Yao Ma Tei Police Station, Hong Kong, China
Lieutenant Tommy Chen of the Special Duties Unit was leaning against the wall in between two interrogation rooms as another police officer approached. The man was Captain Yan Yun, the officer in charge of the police station, who was wearing a locally made suit and carrying a steaming paper cup. "They saying anything new today?" asked the Captain in Mandarin, acting a bit nonchalant.
"No, they're holding strong," revealed Tommy, adjusting one of his white dress shirt's cuffs as he spoke. For a month the Special Duties unit had been tasked with trying to get information out of two prisoners, Tamaya Qillaq and Zhen Shan, two human traffickers who had been picked up in a joint operation with Interpol and the International Temporal Enforcement Agency. Since then the Duties unit had been holding daily multiple-hour interrogation sessions with the two criminals, trying to find out who their supplier was. Zhen seemed to break after two weeks but would only claim it was a Caucasian man, not knowing his name or even what he looked like. Captain Yun was convinced Zhen knew more and also seemed to think at some point Tamaya would ultimately break.
"We may have to actually send them to prison, see if that will shake them up a bit," mused Yan, tapping his cup with his index finger. "Shan is weaker than she seems, but Qillaq is a scrapper so she might resist."
"Agreed," nodded Tommy, glancing into one of the two rooms, in which Tamaya was cuffed while seated in a chair. While issued dark-blue jumpsuits for the prison the pair would eventually be sent to, neither woman had yet to go; they were instead kept in isolated lock-up. Tamaya was fairly clean, having experienced the station's prisoner shower system, but her hair was unkempt and her eyes were bloodshot, she was most likely not managing much sleep.
"Okay, you get the white girl, I'll deal with Shan," delegated Yan, taking a casual sip of his coffee.
"She's half native-American," pointed out Tommy before heading into the first room while Yan took the second.
* * *
"Finally," breathed No Name, currently working under the alias Peter Knight, wandering downstairs to the interrogation rooms of the station. Earlier that day No Name had used a chip on a member of the cleaning staff to have him place Type-7 gas sprayers in several vents around the station. The sprayers had been set on a timer but for some reason it had taken nearly half an hour longer than expected. The delay aside, the gas had finally released and No Name, having posed as a witness to a mugging, was now free to walk around the frozen station, the gas having done its work.
Around No Name's right ring finger was, unsurprisingly, a ring, though it was distinctive as IT had developed it. The ring, called an Immunity Ring, worked similar to the control chip in that it regulated Type-7 within a subject, but it didn't tap into neural functions and thus just worked as a basic inhibitor to the immobilizing effects of the drug, hence its name. No Name had stolen it from Anna Federov, an IT agent he'd been actively seducing without her guessing his true identity since she'd never met him before or covered the case he'd been tied to. Gaining access to Anna's files, No Name was able to track down Tamaya, a member of the Ouroboros organization he worked for, and was now mounting a rescue.
"Pardon me Lieutenant," mocked No Name as he walked into the first interrogation room where Tamaya was being kept. Tommy Chen was frozen at the entrance with the door open, pushing it aside with his left arm while his right was in his pocket, a cold glare etched on his face. Tamaya meanwhile sat in her cheap wooden chair, somewhat reclined, her head tilted back and her eyes closed, a small smile on her lips while her legs were stretched out. Pulling out a chip, No Name headed straight for Tamaya.
"Hmm?" blinked Tamaya, reviving after the chip was placed on the back of her neck. "Void, isn't it? Took you long enough."
"If it wasn't important I wouldn't have even bothered," pointed out No Name, Void being his code-name within Ouroboros, while Tamaya was known as Earth. "One moment, I'll get those cuffs off." leaning down behind the woman, No Name used a key he'd taken from upstairs to unlock the cuffs, freeing his fellow criminal.
"We're rescuing Zhen too, right?" asked Tamaya as she stood up, rubbing her wrists. "She will be useful, well, more than likely."
"I brought enough chips for four people if needed," revealed No Name, holding out the devices. "The only rule is you don't ever take them off. As a matter of fact, these ones have to be shut off before removal or they automatically freeze you when touched; thatÕs a new safety feature. May want to watch out for that."
"I'm just impressed it's ignoring my hair rubbing against it," offered Tamaya, No Name unable to tell if this new condition of her continued employment bothered her. "Extra chips huh? Think you could stick one on that ass-hole by the door?"
Glancing over, No Name eyed Lieutenant Chen with disinterest. "Him? Why?" asked Void.
"Payback, plain and simple," announced Tamaya, walking up to the motionless Chen with her hands on her hips. "What's more, I don't care what you need me to agree to, so long as I get another shot at that bitch that got me put in here."
"Oh, trust me, you'll get that chance very soon," revealed No Name, moving to place another chip on Tommy's neck.
Part 1: Meetings
Stilton Hotel, New York City, USA
There were over two hundred Stilton hotels all over the world, Paris being the only city to have two. Over two dozen ships bore the Stilton Corporation name; they delivered building materials all over the world. Richard Stilton, a man now sixty years old, had created one of the most profitable corporations and managed to achieve his sweeping success in roughly thirty years. In the beginning people had assumed that Richard had only married his first wife, Rina Corde, to access her family money when his ambitious company failed, but he'd shown up his critics and even fathered a daughter with Rina, though he later left her for actress Mary Thatcher. Mary, in turn, divorced him some years later, but Richard was now married again. The circumstances, however, had changed.
Sitting in his private suite in his New York hotel, Richard casually drank cognac as the door suddenly opened and his daughter stormed in. Maris Stilton, due to turn twenty-eight in a month, would be Richard's heir, and that never sat well with him. The white-bearded billionaire frowned as he saw his fashionista blond daughter was wearing a denim skirt and an orange tube top, her hair in pigtails and a Prada bag hanging off of her right shoulder, thousand-dollar sunglasses resting on top of her head. As Richard saw her appearance he was just glad she'd apparently left her tiny yap dog elsewhere. "Dad, we need to talk," declared Maris, annoyed.
"Yes, I figured as much," sighed Richard, reaching down beside his leg. "What is it?"
"The New York Missive is calling me—" began Maris, only to be cut off as Richard hit a button on the remote beside his leg. Type-7, the miracle drug that could freeze people, flooded the room, leaving Richard fine but Maris frozen on the spot. Maris stood stiffly with her right arm holding the front strap of her purse, her left gesturing vaguely in the direction of her father with her fingers spread but not fully, her mouth wide open and her eyes looking up. She appeared a lot like one of the waxwork images of her that were displayed around the world.
"I really don't have the patience for you anymore," groaned Richard, standing up and pulling a chip from his jacket. Without any hesitation he placed the device on the back of Maris's neck, putting her under the control of another remote he had. Ever since he'd founded Ouroboros, Richard installed gas sprayers and other defenses in his private rooms for security; he'd also had a scientist on his payroll, Sarah Hardy, develop a special device to make him permanently immune to Type-7. The result was a ceramic and silicon-based implant, surgically attached to his spinal cord, which could keep his body regulated and mobile even when exposed to large amounts of Type-7.
Pressing a button on his first remote, Richard's shelf of books slid aside, revealing his personal elevator. Installed originally as a panic room, Richard had since used it to travel to his special hideaway in the basement of the building, which had originally been constructed under the guise of being for a back-up generator and bomb shelter, few finding the latter purpose eccentric given some of the city's history. Inside the elevator was a two-wheeled dolly, which Richard quickly rolled over to his statue-still daughter, proceeding to tilt her rigid figure back and onto the simple device by rocking her at her shoulders. The work done, Maris was wheeled into the elevator and Richard signaled for it to descend.
"YouÕre a hassle, but I'm not about to make my little princess act like a puppet," remarked Richard as the elevator descended, speaking to his frozen daughter with genuine affection. Maris was highly problematic, but in the end Richard did love her and while he was willing to freeze her with drugs he'd found it distasteful to control her with a chip, thus he merely used it to regulate her frozen state.
With soft beep Richard's elevator arrived in the secret basement, the door sliding open to reveal his private museum. The room was pure white, with the walls, floor, and ceiling tiled; several person-sized display cases were arranged around the walls while four Greek pillars sat in the middle, each one more like a raised stool than a support column.
