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Chapter 83

"Say what you want about the man," James said, as he stepped away from the refrigerator, "but Valentin has excellent taste in Champagne, a 1976 Henriot."

"How long have you known this Valentin Zkovsky?" she asked placing the toast points on the plate next to a container of caviar.

"We… have had an arrangement or two in the past." He smiled, as he took a point and dabbed a spoonful of caviar onto it. "This is his caviar, it's quite good." He offered it to her.

Taking it, she asked, "And he won't mind us dropping by?"

"Let's just say he owes me," he replied with a smirk. He helped himself to caviar. "Any idea of how they made us?"

She shook her head. "No… I have gone over it many times. I did not see anyone tailing us, and no suspicious groups, or individuals. We did not even approach the target yet. I do not understand it."

He nodded his agreement. "They had to be waiting for us to return to the hotel… Maybe someone at the hotel?"

She shook her head and took another toast point. "It is a possibility but then again, why then three days? Why not take us sooner? Or during the night? No, it felt like a quickly arranged operation… I do not think the man in the elevator was supposed attack us."

James agreed with her, it seemed unorganized, not something he expected from one of their teams. "If we are going to stay we need to find out how they tracked us… The best place to start would be the hotel."

James stepped out of the shadows and into the alley, flipping his collar up on his jacket as he went. Rain had started just over an hour into their surveillance some eight hours earlier. They had figured two days were sufficient time for them to think they had left the area, so far they had not seen anything out of the ordinary.

He pulled his hat down, and blended into the group of people entering for the evening shift change. Hanging near the rear he listened to the people's discussions. Unfortunately he heard nothing of interest.

He continued down the corridor, past the employee area toward the service lift. Pausing at a door marked Personnel Manager he smirked. Placing his hand on the knob, he inserted the wire end of a pistol shaped device. Three pulls of the large lever on the front and the auto pick clicked and the handle turned. He stepped inside.

He had to chuckle as he dug through the files of the employees, taking a photo of each person's record and employment photo. Sometimes government bureaucracy made his job so much easier, like this case. Not only did the Russian love of complete paper work labor against them, but so did their organization method. Each person was not only listed under their name, but a duplicate file was kept by department.

He skipped most of the files, focusing on management and security. When he was done with those he went through the front of house staff, including the front desk and bell staff. He looked down at his watch when he finished, he had three hours left till change of shift. He wanted a look at both the manager's office and security before then.

Just over an hour later he had completed his search of the manager's office, and made his way down to security. He knelt next to the doorway and slipped a vial out of his coat pocket, attached the spray bulb to the top then slipped the small tube under the door and pressed the bulb three times. After waiting thirty seconds he unlocked the door with the auto pick.

Inside he found the three on-duty guards asleep; working quickly he looked over the room as he placed each guard in a position that mimicked them falling asleep at their post as quickly as he could. The equipment in the room astounded him, it was all state of the art. Color monitors showed a number of public hallways, each camera could even be independently controlled and zoomed as needed. He had only seen a few places with such a sophisticated system, it even surpassed the ones in the hotels in Las Vegas by a magnitude.

He grumbled as he looked around, "What in the hell do they need a system like this for?" He bent over the control panel and tapped a few buttons cycling the monitors through their paces. Zooming one of the cameras in he depressed the 'capture' feature, a picture of the person appeared on a dark monitor to his right. Below it a small blinking line of text appeared, 'transmitting'.

"What the hell?" He watched the text blink a moment, then went back to searching the room. He knew his time was limited, so he took pictures that he could reference later. He had just stepped to the door and retrieved a second vial from his pocket when the printer in the corner of the room sprang to life, startling him. Moving quickly he snapped a picture and moved out of the door.

Placing the bulb on the vial he repeated the process he had used earlier. "Q, I hope you got this stuff right," he mumbled under his breath, thinking about the armorer's explanation of the confusion draught. He had assured him that when used with the sleeping potion it left the person disoriented and confused about recent events much like the drug Rohypnol, only in aerosol form, effectively obliterating any recent memory they had.

James made his way back to the employee entrance and left with the shift change.

James spread the pictures out on the table so they could look at the employee photos. "Recognize anyone?" he asked.

Anya leaned over the table studying each photo. "Nyet, I do not." She started going through the employment history for each of them. "This one," she said handing the page to James. "He was GRU, but… he left before they joined the KGB… he is not high in the staff, but he may be worth looking into."

