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Post Reply ❚❙❙ {Project 02} Crossing Past
Yuki
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Posted 5/19/14 , edited 6/11/14


Different. Very different. Those were exactly what were running through her mind as she faced the bright-haired inspector. Her expression can't lie; especially the ones where it clearly shows that she don't trust the other party. She stood rooted to the spot; her hand was the one taking the initiative to demand for her phone back from the inspector.

She listened quietly to every words he said. As he spoke, her mind drifted back to her imagination earlier - where she'd imagined taking the phone from the police officer, sign a form or two and exit with a smile of gratitude. It proves reality is still the best place to splash some 'acid' onto the face and flush the wonderful imagination down the toilet bowl.

Her eyes flickered to catch his at the mention of "expect the unexpected". Her heartbeat increased rapidly - and she didn't know why. Strange images were flushing ferociously like a strong wave of oceans into her mind. One moment she remembered standing in reality - in the dress and hat and the next moment she was wearing a Victorian-aged dress, very much to her dislike. Images were overlapped and she felt her world spinning.

"Expect the unexpected," said a familiar voice. Renee looked up, realising that she'd been staring into his eyes while she was dreaming off - aside from entering the interrogation room unknowingly. She turned around to find the door had closed on her. She looked back at the man, who was gesturing her to take a seat before him.

Renee took her seat. She was sure she saw images that don't belong to her. One of the two images that she could remember was that of a tall muscular man standing before her saying the sentence and a little boy with silver hair saying the same thing. Funnily, she couldn't quite get to see how they looked like. They were silhouetted figures in her short visit to dreamland.

"How do you know who -" and she let the question slide away as she remembered filling up the forms earlier last night. She looked away, she had been naive. Too naive. She reminded herself to not get involved in accidents that may expose her identity again. The last she wanted was to be known for being a Royscott. And for him to know so much of her detail to the point of knowing that last night was her first night in town frightened her.

She gripped her sling bag a little too tightly as she pressed down her hat (on her head) and looked around him for her phone.

"I don't care about my pursuer.... It was just a misfortune for me to have picked the wrong street at the wrong day at the wrong time to explore.... And I believe by answering to the officer, I have fulfilled my job as being a good citizen. So now's the time for the good officers to arrest them," Renee's gaze dropped down to her hands as she failed to spot her phone. "Now my phone, please?"

She was starting to think that this man was playing around with her - not in the sense of catching her attention but rather for fun. It seemed to him that she was unexpectedly out of the box perhaps. Any one upon knowing a Royscott would put up a facade to please the latter but this guy was unexpectedly different. It seems to Renee that she was starting to be different small animals to him - it was a bother but she found no reason in introducing herself so as to he would start calling her properly. They wouldn't meet again after she gets her phone back anyway.

On top of that, he would never have known her real reason returning to the city. She just wanted a change of lifestyle - so were her grandfather and brother.

"Please, my phone."
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Posted 5/19/14 , edited 5/20/14


There was a momentary look of disappointment and Punk slid the phone across the desk. Putting his fingers together, he closed his eyes and pondered.

“Well, it seems I have overestimated your intelligence. Your definition of good citizenship is inadequate. Please do not misunderstand that I assumed you would be a good citizen. I have no reason to hold your phone, Miss QianXue. Please show yourself out. The nice police officer will have the paperwork ready for you.”

He waved a noncommittal hand for her to leave him. The door closed in her face automatically. Punk reached for a Bluetooth equipped with hologram keys and video call function.

“Requesting dispatch at Main District Westgate in four hours. No sirens. Specific location to be confirmed in three hours’ time,” Punk ordered firmly to the no-nonsense operator.

She was attractive with little makeup and neat hair bun. She could have smiled, though. Instead, she simply nodded with a tight lip and confirmed his orders. An hour of team organization on the phone flew by. Punk left the patrol post as a Silver Audi Sportsback drew up beside him. Two black SUVs tailed the car at close proximity as the silver car purred through the empty streets of the suburban region. Team 127 were on the roll.

“It did not seem to go well. Whatever you are hiding in that patrol box,” Reaper broke the silence with a slight growl. “I hope you did not do what I think you did. I have read your preliminary reports on Holes.”

“I do not know what you are talking about,” Punk replied nonchalantly with a small smile.

Reaper made an abrupt drift into a back alley, close to their destination and halted. Punk was nearly thrown forward violently. The two SUVs behind followed suit and killed their engines. Reaper grabbed the back of Punk’s head and forcefully brought him closer. Punk found himself staring into Reaper’s deep-set eyes.

“I am warning you, Punk. Never bring an ordinary civilian in our missions,” Reaper threatened with his bass low tone.
Punk shivered slightly. It had been too long since his partner last spoke to him in this manner. He quickly put strength into removing Reaper’s hard grip.

“I get it,” Punk replied unsmilingly, his cold aura was unmistakable.

"And get your head out of the drug bag. I told you no more sampling! Have you forgotten-" Reaper's nagging was cut short by Punk's ignorance.

This was not their first fight about such issues. As the two men stepped out of the car stoically, the doors of the SUVs flung open. Team 127 members had been appropriately clad in their bulletproof suits and tight yet flexible pants. Punk stepped forward as Reaper took his place behind the four other members.

“Team 127 assemble!” Punk ordered, all traces of his usual gaiety disappeared. “This mission has been sectioned by court. In other words, it is unauthorized. However, we can turn the tables on law when we find the drug distributor. I am certain our newest illegal substance, Holes, is being distributed by Underdogs. You have read their files. Any question?”

Punk observed his team of five. They came from different backgrounds but Punk chose them because of a shared goal – to exterminate all drug vermin. His first team mate and colleague, Reaper, had sat in the interviews to facilitate the type of team dynamics to build. Their first choice was a sandy-hair individual hailing from the Western Nation, codenamed Rider. His background as a street racer and Double Major in Mechanic Engineering and Social Science earned his a place in the team as their go-to man for fast cars and upgrades. The next choice was Hexane, an Eastern Nation’s female chemist with extensive knowledge in illegal drug sources. She had been given a suspension by her previous police department for trying to reproduce legal drugs in her home. Their third choice was a bootlicking Eastern Nation’s former police spokesperson who specialized in getting underhanded deals with politicians and Chief Superintendent. Codenamed Creamer, he was only trusted because of his habit to take the fall for someone else. The final choice posed a problem to Punk’s superiors - she had a track record of hacking and an only child of a Western Nation’s Mafia Family. Through much persuasion, the higher-ups were pacified by her strong convictions of upholding justice. She was then given the codename “Pan”.

There was neither sexism nor racism in this team. They were highly individualistic and reliable in their specialty fields. Team 127 shared the viewpoint of being able to trust each other after numerous customized boot camps. Punk subordinates also share another perspective – they have complete trust in their leader’s guts.

Seeing no reaction from his subordinates, Punk continued, “We have ten minutes to prep. Start your timer and get your Bluetooth. I will be giving instructions from here. The mission time is one hour before dispatch arrive. Get ready.”

The team functioned like clockwork, clearly aware of their roles. Pan spread a map on the hood of the first SUV – marking possible entrance points to the rundown building on the next lane. If they were going to take down a small time gang in an hour, they had to use the element of surprise.

