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"Hm... would've preferred a suit."
"We'll walk around for a bit; you'll get used to it."

Kathy readjusts the straps of her dress, still unsettled by the foreign attire she was wearing. Its interior fabric was dyed a deep blue, while the exterior was dyed black with silver highlights, covering enough of her body to ensure that her scarred back could not be seen. Tess meanwhile wore a similar dress that complimented Kathy's, differing only in the deep red of her dress' interior and the lack of shoulder straps. Diamond shaped earrings and a triangular necklace made from platinum rounded out her seemingly innocent appearance.

Together, the pair patiently sat on their yacht as they coasted along a Venetian canal to their destination. Lights filled the route as dusk was approaching; their cold and warm colours mirroring off the water's surface. The surrounding structures were a strange mix of contemporary and traditional designs, for a city that was uniquely aged within its watery locale. It was a peaceful afternoon, undercut only by the sound of boat motors and bass-heavy music, music that was signalling the spies’ destination.

"Sounds like our convention," Tess notes, "it'll be a bit of everything from what I was briefed on, with Mr Lombardi. A very needy rich guy by the sounds of it."

Kathy moves to a railing to gaze over the water.

"You nervous?"
"... I prefer staying quiet in meetings with guns around."
"Fair enough. I'll handle the small talk. You do you."

The two spies fall silent for the next minute, listening on to the music which was growing ever louder.

"A rich, weapons contractor, tied maybe to criminals... with the Yakuza?"
"It's something the agency suspects, yes."
"... Could they be here?"
"... It's certainly not impossible."

The ex-Yakuza falls silent with a look of worry ever present, prompting Tess to idle up to her.

"Least it's not Kyoto..." Tess quietly states.
"... Not like I have many choices here either."
"Well, you never know... you could try to throw me overboard and run with the boat... 400 euros mind you for the dress."

Kathy gives a brief glance at the spy's attire.


She turns to face Tess, eyes averted.

"Relax, ok? Don't work yourself up over the details; that's my job. I need you to remember what you need to do."
"... Alright."
"Like I said, most of this is classified anyway."
"... Can't trust criminal defectors, can they?"
"... Not yet it seems."

With a sigh, Tess casually turns to lean back against the railing. Kathy isn't too receptive of the spy's cool demeanour.

"Look, the Yakuza, your name on their list, I haven't forgotten... crowds will be around, we'll just blend in as two rich girls who are looking for a party, keep an eye out as we go."

Kathy slowly nods.

"I'll be ten, fifteen minutes tops with what I need to do, you just handle the baggage... if you can't for any reason, send a text, leave with the yacht... and if, someone asks about where I am..."

Tess gestures a hand at Kathy for an answer.

"... Restroom... fixing your makeup."
"There, certified spy," Tess chimes, giving Kathy a light pat on the back.

The ex-Yakuza lets out a nervous scoff.

"All things considered, you'll be doing practically nothing, which would still mean a hell of lot for the agency."

Rounding the last corner of the yacht's route, the source of the music could finally be seen. Past the many jetties and boats lining the canal's edge, there stood a massive three-story mansion with two distinct wings; one north, one south. Most of the structure was painted in a sky blue, which looked notably unchipped compared to the paint of the surrounding neighbourhood.

The yacht, through its autonomous sailing, carefully docks itself by an unoccupied section of the pier. Various attendees dressed in suits and gowns, jumpers and jeans, and the occasional military uniform could be seen milling in the area. One individual, appearing to be a servant for the venue, steps forward to the yacht, offering a hand for Tess and Kathy to hop off the boat.

"Benvenuti signora."
"Ciao. Busy night for you?" Asked Tess.
"Oh, quite a night. Tickets, er... all gone."
"Wow riiight. Big party?"
"Sì, big party signora! Err, right up there, second gate there," said the attendant, pointing to the entrance of the mansion courtyard.

Tess turns to Kathy, shouldering her handbag with an appearance of excitement.

"Shall we?"
"Yes, let's..." Kathy quietly responds.

Tess gives a small nod to the attendant, as the spies began their way along the stony pier. Approaching the second gate, the spies are stopped by two upper class bouncers for a ticket check in. Dressed in tailored turquoise suits, one bouncer went about scanning Tess and Kathy with a portable metal detector before checking Tess' handbag, while the other processed their tickets. Nothing of note is found within the next minute, leading the bouncers to quickly allow the spies into the venue for them to check the next lineup of guests.

