Arrows of the Leviathan - Chapter 22 - Marketplace Mayhem
Daniel made a running leap and jumped onto the opposite balcony. With one last burst from her pistol and with her heart in her throat, Reyes followed close behind.
They landed on a balcony, which led into a smelly fish market that had been there for decades, unchanged by technologies that had so altered the lives of those who ate their delicacies. Perched on a balcony above the scrum, they were still a good six stories from the ground level. Below them was a warren of tattered stalls where grandmothers of indeterminate age sold their wares, fish, and other accouterments.
The smell of fresh fish was almost overpowering. Even Reyes, who was intensely fond of sushi, was taken aback. They made for the stairs that would take them to the lower lever, where there were even busier stalls, knowing that their pursuers couldn't be far behind them. Daniel and Reyes pushed their way past the stalls further and further into the market. Reyes looked at her watch and held her wrist to her ear, listening for any sign of communication from Loki. Nothing. Reyes shook her head at Daniel to indicate there was no contact as they rounded a corner underneath the old rusty balcony.
Some shopkeepers were still watching the passing throngs, waiting patiently for customers. All in all, it was an ordinary day until the gunfire changed everything. Soon the seasoned fish mongers were covering their goods and taking cover.
Two men in dark vests clanged onto the walkway above and immediately took up firing stances. Reyes and Daniel came crashing through the crowds, sending buyers and sellers into an indignant frenzy until they realized the danger and dove for cover. Reyes and Daniel sprinted around a corner, the sound and heat of bullets whistling past them. Screams could be heard from the central area of the fish market as the two gunmen continued to lay down fire. Daniel and Reyes sprinted in the opposite direction, arriving at a set of stairs leading to a lower level of the market.
The shots from above could still be heard as they made their way downstairs to a fabric market. Shopkeepers and shoppers themselves moved to the atrium to see what was happening.
After a dash through the fabric stalls, and down another flight of stairs, an enormous hallway opened at the bottom of the stairs with numerous doorways and passageways leading off on both sides. At the far end, another two black vests stood waiting for them, raising their weapons as Daniel came into view. Daniel spun to the right, drawing the fire of both of his assailants, allowing Reyes to duck down and find cover in a doorway. Bullets slammed into tile and Reyes watched as Daniel did his best to make himself small. A broken mirror allowed her to watch the two enemy operators. They looked at each other across the expanse of floor and a series of complicated hand gestures fluttered between them, previewing their next movements. The men were sure of their kill. Proud of their superior position, they were caught off guard.
"Where's your man?" whispered Daniel.
"Straight ahead, I think," replied Reyes.
"Better hope so." With almost choreographed movements, Daniel pushed himself out of the passageway. He fired off a couple of shots to keep the attackers guessing before launching himself into a foot first slide along the floor.
Reyes was impressed, and she had to snap out of it to take advantage of the situation. The momentary distraction was all Reyes needed. She erupted from the doorway, and took up a shooting stance. Without taking a breath, she put a bullet through the forehead of the two attackers. The two men dropped like stones and Daniel and Reyes leaped over them back towards the hustle and bustle of the lower marketplace.
The aroma of meat hit them, almost stronger than the fish, if that was possible, as if the smell had thickened in the lower levels. Despite gaining a couple of seconds through the action in the hallway, Reyes was still aware there were a large number of enemies intent on capturing Sobek and willing to put a bullet in her beautiful body. Straining to listen over the sounds of the market, she was sure that she could hear at least six trained military personnel talking tactics and moving through the market. She shook her wrist and signaled to Daniel to wait as she tried to raise Loki.
She raised her hand to her lips. "Loki, come in! Where are you?"
"Almost to street level." Reyes was relieved to hear her charge’s voice after so much radio silence. The contract had stipulated just 20% up front. Usually, that was hardly enough, but the full amount had been so generous she had decided to roll with it. If Sobek died, that remaining 80% didn’t enter her Ducat wallet.
"He's almost at the surface. We need to catch up," she shared with Daniel. They moved from their hiding space, breaking into a run. "We have a place to go?"
Daniel filled her in, obviously clued in by the odd-looking device strapped to his head. "Gideon and Markus are fighting a delaying action on the roof. The plan is to lose our tail and fall back to Macau. We link up with our ride there." They moved down a wide set of stairs to the lowest level. Reyes's neck was hurting from continuously switching her attention between the chaos behind and the dangers ahead of her. To her side, Daniel was breathing hard, arms pumping hard and nostrils flaring. They reached the end of a long hallway and burst out into the sunlight, the brightness momentarily catching them by surprise.
Automated cars, bikes, and pedestrians of all kinds were passing them on all sides. The sunlight gleamed dully from the tall buildings around them. Street vendors, businesses, and the cries of taxi drivers who were looking for a fare all combined to confuse Daniel and Reyes. Reyes looked around and tried to locate Loki.
Reyes's subconscious brain kept her alive, not for the first time.
She saw Loki after she finally could get her mind around the miasma of lights, noise, and dirt. Loki was sporting long, wild blonde hair which hung to his shoulders in greasy unwashed locks that framed his unshaven face. His scruffy beard was several shades darker than his long blonde hair. He was wearing a jean jacket with enough pockets to hide just about anything. Dirty jeans and scuffed brown boots added to his ruffian like appearance. He saw Reyes and his eyes widened.
He pulled out a Walther P99 and fired a few shots just as Reyes and Daniel ducked. The two men suited in black who had just emerged from the building weren't as quick. Two thuds were quickly followed by two gurgles and Reyes heard two bodies hit the deck behind her.
It was brave or reckless of Sobek to attempt the shootings in broad daylight, and Reyes wasn’t sure which. The shots were instantly drowned out by the sound of pedestrian screams, giving Daniel and Reyes the opportunity to disappear. Sobek, Reyes, and Daniel ran into the rushing traffic, thrusting their hands out in front of them to stop the oncoming cars. This raised a cacophony of horns, warning tones and swears from the few humans still driving. Thank God for automated technology, thought Reyes, as another car efficiently and smoothly swerved around her, its ethical subroutines deciding that Reyes would not make a very good hood ornament.
They reached the far side of the six-lane highway and turned to see more of the black-vested men. The trio ducked into an alleyway.
"What took you so long?" asked Loki as they took a moment to gain stock of the situation. Reyes opened her mouth to respond, but spotted two more agents emerge from the building on the other side of the road. They dashed over to their dead colleagues. As quick as a flash, she grabbed Loki and Daniel and hurled them down the nearest alleyway as bullets splintered the bricks over their heads. Their muscles screamed as they hurtled down between the tall buildings, waiting for the snap and sting of the bullet in the back.
Reyes reached the end of the alleyway first and spotted a bored taxi driver standing with a cigarette dangling from his lips. Without a word, she ripped open the front door and gestured for the driver to get in. The driver looked at Reyes, smiled and folded up his newspaper. Loki and Daniel arrived breathlessly and threw themselves into the back of the vehicle.
"Where to?" The taxi driver asked. Reyes noticed that he eyed the trio with a slight suspicion in his eyes. He knew they were trouble, and wasn’t sure he wanted to get caught up in their problems, but times were tough with these new automated taxis. He needed the fare.
"Macau ferry." Daniel's voice barely betrayed the fact that he'd spent the best of the last hour at a full sprint.
The driver decided his passengers were harmless. After all, how could they be anything but, with this stunningly attractive woman with them? He nodded at her with an appreciative smile. Not for the first time, Reyes was appreciative of how simple men were when confronted with an attractive female. He pulled away from the curb and into traffic heading down the hill.
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