Punk observed his team with utmost satisfaction.

Then, he turned to Reaper and commented in an undertone, “I wonder if this is payback to the Underdogs for yesterday’s accident.”

Yuki
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Posted 5/20/14 , edited 6/11/14

Nothing would have betrayed her if not for the expression on her face as he identified her as QianXue. She swallowed her saliva hard as her huge eyes stared at him - she couldn't believe her ears that instead of 'Renesmee Royscott', he had called her by her other persona. But how?

Renee walked out of the room and stared back surreptitiously at him, before the door closed in her face. She looked up at her phone as the officer guided her to another table nearby. She blinked - surprised it was fully charged. She had passwords tightly securing her handphone - and there was nothing in the phone that indicates she is QianXue. In fact, normal people's reaction would think that she was a fan of QianXue - instead of jumping to the conclusion that sheis the singer herself.

Unless he listened to her songs? Impossible.

The officer came around with a few other forms. Her jaw dropped at the sight of more forms to fill.

Paperwork...paperwork...I'm starting to get tired of them.... Still, she filled them up obediently.

Waving a goodbye to the officers, she walked down the street happily as she fingered her phone. Just then the phone rang, and a familiar name appeared before the screen. Grandpa. Renee smiled as she answered the call.

"What are you doing in the police station?" was the first question she heard the moment she put the phone to her ear. She looked around - searching around to look for familiar faces and she found none. It was completely normal. Her brother had promised to leave her with freedom - absolute freedom. They can't go back on their promise and send her bodyguards to watch her in silence.

"I lost my phone...." Renee replied honestly. Her eyes continued to search wild - high and low for suspicious men but she found none. She stopped to think for a while. Her grandfather would have known the reason of her visit to the police station if he had placed hidden eyes on her actions. She reasoned then that he was keeping the promise - and he had other ways to keep track of her actions. Phone GPS tracking system perhaps?

There was a long pause on the other side of the call. She heard her grandfather breathing evenly over the phone - he wasn't mad she could tell.

"Have you met anyone..... special?" The question surprised her. "Or makes your head goes spinning?"

Renee was suddenly reminded of the earlier images. She contemplated on telling her grandfather the truth. He had always been the man, aside from her brother who had overprotected her. She remembered him saying every night before her bed, "When you wake up....you will know what I'd been doing was for your good. But I hope you will sleep for a little while longer. Only when you're sleeping, it remains a sweet dream." And she always wakes up at 12 noon. An obedient little girl she was.

Her constant daydreaming habit concerned the two grown men very much. As she grew older, the more they asked of her dreams.

"No, grandpa," she replied cheerfully. After a 10 minutes chat with him, she bid farewell over the phone and looked up at the blue sky. Sometimes she pondered about her well-treated life. What had she done in the past to deserve such a life? Did she save a country?

Her thoughts flickered to what the man earlier, or "Punk" said. She had never think of herself as being that intelligent. He should know her - she barely knows the law of this nation. As a normal citizen, her point of view was very much differing from that of a local authority. They were well immersed with the law - they lived with the law, while citizens merely follow the law.

"I had tried my best. I know I did...." she mumbled to herself as she walked down the shop lots of the street. Her thoughts were very much confused after the conversation with the inspector. As she thought of him, her phone rang again. This time it was Keith.

Speaking of the devil! She was thinking to call him earlier.

"Keith! What's up?" she said over the phone. She was overjoyed and the events from earlier was slowly fading away. She can't wait to meet him as she told him about her arrival in the city.

"You're here? Then you should come over now. My manager's in and we'd got your contracts ready," he said clearly over the phone. His enthusiasm over her arrival could be heard in his tone. "Will send you the address. Take the train."

"Alright, be there in a few."

Putting the earphones on, Renee played her favourite piece of song in her phone and strolled down the street towards the train station. What she didn't know was two men dressed in casual wear had been tagging behind her.

"Boss...." one of them spoke over the phone. "We found the girl from last night."


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Posted 5/22/14 , edited 5/22/14

After little deliberation, the team was sent off with a reminder –

“Dispatch called in. Fifty-four minutes to time out!” Punk firmly spoke into his headset as he mute his conversation with the operator.

The team of five moved out swiftly, little unnecessary noises as they crept close to the rundown building. As agreed earlier, the light-footed ladies would move out first to check from creaking steps in the fire stairwell. Pan held up a hand and the team halted in their steps. She peeped around the corner with a tele-lens vision goggles at the second floor. Strangely, there was no lookout. Pan’s fingers quickly did a few gymnastics and the team divided into twos and threes. The team of two will take the stairwell while the other team would enter through the front door. Their timing must be precise and they were now relying on the undisputed orders of their leader through their headset. As both teams ascended the respective stairs, a soft buzzing sound was heard.

“Fire team, Stop. Forward Team, I want a ear on the office,” Punk’s voice called out over their private wave frequency.

Rider nodded to Creamer, who in turn, crept past the front lady Pan to put a circular receiver near the key hold of the office door. A few quick clicks on Punk’s computer had the voice of the gangsters transmitted to all members’ headsets.

“Grab her the moment she gets into a crowd, you douches!” a throaty voice painfully croaked into the receiver. “And get the hell out of there! Do you know how much scrutiny we are under after that stupid hooker got caught?”

There were slamming and kicking in the room. Clearly, the head honcho had a bad day. They waited for the sound of a phone being hung up before-

“Now,” Punk calmly ordered and the two teams simultaneously crashed into the office through the window and the door.

There was not much struggle despite the heavyset man since it was just a fight of five fit inspectors against a weary middle-aged man. His right-hand man returned from an adjacent toilet unexpectedly and reached for his gun immediately at the sight of the struggle. However, the well-conditioned men moved faster and both gangsters were subdued successfully.

“Sir, we got them,” Creamer proudly announced through his intercom.

“What about the girl?” Hexane joined in. “We need to know her whereabouts from this crazy old man.”

“Negative. I have it covered. Get them over to dispatch. I have ordered for a quicker arrival,” Punk replied monotonously as he multitasked on his computer.

In the well-ventilated, cool environment of the SUV, Punk smirked at his earlier findings – the history of the questionable girl and her handphone’s GPS. It was built to be nano-sized and camouflaged among the wires but its strange position within the connecting points of the battery had Punk puzzled. He eventually managed to link the GPS program to his private tablet. They would not make it in time to save her but he knew she would come to no harm. Low-life gangsters loved the idea of hostages when threatened. He just hoped they were not smart enough to throw away the handphone. He was more worried the girl may give up her handphone either purposefully or accidentally. Her strangeness was eating on him.

Meanwhile, the two hoodlums closed in on Renee.
Yuki
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Posted 5/22/14 , edited 6/16/14

Renee was oblivious at the fact that she was targeted by two suspicious looking men behind. It was a Friday evening, as Renee stood at the top of busiest street in one of the prettiest and advanced metropolitan in the nation. She walked down the sidewalk, enjoying the scenery of the busy city and the familiar feel of bumpy brick, hot beneath her sandals.

She passed the Rosewood Cafe, a colonial tavern converted to a bed-and-breakfast - or rather a Vintage-themed cafe with its own collection of library in a section of the shop. Renee remembered reading an article on this shop during one of those days she read from blog to blog. It was famous among teen girls and those who have a taste for vintage Victorian age. Not to mention this was where the best cookies in the world were made.

