9. Rolling Hard Six

"Nobody could be this sloppy by accident," muttered Okami behind the highball glass.

"Nope," Dimes agreed, his lips barely moving. "Which only serves to illustrate just how good he really is at this game."

The two men had been following Deng Wei Chiang for the last few hours, attempting to get close enough to put a small tracking device on him. Unfortunately, Chiang knew how to play the game. And the best players were the ones that nobody else would consider as being smart enough or careful enough to be a spy. And just to make life even more interesting for Tenner and Merriweather, Chiang had the Asian version of a forgettable face. Somebody so innocuous in appearance that anybody would have a hard time giving a good description of the man if questioned.

For the better part of the morning, they'd kept a loose tail on Chiang, confident that they were beyond notice of anybody but the best players. Either Chiang hadn't noticed and was acting "stupid" as part of his normal tradecraft routine, or he was deliberately playing with the two agents to try and make them reveal themselves. Dimes suspected strongly it was the latter. Chiang had left a big obvious trail wherever he went, moving from one end of Macau to the other, hitting the bars, hitting the trendy restaurants, hitting the horse track. He was playing up his cover as a "lifestyles reporter" to the hilt.

"This is going to be a long day," murmured Dimes.

* * *

"Aren't you finished playing with that suit yet?"

Hyrax looked up at Nike with a grin. "I'll probably never be finished with it, but I'm sending it off to the home office here in a little while. It's really kickass."

"What's so special about it?" Van Rijn asked with some exasperation.

"Check it out." Hyrax cleared off a table and laid the suit out. "You see these strips of plastic along the arms and legs?" As Nike nodded, the hacker continued. "These pieces on the arms fold out like so." Hyrax carefully unfolded the compressed plastic pieces, laying them flat on the table. "These smaller pieces along the lower leg go out like this," he said, unfolding more plastic close to the ankles of the suit. "Now, you're the pilot. What does that look like?"

"A bad Halloween costume," Nike snapped. Hyrax just grinned at her.

"Take another look," he said. He leaned down and pressed a button on a cylinder sewn into the palm of the right hand. Instantly, the plastic flaps became rigid, a rough triangle of sorts now formed by the arms, the pieces at the ankles forming smaller triangles, the feet of the suit now lifted up by triangles running perpendicular to the others.

Nike scrutinized the suit. "Looks almost like a sort of glider."

"Better than a hang glider, for sure. There are actuators built into the suit at the ankles that can adjust the pitch of those pieces down at the feet. Rudders and elevators, all controlled by the right hand."

"But how does somebody keep their arms and legs straight all that time?"

"Electro-mnemonic plastic. When there's current applied, the plastic goes rigid, which is how the wings and tail pieces went from floppy to firm. From what I can tell, there's a framework of plastic strips laid down inside the suit, basically forces your legs together and keeps your arms rigid. A skeletonized body cast, for all practical purposes. All the current comes from a simple 9-volt battery, the kind you can pick up at any grocery store or convenience store anywhere in the world."

"Impressive. Which makes me wonder how Merriweather's girlfriend got a hold of it."

"Been wondering that myself. This is cutting edge stuff. To hell with a HALO jump, you just put on one of these babies, fall out of an airplane, and glide in. The plastic would be completely invisible to radar, the suit's at least part Nomex, and a human body is such a small target already it's unlikely that somebody'd get a decent return off you. So what was an amateur hour gun bunny doing with it, especially when it looks like she had plans to make an escape using it?"

"Don't know, and we didn't exactly get to stick around long enough to find out. Maybe the boys back home can dig up some info we missed."

* * *

By now, Dimes and Okami had been tailing for almost sixteen hours, and they were beginning to show signs of fatigue. They needed rest. They needed to be able to eat and drink and actually relax without having to keep an eye on Chiang. But as long as Chiang was running around, they needed to keep a tail on him. Hopefully, Chiang was feeling the strain as badly as they were and would be calling it a night soon. Okami, though, felt that was a vain hope as the Guoanbu agent kept up a hot streak at the craps table.

"I hope he gets snake eyes," Okami growled softly.

"So do I. Either way, somebody's going to crap out here pretty soon." Dimes shook his head violently for a moment before reaching for the espresso he'd ordered a few minutes earlier. Whatever problems he had with the regime in Beijing, Dimes definitely had no complaints against Macau. The people were friendly, the nightlife was vibrant, and the cuisine was deeply enjoyable. His only regret was that he couldn't devote a few days to enjoying it completely instead of tailing the only lead he had available.

As his fingers curled around the small china cup, Tenner looked up and froze for a moment. He saw Chiang, saw the arm candy that had been with him all day, saw the high rollers and the croupier, and saw an older man tugging lightly on Chiang's elbow.

"Camera phone, now!" hissed Dimes. Okami didn't argue, but slid his camera phone over the tabletop. Dimes flipped the top of the phone up, then quickly snapped off five exposures, catching the older man's face clearly on the fourth exposure. Flipping the top back down, Dimes slammed his espresso, then glanced at Okami. "Car."

They trotted out to the sedan they had procured for the assignment, Dimes slipping into the shotgun seat and attaching the cell phone to a cradle, then opening the glovebox to turn on a portable scrambler. Once he'd entered his scramble and encryption keys, Dimes fired the images he'd taken off to the home office, along with a short note. With the information now on its way, he sagged in the seat. "Let's get out of here," he said wearily.

As Okami drove over the causeway to the island of Taipa, he glanced over at Dimes and didn't like what he saw there. "What's the story, boss? You look like you've just seen a ghost."

"I think I might have."