Previously, Nikolai Kaidanovsky, Sami Härkönen, Shiina “Misha” Mikado and Zlatan Kljujic were joined by the French thief Marcel Clouseau in Bucharest who once dealt with Inish Medical before their exile fro Romania. (Clouseau has been relegated to a non-player character as his player had moved out of town.)
At midnight, the agents met up with the freelance cleaner Brendan, who had worked with Misha and MI6 before in Eastern European black ops. Plenty of codewords were exchanged at the café between Misha and Brendan before trustworthiness was established. In the end though no one could tell if a codeword was being used.
Brendan said, “Thank you, I’ll leave now.”
Misha paused for a second then asked, “Is that a code phrase or are you actually leaving?”
DAY 04 Sunday
Sami and Zlatan prepared to support Clouseau’s undercover dog-catching job at the Harmony Wings apartment building near Lake Titan. Zlatan bought them all a Toblerone bar each in case they need to defend themselves against evil, mind-controlling vampire doggies down in the park. Meanwhile Sami prepared their gear. Nothing out of the ordinary. Just some GoPro cameras, scooter helmets, jogging suits, firearms, quadrotor drones, remote listening devices, improvised explosive devices and one RPO-A Shmel rocket launcher with a thermobaric warhead.
Never know when one would come in handy against vampire dogs.
“This place looks worse than the first season of The Wire,” Zlatan told Sami when they saw the condition of Harmony Wings. It was still dark when Clouseau and the other two hirelings Petru and Drago were met by Doctor Ana of Keller Training at the park. She led them through the trees by the decrepit 20-story building. It looked older than it was. It smelled worse than it looked. Other apartment blocks stood out among the trees of the park in the distance. Lake Titan was within view of the block. Connected to Harmony Wings by a pavement was an even worse looking building: the abandoned public swimming pool, its windows darkened by what appeared be extreme mildew.
Sami and Zlatan maintained audio comms with Clouseau via their secure network. Doctor Ana silently herded Clouseau, Petru and Drago toward the closed swimming pool.
There was an inordinate number of dogs roaming wild in the park. As they passed by a litter of strays, every one of the canines suddenly looked at them, fixing on the humans with intelligent, purposeful eyes. Their heads tracked the party in unison. Petru muttered, “Creepy.” Doctor Ana shushed him.
Illuminated by sodium lights, a fair number of local occupants were on their way to work even this early in the morning looking lethargic and bedraggled. Most had their dogs on a leash. Even stranger were workers in labourer’s coveralls, gloves and boots carting wheelbarrows from one building to another, calling out in Romanian, “Mâncare! Mâncare!” It appeared to Clouseau that each wheelbarrow bore a pile of raw meat.
A puppy ran out of Harmony Wings as they walked by and trotted toward Clouseau. It appeared to be an albino mongrel. Despite the cool morning air, he felt uneasy. Something looked physically wrong with the puppy. He picked it up to study it. The microcam relayed the horror to Sami and Zlatan. The puppy’s skin was bare, sickly and transluscent. They could make out its skeleton and innards. Shocked, Clouseau dropped the puppy which then fled back into Harmony Wings.
The horrified Clouseau found himself at the doors of the swimming pool building. Doctor Ana opened the doors. An unimaginable stench swept through them from within. They almost retched. There was a dark figure inside, more than a head taller than Clouseau. Doctor Ana introduced him, “This is Olaf, the caretaker.” How could this Olaf bear to be inside such a building for an extended time?
The group entered. It was dark. There was an unnervingly soft but high-pitched wail which grew louder as they navigated deeper into the fetid building.
Finally they came to the pool itself and gazed upon a horrific vision. The pool was a twisted, writhing mass of thousands of white, translucent puppies yipping from and into the darkness. Zlatan nearly lost his mind at the sight. The ululation of chaotic puppy yips was deafening. As Clouseau fought the stench, he wondered what “dog-catching job” was he supposed to do with this pool of puppies?
Then someone pushed him in!
Over audio, Clouseau was screaming. Petru and Drago too. “Oh my god! Help me! They’re – they’re nibbling on me. They’re biting me!” Soon, the spine-chilling screamings stopped – though the eternal yipping did not.
Sami and Zlatan had been expecting something, but not this.
They saw Doctor Ana rushed out of the building looking very perturbed. She used an inhaler, calmed down then headed away, clearly unnerved by the event.
After Zlatan dispatched a quadrotor drone through a broken window into the dark swimming pool building to visually scope its interior, another unexpected thing happened. Screaming resumed. The drone’s camera caught a figure, naked and blood-soaked with most of its skin torn off, flailing at the side of the pool among the writhing puppies. Olaf calmly pulled it out leaving a trail of blood, trying to comfort it and giving it milk to drink. The mic caught some of Olaf’s words, “It’s okay. You are healing faster now. You will need training soon.” The bloody figure was Marcel Clouseau.
Olaf turned to the other handlers, gave them his best smile and flashed a gleeful a-ok gesture.
Yet ANOTHER unexpected thing happened soon after.
The sun was rising when Sami and Zlatan reconnoitred on foot, keeping their distance from the building. There was no way to avoid the groups of dogs that stared at them as they crept by. But they did not attack. As they skirted Lake Titan on the far side of the swimming pool, a side door opened. The bloody, mangled figure of Clouseau attempted to flee the nightmarish building. However as he fled, sunlight began to burn his skin. His escape attempt failed, ending in a charred, smoking mess several metres away from the water.
The handlers came rushing out and covered him with a tarp. One of them turned toward Olaf at the open door at the swimming pool, gave his best smile and flashed a gleeful a-ok gesture. The handlers picked him up and carried him into Harmony Wings, a pack of albino puppies biting at their legs as they entered.
