The nest of buildings known as the Chungking Mansions rises above a wet, humid street in Kowloon -- a silver and glass block seemingly held up by signs in numerous languages.
Cabs and buses constantly slow and stop, there, dropping off new arrivals from Hong Kong's various ports of call. A melange of people move in, out, and around the building's five blocks and connecting arcade -- a well-represented cross-section of the many ethnic groups to be found within the city. Some are here for business, many for cheap or anonymous accommodations, and no few for something entirely different.
Something that best remains a secret.
It's not the greatest place in the world, let alone Kowloon, and anyone with any degree of honesty will tell you that; unless you're happy to sleep rough and take your chances, you're better off spending more money somewhere else than risking it here.
But, in a city that caters to all levels of tourism, it's far from the worst. In fact, its bad reputation primarily comes from tourists fleeced by unscrupulous guesthouses, as well as its propensity to attract crooks, drug dealers, and fugitives.
(It's also a well-known firetrap, but thankfully the instances in which it proves this sorry fact are few and far between.)
If someone who didn't know what they were doing wanted to vanish into Hong Kong, taking a room at one of the many guesthouses in the Mansions would be a good place to start. Of course, everyone knows this, so when someone's looking for someone who's trying to hide, they usually start there -- thus defeating the purpose of staying hidden.
And that's exactly why Dosha Josh is there, right now, lounging about in a lowly, high-floor room and considering his next moves. It's the first place the assassins sent by his former paymasters would think of looking for him, so it's obvious that he wouldn't be there.
Which is why he is -- for now, anyway.
He's taken steps, as they say. His lost eye is hidden under dark sunglasses, and his scars have been mostly beveled out with a long, very realistic looking beard. He's also taken to wearing the turban and clothes of a Sikh -- a disguise he's employed before, many times.
Unfortunately, he is bereft of any really effective, long-range weapons: he had to sell them to get money off the grid. He could have just stolen the money, of course, but the weapons are high-tech wonders -- the best that India's Research and Analysis Wing had to offer -- and, therefore, quite traceable. So if the assassins are following them around the city, or possibly beyond, they'll be looking in the wrong directions.
In theory, anyway.
This isn't exactly Dosha's strong suit -- hiding. He and his man, Daksha, were best known for being the ones who found others. With Daksha's ability to teleport almost anywhere in the world, and Dosha's skills at finding anyone, anywhere, they'd been a formidable duo.
But then Dosha made a terrible mistake, or so some said: he backed SPYGOD's seemingly-vainglorious quest to put paid to the world's many science terrorist groups and supercriminal organizations, rather than engaging in the delicate but brutal detente they'd engaged in since World War II. Many of his own people had been less than amused by this turn of events, and worried that it might bring about the very end of the world. But Dosha, having been one of the rising stars of the RAW, made it clear that, should anyone attempt to stop him, there would be consequences.
(He even saved SPYGOD's behind, once -- something that earned him some favors from that man, but the enmity of his foes and rivals within the RAW)
Then came the dark day, less than a month ago, when SPYGOD apparently assassinated his own President, less than three days after that man fired him from The COMPANY. Suddenly, everything that Dosha's rivals had been saying about the man and his mental state had been apparently proven quite correct. And, just as suddenly, all the favor -- and favors -- that Dosha had curried over his decades of service evaporated like food from a hungry worker's tiffin.
One now-former friend was kind enough to tell him to expect a violent reprisal, and she'd been right. Dozens of assassins descended on the Mumbai home he shared with Daksha, and it was all they could do to teleport somewhere else before they were both shot full of holes.
Unfortunately, the assassins had come prepared, both with a tracker and their own teleporter. The last massive fight they'd engaged in had seen the tracker off, thankfully, but Daksha was fatally wounded in the exchange of fire. He'd been able to take them as far away as Hong Kong, and then bade Dosha leave him there to die.
(That he'd sealed their goodbye with a kiss answered more than a few questions he'd had about the older man, whom he'd worked alongside since his earliest days at RAW, and lived with for almost that entire time, yet knew so little about.)