"Welcome back sir," greeted Xavier Alberic, one of Richard's most trusted aides. Only in his late-twenties, Xavier was none the less invaluable, having been secretly keeping Maris a bit less of a media beacon as of late, even creating an underground club for her with that intention being one of the reasons for it. Xavier was however on IT's radar, having only escaped their custody thanks to Richard's source inside Stone Enterprises, but with his source there now fired on an unrelated matter, he'd needed to find other ways to keep an eye on the potentially meddling agency.
"Good to see you Xavier; like that suit," remarked Richard, noting Xavier's trendy red pinstripe suit, though Richard wasn't one to understand fashion. "Could you help me get Maris onto her platform?"
"Of course sir," agreed the younger man, moving Maris on her dolly out of the elevator while Richard walked over to the biggest prizes in his collection. Richard owned one of the oldest swords ever found, vintage stock certificates from the nineteenth century, statues that dated back to the Han dynasty of China and even the supposed Spear of Longinus, yet what he admired most were the still women on the pedestals he'd provided in the middle of his private gallery.
First was his current wife Eva Hallowell, their public marriage a sham thanks to a chip she wore. A lovely model, Richard had first bought Eva from Scott Dawson back when the Paradise Foundation had still existed. Eva had later been rescued but Richard had managed to get another chip put on Eva, inducing her first to choose to not press charges against Richard and then seemingly fall in love with him. Eva's red and brown hair spilled freely around her face as she stood motionless with her arms at her sides, her beautiful face showing a toothless smile. A big fan of ancient Greece and Rome, Eva was dressed in a skimpy green toga that barely covered her right breast, fine gold-lined sandals on her feet and a platinum snake bracelet circling her right arm.
Second was Rina, Richard's first wife and the mother of Maris. Fifty years old, Rina was still fairly attractive; she was a natural blond with spiked tips that reached her shoulders. Richard had dressed Rina in a conservative black cocktail dress with platinum rings on her fingers and pearls around her neck. A cocktail glass was held in her raised right hand, and a half-smile graced her lips. One for detail, Richard had even put high-end Russian vodka into Rina's glass with a proper olive, though the garnish was starting to get old.
Finally there was Mary, Richard's second wife and a Hollywood starlet. Black-haired and very sultry in spite of being in her early forties, Richard had put Mary in a white Chinese golden dragon dress, complete with no sleeves, a high collar and a loose skirt-like tabard that nearly went all the way up to her rear. In spite of her being Caucasian, Richard liked Mary dressed like that; she had ballet shoes on her feet and her frozen body was positioned in a praying mantis stance. Mary's dark hair was up in a Chinese bun, a single golden needle holding it in place. Both of Richard's ex-wives had been collected and brought here last week before No Name had started his other assignment; Xavier watched over them since he was still in hiding for the crimes he'd committed the previous year in Paris.
The last column was empty, but that was where Xavier was currently placing Maris. "Want me to change her pose?" asked Xavier as the daughter slid into place on the right side of her biological mother, still standing exactly as she had been when Richard had first frozen her a bit over ten minutes ago.
"No, I do plan on releasing her in a day or two," decided Richard, shaking his head. "Is No Name back?"
"Yes, he just got in two hours ago," confirmed Xavier, leading Richard out of the private museum and into an impersonal-looking corridor, one possessing subway-like cast walls and floors, both concrete though the floor was darker. The lighting was also limited to occasional fluorescent tubes and a few exposed pipes ran along the walls, but it was just because Richard didn't want the people he'd hired to build it to think it was unusually lavish for what was supposed to be a bomb shelter and escape tunnel. "I should add that Derek also returned earlier this morning. I've already briefed him on the new chip policy. I've been meaning to ask actually, why did you instate that?"
"Well, while I can trust you, Derek, and No Name enough to tell you everything, I like being able to blank out anyone else who might hear everything weÕre discussing when we have so little room," explained Richard as they walked. "Also a couple of these people have never worked for us, so it'll be good to be able to secretly control them in case they get funny ideas."
"I understand, and I am honored that you'd select me for exclusion," offered Xavier as they approached the point where the bleak passage opened up, revealing a large room. The room was constructed like the tunnels before it, very plain, but there was a proper back-up generator on one side of the room while the other possessed several special chairs, all equipped with wrist and leg clamps. No Name was standing nearby, dressed like a police officer from Hawaii.
"Hello sir," greeted No Name with a nod. Nearby was Derek Grisham, also known within Ouroboros as Fire, who was wearing a prison guardÕs outfit, an extendable baton still attached to his belt. Derek didn't speak, merely nodding in greeting. Richard noted Derek had grown out his hair a bit and had a full beard; a change from when they'd last met.
"Good to see you both, as well as our new guests," acknowledged Richard, inspecting the line of people seated before him. There were seven in total, from left to right. First was Tamaya Qillaq, also known as Earth, and next to her was Zhen Shan, also known as Miss Tao. The pair had been sprung from a Hong Kong lockup just the other day, but they weren't the last people No Name had recovered for Richard. Next to the pair, also frozen while clamped into his seat, was Barry Finnegan, also known as Water, who a month ago had directly attacked the ITEA on Richard's orders, wanting to test their response time to incidents that affected their own. Next to the young science specialist was Mike Bailey, also known as Ice, who'd been used to sell Type-7 to people in Vancouver.
After the four until-recently lost members of Ouroboros it wasn't Chetana Shenkar sitting there as Richard had hoped; the woman who was also known as Wind having gone missing in Los Angeles a few weeks prior with no sign as to where she'd gotten to, though No Name had tried his best to find her. Instead, there was another Indian woman, one who'd never worked for Ouroboros before: Rajni Arora. Rajni had been a secretary at the Paradise Foundation, working for the Director of South America until shortly prior to the company's collapse. Rajni had then taken to trying to sell Type-7 on the black market, but she was eventually caught by IT. Next to Rajni was a man she'd once supplied, Charles Truman III, who'd been liberated from jail in Hawaii.
The final person in the row however was especially delightful for Richard to see, as the man had been a long-time acquaintance of his back in the day, the man having been the one to introduce Richard to Scott Dawson. Julio Sanchez, Rajni's old boss and one of the main masterminds behind the Paradise Foundation's global power grab, currently sat in a clamped chair, dressed in a dirty suit he'd grabbed in a hurry when Derek had rescued him from jail up in Canada.
"A shame Chetana isn't here, but we can't wait for her any longer," declared Richard. "LetÕs activate them and get them briefed. I'm thinking Sand as a code-name for Rajni and Wood for Charles?"
"What about Julio?" asked Xavier, confused.
"I have something else in mind for him," revealed Richard. "Now, lets do them one at a time, Tamaya and Zhen first..."
Interpol UK HQ, London, UK
The Interpol HQ in London was a large building, being a valued post for all of Europe due to its connections with British intelligence. The large building allowed for large meeting rooms, and the agency's nature made it ideal for a meeting of a small United Nations committee outside of New York City, especially given the meeting was about an agency based out of London. The room was square but the table in the center was circular; seven people sat around it in leather office chairs. On one wall of the room a projector screen was set up, connected to a laptop currently sitting front of a somewhat large Englishman in a fine suit. "Good afternoon everyone, the following meeting is number seven in a series of nine to cover the current status of UN charter agency the International Temporal Enforcement Agency, known as the ITEA or IT for short," declared UN security council representative Robert Warner, recording the meeting for further review as needed. "Currently present are myself, Robert Warner of the United Nations security council, five others who make up the committee, and the director of the ITEA." He nodded to the first woman at the table.
"Colonel Mallory Keaton, United States Marine Corps and official representative of the Northern Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO," announced a brunette in her mid-forties who sat on Robert's left, dressed in a dark-navy suit.
"Julienne Bertrand, Interpol Secretary General," announced a dark-haired woman who was perhaps a year younger than Mallory, wearing a dark-red business dress with her hair down.
"Sonia Castillo, Interpol Section Chief, Madrid," declared yet another brunette, the youngest person yet and dressed in a business dress colored similar to Mallory's.
"Raymond Bishop, Interpol Section Chief, London," spoke the only other man in the room aside from Robert, wearing a somewhat shabby suit that looked like it had been slept in.