Sami decided something had to be done about the shoggoth of puppies without jeopardising their other mission for the day: the extraction of their secret ally Vienna “Vin” Cesarescu from Inish Medical‘s group of enhanced operatives known as R-Team.
Misha, Nikolai and Brendan devised an extraction plan for Vin. Vin and R-Team occupied the entire second floor of the Sunrise Hotel. For that they need to disrupt the trade event taking place at the hotel today. When the event is thrown into chaos, they would spring Vin from R-Team, which included team leader Faris Barrar and the more-psychopathic-than-others Mr. Chow.
First, they called up their contact-in-hiding Georgeta Grigore to ask about Councilman Emil Ionescu‘s adversaries. She informed them that Mayor Sandu himself had his eye on Ionescu’s penchant for hiring suspicious foreign companies to fix the city’s dog problem.
As Mary Anne Featherworth of the London Gazette, Misha called Mayor Sandu for an interview. He agreed to meet “Mary Anne” at the Metropolitan Hotel. Sandu was already waiting for Misha and Brendan with two bodyguards and a dog named Jonathan Harker. At first, Misha asked the Mayor about his efforts to clean up the city from crime and dogs.
The Mayor was delighted at having to talk about dogs, especially purebred dogs. He tried talking Misha into setting up a meeting with Lady Vincent of the London Pure and Mixed Breed Society. He wished to establish a rapport between the British and the Romanian pure breed societies.
Then Misha directed the conversation to the dog infestation of Bucharest and how a foreign company had been contracted by the city to dispose of them. The Mayor was aghast. He had never heard of this before. He asked how Misha knew. When Misha mentioned Emil Ionescu’s involvement, Sandu excused himself as he fished out his cellphone.
Meanwhile, Brendan excused himself to head for the Sunrise Hotel to support Nikolai who was stationed there alone. The dog Jonathan Harker also appeared to require a walk and one of the bodyguards took him out. Harker seemed to be leading the bodyguard into following Brendan! Brendan had to slip through a restaurant kitchen to lose his tail. Unable to pick up Brendan’s scent Jonathan returned to Metropolitan Hotel.
Back at the hotel, Mayor Sandu had finished his phone call and invited Misha to watch the news at the lobby television for a new development.
Nikolai was spotted by one of Julian Dragani’s cops, but he avoided a scene by invoking “Uncle István”, Sami’s impromptu cover as a Keller Training security personnel the previous day.
Nikolai then had a bad feeling. He noticed that a new group of people, obviously under cover, had arrived to keep an eye on the policemen that were guarding the hotel. He retreated to an alley and realised that the street had become devoid of motor and foot traffic. Something was about to happen.
Meanwhile back at Titan Park, a car pulled up in a multi-story car park several hundred metres away from Harmony Wings. Zlatan began to study the building from afar while Sami retrieved the Shmel rocket laucher from the back of the car. He armed it with a thermobaric warhead rocket.
In her hotel room, Vin’s Blackberry beeped. It was a priority alert message to withdraw from the hotel and flee the country. R-Team leader Faris Barrar ordered everyone to immediately evacuate out the back of the hotel.
Thanks to “Rory Winston’s” Blackberry network hack at the Inish headquarters, the Agents also received a copy of the message. But before Nikolai could act, vehicles screeched to a stop in front of the Sunrise Hotel. Armed SWAT members swarmed into the hotel, locking it down and arresting participants of the trade event. Nikolai retreated deeper into the alley.
Just as Barrar, Vin and the R-Team was about to leave, Doctor Ana burst into the room in a panic. She cursed them for changing the plan and accelerating their timetable. The government had discovered their activities and was about to arrest them all. Barrar’s reply was to put a bullet into her head.
From their vantage point, Zlatan lased Harmony Wings where the most damage could be inflicted thanks to his interest in architectural designs. Sami heaved the Shmel over his shoulder and pointed the weapon at the apartment building.
R-Team emerged out of a service door into the alley behind the hotel – and Nikolai found himself face-to-face with Barrar, Mr. Chow and Vin.
In the lobby of Metropolitan Hotel, Mayor Sandu beamed with pleasure as the news showed footage of government forces storming the Sunrise Hotel and of dozens of arrests being made. Misha maintained her smile to the Mayor.
Sami pulled the trigger. A rocket lanced out into the mid-morning air leaving a trail of smoke.
Barrar was about to shoot Nikolai in the alley when Vin stopped him. “He’s one of Dragani’s men. We could use another hand.” Barrar stood down as a black Four-Wheel Drive vehicle pulled up before them. Vin looked at Nikolai carefully and gestured, “Come.”
A bright flash. A loud bang. The thermobaric warhead pulverised Harmony Wings’ load-bearing structure. Dogs and humans screamed in unison. The building toppled onto the swimming pool, smashing into its roof. Sunlight streamed in. A loud chaotic yipping joined the cacophony of destruction. A thousand puppies, unnatural and deformed, writhed in agony and moving as one. It began to burn up in the sun just as Clouseau had.
Zlatan drove them both away from the park and headed toward Sunrise Hotel. Sami noted that Zlatan was more shaken up than he had even been.
Misha and Brendan said their farewell with Mayor Sandu, thanking him for a most interesting and eventful interview and hoped they would meet again in London soon. As they left the Mayor became agitated once again as news of the destruction of Harmony Wings reached him.
The entire team converged at Sunrise Hotel, but Nikolai, Vin and R-Team were nowhere to be found.
Meanwhile, Nikolai was in a car surrounded by Inish operatives who could tear him apart with their hands, en route to an unknown location.