Malik's voice jolted Pritchard out of a deep sleep.
"Pritchard, it's Malik. Jensen just got through Belltower's forces – looks like the hacker you're looking for goes by the hacker handle Windmill. His real name is Arie van Bruggen and Belltower has been brought in to arrest him."
Rubbing her eyes, Freya sat up and pulled her laptop from the far corner of the bed. She had a bad habit of leaving her computers to one side of the bed when she finally got tired enough to sleep while working late into the night from home. She instantly flipped the computer on and started querying her hacker circles for any information about him.
"Anything else going on I should know about?" she commed Malik, figuring Jensen would have contacted her himself if he weren't busy infiltrating some heavily fortified facility.
"Jensen's going to need your help finding the video footage van Bruggen stored. Apparently it's got some pretty juicy intel on it, but it is way up in Tai Yong Medical." Malik replied, her spunky voice giving Freya new energy, and reassured her that Jensen was handily taking care of things.
"Let me know when he's on his way up to the civilian platform," Freya instructed her, seeing if she could pull up the info on Tai Yong Medical. From what she already knew when she took a temp job in Hengsha, it was a highly fortified lab for augmentation development. As one of Sarif's competitors, she would have known about TYM anyhow, but she'd always heard they produced cheaper, inferior products, often cutting corners on quality of materials. The first diagram she found was of the power input. From there, she was able to subtly spectate within their grid. If she so much as tampered with a single thing, she would set off the alarms and the defense barrier would probably fry her computer. It was risky, but it gave her a chance to see how the energy flowed throughout the building – areas of higher energy would have more processors and computing power.
"Freya, it's Jensen."
"Jensen, what exactly are you looking for?" she asked, following the power surges and spikes.
"Some kind of surveillance recording. Van Bruggen said he stashed it somewhere on a server."
She frowned, "He must have meant the data core room – very high security. It'll be a couple floors up from where the elevator lets you off to the civilian corridor. Don't forget to stash your weapons."
"Copy that… and keep tabs on my optical feed – when I get my hands on that video, I don't know how long I'll have. Record it so we have a copy in case the one I find here gets damaged or confiscated," he said.
"Good thinking," she agreed.
As she pulled up the feed on a second computer and hooked it up to one of her storage devices, she paused and watched his progress. She couldn't help feeling on the edge of her seat, holding her breath every time she saw him crouch behind a corner before knocking out some guards. Unable to take it, she turned the screen away from her and went back to investigating the company architectural blueprints. He's got his job, and I've got mine.
"Pritchard, I'm retrieving van Bruggen's evidence now. Is Sarif patched in?" Jensen's voice echoed.
"Yes," she said, reassured to hear his voice. She turned the screen back towards her to watch.
The transmission showed a heavily augmented mercenary and Tai Yong Medical's CEO, Zhao Yun Ru, having a heated argument. The footage appeared to have been taken from a security camera.
"I heard your team is mobilizing in Detroit! Why wasn't I informed of this sooner?" Zhao shouted at the mercenary.
"Tactical assignments are not your concern," his monotone voice answered her. His augments were appalling, with the pseudo-muscle fibers pigmented the color of raw flesh, red and yellow. Nothing compared to Jensen's sleek black prosthetics.
"Reed and her team have sub-dermal G-P-L implants. They'll be tracked! Kidnapping them was a mistake!" she continued, turning away.
"Montreal took care of that," he answered, again in rote, matter-of-fact tone.
"Forgive me if I don't put as much faith in our friend 'Eliza' as you do. She's too erratic." Eliza? As in the most popular news anchor in the media at Picus broadcasting?
"Your concerns are noted, but I would advise you to concentrate on your own assignments, instead of interfering with mine. Namir out."
"Boss, did you hear that?" Jensen commed in, "Megan and the others, they're still alive."
"Yeah, I heard that... We've got to stay focused. Zhao has a residence at the top of the tower. It's off limits to everyone except her and her guards. Now get up there and find out what she knows," said Sarif.
Freya was shocked to say the least. She didn't even know how to react. Elation? Excitement? All while still anxiously following Jensen as he crept through their facility dodging patrol guards wielding heavy artillery. Megan and her team were alive, that was the first good news they'd had in over 6 months! She could stop guilting herself as much about her firewall which, handicapped by Sarif's ridiculous back door, had opened them up to that devastating attack. At least they were still alive.
"Jensen, it's Freya. Was that the guy who fucked you up?"