They pass through a small garden, lined with waist high hedges and small statues, before entering the mansion itself. There, the couple reach the source of the loud music, within what was a massive foyer that was crowded with people, travelling between dozens of business stalls and showcase stages. Wide chandeliers filled the space, above a smooth stone floor.

"What now?"
"... Anything catch your eye?"
"No, not really."

Tess reaches into her bag to check the time on her phone.

"Let's browse for a bit, we'll have all evening. How are the heels?"
"許容できる. (Tolerable)."

Turquoise lights gave the place a moody atmosphere, as the spies continued deeper into the convention. Portable rail gun prototypes, new data mining systems, the latest in drone technologies; it was all up for grabs for anyone who had the ambition to spend big. Though notably, what appeared to draw the most attention for ambitious buyers, was a next generation APC vehicle that was parked on an indoor stage. A video was playing that was showcasing the APC's impressive ability to withstand IED attacks over its various competitors.

Can't imagine the agency wouldn't be tickled by all this.

Already, there looked to be three officers from opposing military branches that were having a lively discussion about production costs with the exhibitor.

After a 10 minute walk within the central structure of the mansion, the next stop was the bordered courtyard in the middle. There, refreshments and nibbles were being served from a portable bar, amidst a crowd of guests. Motioning to a bartender, Tess orders two glasses of champagne and sushi nibbles, before sitting over at a raised table with stools. Kathy eyes the food and drinks, as Tess takes a bite.

"So we're drinking while we're here?"
"Eat the sushi first, it'll sponge up the alcohol. Sip afterwards."

Kathy eyes her food some more, decadent in its presentation, before finally taking a bite.

"Hm... needy rich guy."
"Champagne's pretty needy too; the date looked pretty expensive."
"... Do you go to many parties like this?"
"... On occasion..."

Taking her first sip of the champagne, Kathy's frowns at the sweet alcoholic taste.

"I gather, there wasn't much time for partying back in Japan."
"No, not really."
"Hm... to making up for lost time then?" said Tess with a raise of her glass to chime against Kathy's.

Taking another sip of champagne between the spies, they finish off the remaining sushi. All around them, within a convention that appeared to be getting only busier as time went on, the spies could watch the various exhibits in motion through the many windows of the courtyard. The bass-heavy music continued to play over the next 10 minutes, until an announcement came from over the speakers.

Spoken in both Italian and English, the excitable voice that came through was from none other than Mr Lombardi himself, wishing his guests a wonderful evening of both work and play. A mention is made of a quieter dance floor opening in the northern wing, before the music resumes.

"Sounds like a place where noise cancelling ear buds would actually mean a damn."

Briefly startling Kathy from over her left shoulder, was a familiar face Tess didn't often have the pleasure of seeing in the field. It was the operator from the Osaka assignment.

"Should take in what you can Gerard, take whatever covered flights you can get," Tess casually responded.
"Sights; sure. A party as a poor excuse for a tech convention; not so much," sighed Gerard as he pulled up a stool to join the spies, a hand rubbing his forehead.
"The suit been working out for you?"
"This wasn't even a black tie event. Why did I have to wear this?"
"Don't know... guess Operations wanted a sharper looking exhibitor without the cheeto dust."
"... I can exhibit stuff just fine, without being tie strangled," grumbled Gerard, as he reached for his blue tie to loosen it.
"Hm, fair enough. How did your little sonar demonstration out the side go?"
"Well, the buyers seemed pretty quick to move on to that APC; I doubt we'll be getting any calls for an aging scanner system..."

Clearing his throat, Gerard leans in a little closer.

"... It's still there, just beneath the surface."

Tess gives a short series of nods.

"... Party on," responded Tess, glass raised, before finishing the last of her champagne.
"The dock wasn't being too handsy when you came through?"
"Metal detectors and bag searching, like you said. Everything is on me."
"... Alright... good... I'll see you soon then?"

Stepping of her stool, Tess reaches forward with both hands to retighten Gerard's tie.

"Keep looking the part," chimed Tess, with a pat on Gerard's suit.

