Victoria knew Yeun-Ja was in trouble and she had an overwhelming need to help her; the texts she had sent didn’t make a whole lot of sense but it was easy enough to discern the basics. Someone had taken her father for whatever reason and now was coming for her.
What she felt went beyond a want; it was as though there was no choice. She closed her eyes for a moment and focused on attempting to talk directly to ADAM.
“Adam, can you help for a minute? I don’t know how to get to her. We must save her, it’s a matter of honor and … well I can’t explain it but I need to get to Yeun-Ja.”
The room swirled around her momentarily and she found herself a passenger in her own body. Everything became sped up and silent as though someone had pushed the mute and fast forward buttons on her body. She saw herself hack the elevator circuitry to release the door, open the access panel and climb over Eugene into the darkness. It was a short climb up a service ladder to the next floor.
When ADAM returned control to her, she was standing above of the elevator staring at the closed doors to the fourteenth floor. She knew these were offline due to the power outage, but also knew this model didn’t lock on the outside, only the inner elevator doors did. With effort she her braced her feet and slid them aside, peering out into the hallway.
There was a man about four doors down with his back to her. He was wearing a neatly tailored suit and had a short military-style haircut but what really drew her attention was the gun in his hand. While she watched the man put his hand to his ear, nodded and made a couple of hand gestures.
“Team Alpha, move forward and take The Kai. Team Bravo, standby in the stairwell in case we have any security force, the fire department, or curious assholes trying to crash our party. Let’s make this fast and professional.”
Victoria could hear their radio chatter. Adam queued up security camera footage, overlaying it as a ghostly image over her ‘normal’ vision. She could see a half dozen men in riot gear with sub machine guns slipping into the stairwell while another half dozen approached room twenty. Yeun-Ja’s room.
Her body sprang into action before she could stop it. Victoria slid silently through the open elevator doors, snatching a fire extinguisher off the wall and sprinted up behind the man in the suit. Her bare feet didn’t make a sound and he didn’t have a chance to defend himself when she brought the heavy metal body down to strike a glancing blow to the side of his head. She threw the extinguisher at the men who had just bashed the door open with one swift blow of a SWAT ram and pulled the comatose man’s body down on top of herself as two of the men opened fire.
The fire extinguisher she had thrown exploded as a stray bullet ripped it open, several other shots hit the man she was using as a shield and many more struck the walls behind her. The entire hallway was obscured by a cloud of dry chemical fire retardant but Victoria knew exactly where her foes were.
“Goddamn it hold your FUCKING POSITIONS! We can’t risk firing on our own and we took that first one down. This shit will settle in a couple of seconds and there’s nowhere for him to run. We’ll hear anyone coming and if they had a gun they would have used it already.”
”I don’t like it Cap, there’s too much dust, I can’t see a fuckin’ thing.”
“All the more reason to sit tight, now cut the chatter. Bravo, you are probably going to have some company. Assume anyone’s hostile, even if they’re dressed civilian.”
Victoria had been feeling around and found the gun the man had dropped as well as two spare magazines of ammunition from his belt. The mental image of where everyone had been standing was clear in her mind’s eye and she calmly slipped back to the elevator, aimed into the dust cloud and fired all nine rounds in the magazine.
Rapid gunfire answered her salvo along with cries of pain but she was already behind the steel elevator door, reloading her weapon. Judging from the response she had gotten, Victoria estimated she had succeeded in hitting four of the six men in the legs as she had planned. Lying almost on the floor, she brought up the security footage again.
The dust was thinning and she could see murky forms beginning to resolve themselves into men carefully making their way towards her hiding place. With Adam’s help, triangulating the trajectory she needed to use in order to hit them without exposing more than her hand was child’s play and she dropped the last two with carefully placed shots to the knee.
Adrenaline was now screaming through her body in full force and she bolted down the hallway and into the open room. “Yeun-Ja, we have no time, it’s Victoria you need to come with me now!” She realized in mild surprise she had switched to Mandarin automatically. A closet door to her left opened and her friend emerged, tears streaming down her face and clutching her laptop as though it was a good luck charm.
Victoria swept her up in one arm and ran back towards the elevators. Carefully setting the girl and then the gun down next to the open access port on the top of the elevator, she pulled the doors closed behind them. “We need to climb down to that elevator the ladder is right here.” She said to Yeun-Ja, “I’ll go first and make sure it’s safe.”
She made her descent and whispered into the open hatch, “Eugene? You down there?”
“Shit! Victoria is that you?” He stepped back into her field of view and looked up at her.
“Yes, I’m lowering someone down, can you help her?” She turned to Yeun-Ja and continued in Mandarin, “This is Eugene. He’s Adam’s creator… his father. He won’t hurt you.”
She lowered Yeun-Ja down into Eugene’s waiting arms and paused briefly to stow the sidearm and spare magazine in the false ceiling next to a ventilation fan. Gripping the edge of the ceiling with her hands she slowly, gracefully somersaulted into the elevator.
“What the FUCK happened up there?” Eugene was furious, “You told me you knew what was up there. Why would you even CONSIDER going if you knew there were guys with machine guns?”
“Eugene, quiet down. You’re scaring her and she’s been through a lot today.” Victoria put her arm around Yeun-Ja’s shoulder and gave him a sharp look.