Standing outside the shop, she enjoyed the slight cool draft from the ceiling fans inside whenever a customer came out from the shop and the rich, familiar smells of brown sugar and butter. Renee let her eyes slid down to the external design of the shop. Pots of red geraniums sat on broad steps. Impatiens tumbled over baskets hanging from painted wood porches. If it weren't for the fact that she had a meeting to attend, she would very much love to indulge herself in the concentrated aroma of the Victorian age.

Shrugging to her silly thoughts, she promised herself that she would return to the shop some other day. She walked off in a faster pace until she came to the center of the city - where all the main streets in the metropolis met into a huge "十" intersection. The pavements cornering the intersection were crowded with shoppers, students, young couples and commuters. Everyone gathered in the city for any possible reasons - some were on a shopping spree before college starts, some just ended work, some were on their way to the train station and some with malice intention waiting to take an action - like the certain two men who were still tailing behind their innocent prey. When the lights turn red at this busy junction, they all turn red at the same time in every direction. Traffic stops completely and pedestrians surge into the intersection from all sides, like marbles spilling out of a box.

Renee strolled her way across the famous intersection, following the flow of human traffic. There was a huge LCD television attached to one of the tall building standing proudly in one of the four corners of the intersection. The entertainment news was broadcasting at that very moment and the news of QianXue caught Renee's attention. She stopped to look up after she'd reached the opposite side safely.

"High Tree Entertainment had confirmed with us that the meeting with online idol QianXue will be held this evening to discuss over a contractual agreement between the studio and the mysterious idol. QianXue first uploaded her song featuring a voice synthesized character 10 years back. If High Tree Entertainment secured a contract with QianXue, will the idol finally reveal her identity?"

Renee pursed her lips at the announcement. It suddenly occurred to her that distributing her first album didn't seem too hard. She didn't have to travel all the way here just to sign a contract with High Tree Entertainment. Her brother had recently invested in a new studio - the Royal Trust Entertainment, owned by the Royscott Corp and she could have relied on them to publish her first album. Instead, Renee refused and preferred to stop depending on her family all the time.

"Hey do you think she's pretty?" she heard a girl standing nearby asking her friend. They seemed to be high school students nearby. The other girl giggled and answered, "If she's pretty she wouldn't hide her face! She must be ugly!"

Renee pressed her hat down and covered half of her face from public - as if they know she was QianXue. What they thought of her never really mattered to her - ugly, fat, NEET, geek, nerd - think all they liked as it never bothered her. But it still hurts. She couldn't deny that it still hurts. She would agree to them that she was indeed, not that pretty as compared to the real idols. All Renee had, was a very odd colouring mixture of features. Like a ball of snow who had lost its colour. What was her colour?

She walked on, trying her best to avoid having eye contact with the crowds as she finds her way to the train station. She tried to erase all comments by filling herself with the music playing in her phone. She shuddered from the cold as she walked across a narrow alley. She quickly noticed it was deserted, no one was around. It was almost eerie, for it was beginning to darken; the warm light from the better part of the day was long gone. Renee bit her lips - she was lost again. She dug into her bag and took out the guidebook. How is she ever gonna survive without the book?

Wind whistled against the tree that lined the lot. Renee sucked in a quick breath as she saw a dark shadow dart in front of her. But then it was gone, just as fast as it appeared. And the next thing Renee knows, someone had pulled her over forcefully and a hand shot out, covering her mouth and nose with a cloth. Renee registered the sweet smell and darkness took over her vision.

It could have been hours, or even close to midnight when Renee regained her conscious. She was tied to a chair and her mouth stuffed with cotton. She looked around her parameters - she was in a rundown building. Just her alone. Her heart pounded in her chest as she tried to scream but couldn't, her eyes burned with tears as she pondered upon her impending fate. And that's when she saw her handphone, standing proudly waiting for its owner on a table in the center of the room. Renee tried to drag herself there, but the process was taking a toll on her. The chloroform's effect from earlier had barely faded off. Renee was still feeling dizzy and her stamina was too low to drag herself - tied to a heavy wooden chair to the phone.

Just then, the two kidnappers returned.

"You're awake!" one of them exclaimed. "Thanks to you, our boss suffered a lot! He had to see a chiropractor. And before he could enjoy you fresh, he's arrested."

They'd heard over the phone the sound of the commissioners crashing into their boss' personal office before the line went dead on them. They tried calling back to no avail. Their boss is in danger and they can only exchange him for a civilian hostage. A hostage who had been with the two top men of the bureau. No one commissioner is allowed to get a civilian involved or hurt in any mission possible.

Renee glared at them - her eyes telling them "Serves him right." One of them walked over to her and cupped her chins up so that their eyes met.

"Earlier you stepped onto boss' feet with the point of your heels, then you're being so innocently cute in the streets, and now you're glaring with those eyes," he chuckled. "What are you? A sadomasochist?"

And her eyes widened in fear.

The men chuckled as they found the great fear displayed in her eyes amusing. Freeing her, the two hoodlums retreated to the side as they whispered something between themselves.



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Posted 5/23/14 , edited 5/25/14

As Team 127 retreated to the cool shades of the Law Enforcement Building, an oddly quiet atmosphere heavily descended. Punk raised a hand to do his ritual high-five with the policeman at the cubicle closest to the lift but he was avoided by a wide berth. Punk's subordinates had noticed the strange reception they were getting after a successful haul of a mini Boss. On the other hand, Reaper appeared unaffected by the cold reception. Punk had an inkling of what had happened. He quickened his pace to open the door to his office. Unfortunately, his guess was proven right again - sitting at his centre desk was Team CSI head honcho putting a leg up on the polished glass table languishingly.

"Get your stinking boots off my desk," Punk snarled.

The rest of Team 127 stepped in behind Punk out of curiosity even though they usually head to showers first.

"Ah. If it isn't the celebrated Team of NB. Welcome back. Or should I say good work?" the old investigator smirked as he put his other leg up.

Punk's nostrils were flaring. The animosity between the equally powerful officers in the Law Enforcement were overbearing. Team 127 knew better than to stay behind to watch the show. Their carefree leader rarely showed this raging side of him. The members quickly filed out after depositing their tools and equipments and headed for the bathroom. Only Reaper retreated to the shadows in the room as the setting sun threw a spotlight on the two gentlemen.

"I said, get your fat behind out of my seat," Punk coolly continues, emphasising on the right descriptions of his adversary. "Don't forget, this is NB department. I have every power to throw you out."

The self-satisfying colour on the pot-bellied, old investigator's face drained and he turned into a horrid flush. He stood up slowly and walked around the desk to face Punk resolutely. It was an accomplishment for a short investigator to try to stare the lean, languid Punk down. Their faces were too close for comfort but Punk refused to stand down.

"Listen, you punk. This case is mine! You are merely a shadow, you get me? A shadow! The criminals you unwittingly chased down are to be transferred to my department immediately. As well as all your investigation so far. You and your haphazard team are to stay out!" the old man spoke with utmost hostility.

Satisfied, he stood back, grinning vilely. Punk's cool expression never betrayed his inner turmoil. He could feel Reaper's watchful gaze on his back and he could only clench his fists in his pockets. He slowly cooled down and let out a repugnant smile.