The exhibitor breathes a sigh of annoyance. He stands to wave a waiter over to grab a glass of champagne.

"It's good to see you again Ms Nagata, favors or otherwise."

Kathy gives a small nod, before Gerard turns to head back inside with his drink.

"... Annoying fashion; something we have in common," spoke Kathy, before sculling the rest of her glass.
"... Let's go for a walk," Tess teased, hand extended.

With an irritable glance to her heels, Kathy slides off her seat to join Tess on a wider tour of the convention, starting in the south wing. Here, there was less in the way of high-tech equipment that was brought specifically for the evening. More of the aristocratic side of the mansion was on display, from its many paintings and marble busts, to its ornate furniture and fine-stitched carpets. For the spies, it felt as though they had jumped back a few centuries when they crossed the main threshold leading into the wing.

Away from the loud speakers of the mansion's central area, this appeared to be where most people went to socialize in comfort. Under more traditional lighting, Tess could pick out a few people from the crowd that were of interest from her briefing. Whether or not they were actually here for shady business inquiries with Mr Lombardi, was what Tess was tasked to determine outside of directly conversing with them.

Follow their ledgers, follow their money.

Half an hour passes by the time a circuit of the south wing is complete, having remained largely in the background for the duration. Only on two occasions were the spies approached by a guest, both appearing to strike up a conversation purely out of interest for Tess. Consequently, this led to both gentlemen being turned down through a subtle arm ring with Kathy.

"The perks of having a date. Nice to keep things moving for once."
"Yes... yes it is," said Kathy, sounding a little distant.

Looking to Kathy, Tess notices her eye-line being directed towards a group of guests who appeared to be Japanese in ethnicity. Gently, Tess puts a hand on Kathy's back to guide her away.

Heading to the north wing through the central exhibits of the mansion, Tess and Kathy arrive at what they could only assume was the dance floor Mr Lombardi had announced earlier, erected within a pavilion. Indeed it was quieter inside than in the halls of the north wing, thanks to the use of sound proof padding and noise cancelling speakers. Classical music played for a number of partnered dancers to waltz too, over a floor lit by warm orange lights. To one side of the pavilion-holding hall were more refreshments and nibbles, and off to the other, were three curtained double doors with signage out the front of one, which lacked in extravagance compared to everything else that was on display. It was Gerard's exhibit, which, despite how slow things were going, currently had a customer inquiring at the front.

Without a word, Tess leads Kathy by a hand toward the dance floor.

"What are we doing?"
"Just to pass the time for Gerard."

While the spies had been moving from crowd to crowd all night, stepping into spotlights was now making Kathy more nervous than before the assignment had begun. Tess could feel a slight tug of resistance.

"する必要がありますか? (Do we have to)?"
"合意のため. (For the agreement)."

Taking an outer position on the dance floor, hands are clasped and waists are held, as Tess begins to guide Kathy through some simple side-to-side motions. It takes a moment for Kathy to register the beats correctly, something Tess was widening her smile over as she gazed straight on. Kathy averts her gaze, trying to pull her focus toward tracking where Tess' feet were going.

"Hm... something just occurred to me... just now."
"... What?"
"... Something we've been missing in all this... something staring me in the face."
"A date."
"... A date for what?"
"Dating... back home..."

Briefly, Kathy spares a glance at Tess' eyes.

"... You've been staying with me."
"You've been working a lot. I think we can do better than a city tour and a view from home... this is work too."
"... Making me dance doesn't sound like work for you."
"Well... Lombardi did say this was a place of work and play. Best of both worlds."

Step by step, Kathy was becoming smoother with her motions across the dance floor, her eyes still mostly at her feet.

"Any recommendations for a time and place?"
"For what?"
"Our little get-together."
"... Right."

With a tilt of her head, Tess gazes at Kathy expectantly for an answer.

"Any place with Japanese cuisine?"
"... Tess?"
"... I think I know those people we passed by."
"The Japanese business suits?"

Tess, through her peripheral vision, takes a moment to scan her surroundings.

... Nothing, at least for now... looks like Gerard is finishing up with the lucky customer.

"How sure?"
"They look like people that visited Osaka a few times."
"... Could be quicker on the call there."
"They might not be, I did not get a good view... you wanted to dance."
"... Hm... good foot work by the way."
"... Can we please go?"

