Boze jogged down the hallway, trying to keep her eyes ahead as her mind ran circles around itself.
She could hear Damien and Wes behind her for a while, but they soon turned off behind her, the sounds of their footsteps slowly dwindling until only the soft pads of her stolen shoes could be heard. Boze passed by several security members, but they seemed to pay no attention to her. They were probably too busy fixing some problem or cleaning up some mess caused by a drunk starlet than paying close attention to someone that looked like they were just doing their job.
She was grateful as hell that she'd remembered to do all of her research. The building hadn't changed that much since she'd worked on it three years ago, but the security had been upgraded, and there were certain places blocked off that hadn't been that way before. Boze passed by the kitchen, which was framed by giant windows. People in white clothes yelled to one another in a mixture of English, Mandarin, and what Boze guessed was French. If she'd had the time, she'd have slowed down to get a better look, but she pressed on.
Boze knew these hallways better than she'd realized, her phone useless in her hand. She lost herself in the maze that was the building, her eyes always forward, no matter who passed by her.
Minutes ticked by, the seconds counted on the soles of her shoes connecting with the cement floor below. It wasn't long until she could see the sign in front of her. Control Room.
She was there. Boze pulled her badge off of the chain on the pants she was wearing.
Then a hand clamped on her shoulder. The hand spun her around, and she found herself facing a tall old man in a black suit. He spoke to her rapid fire in Mandarin, and she was only able to catch the gist of what he said.
"What are you doing here?" The man's tone wasn't happy. "Get back to the Raven Room. There are customers!"
"Yes sir," Boze replied in her best Mandarin. She dropped her voice, hoping the man wouldn't notice.
"Why are you even down here? The Raven Room is halfway across the building!"
"I needed to get-" shit. She didn't know the word for champagne in Mandarin. Boze sighed, testing the word out,"champagne."
"Stupid boy," the man growled back at her in English. He said something in Mandarin that was too quick for Boze to catch entirely, but from what she heard, it wasn't nice. "Get back to your assignment! I don't know why you didn't just ring Jameson in the first place." The man turned, opening the door to the control room. He stepped in, and Boze could see two guards sitting inside, looking at security tapes. He shouted at her in Mandarin, "what are you waiting for? Go!"
Boze nodded quickly, turning on heel, waiting as the man closed the door behind him. She turned back around, swearing lightly under her breath. Plan B already. She didn't think that it would come this soon in the game.
Boze started formulating a plan quickly, her head spinning as the map of the building refreshed itself in the back of her mind. She walked briskly around the corner, entering through a door labeled 'storage closet'. She groped around in the air for a chain, closing the door behind her as the light snapped on and she found herself in a tiny room. Boze had to work quickly.
Think, think. She closed her eyes, her mind running through the building plans, the codes, the wires. The wires. Boze pulled her butterfly knife out of the pocket she had put it in. She measured with her hands, thanking whatever dumb contractor that had decided to leave the wall unfinished. Boze took a deep breath and stabbed the knife into the wall, dragging it down about four inches before doing the same on the other side. She pried the piece up with the flat of the blade, ripping the chunk out of the wall. Boze grinned as she found a massive mess of wires behind the wall.
"Boze? Are you in position or is my GPS incorrectly calibrated?" Sarah's voice appeared in her earpiece.
"Whittle," Boze set her knife on a pile of things. She grabbed a fist full of wires, looking for the box she hoped would be at the bottom. "I'm in a little bit of a predicament, I can't get into the control room."
"Why, what happened?"
"I got chewed up by some old guy in Mandarin, he told me to go back to the Raven Room. I think he thinks that I'm the guy whose clothes we stole." Boze pulled out a wire, grinning as it held taut. "Whittle, I'm going to need some help hacking here."
"Always," she could hear Sarah's fingers flying over the keyboard in the background. Boze pulled out a wire from her pocket, plugging it into her phone. She reached down into the belly of the wall, pressing her fingers against the black box that was connected to the other wires. Boze slotted the cord in, patting the top to make sure it connected. "Your phone's been wired in. It's going to take us about a minute or so, but we'll be in."
Boze stood with her back against the wall, her phone held loosely in her hand. She could feel her pulse thrumming against the back of her wrist as she crossed her arms across her chest. Her breathing slowed as she closed her eyes, leaning her head back.
Don't hold your breath to make your heart stop beating so fast. The familiar nagging comment ricocheted around in her brain. It's just make your fear worse, Ericka.
Damn you, I wasn't, she thought back. I know better than that now.
"Boze, we're in. We can see the room."
"Can you get me an audio and video feed into the room?"
"I'll page it into your earpiece and your phone."
Boze looked down at her phone as the screen changed to the inside of the room. It was dark, the only light coming from the screens in front of the subjects in the room.
"Did you fix the problem?" The question was asked in sharp accented English. "It should've been beaten into your brains how important this Gala is. Did you fix it?"
"We're trying sir, but it seems that whatever's accessing our network is smart about where they go on our servers. They've gotten past all of our traps."