"Mira Stolar, senior Europol Liaison Officer, London," announced another tall dark-haired woman, sporting a black business dress and only a bit over thirty years of age.
"Lucienne Christophe, Director, International Temporal Enforcement Agency," declared Lucienne, really not looking forward to the meeting. She fidgeted in her chair, just to the right of Warner.
It was barely nine in the morning but Robert had called them in early, wanting to get some pressing issues about her agency dealt with. It was the seventh meeting in eight days, which had been set up in light of the agency's current track record. Lucienne knew when the oversight committee had formed that she'd be subject to this scrutiny, but she still hadn't expected just how painful the meetings actually had been. Every single decision she'd made was being picked apart and the only two proper allies she had were Raymond, who'd trained her back when she'd worked for Interpol, and Mira, who seemed to be very positive about the agency in general. The surprising person was Sonia, who in spite of disagreeing with some of Lucienne's methods, mostly due to their history of having clashing styles, was occasionally supportive. Mallory and Julienne were proving to be her biggest critics, but Lucienne suspected both had hidden agendas. Julienne wanting to bury Lucienne after she'd had an early shot at her position but had passed, while Mallory wanted the ITEA to come under NATO supervision. NATO itself was currently led by a Canadian, so Lucienne knew Mallory's angle couldn't be trying to get the US to head ITEA up, as much as the clichˇ appealed to the French director at the moment.
"I'd like to start today by discussing IT's current personnel," revealed Robert, who'd been a bit of an enigma to Lucienne ever since the meetings had started. "Besides having several field teams, six by my count, the agency has at least six others currently going through the screening process. The four main departments are espionage, science, tactical and technical. Building security also accounts for quite a few staff members, and there are also a couple of mechanics, a human resources office, an accounting office and a pair of receptionists. On screen currently is the full list of personnel. I'd like to open the floor at this time for any questions the committee might have for the director."
"I'd like to start," offered Mallory, glancing at the roster. "Correct me if I'm wrong, Director Christophe, but it seems that you don't have any medical personnel on staff."
"Mia Santos is a medical researcher with the science wing," corrected Lucienne. "All of our field agents are required to have some first-aid training as well."
"Yes, that is something, but you lack a doctor on retainer," pointed out Sonia, chiming in before Mallory could continue. "Police stations, schools, even several Interpol sections have at least one doctor or nurse on site at all times. Your best candidate for that position was hired as a lab tech, and she is not an MD."
"Correct," admitted Lucienne, quickly realizing her fault.
"Has the ITEA not required a doctor until now?" asked Julienne, sounding almost mocking. "Past happenings have surely shown such a need exists, given the incident-"
"Please don't start on that again," interrupted Raymond, a bit rude but saying what several other members of the panel were thinking. Two of the meetings had already been dedicated to the event where several IT agents were kidnapped or immobilized back in November. Julienne in particular couldn't seem to let the incident go; granted, it was a major concern.
"I am willing to acknowledge that having a medical doctor on the staff is important, and this will be on the my list of changes to make once these meetings are concluded," conceded Lucienne, hating having to admit a fault.
"Team size is something I'd like to discuss, actually," Mira suggested, a bit of a surprise since she'd rarely started subjects of discussion; she was still fairly new to the proceedings, being the youngest person there. "Your standard unit size is currently four people, which while balanced for all sorts of missions, can be excessive for basic investigations. Have you considered using the potential new agents by themselves, acting as one-person units? There may be times when the ITEA only needs to assist in a situation, not have a full team in place."
"It would solve some potential budget issues," pointed out Sonia, who'd led the criticisms of Lucienne's budget back in the second meeting. In spite of that however, IT's budget tracking was fairly decent given that accountant David Falk was doing what he was paid to do, and then some. Lucienne made a mental note yet again to tell a couple of her agents to stop making clichˇd jokes about the fact that their accountant was Jewish, no matter how good he was.
"I'll look into it," offered Lucienne, having heard the same argument before from her own people but never entirely being for it, believing that it was good for any agent to have at least one person backing them up. New agents frequently needed assistance more than seasoned ones, so having them out on their own didnÕt seem very prudent to her, but she kept quiet and took her lumps.
There was silence for a few moments after that. "I'd like to take this time to bring in someone who can comment on the changes the director had recently made," announced Robert, then pressing a button on the intercom. "Michael, please send our guest in."
The large doors to the room opened and in walked one of Lucienne's potential saviors: Kimberly Ewart of Stone Enterprises. The curly-haired brunette smiled as she strolled in and took an empty seat in between Lucienne and Sonia. "Good morning, my name is Kimberly Ewart, Associate Vice-President of Stone Travel," revealed the woman who was year younger than Lucienne.
"You recently received an office inside ITEA HQ here in London, correct?" asked Robert, leading the discussion off since he'd called the woman in.
"I did," confirmed Kim, glancing at Lucienne and offering her a direct smile. "My boss Monica Stein wanted a vice-president to work directly with the ITEA to better serve them as travel agent, though I suppose in spite of being a third-party individual I can be considered a travel secretary? There are also three juniors and two seniors within our division of Stone Enterprises, dedicated to the ITEAÕs travel coordination."
"Position technical terms are irrelevant to this meeting," insisted Julienne. "Why aren't you listed on their staff roster?"
"As stated, I am still technically an employee of Stone Travel," repeated Kim, her smile not wavering in spite of her tone shifting slightly. "In exchange for work space within their HQ, I exclusively handle their travel needs, chartering flights and other forms of transportation as needed. My salary is entirely provided by Stone Enterprises, not the ITEA."
"That's gotta be a good deal," chuckled Ray, quickly composing himself after that.
"Miss Ewart's recruitment shows that Director Christophe is making required adjustments while being able to avoid budget issues," declared Robert, who wasn't smiling in spite of the fact being positive, "although this arrangement touches on another area of concern. We would like to look more closely into IT's rather unique relationship with Stone Enterprises..." As Robert continued, Lucienne suppressed a sigh, knowing her already tedious day had just gotten longer.
Part 2: Actions
Regent's Park, London, UK
"Feels a bit early to be calling it a night!" exclaimed Nessa Kelly as she walked down the street with another member of the ITEA, Juro Takashi. The two IT members had just left a nearby pub where they'd been enjoying a little after-work rest and relaxation, then ending up the only two left after their co-workers had called it a night. The pub had soon closed up, not prone to staying open that late, hence why Nessa was annoyed.
"We do both have to work tomorrow," pointed out Juro, wearing a tailored Italian suit. Originally a highly valued data miner, Juro's skills were worth millions in the private sector. Juro had however become jaded with his work and decided to work in law enforcement as an analyst, his past work and smart investments more or less making him set for life. Nessa thought Juro was an interesting guy, not just in his line of work for the money, but found him to be a bit socially stiff.
"I've gone to work hung-over several times," declared Nessa smugly, who was wearing a sleeveless purple blouse and black skirt, her hair in a mid-level ponytail. "Still, I probably should just head home. Call it a night?"
"Sure, but I'll walk with you until you get home," offered Juro, Nessa not sure how to read his offer. She didn't really like or dislike Juro, Nessa was just completely unsure of who he was exactly. The pair had chatted a few times at social gatherings but never had gotten too personal. Nessa couldn't tell if Juro's suggestion was just kindness or something more.
"It's alright, I'm only another eight blocks," insisted Nessa.
"Exactly, so its no big deal, why walk these streets alone?" pointed out Juro. It was dark out but the area didn't have too many crime issues, though Nessa was aware that she'd draw more attention alone than with someone. Still Nessa was highly capable at self-defense, both with and without a weapon.
"Well..." began Nessa, only to trail off as she noticed a man approaching them was reaching behind his back. The man was dressed casually in a black windbreaker and grey pants but his body-language, specifically the way his blue eyes seemed focused on Nessa, made her all but certain he was going for a weapon.
"Look out!" Nessa instinctively called out, grabbing Juro by the arm and pulling him aside as the familiar glint of a metal pistol appeared in the man's hand. Nessa was about to start leading Juro away and down a nearby alley but surprisingly her companion took the lead, instead pulling her along as they ran, a muffled gunshot ringing out behind the fleeing pair. What was odd was the gun was still audible yet far quieter than the large-looking pistol should be.