Looking toward the open doors to Gerard's booth, it was now vacant.

"Guess we better had."

Hand-in-hand, Tess and Kathy finally meet up with Gerard as well as two other stall hands; the operators who accompanied the spies from the Marco Polo Airport. They all move from the stall front to the back, situated outdoors. Stone railings ringed what was a narrow stretch of balcony, which hung low over a waterway that was gated off to the west. To the east, floated a single pleasure yacht with a width that took up most of waterway, confined past two further balconies.

Gerard motions toward a long pole with sonar equipment deployed in the water, suspended by a series of cables and clamps. He goes to reel in a nearby fishing line out of three others strung over the side.

"It's about five metres to the bottom. The entry should be by the third balcony over."

Through a monitor wired into the sonar, one of the stall hands point out the exact perturbation indicative of an underwater duct.

 A typical pool length swim with some cave diving thrown in... the other balconies are pretty much empty…

Satisfied with the direction to take and the privacy the waterway walls offered, Tess sets her handbag next to the railing before she goes about flicking off shoes, removing jewellery and unzipping her dress in a corner. Kathy instinctively moves in front of Tess, to partially block the balcony doors.

"You're going in there?"

Peering up at Kathy with a wink, Tess lets her 400 euro dress fall to her feet, to reveal a white one-piece wetsuit, folded downwards below her strapless bra. In a smooth motion, the folded half of the wetsuit is unfurled to allow the spy to squeeze her arms through its sleeveless holes, allowing the wetsuit to then be zipped up from the front. It is a firm fit, within an outfit that was laced with an aerogel tailored specifically to repel water.

Retrieved from a fishing line, Gerard hands over a weighted belt and diver's mask for Tess to equip. Drops of water that were trickling from the belt, bounce off the wetsuit with no surface tension to enable the drops to adhere. Curiously, Kathy notes the same effect occurring over Tess' legs, from water drops that were ramping off her knees.

"Maybe not a restaurant... maybe a date by the sea... or on the sea," Tess muses.
"... I can't swim."
"Hm, perhaps the perfect time to learn... lipstick and phone please," asked Tess, gesturing towards the handbag.

Kathy steps over to rummage through the bag, while Tess gives a passing glance at her hips to double-check the number of plastic tranquillising needles she had concealed.

"So... this is not lipstick?" Kathy queried, soon finding and passing the items to Tess.
"... A loud colour... more or less."

Sliding the phone and lipstick into appropriately sized pockets around the belly of the wetsuit, one with a camera and torch hole, the spy takes stock of the fact that she now had all the gear she needed to proceed. She lets out a long exhale, rolling her shoulders and stretching her arms, before leaning closer to Kathy.

"Mind if I borrow some air?" Muttered Tess, hand on Kathy's shoulder.

Kathy glances over at Gerard and the other two operators, before leaning in to briefly meet Tess’ lips.

"... Fifteen minutes tops, ok?"
"Watch the bag, watch them... make sure Gerard doesn't strangle himself with his tie."
"Mhm, balconies are clear, whenever you're ready," Gerard sighed out.

... Time to go...

Stepping out from the balcony corner, the spy in a effortless motion mounts and sits on the railing, facing the direction of her objective. She then kicks out with both legs and pushes off without breaking eye contact with where she had to go, dropping a metre below to land in the murky canal. The cold hits the spy, yet not in the typical way a diver would experience without the aid of hydrophobic materials. A pocket of air now clung to most of her body, providing an extra layer of insulation as well as buoyancy, as the spy began to swim along the wall to her right.

Makeup powders sure are expensive these days.

The spy's strokes are methodical, with a comfortable amount of air left in her lungs as she passes underneath the second balcony through darkness.

One more over.

Within a minute, she soon makes it under the third balcony. The spy surfaces for some air, with hardly a sound made as the waters part, masked entirely by the sounds of partying. She pulls out her phone and switches on its built-in torch to then dive in search of the underwater duct. Visibility is restricted, even more so the deeper the spy went away from the surface. Free hand extended, she feels her way along the wall for something other than hewn stone or barnacles. Eventually, at around a depth of five metres, fingers dance over what feels like a metal mesh, to which the spy is able to confirm with a spotlight to the area.