"Whittle, are you-"
"Yeah, I'm hearing this too."
"They're onto us."
"Dammit!" Boze knocked her head against the wall.
"Wait!" She looked down as one of the guards spoke. "Found it, the IP address for the computers hacking us-"
"Already on it."
The voice of one of the guards crackled in her ear. "It's...it's a prank sir."
"What?" The voice of the old man in the black suit cut like acid.
"What?" Boze and Sarah spoke at the same time.
"It's...um...there's a message here...it looks like it's from your son..."
The man leaned forward, reading the message quickly. Boze watched as his eyes followed across the screen. He swore loudly and quickly in Mandarin before roaring to himself, "I'm going to kill that boy when I find him again! He was just here," the man paced the room, "I bet he wanted to see this night ruined."
"Oh no." Boze's stomach dropped.
"What?" Sarah's voice was panicked. "What? Are you alright?"
"Yeah." Boze shook her head. "I'm fine. But I know who that guy is now...." She paused, the words coming to her slowly. "I just got accidentally yelled at by the leader of the Xiaolong, and he didn't even realize that I wasn't his son."
"That guy is the leader of the Chinese Mafia?" Sarah puffed out a laugh. "He's pretty unhinged for running a multifaceted organization."
"Wasn't your previous boss a crazy party boy that cared more about power and money that putting in the actual work?"
"Cvestikov had been out of the throne for years before he died, he was basically a puppet that was treated like a king, but he had no power." Sarah replied like she'd had to say it hundreds of times. "Matt Raub and some of our more, silent, partners were running the show. It's how we kept the Brotherhood from running into the ground." She paused, "as much as I'd like to talk shop about stuff, we've got work to do."
"Yeah, 'course," Boze breathed. She looked around for something to use as a distraction. Above her, a smoke detector caught her eye, and she grinned. "Sarah, I'm gonna try something stupid, but I think it's going to work." Boze reached into her shoe, grabbing around in her sock before she pulled out a small bag she'd pushed into the side of her foot. "Knock the cameras out."
Around her was everything she needed to start a small fire. She piled a few ripped up wad of paper on top of each other on a crowded workbench, dumping a whole host of different types of cleaning products she found hiding under a cupboard onto them.
Boze peeled open the tiny package, pulling a match from where it was secured inside. She struck it against the marked space on the packaging, watching as the light flared to life before reaching up to turn off the chain light. She pushed the door open behind her before setting the match onto the pile of paper and chemicals. It flared to life, and she stepped out into the hallway, closing the door behind herself.
She crossed the hall, pressing herself against where the wall dipped back before the command room. The fire alarm began to blare, which set off the rest of the alarms in the entire section of the building.
It wasn't long before the door to the command center banged open, and the man in the black suit and one of his guards ran out of the room, turning and yelling loudly as they both spotted the smoke that had begun to billow out into the corridor. Boze caught the door behind them, slipping in quickly as she heard the old man begin to curse loudly in Mandarin.
Boze grabbed the tranquilizer she'd slipped in her pocket, glad that she'd been smart enough to bring an extra. She stuck it into the remaining guard's neck, having no time to waste making sure he was down before she had plugged her phone into the main server and began to type away.
Boze bypassed their locks quickly, setting up a direct line for Sarah. She watched as the security system began to dismantle itself, the feeds freezing on a single second of frame, twitching back and forth. Smart. Make it look like a power overhaul.
"I'm connecting you with Wes and Damien," Sarah spoke. "We have fifteen minutes starting now. The van is in position, and all of the other teams are prepared to storm the vault when needed."
There was a crackle in her ear, and she could suddenly hear Wes's voice. "I don't even know anymore," she could hear him say. "It's just, every time I see him..."
"Wes? Damien?" She cleared her throat. "It's time. You're in position?"
"We're in position." It was clear that Damien answered for Wes. She could hear the cocking of a gun in the background.
"Did you two grab those crates from the storage room near the docking bay?"
"We've got em."
"Alright," she breathed, trying to keep her pulse still. "The vault is right ahead of you, can you see it?"
"Yeah," Wes replied. "It's a giant metal door covered in sensors and camera down the middle of a dark empty hallway?"
"Perfect. That's the one. You haven't move passed the tile change on the floor?"
"We're standing at the base of it."
"Good." Boze typed in a few commands, checking her phone at least four times to ensure that they were correct. "I'm putting in the shutdown codes now. Do not move until I tell you do. Don't speak, don't breathe, just stay still. This system is extremely touchy. It's meant to be sensitive for a reason."
She typed in one final line of code, holding her breath. Her finger stood still, slightly shaking as it hovered over the enter key. Boze re-read through all of the code, not daring to move as her eyes flipped from her phone to the screen, back to her phone.
Boze let her finger fall, sending the code out. It hummed, and she flipped her phone screen to the live feed from downstairs. She watched with a slowly growing grin as the defenses in the room fell, and the lights powered down, leaving Damien and Wes in low red light.