"We can lose him in the park!" insisted Juro as they hurried along while Nessa trying to pull her Glock from her purse as they went. The alleyway had a few twists and turns but they weren't too elaborate thus as the pair emerged into the park itself their pursuer was still visible, his large Desert Eagle still shining in the rapidly-darkening night. Nessa attempted to turn and fire while running but couldn't manage it; the maneuver was a bit tricky given she had Juro to worry about.
"Here," whispered Juro, pulling Nessa down a side path. The two ended up stumbling into a tree-covered area of the park with multiple benches, quite a few occupied by couples that were getting very passionate. The move off of the path bought them a bit of extra time, plus they were currently out of their pursuer's sight, but it was still a tactical nightmare.
"I need to get him closer so we can take him down quietly," whispered Nessa to Juro as they huddled behind a tree, as the gunman started to come into view. "I can't risk just sitting here waiting for him to come closer..."
"I've got an idea," remarked Juro. "Sorry in advance." Before Nessa could ask why Juro was apologizing she found herself spun around to face her companion, gently pushed against the tree with her gun arm against her chest and soft and welcome sensation pressing against her lips. For a few moments Nessa was lost in the moment, returning the gesture and forgetting that it was enough just to 'act natural' given the situation, hopefully making their pursuer not give them a second glance.
Composing herself, Nessa slowly turned so Juro was up against the tree, opening one eye to spot the gunman. Juro's ploy seemed to have worked, the armed man walking by with hardly a glance, most likely convinced the two he sought were still on the run. After a few more moments Nessa could easily shoot the man with her dart-loaded Glock and took the chance, breaking off her series of kisses with Juro to get a better shot.
The blondish-brunette with the large gun froze in mid-step, his gaze fixed up ahead with his gun at his side. Only one other couple seemed to so much as notice any commotion and even then resumed their own make-out session almost immediately. "Whew..." breathed Nessa, her gaze focused on the frozen man. "Who the hell is this fella?"
"I recognized his face from a case file, I believe his name is Bailey," revealed Juro as the pair walked over the suspect. "Small-time Type-7 trafficker from Vancouver. Team Alpha put him away. Why he's here, that's our real concern."
"His gun's unusual too," noted Nessa, having put her own weapon back into her purse while removing the Desert Eagle from Bailey's rigid grip. "No way a gun this big is normally that quiet. This thing must be loaded with modified Type-7 darts." A moment later the clip from the weapon was ejected and Nessa's theory was proved correct.
"We'd better report this to the director right away," mused Juro, glancing around. "At least we didn't cause a scene. Oh, and..." continued Juro, now seeming a bit sheepish, "Sorry about that. Heat of the moment, not a lot of time to think... sorry."
"Wait, so you're saying if you'd had time to think, you wouldn't have done that?" asked Nessa, scoffing. "I think you need a little reminder of what just went down!" Juro was about to say something but was silenced as Nessa pulled him in and proceeded to kiss him again, this time with no other reason being a cover for why.
Cafe Alps, Dartford, UK
Dartford's Cafe Alps was a fine Swiss cafe known for good cocoa as well as coffee and other hot beverages. The colors and decor also proudly touted the owner's country of origin and the staff even dressed up like clichˇ mountain men and women. The atmosphere was nice, which was how Tasia Spiro wanted it. The redhead was sitting down with Takahishi Nakamura, a co-worker she needed to talk with. Tasia had called Tak shortly after they'd left HQ for home, Tasia taking the time to slip into a more comfortable pink tube top and light brown jacket with white Capri pants. Tak meanwhile was still wearing a black suit with an equally dark tie, his dress shirt navy. A server had just delivered their drinks, Tak going for tea while Tasia chose cocoa. "So what can I do for you?" asked Tak, apparently surprised.
"You can probably guess, but I'll be blunt," declared Tasia, leaning forward slightly. "I know you and Lucy hooked up while I was gone and that it hasn't stopped since I got back." Tasia tried not to smile, as Tak seemed to go pale, nearly knocking over his drink.
"I should have seen this coming," breathed Tak, running a hand through his hair. "So you want me to end it?"
"Well, ideally, but I'm not mad at you," revealed Tasia, getting a raised eyebrow in response. "I mean, Lucienne is extremely gorgeous, we both know that. Hell, half of our agency is very good looking and she still stands out. Plus you've known her for years, so I'm sure a crush of sorts was festering before it happened. What's happened is happened, and I'd be lying if I said I was entirely loyal to her. We were effectively broken up after all."
"So let me guess: you're mad that it's continuing?" deduced Tak, getting a nod. "And you don't blame me?"
"No, like I said, I get why you're continuing," Tasia assured her colleague. "Lucy however didn't even have the decency to tell me. That actually bugs me since while we've always ultimately been faithful during our time together, when weÕve strayed we were always honest about it. Her not telling me has me worried that she's actually not sure who she wants to be with."
"So she's two-timing us while trying to sort her feelings out," realized Tak, nodding. "Okay, that's actually a very reasonable thing to be angry about, since its just causing you anxiety until a decision is made."
"Exactly, and while I'd hate to be the one who loses, I'd just like a result," declared Tasia, taking a sip of her drink. "Wouldn't mind a threesome before the end though..." she smiled slyly.
"Wait, what?" sputtered Tak, taken aback. Tasia was about to expand but was interrupted by a scream, which caused her to turn and see people with Desert Eagle pistols being raised to fire at them. Neither assailant needed an introduction as Tasia had helped put both in jail in the past: one was Rajni Arora, a Type-7 dealer she'd busted shortly after she'd first met Tucker Holmes, and the other was Barry Finnegan, a scientific genius of a nerdy basement-dweller that she'd helped put away twice already.
"Down!" shouted Tak, pushing the table forward as the first shots rang out and the agents hit the floor. Instinctively Tasia reached over to Tak, who was flat against the floor behind the fallen table while trying to pull out his Ruger, and concentrated, activating her ability. Moments later the gunshot echoes faded abruptly, with the screams also going silent as Tasia stopped time.
"What the..." muttered Tak, looking around in surprise as he'd never seen time itself stop before. People were perfectly suspended, one man flying in mid-air while trying to dive to the ground. The shots fired from the guns were hanging in the air as well, the fallen dishes too. The most notable suspended object was a cup of coffee that now flowed to Tak's right, the cup inverted and its hot liquid spread out in the air like a cloud.
"Different, isn't it?" remarked Tasia with a smile, sticking a piece of gum into her mouth as she stood. "I certainly never get tired of it. So, recognize those two?"
"From the files, yes," acknowledged Tak, focusing on the pair. "Barry Finnegan and Rajni Arora, the former from two separate incidents including an attack on top IT personnel, the latter responsible for supplying a rich punk with Type-7 she got from the Paradise Foundation before its demise." Barry Finnegan was a bit short and round; though prison life had apparently thinned him out some since sheÕd last seen him. The man still possessed what was sometimes called a Jew-fro though it appeared a bit combed back and he was wearing a fine-looking black suit, the weapon in his hand a massive Desert Eagle apparently modified to fire darts. Rajni was around Barry's height and held an identical gun like his, also wearing a dark suit with her hair up in a large bun. Both held their weapons two-handed, proving they weren't utterly incompetent, but Barry did have his right eye closed.
"They sure made this easy," laughed Tasia, causing Tak to turn. The Greek woman had plucked a couple of darts from the air and quickly jabbed one into the chest of each shooter.
"Better take these too," noted Tak, carefully removing the guns from the shooters' hands. "When you let time move again I'll call it in, get Gaspar to send someone with the police." Tak paused as he put the guns on the ground, glancing at Tasia while she surveyed the rest of the scene. "Don't think we're just going to stop our earlier conversation here though, despite the rude interruption."
"Wouldn't dream of it," chuckled Tasia.
Tesco, London, UK
Jason Holland was regretting his choice to go with a couple of his co-workers to shop for groceries at the Tesco a few blocks from the ITEA HQ. The reality was Jason didn't need much aside from some milk and a nice fish, but he enjoyed having company while out and about. Yelena and Megan however were making him reconsider his stance.
