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Chapter Sixteen

Patrick Vanner was running on too little sleep and he knew it. However, he'd found everything he needed shopping, and putting the pieces together had been relatively easy. Once he'd gotten the pieces and put together a plan, he'd turned it over to Greznya. The girls had gotten used to tinkering with electronics and the design changes were relatively simple. The device was mostly hollow, anyway, and had a built-in spot for a camera. All they'd needed to do was install the bits he'd picked up, a few black boxes he always kept around just in case, and do the systems integration. He'd gotten in a power nap.

All that being said, he knew that he'd come up with the idea while in a sleep-deprived haze. In other words, it might be genius and it might be utter stupidity. Since he wasn't sure which, he'd carefully avoided discussing it with the Kildar or Adams and had sworn Killjoy to secrecy.

Which was why the former Ranger was with him in the sewer tunnel.

"I think you're bent," Killjoy said, lifting the device into the tunnel overhead.

"It's designed to avoid walls," Vanner pointed out as he checked the take from the device. "All we have to do is put it in the tunnel and let it go. It's perfect, really."

"It's nuts," Killjoy said. "Even if it works."

"If it's stupid and it works it ain't stupid," Vanner replied.

"Don't go quoting Murphy's Law of Combat to me," Killjoy said. "Not while I'm doing this. It makes me wonder if the smell from the sewer is making me as bent as you are."

"Just turn on the motor," Vanner said dazedly. "I'm getting a good feed from the camera and the intercept systems are nominal."

"Okay," Killjoy said, flicking the switch on the base of the thing.

"Right, here goes," Vanner said, touching a control.

There was a series of beepings that emitted from the tunnel.

"Don't tell me you didn't pull the sound box," Killjoy said.

"I'm pretty sure they won't hear it," Vanner said. "And, no, I forgot to tell the girls."

"Like they wouldn't know about it?" the former Ranger asked.

"Hey, they're the Keldara," Vanner said, shrugging. "It's not like they go to a lot of movies. They've never even seen Star Wars!"

He hit another button and there was another series of beeps.

"You go, R2," Killjoy said, chuckling.

And the miniature R2D2 toy began making its way up the tunnel and into the darkness.

* * *

"Where's Vanner?" Mike asked as he walked into the command post. "I looked in intel and he wasn't around."

"Getting some sleep," Greznya said, peering at her laptop computer screen. "He's planted an intercept system under their offices and we're getting the take from their computers. Getting in through the sewer worked, by the way."

"Can you hack their girl database?" Mike asked.

"Not yet," Greznya admitted. "They're using the computer at the moment and that takes too fine of a touch; we'll have to wait until Patrick wakes up. What we're doing is getting the information that they're seeing. Which is mostly financial at the moment. And we got their passwords when they punched them in. And Nicu uses a laptop with a WiFi link. He accessed it and updated it when he got into the club and we got the take from that. And he left it on but wasn't using it so we sucked it out. But it doesn't have a back-list of girls on it, just 'current projects.' "

"Anything we can really use, yet?" Mike asked.

"Nope," Greznya admitted. "Wait for Patrick to wake up. He didn't get any sleep all last night or today."

"Okay," Mike said. "I'll go bother somebody else for a while. Send somebody to get me when he's up and functional."

* * *

It was nearly midnight when Mike got called to the intel room.

"You got something?" Mike asked, looking at the group gathered around the computers.

"Sort of," Vanner said with a grimace. "They've got, they think, pretty good security. It's not as good as they think, but it's pretty good." He spun around in his chair and stood up, stretching his back.

"There are three different computer systems running in the room," Vanner said. "Nicu's laptop, an internet connected computer and a remote computer without any external connections. Their internet communications systems are encrypted with PGP and the computer's got three firewalls, one hardware and two software. The hardware and one of the software firewalls have known holes in them. The third doesn't. It's Romanian and if anybody's found holes in it I haven't been able to track the information down."

"So we're still not in their computers?" Mike asked.

