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The Company

March 3rd, 2013 (05:07 pm)
current mood: geeky

On February 26, we had Bonnie ("Xiang Wen," a.k.a. "Wu Xie Zhi" and "Dot"), Marc ("Anabel Windsor," a.k.a. "Abigail Wilson" and "Vicky"), Mike ("Vincenzo Calliente," of many aliases), and Torsten ("Qoqa Ramazanov," a.k.a. "Zoya Petrovna Sidorov").

Time: Sunday, February 17, 2013 (wee hours).
Place: Outside hotel in Kigali, Rwanda.
Last Event: Dealing with thugs after gas attack in hotel room.

As Vinnie leads Paul, Wen, and Zhang toward the tour bus he spotted – and ultimately to trouble in the form of six baton-swinging goons – the other five Agents hole up just inside the service entrance at the rear of the hotel. Klas watches the door to the parking lot, while Qoqa treats Anabel, Jili, and Lev for exposure to the nerve gas released into the team's suite just minutes ago. Though Qoqa realizes that her allies need time to respond fully to the meds, she does what she can to get everybody ready to run. With Jili and Lev's symptoms abating, Qoqa concentrates her efforts on Anabel, who's barely conscious.

While Qoqa is bent over Anabel, attempting to get her in good enough shape to move out, a man in the crowd approaches with an offer of assistance. Even as Qoqa looks up to see who's asking, the mysterious Samaritan reaches down to help Anabel up . . . and in doing so exposes an injector that was hidden up his sleeve! Qoqa slaps the stranger's arm away from her patient just in time. As Qoqa reacts, both she and Anabel shout warnings to their allies.

This proves timely: Through the glass of the back door, Klas notices a suspicious-looking character approaching, even as everybody else is fleeing the building. Looking back into the hotel, Lev spots two men coming around the corner, bulging jackets barely concealing firearms. Thus, even as Vinnie and friends face their own attackers on the far side of the parking lot, the Agents inside find themselves engaged.

Lev is the first to react to the developing situation, pulling his knife and lunging at the two gunmen before they can draw. Klas decides that a couple of assassins with guns are a bigger threat than a single dodgy-looking stranger on the far side of a door, and joins Lev's attack. Their charge achieves mixed results. The nerve gas must have left Lev with a tremor, because all of his mad slashing misses its mark and serves only to put him badly off-balance. Fortunately for Lev, Klas does better – he pushes past Jili, hurdles Qoqa, Anabel, and their attacker, and bears both armed heavies to the ground!

As Klas leaps into action, Jili glances toward the door he just abandoned and sees a man pulling it open, one hand inside his jacket. She launches herself in his direction in an effort to keep him from getting inside. In the midst of all this, Qoqa seizes the injector-wielding attacker by the head. Anabel, lying on the floor between Qoqa and her foe, musters the strength to kick the face that Qoqa so thoughtfully positioned above her.

The Agents' swift reactions tip the balance in their favor. Down the hall, Klas and Lev completely dominate the two gunmen. Klas falls upon one man and takes him out with a barrage of brutal knee strikes. Lev dives onto the other and delivers a fatal knife slash to the throat. One of the goons manages to draw his gun – a "tacticool" TMP fitted with a suppressor, a laser, and a one-point sling – but he's unable to bring it to bear before being utterly stomped.

Qoqa and Anabel have similar luck with their opponent: Qoqa holds him in place while Anabel repeatedly kicks him in the head. The pummeling is so severe that he cannot react before being sent to the ground, his face bashed to hamburger. As soon as their victim collapses, Anabel and Qoqa stand up and survey the situation. They see Klas and Lev trouncing their own opponents, while up the hall, Jili is hanging off the door, successfully keeping the last attacker from getting inside.

When Anabel and Qoqa move up to assist Jili, the man outside backs away from the door and goes for his own machine pistol . . . but it appears that these guys are having a bad day, because his weapon becomes entangled in its sling! Realizing that she has been handed a gift, Jili shoves open the door and charges the gunman as he struggles to free his TMP. She manages to grab his arm, preventing him from bringing the gun into play and distracting him from Qoqa's arrival. The assassin turns in time to see Qoqa, but not quickly enough to keep her from burying her knife in his chest.

With that altercation over, the Agents in the hotel decide that it would be best not to be present when security personnel or police show up. Leaving the guns on the bodies, and behaving as though their counterattack was an act of pure self-defense, the five make their way across the parking lot behind the hotel, eyes open for or trouble. They reach the bus just in time to see Paul and Wen finish their own battle against a group of goons. Vinnie and Zhang are on the ground – but so are the six brutes that put them there.

The whole team links up at the bus. A brief discussion establishes that they faced 10 attackers in all. Paul and Qoqa discover that they both ran into the man with the injector, who apparently twigged to the fact that the group split up. The conclusion is that the opposition was prepped to face one or two badly injured survivors of the gas attack – not all nine Agents, most of them in fighting form.