So now here he was, in the mainland in Hong Kong, dodging a very skilled -- but thankfully somewhat-blinded -- team of mercenaries. He knew the outfit well, having employed them a few times, himself, when it looked like he and Daksha might be overwhelmed in a surprise attack. And he knew that they'd keep hunting him until either they were dead, or he was.
Not exactly the best way to go out -- a Hindu pretending to be a Sikh, holed up in a sorry, musty rat-trap of a guesthouse that attracts spiders and wasps, and smells of ozone, unwashed socks, and burned saag. But he'd been at worse ends in his time, both before and after being paired up with Daksha. He didn't need powers to escape, he didn't need guns to kill people, and he didn't need the weight of the RAW behind him to be dangerous.
He would not give up. He would get through this. He would have his revenge.
And as he was repeating that statement -- something that's become a mantra for him, these last few weeks -- his room's supposedly-disconnected phone begins to ring.
He takes a deep breath. It's either a wrong number, or something is about to change yet again. He decides not to answer it, but when it doesn't stop ringing, even after thirty rings, he sighs and picks it up.
"Hailo," he says, not bothering to ask who it is.
"Ranjit Agarwal," the person on the other end says, his accent American, most likely midwestern: "Do you know who this is?"
Dosha blinks. No one's called him by his own name for years. And the voice on the other end...
"No, I do not," he says, looking towards the criminally-thin door of the room: "Who are you?"
"Myron, sir. I don't think we ever met, but you know our mutual friend. SPYGOD."
"I think you have the wrong number, my friend-" Dosha says, ready to slam the phone down, grab his things, and start running.
"You're staying in the Chungking Mansions in Kowloon, and currently being sought out by a particularly ruthless, high-tech group of Bangladeshi mercenaries," the man on the phone says, as quick as he can: "You've worked with them before, so you know how good they are. If they find you like this, you're !@#$ed. How wrong is this number, now?
"Keep talking..." Dosha says, still ready to run.
"I know you lost your partner, and I know you've been hiding out. But while you've been hiding, they've been finding."
Something in Dosha's gut gets very, very cold. He puts his back to a nearby wall and makes ready with the dagger at his waist: "How close are they?"
"Four five-man teams. One's about to go up the elevator, one making ready to rappel down the center of the block and get you in a pincer movement. The third's staying downstairs, in the arcade. And the fourth is covering the stairwell on your floor, the top, and the bottom."
"They're doing it quite well, then" he says, not happy: "Now would you mind telling me how you know these things?"
"Well, it helps when the company that sold them their tech is owned by another company that's been hacked ten ways to Sunday by The COMPANY," Myron says, with more than a little pride.
"And would you mind telling me why you're doing this?" Dosha asks, doing some math in his head, and noticing that the noise in the space between towers has changed just a little.
"Because SPYGOD told me to," Myron says: "He knows that you've gone out on a limb for him. He also knows that you've suffered badly because of it. And he'd like to repay you for the help, provided you'd be willing to do one last little favor for him."
"One last little favor?" Dosha asks: "If it'll get me out of this chod bhangra, I'll give him three."
"Okay, then. Can you fight your way to the roof?"
Dosha blinks: "The roof?"
"Team one's on the move, Dosha. That means you've got twenty seconds before they're up on your landing. If you can get to the roof, there will be someone there, waiting for you."
"I hope he brought some transportation, Myron. This is going to be a short trip, otherwise."
"He is transportation, Dosha," Myron says: "Now hang the !@#$ up and run."
He does, grabbing his emergency bag with all due speed and swiping a can of high-power wasp spray from the stand by the supply closet, outside. He barrels down the small hallway between rooms, and past the decently-appointed "lobby" with its quite-misleading photos of what the guest rooms look like, and terminally-inattentive young "clerk," who'd rather surf the net than answer your questions or complaints.
(For a moment Dosha considers leaving him to his fate, but a small glimmer of conscience tells him to look back and whisper "if you value your life, run" in perfect Cantonese.)