"I, Punk of Team 127, pledged to not let the criminals out of my sight and jurisdiction. As an honoured officer of NB, it is my duty to pursue this case to its inevitable finale to protect the civilians regardless of whichever obstacle we should face. There, Investigator Nemus, you have my word that my investigation will be ongoing and shared with you soon."

Fuming Nemus could have lunged himself at the towering Punk if not for the timely entrance of a Team CSI female member with some papers in hand.

"What is it, Rina?" Nemus spat vehemently. "Did I not tell you to leave me alone?"

"But Sir..." the new member Rina spluttered. "You need to see this..."

Nemus snatched the papers from his subordinate who stood at the door, trembling. His eyes scanned the documents twice and his expression began darkening.

"Problems, Sir Nemus?" Punk asked good-naturedly.

Nemus' head snapped up and stubbornly glared at Punk. "I will be back, Punk. I still want those reports!"

Nemus shooed his frightened rabbit of a subordinate into the corridors, slamming the doors of Team 127 office. Punk relaxed his posture and cleaned his desk, cursing. Reaper watched him carefully.

"Did you...never mind..." Punk cast a doubtful eye in Reaper's direction.

Reaper came out of the shadows and rubbed Punk's head affectionately. "Nicely done."

With that, Reaper left the office for home, but not before closing the doors on Punk's accusation.

"You did not go upstairs-"

Punk heaved a huge sigh and glanced around the empty office. The rest of Team 127 had returned from bath in ones or twos before bidding a hasty "good night" to their leader. Punk simply nodded and got up only when the last of his team had headed home. He was supposed to type out a full report on his disobedient actions tonight but he had another thing in mind. He made a few raps on his touchscreen, flat monitor to bring up his secret folder. A grid layout of the city was brought up using three-dimensional program on the empty space in the center of the office by a mini projector attached to the back of the monitor. Punk stepped around his desk and requested a playback for the last two hours. He watched a small red dot flow silently through the Main district and entered a small cafe. After a fast track of time, the red dot left the cafe and stopped for a moment. It was soon racing out of the city grid at an inhuman speed.

"Ace. The speed," Punk immediately ordered.

A cool, female voice spoke over the tiny speakers at the side of the projector, "70 mph. Would you like to follow it out of the allocated grid size?"

Punk pondered for a moment and then replied deliberately, "give me directions over my headset. Secure me an unused black police car downstairs. And track any past threats to police hotline."

Ace the personal computer android had Punk's computer turned off and transferred all her support to his bulky headset. Punk's headset was customised to fit on his right ear and with outstretched microphone that reached to the middle of his left cheek. It covered his entire ear and was fitted with a mini hologram projector and numerous tiny buttons by Rider. It was heavy but incomparably essential as a portable command centre.

To avoid suspicions, Punk strolled out of the office leisurely, bid a few officer farewell and headed for the police garage. He picked up speed after exiting the lift. The android's voice buzzed over his headset at the same time.

"Three cars to your right, Sir. The door has been unlocked. Would you like to programme it to follow the target route?"

Punk hurriedly pulled the door open and sat in the air-conditioned, premium leather seats of a sleek metallic navy painted, fuel-celled Camry.

"Are you trying to get me in trouble, Ace? This car is only used by my supervisors."

"By my calculations, Sir, the next user of this car will only be back in five hours'. There is ample time to return the car in its best conditions. Should I program the car?"

Punk grinned at the cheekiness of the android. It was a trait only Rider would install.

"Yes. Double the speed," Punk ordered as he strapped himself tightly.

It was going to be a secret, speedy operation. Meanwhile, the GPS in Renee's phone blinked. The two hoodlums were too busy figuring out the police hotline for hostages to notice the lit up screen of the handphone.
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Posted 5/23/14 , edited 6/21/14

Renee struggled hard to free herself. She pulled her hands with all she could but it was not strong enough to free herself. She was still tied to the heavy wooden chair - she could feel her wrists burned with pain from the hard struggle with the rope. Renee was afraid - she was afraid that they would harm her. Since she was a little girl, she had great dislike for wound and bruises to show on her body. She hated pain, and she never knew why. Maybe the car accident that killed her parents left her in a great phobia. She looked at the two gangsters who were busy searching through some network on their laptop. Occasionally, they would break into an argument.

Renee's gaze shifted back to her phone which lit up of all sudden, catching her attention with a momentary light up of screen, as if sending SOS signal to the trackers. She had never seen the red blinking light on her phone before. Her eyes filled with curiosity at her own handphone - wondering if there really was a GPS chip implanted in it. And if so, who had activated it?

"Listen to me! This should be the right line! Get your ass off now and just fucking listen to me!" one man exclaimed, tearing Renee's attention back to them - his tone increased, sounding more annoyed at his less intelligent partner. "It's either you take the deal or get lost!"

One of them waved a hand in annoyance. "Fine! Just this once I'll trust you. But if you get the wrong line, you and I will both be dead meat!"

"Just make the call now, bro. Time is ticking, and use that phone. It will appear as anonymous number and not even the stupid cops can ever track it down."

Renee stole a glance at the phone. She wasn't sure what was going on exactly, but she hoped someone would save her - or at least notice something abnormal. All she could do now was try to not bring the men's attention to it. She diverted her gaze away from the phone and looked back at the two kidnappers.

One of them walked out of the building and he held out a phone, pressing it to his ear. He talked on the phone, and looked desperate. He was standing too far for Renee to catch a word he said over the phone. But she could guessed he was negotiating with someone over the phone.

"We've got a hostage in our hand - a civilian girl. Release the mafia boss you caught earlier and we'll release her........... What!?........ We'll kill her if you dare to joke with me!" He kicked the wall impatiently. "Release him! I'll release her the moment I ensure of his freedom..... By three in the morning, if I don't get a call from boss that he's released - you dogs should wait to claim her corpse."

And he closed the call.

What was he saying on the phone? Renee tried to eavedrop the conversation but failed.

"You'll help us to get the useless cops to release our boss," the other guy said as he turned around to face his new company - his eyes traced her body, undressing her with that perverted eyes of his. Renee's expression must have been too obvious.

The guy finally understood why his boss demanded for her. She was slim with curves - with C-cup for her small slim figure. If his boss found out that he was checking out the girl he had his eyes on, he would kill him immediately. He shuddered to the thoughts and focused on her face. Just then he noticed the beautiful diamond necklace on her decolletage.

His fingers reached out to touch it. Renee winced at the sudden action. Her heart pounded fast, she had no idea what he was about to do. Obviously she didn't want to get raped. When she noticed he was eyeing the necklace, she shook her head ferociously. The necklace was her 18th birthday present from her grandfather. It was her favourite and her grandfather told her that it was custom-made to fit her. It was her luck charm.

He moved his hand around her neck - tracing the necklace as he search for the hook. To his surprise, it was hook-less. It was as if the necklace was chained to her neck forever. As he tried to find his way to get the diamond necklace, a sudden voice broke his concentration.

"What the hell!" The voice shrieked. The man turned around to find that it was just his partner in crime and rolled his eyes but the shocked expression radiating from his partner brought his senses back. "The phone! That bitch's phone!"

