The Butterfly Dragon II: What Different Eyes See - Act IX - Covert In Cora Hau
[Author's note from Brian Joseph Johns: I released this though I really wanted to have a bit more artwork done for it. Seeing as I still owe you two Halloween stories before October 31 at midnight, 2020, I thought I'd release this tonight. I should be able to meet that deadline though it will be hectic. I'll add more artwork to this Act soon, including a lot of action with Butterfly Dragon herself...]
In A Covert Fashion
The facility tour had just left the administration building and was on their way to the production facility on Cora Hau. The investors had been impressed with the operation from a management and finances perspective and were now being treated to the bread and butter of the operation. The product itself and what the Cora Hau facility was all about.
The tour bus pulled out of the administration building's parking area and out towards the main factory with the correct headcount for the bus. After all, they didn't want to leave any of the investors behind. Heylyn and Monique had managed to be a part of the head count, while avoiding entry to the tour bus itself through the clever use of distraction.
They'd use their time during the tour of the administration building to devise their plan for the layout of the building was not available to them prior. They initially had no idea where the data center was located or which of the management work stations would allow them sufficient privileges to access and search the data effectively in such a short time.
Monique had observed that the system's security was three fold. That the data security required sufficient user privileges to read the data in the first place, a higher level to create it and the same or higher level to alter it. Any of their transactions upon the data, both reading and writing would be logged and later traceable by the Server Administrators but Monique assumed that by that time it would already be too late for them. After all, it was hard copies of the data that were important as it would provide the key to piecing together what exactly Future Tangent Industries was up to and more importantly, their involvement in the attack on the Forbidden City in Beijing.
During the tour Heylyn and Monique had managed to get a pair of digital badge cards for themselves identifying them as generic contractor representatives. The identification would give them entry to the administration building and likely allow them access to at least some of it. Once again, every use of the identification cards would be logged with its location in the Future Tangent Industries security system. Whether it would get them close to where they needed to be was another question all together.
They sat on a bench by an elaborate fountain outside of the administration building watching as the tour bus pulled out. As soon as it was far enough away, they casually stood and headed towards the front doors. They'd pinned their digital badges to the breast of their tops just as every other contractor had placed them. As they approached the door, the magnetic locks disengaged for them having read their cards magnetically from a nearby RFID scanner. They proceeded into the building and made their way through an atrium towards the elevators.
|Heylyn (Left) and Monique|
"You do realize that as soon as I get you logged into the system from one of the manager's workstations on the tenth floor that I'm going to have less than twenty seconds to make it to the admin terminal on the third floor for this to work?" Monique reminded Heylyn.
"That shouldn't be a problem for you?" Heylyn said encouragingly to Monique, perhaps trying to push her to outdo herself.
"That's assuming of course that there's a window to the outside of the building in that office and at least one more leading to the admin stations on the third floor." Monique said beginning to doubt herself and the plan.
"I'm sure you'll find a way with your unique talents. Besides. You have no choice. We have to do this and get it done. The entire delegation and Norler's freedom depends upon it." Heylyn asserted reminding Monique of her importance.
"Could you add just a little bit more pressure?" Monique replied sarcastically.
"But these are realistic concerns I have... if this is going to work, and it might not, we have to figure this out." Monique looked down as she paced herself.
"We are. We will. If we fail at our first attempt, we'll make another attempt. When we run out of plans, we'll improvise. We'll keep going until we've achieved this goal. Don't defeat yourself before you take your first step. Don't let self doubt or the doubt of others stop you either. Besides, I might fail at what I need to do. Don't look at failure as the end but as an opportunity to improvise to achieve your goal. We'll do this. One way or another, we'll do it." Heylyn assured her, silently staving off her own doubt in the process.
The elevator quickly arrived and a few people stepped out into the atrium. Heylyn and Monique followed three other people into the elevator. When they hit the button for the tenth floor, the elevator's computer squawked at them displaying ACCESS PROHIBITED on the LCD touchscreen.
"Are you contractors?" asked one of the Male passengers on the elevator.
"Yes. As a matter of fact we are. We're here working on some of the fiber optic data feeds for the data center. We're supposed to test a connection on the tenth floor." Monique quickly bluffed.
"Ahhhh. That's probably it. Most of the contractor badges only allow access to the ninth floor. There is a work around though. Go to the ninth floor and ask the guys in the shipping and receiving area to bring you up to the tenth floor on the shipping elevator." the man suggested sincerely and perhaps a little flirtatiously.
"That seems like a lot of trouble just to test one of the connections." Heylyn interrupted sounding a little put off.
"Hey, it's that or you spend the next three hours trying to get clearance down in security." the man replied defensively.
"Thank you. I think I like your suggestion better." Monique winked at the man seductively.
"Alright. I guess we'll give that a try." Heylyn purposely sounded disappointed pressing the ninth floor button.
The elevator doors closed and it quickly accelerated up to the ninth floor where it let Monique and Heylyn off. Monique blew a kiss to the man as she left.
"I think you're overdoing it a little." Heylyn commented.
"Well we're nine floors closer to our goal than we were a few minutes ago, aren't we?" Monique shot back.
"That we are. Now we just have to find the shipping and receiving elevators." Heylyn looked around trying to find a directory.
"I'd put my money on it that if we back track and follow those mirrors, that we'll find the shipping elevators." Monique observed astutely.
Heylyn thought about it for a moment and then agreed.
"I think that I'll just tag along as an observer. You're doing fine." Heylyn smiled patting her on the back.
They began their search for the shipping elevators following the curved mirrors eventually arriving at a pair of two way shipping doors. The magnetic lock disengaged upon reading their RFID tags and they proceeded through the doors.