"Oh come on, everyone knows you two have a history, why not share it?" asked Yelena Nikitin, a member of the HQ's security who typically worked day shifts. Only in her mid-twenties Jason found Yelena to be fairly attractive in spite of her profession and tall build, her hair a lovely blond and her eyes a piercing blue. Unfortunately Yelena hadn't stopped asking about Jason's history with security member Christina Merritt since they'd arrived at the shop.
"I really don't see why you keep dodging it," added Megan Gage, one of the agency's support technicians. Essentially an analyst, Megan's job was to give field teams real-time assistance from HQ in terms of maps and other logistics information they couldn't actively get at themselves. Megan possessed very fair skin with brown hair and a tiny chrome barbell piercing in her left eyebrow. Megan's outfit in particular perplexed Jason a bit; she was wearing a white spaghetti strap blouse with a matching lace shawl over-top of it, her pants just typical blue jeans while her hair was also extremely straight and nearly all tucked behind her ears.
"Look, just because people know something is there doesn't mean they need to know all the details," protested Jason, eyeing a nice halibut in the cooled fish section of the meat market while Yelena was looking at ham. Megan meanwhile was just hovering, not seeming to need anything in the present area, though Jason suspected it was because she was a vegetarian and thus was just there for the companionship and gossip.
"Right, but if you tell even one person then we stop asking," pointed out Yelena, adding a healthy-looking honey ham to her basket.
"Yeah, but then the point of holding out becomes pointless and our right to privacy is shattered," countered Jason, shaking his head. "We'll share it when we feel like it, not just because people know about it."
"A pity," sighed Megan, glancing elsewhere. "I'm going to go look at the lettuce."
"Look, can you at least tell me if it was romantic or not?" asked Yelena as Megan headed away from her and Jason. "If someone wants to try and ask one of you two out I'd like to at least be able to give a heads-up when appropriate."
Jason smiled slightly, mostly due to Yelena's Russian accent getting extremely thick with that last sentence. "Well..." began Jason, only to stop when a scream rang out.
"He's got a gun!" shouted a random man from nearby as shots rang out, Jason and Yelena both instinctively diving for cover. Glass shattered, people ran left and right, items fell from shelves and the slightly muted puff of an automatic weapon was heard from the front of the store. While reaching for his sidearm, Jason noted the sound indicated sub-sonic ammunition and possibly a silencer, though the latter had little to do with the amount of noise a gun would make.
"This guy's got Type-7!" warned Yelena, hiding behind one shelf with her Glock in her hands. Jason was curious how Yelena knew but then saw a couple of fleeing people clearly frozen in the aisle they were on either side of, one guy with his feet positioned so he was clearly in mid-run. Down the aisle Jason saw that the gunman was wearing a bulky dark blue trench coat, possessed a full brown beard, mop-like hair, wraparound sunglasses and an FN SCAR-L assault rifle. The rifle was unusual since it was almost exclusively used by the US military and a few small private military contractors, making the shooter a professional, not that the fact that he had an assault rifle hadn't already tipped him off. Jason tried to level his Ruger at the shooter but a quick burst from the larger weapon had him ducking back behind his cover.
"We need to flank him!" Jason told Yelena, glancing around. The chaos had subsided a bit, many people either hiding behind shelves or having rushed through the back of the building where one man was helping people exit. The problem was the shooter was right by the cash registers and thus the main exits, plus from what Jason had been able to see quite a few more people had been frozen up front. Ideally the shooter's SCAR could only hold thirty rounds but Jason had also seen he'd managed to find a drum for it, meaning he easily had between fifty and one hundred shots, most likely the latter with about half of the capacity gone.
"I got it," whispered Yelena, her mouth movements doing most of the work since Jason couldn't really hear her but read her lips. Yelena then slowly rose, still concealed by the edge of the shelf she was behind, and after a quick breath dove to the next one, as a quick burst hit in the meat section past where she'd been momentarily while in motion.
"No one move, I'll be gone in a moment!" shouted the man in a deep voice, his accent sounding American to Jason though he couldn't be sure, there a hint of a Canadian inflection to it. Yelena meanwhile did another roll but, surprisingly, no shots followed. Curious, Jason risked a quick glance around the corner and was surprised to find the shooter gone from his line of sight.
"Yelena, he's on the move!" Jason shouted, forgoing subtlety and instead hurrying down his own aisle, not wanting the gunman to get away. As Jason reached the other end however gunfire shattered some nearby jars of jam and Jason hit the floor.
"Thank you, you've been a wonderful store!" called out the gunman, a few more bursts following. Jason stayed down but heard a pistol fire back, most likely Yelena's. With the shots seeming to be nowhere near him, Jason took the risk of getting up and trying to spot the shooter, only to have his eyes widen and his weapon fire in vain. The gunman had made it to the other side of the main doors with his gun still trained on the store, the glass shattered from the firefight. The issue was that the man had a stiffened hostage, someone clearly frozen as she was being dragged away on her heels with her arms at her sides and no shouts coming from her uncovered mouth. The gunman's hostage was Megan.
"Yelena, come on!" yelled Jason, running forward to get behind the cash counters as more shots rang out. To Jason's dismay he spotted Yelena nearby, standing tall in her black pants and T-shirt, her Glock held tightly in both hands and her weapon trained too far to the left to be at the gunman. The rigidity of how Yelena stood with a fixed expression on her face, a serious one with a deadly gaze, indicated she'd been hit in spite of her efforts. Jason guessed Yelena had become aware that Megan was the hostage before Jason, hence why she seemed to have been frozen in such an exposed point, more focused on saving her friend than watching her own safety.
Uttering a curse under his breath, Jason jumped up and fired off a couple more shots, his Ruger clicking empty as he saw the gunman reach a van. Holstering his dart weapon Jason drew his standard service pistol, a SIG P226, and burst after the escaping criminal. Megan had been pushed into the back of the vehicle and the gunman had reached the driver's seat, thus Jason decided to aim for the car's tires. Unfortunately the criminal still had a gun, now a pistol instead of his rifle, and returned fire on Jason, forcing him to again seek cover behind a nearby car. Moments later the van sped off and Jason chose to hold his fire, the vehicle was already in traffic by the time he lined up his aim.
"Shit," muttered Jason, frantically searching for his phone as he had managed to note the vehicle's license plate, though now the odds of catching the crook were slim.
Palmira Tiago's Apartment, Sevenoaks, UK
Palmira sat in front of her TV with a wine cooler, sighing to herself as she watched the news. The beautiful special agent had made no plans for the evening, wanting to stay in, but now she was regretting her choice. Palmira was relaxing in a soft purple robe with wolf-colored slippers on her feet, her hair down as she lay on her couch.
A ring of her apartment's doorbell surprised her, especially given she hadn't let anyone in via the intercom, but Palmira nonetheless got up to see how it was, a Glock hidden in a pocket of her robe if she ever needed it. Upon glancing out the peephole Palmira was stunned when she saw who it was, needing a moment to decide if she'd open the door or call the police, and if she did open the door if she'd have her gun out.
"Hello, beautiful," greeted Xavier Alberic as Palmira slowly opened the door. The handsome younger man's hair was slicked back, a bit different than his usual style, and he was wearing a white golf shirt with dark green pants, a tan vest over his shirt.
"What the hell are you doing here and how did you find me?" asked Palmira, were voice low. Seeing Xavier again reminded Palmira of how good it had felt to take Type-7 and know he'd make love with her while she was frozen, allowing her to awaken in bliss. Such passion, especially from a younger and handsome man, always felt like the ultimate compliment to the IT agent.
"I have my ways, and as for why I'm here..." answered Xavier, leaning in. Palmira hesitated as Xavier touched her face but, moments later, she gave in and returned her ex-lover's kiss, the door closing behind them as he entered her apartment.
It wasn't clear who was guiding whom to the couch, but either way that's where the pair ended up, with Palmira on the bottom. Xavier then suddenly stopped and looked down in surprise. "Is that a gun?" Xavier asked, surprised.
"Sorry, just in case," revealed Palmira, pulling out her weapon and hesitating before putting it aside. "Xavier... this weapon is loaded with Type-7 darts... Inject me with one."
"You wish to become the world's most beautiful statue?" enquired Xavier in a low voice as he lightly kissed Palmira's cleavage.