Right on Gerard.

With a smile, the spy makes a mental note of the duct's location and its half-a-metre diameter before returning to the surface. She tucks the phone back into its pocket, with the torch still shining through, before diving a second time. More quickly this time, the spy reaches the duct again for her to then pull out the lipstick and remove its blasting cap. Notches rotate around the top of the cap, as the spy sets the detonation countdown to 20 seconds. The red C-4 stick is then yanked out of its casing and smeared over the circumference of the duct's cover, leaving the blasting cap to then be pressed in and activated.

Fire in a hole.

Rising to the surface to get clear, a bassy thud is heard and felt from the water a few seconds later, as yet another sound masked by the music still humming from the mansion. The spy's checklist was coming together, with only a few more steps to go to get inside, something Tess was taking extra breaths for.

It'll be a tight squeeze... watch for anything jagged...

A minute passes, as the spy drafts out her moves. Then, with one last inhale of cool air, the spy begins her descent for the third time to come upon what was now a damaged yet still attached duct cover. Beneath her diving goggles, she gives a frown at the warped mesh, but then notes a section of bordering stone that did crumble from the blast. Moving closer, the spy clasps fingers around the duct's rim. Feet then braced against the wall, the spy begins to pull at the cover, which, after releasing a few strained bubbles, eventually gives way with the right tug. It pops out with an audible clang leaving the mesh to sink to the bottom, the way now open.

The spy backflips from the pull to loop back to the hole. Peering in, a faint blue glow can seen coming from within.

No time to waste, in we go.

Entering in head first, arms outstretched and legs straight, the spy carefully palms the interior of the duct to slowly guide herself in, in spite of stomach contractions that were beginning to heave at her low oxygen. Eventually, with hands reaching the other side of the metre thick wall to pull herself inside, the spy was now within the private server basement of one Mr Lombardi.

That's a lot of ledgers...

Tess kneels down, against a grated metal floor bolted over the basement's older stonework. Within the surrounding waters by two arching stone pillars, the source of the blue lights could now be seen originating from light strips surrounding four metal-meshed columns, extending in rectangular shapes up and out of the water into a darker floor above. Within every column aside from one, small red and blue lights could be seen blinking away from the shadowy outline of water cooled server stacks.

Nice and spooky... let's keep it that way.

The spy slips out the phone and switches off the torch to instead use night vision in the low light. With one free hand, she then goes about unbuckling her weighted belt, reasoning that access to the servers would probably come from climbing somewhere above, outside of a ladder just visible on the far side that might be under watch. Contractions beginning to grow painful, she lowers the belt onto the grate flooring, before pushing off to take a quick look at some of the thick cables connecting all the columns. Of note to the spy, are cable connections appearing to be connected and held by motorised devices; air gapping security measures.

That certainly would've... ugh... made things difficult... nevermind the top tier... ow... firewalls the agency couldn't crack.

Unable to withstand the stomach pains for much longer, the spy ascends, still taking care to emerge from the water as slow as possible. Fingers tightly grasp through the mesh of a column, as Tess bows her head against it in an effort to control her breathing from being too sharp or too loud. Half a minute later, with her body calming to a more comfortable state, the spy takes a moment to listen to her surroundings. Aside from the occasional drips from her diver's mask and phone, no one else was nearby.

The spy pulls the mask down to get a clearer view of things, before turning the phone towards the grated upper floor, covering the infrared LED of the night vision camera.

Go figure that this place wasn't going to be empty.

Close to the wall the spy emerged from, stood a wide computer console linked to a number of wall mounted monitors. But more notably above all the hardware, there was also the faint glow of infrared lights from a camera mounted to the ceiling.

Pushing off the column with both feet, the spy drifts to beneath the console while scanning the rest of the upper floor for more security cameras; none can be seen. Only one camera appeared to be live, angled to record down the central aisle of servers towards a single door, based on the angle of its lights.

No cameras to watch your console... privacy at the cost of a blindspot...

Following all the thick cables leading away from the columns, they all converge into an aligned configuration travelling up a wall into the back of the console, with a gap of about 30 centimetres in between. It appears to be a way up, out of sight, as something the spy could climb using sparsely welded cable clamps as a ladder.

