Twenty-One

July 12th, 2024
1800
Kowloon, Hong Kong
People’s Republic of China
Her new employers fell into line behind her, and Reyes flung open the hotel room door where she had first met with the slovenly hacker Sobek.
Reyes had arrived in Hong Kong a few days ago, expecting to pick up a few easy jobs for quick money. It was on her regular circuit, and she had quickly decamped to a familiar hotel in Kowloon. After a hot shower, she had updated her location status on Panther and indicated that her skills were available. Almost immediately, an anonymous user contacted her with a protection request.
Reyes had many skills. Often, she took jobs extracting information from overly chatty businessmen...or, at least they were chatty, once she did her work on them. For the most part, industrial espionage was what she did. After all, it was the most lucrative field on Panther. Despite the fact there was a never-ending cavalcade of skanks moving in on her territory, she was one of the best. What stood out to her employers was that she was a kind of Renaissance woman. Her Mossad training had prepared her for much more than wearing high heels and small black dresses. Her repertoire was mostly consensual extraction, but if required, enhanced interrogation methods were an option she offered for an additional fee. She hated getting her hands bloody. It wasn’t a moral issue; she just hated the mess. Reyes was familiar with all kinds of weapons and was an exceptionally talented marksman, but what motivated her most was revenge. She longed to find the man who had killed her father. Money was a means to that end, and until she had the intelligence or the opportunity to do that man in, she would continue to take these sorts of jobs on Panther.
Once she had been engaged, Reyes had made her way to Hong Kong’s brand new five-star hotel, The Spire, and met with Sobek. Loki looked just as she had imagined him to look. The Pole was short and compact. He wore a wrinkled, faded tee shirt that advertised a techno band on the front. They didn’t have much to talk about. Sobek was reluctant to talk about his patron and whatever information that he had, and that was fine with Reyes. She decamped to the lobby to identify any questionable characters on the way up and to give Sobek a call to run.
She first noticed the man a few minutes after settling into an oversized chair and picking up one of the complimentary tablets. He looked deeply familiar, and after a moment she realized she had most definitely had seen the man before. He was some low-level mercenary, and she couldn’t remember if she’d run into him in Sudan or Argentina. It meant no difference. Muscle was here, and more than likely, they were gunning for Sobek. She’d contacted him on her watch communicator, given him their agreed upon code for “get out” and she casually made her way to the elevator. A quick call also informed her new employer and his intermediary, Taksin, that he had better come quickly, or not at all.
In the hotel room, Sobek had wisely smashed all his computer gear. In a corner of the room, a battered heap of laptop computers lay against the wall, abandoned. Some of the screens were splintered, and some of the machines had been cracked open and had their drives smashed, or taken. A quick glance around the room told the group that they were alone. The steamy air of Hong Kong diluted the canned atmosphere of the hotel, but the most intense smell was one of burning. There was an open window, burnt open with the assistance of some moldable thermite Sobek had on hand for his escape.
"Gideon, grab and bag," the one she knew as Markus yelled to the large black man. The man obliged, hurrying over to the computers and shoving the technology into his enormous pack, which he then slung onto his back.
"C’mon, move it!" The Boy Scout looking soldier named Daniel exclaimed. A master of reading men, she knew his heart was pumping hard from the rush of adrenalin as the combination of fear and excitement coursed through his body. She guessed that he was experienced, but he'd not imagined he would find himself in a firefight in Hong Kong.
She motioned for the group to follow her out the window, and Markus and Daniel followed her onto the gritty gray tile of the adjoining building roof. The trio looked to their side to see another group of four men in dark civilian clothes, but wearing vests that affiliated them with their attackers. They were also running along Sobek’s route, but were on the roof of a building two stories below.
Reyes’s group immediately took cover behind some large industrial air conditioning and ventilation units. Even though the three had never met one another, they immediately fell into a pattern of providing protection and advancing toward where Loki had made his planned escape route. The large pieces of industrial size ventilation equipment provided ample cover. Reyes moved along until she was behind a large piece of equipment.
"Taksin, we need support," Markus yelled into his headset.
"Roger that," Lawan replied, "I’m right behind you...Hang on bro. I got this!”
Markus shook his head in apparent disgust. Reyes, in her conversations with Taksin, had noted the greenness of this new colleague. From Markus’s actions, she determined that he was unimpressed with Taksin’s somewhat disrespectful and unprofessional attitude, but had, for some reason decided to take the young man under his wing. Likewise, for Taksin, he looked up to Markus as a father figure.
Reyes felt a little more hopeful when Markus announced reinforcements were on the way, but she was starting to think her chances of getting off this rooftop were slim. This whole thing had gone badly. Now she might be spending her last few moments on earth stuck on a roof with bumbling nitwits.
Before Reyes could wallow too deeply in despair, the sound of heavy caliber gunfire rang like music to her ears. She saw the large black man, Gideon, emerging from the hotel firing a heavy machine gun, catching the agents below wholly unprepared. He took two men down with well-placed fatal shots. One of them was thrown back to the floor. Another fell over the ledge of the building roof, screaming over the ledge the dozen or so levels to the sidewalk below. The enemy group scrambled to take cover as Gideon showered them with automatic fire. "Reyes, Daniel, move up!" Markus yelled.
Before Reyes could finish the thought, "maybe I'm not going to die today," Reyes and Daniel cautiously moved closer to the roof's edge. She tentatively glanced over the edge and saw her charge, well below them, staring up into her eyes. He wasn’t supposed to be here. His route was supposed to lead him out of the adjacent building and into the transit system, but his fear was palpable.
"There's Loki," Reyes yelled to Daniel. The long-haired man quickly disappeared into the adjoining building. Before Reyes could react to Loki's presence, Lawan Taksin roared over the group in an unusual helicopter. The fuselage looked like an inverted knife, and no one seemed to be flying the helicopter. The Thai was leaning out of the window, firing a rifle down at the enemy. Lawan was channeling every kung-fu commando movie he had ever seen. "Yeah, get some!" Taksin screamed in fury and triumph.
As Reyes watched, two more men in black vests appeared from the hotel room they had just left. One of the men pulled a device that seemed to be a tri-bladed boomerang and threw it into the air. Rocket motors on the three tips ignited, and it sailed through the aether. It impacted with a thud of metal on the side of the little helicopter and the flying machine ignited in a bright orange burst of exploding fuel. The resulting firestorm was so hot it scorched Reyes’s face.
"Noooo!" Markus screamed in fury. In his rage, Markus stood up from behind his cover and mowed down the two men that had just emerged from the hotel.
Reyes did not take a moment to consider what Taksin felt before he died. She had enough problems. Taksin had been employed to do a job, and had failed. Too bad. To salvage the situation, they had to move fast. Their enemy had many men in this area.
“We’re going to have to jump,” she indicated to Boy Scout and dropped down onto the adjacent building’s fire escape. Daniel followed. More of the enemy had moved up on the adjacent roof and fired at them from above. Bullets ricocheted off metal pilings and the side of the building. Chips of white granite flew everywhere. Reyes swung around a corner and fired three shots from her Beretta at their pursuers. Daniel indicated a ledge across the way that would help them escape.
"We've got to jump for it," Daniel said quietly. She considered Daniel’s eyes and saw his resolve and determination. Her jaw tightened and she gestured for Daniel to go first as she laid down cover fire.

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