The shipping and receiving area even on the ninth floor was considerably large. They'd designed the building so that each floor could handle a large amount of throughput in terms of information technology equipment and furniture, which was often cycled between floors to correspond to meetings and events within the building.
There were a few packing skids close to the walls while the path to the elevators themselves remained free of any blockage. They quickly pressed the elevator button and waited. A few moments later and the heavy door opened revealing a solitary elevator operator. An older Filipino man in his mid to late fifties who'd obviously inherited this position of light duty as he progressed towards his retirement.
"What can I do for you?" he asked Heylyn and Monique politely.
"We're here for to do some work on the fiber optics. We need access to the tenth floor temporarily to test one of the connections up there. We were advised to see you." Heylyn followed Monique's plan as closely as she could recall.
There was an awkward moment of silence.
"Oh. I see, you have contractor badges. Next time, phone your contact on the tenth floor and have them meet you. That is the policy when this happens, but I'll let you up there once." the man spoke softly.
"Thank you." Monique said to the man.
"Besides, you remind me of my daughter. She's very beautiful." the man said to Monique.
Monique and Heylyn shuffled onto the elevator and the man closed the door behind them. A moment later they thanked the man and made their way into a busy hall on the tenth floor.
"Must be break time. Reminds me of West Meet East back home." Heylyn said as they passed the catering and cafeteria room.
"Yeah. I miss home. I could use one of Jeanette's pastries and a caramel macchiato right now." Monique could smell the baked goods as they passed the door.
"Couldn't have been better timing. That means while we're getting into the system, everyone else will be on break." Heylyn continued walking towards the end of the hall to the management area.
As they were about to open the door to the management area, a voice addressed them from behind.
"Excuse me. Do I know you? What are you doing up here?" a man asked them.
"Ohhh. Hi. We're contractors here to do the fiber optics. We're actually working on the data center but we need to test a connection up here. It will only take a minute." Monique tried to handle the situation.
"Maybe I should accompany you? Just for the sake of policy?" the man fixed his tie.
"We've been in here before. I mean we did the fiber optics for the entire building. We know our way around. But thank you for the offer. That's very kind of you. Besides, I work much faster without somebody watching over my shoulder." Monique said once again turning up the charm.
"Alright. I'll be in the cafeteria if you need me." the man replied watching both Monique and Heylyn as they left.
"That was close." Heylyn said wiping her forehead.
"There it is over there." Monique pointed to the office they needed to get into.
"Alright, let's get this done." Heylyn followed Monique over to the closed office door.
Heylyn knocked first waiting for a reply beyond. When nobody answered she twisted the doorknob and entered.
The office had little clutter aside from a multitude of post it notes which lined the large LCD monitor of the management workstation.
"Alright. Do your thing." Heylyn stepped aside as Monique sat in the big chair and used the mouse to open up the administrative console.
Once the console was onscreen she began typing frantically. A list of server names appeared along with their corresponding addresses. She looked through a list of port numbers trying to find a particular port used commonly by data servers.
"There it is." she spoke aloud.
"You lost me from the point you opened the console." Heylyn replied.
"That's the data server. I'm just trying to get into it now. When I finish typing and the successful login message appears, I'm going to move quick. When I'm gone you'll have to wait ten seconds before you have access to the data system. From that point, I'll guide you through by cellular phone. Are you ready?" Monique asked Heylyn.
"As I'll ever be." Heylyn assured Monique.
"Ok. Here goes." Monique responded as she set the stopwatch on her wrist, then began typing once again.
As the login accepted message appeared, Monique instantaneously transformed into a streak of light with a tremendous flash and thunderclap nearly blinding and deafening Heylyn.
Monique flew out through the armour-glass window, flying down towards the third floor. She circled the entire building six or seven times looking for the best point of entry. When she'd found it, she passed through the window as any other light would have and into an office where she instantly turned back to her natural form once again, with a bright flash and thunderclap.
She looked around the office realizing that she had come in through the wrong window. She did not have enough time to traverse the exterior of the building again looking for an entry point. Instead she stepped out of the office and into an open area of work stations. Everyone was still away from their desks during the break leaving her ample space to do what she needed to do.
She looked for a security camera, for she'd need one to try something that she'd never tried before. When she had looked for the admin workstation she'd need to access, she'd found that the same room was also host to an array of security monitors.
She theorized that she might be able to get there by an innovative means which she wasted no time attempting. She instantly turned back into a light form and flew at blinding speeds towards the security camera itself. Her light form passed through the lens and into the circuitry of the camera. The information which had been contained in her light form was then encoded digitally and then analog electrical form.
For her the sensation was very strange and surreal. She somehow had omnipresent awareness, feeling the tickle of electrons and the magnetic field itself as she flew through the wires and through another converter. This time she was re-encoded back into light and was traveling through the fiber optic system itself towards the admin office and the security monitors. When she'd arrived at the target office, she was encoded for a last time into electrical data and then back into light as she escaped through one of the monitors in the security monitor array.
Preceded with a blinding flash, she instantly transformed back into herself and fell to the floor gasping for air at the experience. While on the floor she'd caught notice of her watch and saw that six seconds had passed since she'd left Heylyn in the manager's office.
She struggled to her feet and found her way to the admin workstation's keyboard. She began typing frantically and a moment later she was browsing the account list. When she found the account through which Heylyn was accessing the data systems, she elevated it giving it complete unrestricted access.
She immediately grabbed her phone from a belt pouch she'd worn under her blouse and dialed Heylyn's cellular number. As soon as her call was answered she spoke.
"I'm in. You're in." Monique spoke slightly out of breath.
"You're early by two seconds." Heylyn replied as she began her searches of the database.
"I guess I should have stopped for a break maybe?" Monique responded coyly.
"You probably had enough time to grab us both a latte and still make it in time, I'm guessing." Heylyn assured her.
"Can I have a raise?" Monique asked.
