In the beginning, there was the word, and the word was 'Europe'. A place of culture, history and
many different types of alcohol jammed together in varied drinking holes, staffed by pretty young women with accents and that famed European cynical random pleasure driven morality. That should have been my trip. Lying in a flop house in Amsterdam, recovering after the ministrations of a woman of negotiable affections and trying to remember if I really did throw up on someone important. I could have been robbed by gypsies or hustled by Italians. Normal safe tourist things that everyone expects to find in a European tour.
Covered in blood in a Hong Kong hotel, clutching a laptop full of plans for a WMD and a suitcase
full of money was not set in the initial planning. I regret the oversight.
My first mistake was relaxing. Arguably, the second I've felt the vaguest bit comfortable over the last few weeks is exactly the moment when something horrible happens and I end up drafted into a foreign military. The problem was that the airline seats were so soft and deep. I was going to Australia. All right, even if it is the hick part of Australia, it's still on the same general continent of civilization. I was planning a large steak, a beer in any number of glasses, a long shower and about four days of total blissful coma. MacAllister even agreed to advance me some cash; a gift from her Majesty’s government as a thank you for the intelligence coup. Little steps, you know.
So, we made it to Australia. MacAllister's credentials got me into the country, as I didn't even
have Doqz' passport any longer. Perth smells like old sweat socks and fish in the heat. It's not a very pretty airport, but the city was not the tin-sided paradise of racism that I was expecting. The houses were adobe and brick, and it was no worse than an oasis of racism. There were also shops full of bottle of beer. Glorious rack on rack of stubbies and long necks and kegs. After a week in the hell of Mid-Asia, the true underpinnings of Western culture were a balm to my shattered spirit. MacAllister gave me the information for a hotel room, and offered to make the exchange in the lobby after I had checked in and picked up the plane ticket at the front desk. He's advance me a thousand dollars in spending money and a new passport, straight from the British Consulate.
Everything was perfect. Of course, that was the moment that MacAllister appeared to stumble beside me. Bent over, it looked like he had just stubbed his toe or something, until he vomited blood on my shoes and collapsed. A hand grabbed my elbow, a metal cylinder inserted itself into my lower back, and a low voice told me 'keep walking and look natural, or your liver is going to be all over the sidewalk in front of you.' We walked back to the hotel, never getting a look at my new captor until I unlocked the door and sat down on my bed.
Svetlana. Doqz, you are a friggin' dead man.
The Russian's little tasty treat wasn't a university student at all. No, dear 'lana has been working as an international mercenary for the last five years or so. While our meeting on the train had been chance, when Doqz' name showed up under the jobs available, she remembered that she had baggage with his stuff in it. So, she starting tracked him (me) down, and had nearly caught up with us in New Delhi before MacAllister busted me out and sent us here. She told me all of this between sharp hits to the jaw with the butt of her pistol.
It seems my laptop doesn't contain troop movements. In fact, Andropov used it because it was the
only way he could get clandestine plans for a very small high-yield nuclear weapon out of the
country and to his source. That source, it is theorized, was me. So, the FSB is willing to pay a
very high amount for my capture and subsequent torture. It seems that certain members of the
Chinese underground are willing to pay more for it. None of the offers omits my capture and torture, however many of them only have Doqz name, which gives me at least a grim satisfaction. Right up until she jabs a needle in my arm and the world goes blacker than Dubya's aura.
You know that joke Abyss always makes about traveling in a FedEx box? It's actually not that
uncomfortable, once you get used to the idea of your joints being detached.
Hong Kong. Kowloon Bay glows like a neon dream. This is the epicenter of madness; the neo-cyperpunk ideal. The city that even communism couldn't kill. Hong Kong has special status in China, in many ways the virus that is going to bring it down. The people are either urban peasants or men like knives. It is light and dark and terrifying and wondrous all at the same time; the fear underlining being here notwithstanding.
Our little charter plane touched down, and I got one more spine-jarring jolt before the box was
opened and I was led up on to the passenger level to marvel at the dark city around me, before I got a second injection and was dumped into a wheelchair. I'm assuming they just wheeled me through customs, unconscious and drooling. I woke up handcuffed to the bedframe, lying cheek down on maroon carpeting and occasionally being stepped on by 'lana as she walked to and from the bathroom. She uncuffed me long enough to drink a couple of bottles of water and keep from soiling the rug before resecuring me to the toilet. With a washrag in my mouth. And then she decided to get some sleep.
Once she got up and friggin' unattached me from the can, Svetlana told me the plan for my extremely limited future. We were to meet some rather unscrupulous Asian men with a strong attraction to nukes that fit in the trunk of a Volkswagen. They would give her lots of money, she would give me and the laptop to them. I would unlock all the codes, and if I was very very cooperative, they might not shoot me in the back of the head.
I hate this place.
