Eugene knew it was no coincidence that Dmitri was here, no twist of fate that had put him in the same restaurant and that his presence put both him and Victoria in danger. He was determined to discover the bastard’s true intentions before he could do any damage.
He ran his fingers through his hair, took a deep breath and let his face slide into a sloppy grin. The alcohol loosening his inhibitions was going to make this easier; he was always a little uncomfortable around women. Raising his hand he waved at the waitress, “Catherine, do you have a minute?”
She glided up to his table, “Sure Dr. Arlington, what can I do for you? Another martini?”
“No thanks, I have a big day tomorrow and would prefer not to have a hangover. Listen, I had no idea that Dmitri was even going to be staying here much less buying me dinner. Any way you could get me his room number so I can give him a proper thank you?” Catherine gave him a speculative look.
“Well it’s not policy to give out room numbers. I could get in trouble, maybe even fired if someone were to report it.”
“Please? I haven’t seen the guy in ages and now he just appears otta nowhere, buys me and my patient dinner and then evaporates. He even bought us concert tickets!” Eugene opened the envelope and his jaw dropped in real surprise. “He got us Tiesto tickets! Holy shit these sold out in minutes!”
“Patient? I thought she was your date.” She looked at him through lowered lashes, “I guess if he’s a good enough friend he probably wouldn’t mind me giving you his room number.” She paused, “If you take me to that concert. I really want to go and even though I tried I couldn’t get tickets.”
“I should have expected you’d want something in return.” Eugene smiled ruefully. He was actually prepared for this eventuality since he probably wasn’t going to be able to go anyway what with the conference and all. “All right, let me write my cell number on the back of this ticket.” He scribbled his number on the ticket and handed it to her.
“Mr. Fedorov is in the South Penthouse. I’ll see you tomorrow.” She flashed him a perfect smile and his head spun a little for reasons only partially related to the number of martinis he had consumed.
“Thanks Cat, I owe you one.” Eugene left the restaurant and headed straight for the elevators. He punched the top floor, then thought better of it and also punched the next one down. After a brief search he found the stairway and made his way stealthily up them. He paused before the door in a service corridor, voices were echoing from one of the rooms.
“This is a lotta blood for just a bloody nose. I mean look at this; these sheets are ruined.”
“Shhh, you don’t want anyone to hear us do you? I don’t care what he does. The man tips well and is very polite. He doesn’t even allow prostitutes to come to his room. Mr. Fedorov is very strange for a VIP and I don’t intend to lose my job by bullshitting about a little blood on his sheets.”
Eugene slid along the wall until he could see into the room; a pair of women were sorting laundry on a table. Two cleaning carts were stationed near the door and he could see a badge and access card hanging from the pocket of a hotel uniform draped on the arm of the closest cart. The moment both women were facing completely away from the door he slipped in the door, snatched the badge and bolted without looking back.
As he approached the door to the South Penthouse, Eugene didn’t slow down at all. There were a pair of goons he didn’t recognize standing outside the door not even trying to hide the pistols at their belts.
He didn’t give them a second glance and instead continued down the hallway at a leisurely pace. Turning a corner he finally saw what he was looking for; a door marked “Hotel Staff Only.”
Mentally crossing his fingers he swiped his pilfered card through the electric lock. The light instantly flashed green and he heard the lock disengage.
The corridor in front of him had industrial carpet, plain white walls and direct fluorescent lighting; a harsh contrast to the plushness of the patron side of things. There were a couple of service elevators and Eugene could see doors with suite labels on them. He proceeded to the door marked ‘South Penthouse Special Delivery’ and stopped.
Taking a deep breath and letting it out Eugene put his ear to the door. Hearing nothing, he swiped his access card and opened the door a crack. The room inside was mostly dark, light from an adjacent open door casting long shadows on the floor. Creeping through the room with his heart thundering in his ears Eugene paused at the doorway.
“Stop.” Eugene heard Dmitri’s voice and froze slowly raising his hands, a thrill of terror running down his spine. “Listen, we do not have to do it this way.” There was a pause, the click of a zippo lighter opening, lighting and then closing shortly followed by an exhale of breath. The shock was wearing off and he realized Dmitri wasn’t addressing him.
“I try to be civilized in these kinds of dealings. Please understand me when I say that I have no real desire to do you harm. That said I will also do so without hesitation if you continue to deny me access to the information I require.”
“Hey, I told you already I don’t have any idea what you’re talking about. Who is The Kai? How would I know where he is or how to make contact with him? Information I will gladly share for a price, but I really have no clue about this Kai.” The voice was male and tight with pain.
“I have some inside tips about the next hot piece of real estate I was saving for another contact of mine, but in light of my lack of knowledge I’d cut you a deal on it. How about it, are you intereeaaaaAAAAA!” The sickening sound of crunching bone clearly reached Eugene’s ears.
“Easy now Young Master we need him to be fit enough to respond.”
“I do not recall requesting your opinion Ivanov.” Dmitri’s voice was silky smooth but carried with it the implicit promise of violence, Eugene could feel the hairs on the back of his neck rise.
“I apologize sir, I only-“ Whatever advice he was offering was cut off with a grunt of pain. Eugene risked a glance around the corner. A man was sitting in an expensive looking hardwood armchair, his arms and legs were tied to it with thick plastic zip ties. An additional zip tie was tight around his neck and was the only thing holding his head up. The cause of his unconsciousness wasn’t readily apparent until Eugene saw the odd angle of his left leg in the middle of the shin.
The obvious culprit was Dmitri, he held a ball peen hammer in his left hand. He was pulling his right fist back for another swing. Ivanov was swaying on his feet, not even making an attempt to defend himself as Dmitri punched him in the face again. Blood sprayed from his mouth and splattered on the white tile floor of the room.
