Plan: Chaos Rising
The full moon was very clear tonight. The temperature a bit nippy for this time of year. Not that unusual, and mostly unremarkable to those that did not pay attention. A beautiful night for a moonlit stroll, or a romantic dinner along one of the numerous dining establishments in the Xinyi District. These were completely unfavorable conditions for a crime.
It was getting later in the evening, but still early enough that patrons, shoppers, and lovers were out and about. Commercial businesses started winding down. A waiter brought a check to a couple sitting at a table outside of a café. A few patrons were exiting a bookstore and computer retailer, while shift workers at a Starbucks were performing the final closing duties to their latte-producing machines. Traffic was minimal: a few taxis but mostly personal vehicles. There were no maintenance or delivery activities scheduled for tonight; therefore, no service vehicles were in the vicinity. This would cause a slight alteration in the plan. Not a big deal though . . . this was not the first time Nigel and Victoria had worked under these conditions.
At this time of night, the police patrolling Sōngshòu and Shifû Road were periodic with their rounds. This would make using the secondary exit a matter of timing. If the plan worked it would not be needed anyway, but a backup route was a standard protocol.
The plan, was a robbery.
An integral part of said plan was the Tsingtao Microplex Corporation. It was a moderate building of no significance. Five unremarkable floors that held the brain trust behind the latest innovation of a synthetic polymer that could withstand extreme temperatures, and reportedly had the tensile strength of maraging steel. Whether that was true or not was irrelevant; what was important is because of that unique discovery, Tsingtao garnered a private investment which allowed them to move into a building down the street from the monstrous Taipei 101; the actual target for tonight's after-hours activity.
The security inside the big building was a combination of technology and foot patrol. There were 14 night shift guards to cover the 101 floors; some specific to building security itself, while others were privately contracted by the building's tenants. Each guard had a specific routine that they regularly followed. It took some patience to amass their movements and plot a precise course to the target, so again, timing would be everything.
"Can you hear me?" Nigel said, testing his ear piece.
"Loud and clear," Victoria responded.
The two thieves had been doing reconnaissance for six weeks. They knew every facet of their target within Taipei 101, knew the routes of each guard on the floor, and the security protocols of the surveillance system, or so they thought.
The hardest part of planning this job was the cleaning staff. They were very unreliable in their movements; all over the building at any given time during the evening shift. If the target had been on the lower floors, it wouldn't have been as big of a consideration. In fact, the entire plan would have been easier.
Neither Nigel nor Victoria liked plotting around unknown variables. Of all the possible schedules, predictable and unpredictable patterns, and moving parts, none of their scenarios were optimal. The final decision for approach came down to using a path of least resistance. The money for this job was too good to pass up, so they would deal with the inconveniences.
They both had some debate during the exploration about who would take point and who would do operations. Her argument was that she was better at bypassing locks and security systems. The job would move more quickly if she went in. He, on the other hand, had done most the foot work and casing posed as an English financier. He knew the layout better. "You would stick out like a bloody thicket on a manicured lawn," he said. It was hard to argue that point with her bright-red hair and pale skin. Still, she thought she would be better on the inside.
During the recon, Nigel determined that it would be too difficult to enter 101 directly, as building passageways were guarded and monitored at all times. It didn't help that all persons were accounted for entering and exiting. It would be noticed if an Englishman went in but did not come out. A direct path into Taipei 101 seemed impossible. So, Victoria came up with an alternate entry using the utility tunnels beneath the city. Nigel had entered Tsingtao's building two hours before and stowed away in a cleaning cupboard waiting for her signal. Once given, he moved down to the sub levels.
An alarm went off on her wrist watch as she continued to view the video feeds from the traffic cameras, retail stores, restaurants, and the building lobby of 101. She turned to a separate terminal and began typing in commands. This brought up an array of the building's schematics, to include elevator controls and internal security surveillance feeds.
"The shift changes in 30 minutes. Are you in position?" she said.
"Working on the last weld to the access plate," he said. "Almost there."
Then the last solder on the edge gave way. He checked his map of the utility tunnel once more before he stowed it, and the torch, in the duffel and entered.
* * *
As the bus started to slow, Kevin Huang carefully marked his place, then put the macroeconomics textbook next to his backpack. He stretched his arms and yawned before reaching for his uniform jacket. After making sure that his tie and coat were in order, he gathered his things and stood on bus 669 as it came to a complete stop. Checking his watch as he stepped off, he thought if he hurried, he could get a cup of coffee before his shift. The bus was running about 5 to 7 minutes late tonight. His favorite shop might still be open. He hoped so; he needed the caffeine.
Kevin managed to make it just in time to get a Vente black just before they closed the gates. He took a sip and closed his eyes in anticipation of the resurgence the coffee would bring. As he walked toward the building, he hoped that his assignment was on the lower floors tonight. He needed to prepare for a probability exam tomorrow. Lower floors would make the break room more accessible for studying. He greeted a fellow security guard as they entered Taipei 101.
* * *
The tunnel was surprisingly clean. In truth, Nigel didn’t know what to expect when he opened the access plate. He had visions of decay and waste from lack of maintenance and years of no use. A silly notion really, as that defeated the purpose, but such thoughts crossed his mind when he planned jobs. Backups to backups, redundant contingency plans, every conceivable scenario he could dream up; he was always thinking, never one to be unprepared for any situation.