Stowing the phone to free both hands, the spy grabs the furthest clamp within reach, using whatever gaps there were between the clamp and the cables. Her feet next find purchase, though narrow, on another clamp with thighs bent nearly at right angles to her hips. Then, poised with another clamp sitting at chest level, she pulls her full weight up and out of the water to reach the next clamp above, for her feet to then move up to the middle clamp. Her body wobbles momentarily in her second squat-like position, but with a quick wriggle of her toes, stability is reached.

Awkward as this partial pull-up was, the spy now had a tactile grasp on what movements she needed to repeat to continue climbing, enabling her to execute the manoeuvre half a dozen more times. Her grip strength and flexibility is pushed to the limit with every pull, until finally, the clamps stop next to where the cables twist into the console. It's a tight fit for the spy's head and shoulders at the top, but it's enough to leave one free hand within touching distance of the console's back panel.

Twisting her head and hips, the spy uses touch and her peripheral vision to find a series of USB ports along the back panel. Her shoulder blades resting partly on the console, she then pulls out her phone and activates the screen logger program.

A stylish phone with all the features; in-built USB cable, invisibility from computers, streams everything it connects with...

The screen switches off, with all user data erased except for the data pertaining to the phone's now only function; espionage. Sparing a thumb from one hand clasped around a clamp, the spy flicks out the phone's USB plug. Cable between her teeth, she pulls out the cable before plugging it into a USB port on the console.

Next time he logs on, we'll log on.

Putting the finishing touches to the spyware, the spy thumbs off the phone's back cover to reveal embedded patches of adhesive tape and gecko tape. The cover falls to the water below, as Tess goes about planting the device against a nearby I-beam, her muscles straining by this point.

Done. Time to go.

Not wanting to spend another second on narrow ledges with aching arms and legs, the spy relaxes her muscles, and with one hand, guides herself to swing off the I-beam to splash into the water below. She breaststrokes over to the floating phone cover to retrieve it, before masking up to dive for the weighted belt. Buoyant as she was, the spy is able to reach the belt using a column and the floor to pull herself along. But before the spy could fasten on the belt, white lights suddenly illuminate the space above.

The spy's head rears in surprise. Instinctively, she stays low and immediately swims for a nearby stone column for cover.

Are they looking for me? Did I trigger something?

Quickly scanning her immediate surroundings, the spy still appeared to be the only threat within the basement waters, but looking above, the distorted silhouettes of two people could now be seen next to the console above. Carefully, the spy surfaces to breathe and listen, within a basement now ringing with the sounds of an angry Italian; Mr Lombardi himself.

His subordinate is hardly able to get any words in, as his boss continued to rant while interfacing with the console. The spy remains where she is for the time being over the next five minutes, certain that any sudden moves might tip them off to her presence. It is unclear as to what was being said, yet whatever it was that provoked Mr Lombardi in this manner, there seemed to be an air of urgency as well as frustration, based on the sounds of his fast typing. The taps soon seize however, when all the submerged server stacks from within their metal columns are lifted out of the water, leaving all cable connections severed. The spy peeks around again, this time to see Mr Lombardi and his subordinate leaving at a brisk pace. Before long, as quickly as the lights came on, they switch off again, plunging the waters into the familiar darkness bathed in blue lights, as the doors above close with a slam.

Tess breathes a sigh of relief.

Whatever is happening, Kathy and I should probably leave.

Stuck longer than she would've ideally preferred, the spy redoubles her efforts to leave, reacquiring her belt before passing back through the tight water duct. The spy surfaces on the mansion's exterior where she listens for any sign of movement coming from the balcony directly above; none. What was of note though, was a party-goer on his phone on the next balcony over, between Tess and Gerard’s stall.

The spy submerges again to swim past the unaware man, to then re-emerge next to the Gerard’s balcony, opposite to where she had initially dived from. One of the operators is standing arms crossed, back leaning against the railing.

"... Ahem," coughed Tess.

The operator's attention peaks. He spins on the spot to look down at Tess who is giving a small smile and wave. Wordlessly, the operator turns to grab some rope to drop over the railing, allowing the spy to then be hoisted back onto dry land by both operators and a relieved Kathy. The spy clambers over the railing while no-one is watching, with most of the water from her swim having slid off, leaving only her hair partly soaked. Stepping over to a corner, Tess starts getting dressed, with a more relieved Kathy helping to pass items over.