Then he's through the door to the stairs, which he just knows is going to have some heavy bruiser with a large gun and high-tech optical/communications headset standing behind it. The impact doesn't quite sweep him off his feet, but does knock him back into the stairwell, so that he tumbles sir over gaand down to the next landing, breaking equipment and bones as he goes.
"(So terribly sorry,)" Dosha lies, realizing he really should stop to grab the man's gun but not wanting to waste any forward momentum. He's already too aware that the mercenary below him is taking aim to fire up, and the one above, most likely by the door to the roof, is about to follow suit.
Sure enough, they begin firing. Their ammo is sufficient to punch through the concrete and metal sandwiches that make up the stairs, but they don't want to accidentally hit each other. This makes getting a bead on Dosha as he carefully and quickly runs up something of a halting affair. And when the one at the top is two landings away, and is getting his bullets too close for comfort, Dosha hurls the can of wasp spray up into it.
The can explodes, filling the area with nasty, toxic fumes. The gunman at the top of the stairwell wasn't expecting it, and gets a lungful. Dosha was, and, closing his eyes, nose, and throat, runs past the gagging fellow and up the stairs, praying to every God he knows that he doesn't flop over, fall down, or take a bullet in the behind.
He crashes into a wall at the top of the stairwell, and blindly feels for the door. The moment his hand touches the knob he hears even more gunfire erupt behind him, and that must be the kill team that was coming up in the elevator. The fellow on the ground behind him gags and screams as his body is riddled with bullets, and Dosha turns the knob and jumps out of the stairwell.
It occurs to him, a second after he's stumbling on the gravel-strewn roof -- and tentatively opening his eyes to see if the wasp spray is gone -- that if the rappel team isn't dealt with up here, he's dead. But when he gets his eyes open, and no one shoots him, he turns to see the last person he'd ever expected to see again.
There's a large, young, Indian man over by the gaping, dangerous chasm between tower blocks, shooting down into it with a large handgun. People are screaming and firing back at him, but he doesn't seem to care about their streams of bullets.
He caps off one last shot, and then turns to look at Dosha. The moment he does, Dosha sees that he perfectly resembles Daksha, only much younger than he knew him, back when they started working together.
"Are you alright?" the young man asks, and his voice is almost identical -- just much younger.
"Are you..." Dosha asks, shaking his head and getting to his feet: "What's your name...?"
"Anil," he says, putting the gun away and striding towards Dosha, like he has all the time in the world: "Some fat American broke me out of my cell a couple days ago, and told me to meet you here. He said he'd work on getting me a pardon. Like I really need one, but..."
Dosha sighs, putting his head in his hands: "This would be at the Heptagon, correct?"
"Yes. I broke a few of their laws about breaking and entering."
Something about the young man's smile makes him certain he knows who this is, and yet...?
"Is your father a man named Daksha?" He asks. It's the only explanation he can come up with.
As if to answer him, Anil pulls out the gun, and aims it at Dosha.
"You don't have to answer that..." Dosha starts to say, except that the young man vanishes from directly in front of him, and then appears well behind him -- right next to the stairwell door. He does it just in time to nail one of the elevator kill team people in the head the moment she steps out.
"I don't know who my !@#$ing father is," Anil shouts, firing a few more times through the door, and then getting out a second, as-yet-untouched gun, just as large as the first, and using that, instead: "Don't know who my mother is, either. Or my !@#$ing uncle for that matter. Is this really !@#$ing important?"
"No, I guess not," Dosha says, doffing his turban and beard as he runs over: "How far can you teleport?"
"A few dozen kilometers, and I need to have been there, or seen it," he says between shots: "So unless you've got some nice holiday snaps of Lantau, I think we're going back the way I came."
"Let's," Dosha says, taking hold of the young man's left shoulder with his right hand. He's surprised at how right it feels, and then they're somewhere else. And somewhere else.
And somewhere else again.
(SPYGOD is listening to Paninero (Pet Shop Boys) and having a Little Devil, or three)