"Head down the hallway," she commanded. "Stop just a few feet in front of the vault door." Boze watched them from her phone. "Stop." Wes and Damien stopped in tandem.
She looked back up to the monitor in front of her. Boze cracked her fingers, letting them fly across they keys as she slowly but surely broke down the inner defenses in the vault. There were many more than she remembered, but whoever had installed it had never changed the old passcodes, and she bypassed them quickly.
It wasn't long before she pressed the enter key again, and the door swung open.
"Grab as much cash as possible, you're going to be making a few trips, but you'll have more people each time. Don't always run, but avoid suspicion. Move with purpose. You have fifteen minutes starting now. I'm going offline, so you'll only have Sarah to guide you, okay?"
Boze drew in a breath as she unplugged her phone. She powered the device down, throwing it into her pocket. It didn't take her much time to set up a virus that would eat away all of the files she'd just accessed. They'd be so corrupted and strung out that it would take years to ever even attempt to put them back together.
That was Boze's favorite part, watching as all of her hard work destroyed itself in front of her, it was almost cathartic. The screen displayed a red error message that flashed wildly, slowly spreading from one monitor to another before taking over all of them together. Boze smiled as she pulled off her mask, tossing it onto the ground.
She stood, looking over at the guard that was now slumped over in the chair, eyes wide as he looked up at her blankly.
Boze crossed the room to the door, pushing it open and slipping out quietly. The hallway was filled with the last few wisps smoke and a few people rushing about, all of them soaking wet. The ground was watery beneath her feet, and she knew that someone had turned on the sprinklers for the area.
She could hear someone blasting a fire extinguisher at where the fire had started, and plumes of smoke bubbled outwards. Boze kept her eyes straight ahead.
She began down the hallway as people swarmed to that corner of the building. Boze kept onward, never looking back no matter what happened. She heard someone yelling towards her once, and the sound of footsteps trying to catch up with her, but they never seemed to make it.
Boze weaved through the building, finding the exit out towards the back bay. Before she got outside, she grabbed a branded hat that was hanging on the wall. Boze pushed it down on top of her head so that it hung over her eyes.
She crossed the front entrance, going unnoticed by everyone until she reached the valet parking garage. The clerk sitting in the booth barely looked up from his magazine as she gave him the valet ticket she'd been given when they'd first arrive. He handed her back the keys, a small tag attached to them denoting the location of the car.
Boze climbed up several flights of stairs, unlocking the car from across the lot. The two other cars that had ferried them there were gone, and Boze already knew that Sarah had called for them to be picked up by one of her underlings.
The doors to the car swung open and Boze climbed into the driver's side. The vehicle roared underneath her, the hair on her arms standing up as her whole body went numb for a split second.
She slammed her foot on the gas, speeding out of the garage and into the night.
Boze drove for a long time, the lights of the city glazing past her window. She didn't quite know when she stopped driving, maybe it was when she realized that she didn't have anymore road to follow, or maybe it was when she realized that she'd forgotten to breathe since she'd gotten out of the control room.
Boze had found herself in the back alley of some empty street that was backed up against the harbor. She sat back in her chair, letting her whole body relax. Boze closed her eyes, waiting for her heartbeat to stop echoing in her head.
She reached into the back of the car, grabbing the change of clothes she'd brought with. Boze changed in the back of the car where the tinted windows kept her from sight, and she stepped out of the car with the clothes held loosely in hand.
Boze rifled through them, pulling out the badge and name plate of the man whose clothes she'd stolen. Leo Zhao. She dropped the two onto the ground, slamming the heel of her boot into them, listening as they cracked underfoot. Boze plucked what remained of them from the ground, as well as a few good sized stones. She made a neat little bundle with the clothes, weighting the in her hand.
Boze then stepped up to the fence that bordered the harbor before chucking the bundle over with all of the strength she could muster.
Her breathing was labored as she stared out at the lights of the boats sailing by in the distance.
She pulled out her phone, powering it on. There was a single message from Sarah.
B78s4w: Are you out?
She typed a quick response.
Boze: Yeah. Just threw out the rest of the trash. The car is safe. I'm somewhere on the other side of town.
Boze pushed her phone back into her pocket before circling the car to get in the driver's side. It didn't take long for Sarah to respond.
B78s4w : Good. We're having some trouble. Head to the warehouse location I've just sent you.
Boze : Is everything good? Or should I come as back-up?
Boze turned the car back on, the hum a strangely familiar comfort for her racing heart. Sarah's text was much more brief this time.
B78s4w: get to warehouse
B78s4w: medic there
B78s4w: let him in
B78s4w : X opened fire, someone is shot
Boze's heart dropped in her stomach, her mind going into autopilot as her body went cold. She plugged the location into the GPS of the car, and pressed the gas pedal so far back that it wouldn't go any further. Her mind was racing, god please let everyone be okay.
But something in the pit of Boze's stomach wasn't optimistic.