25 Apr 2014

By the Numbers - Chapter 4

Chapter 4
Emergency Extraction

(Language warning in effect.)
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Tuesday, April 14, 2071

2003 hours

    Treehugger found a parking spot a block and a half from the nightclub.  Charles parked his Scorpion in front of Treehugger's borrowed car.  The Rubber Suit's neon sign reflected on the wet road as the shadowrunners dashed towards the club's main doors.  Numbers sent a quick message to Johnson to let him know the team had arrived.  After a moment, she got a reply back.  "He's still in there," the hacker reported.

    "Good," Oswald said.  "What the hell is a suit doing at a nightclub on a Tuesday?"

    Treehugger read the AR poster along the wall.  "'Monster Movie Night', apparently.  Classics and the latest direct-to-download movies."

    "Gojira lives?  Damn, wish I'd known."

    Charles looked up and down the block.  "Clear here.  We should get inside.  Numbers, tell Johnson to stay where he is when we enter.  We'll go to him."  As Numbers emailed the instructions, Charles pulled out his Cavalier Deputy, a revolver that looked massive even in the troll's hand, checked it, then returned it to its holster.  "Ready."

    "Johnson's ready, too," Numbers said.  "He's at the bar.  He asked us to not use the dance floor.  That's where the movies are being played."

    "We better get going."  Oswald led the team to the door.

    Inside, the nightclub's lights were dimmed.  The main source of illumination came from the trid display in the middle of the cavernous bar.  An explosion flared, briefly splashing orange and red on the walls.  Treehugger took the lead, using her cybereyes' low-light enhancement to see through the dark nightclub.

    Johnson met the young rigger's eye and nodded slightly as the runners approached him.  Numbers smiled.  "Long time, no see!  How's life treating you?"  Seeing the puzzled look on Johnson's face, she mouthed, "Play along."  The words appeared on Johnson's commlink.

    "Um, okay.  A few little, er, glitches."

    "Good, good."  Numbers sat down beside Johnson.  Whispering, she said, "We're just going to take a look around before we get you out.  No need to have anyone following us without us knowing."

    Oswald stood beside Johnson's left shoulder.  "Which one's this?  I don't think I've seen it before."

    "'Revenge of the Juggernaut 3'.  Looks like the studio gave the director a budget this time around."

    "When did it come out?"

    "Last fall.  It got buried in the glut of slasher sims."

    Charles scanned the club's patrons, looking for threats.  "I've got three or four people not really watching the movie and not having a good time with friends."

    "I've got nothing," Numbers said.  "Too many electronics pinging back to tell if there's anyone's commlink is running hidden.

    Oswald's eyes lost focus for a moment.  "Two watcher spirits overhead, near the door.  A couple of mages, but they might be here for the show."

    "Ready to go, Mr. J?" Treehugger asked.  Johnson nodded.  "When we get you out, turn right.  There's a red Commodore sitting down the block.  I'll bring it to us if things get hot, but we'll walk casually to the car if not."

    Charles took the lead again, keeping along the wall to avoid blocking the view of the audience.  Treehugger grabbed Johnson's hand and followed the troll as close as she could.  Oswald and Numbers hung back, keeping an eye on the crowd to see if anyone moved.  When Johnson reached the door, Oswald checked the astral plane.  The two watchers disappeared through the outer wall.  "Problem," the mage reported.  "The watchers just left."

    Numbers passed along the report over the team's commlinks.  She looked around.  "Side door, this way."  She and the mage dashed to a fire door.  "I'm going to disable the alarm for a moment."  Numbers knelt down beside the door and leaned against the wall.  She shifted to virtual reality and prodded the alarm's Matrix presence.

    From what felt to her like a great distance, Numbers heard Oswald say, "Don't disable the alarm completely.  Fire hazard."

    Number filed the suggestion in the back of her mind.  The alarm appeared as a large bell in VR.  Numbers ran her analyze program, looking for possible back doors.  None appeared on her scan.  The hacker had her silicon avatar walk around the alarm's icon as she thought.  Had to be a way in.  An idea struck her.  She brought up her spoof program.  If she couldn't find a backdoor, she'd just pretend to be maintenance.  After a few seconds, her program found the subroutine in the alarm that allowed repairmen to shut it down.  Numbers jumped back to reality and stood up.  "Go."