"You've still got three months before your next review. Ask me then. I'll take the success of our operation here into consideration." Heylyn replied professionally.
"Hurry. We've only got another seven minutes before they'll be back from break." Monique scolded Heylyn.
"Already on it." Heylyn assured her.
Heylyn first searched for the name George Steadman. The results contained a series of employee records, division transfers and communications records. She further filtered the results by the term Forbidden City and Beijing. The results were further reduced to five records of communication and two travel records.
"I think that I've got something here." Heylyn spoke as she downloaded the corresponding data to her phone.
"One of them is encrypted. Can you get me by that?" Heylyn asked.
"Just grab it. I'll give it a try later, but it might require some help from Tynan." Monique told her.
Heylyn continued with a completely new search. This time she searched the terms George Steadman and Japan. The results included a series of communications addressed to Itikara Takahashi. There was also a record of a private web server being hosted on this island with the contents addressed to the same Itikara Takahashi.
"Take a look at this while I download this list: https://220.127.116.11/data/jpn/cgrs_Itikara_Takahashi" Heylyn fed the address to Monique verbally.
Heylyn waited for her download to finish as Monique used the local web browser to observe the contents of the web address.
"You're not going to believe this. It's Treadwater Island all over again. This appears to be a blackmail video. I assume that's Mr. Takahashi? He's... ...getting busy. Not with his wife. She's a younger lady. Maybe his mistress?" Monique advised Heylyn.
"Get all the data from the web server including the video. We're done here. We need to check out this data and get to Tokyo. I'm packing it in now." Heylyn stood up after she'd logged off of the computer.
In a small building just across from the Cora Hau Administration building, a man sat in front of a pair of large LCD monitors wearing an elaborate headset and microphone. He observed a spreadsheet like list of names and corresponding numbers. Beside it on the other monitor, an oscilloscope like readout displayed a complex waveform associated with the audio channel being focused by the operator.
The man watched the screen with the waveform carefully as the source of the audio was triangulated from a series of cellular towers erected by Future Tangent Industries to protect their precious properties. A moment no longer than 1.57 seconds later, a small window superimposed itself over the waveform readout. It described a geo-location in latitude and longitude as well as a small map indicating that the source of the cellular communications had come from the Administration building itself.
The computer operator turned immediately to his supervisor across from him who was at that moment involved in a very serious game of Solitaire.
"Sir. I've got a suspicious signal." the operator spoke just as he switched over to eavesdropping mode.
"So? There's a thousand employees in this place making calls all day to their banks, their families and what not. What do you think you're going to find?" the supervisor obviously bored by the operator's claims.
"No Sir. This is serious! Its coming from within the Administration building. They're talking about accessing locked files on the server!" the operator pleaded with the supervisor as he listened in on Heylyn's and Monique's final words during their mission.
There was a pause as the Supervisor stepped away from his game of Solitaire and over to the operator's computer.
"Let me see what you've got." the Supervisor said as he looked at the operator's screen.
"Holy sh..." he immediately responded typing a few keys on the operator's keyboard.
"This is coming from the Cora Hau Operations Manager's desk!" the Supervisor responded.
"I tried to tell you Sir!" the operator replied but the Supervisor was already responding to the first security emergency they'd experienced on Cora Hau.
"I need all security teams in the Administration building to proceed up to the tenth floor right now! Full armaments. I want the building locked off and a perimeter closed around the entire building at a distance of fifty meters. Call in the auxiliary teams and check the ID badges of EVERYONE leaving the building! Now GO!" the Supervisor shouted quickly running over to his computer and shutting down his game of Solitaire.
Heylyn stepped out of the Manager's office and walked quickly towards the door through which she'd entered the Management Offices of Cora Hau.
"Are you there?" Heylyn spoke into her headset addressing Monique.
"I'm just on my way out. I got everything and tried to cover our tracks." Monique replied.
"Good to know. Look, something is wrong. It's after break and nobody is back at their desk. It looks like the open office area is empty. If we've been found out, we'll go to our second plan. Copy?" Heylyn confirmed with Monique.
"Naaa! They didn't find us! We're too... Wait! There's a security guard outside my door. Copy! Copy! Gotta go!" Monique exclaimed as she focused her energy inward, transforming as quickly as she could.
There was an immediate flash in the room as she turned into a bright streak of light. Just as she'd done before she headed for the lens of the security camera, however when she'd arrived the CCD did not convert her form to electrical impulses as it had before. It was dead.
Security was now operating on the so called hidden and secure surveillance system.
"Bad timing." Monique responded though Heylyn could not hear her communications while she was in light form.
Heylyn proceeded through the door and towards the shipping elevator hoping that she could escape through the Shipping and Receiving docks. The hall that had once been filled with break time patrons was now completely empty, causing Heylyn much concern.
As she approached the catering cafeteria, she grabbed the doorknob and turned it breaking the lock.
"It was locked? This is more serious than I thought." she said aloud.
She stepped into the cafeteria closing the door behind her. She then turned to see that the room was eerily silent except for the breathing and whimpering of fifteen or so people who were huddled in a corner and attempting to hide behind their tables. They tried to remain hidden from her view.
"It's alright. I'm not going to hurt you. I promise." Heylyn responded shocked to see all of these people so scared of her.
None of them replied to her, perhaps more relieved to still be alive at that point.
Behind her the catering room door was slammed open by the pressure of a precise hammer strike to the latch by one of the security elites.
Heylyn turned to meet a threesome of armoured men who leveled their tasers at her.
"Halt! Hands in the air! NOW!" they shouted.
Heylyn's heightened senses immediately took over and she observed what most people could not see.
She'd noticed that the security specialist on the left was particularly excited, making him susceptible to the anticipation of conflict. For a good ten seconds he'd be running on fight or flight psychology forgetting his training altogether. She immediately recognized that he was the one to watch but not only for her own protection but for his protection and that of the people in the catering room.