"... All good up here?" Asked Tess.
"Fine, you?" Replied Kathy.
"Yeah, never better... It's done."
"... So it is. Nice work," said Gerard, gazing at his phone with a nod.
"Time we better off though, Mr Lombardi wasn't exactly in a good mood when I saw him."

Gerard peers up.

"You saw Mr Lombardi?"
"He was checking his servers down there. Something was really pissing him off, enough for him to disconnect all the stacks."
"I don't think so. I was pretty out of the way, same with the device. Still, better safe than sorry... pass the rag."

Tess remained cool in her explanation, folding down the wetsuit and slipping on the dress as she went without missing a beat. Rag offered by an operator, she takes it and gives a quick wipe down of her hair before slipping on her jewellery and heels again. Within two minutes, the spy was back in disguise.

"How do I look?" Asked Tess, gesturing to her appearance with open arms.
"... Like 400 euros," Kathy mused, letting out a small smile.

Smiling back, Tess offers an arm for Kathy to loop, handbag shouldered with the other.

"We'll make ourselves scarce now."
"Right. Check in tomorrow."

Tess gives Gerard the OK sign as she steps toward the front of the stall.

"Enjoy the rest of the convention."

Job done, the spies enter the crowds once more, weaving their way to the mansion's central foyer at a brisk pace.

"You still ok with the heels?"
"大丈夫だよ. ここで終わりましたか? (It's fine. Are we done here)?"
"そのヨットに戻ったらすぐに. (As soon as we're back on that yacht)."

Passing by the numerous exhibits within the still busy space on their way to the dock exit, Tess spots some rough movement a ways off in the crowd. It was a group of three security guards in turquoise dress, clearing a path for a fourth person arriving from the north wing.

Squeezing at Kathy's right arm, Tess redirects their path to hide behind a poster board. A hand hovers over the nearest tranquilliser needle under her dress.

"それは何ですか? (What is it?)"

Let me guess...

Glancing from around cover, following with what Tess had witnessed downstairs, it was Mr Lombardi again, this time making waves within a crowd. He is still visibly agitated, as he and his security continue past the spies without much notice, before stopping to ask one of his guards to get on the radio.

"... Yeah, everyone's wifi must've cooked the routers huh?"

An Englishwoman from the other side of the poster board could be heard from within her stall. Tess' eyes narrow at what was happening invisibly, over the seemingly normal backdrop of a business event.

"Your internet not working for you too?" Tess inquired, stepping around to the front of the Englishwoman's stall.
"So it would seem. Funny for a tech convention, ain't it?"
"Yeah... same with the other stalls?"
"Looks that way."

The spy scans her surroundings, looking for signs of an internet outage with the other exhibits. One booth with a number of TV screens was showing connection errors to various websites convention-goers and staff were trying to navigate.

My phone had active wifi before I connected it to the console. This is recent, 10 minutes or so.

"Lombardi angry about Wifi?" Kathy queried.
"... I'm not sure... let's go."

Electing to keep playing things safe in case Mr Lombardi somehow turned his sights on the spies, Tess beckons Kathy to follow. But no more than a dozen steps later, the music abruptly falls into silence. A few curious glances are thrown between people as Tess and Kathy continue moving, with the exit in sight. Yet all of a sudden, the spies are stopped in their tracks when an eight rotor drone comes tearing through the foyer to crash into a chandelier! It tumbles out of control, crashing through a stall front, with shattered glass falling from the damaged mansion light. Screams echo throughout the foyer.

"Go! Go!"

The speakers come back to life, but not with music. Instead, an ear-splitting, high pitch note rings out through the convention, leaving everyone momentarily stunned, trying to block their ears from the horrendous noise. Shouting can barely be heard from one of the security guards holding a radio.

Ears blocked with hands, Tess nudges an elbow into Kathy to keep going, even as turquoise mood lights begin blink out all around them. The spies try to run in the dim space, but Kathy trips in her heels to fall onto all fours. Tess reaches down to pull Kathy up, braving the noise with open ears, when suddenly, white lights flash in their direction. The ground rumbles, pandemonium ensues as people begin to run for the exit, trying to outrun something that was growing closer. Tess' glances back, her eyes widening at the sight of an APC bulldozing its way through exhibits, headed straight for them!