    Oswald opened the door.  No alarm sounded.  Numbers followed on his heels.  When the fire door closed, she broke the connection, disabling the maintenance account.  The door clicked shut behind them.  Ahead, two men whirled around at the noise, knives already in hand.  "Come to help?" one sneered.  He advanced, knife gripped in his hand.

    Oswald twitched his fingers on his right hand.  The advancing man stopped in his tracks; sweat appeared on his brow.  "Yes," the mage said.

    "Kill the mage!"

    Numbers dropped her arm straight down.  Her Cavalier Scout fell into her hand.  She brought the hold-out pistol up.  "Bad idea."  She sighted down the pistol's short barrel at the other man.

    Oswald reached under his coat and drew his Colt Manhunter.  "Down on the ground, now."  He aimed at the man he hit with his stunbolt.  "Drop the knives."

    The assailant in back lowered his weapon but didn't drop it.  "Omae, not good."

    "Shut it!"  His partner kept his eye on Oswald.

    "No one said anything about guns, omae."

    "They're not going to use them."

    "Don't tempt me, chummer."  Oswald thumbed back the hammer of his Colt.

    The Rubber Suit's fire alarm blared.  Numbers spun around to see two more men coming out of the nightclub.  She levelled her Scout at them.  "Who wants to be first?"


2010 hours

    Charles kept close to Johnson as they exited the front doors of the Rubber Suit.  A car drove by on the rain slicked streets.  Close on the troll's heels, Treehugger glanced over her shoulder to see if anyone followed.  Johnson tripped.  Charles reached out and grabbed the man's arm.  "Steady there."  He pointed at the loaner Commodore with its engine already running.  "That's the car.  Stay close to me."  The troll started walking at an easy pace.

    Three men, two humans and one dwarf, stepped out from a doorway, knives in hand.  "Going somewhere, chummers?" one of the humans, a blond, said.  He brandished his weapon.

    Charles kept himself between Johnson and the assailants.  "Cute knife."  He raised his arm and popped his cyberspur.  "Mine's bigger."

    "Stand aside," the dwarf said.  "This has nothing to do with you."

    "Mr. Johnson," Treehugger said, "do you authorize the use of violence, thus enacting the second part of our verbal contract?"

    Johnson turned to look at the rigger.  An incredulous look appeared on his expression.  "Yes!"

    "Thank you.  Charles?"

    Charles stepped forward towards the three aggressors.  "Who wants to be first?"

    An alarm blared from the alley.  Two loud gunshots followed.  Charles turned his head to find the source.  The blond human took advantage of the distraction.  He ran forward, swinging his blade.  The troll brought his arm down.  Metal scraped on metal as knife met cyberspur.  Charles stabbed forward.  The blond's armour vest slowed the spur, but the troll still punched through.  The human grunted in pain.  The other human charged forward, dark hair slicked back.  He swept his leg, trying to topple the troll.  Charles remained in place despite the blow.  The dark haired human pulled back, favouring his leg.

    The dwarf raised his commlink to his mouth.  "I need some fucking back up here!"  Two light pops sounded from the alley, punctuating his words.

    Treehugger tapped at her 'link.  The Commodore's tires spun, squealing on the pavement.  The car lurched backward, jumped over the curb.  The dwarf cut himself off and dove out of the way.  The blond jumped over the parked car beside him.  The other human didn't move in time.  The Commodore hit him, sending him sprawling to the sidewalk.  His knife clattered.

    "Move!" Charles roared.  He grabbed Johnson and thrust him towards the car.  The left side doors, passenger and driver, opened.  Johnson stumbled, regained his footing, then clambered into the car.  Treehugger slammed the passenger door shut as she passed it.  The blond and the dwarf picked themselves off the ground.  Charles put his back towards the Commodore, facing the blond human.

    Tires squealed several blocks away.  A series of small explosions like firecrackers sounded from the alley.  Charles slammed his hand on the Commodore's trunk.  "Go!"

    Treehugger slipped in behind the steering wheel.  "Get the others!"  She shut her door.  Locks clicked shut.