Up we traveled in the elevator, while Svetlana checks the most guns I've seen outside of a Matrix prop sale. I'm Canadian. Guns are something that happens to other people... in the US. Hong Kong is supposed to be firearm free, but the mad East European with the arsenal under her jacket thinks otherwise. Being handcuffed to my own laptop is not encouraging when the person behind you has enough firepower to supply Detroit. She shoved me forward into a luxuriously appointed suite, which sent me sprawling to the carpet, laptop awkwardly under me. There was a chatter of angry Chinese, and Svetlana stood over me with a pair of automatic pistols trained at the men. They aimed pistols at her. The Chinese went back and forth like gunshots, before both sides nodded. I was hurled roughly to my feet while the Triads called in the moneyman. Svetlana whispered in my ear that I was supposed to start walking towards them while the moneyman walked towards me. I'd take the money, open it to verify it to her, and I would walk the case to her. The whole time, her gun would be trained on my laptop and then my head. I started walking towards the men when the moneyman walked in.
Sneaky fucking Russian.
The only positive thing about seeing Doqz was that he looked in as rough shape as I did. The
negative was that several men had guns pointed to his head as well. He shrugged, which convoyed the basic idea that he was resigned to die here, an opinion I heartily agreed with, in a den of thieves, holding a laptop full of WMD plans and a suitcase full of unmarked bills.
Here's where things get weird. I have assigned each group a number, simply so I can keep up with it.
1. Svetlana, pointing guns at my head and the Chinese Triad members.
2. Chinese Triad members, pointing guns at Doqz' head and Svetlana.
3. Marat, a treacherous Polish criminal who originally kidnapped Doqz, with a gun pointed at me.
1 and 2 are yelling at each other and 3 is just looking twitchy. That’s when the hall door to the suite bursts open and a fat white man in a black outfit comes racing in, five similarly dress men at his heels, leveling MP5s at us. That would be 4. Jim and his MOSSAD strike team.
So, 1 and 2 now have weapons pointed at 4, who are pointing weapons at everyone. 3 has taken the
opportunity to move behind 2, for protection. Everyone still with me? Good.
The fire escape door bursts open and disgorges 5. The machine gun toting Isstvan and Oleg, who take up a position behind the Chinese. 3 starts pointing his gun at Doqz and yelling at 5. 4 is yelling at Doqz while 2 has weapons training on them, and 1 is yelling for me to grab the money with one gun on my head and one on 4.
6. Two dead eyed men in ill cut suits with sub machineguns arrive via the side door they conveniently picked. Both yell at me in Russian, and Doqz whispers 'FSB' out of the corner of his mouth. 6 aims at me and 1, who apparently has a long standing feud with the modern KGB. 4 sees 6 and levels weapons at them, causing part of 2 to switch sights on 5, while 3 screams in Polish. That's when 7. SAS strike team comes through the weapon, knocking Doqz and I to the ground. Obviously MacAllister's death was not taken well by her Majesty’s secret service, and they decided to call in the bastard squad. So, 7 is aiming at 4, 2, and 6, while 1 covers 6 and 4. 4 has 2, 3, and 5 under sights, 3 is focused on 5. 5 has 2 and 3 in their sights, 2 wants 1 and 6 dead, 6 wants to dust 1 like a hard on, with 7 as a capitalist lackey running-dog side dish, and we're lying prone.
Maybe it was just a vase knocked off a side table or a a falling ashtray, but the second that crash registered, everyone opened up. Doqz and I did what any real man would have done in that situation: we cowered and hoped we didn't die. Marat got Oleg, but Isstvan got Marat and three Chinese before they got him. The Mossad and the SAS got the other Chinese, but the FSB got the rest of the Mossad before turning to the SAS. The FSB got Svetlana in the jaw, as she got the remainder of the SAS. Unfortunately for the FSB, the Chinese got a last burst before his wounds from Oleg's volley killed him, stitching the Russians to the walls.
There was a very long silence after that. Doqz and I slowly got to our feet, covered in dust and
blood, surrounded by shell casings and bodies, looking in horror at the carnage around us. My
fingers were gripping the laptop case so tightly I could hear it groaning, and Doqz' knuckles were white around the suitcase handle.
Several miles, a cab ride, new clothes and a cheap hotel room later, we realized two things. One, the Chinese don't care if you're covered in blood. The cabs will still pick you up. Two, we had a suitcase full of money, but more importantly, Doqz had my documentation, and I had his. By the way, neither of us felt any desire to kiss. Sorry.
Did I mention that there was a lot of money in the suitcase?
So, our European tour ends with us on a first class seat on our flight back to North America. I'm sipping a very fine flute of champagne while Doqz has taken the savaging the snack tray the very
pretty stewardesses bring by. It's funny, but even after everything that happened, if I had the
choice... I would have never left Canada. In fact, once I get home, I'm nailing the doors shut and staying in my apartment until the end of the decade, safe from gangsters, Russian military and freaky burning hostels.
Still, the important thing is that we made it. Nothing can keep us from the safety of home... Doqz wants me to write about the Northern Lights outside. I guess he's never... wait, it's the equator. You don't get that here. What the hell is that? It's sort of saucer sha