"Yes, I want it to be like before," breathed Palmira, feeling herself becoming greatly aroused. "Make me feel like the most beautiful woman in the world..."
"That shouldn't be too hard given it's a fact," Xavier softly chuckled as he took the gun and ejected a dart, then putting the Glock aside and with gentle fingers pushing the dart into Palmira's neck. As her senses faded Palmira wanted to smile, feeling orgasmic as the drug did its job.
* * *
Palmira was frozen, laying on her back with arms around sprawled around her head, her eyes open and a sensual smile on her lips. Xavier returned the smile, pushing aside a few stray hairs and giving his former lover a long kiss. Then, however, Xavier stopped and pulled out his cell phone.
"It's done, I'll head meet you at the airport in an hour," Xavier told Derek Grisham over the phone, then hanging up. Looking at Palmira, Xavier then sighed. "A shame we won't get to finish until later my love, but I think you'll enjoy New York... I just regret having to do this as well." Xavier gave Palmira one more kiss before pulling out a chip and moving to place it on the back of the frozen woman's neck.
Starry Nights, London, UK
"Now that was fun, fun, fun..." giggled Ariel as she draped her arms over her companions Colette Landry and Jelena Hendraille. The three had just left the lively club where they'd enjoyed a somewhat short evening of dancing and drinking, all of them having scheduled to come in a bit later than usual the next day. Ariel was wearing a light grey dress that had a couple of stylish slits to show parts of her hips as well as V-section around her breasts and a very low back, she left her hair hanging free with the left side behind her ear.
"I did like the look of that guy with the goatee," mused Colette, her hair given a bit of curl and pushed behind both ears while she wore a red tube top and dark blue jeans as well as black string heels.
"Pretty sure his friend was sketchy though," noted Jelena, her hair in a ponytail that rested on her right shoulder while she wore a dark green leather jacket over a yellow tank top and with pants that matched the jacket save that they were cotton, with stilettos on her feet. The night had gone well but Ariel was a bit overly drunk, Jelena and Colette meanwhile hovered within the legal limit though walking a bit unsteadily to where they'd meet their taxi all the same.
"Too bad, I think cousin could use a guy right now," sighed Ariel, getting a small elbow in reply. The three then laughed, only to suddenly stop as an unmarked black van suddenly jumped the curb and pulled up right in front of them.
"Watch out!" shouted Jelena, working with Colette to pull Ariel into a nearby alley as the van's door opened and two people in ski masks emerged with sub-machine guns. Sub-sonic gunfire rang out as Colette and Jelena raided their purses for their side arms. The alley had no other exit so the agents were trapped.
"Stay down," Colette whispered to Ariel, who seemed a bit confused at what was going on. Jelena meanwhile trained her Glock at the alley's entrance and opened fire when a head took a peek down it.
"I'll take them, you cover me," Jelena told Colette, then quickly running forward in spite of her heels. Colette tried to follow but instead ended up breaking her right shoe, causing her to collapse in a stylish heap. Jelena didn't have time to react however as one of the masked people was within punching range when she rounded the corner and a fist-fight broke out, Jelena noting the black-clad person was a woman with skin reminiscent of dark honey. Jelena's initial attack knocked the masked person's gun, a HK UMP, aside, but she herself was disarmed in turn. The second masked person tried to aim at Jelena with her own UMP but Colette finally arrived, shooting and freezing the second attacker while she, as she was also female, trained her gun on the Croatian. Colette didn't have a chance to try and shoot the person Jelena was fighting as it was then that the van moved, pulling up beside the three with the driver opening fire using a pistol. Jelena managed to kick her opponent in the chest and knock them back, then moving to disarm the driver while Colette had ducked back into the alley for cover.
"What's going on?" muttered Ariel, her words a bit slurred as she emerged from the alley. Jelena wanted to shout a warning but it was too late, a dart from the driver's gun finding a target in the former model. Ariel instantly froze in mid-step, her arms out beside her seemingly for balance with her mouth open and her eyes half closed, the momentum actually causing the French-Canadian beauty to topple over.
"Ariel!" cried out Colette, moving to her cousin's side. Jelena was also distracted enough to leave her vulnerable, the person she'd tried to fight tackling her to the ground while the driver's gun went off again. As she lay on the concrete in a daze Jelena saw ColetteÕs stiffened form being grasped at by the person that had just slammed her into the ground, the other blond agent now frozen as well while bent over on one knee, her gun pointed with her left hand at the van while her right touched her cousin, alarm on her face.
"Colette!" exclaimed Jelena, trying to get up but finding it hard to do, one of her ribs appearing to be cracked. As Jelena struggled to stand the masked woman who wasnÕt frozen dragged her best friend into the van. Just as Jelena managed to get to her feet the masked woman threw a bottle of water at her and the projectile found its mark, striking Jelena square in the eye and causing her to stumble forwards in pain, at which point the driver's door swung open and impacted her arm, knocking the Croatian down.
Jelena lay on the concrete trying desperately to move only to find it hard, her very senses coming and going. Sirens were heard in the distance as the van suddenly sped away, an accented voice shouting as it did. "We can't leave Zhen!" screamed the mystery woman as Jelena suddenly found darkness take her, her last conscious thoughts to the friend she'd failed to save.
Balfour Boutique, Santa Monica, USA
"I like that new girl Lexa got," commented Erika Stone as she stepped into the limo last, her other three companions already inside. The blond billionaire had just taken the other three on a spontaneous shopping trip the boutique to help its owner, Lexa Balfour, out a bit since she'd lost a chunk of business back in January thanks to a kidnapper using her boutique as a hideout.
"She seems very delightful," agreed Ingrid Stone, Erika's mother. The gorgeous older woman was wearing a yellow sundress and a stylish white fedora, a bit unusual for her, but she'd been talked into it by Lexa.
"I can't believe I'd never heard of the place," remarked Carol Wilford, one of Ingrid's closest friends. The brunette had her hair in a ponytail and also wore a sundress, hers purple.
"Well, I must say, thank you Miss Stone for inviting me," offered Kylie McBride, one of Erika's attorneys. The junior partner at Foster & McBride, Erika hadn't gotten to know Kylie until more recently, now that she'd found need to actually have her lawyers in the loop. Kylie was a very attractive redhead, about ten years older than Erika, who wore a white business dress with a black blouse underneath. In spite of the urging of the other women she'd gone with, Kylie hadn't bought anything yet, though she was now considering other colors for her outfits.
"Please Kylie, its just Erika," insisted the Stone Enterprises CEO as she buckled in, the limo then starting to move. Erika herself had worn her hair out, giving it a bit of a wave-curl and sporting a red halter-top with white short-shorts.
"Well, thank youÉ Erika," offered the lawyer, smiling brightly. "Levy will kill me though, not talking business the whole time."
"Let him worry about that," laughed Ingrid, opening up the bar chest in the middle of the limo. Carol had just bought the vehicle and hired the driver the other day, offering to show it off to her friend and daughter. The seats were black leather with individual heating controls and there was a small island that acted as a bar and fridge. Ingrid pulled out a martini glass and got to work on a Cosmopolitan.
"It's just nice to be able to have some fun with people I normally only see when something serious is going on," sighed Erika as she leaned back in her seat. It was then that the billionaire noticed that the driver was heading south instead of west, but as she reached for the intercom controls she suddenly blacked out.
* * *
"Too easy," chuckled No Name, having pulled into a private hangar at LAX and then gone to check on his passengers. Upon learning that Carol Wilford, one of the people he'd been tracking, was looking for a limo driver he'd posed as a man sent by the company that had sold her the limousine and, as luck would have it, she was visiting both Ingrid and Erika the same day. The limo already possessed special fans and gas containers for spreading fragrant scents so he'd just modified them to disperse Type-7 and it had worked like a charm. The four had been quick-frozen within a moment.
Erika was to No Name's right, leaning to her right with her arm reaching up towards the control panel in the centre of the ceiling with a look of concern on her face. Ingrid held a martini glass in her right hand with her left holding a bottle of vodka citron, a bright smile on her face and the bottle tipped just slightly towards the glass. Carol was looking at Kylie with a toothless smile, holding open a bag to show the contents to her companion. Kylie meanwhile was looking to the bag with great interest, her lips pursed almost as if to whistle while her hands were clasped together, seemingly in wonder. The motionless scene looked like something captured in a still photograph.