    Charles stepped into a kick at the blond human.  His target rolled out of the way then slashed the air with his knife.  The dwarf drew a FN 5-7C from under his armour vest.  He took a shot at Charles.  The bullet whizzed past the troll's elbow.  Letting lose several choice words, Charles reached under his long coat.


2012 hours

    Oswald pulled the Manhunter's trigger twice.  The roar of the pistol deafened him in the confines of the alley.  Both shots missed and dug holes in the wall of the nightclub.  His target, the apparent leader of the attackers, charged, his knife held straight out.  His foot hit a crack in the pavement.  Oswald stepped aside, letting his assailant run head first into the wall.  A snap sounded through the alley, and the man collapsed on the ground.

    Numbers reacted, firing her Cavalier twice.  The first shot grazed her target's shoulder.  The second went wide as the target ducked.  Behind her, the second of the original assailants charged the hacker.  Despite her efforts, he grabbed Numbers and pushed her down.  She fought to regain her breath.

    One of the newcomers dropped his knife and reached behind his back.  He pulled out a Colt America.  He shot once at the mage.  The slug slammed into Oswald's lined coat.  He staggered from the hit.  "Son of a bitch," he gasped.  The last attacker jumped in on Numbers, helping his ally to hold her down.

    Oswald faced the gang.  "Bad move," he growled.  He changed his focus, breathed eldritch syllables.  Flames flickered in the air above him as a fire elemental appeared.  Beads of sweat appeared on the mage's forehead.  "Now get off her!"

    The man with the gun changed his aim, pointing his Colt at the spirit.  He shot twice.  The bullets ripped through the air and the spirit with no effect.  The two holding Numbers down looked up.  One put his knife against the hacker's throat.  "Call it off or I cut her, omae.  I'm not joking."

    Oswald pointed his gun at the man threatening his teammate.  The Manhunter's laser sight played along the man's arm and neck.  The mage's shot caught his target on the arm.  "Get them," he ordered.  The fire spirit dove on wings of smoke at the gunman.  The would-be hitter froze on the spot.  The elemental manifested and swiped at the human.  The man's clothes caught fire, his ammunition cooked off.  Shrapnel sprayed the alley.

    The men holding Numbers down backed away from her.  Never taking their eyes off the spirit of fire, they backed up against the wall and sidled around.  Numbers pushed herself up from the ground.  She ran a hand over her neck and throat, checking for blood.  Oswald held a hand out to her.  "Go.  I'll catch up"


2013 hours

    Charles winced as he fired his Deputy.  The report of the gun thundered, drowning out the alarm still blaring from the nightclub.  The second shot added to the echo.  Both shots creased the dwarf's armour.  The dwarf's remaining partner grabbed his arm.  "We gotta go!"  The dwarf tried to shrug out but his partner persisted.  "They've got a fucking spirit!"  He dragged the dwarf away from the fight.  On the other side of the Commodore, the last attacker got to his feet.  He took in the scene, then ran down the sidewalk, past the troll's Harley.

    Numbers ran out from the alleyway.  Treehugger opened the Commodore's passenger door for her.  Sirens filled the night air.  Charles looked over to her as he re-holstered his revolver.  "Where's Oswald?"

    "He's coming."  Numbers looked over her shoulder.  "He's doing something magical or something."  She jumped into the front passenger seat.

    "I'll bring him," Charles said.  "Get going before the Knights get here."

    Treehugger closed the passenger door.  The Commodore bounced as it left the sidewalk then sped down the road.  As it turned the corner, its colour changed, going from bright red to jet black.

    Charles walked over to mouth of the alley.  He saw the mage kneeling down beside someone laying prone of the pavement.  "Oswald, we gotta go!"

    Oswald pushed himself away from the body, his breath ragged.  "Yeah, yeah, coming."  He staggered towards the troll.

    Charles met the mage and helped him walk to the Scorpion.  "You look rough, omae."

    "Too many spells."  He felt under nose.  "Not bleeding.  That's always a good sign."

    "Cops are coming."

    "I hear 'em.  Johnson?"

    Charles helped Oswald get on the motorcycle.  "Already gone."

    "Good.  We better do the same."

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