you?"

    "Yes, we're friends," he nodded. "My name's Jim-Bean. And you're Tony Wong."

    "That's me," said the boy.

    "You were on your way to see someone. Are you going to see William Ko?"

    Tony nodded mechanically.

    "Can you take us to him?"

    Tony nodded again.

    "Great." Jim-Bean kept his hand on the delivery boy's shoulder. "I'll follow you so I don't get lost. I'm new in town."

    As they strolled through New Chinatown, Jim-Bean kept up the distracting chatter. Hammer and Archive stayed a few paces back to avoid spooking the boy.

    They turned down an alleyway. "This is a shortcut," said Tony.

    They stopped short, facing four short men dressed in white ninja-like outfits. They held haedong jingeom, traditional Vietnamese blades, in one hand and hand crossbows in the other.

    "The White Shadows," said Archive. "Tong Shugoran's enforcers."

    Tony fled.

    "So much for your new friend," muttered Hammer.

    The White Shadows all wore white, featureless blank masks that only had eye slits. They crouched forward as a group, blades out.

    Jim-Bean dropped his bag and pulled out his HK G36C. "F*&k this," he said, spraying the White Shadows with gunfire.

    They scattered, diving behind dumpsters and garbage cans. One of the Shadows was hit full in the chest and went down hard.

    Then the White Shadow hopped to its feet, despite the numerous bloody wounds staining the white uniform. He tore off his mask, to reveal the wreckage of a face: lips removed and a mouth widened to expose filed molars. With a shaved head and no ears or nose he looked like a living skull. Red drool dripped from the White Shadows' lips.

    Jim-Bean switched to his SIG Sauer as Hammer and Archive fired on the other Shadows. Another of the Shadows went down, but only temporarily. They bounded like monkeys, clearing the debris and springing off the walls of the alley to close the gap between them.

    A bolt thudded into Archive’s thigh, but he had no time to react to the pain. He knocked an advancing White Shadow’s blade out of the man’s hand with the butt his pistol. The White Shadow turned and clamped down on Archive's forearm.

    Archive screamed as filed teeth tore into the muscle. It was like being bitten by a shark.

    Hammer fired both Glocks at point-blank range into another of the White Shadows, and this time he stayed down.

    Archive was pulled off balance. He fell to the ground in the grapple of the White Shadow, whose hands and feet seemed to be everywhere at once. He got one foot under Archive's armpit and another on his neck, preparing to tear the arm from the socket. The legs tensed…

    And then spasmed as Jim-Bean fired his entire clip into the Tcho-tcho.

    Archive shoved the surprisingly light body of the White Shadow off of him. Hammer helped him up.

    "You okay?"

    Something wasn't right. The world swam in front of Archive.

    "Bhzang…" he said in a slurred voice. "…it's a poison…"

    Then he fell face first into the alley.
    Mike "Talien" Tresca

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    An Outbreak of Alchemy: Part 4 – Going Up

    Hammer checked Archive's pulse. He was alive but delirious. "Great. One man down and no leads."

    Jim-Bean was staring up at the sky past him. "I wouldn't say that."

    The alley opened up onto a main street that was in front of the Equitech Building. Hammer tapped a few keys.

    "Interesting. Dawn Biozyme leases five floors of the Equitech Building, but Blacknet's missing the plans for the top three floors. Somebody's hiding something important up there."

    "Ko?" asked Jim-Bean.

    "Must be."

    They dragged Archive back into the vehicle. Hammer gave him a shot of anti-venom while Jim-Bean brought the car around to the front of the building.

    "Is that going to work?" asked Jim-Bean.

    Hammer shrugged. "If Bhzang is one of the major poisons it'll keep him from asphyxiating. But we're running out of time. Ko's going to be warned in a few minutes…"

    "Wait," gasped Archive. "Give me your hands." Archive reached into his pocket with his good arm with considerably effort.

    "Uh, now is really not the time—" began Jim-Bean.

    Archive grabbed Jim-Bean's hand and pressed something cold against it. He lifted the back of his hand to look at it.

    It was an ink stamp of a tiny scarab.

    "We're not going into a club," said Hammer. "I don't see how…"

    Jim-Bean shushed him. "If he wants to stamp your hand, let 'im."

    Hammer dutifully offered his hand and Archived stamped it as well.

    Jim-Bean took Archive's pistol out of his shoulder holster and placed it in Archive's good hand. "If anyone besides us tries to get in the car, shoot them."

    Archive looked past him and muttered something. Hoping for the best, Jim-Bean closed the door to the car.

    Jim-Bean turned to Hammer. "Hand me your pistols."

    "Why?"

    "Just do it."

    Hammer reluctantly gave them up. Jim-bean tucked them into his duffel bag. Then he straightened up and strode purposefully into the Equitech Building's lobby with duffel bag in tow.

    A bored security guard was screening guests. Hammer spoke to the administrator at the front desk to get visitor badges.

    Jim-Bean approached the security guard. "Hello chum, how are ya? Pardon me a bit, this bag's awfully heavy." He tossed the bag to the guard. "You don't mind me holding it while I pass through, do ya?"