James nodded. "There is more to the manager than meets the eye as well," he said placing another stack of photos on the table. "He has a direct line telephone that is unlabeled, as well as a pistol hidden in the desk." He spun one of the pictures toward her. "He also has access to… more substantial firepower."

She looked at the photo of a small armory, including two automatic rifles and a sub-machine gun. "Are these in security?"

"No," he said, "they have access to a few pistols. These are hidden behind a panel just to the right of his liquor cabinet."

She nodded. He then placed the final pages on top of the others. "I think this is how they found us, however. Their security system is top notch, better than any I have seen outside a major military facility. Independently controllable cameras, with high powered zoom, and photo capture capability. The cap to this is…" he placed the last photo on the table. "I used the capture feature when I was there, just to get an idea of how the system worked, somehow it was able to access this."

She picked up the photo, it had a complete biography of the person pictured. "How?"

"I'm not sure, but I think this may be the same type of system the Americans are creating. It uses something called facial recognition." She looked at him confused. "It uses a computer to analyze the face in a picture and compares it to those contained in a data base."

"So this is how they found us?" she asked.

"Most likely," he said. "From what I gathered from my briefing on the project, just changing hair color, or eye color won't fool the system." He sat across from her. "The data base also needs to have a picture of a person to compare it to." He tapped the photo of the man who had been checked. "He's KGB, does the format of the information look familiar?"

She looked again. "It looks like a KGB personnel dossier… Mine would have had my picture in it."

He nodded. "And they may have a picture of me as well. But that is not what is important, I need to get this information to MI6, if they have this system in place at this hotel it may be in others as well."

She nodded her understanding. "And that could put your people at risk… How accurate do you think it is?"

"I don't really know, but from the way the capture capable cameras are arranged… it needs to be an almost full on frontal picture… facial appliances… or dark large lens glasses… If you can disrupt the computer's ability to 'see' the points it uses for comparison."

She nodded. "You work on getting the information to your people. I'll begin working on new documents and disguises for us."

"I'll also see if Q has any other ideas about how to get around it."

Harry laid out the papers on the small table. "These are examples of some of the magic found in Japan, Croaker. Simple barriers, and warding, a type of runes I expect. They start learning them at a very young age, along with meditation and martial arts to help increase their focus."

"How powerful are they?" he asked picking up one of the paper tags.

"Enough to stop a creature known as an oni… their version of a troll, quite easily. You and Moody are going to help us with the tests against spell fire tonight," he said picking up the stack and walking toward the 'kill house'. "Do you have any more information about Dementors?"

"Unfortunately we do not know much about them or where they came from," Croaker said as he followed. "They appeared for the first time in the 1500's, during the early witch hunts. They seemed drawn to those of magical blood more than non magical, but would attack both given the chance."

He watched as Harry applied the seal and the outside of the structure glowed green for a moment. "It took almost a hundred years before we learned how to combat them, and another fifty to round them up. Originally they were placed on the island that became known as Azkaban… the prison was constructed later."

He watched as Harry returned and set up several weapons to test against the structure. "Does it take any of your energy to maintain?"

Harry shook his head. "It is charged when it is drawn, I can make about six at a sitting, Alex can do five. This is one of the first barriers taught, I call it the Safe Room. It will stay up till I take it down, unless it is broken, or if I'm knocked unconscious. I've been told that there are others that don't have the last limitation. This one however was designed to be used by younger less experienced, it can also be reinforced by direct application of magic."

Croaker nodded, and continued his briefing. "The runes used to contain them are fairly intricate, and the control runes ridiculously so. Only myself, Madam Bones, The Minister and the Prison Warden have access to the control runes."

Harry leaned against the firing table. "We need to get this information to M. She will want wards around several buildings… can you tell me how to destroy one?"

He shook his head. "No, it's something we've never been able to do. Even the Killing Curse is ineffective."

"Any chance of getting one to… experiment on?" he asked.

"No, their numbers are closely monitored..." He paused, thinking. "But it may be possible to have one of them escape… The way they are being used at the moment, spread around the country, we may be able to use that to our advantage."

Harry smirked, "Give it some thought… Let's start the tests with small arms, I'd like to be done with the firearms by the time Moody gets here."