Her Butterfly wings first shot out from her back then folded protectively around her and the patrons in the room just as the security elite had prematurely fired his taser at one of the office workers.
Heylyn's response was immediate as she flew into action against the new threat. The taser projectile hit her seemingly immaterial wing, only to bounce to the floor harmlessly as she took to the air.
The other two security specialists fired their tasers upon a non-existent target which was now above their heads and finally behind them. The tasers hit the far wall embedding part way into the drywall, relieving their electrical load helplessly into the paper and dust.
"Sorry gentlemen but I have to do this." Heylyn exclaimed from just behind them as she brought their heads together enough to render them unconscious without serious harm.
As the security specialists entered the office, Monique quickly flew through the open door above their heads seeking cover. She was not certain that she hadn't been sighted by the men and maintained her light form. The armed men stumbled as they searched the server operator's station quizzically.
Monique stayed near the phosphorescent lights that illuminated the open office space just outside of the server operator's office realizing that her luminous form would draw attention.
Another security team slowly closed upon the server operator's office as she watched from the safety of the illumination from one of the office ballasts on the ceiling.
"There's nobody in here..." the roaming security specialist reported back.
"She was just there! You saw it on the cameras dammit! Do a search of the Office or it will be my ass!" the Supervisor blared over their comm units.
"There's a light source over there Sir!" one of the security associates responded.
"That's just the office lighting! Keep your eyes open dammit!" the squad leader replied.
Monique tried to reduce her luminescence only to change colour from a bright white light to a momentarily pale pink then back again to full brightness.
One of the security team looked up to the ballast examining the fixture closely.
"Lighting must be on the fritz again. Looks like this ballast needs changing." he commented as he squinted from the sudden brightness.
For a moment he could have sworn that he saw a lady's face. He closed his eyes and her visage floated across his eyelids gradually disappearing.
"Not only that but I'm seeing things..." he commented as his radio headset blared.
"You've got a situation. We've been advised by Corporate headquarters that we may have been infiltrated by the anomalies. We've got orders from Mr. Steadman that you're to use any force necessary to apprehend the trespassers. Bring them to the security brig in any condition that you can get them there. Preferably with non-lethal force." the communications officer spoke excitedly.
"Will do. You get that Reg?" asked the security specialist.
"I sure did Garret. Let's see if we can't track them down. Switching to small arms, non-lethal rounds." Reg replied as he holstered his taser and drew his 9mm from the holster while Garret did the same.
They'd been equipped with high velocity elastiplast ballistic putty ammunition. The rounds were basically made of a rubber-like compound that would not pierce skin, though it could potentially break bones or render a target unconscious.
Monique looked to another functioning security camera, wondering if she could make it before they fired upon her. Their ammunition would pass harmlessly through her but if it hit the camera as she entered into it, she had no idea what could happen if she was only able to partly pass through the CCD and digital to analog converter of the circuit.
Her decision was made for her as the lights in the building went out. She saw the power light on the camera go out and the server workstation go into hibernation mode.
Someone had cut the power and now she was the only source of lighting in the room.
"Do you see what I'm seeing?" asked Reg who looked upon the form of a beautiful Woman who lay on the ceiling ballast.
"Freeze! Don't move or we'll shoot!" Garret yelled at the apparition.
"Stay here. You'll be safe. They'll be awake soon and with a bit of a hang over. You might want to help them." Heylyn advised the catering room patrons of the state of the security specialists she'd incapacitated.
They remained in their cover as she laid the unconscious body of the last guard on the floor when the lights went out completely.
Her senses quickly adjusted and her dragon's eyes pierced the darkness.
"I don't know if you can hear this! They must have cut the power. That means no elevators. They're definitely onto us!" Heylyn spoke into her headset but received no confirmation.
She headed out through the catering room door running then flying for the shipping elevator. She quickly made her way down the hall and through the door at the end. She entered into the open office space and flew through the maze of cubicles towards the exit sign, which was the only other source of light other than the windows.
When she arrived at the shipping elevator, she quickly pried the doors open with relative ease, revealing the elevator shaft itself. She wasted no time and jumped into the darkness which her eyes pierced. She slowed herself as she approached the roof of the shipping elevator, landing on it as quietly as she could.
It suddenly came to life, descending down towards the level where Monique evaded a security team. From within the elevator, Heylyn heard the faint sound of heart beats with her heightened senses. About six bodies in all, clearly running on adrenaline.
Monique remained in place wondering how to deal with this situation. She was in the sub basement in the server room which was completely sealed off from the floors above except through the elevators. She was pinned to the ceiling her form very obvious to two completely terrified security specialists who'd used every ounce of restraint to keep themselves from firing upon her.
She could not speak with them in light form though she could gesture with her hands and hope they understood. She tried extending her hands slowly in front of her in their direction from the ceiling. One of them screamed immediately pulling the trigger. The round passed through her hitting the metal ballast of the lighting and rebounded off the far wall ricocheting off the computer monitor.
A hundredth of a second after the round had hit the monitor Monique transformed into a voluminous cloud of blackness disappearing in the darkness.
Garret struggled with his flashlight pulling it from his belt and leveling it towards the point on the ceiling where she'd been. She was no longer there. Reg meanwhile turned frantically trying to find her using what little light Garret's flashlight provided. Something caught his attention out of the corner just outside of the server room door.
"There! I think that's her!..." Reg jumped upon seeing her shadowy form slipping by them and out the door.
Garret spun with his 9mm and his flashlight catching Monique in shadow form as she moved quickly towards the shipping elevator.
Reg ran out the door firing at her several times. The rounds once again passed through her harmlessly bouncing off the walls or embedding themselves in the drywall. They trailed her as quickly as they could as she approached the shipping elevator.