Examining Vinnie, Qoqa deduces that he was dropped by an advanced EMD weapon. Fortunately, the effects are temporary, and Qoqa soon has Vinnie up and complaining. Finding one of the stun batons on the ground nearby, Qoqa grabs it for later inspection. As for Zhang, he was simply beaten unconscious by blows. Qoqa starts treating him while Vinnie gets back to work on the bus. The others keep watch.

By the time Vinnie has the bus unlocked and started, Zhang can at least stagger, though he definitely needs rest to recover from his collection of contusions and broken ribs. Once everybody is aboard the vehicle, Vinnie pulls out. No police, goons, or bus drivers emerge to prevent this. Before long, Vinnie is turning down the road beside the hotel and driving away from the chaos as quickly as possible.

Unfortunately, the group's troubles aren't over yet. Even as Vinnie is speeding away, one of the bus' windows shatters, and then another. Somebody is popping off shots at the vehicle, probably one of the snipers that Wen surmised would be watching the windows of the team's suite. Everybody but Vinnie gets down, putting as much bus between them and the shooter as possible. Vinnie focuses on weaving through traffic. As soon as he rounds the corner at the end of the block, the hail of bullets ends – luckily without anybody being hit.

At this point, the Agents take stock of the situation: They're beat up. Their phones and identity papers are back at the hotel, abandoned during the flight from the gas attack. Nobody is armed with anything better than a knife. Everybody but Anabel and Wen is in skivvies. Without allies in Kigali, returning to the construction site seems like the most logical move.

Vinnie gets onto the highway without running into trouble, and is soon driving toward Gisenyi as fast as he dares. Qoqa uses the drive to treat the wounded – mainly Jili, Klas, and Lev. On learning that Paul was tear-gassed, she examines him, but he seems fine. She also takes another look at Anabel and Zhang, but there's little more she can do for them right now. By some miracle, Wen managed to escape harm completely and doesn't need Qoqa's attentions.

It's around 04:00 when the Agents reach the Darmatech site. As far as they can tell, all is quiet there – not surprising, given that it's under the protection of the RDF thanks to Col. G. Despite the hour, Piet Paarl and associates show up, demanding to know what's going on. Anabel spins the situation carefully: "Our hotel was attacked by terrorists for some reason, so we decided to get out of there."

Vinnie parks the stolen bus out of sight behind some buildings and then heads over to the mess to get some food together for the others. Qoqa follows him there with the intent of treating his injuries, only to find him burning dinner. She tells Vinnie to sit down while she takes care of his wounds, and then helps him rustle up some grub. Before long, the whole crew is seated around a table having a bite to eat and discussing the night's events.

In the final analysis, it seems that whoever attacked the team sent a small army of assassins: the drone pilot or pilots; at least one sniper, doubtless working with a spotter; the six heavies with stun batons; the three gunmen with TMPs; and the shady fellow with the injector. That's no less than a dozen operators, and probably more. Nerve gas, drones, and high-tech personal weapons suggest professionals with national backing, not random criminals. The Agents all agree that their work here isn't close to done if such people are skulking about, and decide to check in with Chaturvedi.

Jili fetches a satellite phone and calls Chaturvedi for Anabel. The Agents' handler is once again sick with a cold, but he sets aside his miseries when he hears of his team's woes. He says that the wire services are reporting a "terrorist attack" at the hotel, though there's no mention of nerve gas – just gunfire. He agrees that with this sort of thing going on, the mission is far from over.

Upon learning that the Agents were forced to abandon their false papers, Chaturvedi says that he can run interference on those but that this will make new identities harder to establish – he'll need time. He'll also need time to get more gear to group, especially the sort of stuff they'll need for urban operations against well-equipped assassins. All he can promise in the short term is Ben's assistance, though Ben can at least smuggle in some experimental nerve-gas antidotes developed by Darmatech, disguised as something innocuous. After arranging that, Anabel tells Chaturvedi to expect the team to check in every day at 12:00 local, and then ends the call.

While Anabel is on the phone, Klas, Lev, and Wen get some guns out of storage and reassemble them. Then the Agents post armed watches and try to get some rest. Luckily, the night passes peacefully. Morning finds everyone alive and the construction site still in one piece.

Paarl would prefer to see the Agents leave before they bring trouble, but Anabel manages to convince him that it would be in everyone's best interests for the group to take a day out to get organized before departing. Thus, they use Sunday to prepare for trouble. Vinnie saws the entire top off the bus to turn it into what looks like a giant convertible, patches the bullet holes, repaints it, and swaps out the plates. Qoqa rebuilds her medical kit and looks after Zhang. Everybody else sorts out gear: rifles and shotguns, ammunition, body armor, night-vision binoculars, satellite phones, a few basic tools, spare medical supplies, and even Vinnie's precious breaching ram and some C4 for Wen.