Helga Gracie was tired, plain and simple. Her eyes were tired, her body was tired, her mind was tired, her very soul was tired. If she had to read one more sentence filled with grammatical errors that would make her grammar teachers wail and gnash their teeth then she would smash her head into her desk until she bled or her skull cracked under the immense pressure. This was the exact thing that she had dreaded about becoming an adult and part of the working force, the very thing that had made her decide that she was going to apply to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service immediately after her graduation from university. Helga hated paperwork, plain and simple. She hated the idea of being stuck in a desk job and doing the same things over and over again until she was finally old enough to retire. And yet that was exactly what had happened to her. Sure, she was doing it in the name of Canadian national security, and she was doing it in an exotic place called Hong Kong, but it was still a desk job doing menial labor. Add to that the fact that Chinese to English translations were notorious for the English text to completely or hilariously miss the point of the original Chinese, and Helga Gracie's brain was practically throbbing from all the dullness and stupidity that she had had to endure.
So when the telephone on her desk began to ring, Helga quickly and immediately picked it up. Even if it was just her superior calling to ask her about the status of her work, it would still add a little bit of variety to her dreary life as a Canadian consulate desk jockey. "Gracie," she said into the phone's mouthpiece.
"Calling from Echo Uniform Sierra," a familiar voice said at the other end. "Please confirm that your line is secure."
"Please hold," Gracie replied automatically even as her eyes widened in surprise and recognition. She knew exactly what the caller meant when he said those words, and she knew that things were about to get less boring for her. Helga immediately pushed a variety of buttons on her telephone and then typed in a few commands into her computer. She waited for the progress bar on her monitor to fill up before she returned to the telephone and said, "Line secure confirmed."
"Great," Maximilian Andrews replied. "So, Helga, are you and Demi available for a double date tonight?"
"What? Max, are you serious?" Helga asked, her earlier excitement now gone and replaced by a creeping sense of disappointment and shattered hope. "Are you seriously using the secure line to ask me and Demi out on a date?"
"I mean, yes, that is true from a certain point of view," Andrews said. "But I'm not actually talking about a date night here. Can you two come down to the consulate tonight? Greg and I just got a walk-in, a very big fish by the look of things."
"Really? That kind of thing still happens today?" Helga asked in reply. "Okay, sure, I'll accept that. But why Demi and me? Don't you have other workmates there who can help you out?"
"It's not that simple actually. Our walk-in wants to be evacuated out of Hotel Kilo Golf ASAP, and he's told us that he's got relatives living in Yankee Victor Romeo…"
"…which is why you're asking for our help in getting him out," Gracie continued. "All right, Max, fine. What do you want us to do?"
"Come down to our place in… let's say fifteen to thirty minutes," Andrews replied. "That should give you girls enough time to prettify yourselves for our little date. We all know how long you girls can take to get ready while we guys have to sit on our thumbs and wait for the creeping embrace of death."
"Very funny, Max. Okay, Demi and I will be there in fifteen minutes."
"It's a date then," Andrews said, and then he hung up the phone and ended the call.
"What's this I hear about you and I going to the US consulate for a date?" a woman with pale skin, dark brown eyes, and sleek black hair asked Gracie as she stood up to peek over to her coworker's table. Demetria Shoemaker ("Demi" for short), was like Helga Gracie a desk jockey, a pencil pusher for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service in the Canadian consulate in Hong Kong. She wasn't as mind-numbingly bored about her job as Grace was, but she also craved a little bit of variety and mixing-up in her day-to-day life from time to time. "I overheard my name being spoken, and I also heard you talking to Max Andrews. What does he want from us this time?" she asked Gracie.
"Apparently someone just walked into the US consulate and defected to them," Helga replied. "Max says the guy wants out of Hong Kong ASAP, and that they plan to send him over to Vancouver because apparently the guy's got relatives there."
"Okay, I get that," Shoemaker said, nodding her head. "But why us? Why couldn't he just asked for our help through official channels? Why did he have to call us through the private line?"
"How would I know?" Gracie shrugged. "I'm not in their little Zulu Room with them. But maybe we can find out if we go there and ask them. If we go now, we can be there in…" She consulted her wristwatch. "Twenty minutes or so," she concluded.
"Then what are we waiting for? Let's go!" Shoemaker exclaimed. "It's not like I'm doing anything to ensure the national security of Canada right now," she said, referring to her own pile of Chinese to English translations and works.
"Touché," Gracie muttered as the two women stood up from their desks, shut down and locked their computers, and clocked out of their department. The American consulate was just up the road from the Canadian one and within walking distance as well, and the usual high volume of foot traffic on the road to the US consulate had surprisingly gone down, meaning that Gracie and Shoemaker were able to get to the consulate earlier than the twenty minutes that Gracie had anticipated. They breezed through the usual security checks by only showing their Canadian consulate IDs to the guards, and both Gracie and Shoemaker knew that Andrews and Gregory Malen must have already cleared them through.