With no power however, the elevator would be a no go. In her current form she could not pass through the elevator door or interact with anything she might have needed to manipulate physically in order to open the doors or escape. That left her with no choice but to attempt to incapacitate the guards so she could make her escape.
As they followed her into the shipping elevator area, she flew upwards into the shadows towards the ceiling where she watched them from above.
"We lost her!" Reg panicked.
"We didn't lose her. There's nowhere to go from here. The elevators are locked. It's protocol when there's a power outage. An air vent on the elevator ceiling opens and the air ducts magnetically sealed by the power also open just in case anyone is trapped in the elevator. So they don't suffocate." Garret advised Reg perhaps trying to calm him.
"She's a freakin' ghost! I'm telling you she got out of here already!" Reg started to break under the pressure of what he'd witnessed thus far.
"She's one of the anomalies. That's all. Just chemistry and science. We've got all we need to deal with her." Garret assured Reg.
"If she's still here, I say we use lethal ammo. She's not human. She's a monster! I've never seen anything like that! That's like those ghost hunter shows! Like a monster!" Reg said reaching into his belt for his jacketed hollow point clip of ammunition.
Just as his hand found one, both Reg and Garret were suddenly blinded by the brightest flash they'd never seen. It had been like one of their training exercises for the use of Non-lethal concussion grenades that both stunned and blinded their victims. During their training program, they'd been exposed to just such a grenade so they'd know what it was like. It was part of the training. When the concussion and the flash had hit them in the shipping area near the elevator, it had hit them about ten times harder than what they'd experienced with their training and certainly far more than that for which they could have been ready.
Reg fell to the floor unable to see, gasping for air, his retinas temporarily flash burned. Garret had somehow miraculously ended up in a partial shadow, leaving one of his eyes completely unharmed while the other was temporarily blinded.
He swung his gun around just in time to catch the form of the beautiful lady who'd so easily incapacitated them both. Garret fired at point blank as Monique's fist landed solidly with Garret's jaw.
Garret hit the floor first, now seeing stars in addition to his temporary blindness. He felt an immense pain on the left of his jaw socket somewhat like a jaw cramp. His hand clamped reflexively on the trigger of his gun and fired another rubber round at the cement wall of the receiving area. It bounced off the wall rebounding directly back at him. It impacted just above the right ear rending Garret unconscious.
Monique fell to her knees gasping for air as the non-lethal round had hit her squarely in the solar plexus. She felt her consciousness as it escaped her and she slipped into the darkness of an unwilling slumber.
The elevator doors opened as a group of six heavily armed security specialists poured out and into the elevator lobby.
"We've got two men down. We're going to need medical evac. One of the anomalies is here too. Unconscious." one of the men spoke into his headset.
"Detain the lady. First priority. Secure the staging area outside of the elevator. We're sending emergency crews in." the reply came back through his earpiece.
"You heard the man. There's two doors into this area, get on them and cover them both." he barked at his men as they split up into two man sections.
"Cover me!" the section leader ordered his partner as he kneeled to hand-cuff Monique.
Suddenly the air was filled with the sound of tearing sheet metal as the lights in the elevator ceased. The roof of the elevator disappeared as if pulled up by something of immense strength.
"Echo Team, can you check on why the elevator isn't returning. We've got the medical team waiting outside of the shipping elevator right now on the first floor. They say the elevator isn't coming. Do you copy?" the team leader's earpiece came to life.
"Bring it down!" the team leader screamed at him men as he stood to confront this new threat.
All of them opened up fire at once, their rounds ricocheting off the figure and sparking as they hit the elevator walls. The gunfire continued until their magazines were empty. As soon as their firing ceased, the figure opened like a flower, revealing the two butterfly wings that had enveloped a shapely woman. She suddenly flew with incredible speed at the team leader first, grabbing the SMG from his hands and flinging it at one of the other men as they reloaded. He was thrown six feet to the floor, sliding to a stop as he hit the wall. She the delivered a perfectly executed punch to the team leader's solar plexus, throwing him to the floor. As one of the others raised his reloaded weapon to fire at her, she rolled towards him in a somersault, her leg flinging upwards kicking his SMG up towards the ceiling as he fired.
One of the rounds just missed one of the other men at the other side of the room and it became clear that she was as much protecting them from each other as she was protecting herself. She delivered a kick with her other leg to his groin then flipped herself up and onto her feet as he hit the floor.
His partner went for his field knife, instead opting for melee combat to deal with this new threat. The other two by this time had reloaded their SMGs and were covering their peer without firing.
The man with the knife lunged at her and she quickly sidestepped his attack, twisting his arm around behind his back, using him as a human shield against the remaining two. She advanced steadily towards them.
One of them could no longer contain himself and opened fire, despite his the fact that he would be both shooting one of his own teammates as well as the anomaly figuring it to be a worthwhile gamble. Her wings quickly enveloped the man she was using as a shield, protecting him from the friendly fire of his own teammate. She then spun quickly with a wide arced butterfly kick as she dropped the man she'd used as a shield safely to the floor.
Her kick connected squarely with both of the remaining men, sending them flying into the wall, leaving them unconscious but unharmed.
She then turned to the man she'd dropped to the floor.
"Leave through that door and don't come back." she said to him from behind her red mask, pointing to the door leading to the server room.
He immediately heeded her words, getting to his feet, spinning himself around and running for the door she'd indicated disappearing down the hall.
By the time she'd turned back to face Monique, she was already getting up and onto her feet.
"Good to see you boss. Sorry, I got overwhelmed." Monique apologized.
"Are you kidding me? You did great. Are you alright to leave?" Heylyn asked Monique.
"I think I can manage." Monique answered her, rubbing her ebbing stomach.
