July 12th, 2024
Victoria Harbor, Hong Kong
Peoples Republic of China

Daniel Locke, a country boy at heart, was strangely drawn to Hong Kong. He’d been here just a short time, and that many years ago. He had fallen in love with the city, not to mention the girl. It was unlike other cities that he’d seen and, to be frank, hated. New York City with its bustle and chaos was not for him. His second home of sorts, Washington DC was filled with obnoxious people who were utterly convinced of their own efficacy. Daniel knew better, and to him that was reason enough to dislike the place. Hong Kong held a different allure. Maybe because it was foreign, yet somewhat familiar. Unique, crowded, vibrant and vital, all at the same time.
The grass is always greener on the other side, Daniel reminded himself. As great as it was to visit the place, Daniel needed the wide-open spaces that allowed him the solitude he needed. Had he chosen to live here, he would have come to hate it as surely as he hated Washington DC.
Just hours after being shot at, the trio was now strolling casually through the ferry boarding area, knowing they still had plenty of time. Although they continued to look around warily, both Reyes and Daniel agreed they had lost their pursuers.
The Macau ferry was late, as usual. It had been late when Daniel had been here, and it had been late every day for as long as anyone could remember, regardless of the numerous attempts by different multinational companies to improve the service, clear the shipping lanes and bring in highly experienced sailors. However, none of the locals seemed to care, and the beauty of the sun setting over Hong Kong harbor made for a relaxing wait.
The warning horn sounded for the first time as they made their way up the metallic gangplank, showing their tickets to the attractive stewardess. Daniel gave her an appreciative once over while Loki tried to engage her in small talk, to no avail. The newest owners had clearly aimed for class and style over pleasantries and the trio was impressed, if not a little disappointed.
Daniel led his colleagues out to the stern of the boat to catch the last rays of the setting sun as it disappeared between the skyscrapers. On the horizon, they could just see the beginnings of a thunderstorm making its way towards them.
Victoria Harbor was vibrant and chaotic, and it bustled day and night with vessels of every conceivable size. A junk, complete with sail cruised alongside a sophisticated looking Emerson Corporation cargo vessel sleekly cutting through the water, propelled onward by its Magneto Hydro propulsion system.
Tourists hung on the railing of the ferry, mesmerized by the lights of the city and the darkening of the water. The noise of the engines gave them some privacy to speak. After a couple of minutes admiring the majestic colors over the busy harbor, the trio turned to business.
"So, what do you know that’s so valuable? Some especially sophisticated bad guys want to kill you." asked Daniel, curious as ever to find out more about his opponents.
Loki looked over his shoulder, cautious to the last. To give him credit, his left knee still bore the scars of the last time his words had gotten into the wrong hands. Satisfied that the locals were more interested in the pre-departure drinks, he turned back to face Daniel.
"I found the next piece of the puzzle, the best lead I've had yet. An arms dealer by the name of Rupinder Schurani."
A look of confusion washed over Daniel's face. As he mulled it over, he decided it was not a name that rang any bells with him. In this day, that meant nothing. His friends and enemies alike went by pseudonyms to avoid detection.
"Do you think Rupinder is Radchenko?" he wondered out loud, as much to himself as to Loki.
"Ha. It's never Radchenko," laughed Loki. "Once I peel back another layer of the onion there's always another layer behind it. Rupinder is an expert in intelligence gathering and is a man of significant means, but he doesn't fit the profile. He's no idealist."
Daniel considered the Pole’s words and agreed that didn't match Radchenko's modius operendi. From what Daniel had observed from the media, his actions were oriented towards brute force and aggression than intelligence gathering, but still something didn't quite fit right with Daniel. Over the years, he had developed a strong sense when something didn't quite make sense that had yet to fail him. His train of thought was disrupted by the riotous sound of the Norseman flying overhead making its way to Macau ahead of them. It had touched down in Hong Kong to grab Gideon and Markus, and now was making the brief hop over to Macau.
The ferry took them directly to the airport. Macau Airport was relatively small for an international airport, but it was a busy place day or night. The trio could see the hustle and bustle of humanity through the large glass windows. They received instructions from Markus, and they walked towards the private terminal owned by the Emerson Corporation. The busyness here was reflective in the volume of people, but the purposefulness and dedication of the Emerson employees was incredible to see. There were at least half a dozen women who put the ferry stewardess to shame. Every single employee wore a sharply pressed jumpsuit as they moved efficiently about their tasks. Daniel noted how the Emerson employees were organized not unlike a military rank system, and it appeared to him that the different colored jumpsuits belonged to different ranks and denoted their responsibilities.
Loki took the lead, guiding his colleagues towards the immigration desk. He was explaining how the process would work, when out of nowhere Markus suddenly appeared, and flashed a badge at the immigration officer who waved the trio through. Daniel was not altogether surprised to see the uniformed guard snap Markus a sharp salute as they walked by.
Daniel wondered at this and Markus noticed. “In the right hands money can buy you anything, even favor with the most powerful people on earth,” he whispered. “Our investors are men of unlimited resources.”

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