"There you are, ladies," Maximilian Andrews said as he saw the two women in the lobby of the consulate. "Come with me; I'll get you all acquainted with our guest." Andrews then walked with the two towards an elevator which was located away from the main bank of elevators for use by both visitors and regular staff. Andrews inserted a keycard into a slot on the place where the up and down buttons would usually be and waited for a green light to come to life above the slot. The elevator slid open, and Andrews, Gracie, and Shoemaker stepped inside. There was no pad to let the occupants choose their destination floor, just another keycard slot, into which Andrews placed his to get the elevator moving.
"So what's so special about your walk-in that you called us in to help you get him out of here pronto?" Shoemaker asked once the elevator doors had slid closed and it began to descend.
"The dude is from the Third Artillery Corps of the PLA," Andrews replied. "It's the branch that handles all sorts of… unconventional warfare for the Chinese Army. Except for nukes. That one's under the purview of their Rocket Force. But I digress. This guy, Dr. Chu, he's a literal treasure trove of knowledge of all the shit that China's been trying to pull since, well, forever. And he's been spilling the beans to us as soon as he arrived. Guy just can't stop talking; he's got that much to say about the Third Arty. Chemicals, toxins, viruses, bacteria; you name it, he was part of it at least once in his life. But the thing that's really got Langley's tails up is that this guy is right from the heart of China's dinosaur cloning program."
"Dinosaurs?" Gracie repeated. "You mean like actual living and breathing dinosaurs? Like the ones from Jurassic World, except they're, well, Chinese?"
"You got that right, Hell," Andrews nodded, referring to Gracie by a nickname that she had always found embarrassing, but which only made Andrews love to use it even more around her. "Apparently, one of InGen's scientists decided to take all of his knowledge to Beijing after Jurassic World went to shit, and that helped them accelerate their own dinosaur cloning project until they've sufficiently advanced to a point where they believe that they can clone dinosaurs that will follow human commands. And our walk-in says China's already used these dinosaurs to take care of their problems in Tibet and Xinjiang."
"Oh, my God," Shoemaker muttered, covering her mouth with her hand. "Imagine if the trade war between you guys and China escalates into a real one. If China unleashes an army of battle dinosaurs, what's gonna stop them from ravaging America?"
"Come on now, guys, let's be real," Andrews said. "Our president is a businessman. I'm sure he knows how far he can push the Chinese without escalating to a real war." The elevator dinged, and they stepped out into the hallway leading to Zulu Room. The Marine guard was still standing in front of the double wooden doors as the trio approached him. "Thanks for holding down the fort, Wayne," Andrews told him. "I've got two guests with me. Ladies, if you'll give Wayne here your IDs…"
Gracie and Shoemaker handed over their identification cards to the guard, who compared the names on them to the ones on the list that he had used to confirm Andrews and Malen's identities from earlier. "You're both cleared, ma'am," he told them, and he nodded his head and unlocked the doors.
"Thanks, bro," Andrews told him. "I owe you one!" He and the two women from the Canadian consulate then entered the hallway leading to the vault door that opened into the actual Zulu Room. Andrews punched in his personal entrance code and waited for the door to swing open.
"…the technology to control the dinosaurs is both simple and sophisticated," the silky and well-mannered voice of Chu Peixin filtered in from the inside of Zulu Room as the vault door swung open. "Immediately after hatching, surgeons implanted electrodes into the dinosaurs' brains that could stimulate or suppress areas of their brains related to hunger. A remote control device held by their handler then controls whether the dinosaurs feel hunger or not. The dinosaurs are then taught to attack a target by means of a laser which is pointed at the target in question…" He trailed off as he noticed the arrival of the newcomers.
"Ah, finally, you're here," Gregory Malen said to the three. "Dr. Chu here was just telling me about how the PLA trains their attack dinosaurs. Dr. Chu, you've already met my associate Mr. Andrews. These two women with him are Helga Gracie and Demi Shoemaker. Helga is the short brunette and Demi is the only very slightly taller member of the Addams family. They're both from the Canadian Consulate General."
"How do you do, Doctor?" Gracie asked after Chu and the two women had bowed to each other.
"Very well, thank you," Chu nodded as he retook his seat. "I was just explaining to your American friends how the People's Liberation Army trains its new attack dinosaurs by means of the Pavlovian method."
"Of course, sir," Shoemaker said. "So, Mr. Andrews tells us that you wish to be evacuated from Hong Kong immediately. Is that correct?"