No Name went for his phone, glad he'd waited until the last scheduled stop before springing his trap. It was getting into the middle of the afternoon, which meant it was very late in the UK, which in turn meant more or less every Ouroboros operation would have been executed in synch, even his. "I'll be in New York in a few hours," No Name told his employer over the phone. "We should be ready for London in two days."
Part 3: Reactions
ITEA HQ, London, UK
Lucienne Christophe was glad she smoked, as it was days like today that she needed a vice to indulge in. It was nine in the morning and she'd already been up all night speaking with police representatives and many others, trying to understand just what exactly had happened to her agents the previous night. Colette Landry, Megan Gage and Palmira Tiago were all unaccounted for, as was Anna Federov, the last of the four having seemingly called in sick the past few days but now having no excuse. Palmira's absence was also unexplained but both Colette and Megan had been blatantly kidnapped by people using Type-7, the very kind of drug the ITEA worked to control. The fact these criminals had blatantly used this particular drug was giant slap in the agency's face. Or a message.
Besides the missing agents there were others who had been attacked; Jelena Hendraille was hospitalized with two cracked ribs and a dislocated left arm as well as a swollen eye and a moderate concussion. The ribs were the only serious part of Jelena's injuries luckily, as her eye was already on the mend as was the arm; her concussion was only considered moderate, as while she had blacked out it had only been for a minute and a half or so. Nessa Kelly, Juro Takashi, Ariel Landry, Yelena Nikitin, Jason Holland, Takahishi Nakamura and Tasia Spiro were all also attacked but had managed to come out unscathed, at worst a couple of them being frozen by Type-7 darts.
The good news was several of the attackers had been captured, though interestingly they were all people IT had put away before: Mike Bailey, Barry Finnegan, Rajni Arora and Zhen Shan. It had been confirmed that all of them had disappeared from their respective incarcerations within the past week or so; Team Gamma leader Hui Lan was currently on the phone down in her office with Hong Kong to investigate Zhen Shan's recent escape.
Currently six people sat in Lucienne's office, all of them looking tired and shaken by recent events. First there was Miranda Ohala, Hui's second-in-command and lover. The Hawaiian looked particularly drained, with her hair a bit of a mess in spite of being in a ponytail and her business suit looked uneven. Ivan Popov, leader of Team Epsilon, was also present, not even wearing his favorite cowboy hat given the seriousness of the situation, also having skipped shaving that morning. Caesar Francisco, leader of Team Delta, was dressed casually as well, having come in straight from a late night movie with his wife. Sophia Katsopolis from Team Alpha was present and ready to act as a replacement for Palmira as leader of Team Zeta if she indeed was also kidnapped, but the older Greek woman was practically falling asleep in her chair. Tasia herself seemed not too bad off but Lucienne knew that, thanks to her special gift, Tasia was used to going a long time without sleep. Finally there was Cassandra Flick, leader of Team Beta, who was actually asleep leaning back in her own chair, or at least napping given she seemed too naturally at ease to be fully asleep.
"I just got through to Victor; he's fine he just apparently turned off his phone," reported Ivan, handing up his cell phone. "Team Epsilon is fully functional."
"Still no answer from Palmira," reported Sophia, who was working with her own cell. Cassandra had been the first to confirm her team's status, hence why Lucienne didn't mind that she was more or less asleep. Given the seriousness of the situation, Lucienne had requested that her group be in her office when they try to contact unaccounted-for agents and other personnel, feeling it was more efficient to get real-time updates. Lucienne now regretted that snap decision since it meant she couldn't smoke at the moment.
"Kioni is working on Finnegan right now; it's been decided he'll probably crack first," announced Caesar, having been put in charge of coordinating the interrogations. "Gregory's working on Bailey as well with Arora next up. It's been more or less decided Shan won't likely break, given how long she held out in Hong Kong."
"Fair enough," agreed Lucienne. Miranda seemed ready to speak next as the door to the office opened and in walked Camille Lambert, the agency's second secretary, who'd been called in to help deal with the current crisis in terms of calls. Camille had originally worked for Interpol before Lucienne recruited her when forming the ITEA.
"Director Christophe, there's a call on line 3 that requires your urgent attention," announced the dark-haired woman, looking very concerned. Perplexed, Lucienne picked up her phone and connected to line 3.
"Director Christophe," offered Lucienne into the line.
"I'll be frank," came an electronically distorted voice. "Last night you captured four of our people, but we have four of yours: Anna Federov, Colette Landry, Palmira Tiago and Megan Gage. Tiago in particular is one of your team leaders, isn't she?"
"Who the hell is this?!" Lucienne yelled into the phone, getting everyone else's attention, Cassandra even stirring.
"I go by Void," revealed the voice. "My organization, Ouroboros, is claiming responsibility for the attacks on your people. As I've said however we have three of your agents plus one of your technicians. We would like to arrange an exchange."
"What - your people for ours?" asked Lucienne, then covering the mouthpiece. "Are we tracing this?"
"Yes, but they're distorting the base code; best we can tell itÕs in North America or Western Europe," explained Camille, looking very apologetic.
"I don't need my failures coming back," dismissed the voice. "We'll return your people... in exchange for Tasia Spiro. You'll receive another call tomorrow to confirm." With that, the line went dead and Lucienne was left dumbfounded, looking up at her female lover with wide eyes.
"Camille, have that conversation circulated to everyone, even security," ordered Lucienne, tapping the phone against her desk very hand. "I'm not about to get out-maneuvered, not this time!"
Stilton Corporation Headquarters, New York City, USA
Inside his hidden hideout, Richard had mixed feelings about the current operation. On the one hand several people he'd long desired had fallen into his hands, but on the other far too many of his agents had failed for his liking, though he had expected some losses. Richard's plan wasn't to have every single capture succeed, but he had put more effort into the planned kidnappings he wanted to go well. Barry Finnegan's failure in particular annoyed Richard as while he'd paired him with Rajni, the young scientist had managed to defeat several IT agents in Oslo last month, somehow both had been captured while their target escaped.
Brushing aside his frustrations, Richard decided it was time to check in on his top scientist. As Richard turned a few corners in the underground shelter he remembered how pleased he'd been to acquire the services of his lab genius. An MIT graduate, this scientist had taught at the California Institute of Technology for two years, specializing in theoretical physics. Intrigued, Richard had initially hired the professor as a consultant for some unique architecture projects, secretly also leaking her information he'd gathered on the temporal gene from various sources. Soon afterwards Caltech was out a professor and Richard had the person he needed to make his dream a reality.
The automatic door to the lab slid open as Richard walked in, smiling at the sight of Dr. Sarah Hardy, Sc.D., who besides being brilliant was a very attractive woman. The tall blue-eyed dirty blond wore her white lab coat like a model, a non-revealing red tank top and jeans underneath with her hair hanging loose, though it was actually controlled through the rigorous use of styling techniques. The thirty-five year old looked up at Richard and smiled as he approached, tapping a few buttons on her CyTek brand tablet computer, called the CyPad.
"Good morning sir; as you can see I've been just finishing tests on our latest weapon," greeted the scientist, indicating her lab. The workspace was more or less what one would expect, a somewhat cold metal room with several tables covered in equipment. Several more computers were set up, along with other special machines, but most prominent were several pairs of dark welding goggles as well as flashlights and flares. Standing next to two cushioned lab beds were Charlotte Lune and Natalie Hudgens, both women Ouroboros had kidnapped in the past. Charlotte had dark brown hair and fair skin; she was a journalist from Paris, while Natalie was a dark-skinned Brit who'd been a member of a street gang prior to her own capture. Both were dressed in simple hospital gowns, their hair also loose and a bit of a mess, neither having probably showered for a couple of days.
"What are the results?" asked Richard, noting both women were standing at rigid attention and appeared to be frozen, though they were both chipped as well.
"Absolute stasis achieved, and the Type-7 had nothing to do with it," revealed Sarah with a proud smile. Richard chuckled slightly and clapped his hands together, inspecting both immobilized women closely. Charlotte in particular Richard took a moment to look at from behind, not having seen her much since Xavier had frequently played around with her before Sarah had needed a guinea pig for her latest weapon. Natalie also stared blankly into space, a living statue.
