Kohana “Fei” Sanchez-Vicario
Fei had to search three cabinets before she found it. With the metal drawer open, the narrow beam of the flashlight illuminated a black, rectangular object that looked very much like a DNA drive. But Fei had memorised the images Lady Rose had sent and she knew what this was. By lifting the object and clicking a button hidden within a cavity, she activated the prototype. Three separate protrusions clicked out and were instantly recognisable as handle, barrel and stock. The FXM-3 was in fact an extremely well-disguised handgun; invaluable for personal protection and … other uses. The DNA drive was functional but possessed only a few exabytes of data. Apparently, there were only eight of the prototypes on American soil and it did not surprise Fei that Neil Collingwood – San Lazaro’s premier arms dealer – had one.
Not for long.
She guessed he considered his office secure. There was full imager coverage; laser-nets on the door and windows; and pressure sensors on the floor. Lady Rose had tasked her hacker Nikki with acquiring the building schematics and Rhino had supplied Fei with the miniature EMP disruptor rod. Fei had triggered it three minutes ago, knocking out all the security systems in the fifth-floor office. Unfortunately, it had clearly knocked out power in the apartments below because she could already hear some of the occupants complaining.
Knowing she didn’t have long before Collingwood or his security showed up, Fei grabbed the prototype and stuffed it into her backpack. Crossing the office, she climbed out onto the window ledge and reached up to locate the wire. Five minutes earlier, she had positioned herself on the fire escape of the apartment block opposite and fired the piton gun. With the gun shackled to the fire escape, the wire was secure.
There was a slight incline but only fifteen feet to travel and Fei negotiated the wire hand over hand with practiced ease. The shouts from the apartments below were getting louder:
‘You got power?’
‘Who’s got power?’
‘First and second floors look good!’
‘How come your lights are on?’
Reaching the fire escape, Fei climbed over the railing. Leaving the piton gun, she hurried downwards, knowing she was only a minute or two from safety.
She was almost to the first floor when an SUV sped into the wide alley below and skidded to a halt. Somebody must have called Collingwood; either that or he had some other back up system she didn’t know about. Fei stopped and pressed herself against the wall. She reached for her belt and activated her adaptive suit’s camouflage function. This would match the colour to the brick behind her.
Two uniformed security guards jumped out of the SUV. Fei knew there would be others in the building, already on their way up to the office. She winced as the two guards – one male, one female – turned on high power, wide beam flashlights. It didn’t take long for them to illuminate the wire and then the opposite building and the fire escape. But Fei was thirty feet below that.
She was wondering whether to continue downward when a window opened just to her left and an old man stuck his head out.
‘What the hell is going on?’
He had his own flashlight and even the adaptive suit couldn’t do much at that range. The beam had only been on Fei for a couple of seconds when the much more powerful lights moved toward her.
‘Hey!’ yelled the old man as she sprinted back up the fire escape, chased by three beams. Hearing shouts from the guards below, Fei sped up past the third floor, then the fourth.
She cursed as she approached the fifth and top floor. The thought of getting caught with the prototype was bad enough but she knew the EMP rod had cost Lady Rose thousands.
Once on the roof she was at last free of the lights. The most obvious route of escape was across and down the fire escapes on the other side. The second most logical choice was a jump down onto the four-storey warehouse directly behind the apartment block. Fei was opting for neither. Nobody would expect her to climb down the front of a building that faced onto the well-lit Eleventh Street; so that was exactly what she would do.
Once at the corner of the block, she turned left and ran along to a point between two big electronic billboards mounted on the front of the building. The narrow space wasn’t completely dark but the suit would keep her hidden. Fei took her pack off and retrieved a long rope. She affixed one end to a water pipe, uncoiled the rest and threw it over the edge. Just as she climbed over the low surrounding wall, Fei glimpsed lights over by the fire escape.
The guards were close.
Fei was wearing the best climbing gloves money could buy and she had been descending and ascending walls for as long as she could remember. She moved quickly but steadily, fingers tight on the rope, boots flat on the wall. Though she couldn’t see the huge adverts on either side of her, she knew one was for Colombiana Coffee, the other for Allied Airways. On the ground floor of the block were a line of stores but they would all be closed: it was just past four in the morning.
She was about twenty feet from the ground when the rope began to move. Fei knew instantly that the guards had found it. They were either untying it or cutting it.
She was going to fall; all she could do was make sure she fell in the right place. Gripping the wall with one hand and scrabbling with her feet, Fei pulled herself a couple of yards to the left and let go.
She landed on the awning of what she guessed was the Eleventh Street Deli.
‘Ow.’ Her ankle had caught the metal frame of the awning on the way down but it didn’t feel broken. Fearing the canvas of the awning might give way, Fei dragged herself to the edge, clambered over it and dropped to the ground.
The impact hurt but the ankle held.
Turning, she half-expected to feel the shock of a taser charge but the figure staggering out of the deli doorway was just a homeless guy.
‘Where’d you come from?’ he said, a big bottle of something in his hand.
Fei made her way towards the street was relieved to see a taxi coming down Eleventh. The driver saw her frantic waves and a minute later she was safe and clear.
‘You’re out late, lady,’ remarked the driver.
‘Yeah, you know how it is,’ Fei replied. ‘Got roped into something.’