"Yes," Chu nodded again. "My absence at the Third Artillery Corps' headquarters will surely be noticed. I have given myself a window of opportunity in which to leave the sovereign territory of the People's Republic of China without my superiors' knowledge but, as with all windows, I fear that it will soon swing shut on me. I need to get away from Hong Kong as soon as possible."
"Yes, sir, we know," Shoemaker continued. "We've also been told that you wish to be evacuated to Vancouver because you have relatives there. Correct?"
"Yes. My sister and her family migrated to Canada after the debacle at Tiananmen. However, I do not intend this to be a permanent stop; I know how the PLA works. Once they realized that I have disappeared, they will send agents of their own to my sister to watch if I will visit her and let her know about my arrival in Canada. I cannot risk the lives of my sister and her family like, and this is why I have to get out Hong Kong immediately, so I can visit her before the PLA realizes that I'm gone."
"Of course, yes, definitely," Shoemaker nodded her head. "Now if you'll just give me her address, then maybe I can help expedite things for you. I have to warn you though, Doctor, these things take an awful lot of time to be processed and I cannot guarantee that there will be a swift response—"
"Hey, guys, are you seeing this?" Gracie's voice suddenly called out. "Are you watching this? What the hell is going on there?"
"Whatcha talking about, Hell?" Andrews asked her. Gracie pointed at one of the open TV monitors on the wall of Zulu Room. Andrews picked up one remote control out of a dozen and increased the volume of the television. It appeared to be a news report on a globally recognized news network, and it appeared to be coming live from Causeway Park itself.
"I don't know if you can clearly see what's going on behind me, Kristie," the reporter said to the anchor, "but vehicles with the markings of the People's Liberation Army have just appeared behind the line of Hong Kong Police who are blocking the protesters from making their way to the Convention Center. And now the police are making way for this big truck, some sort of semi-trailer, driving down the road towards the protesters. The police are backing off, and the protesters look like they don't know what to do now; they probably weren't expecting this. We weren't expecting this as well. Now soldiers appeared to have replaced the police with regards to blocking off the protesters, and the truck has come to a stop as well. The trailer looks like one of those trailers used to transport horses and other animals but there aren't any bars that allow you to see through the trailer and inside. The trailer is being opened, and… oh, my God! Are you getting this, Kristie? The Army is bringing out dinosaurs against these pro-democracy protesters! Oh my, it looks like there might be truth to those rumors that the People's Liberation Army has used dinosaurs against insurgents in Tibet, and now it looks like these dinosaurs are about to be unleashed on these protesters!"
"Oh, my God." Helga Gracie and Max Andrews turned around and saw that Chu Peixin was looking bleakly at the monitor with the live news feed. "They found me. I don't know how, but they found me. And quicker than I had anticipated too!" he muttered, almost to himself. "I have to get out of here! I have to get out of here now!" he demanded.
"Doctor, please stay right where you are," Gregory Malen asked him. "There's no need to panic, sir. We're perfectly safe right where we are. Those dinosaurs will not be able to get through all of our defensive and protective layers. And we have enough food and supplies stocked in here to last the five of us an entire year."
"No! You don't understand! You Americans never do!" Chu screamed, the once-serene scientist now looking on the verge of a mental breakdown. "It's not about those dinosaurs getting through into this, this vault! This is about the PLA sending a message! It's sending me a message! They're telling me that they've found me and that they will get me back no matter where I am!"
"I mean, surely not," Max Andrews countered. "The PLA aren't going to send troops or dinosaurs into the US consulate, are they? If they do, that's tantamount to them declaring war on us!"
"Think again, young man," Chu told him. "You've already seen how the Army deployed their dinosaurs on live television to be seen by millions upon billions of people around the world. They don't care about political and diplomatic niceties anymore. Those dinosaurs you see out there; they're not really here for the protesters. They're for me. And they're telling me that they will stop at nothing to bring me back to the Third Artillery Corps! Now either you get me out of here now, or I will do it myself!"
"Let's be calm and rational about this, Doctor, please," Malen continued. "You're not thinking straight right now. You don't want to get out there, dinosaur or not. If what you say is true then surely you will stand a better chance of riding out the storm in here instead of out there!"
"It's not as simple as that!" Chu shouted back. "Do not underestimate the lengths that the People's Liberation Army will go to protect its secrets from the rest of the world and even their own leaders in Beijing! This is just the start of—" But Chu's ranting was suddenly cut short by screaming that came out of the TV with the live news report.
"The dinosaurs have just attacked the protesters!" the reporter shouted. "I'm sorry, but we're going to have to cut this short because the police are telling us to get away—watch out!" The screen then cut to black, with only the ticker tape text at the bottom remaining to scroll along unfeelingly. At the same time, red sirens and klaxons began blaring throughout Zulu Room. A few seconds later, the vault door swung open, and Wayne the Marine guard popped his head inside. "Sir, we're going into lockdown," he reported. "Dinosaurs have just been reported loose in Causeway Park, and the Consul General has ordered all personnel into the bunkers."