“So this is the person who saved your life? Who you were willing to turn around and put your life on the line for?” The disbelief was evident on his face.
“Yes, she’s a genius. The software that military bitch gave us was flawed. It had some sort of virus or tracking software or something that crashed us.” Victoria moved to the electrical panel and put the wires back on their proper jumpers. After a bit of fiddling she managed to snap the panel back into the wall.
“I told you-“
“Shut up Eugene, I know.” She cut him off, “I screwed up OK? But he wanted it as bad as I did.” She blushed, “I can’t help it, we’re part of the same whole now and he has needs too. You didn’t put that in the goddamn manual did you?”
He opened his mouth, but she pressed on, “That’s not the point right now, she actually heard Adam calling and came to our rescue. I was completely out and even though she could have done anything she wanted she chose this girl chose to help us instead.”
Eugene tried to speak again but she didn’t let him interrupt. “You wanted an explanation so keep quiet and let me explain. By the way she only speaks Mandarin as far as I can tell or at least very limited English so don’t expect to pick her brain too much later.
“I don’t know what went down but she gave me a strict talking to about not mistreating Adam. From what I can tell they really had a meaningful connection. This girl makes world-class hackers look like kids with pocket calculators.” She was getting a slight headache.
“I think some of what I remember is coming from him right now. Every time we directly interface my head hurts.”
Yeun-Ja had opened her laptop and was looking at something on it. She paused and pulled on Victoria’s dress. “Tori, killers coming?” The worry in her voice was heartbreaking.
Victoria pulled up the security camera footage again and saw the group of men in SWAT uniforms making their way into the hallway where she had incapacitated their comrades.
She activated her tap on their commlink, “The cops will be here in 90 seconds. Time to pack up gentlemen; it looks like Craig is the only casualty. From the looks of it probably from friendly fire. His sidearm is missing, be careful; the assailant may still be out there.”
She saw them sweep the area and withdraw swiftly, carrying the unconscious and deceased members of their team with them. “We failed to capture The Kai here but I have intel about his next move. We will get that data as well as revenge on his protector.” With that the team left her field of view.
“Not to worry Yeun-Ja, they are leaving. They say that they failed to capture The Kai; isn’t that your father?” Victoria could feel her head begin to throb from the effort of speaking Mandarin.
“No, poppa is not a hacker. They were looking for The Kai? How did they know about The Kai?” Her voice pitched slightly higher.
“I don’t know anything else. Who is The Kai?”
“It’s my honor name in hacker circles.” Her eyes narrowed, “Someone must have talked, I am certain I covered my tracks well. My father’s life is in danger because of whoever that snitch is. When I find them I will make them pay.”
“What did you do to get that title?” Victoria had a sinking feeling in her stomach.
“I borrowed information from an American spy satellite on the North Korean nuclear program. I’m using it to create a virus that will destroy the centrifuge they are currently enriching uranium to military levels in a few days. They were going to sell it to Iran and that is unacceptable. My mother was killed because of the desires of the Oppressors and I won’t allow them to accelerate their plans with foreign aid.”
Shit. The very person she had been sent to find was the only person she couldn’t turn in. Not only that, but she had stolen something that was nearly certain to get her killed along with anyone she was associated with.
“OK Eugene, we need to clean up this place so when they come to rescue us it doesn’t look like we messed with anything.” She pointed at the access hatch.
“We?” Eugene laughed, “I didn’t do anything in here, this carnage is all on you.” He was grinning and already cupping his hands for her to stand on to close the hatch.
Victoria stood on his cupped hands, feeling Adam inject instructions of how to close and latch the access panel into her consciousness. She was very aware of Eugene’s cheek resting against her outer thigh. The stubble of his beard made it impossible to ignore but she needed to lean on him to balance.
After the panel was secured she pulled the false ceiling back into place and stepped down. Knowing it should be about time for them to show up she accessed the security feed and watched as a group of armed police officers made their way up the stairs. While they were organized, they didn’t come close to the precision of the specialists who had just left. It occurred to her that they must have had a man inside to keep the police response time down. Also since they hadn’t bothered to disable the cameras their man must be in the security monitoring station.
“Eugene call security and report our status. We need to look like normal people and normal people would have called saying they were trapped quite awhile ago.”
“Actually, I already did. It seemed like a good idea once I heard the gunfire… I wasn’t sure if you were OK or not so I panicked and called it in.” He shrugged and looked embarrassed, “I wasn’t going to tell you about it…”
“Even better.” Victoria looked at her clothes and grimaced, “Shit this dress is full of dust from that fire extinguisher.” She tried to pat some of it off without much success. “Damn, I guess I’m not going to be able to get this dust off with my hands. What I really need to do is get it dry cleaned but maybe once we get out of here I can just take it off and shake it. It doesn’t look too bad does it?”
“Looks just fine, don’t worry about it. We’re stuck in a disabled elevator, not walking the runway.” Eugene was nervously biting his thumbnail.
“I just don’t want it to look like I’ve been crawling through an elevator shaft.” She stuck her tongue out at him.
He stopped chewing on his thumbnail and smiled, “Don’t worry about it, they’d never even consider that you are capable of doing what you just did.”