“You know you simply cannot keep contradicting me like this Ivanov. I need you but if there’s one thing I simply cannot abide it is an insubordinate underling. I know my father was lenient in these things however I simply…” He was breathing heavily now; not from exertion but from the effort of trying to restrain himself.
The man in the chair moaned and Dmitri focused back on him instead, swinging the hammer again and again until the man’s head was nothing but a ruined mass of pulped flesh and bone punctuating each swing with a word. “HATE (crunch) BEING (crunch) QUESTIONED! (crunch).”
Ivanov proffered a cigarette then lit it for him as though nothing had happened, although his speech was slurred slightly from the damage his face had sustained. “I will get us another informant to corroborate what the first man told us under stress if you wish sir.”
“I don’t believe there is a need for that my friend.” Dmitri said after a moment. “I really do think he may have been telling the truth when he said he was the only man who knew who The Kai really was and where he was staying. This coward might have had the fortitude to lie to me but not you Ivanov. He was practically begging to tell you everything he knew about your other questions when he realized who you were.”
“Too true sir, although soon they will realize the true strength of this Family lies elsewhere. Far beyond any threat of force I could make.” Said Ivanov, lighting a cigarette of his own.
“Yes, with this information being the final piece of the puzzle we should be very well positioned indeed. The brilliance of my father shall be carried on until he re-awakens. Speaking of which, did we get our young Victoria’s measurements?”
Eugene was carefully backing out of the room but this made him pause and listen.
“Certainly sir; and your gift should be waiting for her first thing tomorrow. Very thoughtful of you sir if you don’t mind me saying.”
Now he knew it was time to go, and fast. Whatever Dmitri had planned for Victoria, even if it was done with good intentions was bound to go horribly wrong. The man was a psycho at best. Eugene all but sprinted back to the elevator, not even slowing when he passed by the front door of Dmitri’s room.
He regained his composure somewhat once he was back in the elevator, calming down enough that he was able to walk to Victoria’s room and knock. When nobody answered on the second, much louder knock he let himself in with the maid’s key.
The room was illuminated by the outside lights shining in; the windows facing the fountain and street outside were at least ten feet tall. As he made his way through the main room with its expansive couch and massive flat screen television, Eugene saw a few gift-wrapped boxes sitting on a side table with a hand written note in a small, fine script on top.
“To Victoria: Wishing you luck with your conference tomorrow. I hope this outfit will let you shine. Yours, Dmitri.”
Shaking his head, Eugene snuck to one door which turned out to be a massive bathroom; beyond it was Victoria’s bedroom. She lay sprawled across the bed, still wearing her clothes. The charger was plugged into her prosthetic and she was breathing regularly.
With a sigh of relief he snuck back to his own room. With any luck the number of martinis had consumed would be sufficient to allow for a few hours of sleep. Tomorrow was going to be a busy day.
The Host, no he had to get used to calling it… her… Victoria was dormant again but this time in a much more normal and healthy fashion. For once, ADAM was too wrapped up in his own thought processing to pay any attention though.
Who was that Kai Yeun-Ja person? How had it she been able to do what she had done? ADAM still marveled at the code she had written; it was fluid and beautiful. There were flourishes that were completely unnecessary but added little reminders of the girl who had written it. Most importantly her ideas about how data flow should be regulated were the most innovative had ever experienced.
Then there was the problem of the data he had accidentally acquired when they were interfaced. Without even knowing it either she had placed it in his databanks or he had downloaded it unintentionally. He was skirting around it but finally couldn’t resist anymore and investigated the file.
Whatever the information the files contained was, it didn’t make sense to ADAM. It appeared to be a catalogue selling something called ‘heirloom vegetable seeds’ but there was something embedded in the scans that he couldn’t decipher. Given enough time ADAM knew he could decode it but he didn’t want to pry that deeply in Kai Yeun-Ja’s private files without permission. He chalked this up to yet another example of how Kai Yeun-Ja was a fascinating individual who he wanted to know more about.
He started on the low end of things with a simple search of the net. The only Yeun-Ja he was able to find was a volleyball star from North Korea, but she was a much older person. He estimated his friends age to be around 3780 days; much older than himself but young by human standards.
Something that caught his attention a few hundred thousand hits down was a reference to “The Kai” who was a notorious hacker. When used with proper intonation it had the meaning of ‘The Best’ or ‘The King’ it was more of a title than it was the name of any given person. The origins of the title also had no roots in Korea, where his Yeun-Ja was from.
He surfed through a few forums, just trying to get a feel for how this hacker carried him or herself and found that in the last six months the title had changed hands. The forum he was on didn’t discuss the exact specifics, only that it was an act of great daring and bravery.
After a few hours of random surfing ADAM still hadn’t found anything else of substance. There were a lot of rumors though; including that The Kai had recently been involved in a questionable act of international espionage. Just as he was about to close down his net session there was a new hit posted. An anonymous post claiming to be from a close personal acquaintance of The Kai claimed that there would be a post on Anon in three days detailing the hackers latest conquest in the name of Freedom of Information and protecting the common good.
Satisfied that he would have more information shortly and hoping he would be able to talk to Yeun-Ja again soon, ADAM turned his attention back to Victoria’s systems. His interfaces were now more fully integrated with hers, thanks mostly due to Yeun-Ja’s newly coded pathways. It appeared there was a demonstration of their joint capabilities was to occur for an audience tomorrow at 08:30.
While ADAM was completely certain there would be absolutely no issues with the demo, Victoria appeared to be fairly nervous about the whole thing. Just to be on the safe side, he kicked off a complete top to bottom diagnostic.