"Yeah, we know!" Malen shouted back at him. "Get to the bunker, Wayne! We can handle ourselves here!"
The attack came out of nowhere, and from a most unexpected source. One moment, Gregory Malen was standing, and the next, he found himself on the floor of Zulu Room, stars floating around his head. In his dazed and confused state, he only barely saw Chu Peixin taking out Andrews, Gracie, and Shoemaker with lightning-fast kung fu moves, including a judo chop to Shoemaker's windpipe that knocked her flat on the ground like Malen. Chu then moved with surprising gazelle-like speed towards the vault door and punched Wayne the Marine guard before he could even react to the attacks, and Chu slipped in between the vault door and the walls into the classified section of the basement of the US consulate.
"Somebody stop that motherfucker!" Max Andrews shouted as he and Helga Gracie picked themselves up from the ground and ran after Chu. "He can't have gone far; he needs a keycard to call the elevator!" He and Gracie slipped through the vault door as well, leaving Malen alone with the choking Shoemaker inside Zulu Room.
Malen crawled over to Shoemaker, who was both coughing and hyperventilating from the damage that Chu's chop had done to her. "Take it easy, Demi, slow down," he told her. "The more you try to breathe, the more you're gonna cough, and the more you cough, the more you can't breathe."
"You try being in my place, Greg," Shoemaker muttered in a rasping voice. She coughed a few more times as she turned herself onto her side, spitting out some blood onto the concrete floor.
"Chu stole my keycard!" Andrews yelled out as he and Gracie returned to Zulu Room to check on Malen and Shoemaker. "The fucking Chink bastard stole my card, Greg! Now the motherfucker can go wherever he likes!" And then he noticed the state that the two were in and his demeanor immediately softened. "Oh, God," he said as he walked up to the two agents. "Are you guys okay?" he asked.
"Yeah, real swell," Malen replied sarcastically. "Of course we're not okay, dude! The first walk-in in our careers and suddenly this happens… Did you even see how fast Chu was? I thought the dude was in his sixties! How did he move so fast?"
"The guy obviously practices kung fu or whatever," Gracie said as she helped Shoemaker back to her feet. "I wouldn't be surprised if what he did was some kind of tai chi or Wing Chun move or whatever it really is."
"All right, man, what's the next move?" Andrews asked as he helped Malen stand up as well. Malen put a little weight on his left leg, and immediately he felt pain in the back of his knee and he had to lean against Andrews for some support. "Chu's out there, headed for who knows where. Those PLA dinosaurs really shook him up, but I never thought he would try to get out like this. What do we do about him now?"
"Let him die, for all I care," Shoemaker muttered angrily as she rubbed her still hurting throat. "Let the PLA kill him or the dinosaurs eat him, I don't care. If he wants to get out of Dodge so bad, let him do it himself."
"No, we can't," Malen said softly. "We have to get him back. He defected to us, to the US; he's our responsibility now. And if he dies or gets eaten out there, then that's a failure of our responsibility. We have to get him back."
"Oh, come on now, Greg, you're crazy!" Shoemaker told him.
"Look, you girls don't have to do this," Malen told her. "I can't force you and Helga to go with us because you're from Canada. This isn't in your jurisdiction. If it has to be a purely United States affair then so be it. I can't force the two of you to come with us. You can stay here with Max and wait for the all clear to sound, but I'm going to bring Dr. Chu back even if it kills me to do it." Malen made to walk towards the door of Zulu Room, but he barely made it to two steps before he almost fell down due to the pain in his knee.
"Not like that, you're not!" Andrews told him as he helped his friend back up to his feet yet again. "Dude, you're not gonna be able to run around with that gimp knee of yours, let alone run away from a dinosaur. You need help. You need my help. You know you need it."
"That's real nice of you, Max," Malen said. "Now get off of me before the girls think we're having a Brokeback Mountain moment."
"We're going too," Gracie said. "Like Max said, you need help. And you're certainly gonna need all the help you can get."
"We are?" Shoemaker asked her softly.
Gracie shushed her. "Remember, you asked for our help," she told Malen and Andrews. "And we're gonna give you guys our help."
Malen looked at the others one by one and saw in their eyes that they were all eager to help out. And he also suspected that some of that eagerness to help was born out of a desire to get some of their own back at Chu Peixin and his surprise kung fu attacks, something that he himself secretly wanted to do. "All right, then, that settles it," he said. "We're going after the doctor."
A/N: If you could leave a review or a comment telling me what you think of my story so far then I would really appreciate it. It only takes a few minutes of your time to do so, and it lets me know that there are people out there who read my stories. Thanks! – GR