All eyes settled on the phone which had lit up again. Renee felt her hope flushing down the toilet. The man was furious at the findings and slapped Renee hard on her left cheek.

"GPS huh?" He asked as he tried to unlock the phone to no avail. "We can't stay here long."

"I told you to dump all her belongings in that alley just now! Now you see what kind of trouble this bitch caused us!" The man who made a call earlier shrieked but his partner paid no heed to his increasing tone. He simply walked over to Renee and untie her from the chair (but her hands remained tied) - but his grip on her was too hard for her to find any chance of escaping. Still, Renee tried to struggle ferociously with the strong male.

Dragging her to the car, he pushed her into the boot and locked her in - closing the darkness into her before her eyes. Renee kicked the top of the boot hard, but no one will ever hear that.

"Now what!?" She could hear the two male talked from inside the car - clearly. Renee calmed herself and her breath was even. Slowly, her eyes got used to the darkness.

"We'll leave this ground A.S.A.P.... we better get going before the cops detect the signal," the driver spoke sarcastically as he slammed on the accelerator. The car veered off the ground and made its way out from the abandoned factory estate into the forever busy highway. After a 10 minutes drive or so, it took a turn into a forest trail.

"Even if the cops make it to the building, the girl is no longer there....they can't but exchange boss for her," he added as he looked over the rear-view mirror, trying to catch sight of any car following their trail.

"What if she's one of that two cops' girlfriend? Do ya think she'd got anything to do with them?" His partner asked, recalling the incident that took place during their prey-predator chase with the silver girl yesterday. Meeting the adversaries had caused them to retreat without a choice. The adversaries' unlikely action to push her into the silver Audi had been a question to them both.

The driver simply shrugged.


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As the gangsters' car disappeared into the thick of the forest, Punk arrived at the main entrance of the building. He had not seen any lights in the desolated warehouse but he took his minimum precaution likewise - a drawn silver Eagle Gun, fully loaded with authorised bullets. It was a mid-range weapon. Not wanting to draw any unwanted attention from any roaming rangers, he attached a silencer to the mouth of his prominent weapon.

"Ace, si grave," and the code was immediately registered for a background action in the android.

Punk took deep breaths and approached the warehouse cautiously, using light steps to test his grounds. As he checked the parameter, he paused at a pair of clear tire tracks. Punk bent over and touched a groove with his bare fingers - the trail was still fresh.

"Mierda," he cursed in an undertone and glanced back at the empty warehouse.

"Ace, the GPS location."

"Location affirmed. Four feet to the nearest building. Sir, a hostage-related call to HQ has been made. Should we break the wall?"

"Positive. Get the full recording," Punk prompted as he decided to abandon the car and head into the woods on foot.

"Sir, your mode of transport is highly unadvisable-"

"Negative. We are in enough trouble for the car you rented. Get the car back to HQ garage via auto-pilot. In one piece, you hear?"

"Yes, sir," the android drawled monotonously.

Punk quickened his pace when he realised the car had cleared the undergrowth in their messy escape. He could barely hear the groaning of engines in the distance. Stashing his gun in the holster near his jeans back pocket, he nimbly leapt over fallen branches and soft grounds, his light body mass reducing any careless sounds he made. The buzz on his headset notified of his android's return.

"The car is on its way home, Sir. Here is the recording from HQ. System set to delete file in five minutes."

"This is the Police Hotline. How may I help you?"

"Shut up, bitch. We've got a hostage in our hand - a civilian girl. Release the Mafia boss you caught earlier and we'll release her!"

"Please calm down, sir. We will redirect you to the Hostage-for-criminal release hotline," the female operator replied flatly.

"What!?" the gangster shouted incredulously.

"Please hold on. Transaction on such scale is slow."

"We'll kill her if you dare to joke with me! Release him! I'll release her the moment I ensure of his freedom."

A different operator took over. "Sir, we are listening. Who are you requesting for?"

"By three in the morning, if I don't get a call from boss that he's released - you dogs should wait to claim her corpse," the gangster was clearly frustrated by the conversation being dragged on.

The call ended.


Punk could not help but smile. It was a low level trick the police employed should they face a situation like this. There was no doubt the call had been tracked.

"Ace..."

"Yes, Sir. The tracking location has been downloaded. Bearing at current time is two o'clock, approx 13 miles from current location. Travelling at 0 miles per hour. No building or underground sites at destination."

"I guess the car stalled. Give me a short cut," Punk requested as he chanced upon a stagnant river.

About an hour on foot from Punk's location, one of the gangsters were smoking outside the broken down car as his partner kicked the car bumper in frustration. Smoke was rising from beneath the hood.
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The frustrated man was feeling the rotten luck they were facing while his partner leisurely smoked away. Things hadn't been exactly smooth since their boss stumbled upon his so-called 'angel'. She would pulled it off better as the person who brought about disaster and misfortunes to them.

Renee praised herself for staying calm - despite the sudden stop of the car and the curses she heard from the less patient man. Otherwise, the place was quiet, drop dead silent. Renee tried to catch some other sound - she was trying to figure their whereabouts to make plans for any chance of escape if possible, but the rantings of the male cut off her sense of hearing.

"Chillax man....you're losing it!" the man threw his cigarette into the nearby bush. "No one will find their way here. That hut had always been our secret hideout quater. Just a 10 minutes walk and we'll reach..."

Still kicking the bumper, the other man turned to face his partner with a flushed face. He pulled his partner's collar forcefully - their face an inch away. "We have a hostage here! Clearly you don't find it troublesome to bring that bitch with us, but I do! She's a good-for-nothing! She brought us rotten luck bastard!"

Renee shuddered at the sentence. She didn't mean to bring them any luck, what more a rotten one. Turning around to the other side, Renee tried to open the boot cover - which she obviously knew it can't be done but she wasn't going to give herself up just like that. She recalled a conversation she had with her brother's fiancee many years back when they first met. Renee could still remembered staring into her deep amber eyes - something in that woman had always arouse a complicated feeling in her.

"You're just like Goddess Fortuna. You will be unpredictable - and I will always dislike you."

Renee had to google Goddess Fortuna that day. A goddess that may bring both good and bad luck. She could sensed it then that it would be hard to establish a harmonious relationship with her future sister-in-law then. As Renee was drifting off to her past, the boot of the car was suddenly opened and the two male stared down at her.

The impatient male pulled Renee out of the boot and forcefully dragged her with them. Renee glanced around the surroundings - only then she realised they were in the forest. Judging from how good she was with her sense of direction, she dropped the plan of escaping into nowhere. Still, Renee kept her hopes high.

And that hope came without a warning.

The man who was dragging her in his tight grip felt a sudden vibration in his pocket. Thinking it could be an important call, he slid his free hand into his jeans. The other man was oblivious to the incident as he walked on in front of them. Struggling hard to grab his silent phone, his grip on her hands loosened. Taking the advantage, Renee kicked the male on his crotch and sped off to the direction they came from.

The man yelped in pain at the sudden attack. The other male spun around and cursed a few bad words as he eyed the hostage running away. He took off and chased after the girl.

Renee ran as fast as possible. Her run was, however, uncomfortable. Her hands were tied to the back and a cloth stuffed in her mouth. Her legs were also getting tired - she could feel the cramp coming to her. But, she had to run. She desperately followed the only visible trail - the same trail the car came in from.