    The guard took the bag-full of weapons without comment as Jim-Bean bustled through the screening.

    "Thanks mate." He grabbed the bag back from the befuddled security guard.

    Before the guard could register what had just happened, Hammer came through next. The guard turned back to him.

    Of course, nothing happened. Hammer walked through the security checkpoint.

    Jim-Bean eyed the elevator. "Only one of those goes to the top floor. And it uses a key card."

    A balding Asian man carrying a briefcase stepped out of the elevator.

    Hammer bumped into him. "Sorry," he muttered.

    "Excuse me," said the man, eyes on the door.

    A second later Hammer slipped the man's security card into the elevator door. "A one-way ticket to the top, courtesy of," he checked the badge, which had the Asian man's face on it over the letters DAWN BIOZYME, "Mung I Peng."
    Mike "Talien" Tresca

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    An Outbreak of Alchemy: Part 5 – Elevator Muzak

    In the elevator, Jim-Bean slipped Hammer his pistols back to the tune of "The Girl from Ipanema." He was careful to turn his back to the security camera.

    "So how does that work?" Hammer surreptitiously tucked the pistols into his belt.

    "How does what work?"

    "The whole mind control thing." They passed the tenth floor.

    "What?" asked Jim-Bean innocently. "I’m just very convincing."

    "Yeah, right,” said Hammer, unconvinced.

    Jim-bean shrugged. "Believe what you want." They passed the twentieth floor. "I hope Archive's okay," said Jim-Bean. "He's pretty messed up."

    "We're not going to have a lot of time when we get to the top," said Hammer. "My guess is there's another elevator to reach the top floors. So we're going to need to hustle. I figure we have a couple of minutes tops before security gets here."

    They passed the thirtieth floor.

    "I'm sure you'll figure it out. This is wetwork," said Jim-Bean. "Your specialty, right?"

    "Not quite," said Hammer. "I deal with captured targets. I thought it was YOUR specialty."

    Jim-Bean inspected his nails. "Whatever. Depending on what's the other side of the door, if it's a talking head you deal with him. If it's a piece of tail, she's--"

    The elevator dinged and the door opened.

    A large sign welcomed them to Dawn Biozyme. Over a dozen technicians scurried to and fro. Weird robotic voices echoed throughout the large chamber, reverberating off of the huge metal machines and bubbling containers. It looked like a mad scientists.

    A pretty young Asian woman in a lab coat approached them. "Can I help you?"

    "Tails," Jim-Bean whispered to Hammer with a wink. He stepped forward. "Hello Miss…"

    "Xian. Doctor Xian. And you are?"

    "Security," said Jim-Bean. "We need to meet with Dr. Ko regarding a security breach."

    Xian frowned. "Mihn didn't tell me about any security breach—"

    Jim-Bean lowered his voice. "That's because we're trying to not cause an incident. In a few seconds there WILL be an alarm. Now if you'll just show us to Dr. Ko…"

    "Dr. Ko doesn't see visitors," Xian said suspiciously. "But if you want to wait here I can check with security and give you clearance."

    "Sure," said Jim-Bean. Xian walked off to a side office, out of view.

    Jim-Bean turned to Hammer. "Did you get it?"

    Hammer nodded and flipped the card he had snatched from Xian's lab coat. Like so many women in corporate offices, she wasn't comfortable having her security badge dangling at her chest. It made badges very easy to palm.

    "We're now…" he read the card, "Amy Xian."

    The elevator behind them dinged as it progressed through the floors.

    "We'd better go. That's probably the Mihn guy she talked about."

    The Dawn Biozyme techs ignored them, engrossed in their work. Hammer led the way down a hall to a large part of the building that opened up to the top floor by way of a stairwell. Reinforced glass doors and a keycard swipe blocked access.

    "Here's hoping Amy gets to visit Ko," said Hammer as he swiped the card.

    The red light over the card reader turned green. Jim-Bean pushed on the door.

    It opened. They quickly climbed the steps.

    A doddering old man in a white lab coat met them at the top of the stairs. He was holding a small black and white cat in his arms.

    "Oh hello. I didn't realize it was visiting hours today!"

    "It's not," said Hammer seriously. "Are you William Davis Ko?"

    Jim-Bean took up a flanking position to the man's left.

    "I am," said Ko. "But I don't see…"

    Hammer drew his Glocks.

    "Oh."

    An alarm went off. Then the glass doors behind them burst open.

    The security officer known as Bo Nan Mihn wore a blood red military-style uniform. He was impossible to ignore. Behind him were the other members of security, dressed in white paramilitary outfits. They were all short Tcho-tchos.

    Hammer didn't wait. He slipped behind Ko and put a Glock to his head. Ko dropped the cat and put his hands up. Jim-Bean dropped his duffel bag and pulled out his machinegun.

    It took him a second to realize the men were pointing crossbows at him, not pistols. "Shoot and he dies."

    Mihn sneered. "It's not us you have to worry about."

    There was the sound of a cat hacking up a hairball, and then the room filled with choking black mist.
    Mike "Talien" Tresca

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