"Not really," Vanner said with a sigh. "I tried slipping in a trojan and got whacked. Hard. They damned near traced me. Well, actually, they did trace me. To a university computer in the U.S. that I've got a trojan on. From there the trace went cold. I don't think it was someone in the room; it was an automated response. But I've already determined that the information we need isn't even on that computer. It's on the computer without outside access. There's no way to get information off of it except to connect. If I can get a connection on it I can suck it out in about ten minutes. But I'll need at least ten minutes with the computer to do that. And the office is manned around the clock. Oh, and one huge problem we keep running into."

"What?" Mike asked, sighing.

"Everything is in fricking Romanian," Vanner said, shrugging. "You read Romanian? I don't. We're using automatic translators. You know how good those are."

"What about Nikki?" Mike asked.

"She speaks English and Russian," Vanner replied.

"Go roust out Russell, a Keldara girl and one of the Keldara shooters," Mike said after a bit of thought. "Have them go find a street hooker that speaks Romanian and English. Reads it, too. One that won't be missed. Bring her back here. We'll just take her with us when we leave."

"That's pretty damned cold, isn't it?" Vanner asked, incredulously.

"We'll pay her," Mike said, shrugging. "And figure out something better she can do than being a hooker when we're done." Mike folded his arms and looked at the blueprint again. "Can you sleep, again?"

"In a while," Vanner said.

"Good, get some more sleep. We'll brainstorm this again in the morning. I've got an inkling of a plan; we'll see if it holds up to scrutiny."

* * *

When Mike entered the command center the next morning, there was a new face.

The girl was in her twenties, thin, dark and attractive but with a very hard face.

"Kildar, this is Ruxandra," Vanner said by way of introduction.

"Hello, Ruxandra," Mike said, sitting down. "Is she briefed in?"

"Yes," Russell said.

"And are you willing to help us, Ruxandra?" Mike asked, raising an eyebrow. "I mean, of your own free will?"

"I'm still wondering about that," Ruxandra admitted, staring at him darkly. She had really good eyes for it. "I'd gladly see Nicu in hell, though. One of my friends was picked up by his men and I never heard from her again. Then her body turned up off the coast of Italy. It had been in the water for a long time, probably dumped off the coast of Albania. Another girl, she didn't want to give the blowjob, yes? She tried to bite. Nicu had her front teeth hammered out. Now she does not bite, yes? I'd be more happy to help you if I was sure he was going to die."

"I think that's going to be how it has to go," Mike said. "I've worked this over half a dozen ways. I'll run through a few of them.

"Way one. We find one of the guys that works in the office in the evening that we can dope up someone to impersonate. Grab him, slip our guy in, suck the computer and our guy goes out."

"Welcome to Mission Impossible," Adams said, shaking his head. "They speak Romanian, Mike."

"Yeah, that's only one of about a thousand problems," Mike pointed out. "Way two, we just go with a frontal assault. We'd have surprise. We can get some weapons in the room in advance. I suspect that Nikki knows a couple of the girls who would bring stuff in for us. Right?"

"Possibly," Nikki said. "They are not swept when they come in the back entrance. And there's nothing keeping them from going into the club."

"Set up assignations with the girls off-site, discuss it with them, let them do it if they wish, hold on to the ones that balk. Then hit the front and rear, hard. Go for Nicu and the Albanian from the front while the back team goes for the computers."

"We'd take a lot of casualties," Adams said, frowning. "That was my thought. And I don't want to think about the mess. Lots of dead civilians. Even if the Keldara picked their shots, Nicu wouldn't. For that matter, we don't know that some of the girls wouldn't burn us. We could be running right into an ambush."

"Right," Mike said. "Now, the question is, if things go down, what do Nicu and the Albanian do?"

"I'd say, head for either the office or the security barracks," Vanner replied. "There are more cars out back. I'd say if they have to, they escape that way rather than out the front. There's a door near his booth that goes to a hallway that leads to the office. Turn left on it and you're headed for the girl's area and the security barracks. He'd hit that door if anything went down. Then either sit it out in the office or head out the back to escape. There are three rear entrances."

"We need a person to go up the tunnel," Mike said, shutting his eyes.