"You take the server data. You're faster. Get it to Alicia at Edo Castle. Try not to alert anyone as to what's going on until you speak with her. You got it?" Heylyn confirmed, retrieving the usb flashdrive from her belt pouch and handing it to Monique.
"I've got it. We'd better get going. Out through the tenth floor?" Monique asked.
"The path's already clear." Heylyn assured her.
"See you in... two hours?" Monique asked.
"Something like that. Get going now!" Heylyn urged her.
Monique transformed into her light form as Heylyn shielded her eyes. Monique then flew up the elevator shaft and out through the open elevator doors on the tenth floor. She quickly found her way through the offices and to a window through which she departed the Cora Hau facility. A moment later and she was free flying into the eleven o'clock sunshine and on her way to Tokyo harbour.
The entire trip took her less than two seconds.
Heylyn in the meantime had followed her at a much slower speed up the elevator shaft and out into the tenth floor offices. She then found a window, flying at it full speed in order to break it. The window blew into a thousand pieces as Heylyn followed the shrapnel to the ground, using her wings to shield the gathered crowd of Future Tangent employees from the broken glass. When she saw that they were safe, she quickly flew upwards into the clouds.
Her flight would take the most part of two hours.
Norler lay quietly in bed, remaining as still as his nerves would allow him. He'd been waiting already for three hours motionless and in the dark for his quarry though it still eluded him. It had been an exercise in futility for someone like Norler, for laying idle for so long was beyond him. He needed to be doing something. Not just anything but something of purpose. This seemed selfish to him for the only purpose for this current endeavor was to find an answer. Depending upon what that answer may be would deem it worthy of the effort or selfish and perhaps even paranoid.
For most of the three hours that had passed, he'd considered the words of the old man who'd come to visit him. A seemingly philanthropic Chinese advocate. One with enough ties to the ruling party perhaps to keep his eye on the pulse of this situation, though he seemed to have little interest in the intrigue of political influence. It was as if he had given Norler the map to a physical place. An absolute destination despite the outcome of the court proceedings. It was as if the path was already determined and that Norler was being pruned to follow it. To become healthy and strong enough to want it and perhaps to earn it. Success or failure. Innocence or guilt. Freedom or imprisonment. Perhaps they were both the same thing regardless of the outcome and merely a matter of perspective.
One outcome that had held Norler's interest was the fact that his recovery had been quick and even described as miraculous, though he'd originally attributed it to the professional healthcare he'd received while here in Beijing. A hospital with trained Doctors who possessed extensive knowledge of Traditional Chinese Medicine who seemed to practice both forms of medicine. A representative example of that for which he'd been striving. Essentially what the delegation was about, despite the fact that it was about making sure that ground breaking medication was available to all despite social status or income level. That the right to life didn't suddenly become replaced by a price tag.
Norler had been both skeptical and intrigued by the progress of his own treatment. It was not often that a man with a large calibre rifle wound to his lung would heal so quickly and readily as to be on his feet within a week after having reparative surgery. He would still experience pains in his chest occasionally but over a short period of time they'd diminished from the point of futility to mild nuisance. What was it that they were up to and what secrets did the Chinese treatment hold?
On that thought, Norler heard the magnetic latch on the door to his room unlock as his quarry entered. The morning Nurse Lei Ma Chan entered as quietly as she could. She carried the change for Norler's intravenous medicine, an ongoing part of his treatment and one that was changed daily in the early morning. She meticulously closed the valves and took the old treatment from the intravenous stand and replaced it with the new bag and fluid. Norler remained still as she did waiting for the last moment to appear to awaken.
She stepped back momentarily startled to see him up this early. Norler feigned a morning yawn stretching his arms wide.
"Good morning." he said to her politely putting the charm on thick.
"Ne hao." she nodded to him regaining her courage.
"What is in this cocktail you've been feeding me every morning since I've returned from surgery?" Norler asked Nurse Lei Ma.
"Nutrients. Medicine. Chinese herbs." she replied in the best English that she could muster.
"By medicine, what do you mean? Like pharmacology? Or is it more Traditional Chinese Medicine?" Norler asked her.
She suddenly seemed uncomfortable by his questions and quickly finished up.
"It is medicine you need to get better. Be a good man and go to sleepy." she responded to him somewhat scolding him.
"I'm just curious. I feel so good that I'd like to know how you did it." Norler spoke trying to ease her nervousness.
"You need to sleepy." she ignored his charm and scolded him before turning to back to the door.
A moment later the door closed and locked behind her and Norler smiled that his effort was not in vain. He lifted his covers to retrieve the sheet he'd pulled from her clipboard. It contained a list of her rounds and the medicine and treatments that had been prescribed to him thus far, though all of it was written in Simplified Chinese and possibly in some form of short hand.
He took out his cellular phone and took a picture of the entire sheet, front and back making sure that he'd gotten the entire image. He then casually dropped the sheet to the floor beside the bed just in case Nurse Lei Ma came back looking for it.
He then dialed Alicia's number. A moment later it rang as he waited for her to answer.
"Guess who?" Norler said to her cheerfully.
"Hmmm. Let me see. Is it my favourite hospital patient?" Alicia answered in a chipper voice and only slightly groggy.
"You mean you have more than one?" Norler reponded playfully.
"I sure do. He's really sexy and I talk to him every day." Alicia replied coyly and seductively.
"Oh his name is Walton. Walton Norler." she replied.
"That guy? He's a real hot shot that one. Did you know that you have impeccable taste in men?" Norler said confidently.
"Not nearly as impeccable as your taste in Women." Alicia replied.
"Woman." Norler corrected her.
"So how are you feeling today?" Alicia asked him.
"Great. I've been sleeping a lot but recently I got onto solving a little mystery." Norler baited her.