The pain struck her then, her legs cramped and she mistook a step and stumbled forward - falling flat on the muddy ground. She tilted her head to look back at her chaser - who had reached her side by then. The man panted for fresh air and squatting down, he pulled her hair. Renee winced at the pain. She tried to struggle but to no avail. Their face met - about an inch away.

"You're amazing ...." he whispered softly despite the silent forest. "Who would have expected an escape plan from you, Miss sadomasochist?"

"Mmmmmm!!!!!" Renee tried to scream from between the stuffed cloth.

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"And you will do well to remember hostages are meant to be handled like fragile goods," a cool voice sailed through the thick air of suspense.

The kidnapper felt the cold tip of a gun touching his forehead and he immediately fell back, releasing the girl. A glaring shade of blue emerged from the shadows of the overgrowth, revealing the Narcotics Inspector from the previous night. Punk pulled the girl behind him and aimed carefully.

"One wrong move, Mr Gangsta," he warned with a scary smile.

The kidnapper snarled. "You think you have won. Think again. My partner has been following me all these while. And soon, it will be two armed men you will be facing. Now, don't make things difficult and give up."

"Then, it's a good thing I am not alone, ain't I?" Punk replied confidently, bending low but his gun still pointing in the kidnapper's face. "Lil' bunny, you will have to take charge of him. Here is my gun. Don't ever let it leave his face. I will deal with the worthless other. If he moves, just shoot. You will be covered under the right of 'self-defense'."

Punk released her bindings with a swiss knife using a free hand. He grasped her trembling fists and forced the cold weapon between, holding her hands steady in her kidnapper's direction. After affirming her handling of the dangerous weapon, he crossed the path and retreated to the shadows.

Punk raced downhill, taking care to keep out of the light. He strained his five senses for imminent danger. Not too far from the scene earlier, he caught sight of an ex-wrestler figure climbing the hill. Punk jumped lightly to grab onto a branch close to the path of ascension. He bided his time. Suddenly, with the full force of his swing, he launched a strong pair of leg kicks at the unsuspecting hoodlum. The hoodlum staggered backwards as a flash of brown caught him on his right shoulder. He quickly recovered and lunged blindly at the direction of the kick. However, he was too late - Punk had swung over the bull-like attack and landed behind the hoodlum. The hoodlum spun around to get a clear view of his attacker while Punk threw a hard fist at the former's left cheek. The hoodlum tasted something metallic in his mouth. he was bleeding from a knocked out tooth. He spat the bloody tooth out and roared as he threw himself again at his attacker. Punk fell to his knees before rising again, aiming for an upper chin hit. The inspector's well-honed skills at boxing had the ex-wrestler caught by surprise. The hoodlum felt his head spinning but he never gave up, in or outside the ring. Punk side-stepped him and held out a foot, causing the hoodlum to fall hard on the grassy hill. With a finishing move on the centre of his neck, the hoodlum had a light out period. Punk sat onto of his fallen opponent, panting slightly. It was his first time fighting on slopes. He began to fish for a pair of handcuffs in his jeans pocket.

A silver vinyl wrapped Audi cruised out of the city. The driver had a rushed job done on his favourite toy and was a little peeved he had to show it off so soon. Despite the urgency of the request, he was in no rush to reach his destination. His superior could not be less selfish at a time like this. However, he had complete faith in his superior's radical thinking and capability in accomplishing any dangerous mission alone. Sometimes, he doubted a team was even needed - Punk could easy form a one-man team. That brat had lived on the streets all his childhood. Heck, he could even outlast me in any impossible situation.


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For a full minute after Punk left, Renee stood aghast on her ground as she pointed the gun at the hoodlum's face. She was nervous. She had least expected for this to happen. She tried recalling the scene from earlier. She remembered feeling relieved that someone she could recognised, someone she knew was the good guy saved her. 

She can never mistaken that hair color of his, though she didn't want to see him again, but she was really glad he appeared. She remembered her hands were finally released and so was the cloth removed from her mouth. Just as she was finally gaining the comfortableness - his hands took hers and forced something into it. She recalled his orders and she nodded to him - but her mind hadn't exactly processed the fact that a gun was in her hand, until now.

The hoodlum smiled. It seemed that he didn't think Renee would even dare to pull the trigger. He was right though, her hands were shaking. Still, Renee thought that he should have at least felt a little threatened. Was she not that convincing enough to bring some fear into him?

"So.... Lil' bunny huh?" The guy asked with a creepy smile. "So my partner was right about you being his girlfriend? My boss is so unlucky to mess with an officer's woman ......"

Renee raised an eyebrow. Are they blind!? Which useless eye twisted the fact?

"No. No way am I his girlfriend," she exclaimed. Renee disliked misunderstandings and untrue rumours. "But you're right about one thing. Your boss shouldn't have mess with me."

The hoodlum fell to his knees laughing hard, leaving her in a wave of confusion. She never left her eyes off him, she didn't even dare to blink and her hands followed his every actions. She was praying that the situation stays the same until the blue haired guy returns. 

And obviously her prayers weren't answered.

It all happened too fast then. She felt a force and the forest went spinning in her views. She remembered panicking, and pulled the trigger. The sound echoed loud, breaking the silent deep forest in sleep. The next she knew, she was lying on the ground - the hoodlum on top of her, smirking. 

It seemed she missed. He was unhurt. 

He pinned her down on her wrists. He needed to rush back to the secret hut in the deep forest up that hill - all their drug-making equipment were kept there. He must head there soon and burn the hut - destroying all evidence. When all evidence are gone, the police wouldn't have enough evidence to charge them. His gaze then turned to her left hand which was still gripping the gun tightly. He pulled her left hand up and flung it down onto the ground repeatedly. He was trying to release her grasp on the gun - it would be a reflex action for her.

And he succeeded. The gun flew a few inches away from their spot. Releasing her wrist, he reached for the gun. Renee knew she wouldn't be able to reach out to the gun, and she can't allow him to get it either. With the accumulated irritation she had, she punched him hard on his eye. She wasn't sure herself to say if he was really unlucky or she was their goddess of misfortunes. In the midst of her wild panic, her fingers were not clenched tightly enough to form a fist - her middle finger's knuckle stuck out a little, making her punch more painful with a smaller area of contact with the moist cornea.

The hoodlum yowled in pain and stood aback. In the spur of the moment, Renee's hand randomly runs through the ground and having found a log, she held it up high and swung it down onto his head with her eyes closed. 

The hoodlum fell unconscious before her. Renee opened her eyes and looked at the log before dropping it. She bent down to check the man - he was alive. Phew! She stumbled her way towards the gun and held it in her hands again. She swallowed her saliva hard as she sat there motionless on the ground. 

Renee knew she was trembling. She could feel the coldness of the forest crawling up her legs. Her hands too, had turned icy cold. It was only a matter of time before her mental stops supporting her and faints. 

But of course, Renee wouldn't allow that. 