"Make sure No Name's team has it with them when they go to meet the ITEA," Richard told his prized scientist, truly pleased to have recruited her. The new weapon would be a big surprise for IT, but it wasn't what Richard was truly interested in. "Is the Gate ready?" asked Richard.
"I'm having Colette go over the code for the software now," confirmed Sarah, indicating another exit from her lab. "Kidnapping her was extremely helpful. Programming a lab assistant to know what you need them to know almost defeats the purpose. Better to have people who already know what they're doing that you can simply command."
"I'm sorry then weÕll have to send her back, but if all goes well she'll be returned in exchange for our prize," offered Richard, following Sarah out of the lab. The next room contained five of the captives Ouroboros had acquired, three standing off to one side of the room and two on the other. Anna Federov, dressed in a white business suit with a caramel-colored blouse on underneath, was on the left-hand side of the part of the room, her back to the two others with her head turned to the left, a prop gun held in her hands and raised up. The middle woman was Palmira Tiago, a prop pistol in each hand with them pointing forwards, her hair in a ponytail and her face looking very serious while she wore leather pants and a white tank top. Finally there was Megan Gage, dressed the same as when she'd been picked up, only now holding a tablet computer of her own, her right finger touching the screen with her back to Anna's and her head turned to her right. The three immobilized IT members greatly resembled a poster pose for a female action movie or television series.
The other side of the room only held Carol Wilford and Kylie McBride, but both were dressed very unusually. Carol was literally costumed as Wonder Woman, sporting the iconic red and blue star-spangled one-piece that seemed to basically be a one-piece strapless bikini with a golden emblem on the chest. Carol also wore red stiletto heels, golden bracers and a tiara; her hair had been dyed black and combed back behind her ears. She stood, motionless and proud with her hands on her hips and a gold-colored lasso near her right hand. Kylie meanwhile, wore a golden bird-shaped helmet/mask as well as a yellow tube top, black slacks and yellow stilettos, a pair of brown buckles holding a pair of angelic wings on her back while she hefted a mace in her hands, with her left holding the crown while the right held the handle. She, too, didnÕt move a muscle and so looked like a life-sized action figure. Richard struggled with his memory for a moment but then identified the outfit as being one of Hawkgirl, another character from DC Comics. "Should I ask?" remarked Richard, looking at Sarah with a smile.
"I had the costumes handy, and I'd always wanted to recreate that pose from the Fine Art of Crime episode of the Wonder Woman video show," confessed Sarah, turning a bit red in the cheeks. For all her brilliance, Richard knew Sarah was a bit hindered by her love for comics, the woman having a literal fetish for people dressed up in detailed costumes.
Continuing down the hall, the pair emerged in another large room where a bulky machine was resting, and they weren't alone. Julio Sanchez, dressed in a fine Italian suit that had been tailored for him up in the city the previous day, was there along with another familiar face. Speaking with Julio was Xavier Alberic, who'd returned first from the UK with Palmira and ever since had been the former Foundation leader's personal guide. Also with Xavier however was Richard's secret aide, one who'd never actually aided in an Ouroboros operation in spite knowing all about it. The woman, in spite of being nearly forty, was quite gorgeous; she had very long blond hair with a great deal of body, sporting a black business dress that could make almost anyone look sexy, given how tightly it hugged her toned form.
"Julio, Xavier, Patricia," good to see you all, greeted Richard, shaking hands with Julio and Xavier before giving Patricia Mero a quick kiss on the cheek. The room the group was in seemed like a nice enough one, having fine white-marble floors, oak-panel walls and even windows with a simulated view beyond them, the actual location still being deep underground. Two armed guards in full black body armor were also present, each touting an FN SCAR. The rifles were hard to come by, being primarily used by the US Navy SEAL force, but Richard had his contacts and wanted high-end firepower for his personal protectors. The two guards were a part of Richard's standard security but were also chipped to ensure they didn't repeat anything they were about to witness.
"I must say Richard, I'd have never of guessed you'd succeed where the Foundation failed," mused Julio, glancing at the massive machine that occupied the center of the room. "I can only guess that this puts the Uranus Generator to shame." The machine was basic enough at first glance, just a large metal archway, but the rows of computer banks on either side of the room gave away the rest of its nature. Colette Landry, chipped and compliant, was also present, tapping away at one computer on the left side of the room, still dressed as she'd been when Tamaya and Charles had brought her in.
"In a matter of speaking," confirmed Richard, smiling. "You'll have to pardon me, for I've wanted to get a bit theatrical about this for a while now." Sarah walked over to work with Colette while Xavier, Patricia and Julio all stood back. Richard stepped up in front of the arch and faced them.
"When I first created Ouroboros, my plan was simply to exploit Paradise FoundationÕs research and further it, but then Dr. Hardy and I realized far more could be achieved with the temporal gene than simply creating a massive machine able to stop time," announced Richard, gesturing theatrically at the device behind him as he spoke and giving into the child-like glee he possessed at the moment. "Stopping time is all well and good, but those protected from the effects still age and die. As a man whose daughter is an imbecile, unlike the more fortunate Eric Stone, I constantly worry what will become of my legacy when I die."
With a gesture at Sarah, two circular glass tubes were suddenly lowered from the ceiling, each containing a visible shapely female form within. One cylinder contained Erika Stone, the other her mother Ingrid Stone, both laying prone with electrodes connected to their naked bodies, their eyes open but no motion being produced as they were fully under the control of chips, though advanced ones with a real-time connection to the computer system that was set up.
"Julio, you did have a vision, but you thought too small," declared Richard. "I shall use this, the Immortality Gate, to become the man who will never die! This is my greatest dream, and it is about to come to fruition!"
To be concluded!
Tommy Chen - Chang Chen
Yan Yun - Hu Jun
Tamaya Qillaq AKA Mrs Earth - Mickie James
Zhen Shan AKA Miss Tao - Zhang Ziyi
No Name AKA Peter Knight AKA Mr Void - Nolan North
Richard Stilton - Malcolm McDowell
Maris Stilton - Paris Hilton
Xavier Alberic - Chace Crawford
Eva Hallowell - Kate Mara
Rina Corde - Sharon Stone
Mary Thatcher - Teri Hatcher
Derek Grisham AKA Mr. Fire - Chuck Liddell
Barry Finnegan AKA Mr. Water - Jonah Hill
Mike Bailey AKA Mr. Ice - Shawn Ashmore
Rajni Arora AKA Mrs. Sand - Aishwarya Rai
Charles Truman III AKA Mr. Wood - Mark Webber
Julio Sanchez - Joaquim de Almeida
Robert Warner - Alfred Molina
Mallory Keaton - Diane Lane
Julienne Bertrand - Sophie Marceau
Sonia Castillo - Catherine Zeta Jones
Raymond Bishop - Clive Owen
Mira Stolar - Stana Katic
Lucienne Christophe - Josie Maran
Kimberly Ewart - Rachel McAdams
Nessa Kelly - Olivia Wilde
Juro Takashi - Masi Oka
Tasia Spiro - Doukissa Nomikou
Takahishi Nakamura - Takuya Kimura
Jason Holland - David Tennant
Yelena Nikitin - Adrianne Palicki
Megan Gage - Summer Glau
Palmira Tiago - Jennifer Lopez
Ariel Landry - Maryse Ouellet
Colette Landry - Lara Vandervoort
Jelena Hendraille - Briana Evigan
Erika Stone - Hilarie Burton
Ingrid Stone - Kim Cattrall
Carol Wilford - Melinda Clarke
Kylie McBride - Alicia Witt
Cassandra Flick - Emily Deschanel
Miranda Ohala - Malika Dudley
Ivan Popov - Timothy Olyphant
Caesar Francisco - Jared Leto
Sophia Katsopolis - Sofia Milos
Camille Lambert - Minka Kelly
Sarah Hardy - Tricia Helfer
Charlotte Lune - Charlene Amoia
Natalie Hudgens - Freema Agyeman
Anna Federov - Sasha Alexander
Patricia Mero - Rena Mero