"Oh? And what mystery is that?" she asked poised on the brink of insatiable curiosity.
"The mystery of what they've been feeding me on my lunch menu here. Its the most wonderful food. You know, I really think that its their secret recipe if you know what I mean." Norler tried to communicate with her in their lover's language of intuition.
"So their food is that good huh? I'd have to see the menu of course to know what you're talking about. If you send me one, I could find out for you what its called in English?" Alicia replied immediately in tune with him.
"You know, I could do just that. I've got an image on my phone. Its the sixth item on the list. When I get out of here, that's the first meal that I want us to have together." Norler insisted.
"Send away..." Alicia instructed him as she waited to receive the image.
Norler browsed through his images until he found the Nurse's rounds list. He then proceeded to send it front and back to Alicia who a moment later received it.
"Alright. Its a date. You and I. A bottle of champagne. A candle light dinner. Who knows where that could lead..." Alicia assured Norler whose imagination ignited with possibilities.
"So how are things going in Tokyo?" Norler asked trying to cool things down.
"We had a little tour thanks to Hiroyuki, one of Heylyn's strategic business partners. He's from a cosmetics company here. A very knowledgeable man and quite hospitable." Alicia told him.
"That's good to hear. Spending a bit of time to get used to the cultural distinction between China, Korea and Japan will go a long ways to building this bridge you know. Have you met the Japanese delegation?" Norler asked her.
"Not yet. We're scheduled to meet for late lunch today. Our first meeting and talk will take place at the Imperial Palace Gardens. I only wish that Monique and Heylyn could be here for it. They had pressing business elsewhere." Alicia said sounding a little bit despondent.
"I'm sure they'll be back to contribute to the delegation and perhaps enjoy some of Japan. When I get out of here, and this is all done, we'll see a bit more of China, Korea and Japan together. Maybe even a trip to down under too." Norler pictured the two of them enjoying the sun together and found hope and motivation within.
"I know we will. I'll tell you how the meeting went tonight. I'll let you know what's on that menu too. Love you..." Alicia said to him stifling a tear.
"I love you too. Miss you so much... Bye honey." Norler struggled keeping his emotions in check.
"Speak soon." Alicia's voice remained fresh on his ears for the whole day.
A Monster Revealed
Alicia was ready to leave her hotel room for the scheduled delegation lunch when her smart phone rang. She pulled the phone out of her purse and answered.
"Hello?" Alicia answered cheerfully.
"Alicia? It's me, Monique." Monique sounded out of breath.
"Where are you?!" Alicia asked suddenly shocked to be hearing from Monique.
She had been expecting that her and Heylyn would have at least taken a few more days.
"I'm at the Tokyo harbour near the north central port. Just a bit of a distance from what looks like the Port Authority building. I got here a few minutes ago. Took me a while to find a safe place to turn back into myself." Monique told Alicia who listened in amazement.
"Is everything alright? Are you ok? Where's Heylyn?" Alicia asked suddenly concerned.
"We got separated. We managed to get the data or at least what we assume to be the data. We've got to go over it. We found one thing that could influence the outcome of this whole situation. Do you have a minute?" Monique clarified with Alicia.
"Of course I do. I'm going to meet you. Do you think that you're safe there?" Alicia asked Monique.
"I should be. Heylyn will arrive in about two hours. There's actually a little Noodle and Fish bar a block west from me. I think its called Oki Hara Ramen. Before you leave to meet me, check this out on your web browser: http://18.104.22.168/data/jpn/cgrs_Itikara_Takahashi" Monique read from her arm where she'd scrawled the web server address Heylyn had given her while they went over the records at the Cora Hau facility.
"Alright. I'm leaving now. I'll meet you very soon." Alicia assured Monique.
Monique looked around first, jumping as the air horn from one of the cargo freighters sounded in the harbour. She then started casually towards Oki Hara Ramen.
Back in her hotel room, Alicia pulled her tablet computer from her briefcase and quickly typed in the address Monique had given her. A moment later the web page had loaded with the grim message and threat that had been directed towards Itikara Takahashi, the Japanese politician. She scrolled down further to the video window and pressed play, horrified by what she'd see. It all became very clear to her now.
"So they're blackmailing one of the policy makers here to affect our chances at the Asian Alliance vote." Alicia spoke aloud amazed at the implications of this newly discovered information.
"This should help us get you out Norler." she whispered to herself as she picked up her phone once again and dialed.
"Valerie speaking." Valerie answered phone from inside of a luxury taxi.
"Its Alicia. You're going to have to take the delegation meeting yourself. I'm going to be late. Something very very important came up." Alicia told her.
"Heylyn?" Valerie asked suddenly very very serious.
"Close. Monique. She just got back. I'm going to meet her right now. The situation has changed substantially. We're still going to need to win the trust of the delegates and that's a lot of weight resting on your shoulders. I know, but I trust you." Alicia assured Valerie trying to appeal to her professionalism and sense of confidence.
"Are you out of your mind? We need their support! We need you there. They'll take this as an insult. I did my homework on this! They take appointments and schedules very seriously. Not only that but you're leaving it in my lap to clean it up!" Valerie said shocked that Alicia would do that to the delegation.
"I know how this must sound and I'm aware of the implications but this has to be done. We'll meet you at the Imperial Gardens. We're depending upon you. Norler's depending upon us. So are the people of East Asia. This could open the door to world wide universal health care and right now there's a monster trying to stop this. Please trust me. Bryce Maxwell is one of the world's most renowned physicists and musicians and a celebrity in his own right. Doctor Stephen Briggs is the North American expert on Asian culture and history and was an advisor to two Prime Ministers and one President. Zheng Ni Wong is a Master's degree Mathematician and Biologist with ties to both China and Japan. She helped design the Virtual Body Project, a biological simulation of the entire human body with a simplified model of the brain and the nervous system, both female and male. Victor and Katya Piotr are both Doctors and expert biology researchers of their field in Russia. They developed a medicine that is the only known treatment for carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, completely antibiotic resistant bacteria. They know the region well. You're the Corporate Analyst who won over Bay Street, tearing it away from the strangle hold of Torman's criminal racket. You've got everyone that you need to do this." Alicia tried to give her the best pep talk that she could muster.