With only seconds before the runaway vehicle would reach them, Tess twists Kathy to the right towards a small stall to get out of the way of the APC. With a push to her back, Kathy dives over the fold-up table at the stall's front. Tess follows, but she is only midway across the table when in an instant, Tess' vision is thrown into a spin, as she is catapulted through the air, from furniture being up-flung by the APC. The spy slams into a light rigging pole, her lower back taking most of the impact, before hitting the marble floor left shoulder first.

Tess' head knocks across the ground, as she rolls to a rest on her stomach. Pain sears through her body, yet she is unable to even utter a sound after having the air knocked out of her. Her vision blurs, her eyes lazily hang open, with thoughts of a suspicious convention now replaced only by the thoughts of how familiar this agony was to her assignment in Osaka. Seconds pass, which feel longer than seconds ought to be, before Tess tries to move something.

She slides her right arm toward her with little issue, but upon trying her left, the arm sends new waves of pain through the shoulder joint, leaving her stunned.

"Mmmgh... ahhh," Tess winced with a cheek to the ground, teeth gritted.

More seconds pass, as the spy tries to get a grip over her injuries. Banging sounds begin to echo around her, banging sounds that take a moment for Tess to put together.

I can't... argh... can't move... I can't think... it's... it's too loud... loud guns... loud guns!

Recognising that she was in fact hearing pistol fire and metal impacts, her senses sharpen up. She forces herself onto her back to then scoot over to some cover, in the form of a partly ripped, stall wall. It is at this point that Tess realises that the APC that nearly ran her over was still nearby, partly lodged in a wall of masonry, under fire likely from security. Its wheels aren't rolling, but its engine is still running, right next to where a fold-up table was keeping Kathy pinned.

"くそ! 降りる. クソ下車! (Fuck! Get off. Fucking get off!)" Kathy strained, trying to lift the table off herself.

With one hand, Tess starts scooting over to Kathy in an effort to help. Fortunately though, Kathy is able to get herself free without Tess' aid, through one solid push up to crawl out. She slides over to Tess, as bullets continue to ping off the APC.

"大丈夫!?(You ok!?)"
"くそ... かかと! (Fuck... heels!)" Exclaimed Kathy.

As well as shots striking the APC, the still screeching speakers in the area appeared to also be targets for the shooters, as one by one, the overall foyer noise is reduced with every speaker cone that was destroyed. But in its place, there came the sudden squeal of the APC's tires, as its electric engine threw the vehicle back into reverse. Panicked shouts in Italian and a brief rise in gun fire are heard as the vehicle careens back into the depths of the mansion, destroying more property as it went.

"Now, g- ah."

Tess falters back to the ground, almost twisting an ankle in her attempt get back on her feet, on her heels. Unceremoniously, she unbuckles the shoes to chuck them away.

"Next time, we can go in suits."

Kathy takes the same action, being more than happy to rid herself of the awkward foot wear. Together, the barefoot spies help each other up to start walking, arms around shoulders, to finally make it outside.

Past the garden with ears still ringing, it is chaos on the docks, with the few security guards present looking overwhelmed by a crowd of terrified attendees, as gunshots continued to echo on. Canal lights in the night gave the environment an ominous look, but with the home yacht in sight, the spies press on.

"Ah... ow..." Tess winced, after a passerby knocks her left shoulder."
"What is it?"
"I think my arm might be dislocated."
"... Looks like more than that."

Trailing off, Tess notices that blood is starting to drip from her forehead.

"Oh... maybe... a concussion?"

Her coordination was growing notably weaker by the moment.

"Signora! You ok? Need ambulance?"

Pushing his way through was the dock attendant that greeted Tess earlier in the evening.

"It's ok. Hospital, I'm taking her to the hospital," responded Kathy, somewhat caught off guard.
"Yeah... what she said. I'm fine by the way."

The attendant gives a quick nod before continuing his push through the crowd towards the mansion, leaving the spies to make one last push over to their pier, and eventually, over the gangplank to the autonomous yacht.

... I need a shower… Not just for the salt water in my hair…

Mission Accomplished.