"Yes. Anything you can tell me about my path up to her residence?" he asked tersely.
"I'm tracking several laser field systems up ahead, and more intellicams, so be on your toes."
"Roger," he replied. Freya imagined having to maintain composure after seeing that footage had to be difficult. She kept glancing over at his progress, watching as he finally entered Zhao's penthouse. His eyes lingered for a second on some grates near the side of the balcony, planning his escape route.
As Jensen entered the room, he heard the water running in her shower and headed in that direction. A quick scan told him there was no person in there, and he picked up Zhao's signature in infrared to his right behind him. He continued to play along, walking towards the bathroom.
"Nice place you got here," he started, pretending to investigate as her signal rushed towards him.
Jenson flipped around instantly and caught her wrist, making her drop the semi-automatic pistol.
"Please," she protested, "I wasn't… I didn't mean to!"
For a second he felt like asking whether she meant trying to kill him just then, or being a part of the kidnapping plot.
"Where's Megan Reed?!" he demanded.
"Reed? I don't know!" Even without analyzing her body language and tone it was painfully obvious she was bullshitting him.
"Stop lying, Zhao. I know you kidnapped her, and her team. I know you're out to destroy Sarif Industries."
"Sarif?" she asked, with her high pitched voice, still feigning ignorance.
"And I know you're working with that son-of-a-bitch who left me to die! So where's Megan?"
"No, no, you've got it wrong! You think I'm behind it all, but I'm not! I'm just like you - the hired help!"
"You're the head of a billion dollar mega corporation," he stated, incredulous.
"And you'd think that would protect me, but it doesn't! These men, they're bigger than Sarif, bigger than Tai Yong. I'm nothing compared to their ambitions."
"What are you talking about?" asked Jensen.
Somehow he was suddenly reminded of Ning and Mei Suen. They were two prostitutes he'd helped in Hengsha in dealing with their pimp who wanted to force them to chop off their perfectly functional natural limbs and replace them with prosthetics. While that in itself isn't completely unheard of, the inevitable addiction to the anti-rejection medication Neuropozyne made it a worse trap than heroin addiction. At least with heroine you could get clean. Once you had an augment, it was either keep the augment and pay for the Neuropozyne somehow, or swap it out for what amounted to a peg leg.
"Sarif knows, ask him. He thought he could protect his staff with sub-dermal G-P-Ls but these men…They control global interest at a whim. One call to Picus and the implants couldn't be heard. I thought they'd sent you here to kill me."
She came up close on his chest, touching his shoulder and pectoral muscles suggestively. None of it made sense. If she was so innocent, why the show? She couldn't be that fragile. Not Zhao, CEO of Tai Yong Medical.
"You've got to help me, please!" she continued, her hands trailing around him. She walked behind him and bent against his back, pressing her chest against him. "You've made it this far. Surely you can protect me. Surely…" Suddenly her hands pressed him forward, catching him off guard and a panel of bullet proof glass fell down between them.
"'Surely you can protect me?' Ha, men never fail to underestimate women," she scoffed at him, turning and leaving while an even more heavily armored shield came down, obscuring her from view.
"Adam, what the hell did you do? The entire building is on alert!" shouted Sarif over the comm line.
"A panic room. She's got a goddamn panic room," he explained, hoping that neither Sarif, nor especially Pritchard, had caught that embarrassing display he was suckered into.
"Yeah, well so do I. Forget about her right now; Get to the hanger bay, fast," Sarif instructed him.
As Jensen dove for the duct on the right side of the balcony and headed past the battalion of Belltower guards who were funneling into the room, he heard his comm beep on.
"Jensen, Jensen…" started Freya. "I gotta say that was painful to watch."
Jensen could hear a stifled laugh in her tone and clenched his hands tightly on the aluminum panels.
"Hey, it's not like you warned me she was reaching for the panic room activation panel."
"Isn't that what your CASIE augment's for? For what it's worth, I couldn't see that from your limited view. But hell, even I saw through that performance. I wonder what you'd let me get away with if I played the damsel in distress card…" she said daringly, enjoying this immensely.
"Don't even think about it, Freya," he growled mentally, using the neuro chip audio array to communicate since he couldn't exactly be speaking aloud only feet from heavily armed guards.
"Haha, okay, well the elevator is already there, you won't have long to wait. There's a computer in the hangar bay so you can disable the two huge bots patrolling. Pritchard out."
"Stand by, Pritchard. We're not finished out here yet."