"...with a little help from Norler. I mean the Bay Street thing." Valerie reminded Alicia.
"No. Even Norler told me that was your baby. They saw Norler as the new fangled softy coming home to ruin business. To get them all doing Yoga at lunch and eating Tofu and rice cakes for dinner. You restored their faith and showed them that things could change for the better with a Woman leading the corporate analyst front and that they didn't have to give up the ways to which they'd become accustomed. So give yourself a little credit." Valerie almost heard Alicia's smile on the other end of the phone.
"...hey. I like Yoga. And Tofu." Valerie replied.
"So do I. So go get 'em. I've got to go and so do you. I'll meet you at the Imperial Gardens." Alicia hung up before Valerie could change her mind.
The Steadman Breach
George Steadman sat at an empty table just having finished a small brunch. He read a copy of Financier Weekly and a few of the other business dailies very much satisfied at how things were winding up. It had taken him a long time to put this ploy together and he was on the brink of its fruition. If he played his cards right, he would soon become the richest man in the world, bringing a handful of specially selected members of his team with him. The rest he could later dispose of at his leisure with the kind of resources he would possess. For now however he must play the part and remain modest and covert. Perhaps unassuming to the rest of the world and the Tokyo Hotel in whose restaurant he sat.
There was an electronic chirping noise from the inside pocket of his suit jacket. He casually folded his newspaper placing it upon the small stack of dailies on the table beside him. He then reached into his jacket pocket retrieving his phone.
"You'd better have a good reason for calling." he answered.
"Sir. There's been a breach." his contact advised him manically on the other end of the connection.
"So? That's a networking problem. It happens all the time nowadays. Have Public Relations draw up an apology letter to any of our affected..." Mr. Steadman began as he was interrupted.
"No Sir. Not that kind of a breach. I mean our private drive on the server. It has been breached." his contact spoke sounding completely drained.
There was a pause as Mr. Steadman evaluated the breadth of what he'd just heard.
"Who knows about this?" Mr. Steadman asked.
"Just you and the rest of the insiders. Cora Hau is under the impression that it was Corporate Espionage or Hacktivists." his contact advised him.
"Do we know who?" Mr. Steadman asked.
"You're not going to believe this but we think that it was two of the anomalies from Treadwater." his contact told him.
"Which two?" Mr. Steadman asked very seriously.
"The Butterfly one for certain. Another one that Zek spoke of at the trial. The one that can turn into light. We have security pictures and a whole load of confiscated smart phone images taken at the Cora Hau site." his contact advised.
"How long ago?" Mr. Steadman continued his interrogation.
"A little more than an hour ago. She's heading for Tokyo. We intercepted their cellular phone communications and retrieved audio from security camera footage. She advised one of her associates that they would meet in Tokyo at Edo Castle." his security contact gave him the critical intel he'd collected thus far.
"Alright. Keep this a secret and don't let anyone else from Corporate know about this. We'll go ahead with the transfer. You didn't screw that up too did you?" Mr Steadman leaned forward a frown compressing his face.
"No Sir. They all signed on except for four of them. Two opted out and the other two were a no show at the signing." the security specialist said with relief.
"That's good to hear my boy. Alright. Go ahead with the plan. The Japanese House Of Councillors Cora Hau proposal will pass when they vote upon it today. I've been assured by my contact. By tomorrow when the central banks close we'll all be very, very, very rich men. You handled the situation well. We'll talk again tomorrow unless anything else comes up. Understand?" Mr. Steadman said calmly.
"Understood Sir." the security specialist responded as Mr. Steadman hung up and immediately began dialing another number.
A moment later another voice answered on the other end of his call.
"You have reached the English line of Mr. Itikara Takahashi, Honourable member of the House Of Councillors Of Japan. How may I help you?" a friendly female voice answered with a strong Japanese accent.
"Please get Mr. Takahashi on the phone. Tell him it is an urgent call from Mr. George Steadman." Mr. Steadman said confidently.
"Please hold." the reply came.
After a moment of uncomfortable silence Mr. Takahashi answered.
"Mr. Takahashi speaking. How may I help you?" Mr. Takahashi spoke as if there were no stress between himself and the man pulling his puppet strings.
"Good to speak to you Mr. Takahashi. I'm going to need the cooperation of the Japanese authorities on an issue as we've recently had a data breech at the Cora Hau facility. This breech could affect your proposal. Do you think that you could help to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to Justice before a Japanese court without injury or death?" Mr. Steadman insisted.
"I will give you all of the assistance required to apprehend the perpetrators of this travesty against your fine company Mr. Steadman. You can expect the full cooperation of the Japanese authorities." Mr. Takahashi agreed.
"Excellent. I will have our security team send your Police service all of the intel regarding the suspects being sought. With your help we will bring them to Justice and prevent any embarrassment that this occurrence might bring our two countries." Mr. Steadman smirked obviously referring to the damning video they had of Mr. Takahashi and his mistress of years ago.
"Will that be all Mr. Steadman?" Mr Takahashi asked feeling the burning sting of an ulcer in his gut.
"Yes. Thank you for being so cooperative Mr. Takahashi." Mr. Steadman said with the edge of sarcasm in his voice.
He then hung up and started considering how he would dispose of his insiders one at a time after their plan had successfully executed by tomorrow evening.
continued in The Butterfly Dragon II: What Different Eyes See - Act X