A warm hand laid on Renee's head. With her nerves still on the edge, she clumsily spun away from the sudden touch, causing her to fall backwards painfully on the uneven grounds. An overpowering presence of the second inspector entered the scene. The scar above his left eye was unmistakable - he was the partner of the tu-tone hair inspector from earlier. His eyes flicked between the girl and her unconsciousness captor. Realisation dawned on him and he moved to secure his new criminal in handcuffs. The hoodlum was roughly pulled to a sitting position against a mossy tree trunk. The piercing eyes of the inspector swivelled to the trembling girl.

"Can you stand?" his deep voice resonating in the silence of the forest.


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As Punk tied the hands of the partly conscious hoodlum against the trees with some strong vines he broke with his Swiss knife, he heard a flutter of wings as several wild crows were rudely awakened in close proximity.

"Could it be...?" Punk wondered aloud with narrowed eyes.

He warily trekked the path back to the girl, his pulse picking up pace as the minutes went by. Then, he let out a huge sigh of relief - his smart patrol uniformed partner, Reaper was standing over the girl-in-question. He glanced around to see the swift result of his partner securing the hoodlum against a tree.

"You made it," Punk smiled appreciatively.

Reaper scoffed and responded roughly.

"You punk. Taking unnecessary risk again. What would you have done if you were too late? The girl was a hair's breath close to danger. And a gun on her? What the heck are you thinking?"

Punk scratched his head and pondered carefully. Their conversation were carrying on without regards to the third party.

"Well...everything turned out right, yes?" Punk answered a little less confidently, completing it with a sheepish grin.

Reaper stepped over the girl. All his intention to slap Punk was disrupted by searchlights in all directions.

"FREEZE!" an owner of one of the searchlight shouted from the darkness of the forest.

They were surrounded by the Special Operations Officers of Law Enforcement. Punk and Reaper raised their hands without much resistance. As two of the black bulletproof suited men with full head gear stepped forward, Punk whipped out his shiny NB badge from his pocket. He placed his left thumb on the centre of the badge. The gold brand faded away. The badge then revealed his identification details of unique opal colours appearing in strips. its shimmery colours caught attention as the searchlights and modified high-powered submachine guns focused on Punk.

"We are police! The suspects have been secured. Please go ahead with your jobs. The girl is with us. She is a victim."

The large Special Ops team turned their attention uncertainly to the side. Apparently, their team leader was a huge man in a suit one size too small for him. He glared as if to intimidate the inspectors but sensed no fear. Slowly, he nodded and the Special Ops immediately changed targets. The hoodlums had been crudely woken by the noise and dragged senselessly into custody. The Special Ops leader lowered his sniper rifle. His massive size easily overshadowed the two inspectors. He held out a hand. Punk looked at the gesture, not expecting such warm first greeting from the famous All-Kill Special Ops Team Captain.

"I apologise for the rudeness earlier. We have to follow the protocol," the large man spoke formally with his outstretched hand. "On the hindsight, I actually recognised the both of you. I promised myself I would test you the first time I would meet you. Never could have known it would be so soon."

Punk eased into a warm smile and accepted the gesture with a firm handshake of his own.

"Likewise, Captain. Although I must admit, I never knew my team would be so well-known on the other side of the playing field," Punk grinned.

The huge man burst into a booming laughter, alarming a few of his team mates. Punk was taken back as well.

"You are too humble, much unlike what I have heard," the Captain guffawed. "The notorious Team 127's Chief who were always at odds with the investigation department and cheeky enough to avoid suspensions by the higher-ups! Who would have known the Chief have a softer side? I do not doubt your abilities though. Team 127's reputation had risen to a dangerously high level under both you and that woman's leadership. Ever thought of transferring to our side?"

Punk laughed in a carefree manner, all tensions released.

"No, Captain. I will leave the job of precise hunting to experts like you. We simple folks can only deal with hookers and crazy parties."

The Captain was about to disagree when another Special Ops member approached him purposefully. The huge man excused himself and proceeded to deal with some administrative matters. Punk had always looked up to the Special Ops team. They moved with precision soundlessly. They were a team of thirteen with a shared mindset. They were a force not to be reckoned with. He had studied them secretly and realised it was strict discipline which held the team together. Unfortunately, Team 127 members were too chaotic to use the same team strategy. The ever flexible Punk had to lead his team eccentrically. As the Special Ops quickly combed the area for any missing personnel, Punk turned to his silent partner and the confused girl. He squatted and his eyes were now levelled with her large, round ones.

"Well, shall we head back now?"

Reaper led the way to his purring Audi. The Special Ops Captain halted the discussion he had with his team to observe the odd trio leave. His eyes traced the back of the hunky Reaper. The fierce Captain had once fought for the transfer of Reaper to his team. However, Reaper chose to stay in NB. It was even more mysterious when Reaper quickly signed up for Punk's team. The Captain had been watching the new team ever since.

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Renee caressed her upper arms as she followed the two odd officers to the silver Audi - though it looked slightly different than the last she saw. She stole a few glance at the huge officer who was eyeing them - eyeing the two men ahead of her to be more exact. She couldn't exactly get the conversation between the two adversaries. Their world is just not for her understanding.

Looking at their backs, Renee felt awkward. She had never come so close to a policeman before she migrated to this city. But since yesterday, she had to see them again and again. Was it just her or is she really a trouble magnet? A magnet so useful for the authority. Maybe she was akin to Goddess Fortuna - bringing luck to one side and misfortunes to the other. She shuddered as she recalled the earlier incidents. Just then, she realised the grumpy guy spoke to her. She recalled his deep, husky voice. That was the first time he ever say something! And all Renee did was nodding her head sheepishly.

She skipped a few steps to catch up with the tu-tone saviour. She wasn't sure how to open up to him since the awkward incident from both last night and earlier that day. Still, Renee had a great weakness at forgiving people fast.

She held out a hand and pulled his sleeve. "I.....I just wanna say....t-t.....that you're a great officer! I didn't know the police workforce are so efficient here! Barely a day I was kidnapped, the team tracked the kidnappers down!"

She felt like smacking herself. Of course the police workforce would take action fast - they had a reputation to keep up with! Renee had really wanted to say 'thank you' to them both instead of some random compliments which makes her sounds like a clown instead. She had never met anyone so rude and grumpy yet kind at heart. And saved her twice.

The two men walked on, paying no heed to her words. Finally reaching the car's side, Punk turned to look at her. "Well, lil bunny...you owe us then."

Renee smiled at him - she was finally giving him a friendly smile.

"Thank you," she said with gratitude - her eyes directed away from his, her cheeks were rosy pink as she blushed.. "For finding me....for saving me."

And without making any embarrassing eye contact with him or Reaper, she bowed and got into the backseat of the silver Audi. The two men settled in front with a few short conversation - confusing as usual to Renee. She was too tired and too hungry to realise that her phone and other belongings were left in the rundown building she was first kept. And before anyone else notice, her fatigue took over her conscious and she fell asleep in the silent environment of the car.

Nothing else seems to be a bother to her as for all she knew, she is safe ....... for now.

It all seemed so quiet then. Renee dreamed a beautiful dream. She was walking in a huge garden - which reminded her of the one in Alice in Wonderland. The blood-red roses bloomed in such a way as if welcoming their long-lost owner home. The roses swung in the cool breeze accompanied by Renee singing a song. She felt at peace and inspiration were filling in. This place held indescribably limitless tales! She could feel a synchronisation rhythm with this place of her dream. It was as if she was here once.

"Who are you?"