"It's too damned small for the Keldara," Adams said. "Even the girls."

"Yeah," Mike said. "But Oksana would fit. Greznya, go get her, would you, please?"

When the girl was led into the room she was clearly frightened.

"It's okay, Oksana," Mike said, gently. "I asked you to come in here because I need you to do something for us. It's going to be hard and it's going to require that you be brave. Do you think you can do it?"

"I'm not really brave," Oksana said, honestly. "I'd like to be, but I am always fear."

"Being brave doesn't mean not having fear," Mike said, shrugging. "If you don't have fear, you can't be brave. You have to overcome fear to count as brave. Do you think you can overcome fear?"

"I don't know," the girl said. "What do you need? Do you want me to be with man? I do not want to be with man."

"No," Mike said, shaking his head. "This is going to require physical bravery in a different way. Have you ever been in a small place?"

"Yes," the girl said. "I like it in a small place. I feel safer."

"That's good," Mike said, nodding. "Oksana, we need someone to crawl into a very small, very dirty and nasty place, and put some things in there. Up a tunnel."

"That ..." the girl said then paused. "I do not know if I would like that."

"If you do it, we can capture and kill slavers," Mike said, leaning forward. "I don't know if we can free more girls like you, but we will give them more of a chance. Some of us are probably going to die doing this. If you don't do it, more will die. I am really hoping that you will do this. We need you. Very much."

The girl regarded him for a moment and then tilted her head to the side, looking him in the eye.

"When you bought me, you treated me very bad," the girl said. "Why did you do that? The Keldara women, they say that you are a very nice man."

"I am a very bad man who tries to be nice," Mike said, not turning away. "This is the truth. I did what I did because if I did not, the men in the room would have suspected I was not who I said I was. They would have thought me soft, a weak man who could not be a slaver because I was too nice."

"Did you enjoy it?" Oksana asked.

Mike looked at her for a long moment, then shrugged.

"Yes," he answered, simply, still staring her in the eyes. It was as if there were only two people in the room. "I would not have done it if I didn't have to. But, yes. I am not a nice man. I am a very, very bad man who has chosen to be nice most of the time. I do many things that are for the side of what I call 'good.' But many of them are very bad things, like what I did to you. I do them for good reasons. But my bad side enjoyed it very much."

"You tell me this even though you want me to do something for you," the girl said wonderingly.

"If you do this, you are like a soldier that works for me," Mike said, shrugging. "I must be honest with my soldiers, with my troops. I must be honest and loyal with them as they are honest and loyal with me. If I don't, it doesn't work. I have shown them my bad side and my good. They choose to believe I am, at heart, a good man. I don't argue it with them. Maybe they are right and I'm wrong. But the things that I do are as much to make up for my bad side as they are for any other reason. Perhaps that makes me good. I don't know. All I know is that I must be honest."

The girl stared at him for a moment more and then looked away, breathing out.

"Yes, I will do this," she answered. "But you pay your soldiers, yes?"

"Oh, don't worry," Mike said, grinning. "You'll get paid."

"Good," the girl said. "And I get to keep it?"

"You'll get to keep it," Greznya said, looking over at Mike with a strange expression.

"Two thousand euros for this mission and as of today you go on base Keldara intel operative pay," Mike said. "Greznya, she's now in your section."

"Good," Greznya replied. "I can use another girl who actually knows how to use high heels."

"Good indeed," Mike said, distantly. "Okay, Vanner, I'm going to need most of the shooters taken off of intel duty. Figure that out. Adams, you and I are going to work out the entry plan. We're also going to need a place to rehearse."

"I'll get some of the girls looking for that," Vanner said. "They were the ones that found the warehouse in Chisinau."

"How much Semtek do we have with us?" Mike asked.

"About sixty kilos," Adams said.

"We're going to need most of it," Mike replied. "And we'll need some field expedient CS."

"I'll add that to my list," Vanner said.

"Chief, my room in fifteen, bring all the maps and updated intel data," Mike said, nodding. "And Oksana?"

"Yes ... Kildar?" the girl asked.

"Thank you."

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