Once Nigel was inside, he carefully noted his position and the direction in which he needed to go. He did not want to have to think about the trail back once he had the prize. Time would be of the essence. He had a natural ability for spatial relations to begin with. That, plus the map he paid a city engineer handsomely for, guaranteed a quick exit in his mind.
* * *
Kevin and his companion strolled into the break room with some of the other night shift guards. His demeanor immediately changed to match those of his colleagues; very serious with a sense of purpose and honor to his duties. Most of the pride in doing a good job came from his father's lineage, and wanting to continue the legacy of rectitude within the Huang family dynasty. The rest was ingrained with the responsibility of ensuring the safety of the building and its tenants. He shared that last one with his fellow workers. Sure, he felt like the rest of the people in 101 looked down upon his lowly position; ignored him as he passed them on the way out to their cars, but that was okay, at least with him. He knew that he wouldn't be working this job forever. He had a better plan for his life. It was a struggle currently with his school load and a full-time job, but he chalked it up to paying his dues forward to reap the rewards later.
He waited his turn to check the duty station roster for his assigned levels.
* * *
"Are you in position yet?" Victoria asked.
"Almost there, love," replied Nigel.
"That's what you said seven minutes ago. We are running out of time. The shifts are beginning to switch," she said bit snippy.
"Would you stop your bloody nagging and relax? We'll be just fine. I built in some extra time just in case."
He half-grinned as he worked on the sub-panel access door to Taipei 101. Victoria always got herself into a nit if things were slightly off schedule. Sometimes, there was a difference of opinion on whose timetable was more accurate. Regardless, she was always nervous during the execution.
Whether remaining time existed or not, Nigel worked with a quickness. He popped the panel and connected the relays to a high-tech switch box, then clipped the feed for the alarm. Once he was satisfied that it was bypassed, he punched in the access code for the door release. Some extra money for the engineer, but a pittance compared to what this job was paying.
He did a quick inventory of the supplies he would need, placed them inside a smaller, more manageable pack, then stowed all remaining items in his duffel. The black tactical coveralls and flak vest felt a bit tight; probably because of the business suit underneath. It might be hard to maneuver should there be any physical confrontations, but he would deal with that if, or when, the time came.
He looked at his watch. "Time?"
"18 minutes," she replied.
"I'm heading to the first security door, be ready."
"I've been ready," she quipped.
There was no response as he entered the sub level stairwell.
* * *
Disappointment is a common feeling of dissatisfaction with many different levels. It has a fine line that could tip the bearer one way or another, and set the tone of the mood for some time to come. Kevin's assignment was in the mids tonight. He remained stoic and determined to carry out his appointment. He found a free locker for his bag then checked the duty log for his floors in preparation to relieve his second shift counterpart.
* * *
Nigel made it to the first door on the main level in around 90 seconds.
"I've got you," she said looking at the cameras of the building's security monitoring system.
"Loop?" came the reply.
"Active. I can see you; they cannot," she said through a smile.
He smiled as well. He knew that Victoria was good at what she did. Both possessed unique talents that complemented the other. They had been working together for so long, sometimes speaking was not even necessary. Thought patterns synchronized in so many ways, it border-lined on creepy. There had been times on past jobs where the situation became precarious and the other could sense something was wrong. A connection like that was rare. To have a relationship on an almost empathic level, made what they did in some ways, easier. It was not necessary for him to ask, but he constantly did, and she unfailingly answered. Backups to backups.
"Right then, on your signal," he said.
"Standby," she said.
Thirty to 40 seconds passed as she watched the lobby monitors. Her fingers slid over the keys and punched in the access sequence for the maintenance door to facilities. The estimation was 3 to 5 seconds of exposure to any foot traffic between the doors. The last person rounded the South-east corner. “Go."
The door access from the stairwell changed from red to green then clicked a millisecond before he pulled it open. With the grace of a cat burglar and a ninja, he sprinted as fast as he could to the maintenance door. His trust in Victoria was absolute; there was no need to look around. She pressed the Enter key completing the sequence on the doorway as his hand touched the knob.
He silently closed the door behind him then listened for any traffic on the other side. When he was satisfied that he had made it, he noticed the camera in the upper corner and smiled. She smiled back.
* * *
He was flipping through the charts when his friend, Chen, sauntered over. "Hi Kevin, what is your duty station tonight?"
As he continued perusing the checkpoint status, he said, "Mid-levels, 50 through 57." He tried not to show his true feelings regarding the assignment. The job must come first. He would manage to get in the necessary studying when he could.
"I am in the high levels tonight. Maybe we can synchronize our breaks," his friend said.
"Umm, that sounds great, but I have a big test tomorrow that I need to study for. I should use my time wisely during the shift."
"Oh," said Chen with some sadness. The disappointment was not born of not being able to spend time with Kevin, but more so from his lack of doing anything different with his own life. He secretly admired Kevin's tenacity and willpower to continue pursuit of a degree. "That's okay, I understand." He half-smiled and walked away.