A voice broke her thoughts and Renee spun around to find herself staring at a willowy lady with pure silver hair and blood-red gown. A beautifully sparkling crown of diamond and white gold stood with pride on her head. Her hairs were tied upsweep in braids. Her fire-ruby eyes glowed with mystique.

The two stared at one another. Renee was strongly reminded of someone she knew, but she couldn't recall who. She felt a great attraction from the proud lady - the attraction was so great that she felt they could merge into one person. Before Renee could answer her, the lady took a step forward, looking unfazed.

"Don't let him in. Don't get too close to him. Don't fall for him, my dear. You'll hurt him...and hurt yourself badly in the end...." the latter spoke. Her voice sounded familiar to Renee. Had she meet her somewhere before?

"Who is he? Who are you referring to?" Renee had a peculiar feeling about the lady standing before her. Renee recalled her dream - the one she always have since forever. Her husband died in her hands, or so the man in her dream said - does that means Renee would kill her future husband?

The lady closed her eyes and shook her head. When she opened her eyes, they looked sad. "Don't let him know what I'd done. Please don't wake up."

Renee was surprised - it was similar to her grandfather's little wish he made before putting her to bed when she was little.

"But sadly.....you can't avoid falling for him...."

"Who are you?" It was Renee's turn to ask. Her dream was getting weirder by the second.

The lady smiled. It was a small, sad smile. "We're after all, the same soul."

And the dream went pitch-black.





Renee woke up in a daze. She could still remember the odd dream. Sitting up on the bed as she massaged her head, she looked around and noticed something off the place.

This isn't her room! She panicked as her eyes scanned the room wildly. Where am I!?

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Renee felt silk-like texture underneath her fingers. She looked down and discovered she was sitting on black sheets of a bed cover with red petal-like patterns sewn delicately in. A deep salmon coloured pillow laid largely behind her and there was an impression on it - clearly her head used to be in that position. She tried to stand but her skull received a hard knock. She was on a bed with low wooden ceiling. Stars blinking in her eyes, she glanced to her side to make out a curtain slightly askew, hiding the bed from the rest of the room. She reached out to draw it and found herself gaping at a small studio apartment below. A metallic ladder was sturdily leaning at the foot of the bed. A random sound of a sliding door opening caught her by surprise. She quickly withdrew her small foot from the first step of the ladder. Peering down, she watched as a glaring shade of blue stepped out from beneath the lofty bed. The calming fragrance of white lily dispersed slowly into the air. Renee could not help but take a few more whiffs. Apparently, there was a bathroom built below the tiny bedroom.

Punk looked up suddenly at his peeping guest (who hid clumsily) and grinned mischievously.

"Don't be shy. I am not a nudist."

Renee's large, amethyst eyes reappeared beneath the gaps of the bedside grilles. Punk lazily sauntered to a Zen-coloured L-shaped sofa placed firmly in the centre of the white-washed studio apartment. He patted the seat beside him.

"Come on down if you are feeling better. You have to see this."

He turned to face a blank wall with a hanging A1 sized landscape picture of a strangely warped red fire.

"Good morning Violet," Punk greeted his invisible television jovially.

There was a flicker of light in the corner of the picture and a flash of techno green laser light revealed a three-dimensional hologram of multiple colours. A cuboidal display of the new era was the latest instalment in the line of multiple channel viewing television. Punk relaxed as he watched the cube rotate slowly to reveal news from different channels. He scanned through the channels and finally called out to stop the rotation.

"We are now outside the Royscott Company Branch of Eastern Nation. We are still awaiting news from the President with regards to his missing granddaughter. There has been rumours about a looming court case against the Law Enforcement for mishandling the case of his missing granddaughter," a reporter could hardly hide her glee at such breaking news."

"Goodnight, Violet," Punk turned the TV off and turned to his guest. "Well, what will the newly freed bird do now?"


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Renee's eyes widened at the breaking news. She glared at Punk before clumsily climbing down the ladder, almost tripping off the steps in the process. Reaching the bottom of the ladder, her eyes scanned the small yet homey studio apartment. It was nice, she liked the idea of a cozy home but it was too small for her. She tried to find her mint-green coloured bag from among the cool colored furniture. Then it hit her hard, as she realised her belongings were all left in the rundown building where she was kept earlier.

She bit her thumb's skin nervously. It was an odd action of her, normal people would usually bite their nails and not the skin. Renee was anxious. She was worried that the public would find out how she looks like. She wouldn't want the freedom to live like every other girl her age to vanish from her. She needed to call them, before things got any worse. She leaned against the ladder to think, forgotten that Punk was watching her. Just then, she caught sight of a house phone in front of her. Like a monkey that finally found a banana, she hopped to the phone and punched in familiar numbers.

Renee looked down at her toes as she curled them playfully. She was praying hard that he would answer the call.

"Brother! It's me, Renee! I'm safe and sound. I wasn't missing...I mean I did but I was saved before the idiots could do a thing," Renee spoke over the phone without catching her breath. "How did the media know of my disappearance? I was missing for barely a day! Was it you? You're not bringing my case to the courts, aren't you?"

"Renee," the deep, low bass voice replied over the line. "Take a deep breath. You sounded like an exploded squirrel, for God's sake!"

Punk looked at Renee taking in a deep breath and later on giggling at her brother's lame joke. The worried face was now gone.

"An anonymous found your belongings in the abandoned factory. The hotel staffs recognised it as your bag from the premium key tag you kept inside it....so I think that's how it all started," he continued. Despite his nerve-breaking sister, and the fact that her life was once in danger - he didn't sound worried at all. "It's all my fault. Don't worry. I'm settling the matter now, announcing that you lost your bag instead of going missing.... so comply with me."

Renee nodded sheepishly. "How is grandpa? Did he say anything?"

There was a long pause on the other line before he added," He was worried and furious. He was perturbed beyond your imagination. But rest assured, we both know you're at a safe place. Just make sure you report to him later."

"And how did you know that I'm at a safe place?" Renee raised an eyebrow. A small action at the side distracted her. She turned her head over to face Punk, only to find him playing with her phone - as if trying to get through the passwords. It seemed that he had took her phone with him while he was at the factory earlier. "Urm....never mind....I'll see you when I go back to visit grandpa....okay....bye."

Renee fell to her knees and gave a sigh of relief that she heard no objections from her brother nor grandfather. She was glad they still keep their promise. Her eyes then flickered to Punk. She plodded towards him and snatched the phone from his hands, before falling onto the seat beside him - the spot where he patted earlier.

"If you had the liberty to take my phone, you should've took all my stuff! Do you know how much trouble you'd-" she trailed off, realising that she wasn't exactly in a position any way better to say that. She too, had caused unnecessary troubles to him. Cuddling her phone in her hands, she smiled at herself. "But thanks....."

Renee unlocked the phone and her jaw dropped at the sight of hundreds of miscalls from Keith. She ought to do some explaining later. She hoped the contract would still be open. But before that, Renee thought she heard her stomach growled softly. It sent some red crawling up her neck. She pulled his sleeve.

"I...I am hungry. Do you......have food for an extra stomach?" She asked as her eyes directed away from his - she didn't want him to see the embarrassment in her eyes and giving him room to tease and pick on her. Not to forget rude advices.


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